Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

September 1, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Ezekiel 16-17
Old Testament Only: Psalms 91–95
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 3

Heart Of Stone Or Flesh

Today’s Passage: Ezekiel 11-13

Heart ClayIt just never ceases to amaze me how God, even in the midst of declaring punishment, will declare salvation. God had allowed the descendants of Israel to become as debauched as they could be before He finally declared it was time for wrath. Even so, He tells us once again in today’s reading that He will redeem a remnant. He will call them back to Him, and restore them to the Promised Land, and He will be their God.

Listen to this:

Ezekiel 11:16-21 ESV
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’  Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.”

It is crucial to notice that God is doing the work. It is He who will call the Lost back to Him. It is He who will change their heart. It is He who will make it possible for them to walk in His ways and obey. We men want a step-by-step guide that will show us how we can make ourselves right with God. It is just the way we guys think. Unfortunately, this desire for a step-by-step guide over which we are in control is part of our problem. We can’t make ourselves right with God. We cannot take steps A, B, and C and be right with God. We have to completely give ourselves over to Him. We have to completely deny ourselves. We have to accept that we serve Him and we have no rights.

I love the U.S. Declaration of Independence and I think the line that states that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights is correct as far as our interaction with each other goes, but we must be careful not to fool ourselves into thinking that we have “rights” before God. “Rights” are a human idea. Rights are about limiting the power others have over you. God has unlimited rights over you and if you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior then you are acknowledging this fact. You have no rights. It is when we wish to exercise our “right” to make our own decisions that we get into trouble. It is when we surrender that right to Christ that we are actually set free.

It is the desire to be lord of ourselves that stands in the way of being the men God created us to be. God’s ways seem like fantastic opposites to us. How can one be strong through weakness? How can the first be last and the last first? How can one be free only when they truly surrender all their rights? All of this is a great mystery to most of us but you need to understand that God is the only meaningful power and strength available. If you want to be truly strong you must deny your own strength and lean on His. If you want to be first in God’s book you need to view yourself as the least for it is the humble heart that is the heart of flesh. The self-powered heart is the heart of stone.

God can change that heart, and in His children He is at work doing just that. He will teach you how to be humble. He will teach you how to rely on His strength rather than your own. It will hurt, but you will learn. I, like you, am a sinner saved by grace. During my walk with Him, God has shown me from time to time sin in my life that must be removed. I have discovered that when I puff out my chest and declare that I will sin no more I fail, but when I go to my knees with a broken heart and humbly ask God to forgive me and strengthen me I find that He gives me the humble attitude of heart I need to go and sin no more. In my strength I am weak but in His I can conquer all.

If you have accepted Christ your heart of stone has been removed and a new heart of flesh, filled with His spirit, beats in its place. If you haven’t accepted Christ, God will bring your deeds upon your own head. You will have earned it and you have no rights or strength before Him. We must choose ourselves or Him; a heart of stone or a heart of flesh. Which will it be?

Have a day filled with the strength of God!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Are You Sealed?

by | August 31, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

August 31, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Ezekiel 13-15
Old Testament Only: Psalms 89–90
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 2:6–16

Are You Sealed?

Today’s Passage: Ezekiel 7-10

Wrong Seal!

Wrong Seal!

Ezekiel and Revelation share a number of images and prophecy. In today’s reading what really stood out to me was this:

Ezekiel 9:4 ESV
“And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

Does that passage remind you of any other passage in the Bible?

Take a look at this:

Ezekiel 9:4 Revelation 7:3 Revelation 9:4 Revelation 14:1

 “And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

 … “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

“They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”

“Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

I’ve always been fascinated by end time prophecy. I remember reading the “Left Behind” series which I thoroughly enjoyed. Now guys, I’m not sure it is solid theology, but I enjoyed the fictional imagining of the last days. (The view fictionalized in these novels is pretribulation, premillennial eschatology – if you just understood what I wrote there could you please explain it to me?)

I was particularly moved by the twelfth book of the series in which Christ returns. I don’t know that it was necessarily the skill of the authors that moved me as much as simply picturing my Savior’s return. Can you imagine? Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord!!! I am still moved by the thought of it.

Those novels address the issue of the mark of the children of God. Just as those that follow after the beast will have his mark, the followers of Christ will carry His. Many have wondered what these marks might look like. The Left Behind guys had the saints marked with a cross on their forehead that only other Christians could see.

I don’t know if you saw the movie “The Omen”. It was first released in 1976 and stared Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. That movie scared the tar out of me! It was a story about the birth and initial rise of the anti-Christ. At any rate, the beastie boy had three sixes on the back of his head. We discover this when someone pulls back the child’s hair while he is sleeping. It didn’t go well for the hair puller after that by the way.

Creepy side bar here. I remember reading the book “The Omen” back in the early 80’s. The name of the anti-Christ character was Damien Thorn. Shortly thereafter I was watching the ending credits of a movie, the name of which is now long lost to memory. Often these credits will include the name of the producing or distributing company. The name of one of these companies was “Thorn Industries”; only mildly creepy. Shortly after that, however, I was reading about the head of the European Common Market coming to Canada.

Now many of you may not have followed some of the end time theories out there but at one time it was thought that maybe the anti-Christ would be the head of the European Common Market, otherwise known as the EU. This idea came from the fact that at the time the EU had ten member countries and that Revelations stated the anti-Christ would be head of a renewed Rome. The Roman Empire at one time had 10 administrative divisions. Get it; ten horns, ten countries? Yep, it’s a stretch. Anyway, I was reading in the paper that the head of the EU was to visit Canada. Can you guess his name? I promise you this is the truth. The paper said his name was Damien Thorn! If I’m lie’n, I’m die’n! Gives me the creeps just thinking about it!

Was that guy the anti-Christ? If he was he didn’t make much of a splash. It is fun to try and figure out how the end times will play out but I think it is important to remember that it isn’t a game and that we won’t know the time until it is upon us. As I read Ezekiel 9:4 it occurred to me that the mark was for those who sighed and groaned over abominations before God. The mark was on their forehead. Guys, is it just possible that the mark we are to receive on our foreheads is a right attitude toward God?

In my moments of being in right attitude toward God, others have come up to me and in various ways basically told me that they could see Jesus in me. I can never hope for a greater compliment than that. Is that the mark; the seal? It certainly seems to be a prerequisite at the least.

Brothers, judgment is coming. The Elect will be drawn to those that reflect the light of Jesus Christ; the Lost will be repelled by it. Let the heart of Christ reign within you so that His light will shine before men and draw them to salvation. You are indeed sealed with the mind of Christ!

Have a Christ-like day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

August 30, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Ezekiel 9-12
Old Testament Only: Psalms 85–88
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5

Are you a Watchman?

Today’s Passage: Ezekiel 3-6

Light ExplosionPerhaps it’s just me. Perhaps I am the only one among us, reading through the Bible together, who is hearing God’s call to love the Lost; to take His message to His people. The issue of election comes to mind. Election is a concept scattered throughout Scripture that states that God has “chosen” those that will be saved. I’ve put that as coarsely as I could for a reason.

We have a hard time accepting a God who doesn’t intend to save everyone. For some reason we think that is unfair. Look at what Paul has to say about this issue:

Romans 9:14-24 ESV
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

Brother, since the fall of Adam and Eve, the true desire of every human heart has been to be god. This means that every one of us deserves destruction. There is no one who deserves salvation; BUT God, in His mercy, has saved some of the undeserving for Himself. He made each of us, and He knew before He created us which of us would respond to the light; which of us would be obedient; which of us would be His children. Jesus is the light of the world and He came to call the children of light home. The children of darkness will flee before His piercing light; the children of God will be drawn to the light.

Christ has ascended into heaven but having placed His light within the hearts of His followers, He has sent them to pass that light to the rest of the Elect. You see, you can be a member of the Elect and not know it. You can be a member of the Elect and be angry and hateful toward Christians. I remind you of Paul himself who was personally responsible for the death of many saints. You and I cannot know who is a member of the Elect and who is not. We have not been given the luxury of being told beforehand to whom we should take the Gospel; just that we must take it to a lost and dying world. Whether those that hear the proclamation of the Gospel respond or not is God’s business; ours is to reflect the light. Listen to this from our reading today:

Ezekiel 3:10-11 ESV
“Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”

Brother, have you received the Word of God in your heart? Will you not go to your people, the “Elect”, to speak to them and say “Thus says the Lord God”? Will you not go whether they hear or refuse to hear? No? It would be a mistake to refuse God.

Ezekiel 3:17-21 ESV
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”

Here God is telling Ezekiel to be a watchman, to warn the lost and the back-slider. He holds the sinner responsible for the sin but Ezekiel for the warning. Now you may well say to me that God was speaking to a specific person, Ezekiel, about a specific people, Jews, in a specific time and place, about 537 B.C. in Babylon. All of that is true, of course, but can you really sit there and tell me that this does not apply to you and me today? If God felt that way about warning the Lost and back-slider then, why would He feel differently today? If you are His child, He sent you to be a watchman as well.

Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

He is speaking to you. Will you go? Will you warn the Lost? You do not have to go far. You are surrounded by the Lost. Will you be a watchman? All you must do is reflect the light of Jesus Christ. Speak the truth of the Gospel and the Elect will be drawn to it; the others will be repelled. So be it. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and compassion on whom He will have compassion.

May the Lord find you faithful!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

August 29, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Ezekiel 5-8
Old Testament Only: Psalms 82–84
New Testament Only: 1 Corinthians 1:1–17

Ezekiel, Jeremiah, And Daniel

Today’s Passage: Lamentations 4 – Ezekiel 2

Cloud HeartWe finish Lamentations today and begin Ezekiel so let’s take a look at this prophet and his book. Ezekiel was supposed to be a priest but he was one of the “elite” taken into captivity by the Babylonians during the reign of King Jehoiachin and never got the chance to serve in his priestly office. The Babylonian exile took place in waves. The prophet Daniel was taken captive in the first wave during the reign of the previous king, Jehoiakim. The subsequent king, Jehoiachin, only sat on the throne for 3 months and it was during this brief period that Ezekiel followed Daniel in a second wave to Babylon.

So, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jeremiah, whose lamentations we just finished reading, were all contemporaries. As I mentioned yesterday Jeremiah began his ministry as a young man during the reign of King Josiah. When others were taken into captivity Jeremiah was forced to join a remnant that ran off to Egypt and thus his ministry was restricted to that group. Daniel, if you’ll recall, was one of the young men that was taken to the king’s court in Babylon and eventually rose to the level of “prime minister”. As for Ezekiel, he was taken to the rivers of Babylon where, as slave labor, he and his fellow captives dug and maintained the canals branching off the Euphrates River. This was several miles from Babylon itself and it is here where Ezekiel performed his ministry.

Each of these men were prophets but they each had specific ministries to specific groups of people. It doesn’t appear that they came into contact with each other although the Book of Daniel tells us that Daniel was aware of his people down by the river, had great concern for them and defended them. We don’t have any clear indication that Daniel knew Jeremiah although Scripture shows us that Daniel was aware of Jeremiah’s prophecies. It is possible that in their youth, prior to being taken into captivity, Daniel and Ezekiel heard Jeremiah preach. There is no indication, however, that Ezekiel was ever acquainted with Daniel.

Ezekiel focuses a good deal of his attention on the Person of God. It has been said that Ezekiel is the prophet of the Spirit, as Isaiah is the prophet of the Son, and Jeremiah the prophet of the Father. As I mentioned earlier, the Babylonian captivity or exile took place in waves and during this time there were many false prophets telling folks that Jerusalem was not going to be destroyed and that they were all going to return soon. Well, the city wasn’t destroyed in the first wave nor the second. The third time Nebuchadnezzar came to town, however, he left it in ruin. So there was about a ten-year period where these false prophets spread their lies. Ezekiel, however, confirmed a message that Jeremiah had sent to Babylon that Jerusalem would be destroyed. He told them they must return to God before they would be able to return to Jerusalem. Eventually a time came when a small remnant did return to God and it was they who finally did return to Jerusalem.

The prophet Ezekiel was taken in slavery to the rivers of Babylon around the age of thirty, but he didn’t begin his ministry for another five years. Those were surely the darkest days of the nation up until that time. From the pit of slavery in a foreign land Ezekiel had to fight against the false hope spewed by the false prophets. He had to fight the depression and desperation that gripped the hearts of his people. He had to fight their self-centeredness and reluctance to accept their own responsibility for their current condition. At the start he was losing the fight. The people didn’t want to hear his message so he had to come at the problem in a different way.

Ezekiel decided he would deliver his message in parables, but rather than simply speak these parables he would act them out. He pulled some attention grabbing stunts in the process. In Ezekiel 24:24 we read, “Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD.” Since the people wouldn’t listen to his words, Ezekiel would act them out for them in a way that would get their attention.

You know, people today in America do all kinds of things just to draw attention to their cause. As I write this the news is all abuzz with the story of a football player who refused to stand and participate in the national anthem at a game because he doesn’t want to show solidarity with a nation that he feels oppresses black people. He drew a lot more attention to his cause by his actions that he probably ever would with his words. In one instance Ezekiel locked himself into a house and then dug himself out, coming out in the middle of the street. Well needless to say he literally stopped traffic. He got people asking him why he did it and what it was all about.

There are three Israelite prophets in the Bible who prophesied from outside the nation. One was Daniel in Babylon and a second was the Apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos. The third was Ezekiel prophesying from the banks of the Euphrates River in what is today Iraq. Each wrote with highly symbolic language to describe the coming “apocalypse”, and yet they also possessed the brightest hope of all the prophets. Ezekiel shows us the glory of the Lord. He saw the Shekinah glory of God as He left Solomon’s temple and he saw the future coming of the glory of God when Christ returns.

The purpose of this Scripture in Ezekiel is found in this coming glory of God when the end finally comes. Beyond the suffering of Christ is found the glory that will follow. The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:10-11 that the prophets foresaw the suffering of Christ and the glory that would follow. It is possible Ezekiel saw it all better than any of them.

Well, to me the moral of this story of Judah’s captivity is that even though God would punish the people of Judah, He never stopped calling for them to repent and return to Him; not before punishment and not after. His love never fails! That’s what I have taken from the writings of these prophets. I wonder, what are you getting from them?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Do You Care?

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

August 28, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Ezekiel 1-4
Old Testament Only: Psalms 79–81
New Testament Only: Romans 16

Do You Care?

Today’s Passage: Lamentations 1-3

By all means meet his needs today; but what about all of his tomorrows?

By all means meet his needs today; but what about all of his tomorrows?

Okay now, don’t blink!  We will do Lamentations today and part of tomorrow.  That’s it.  If you think that is fast, however, just wait until we get to some of the books toward the end of the New Testament!

Do you wonder whose lamentations we are reading?  They are Jeremiah’s.  That is why Lamentations is placed after Jeremiah in our Bible.  Josiah was king when Jeremiah began his ministry. They were both young men and they were friends. Josiah was one of those few kings who tried, in his own imperfect way, to lead Judah back to God. His “revival” touched a lot of hearts but while it spread wide it didn’t spread deep. It turned out to be blip in the life of the nation. Eventually Josiah died in an ill-advised battle at Megiddo. This left Jeremiah to continue his ministry under four subsequent reprobate kings – Jehoahz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Zedekiah would be the last king of Judah.

God gave Jeremiah a message to deliver that was hard to hear. It was a message of coming destruction. The message was intended to draw the people back to right relationship with God but the people refused to accept it; they continued in their downward spiral away from God and into destruction. Having exhausted himself in an effort to call Judah to repentance, and having suffered greatly for doing so, Jeremiah’s reward was to watch the destruction of the nation and people he loved. His heart was broken as he watched it burn.

The five chapters of Lamentations are each a funeral eulogy from the heart of a grief-stricken man. We get an image of a man standing over the coffin of his loved ones, filled with sorrow, hot tears streaming down his face. In his “Thru the Bible” commentary, Dr. J. Vernon McGee says Lamentations is “a paean of pain, a poem of pity, a proverb of pathos. It is a hymn of heartbreak, a psalm of sadness, a symphony of sorrow, and a story of sifting. Lamentations is the wailing wall of the Bible.” I think Dr. McGee had a bit of the poet in him.

Jeremiah was not a “holier-than-thou”, “fire and brimstone” kind of preacher. His message was harsh but his heart was tender. I don’t think a hard-hearted man can deliver a harsh message effectively. It is much easier to tune out an angry, self-righteous voice than to tune out a voice filled with sincere love and deep anguish. There was a renowned Shakespearean actor of the 1800s named David Garrick who shared a story of a day he came across a man preaching in the streets of London. The preacher he came upon was George Whitefield and this what Garrick said about the incident.

“I stood on the outside of the crowd, but I found myself imperceptibly working myself in, until I stood right under that man, and there came down from his breast hot tears.” An old woman stood there and said to Whitefield, “Sir, I have followed you since you preached this morning at seven o’clock and I have heard you preach five times in the streets of this city, and five times I have been wet with your tears. Why do you weep?” Garrick said “I listened to George Whitefield, and as I listened to him I saw his passion and his earnestness. I knew that he meant that without Christ men would die. As I listened to him, he came to the place where he could say nothing more. He reached up those mighty arms, his voice seemed almost like a thunderstorm as he said one final word: ‘Oh!'”

People responded to the call of salvation when Whitefield preached because they could see he sincerely believed they were doomed if they didn’t and he was broken-hearted at the thought. America, a once fiercely Christian nation, is today a pagan nation. People are coming to salvation less and less as church attendance plummets. I get a sense from some Christians that they are saved and that’s all that matters. I get a sense from some of them that the Lost deserve what’s coming. I do not get a sense that we are broken-hearted about the future of the Lost.

We go to church, we read our bibles, we go to work, we raise our kids, we take care of our homes but we do not share the gospel. It seems we do not have sincere compassion for the Lost. I think this toxic American culture has affected us more than we have affected it. Our culture preaches a life of self-absorption; that there is no greater goal than self-fulfillment. Far too many of us Christians get distracted by the cares of this world, we keep our emotions in check and refuse to really get involved in sharing the Gospel in any meaningful way. By our actions we show that we do not love the Lost enough to cry over them let alone share the Gospel with them. If we do not sincerely care, why would they listen to us even if we did share the Gospel?

I have one question for you; “Do you care?”  Do you care about the destruction coming for the Lost?  Do you care enough to show sincere compassion?  Do you care enough to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ?  Well, do you?

Have a care-full day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

August 27, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Lamentations 3:37-5:22
Old Testament Only: Psalms 77–78
New Testament Only: Romans 15:14–33

For The Love Of People

Today’s Passage: Jeremiah 51-52

Sharing the GospelToday’s reading continues the prophecies of punishment God would visit upon the nations. As I read of the destruction that would come upon Babylon I was reminded that for those outside of Christ there is no escape from destruction. Both Judah and Babylon were punished by God; His children and those who were not His children. The difference was that His children would be redeemed. This led me to think about the nation of which I am a citizen, America. In which category does America belong? Is it more like Judah or more like Babylon?

You and I are Christians but we live in a Lost world. While Judah was redeemed, the road to this redemption progressed through the destruction of Babylon, the society in which they lived. Earlier God had told the Babylonian exiles to pray for the Babylonian society since they lived within it (Jeremiah 29:4-7). It must have been hard to receive one’s freedom while watching the destruction of that for which you prayed. I imagine that if they had really set down roots, as God told them to do, some of them might have fought to preserve Babylon even though God had foretold of its destruction.

In that I see parallels with America. No, God has not foretold of America specifically being destroyed, but He has foretold of the destruction of all that are not His. You see, it isn’t really about nations; it’s about people. America was a country formed by people, most of which had a strong Christian foundation. Christian values were consistently displayed throughout America’s founding documents, principles and the personal writings of its founders. I am not simply speaking about the concept of democracy. That concept pre-dates this republic. I am speaking of the notion that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. It is the idea that God is the dispenser of rights, not man. Never before in the history of human kind has such an argument been made in a founding document of a nation.

When our founders acknowledged that men had rights that came from God, they were saying that the new nation would be about people. Our current president said earlier in his career that the U.S. Constitution was a document of “negative rights”, that it said what the government could not do to you. His remarks suggested that the document was deficient because it didn’t enumerate what the government could do for you. Whereas the founders viewed the constitution as reserving all rights for the people, many modern politicians lament that it does not reserve some, if not all, rights for the government (Or should I say for the politicians ?).

What is my point? When one acknowledges God, one acknowledges that He is all about people; not nations or stuff, but people. I bring this up because I was struck by the verses in Jeremiah 52 that described the sacking of the temple in Jerusalem. The nation of Israel was God’s. The temple was His abode among His children. How could He allow it to be destroyed? How could He allow His dwelling to be destroyed and the various items of worship broken down and carted off as just so much booty? We don’t know when the Ark of the Covenant was lost but at some point after Solomon the Ark itself, the very presence of God, was lost.

How can God allow this to happen to that which belongs to Him? It is because God is about the people not the “stuff”. Everything is His but His priority is redemption. He loves His people. He wants His people to be restored to Him, and He is willing to see His temple destroyed and the accoutrement of worship defiled and carried off, if in the process the Lost are redeemed.

Brothers, as Christians we often get wrapped up in the stuff of religion. We get enamored of the building in which we accepted Christ, or saw our children baptized or married. We can get so wrapped up in the place and stuff of worship that we have little attention left for the Lost; the people for whom God is working to redeem, and for whom He is willing to sacrifice all, even His own son.

Do you have the mind of Christ? Do you have the heart of Christ? Do you have His Holy Spirit residing in you? Then you too are willing to sacrifice the trappings of worship for the sake of the Lost. Our focus as followers of Christ is not on America, it isn’t on the church building or style of worship; it is on people, the Lost. For some reason the Lord has put the following verses on my heart:

Philippians 3:7-14 ESV
“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Let us each consider as loss the “stuff” of worship. Let our hearts reflect the love of Christ. Let us focus on people rather than politics. Let us focus on people rather than the trappings of worship. While Christ went to the synagogue, His ministry was out amongst the people. Let us follow Christ. Let us love people!

May your day be filled with Christ-like love for the Lost!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!