God is Still on the Throne (Revelation 10-12)

Revelation 10:5-7 ESV And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven (6) and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, (7) but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

There is a lot of symbolism in these chapters. You can look back at last years post to see how I understand some of the images that are described in this section of scripture. It’s important that we don’t miss the forest for the trees in the descriptions in the book of Revelation. God is sovereign over His creation! The point of the book of Revelation is to note that He is Almighty Sovereign God and He reigns over everything. There is nothing that take Him by surprise. Events unfold at his prerogative and at their appointed times.

This is important because there will be moments where it looks like He is losing. His faithful servants will be persecuted. There is an evil enemy that seeks to devour them. Yet, even when it looks like the faithful are perishing, God is in control…. As we round the corner going into the Passion week before Easter, we are reminded that it must have looked like evil was winning when Jesus was crucified, yet it was through His death and resurrection that we are saved!

My big takeaway from todays reading is to remember that all of history is headed to a particular destination and will reach that destination at the exact right time. I’m reminded that God is in control. Somehow as I fret with small things that cause us stress (family, bills, work, etc.), I am comforted to place these things in the hands of the Lord and pray for His kingdom to come. There is great personal peace to be found by seeking first the kingdom of God.

Father, thank you for these chapters in the book of Revelation today that reminds me that you are in control. I admit I am often consumed with the minor details of life that I can’t control. How refreshing it is to know that you are in control of all things. I pray for your kingdom to come and your will to be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on Revelation 10-12

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Judgement Day is Coming (Matthew 11-12)

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak

MATTHEW 12:36

I remember the first semester of my freshman year of high school. Most of the school work came easily to me and just like 8th grade, I assumed I’d make really good grades with little effort. I had signed up for Spanish class that summer to go a head and get it out of the way. I made the mistake of believing I’d pick up on things naturally like I did in the other classes and so I spent alot of time goofing off with my friends in the class. When the first test rolled around I knew I was in trouble. My brain didn’t learn foreign languages the same way I was able to learn in other classes. I knew then I had to buckle down and study harder. I also thought that there was plenty of time to catch up and so I went on cutting up in class. I really didn’t learn anything that semester other than a few curse words in Spanish that I had looked up in the Spanish-English dictionary.

It really shouldn’t have surprised me when my teacher told me I had failed the class. Yet, somehow it did. I had the delusion that it would all somehow get better. I told myself that I’d have time to buckle down and learn. I thought I could fix it. Before I knew it, report cards were out and I started my high school transcript with a big fat F.

The current that runs just beneath the surface through these two chapters is that there is a day of judgement coming. There will be a day of reckoning. It will be here quicker than anyone can imagine. Jesus declares that previous generations known for their wickedness, will judge those of his day. They would have repented of their sins if they had the witness of Christ Himself. Yet these cities hardened their hearts against God. You can’t read these chapters without seeing the urgency that judgement day is coming and will be here before you know it.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus will say about my generation on the day of judgement. We seem to have no lack of bible study tools and resources. We have so much available to us. Yet we often try and reduce God’s Word to trivial little cliche’s and rob it of it’s power.

I was convicted by Matthew 12:36 today. We live in a world of careless words. It can be too easy to get caught up in the fray and think it’s no big deal. Don’t be decieved, judement day is coming and what you say now will judge you then. It’s not too late to repent and turn to Christ for Salvation.

Father, I am sobered by your words in Matthew 11-12 today. There were many who didn’t recieve your witness, many who will stand on the day of judgement and be condemned by their idle word. Guard our hearts from taking anything trivial that is urgent. Help us to be bold in proclaiming the gospel to our friends, neighbors, and around the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Your Kingdom Come (Matthew 5-7)

Our country seems to be in a little bit of turmoil. I know many are facing anxiety over thier finances, health, civil unrest, politics, and more. These things are all loud and urgent. It can be easy to get distracted. There are so many things going on at the same time that it can be really difficult to focus even on the task at hand.

Jesus reminds us that we are to build our house on the rock (Mattew 7:24) so that when times like these come we will stand. We are to build our lives on the very word of God. You’re doing that today and every day that you go to God’s word and seek to understand and apply it to your life. A gospel believing, bible teaching church and pastor can be helpful with all of that.

We’re reminded in this passage that we often fret and worry about all sorts of things like food and clothing, but Jesus promises us that all that stuff will be added to us when we seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Somehow it seems that we are all prone to get it backwards. We think we’ll go worry about the kingdom of God once we’ve got all the other stuff figured out. Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t work that way. It’s only when we put His kingdom first that everything falls into place.

Our utmost allegiance, indeed our prayer is to be centered on the coming of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10). I look forward to that day! I am excited with anticipation about what it will be like when the Lord returns for all of his people. I also aknowledge on days like today that I’m easily distracted and so I pray the Lord’s prayer with intention to remind me of where my true allegiances are.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Day 47: 1 Corinthians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Is Christ divided (1:13a)? Why are His people so often divided? Sometimes we have following the ways of a man rather than following Christ (1:12)! We have made an idol out of the wisdom of men instead of the power of God (2:5). Paul warns the church in Corinth and he warns us today… don’t be divided (1:10)!

I have to catch myself. Sometimes it can be tempting to think that if we just develop the right strategy, more people will come to faith in Christ. We can chase program after program looking for the right one. I think that if I can just make myself more appealing it will bring a better harvest. The thing we really need the most, is not a polished man made philosophy, but the power of God!

I’m glad that Paul knew he didn’t have anything to offer but the gospel. I am grateful that he was weak by the world’s standards (2:1-5). It gives me hope to know that God uses weak men (1:27). Because I pray that He uses me.

Side Note: I am confident that power in the pulpit is directly related to prayer in the pews.Where we are unified, God is glorified.  I am extremely grateful for those who pray for me every week! I am really humbled by today’s reading. It’s a great way to start a Sunday! Let’s be focused on looking for the power of God to reveal Himself through His Word!

FATHER, We pray for the unity of your church today! We pray that our focus would be on you and not a man made philosophy or the way we think things ought to be. We don’t look for worldly wisdom, we look for you. We need spiritual discernment. Examine our hearts. Humble us. Draw us to faith and repentance. Make us more and more into the image of Jesus. We pray for salvation and faith today. Thank you for the calling to lead your people. We lift our voice and ask for the advancement of your kingdom! IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 22: Mark 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Mark 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Jesus went to the garden to pray. He brought a few of the close disciples with Him and left them to keep watch. He had just spoken of the need to watch and pray in the previous chapter (13:32-37).  He wanted them to keep watch, however, they let him down by falling asleep. Jesus comments that they should pray against this temptation because, “the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak” (14:38).

Jesus was facing his own crucial moment. A moment that would effect all of them. He was praying to the Father for another way, but pressed on to pray, “Not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). The disciples didn’t know what was coming, or at least they didn’t know the immediacy of it. Jesus knew it was coming and was trying to prepare them.

We don’t always know that is coming down the road in our lives. There have been several moments where life seemed to be going fine and then something suddenly happened and we had to adjust and change direction. We’ve lost loved ones, addressed a health crisis, etc. In the grand scheme of things these are all relatively small things that we didn’t see coming that affected our life and schedule. Had we known about them in advance or even known when we would face something, we might have been better prepared. Jesus reminds us that there are events that we do know will unfold and they could unfold in our life time (13:32-37). Are we ready? Are we living at those who are ready for Christ to return at any moment?

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you for the blessing of your word. Thank you for grace to look into this moment you shared with your disciples. I pray that we would be those who are expectant and ready for your return. I pray that we would not be lazy or fall into temptation because we assume your return is a long way off, but that we would be those who are diligent and ready. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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The Power of Prayer

When we pray for others we don’t often know the outcome this side of Heaven. There were some women who prayed for me several years ago and I thought I should share the outcome of their prayer.

Around 15 years ago my mom went to a Christian camp in Montana. While she was there she came across a group of women who were serving at the camp. In the midst of conversation my mother mentioned that she had a son in Mobile, AL. She had always known that God had a call on his life and she had a burden to see him go to seminary. These women mentioned that their church had a seminary extension center. They then took the time for a special moment of prayer with my mother, asking God to birth a desire and work out a plan for me to go to seminary.

I was around 23 years old at the time and had absolutely no plans or ambition of going to seminary. At the age of 25 I was gloriously saved and had submitted myself to a group of men from my church for oversight and prayer. They came together after a year and confirmed my call to ministry but felt it essential for me go to seminary. Through these men, perhaps one in particular, God provided for the full cost of my first few years of seminary. (I could not have afforded it otherwise).

I attended seminary through the extension of the very same church that these women were from and eventually graduated in 2012!

Recently I was talking with my mother and she shared the incredible story I just outlined for you. She has always known God had a call on my life and she could often see my path clearer than I could at any given moment. She wisely takes everything to God in prayer and when her prayers are answered she quietly points back to God and in doing so she has proven to me over and over again that God hears our prayers.  I know this because for years my room was next to my parent’s room and I have silently witnessed her pray for many people and seen many things come to pass.

I know without a doubt that much of my life is a product of the faithfulness of a praying mom. When it came to praying for me to go to seminary, she enlisted the help of a few women from a particular church, that had a seminary extension. I ended up not only attending seminary, but attending through the extension center at the church these women attended. These women prayed a small prayer with my mom, but heaven was listening and they played a small but crucial role in seeing me go to seminary.

I am humbled and blessed that God would listen to the prayers of these women, that he would move on the hearts of a few men, that he would organize and orchestrate things so clearly that I could see His hand. In a very real sense my ministry is a fruit of their faithfulness. One of many I am sure.

When Insults become cause for Intercession Nehemiah 4:4-5

Nehemiah 4:4-5

Words sting. We like to pretend they don’t, but they do. They produce pain and they cause us to retaliate. This is how arguments are started. We feel slighted or disrespected and we launch an attack on the other person. We level our own arguments for their inferiority or impossible reasoning. We return fire. We even feel justified, after all, we didn’t fire the first shot… they did. We were only responding in kind.

But what if instead of fighting back and lashing out we simply looked up? What if we took all of our hurts, our stings, our brokenness from whatever someone had said and we put it in the Lord’s hands? How would our lives be different if we took insults and turned them into intercession? That is what Nehemiah does. He doesn’t answer these men for all the insults they have hurled at him or his people. Instead he takes it to God in prayer.

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Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. (Nehemiah 4:4-5 ESV)

There is comfort in taking your wounds to God. You are asking Him to plead your case. You know that He sees things more clearly than you do and He will meter out justice. Sometimes we forget that when we are on mission with God that we are not the ones who will answer enemy insults, but that our enemies will answer to God for their insults. They have not only attempted to discredit the workers, but they have attempted to discredit the work of God and God is more than capable of taking up for Himself.

Here Nehemiah prays an “imprecatory” prayer. This is the kind of prayer that sounds like you really have it in for your enemies. But a couple of things should be noted. Who can judge Nehemiah’s enemies more justly than God? If Nehemiah’s enemies are in the wrong, should they not be punished? Nehemiah is asking for justice, not revenge.

These men don’t just insult Nehemiah, but by implication by insulting his people, they are insulting God and standing against His plans. He is bringing back and restoring His people from captivity, a resurrection of sorts. A restored wall is a sign of a God who can bring his people back from the edge of destruction. Sanballat and Tobiah stance places them squarely at odds with God because they are at odds with his people. Nehemiah simply asks God to turn their desires for his people back on their own heads.

Pray without Ceasing (Nehemiah 2:4)

We had set out early that morning, a van full of teenagers on the way to camp. Before we left we had prayed, like we always do, and asked God for safety as we traveled. We loaded the van and seven hours later we are almost at camp. We are just getting past Chattanooga, TN and the traffic starts to clear. For the first time in a long time we had a little open space on the road. I pulled over to the far left lane. There was no reason to do so, but as I decided in my mind I should pull back in the middle lane a tire on truck that used to be beside us went out pulling him into the middle lane! Fortunately no one was injured, but I reflected that we had been in that lane just seconds before, had we been there when the truck tire blew we would have been in a horrific accident. I prayed quickly in that moment a prayer of thanks but once we arrived at camp I reminded our students that we had asked God for safe travels and he answered our prayers. Sometimes we are able to pray small prayers in the moment based on larger prayers that we have prayed before.

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Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.(Nehemiah 2:4 ESV)

Have you ever had one of those situations where it seemed like nothing was happening, but then all of the sudden everything was happening? Nehemiah is in one of those moments. He has been in mourning for his people. He has been fasting, praying and asking God to use him, to use his position with the king, and then all of the sudden the king asks him a question. What do you do in a moment like that? When it seems like your whole future will swing or not swing on the hinge of the next few moments? You pray!

To be sure it wasn’t a long and drawn out prayer. He didn’t hush the king and ask for time to run to the chapel. He quickly and humbly in his heart prays to God. His prayer has been anchored in the foundation of intentional prayer where he has been for the last several months. Remember his emotion was brought into focus by prayer and fasting; now he sees the hand of God moving to answer his prayer. Nehemiah can’t help but confess his dependence on Him.

Nehemiah avoids every opportunity to declare himself a great man and instead has to declare that God is a great God! This is what humble leadership looks like. Before he will launch into any kind of four point plan, or share his dreams about a wall being completely rebuilt, or even ask the king for advice he goes straight to God and acknowledges that this could only be a work of God’s hand and so he moves forward holding on to that hand, not trying to navigate this alone.

More Than A One Man Plan (Nehemiah 1:11)

O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:11 ESV)

When was the last time you prayed for revival? Did you place yourself in the center of the prayer? God use ME, use MY church, use MY denomination. Were you really asking for God to be revered in your town or were you asking for your own prestige? Sometimes our most holy prayers can be covered up in pride. We lasso our prayers short of heaven because we fill them with all sorts of selfish ambition. We are like James and John who approached Jesus and asked if they could be at the left and right hand of Jesus when He came into His kingdom (Mark 10:35-45). We want to be center stage… next to Jesus of course. Leadership isn’t there for the asking in the kingdom of God though; it is bestowed upon those whose chief characteristic is that of a servant.

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Nehemiah asks God not only would He hear his prayer, but the prayers of all those like him. Nehemiah recognizes that he is not alone in this task of prayer and asking God to do something great in Jerusalem again. He is part of a bigger plan. He is out for God’s glory and the restoration of his people, not his own name.

Sometimes we pray for revival and we are lazy. We ask God to move, but we want to sit back and ride the wave of success. We forget that sometimes God calls us to work. I think that is why when Nehemiah uses the term servant it’s important. He presents himself to God to take part, any part in rebuilding the wall. He is there to serve.

Think of it like this. Life is a drama. Everyone is an actor. God is the author and director. Nehemiah submits himself to God’s plan and says; place me where ever you will. Too often we try to tell God (the author and director) how his play should go. We try and take our minor rolls and pitch them to him like we should become the lead. We don’t understand that we have a place and a purpose if we would just listen to Him.

When God calls us to a task we are seldom ever alone in that task. We always have the Holy Spirit present but often He is working in the lives of other believers as well to bring about something great. Start looking around for others in your neighborhood, school, or workplace that God might also be calling to the same mission he is calling you too.

For me I began to seek to gather with our local student pastors for a time of fellowship and prayer. Overtime real friendships evolved and I saw relationships strengthened as we were all working for a common purpose on different fronts in our city.

He Knew God’s Will Because He Knew God’s Word (Nehemiah 1:8-10)

Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. (Nehemiah 1:8-10 ESV)

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Ever struggle with understanding God’s will for your life? Sometimes the prayers pour out quick when we are asking God for help in the midst of our troubles, but when we turn the corner and begin seeking his will we can run into another problem and that is trying to figure out what God’s will is. How many times have we prayed and said something like, “If it be according to your will?” We are uncertain and so we throw a disclaimer in there to be safe.

But Nehemiah didn’t pray like that. He prayed a deeply emotional but focused prayer and he didn’t have to throw any disclaimers because he knew the will of God. He knew the will of God because he knew his bible. In his request he quotes two passages of scripture that are actually promises of God (Deuteronomy 30:1-5 & Exodus 34:6-7).

I think this lays down an important principle for us. We should know God’s word well enough to ask him for his will. The closer you read the bible with a heart to understand God, the more you will understand God and the more you will want to pray and ask God to do what he has already promised to do. Nehemiah has simply turned God’s promises into petitions (Petitions are when you ask for something). This is how we should pray. We should take the promises of God and turn them back to God in prayer.

Picture it like this. I’ve got two children and I promise them a trip to their favorite coffee shop if they read me a book. Both read me a book and so both begin asking, “When can we go to the coffee shop?” As their father I am delighted to take them to the coffee shop, it is something I have already promised. I am not annoyed that they have asked and they are asking with a lot of brashness and boldness because they know it was already promised to them. [1]

When it comes to our community what are some of the promises from scripture that you might pray?

One of my favorite scripture passages to pray over the churches in my city is John 13:34-35. This is a commandment that Jesus gave his disciples. I pray especially over my church but also over churches in town that we would love each other as Christ loved us and that Christians in our city would be known for Christ-like love to the Glory of God.

[1] It is important to note here that all promises in scripture are not to all believers. For example many of God’s promises in the Old Testament are to national Israel. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often misapplied to America when it was actually promised to Israel. Those are God’s words given to King Solomon in a dream they are meant for the Jewish People (who bear his name) about their land (Israel), there is no promise there for America. At best we could ask God to act in a similar way for us, but we cannot claim that promise. Americans cannot claim the promises that Nehemiah makes either for those are for national Israel. But God does make many promises to his people that are beyond the scope of national Israel (for example Romans 8:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 5:16, etc. etc.)