Monday, June 18, 2018

Priorities are important

Haggai 1

When the foundations of the temple were laid in Jerusalem in the year 536, the younger men shouted for joy while the older men wept (Ezra 3:8-13). Although Haggai probably had seen Solomon's temple in its glory (Hag. 2:3), he was undoubtedly among those who expressed joy, for the Lord was at work among His people.
But it doesn't take long for zeal to cool and God's people to grow apathetic, especially when opposition began an ominous growl that soon became a roar. The shout awakened the enemies of the Jews, aroused official opposition, and caused the work to stop (Ezra 4:1-624); and the temple lay unfinished from 536 to 520, when Haggai and Zechariah brought God's message to Zerubbabel and Joshua.
In this first message, the prophet gave four admonitions to the leaders and to the people to encourage them to get back to work and finish rebuilding the temple.

1. "Put God first in your lives" (Hag. 1:1-4)

The first statement in the divine message went right to the heart of the problem and exposed the hypocrisy and unbelief of the people.

The people were terribly inconsistent: it wasn't time to build the house of God, but it was time to build their own houses! And some of the people had built, not just ordinary dwellings, but "paneled houses," the kind that kings built for themselves (1 Kings 7:37Jer. 22:14).
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing, shelter] shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33nkjv). Haggai's congregation had never heard that great promise, but the principle behind Christ's words was written into their Law. "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine" (Prov. 3:9-10nkjv; and see Lev. 26:3-13Deut. 16:1728:1-1430:3-9).
It's obvious that the nation had its priorities confused, but are God's people today any different from those ancient Jews?

Local churches can't expand their budgets for world evangelism because the money isn't there, and yet many church members don't believe Matthew 6:33 and put God first in their giving. Measured by Third World standards, Christians in the Western world are living in luxury, yet their giving is low and their debts are high because their wealth is being used for things that really don't matter.
When we put God first and give Him what's rightfully His, we open the door to spiritual enrichment and the kind of stewardship that honors the Lord. A century after Haggai ministered, the Prophet Malachi accused the people of robbing God of tithes and offerings and thereby robbing themselves of blessing (Mal. 3:7-12); and his words need to be heeded today.

2. "Believe God's promises" (Hag. 1:5-69-11)

Haggai's second admonition invited the people to examine their lifestyle and actions in the light of the covenant God made with them before the nation entered the land of Canaan (Lev. 26Deut. 27-28). The word translated "consider" in the kjvis translated "give careful thought to" in the nit (Hag. 1:5). It was time for the people to do some serious self-examination before the Lord.
God's covenant stated clearly that He would bless them if they obeyed His Law and discipline them if they disobeyed. 

While I don't believe that the Old Testament tithe is demanded of the New Testament believer, I think that tithing is a good place to start when it comes to systematic stewardship. After all, if an Old Covenant Jew under Law could gladly give tithes to the Lord, should a New Covenant believer under grace do less? But the tithe is only a start! The principles laid down in 2 Corinthians 8-9 encourage us to give offerings to the Lord and trust Him for all that we need (see 2 Cor. 8:9).
Because the Jews returned to the land in obedience to the Lord, they thought He would give them special blessings because of their sacrifices, but they were disappointed (Hag. 1:9). Instead, the Lord called for a drought and withheld both the dew and the rain. He took His blessing away from the men who labored in the fields, vineyards, and orchards. In verse 11, Haggai named the basic products that the people needed to survive: water, grain, wine, and oil (Deut. 7:1311:14).

Once more, the prophet revealed the source of their trouble: the people were busy building their own houses and had no time for the house of the Lord (Hag. 1:9). It's Matthew 6:33 all over again! Had the nation believed what God promised in His covenants, they would have obeyed Him and enjoyed His blessing.
However, we must be careful not to turn giving into a "business arrangement," for our obedience should be the evidence of our love and faith. Christian industrialist R.G. LeTourneau used to say, "If you give because it pays, it won't pay!" He was right.

The Lord never made a "prosperity covenant" with the church as He did with Israel. In fact, our Lord's first statement in the Sermon on the Mount is, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). God has seen fit to bless some Christians with wealth, but it isn't a guarantee for every believer, in spite of what the contemporary "prosperity preachers" claim. If we help to meet the needs of others, God does promise to meet our needs (Phil. 4:10-202 Cor. 9:6-11), but this isn't a pledge of material prosperity. 

3. "Honor God's name" (Hag. 1:7-8)

When the Babylonian army set fire to the temple, this destroyed the great timbers that helped to hold the massive stonework together. The stones were still usable, but the interior woodwork had been demolished and burned and had to be replaced.

During nearly fifty years of ministry, I've noted that some professed Christians buy the best for themselves and give to the Lord whatever is left over. Worn-out furniture is given to the church and worn-out clothing is sent to the missionaries. Like the priests in Malachi's day, we bring to the Lord gifts we'd be embarrassed to give to our family and friends (Mal. 1:6-8). But when we do this, we commit two sins: (1) we displease the Lord, and (2) we disgrace His name. The Lord told the people through Haggai, "Build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored" (Hag. 1:7). God delights in the obedient service of His people, and His name is glorified when we sacrifice for Him and serve Him. 

"Hallowed be Thy name" is the first petition in the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9), but it's often the last thing we think about as we seek to serve God. Jesus said, "I do always those things that please Him [the Father]" (John 8:29), and that's a good example for us to follow. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
It certainly didn't please God or honor His name when the people neglected God's house and built elaborate houses for themselves. We know that God doesn't live in temples made by hands (Acts 7:48-50), and that our church buildings are not His holy habitation, but the way we care for these buildings reflects our spiritual priorities and our love for Him. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan said it best in a sermon he preached on Haggai 1:4 many years ago:
Whereas the house of God today is no longer material but spiritual, the material is still a very real symbol of the spiritual. When the Church of God in any place in any locality is careless about the material place of assembly, the place of its worship and its work, it is a sign and evidence that its life is at a low ebb.

4. "Obey His command" (Hag. 1:12-15)

When God speaks to us by His Word, there's only one acceptable response, and that's obedience. We don't weigh the options, we don't examine the alternatives, and we don't negotiate the terms. We simply do what God tells us to do and leave the rest with Him. "Faith is not believing in spite of evidence," said the British preacher Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy; "it's obeying in spite of consequence."

The leaders and all the people united in obeying God's instructions, and they were motivated by a reverent fear of the Lord (v. 12). After all, He is the "Lord of hosts," a title used ten times in this little book (vv. 29142:47, 8923). It means "the Lord of the armies," the God who is in supreme command of the armies of heaven (stars and angels) and of earth. Obedience always brings further truth (John 7:17), and the prophet assured them that God was with them in their endeavors (Hag. 1:13; see 2:4). "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" (Ps. 46:711). The obedience of the leaders and people was the result of God working in their hearts, just as He had worked in the heart of King Cyrus and in the hearts of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:5). "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13nkjv).

The church today can learn a lesson from the Jewish remnant of Haggai's day. Too often we make excuses when we ought to be making confessions and obeying the Lord. We say, "It's not time for an evangelistic crusade," "It's not time for the Spirit to bring revival," "It's not time to expand the ministry." We act as though we fully understand "the times and the seasons" that God has ordained for His people, but we don't understand them (Acts 1:6-7).
Any interpretation of the Bible that limits God and encourages His people to be lazy instead of busy in ministry is a false interpretation and must be abandoned. If the Lord is to be pleased with us and glorified before an unbelieving world, we must hear His Word, believe it, and act upon it, no matter what the circumstances may be. After all, God is with us, and "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31)

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - Old Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – The Prophets.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Some were persuaded

Acts 28

I lived for two years in Sweetwater, Texas.  I graduated from Sweetwater High school.  Interestingly enough Sweetwater's water supply was from Bitter Creek.  I always say that Sweetwater is a great place to be FROM.  That means you are no longer there.  Think about that for a minute.  Sweetwater is famous around the world for one thing and one thing only.  I am from there.  No not that.  It is home to the world's largest rattlesnake roundup.  Look it up.  Have you ever heard the saying, if it weren't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all?   That seems to fit Paul in this chapter.  He has been lost and adrift at sea.  They shipwreck and have to swim for their lives.  They all survive by the GRACE and protection of God.  They build a fire to stay warm and Paul get's bit by a snake.  I might have lost it at that point.  God really?  Why this?  Why now?  What else? Those may have been a few questions I asked God.  God still had a plan and the snake was not going to stop it. 

Paul made it to Rome.  Paul gives the gospel and look at the results of his preaching.

Acts 28:23-24
23  So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at hislodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
24  And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 

Paul faithfully preached the gospel to all who would listen.  Some believed and some did not.  We cannot force anyone to believe.  Jesus does not force himself on you or anyone else.  We all have a choice to make.  Will we believe the good news of the gospel?  Our responsibility is to tell everyone so they can make the choice for themselves. 

Romans 10:13-15 (NKJV) 
13  For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
14  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15  And how shall they preach unless they are sent...

Paul did not let anything keep him from fulfilling the mission of making disciples of all nations.  We are to tell the world that God loves them so much He sent his son to die for them.  We are to preach, teach, and live the gospel.   

Who have you shared the gospel with this week?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jesus - The Anchor for your Soul

Acts 27

Life is not always easy.  The Christian life is not always easy.  God never promised us we would not have STORMS in life.  He did promise HE would never leave us or forsake us.  He did not PROTECT the 3 Hebrew boys FROM the fiery furnace, He protected them IN the fiery furnace.  Paul faced many hardship, but He always faced them with God.   How can Paul have such confidence in this storm?  He had an anchor for life.  His anchor was the Lord.  We also, as children of God have an the Lord as our anchor

Hebrews 6:19-20 
19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 

20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. 

Jesus is our anchor.  Paul went through His storm confident that God was with him.  You can also go through your storm holding on to the promises and anchor of Jesus.  Here are four anchors to hold on to.

1.  The Anchor of God’s PRESENCE (23) Hebrews 13:5 | Matthew 28:20 | Psalm 23:4
(23)“For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve.”

Hebrews 13:5 
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 

Matthew 28:19-20 
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. 

Psalms 46:1 
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 

Psalms 23:4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

2.  The Anchor of the PROMISES of God. (24)  Romans 4:21

(24) saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.'  

  • 7,487 promises from God to man
  • Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have over 1,000 promises each.
  • Psalm 37 is filled with promises of God.

Romans 4:21
and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 

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

Romans 10:9
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

 3.  The Anchor of the PLAN of God. (24) Jeremiah 1:4-5 | Jeremiah 29:11 | Philippians 1:6 
24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’

Jeremiah 1:4-5 
4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." 

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Philippians 1:6 
6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

4.  The Anchor of God’s POWER. (44) Luke 1:37 | Jeremiah 32:17 | Ephesians 3:20
44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.

Luke 1:37 
37 For with God nothing will be impossible." 

Jeremiah 32:17 
17 'Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. 

Ephesians 3:20 
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 

Paul was anchored on JESUS.
His Presence 
His Promises 
His Plan 
His Power 

These same anchors are available for you as well.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Psalm 42

The picture above is the image we get in our head when we read Psalm 42:1.  However, I am not sure that this is the image that David had in mind.  This image gives a picture of tranquility and peace.  This image gives a picture of solitude and rest.  David was not in a time of peace and tranquility.  He was not in a time of solicitude and rest.  He was desperate for God.  The picture should be a deer desperate for water.  The picture David is painting in our mind is of desperation.  His desperation is to be in the presence of God and to worship in His sanctuary.  He is longing and desperate to be with God and to worship Him.  

This begs the question.  Are you desperate for God?  God is accessible to us as believers.  We have direct access to God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.  As a believer, I can talk to God any time and all the time.  However, sad to say, I don't seem to seek for God as a desperate animal in need of water.  

"Debarred from public worship, David was heartsick.  Ease he did not seek; honor he did not cover; but the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent need of his soul.  He view it not merely as the sweetest of all luxuries but as an absolute necessity.

Give him his God, and he is content as the poor deer, which at lengthy slakes its thirst and is perfectly happy; but deny him his Lord, and his heart have, his bosom palpitates, his whole frame is convulsed, like one who gasps for breath or pants with long running.

Dear reader, dost thou know what this is, by personally having felt the same?  It is sweet bitterness.  The next best thing to living in the light of the Lord's love is to be unhappy till we have it, and to pant hourly after it.  Thirst is a perpetual appetite, and not to be forgotten, and even thus continual is the heart's longing for God. When it is as natural for us to long for God as for an animal to thirst, it is well for our souls."
~ Charles Spurgeon 

Little do the drunkards think that take so much pleasure in frequenting the house of Bacchus, that the godly take a great deal more, and have great deal more joy in frequenting the houses of God.
~ Zachary Bogan 

The simple question I am left with after reading this Psalm is...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Oops I did it again

Acts 23

Have you ever messed up?  Ok I know the answer to that.  I have messed up many times.  As I read Acts 23 today I was reminded of a few of my mess ups. Brittany Spears had a hit song called "Oops I did it again."  The song came out in 2009, I believe.  I don't really remember much about the song except those few words.

Sin has a way of destroying, depressing, and disabling us.  Satan has a way of making us feel guilty over sin.  Guilt will paralyze you.  There is a big difference between the guilt of Satan and the conviction of God.  Guilt leads to negative thinking and paralyzes you.  Guilt pushes you away from God.  The conviction of God leads us toward Him.  The conviction of God leads to repentance which leads to forgivenesses and reconciliation.

Paul was a man of faith and are courage. There is debate on the motives, attitude, and actions of Paul.  Was he acting in anger? Was he taking matters into his own hands? The first 10 verses show us the dialogue between Paul and the council.  He seems to talk back to the council.  He seems to take matters into his own hands.  He seems to smart off.  I am not sure if he was in the wrong or justified in his words.  However, I do no that I am often wrong and my words and attitude are not justified.

I find it hard to put blame or fault on Paul.  However, I can see in my own life that I have messed up.  I have defended myself instead of letting God defend me.  I have taken mattes in my own hand because of fear and a lack of faith.  I have often fallen and am often in need of God's grace.  

Paul may have felt guilt or shame for the way he handled the meeting.  He may have simply had fear because once again he was in prison.  I am not exactly sure what Paul is feeling in prison, but God knew what Paul needed.  God knew that Paul needed encouragement.  Paul seems to be down because Gods first words to him in prison that night were, BE OF GOOD CHEER.  The Lord came to cheer Paul up.

Acts 23:11 (NKJV) 
11  But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

Acts 23:11 (NLT2) 
11  That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”

As Paul sits in prison, The Lord encourages him and his enemies conspire against him.  They have devised a plot to kill him.  God knows the plot and God protects Paul from his enemies.  God is bigger than your problems.  God knows when you hurt.  God knows when you need encouragement.  God knows your pain.  God is able.  God is available.  God is GOOD.

Let me courage you today from God's word.  God came to Paul to encourage him and to remind him that He still had purpose.  He proved once again to Paul that He was God and that He was GOOD.  Here are two simple things we can learn from this chapter.
  • The GRACE of God can overshadow any GUILT with in us.
  • The POWER of God can overcome any PLOT against us.

Psalms 103:1-5
1 A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 
3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 
4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 

Be of good cheer today.  God is with you.  God is for you.  God can forgive you.  God can restore you.  God can use you.  God can protect you.  God can provide for you.  God loves you. God is GOOD.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tell your story for His glory

Psalm 40

Let's focus on the first five verses.  David is praising God for rescuing him.  David mentions five things God did for him.

1.  God HEARD David.

David waited on the Lord and the Lord heard Him.  The phrase, He inclined to me, implies that God leaned in to listen.  God is listening, so talk to Him.
God heard David and He wants to hear from you.

2.  God DELIVERED David.
God had the power to deliver David and God has the power to deliver you.  God is more powerful than you circumstances.  God is more powerful than you problems.  God is more powerful than you fears.
God delivered David and God can deliver you.

3.  God ESTABLISHED David.

Psalm 40:2 (NLT2) 
 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Psalm 40:2 (ESV) 
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

Psalm 40:2 (NASB) 
 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

God established David and He can establish you.

4.  God gave David a STORY

Psalm 40:3 (MSG) 
 He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to GOD.

Psalm 40:3 (NIV) 
 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

David was in a terrible place.  He cried out to God.  God heard him, delivered him, and established him.  David had a story of deliverance to tell.  

David had a story, so do you.

5.  God used his story for HIS GLORY

Psalm 40:3 (MSG) 
 He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to GOD.

Psalm 40:3 (NIV) 
 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

My story is actually God's story.  My story can bring God glory.  Your story can bring God glory.  The greatest tool you have to share the gospel is your story.  What has God done for you you?  What has God done in you?  What prayers has he answered?  What miracles has he performed?  What has He delivered you from?  Tell your story so God can get the glory.

Psalm 40:5 (NLT2) 
 O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.

God is good so tell people what He has done for you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Faith Tested

Acts 21

Yesterday the verse of the day on the YouVersion Bible app was Psalm 33:18

Psalm 33:18 (NKJV) 
18  Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy,

Psalm 33:18 (NLT) 
18  But the LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.

Yesterday in our staff meeting someone mentioned this verse.  That morning verse had spoke to them and they recommitted to TRUST in God no matter what.  A few hours later that commitment was put to the test.  When circumstances get difficult, will you still trust?  When you can't see what God is doing, will you still trust?  When it doesn't make sense, will you still trust?  These are all questions we have to answer for ourselves.

Today in the reading of Acts 21, Paul is also tested.  Remember what he said in Acts 20:24?

Acts 20:24 
24  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Paul, to use a poker term, was ALL IN.  He was completely surrendered to what ever God wanted for his life.  He was willing to die for his faith.  He was willing to die in order to tell one more person about JESUS.  At least this is what he had said.  He had lived this out as well, but now he is going to be faced with the decision again.  Will his faith be more than words?

He is warned several times not to go to Jerusalem.  Several believers tell him not to go. The Holy Spirit at revealed to them that he would be arrested.  They pleaded, prayed, and begged him not to go.  However, Paul was confident that God had called him to go. He was all in.  He was committed to do what God called him to do, no matter what.

These people were not wrong in the interpretation of what was going to happen.  They were wrong in the intent God had for letting them know.  God was not wanting them to convince Paul to stay or telling him not to go to Jerusalem.  He was merely warning Paul of what was going to happen.

“…The Spirit was merely predicting what would happen to Paul in Jerusalem, but the disciples were misinterpreting these predictions as prohibitions.”  
- Charles Swindoll
“Luke’s statement is a condensed way of saying that the warning was divine while the urging was human.” 

 - John Stott
Paul states in Acts 20 that He is all in, no matter what.  Now his faith is tested. Will his works back up his words?  Will his action prove his faith?  Is his faith more than words? Paul goes to temple in Jerusalem to preach the name of Jesus. He is quickly arrested.  Actually he would have been killed if the soldiers had not shown up in time to save him.  The chapter ends with Paul about to address the angry mob while being arrested by the soldiers.  Read chapter 22 for the rest of the story.  
However, the challenge today is about your faith.  Has your faith been tested?  If your faith has not been tested can it be trusted?  Faith is more than words.  What will you do when you get tested?  Will your faith hold up?  I pray that I will trust God in the good times and in the times of testing.
Maybe you are going through a test now.  Let me encourage you.  God did not save the Jewish boys FROM the fiery furnace, but He saved them IN the fiery furnace.  The blessing on the other side of the test is to know your faith is real.  God is good and God is in control.  He is with you wherever you go.  

You can trust His POWER even when you don' know His PLAN.
Blessing is on the other side of obedience.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

It is my pleasure.

Acts 20

Chick-Fil-A is known for their great service. I believe if you say thank you to one of their employees they are supposed to respond by saying "it is my pleasure".  I don't believe I have ever gone in to a Chick-Fi-A and received bad service.  They have mastered the art of serving with a smile.  How much more should I as a believer want to serve others?  How much more should you, if you are a believer, want to serve others.  A great place to learn and practice serving is in your local church.  You have the opportunity to serve other believers as well as those who are not yet believers.  Paul talked about the church being a body.  The body can't function properly without all the members doing their part and being a functioning member of the body.  The need goes both ways.  You, as a part of the body, need the body.  The body also needs you.  You will never be able to reach the full potential God as for you unless you are connected to a local body.  The local body will never be able to function to its full potential unless you are a functioning member of the body.  I challenge you, if you are not all ready serving in your local church, start serving.  In acts 20 we see examples of how we should serve.

1.  Serve HUMBLY.

Acts 20:19 
19  serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 

Jesus was the greatest example of humbly serving.  He humbled himself and took on human flesh and died for you and for me.  If Paul can humble himself and serve, I can.  If Jesus the Creator of the universe can humble himself for the sake of the Gospel then so should I.

2. Serve BOLDLY

Acts 20:20  
20  how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 
Acts 20:27 
27  For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

Paul did not hold anything back.  He served with boldness.  He was arrested, beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead; and yet he continued to serve with boldness.  The truth is the gospel is offensive, but it is a greater offense not to share the gospel.

If an offense comes out of the truth, it is better that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.

3.  Serve OBDIENTLY 

Acts 20:22-23 
22  And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 
23  except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

A lesser man would have found some way to escape, but not Paul. He was too gripped by his calling and his devotion to Jesus Christ to look for some safe and easy way out.Bible ~ Exposition Commentary (BE Series

I have heard people say that the safest place for you to be in in the center of God's will.  I am not sure if this is completely accurate.  Also this should not be the goal.  The goal is not to be safe, but to be with God.  I think it is more accurate to say the BEST place to be is in the center of God's will.  Paul was not seeking for safety He was seeking to be obedient. 

4. Serve TOTALLY 

22 And see, now I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to TESTIFY to the gospel of the grace of God.

Philippians 3:7-8
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
What or Whom are you living for? What is your purpose in life?  
19 Serving the Lord with all humility, with many TEARS and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews.

31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with TEARS.

We seem to be more passionate about our sports team than our church.  We seem to be more committed to our hobbies than our church.  We seem to be more passionate about a lot of things that are temporal and not about those things that are eternal.  Paul was passionately serving for the sake of the gospel.

 36 And when he had said these thing, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

“No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil, not that he practices it, but he suffers from it.”
-Guy King
The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer.”
-F.B. Meyer
Why should we serve our local church?
Why should we serve humbly, boldly, obediently, totally, passionately, and prayerfully
I Corinthians 9:19, 23

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 
 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Acts 20:24 
24  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

The Chik-Fil-A employee serves with a smile and it is their pleasure to do so.  How much more
should you and I, as servants of JESUS, be willing to serve Jesus in our local church?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Waiting is hard

Psalm 37

Patience seems hard to come by.  Waiting is weird.  Time is funny.  Have you every heard the statement, Time flies when your having fun?  This seems to be true.  A few seconds can seem like an eternity or a few hours can pass quickly depending on what you are doing.  How can the last 10 seconds of the microwave timer seem like an eternity?  How can a week at the beach seem like only a day?  Waiting is hard.

Psalm 37:7 
 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Psalm 37:9
 For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORDThey shall inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:34
34  Wait on the LORDAnd keep His way, And He shall exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.

Like any mature believer who had been through his own share of suffering, David took the long view of the situation and evaluated the immediate and the transient in terms of the ultimate and the eternal. He encouraged Solomon and the people to believe God's promises and wait on Him. In the psalm.

~ Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - Old Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.

David is writing to those who are watching the "evil" prosper as the people of God seem to suffer.  Waiting is hard and waiting on God seem even harder.  When waiting is hard remember...

The Lord Can Be Trusted (vv. 1-11)

David gave one negative instruction—"Don't fret" (vv. 17, 8)—and four positive instructions: trust in the Lord (v. 3), delight in the Lord (v. 4), commit yourself to the Lord (vv. 5-6), and rest in the Lord (v. 7).

Fret not (vv. 1-2). The word translated "fret" means "to burn, to get heated up." David's message was, "Cool down and keep cool!" When we see evil in the world, we ought to feel a holy anger at sin (Eph. 4:26), but to envy the wicked only leads to fretting, and fretting leads to anger (v. 8). His argument is that the wicked are temporary and will one day be gone (see vv. 922283438). They are like grass that either fades away or is cut down and burned. In the east, vegetation is abundant during and immediately after the rainy seasons, but it quickly vanishes when the moisture is gone. (See 90:5-6102:11103:15-16Isa. 40:6-8James 1:10-111 Peter 1:24.)

Trust in the Lord (v. 3). A fretful heart is not a trusting heart, because it lacks joy and peace (Rom. 15:13). Faith and works go together, so we should also do good as we wait on the Lord (34:14Luke 6:35Gal. 6:10). Some of God's people were tempted to leave the land (see Ruth 11 Sam. 26:19), which was tantamount to saying that God wasn't faithful and couldn't be trusted. But David urged them to stay in the land and trust God for what they needed (v. 27). Each tribe, clan, and family in Israel had its assigned inheritance which was not to pass into other hands, and the Lord promised to care for the land of the faithful (vv. 911222934). The promise in verse 3 is variously translated: "enjoy safe pastures" (niv), "feed on His faithfulness" (nasbmargin; nkjv), "enjoy security" (rsv). If we are faithful to God, He will be faithful to us. Trusting the Lord is a key theme in this psalm (vv. 4, 573439).

Delight in the Lord (v. 4).The word translated "delight" comes from a root that means "to be brought up in luxury, to be pampered." It speaks of the abundance of the blessings we have in the Lord Himself, totally apart from what He gives us. To enjoy the blessings and ignore the Blesser is to practice idolatry. In Jesus Christ, we have all God's treasures, and we need no other. If we truly delight in the Lord, then the chief desire of our heart will be to know Him better so we can delight in Him even more, and the Lord will satisfy that desire! This is not a promise for people who want "things," but for those who want more of God in their lives.

Commit your way to the Lord (vv. 5-6). The verb means "to roll off your burden" (1 Peter 5:7). God doesn't take our burdens so that we can become irresponsible, but so we can serve Him better. Sometimes less care means we become careless, and that leads to failure. One of the things He will "bring to pass" is the vindication of His servants who have been slandered by God's enemies (v. 6niv; see vv. 2832-33).

Rest in the Lord (vv. 7-11). The verb means "be silent, be still." It describes calm surrender to the Lord (62:5). Creative silence is a rare commodity today, even in church worship services. People cannot tolerate silence. A silent radio or TV screen invites listeners and viewers to switch to another station or channel. But unless we learn to wait silently before God, we will never experience His peace. For us to get upset because of the evil schemes of the ungodly is to doubt the goodness and justice of God (vv. 71232). "Meekness" does not mean "weakness." It means force under the control of faith. Moses was meek (Num. 12:3), but he was a man of great power. Jesus quoted verse 11 (Matt. 5:5) but expanded it to include "the earth." "Inherit the land" (vv. 9112229) refers to the security of future generations in the Land of Promise, according to God's covenant (Gen. 12:1-313:14-1815:7-17), for God had a great work for His righteous remnant to do in that land, culminating in the coming of Messiah. Eventually, the wicked will be cut off (vv. 922283438), which in Israel usually meant exclusion from the covenant community (Ex. 12:1530:333831:14Lev. 7:20-21), but it could mean execution (Gen. 9:11Lev. 20:17Num. 15:30-31).

The Lord Understands Your Situation (vv. 12-20)

Since God can be trusted, we should not fret, and since God understands our situation, we should not fear. The wicked plot against the poor and needy (v. 12, and see 7, 32) and act like wild beasts about to devour them ("slay" in v. 14 means "to butcher an animal"), but the Lord laughs at the wicked (see 2:4) for He knows their judgment is coming. He also knows that their own weapons will turn against them (v. 157:15ff9:15ff). God upholds the righteous (vv. 16-17) and sees to it they have what they need (Prov. 15:1616:8). Just as Jesus met a great need with a few loaves and fishes, so the Lord can "make a little go a long way." "Know" in verse 18refers to much more than intellectual understanding—"God knows what's going on"—but indicates that He is involved and caring for us daily (see 1:631:715). "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).

There is in verse 18 the suggestion of something beyond the needs of this life. The emphasis in Psalm 34 is on Israel's national life in the land, and the ancient Jew saw his "immortality" in his posterity, but occasionally in The Psalms you catch a glimpse of the eternal. (See 16:1117:15and the "forever" statements in 37:18and 27-29.) The wicked will perish like smoke at the altar (102:3Hos. 13:3; the New International Versionreads "like the beauty of the fields," an image used in v. 2).  If the punishment of the wicked involves more than suffering and death in this life, will not the blessing of the righteous go beyond this life as well?

The Lord Blesses His People (vv. 21-31)

He blesses them first of all with provision of their daily needs (vv. 21-22). The wicked may succeed for a time, but eventually they have to borrow in order to survive; while the godly have what they need and can lend to others (Deut. 15:628:1244). This isn't a promise for every believer at all times in all places, for many believers have died in poverty and hunger. Like the statements in the book of Proverbs, it's a generalization that proves true in so many cases that we can safely apply it to life. God not only gives provision, but He also gives protection(vv. 23-24). "Ordered" means "secured, established" (119:133), and even if believers stumble, God will pick them up and get them going again. He can keep us from stumbling (Jude 24), and He can restore us if we do stumble. Why? Because the Father delights in His children and wants them to learn to walk. Along with the blessing of provision and protection is the blessing of the Lord's presence with His people(vv. 25-26). As an elder saint, David bore witness to God's faithfulness to him and his descendants. Not only did God meet every need, but He gave enough so that David could share it with others (Luke 6:38). As we pray for daily bread (Matt. 6:11), the Lord answers. God also blesses His people by enabling them to live obedient lives(vv. 27-29), which means righteousness in character and justice in conduct. God's blessing on the godly continues in the lives of their children, but the descendants of the wicked are cut off. Alas, the sins of ungodly fathers influence their children to disobey God, and the Lord has to punish them as well. Finally, God blesses the righteous with His Word(vv. 30-31). God's Word in the heart is the secret of a holy life (1:1-340:8119:9-16Deut. 6:6).

The Lord Judges the Wicked (vv. 32-40)

Three images illustrate God's judgment of those who reject Him and rebel against His law: the court trial (vv. 32-34), the tree (vv. 35-36), and the rescue (vv. 37-40). The wicked watched the godly and tried to find some reason for accusing them. In spite of David's integrity and Solomon's great wisdom, the judicial system in Israel was far from efficient, and it was easy for the rich to oppress the poor and take what little they possessed (Amos 2:4-84:1-3). But the Lord is the highest judge, and He knows how to deliver the righteous from lying witnesses and judges who have been bribed.
The godly are pictured by the fruitful tree (1:3) and the ungodly by a luxurious ("overbearing and towering") shrub or tree, planted in its native soil where its roots can go down deep (vv. 35-36). Not only did the tree die and fall, but there was no evidence left behind that there had ever been a tree there at all! So God will do to the wicked, who appear to be successful and permanent but are destined for judgment. God not only judges the wicked but He also rescues the righteous from their clutches (vv. 37-40). The key question isn't what people look like or what they possess, but what is their final end? (See Prov. 5:414:12-1316:2524:20). "There is a future for the man of peace... but the future of the wicked will be cut off" (vv. 37-38niv). Some see this as referring to posterity, and that may be included, but certainly it describes the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked. The Lord delivers the righteous from eternal judgment, but He also delivers them from the attacks and accusations of the wicked in this world today. Why? "Because they trust in him" (v. 40). Fretting and fear cannot stand before faith in the living God.

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - Old Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.