Married or Single

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

1 Cor 7:7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.

To be, or not to be” Shakespeare famously penned in Hamlet. Many today are struggling to find contentment in their lives. The “singles” contemplate marriage, the “married” at times envy the singles. It is easy to look at others and think, “I wish my life was more like (fill in the blank).”

Paul makes a powerful point that helps anchor our hearts from drifting into envy. Paul says that each has his “own gift.”

Are you looking at your marriage today as a gift from the Lord? Do we recognize the call of being that gift to our spouse and that our spouse is a blessing and gift, too?

Are you looking at your singleness as a gift from the Lord? People often feel like singleness is a curse and not a blessing. Paul challenges us to see our singleness as an opportunity, not for self-enjoyment, but for fulfillment in Christ.

The key point to Paul’s exhortation in chapter 7 is that whether married or single our primary goal is to point people to Jesus. If God’s design for my life is about holiness and not happiness, then whether single or married, Jesus must be the object of my heart’s affections.

May we seek today to cherish the gift we have been given and use it to honor the giver.

The Strength of Joy

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

The people had returned from their years of Babylonian exile, and the work of rebuilding the Temple and the walls around Jerusalem was finished.  As they gathered in a courtyard near the Gihon spring, Ezra the priest began to read and teach from the word of God.  When the people heard God’s word, a strange thing happened.  Many began to weep.  It’s hard to know exactly why. Perhaps they were reminded of the sins that had resulted in the great Babylonian destruction.

My friends, I would imagine that there are things all around us that can give us cause for weeping.  Perhaps you’re in a health crisis.  Perhaps there’s tension in the family.  Maybe the future seems uncertain.

Let me remind you as Nehemiah did to the people.  Learning to find joy in the Lord is your best source of strength.  If you’re wondering how you could be joyful in days like this, it’s only because you’re ignoring the finished work all around you.  Jesus died for you.  Your sins are paid for. God is for you. God is good. Rejoice.

Joy and Weeping

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. (Ezra 3:12–13)

It had been seventy years since Solomon’s temple had been destroyed.  The people had finally been allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple.  They had only gotten as far as laying the foundation when they decided to stop and celebrate what was happening.  It was a milestone on the road to change.

It’s not hard to understand why the younger people were shouting for joy.  This was a great moment in the history of the Jewish people.  God had kept His word and the work had restarted.

Perhaps the old men were weeping for the same reason the younger men were rejoicing.  But to tell you the truth, some of them were weeping because the new temple wasn’t anything like the glory of the old.  Sometimes “old men” get stuck in the past.

Change is inevitable.  Time marches on and stops for no one.  It might seem appropriate to mourn the past, but don’t neglect the joy of what the future may bring.  Don’t be that weeping old man.

The Danger of Pride

Uzziah was one of the good guys.  He was one of those rare kings who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord”.  He had a sharp military mind, equipping his army with the best equipment, enhancing the walls of Jerusalem, and designing unique devices that shot arrows and threw stones.  He had a mind for economics and agriculture, investing in livestock and vineyards.  He cared for his country.  He had a long, stabilizing rule over the nation of Judah, so much so that when he died, Isaiah the prophet said his whole world was shook up. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction (2 Chronicles 26:16)

It seems there’s a flaw in many of us, whereby we stay closer to the Lord when times are difficult.  We trust in the Lord, God helps us, and life improves.  It’s at that time that we face the very human temptation of pride.  We start to think that we are, in fact, awesome.  Like Nebuchadnezzar of old, we say to ourselves, “Is this not a great city that I have build with my power and for my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30)

Uzziah’s pride led him to overstep the boundaries of being a king and take on the role of a priest.  He went into the Temple itself thinking there was nothing he couldn’t do.  God had to humble Uzziah with leprosy.  Humility is not a thing we learn when times are tough.  Humility is something we cultivate our entire lives.

What Believers Do

…those from all the tribes of Israel, such as set their heart to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 11:16)

There was a split in the kingdom of Israel.  After Solomon died, Jeroboam split the northern tribes from the south. While Jeroboam may have had a mandate from God to divide the country, he didn’t have a mandate from God to lead the northern tribes into idolatry. He set up golden calves and closer worship sites. Jeroboam was concerned that if his people went to the yearly feasts held down south in Jerusalem, the people’s hearts would be drawn back to the south.  So, he set up an easy religion that veered off the truth.  When the real believers saw what Jeroboam was doing, they decided to pull up roots and move to Jerusalem.

Believers need to seek God.  Believers need to be taught of God. Believers need connection with other believers.

Today there are many things that distract us from what is necessary. Some are tempted to sleep in.  Others are distracted by ballgames.  Others sacrifice going to a good Bible teaching church and settle for something that might not be right, but it’s easy.

Do what is most important.  Go to church. Worship.  Be fed.  Connect with other believers.  Seek God.  It’s what believers do.

Worship Leaders

Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. (1Chronicles 25:1)

One of King David’s great legacies was organization.  He even organized the musicians. I see four aspects of music ministry here.

Leading worship requires warriors.  It’s seems kind of odd that the captains of the army helped pick out the musicians.  Yet, it seems the musicians were drawn from the army.  There is much spiritual warfare involved in leading God’s people to worship, and a worship leader needs to be prepared for the battle.

Worship leading is a calling.  The worship band wasn’t made up of musicians who decided to play a gig at the temple.  They were “separated” or appointed to those roles.  Ultimately, it is God who separates a person to this kind of ministry.

Worship leading is prophetic.  Many of the Old Testament prophets wrote in a poetic and possibly musical format.  The ultimate worship book, Psalms, is filled with prophesy.  There is a sense in which God will use worship to speak to people.

Worship is musical.  It might be the last of the four aspects, but it’s there. I am so thankful for those who lead us in worship.

Changes

…of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command; (1 Chronicles 12:32)

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of change.  I like things to stay the same.  I like to know what to expect.  If I could, I’d probably wear the same thing every day, eat the same breakfast, and follow the same routine.  To be honest, I’m not all that adverse to being in a rut—but life rarely allows us to live that way.

The world is changing.  People around us are changing.  Relationships change.  The question is, am I going to be ready for the changes that are necessary, or am I going to drag my feet, stiffen my neck, and end up in a ditch?

The “sons of Issachar” were men who understood the times.  They understood that change was coming in the kingdom.  The days when the house of Saul ruled were coming to an end, and the days of the kingdom of David were at hand.  The sons of Issachar understood what needed to take place, and they were ready to jump on board and be part of the coming kingdom.

Some changes are obviously good and easy to make.  Some changes are thrust upon us and are not always what we asked for.  We must learn to be flexible and adapt.  Are you ready for a change?

Capturing Thoughts

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

And Isaiah said to them, “thus you shall say to your master, “thus says the LORD: “don’t be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. (2 Kings 8:5)

From Eden to Jesus in the wilderness, Satan’s words have sought to undermine God’s promises. Whether as a serpent or that whisper in our flesh that seeks to eclipse the glory of God, Satan is the father of all lies. Learning to distinguish the voice of the enemy from the voice of Lord is critical for us as Christians.

The king of Assyria wanted the Israelites to believe that they would inevitably be slaves and that the LORD could not deliver them. Have you ever heard these lies? Defeat is inevitable. God cannot save you!

The enemy loves to use fear to eclipse our faith! The LORD sent Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that these lies where about undermining his relationship with Him and not to live in fear. We are told to take every thought captive that is seeking to exalt itself over the glory of God (2 Cor 10:5). In this mental battlefield, anything that does not line up with the truth of the Gospel should be quarantined. We must know the truth if we are to be able to discern the lie. What lies is the enemy bullying you into? Take these lies captive through the power of God’s Word. Let faith in what God has said eclipse the fear of what the enemy is saying.

The Spirit Life

Now it happened, as he was telling the king how he had restored the dead to life, that there was the woman whose son he had restored to life, appealing to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” (2 Kings 8:5)

This woman from Shunem lived an amazing life.  She had been childless until the day that Elisha prayed, and then she and her husband were blessed with a child.  Years later, when this same child grew sick and died, the prophet Elisha stepped in, and the child was raised from the dead.  The woman had been out of the country at the direction of the prophet in order to keep her household alive during a famine in Israel.  Now, having returned at the time designated by Elisha, she just happened to visit the king at the very moment that her story was being told, and the king made sure that all her property was restored.

How could one person be so blessed to experience such an amazing life?  This woman was not only one who heard the Spirit through Elisha, but she obeyed as well.  Whether it was showing hospitality or moving when she needed to move, she obeyed. Some love the stories of the miraculous but don’t want to walk the walk.  Do you want to see the Spirit move?  Learn to obey when He prompts.

Looking for Help

“Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you a present of silver and gold. Come and break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.” (1 Kings 15:19)

King Asa of Judah had a problem on his hands.  King Baasha of Israel was at war with him and was cutting off Asa’s trade routes.  So Asa came up with what seemed like a smart plan.  He sent a large quantity of gold and silver to the king of Syria and asked him to help him in the battle.  The king of Syria attacked the kingdom of Israel, and King Baasha backed off. As far as the writer of 1Kings tells us, all was good.  That’s smart, isn’t it?

Yet, what works isn’t always what’s right.  After this successful diplomatic endeavor, the writer of Chronicles tells us that God sent word to King Asa asking why Asa hadn’t asked God for help.  God helped Asa earlier in his reign and still wanted to help.  God said, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Sometimes, I make the mistake of only asking for God’s help when my plans don’t work.  Perhaps I ought to be asking God for help from the beginning.  After all, He is looking for people to help.