Finding Your Purpose

 A Study in Nehemiah 3:1-32 [Be sure to have your Bible nearby!]

NEHEMIAH’S VISION – To rebuild the walls around Jerusalem (Chapter 2:5-8)

If OUR VISION is to start rebuilding in our churches, our communities, in a relationship, our trust, our faith…the time is now to put into action all the planning and praying.

To REBUILD successfully, you need VISION. 

What Is Your Purpose?

If there are others in your midst that are going to be a part of your intentions to REBUILD, what’s their vision, their expectations, their purpose?  If your vision and their vision aren’t the same there’s a problem!

What if Nehemiah’s workers built their own visions of the wall?  You most likely would have had a section of decorative fence, a section of wood, a section of the block, etc…The fence would’ve looked…stupid?

My wife and I are both ardent followers of Chip & Joanna Gain’s TV show, Fixer Upper.  And in a lot of shows we watch together, we have differing views of what should have been done:  “Too much shiplap for me.  I would have done it in beadboard.”  And Dianne would counter, “I love shiplap there!”

To rebuild successfully you’ll need someone to unify everyone.

You need to lead!

Nehemiah had noticed and was troubled that the wall of protection had fallen into disrepair.  He had defined the PURPOSE, communicated his discontent, motivated the people to accept the task.

Now the work began.

The walls of Jerusalem had fallen into sad shape for about 150 years, and Nehemiah was determined to REBUILD them and to end the shame brought upon the Jews in Jerusalem.  It was work that couldn’t be undertaken or carried out by one person.  It would take many people with common purpose and desire!

Nehemiah was wise enough to allow a variety of people, some more skillful than others to pitch in to help build the wall.

There’s a good lesson for us here.

Some of us have more skill than others.  Some have more experience than others.  Some have more wisdom than others.  But there’s a place for ALL willing to work.

GOD USES ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE!

Nehemiah Chapter 3, notice that there are:

  • Priests and Levites and other temple servants.
  • Goldsmiths, perfumers, and merchants.
  • Officials.
  • Men and women.

What are they doing?  WORKING!

Nobody is too young, too old, too poor, too rich.

God accomplishes His PURPOSE through people…

But people need leaders to motivate, not manipulate, and organize them for the cause.

There are some areas in your life, in my life, where we need to lead.

It is your life…your purpose and if you’re not going to care enough to make a decision to lead then why would someone else?

The same people listed in Nehemiah 3 had been living in the city for years, but the wall didn’t get built until God sent Nehemiah to lead the charge.

I thought it was interesting that Nehemiah is never mentioned by name in chapter 3, but his labor is behind the whole chapter.

So a LEADER must…not mind if the credit goes to others.

Nehemiah didn’t want a huge sign over the main gate or a bronze plaque reading:  The Nehemiah Memorial Wall.  Rather, Nehemiah was committed to the task.  He wanted the wall to be built so that God’s name, His glory, would be exalted in Jerusalem and His people no longer live in ridicule.  I would call GOD’S PURPOSE…REBUILDING PEOPLE!

Nehemiah knew that God would recognize his efforts.

Hebrews 6:10 (AMP)

[10] For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name’s sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do.

Nehemiah was laboring to hear “well done” from the Lord.

With over 40 years in the construction industry and 5 years in sales management behind me…I learned by experience that MOTIVATING people on the job can be difficult at times.

MOTIVATING OTHERS AS A LEADER…

The Jews had been back in the land for 90 years, but the WALL for their own protection hadn’t been rebuilt.

But Nehemiah came along and got everyone excited about the rebuilding idea.

Motivation is a KEY to productivity.

The difficult thing about motivating others is what motivates some turns off others.  Even Nehemiah couldn’t get the nobles of Tekoa to join the project.

One way that Nehemiah motivated the people…now catch this; was assigning many of them to work on the portion of the wall that they had a particular interest in.  No one wants to be a square peg put in a round hole.  Me, included!

The priests worked on the SHEEP GATE where people would bring sacrifices to the temple.  Others repaired the wall in front of their own homes.

Jerusalem, 1940-1946

THE “DUNG” GATE

There are 12 Gates to the city of Jerusalem and I’ll admit that it might have been difficult to motivate someone to the task of building at the DUNG GATE.

Please make a note on this point:  IF YOU HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING, others may have the same attitude.

As a LEADER, sometimes you’ve to be the ‘cheerleader’; get people excited about what they’re doing.

That brings us to PLANNING & ORGANIZING.

Leaders gotta do this!

It’s obvious the smooth operation taking place in Chapter and it is evident Nehemiah had done some extensive planning and organizing.  He had figured it out how to go about this huge task by breaking the project down into small manageable units.  He assigned the available workforce into various units, then worked to coordinate them so everything fit together.

Just a reminder here, its God who provides the strength.  He alone provides the skills.  He alone provides the wisdom.

God is looking for our FAITHFULNESS!

Even though you might feel that your contributions to a given task are insignificant in the process, everyone counts, every effort counts in God’s kingdom work.

There was a big job to be done in Jerusalem, and it took FAITHFULNESS from everyone to get it done.

WHAT FAITH CAN DO – “By FAITH…” Hebrews 11:21-34

  • Prompts us to do…
  • Activates us…
  • Arouses us…
  • Motivates us…
  • Urges us…
  • Helps us…

Delegate & Oversee –

Nehemiah couldn’t possibly have done all the work himself and neither can we.  Sometimes, being honest here, it’s easier to do the job myself than to delegate it; but as the task grows in size, the necessity to DELEGATE grows.

Nehemiah had to entrust the work ahead of time to the workers giving them authority (an important gift) to get the job done.  And by the way… delegating doesn’t mean dumping or dictating.  To dump something on someone and walk away from it isn’t effective leadership.

While all along, Nehemiah was delegating the workload, you can be sure that he went around inspecting and overseeing the progress, talking to his leaders, helping them keep things moving toward the GOAL.

In 3:20, Nehemiah makes a specific note on a worker’s ATTITUDE on the project:

Baruch “zealously” repaired another section…”

Apparently, Jeremiah knew not only WHO was doing what, but also HOW they were doing it.

We don’t use the word ZEALOUSLY in our ordinary conversation these days, at least I don’t, so I turned to the KJV Dictionary for an accurate definition:  ZEALOUSLY = WITH PASSIONATE ARDOR – WITH EAGERNESS.

Baruch did an exceptional job.

A leader must give proper recognition when due.

Apparently, Nehemiah wrote down in detail who was doing what on the project.  He mentions some workers completing more than one section of the wall; BUT…the important thing I noted…not every worker was recognized, yet God recognized them by including their names here.  Oh, that’s GOOD!  How many times over the years have I felt hurt in service because man wasn’t recognizing my efforts?

As a leader, you can’t get distracted…

And the enemy will do everything to try to distract you.

Nehemiah 3:5 (AMP)

[5]  The Tekoites repaired, but their nobles or lords did not put their necks to the work of their Lord.

Perhaps the nobles of Tekoa refused to “put their necks to work” was because their necks were stiff–from PRIDE.

To the nobles’ shame, the people of Tekoa built two sections of the wall, and some other towns nobles rolled up their sleeves and went to work; but Nehemiah didn’t expend any energy on the nobles of Tekoa.  Rather, he worked with the many willing workers.  Those who didn’t get involved were losers in the long run.

To rebuild successfully, you’re going to need the help of others.

The PEOPLE heard Nehemiah’s VISION and they responded by building.

The WORKERS were willing to complement each other.  Everyone couldn’t do the same job.  Some worked on the walls, others worked on the gates, others carried heavy stones, etc…   Some workers were willing to work outside of their areas of strength.  Some of the people did things they weren’t trained to do and were not even good at.  It had to get done and they were willing to do it.  And those who physically couldn’t work, as there are in churches today, spent time on their knees in prayer during the project.  We can all do that!

Some workers were willing to do less glamorous or desirable jobs.

In Nehemiah 3:14, Malchijah (a “goldsmith”) repaired the Reuse (or Dung) Gate.  This was the GATE to the dump and sewer.

CONCLUSION:

What can we take to heart and mind from this passage of Scripture?

It’s time to start REBUILDING in our communities, our families, our churches.  No more, “I’m no leader! Let someone else lead.”

The time is right now, so do it right!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries Used:  KJV Bible Dictionary; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advanced settings.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), New International Version (NIV).

Commentary:  God’s Task, Our Task by Scott Spencer–Sermon Notes.

Being Late, Yet Still On Time!

SCRIPTURE – JOHN 11:1-40

Please, if you have the time, watch this YouTube Video of a scene from the movie Son of God.  This four-minute plus scene sets up my Bible study in John 11.

BEING LATE IS A BAD THING!

I’m a person who always believes in being punctual.  Being late is a bad thing.  My dad was the same way: “Better an hour early than 5 minutes late” he used to say.

TRAINS and PLANES leave at appointed times and connecting flights are dependant on the earlier flights being on time.  Delays or cancellations can cause big problems for people.

But by far the most punctual person in the universe is God!  He set up the galaxies and our solar system like giant timepieces, run with precision.  The timing of the sunrise–a thousand years from now–can be calculated to a millisecond.

So, how strange it is then, to find God being late!  God–all-knowing and all-powerful–how can He not be on time?

And yet, we find God being so late to heal a man that he even missed his funeral by 4 days!  We’ll look together at the Scripture in this blog-study and find out, how God “Being Late, Yet Still On Time!” will give some perspective and understanding.

SCRIPTURE – John 11:1-7, 11-15, 39-40 (New International Version)

(Verses 1-7)

[1] Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  [2] (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and washed his feet with her hair.)  [3] So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  [4] When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  [5] Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,  [6] So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  [7] and said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

(Verses 11-15)

(Verses 39-40)

[39]  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

[40]  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

“Lord, the one you love is sick”  (11:3)

Note that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, didn’t say, “Lord, the one who loves You, but the one You love.”

(1 John 4:10)

“This is LOVE: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Our LOVE to Him is not worth speaking of but His to us can never be enough spoken of.

Jesus has the POWER to alter the forces of nature; calm the winds and waves; to suspend the movement of the universe in answer to the prayer of one man.  Jesus did miracles with many elements–He made arms grow out, made bread and fish multiply, turned water into wine.  He didn’t have to be present to work a miracle.  He told the Centurion “Go your way, your servant will be made whole.”  Another long-distance healing was the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter.

No circumstances could stop Him.

No limit of time was a factor.

QUESTION:  Then, why does Jesus wait until a man, who He dearly loves, is dead, before setting out to help him?

Even the disciples knew there was a special bond between Lazarus and Jesus.  Imagine if you will, you or I call our best friend and say, “I think I’m going to die!”  And our friends’ response, “Well, I’m pretty busy right now.  It’s Sunday, I’m in church, I’ll try to make it by Friday.  Do you think you can hang on that long?”

Doug Greenwold, with Lamb & Lion Ministries, gives us a deeper look into the events that occurred:

“A messenger is commanded to go and find Jesus, to tell Him that Lazarus was about to die.  The messenger traveled by foot for two days, then faithfully informed Jesus about Lazarus’ condition.”

Here’s what I found fascinating.  When Jesus heard the message, He replied (verse 4), “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Notice the very first thing that Jesus did.  He gave the messenger a PROMISE.  Jesus often does this when He’s going to stretch our FAITH.

He provides a PROMISE, and then He gives the reason why what’s about to happen was going to happen.

Lazarus’ sickness was not to end in death, rather it would be used for God’s GLORY so that God’s Son would be glorified through it!

Jesus stayed two more days.

Jesus didn’t leave right away.  So something puzzling was going on there.  We’re talking about God incarnate here, so everything Jesus does here is strategic and for a reason.

In Mr. Greenwold”s article, he points out something I never knew before, so I wanted to share this in the blog-study:

“The Hebrew view of death believed that when a person died during the first three days their NEPHESH, which is the Hebrew word for soul, hovered over their body.  In fact, by the beginning of the fourth day, the body would already be fallen into such a rapid state of decomposition, it would stink to high heavens, and then the NEPHESH flees.”

The upshot is for the first three days you’re just dead, but from the fourth day on, you’re totally dead-dead.

Why does this matter in the grand scheme of things?

Because the rabbis and the religious leaders had been teaching when the Messiah finally arrived, he would be able to achieve something so amazing they would easily know he was the prophesied one.  It’s so impossible to bring someone back from the dead.  Only the Messiah or his prophets could bring people back from death.

From the Religious Leaders’ Point of View –

If Jesus was really the Messiah as some had claimed, then the religious leaders, in order to keep their positions of wealth and power, would have to kill him.  They’d attempt creating some uncertainty.  They’d claim that bringing a person back from the dead during the FIRST DAY didn’t count.  The nephesh (the SOUL) hadn’t left yet.  Doesn’t count!  For Jesus to truly be THE MESSIAH, in the people’s eyes, Jesus needed to overcome this obstacle.

A Sign Of A Much Greater Love –

By Jesus delaying to answer the sister’s prayer and letting the situation to become seemingly hopeless and impossible…He showed more LOVE than anyone else!

NOTE:  GOD’S GREATEST INTENTIONS MAY BE SIGNALED BY HIS LONGEST DELAYS!

Look at the words found in Ezekiel 37:11, 13 (AMP)

[11]  Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off.”

[13]  And you shall know that I am the Lord [your Sovereign Ruler],  when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people.

Jesus’ DECISION was for His Disciples too!

VERSE 15 says,  “…and for your sake, I am glad I was not there. so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

God may be delaying because DELAYING is good for us!  He may be testing our faith or developing perseverance in us.  It may actually be dangerous to give us something at the moment we first ask.

Another idea is that God is setting up an impossible situation, in order that He may perform a MIRACLE or an even bigger miracle!

So the question may come up in your mind, “How long will God wait?”

And the answer?  TILL IT STINKS!

Sometimes Jesus waits until the situation you find yourself in really “stinks”.  When it “stinks,” God will get complete GLORY!

Another REASON God Waits So Long…RESURRECTION LIFE is not for the living, it’s for the dead!

You don’t get resurrected while you’re alive, you get resurrected when you’re dead!

THE PRINCIPLE IS LIFE OUT OF DEATH!

We must grow in our handling a bumper crop –

You don’t see a young apple tree bearing 150 apples; if it did, it would collapse under the weight.  Over time, God strengthens and prepares the tree so it can handle the weight for what it can bear in maturity.

It’s the same way with us.  We want everything NOW!  But God knows we can’t bear it, so He only gives us an apple or two until we grow stronger.

Jesus said to Martha,  “I AM the resurrection…”  That’s present tense.

PATIENCE!

The word “patience,” doesn’t occur in the Old Testament, but we have “patiently” in Psalm 40:1; meaning to “wait,”to expect,” or waiting on God.

In the New Testament, the Greek word “hypomone” carries in it the ideas of endurance, continuance (Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 5:3-4).  [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encycolopedia]

PATIENCE is often hard to give and maintain, but in Romans 15:5, God is called “the God of Patience” (ARV – “steadfastness”) as being able to grant that GRACE to those who look to Him and depend on Him for it.

NEVER CLOSE THE BOOK OF YOUR LIFE WHEN GOD HASN’T FINISHED WRITING YOUR STORY!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV Bible) –

[35]  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

[36]  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Never hang up–throw in the towel–when God is still on the line with you.  Hang in there!  God is still working in your life!!

God wants us to know that even if we don’t see Him, He’s always there and He will be on time!

THE CALL!

Many teachers have asked the question and attempted to explain why JESUS WEPT.

Jesus knew at the time that in a matter of minutes He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He still wept, because He felt the hurt of Mary & Martha’s pain so deeply that He grieved for their hurt.  HE WEPT!

Jesus is touched by feelings of our own infirmities, our pain, our grief. 

Let us then turn EVERYTHING over to Him in prayer.

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~CREDITS~

Movie Clip:  YouTube video – Lazarus Raised scene from The Son Of God movie.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advance settings.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV); American Revised Version (ARV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or where noted.

Credit and courtesy of LAMB & LION MINISTRIES Deeper Insights Into the Resurrection of Lazarus by Doug Greenwold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIVING In An Anti-Christian Culture

VERSES 1 thru 8 –

[1]  I lift up my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from?

[2]  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

[3]  He will not let your foot slip–He who watches over you will not slumber; [4] indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

[5]  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;  [6] the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

[7]  The LORD will keep you from all harm–He will watch over your life;

[8] the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.                    (The NIV Translation).

We live in scary times, to say the least.  During my lifetime I remember a time when America was what might be called “Christianized.”  When Evangelism was prominent in churches and ‘going out to witness’, beginning the conversation with statements like, “You believe in the Bible, don’t you?” or “Where have you been going to church?”

Then in the 80’s and 90’s our country moved in the direction of being “Post-Christian.”  No longer could you assume that people accepted the BIBLE was inspired or that they believed in God or were familiar with the basic teachings of Christianity.

Now that we’ve moved into the 21st century, I’ve seen our country become increasingly “Anti-Christian”.

In “The Supreme Court With Hobby Lobby, But Your Neighbor Probably Doesn’t” book, Trevin Wax writes, “A generation ago, a person’s religious observance was a public matter, a defining characteristic of one’s identity, while a person’s sexual activity was something private.  Today, the situation is reversed.”  [See footnote [i].]

According to research done recently in our country by a group called the First Amendment Center, 1 in 3 Americans says the first amendment to the Constitution (which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech) goes too far.  Additionally, their research shows the group most likely to believe that the First Amendment goes too far are Americans under 30 years of age.

All this points to difficult days ahead for God’s people in the United States.  But we shouldn’t be surprised.  Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.”  But He also said, “Take heart!  I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).

Psalm 121 begins with: “Where does my help come from?”  – (Vs. 1)

But the Psalmist expands upon the answer in verses 3-8, as he tells us about the kind of help God gives to enable His children…that’s us, born-again believers, living victoriously in this SCARY WORLD.

A Description – verses. 3-8

The Psalmist describes the help God makes available to us.

He will help me with the problem of WEARINESS – (vs. 3-4).

In an anti-Christian culture, sometimes it’s difficult to “not become weary in doing good.” (Gal. 6:9)

Admittedly, I do grow weary in my walk through this world with all the barricades, bombshells exploding all around my ministry.

God never does!

He’s watchful over His children.

He will help me with the problem of WEAKNESS – (vs. 5-6).

[5]  “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield]”  (Amplified Bible).

Referring to our susceptibility to faint, dropping our sword of God’s Word to shield our eyes. 

The Psalmist speaks of God’s help with our weaknesses in battling in a godless culture.

God will provide the help we need to compensate for our weakness.  In fact, God tells us with His Word that “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He will help me with the problem of WICKEDNESS – (vs. 7).

This is a wicked world we live in, ruled by a wicked adversary (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The devil roams around like a lion, seeking our downfall.  But God promises His help so that we might overcome and not be overwhelmed in our doing (1 John 4:4).

He will help me with the problem of WANDERING – (vs. 8).  [Read Proverbs 2:8; 3:6]

If we are not careful in our “going out and coming in,” we can have said of us what Paul said of Demas: “because he loved this world, has deserted me…” (2 Timothy 4:10).

Today, devout Jews keep a metal cylinder fixed to the right-hand doorpost of their homes.  The cylinder contains a parchment inscribed with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-20.  As they go in and out of the house, they touch the cylinder and recite the last verse of Psalm 121.  Through this, they seek to lift up the prayer to God that they might be kept from wandering from Him.

Obviously, this ritual hasn’t produced the desired results, for the Jewish people of today have wandered from God in their rejection of Christ.

So how do we, as the children of God, take advantage of the help God offers?

A PRESCRIPTION – verses 1-2  “A Psalm of ascents” Psalm 121

I must look to the LORD – vs. 1 (a).

One of 14 “psalms 0f ascents” (Psalm 120-134),  is a PSALM recited by pilgrims journeying to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem where the temple of God was, where the ark of the COVENANT was a symbol of God’s presence.

In other words, in SEEKING GOD’S HELP, I must SEEK His presence and preeminence.

“SEEK”:  “to try to obtain; to go to; to ask for; to ‘plea’.

“PREEMINENCE”:  “excellence”; “to be first place”…“That in all things, He (Christ) might have preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

If I DESIRE to see God’s hand, I must SEEK His face if I’m concerned about saving my face!

As John, the Baptist declared, “He must increase and I must decrease!” (John 3:30)

In seeking God’s help for us, we must focus our lives on Him!

I must learn to lean on the Lord (vs. 2).

An old gospel song from the past that I used to love to sing in a men’s trio was Learning to Lean On Jesus.  Here is the music and lyrics to the song that illustrates the process of “leaning” on the LORD:

The One who offers to help us deal with life in this world is the creator of the universe.

Knowing this absolutely, I must trust in His POWER & PROVISION.

Depending on our influence or resources leads to discouragement, BUT TRUSTING in the POWER and PROVISION of our creator God brings VICTORY!  When we try to work things out on our own, we are helpless and foolish.

Instead, let’s TRUST in the POWER &PROVISION of the One who made it all.  And as we do, we’ll be able to testify with the Apostle Paul, who said:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. –                          [2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ] – (NIV).

I must LIVE for the Lord – (verse 2)

[2]  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

God has a PURPOSE for all creation including you and me!  And as the Maker of heaven and earth, God is providentially at work.

What does that mean, “providentially at work”?

He is keeping the universe in motion.  In other words, God has a definite PURPOSE and PLAN in each of our lives for attaining that end.

He’s also providentially at work on our behalf to fulfill His purpose in our lives.

Therefore, I must surrender to His purpose and providence.  This is really important, as we think about this day we’re living in.  To remember that God’s PURPOSE is not to provide for our comfort, but to develop our character to use us to bring others to Christ Jesus.

In an article that appeared in the Christian Post, written by Delores Liesner, “Growing Intolerance For Christianity in the U.S.” [see footnote [ii]], the writer conducts an interview with Brannon Howse, author, anfounder of Worldview Weekend.

Mr. Howse speaks in the interview how American Christians have largely been sheltered from persecution.  Consequently, he says, “too many are only committed to a cotton candy Christianity, and that many American (believers) are wimps who don’t want to suffer and don’t want to be uncomfortable, while elsewhere in the world during the 20th century, 45.5 million Christians were martyred for their faith.  “Our CULTURE,” he says, “is doing what Scripture said – getting worse and worse.  The books of James and 1 Peter tells us not to be surprised at fiery ordeals [when they come – not if] as though some strange (or foreign) thing were happening to you.  Suffering, intolerance and persecution are building us.”  It’s though having our FAITH refined and we get our PRIORITIES straight to make sure our WITNESS draws others to Christ.

I, like others, personally believe God is allowing things to change in our country so that His CHURCH might be moved to embrace the same kind of PRIORITIES and give the same kind of response to the opposition as did the early church (read Acts 2:23-31).

One thing is for sure, we cannot do anything effectively without the LORD’S help.  So for our sake, for our church’s sake, let’s look to the LORD in our coming in and going; LEAN on the Lord, and let’s LIVE for the LORD!

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i]:  Trevin Wax (June 30, 2014) https://www.thegospelcoalition.or/…/trevin-wax/the-supremecourt-agrees-with-hobby…

Footnote [ii]: Article by Delores Liesner, Christian Post:  https://www.christianpost.com/news/growing-indifference-for-christianity-in-us-49588/

Dictionary:  Bible Study Tools; PROVIDENCE.

Video:  Youtube, Learning to Lean, by the Nightingales

Photos:  Google Image search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

 

It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.