Ezra: A man with a missionary’s heart.

God requires a broken heart for repentance

In Babylon, Ezra spent his time memorizing scripture, praying, and seeking help from the king. He prepared to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem – the city he probably never had seen, yet it was in his heart to go there and teach the people about God. [Ezra 7:10] Ezra trusted God to provide all he needed and set the example of how to lead both practically and spiritually. Committed, like Moses and Joshua, he prepared the people to follow him. 

We are experiencing social distancing, but the Babylonian kings had it down to a science. All Jews were isolated from the Babylonians. God isolated them so He could raise a holy people to return to Israel; but not so in Jerusalem. There the influences of the wicked culture had impacted the people’s resolve to be pure before God.

The leaders in Jerusalem decided to wait until Ezra had shared the treasures of the king—then they shared about the unholy alliances they had made. The news brought Ezra to his knees; he tore his hair and his robes and sat down devastated. Chapter 9 is the example of a missionary’s repentant prayer that brought the people to their knees. What about us when we see the sin of our nation? Do we drop to our knees and spread our hands to the Lord God?

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“Look Alikes”

1Samuel 8

One year when I was teaching, I had six sets of identical twins and one set of identical triplets! The children who attended all wore uniforms, so it was a challenge to differentiate between them! The Prophet Samuel’s two sons who were so similar they could have been twins but they walked in the ways of the world, not Samuel’s. It was not just one of the sons, but both walked contrary to the ways of Samuel, and they did so publicly. Every godly parent, just like Samuel, wants their children to follow the path of godliness, but sometimes children do not. We say they “march to their own drummer.” The leaders of the nation came to Samuel to give them a replacement in a king. They wanted to look like twins. They wanted to look like the nations around them with a king to rule and fight for them.  

Samuel’s heart was broken to hear the leaders say: “we reject your sons.”  But God told Samuel: “Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them;” and remind them of the consequences of their decision.

Proverbs tells us to raise up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it. [Prov 22:6] But sometimes no matter how diligent we are, some children will seek the world, not God.

If this resonates with you, know that we are here to pray for you if you have children who march to their own drummer, not God’s.

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Follow the Leader or Rebel?

numbers 16 rebels2aNumbers 16  We have all, as children, played a game called follow the leader, and the followers mimic the leader’s actions. Elimination happens when you fail to comply, thus eliminating yourself from the competition, and there always seems to be one who wants to do his/her own thing. God calls it rebellion in Numbers 16, we find one man, Korah, who challenges the leadership of Moses. He, like some, usurped the leadership by placing himself in the “I” position. When “I” gets in the way, the ego is puffed up, and we begin to say: I know better! This same scenario is what took place in the Garden of Eden, and men have not learned from that lesson.

God had already chosen, anointed, and proven that Moses was the leader, yet Korah was unsatisfied. He wanted to be the new leader of the Israelites. Gathering the Reubenites to join him, he began murmuring, which escalated into a full roar of mutiny.

Satan loves it when we grumble and better when we gather others to follow us. It starts when we listen to the voice of Satan rather than God. Jude describes the scenario. They dream and defile the flesh in their rejection of authority. They are divisive and devoid of the Spirit. He is an example of pride.

Two men with instructive lessons about the character of people: Moses, a man of humility, “fell down with his face to the ground.” Korah, a rebel, fell when the earth opened up and swallowed he and his family all because he failed to honor God’s anointed.

Rebellion is easy; humility and submission to the Lord’s anointed are hard.

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Praise God From whom all blessings flow…

If you are of the “old school” of church you may remember giving an offering and then as the deacons or elders returned the offering to the altar the congregation stood to sing the doxology. But, few of us know the background of this hymn of praise. Thus a refresher course is in order. The words are not straight from scripture but they are words of praise. Keep that in mind!

psalm 112 jude 24 doxology2a

Psalm 112 & Jude 24  Long ago in England, 1674 to be exact, an Anglican Priest wrote a simple song of praise for his students although it was told they could not share it because of the church rules which only included songs from scripture. But, it was not long before these precious words escaped the tyranny of the ecclesiastical imposed rules of the hierarchy. Today we know it as the doxology but then it was just a simple song of praise.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him, all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

A-M-E-N

The Psalmist reminds the reader to praise the Lord who is Jehovah, the Supreme Being. Jude offers to us how to offer a prayer of praise:

Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity. Amen. (Jude 24)

Refresh your soul today with these words. Amen, Amen, Amen

 

 

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1Tim 4:12 Reminds us…

“Let no one look down on you because you are youngbut set an example for the believers in your speechconductlovefaithfulnessand purity.”  Today many of our young people are getting a bad rap. There are many who are wise, intelligent and love the Lord…just as Elihu did. So let’s listen in on his words and see why God never said a word against him…but I digress…

Job 32-34  We have been waiting to hear another voice to answer Job’s questions and to respond to Job’s self-imposed innocence and God does not disappoint. Enter in young Elihu who respectfully refers to the others as elderly. Elihu in many ways is like the anxious young people who want to take the world by storm and solve all the problems. There were others like he: David, Shadrach, Daniel; voices God used in their youth. But also there is a reminder from Solomon we need to heed: “let your words be few because God is in heaven and he hears all you say.” Elihu seems to have missed that point—or has he?

He is at the “boiling point!” with righteous indignation. He wisely notes that it isn’t the number of years that bring wisdom; it is the spirit and the inspiration of the Almighty.  Elihu is right. Paul agrees: “let no one despise your youth, ” We should take care to listen to the voice of the young if for nothing else; they are living life in the here and now! They see life differently.

So why was he angry and boiling over? He was angry because Job justified himself rather than God. Elihu is passionate about God’s glory. Oh that we might have young people so on fire for God that they are willing to stand up and be counted.

job 32 youth2a

Take time today to listen to the young. Encourage rather than discourage those who are ‘on fire’ for God. Remember this: The youth of today will be our leaders tomorrow.

 

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Blindsided!

When we hear the term blindsided what comes to mind? It literally means when we are caught off guard by someone or something causing us to wonder what just happened!

Joshua 10 God will fight for you2a

Joshua 9-10 In chapter 9 we meet those cagey Gibeonites whose philosophy was when you see that you can’t defeat ’em, join ’em. That was the thinking of the Gibeonites and they played the part to the hilt; dressing in rags, packing moldy bread and meekly approaching the camp of the Israelites bluffing their way into the heart of Joshua. Little did Joshua know, because he had not inquired of God, that he had been hoodwinked! They were the enemy! Cleverly they wormed their way into his heart and he signed a treaty. Now the tide has turned against the Gibeonites for their cleverness.  Too soon God’s enemies saw the Gibeonites as their enemy too. Fearing their destruction they send to Joshua for help. The Israelites were not happy with the leaders for their rash decision to accept them as truth-tellers only to find out that they had been deceived. Yet even in this God used this experience to bring Himself glory. Thus the story set before us.

Note God’s message to Joshua, I am handing these enemies over to you and not one can resist you. That is the truth of Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God used the error of Joshua in not seeking His wisdom regarding the Gibeonites, to bring honor to Himself. God can and will use our mistakes to honor Himself. We often only see the underside of the cloud, but the silver lining, although hidden, will be revealed so He gets the credit, not us.

When was the last time you didn’t check with God and yet He used your mistake to bring about good?

 

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What do you think of sin?

Do you casually dismiss what God says about sin? Learn from this sad interlude in the life of Joshua.

Joshua 7  Joshua 7 john-mark-smith-2aJoshua may have been the ‘never.look.back’ man, but even he faced trials and like us, he too sometimes fell flat on his face seeking answers. Take the case of the sin of Achan. The victory at Jericho spurred Israel on and after scouting out the territory of the next city, felt a small force could take it. How wrong they were; 36 men died in that battle and the residents of Ai had a victory party.

Joshua fell on his face before God and his prayer is an echo of what the Israelites had said to Moses over a 40 yr period as they wailed and complained to God. But God was less than happy with his chosen leader and responded “Get up! Why are you lying there face down?” Sometimes God has to do that with us as well. It isn’t God’s fault that we are in this pickle, but our own sin. Unbeknown to Joshua, there was sin in the camp. God challenged Joshua to take steps to eradicate the sin and the sinner and we must do likewise. Even though the Israelites had heard of God’s directive of the ban on all things in Jericho, Achan had casually dismissed it. How like us. We know what God desires but we fail to think ahead to the consequences of disobedience. Do you dismiss sin? Do you think “God will understand.”  Unlike us, God does not dismiss sin but demands purity and righteousness. We foolishly think our sin only affects us. Be forewarned; “be sure your sin will find you out.” [Num 32:23]

Learn from this sad interlude. Allow the Holy Spirit to prick your heart of any sin that lurks there so that God can bless us.

Photo courtesy of: John-Mark Smith/Unsplash + caption

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Do You Pray for Righteous Leaders?

Did you pray for your spiritual as well as your government leaders today?

Deuteronomy 17 “Praying for Righteous Leadership”

Prov  14:34 “Righteousness Exalts a Nation” is as true today as it was when Moses penned the words of Deuteronomy. God knows his people’s hearts and how easily they can fall victim to the ways of Satan who often poses as an angel of light to sway our hearts and minds. His goal is to disarm us and why we need wise counselors and judges.

Moses said, choose wisely a man to lead who exhibits godly character and integrity.  He should know God’s Word for he will be the one held accountable for the nation’s sins and purity. That is why he was told to write a copy of the law and read it as long as he lives. In this way, he may learn to revere the Lord his God. Thus when faced with questions of guilt or innocence God’s law principles will guide him. He is to judge righteously so that men are protected from making presumptuous decisions hastily.

Today we are to pray for wise leaders who know the law so that the innocent are protected and the guilty held responsible. Pray their eyes are not swayed by the allure of silver and gold or the strength of horses. Pray they will not exalt themselves above their fellow citizens or turn from the commandments to the right or left.

deut 17 prayer jeremy-yapa-

This is what Moses wrote for Israel. Should we do less for the leaders we choose?

 

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A+ or F? What is your grade?

If you have not read this story please take time now to open your Bible and read John chapter 9.

john 9 pass the testw2aJohn devotes an entire chapter to the story of the blind man who was given the gift of sight,  but he is not the only character in this story. As Jesus is leaving his time of worship and his humiliation of others who scoff and deride him, the blind beggar may have overheard the incredibly insensitive questions by the disciples about his condition. Yet, Jesus puts aside his own hurt to minister to this one who also has felt the stinging remarks of the disciples. He lovingly explained in his hearing that he was innocent of sin but now God would get the glory for the miracle He would do for this sightless man. He had “passed the test”of faith and Jesus would now prove it.

Mixing mud and then applying it to his eyes might seem rather crude but we are made of dust and to dust we shall return. Why is it any wonder that Jesus would use the very material of which he was made? After obediently following Jesus orders to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, the man awoke to sunshine that he could see, birds in the air that were not just sounds but also visual images of the very freedom he was experiencing. He saw, not just heard, people jostling others as they rushed about in their work. And oh! So much more. As he joyously returned to his home and his neighbors  parents with this great news, he was met not with praises for God’s work but a silent astonishment. Instead of praising God, his parents would later tell the priests; he is of age ask him how he was healed. They all “failed the test.”

The neighbors, the city dwellers, the priests all had opportunity to give God praise. Instead they scoffed and turned him away.

So how did he respond?

Overcome with praise for seeing that which he had only heard, the man goes to the very place of worship where he would not be turned away; the Temple. Even if everyone else has “failed the test” he has not, for once again he hears the Master’s voice.  The Master says you have heard but now you will see Me.  Once again Jesus allows the man to not just hear but now to see him.  Unlike those who saw the miracle but scoffed, he bent in humble adoration, believed and worshiped the One who gave him sight.

When Jesus touches your life do you allow others to scoff and seek to deny your gift of spiritual sight or do you return to the Gift giver and believe and worship?

What will Jesus say about you? Have you passed the test? 

 

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Romans 13: How Shall I Respond?

government2aGovernment has been instituted by God; He placed it to keep anarchy from reigning supreme. Not all leaders will be honorable as history attests. If we resist governing authorities we are in essence resisting God for He established and allowed each to exist for His purposes.  We must not fear governing authorities for God will use them to bring wrath upon those who do evil—even if it seems that God is delaying. Go read Psalm 73:17 to see what Asaph gleaned from his time wondering about this topic.

How do we submit and obey when we are faced with governing authorities who are evil?  Joseph submitted yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego resisted. God blessed them each lived under brutal dictatorships.  The key is this given by the prophet Daniel “It is He [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings”

Some principles to remember:  “We must obey God rather than men” [Acts 5] and especially so when it becomes an instrument for evil, violating the explicit will of God as outlined in Scripture…” [G. Herrick.]  Ask yourself, are you praying for the governing authorities God has placed over you?  Also, remember we are not to revile them no matter how evil they may be: “Do not curse a king even in your thoughts.”[Eccl 10:20]  Follow the example of Christ who when reviled did not revile in return. Lastly, leave the results to God so that He alone gets the glory for His plan is perfect.

We know that we are living in the last days and oppression and wickedness will continue to escalate.  We must pray not only for ourselves but for those in nations that are exceedingly opposed to Christianity. How faithful are we to pray and are we prepared?

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