When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!


What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

Why the Church: Looking Up

Why the Church: Looking Up

Today is a sermon for you to take time to listen to / watch over the weekend, entitled “Why the Church: Looking Up” by Ralph Walker, Jr.

Please also read and meditate upon the passage below from Ephesians 3 and what the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote about the church.


To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:8-21)

A Story on Perspective

Take a minute and read and consider this story.

People were sitting quietly. Some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

  “It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, ‘Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?’”

  “The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’

  Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm (heart) shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. ‘You’re wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?’ Everything changed in an instant.”   (Stephen Covey)

Now consider the Holy Spirit’s words in (Galatians 6:1-5).

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.

 What did you think of in this exercise? What comes to my mind is the importance of knowing and participating in the lives of those I love…especially the brethren. If I know them and participate in their lives, I will understand better their circumstances. If I better understand their circumstances, I will have more patience with what I might be observing in their lives and seek out opportunities to help rather than chastise or be annoyed. If I seek out opportunities to help, those I love will be lifted up and God will be gloried and the law of Christ is fulfilled…and His law is love.

We all have spiritual and physical burdens to carry but God has given us one another to be a helper to each other and sometimes that “one thing” we carry for another is just enough. Meditate on this today. Pray God would turn your eyes and heart to other’s lives. Have the courage to love them.

Expectations

Thanks to Jason Salyers for this article on Expectations!

Paul wrote to Titus and told him, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled (Titus 1:15).” In context, this is referencing individuals who are “insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision… (1:10);” however, I hope we realize, the importance of our mindset, or what we often refer to as expectation, is represented to us as well. The question to ask ourselves; in our day-to-day mentality, what is our approach to life and for this article, our family?

Consider our approach to life – Paul directs Titus to look at the actions of the individuals in question, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Our approach or expectation in this life will affect our regular, routine interactions – do you have a “trusting” nature, or an “un-trusting” nature. Do you think everyone in this world is attempting to exploit or extort you? Do you expect to be cheated during all interactions? Do you seek to always be dominant in every interaction? Is there always a question of “who’s-in-charge” prevalent in your psyche? What do you think about or dwell on the most, each-and-every-day? The Bible does call for us to be discerning – to test, prove, scrutinize to verify genuineness. Discernment, scrutiny, or examination must be used correctly though, in the context of Scripture (not to give us unfair or unrighteous bias). The Scripture states in Rm. 12:2 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The word prove is our word meaning to examine or discern. We ourselves must authenticate our own actions, becoming a living sacrifice (giving up ourselves), holy and pleasing to God (our expected focus and correct mindset), and recognize this is our spiritual service of worship (daily service – cf. Rm. 12:1).

Approaching life, from the moment we wake until we rest again – do we approach the world with a cleaned, pure conscience and recognize people, individuals do have the ability to have pure motives, good intentions, and are capable to be good to one another. We see men and women being assisted on the side of the road – do you think every one of those is a Christian? I wish they were. We must remember – Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Rm. 1:20). God created in mankind, a being that is fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), with eternity set in their heart (Eccl. 13:11). Men and women do know how to be good to one another.

It was the criticism Jesus directed towards the Pharisees that stated, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Matt. 23:23).” When we instruct or guide our families, what are the expectations we lay before them? Do we have the expectation of success and prosperity? Are we the encouraging force in their lives allowing them to recognize their beauty and purpose before God? We certainly can be the hypercritical individual destroying confidence and questioning every action or motive among our spouses and children. The understanding and acknowledgment of discernment must be present. Also, the recognition and belief in purity must guide our own mindset or expectations. Do we live up to what God expects of us? A prayer we should all being forth every day, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him (Ps. 62:5).”

Nehemiah 3

Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a monumental task. The fact that they did it in 52 days just blows the mind. Considering all the obstacles they had to overcome takes it to a level that clearly demonstrates God’s hand was in this good work.

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
(Nehemiah 2:18)

I encourage you today to read Nehemiah chapter 3. Sometimes chapters like this can be skimmed through because at first or second glance it seems like just a factual list of the workers, what they did, and where they worked.  But that very list is what is so amazing.

But read the chapter carefully and think about a few things:

  1. The high priest rose up, with his brothers – The first verse shows that the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem took the lead. They were priests, but their hands were dirty and their knuckles got scraped and bloody. If you want to be a leader in God’s good work, you have to lead by example and get your hands dirty, too.
  2. Next to him, next to them, after him – Phrases like these are repeated often in Nehemiah 3. The work on the wall was divided into 42 sections. But each group worked on their section as part of the greater purpose/project. They were not working independently. Also notice that they did not finish one section before moving on to another. Each section was being worked on simultaneously (Nehemiah 4:6), thus closing the gaps.
  3. But their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord (vs. 5). Not everyone put their hands to this good work. Don’t expect 100% participation.
  4. Opposite their house, beside their house – Nehemiah stationed people in areas where there would be the highest motivation to do the best work. Folks were building / repairing the walls and gates nearest their houses (vs. 10,23,29-30). If you know this section of wall is directly connected to the survival and safety of your own family you are going to give it your all!
  5. Rulers, priests, perfumers, merchants, goldsmiths – Another point to make here is that the people working on this were not experienced wall building contractors. I’m sure some of these men had hands that were meant for inside work, and they initially had a lot of blisters and used muscles they never even knew they had! But they all put their shoulders to the work on the wall, whether they were a noble or a servant, male or female, merchant, goldsmith or perfumer. This is a clear picture of the church, guys (Ephesians 4:15-16)!
  6. With his daughters – This was a family project. Shallum was there working with his daughters (vs. 12).
  7. People from outside the city, like from Jericho (Neh. 3:2), and from Gibeon and Mizpah (vs. 5,7) and Tekoa (11 miles from Jerusalem, vs. 5,27) worked on the wall. Think of the influence God’s good work has on those around us.
  8. Repair, rebuild – The word “built” is used 6 times in chapter 3 and means “rebuilt.” The word “repair” is used 35 times and means to “make strong and firm” (compare Ezekiel 13:1-16; 22:28). They were sorting through the rubble and using the stones around them to help repair and rebuild.
  9. Tekoites – In verse 5 we find the men of Tekoa working on one section, and in verse 27 they worked on “another section.” Think about it…when they finished with “their” section, they did not walk away, they moved on to “another section.” Great principle for us to remember. Keep working in God’s work, you are never finished, just re-positioned.
  10. Zealously, carefully – Verse 20 in the NASB says Baruch “zealously” repaired the wall, while the NKJV says he “carefully” did it. Either way, you can see the spirit of the men and women working on the wall. They cared. This was not just a job, this was God’s work, and it directly affected their family, their city, their Jewish brethren. And most of all it was done for God’s glory.

I will finish with a quote from D.L. Moody:

“A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest in…to get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy, is all they want.  The idea of work for them—actual work in the church—never enters their minds.”

How Long Nehemiah Prayed

I’m listening to some sermons on Nehemiah and this fellow made a wonderful observation that I want to share with you today.

When Nehemiah, cup-bearer for the king of Persia, heard that his ancestral city of Jerusalem was lying in rubble and his fellow Jews were in distress, he prayed fervently. Between chapters 1 and 2 there is a period of 3-4 months. Nehemiah prayed for 90-120 days before God gave him the first opportunity to petition his boss, Artaxerxes the King of Persia, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild.

When the people of Israel began to rebuild the walls under his leadership, it took the Jews 52 days to build the wall (Nehemiah 6:15).

Do the math. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took them to build the wall.

Don’t we have this reversed sometimes? We work twice as long, beating our heads against the wall, because we did not spend enough time inviting God into our lives and our planning. Not enough time was spent seeking God’s advice, God’s will, His wisdom and His plans, and as a result we make our lives and work all the more difficult.

It’s something to think about. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took him to actually do the project.

 

And I will bless them

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ‘ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27)

Congratulations to the graduates of 2017! Great work, and well done!

Our daughter, Jessica, graduated this year. We are having her grad party tonight. It is just amazing how fast time goes by. Anna and I are super thankful for our Jess and the strong young woman she has become. Jessica is the way she is because Jesus lives within her.

Today, I want to share with the graduates the blessing that God had the priests say over the people of Israel. Meditate upon these words, young men and women. Consider that all good things and all spiritual blessings are in Christ. You will pursue many endeavors and go in many directions, but true happiness and fulfillment is only found under the shelter of God’s wings.

May He bless you and keep you. May your face shine because His face is shining upon you. May you have peace because your peace comes from God, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). May the name of God always be upon you and within your heart.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)

Plumbing Depth of God’s Love–Hold the Line

6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You, In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters, They shall not come near him. 7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32:6-11 NKJV)

Today our discussion comes to a conclusion. We have covered a lot of ground and I am thankful to God that He provides us His word to study, discuss, and apply to our lives through reading it, studying it, meditating on it, discussing it and praying it. Here is a synopsis and checklist of sorts concerning the last verses of Psalm 32.

  • Pray: Seek the Lord! That means you must be talking to God at all times. Those conversations you are having in your own head…have them with God. Those conversations you wish you could have with those who mean the most to you…have them with God. Your groaning from physical, emotional, spiritual pain…give it to God. He is listening, reaching and waiting to lift off that what burdens you.
  • Now: Our days and lives are made up of individual moments. Though the moments might pile up on us and move so fast we don’t think there is time to take a pause…don’t be fooled. Now is the moment to seek out God. Have a sense of urgency in your prayer and service to God…remember He is who you need most.
  • Be secure: God will protect you. David is not saying you won’t have troubles but that God can get you through those troubles. Your pain and suffering is an ever-present reminder you need God, He will help you and you cannot hide or try to fix your sins, relationships, lives…alone.
  • God will not forsake you: We see this throughout scripture. In the verses above, God is speaking in 8-11 and He has an awesome way of encouraging us…just read, listen and hide His words in your heart.
  • God will lead you: What an awesome Shephard we have…follow Jesus and you will be able to shepherd those in your life. God promises to counsel you with His eye always on you. What a beautiful promise from the mouth of the Lord! God is watching you. He has his eye on you.
  • Trust in Him and Let Go: Don’t be stubborn like horses and mules who need to be driven in the right direction. It will not work. God does not force us to go the way we ought to go. God is a God of freedom…not limits…He doesn’t want you to be bridled and driven…but to be freed from your sins so you can be free to love others…God will point to the proper path and you must choose to follow His direction.
  • He will immerse you in His mercy!
  • You will be blessed and rejoice!
  • Be righteous!
  • Be upright!
  • Praise God!

The steadfast love of the Lord surrounds those who trust in the Him. Which would you rather have in life: the many sorrows of the wicked or the steadfast love of the Lord? The answer is obvious, but to have the steadfast love of the Lord then we must put our trust in Him. We must completely submit our lives to God. In the context of this Psalm, we must openly confess our sins to God and thank the Lord that our transgressions are forgiven, our sins are covered, and our iniquities are not counted.

Those most important to us as men are counting on that…need that. No other man can fulfill the role given to you and no other man can do for your wife, children, friends, co-workers, etc. what they most need from you. Hold the line brothers!

Psalm 26 part 2

Yesterday, we considered Psalm 26, and the requests David made of God.

Read it again today and meditate upon it. This time consider David’s desires, heart, hands, feet, voice, etc.

Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:1-12)

His feet – He walked in his integrity (vs. 1,11), and walked in God’s faithfulness and truth (vs. 3). David wanted to “go” about God’s altar (vs. 6). Because of this, his feet stood on level ground (vs. 12). He was stable in God, standing on a firm foundation.

His hands – David’s hands were washed in innocence (vs. 6). His hands were not like the sinners and bloodthirsty men, in whose hands were blood, evil devices and bribes (vs. 10).

His desires and mind– David trusted in the Lord without wavering (vs. 1). Because of his humility and love for God, he opened his heart and his mind to God’s inspection (vs. 2). He “loved the habitation” of God’s house and fellowship with God’s people (vs. 6-8,12). Where did David want to be? In God’s assembly blessing Him among His people. In contrast, David hated the assembly (fellowship, congregation, association) of evildoers (vs. 4-5,9-10).

His behind – He did not sit with men of falsehood (vs. 4), nor with the wicked (vs. 5). Verse 8 doesn’t say “sit,” but we know from verse 8 where David wanted to sit, in God’s house.

His eyes – God’s steadfast love was before David’s eyes (vs. 3). Think of what that says about the “focus” of David. Where did he choose to fix his eyes? On the lovingkindness of God.

His voice – Vs. 6-7 shows that David would go about the altar of God, “proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all” His wondrous deeds. What did David do with his voice? Vs. 12 says that in the congregations, he blessed the Lord.

So, guys, think about these things. What about our voices; what do they say? What about our behinds, where are they sitting? Where are our feet walking? Upon what are our eyes focused? What are our hands doing? What do we love and what do we hate? Who are my friends? What types of people do I love to hang out with, and whom do I avoid?

Again, this is a great prayer, and we can clearly see here why David was called a man after God’s own heart.

What Happens When the Christian Dies

Here is a short bulletin article a sister shared with me about what happens to the Christian when he or she dies. There are many passages here that bring comfort and hope to the Christian to face death.


Do We Struggle With Facing Death?
By Mike Riley

By dropping by our local cemetery and reading the dates etched on the tombstones, we know that our demise will shortly come to pass (Hebrews 9:27 ; James 4:14 ; cf. Job 7:6-7; Psalm 78:39) — death is not an event that one should take lightly (2 Kings 20:1-6; Ecclesiastes 2:12-23; Luke 12:13-21).

But what do the inspired Scriptures tell about this impending event in our life? The Scriptures tell us that if we’re faithful to the Lord in the doing of His will (even in the face of death – Revelation 2:10), the following events will occur when we pass from this life:

  • The angels will carry us into Abraham’s bosom, a place of blessed peace and tranquility (Luke 16:22).
  • The Lord will be with us when we walk through that valley (Psalm 23:4).
  • We will be with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 2 Timothy 4:6).
  • We will be blessed with rest from our labors (Revelation 14:13).
  • We will receive a victory crown (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8 ).
  • We will receive our everlasting inheritance (1 Peter 1:4; 1 Timothy 6:19).
  • We will then live forever with the Lord (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), with God (Revelation 21:3), and with the redeemed of all the ages (Revelation 5:9; 21:24).

Knowing all of the above, we need not struggle with facing death, but like the apostle Paul, be looking forward to spending a never ending existence with our Lord and with those who have passed on before us (2 Timothy 4:5-8; Genesis 25:8; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:20-23).


For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)