Friday, January 31, 2014

Genesis 50:18-19, 24

Genesis 50:18-19, 24              His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives…. 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

            These concluding verses of Genesis explain to us the plan of redemption God had begun after The Fall in Genesis 3. Here we read of repentance and restoration leading toward the eventual gathering of all God’s people in the land he promised to Joseph’s forefathers.

            The saving of lives is what we find throughout Genesis. Adam and Eve sinned and brought the rest of our human race into the same predicament. Without a heart that turns to God seeking forgiveness for our sin, then reconciliation and restoration cannot occur. God used the sin of Joseph’s brothers to set the stage for God to meet the need of His people in years to come. Because God intended good to come from these events in Joseph’s life, many people, including the Egyptians, were helped.  

            Greater than this, is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made years earlier. God comes to the aide of his people and promises to bring them into the land of milk and honey. Joseph learned this from his father, Jacob, who learned this from his father Isaac, who learned it from his father Abraham. God’s plan for his people spans more than one person’s lifetime. Each of us will impact the divine plan that unfolds after God calls us home to heaven. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Joseph Wept

Genesis 45:1-3            So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept…. Joseph said to his brother, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.

            The story of Joseph begins to come to an end. Joseph knew who these men were long before they realized who he was. Having tested his brothers to determine the sincerity of their hearts and their need, Joseph is now ready to reveal the truth. His tears were of joy not anger. He felt sorrow not hatred. He sought reconciliation not justice.

The brothers, on the other hand, were cut to the heart. His words bring to their minds the fact of their betrayal of him years earlier. They were reminded of their fit of jealousy and anger that caused him to be sold into slavery and, in their minds, eventual death. Never did they forget him. Although they never saw him again for so long, they lived with him in their hearts for years.

              We will always struggle to understand and to practice forgiveness. The human condition will experience to some degree this same sense of injustice and betrayal. Our hearts have been crushed and enslaved like Joseph. Yet our God calls us to be as forgiving as Joseph. God’s plan for our lives might seem as equally unfair. We may journey similar paths and experience similar trials to Joseph. The lesson Joseph leaves us is one to guide us into the same practice of forgiveness. He is our teacher.

            This story is a remarkable example of God’s forgiveness and love towards us. God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus Christ. We can forgive because He has first forgiven us. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How The World Rewards Service

  Genesis 39:19-20    When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is how your slave treated me," he burned with anger. Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined.

            Losing his good reputation and being thrown in prison was certainly Joseph’s worst hardship. What disgraceful wages he received for his years of faithful service! His impeccable character and hard work were rewarded with punishment and a ruined reputation. We serve, teach, counsel, comfort, and do what God tells us to do. For the most part, we do this for undeserving people from whom we get nothing in return except hatred, envy, and suffering. It seems that our lives are wasted on being kind to people who don’t appreciate it.

            Don’t ever expect the world to acknowledge or reward your faithfulness and hard work. The opposite often happens, as Joseph’s life shows. Therefore, make sure that you direct your service and life elsewhere. Don’t look for favor and kindness from the world. Its favor can quickly turn into furious anger.

            If you are called as a pastor or teacher, or if you are in some other position, set this goal for yourself: I will do my job faithfully without expecting any reward from the people I serve. I won’t assume that they will be grateful to me. Rather, I will bless others the same way my heavenly Father hands out his blessings. He gives money, talents, peace, and health even to the most ungrateful and evil people. I will remember Christ’s command, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This means that we must serve people who are wicked, undeserving, and ungrateful. A few will acknowledge our service and thank us. But the others might even threaten our lives. Joseph’s example shows us what reward we can expect from the world for even the greatest of kindness – being tied up and thrown in prison.

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther. May 15

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salty Christians

Matthew 5:13              You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

There are two communities of people in the world. They comprise the Church and the Lost. The two communities are different and on opposing ends of the spectrum. The Lost exist in darkness created by their own sinful preferences and rejection of God. This sinfulness not only darkens or blinds the world from the truth but causes it to self-destruct or decay as it begins to feed upon itself.
The Church in opposing fashion brings flavor and light to the world by the truth it reveals from God. The works performed by Christians acting in faith, will bring the truth of God to the eyes of the world.  
As salt we are to preserve in the world Christian moral and ethical standards: God's standards. We are to inhibit the decay in society wherever we are able to make contact. Our daily lives are to be used to this end. Our saltiness must remain pure. We cannot take a compromising approach to our Christianity. To mix the world's views with our Christian faith will cause us to lose our effectiveness in our evangelical mission.

Christians are the salt of the earth in their preserving and flavoring aspects of social interaction. In being a part of our world we are able to stand up in face of secular immorality and unethical behavior. We are able to use our Christian beliefs and responses to such evils in a manner that causes others to stop and reflect upon their action in face of God's views as put forth by the believers. We cannot be such a preservative by separating ourselves from this world. We must be a part of society in order to rub our salt into the decaying flesh of the world's body. We are able to flavor the world with our high moral and ethical stances and with our works of righteousness for God's glory.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Sins Of The Fathers

Genesis 27:42-44        Rebekah … sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran.”… Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

This story is typical of the sins of the parents being visited upon their children. Abraham had set this pattern of deceit in small ways when he pretended that Sarah was his sister, not his wife (Gen. 12:13; 20:2). Now we see this deception imitated by Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 26:7). It has become a common way of life for them and their sons. Jacob was raised in a family of scheming and conniving parents. It seems that Esau was Isaac’s favorite child, while Jacob was Rebekah’s. It is no wonder then that Jacob grew up learning directly from her how to lie, manipulate, deceive and cheat. Having learned them early, it would take much more effort to unlearn them. We will see that years in the wilderness would pass before Jacob would change. Those years were needed so that he would be ready for his place in God’s unfolding plan for His people.

What sins are we passing on to our children? Are we allowing “white lies” to be acceptable? Do we favor one child or parent over the other in our relationships? Often times we are blind to our own shortcomings and sinfulness. Sometimes we see them after our children have grown older and magnify what we know in our hearts have been our shortcomings.

Change begins with your relationship to God. Acknowledging the need to him is a good first step. Then as you study Scripture, pray and exercise faith, improvement will come. Remember, nothing is impossible with God.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

God Works In Secret

Genesis 37:28  So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

            God humbles his people before he elevates them. He kills them in order to bring them back to life. He devastates them before honoring them. He knocks them down in order to pick them up. God’s methods show the highest artistry and wisdom. We cannot understand how events like these are a part of God’s plan until we were his plan completed. When these events are happening, they can’t be understood, except through faith alone.

            In the same way, faith in the Son of God will comfort me when I leave this earth. Even so, my body will be buried in the ground and eaten by worms; it will rot and decay (Job 17:14). I don’t see God’s plan for me when I look at death. Yet God has promised that I will come back to life. Christ said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). But how will I live? I will live in eternal life, in a body that is brighter and more beautiful than the sun. I can’t see or feel any of this yet. But I believe it, and I can tolerate the short delay. Eternal life is already prepared. As Paul says, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

            But God does everything in secret. We have to be patient while God hides his intentions from us. Jacob and Joseph couldn’t see the future prize. But with the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the future was being prepared. Gold sees everything as if it has all taken place already. Everything he wants to happen will certainly happen!


Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. March 24.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Controlling Your Thoughts

 Genesis 32:7-8   In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape."

            While Jacob was on his way to be reunited with his brother, Esau, he was plagued with doubts. He learned that Esau was wealthy and had a large family. He thought, “What if God has changed his mind? Maybe God has rejected me in favor of my brother.” These were Jacob’s thoughts, but they remained just that – thoughts. Because of human nature and weak faith, people can’t keep from having these kinds of thoughts any more than they can avoid other emotions, such as impatience, anger and lust. You can’t keep thoughts and temptations from coming into your head. Just don’t let these thoughts become fixed in your mind so that they begin to affect your judgment.

            You should follow the advice of a hermit who was approached by a young man complaining of having lustful thoughts and other temptations. The old man told him, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head. But only let them fly. Don’t let them nest in your hair.” It’s all right to have these thoughts, but let them remain just that – thoughts. Don’t let them grow to the point where you have to act on these thoughts.

            This was the problem that led to despair in the lives of Cain, Saul, Judas, and others. They let their thoughts grow and grow until they were saying, “My punishment is more than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13), or “I have sinned…for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). When they did this, their temptation was turned into a judgment because they rejected the Word of God, faith, and prayer. [They acted on their wicked and untrue thoughts.] But in spite of the many thoughts and severe temptations that Jacob experienced that night, he didn’t throw his faith away.

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, By Martin Luther. March 8.

Friday, January 24, 2014

God Shuts A Door And Opens A Window

  Genesis 39:20-23    The LORD was with [Joseph]; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.

God allows the sin of Potiphar’s wife to cause Joseph to be sent to prison. He was falsely charged with attempted rape. His life again takes a downward step. Yet, Joseph was still the same man, the same believer in God that his brothers sold into bondage. No matter where he went, God was present. The circumstances of his life changed but the sovereign God of the universe was still with Joseph. 

Joseph must have felt a glimmer of hope when the prison warden recognized something different about this prisoner. Like Potiphar, Joseph stood out as a person of exemplary character and skill. The man of God will always stand out in a crowd. By their words, actions and expressions of divine character, people will take notice.

It is here that Joseph interprets the dream of the king’s Cupbearer and Baker. They had been imprisoned for offending the king. Joseph revealed that the dream of the Cupbearer meant that he would be restored to his former position for the king. To the Baker he interpreted his dream to mean that he would be executed by the king. When the interpretations were realized, the Cupbearer forgot about Joseph. He did not say anything to Joseph or the King about the interpretations. Joseph would continue to reside in the prison as chief of all the prisoners.

Circumstances are never a true reflection of our standing with God. A life without God will always lead to disaster. A life that acknowledges Him to the world around us will always lead to blessing. Both the good and bad circumstances of life are irrelevant to our Christian character. We are who we are by God’s grace. No matter the circumstances we are to live in constant affirmation of God’s goodness and grace in us.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hold On Tight

Genesis 37:4-5    When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than any of them; they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 

            Joseph’s story is a life of personal tragedy and Godly fulfillment. Joseph was a dreamer adored by his father. The brothers were jealous of how their youngest brother was doted upon by their father. Joseph’s unique ability to interpret dreams made his brothers more jealous and hateful.

                        Hold on tight to your dream, Hold on tight to your dream.
                        When you see your ship go sailing,
                        When you feel your heart is breaking,
Hold on tight to your dream.
The brothers’ hatred culminated with their selling young Joseph to slave traders. The traders in turn sold him to an official of Pharaoh. They hid this by leading their father to believe that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. The family mourned the death 17 year old Joseph.
It’s a long time to be gone, Time just rolls on and on.
                        When you need a shoulder to cry on,
When you get so sick of trying,
                        Just hold tight to your dream.

Joseph was a slave, a prisoner and an official in Pharaoh’s court by age 30. Then came 7 years of abundance and 7 years of famine. Joseph’s leadership in the years of abundance provided for the Egyptians during the years of famine. The abundance was enough for surrounding nations to come and received food, even his unsuspecting brothers.

Hold on tight to your dream, Hold on tight to your dream.
When you see the shadows falling,
When you hear the cold winds calling
Hold on tight to your dream.          (Lyrics to Hold On Tight by ELO)

The story of Joseph is a story of life fulfillment through tragic circumstances. God’s gracious plan for Joseph’s life won in the end, enabling him to forgive his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Good News, indeed. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Only God Can Equip Us For Life

Genesis 41:15-16        Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

            Is our individuality, our personhood actually the result of our education, training and accomplishment? Are we born with the skills we have as adults or have they been nurtured in us by parents, employers or others? The answer to this question is important. If we answer yes, that we are “self-made” people then there is much that we can do, accomplish and control in our lives. Because of these skills and abilities we can determine the outcome of many of life’s circumstances. We can be smart enough to fix our own mistakes. Other people could be taught by us and equipped with the same information and skills that we have. We can thereby multiply the number of talented people in the world.

If, however, the answer is no, then where do these abilities, talents and skills come from? The story of Joseph shows us that much of who we are is conditioned by our God. His ability to interpret dreams was God given. He acknowledges that it was not “his” interpretation but God’s when he spoke to Pharaoh. God made Joseph able to know what the dream meant. Even before the dreams interpretation, Joseph’s ability to lead and manage the household affairs of Potiphar as well as oversee the prisoners for the Captain of the Guard, reveals much about God’s gifting of Joseph. He was only seventeen when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was a shepherd before that day. God worked miracles in Joseph that equipped him for every task and life circumstance that came his way.

When you feel inadequate in your skills or education, know that they are being used by God to equip you for his plan. Pray to Him who knows all subjects to enlighten, equip and sustain you for His service. It’s not how much you know that brings success, but it is Who you know that brings victory.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18   Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
Many Christians have exaggerated or distorted this passage. They have prayed with thanksgiving after tragedy struck their lives thinking that God expected praise for even the bad things occurring around them. I don’t believe God wants us to give thanks for abused children, battered spouses, suicide bombings or broken marriages and disgraced leaders. Do you? God wants us to come to him in such cases and mourn the event and participants, seek God’s comfort and faithful trust his guidance through such tragedies.
              In all circumstances in life we are to give thanks. This means that even in the face of tragic events, we can still praise God with a thankful heart – not for the event – but because God is able to bring healing, hope and goodness in spite of such expressions of evil. God is good. He neither created nor condones the evil actions that we see committed around us. His goodness transcends such events and is ever working for our welfare, despite man’s sinfulness.
 Life is full of pits. Life does offer delectable fruit, too. Although we prefer the fruit over the pits in life, we can still maintain an attitude of gratitude in our hearts. As Christians there is always eternally more for us to be thankful. We do not measure our happiness and joy merely by the standards of the world or allow our thankfulness to be dictated by circumstances. Our hope is in Christ’s work for us on the cross. Forgiveness of sin is our determining factor in being thankful to the One who has given us more than the world could ever think of giving us.
God is present to help us each day, no matter what tomorrow holds. He alone is our one constant in life. He joyfully gives us strength and security. Thankfulness is easy because of Him.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Mark 5:12-13              The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

This passage is about a man possessed by demons. Not at a subject that we like to talk about, yet an issue that was of such importance that it is the Bible. Here is someone who has physical strength enough to keep other people from restricting him with chains. He was isolated from other people. He lived among the graves of the dead. His waking mind was haunted day and night. He wandered about talking to himself and screaming out to others. People avoided him. His self-hatred expressed itself in cutting at his own flesh with sharp stones. The pain within was nothing compared to the pain of cut skin. Everyone, including Jesus, knew this man was not acting within his own powers and abilities. This man was possessed by a legion of demons whose purpose was to torment and destroy.

We have all seen such people possessed by legions of demons. Today Satan and his minions use alcohol, “crack”, heroin, mental illness, and deformity to enslave, torment and destroy people the world over. Like the neighbors in this story, people find themselves without sufficient resources to cure these problem people. They give up on them, preferring that they just disappear. And they do; remaining hidden in the woods, in the dark alleys and among the tombstones of our community.

The power of Jesus Christ extends into the darkest corners of human life. Not even a legion of demons can oppose him. They in fact understand the power and the authority that Jesus commands. With a spoken word, Jesus dispels their power and with one direct order sends them flying down the embankment. The demons demonstrated their understanding of who Jesus was. The formally demon-possessed man knew what happened and by whose power he was freed. He knew the power of Jesus and the reality of flying pigs.

When Pigs Fly by Chaplain Paul Haulk.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Proverbs 19:20-21     Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. 


            “No” is not a four-letter word. It is perfectly good to say no, yet not everyone would agree. When my children were growing up they would complain that I always said no to their requests. Of course that wasn’t true, sometimes I said, “ask your mother” and even on occasion, “yes you may”. When I did say no, it was for their benefit. I was trying to teach,  protect, or redirect their behavior or thinking. They didn’t always understand and as they got older they even challenged my answer. Eventually they learned to live with my decision.

            Although the men and women who come to our mission are adults, many have a history of making bad choices. They come to us seeking to get closer to God and to find direction and guidance in their lives. Often times our staff must say no to their requests. That’s because we recognize that what they are wanting could cause them harm or lead them back down the road they just left.

            Answering no isn’t being mean-spirited; rather we want to encourage our clients to move in a Christ-centered direction. The passage above reminds us all that much of what happens in our lives is the result of our decisions in light of what God wants for us. When we say yes and God is trying to tell us no, he makes trouble in our life or causes things to not work out as we had planned. God’s “no” comes to us despite our own “yes”.

            May our clients and those of us who lead them learn to accept God’s ever-present guidance in how we live and how best to make our decisions. Sometimes “no” is the best answer we could hear.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Wrestling With God

Genesis 32:30             So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “it is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 

Peniel means “face of God”. This passage reminds us of the later story of Moses who encountered God and heard Him say, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). Jacob’s words are an important contrast to what Moses heard. Jacob did see God face to face and he did die. His death was significant enough for God to give him a new name, Israel. His death was a spiritual death.

Isn’t that the real test of our sanctification? It isn’t that we have received something but have ceased to be something, my old self. Jacob wrestled and was injured by God. Normally we wrestle with obedience and submission and find ourselves dictating to God. We try to reshape the purpose of God to align with our own plans. We try to change His name. We need to learn to distinguish between the impression made on us by a vision, feeling or dream and identification with the One who gave us the vision. The love of God and His forgiveness are the first things we experience; we are not prepared as yet to recognize His other attributes of holiness and justice because that would entail death to everything that does not conform with God’s nature.

If we have difficulty seeing, hearing or getting through to God, we imagine it is because we are on track and doing things well, so God must be in approval of us. The opposite is true. God is refusing to yield to our will and his only recourse is to cripple us, which cripples our plans. He leaves us with no other option than to confront him face to face with our need to acknowledge Him and seek His blessing of forgiveness. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

God's Path To Walk

Genesis 22:6-8            Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

Abraham and Isaac went together to the place God had told them about. Silently they went. Spiritually silent was the son before the father, and the father before God. God brought them to the place where they could both only be thing of Him. It was without human courage that they went, because they went in faith. On God’s path, they were out of their elements and could only trust that God would do what was right. The journey was spiritually motivated because the circumstances were beyond their control. To talk casually about spiritual experiences is an indication that one has only a shallow understanding and is void of their own such experience.

In the life of faith the pressure of forethought is replaced by faith in God. Our rational understanding is no match for the rational thoughts and ways of God. Practical work is nearly always a determination to think for ourselves, to take the pressure of forethought on ourselves: I see the need; therefore I must do something. That is not the effectual call of God, but the call of our sympathy with conditions as we see them. When God’s call comes, we learn to do actively what He tells us and take no thought for tomorrow.

The path to God is never the same as the path of God. If we move along with God on His path, we will not understand, but He does. We may be able to understand God, but not His path. When we take a step of faith in God and fulfill His command, God does our fore thinking for us. When we do it for ourselves, God is relegated to second place.   

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Does God Need Us?

Genesis 27:1-5            When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him…. “Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”…. Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau….

From a human viewpoint, the whole matter between Jacob, Esau and Rebekah is a web of lying and stealing. Sin is prevalent. The first question we want to ask is “Who is to blame?” Jacob could be singled out, or Rebekah could be targeted as the instigator with all the blame. We know that Jacob was the ultimate one to receive the blessing and through whom God would pour out his covenant promises. Esau, we would say, got what was coming to him since he had already dismissed and despised his birthright two times. The fact is that they all are to blame. What their actions accomplish is to exalt God, whose purposes, promises and plans cannot be derailed by the worst of mankind.

The better question to ask is: Can God fulfill his promises without our help? Rebekah had two choices. One was to walk by faith in God and the other to walk by her own understanding. When you put it like that, the answer is obvious. There are no lesser commandments given by God that can be overridden in order to bring about a good conclusion. The solution to one person’s sin can never be another sin on our part. God will take care of the ends that he has already determined to be. His promises are always fulfilled.

Our responsibility is to be faithful in our use of the things he gives us. The means of receiving his favor, grace and blessings is always and only by faith. Rebekah should have placed her trust in God when it came to her two sons. She should have prayed and allowed the blessing Isaac would bestow to occur in God’s time and in God’s way. Nothing is impossible with God. Not even the fulfillment of His promises.

Monday, January 6, 2014

People Of Integrity

Nehemiah 7:1-2          After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.  

Leadership requires integrity. Nehemiah showed this in choosing men for service that feared God and were capable of carrying out his plans for the city. They would select the right people as watchmen for the walls and gates. Their task was to ensure the ongoing safety and purity of Jerusalem. The gatekeepers were critical to the proper functioning of the city as the place of worship and fellowship for God’s people. They maintained the separation of God’s people from the world and its evil influences.  

Separation allows God’s people the place and the freedom for fellowship that is pleasing to Him. It is a privilege to be among the community of believers. All who make up this assembly are to be believers committed to loving and serving their God. For this reason Nehemiah chooses Godly men to manage the gates; allowing entry to those who are qualified to enter. The purity and holy character of the fellowship of believers will quickly recede if anyone or everyone is permitted entry. Care was taken to ensure that the entrant showed true belief in God, exhibited behavior that God permitted and believed as Scripture taught.

The church today is guided by the principles that Nehemiah’s story presents to us. Without the implementation of God’s standards for fellowship, the church will become just another gathering place for all kinds of beliefs and all sorts of behaviors. In time the church will reveal no distinctive from the world. The light it was tended to be for the lost nations will have been extinguished.

May God continue to raise up Nehemiah-style leaders who are able to make Godly decisions and discern the character of others who aspire to lead the people of God. Only then will renewal begin within the church. Only then will our light draw others out of the darkness that surrounds us this day.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Beginning With The Good News

 Romans 1:1-4      Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God —  the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul does not mess around at the beginning of his letter. He gets to his point, the gospel regarding God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Above all other things, the gospel is about Jesus Christ. In presenting Jesus Christ as the gospel of God, he directs us to read and understand the rest of this letter in this context. The gospel is speaks to the Christian and addresses the non-Christian. There are no third parties to his message.

We have a terrible tendency to allow many other issues in our church life and concerns in our daily life to distract us from God’s intentions for us. When we focus on minor things we will always lose sight of the more important issues of life. Believers are encouraged by Paul to grow in their understanding of what Christ has done for us. He leads us to submit and trust God to a greater degree each day.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In all our temporal activities and daily concerns, there is someone who has overcome the fears, doubts and barriers we struggle with. Jesus is declared the Son by the fact that he came back to life by the power of God. His death and triumphal resurrection is proof that He is both God and Man. His two natures enable him to empathize with us in our struggles and to declare victory for us by His divine appointment as sovereign of the universe.

May you find the Good News of Christ to be your joy and motivation for living to His glory. The Holy Spirit will use your obedience to make your life a reflection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Always Ministry Minded

Romans 15:1-2           We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Romans 15:1-13 reinforces Paul’s plea for tolerance. The significance of his teaching for the contemporary church is great. Tolerance is to be extended to areas of belief that do not counter the teachings of Scripture. This is not a passage to apply liberally to theological beliefs that are not found in the Bible.

Paul’s advice in this chapter can only be applied to issues that are similar to the ones he is dealing with here. Eating meat, drinking wine and observing Jewish holy days belong in the category of ‘adiaphor’: things neither commanded nor prohibited to Christians. Extending Paul’s plea for tolerance to other issues is both wrong and dangerous.

The need to limit the expression of our liberty out of love for God and fellow believers is the key principle in this chapter. Our culture insists on rights, and it is easy for Christians to bring that attitude into the church. But the spiritual health of the body is far more important that our rights as individuals.

The freedom God has purchased for us through his Son is a gift. It is a freedom to live as God wants us to live, not as we want. Luther says it well in his comments on Christian liberty: “A Christian man is a most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” (From: On the Freedom of a Christian Man)               

Friday, January 3, 2014


Proverbs 3:5-6             Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

            If you stopped to think about the number of times in your life that you were wrong, you would be astounded. Think of all the tests you took in school growing up, or in college. You didn’t get every question right over the years. Think of the times on the job when someone had to correct your work or remind you of something you had forgotten to do. If you were to add up all these incidents, you might never trust your own thoughts again.

            Despite these numbers, we still rely on ourselves most. Only on occasion do we get input or advice from others. We have forgotten our track record so quickly. Even when we check with our spouse or ask someone at work for input before you make the decision, you forget that the advisor is as imperfect in their past as you have been.

            Our understanding is colored by sin. When we make decisions we tend to focus on our benefit in the process. Our perspective is also short-sighted since we cannot see or anticipate everything that could influence the choice we make. Our vision and knowledge is limited.

            The answer to our dilemma is to seek God’s input after we have considered the input from ourselves and others. God is able to know all the relevant facts about our decision. He sees the future and the impact the world around us will have on our choices.  When you allow God to guide and influence your thinking then you will find less mistakes and better results in the choices you make and the success in your life.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Proverbs 8:17-19            I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.

Wisdom loves her lovers, and seeks her seekers. The person who seeks wisdom is already wise, and has almost found wisdom. What is true of wisdom in general is especially true of the wisdom embodied in our Lord, Jesus Christ. Him we are to love and to seek, and in return we will enjoy His love, and find Him.

Our business is to seek Jesus Christ early in life. Happy are the young who know Him and spend each day with Him. It is never too soon to seek Christ. Early seekers make certain finders. With diligence we are to seek Him. A successful entrepreneur arises early to get to his business and meet his customer’s needs. A successful Christian is eagerly striving to be with their Lord each day. Having fellowship with Him makes all other things a distant concern.

The “Prosperity Gospel” is destroyed in these verses. Wisdom is not found in the search for material blessings. The presence of material blessings are not indication of the soul’s true status before Christ. Wisdom draws us to seek the person of Christ, despite the absence or presence of material wealth.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:24 that Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. If you want to be wise beyond your years then turn your heart toward Him. In fellowship with Him you will be blessed beyond your years.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gospel Power

Romans 1:16b-17       For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

All of a sudden there was no power to the truck. It sounded like something broke as the engine stalled and I pulled it to the side of the road. Nothing was leaking from the underside of the engine. The fuel gauge showed that the tank was half full. There was no funny smell or smoke coming from the exhaust system. Why was there nothing moving?


We can talk about Bible facts and figures all day long. We can explain the analogies and metaphors. Many will sing the praises of the King James Version’s melodic readings in the “old English”. Questions about dinosaurs not being listed in the creation story will prompt confusion. On we will go with sermons and studies that speak to political issues of our day and the blight of the poor among us. Such things make for wonderful discussions, interesting conversations and puzzling facts; yet all without a power to change hearts and minds.


            Paul’s pride is in the gospel because it is there that God’s power is released. In the gospel God’s powerful Spirit moves in on the audience to bring salvation to men, women and children. The gospel is good news for those striving to make sense of life or find freedom from physical or mental bondage. The power of the message of the cross comes in the form of the Holy Spirit who brings change and renewal to the individual. Without seeing Him, the individual finds hope, help and faith in Christ. Their life begins to reflect the effects of Him who loved us enough to give His life as a ransom for us.

Oh, the problem with the truck was that it’s tank was empty. There appeared to be fuel but there wasn’t.

Ministry Scenes

Have The Homeless Become Invisible?