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Showing posts from May, 2010

What is shaping your life - Part II

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7) In prayer, we have several opportunities to lay things out before God. As we pray, we go through a process of introducing our questions, requests or pleas in such a manner that they get the attention of the one you are bringing them to – God. It is not a casual discussion, in passing, that never brings resolution to those things that are weighing us down. It is an earnest discussion, laying it all out before God, and then letting him help us with the solutions. We bring our:    Questions – because we need wisdom    Requests – because we need direction    Pleas – because we need intervention Making an earnest request in a humble

What is shaping your life - Part I

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7) Life carries with it many things, events, people, and circumstances that entrap us in a great deal of time spent in fretful or worrisome behavior. Paul’s writing to the Philippian believers – a city of Romans located in mountains of what we now know as Greece. Philippi did not have a local church – there was no established synagogue for the believers in that community. They met in the homes of believers near the waterfront. Several of the women of the community “hosted” the church meetings in their home; one of which was Lydia. She was known for her large household and dealings in luxury fabrics of the day. The town was filled with

Generous in love, huge in mercy - Part III

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God, I’ll let loose with your praise. (Psalm 51:7-15) David had recognized his sin and its devastation in his life.  He had sought the tremendous mercy of his God to forgive what seemed to him to be unforgivable.  Now, he comes in the sorrow of his heart and asks God for a cleansing from that sin that goes so deep that it clears out all signs that it eve

Generous in love, huge in mercy - Part II

Yesterday, we began to explore the road to repentance that David had been on after his sin with Bathsheba.  It had been a road riddled with days and nights of guilty anguish and shame.  Psalm 51 begins with the pleas of his heart for God to give him grace.  Even in the midst of huge sin, terrible internal termoil and sinful wallowing in his shame, he calls out to his God.  David then reveals something quite amazing – he had been conscious of God all the while, even in the midst of his sin, even in the midst of the cover-up, and certainly in the midst of the growing distance between the God of his heart over the past year. Sin may have entered in, but he never lost his consciousness of God - this drove him nuts because he knew God’s view of what he had done. He had sinned – his rebellion now stood daily between him and God and he knew that he stood opposed to God – he had set himself against God and he felt this pressure. You’re the one …the words of David echo what his heart had kno

Generous in love, huge in mercy - Part I

Generous in love- God, give grace! Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down. (Psalm 51:1-3)   Today, we begin a look into the greatness of God's love and the unending mercies he bestows.  David had gone astray – his heart had chosen his own way - he had entered into an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba in a moment of passion almost one year prior to writing this Psalm. During that time, he had lived the misery of his sin without knowing the freedom of confession and repentance. We often live in the misery of sin much longer than we have to – because we don’t embrace our sin and allow God’s Spirit to deal with ours.  Over the next several days, we will explore the freedom that comes with confession and repentance. Nearly one year prior, David had stayed behind while all his men went out to war against Rabbah, a town of the Ammonites. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah,

The Mind of Christ

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Rom 12:1-2) At the point of salvation, we receive the mind of Christ.  Many of us struggle with the thoughts that enter our mind and find a place of entertainment there.  We anticipate that we should not have those thoughts now that we are a Christian, and often find ourselves living under some self-imposed condemnation because we find our

Separated Lives

Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership; that's war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: "I'll live in them, move into them; I'll be their God and they'll be my people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good," says God. "Don't link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I'll be a Father to you; you'll be sons and daughters to me." The Word of the Master, God. With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for t

Who really knows you? - Part II

For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. (I Cor. 4:7-8) Scripture bears witness to the fact that even the most gifted of individuals don’t start out feeling that they possess the gifting or talents they need to accomplish that which is laid out before them. If we just take Moses as an example, we can see this struggle clearly in his original struggle with God when he was called to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He argued with God that he was not a good leader, nor could he speak eloquently enough to inspire them to follow his lead. At first, I even believe that he thought he’d have to single-handedly deliver the people in h

Who really knows you? - Part I

For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. (I Cor. 4:7-8) What a searching question this passage presents to us: “Who really knows our heart?” I imagine that there are those that we’d say come close to really “knowing” us, but do they really? Do they know the intimate workings of our mind, see the inner challenges of daily decisions that we make, or understand the pull of our self-nature in every opportunity for compromise that presents itself to us? Not likely. There are those who we confide in, but even in the deepest of relationships, we don’t always share ourselves completely, with full transparency in every area of our being. Paul knew the challenges

Encouragement - we all need more of it!

Encouragement is something we all need more of – we just don’t get enough of it in our daily contacts. In fact, most of us struggle with discouragement on a regular basis, yearning for just one sign or word of encouragement to bolster us along. Encouragement is at the root of our self-worth (what gives us the feeling that we have a strong, personal worth). It is what gives us a sense of dignity and respect. As one of God’s kids, we have a sense of being “grounded” in his unconditional love, and that gives us a sense of encouragement even when our actions, personal character flaws, or lack of success in accomplishments seems to be pulling us down. That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of h

Continual Building - Part II

On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. All the priests and Levites had purified themselves – all, no exceptions. They were all ritually clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover Lamb for the exiles, their brother priests, and themselves. Then the Israelites who had returned from exile, along with everyone who had removed themselves from the defilements of the nations to join them and seek God, the God of Israel, at the Passover. With great joy they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. God had plunged them into a sea of joy; he had changed the mind of the king of Assyria to back them in rebuilding the Temple of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:19-22) The Temple of God is finally finished.  The people who had returned to Jerusalem would celebrate – and not in some small fashion – they would throw a huge celebration, complete with animal sacrifice, exuberant praise, and all the ritual they could muster. Yet, even though the sa

Continual Building - Part I

So the leaders of the Jews continued to build, the work went well under the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They completed the rebuilding under orders of the God of Israel and authorization by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. The Temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. And then the Israelites celebrated – priests, Levites, every last exile, exuberantly celebrated the dedication of the Temple of God. At the dedication of this Temple of God, the sacrificed a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs – and, as an Absolution-Offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. They placed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their places for the service of God at Jerusalem- all as written out in the Book of Moses. (Ezra 6:14-18) The project of rebuilding the temple had begun during the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia, and no

Old Enemies - Part II

Understanding the tactics the enemy of our soul uses to keep us from growing in the grace we have been given in our walk with Christ can keep us from believing his lies and attending to his voice.  As we look at the tactics of the enemy, we can gain some insight into the methods we should use to resist.  By definition, a tactic is the awareness of our every movement, so as to form strategies to make that movement impossible.  The purpose of any enemy's tactics is to quickly dispose of the forces he opposes.  Such is the case with the enemy of our soul - he wants to destroy the grace we have been given, bringing us down into the pit of sin and shame he lures us toward. The main tactic we saw outlined in yesterday's passage of Scripture from Ezra that their enemy used was sthat of “beating down the morale of the people”. We often think of morale as nothing more than the state of well-being that we enjoy when we have a sense of common purpose or confidence in our circumstances.

Old Enemies - Part I

Old enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building The Temple of the GOD of Israel. They came to Zerubbabel and the family heads and said, “We’ll help you build. We worship our God the same as you. We’ve been offering sacrifices to him since Esarhaddon king of Assyria brought us here. Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the family heads said to them, “Nothing doing. Building the Temple of our God is not the same thing to you as to us. We alone will build for the GOD of Israel. We’re the ones King Cyrus of Persia commanded to do it.” So these people started beating down the morale of the people of Judah, harassing them as they built. They even hired propagandists to sap their resolve. They kept this up for about fifteen years, throughout the lifetime of Cyrus king of Persia and on into the reign of Darius king of Persia. In fact, in the reign of Xerxes, at the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against those living in Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:1-7)

Not yet finished

Tattanai was governor of the land beyond the Euphrates at this time. Tattenai, Shethar-Bozenai, and their associates came to the Israelites and asked, “Who issued you a permit to rebuild this Temple and restore it to use?” Then we told them the names of the men responsible for this construction work. But God had his eye on the leaders of the Jews, and the work wasn’t stopped until a report could reach Darius and an official reply be returned. (Ezra 5:3-5) Whenever God’s people begin to do something for God, they become objects of the curiosity of those around them. The leaders were challenged to provide their “building permits” – not so much because the local authorities wanted to ensure safety in the reconstruction work, but because they did not want any organized religion to be at work without the express permission of the governing officials. The records of Israel's past successes would probably have given an accurate description of the capabilities of the nation of Israel whe

Start Again - Part II

Zechariah was a minor prophet during the time of challenge in much the same manner that Haggai, the minor prophet, was faithful to bring the message he had been given by God. He came alongside Haggai in the deliverance of a similar message of challenge to the Jews in the land, but with a different twist. While Haggai focused on calling the people back to the work of rebuilding, Zechariah delivered the message calling the people back to rightly exalting God in the land of their promise. The people of Judah and Israel had lost their passion for serving God. In their eyes, their God had been publicly disgraced by mighty armies of conquering kings, his reputation was laid in ruins alongside the ruins of the Temple. Zechariah's message made it clear that this was not the case – God’s reputation was indeed in ruins, not because of the conquering armies of mighty kings, but because of the sinfulness of his chosen people. His challenge to the people: “Come back to me and I’ll come back t

Start Again - Part I

The letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates. They lost no time. They went to the Jews in Jerusalem and made them quit work. That put a stop to the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Nothing more was done until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Meanwhile the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo were preaching to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the authority of the God of Israel who ruled them. And so Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak started again, rebuilding the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were right there helping them. (Ezra 4:24-5:2) This week, we have explored the idea of rebuilding foundations in our lives.  The Jewish exiles had been given the opportunity of a lifetime - return to their former home, rebuild what had been destroyed in the wars of recent years, and re-establish the foundation of the Temple of God.  They returned, but somehow, their "fi

Rebuilding Foundations - Part IV

Israel, the nation called by God Almighty to be his very people, stood in utter ruin. They are captive to an enemy wielding such force that armies fled before them. Ezekial, Jeremiah and Isaiah were raised up as prophets of the day to bring a message of hope to Israel and Judah.  Their message: deliverance was possible. Deliverance came through a heathen, unbelieving king – Cyrus. Cyrus started his rule over in a little area we now know as Iran. He later became a more powerful ruler, overtaking more territory until he became the ultimate ruler of the Persian Empire – taking leadership for all of the Babylonian Empire and Judah. Babylon had at one time held the territory that we now know as Iraq. Cyrus developed such a name for himself that armies fled in his wake. He eventually took the now known lands of Syria, Iran, and Israel. Cyrus was not a godly king that wanted to give the city of  Jerusalem and the Temple of God back to Judah. He was reported to be a king that worshipped many

Rebuilding Foundations - Part III

David had been a dynamic leader for the nation of Israel, driving out armies and capturing territory for the nation while he ruled from a throne blessed by a holy God. Under the direction of a faithful God, he had insight into the enemy’s weaknesses, preparing God-directed battle plans that would dethrone even the toughest of kings and secure the richest of all the surrounding lands for the Israelites. This had been the promise of God given through Israel's leaders since their deliverance from Egypt many years before.  Even more importantly, God had intended to build upon the foundation of their deliverance FROM bondage by giving them a new foundation to build UPON.  That new foundation required a new form of worship.  A directing of their hearts, their passions, toward the God whom they served. King David's passion for God’s right placement in the hearts of the people he was given leadership over led to God's revelation of a vision to establish a center of worship for th