Archive for January, 2014

Walking Through Land-mines (Nehemiah 6; Acts 16)

January 16, 2014

“And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of God,”  Nehemiah 6:16

As a child on of the many things that fascinated was World War II.  As many young boys, “I imagined myself engaged in battle with my fellow Americans against the evil of the German war machine.”  One night I dreamed of finding myself in a field of land-mines. I was half-way through before I realized it.  At that point I thought, “How can I survive walking through a field of land mines?”

There are moments in our lives when metaphorically speaking, “It seems as if we are walking through a field of land mines.”  In those moments we search for answers to the issues that could cost us our lives.

In Nehemiah 5 we find the man of God walking through spiritual land mines.  Notice three particular land mines he faced:

1.  The land mine of assassination, Vs: 1-4

Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to get him away from his work where they could murder him in private.  Here was his reply, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”

2. The land mine of affliction, Vs: 5-9

Next we see Nehemiah’s enemies attempting to destroy his confidence.  The greatest of afflictions is fear itself.  Notice Nehemiah’s reply, “But now, Oh God, strengthen my hands.”

3.  The land mine of alternative choices, Vs: 10-13

Now we see Nehemiah’s enemies acting as if they want to help.  His enemies offer an alternative that would protect his life.  But in actuality they were attempting to destroy his character.  Again we see Nehemiah’s reply, “God remember these men according to the things they did.”

Think it through:

There was something that kept Nehemiah on course.  There was something that caused him to walk past the land mines.  Have you discovered the answer?  Here is the answer:  Nehemiah was all about the glory of God.

Nehemiah wanted the name of the Lord to be great in Jerusalem and in the rest of the world.  So it did not matter about his own name, person, or life.  He lived for the glory of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, this is the sure path through any land mine.  This day I say with Paul, “Whatever we do may we do it all for the glory of the Lord,” I Cor. 10:31

What Is Necessary (Nehemiah 5; Acts 15)

January 15, 2014

“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”  Acts 15:6

I knew what was necessary.  I have a mechanically inclined mind.  I know what I am doing.  These strong statements characterized my mentality as I opened the box which contained a new gas grill that was waiting to be assembled.

Yes, you know the rest of the story.  I did well for about two-thirds of the project and then I hit a tough spot, so I decided to look at the directions.  Suddenly I realized I had wasted an hour of my life, because I would have to take the entire grill back apart and begin according to the directions.

Brothers and sisters, the Bible gives us clear directions concerning what is necessary for our salvation, “But we all believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

These words from Peter sum up what is necessary.  However, there was a great division of belief among those gathered in Jerusalem in Acts 15.  Notice how they arrived at the truth:

1.  There was a great debate.

It is good to come together and reason.  But we must reason according to God’s Word.  We must study and we must submit to His Word.

2.  There was a great decision.

The decision was made that all men are saved in the same way.  Men are saved through grace along by faith that will not be alone.

3.  There was a great delight among the people.

The people (Gentiles) were delighted to hear the truth.  They were also delighted to understand how they were to live now that they were Christ followers.

Think it through:

It is of eternal importance for you and I to settle the question, “What is necessary for salvation.”  Daily we encounter people from all walks of life with multitudes of different circumstances of life.  We must settle this issue for the sole reason of being able to share a clear gospel with those we meet.  We do not have many gospels with many ways to heaven.  There is one, Jesus Christ!!!

Follow Through:

Spend time walking through the Word of God so that you can be reminded of this gospel.  Spend time-sharing this gospel with those you meet today, so that in the end you have not wasted hours, days, and months, living and doing things that have no eternal value.

A Strange Door (Nehemiah 4; Acts 14)

January 14, 2014

“And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”  Acts 14:27

When I was a kid a new game show was introduced in America.  The game show was called, “Let’s Make a Deal.”  The show continues to this day.  The object of the show is to simply make the best deal you can with the options given to you.  I can still remember game show host Monty Hall stating to the contestants, “There are three curtains for you to choose from.  Behind each curtain are gifts that will be yours based on which curtain you choose.”  Usually behind one curtain there were amazing prizes.  Behind the other two were not so amazing prizes.  It was simply a game of chance.

Before us in Acts 14 we find the first missionary team engaged  (Not in a game of chance) but in gospel work.  There are several themes that run parallel to each other in this chapter.  Here are those themes, “Preaching, Persecution, and Perspective.”

Connected to these themes is the metaphor of not a curtain but of a door.  This door was the entry way to something wonderful.  But the door itself was something strange.

Think it through:

1.  In each city Paul preached the gospel.

2.  In each city Paul was persecuted for preaching the gospel.

3.  In each city Paul had the perspective of the end result which was the salvation of many people.

As I read this chapter, I could not help but to see the scene in the following way.  As Paul stood before the door, it was locked.  The key that fit the lock was the gospel.  As he walked across the threshold he discovered the threshold was named persecution.  But once across the threshold he saw the souls of men.  From his perspective, it was worth walking through the door.

Our Response:

Which door are you choosing to walk through each day of your life.  Just like, “Lets Make a Deal,” It is your choice to which door you will choose.  Oh how I pray that we choose the strange door of the gospel.  The end result is worth every step we take.

Let It Be Known (Nehemiah 3; Acts 13)

January 13, 2014

“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”  Acts 13:38

Someone once said to me the following, “Some things are best left unsaid.”  This was truly wisdom because in the case this person was talking about, the sharing of information would not help the circumstances.

There are many things in life that are best left unsaid, but when it comes to the good news of the Gospel, it is never best to leave it unsaid.  Case in point:  Acts 13.

Acts 13 begins with the wonderful telling of the life of the church in Antioch.  Here was a church that was overflowing with grace and growth.  The leaders were Spirit-filled. The congregation was filled with worship.

It would be here that God would lead the members to send out the best leaders(Paul and Barnabas).  Where were they to be sent?  They were to be sent to the nations!!!  They were sent with information that needed to be made known.

Here was the commission given by the Lord, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”  

Think it through:

1.  This team attempted to first proclaim the gospel among their own people.

2.  This team faced constant opposition among their own people.

3.  This team discovered there was fruit among the Gentiles.

4.  This team had found out clearly where they were to take the Gospel.

Our response:

1.  Have we been proclaiming the gospel among our own people?

2.  Will we see the harvest field just beyond our street, our city, our village, or our comfort zone?

3.  Where does God want us to take His message?

Oh how I pray that you and I see the need to be involved in sharing the life-changing message of the gospel.  The work begun by the church in Antioch is still not completed.  You and I have been called to share the gospel with every nation.  How tragic it would be to stand before God having to give account for a message we never shared.

What Will He Say? Ezra 10; Acts 10

January 10, 2014

“So when I was sent for, I cam without objection.  I ask then why you sent for me.”  Acts 10:29

One thing was for sure, “You never knew what would come out of their mouth.”  This commentary was made many times by a certain person’s closest friends.  However the commentary changed when this certain person heard the gospel.  More about this person later.  But for now, I turn your attention to two people in Acts 10

There are two people who occupy the lead characters in Acts 10.  One was a Roman Centurion by the name of Cornelius.  He was a devout man who feared God, but he did not know Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior.  The other man was one of the 12 disciples.  Christians know him well as Peter.

These two men received visions:  Cornelius was told (in a vision) to send for Peter.  Peter would in turn come to his house and share with him how he could be right with God (saved).  Peter was told (in a vision) to never consider anyone unworthy of hearing the gospel.  Peter was told (by the Spirit) to go with these men to Cornelius house.

Think it through:

Here we see two men coming together.  God had opened Peter’s eyes to the truth:  “Everyone needs to hear the gospel.”  God had opened Cornelius ears to the truth: “He was ready with his entire household to hear the gospel.”

Now watch what happens:

1.  God opens Peters mouth to share the gospel, Vs: 34-43

2.  God opens Cornelius household to respond to the gospel, Vs: 44-48

In this moment I rejoice that the gospel has gone to the Gentiles.  But at the same time I reflect on what this means for my life.

Our response:

1.  The gospel should impact everything we say and do.  Such was the case of the person who used to be a loose cannon with his mouth.  Today this person is used greatly by God!!!

2.  The gospel must go forth to the nations.  I believe the gospel is worth the hearing of every person on the earth!!!

When Repentance happens in a nation (Ezra 9; Acts 9)

January 9, 2014

“But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery,” Ezra 9:8

As I opened my Bible to my Old Testament reading for the day I came to a scene that is in all honesty, a scene I have never experienced.  Here we see the people of Israel coming to a place of repentance.  Yes, it is true, here we see a nation repenting before God.

Now, it goes without saying, but I am going to say it, “many nations need a time of repentance before God.”  If you do not believe me, just scan the local and world news from your place in the world.  Ours is a world that is getting worse and worse in its rebellious ways before God.

This was the same report concerning the nation of Israel.  She was presently, in the time of Ezra, experiencing the favor (grace) of God in being given another opportunity to turn from her sin and to accomplish God’s purpose for her life.

The question that dominates the moment is this: “What do these people need to do to turn from their sin?”  We are given the path in Ezra 9 and 10:

Think it through:

1.  The revealing of their sin against God, Vs: 1-8

The particular sin being revealed is the sin of intermarriage.  The person whom this is revealed to is Ezra.  Ezra is broken over this sin.  He comes in brokenness before God. He is fasting, mourning, and praying.  His prayer is a prayer that needs to be offered for the nations of the world.

2.  The revealing of the grace of God, Vs: 8-15

Even though the nation did not deserve grace, God gave grace!!!  The question on Ezra’s mind was this, “How can we stop sinning against God, while there is still time?”

3.  The response of those who understand the grace of God, chapter 10

We see the people who are sinning turning from their sin and following Christ.  This scene would be hard to explain in a national context because it is rarely seen in our world.

But it is seen time after time in the lives of individuals such as Paul in Acts 9.

Our response to what we have read:

1.  Daily seek Gods Word for your nation and for your personal life.

2.  Daily seek repentance and revival for your nation and for your personal life.

3.  Daily share the gospel one on one with everyone you meet, because this is where true repentance begins!!!

Kneeling while you stand (Ezra 8; Acts 8)

January 8, 2014

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.  For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horseman to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him,'” Ezra 8:22

“Yes,” the title of our blog for today is a paradox.  But at the same time it is not.  Allow me to explain this according to what we have just read in Ezra 8.

Ezra is leading a group of people along with their goods back to Jerusalem.  They are going to restore worship in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity is over.  Ezra is fearful of the thieves along the way who would seek to rob and maybe even kill them.  But he will not ask for soldiers as an escort because that would call into question, “his faith in God.”

So Ezra stands in faith!!!  But He also kneels in faith, by proclaiming a fast (Seeking God’s hand of protection).  So in truth this is not a paradox because he is kneeling while he is standing.

Think it through:

When people investigate your life, do they see someone who has both great and humble faith?  It takes great faith to humble oneself before another and submit to their direction and their protection.  This is exactly what Jesus was asking us to do in Matthew 11:28-29.

Our response:

Will you spend 2014 in kneeling while you stand?  If so, daily seek God!!!  If not, prepare yourself for a difficult journey.  Here is what Ezra believed:  He who seeks God will be blessed.  He who forsakes God will face God’s hand of wrath.  What will your response be?

A Complaint (Ezra 6; Acts 6)

January 6, 2014

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution,”  Acts 6:1

Question, “Do you have any complaints this day?”  For most people, the complaints come to mind quicker than the complements.  This is one of the results of the curse.  As a follower of Christ, you have been given a way to maneuver through the complaints of life.  Consider Acts 6 as a proof text.

Before us are two complaints.  I am so thankful God has included the ugly with the good.  As the church sought to make disciples it is clear that this work can become messy.  But it a work that is worth the end result.  Here are the two complaints:

1.  A complaint from within the church, Vs: 1-7

It seemed as if some of the members felt like they were getting the short end of the stick.  Notice how they maneuvered through this complaint:

A.  They assembled the leaders

B.  They addressed the complaint

C.  They appointed Deacons to minister to the people

2.  A complaint from the community, Vs: 8-15

Here we see the darkness of depravity attempting to put out the light.  Notice how they maneuvered through the complaint:

A.  A debate was won by the one who was filled with wisdom and the Spirit.

B. We see a light coming from the one who was facing the debate.

Yes, Stephen would be stoned in chapter 7.  But not before he gave a great witness that would rock Jerusalem.  But not before his death caused the church to rise up and go forth to the nations with the gospel.

How did all of this work out?

Think it through:

It was through the wisdom of God and the Spirit of God that the complaints were answered and overcome!!!  This very day, you and I do not need more strength to endure complaints.  You and I need the Spirit of God and the wisdom of God to control our response.  This is how we maneuver our way through the complaints of life.  In this God is glorified!!!

The Beginning (Ezra 3; Acts 3)

January 3, 2014

“And Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsman, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity…” Ezra 3:8

Wow, getting off the couch is not easy after spending a few days on the couch.  This is my confession as a person who is used to being busy!!!  Admittedly a few days of rest is always a good thing as long as it does not become the norm of a person’s life.

Certainly, being on the couch did not describe the people of Israel who were coming back to their homeland.  The last 70 years had been spent in captivity.  Now God was favoring them with the blessing of being able to return home.  This was a new beginning!

As they returned home they discovered their beloved city of Jerusalem in ruins.  They also discovered their beloved temple leveled to the ground.  Immediately these people do two things that form the beginning of the rest of their lives:

1.  They rebuild the altar of God, Vs: 1-7

On this altar they offer sacrifices to their God.  We see repentance and we see restoration.  But we also see them sacrificing their resources for the second thing that they are going to do.

2.  They rebuild the foundation of the temple, Vs: 8-13

I am amazed at their work.  When the foundation was laid the people gather together to worship.  We read, “Some were rejoicing and some were weeping.”  

Think it through?

We see both people who were looking back and people who were looking ahead.  In this moment there is something crucial for us to think through:  For some of these people it was the beginning of the end (They would slip into discouragement and even discontent because the days ahead were not as glorious as the days gone by).  Still for others it was the beginning of a joyous journey (They would worship the Lord in ways they had never worshipped before).

Our takeaway:

Brothers and sisters, as we begin a new year we must decide whether this will be the beginning of the end or the beginning of a joyous journey.  The best way to decide is to go before the Altar of the Lord and offer your life as a sacrifice to Jesus.  Say to Him, “Use me any way you choose!!!”

The Gospel in my language (Acts 2)

January 2, 2014

“And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each was hearing in his own language,” Acts 2:6

Recently I received a copy of Nik Ripken’s new book, “The Insanity of Obedience.”  Here was one of many starting facts brought to light in his book, “Over 80 percent of those who have not heard the gospel only communicate orally.”  Simply put, “they cannot read or write.”

Honestly, I had to step away from the book and process this for a few minutes.  In these minutes I came to our More For Christ readings.  In Acts 2 we see the great day when the Holy Spirit was given to the church.  We see the Holy Spirit indwelling individual believers.  Each of the these believers were able to speak to those around them in their own language.  This was incredible to read about.

Question, “Does God still work this way today?”  The Prophet of God (Joel) said this would happen in the last days (2:18-24).  Here in Acts 2 Peter quotes Joel.  Here in Acts 2 it happens.

Brothers and sisters the gospel knows no barriers (II Tim.2:10) except for the barrier of a closed life.  If a person chooses to not open their mouth with the gospel, countless souls will never once hear what most of us have heard over and over again.

I want to challenge you to Think it through:

1. Who has heard the gospel because I was opened to share?

2.  Who has not heard the gospel because I was not open to share?

For this point forward:

Let us make it our aim to share the gospel with everyone we meet.  We know God can translate the gospel into their language!!!