God sends a brother

A brother recently was struggling at work with his attitude. It is a second job, and it is physically demanding on top of dealing with ornery customers. He was really having a hard time with his attitude the other night, so he told his manager he needed to take his 10-minute break. He sat in the break room by himself and prayed hard for God to change his attitude. He went back to work, and within minutes another brother in Christ showed up at his workplace just to say hello and to see how he was doing.

Instant attitude change. Instant smile. Instant prayer of “Thank you, God!” for answering prayer.

Coincidence?

What did God promise?

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

God will supply our needs richly! Sometimes that just may mean a person shows up to encourage and refresh us.

Here are a few verses for us to meditate upon today about how God filled that need in the days of the early church. May we be instruments of God’s encouragement today for others. And remember, God will answer your prayers for encouragement.

Another part of the story is that the brother who stopped by the workplace of the other brother also needed some encouragement. He was down and struggling with his own attitude and decided to look for his good friend. They both greatly benefited that night, didn’t they?

Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.
(2 Corinthians 7:6-7)

I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
(1 Corinthians 16:17-18)

…and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
(1 Thessalonians 3:2)

The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day–and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.
(2 Timothy 1:16-18)

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)

Chesed

Yesterday we considered several passages of Scripture that demonstrate the faithfulness of God and His unfailing love and presence in our lives. Today I would like for you to consider the word “chesed” which is often translated as lovingkindness.

Here are some notes from A Theological Word Book of the Bible on the word “chesed.”

It is important to realize that though the Hebrew chesed can be translated by loving-kindness and mercy without doing violence to the context, yet we must always beware lest we think that God is content with less than righteousness. There is no reference to any sentimental kindness, and no suggestion of mercy apart from repentance, in any case where the Hebrew original is chesed. His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity. The loving-kindness of God means that his mercy is greater even than that. The word chesed stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension.

The word is used to contrast man and God.

  • Isaiah 40:6 – Isaiah used chesed (“loveliness”) in the context of man’s lack of steadfastness or strength. The prophet is contrasting man’s frailty with God’s steadfast reliability.
  • Hosea 6:4 – Israel’s chesed was like the morning cloud which goes away. ‘as the morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away,’ a regular feature of the Palestinian climate when once the spring rains are past.

God’s loving-kindness is that sure love which will not let Israel go. Not all Israel’s persistent waywardness could ever destroy it. Though Israel be faithless, yet God remains faithful still. This steady, persistent refusal of God to wash his hands of wayward Israel is the essential meaning of the Hebrew word which is translated loving-kindness.

In light of these thoughts about the “chesed,” the unfailing lovingkindness God, let us pray for God’s “chesed” to be a part of our marriages. May we as men love our wives “just as” Jesus loved us, and may that unfailing lovingkindness flow from our hearts and souls toward our wives.

Interesting thought, when I type “lovingkindness,” it gets underlined in red because it is not part of the dictionary on this program. This term lovingkindness is not familiar to it, but may that not be the case for us in our marriages. Hopefully lovingkindness is part of our “program,” deeply embedded within our souls.

God is Faithful

Let’s look today at several passages in Scripture that speak of God’s faithfulness. Our God is faithful at all times, even when we are not.

Before we sin, while we are being tempted

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

While we are sinning

2 Timothy 2:11-13 – This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

While we are seeking to come back

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 2:17 – Jesus is a merciful and faithful High Priest

Even when we are standing in the wake of the consequences

Lamentations 3:18-24 – And I said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Until Jesus comes again

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

God Does Not Change

Malachi 3:6 – I am the Lord I do not change

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – God and You

This week the MDB articles will be written by my dear friend, Shane Blackmer. Thanks Shane!


17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19 NKJV)

The depth of God’s love is that it can receive and cover the sins of EVERY repentant sinner EVERY time!  What does this realization do to how we handle our relationships?

Over the past several months I have been challenged in my relationships at home and at work.  I know I am not alone is this.  All of us are challenged as husbands, fathers, brothers, neighbors, professionals…to fulfill our responsibilities, to love unconditionally despite disappointment and sorrow.  It seems we often view people for how they hurt us.  We have trouble getting past it.  We can’t forgive, forget, trust, grow…this seems like a natural response and challenge.  Further, what seems natural to us men is to “fix it”.  We try to go after the relationship problems and either fix the “issue” or even worse “the other person”.  This is a trap…and a lot of times everyone loses.  So what should we do?

I have learned that in my life I have spent a great deal of time thinking and worrying about what other people think and feel.  Don’t get me wrong…having a genuine concern for others and humbling ourselves in relationships is not a bad thing.  The trouble starts when we become solely focused on the other person or lose perspective on the relationship.  If we have an outward perspective, we are missing the most important relationship…our relationship with God.

Do you believe that this relationship is the most important?  Do you believe that if this relationship is broken all other relationships suffer?  Do you believe we can completely miss this and spend all of our time working on the wrong relationships?  I do.  I have!  What I should do is come to the realization David did:

4Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. (Psa. 51:4 NKJV)

In doing this, I can first get my most fundamental and important relationship right…be reconciled with my Heavenly Father so that I am in a position to be reconciled to my wife, children, brethren, colleagues, etc.  What this does is takes all the judgment, condemnation, resentment I feel for others and turns it inward.  I acknowledge first and foremost I am a sinner…we all are!  Yet, when we sin, come to ourselves, confess, and repent…God forgives us!  And a life forgiven is a life worth living and an empowered life in which we can forgive and love others.

And here is the kicker…God forgives me every time I ask Him with a repentant heart.  Think about that for a minute.  Think about all times you sin in a day.  Think about how many people there are on this planet.  Think about all the times we sin in a day…billions of times…and God is ready to forgive every one of them.  Is that not a deep love?

If we think about that…about how God is the first person rejected in every relationship that is in err…and He is willing and able to forgive every time…won’t that change the way we see conflict in our relationships.  Won’t we come to understand that no matter how much another person hurts us…it is no more than how much we hurt our Father every day.  Won’t we see the grace, mercy, love, and hope we have with our Father despite this terrible wrong we have committed…and think about how we might have that same kind of heart for others?

If we do, we can go from being hurt “because of” someone else and go to being hurt “for” someone else.  We realize that we are all struggling to make our way through this life and we are all rejecting our Father and bringing great grief upon ourselves.  So let’s do our part to bring Him back to the center of our relationships by ensuring He is in the center of our individual lives.

With this in mind, let’s spend the week looking at Psalm 32 (read Psalm 51 too…they go great together) and consider how David figured this out…because he didn’t get it right at first.  He struggled with trying to deal with his sin alone…the influence this had on his relationships…and how he came to repentance, confession and forgiveness and how much more effective he could be as a husband, father…as a man in the world.

We can’t expect our relationships to improve if we haven’t worked on our first relationship…with God.  Once I come to that realization, that we have first sinned against our Father and He is faithful to forgive me, I am well positioned to work on other relationships and demonstrate the same love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and hope…so let’s start with us and get that right first.  Looking forward to a great week with you.

God of the valleys

Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD'” (1 Kings 20:28).

We are currently studying the Kings and Prophets in our adult Bible class, and we are about to discuss 1 Kings 20 on Sunday. God used the wicked king of Israel, Ahab, to defeat the Syrians in order to show King Ahab that God is truly God. “And you shall know that I am the Lord…” (see 1 Kings 20:13,28).

The first battle took place in the city of Samaria, and the men of Israel were outnumbered (1 Kings 20:15). Nonetheless, they were victorious and “killed the Syrians with a great slaughter” (1 Kings 20:21). After this battle, a prophet came to King Ahab and warned him that the Syrians would be back in the Spring (1 Kings 20:22).

So, now read verse 21, and think about the conclusion the men of Syria made about God and why they were defeated in battle.

Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they (1 Kings 20:23).

They had a regional view of God, and that makes sense when you are in a polytheistic culture. But their poor theology led to really bad conclusions about why they were defeated, which in turn led to a second catastrophic military loss. They thought they could beat Israel if they fought in a different location, and God showed them in a mighty and devastating way that He is God of the hills and the valleys. Once again Israel was outnumbered, but Syria was no match for God’s power (1 Kings 20:27). In the second battle 100,000 Syrian soldiers were killed and another 27,000 died because of a city wall that fell in on them (1 Kings 20:29-30).

There are so many ways we can apply this concept of God being the God of the hills and valleys.

  1. God is not a regional God. He is Lord of all your life, not just part of it. Either we choose to let Him reign over all of our life, or none of it at all. We cannot serve God and another master, Jesus said. God is a jealous God, He desires for us to come completely under the shelter of His wings and to make Him Lord of all of our life…of every fiber of our being.
  2. God is Lord of the hills and valleys in our lives. It sure is easy to sing praises to God when we are on the mountaintops, but what about when we are in the valleys? If you read the previous two chapters of 1 Kings, chapters 18-19, you will see that Elijah learned this very truth. Elijah had a mountaintop experience when he with God’s power defeated and executed the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (chapter 18). But in chapter 19, Elijah is scared, depressed and in despair! God showed Elijah that He was God of the valleys, too. We have to remember that. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, because You are with me” (Psalm 23).
  3. We sometimes forget to connect our previous victories with God to current challenges we face. Consider the faith of David when confronting Goliath (1 Samuel 17). His conclusion by faith was that if God helped him defeat the lion and the bear, then Goliath was no match for God. He knew God wasn’t just a God of lions and bears; He is Lord of everything. Remember that the Lord promised the Christian, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “The Lord is my helper…” in the hills and the valleys.
  4. There is nowhere that you are stronger than God. You will not find a location where you can out-smart, out-man, or gain an advantage on God. All of us in some way have tried this, if we’re honest! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23). As a dear older sister (Katie Marcus) used to tell me, “Your arms are too short to box with God!”

Praise the God of the hills and the valleys, the great I AM!

Have You Seen God?

Have you seen God? John was very plain in saying, “No one has seen God at any time.” Do you know what God looks like? Many have undergone the futile task of trying to imagine what God looks like. All kinds of paintings and sculptures have been done through the centuries, and those artistic works reflect the imagination of the artist. They do not reflect reality, because no one could even come close to describing the features of God. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). We see in Scripture that He has hands, eyes, and arms, but we also see God described as having wings. It is all figurative and descriptive.

We go back simply to the words of John, “No one has seen God at any time.” But then again, I ask the question, “Have you seen God?” I can with all certainty and conviction say most positively, “Yes!” I have seen God, face to face, because His image and heart is being reflected and lived out in His people.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:11-13).

“If we love one another, God abides in us.” Did you see that? God is seen in His people. Christ is reflected in His body. I often preach and discuss the concept of “putting skin on” these Bible concepts. I didn’t come up with that, God did. Notice how John begins his gospel account in chapter 1,

And the Word became flesh (put skin on) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18).

See that phrase again? “No one has seen God at any time.” But Jesus put skin on, He became flesh and we saw God in the flesh. When you see Jesus in Matthew through John, you see God face to face. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Not only do we see God in the face of Jesus, we now see God in the face of the people who walk with Him. Jesus develops His heart and His love within His people and then we reflect the face and nature of God in our lives. We become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Have you seen God? Well, if you like me have experienced the love of God lived out among His people then you can shout from the mountaintops with all confidence that you have seen God.

So who will be seen in our lives today? Will people see God through us? Do they hear God when we talk? Are we reflecting the image and glory of God in our relationships?

May God be seen in us today.

And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5

We wrap up our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5.” Friday’s theme for our blog is “the church family.” Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

On Monday, we saw that the word of God has many aspects to it (law, decisions, witness, etc.), and all are valuable and profitable to us. Tuesday we looked at how David loved and cherished God’s words. Wednesday’s focus was on what the word of God is (perfect, sure, right, etc.). On Thursday we considered what the word of God does (restores the soul, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, etc.).

Today we should simply consider the question: What is my response to God’s word?

GOD’S WORD: ITS VALUE AND POWER, PART 5

Fifth observation – Our response to His word.

Verse 11 says, “In keeping them there is great reward.” All of these wonderful benefits come when I commit to living out what God asked me to do. The value and reward is realized not in merely reading and reciting God’s word, but in keeping it.

Take a look at the rest of Psalm 19:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalms 19:11-14).

David’s heart is exposed here as he fully opens his heart to the Lord and His word. He is vulnerable, transparent and accountable to God, asking God to expose his sins. David wants the Lord and His word, not his sins to rule over him. He wants to be blameless and innocent before God. His prayer is that his words and even his deepest thoughts will be acceptable in God’s sight. That is the heart of David. This is why he was called a man after God’s own heart.

Finally, to be the men today God called us to be, we must have that very same mindset toward the Word. Keep it in our homes. Follow it at work. Seek to influence and encourage our church family that they also do the same.

“In keeping them there is great reward.”

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4.” Thursday’s theme for our blog is living as lights in a dark world. Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

Fourth observation – What the word of God does…

  • Converting (restoring) the soul – God’s law turns the wayward soul back to Him. The Lord is our shepherd, and “He restores” our soul (Psalm 23:3). Because the Law of the Lord is perfect, only it has that power to transform the sinner to a saint.
  • Making wise the simple (naive, gullible) – Being naive and gullible is not a good place to stay (Proverbs 1:22; 7:7; 9:4-6). God wants His people to grow up and learn to discern good from evil (Ephesians 4:14-15). He wants us to be able to sort out the true from the false. That happens when we “exercise our senses” in using God’s word (Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Rejoicing the heart – God’s statutes (precepts) lead to true joy. There is a “passing pleasure” in sin (Hebrews 11:25), but it fades quickly into darkness, pain, slavery and consequences. Doing “right” produces real happiness, freedom and fulfillment.
  • Enlightening the eyes – The word of God turns the light on for us. Our hearts were darkened, and so was our understanding. God’s commands shine the light both in our hearts and on our pathway in life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
  • By them Your servant is warned – If I am about to drive off a cliff, I really want someone to let me know BEFORE it happens! The same goes for the Scriptures; it helps put guardrails on the road. God loves us enough to put lots of big yellow caution signs and “Wrong Way” signs in His word. Being warned of danger is a blessing.
  • In keeping them there is great reward – Both in this life and in eternity (Luke 18:29-30), God pours out His blessings on His people when they follow His word (Proverbs 3:16-18). There are rewards in the things we avoid because we follow God’s will. We also have rewards in what comes exclusively to His people because we walk in His word (Galatians 6:7-9).

“The unfolding (entrance) of Your words brings light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).