We Will Not Neglect the House of Our God

Prophet_nehemiahIn the Old Testament, the testimony of the people was to keep covenant and maintain the Temple through faithful worship, offerings, and tithes. They had promised, “We will not neglect the House of our God” (Nehemiah 10:39). In chapter 13, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and finds that they have indeed broken their commitment. They were neglecting the house of their God in their stewardship of four critical areas: space, resources, time, and relationships. We often do the same.

The first neglect was caused when Eliashab, the priest in charge of the temple chambers, allowed a foreigner to dwell in a room which had a specific purpose for offerings to the Lord. Nehemiah kicked him out and restored the chamber for its godly purpose (13:4-9). In our own lives, are there inappropriate things cluttering up key spaces that should be properly devoted to godly use?

A second neglect was caused by a failure to bring the appointed offerings to the Levites, thus forcing them to abandon the service of worship in order to provide for their families (13:10-14). Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Our patterns of giving can reveal a neglect of our relationship with God. Practically, when the people of God withhold their tithes and offerings, the worship of our God and the ministry of His Church falls into neglect.

A third neglect was caused by buying and selling on the Sabbath (13:15-22). If our time is focused on doing personal work on the Sabbath, then we will not be focused on praising God and His work that day. The Lord calls us to devote one day out of the week to worship and work for Him.

Finally, the marriages of Israelites to foreigners were leading the hearts of the people into idolatry and away from God. Paul warned the church about being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). The friendships, partnerships, and marriages we make can draw us away from the love of God, thus causing neglect of our primary relationship with God.

Nehemiah led the people to repentance in all four neglects of space, money, time, and relationships. Is there one or more of these areas in your stewardship that requires reform?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, show me any area in my life where I have neglected your house. I repent of my neglect of you with my stewardship of space, money, time, and personal relationships. Please forgive my neglect and restore me to your goodness. Amen.


This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge here.

Prayer In the Midst of the Insurmountable

By studying the prayers of Scripture, we can learn a lot about how to pray effective prayers. Constantly throughout the Bible, we see prayers like the one Hezekiah offers to the LORD. “So now, O LORD save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” – 2 Kings 19:8

Things are looking bleak for Judea and Jerusalem. The hordes of the Assyrian army are mocking YHWH God and His people, threatening at the gates. Yet Hezekiah does not resort to bravado; no, he encourages his men NOT to answer the Assyrian mockers (2 Kings 18:36).

He does resort to prayer. THAT he prays in this situation is instructive in and of itself. The forces outside the gate of Jerusalem appeared to be insurmountable in sheer numbers. Why even hope? Why even pray? There is not a chance. But that is precisely the moment to pray!

The LORD loves to show His hand on behalf of His people in seemingly insurmountable situations. Hezekiah knows the LORD well enough to understand that if He so chooses, He can overcome such odds and forces. But notice the way Hezekiah makes his appeal to the LORD to act. His humble request for salvation comes with a purpose or motivation for the LORD– “…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”

When the LORD acts on behalf of His faithful people by overcoming insurmountable odds in spite of their weakness, His strength is revealed, His name is glorified.

The LORD desires to be worshiped and obeyed to the ends of the earth. Human beings are made to do that very thing. In your prayers, appeal to the LORD’s preeminence over all other powers and forces. God loves an opportunity to reveal His power and glory through the weakness of His faithful people. When we are at our weakest, God delights to show Himself strong. Pray to that end.

LORD, I am not able to save myself, but you alone have the strength and power to forgive, to heal, to restore. Please show your strength in my life that others may see that you alone are God and that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.


This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge here.

Do not doubt, but believe!

Life in Christ is Never Dull!

He is Risen

Life in Christ is Never Dull!

Jesus compared the generation of Pharisees and scribes to a then-popular children’s song:

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ –Luke 7:32

The song invites the hearer into response, but no response is given. That generation was skeptical of the invitations of God offered through John the Baptist and Jesus. Hence, they did not dance, and they did not weep. The Gospel writer Luke says that they had “rejected the purpose of God for themselves” (7:30).

John the Baptist called them to a baptism of repentance, but they refused to be baptized by him. The prophet sang the dirge, but they did not weep.

Jesus proclaimed the Good News of forgiveness and restoration for the sinner and the brokenhearted. He celebrated and ate with them, but they refused to come to the party table. The Lord played the flute, but they did not dance.

Today, we celebrate–the Lord’s day of resurrection.  Where is your heart on this day? Is it filled with joy? Or have the flaming arrows of the evil one pierced your heart and stolen your joy? Jesus would challenge the skeptical and critical spirits in us. Oh you of little faith! Beware of the negative spirit. It is possible to be so cynical of being taken in that you refuse to enter in to the abundant life that God has for you. Such attitudes rob joy from the people around you.

Do you know that an angry and critical spirit is a mask for unresponsiveness to God’s call?  Remember, that in refusing to be baptized, the Pharisees “rejected the purposes of God for themselves” (Luke 7:30). Are you humbly responsive to the purposes of God on your life? Are you open and responsive to enter into the joy and free gift of the resurrected life?

In the last book of C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series, there is a group of hard-hearted dwarfs who are pictured in a building surrounded by a glorious banquet prepared for them by Aslan, the Jesus figure in the series. Only, the dwarfs cannot perceive that the food and the table that is set before them as a life-giving, joyous blessing. Their cynicism and skepticism clouds their view of life. Instead of a banquet hall, they perceive that they are in a stable eating hay and drinking out of a water trough.

Everyone around them can clearly see that they are self deceived. The children in the story are dismayed at their disbelief. With the heart of an evangelist one of the children asks, “Are you blind?”

Dwarfs from Narnia

“Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out” (CS Lewis, The Last Battle).

“No,” respond the dwarfs, “we’re here in the dark where no one can see.”

“But it isn’t dark, you poor dwarfs,” says Lucy, “look up, look round, can’t you see the sky and flowers – can’t you see me?” Then Lucy bends over, picks some wild violets, and says, “perhaps you can smell these.” But the dwarf jumps back into his darkness and yells, “How dare you shove that filthy stable litter in my face.” He cannot even smell the beauty which surrounds him.

Aslan teaches the children, that with some hard-hearted souls, there is no way of helping them: “Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” (CS Lewis, The Last Battle)

It is easy to stand on the sidelines and be a critic of faith and belief in the midst a sinful and fallen world. Faith requires us to open our eyes to reality of God’s kingdom and call. I have noticed that malcontents often find each other and flock together like angry birds. “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs,” they reassure themselves! Yet the group-think only serves to further limit their vision and sharpen their rejection of the life which God is offering them. We all know people like this–perhaps you see yourself in the dwarf tribe!

The Lord invites you out of self-imposed darkness into the light of life–the light of Christ, thanks be to God. He has prepared a table before you.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)

Today celebrate and proclaim the breaking forth of the new life to which the Lord invites you. In his resurrection, he has prepared for you a glorious table of life with anointing oil and overflowing cups of abundance. God’s kingdom is one where goodness and mercy pursue you all of your days.

Do not doubt, but believe!

The first witnesses of the empty tomb were several women. They told the disciples and the rest the Good News of new life bursting from the tomb!

Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10).

The women were filled with wonder, joy, faith and belief. But, it was met by the dwarfish skepticism of those who dismissed their words as an idle tale

I ask you, where are you seeing death among things that are alive, and seeking life among things that are dead? The Lord would have you enter into the divine drama as a fully engaged participant. Give your entire heart, life and faith to Him. Surrender to the Lord in prayer right now. Plead with him, “Lord I want to receive your life, where ever you lead me!” The responsive Christian life in Jesus is never dull!

The kingdom of God calls you to enter into all the ups and downs of faith, hope and love. At times, the Lord sings the dirge that you might plumb the depths of repentance and weep over your sin and brokenness–this is the season of the Cross. At other times, He plays the flute with a joyous invitation to dance with the rhythmic freedoms of His grace and redemption–the glory of the Resurrection! Today the joyous flute is loudly playing for you.  Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! Will you dance with Jesus in faith?

The Resurrected Life (Lake Mary: Bible Study Media, Inc., 2014)

The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New

NEW LIFE! IT IS SOMETHING WE ALL WANT.

BUT HOW DO WE FIND IT?

The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New

The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New

The Bible promises that those who are in Christ are “new creatures.” But how does that transformation take place? What does it look like to live on the other side of the cross? This unique Easter-season curriculum provides a space in which we can discover what it truly means to live a new life.

The Resurrected Life Devotional provides a daily Scripture and meditation by which you’ll learn how Jesus Christ is making all things new—right now!

The small-group study & DVD teaching series explores seven key areas of life transformation as Jesus heals, redeems and makes us new. Hear in-depth Biblical teaching and openly discuss the power of God in Christ in community.

As you walk through the curriculum together, you’ll find that the glory of the Resurrected Life is the power of the Church. Christ’ resurrection from the dead gives us new and abundant life. So strengthen the bonds of community, grow together and allow your lives to be powerfully changed by the truths you discover. Begin the journey to New Life!

Order materials today. This a great study to do as an individual daily devotion, or even better, invite a few friends to gather in a small discussion group.

Session One
All Things New: Overcoming Doubt and Fear
Session Two
New Life: Letting Go and Letting God
Session Three
New Temple: Inviting God’s Presence
Session Four
New Body: Manifesting Jesus
Session Five
New Covenant: Experiencing Resurrection Power
Session Six
New Creation: Stewarding the Good News
Session Seven
New Day: Living in the “Now” but “Not Yet”

The Resurrected Life can be used as a Church-wide campaign. Designed to accompany the Christian Life Trilogy. the Campaign Manual and the Leader Training DVD provide resources and training as to how to maximize the engagement of your congregation by doing the Christian Life Trilogy studies as a Church-wide Campaign. Each of the three titles can stand alone, or they can be done in a series. Many congregations use the Crucified and Resurrected Life for Lent and Easter and then kick off the Spirit-Filled Life in the Fall season.The Training Videos provide teaching for the senior pastor, and campaign leadership teams as well as the small group hosts.

 

God Will Change Your Name

God will change your name, just like he did for the wives of Hosea.

S Augustine Kilburn 17 Narthex wall 02a Hosea via Peter on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/peter2010/4507646813/in/photolist-7SjSmv-7QfpQp-7Qfpxg-dSfnj9-b27ERv-bSNpDx-bSNppr-bDTFZ7-NZCC-9b2q8B-b27FyH-2nJqX-3y42q-P3iRF-4Zsf7-4eM8f-532P7-64KQ8q-Bzwc9-6hTaW-BAKph-rtU2eM-rtLobb-rtU3jc-52L1o-AA5at7-9BrR8Z-BVv65-sqtcU-9F7vjs-8VYNfj-52YFK-8b35U-4kap8H-P3iRz-7byQvj-4k9QuF-byBAk8-P3iRc-nuWFJ5-fCcV3G-ad7eSS-ad7eB1-nMgeM3-nuWFFE-ccGF5-4eM85-2Ajy6b-2AjxXC-52L1m

The call of Hosea was to experience the broken heart of God personally. His call was to take a wife, Gomer, who would become unfaithful in marriage. And yet, Hosea was to remain bound to her in covenant faithfulness as a sign of God covenant love for His people.

It would seem that the first child she bore was likely in faithfulness. His name was to be called Jezreel as a sign of the judgment on King Jehu for taking his role as an instrument of judgment too far. The second two children were children born in unfaithfulness, Lo- ruhama (No Mercy) and Lo-Ammi (Not My People).

The children’s names conveyed YHWH’s concern for Israel’s spiritual adultery. The people had broken covenant faithfulness with YHWH and worshiped and served foreign gods and lords in Baal. They had placed their hope in foreign alliances and kings. Because of their spiritual and worldly adultery, they had given birth to judgment (no mercy) and divorce (not my people).

However, in spite of the people’s unfaithfulness and the coming judgment for their sin, YHWH will remain faithful to His covenant promises to them. He promises to restore and reunite His people (Hosea 1:10-11). God will redeem His marriage: “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal’ (My Master)” (2:16). God changed their names and their status in Him.

The apostles and prophets of the New Testament will reflect on these verses in two ways. First, Jesus is the faithful Messianic Husband to the unfaithful Samaritan woman (See John 2:1-12; 3:29; 4:1-45). The descendants of Judah may have written off Samaria (the former capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel), but God had remembered His covenant with Israel and the promise of restoration through Hosea.

Also, Paul and Peter surprisingly apply the “not my people/my people” reversal to the inclusion of the Gentiles with the people of Israel in salvation under the one Messiah Jesus (See Romans 9:25-26; 11:25-32; 1 Peter 2:10).

The Apostle Peter says to the combined Jewish-Gentile church in Asia Minor:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people,, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” –1 Peter 2:9-10

To this day, God has remained steadfast in keeping His promises to restore and forgive. God will your name.

Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness stretches to the sky. Thank you for calling me, even when I was not calling to you. Thank you for changing my name.

This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge.