Archive for June, 2020

The Good Hand of the Lord (Ezra 7-8)

June 30, 2020

22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen 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

Brothers and sisters, there are times when you just have to step up to the plate in life.  You and I are living in days when the light of the gospel is needed more than ever.  God has promised to place His good hand on our lives, Matt. 28:20, if we will step out in faith.

Be reminded of what faith is:

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

This morning God has given us a timely illustration of a person who stepped up to the plate.  This person’s name is the name of the very Old Testament book we are currently reading.  Ezra was a priest and scribe in his day.

We are reminded that his people had been given an open door by God to return home to Israel and to rebuild the temple.  You and I will discover in chapters 9-10 how much spiritual work that needed to be done.  It was to this work that God called Ezra.

Why did God call Ezra?  Here is what the Bible says of his life:

10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

God’s hand of favor will always be on those whom:

  1. Study the Law of God for intake and impact in their own lives.
  2. Take heed to what they are studying.
  3. Teach others what they have been impacted by.

To summarize what was happening with Ezra we can say Ezra left his mark on people because God had left His mark on Ezra!

I wonder, is God calling you to step up to the plate in any particular area of your life?  The answer lies within the pages of God’s Word.  Let me challenge you to get into God’s Word and mark the pages and open your lives for God to mark the pages so that you can mark the world with the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Lifestyle of Repentance (Zechariah 1-2, 12)

June 29, 2020

 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’” Zechariah 1:6

In our last blog (Ezra 5-6) we focused our attention on the decrees of God.  We remember the open door of the Lord for His people to go home from exile. Ezra told the story of their return and then their completing of the House of the Lord.

Here is a question, what led them to return and obey the Lord?  The answer is seen in our focal text.  The Prophet Zechariah writes, “the people repented.”

The generations (1:1-5) before would not repent, this was why exile came.  But the new generation of people repented.  In chapter three the prophet calls for the new generation to live a lifestyle of repentance.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.

What is a lifestyle of repentance?  This is a lifestyle that has changed directions and continues to walk in the changed direction.

In America we have had times of crying out to God for help.  We remember the times we have cried out before storms, in storms, and after storms.  We have cried out for help in wars and in times of economic trials.  But we have never really cried out in repentance.

True repentance happens when:

  • There is a brokeness over one’s sin against God, Isaiah 1:18.
  • There is turning from sin that brings salvation, Gal. 2:20.
  • There is a new lifestyle formed that is in the opposite of the old way of life, II Cor. 5:17.

In our nation we have never seen such a movement among the people.  Will you join me in praying for such a movement in our day.  Will you join me in personally modeling a lifestyle of repentance.

The Decree of God (Ezra 5-6)

June 26, 2020

14 And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia;  Ezra 6:14

Be honest, do you need a word of encouragement today?  I will join you in honesty.  It’s early as I write today.  The rain is slowly falling on our roof, my bed is calling.  It seems to be saying, today is the perfect day to go back to bed.  Also my body is saying, Keith take the day off.  But at the same time, God is saying, I have much for you in this day.

In such times I wonder in whom will we listen?  In the days after the exile (the book of Ezra) God’s people had been given an open door to go home with one assignment: build the house of the Lord.  Ezra tells us that the work did begin.  But when the adversaries rose up, the work ceased.  It was in that moment in time when God’s people needed a word of encouragement.

The Bible says, two prophets came (Haggai and Zechariah), 5:1-2, with a word of encouragement.  They said, God has decreed that you are to complete the temple.  With that encouragement the people of God moved forward.

Here are some highlights of what happened next:

  • God’s eyes were on, meaning his favor, the people, 5:5.
  • The enemy still opposed them, but without success, 5:6-7.
  • The people of God worked diligently putting their faith and their lives in God’s hands, 5:8-15.
  • The King of Persia, moved by the hand of God, supplied all the resources needed to complete the work, 6:10-12.

With all these things in place, the people of God completed the work in Ezra 6.  As they stood there looking at the temple, I imagine they felt the warmth of God’s hand of approval of their work.

Question, do you need encouragement in your work today?  Brothers and sisters, God’s decrees are His words of encouragement to every believer to move forward in faith knowing His decrees are His guarantees of His hand on your calling.

I am no prophet but I am a preacher of encouragement to you today.  Please receive this encouragement from God today.  It is His decree to you:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 121

Adversaries (Ezra 3-4)

June 25, 2020

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, Ezra 4:1

Like most people who grew up in small town America, I knew who our adversaries were.  Each fall and each winter our high schools met on the field of battle.  Yes we did battle during both football and basketball seasons. Sometimes our army would win and sometimes their army would win.  But to be honest, those battles did little to change the outcome of world circumstances.  Such was life in small town America.

In America today there are battles raging in our large cities that seem to be making their way into our small town America. The battles are deep and they are extremely painful.  The question is, what can we do?

In the days of Ezra (see yesterdays blog) a battle was raging between God’s people and their enemies.  God had blessed his people by opening a door for them to return to the Promised Land.  Once in the land the people of God reestablished sacrifice (3:1-7) and they reestablished worship (3:8-13).

The two things God’s people engaged in where the two things Satan hates the most.  Satan does not want anyone to be right with God (Sacrifice) and he does not want anyone to worship God.

We see the adversaries rising up in Ezra 4.  Here are 4 things the adversaries did in their attempts to stop God’s people from being right with God and from worshipping God:

  1. They discouraged the people.
  2. They frustrated the people.
  3. They slandered the people.
  4. They stopped the people.

We read at the end of chapter 4, “the work of the House of the Lord stopped.”

Question:  Where are you in your spiritual life today?  Maybe you are facing the 4 things above or maybe you have already stopped in your fight against the enemy.  Here is what Peter wrote about the strategy for dealing with our adversary:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 5:6-11

Here are five practical applications:

  1. Be wise in identifying your battles correctly.
  2. Resist the urge to give up or respond in the flesh.
  3. Trust in God’s timing for your victory.
  4. Don’t hide your hurts from God. Pour out your heart to Him.
  5. Wait with expectation for the victory is coming!

Brothers and sisters, Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!!!

Stirred to do the Right Thing (Ezra 1-2)

June 24, 2020

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Ezra 1:2

This morning I find the greatest of encouragement from the beginning chapters of the book of Ezra.  The setting of this book is at the very end of Israel’s 70 year exile.  A generation had been taken captive and most of that generation would have died by the time of Ezra.  Most believe Daniel was still alive, but it would be a new generation who would hear the news, you can go home.

I am encouraged when I realize it was not a Levite or a Priest who caused the king to let the people of Israel go home.  The Bible said, “God stirred the kings heart.”  I am also encouraged when I realize God stirred 42,360 Jews (2:64) and 7,337 servants (2:64) to return to the Promised Land with the intended purpose to rebuild the House of the Lord (1:5).

Brothers and sisters find encouragement in God’s ability even in the most mixed up of times.  Notice part of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

  1. In this mixed up world I rejoice because God knows what He is doing.
  2. In this mixed up world I call out to God in prayer about everything in this world.
  3. In this mixed up world I seek to listen to the voice of the one who has all wisdom and all power.
  4. In this mixed up world I have peace in knowing that He knows more and will do more than I can even conceive.
  5. In this mixed up world I know God is building a kingdom and filling it with kingdom people.

This day I want to get on the team and I want to gather with the team, grow with the team, and go to see all that God will do with His team as the day of His return approaches.

Brothers and sisters be encouraged:

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

What will be the Outcome? (Daniel 9-12)

June 23, 2020

I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” Daniel 12:8

I sometimes feel like a Yo-Yo in these troubled days we are in.  Just being honest, one day I have everything together and I am confident but the very next day I am down and not so confident.

Brothers and sisters, am I alone in these types of feelings?  I think not.

In the days of the prophet Daniel, I believe he had such days (10:1-4).   As he served the Lord faithfully the Lord gave Daniel visions of what would happen in the last days.  As one comes to Daniel 12 he or she can sense the intensity of what Daniel was both writing and experiencing.  In chapter 12 Daniel saw the very trouble at the end of the world (The Great Tribulation), 12:3.

After the visions of chapters 9-12 Daniel asked, Lord how will it all turn out?  God’s response to Daniel was two-fold:

God told Daniel to seal up the book because the time was not right to finish the Revelation.  It would be John who would pen the rest of the story in the book of Revelation.

God informed Daniel concerning the destiny of every person.  God said:

  • Daniel, there will be many people who will turn to me.
  • Daniel, there will be many people who will not turn to me.

Brothers and sisters this is how it all plays out in the end. There will be a day when the Lord returns:

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. 

Those who turn to the Lord will arise from the dead at the Second-Coming of the Lord.  They will experience eternal life. However those who turn not to the Lord will arise from the dead at the Great White Throne Judgment to experience everlasting contempt.

Brothers and sisters I am encouraged by Daniel’s prophecy.  No mater how difficult life on earth may become and no matter how depraved humanity can get.  These things will turn me away from the peace I have in my Lord.

Brothers and sisters I am challenged by Daniel’s prophecy.  I join Daniel in pleading for God’s mercy on our nation:

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.”

Now that I know the outcome, it is time to rise up and work harder for the night comes when no man can work!!!

What are you made of? (Daniel 5-6)

June 22, 2020

11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.[d] In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, Daniel 5:11

“In times of crisis values are not formed they are revealed,”  John Maxwell

Brothers and sisters this is so true in our day.  When times are easy one can seem to have life all together but when crisis comes what is on the inside comes out.

Question:  Are you ok with what is being revealed in your life during these times of crisis?

In the days of the prophet Daniel, his values were brought to light as he endured exile in a foreign land.  Daniel lived his life on display before a violent world that followed the leadership of an enemy that always wanted his destruction.  We see this in Daniel 6.

However, a few years earlier (Daniel 5) we see Daniel in one of his finest moments.  Most believe Daniel was probably 80 years old by the time of chapter 5.  He probably was living in retirement from his work in the government of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The kings grandson is in his last hours of rule because the Medes were about to take the kingdom.

On the very night when the king would die, he sees a hand that appears on the palace wall.  This hand writes a message in a language that the king nor his wise men could read.  We know the message simple says, it’s over!!!

Daniel is called to stand before the king for one reason.  The reason is because of what he is made of.  This prophet had lived before the nation led by the Spirit of God.  This prophet had been a light to all in the nation who would follow His God.  This prophet had given forth wisdom and understanding from God to all who would listen.

Now in the midst of crisis, he was called on once again.

Brothers and sisters, ours is a day of crisis.  I wonder, is God calling you and I into service during these days?  I believe with all my heart this is the case.  God is looking for Christians who have the following within them:

  1. The Spirit of the living God is at work, II Cor. 10:3-5.
  2. The Word of God is the road map you follow, II Tim. 3:16-17.
  3. The Word of God is guiding your answers for this day, Matt. 5:16.

I believe God’s people are standing up all over this country.  I challenge you personally to stand up, because this will be our finest hour.

How Far would You Go? (Daniel 3-4)

June 19, 2020

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.  Daniel 3:28

Be honest, just how much do you love me?  This was the question placed before a 16-year-old girl by her boyfriend.  Certainly you know what was coming next.  The young lady said, you know I love you with all my heart.  But that was not good enough for her boyfriend.  He said, if you really love me, have sex with me.

In this life it seems as if there is always pressure to go farther than you have been before.  I wonder, how far would you go to prove your love for someone?  In Daniel 3 we read the story of a king who was not asking for his nation to love him, he was demanding that his nation bow down in loyalty to him and he was demanding that his nation bow down and worship his god.

It’s seems that the writer of Daniel three suggests that the entire nation bowed down, that is except three guys who would not go that far.  Without doubt these guys had shown exceptional respect for the king-he had placed them in very influential positions.  Without doubt they had been hard workers.  It is clear by the jealousy of others that these men stood out and their enemies hated them for it.

As is always the case, the world wanted more from these three men.  But the world would not get any more from these men because their first love and their first loyalty was to God.

If you are familiar with their story you know the trouble they got in because of their love and loyalty.  But if you are familiar with their story, you also know the miracle God did in honoring their love and loyality.

Brothers and sisters here is what I know about God:

  1. His presence with always be with those who love Him, Daniel 3:25; Heb. 13:6.
  2. His power of deliverance will always come through for those who love Him, I Cor. 10:13.

Now I know some of you have a hard time with the second thing I know.  Your rebuttal has been thought through.  I know there are many Christians who have gotten in the fire and ended up dying in the fire.

Brothers and sisters, do you not realize, God gave them the greatest deliverance, II Cor. 5:8 “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

In Daniel three we read of three men being honored by the King.  In Eternity we will discover how many Christian will be honored by King Jesus for not loving this life more than loving Him.

In the above story the 16-year-old girl had a decision to make.  I am happy to report that she said to her boy friend, there is only one person I love more than you.  That person is Jesus and I would be hurting Jesus if I honored your wishes above His will.  I cannot and I will not hurt Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, she lost her boyfriend that day, but she keep the love of her soul.  And by the way, two months later she meet the guy who was God’s guy for her.  That was 30 years ago.  Today they serve the Lord together on a foreign mission field.

Just how far will you go today?

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules[c] of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:9-16

The Power of Understanding (Daniel 1-2)

June 18, 2020

47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery. Daniel 2:47

If the last few months have taught me anything, it has taught me of just how little people truly understand life.  I have been over and over reminded of my inability to navigate through this life on my own.  At the same time I have been humbled so many times by the unlimited understanding of God.

This day we begin to read about the ministry of the prophet Daniel.  In the most difficult of times (see Daniel 1 for the setting of his day) Daniel found answers to life.  Here is what Daniel said to Almighty God:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever to whom belong understanding and might.”

Take a moment in these uncertain days and consider what you just read.  Our God is the source (owner and originator) of all wisdom.  This wisdom comes from the God of Heaven.  Here is how Daniel describes this God in chapter 2:

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.”

This is the God from whom Daniel discovered the wisdom of the ages.  It is this same God in whom you and I serve today.  I praise the God of Heaven for revealing to Daniel the dream of the king.  I praise the God of Heaven for translating the dream into the way in which our finite minds could understand.

God had revealed to the king about many kingdoms and then one last kingdom, the coming kingdom of our God:

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 

Brothers and sisters, this is the God we must seek in these uncertain days.  Here is what I take away from our studies today:

  1. In this mixed up world I have peace because I know who is in charge.
  2. In this mixed up world I have a strong faith because I know He knows what He is doing.
  3. In this mixed up world I have an urgency because I am on mission with the answer for this mixed up world.

Hope for our Day (Ezekiel 36-37)

June 17, 2020

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.  Ezekiel 37:12

It may seem to some people that we are digging our own graves in America.   The media would have us to believe that violence rules the day.  Brothers and sisters, are we digging our own graves? Are we destroying life in our country?

These are honest questions.  In Ezekiel 37, the prophet of God was carried by God to a valley filled with the dry bones (meaning they had been there for a while) of people.  The Lord asked, can these bones live again?

Brothers and sisters, I believe there is great hope for our day.   The Apostle Paul writing to his son in the faith (Titus) penned these words:

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began[b] and at the proper time manifested in his word[c] through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.  Titus 1:2-3

This is so vital for our day.  Paul writes:  God never lies!

This truth helps us to understand the following:  Everything God says is true and every promise God made has come true or is going to come true.    One might question the validity of this truth.  There are three reasons why I know this is true:

  1. The character of God is truth.
  2. The actions of God in history.
  3. The power of God at work in my own life.

The prophet Ezekiel believed this to be true.  He saw the illustration of this as the bones came together and God gave life to the dead.

This was an amazing word for the exiles.  Back in chapter 36 God said, ” I am for you Israel.”   In that same chapter God said, “I will raise you to life for my own name sake.”  

Brothers and sisters, how could God do this in a people who had dug their own graves?

  1. God would have to do a work for them.  He did this by vindicating His name and defeating Israel’s enemies, 36:23-24.
  2. God would have to do a work in them.  This He would do, 36: 25-26.
  3. God would have to do a work through them.  He did bring Israel back into the land, 36:36-37.

Ezekiel said God would do it and He did.  But there is something greater here.  God had a greater work to do in them and in us.  This is why Jesus was coming.  He came to do a work for us that we could no do on our own.  Titus 3:4 “He saved us by the washing of regeneration.”  

When Jesus ascended back to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to do a work in us, Joel 2:38.  This Holy Spirit fills us with power to do the work Jesus called us to do in these last days.  Oh how I praise the Lord for the hope we have.

Best of all, there is coming when Jesus will come and rule forever.  Ezekiel 37:27

27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

We will come out of the grave!!!