Who is with me? (Zechariah 1-7)

September 20, 2021

 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Zechariah 4:6-7

In these days of uncertainty, the Church has a certain Word from the Lord. God has clearly given His Church the mission to fill the earth with the good news of the kingdom (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We, as the church, fulfill this mission by being salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16).

I know that each of you who read this blog are with me in saying, amen, to the last paragraph. But there is a problem. Saying amen is not enough. You and I have a greater calling than amen in the church building. You and I are called to get outside the building and fulfill the mission. Who is with me?

Now, let me ease up for a second. I know, as you do, what is outside the walls. The climate of our nation is not pro-Christian anymore. The climate of our nation is a powder keg ready to explode. I know the score. You could be taking your life into your own hands by going out. But I also know who is with us!

Consider our readings today. The prophet of God was speaking at the time when the 70 years of captivity had been completed (7:6). God was restoring His blessings to His people (2:10-12). God was calling His people to return to Jerusalem (1:16-17) to rebuild the temple.

In particular, the prophet calls out Zerubbabel, (He would become governor of the region) to lead the people to rebuild. But here was the problem. This guy did not have the might-he had no army and no following. This guy did not have the power-he had no influence and his people were scattered everywhere.

But wait, God was not asking him to lead in his might or his power. Oh, no, he was to lead in God’s power! You and I know this power is the Holy Spirit. This same power was working in Moses, Nehemiah, John the Baptist, and Paul.

Are you seeing this? This same power is available to you and I. Who is with us? God is with us.

I am reminded of Jesus words in John 12:24

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

When you and I die to our old way of living and live in His power, we bear fruit in His mission.

Today, the Holy Spirit is calling out to the church saying, who is with me? Holy Spirit, I surrender my life to follow Jesus. Fill me with your power to carry out His mission!!!

2 questions:

  1. Do you need to change your battle plans for this day?
  2. How can Zechariah 4:6 be applied in your life today?

What was all that? (Ezra 1-3)

September 17, 2021

13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

A young couple got back in their car after attending a very upbeat worship service. As soon as the husband started the car he turned toward his wife and asked, “What was all that?” The backstory is that this man had never been in church before. He had been too many rock concerts and even a few country music concerts, but never had he been to church.

His wife had been to church before, but it had been a long time. As they sat in silence, considering all that had just happened, the Holy Spirit was at work in them.

I wonder, have you ever left a worship service with the question: What was all that?

As we consider the first three chapters of Ezra, it could be that the worship service at the end of chapter 3 was such a service that left some asking, what was all that.

The book of Ezra begins with the reminder that God’s power to save reaches even to pagan kings (1:2-3). The King of Persia came to realize that God was the creator and that everything he had was a gift from God. When God saved him, He gave the king an assignment. He was to lead in getting God’s people back to Jerusalem for the rebuilding of the temple.

It took 7 months for the almost 50,000 people who returned to get settled in. At the 7 month mark they built an alter for worship. The enemies of God’s people were still there, but at the 13 month mark the people poured the foundation of the temple. When the foundation was completed, the people had their first worship service standing on the foundation.

They sang, they praised the Lord, and some in the group wept. The question could have been, what was all that? The people who sang were worshipping the God who was “good and steadfast in love.” Together the people praised God. But then it got intense as some of the people, those who were alive when the first temple was destroyed, began to weep because God was a God of a second-chance.

Oh what a wonderful worship service it must have been.

Brothers and sisters, worship is redemptive when people join in honor and love for true and living God. This is exactly what the young couple experienced on that Sunday morning. As they sat in the car, suddenly their eyes were opened. The wife said, He is God! The man said, I need Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

What happened next in the car caused people walking by to wonder, what is that all about. The couple began to worship God with all of their hearts. Oh that this would happen both inside the walls and outside the walls of churches everywhere this weekend.

2 questions:

  1. How important is worship in your life?
  2. How are you preparing yourself to participate in worship this weekend?

Why don’t they believe? (Daniel 10-12)

September 16, 2021

10 Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.  Daniel 12:10

Recently, in our Community Group, one of our members asked, Why don’t people believe in Jesus. This person who has been a believer for many years, but only recently truly understanding the Christian life, spoke with sincerity and passion. As I looked at her face I could see the anguish on her face as she wanted to know why they did not believe, in hopes that she could share with them so they would believe.

In the days of the Prophet Daniel, he lived in a place where many people would not believe. We see his heart over and over in mourning for the people. God showed him things in the future leading up to the very end of the world, which he identified as “a time of trouble,” (12:1).

Daniel was given a vision of the day when the Lord would return to judge the earth (12:2). Revelation 19 and 20 offer us more details. According to Daniel 12, there will be two groups of people who will stand before the Lord:

  1. Those who became wise and follow God, (12:3).
  2. Those who became wicked and practiced ungodliness (12:10).

Question: How did the wicked become wise? The answer is “God.” God opened their hearts and minds to the truth. Ezekiel had promised that God would give people, who repented, a new heart (36:26-27). Daniel had been transformed by God and he awaited the day of the Lord’s return and reward (12:13).

Brothers and sisters, why don’t people believe? Truly, they have decided not to believe because they know not how or why they should believe.

What is our task? I believe it is two-fold:

  1. We are to pray that God would open their hearts and minds.
  2. We are to tell people everywhere that God is calling them to a different path.

I love how John puts these tasks before us in Revelation 22:

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:16-17

Two questions:

  1. Will you focus your heart and mind on the tasks before you?
  2. Will you give yourself to this task with all kinds of people?

The best news I have heard in a long time (Daniel 7-9)

September 15, 2021

“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. Daniel 7:9

Brothers and sisters, did the heading of this days blog peak your interest? I must tell you, it did mine. I must confess that I did not at first entitle the bog, the best news I have heard in a long time. I actually entitled the blog from Daniel 7-9, “What’s in your heart.”

I even went as far as to write out the blog under the heading. I focused on God’s Word to Daniel and His response. But then as I began to pray, The words of Daniel 7:9 were before my eyes. In particular the title for God stood out. Consider the glorious news of our Heavenly Father. He is the Ancient of Days.

As I considered the implications, I realized my Father has always existed and in His existence He has perfect knowledge and understanding. My Poppa has been defeating Satan since the fall. In every generation He has been victorious. In every generation it has been His wisdom and His power that has moved the universe.

As I prayed, I began to pray with greater confidence in knowing that I know the Ancient of Days. Fear of what might be left me. The pressure of trying to figure out the next steps was removed. All that I found myself doing was asking God to speak. I looked to John 10:25-30 where Jesus said, “my sheep hear my voice.”

The best news I have heard in a long time is the news that the Ancient of Days is speaking to His people.

Daniel received visions from the Ancient of Days. His prophecies given to Daniel were not predictions of what He hoped would be, but what He knew would be because He is in charge. This is why the song writer penned these words, “I have read the back of the book and we win.”

Brothers and sisters, it is true: There is sin and sorrow everywhere in the world. But the best news is this: The Ancient of Days has all-power to bring life to our world. The prayer of Daniel becomes so much clearer because of what we have discovered today:

Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[j] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” Daniel 9:17-19

2 questions:

  1. How has Daniels description of God encouraged your life today?
  2. Will you take time to push away from all the noise in your heart and mind and listen to God’s voice?

The Testimony of an unlikely convert (Daniel 4-6)

September 14, 2021

 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. Daniel 4:2

Brothers and sisters, I so wish I could sit down with each of you one-one-one. I so want to hear each of your stories of how Christ came to be Lord of your life. This morning God has placed before us, in Daniel 4, the testimony of one man. A man who was an unlikely convert. If you have not read Daniel 4, put aside this blog and read Daniel four.

By now you know the converts name is Nebuchadnezzar. Here are thee things I noticed as he told his story:

I. His begins his testimony as a prosperous and wicked King, 4:4.

He has a dream and Daniel gives the revelation of the dream. Here was a man who was blessed by God (Vs:2) but he ignored God (Vs:25)

II. He tells his story with full disclosure:

  • I would not listen to God (Vs:17)
  • God extended His mercy by one year (Vs: 28)
  • I rejected the Word of the Lord (Vs: 27)
  • I lifted up myself in pride (Vs:30)
  • I was deeply humbled by God (Vs: 32-37)
  • I repented before God (Vs: 34-25)

III. He concludes his story by telling what the Lord had done in his life.

The king wanted others to know who God is. Brothers and sisters, do you remember how I wrote at the beginning of the blog that I wanted to hear each of your stories about coming to know the Lord. I still do want to hear them. As I think about my story, I realize I have the same story as the King. I was born in a blessed home. I grew up thinking I was king of my life. But there came the day when God humbled me and set me on the correct path. I praise His name today.

Once more I must say, I truly want to hear your story of coming to Christ. But even more, I know the world needs to hear your story. It’s time to start telling the story of Jesus once again! Its time to recapture the joy of your salvation. Please tell me and tell others the story of Jesus and write on our hearts every word.

Two questions:

  1. How long has it been since you told the story of Jesus coming into your life as Lord and Savior?
  2. How have you been encouraged by what you have read today?

Faithful to the End (Daniel 1-3)

September 13, 2021

20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might, Daniel 2:20

I was up very early this morning to prepare for a great day in the Lord. I was at the office by 5:15 AM. I sat down to read this text before I was to lead our Men’s Bible Study Time. Immediately I was drawn to the word FAITH. This word always comes up in these chapters of Daniel. Consider the following:

  • Daniel one reveals to us the faith of Daniel along with his companions to trust in God’s directions instead of mens.
  • Daniel two reveals to us the faith of Daniel in believing God is the one who knows all things.
  • Daniel three reveals to us the faith of Daniels three companions who were willing to stand in the fire for their faith in God.

Oh, what great faith these brothers possessed.

But, there is greater FAITH to see in these chapters. Look closely at the faithfulness of God. Consider the following:

  • God was faithful in positioning His servants in positions of favor and influence in a foreign land.
  • God was faithful in providing health and divine wisdom before a lost nation of people.
  • God was faithful to be the fourth man in the fire.

On this Monday, I tell you: God is faithful to the end of every matter in life. Knowing this, I can have peaceful faith in knowing that God will be faithful to the end of what I am in the middle of today. Knowing this, I can have wisdom to see how to get through what I am about to go into today. Knowing this, I will be thankful as I come out of whatever I am in.

Here is what Daniel knew about God:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
    I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
    and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
    for you have made known to us the king’s matter.

2 questions:

  1. What have you learned about God today?
  2. How can these lessons build your faith in Him?

Who is at the Gate? (Ezekiel 44-45)

September 10, 2021

 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.  Ezekiel 44:3

The year was 1995. I will never forget that year for two reasons. The first reason was the birth of my oldest son. The second reason was because I was able to take a study tour of Israel. Yes, I walked in the Holy Land in 1995. There are many moments that are edged in my memory. I remember receiving the Lord’s Supper at the Garden Tomb and I remember the worship service on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.

I also remember the day our tour group gathered in front of the eastern gate (called the Golden Gate) in the city of Jerusalem. I have the picture hanging in my office to this day. I can remember our tour guide telling the story of how when the Muslims took charge of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Sulciman, that they closed up the gate and it remains closed until this very day.

Because of our studies in Ezekiel we know that Jesus glory came through the gate and we know that God said (44:1) close up the gate. We also know that someday Jesus will come through this very gate (37:24). Please drink deeply in God’s Word today:

This very day, King Jesus sits as our God at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 5:31). This could be the very day when Jesus will come to enter by the gate and sit on the throne in Israel and the world (Matt. 25:31). When this happens, all the world will come to be judged by Him (Matt. 25:32-33). Jesus told his disciples to be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matt. 24:44).

Oh what good news this is. But there is more good news. Before Jesus coming, He is calling to all people to follow Him. John pictures Jesus as standing before every person’s heart and knocking at their gates (door) (Rev. 3:20). Jesus did this in my life in February 1974. Praise be to His name, that He led me to open up the gate of my heart.

Dear reader, have you opened up the door of your heart? If not, do it today. If you have, consider this truth, some day He is coming to meet you in person. Oh what a day that will be.

Two questions:

  1. How did you respond when God came to the gate of your heart?
  2. How did todays study bring hope into your life?

Enjoy the lyrics to the worship song I sang this morning:

He’s coming on the cloudsHe’s coming on the clouds
Kings and kingdoms will bow down
And every chain will break
As broken hearts declare His praise
For who can stop the Lord AlmightyAnd our God is the lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him
Our God is the lamb
The lamb that was slain
For the sins of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the lion and the lamb
Every knee will bow before Him (yeah)So, open up the gatesSo, open up the gates
Make way before the King of Kings
The God who comes to save
Is here to set the captives free
For who can stop the Lord AlmightyOur God is the lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him
Our God is the lamb
The lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the lion and the lamb
Every knee will bow before Him”How many here believe
Every knee will bow
Every tongue will confess
And then”For who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
No one
Who can stop
Sing it over the battle”Yeah, that’s it”Who can stop the Lord Almighty
There is no one
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord (yeah)And our God is the lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him
Our God is the lamb
The lamb that was slain
For the sins of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the lion and the lamb
Every knee will bow before Him (yeah)Every knee will bow
Tongue confess

Behold the Glory of God (Ezekiel 42-43)

September 9, 2021

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory, Ezekiel 43:1

As Ezekiel continued to describe the dimensions of the temple, we are brought into the inner court of the temple. Suddenly, Ezekiel sees something beyond complete description coming from the east. Quickly, we are told it is the glory of God coming back to the temple. I remind you of how Ezekiel described the glory of God leaving the temple in 11:23.

In my journal I wrote: The presence of God would return to His people.

Brothers and sisters, the temple was only a building without God. Yes, its craftsmanship was wonderful and its wealth magnificent. However, without God’s presence it was just another building. However, when God came, things changed in the building. Now there was power in the building and there was direction in the building.

The building was not the object of worship. God was the object of worship.

In my journal I wrote: In a much greater way, the presence of God resides in His people today!

Let us remember I Corinthians 6:19-20:

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20

Someone once said, pastor I don’t have to attend church to worship God. Yes, this is true, but it is also true, anyone who worships God each day will long to gather with God’s people in His house to worship.

I want you to know that there is something special about being in the house of worship, on His day. Nothing else compares to it. Here is what the writer of Hebrews said about the special day of the week:

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

I want you to know that last weekend, the Glory of the Lord was in this house called JFBC and I want you to know that the glory of the Lord will be in this house called JFBC this weekend.

2 questions:

  1. Why is corporate worship unique?
  2. Have you already made your plans for the weekend?

If I could only see it (Ezekiel 40-41)

September 8, 2021

 And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.” Ezekiel 40:4

Several nights ago, Sherry and I were driving home late after having spent some time with church family. As I drove Sherry was glued to looking out the passenger window. Her focus was totally on her search for deer. At one point she saw a large buck and it excited here.

Personally, I found it hard to rejoice with her because I did not see the deer. Brothers and sisters, it’s hard to rejoice with God when you don’t see what He sees. In Ezekiel 40-48 the prophet is given a vision of the restored temple as well as the restored city of Jerusalem.

Admittedly, these chapters are hard to grasp until you realize what they are presenting to the reader. As the reader begins to see the Temple and its furnishings, there is suddenly a mindset change. One moves from the brokenness of now to the blessing of what is to come.

R.C. Sproul’s commentary helps us to see better: “The prophet describes through architecture, legislation, and geography a point in the future when the presence of God among His purified people will transcend anything Israel has experienced in history,” (Sproul, R.C. The Reformation Study Bible, {Reformation Trust Publishing, Sanford Florida, 2015} Pg.1444).

As Ezekiel saw these things, his heart and mind must have been encouraged. Just a few chapters earlier God had said, this day was coming. Look back at what God had said:

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land[g] and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.

Take heart today and if you need to do so, ask the Lord to let you see what you need to see to walk closer with Him. I love how the writer of Hebrew’s encourages us in such times:

 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, 11:1.

2 questions:

  1. Are the things in your mind real or are they what you think might be real?
  2. How can today’s Scripture help you to see life from a better viewpoint?

No More (Ezekiel 38-39)

September 7, 2021

“And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.  Ezekiel 38-39

Sometimes I look at our society and I wonder how much longer God will be patient with us. Sometimes I look at the apathy in many churches and I wonder how much longer will God endure with dead churches? Sometimes I listen to the open rebellion against God and I wonder, when will His mercy end and when will His wrath come.

According to the Apostle Paul, Acts 17:30-31, God has fixed a day when He will judge the earth. When that day comes there will be no more rebellion in the world.

We also are informed by Ezekiel that there is a day coming when there will be one last battle on the earth between rebellious humanity and God. Ezekiels identifies this as the Battle of Gog and Magog. We gain greater details from Revelation 20:7-10. This battle, referred to by Ezekiel takes place at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ. Satan is released from his holding place and raises an army (Ezekiel 38:12) to attempt to destroy the throne of Christ which will be in Jerusalem. He will convince multitudes of people (Ezekiel 38:10) to rebel against God.

This will be the last battle on planet earth. God said, “It is coming,” (39:8). When the battle is over, never again will there be war on the earth.

Brothers and sisters, now is the age of war on the earth. But there is coming a day when the war will end. Feast with me in God’s Word as we consider the day of the Lord:

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. ]4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

2 questions:

  1. Which team are you on? God’s or Satan’s
  2. In what ways can the reality of what is coming encourage you as you face what is?