Building Project

So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them. (Ezra 5:2)

Nebuchadnezzar had leveled Jerusalem, obliterated the Temple, and hauled the Jews into exile in Babylon. When the Persians allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, they immediately began to rebuild the Temple, but it wasn’t long before their plans stalled.  Enemies rose up and put political pressure on the Persians to stop the building.  Not all problems were external. The Jews themselves soon lost the drive to see the Temple rebuilt.  The prophet Haggai pointed out that they had become more focused on their own personal comfort than doing a work for God (Hag. 1:4).

Believer, you too are a Temple, and the Holy Spirit lives in you (1Cor. 6:19).  Even though you are a Temple, you’re an unfinished building project.  Your foundation has been laid in Jesus Christ, but how are you going to build on that foundation?  Sometimes it’s the external pressures like people and circumstances that cause us to stop building. Other times, it’s our own sense of personal “comfort” that keeps us from denying ourselves and serving Jesus. Get back to reading your Bible.  Get back to praying.  Get back to church. Serve others. Build that Temple.

I Have a Problem

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)

It’s a great leveler.  The truth that we are all sinners puts us all at the same level.  Sometimes we can fall into the old trap of comparing ourselves with others and think that we’re so much better than they are.  But down at the core, we’re all the same.  We’re all sinners. I need to be careful about getting angry or judgmental towards others and their behavior, because I too am a sinner.  I may not sin as much as I used to, but I am still a sinner in need of grace.

It’s a starting place.  Folks who travel through a twelve-step program have learned that they aren’t going to get very far with their addiction until they realize the truth that they have a problem.  Some may not like the idea of calling their struggle a “sin”, but until you recognize that you have a problem, you aren’t going to get very far.

It’s a sign post.  The sign up ahead may read that the bridge is “out”, but that also lets me know that I can take another road, away from danger.  Knowing I’m a sinner helps me recognize that I need a Savior.  Jesus came to deal with my sin problem by dying on a cross.  He paid for my sin.  He gives me power over my sin.  I can face guilt and shame because I have a Savior who forgives. Recognizing the darkness allows me to turn to the Light.

Outnumbered and Outflanked

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant:

Abijah was a man like you and me, but he was also the king of Judah. His name means, my father is Yahweh. He struggled with things like you and I do, but he also found himself confronted by a HUGE problem. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was the King of Israel. Jeroboam had led Israel into rebellion and idolatry. Jeroboam had the upper hand in every sense of the word. Jeroboam’s army was double the size and had more war experience.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation like Abijah, faced with something so much bigger than you. Take courage from Abijah and his story, his army was flanked and outnumbered 2 to 1. What did Abijah do? He turned his attention away from his circumstances and cried out to God. Second Chronicles 13:15 encourages us with this: “As the men of Judah shouted, it happened that God struck Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hand.” Spoiler alert: God leads Judah to victory! Jeroboam, who trusted in the strength and tactics of his army was defeated. My encouragement to you is no matter what situation you find yourself in, whether it be comfortable or desperate, cry out to God, trust Him, and see what He will do. Just like Abijah, there are some practical things God wants us to do, but let God be the driving force that brings victory.

Be Prepared

And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. (1 Chronicles 28:5)

Sometimes when we look at the transition of leadership from King David to his son Solomon, we can get the idea that it was a hastily formed decision.  The story recorded in 1Kings almost makes it sound as if David had to be talked into making the transfer of power when in fact it had been carefully prepared.  The writer of 1Chronicles makes it clear that David had planned for Solomon to assume the throne.  David had worked hard to make sure that Solomon had every chance to be a success as king. David had a kingdom organization in place.  David had plans and materials ready for construction of a Temple.  David even had made a point of clearly letting the leaders of the nation know that Solomon was the one who would be king after him.

Sometimes we think it’s somehow unspiritual to plan ahead.  We confuse being “Spirit-led” with being unprepared.  Though it is easy to plan God’s leading right out of our future, there is a place for God’s Spirit to direct our plans.  Having a will or trust in place for your family is a good thing.  Asking God for business plans that extend after your retirement isn’t so bad. Be prepared.

Unfair Advantage

It seems that some people have an unfair advantage when it comes to certain things in life.  Some people are better looking than others.  Others are bigger and stronger.  Some people are just plain smarter.  King David had an unfair advantage when it came to his battles with the Philistines.  He had a relationship with God and he took advantage of that fact.

When David first became king, the Philistines mobilized their armies to attack David.  What would David do? David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines?  (1 Chronicles 14:10) God responded with a “yes”, David went out to fight, and won. The next time the Philistines showed up. David inquired again of God (1 Chronicles 14:14). God gave David a battle plan, David did what God asked, and the Philistines were once again defeated.

I wonder why I don’t ask God for directions more often.  I’m afraid that sometimes I don’t ask because I’m afraid of God’s answer. The wonderful thing about David is that he asked anyway, and then he did what God asked him to do.  David wrote, The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). God wants us to ask Him for help, but He also wants us to be honest with Him. Just like David, we too face battles in life. An honest, willing heart is the key to our “unfair” advantage.

Thank You

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4)

I know that some of you will want to correct my theology and tell me that since God is omnipresent, we are always in His presence.  Yet I find that His presence is not always immediately recognizable to me in my frail state.  I find in my life that it takes a sort of spiritual discipline to “enter into” His presence. It may not require anything more than simply stopping to think about God to “enter in”.  For one moment, I am clueless about God’s presence, and in the next I find myself before the King.

The issue of the Psalmist is not just getting through the gate into God’s presence, but the importance of the attitude when I’m there.  Have I “entered” into God’s presence to gripe and grumble?  Do I find myself before the King wearing the putrid odor of complaint, or the delightful fragrance of praise?  Can you imagine having to answer the phone at work, and every single call is someone with a new grievance to air?

An attitude of gratitude is not an easy thing to come by.  It takes diligence to cultivate appreciation in your heart. Whatever could you be grateful for? Try these for starters: He is good.  His love is eternal.  He is faithful and won’t give up on you.  If you’re looking for a way to spark your prayer life, start by saying thanks.

Revive Us, O God

MenuDid you get what you asked for? It’s common for people to pray for “revival”. The word sparks all sorts of images in folks.  Some think of wild-eyed people running up and down the aisles of church. Others think of preachers trying to get as much money out of people as possible.  Neither of these pictures is anything close to the truth.

The nation of Israel had experienced the consequences of their sins and spent 70 years in exile in Babylon.  As they came back, the cry to God was for “revival”, or bringing the nation back to life. Psalm 85 is such a cry. What does revival really look like?  The Psalmist defined it when he wrote, “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed”. (Psalm 85:10)

We all like the concept of “mercy”, because who doesn’t want or need forgiveness for their sin?  We all want a taste of real “peace”, especially in this anxiety-filled world.  But revival doesn’t consist of just mercy and peace.  Revival takes place when we also live in the light of truth, when we learn to acknowledge things as they really are, and not just what we pretend they are.  Revival is also tied to righteousness, to a life that is learning to live according to God’s standards.  Have you ever ordered something off a menu and found it wasn’t anything like you thought it was?  Pray for revival, but know what you’re asking for.  It actually tastes better than you think.

Cherith

Elijah Cherith“Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. (1 Kings 17:3)

Elijah was a man whose life was characterized by the miraculous.  You might remember him as the guy who called down fire from heaven and won the title of Israel Ninja Prophet.  Or you might recall that he actually raised someone from the dead.  Yet Elijah’s ministry didn’t start with the powerful.

Elisha’s ministry began with the proclamation of a drought.  There’s nothing miraculous in a prophecy like that, not until a lot of time passes and the rain doesn’t come.  It was after this proclamation that God commanded Elijah to settle down by a stream called “Cherith”, which is Hebrew for “cutting”.  Elijah needed to go through a time of cutting before he would see the power. His only food was what the ravens provided.  His only water was a dwindling brook that would eventually dry up.  All Elijah had was God.

Some folks are intrigued by the life of Elijah.  They’re intrigued by the amazing way God worked in his life.  Perhaps you would like to be used by God in a dynamic way as well.  Be careful that you don’t overlook the path Elijah took.  It started with cutting.  God may need to cut some things back in your life.  The greatest usefulness starts with the greatest dependence upon God.

Wishes

GenieTherefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)

A man is walking down the beach when he spies an unusual metallic object.  He picks it up and begins to dust off the sand when suddenly a genie appears and grants him three wishes.  Have you heard a joke that starts like that before?  I’ve got a million of them.  We might often fantasize about how we would answer if a powerful being offered us three wishes.  Young King Solomon wasn’t standing before a big blue genie when he was granted his “wish”. He was before God Almighty Himself.

God was quite tickled that Solomon didn’t ask for lots of money or a long life. Instead, he asked for wisdom so he could do a good job of being king over God’s people. It’s interesting to me that Solomon had displayed quite a measure of wisdom in how he had led his people thus far.  And yet he realizes he needs still more wisdom.

Solomon displayed a mature sense of being “self-aware”.  He understood what the real needs were in his life.  Sometimes we get sidetracked by the glitzy baubles we think we need, when the greater need is something quieter, something deeper, maybe something harder.  So what do you wish?  What do you really need?

For His Sake

TakeCrossYet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (Psalm 44:22)

Why do we go through difficult times?  The easy, quick answers are not always the correct ones.  Sometimes we jump to the conclusion that we’ve done something wrong to deserve the pain we’ve been experiencing.  Though that may be true from time to time, it’s not always the case.

Occasionally, the trial is aimed at deepening our own faith. The Psalmist pointed out that he had learned to not trust in his own strength, but to trust in God’s help in his life (Ps. 44:6-8).  Difficult times give us the chance to grow deeper. It takes deep roots to draw on the everlasting arms that are beneath us.

Sometimes our trial is really not about us at all, but is for those around us who are watching.  It’s a powerful thing to watch a person not only suffer, but to actually draw closer to God in their suffering.

Paul quotes this verse and reminds us that no matter what we are going through, none of these difficulties can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39).

The early church faced all kinds of difficulties, and it was their trust in God in those trials that impacted many.  Would you be willing to be uncomfortable if it meant God could do a greater work?