Nehemiah

The building of Jerusalem had been started by Ezra the priest with the restoration of the temple. Its walls remained in ruins and news of this was brought to Nehemiah who was serving as cup-bearer to king Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah was first and foremost a man of prayer; He placed this matter before God and resolved on action. He desired to see Jerusalem re built and his people restored to their homeland. He prayed for an opportunity to ask the king for permission and resources to build the walls of the ruined city. He was given the opportunity when the king saw his obvious sadness and concern. The king agreed to the request Nehemiah made and appointed him as governor for the Jewish settlers.

Being a person of prayer does not preclude us being practical as well. Nehemiah was both prayerful and practical. He worked out how long the work would take and what labour and materials would be required. After receiving permission to go to Jerusalem, he surveyed the damage and formulated the scheme by which the residents of the city would each work to repair the section of the wall nearest their home.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/39/Nehemiah1.jpg

The rebuilding of Jerusalem was not without its enemies and dangers. Nehemiah met this opposition with prayer and common sense, organizing armed men to protecting the work. He was single minded in all he did not letting his opponents distract him from his work. He refused to leave his post when asked for a meeting with the work’s opponents.

He was also a reformer in that he corrected the sinful practices of inter marriage and extortion that was rife among the returned exiles. He stopped the desecration of the Sabbath by foreign traders. He showed no fear or favour in dealing with the wrongs he found among the people at that time, no matter whether the wrongdoer was rich or poor, laymen or priest.

 

Above all Nehemiah did all this work solely for the glory of God and for the good of the people. He denied himself the perks of the governor’s job so that the people were not excessively burdened by taxes.

His great desire was that God would remember him for the good he did.

We may not be as practically minded as Nehemiah. We may not always know the best way of going about things and bring them to completion. We can however all be like Nehemiah in his prayerfulness and purposefulness. We can be single minded and thorough in our service for the Lord. We can always be willing to help and seek the help of others to achieve things, great and small that God may be glorified.

Yet we must realize in all our work, that it is primarily God’s work:  We must seek Him to work in us and with us diligently seeking His glory in all we do.

                                                ********************************************

A.W. Pink and the Reverend Kenneth McRae both lived on the small Scottish island of Stornoway. Both were devout Christian men, an attempt at a meeting was made but because each man would not vary his schedule they never met. It was not until McRae met Pink’s wife Vera after his death that he realized their mutual mistake and the chance of Christian fellowship lost. The lesson being too how many opportunities we lose by being to rigid and unbending.

Rev Kenneth Macrae.jpg

 

*******************************


************************************

Nehemiah

Micah: minor prophet -major message!

No doubt the Book of Micah is one of the lesser prophecies in the Old Testament but it contains much which is applicable to today.

He came from Moresheth

https://i2.wp.com/www.netours.com/images/stories/shephelah/maresha/moresheth-gath.jpg

It was in very close proximity to the land of the Phillistines so must have been a difficult place to live sometimes.

Like many of the prophets, his message was a warning of impending judgment and condemnation of the endemic sins of the times.  Land grabbers and false prophets and the injustice of leadership and legal system are rife in his time. He preached to both Israel and Judah and was unsparing to the prevailing sins of the nations.

Interspersed with the promises of God’s coming wrath are the promises of mercy and restoration.  God punishes but longs to bless.  It is good that motivates the actions of God.

“Do not my words do good
    to the one whose ways are upright? Micah 2:7b

As always the people pleaded their past relationship to God as the reason that judgment would fall on the nations but not them.

Her leader’s judge for a bribe,
    her priests teach for a price,
    and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
    “Is not the Lord among us?
    No disaster will come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you,
    Zion will be plowed like a field;
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
    the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets. Micah3:11-12

The promise of the coming of the nations to a relationship with the Lord is also foretold and peace, true and lasting, will flourish. See Micah chapter 4:1-8

In chapter 5 verse 2 we even have a promise of the great Saviour who will be the means by which this all will be accomplished.

 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Micah also tells us about the sort of person that God looks to and what He requires of him.

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God. Micah 6:6-8

In the prophecy of Micah we are called upon to “Hear the rod”. It has something to say to us. It is the finger God uses to point out our wrongdoings and disobedience. It is the Father’s job to chastise and ours to learn the lesson.

When we do we receive the mercy.

Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
    you will tread our sins underfoot
    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
    in days long ago. Micah 7:18-20

 

There is also a word for the downtrodden and those at the last gasp,

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.
Because I have sinned against him,
    I will bear the Lord’s wrath,
until he pleads my case
    and upholds my cause.
He will bring me out into the light;
    I will see his righteousness.
10 Then my enemy will see it
    and will be covered with shame,

Micah 7: 7-10a

 

This is a brief overview but read the book for yourself.

_______________________________________________________________________

Micah: minor prophet -major message!

Prayer : the calm that follows the Storm

 It has been said that even as an exercise in itself prayer has psychological benefits. It can be a means of releasing the tension that result from worry and fear.

Yet we are assured from scripture that prayer is not merely a subjective exercise like reciting a Buddhist mantra rather it is the placing of our situation, needs and fears in the hands of God.

Looking at the story of Hannah in the early chapters of the book of Samuel, we see an example of the change fervent prayer brings to situations.

For a woman to remain childless in those days was treated as a reproach and an inferred some sin in the life and God’s displeasure. Hannah although she had the devotion of her husband still had to contend with Peninah’s ridicule and reproach. The stigma of her society at that time was difficult to cope with.

Her visit to the tabernacle and fervent prayer to the Lord was such the Eli the priest accused her of drunkenness. She promised any child that God gave her would be returned to the Lord as his servant. Eli when he heard her story blessed her and wished her well.

17Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 1 Samuel 1:17

The immediate result of this prayer made in faith was relief from the grief and sadness she had experienced: This in itself is a real blessing. These emotions accomplish nothing and if indulged to long can be damaging.

The great result was the birth of the prophet Samuel who was on many occasions the savior of the people and a great instrument in God’s hands.Hannah Presents Samuel untuk Eli

The real blessing of prayer lies in its being mixed with faith in a God who engages with us and seeks our good. It is He who gives us peace in the midst of adverse circumstances and dire need.

__________________________________________________________________

The Christian message is a revelation of a limitless ability to deliver. It is never a try; it is always a triumph. – A Bunch of Everlastings by F.W. Boreham

Image result for quotes from fw boreham

Good works

The natural result of the gospel of Christ is to manifest itself in good works and charitable works at home and abroad. The tendency however,  has been that the good work continues while the proclamation of the Gospel message goes by the board.

The other side of the coin is that the proclamation of the Gospel is made but it is not matched by a social concern for those in need.

In all things we must fight against a lack of balance and making our own ends the rule by which we act. We must take our lead from the New Testament church which boldly proclaimed the Gospel while at the same time ministered to those in need.

Wanna buy a duck?

Joe Penner was a comedian very popular in the 1930’s although little remembered today.  Highly talented he was gradually sidelined by the repetition of the same sort of material and catch phrases e.g. “Wanna buy a Duck”?

While it is true that the Gospel remains the same basic message, it never jades us by repetition.

Like Rome it has many roads that lead to it. As we would a flower or a mountain, we can see the gospel from different points of view and in different lights .Should the Gospel become dull and uninteresting to us let us look at it from another of its many perspectives.

Prayer : the calm that follows the Storm

All God’s children?

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:10

We rejoice in the love of Christ and preach that God is love. That God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son etc.” is Bible truth. Does this mean we are all God’s children?

If we are all God’s children, why are comparatively few living their lives in harmony with this relationship? Why are men and women perishing and going to a Christ-less eternity? If they are God’s children will He own them at the last day if they persist in their rebellion and sin?

It seems that a lot of God’s children  if they are such indeed, are on their way to hell, so little does this relationship mean in practice.

The truth is that God is our common creator and daily provider. He mercifully bestows grace on all regardless and is longsuffering to those who are in rebellion against His just rule.

That God seeks the salvation of all and calls upon all to repent is the fruit of gracious love shown to the undeserving. Yet it is only to the “adopted”, to the believer that God is truly a father, to all else he remains a Judge.

To our soft hearted Christianity, God has become too merciful to condemn. God’s love is so unconditional that He will save everybody except maybe the abominably wicked.

I do not want to see anyone go to hell. I have non believing family and friends. Yet if they persist in rejecting the gospel and remain in unbelief they can only receive the condemnation that they have often been warned of.

It is to the scripture and to the testimony that we must turn. If God says the whole world lies under condemnation and that only those who believe in Christ will be delivered, what does it matter what anyone else says .

At last it will be the believer in Christ who will reap the benefits and blessings of being children of God. All else who claim the name or in sentiment are included as such will spend eternity wondering what good it did them to have the name but not the experience of being  “the children of God”.

____________________________________________________________________

The Battles of life

The battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest in human history. Its first day caused 57,470 casualties. The soldiers were told that by the time the preceding artillery barrage was finished, all they would have to do was walk up and take the enemy trenches. In fact they found the German trench line remained fully intact .The slow moving, heavily equipped and tightly formed British columns were mowed down. The Battle lasted from July to November and only gained the allies a few miles of advance.

Malcolm Fraser was lambasted with his saying “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. Life is not always easy. The obstacles we face are sometimes insurmountable to our unaided efforts.

Optimism is a good thing: but facing reality is just as important. If someone promises us that if we believe hard enough or give enough, we will have an easy time in the world because we are Christians, it seems they are not listening to Jesus.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

______________________________________________________________

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/11/1a/32/111a3202295bc3540d91cca624ee38cc.jpg

All God’s children?

Nil Desperandum

Karl Marx said to that religion is the opium of the people. In other words it is something used to make what would otherwise be unbearable, bearable.

Suffering is the lot of many people and especially the Christian. Many have a disposition to worry and give in to despair. Christianity is not just a drug that renders us insensitive to pain, rather it is an introduction to one who himself suffered and took the penal aspect out of our sufferings. Also faith finds in Christ one who supports in suffering and delivers from suffering .

John Bunyan spent many years in prison for his faith and in Pilgrim’s  Progress draws the picture of those who have given up hope and despair “even of life”.https://granosalispaullocandro.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/aa1a1-dbtcastle.jpg?w=660

The Christian has not only the psychological problem to deal with but also a spiritual dimension to face.

In the current always “upbeat” church there is very little understanding and empathy for those who are prone to doom and gloom.

As Martin Loyd Jones points out ,there may be physical reasons why these symptoms prevail. For some it is a spiritual reason why they only can see the worst and give over to despairing thoughts.No doubt unresolved sin plays a part but also our own perception of failure and inadequacy

As one prone to be like this, I can only say that we all need to acknowledge that the life of the Christian is not one of perpetual earthly bliss. To teach that it is ,is to go beyond what scripture teaches. To teach that the suffering and despairing  Christian is a lesser one and consign them to the fringe because they drag others down is to forget the nature of Christianity and what it is meant to be.

Bunyan in his variety of characters points out how the strong are to support the weak and that in return weaker believers help exercise and strengthen the graces of the stronger.

The greatest treatment and cure for despair is knowledge of the Word and faith in God appropriated to daily life.  Like the slough of despond God has provided steps out of our emotional difficulties if only we could see them.

Doubtful

We all come to a place in our lives where we face grave doubts. We question our own values decisions and abilities etc. Such doubts are natural but carried to extremes they become crippling. We must strive against them.

The Christian may come to a point of doubting the truth of scripture, the willingness of God to save and deliver. Maybe they doubt that God loves them at all.

It could be lingering guilt; it may be proneness to sin or numerous other reasons.

God is not pleased with those who doubt his veracity. God’s Word, the Bible has endured and withstood all the best attacks of Satan and carnal men .It will continue to do so.

Yet there is a vast difference between those who are trying to believe and those trying to disprove what God has said.

We may often find ourselves doubting God’s love for us. To reason from present difficulties that God has removed his love from us because of our sin and faithlessness , is something the scriptures constantly warns us against and it provides armour to defend the believer, if only they would put it on.

Satan will tell us that God is angry with us and that there is no return after this. He will tell us we have proved ourselves unworthy or were never Christians at all.

It is here we must exercise faith and have a good talk to ourselves.

If Jesus Christ is God’s appointed Saviour, He promises to welcomes the worst of sinners who come to Him, then why may I not be one of them as well.

If my worthiness or unworthiness were the deciding factor in salvation who then would be saved? Indeed the Word discounts any other prerequisite for salvation except faith.Let us now pray for more faith ,and exercise that faith by obedience.

When sin  drags me down , may I cry out against it and take God’s side against it

Were we false or self deluded in the past?  From now on let us seek to be true believers and worship God “in spirit and in truth”.Take God at His word and trust Him for His grace.

Let us  grasp the Saviour’s hand outstretched to us.

_______________________________________________________________

“Fear, lest, by forgetting what you are by nature, you also forget the need that you have of continual pardon, support, and supplies from the Spirit of grace, and so grow proud of your own abilities, or of what you have received from God.”
John Bunyan

 

Nil Desperandum

Sunk!

booktalklusitania01.adapt.768.1

I was watching a documentary on the sinking by German torpedo of the Lusitania in 1915. Apart from the tragedy of all such disasters what struck me most were the different attitudes and schemes people tried to save themselves with.

The first difficulty was getting out on deck. Often trying to get through milling crowds of panicking people. This was made difficult by the increased listing of the ship and darkness when the electricity failed. Some were left trapped in the ship.

Even lowering the lifeboats was nearly impossible due to the angle the ship was at. Many boats landed in the water upside down and people had to cling to them in freezing water. Those already in the water had to contend with people jumping on top of them as well as debris and cold.

Th e documentary said that rescue ships was a great while coming because other ships were worried about being torpedoed as well but I read elsewhere that many lifeboat crews hurried to the scene. The sad thing was that unlike the Titanic, the Lusitania was well with in sight of land but just to far for the passengers to swim.

How many are perishing spiritually today well within site of the way of salvation? How many are rejecting Christ’s saving hand because o9f their love of sin?

In the midst of the prevailing tragedy there were miraculous stories of survival. One little boy separated from his family was given up as lost. After searching through the recovered bodies, a man told them that a little boy from the wreck was in the local hospital and they found it was their missing child with no more than a broken leg.

Many of the plans the passengers on sinking ships make for saving themselves come to nothing. While others were saved by good fortune and chance.

In the great plan of Salvation from the wrath to come no human shifts and schemes will avail anything. No man made religions will count for anything at last. They will prove finally to lifeboats full of holes. Neither will anyone be saved by luck.

To make a mistake here is finally fatal.

It is the way of Salvation won through the cross of Jesus Christ that brings the only sure deliverance from death and hell. Christ must be believed and and clung to. Everything else is delusion and doomed to fail.

While others may sneer at God’s provided way of salvation, may we reach for the saving hand reached out to us and be thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ for suffering in our stead.

 

_______________________________________________________________

“One of the consequences of sin is that it makes the sinner pity himself instead of causing him to turn to God. One of the first signs of new life is that the individual takes sides with God against himself.”
Donald Grey BarnhouseDonald Barnhouse Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

___________________________________________________________________

https://witzend.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/jehoiakim-burns-scroll.jpg?w=364&h=450

 

22 It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him. 23 Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25 Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them.

Jeremiah 36:22-26

This story from the book of Jeremiah was made very vivid to me by an old Sunday school lesson book I found.

Jeremiah had foretold the terrible consequences of the forsaking the ways of the Lord by the King, religious and civil leaders and the people. Baruch had written all these prophecies down at Jeremiah’s dictation. Then because the prophet himself was not allowed to go to the temple, Baruch took the scroll to the temple and read it publicly there.

When the officials heard this they had Baruch read it again to them and after telling him to hide they took it to the king and read it in his presence.

In his contempt for the Word of God, Jehioakim sliced off each portion as it was read and burned it in the fire brazier that lay before him.

Even the officials were horrified at this deed but the king was unmoved.

Later Jeremiah was told to re write the prophecy again with more threats of imminent destruction added.

Sad to say there is a lot of slicing up and throwing in the fire of God’s word today .But it will always remain true and its threats as well as its promises will come to the pass.

God help us to respect and obey  His Word.

__________________________________________________________________

I wonder how many people’s lives are blighted by lack of income and opportunity. The homeless, the unemployed and the mentally ill are just some who fall through the cracks in today’s society. Many have a great deal to contribute but either do not have opportunities, do not grasp them while they have them.

As Dickens makes Samuel Weller say about prisoners in the Fleet debtor’s prison, that to some debtors their time in the Fleet is just like a holiday, but for those who would work if they could and have families to support it is too harsh.

While we all feel sorry for those less fortunate than ourselves, we cannot help sometimes being glad it is them and not us.

The current economic downturn in the west shows we are not immune from the depravation of hardship. True we are not in the gutter or rubbish dump like the poverty we see in third world countries, yet it is only a question of degree.

I think that  the leaders and more prosperous in this country for one and the west in general are fast coming to the mantra of “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.”

The dilemma for the Christian is we would like to do something but are at a loss to know what to do and where to direct those we meet in need for help.

I confess I do not have the answers but we should still attempt to find them.

 

 

Sunk!