Something is Missing (Malachi 2)

July 22, 2020

15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth, Malachi 2:15

A guy went to a very large used car lot with one purpose on his mind.  He had a certain car he had always wanted to purchase and now he had saved enough money to buy a used one.  This guy spent over an hour looking for this car.  He had almost given up when he made his way to the back of the car lot and there is was, the very car of his dreams.  He wondered why it was where it was on the car lot, but he filed the thought away because the more he admired the car the greater his anticipation was to own the car.

He quickly entered the office area of the car lot and asked the price of the car.  The salesman he was engaging responded with heartbreaking news, sir you do not want this car.  The guy responded, oh yes I do.  I have always wanted this car.  The salesman said, sir there is something missing in this car.  The guy could not imagine what was missing on the car.  He asked, what is missing.  The salesman replied, the engine is missing.

In Malachi 2 the prophet of God continued to confront Israel with her sin.  Because of her sin God had removed His fellowship and His favor.  Malachi points out two things that were missing in their lives:

  • There was the absence of Godly leaders in their nation.  The priests had become corrupt, 2:1-12.
  • There was the absence of God’s leadership in their marriages, 2:13-16.

According to Malachi, God’s design for marriage had been replaced by a man-centered plan for marriage.  The view was simply this:  You exist for me and if you do not please me, I am done with you.

Now do not act surprised by what you just read.  This same man-centered view of marriage exists as the prominent view in our world today.

Malachi pointed out what was missing.  The people did not invite God to lead their marriages.  He was the tie that would bind them together in self-giving love.  He was the tie that would lead them to put others before themselves. He was the love that would transform them into the people they were called to be.

Yes, something was missing.  God was missing in their marriage.

I wonder, is there something missing in your marriage or is there something missing in other areas of your life?  Solomon wrote about a three-fold cord that was needed in marriages in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (Check it out).

Brothers and sisters, only when we have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) can we have true fulfillment in our lives.

God help your people to hunger for what is really missing in our lives.  God we turn over the throne of leadership to You.  Do more than fix us, make us new this day in You.

The value of your gift (Malachi 1)

July 21, 2020

14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. Malachi 1:14

Each year I always find myself struggling with the perfect gift for Sherry when it comes to the many different times in the year when I celebrate her.  Sometimes it comes to me easily and at other times the gift giving comes hard.  Here are four variables that come into the mix when I consider a gift for Sherry:

  1. How much do I really value her.
  2. How much money is available for the gift.
  3. What are my options for the gift.
  4. What is the occasion for the gift.

As I read this list, I realize these same four variables come into play each time I consider giving anyone a gift.  Now you may ask, why are you talking about gift giving?

The reason is because this is exactly how Malachi begins his prophecy to the Children of Israel.  Malachi was the next to last Old Testament prophet (John the Baptist being the last).  He writes during the time of Nehemiah.  Malachi points out the sins of Israel which include corrupt social justice, corrupt priests, ungodliness in marriage, and wicked sacrifices.

Throughout this book there is a kind of argument between God and Israel.   In chapter one the people are sacrificing at the altar.  God says, the gifts they offered were corrupt (1:7).  God had clearly outlined the gifts they were to give (Lev. 9:2-3; Deut. 15:21) but the people were proving how little they valued God.

Question:  Are you in the habit of gift giving?

God said to His people, I am a Great King.  But sadly the people did not view Him in this way.

Brothers and sisters, there is no one like King Jesus.  Paul wrote of God’s love for us in Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, how will He not also give us all things.” 

The Children of Israel were all about themselves in Malachi’s day.  They told God, this is my best, when in reality it was there left overs.

Brothers and sisters, I want with all my heart to give my best to God.  I encourage you to become a giver to the God who has given you everything (II Cor. 9:6-7).  Each day I consider what I have been given and then I consider what I have to give as I with all my heart give my all to Him.  I know this is your heart as well.

Calling all worshippers to the house(Nehemiah 12)

July 17, 2020

“So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God…” 12:40

In the days of Nehemiah the excitement was building as it came time for the dedication of the rebuilt walls around the city of Jerusalem.  The news began to spread, calling all worshippers (Levites) for the dedication.

Numbers 12 gives us list of some who came to worship.  The worship service was heard for miles away.

Question, how long has it been since you were in worship?  I know COVID-19 has hindered many people from being in worship.

When Covid-19 hit even our church closed its public worship services.  A few of us would come each week and worship together and proclaim the Word of God for multitudes of people online.  While I am thankful I was able to lead in this, I confess nothing replaces being together.

The Bible calls for the people of God to gather together, Heb. 10:25.  The encouragement of our family togetherness cannot be reached staying at home.  The power of the Word together is no where near the same as being together.

I know many of you are saying, I enjoy worshiping at home.  Here is my question: is this really what Jesus establishes the church for?  Check out Matt. 16:18.  I promise you, once you get to the house you will say, it’s good to be home.

I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ON SUNDAY

They Really Did It (Nehemiah 11)

July 16, 2020

11 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten[a] remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 11:1

In the midst of the pandemic in our society it seems that we do not know from day to day how things will change. For example, each day it is up in the air whether schools will open in the fall or not.  One day we hear, they are opening.  The next day we hear they are not opening.  Imagine how difficult life would be if this was the norm for everything in our lives.

This morning we find a refreshing Word from the Word of God.  At first glance Nehemiah 11 seems simply a list of name of people.  However, a closer look reveals the names of people who actually did what they said they would do.

The names in this chapter reflect the people who kept their commitment to not neglect the house of the Lord (Nehemiah 10:32-39).  It’s as if this chapter is shouting, they really did it.

Here is something that I have discovered along the journey of life:

                          A promise without passion always leads to a poor performance.

Yesterday I wrote about joining two teams.  The teams were the family and the church family.  Both those teams demand a passion on our part.  Without passion we will perform poorly on the team.

The natural question that comes from the flow of our discussion would be, how do I gain passion and how do I keep the passion for my commitments (promises)?

Brothers and sisters, it begins with the core of one’s being.  At the very core we must ask ourselves who is Lord of our lives?  Lordship is characterized by leadership and worth-ship.  Whatever and whoever is Lord in your life merits your worship.  When you are with what or who you love, you find it easy to have passion.

I truly believe the people in Nehemiah 11 fulfilled their commitment because they loved the Lord.  Today, our strength may become weak and yes we may become weary.  But our weakness is made strong as we refuel with the one who is Lord.

Here are Words from the Word that summarize what I have been trying to write:

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Joining The Team (Nehemiah 10)

July 15, 2020

29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to 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.  Nehemiah 10:29

How many of you really enjoy being a part of a team?  My Administrative Assistant always is encouraging to our staff because she repeatedly reminds us of the blessing of being a part of a team.

Through the years, I have been a part of a lot of different types of teams. For example, I have been a part of sports teams, community teams, denomination teams, and pastoral teams.  With each of those teams there seemed to be connecting points that made the difference between success and failure.

As we focus on Nehemiah 10 as our focal text for the day, it would be easy to simply think, this has little value for us. To the naked eye chapter 10 seems simply like the recounting of a team of people who got together for a common cause.

Certainly this is true, but it is much more than this.  I find these people made up a very successful team for 5 specific reasons:

  1. Each person on the team willingly joined the team for the right reason-they obeyed God, Vs: 29.
  2. Each person on the team understood the requirements for being on the team, Vs: 30-31.
  3. Each person on the team willingly sacrificed for the success of the team, Vs: 32-37.
  4. Each person on the team embraced their personal unique role on the team, Vs: 38-39.
  5. Each person on the team clearly understood the mission-we will not neglect the house of God,” Vs: 39.

Brothers and sisters, are you a part of a team that has these characteristics?  I can honestly say, there are two teams that I truly believe stand out above all others for me. These two teams find success when we follow the above strategy.  What are these teams?

                                          Team Family and Team Church Family

Our nation stands in desperate need of these two teams.  Imagine how different our world would be if every person wanted to be on these two teams.  Imagine how successful we would be if we simply carried out the five steps above?

Team family has an owners manual in the Bible.  The best place to begin your readings is in Genesis 2:21-24 and Ephesians 5:21-6:4.

Team Church has an owners manual in the Bible.  The best place to begin your readings is in Acts 2:42-47.

The words of a close friend come to mind: Go team for Jesus!!!

 

If the Truth Be Told (Nehemiah 9)

July 14, 2020

33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.  Nehemiah 9:33

In his book, “If the truth be told,  Ron Pelias recognizes and shows readers that truth is a slippery subject.  Ron seeks to prove his point through a series of poems, stories, monologues, and essays.  But for some reason he still did not convince most of his readers.

Question, how do you and I convince people of the truth in a world where we most doubt the person speaking is telling the truth?

In the days of Nehemiah, the people of Israel heard God’s Word and they began to repent because the truth was told.  In chapter 9 we read the narrative given by the Levites of the journey of Israel from the moment when God chose Abram (later Abraham) (Vs: 7).

As the people listened the Levites told the truth of God’s faithfulness and their unfaithfulness.  If the truth be told (it was).  It was only because of God’s continual mercy did the people continue to exist as a people.

When I consider the condition of America today, I realize this same truth.  If the truth were told we would have to say, our existence as a nation is totally because of the great mercy of God.

 But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

As I write this blog my mind is directed to think about what we as a nation are faced with this fall.  We are tasked with choosing the next president as well as many senators and congress leaders.

Brothers and sisters, how did we arrive at such a place where these are our only choices?  This day, I cry out to God: forgive us please and deal with us according to your mercy.  Father we ask for you to transform leaders into new creations in You (II Cor. 5:17).  Father do not give us what we deserve.  Please awaken the church and equip the church to penetrate the darkness around us.  Lord, if the truth be told, we are in the last days, so please give us a measure of mercy by your coming to redeem your people and to restore order in our land.

Dear friend, may the truth be revealed to your state, your nation, and your heart!

Back to the Book (Nehemiah 7-8)

July 13, 2020

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Nehemiah 8:9

Each morning I arise from my sleep to make my way to my most treasured spot in my home.  The spot is where I meet with the Lord.  Each morning I sit down and turn to my left and pick up one of my copies of God’s Word.  Oh the joy of hearing from God each day.  I believe this, the Bible can turn our nation around!

In the days Nehemiah, the walls of the city of Jerusalem were now repaired (as we come to Nehemiah 7-8).  The people had united around this calling from God.  So great was the revival among the people that we see them taking the next step of assembling to hear the Word of the Lord (7:5).  The Bible recounts the story of how the priest Ezra stood with the first five books of the Old Testament and he read from early morning to noon.

As Ezra read the Levites gave application to the people.  Can you picture the scene?  As the Word was read the people began to ask questions and they began too mourn for their sin.

Brothers and sisters, the Word of God always does its work in the hearts of people who heed its directions.  Question, have you been in the Word today?  I truly can spot a person who has been touched by the Word.  They stand out from the world.

America needs to open the Book and to heed what is written in the Book.

Here is what the Bible does:

  • The Bible cuts to the heart.  We see ourselves for who we are, Hebrews 4:12.
  • The Bible cleanses our lives.  Psalm 119:9
  • The Bible charts a new course for our lives, Psalm 119:105.
  • The Bible changes the way we view life.

As the people in Jerusalem mourned, Nehemiah spoke:

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

Brothers and sisters, the Bible always lifts up those who are liberated by its truth. If you have been slack in reading lately, commit yourself to a deeper commitment to God’s Word. I promise you, joy will return to your life.

 

Your End Game (Nehemiah 5-6)

July 10, 2020

16 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 our God. Nehemiah 6:16

“In moments of crisis there will be a clear distinction between the players and the pretenders,”  John C. Maxwell.

In our studies in the book of Nehemiah we have been focusing on the godly leadership of Nehemiah.  This godly man stirred his nation to rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem.  In our focal text we discover Nehemiah was more than a builder of a wall.  In these chapters we come to understand His end game.

Maybe you do not understand what the phrase end game means.  This phrase means the goal of why you do what you do.  Nehemiah did what he did for two reasons:

  1. He wanted to glorify God.
  2. He wanted to add value to people.

Brothers and sisters, is this your end game for why you do what you do?  Jesus taught us this very end game reasons for living in Matthew 22:37-38.  In times of crisis our end game viewpoints always come to the surface. We see this in Nehemiah’s day.

There were those in Nehemiah’s day who were taking advantage of the poor, 5:1-12.  Instead of helping the poor they were loaning them money with outrageous interest rates.  Instead of helping the poor they were enslaving them for their own selfish gain.

Their true end game was totally for themselves.  Yes there is a different between pretenders and true players on the field of life.

Consider Nehemiah who had a different endgame in mind.  Nehemiah was angered by what he saw.  He said to the pretenders, “ought you to not walk in fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations everywhere?”  Nehemiah was concerned for the name of God. Nehemiah modeled a different way of living.  He valued people by the way he cared for people, 5:14-19.

His example reminds us of one greater, Jesus, who came out of love for the Father (John 17).  He came because He loved us (John 3:16) and He alone could add eternal value to our lives (I Peter 3:18).  Because of Christ we can be transformed (Titus 3:4-5) into a people who also love God and seek to add value to people.

This very day I challenge you to examine your true endgame goals of life?  If they are anything other than loving God and loving people, you have the wrong end game in mind.

 

What Will You Do? (Nehemiah 3-4)

July 9, 2020

And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.  Nehemiah 3:5

It was the Irish Statesman Edmund Burke who was cited as saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem the walls around the city were in shambles.  God had placed in Nehemiah’s heart the solution to the problem.  He was to lead the people to repair the wall (2:12).  It was at the end of chapter two when Nehemiah made an amazing proclamation:  “The God of Heaven will make us prosper, and we His servants will arise and build,” 2:20.

Question:  Has God placed in your heart an assignment in these days of crisis?

In Nehemiah’s day, the walls were down and the people were doing nothing about it.  Many of the people would arise each morning and look out their windows to see the rubble of the walls before them.  But day after day they did nothing. I am sure they complained, but nothing was being done.

Question:  Why was nothing being done?

Here are a few possible reasons why nothing was being done:

  1. The oppression of their enemies left them powerless in their minds.
  2. The enormity of the work seemed too great.  “There was much rubble,” 4:10
  3. There was a lack of faith.  “Our God will fight for us,” 4:20
  4. There was a lack of desire.  “The nobles would not stoop and serve the Lord,” 3:5.

I believe these same reasons exist in our day.  These same reasons keep people from doing something about the evil in our day.  However, there may also be one more reason. It could be that those people needed a leader to point the way out of their mess.

Certainly this is why God raised up Nehemiah to both point out the problem as well as to give forth God’s solution to the problem.  The Scripture says, “The people had a mind to build,” 4:6.

Brothers and sisters, ours is a day when good men are often doing nothing.  The spiritual walls are down in our country and in many churches the spiritual doors are closed.  Sadly some people have taken the view, I will say nothing and I will make it the best I can.

When I consider Nehemiah’s leadership in his day I glean the following path for my response to the evil in our day:

  1. I will pray as did Nehemiah, God give us mercy and wisdom, 1:4-11.
  2. I will do research and carry out God’s solution as did Nehemiah, 2:11-18.
  3. I will recruit a team to carry out the solution as did Nehemiah, Chapter 3.
  4. I will be willing to defend and sacrifice for the solution as did Nehemiah, 4:21-23.
  5. I will believe that I will see the favor of God in this great work as did Nehemiah, 4:20.

Brothers and sisters, one greater than Nehemiah has come to our world and He did something about the evil in our world.  His name is Jesus and John 3:16 gives us His solution to the evil in the world.  This Jesus has predestined us for adoption (Eph. 1:4) and this Jesus has chosen for us to bear fruit in this world (John 15:15-16).  Someday this Jesus will return (Rev. 1:7).  I want to be one who was doing something about the evil in the world when He comes.

I say to each of you, do not sit on the sidelines.  God has called you to bear fruit in the world.

Taking the Time to Find the solution (Nehemiah 1-2)

July 8, 2020

Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. Nehemiah 2:9-10

Yesterday I spend some time with a friend who was seeking answers from God in a critical moment of life.  This person was searching for answers like a person who was in a burning house with only a few minutes to get everyone out.

Brothers and sisters, the devil specializes in moving us to stress-filled decisions that lead us into deeper waters of crisis.  The enemy hates it when you and I slow down and listen for God’s solution.

In our conversation I pointed my friend to Psalm 46:10 which says, “be still and know that He is God.”  God has the best solution which is His solution.  Our’s is the job of listening and carrying out His solution.

This is exactly how Nehemiah lived his life in crisis in the book of Nehemiah.  This brother was living as an exile with the rest of Israel.  When the decree was given that the people could go home, Nehemiah could not go because his job was to serve as the kings cup-bearer.

But even though Nehemiah could not go, he still was connected to God’s timing for his nation.  Here is a snap-shot of his character:

  • He was a man who feared the Lord, 1:5.
  • He was a man who prayed day and night, 1:6.
  • He was a man who loved his fellow-man, 1:3-4.
  • He was a man who wisely understood the spiritual condition of his people, 1:6b-7.
  • He was a man who knew the Word of God, 1:8-9.
  • He was a man who believed in the redemption of God, 1:10-11.

This brother spent four months seeking God’s solution for Israel’s crisis.  Finally there came the day when God gave him favor before the king.  The Bible says, He prayed to the God of Heaven.  The God of Heaven gave Nehemiah the plan.

Maybe you are feeling the pressure to find the solution this day for the crisis you are in.  Question:  Why are you feeling the pressure?  Could it be from the enemy or could it be that you do not like being pushed out of the routine you like in life?

The Apostle Peter has great wisdom for people who are seeking answers:

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. I Peter 5:6-7

So take Peter’s wisdom to heart:

  1. Stop trying to push through closed doors.
  2. Place your crisis at His feet and trust in His timing.
  3. Crawl into His loving arms every day and find His care for you.
  4. Wait for Him because His plan is perfect.
  5. Step into the plan with all your might when the door opens.