Archive for September, 2021

Who Hears Your Prayers? (Luke 1; John 1:1-14)

September 30, 2021

 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. Luke 1:13.

Brothers and sisters, can I ask you each a personal question? Oh, I hope you said yes. Here is my question: Do you believe in prayer? I suspect that most of you, if not all of you, responded yes. If this be the case, I give praise to God. Now, here should be an easy follow up question. How long do you pray each day?

Someone recently said, In many Christian’s lives, there seems to be a disparity between our belief in prayer and our practice of prayer. If it be true, and it is, that Jesus hears our prayers, certainly we should want to spend as much time as possible talking with Him.

In Luke one we read the story of how the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah with good need. He said, “God has heard your prayer.” Immediately, as I read that statement, I stopped and pondered how often Zechariah came to God and asked for a child. One thing is for sure, God answered in a big way. John the Baptist was God’s yes answer to his prayer.

This leads me to another question: In what ways are you receiving answers to your prayers?

Now, it is certain that God wants us to pray. In John 1:16 we are reminded that God gives His people, “grace upon grace.” Later in Luke 1, Mary praises the God of Heaven for His grace given to her in that she would carry the Son of God in her womb. I love what she says:

for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.

Brothers and sisters, this same God is at work today. The Psalmist gives us such a wonderful reminder of this truth:

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you? Psalm 71:17-19

Brothers and sisters, It is God who hears our prayers. He wants you to pray and He is ready to answer your prayers in big ways.

Be assured of this: our prayer life becomes more meaningful when we remember the wonder of the one who hears our prayers!!!

2 questions:

  1. How has today encouraged you to pray?
  2. Is any prayer too big for God?

Keep Your Guard Up (Malachi 1-4)

September 29, 2021

16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her  says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless. Malachi 2:16

Its Wednesday my friends, so let’s talk. How is your week going? I honestly must tell you how my week has been going. Every day this week, God has been faithful. Yes, in every moment of every day, my God has been faithful.

If you have already read our core passage for the day you probably noticed Malachi 2:6 where God says to Israel: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob are not consumed.” This is such good news.

But wait you say, there is a lot of not good things going on in my life. I am sure that is true, but God is faithful.

Please stay with me now. Consider the people of Israel in Malachi’s day. The people of God were blaming God for their difficult circumstances of life. In their view-point, God should have been blessing them. But the truth was, they had not been faithful.

In chapter 2, Malachi pointed out two areas of unfaithfulness:

  • Each person came to worship with corrupt hearts and tried to cover them up.
  • Many of the people were engaging in divorce and all-kinds of sin in their marriages.

It was of no wonder why they were in such a mess. To make things worse, the people were arguing with God. They were maintaining that they were faithful. But they were anything but faithful. They were blaming God as if He were not faithful.

Brothers and sisters, I promise you this one thing: God is faithful. Consider two passages of Scripture:

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27     but you are the same, and your years have no end. Psalm 102:25-27

It is true, things change, but God does not change. He is faithful!

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him. Lamentations 3:22-24

It is true, life hurts, but He is faithful.

If God is always faithful, I never have to worry about His faithfulness. My task is to focus on my faithfulness to Him. This is why Malachi told the people to guard (pay close attention) to their own lives.

Yes, it is Wednesday and we have half of the week left to focus on being faithful. Brothers and sisters, God blesses those who are faithful.

2 questions:

  1. Are there areas of your life where you are questioning God’s faithfulness?
  2. If God is always faithful, then where do we need to look if we are failing?

What Was On His Mind? (Nehemiah 10-13; Psalm 126)

September 28, 2021

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. Psalm 126:5-6

The news brought sadness to my heart as I read how that a man came into a Kroger store and began to fire his weapon with the intent of killing everyone in his way. One person said, “I jumped into a freezer to save my life.” The person went on to ask, “What was in that man’s mind.”

Brothers and sisters, sin unleashed leads people to do things that are totally destructive. However, consider what can happen if a person’s mind is focused on obeying the Lord.

This was certainly the case with Nehemiah, the cup-bearer of the king. We see the actions of his life being consistent with a mind that is focused on living for the glory of the Lord. In chapters 10-13 we find his decisions to be that of a man who had the glory of the Lord on his mind:

  • He led the people to joyously worship the Lord, 12:43.
  • He also led the people to correct error in their worship and in their daily lives, 13:1-30.

When a person’s mind is focused on obeying God, he or she will live their lives in a way that benefits all around them. The man who entered Kroger was certainly not benefiting those around him. He was seeking to destroy those around him.

Let us be like the Psalmist description in Psalm 126. Let us go out with a mind that knows the gospel. Let us go out with a mind that spreads the gospel. Let us go out with a mind that loves people. When we go out this way, we will return with joyous results!

2 questions:

  1. Has God placed good things in your mind that you have still not acted upon?
  2. How will you accomplish good things today?

The Goodness and Greatness of God (Nehemiah 8-10)

September 27, 2021

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.[f] 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

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what is pressing me that I lose sight of who is to be in charge of my life. This morning was about to be one of those days, but thanks be unto God for His Word which pointed me back to who is in charge of my life.

Honestly, when I came to my Bible I was feeling like the description given by God concerning Israel, “we are under distress.” But praise be unto God for the truth of God’s Word which reminded me of this truth:

GOD IS NEVER IN DISTRESS

This truth was so clear from our core passage for today. Nehemiah 9 gives us a first hand account of the prayer offered by the Levites (9:4) as they stood before the gathered congregation in Jerusalem. Ezra and his team were reading and explaining the Law of God (8:8). As they read the people began to cry and to confess their sin. As they confessed their sin, God brought comfort and joy into their hearts. In chapter 9 the prayers of the Levites began.

As we read those prayers we see both the greatness and goodness of God.

Here are 6 examples of the goodness of God:

  • He keeps His promises (9:8).
  • He is ready to forgive and abounds in mercy (9:17).
  • He never forsakes His people (9:19).
  • He delivers His people (9:27).
  • He did not destroy His people (9:31).
  • He is always righteous (9:33).

At the same time, I can see my unfaithfulness because I am sometimes like those people who were disobedient by turning their backs on God’s Word (9:16). But praise be to God, when I confess my sin, He removes my sin and comforts my soul and spirit (Matt. 5:4).

This morning I can tell you how God has refreshed me in body, soul, and spirit. I never need to be in distress and neither do you. God is great and He is good. Each day we are called to dedicate ourselves to doing His will. His will is simple:

 walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes. , 10:29.

2 questions:

  1. What are the stressors in your mind and heart today?
  2. How can God’s greatness and goodness relieve what is stressing you?

It Will Be Ok (Ezra 7-10)

September 24, 2021

31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. Ezra 8:31

There are times when we all find ourselves shaken by either a sudden crisis or by a slowly gathering load that finally become unbearable. In those times, we are faced with a true crisis of faith. Either we free-fall into Jesus hands or we free-fall into fear and doubt.

The Priest Ezra reminds us through his example of how we can free-fall into Jesus arms.

Ezra was given the task (by God, through the directions of the king) to lead a team of Jews back to Jerusalem to once again establish worship in the Temple that was being rebuilt. It was a moment of both faith and crisis.

The crisis was in knowing that there were thieves who would lay traps along the way. Plus there were those who were constant enemies of God. Ezra knew he could not rely on the kings help because he had told the king of His trust in the good hand of the Lord (8:21-23). Here are Ezra’s own words:

21 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. 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.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

Did you notice the crisis: I was ashamed to ask for help.

Did you notice the free-fall: We fasted and prayed to God.

Pay close attention here. I want to grasp this one truth: True belief in God plays itself out in trust in God during times of crisis.

God saw them through and He continued to see them through other crisis’s as well.

Question: Are you in a crisis this day? It will be ok if you trust in the one you believe! Free-fall into His arms today.

The hymn writer was correct: Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.

It will turn out differently than you are thinking (Esther 6-10)

September 23, 2021

 Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. Esther 9:1

I love the book of Esther. I never get tired of considering all of its story lines and yes I love the happy ending. But above all I love the reminders of the Providence of God. What is the Providence of God? This is God’s working behind the scenes (when you don’t see Him or feel Him) to bring all things together for His glory and our good. Some people call this the Romans 8:28 principle.

I hope you will take the time to read Esther 6-10 today before you proceed any further in this blog. If you do not, you will miss the point of what God wants to say to you today. In chapters 6-10 God providentially works in the following ways:

  1. He uses small things. The King was unable to sleep so he read the royal book of good deeds which had recorded Mordecai’s kindness to the king. To the kings surprise, he had failed to honor Mordecai. Wow, this small thing turned things around for a condemned man.
  2. He uses someone’s position. Queen Esther placed her life on the line for the sake of her countrymen. She leveraged her position to save others.
  3. God used sorrow to enhance joy. When the king had issued the decree for their death, the people of God wept and mourned. But God turned their sorrow into joy. Their joy was enhanced by the sorrow of the past.

Question: What is God doing in your life?

Check out Psalm 97:10-12:

10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
    He preserves the lives of his saints;
    he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown[a] for the righteous,
    and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
    and give thanks to his holy name!

Today, my Providential working God challenged me in the following ways:

  1. I will trust God to work out all things in His time, Gal. 6:9.
  2. I will surrender every circumstance in my life knowing, He is able, Rom. 8:31.
  3. I will spend my time helping those who cannot help themselves, James 1:26-27.

2 questions:

  1. What is God saying to you today?
  2. In what areas do you need to take your hand off?

What Will You Do? (Esther 1-4)

September 22, 2021

 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

Imagine if you awakened tomorrow morning with an email in your inbox that said, anyone with your last name was to report to the local police station. Imagine if you called the station and found out that the state had ordered all people with your last name to be annihilated within three days.

Brothers and sisters, this is exactly what happened with Queen Esther. A wicked man fueled by his hatred for one man fueled his hatred for an entire people group. This one man was in a position where he could make it happen.

At the same time, God had positioned one person, Esther, who could if she chose to stand in the gap for her people. Take a moment and consider her options:

  • She could remain silent and watch her people be annihilated.
  • She could speak out and identify with her people at the possible cost of her own life.

Brothers and sisters, in a much wider and broader sense. A wicked angel by the name of Satan fueled by his hatred of Jesus hates all people who call themselves Christians. His goal is our total annihilation. Do not think for one minute, that because you live in America or some other free country, that you are safe.

Satan is after you and your family as he is after mine. Each day we decide before we leave our homes, how we will live out our day. Personally, I will speak out because one greater than Esther came to this world for such a time as this (John 3:16). He gave His life so I could live my life in spiritual freedom and for the sake of reaching others.

According to John 15 the world will continue to come after the child of God, but we have an anointing from the Holy One (John 16:12) to know the truth and to stand in the truth.

As I bring this to conclusion, I must ask: Are you facing a tough moment that may cost you? If so, I ask, what will you do? I pray you take the illustration of Esther to heart. God has called you for such a time as this.

I am praying for you!

The Lord Will Be King (Zechariah 8-14)

September 21, 2021

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. Zechariah 14:9

As I sit before my laptop there is sadness in my heart. My sadness comes as I consider so many people who are walking through heartbreak and heartache. Last evening I listened to a podcast by the late David Wilkerson entitled, “The personal war of a saint.” This morning I realize how true this is for so many of us today.

I must tell you that even though I have sadness in my heart, I also have great comfort and challenge in my heart. The teachings of the prophet Zechariah in the last half of his book moved me deeply. As I read, I tried to imagine seeing the old men sitting on the street corners with their staffs in hand watching as the boys and girls played in the streets (8:5). Oh what good news this was to a people full of sadness in a foreign land. I rejoiced in the goodness of God who was compassionate. God’s promise was to restore them to a place where they would live as if they had never been away filled me with redemptive love (10:6).

Then to read the words, “God will pour out a spirit of grace and mercy,” (12:10) filled my heart with joy. Oh what a scene this must have been. But the news would get even better as the promise came of King Jesus coming (14:9).

Two things I want to place before your heart:

  1. Let the truth before you raise the praise meter in your life.

There is coming a day when all personal wars will end.

There is coming a day when Satan will be destroyed.

There is coming a day when holiness will fill the earth.

2. Let the truth before you raise your determination meter.

“So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear Not, but let your hands be strong.” 8:13.

Are you so weak in your personal war that you are ready to give in our give up? Don’t do it. He is with you and He will come through! Get back in the battle.

2 questions:

  1. What personal wars are you facing today?
  2. How can God use you in His army?

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?