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Do Not Fear!

by | May 28, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

May 28, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: 1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalms 127
Old Testament Only: 1 Kings 18–19
New Testament Only: John 7:1–31

Do Not Fear!

Today’s Passage: Nehemiah 5-7

Fear FaceBoy I wish America could find a leader like Nehemiah. This guy did not brag on himself. He was honest and honorable and wasn’t afraid to tell the powers that be that they were crooks. While our politicians today point fingers at each other; blaming this guy, and that guy, and those guys for anything and everything that is, was, or will be wrong, Nehemiah gets things done. I was most impressed, however, with how Nehemiah was not cowed by the many attempts to frighten him into giving up.

His enemies wanted to kill him, but he was too wise for them. They sent prophets and even friends to encourage him to run and hide, but he was not moved. If Nehemiah were president today I don’t think he would be listening to the media or polls. He wouldn’t need to. When one has the kind of relationship with God that he had, you know what is right and needs to be done. It is always about the condition of your heart, and his was humbly submitted to God’s will. From that relationship Nehemiah was able to perceive the threats against him. He was able to side step the traps and reject fear. He was able to perform a mighty work with dazzling effectiveness and speed. Boy, could we use a Nehemiah today.

Actually guys, you and I are each supposed to be Nehemiahs. We are supposed to have the kind of relationship with God that he had. We are supposed to place ourselves humbly in the service of our Lord and Savior and accomplish mighty things in His name; not for our glory but for His. Do you know what mighty thing we are supposed to be doing in His name? We are to be building His kingdom. We are to be sharing the Gospel with this lost and dying world.

I’m afraid I have not lived up to this expectation. Unlike Nehemiah I have been intimidated by the words of the enemy. I have allowed the idea that sharing the Word of God with people is somehow judgmental, and bigoted, and intolerant, to dissuade me from doing the work I am called to do. I don’t like the idea of being viewed in such terms. I know those accusations are false, and yet I am still intimidated. I don’t want people to think I am judgmental. I know that, but for the grace of God, I am as guilty as the next guy. I don’t want the sharing of the Gospel to be viewed as an intolerant act nor do I want my character impugned by such false accusations.

The answer to such false accusations is not to stop the work. Our answer should be as Nehemiah’s.

Nehemiah 6:8-9 ESV
“Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.”  For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”

Realize that those that are truly hateful and judgmental in their alleged dissemination of the Gospel are actually servants of the enemy. They labor in an effort to bring condemnation on the heads of God’s true servants. We must stand up and say “These people are charlatans and do not represent us. We have no part in them nor do we have any part in the false accusations you bring. You have made them up out or your own mind in a vile attempt to muzzle the children of God.” But the one thing we must never do is stop building the kingdom.

We must be wise as was Nehemiah. We must depend on God to guide our feet so we will side step the traps. We must stay focused and refuse to hide. We cannot allow our attention to be diverted toward defending ourselves; the enemy would love nothing more. Yes, we must stand up and call the lies what they are, but, as you see in today’s reading, Nehemiah simply swatted the allegations away and kept building; just as we must do.

I heard someone once say that we must not use Satan’s weapons to fight God’s battles. I’m sure they were quoting someone famous and I’ll be chagrined when one of you tells me who said it first; still, the saying is right on the money. God will fight the battles. We must simply show up and lay one brick on top of another. If we humble ourselves, obey, and follow His leading, the job will get done.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 27, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Psalms 131, 138-139, 143-145
Old Testament Only: 1 Kings 15:25–17:24
New Testament Only: John 6:22–59

Start Laying Bricks!

Today’s Passage: Nehemiah 1-4

BricksSo far we have learned of three men God raised up to rebuild the temple and walls of Jerusalem; Zerubbabel, the prince, or politician; Ezra, the priest, or clergyman; and now Nehemiah, the businessman, or layman. It is easy to ridicule the efforts of the politician as history has shown us this class of individual is deserving of such treatment. The clergy are not to be ridiculed, but they are so overburdened by a listless congregation that whatever they do accomplish is a minor miracle. Now Ezra’s accomplishments were nothing to sneeze at. He achieved a lot, but the walls of Jerusalem were still in shambles and what Ezra had achieved was in jeopardy as long as that remained the case.

It took the layman, who God had called, to get the wall built. Not all but most of the men I have met who are pastors were called to His service at a young age and have had little to no experience in creating or running a business. Most politicians have even less experience with such matters. Thankfully our clergy are called to study and preach God’s Word; I have no desire to see them become experts in running businesses. Unfortunately, I see little redeeming value in a politician with no experience in business. These bags of hot air sit on their duffs day in and day out theorizing on how business works as they proceed to pass law after law regulating business. They theorize because they have no experience. They have no idea how things get done.

I guess you can tell I’m a big fan of the clergy and rather jaded with regard to the political class. My point is that if you want something done you need to turn to a business person. You need to turn to someone who knows how to organize and manage and motivate and drive on until the job is done; not in the rarefied air of politics and religion but in the everyday air of real life. If we want to see the walls of God’s kingdom rise, we are going to have to stop laying around waiting on the politicians and the priests. We are going to have to stand up as the men God has called us to be and start using the experiences, abilities, talents, knowledge and skills with which He has blessed us for His purpose and glory.

Politicians will not build God’s kingdom. Our pastors are God’s mouth piece. You and I are the muscle. You and I will build the walls when we answer the call of God that even now can be heard roaring from the mouths of His pastors. Nehemiah was heartbroken at the state of Jerusalem and the stalled state of rebuilding the walls. Did he sit there complaining and criticizing? Did he sit around waiting for someone else to step up? Did he sit around hoping for a miracle? No, Nehemiah wept and mourned and fasted and prayed for days. He then looked for an opportunity to take action and seized it the moment it appeared. Notice this last little bit of Nehemiah’s prayer:

Nehemiah 1:11 ESV
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

“Grant success to your servant today and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” When I said above that Nehemiah looked for an opportunity to take action I would have better said he took action to create an opportunity to serve God. Nehemiah had a plan to ask the king for help in restoring Jerusalem. For the first time ever he would allow the king to see him sad. He knew this would be remarkable to the king and force an inquiry. Once the king asked, Nehemiah would have the opportunity to make his request.

Guys, I wonder. Does the state of our world today cause us to weep and mourn? Does it cause us to fast and pray? Does it cause us to look for, and seize, the opportunity to build God’s kingdom? Why is Nehemiah’s story in the Bible? Why does God want you to read about him? He has included this story because he wants you to understand that you are Nehemiah. He has given you the skills and abilities and knowledge and talents that He wants you to have to play your role in building His kingdom. What is your answer to His call on your life? I’ve got news for you fellas, if you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you already said yes to that call.

Later on in today’s reading we see how other laymen built up the various sections of the wall. Each took responsibility for his part and did his work. At times they had to work with one hand while holding a spear in the other. They had to sleep in their cloths and work from sun up to sun down. Man by man they did the work God called them to do and the wall got built. That is our job today. Shame on us for leaving the building of God’s kingdom to politicians and pastors. Doing so has been a complete abdication of our responsibilities before God. It’s time we stood up, took our part of the wall and started laying bricks!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 26, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: 1 Chronicles 23-25
Old Testament Only: 1 Kings 14:1–15:24
New Testament Only: John 6:22–59

The Shepherd’s Purse

Today’s Passage: Ezra 8-10

The seed of a plant named Shepherd's Purse.

The seed of a plant named Shepherd’s Purse.

Today we learn of some specific events that happened along the way from exile to the Promised Land. Ezra and the remnant that chose to return paused before they began their journey and prayed for God’s protection. Brothers I believe every successful journey that leads us closer to God begins in prayer. The members of the remnant fasted and prayed. They put their trust not in the arms of men but the arms of God.

Once they arrived in Jerusalem, it was discovered that many of the Israelites had intermarried with the pagan peoples in the area which was strictly forbidden by God’s law. Why was this forbidden? As we have discussed before, marriage to a pagan typically leads to the child of God wandering from right relationship with God. Pagan religious practice became rampant and caused separation from God. I found the reaction of Ezra and the people fascinating. Their grief and despair reminded me of the moment of conversion each new Christian must pass through.

God calls us to hear His truth. When He gets our attention it is natural for us to fall to our knees in prayer to ask for his help. It is in the midst of our journey back to God that we come face to face with our hopelessness before a Holy God. Grief and despair are a natural response to our discovery of our true selves and our sinful past. It is only from this place of painful regret that we can truly ask for God’s forgiveness and the courage and strength to obey Him. It is only from this place of painfully honest truth that we can truly accept the sacrifice of Christ and surrender ourselves and our future to Him.

This, in a sense, is what happened with Ezra and the people of Israel. This story today illustrates true repentance. It is at this crucial moment in time that each of us is saved. It is from this place of horror and surrender that a new life begins. What a wonderful story of hope God has given us. Not just in today’s reading but through the entire Bible. From day 1 God has provided hope. That hope flows from Christ through the centuries and now out from you to a lost and dying world. When a politician offers hope, run for the hills. Politicians can only offer more of the same. Only God offers hope, and here today He reminds you of the hope He has planted in you and of His expectation that you plant a seed of that fruitful hope in others.

A while back I came across a picture of a seed named “Shepherd’s Purse” and thought it was just a wonderful analogy. The hope I have is in what Jesus said, that no one that the Father placed in His hand would be lost. A purse is a container one uses to keep one’s valuables safe. As I looked into the plant itself I found some very interesting characteristics. One description I read stated that the petals of this plant form a cross. Looking further I found that it is considered a “mustard” green. Do you remember Jesus talking about the power one has if they have faith the size of a mustard seed?

I also discovered that the plant is used in herbal medicine to stop bleeding. Here is what one source said, in part, about its medicinal use: “…still considered by herbalists one of the best specifics for stopping hemorrhages of all kinds – of the stomach, the lungs, or the uterus, and more especially bleeding from the kidneys.” Do you remember the woman who had a chronic issue of blood and, reaching out to touch Jesus, was cured? What is the price of sin? Blood. Whose blood stops the need for your own blood to be spilt? Jesus; the Shepherd. Does not every one of these stories from the Bible provide us hope? Is it not wondrous that God can even use a weed of a plant to illustrate His mercy and the hope He provides?

What a wonderful, merciful, amazing God we serve.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Lies

by | May 25, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

May 25, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Psalms 108-110
Old Testament Only: 1 Kings 12–13
New Testament Only: John 6:1–21

Lies

Today’s Passage: Ezra 4-7

Snake RightThe Children of Satan follow their father’s stratagems against the Children of God. They start by attempting to be your friend; they try to infiltrate. When that doesn’t work they whisper in the ears of others to discourage and defeat the work God has called His children to do. When that doesn’t work they attempt to manipulate the government to crush their efforts to be faithful and obedient. That is the story we read today in Ezra. It is also the story today in America.

I spoke some time ago with a man who had gone through seminary and had even been a pastor for a few short years. It was his belief that the Bible was written by men and as such has numerous flaws. He said many things in the Bible were written to a specific time and culture and as such must be interpreted in the light of modern reality. The thing about these statements is that there is some small portion of truth within them.

The Bible was written physically by men. What those men wrote, however, was guided by the Spirit of God to communicate a very specific set of spiritual truths that would transcend the ages. God wrote the Bible through men. While men are fallible, God is not, therefore, the Bible cannot be full of “flaws” because He directed the writing. Now there are manuscripts written in Biblical times that were written by men and were either not guided by God or not intended by Him to be part of Holy Scripture. One can easily dismiss those that are not guided by Him as full of flaws and unworthy of acknowledgment.

Some things in the Bible were written to a specific time and culture but the spiritual truth beneath those accounts still apply today. For example, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that a wife should not cut off her hair or shave her head.

1 Corinthians 11:6 ESV
“For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.”

This verse had led to some Christian denominations stipulating that woman in general should not cut their hair. Paul is talking about the traditions of prayer here. He is also talking to the Corinthians who were fighting some pretty depraved habits. There had been at that time and place a regular practice of women becoming pagan temple prostitutes. For those that worshipped those man-made gods it was a common practice to spend a month or so as a temple prostitute as an act of worship. Those that did so shaved their heads while they were performing this function. A woman walking around with a shaved head or with short hair would be associated with pagan religious practice.

If you belong to God you can’t allow yourself to be associated with pagan religious practice. Today, in America, this type of practice is not common place. No one would assume a woman with a shaved head or short hair is a practitioner of pagan prostitution. The truth God is communicating through Paul isn’t that women shouldn’t cut their hair but that none of us should allow ourselves to be mistaken for followers of man-made gods or practitioners of sinful behavior.

As I think back to that conversation with the erstwhile pastor a vision of the serpent wrapping himself around him and squeezing comes to mind. Satan hissed his lies to Eve and he hisses them to us today. He infiltrates our churches and whispers lies to the sheep. He walks the earth whispering lies to the lost and he petitions the government with lies that followers of the one true God are to blame for mankind’s problems like war and hatred. None of this should be a surprise to the Children of God. He has warned us with today’s reading and many more within the Bible.

The truth of the persecution the followers of Christ face can be discouraging but we must not forget the rest of the story. God changed the heart of the king and he put his foot down. The Israelites would not be prevented from obeying God and in fact the king’s treasuries would be opened to assist them. We will face hardship but His will cannot be thwarted. We are saved, we are being saved, we will be saved! We have the promise of eternal life in the warm, joyful light of His glory. The victory has been won! Stand strong and obey God. The end of the struggle has already been written!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

The Remnant

by | May 24, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

May 24, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: 1 Chronicles 21-22, 2 Samuel 24, Psalms 30
Old Testament Only: 1 Kings 11
New Testament Only: John 5:30–47

The Remnant

Today’s Passage: Ezra 2-3

Bible - Dad and kidsrem•nant \noun [Middle English, contraction of remenant, from Anglo-French remanant, from present participle of remaindre to remain] 14th century
1    a : a usually small part, member, or trace remaining
      b : a small surviving group — often used in plural.

The concept of a “remnant” runs like a thread throughout the Bible. Remember, if you will, way back in Genesis when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt. They had thought him dead. They had thought they were in trouble with Pharaoh’s number one guy, but once they discovered he was actually their brother whom they had sold into slavery they were really scared. Do you remember what Joseph said to them?

Genesis 45:5-7 ESV
“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.”

From the day Adam and Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, God has worked to keep a remnant in the world faithful to Himself. At times this remnant was only one man, as in the case of Noah, or, as in the case of the people of Judah returning from Babylonian exile, as many as 42,360 people. It is through this, at times, rather thin thread that God raised up His Son, the Savior of all mankind. God chose the descendants of Abraham to be His witness to the world. It was through this people that He would show the world who He is and His desire for our return to Him.

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I have always viewed the Israelites as an allegory for the modern church. God has done the choosing and we are to be His witness to the world. The church seems, however, to go through cycles of faithfulness and disobedience just like the Israelites. Be it the church or individual members of the church, disobedience always results in self-imposed exile; a separation from God. If this analogy holds, then we will find throughout history, and even today, a remnant that sought God and answered His call to return to right relationship.

At the time Judah was taken into Babylonian exile the number of Judite citizens had to be in seven figures. Remember that when they came into the Promised Land just the men of fighting age were over 1 million people. Granted, we are only talking about two or three of the original tribes here but with the passing of time their numbers would have grown significantly; God had promised to multiply them.

Why did only 40,000 exiles return? They were the ones that had continued to seek God even in the most difficult of circumstances; they were the remnant. They were the ones through whom God would raise up His Son to save the world. The others got comfortable living among the heathen. They planted themselves in exile and had grown in such a way as to feel they had too much to lose to return to the Promised Land. Returning meant leaving everything they had built up over the years behind and traveling a long distance to a land and temple in ruin. Hard work for little immediate earthly return lay ahead for any who returned.

Sacrifice was required to answer God’s call to return. The majority of the exiles were unwilling to make that sacrifice. Interestingly enough, there were some who answered the call to return who had forgotten who they were.

Ezra 2:61-62 ESV
“Also, of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, and the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name).  These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.”

These were descendants of some who had gone into exile and not maintained a record of their heritage. I’ve shared with you many times the scripture of the Lord Jesus telling us that many will call on His name claiming to have prophesied and healed in His name and of whom He will say He knows not. What I see in this passage is a failure of fatherhood. Fathers are responsible for training their families up in the ways of God. Each of these descendants should have been provided with a clear understanding of who they were and where they came from. They did not have this and so were excluded from the priesthood.

Brothers, today we are God’s remnant. We are the thread that God is using to weave together the salvation of the world. It is through us that others will be called back to right relationship with God. It is through us that our own spouses and children will hear the call and be raised in the understanding of who they are in Christ. This is our heritage as members of the royal family of God. Can there be anything worse than knowing you are a member of the royal family while your children or spouse are not?

Please don’t get me wrong. You have no power or ability to save your loved ones. Only Jesus can save them. It is His Holy Spirit that will call them and convict them. If you attempt to force them or “convince” them to accept Jesus, you will succeed in getting them wet but not saved. Your role is to live as a disciple of Christ. You must walk the walk. They must see you reading your Bible, praying, and the difference that makes in your life. You should lead your family in their spiritual development by ensuring they go to church and are exposed to Word of God on a regular basis.

You cannot assume that your children are getting what they need to grow in Christ simply by attending church. To do so would be an abdication of your responsibility as a father. Our churches do a great job in exposing children to the truths of God and His Word but it isn’t enough. Your children need your leadership, and the Bible clearly tells us that. I strongly recommend a daily family “devotion” time where you present your family with some scripture and discuss its meaning followed by prayer. This can be at the breakfast or dinner table. This can be a time just before bed. If you will do this, and stick with it until it becomes a habit, I have no doubt it will become the most precious time of your life. It will grow your children spiritually and create memories that will last a life time. The leadership you provide them will be a heritage that will be passed on through the generations so that a remnant will remain long after you are gone.

I pray you will take up the mantel of priest in your home and that generations will be blessed through your faithful execution of the job God has given you as a father.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 23, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Psalms 95, 97-99
Old Testament Only: 1 Kings 9–10
New Testament Only: John 5:18–29

Seek God’s Will

Today’s Passage: 2 Chronicles 35 – Ezra 1

Seeking - Kid hands around eyesIn reading 2 Chronicles 34 yesterday we saw that Hilkaiah the priest found the book of the Law. Hard to believe they lost if for several generations but then again, they had wandered so far from God perhaps it’s not too hard to believe after all. King Josiah, however, upon receiving God’s Word, did the right thing. He was a very good king. He led the people back to God. He led a glorious revival. Unfortunately, the death of Josiah brought an end to the revival. Even godly men make mistakes, as Josiah did at the end of his life. Did Josiah seek God’s guidance before running off to war? No, he did not. In fact, it could be argued, and the Egyptian king actually did, that Josiah was acting against God’s wishes.

That’s the problem with running off doing our own thing expecting God to bless it. No matter how godly we may be, we can easily find ourselves in opposition to God because we failed to seek His will. We need to sincerely ask ourselves this question: am I god or is Jehovah God? If Jehovah is God, then we need to seek His will rather than seeking God’s blessing for our will. Oh, I know we love God, but are we in right relationship with Him? Do we put His will first in our lives? Running off to do our own thing says that our will comes first in our lives. This means we have put an idol before God – ourselves. No good can come from this.

Brothers, I believe you are godly men, but if you fail to seek God’s will for your life in every decision, you will eventually find yourself at odds with God, and that will hurt. In fact it may be deadly. Please submit every decision to God’s will. Seek His will, not your own. Continue to do good through obedience, and impact the world around you for Christ. You too can lead a revival in the lives of those around. Just remain faithful in following God’s will.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!