I have been reading the book of Ezra in my personal devotion time and the Lord has been using this little book to encourage my heart. In chapter one God stirs up the heart of King Cyrus and charged him to build a house for God in Jerusalem. He sends out a decree encouraging the people to 1.) volunteer for the project and 2.) give a free will offering to fund the project. The response is incredible! In chapter two and verse sixty-four we find that 42,360 people sign up to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s temple. In chapter two and verse sixty-nine, the Bible says that they gave $2,928,000 in gold and $439,725 in silver to finance the project. Wow, were God guides, he always provides! Here at Lifeway Baptist Church, we also are in a building project. It is not quite at large as the one mentioned in the book of Ezra, but it is just as important to the heart of God. In just a few weeks, we will be moving into our own building. Like Ezra, we need laborers and we need resources. In the last few weeks and days, I have been encouraged by the different ones that have volunteered their time and energy to help build God’s house. This past Sunday was our Sacrifice Sunday and we had a goal of reaching $16,000. We need about $12,000 for supplies and $4,000 for and upfront lease payment. Our church has been praying and believing God would do this, but we were all a little shocked how he came through for us. The financial team counted the money and I gave the total at the conclusion of the service–$16,691.63. Wow, where God guides, He always, always provides!
Psalm 15:1-2 says, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” Typically we think of our mouth being the place were truth must be spoken, but the Bible explains the importance of speaking the truth in our hearts. The word heart in the Bible is just another name for the mind. The Bible says, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” So, according to Psalm 15, the battle is won or lost in the mind. Every word was at one time a thought. If we think truth, then we will speak truth. In the New Testament, the Scripture tells us that as Christians we must cast down imaginations. The devil is very good at planting thoughts in our minds that are simply not true. In his book, The 4:8 Principle, Tommy Newberry says, “Your thoughts often misrepresent reality by bending, distorting, deleting, exaggerating, or otherwise manipulating the truth. In fact, most negative thinking is simply a bundle of lies that cannot be substantiated and certainly could not make it through a vigorous cross-examination.” We must ask God to help us to challenge our thoughts. We must ask ourselves the question, “Is this absolutely true or is this simply an imagination?” Today, let’s speak the truth in our hearts.
In Psalm 6:2 David said, “Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.” Notice with me David’s realization. He said, “I am weak.” God brings us to a place in our lives where we become very aware of our weakness. I turned 31 a few weeks ago and for the first time in my life, I am starting to feel older. My mom used to call me “the strong man,” but I am learning that really my strength is very small. This realization is not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because this knowledge causes us to be strong in the Lord. It prompts us to turn to the One that has all power. Consider also David’s request. He said in the above verse, “Have mercy upon me, O LORD.” He said, “…heal me; for my bones are vexed.” David’s recognition of his frailty thrust him to the Lord. It compelled him to ask for the help of the Almighty. The Apostle Paul said in the book of 2 Corinthians, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” There is a value to weakness. The value is we learn to lean on the Lord.
Psalm 1:3-4 says, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” I don’t know about you, but I want to be like the tree, not like the chaff. The tree has stability. The tree is fruitful. The tree is attractive. The tree is prosperous. Everything the tree is, the chaff is not. What makes the difference? The tree is planted by the rivers of water. It’s proximity to the water, is what makes it so successful. Can I remind you that for the Christian it is no different? Psalm 1:2 says of the blessed man, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and his law doth he meditate day and night.” The law of the Lord is the Bible. The Bible is often referred to as “the water of the Word.” What water does for the tree, the Bible does for the Christian. Whether you are like a tree or like the chaff is determined by your proximity to the Word of God. How close are you to the Bible? How important is it to you? Do you delight in it? Do you meditate upon it? Your stability, fruitfulness, attractiveness, and prosperity depends upon it.
Colossians 3:23 says “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” This verse would be a great motto for every Christian to live by. Notice first off the phrase, “And whatsoever ye do…” This is the what of Christian service. Every area of our lives is to be lived for God. We should not compartmentalize our lives into secular and spiritual. Whether we are at work, at home, or at church, we ought to remember that God expects us to live for him and serve Him. Notice the second phrase, “…do it heartily…” This is the how of Christian service. God is not just concerned with what I do, He is concerned with the way in which I do it. He wants us to serve him with all our hearts. He wants us to not just do enough to get by, He wants us to do our very best. Then notice lastly the phrase, “…as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” This is the why of Christian service. If we are going to do our very best, we must have the right motive. Our motive is not to please other people; our motive is to please the Lord. That takes our service to a totally different level. I am serving the King of King and Lord of Lords. He is worthy of my very best in every area. I challenge you right now to first off memorize this verse and then by God’s grace allow this verse to become the motto of your life.
Acts 9:15 says, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me…” One of the greatest feelings in life is the feeling of being chosen. I can still remember as a youngster lining up on the playground or in gym class and being chosen for a certain game. Later on in high school and college I tried out for various athletic teams and I was chosen to make the cut. After I graduated from college I was chosen by my Pastor to come on staff at my home church. Around the same time I asked my now wife, to marry me and she chose to say yes. Those are just a few times in my life when I was chosen, and yet they pale in comparison to what I am about to say next.
In my Bible, the above verse is in red, indicating that these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is speaking to a man by the name of Ananias about another man, Saul. Saul would later be renamed the Apostle Paul and at this point in his life, he has just become a Christian. Prior to his salvation, he was monstrous individual. He hated the followers of Jesus and actually made it his mission to exterminate all Christians. Yet one day, as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest more Christians, the Lord arrested him. He got saved and the Lord radically changed his life. In order to help him in his new found faith, God instructed Ananias to go and minister to him. Ananias responded the way that we would most likely respond in this situation. He said, Lord, but this man is a notorious murderer and persecutor of the church. Are you sure, that he is the right one? The Lord responded with the words above, “Go they way, for he is a chosen vessel, unto me.” Did you get that? Do you realize the significance of that? Jesus chose Saul. No one else would have chose him, but Jesus did.
You see the Lord does not see the way that man sees. There are no hopeless individuals or lost causes with Christ. He chooses differently than we do. We look for the brightest and the best and that is who we want on our team, but Jesus often chooses the outcasts, the poor, and the forsaken to be on his team. I am grateful for every person that thought enough of me to choose me at some point in my life. It made me feel important, accepted, and gave me a sense of self-worth. But the I cannot understand why in the world, Jesus would choose to love me enough to come to this earth and die on the cross for my sin. I cannot comprehend why he would pick me. I cannot understand why he would then choose me to be his servant and to be used in his divine plan. I am nobody. Yet he chooses and uses nobodies. What a wonderful Savior!
I am learning more and more as I study the Bible, that the will of God often does not make sense to me. In Mark 14, the disciples of Jesus had asked Him where they should go to find a place for them to eat the Passover Supper together. Jesus responded with some strange instructions; He told them to go into the city and there would be a man bearing a pitcher of water that would meet them. The disciples were simply to follow this man and he would lead them to a house. When they got to the house, they were to tell this complete stranger that their Master was going to use his guest chamber for the Passover Supper. I don’t know about you, but those instructions seem kind of far fetched. Yet, God has not asked us to okay His instructions, He has told us to obey His instructions. I find it interesting that the disciples followed the words of the Savior and the Bible says that they found everything just as He had said. Why don’t the commands of God make sense to me? Because his ways are higher than my ways. Because he wants me to trust him and have faith. Because he wants me to see Him work out situations and details that only He could do. What has God told you to do today that does not seem logical? The fact that it does not makes sense to you, most likely means that it is God’s will. Don’t delay. Obey. And you will see the providence of God as he blesses you for following in faith.
Jeremiah 32:9 says, “And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son…” I love the prophet Jeremiah for several reasons–he was filled with courage, he was undaunted by persecution, and he always preached God’s message. However, this morning as I read from this particular chapter I was impressed by the vision of Jeremiah. We desperately need people with a God-given vision. Vision is seeing more than others see and seeing before others see. While in prison, God told Jeremiah to buy a field in Jerusalem. This was to be symbolic of the fact that God’s people would be carried away captive to Babylon, but after 70 years, God would bring them back to Jerusalem and they would once again inhabit their lands. No one else at the time could see past the immediate, except Jeremiah. So he bought the field. I am sure that to others his decision seemed ridiculous and foolish, yet Jeremiah knew what God has told him to do. You see, his vision was not based on what he could do, but on what God could do. In verse 17 he says, “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by they great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:” What vision is God giving to you today? A vision to get more involved at your church? A vision to give more of your resources to the Lord? A vision to surrender you life completely? A vision to witness to the unsaved? A vision to join a local church? May I give you some advice…buy the field! Don’t worry what others may think, just do it.
Revelation 12:4, “…and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” Who is our greatest threat? It is not Syria, it is not Iran, it is not the terrorists, it is the great, red dragon mentioned here in Revelation twelve. The dragon is the devil. Satan is like a roaring lion who wants to devour us. The interpretation of this passage refers to Israel and Christ. The women that is mentioned is the nation of Israel. The child that is ready to be delivered is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Ever since the moment he was born in Bethlehem, Satan has tried to destroy him. Thankfully, Jesus has triumphed and on the cross he defeated the devil once for all. Yet there is an application here that needs mentioned. Notice that the dragon wanted to devour the child. May I say that the devil still wants to devour the children. He is perverted and wicked and yet he knows that children become adults. If he can devour them when they are little, then he will have their hearts when they are grown. In light of this truth, we must guard our kids and beg God to help us fight against the devil. He is our greatest threat.
Revelation 10:9, “And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make they belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.” What is this little book? I believe we can apply this passage to the Word of God. Like John, we are commanded to eat up the Bible. It is to be more important to us than our necessary food. When we intake the Scriptures into our heart and mind, we find that they have a two-fold affect on us. The Bible is sweet, but it is also bitter. It comforts us, but it also convicts us. In order be a healthy, growing Christian we need both. Some churches and some ministries emphasize just the “sweet” parts of the Bible. Others highlight the judgment of God and mainly teach on the “bitter” portions of Scripture. Let’s ask God to give us a healthy balance in these areas.