Great and Awesome!

Nehemiah 4_14_Great and Awesome

Police shootings here, terrorist attacks there.  The headlines are overwhelming, and frankly it often seems that evil is winning the war over good in our day. 

It wasn’t a completely dissimilar situation in ancient Israel when Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  It was a good and right action on Nehemiah’s part; one that we would think would have the full support and protection from God.  However, it did not go unopposed.   

Sanballat and his band of hooligans constantly taunted and threatened the workers.  They took every opportunity to discourage and dishearten those who were working night and day to accomplish the task.  Things were so bad that Nehemiah had to post armed guards to protect the laborers.  But the thing that Nehemiah did that stood out the most to me was this: 

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14) 

In the middle of overwhelming fear, discouragement, and opposition, a fearless leader stood up and told his people to not be afraid, but to remember their great and awesome God.  With their minds set firmly on the knowledge that there is a sovereign God in heaven defending their cause, they could can peace and again focus on the task at hand. 

Are you fearful of the world around you?  Discouraged by the struggles within your own four walls?  Remember that the great and awesome Lord is with you! –Dave   

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Spurred On

Hebrews 10_24_Spurred On_Eclipse

Honestly, I didn’t really want to go.  I had heard that the traffic was going to be horrible, and it was going to be over in about 90 seconds anyway, so I was willing to simply see what I could from home. 

However, the other members of my family would have none of it.  To them, an event that comes around only once every hundred years warranted a little effort to experience.  So, 24 hours before the first total eclipse of the sun in a century, we loaded up the van and headed to my parents’ home.  My little home town was in the center of what was predicted to be the optimal viewing area (the “line of totality” as I later learned)! 

Since I haven’t managed to be in two places at the same time, I can’t compare what I saw yesterday to what I would have seen at home.  But, I can tell you that what I took in was pretty spectacular.  And, I would have missed much of it if others hadn’t rallied around me and encouraged me to go the extra mile (or 310 miles in this case)! 

I don’t want to focus on the eclipse or even the magnificence of God’s creation – much has been said about that in the preceding weeks.  Today, I want us to give some thought to the ways we can encourage one another to go the extra mile in our service to others and to God.  

Who around you needs some encouragement to keep fighting the good fight?  Who do you know that would benefit from an “atta boy” from you today?  What form of encouragement do you need yourself?  Who can you ask for that encouragement?  We need one another – it’s okay to ask for help! –Dave  

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24) 

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Its Own Reward

2 Chron 32_1_The Reward

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done…”

I don’t know how you’d complete that sentence, but I sure expect to see the next few words to be that God rewarded the faithful service of Hezekiah.  Perhaps Hezekiah was blessed with more children or grandchildren.  Perhaps God would choose to expand the king’s territory.  Whatever it may be, we just KNOW that a person’s faithfulness is immediately followed by God’s blessings.  Right???

So, it’s unexpected, if not downright unacceptable, to read something like this happening to one of God’s faithful servants…

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.” (2 Chronicles 32:1)

Yep, you read it correctly – after all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, he was attacked by a foreign army.  He was forced to go to war.  Yes, God ultimately made Judah and its king victorious, but He also required that they go through the battle.  As a general rule, we hate that reality.  So often we approach God like a vending machine in the break room.  We put in “good/faithful behavior” and expect to make our selection from among the variety of blessings we’d like.

May I offer a suggestion that may help avoid any disillusionment or disappointment?  Make it your goal to have faithfulness be its own reward.  Be faithful to God solely for the purpose of being faithful – not for any hoped “reward” in the here-and-now.  And if your faithfulness should be followed by battles, remember that God rewards in His way and in His time – don’t be discouraged. –Dave

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Creator or Creation?

Sunday_Isaiah 40_22_Enthroned

As the moon slips between Earth and the sun tomorrow, let it serve as a reminder of what Isaiah wrote so long ago:

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. (Isaiah 40:22)

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Stress Reduction Policy?

Isaiah_5_20_Stress Reduction Policy

There was a time I thought we ought to remove the exclamation point from usage because nothing surprised me anymore.  Well, I’m ready to bring it back!  Not long ago, I came across this headline that floored me:

      Professor Proposes Letting Business Students Choose Grades to Reduce Stress

No, I’m not making this up.  As part of what he called a “Stress Reduction Policy,” a professor at the University of Georgia seriously wanted to let his students take all of their quizzes and exams using their books, notes, and laptops.  If that wasn’t enough, students who felt “unduly stressed” by the grade they received could email the professor, state the grade they believed was appropriate – and he would change it!!!!

Hey Prof – the world doesn’t work that way!  Students can’t avoid the stress of poor grades by simply asking for a grade they don’t deserve.  The kid who just picked up the trumpet can’t demand to play 1st chair.  Employees can’t avoid financial stress by demanding their employers pay them a salary they would like to make (ok, that one may be somewhat negotiable), etc.

As outrageous as these examples seem to be, I fear there is a variant of this mentality that subtlety pervades the church.  If we don’t agree with what God has called sin, we just demand that it no longer be called sin.  We want to reduce the stress of living sinfully by rewriting the laws of God.  Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that won’t work any better than allowing students to pick the grade they want regardless of whether they do the work or not.

We’re living in a culture that wants to remove the concept of sin.  Are you willing to allow God to be God and not cave to our culture’s preferences?  –Dave

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

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Reruns

2 Chron 33_reruns

I’d been struggling a bit with forgiveness – not of others, but of myself.  The theater of my mind had been showing “reruns” for days on end.  It was like a non-stop marathon of “The Worst Moments of Dave’s Life.”  Believe me, what was showing were things that had already been confessed to God and anyone else who needed to know.  Yet, the reruns continued. 

It was on the heels of enduring yet another rerun when my quiet time took me to the story of King Manasseh.  Previously, I’ve written about kings who started well, but due to pride, or the death of a spiritual mentor, later crashed and burned.  Manasseh’s story was much different.  Scripture tells us that he was only twelve years-old when he became king, and he did evil in the eyes of God.  Just how evil?  See for yourself: 

He also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them… He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing His anger. (2 Chronicles 33:3-6) 

He worshipped idols, made false images, practiced witchcraft and divination, consulted the dead, and even sacrificed his own children to false gods. Now, that’s quite a rap sheet!  Yet, Manasseh’s story doesn’t end there.  As v.6 above says, Manasseh’s actions brought God’s anger.  And in that anger, God sent the king of Assyria against Manasseh and Judah.  Manasseh was taken prisoner, where this occurred: 

In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea. (vv.12-13) 

The child-killing, idol-making, false-god-worshipping king was forgiven and restored to his kingdom the moment he humbled himself and prayed for God’s forgiveness.  Friends, what God was willing to do for the likes of Manasseh, He’s willing to do for us as well.  There are no reruns in your past that God does not forgive. –Dave  

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Know, Go, Show

Ezra 7_10_Know Go Show

The Jews had been exiled for 70 years when Ezra arrived on the scene.  God allowed His people to be carried away because they had fallen away from Him and worshipped false gods.  Of course, decades living in Babylon hadn’t improved the situation much. 

So when Cyrus gave the decree for the Jews to return, it came as no surprise that they were still a mess in the eyes of God.  Not only were the returning Jews a sinful lot, but the Israelites who had remained in Jerusalem were still practicing the things that had led to the captivity in the first place!  (Ezra 9:1-4)  What a messy situation Ezra was asked to address.   

How does one go about trying to correct the direction of an entire nation?  How does one prevent a ship that has taken on so much water from sinking?  I don’t know what I would have attempted, but I see an amazing example in what Ezra did.   

Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.  (Ezra 7:10, ESV) 

Ezra realized that if he was going to lead people in the ways of the Lord – whether it was one person or an entire nation – he first had to know and follow those ways, himself.  Ezra knew that he must first KNOW the road, then GO the road, and finally SHOW the road.  There was no shortcut then, and there is no shortcut now.  Societal change doesn’t begin with the masses, it begins with us.   

How about you?  Have you set your heart to knowing the ways of the Lord?  Are you consistently (not perfectly, but consistently) living according to those ways?  If so, who can you begin to teach?  –Dave  

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional book, visit: http://www.theteachableheart.com/book.html).

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