Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the road of blessing starts with a broken heart: Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah was serving as the cup bearer for the king in Assyria several years following the exile of the people of Judah.  It was a dark time indeed. It was then that he heard word about the people who escaped the exile.  Hanani, one of his brothers, along with other men told him,

 "....Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." Nehemiah 1:3  Then he writes, "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."  Nehemiah 1:4

If you read the book of Nehemiah you will see a portrait of a great leader.  Someone whom God used to accomplish his purposes to reestablish Judah by rebuilding the walls of the city.  This was a mighty challenge!  But today I want to point out that it all started with a broken hearted man who did two things.

1.  He inquired of the condition of the people back in Judah
2.   He mourned over the news of there great trouble.

Nehemiah had a passion for the people and a passion for the city of Jerusalem and I want to think about that today.   In my next blog I want to focus on the fact that he had an opportunity to be a blessing and the boldness to carry it out.

But let us never forget that before he did anything else he had a burden in his heart and he mourned over that burden.  Without such a burdened heart I'm not sure that Nehemiah would have done anything. 

It is understandable that Nehemiah was deeply troubled to hear news of his homeland.   But his attitude went much deeper.  His heart was crushed and deeply burdened.  Not only did he pray. He mourned and fasted before the God of heaven and I believe God honored him as a result.

  Psalm 34:18 says,"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

and in Isaiah 42:3  it says,  "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."

In Matthew 5:3,4  Jesus proclaims, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."

All of these Scriptures tell me that God is near us when we are deeply burdened.  He hears our cries and is moved by compassion.  But what really moves God is when we cry out to God in faith during our deep burdens.

The Psalmist wrote, "In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears."  Psalm 18:6  

Now it's not that God doesn't hear us when we offer our simple prayers for help.  We aren't heard just because we call to God in a louder voice but God hears more then our volume.  God hears our heart and responds with compassion.

Later you'll see that Nehemiah was going to be used to answer his own prayer and that is important but just for today let us not over look the importance of feeling the pain and suffering of others.   God meets us at that place.  Literally those prayers from our burdened heart are seeds planted and our tears are the first nourishment.  Yes God meets us there.  This is the place that we open up our heart and our hands before God.  At these moments God loves us and fill our hearts with hope.

At these times we either wrestle with God like Jacob or we surrender our heart like Isaiah.  Either way we are touched deeply by the hand of God and often a new call is placed upon our life.  Nehemiah would answer that call but he may have never heard the call in his ears if his heart wasn't first opened and rent before God.   

Perhaps you have a burden today.  Some people might tell you to just have faith.  Some might offer the wisdom of our times "Don't worry be happy."  But sometimes God uses our sorrow for good especially if we allow the Lord to be present with us and meet us.  Jeremiah 29:13,14a  promises, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord,..."

Yes your heart might be broken but don't try to patch it up, suppress it, ignore it or try to move on too fast.  Turn to the Lord in prayer and know that he will meet you.  Trust God with your pain.  Wrestle if you must but when morning comes let him have his way.  You too may find purpose and a new ministry.  These are holy moments lean into them, give the Lord your pain and know that in time God promises to make all things beautiful.   

Prayer:  Dear God bless my friends who are gripped in fear and pain today.  Give them faith.  Help them to open their hearts to you.  Help them to cry out to you.  May their tears be their nourishment and your gracious touch bring them new hope and direction.   Amen

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our offering of praise! 1 Chronicles 29:11

So why do we give to God?  I think there are many good reasons but really the only one that matters. Simply stated, "God deserves our gifts."   God is worthy of all our honor and praise.

David in our verse for today clearly understood that.   In context, his prayer is his joyous response to the peoples gifts for the building of the temple and his joyous proclamation of God's glory. David proclaims,

 "Yours, O lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O Lord is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all."  1 Chronicles 29:11

Yes God is great! and we give as a way of praising him!  and this may be surprising but our generous, sacrificial and joyous offerings bring pleasure to the Lord in the same way that you find pleasure in a heart felt gift from your children.  Our gifts are the way we say,  "I love you." 

Does God really need our gifts?  Did God need such a lavish temple that was perhaps more elaborate and ornate than any other structure in existence?  Yes! God is worthy and God is able to provide for each person who brought forth their Silver and Gold.

Oh how sad it would have been if God's people didn't respond to David's plea to give to the building of the temple.  How sad it would have been if God's first permanent temple went unfinished because God's people didn't love him enough to fund it. 

To ponder:   What does my giving to my local church or to other mission causes say about my love for God?

Remember the amount of our gift is not as important as the heart of our gift.   A sacrificial heart gift from one person to the next will probably be drastically different but whatever your gift is.... offer it as an expression of praise to the Lord.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Being first in line for kingdom giving. 1 Chronicles 29:8

Before the building of the Temple in Jerusalem,  David encouraged and consecrated his young son Solomon who was given the charge over the completion of this great endeavor.  

David was also encouraging all the people to give from their possessions and treasuries to fund the building of this great and holy temple.   David said to the people in 1 Chronicle 29: 2a, 3a  "With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God-gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, .... vs.3  "Besides my devotion to the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple.... " Then he joyously expounds about the gold, silver that he has offered from his own treasury.

After he brought forth his great gift the leaders of families and tribes of Israel come forth and gave from their treasure as well!  Then in 1 Corinthians 29:9  it says,"Then the people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.  David the king also rejoiced greatly." 

It was at that point that he offered the words of our text for this week from 1 Chronicles 29:10-13

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name.

This week in my blog I want to talk about why it is that we give to our mighty and awesome God!  Let us consider how our money, our talents and our entire life might become a gift to build the Lord's kingdom!

But for today I want you to notice that when it came to giving David lead the way.  He gave with Great joy and then his officials followed his example and the people rejoiced!

David practiced what he preached when it came to giving.  He gave with joy and it became and encouragement to the people and an example for them to follow.

Today if you're in a position of leadership or even if you're just a parent those around you and under you will notice your enthusiasm about giving to the Lord.  Now I'm not suggesting that we publicize what we give for the world to see.  This can become a sign of pride rather than a reflection of your glory.  With that said if you are a generous and joyous giver of your money, time and gifts,  people will notice and many will follow your example.

To ponder:  What does my life and my giving say about my love and devotion to God?

Prayer:  Dear God help me to be the first and best giver.  May the kingdom building begin with me!  and as we give help others to notice our hearts and find inspiration to give to your glory. 
In Jesus name.  Amen

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Search for wisdom like a hidden treasure.

Solomon could ask whatever he wanted of God and God would have given it.  Solomon chose wisdom...

Today we live in a world where possessions, accomplishments, vacations and money rule supreme.   Today we live in a world of selfishness, foolishness, and sin.  Today we live in a world void of wisdom and it's no surprising the world is in big trouble.

I don't want to go into all of life's problems... but I wonder what would happen if every Christian desperately wanted wisdom, asked for wisdom and sought out wisdom.

Solomon knew just how important wisdom was and it was a major theme in the book of Proverbs.
In Proverbs 2:2-8 Solomon writes.
"Turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones."
Wouldn't it be great to have that kind of wisdom especially considering all the challenges of our day?   But can we really have that kind of wisdom?
In the Book of James it says, "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you."   James goes on saying.  "But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord."  James 1a;5-8
To ponder:  Do you have the amount of wisdom you want or need today?  What would you be willing to do to get wisdom.  God says,"Ask and you shall receive!"
May it be that all of us would seek the greatest gift.   This is the blessing ahead for all who walk through the Word.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wisdom for the confusion of life 1Kings 3:4-15

The wise man is the one who realizes how little he really knows and how much he is truly dependant upon the Lord.  The wise person understands that life is too difficult without the wisdom of the Lord. 

Yes life is confusing, hard and extremely challenging.

Some people think that if they only had more money they could buy themselves out of the troubles of life.  Others believe they can get through life on their talents and natural abilities with a little bit of luck along the way.  This seems to work for some people at least for a little while but we all seem to come to a point in our life when we look at ourself and realize how futile life is.

Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes says that it is like "chasing after the wind."

These might be surprising words from the "Wisest" man to live.

Solomon was only a young man when he became ruler over the kingdom of Israel ruling on the throne of his father David.   In 1Kings 3 it records the conversation as God appeared to Solomon in a dream.   God said, "Ask! What shall I give you?"  1 Kings 3:5b

Solomon could ask for anything but he realized his greatest need was not victories over his enemies, or great riches and possession but wisdom and an understanding heart.   God gave him this and everything else that Solomon could have dreamed.  God was please with his request.

But that doesn't mean that Solomon always used the wisdom he was given.

Solomon is a sad story in many ways.   He had it all but his own sin led him astray.

  This reminds me of the story told of a little girl in Sunday School.

"King Solomon," Declared a little girl in Sunday school, "is my favorite character in the Bible.  He was kind to ladies and animals."

The startled teacher asked,  "Who told you that?"  "Nobody told me.  I read it myself in the Bible,"  asserted the little girl.  "It says Solomon kept seven hundred wives and three hundred porcupines."

We might laugh at the small girl but her insights uncovered Solomon's problem in life.  

Yes, it is great that we ask the Lord for wisdom as it says in James 1:5,  "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

But don't you know having wisdom and using the wisdom we have is a totally different thing.   Many of us have made mistakes just as King Solomon.   We acted or spoke without thinking things through.  Sometimes these laps have caused us and others great pain.

If you've fallen into that trap continue to seek God's wisdom, forgiveness and start again knowing that as it says in Lamentations 3:22 "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning;  Great is Your faithfulness."

Prayer:   Dear God for the mistakes I have made please forgive me and fill me with your wisdom anew that I can walk with you.

In the end, the wise person isn't the one who makes no mistakes but the one who learns from their mistakes.

These are the lessons we learn as we walk through the Word together.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A home for the Lord. 2 Samuel 7:1,2

David had the right thought.  He thought about all that the Lord had given to him:  the success and the rest that he had from his enemies.  He looked at his own palace in all its beauty.  Then he considered the home of the Lord.  Perhaps with a note of shame.

He said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of Cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent." 2 Samuel 7:2

What a realization!  Can you imagine a king or a President living in a tent while you dwelt in a mansion.  It would never or should never happen.  David greatly loved God and though it was understandable that God dwelt in the tent when they were a wondering people, it seemed out of place for God to remain there.  It was time for God to have a permanent home!  For just as Jerusalem was here to stay so was their God.  It was the only honorable thing to do.  I'm sure we would all agree.
During my last blog I explained that God was please with this idea but left that task for his son and If you read about Solomon's temple you know how grand it was.  

Today this makes me wonder about how we treat God.  Today we know that God lives in heaven and God lives in the heart of each believer.  So God's temple is within you!  But I wonder what does the temple of your heart look like?  Have you made room and provisions for God to dwell there?

King David considered building the temple in a moment of reflection from the business of his day.  It says there was piece in the land.  So I can imagine that this was a time to breath and yes contemplate upon the importance of God.  Perhaps he was embarrassed that he did not consider this thought earlier.

What about you?  Are you so busy that you have ignored the fact or perhaps overlooked the fact that God dwells within.  I believe God waits for you and for me each day in that temple.   Do you have a nice sitting room to contemplate God and God's goodness?   Is your temple an adequate reflection of your love?  If so. Is it a fitting expression worthy of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?

I'm not talking about your physical body.  Yes we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should take care of our physical bodies.  With that said, I believe it is more important that we care for our Spiritual body.  We need to learn to see the shape of our Spiritual body as an expression of our love and devotion to God.  The kind of love and devotion that David wanted to show as he contemplated moving God from a tent to a fitting temple.

To Ponder:  Is my Spiritual temple for the Lord more like a tent or a palace adorned for a king?

Also, how can you clean out that temple and make it a true home worthy of God.   I know that many of you simply enjoy reading what I write but today I want to encourage you to share your thoughts with me.   In the comment section please share one of the ways that has helped you to adorn your holy temple.  Are there special disciplines or prayers?   

Sometimes it's easy to only do those Spiritual disciplines which will be helpful to us.   But I think for today we need to think about what we can do for God with no expectation of any return.   I'm reminded from the Scriptures that God inhabits our praise.  God loves our worship!   Today let us consider the condition of the sanctuary of our heart.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to respond when a blessing skips over us.

King David was a mighty man of God.  He wasn't perfect by any means but he was a great king.. Through his leadership the Armies of Israel had great victories and the name of the Lord was exalted among the people.   

At the beginning of chapter 7 David is reflecting upon his life.  In verse one of 2 Samuel 7 it says,  "After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."   David's intent was to build a permanent home for God where the ark of the Lord would dwell.  This would be the first permanent structure for the ark.  At that time the Ark had always traveled from place to place with the people in a movable tent.

Now since God had blessed him and the people so much, David desired to erect a permanent resting place for God.    But through a dream the Prophet Nathan was given the instructions that though God would greatly bless David and the armies of Israel, it would be the blessing of his offspring to build the temple for the Lord.

This brings us to the David's prayer of thanksgiving and praise offered to God as it is recorded in part in our text for this week.  "O Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.  Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever." 2 Samuel 7:28,29

If you didn't already know that the building of the temple of the Lord was reserved for David's son, by listening to his word of joy you would think that David himself was given permission to build the Temple.   You might expect a note of sorrow in his voice because the blessing was being past on to another.  

Today we are an ego driven society.  We want to do great things and to get the glory for it  but David found glory in the assurance that God's blessing would fall upon his home through his descendants.  He felt over joyed that his son would have this great blessing.

The point for today is simply this.  We may or may not do great things in life but God is faithful and will bring blessing upon our children because of our faithfulness.

David had faith in this fact because he understood that every promise of God is trustworthy!

As parents especially, we need to live our lives in such a way that not only will we experience the blessing of God but perhaps more importantly we need live so our children and their children will receive even greater Joy.   I think David understood this and so should we.

To ponder:  What wonders would you like your children to experience in life?  What blessings do you hope for them?   How will your life and legacy be a blessing to your children.

In a day of over active ego's wouldn't it be great if someone rejoiced when the blessings they had hoped for where passed on to another.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Who wins our battles? 1 Samuel 17:47

1 Samuel 17: 47

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

The question is this.  Who wins our battles?

In the minds of these Isrealite soldiers it is obvious that though they may have had faith in God they didn't trust God enough to face the giant Goliath.  No they pretty much hid in fear.  It seems that not even King Saul had faith in God's ability.  Sadly he had to offer rewards and the hand of his daughter for the one who defeated the Giant.

(The idea of giving away your daughter as reward for a bold champion seems very strange today.  Try something like that day and you daughter is likely to say......"Thanks a lot.... but you've got to be kidding me if you think I'm going to marry just any old macho fool who fights off a giant")

Indeed it should have been enough for any man to stand up to the giant for the honor of Isreal.

David was the exeption in this regard. When he heard the giants threats he didn't worry about the giant's stature and the thickness of his armor.  David knew that God was able to do all things and he would stand up to prove it!

David knew that the giant Goliath was a much stronger opponent but David also believed in God and proclaimed to the enemy soldiers, "the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands." 1 Samuel 17:47b.  Those are pretty bold words from a little boy!

David knew what the Gospel and Epistle writer John would later express in 1 John 4:4. John said, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Yes when we fight against the world we can be assured that the Lord is the Lion who stands in back of us!

It is easy to forget that fact isn't it.. It's easy to worry and freat sometimes over things that will never happen.  Faith we remember is the evidence of things unseen. Hebrews 11:1. 

No, God doesn't need us to fight His battles on behalf of his people but when people become the hands and feet of Christ the more battles God wins as we step out in faith.  In addition as we do that the more our confidence and boldness in the Lord will grow! 

So what obstiles and giants stand in your way?   Are you trying to fight with armour that doesn' quite fit you?   Are you willing to trust God with what he has given you?

These are the lessons we learn as we Walk Through The Word together.