Archive for September, 2016

Lover of God (Luke 1; John 1:1-14)

September 30, 2016

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

Yesterday morning I took my Father to Emory for his heart procedure.  As we arrived I settled into Luke 1 and John 1:1-14.  I was captivated by the glorious information given by Luke and John.

Here are the highlights:

  • Luke writes under the burden to give all who would read a eye-opening view of the ministry of Jesus.
  • Luke shares with us the awesome events surrounding the divine path of Jesus coming:
    • John the Baptist would by a miracle (parents conception) come onto the scene as the prophet (Malachi 4:1) who would tell the world of Jesus coming.
    • Mary would by a divine miracle (incarnation) conceive in the womb the Son of Man who was the Son of God.
  • Luke reminds us of the amazing moments when all of these things is coming to be.
  • John informs us of the foundational truth of who Jesus is:
    • He is the eternal God who has always existed.  In the fullness of time he came to this dark world and brought salvation to all who would believe in Him (John 1:12).

As I sat in the waiting room, I could not help but rejoice in God’s glorious love to the world.  In this public place I began to praise His name.  I wanted the world to know that I am like the man Luke wrote too.

The name Theophilus means a lover of God. Whether this was an actual man or a reference to all men who would love God, I do not know.  One thing I know, “God has opened my eyes to who Jesus is and what Jesus did for me.”  I can say, “I am a lover of God.”

In whatever you may face today, love God because he loves you with a love that you and I could never exhaust or totally understand this side of heaven.

Finally, “Get ready for Sunday!!!”  It is our day to worship our God.  All lovers of God, gather in His house to praise His name.

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A different way (Malachi 1-4)

September 29, 2016

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, Malachi 2:8

One of the many challenges of living near Atlanta, is the issue of getting from point A to point B in the midst of metropolitan traffic.  I used to really stress over the drive, but I have learned many different ways to get around the congestion of traffic.

Question:  “Do you find yourself sometimes looking for a way around the congestion of life?”

400 years before the first coming of Jesus, a prophet wrote about a people who were not only looking for a different way, but were taking a different way.  Here is the deal:

  • The nation said, “Lord, you are our God.”  However, “They were on a different road.”  Chapter 1.
  • The priest’s said, “This is the Lord’s way.”  However, “They were on a different road.” Chapter 2.
  • The people said, “we are serving the Lord.” However, “They were on a different road.” Chapter 3.
  • The Lord said, “I am sending my Son.”  However, “They were on a different road.” Chapter 4.

You may ask, “what was the different road?”  It was a road of disrespect for God.  It was a road where the priest lied and twisted God’s Word.  It was a road where the people were robbing God of what they owed Him.  It was a road to judgment that still awaits our world.

This is a road that I do not want to be on!!!

Listen carefully.  There are many roads in and around Atlanta.  But some of them land you in deeper congestion than your were already in. Malachi reminds us of the coming Day of the Lord.  When He returns it will be a glorious day for those who are on the right road:

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 4:2-3

Please allow me to challenge you with two things:

  1. If you are on the wrong road, get on the right road of Jesus, John 14:6.
  2. If you are seeing the signs for detours, do not take them.  Stay on the narrow path, it leads to life, Matthew 7:13-14

“Thank you Jesus for revealing to me the right road!!!”

Behind the scenes (Nehemiah 11-13; Psalm 126)

September 28, 2016

15 In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Nehemiah 13:13

Each of you have heard the familiar statement: “Life is not as it always seems.”  Many people find themselves seeking for success in life without really knowing all that is involved in the true success of a venture.  Maybe you are personally praying about something big that God has placed on your heart?  Please be aware of what goes on behind the scenes!!!

We see this being played out in the life of Nehemiah.  As the book draws to conclusion we read of the success story of a people who willingly move into the city of Jerusalem.  We see the names of the groups who say, “yes,” to the Lord.  We read of the “joy of Jerusalem” that was heard far away.”  We read of a people who hear the law and obey the law of God, 13:2.

Everything seems so awesome, and it is!!!  But it comes with a behind the scenes cost.  In chapter 13 we see 5 behind the scenes tough and costly moments for Nehemiah:

  • Nehemiah discovers the wicked Tobiah with a room in the temple, Vs: 4-8.  He has to drive him out.
  • Nehemiah discovers Levites who have not be cared for, Vs: 10-14.  He has to reestablish offerings.
  • Nehemiah discovers the city engaged in business on the Sabbath, Vs: 15-18.  He has to reestablish the Sabbath.
  • Nehemiah discovers intermarriage among the people, Vs: 23-27.  He has to reestablish religious separation.
  • Nehemiah discovers a corrupt priest, Vs: 28-29.  He has to remove him.

These are not easy behind the scenes duties.  But they are the duties given to those who want to see success in the call.  I wonder, “Why was Nehemiah willing to work behind the scenes?”  Here is the answer:

“Nehemiah was concerned for God’s glory, the spiritual health of his people, and God’s blessing on his people.”

Brothers and sisters, “this must be our heart behind the scenes.”

Psalm 126 brings this out so clearly:

Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

This model was exemplified by Jesus as He walked among us.  The Apostle Paul placed this same behind the scenes wisdom before us in Ephesians 5:15-17

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Lord, May we each fear you in doing things the right way (13:14).  May we have reverence in your love (13:22).  Lead us to do what is pleasing in your sight (13:31).

Thanks for reminding me (Nehemiah 8-10)

September 27, 2016

17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.[a] But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Nehemiah 9:17

As Israel assembled at the “Water Gate” in Nehemiah’s day, it would be a moment of remembrance.  It would be a moment that the people could either respond with a sincere or a sarcastic response.  Here is the response, “thanks for reminding me.”

The people (the remnant) who had gathered here were privileged to have the Law of Moses read to them.  This law is covered for us in Exodus 20-31.  The Bible records their response to what was read to them:

  • The were attentive.
  • They were respectful.
  • They were comprehending.
  • They obeyed what they heard.

It is clear, they would have been sincere in saying, “thanks for the reminder.”

Question:  “In what mood are you today?”

For me, the Word of God has stirred up a very sincere mood, this day, in saying, “I need God’s Word.”

Just reading in chapter 9 of God’s work in the life of his people was so convicting.  I was reminded of the following about our God:

  • 9:8, “He keeps His promises.”
  • 9:17, “He is always merciful, always gracious, always slow to anger, and always abounding in steadfast love.”
  • 9:20, “He has given His Spirit to lead us.”
  • 9:30, “He is long-suffering.”

These reminders caused me to be reminded of this one truth: “I am not as good as I think I am.”  The truth is, it is not because of my glorious life that I am blessed.  It is because of His gracious character that I am blessed.

I needed this reminder. I needed to humble myself and be thankful before God. I needed to repent of looking at others with a condemning eye.  I needed to again, lift up the grace of God in my eyes so that I would share the grace of God with others.

Thank you Lord, for the reminder!!!

You will overcome (Esther 6-10)

September 23, 2016

13 And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” Esther 6:13

“I love to read the book of Esther.”  This was my comment to Sherry as I left for a early morning meeting.  I honestly was cranked about getting up early to read chapters 6-10 before I left.

As we left off yesterday.  The Jewish people were facing a death decree.  Esther, had taken her life in her own hand to stand before the king.  We discovered, “nothing happens by chance.”  The Sovereign Lord of the earth is in charge of all things.  As we closed chapter 5 the issue still hung in the balance.

Today, we discover this truth: “If you are walking in the Lord’s will, you will overcome.”  Write it down, memorize it, and believe it!  If you are in God’s will, “You will overcome.

Here is the overview of the chapters:

  • In chapter 6 God reverses the direction for Mordecai.  The man who wanted to kill him is forced to honor him.
  • In chapter 7 God judges the enemy of His people.  Haman is killed on the gallows he built for others.
  • In chapter 8 God gives Esther the wisdom to advise the king in how to save her people.
  • In chapter 9 God gives the Jewish people victory over their enemies and rest from the labors.
  • In chapter God elevates Mordecai to the second highest position in the kingdom.

Have you noticed?  “God always wins the day.”  The Devil means for your life to end in failure, but God is for you.  The reverse of what Satan wants will happen.

Take in familiar words from Scripture:

Romans 8:31, “If God be for you, who can be against You.”

Romans 8:16-17

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Oh my brothers and sisters, take heart today, “You may not see, hear, or feel God’s presence, but be assured He is at work.  You will overcome!”

Not by chance (Esther 1-5)

September 22, 2016

14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Question: “Do you believe in change?”  Often I hear people comment, “boy, that was luck,” or “I was sure lucky there.”  Read the next few words carefully: “There is no such thing as change or luck.”

The Bible teaches us the following: “God is sovereign in the affairs of men.”

God is always at work.  Certainly I know there are moments when it seems just the opposite:

  • Sometimes it seems as if God is powerless.
  • Sometimes it seems as if God is asleep.
  • Sometimes it seems as if God is indifferent.
  • Sometimes it seems as if God does not care.

The fact is, God is all-power; never off the clock, always engaged, and always caring for humanity.  Here in the book of Esther we see this so clearly. Yes, I know, the name of God is never mentioned in this book, but His sovereign control is everywhere in the book.

  • How else could you explain: A conquered people having one of their own elevated the position of Queen of Persia.
  • How else could you explain:  “A condemned  people having one who is in a position of influence.

Esther had been given life in this particular season of Israel’s history because God was sovereign in the affairs of men.

Question:  “Do things seem to be out of control in your life or in the lives of people in your world?”  Take heart, God is in control.  Here are 4 suggestions that are not by chance:

  1. Trust God with all your moments, Romans 8:28-38.
  2. Rely on God in your tough moments, Hebrews 13:6.
  3. Walk with God’s protection in every moment, Exodus 14:13-14.
  4. Wait for Him when you can’t see His hand at work, Galatians 6:9.

The Words of Paul are amazing to my heart.  I leave them with you, Ephesians 1:19-21

19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Looking Ahead (Zechariah 8-14)

September 21, 2016

12 For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. Zechariah 8:12

One of the most humbling discoveries about my life is this: “It is hard for me to look to the long-term future when I am dealing with daily pressures of the moment.”  I suspect I am not alone?

In Zechariah 8-14 the prophet of God directs the nation to look beyond the pressures of the moment to the future of what God had in store for His people.

When we consider the content of the prophet’s message we are encouraged to walk through pressure moments:

  • In chapter 8 we are reminded of the peace (Vs: 12) that comes as a result of the New Covenant made by Christ’s first coming, Jeremiah 31:33; Matt. 26:28; Rev. 21-22.
  • In chapter 9 we are told of Jesus first coming (Vs:9).  Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a conquering king, John 12:15.
  • In chapter 10 the Lord is coming to gather his people (Vs: 8).  Revelation 19
  • In chapter 11 the Good Shepherd will lay down His life for the sheep.  John 10:10-18
  • In chapter 12 the Lord will usher in the age of grace (Vs: 10-12). John 19:37
  • In chapter 13 the Lord will die in our place and establish His church (Vs: 3-9).  Mark 14:27
  • In chapter 14 the Lord will return with great authority.  Revelation 15-16

When we consider the intent of the prophet’s message we are encouraged to live in obedience to God’s Word despite the polluted landmines.

16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.” 8:16-17

Dear Lord, empower every believer to look ahead to what is to come.  Dear Lord, equip every believer to live in the now with a heart to do your will oh Lord!!!

 

Talk to my Lawyer (Zachariah 1-7)

September 20, 2016

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of theLord, and Satan[a] standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand[b] plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

In a recent episode of “Blue Bloods” the lead detective ask the suspect for information concerning a murder.  The suspects response was classic,”talk to my lawyer.”

Question: “Do you and I have a lawyer or do we know a lawyer who can plead our case before God?”

In our readings for today, the prophet Zechariah is called to proclaim the Word of the Lord to the people of God who were returning back to their homeland.  They were engaged in a physical rebuilding project.  The prophet is to give himself to their spiritual rebuilding.

We are shown, in the first 7 chapters, 8 different visions given to the prophet.  Each of these visions put together completes God’s message to His people.  Take time to read through each one.

For my time with you, I want to focus on the vision in chapter 3 which is vision number 4.

The vision takes us into the heavenly courtroom where the High Priest is standing before God.  It is apparent that he is a guilty sinner.  Beside of him is Satan who is the master trail lawyer.  His accusations against the priest is intended to destroy him.

What takes place next is amazing:

  • The Sovereign Lord of the universe defends and purifies  the guilty one.

God speaks:  I saved you, i.e. “plucked you out of the fire.” I am sanctifying you, i.e. “cleaning you up.”

  • The Sovereign Lord gives instructions to the one he has purified. Vs: 6-7.

God says, “Live for me.”

  • The Son of God is coming to make atonement for the priest sins. Vs: 8.

The enemy of God’s people has nothing else to make His case.  The guilty has been forgiven.  The guilty can go free.

Oh my brothers and sisters, when Satan comes to accuse you, point him to your lawyer Jesus Christ!!!

Here are two Scriptures to take in as you consider the above truth:

Hebrews 9:11-15

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,[b]then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify[c] for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[d] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.[e]

I John 2:1-2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Drinking Strong Spiritual Coffee on Monday Morning (Haggai 1-2)

September 19, 2016

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares theLord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. Haggai 2:4-5

Yes, it is Monday!  Yes, around the world people are trying to find a cup of strong coffee to get the boost they need to begin their day!

Question:  “Have you had your strong spiritual coffee today?”

Each day God’s Word is the strong spiritual coffee that gets us motivated for the task of each day.  We see this in our readings from the book of Haggai.

Keep in mind, this prophet begins his ministry when the Jews have begun their return to Palestine under the reign of king Cyrus, 538 B.C.  The people have returned to the city of Jerusalem and they have rebuilt or are rebuilding their homes.  But the house of the Lord remains in ruins.  God’s Word to them is simple:  “Consider your ways.”

This my friends is like the espresso coffee I used to get in a small cup in Romania.  It will awaken you in a hurry.  Thankfully these words had the same effect of God’s people.  The Bible says, “and they came and worked on the house of the Lord.”

Question:  “Where are you investing your resources?”  The Bible promises God’s presence and power when we do His will.  We see this clearly in these chapters. Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:12-14 the following:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[a] anything in my name, I will do it.  

Wow.  This is the spiritual coffee I needed today.  I want to challenge you to drink deeply God’s will and direction for your life.  You will find yourself alert and effective in the day!

 

Daniels burden (Daniel 10-12)

September 16, 2016

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) Daniel 10:2-4

Question:  “What seems to be bothering you?”  Answer, “______________”

The above scenario is one that plaques many people in a days time.  I purposely left the answer blank so you could fill it in with what is on your heart and mind today.

If we were to be able to ask the Prophet Daniel this question, how would he fill in the blank?

Thankfully we have God’s written answer to this question:

  • Daniel was burdened for the position his name was in, Daniel 8-9.
  • Daniel was burdened to the point of exhaustion because of what he saw in the world’s future, Daniel 11-12:4.
  • Daniel pleaded with the Lord for the answer for what would be the outcome, Daniel 12:3-13.

Brothers and sisters, “What did you place in the blank that would describe what you were burdened about?”

I almost feel ashamed when I place things on my list that really have no eternal significance.  This day I was reminded to do the following so I could focus on the correct burden:

  1. Spend more time in reading and prayer so that I can have God’s heart on each matter of life.
  2. Spend more time meditating on what God has said.
  3. Spend more time focusing my energies seeking God’s vision in making impact in my world.
  4. Spend more time resting in the love God has for me.

Daniel 12:2-3 gives me the greatest of hope

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

 Matthew 25:46
46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”