Monthly Archives: April, 2014

Each Man Knew

Organization is often a problem in life—or should I say disorganization is the problem? For a family to function, for a workplace to function, for a ministry or church to function, organization is very important. Along with this is communication. If you look at struggling relationships, struggling marriages and struggling churches, many times one of the top problems is a lack of communication or a problem with disorganization.

When Nehemiah was leading the people back to godly living, he got everything organized. From the very beginning, he walked around and made notes. I think his organization is one reason I’ve always been drawn to him for I am a bit OCD at times. One of the items he organized included the list for the priests and Levites. He wanted to be sure everyone knew what their job was so they could be focused and get the job done.

In your home, does everyone know their responsibilities and stick to them or is one person carrying the ship? At your work, does everyone understand their job description and requirements or are people micromanaging or slacking off? At church, do you know what area to serve or are you spread out thin like scraping the last out of the butter tub? Nehemiah made sure each man knew his job. Today, write down your job for work, home, church, etc. Make a list and if unsure, ask questions. When you do this, you can find out if you are doing too much, if you are spread thin, and what areas you could put forth more effort. You can do this!

“All in all I cleansed them from everything foreign. I organized the orders of service for the priests and Levites so that each man knew his job. I arranged for a regular supply of altar wood at the appointed times and for the firstfruits.

Remember me, O my God, for good.”

-Nehemiah 13:30-31 [MSG]

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All Ears

I love reading Nehemiah. It is so awesome to read of the restoration and to see the people returning to God. I cannot help but smile from ear to ear when I read about Ezra bringing forth the Law. The Bible says he read it aloud from daybreak until noon. Can you imagine that being done today? Some people shift in their seats when the pastor’s sermon goes over a half hour.

These people were so eager to hear the Word. The people “were all ears” it says. All ears. That’s amazing. I love it. Sadly it’s not something we hear of often today. The only people I see like this are those who struggle to get their hands on a Bible. In places like Kenya, they have a lack of Bibles so families or even an entire church share one Bible and pass it around. And they cannot wait to get their turn at reading God’s Word. They want to hear it that badly.

Today, I am praying for each one of you. I am praying that you will want to hear God’s Word with such intensity, that you would want to be “all ears” for His Word. If you have such a passion for God and His Word, it will overflow out to everything around you. That my friend is a beautiful thing. May we all be all ears.

 

“So Ezra the priest brought The Revelation to the congregation, which was made up of both men and women—everyone capable of understanding. It was the first day of the seventh month. He read it facing the town square at the Water Gate from early dawn until noon in the hearing of the men and women, all who could understand it. And all the people listened—they were all ears—to the Book of The Revelation.”

– Nehemiah 8:2-3 [MSG]

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After Thinking It Over

When you get angry, it can often be difficult to keep your mouth shut and remove yourself from the situation for awhile. We want to speak out right away. We want to respond. We start to yell. We want to speak our mind. We feel the need to tell the person that we are in the right. We have to explain ourselves. We must get in the last word. We want to tell people when they are wrong and we are right. We can’t help but point fingers.

Nehemiah discovered that people were taking advantage of others. The Jews were charging interest to their brothers. As a result, the people were mortgaging fields and homes. Their children were going into slavery. They were being drained of everything. When Nehemiah found out he was very angry. But notice he did not respond right away.

Nehemiah thought it over; he considered his words and actions. He still went forward and told the people what they were doing was wrong. He told them to return to the people what was theirs. However, he waited till he contained himself and got his thoughts together. Oh how easy it could have been to immediately rush in and start pointing fingers and barking out orders. Instead he gathered his thoughts, went before the people and calmly stated the problem and provided the resolution. Now that is anger management.

“I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, ‘Each one of you is gouging his brother.’”

-Nehemiah 5:6-7 [MSG]

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Do It and Do It Well

When Hezekiah was speaking to the Levites, the people chosen by God to be set apart for God’s work, he was set on purifying the Temple. After years of neglect the Temple doors were opened, repairs were made and the Levites were prepared. Hezekiah said to them, “This is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.”

None of us have this same job position as the Levites, but it doesn’t mean we should not do it well. We all have a position, a title, whether it be banker, homemaker, doctor, cashier, salesman, teacher, customer service representative, janitor, etc. We all have a position.

Colossians 3 says that whatever we do, we do it for God. Whatever we do. Everything. Do it all for God’s glory. Paul again wrote in 1 Corinthians to do it all for the glory of God. So again and again we read about doing things and doing them well—about doing everything for the glory of God. Today, no matter what you are assigned to do, no matter what position you hold, “do it and do it well.” You are there for a reason—shine the light and make the best of it!

“I have decided to make a covenant with the God of Israel and turn history around so that God will no longer be angry with us. Children, don’t drag your feet in this! God has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship—this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.”

-2 Chronicles 29:10-11 [MSG]

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Adequately Prepared

Whenever there is something that needs to be done, I always try my best to be prepared. When planning for a trip, I make a list of all the needs for packing. For my finances, I have my budget organized in Excel, outlined meticulously after having some amazing training from Dave Ramsey. Even when I take my dog Max for a walk, I have things I do to prepare. I like being prepared.

In 2 Chronicles we read of groups of people who did not prepare themselves properly for the Passover meal. As a result they did not partake of the meal. Hezekiah prayed for forgiveness for these people who pretty much missed the boat.

Today, I challenge you with your preparedness with God. Do you prepare yourself in the morning by reading God’s Word and by praying? Do you prepare yourself for worship? Do you prepare yourself before Communion? Remember the Parable of the Ten Virgins, with the five women who had no oil for their lamps. Are you prepared for Jesus’ return? Are you prepared to share your faith? Remember what Peter said, to always be prepared to share the reason for your hope. Are you prepared?

“There were a lot of people, especially those from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, who did not eat the Passover meal because they had not prepared themselves adequately. Hezekiah prayed for these as follows: ‘May God who is all good, pardon and forgive everyone who sincerely desires God, the God of our ancestors. Even—especially!—these who do not meet the literal conditions stated for access to The Temple.’”

-2 Chronicles 30:18-19 [MSG]

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Always on Duty

The other morning I had a rude awakening. It was 3 a.m. so I was out cold. All of the sudden I heard barking. Max doesn’t bark for fun. He is not very vocal unless there is a problem. I quickly ran downstairs to find a neighbor’s friend was wandering around to the wrong house, attempting to get into our home. When Max started barking, he realized he was at the wrong place. I could even hear the fear in his voice when he asked the neighbor to let him in. Max is a good guard dog and he’s usually on duty, even at three in the morning.

God is ALWAYS on duty. The Psalmist wrote that “The LORD himself watches over you.” He watches over you. He doesn’t need to have someone else do it. He personally does it. He wrote further, “The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.” Not only does God watch over you, but He stands beside you. He is with you. And He protects you.

These aren’t promises on pages—these are real truths. Take these words to heart my friend. God watches over you. I could write books about the many, many times He was watching over me, and that’s just the moments I noticed. Imagine when I wasn’t paying attention! Let us thank Him for His protective shade and His watchful eyes. Let us thank Him that He always is with us through it all.

“The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.” – Psalm 121:5 [NLT]

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Don’t Hold Back

We see many people not hold back. Many times it is when someone is having a tantrum or voicing an opinion. Then there are those who don’t hold back at the all-you-can-eat buffet. There are those who don’t hold back when they are racing or competing in sports. Not holding back means doing it all. It could be eating it all, giving it all, saying it all.

In today’s passage, we read about the Israelites who responded to Hezekiah’s command with generous hands. “They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything,” the Bible says. They gave the firstfruits of everything—EVERYTHING! There was so much stuff that was dedicated to God that it was piled in mounds. Look at the time involved—over three months of piling items. Talk about not holding back.

When I read of this it brings me great joy. I always love to read about people who are so generous and giving. It is such a special thing to give; it is a gift to give. I always get more joy from giving than from keeping. Sadly the statistics show that most people hold back a lot. I have heard it said if everyone tithed without holding back, giving the ten percent, people would be cared for and there would not be all of the situations we see all around the world. You might think that ten percent is a lot. You might think you cannot do it. But trust me, when you do it, God sees you through. You always have just what you need. So don’t hold back. Live with your hands open.

“As soon as Hezekiah’s orders had gone out, the Israelites responded generously: firstfruits of the grain harvest, new wine, oil, honey—everything they grew. They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything. They also brought in a tithe of their cattle, sheep, and anything else they owned that had been dedicated to God. Everything was sorted and piled in mounds. They started doing this in the third month and didn’t finish until the seventh month.”

-2 Chronicles 31:5-7 [MSG]

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Like He Owned It

Pride is poison. For most people, it slowly seeps in without much notice until it is too late. Uzziah became strong because of all of the machines he had for protection. They used the machines on the towers and on the corners to shoot arrows and big stones at enemies.

Uzziah sought the Lord and God prospered him. He had this great protection, but the safety and security bore pride in him. Uzziah was famous because of God. Uzziah was protected because of God. But then he became “arrogant and proud, he fell.” Things went to his head just like they go to our heads.

As pride got the best of him, Uzziah went into the Temple and he acted “like he owned it and took over.” This was the place God’s name resided. This was the Temple of God. There were rules. There were priests consecrated for this work. But Uzziah walked in there like he could do anything. He ended up being “unfaithful and a disgrace.” He forgot God prospered him. He forgot God is holy. He forgot all of this because he was full of himself. Remember my friend, you don’t own it—you don’t own anything. Continue to be thankful for how God has prospered you and never forget we are to be humble servants. No one is better than another—and only God deserves honor and praise.

“But then the strength and success went to his head. Arrogant and proud, he fell. One day, contemptuous of God, he walked into The Temple of God like he owned it and took over, burning incense on the Incense Altar. The priest Azariah, backed up by eighty brave priests of God, tried to prevent him. They confronted Uzziah: ‘You must not, you cannot do this, Uzziah—only the Aaronite priests, especially consecrated for the work, are permitted to burn incense. Get out of God’s Temple; you are unfaithful and a disgrace!’”

– 2 Chronicles 26:16-18 [MSG]

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God Intervened

King Aram told his commanders not to fight with anyone except Ahab king of Israel but King Ahab had a plan to foil any possible injury. He decided he would wear a disguise in battle. To throw the people off of him, he told Jehoshaphat to still wear his royal robes. Off they went into battle.

When first reading this one would bet that King Ahab would get away with this deception and King Jehoshaphat would meet his doom. It has the perfect storyline for a television or movie action sequence with the antagonist plot and this somewhat innocent ally. But God intervenes. The commanders see that they were chasing the wrong man. Even more, someone randomly, yes randomly, hit the king of Israel, right between the breastplate and his scale armor. That is not an easy shot.

What does this say to us? The prophet Micaiah spoke out against Ahab, prophesying doom when asked if the kings should go to war against Ramoth Gilead. The Word of God stands always. There is no hiding from the Truth. God will see His work to completion.

“When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘There he is! The king of Israel!’ and took after him. Jehoshaphat yelled out, and the chariot commanders realized they had the wrong man—it wasn’t the king of Israel after all. God intervened and they let him go.”

-2 Chronicles 18:31-32 [MSG]

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Bad Alliances

Jehoshaphat followed God and his obedience brought him wealth and honor. Even so, there are times when we can make some poor decisions that can end up pulling us away from God. Jehoshaphat’s poor decision was making bad alliances.

In 2 Chronicles 18, we read about the first bad alliance. This was a marriage alliance involving Jehoshaphat’s son Joram to King Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. King Ahab was very far from God. As Ahab and Jehoshaphat aligned together, Jehoshaphat was nearly killed if not for the protection of God. The second alliance was a trading alliance Jehoshaphat formed with King Ahaziah. God responds with smashed ships unable to trade.

We are never to isolate ourselves from others. How would the Gospel spread if we hide ourselves away? Nonetheless, we need to be cautious of our alliances. Not only can a bad alliance crush our moral authority, but it can lead us away from God. It is so important to surround yourself with strong Christians for encouragement, support, guidance, and comfort.

“Late in life Jehoshaphat formed a trading syndicate with Ahaziah king of Israel—which was very wrong of him to do. He went in as partner with him to build ocean-going ships at Ezion Geber to trade with Tarshish. Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah preached against Jehoshaphat’s venture: ‘Because you joined forces with Ahaziah, God has shipwrecked your work.’ The ships were smashed and nothing ever came of the trade partnership.”

-2 Chronicles 20:35-37 [MSG]

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