How often do you pray and think God is not listening? Do you think that what you are saying is falling upon deaf ears because you don’t see any movement from God? Nehemiah knows this principle: a key aspect of prayer is to listen, discern and use your time reflectively and then wait expectantly for God’s timing to happen. Like Hannah, Jeremiah and Daniel and many others, Nehemiah did not just pray once but many days—in fact it was four months before there was a breakthrough.  How long are you spending in a mode of prayer for yourself, your church, your country?

Like David in Psalm 5 Nehemiah began; Lord carefully consider; or pay attention to my cry. Nehemiah knew he was a servant of King Artaxerxes but his real king was Jehovah. Like the psalmist, Nehemiah came in a mode of repentance and a heart of repentance: “I am praying to you today throughout both day and night on behalf of your servants the Israelites. I am confessing the sins of the Israelites that we have committed against you – both I myself and my family have sinned.”

Use today to pray for yourself, your family, your church, your country. Use your time wisely. Spend time in prayer and “then wait expectantly for an answer” knowing that God rewards the godly and protects them with His shield.

Have you ever heard this said?  Don’t you want to see my dream fulfilled? Sounds like a plausible question does it not? In fact, the question worded as it puts us in a peculiar position. If we say no the questioner is offended. If we say yes we may be leading them astray. Such is the case the Prophet Nathan found himself in before the king in 2 Sam 7 and 1 Chron 17.  In reality, we should ask the questioner are you putting your dream ahead of God’s dream for you?  We might ask them shouldn’t your question be “Don’t you want to see God’s dreams fulfilled?”  In 1 Chronicles 4, we find a man by the name of Jabez.  We might say “he got it right.”  He asked God to fulfill his dream which was essentially God’s dream so that when others encountered him, God would get the glory not him. So Jabez prayed:

“If only you would greatly bless me and expand my territory! May your hand be with me! Keep me from harm so I might not endure pain!” Don’t miss this:  God answered his prayer.”

We know from that last phrase that his dream was for God’s blessing, not his. God answers the prayers of the righteous and humble and Jabez was that. In fact, we learn that he was more respected or honorable than all of his brothers. This story teaches us that God has some pretty important lessons for us and often they are compacted in very short snippets, like 7 verses or as in the case of Jabez only 1 verse! So 2 Sam 7 and 1 Chron 17 is one of those just like the Prayer of Jabez.

In 2 Sam 7 and 1 Chron 17 we read that David had a vision or a dream. It came from a pure and humble heart.

GET THIS POINT IF YOU DON’T GET ANYTHING ELSE HERE: 

There was nothing wrong with David’s dream and there may be nothing wrong with yours.

In fact, as the prophet Nathan listened, he responded, in today’s vernacular, just like we might:  “Go for it!”   But in the middle of the night, God spoke to the prophet.  God said go and  tell David emphatically “NO!”  So, sheepishly Nathan takes what God said and returns to David with God’s message. Hearing no, David had some choices; and when we hear God say “no” we also have some choices. We can say, God, you are being unfair, or you and others are against me. You can be bitter, angry, have a temper tantrum or submit. The rest of this chapter shows us the lesson God wants us to learn when David experiences the “death of his dream” and how we can respond.

 He went in and sat before the Lord 

How about you, have you experienced an unfulfilled dream?  It may have come like David’s from a pious heart but God has said “no.” Here’s the real question; was it “your” dream or His? Now don’t miss this!  God didn’t take away his dream but showed David how much bigger His dream was instead of David’s.   Jesus reminds us that unless a kernel of wheat, like our dream, falls to the ground and dies it cannot produce a far greater yield than if we left it above ground.  Don’t stop listening when God says no WHY? He usually has something far greater or bigger than you can imagine.

You may think your dream was just that; a dream and nothing else. Take a hint and do as David. Go and sit before the Lord and share your heart. You may get the shock of a lifetime! God is listening! God cares but you may have missed his bigger dream because you are focused on yours and not His.

That seems like a rather strange title, doesn’t it? Yet God in His mercy has recorded this for us that we might know that these were real people just like us with their aches, pains, joys and sorrows. Each was given the gift of life and was chosen in eternity past. The only reminder we have of them is their tombstone recording for us their birth date and their death date.

So what are we to glean from this sacred graveyard?

God has had his servants record these chapters to show us His plan for our redemption in this chain of people. God sent His son born of a woman to redeem those who were under the law.  (Gal 4:5) They bowed the knee and whispered God save me for there is no other name under heaven whereby we are saved. (Acts 4:12) We are saved not from perishable seed but from imperishable seed. (1Pet 1:23) No matter how great our first birth privilege or heritage is it does not secure our salvation for by no works are we justified, but by His grace alone. (Eph 2:8-9) Of all those recorded, righteous or unrighteous, they could not save their own son or daughter only their own lives by their righteousness because they chose to believe in the Son of God. (Ezek 14:14-20) They believed and trusted in the God who saves.

Each name recorded, along with yours, will join those standing before the Lamb of God when the books are opened. To some they will hear well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of the Lord but to others they will hear depart from me I never knew you.

This is a sobering thought. Consider your decision for Christ today.

Have you ever obeyed God and then it seems like, as we said yesterday, the sky is falling in? God knew this would happen when David obeyed God and it seemed to backfire. This is why He put it in the heart of Jonathan to find David to encourage him. And finding him was like finding a needle in a haystack because David was in the deep forest of Horesh.  But, Jonathan did and he came to encourage David in God. Encouragement is the prescription that is needed when we are down. It is then that God steps in and sends to us the one who has the courage to step out of their comfort zone. In the NT we find Barnabas doing the same for a “young in the faith” Paul when he came to Jerusalem and was ostracized out of fear by the believers.

Encouraging another who is down begins first by immersing and meditating upon the Word of God day and night and hiding God’s word in your heart.  Fill your quiver with His words and His love. Then you can remind your downcast friend to think about how God has fulfilled His promises. Help them to think about “whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy.”  [Phil 4]

Be a Jonathan or Barnabas today for someone who is downcast.

In Genesis 16 we find Hagar in the wilderness next to a spring of water. In this time of wandering, wondering and facing an unknown future, God reached down from heaven and spoke lovingly to her. “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”  Hagar responded truthfully: “I am running away.”

Are you willing to be truthful with God about your circumstance?

The psalmist reminds us that when we like Hagar, face the unknown, He is there. He “encamps” around us. When our vision is blurred we need fresh eyes. When Elisha’s servant could only see the enemy; when Hagar could only see the wilderness before her; when the future before us seems unreachable, we can pray O Lord; open my eyes so I can see that You, El Roi are  “encamped” around me.  He is the not just God who sees but more importantly He is the God who sees “me!” Hagar would name that well, Beer Lahai Roi and would be her spiritual marker and testimony to all who came by and asked, why is this well named that?

Do you have a spiritual marker that testifies to your intimate meeting with God?

Can you say with Hagar and the servant “God has seen “me?”

God’s Word has a simple gospel message; “I, God created the heavens and the earth” and since the creation of the world My invisible attributes can be understood by just looking at My creation. Yet, for Stephen Hawking, who died today and saw and studied the stars and the universe; he missed the most important clue. Hawking saw the evidence before him but said:

“God may exist but science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”

Another man also died this past week: Billy Graham. He preached the simple gospel message for 60 years. Because of his message of God’s love, many believed and their lives were eternally changed. 1Timothy anchors that idea. Christ the Savior was revealed to us in his incarnation and proven to be who He was at his resurrection. He was seen by the angelic host at his birth, his temptation and at his ascension and it all began in Genesis 1:1 “God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the evidence that requires us to take a step of faith and believe.

Hawking chose to reject, Graham chose to believe.

Hawking sadly now knows the truth of the simple gospel message and yet it is too late just like the rich man in Luke 16. We determine our destiny now not after we die. Graham knew and now knows God is who He said He was and is with Him in heaven. Graham saw and believed the evidence; Hawking saw and rejected the evidence.

Truly, the psalmist words of Psalm 19 are before us and we should take heed:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. [Ps 19] therefore if we reject this evidence we are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

How about you?

 

From Acts 24 we learn a valuable lesson in how to stand strong when our world is topsy-turvy and everything is twirling like a top set to spin.

Paul now is brought before the highest ranking Roman official, the governor Felix. This chapter reminds us of those who use the overkill of flattery to dull the senses. This reminds us of what Paul wrote late: “by their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naïve.” The Jewish attorney Tertullus knew Felix never exhibited even one of those character qualities of a longtime peace and rightful reforms! Not even one! Yet Tertullus hoped, by using excessive and insincere praise to gain the attention of Felix who would then order Paul back to Jerusalem. The plan then could be implemented to rid the world of Paul. But then…..

We learn a principle from this encounter that we can practically apply:  Men’s plans often go awry because God’s higher purposes will never be overturned. God had told Paul that he would speak about Him in Rome and nothing Tertullus or Felix could or would do would stop that plan.

The question before us is how could Paul stand so strong in the midst of this entire charade when he obviously did not know if this ruthless and corrupt Felix would listen and follow the advice of Tertullus? The psalmist tells us the “how” and it fits in with how we are to remain steadfast:

 

“I constantly trust in the Lord; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Ps 16:8

It means that Paul had given God first place in his life and he knew his “right-hand Man” would not fail him. How about you? Is God your “right-hand Man” and do you trust Him implicitly when you do not know what is ahead and the world seems to be twirling you by?

Sometimes God graciously allows us to see what He saw in the past, what He sees now and what He sees in the future. An example of this is Paul’s life as we saw his stoning in Acts as his calling Timothy to join him in Acts 16 and read about his mentoring Timothy in his further letters.

Having been stoned and left for dead in Lystra, the “resurrected,” Paul had left that city and moved on. The young Timothy, most likely having witnessed this, was radically transformed and embraced the faith of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who had laid the foundation for his faith. Was the stoning a test for Timothy? We don’t know, but we do know that Timothy was not only transformed but his faith is now proclaimed not only there but also in Iconium.

As Paul arrived back in Lystra after a 5 yr. hiatus, we find that the disciples he had left had formed a church and Timothy has been busy these churches. This was a gift to Paul from God. But, now it was  God’s perfect timing for Timothy to take the next step to join the mission team to take the gospel to the next generation.

Are you only satisfied to minister to your own generation or are you ready to take the challenge and disciple the next generation?

Remember, God doesn’t waste our experiences….unless we choose to not allow Him to do so.  He expects you and me to be discipling the next generation.

Pray and ask God who that would be for you.   

There is a difference between being a “God-fearer” and a “God-believer”. In Acts 10 we read that Cornelius falls into the first category. He fears God and in the only way he knows, he is seeking this God that he knows about but does not know personally. We meet the Cornelius’ as we wander through our day to day activities. If asked they say, yes I “believe” but they do not “know” the God of the universe in a personal way. Thus this story about Cornelius is significant for us.

For us, it means we must recognize that God has called them for he is not willing that any should perish. Then it takes a step out of our comfort zone to share our faith. This is where Peter, like us, is being nudged by the Spirit to take this step towards a Gentile whom he does not know and one that he considers to be apart from God’s blessings. God’s ways are mysterious but deliberate when He knows that one is hungering but they do not know God’s love and salvation.

It is also significant that God calls Cornelius by name for this is our assurance that God knows us by name whether we are a “God-fearer” or a “God-believer.” We are told that his prayers have been heard and God has the answer and it will come through Simon Peter. Cornelius’ hunger to know this God of the Jews is relevant for this is our world as well. In addition, Peter is much like us in so many ways. We know God, believe God, but often are hesitant to share our faith because of any number of reasons. But God’s ways are not our ways. God sees and hears the hearts of the lost and he uses us to “go and tell the good news” of his love and His forgiveness.

Do you know of someone who is a “God-fearer” but not a “God-believer?” Let God move you and use you!

The Bible contains rich word pictures/imagery for how God would reveal Himself and His Character as well as Jesus Christ through the Mishkan:

(Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן‎, mishkan, “residence” or “dwelling place”), according to the Hebrew Bible, was the portable earthly dwelling place of God amongst the children of Israel from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan.) or as we call it the Tabernacle.

Monday nights I have had the privilege of teaching using the technology of “zoom.” We gather together using a link I send out and according to your time zone. You are welcome to join us. A little preparation for our next lesson follows.

In this lesson we will cover:

The Workers—who were they? What was special about them? Exodus 31:1-6 tells us much about them. Read that passage and reflect on how this mirrors what Jesus did with the disciples in Mark 6. (Whenever we read in Exodus “he made” the parts for the Tabernacle we should recall that this refers to Bezalel)

What do you learn about these two “supervisors” chosen by God?  Relate their character to Stephen in Acts 6. How are they similar? https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/bezalel/

The Beginning of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle.  Exodus 27:9-19; 35: 1-20 preparation for the materials needed.

The Fence of the Tabernacle: Ex 35:17-18; Ex 38:20; (What materials were used?)

The Gate – Why only one gate? What does that symbolize? Ex 3:1-6 and Is 59:2; John 14:6-

The Brazen Altar –Ex 27:1-8; What is its purpose? Ex 29:38-46

The Laver – We don’t know much about this piece of “furniture” but we do know the materials used: Ex 38:8;  Exo 30:17-21. We do know the purpose of it: Ex 40:30-32