Friday, August 30, 2013

3 Ways to Make a Covenant with Your Eyes

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, August 29, 2013:  Job 31:1-33:33

“I have made a covenant with my eyes; ..."  Job 31:1 (NKJV)

Beauty Care for the Eyes

Several years ago, Leroy Koopman wrote a wonderful little book entitled Beauty Care for the Eyes.*  It's a great study in how eye care and eye problems relate to our walk with God.  He deals with nearsightedness, farsightedness, color blindness, tunnel vision, and a host of other maladies including total blindness.  

Job had eye problems.  Therefore, he made a covenant with his eyes.  The specific context for Job was sexual temptation.  In the New Living Translation, Job 31:1 says: I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman.” In the New Testament, I John 2:16 speaks of "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes."  These are tied together -- and they are epidemic in our world today.

I am not saying that the only "eye problem" anyone ever has is lust.  As Dr. Koopman writes, there are numerous ways in which we need to "make a covenant with our eyes."  But, for Job, in the midst of God's dealings in his life, he was called to conquer the stronghold of "the wandering eye."

Every Man's Battle

In Stephen Arterburn's book Every Man's Battle, there is an entire section entitled Victory with Your Eyes. There he prescribes three simple practices to make a covenant with your eyes.  Two of these are defensive: 1) bouncing the eyes, and 2) starving the eyes.  The third is offensive: take up your sword and shield!

              Handling Satan's Curve Ball

BOUNCING means "don't keep looking!"  Bounce your eyes when a lingerie ad flashes across the screen, or when a pop-up ad hits your computer.  Look away.

STARVING means getting off junk food so you can enjoy real food.  Fast foods and quick thrills never satisfy but faithful fidelity will!  The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes promises instant enjoyment.  God promised eternal blessing.  You have to starve yourself of the bad in order to fully enjoy the good.

                Taking the Offensive
"Taking up your sword and shield" is a principle that applies to all eye care -- not just overcoming lust.  In Ephesians 6, Paul lists our spiritual armor.  Among them is "the shield of faith with which we will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one" (Eph. 6:16).  Please note:  ALL the fiery darts.  Not just some.

He goes on to say that we are to take up "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17).  Arming ourselves with God's Word is basic to all spiritual advance.  No ground can be permanently taken without the Truth that sets us free.

The Divine Eye Doctor

God understands us better than we understand ourselves.  He knows our every need.  Leroy Koopman calls Him the DIVINE OPHTHALMOLOGIST.  Eyesight is one of our most cherished possessions.  Being able to see clearly is one of God's greatest gifts to us.  For this reason, we all need to "make a covenant with our eyes."  Make sure, in the words of Jesus, "the eye is single" so that our whole body can be "full of light" (Matt. 6:22).

So, let's all make an appointment for an eye checkup.  Let's ask God to open our eyes to all that He is, and blind us to the illusions of the world.

* This book was part of a series by Leroy Koopman.  Other "Beauty Care" books deal with hands, ears, feet, and tongue.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You Can Be Rich

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, August 28, 2013:  Job 28:1-30:31

“Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined.  Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore.  Man puts an end to darkness, and searches every recess
for ore in the darkness and the shadow of death
.  Job 28:1-2 (NKJV)

Value.  Worth.  Wealth.  Investment.  Resources.  These are all words we live with.  Whether it means finding the best bargain or saving for retirement – paying the bills or digging out of debt – increasing your comfort or avoiding more pain – we all face the reality of resources.

Job placed this pursuit in a wider context.  Life itself is a matter of VALUE and INVESTMENT.  It is not just hard work and survival.  If life were like a vast mountain range, Job would say there is silver and gold to be mined and refined

God gives us only one life to live here on this earth.  In these few years, we make daily investment decisions.  Will I give myself to that which really matters, or instead waste myself on temporary distractions? 

I honestly believe that GREATNESS resides in the heart of every man or woman.  GREATNESS!!  We were not born for mediocrity.  As the one creation that bears the image of God, we were born for royalty. 

Most people live far below the level God intends.  Ours should be a life of richness and significance.  Instead, most live with an aching sense of lack and unfulfillment.  We yearn for the NOT YET while enduring the HERE AND NOW.

Job speaks to us, “Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined.”  Where is that place for you?  What steps is God leading you to take that will unlock the value that lies in your own soul? 

It can be hard work.  But it is worth it.  Job says it is like pushing back darkness.  It is like finding hidden treasures.  Out of the greatest darkness, can come the greatest light!  Out of the desperate search can come the fantastic discovery!

God calls you and me to seek VALUE.  It is summarized in the Book of Revelation 3:17-18 which is a reality check for us.  Jesus says that we THINK we are rich, but really are “wretched, miserable, blind, and naked” (Wow!).  Then He goes on to say, I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich.” 

It is a matter of investment.  May you invest your life today in that which really matters.  You can be rich.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Benji Aymond: "The One Searching for Us"

Guest post by Benji Aymond, Student Pastor at New Life Community Church.  You can follow his blog at

"The One Searching for Us"

Right now our church is engaged in something we call One Focus. This drive can be summed up through the tagline, “Reaching the World by Reaching One.” Essentially, we want to reach our neighborhoods, our schools, our friends, and our families by focusing on one individual to share the gospel with in a relevant and fresh way.

As we have gone through this series with our congregation, we have pointed out several instances in the Bible where God showed someone their one. But I found an interesting situation when reading through the book of Acts the other night. In the tenth chapter of Acts, we are introduced to a man named Cornelius.

“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.” Acts 10:1-2

A centurion during this time period was a non-commissioned officer over 80-100 men (one centuraie) and a cohort was made up of about 6 centuriae with a single head officer. Interestingly enough, this Roman officer was also a God-fearing man who paid Jewish alms. This essentially is due to the presence of Judaism filtering into the pagan ruled world of the Romans. I want to point this out, because we see here a man who is lost in identity. He has vested interest in the Roman government, has dedicated his life to serving and even dying for the advance of this pagan empire, yet he fears God, prays, and even pays alms. How many people today can we think of, that know of God, have a reverent fear of Him, pray when times get tough, and maybe even charitably give to the local church or to the needy, yet do not have a relationship with Jesus? This man Cornelius was looking for his identity. The Bible goes on to say that Cornelius was given a vision by God for just the person who would show him where his identity lay.  

“About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” Acts 10:3-6

The Bible goes on to explain how Peter too was given a vision of animals that were unclean for him to eat, but was being directed by the Lord to partake in what the Lord had made clean. Peter, being confused as to what the vision meant, was then approached by Cornelius’ men who took Peter to the centurion’s home where Peter presented the Gospel of Jesus and baptized the entire household.

I find it amazing that God not only directed Peter to his ONE, but God also spoke to Peter’s ONE about who had the answers for him! As we pray for God to reveal to us who our ONE is, I encourage you to also pray that God would open the heart of the ONE God is calling you to reach, and that the Holy Spirit is directing them to you in such a way that they are even searching for you! 

Benji Aymond
Newlife Community Church | Student Pastor

Sunday, August 25, 2013

ONE FOCUS: "Enlarging the Family"

Here are the notes from today's message at New Life Community Church.  This is the fourth in the series ONE FOCUS and is entitled "Enlarging the Family".  If you desire to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at  God bless!

One Focus, Part 4                                                                               Sun., August 25, 2013
 “Enlarging the Family”

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 (NASB)
The Prayer Life of Jesus:
Luke 4:1

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  Luke 10:2 (NKJV)

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.  Luke 19:1-3 (NLT)

God loves ALL PEOPLE.
Jesus loves sinners.
31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.  Matthew 21:31 (NLT)
Thomas Cahill about the Roman curialis:
The divine emperor's power rested, above all, in his office of imperator, commander in chief, the office whose importance had been so greatly expanded during the political upheavals of Augustus's day. But almost as important as his military power was his power to tax. "And it came to pass in those days," wrote Luke in the most famous passage on Roman taxation in all of literature, "that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." Thus is Jesus's birth set in the reign of the first emperor— "toto orbe in pace composito" ("all the world being at peace"), as a chronicler of the fifth century would soon describe it. But the peace of all the world— all the world worth thinking about, that is— came at a stiff price: the constant, and increasingly unequal, exactions of the emperor's tax men.
We know, again from the Gospels, the hatred of the Jews of the first century for the Roman tax collectors. By the time of Ausonius that hatred was universal. But now I must ask a great concession of my readers: to pity the poor tax man, whose life was far more miserable than the lives of those who suffered his exactions. The tax man, or curialis, was born that way: Can you imagine the dawning horror on realizing that you were born into a class of worms who were expected to spend their entire adult life spans collecting taxes from their immediate neighbors — and that there was no way out?
But this was only the beginning of the horror. Whatever the curiales were unable to collect they had to make good out of their own resources! Who were these wretches, and how were they assigned their doom?
 … the imperial approach to taxation had produced a caste as hopeless as any in history. Their rapacious exactions, taken wherever and whenever they could, were the direct result of their desperation about their own increasingly unpayable tax bills. As these nerved-up outcasts commenced to prey on whoever was weaker than they, the rich became even richer.

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.  When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”  Luke 19:4-5 (NLT)

Jesus WENT TO Zacchaeus.
How did Jesus know his name?
As Jesus goes toward Zacchaeus, He’s praying:
1.     Father draw him (John 6:44)
2.     Let him  know how much You love him. (Is. 43:4)
3.     Show him Your plan for his life. (Eph.1:17)

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbledLuke 19:6-7 (NLT)

Jesus BEFRIENDED Zacchaeus.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!  Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.  Luke 19:8-9 (NLT)

LIFE TRANSFORMATION is Jesus’ greatest miracle.
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  Luke 19:10 (NLT)

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Fire Down Inside

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, August 22, 2013:  Job 4:1-7:21

Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.  Job 5:7 (NKJV)

Sin is not a popular word these days.  We prefer words like "mistake", "goof", or "mess up."  Our  self-help, therapeutic culture doesn't like ideas as negative as "sin."  Even further, it is hard for some to accept the biblical view of man as FALLEN.  Is man basically good or is something profoundly wrong in our essential nature?

The doctrine of total depravity does not teach, as some mistakenly think, that all men are as bad as they possibly can be.  It simply states that all parts of man are in some way tainted and polluted such that we cannot save ourselves from our dilemma.  Because of this, there is a "bent" inside every one of us that draws us toward the dark side.  There is something dangerous and self-destructive lurking in every man's heart. Most people live lives of "quiet desperation" (to quote Thoreau) keeping this wild fire under wraps and restrained.  

But, occasionally the fire bursts out.  It can happen in a fit of anger, or a lapse into lust.  It can flare up in the pain of broken promises or the hopelessness of depression.  It can go out of control for a time revealing character gaps we did no know were there.  Injustice and regret can smolder in the recesses of the soul.

Job's first counsellor Eliphaz got at least one thing right.  He described our condition as bent from birth.  We are "born to trouble."  You don't have to teach a child how to be bad. They already know.  It comes naturally.  You have to teach them to be good.

This is where Jesus comes in.  Man manages sin by will-power and religion.  God deals with sin be forgiveness and cleansing.  Only Jesus has the power to cure man's sin problem.  In the words of Paul, Jesus sets us free from "the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2).  

James refers to this in the imagery of a fire down inside.  He says that the tongue is the match that sets off the forest fire at the very base of human nature. "And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell." (James 3:6)  That phrase "entire course of life", in the original Greek words, is "wheel of genesis".   Because of the fall in Eden, at our very genesis, a fire smolders down inside that threatens to burn up us and everything around us.  It's a fire fueled by hell.

Jesus sets us free from this profound human problem.  If, however, man remains in his sin -- unforgiven and unredeemed -- innate pollution ignites.  "The sparks fly up."  Jesus can put out that fire.  But, man CANNOT ultimately cure or control the fire inside.  It's like trying to catch the sparks that fly out of your campfire.  Those sparks can cause immense damage as they float out into the surrounding world.

We have all heard of tragedies that came from a small, floating spark that ended up burning an entire forest down.  Sin is like that.  We are "born into trouble (sin), and the sparks fly upward."

For that reason, each one of us needs Jesus to deliver us, and we need friends to hold us accountable.  Our incredible tendency toward deception will tell us that we've got everything under control, when really a forest fire is building in your soul.  

Have you confessed your need for Jesus?  This is not a RELIGIOUS question.  It is a RELATIONSHIP question -- a life question.  Just as the tongue is a match that can ignite the fire, so also our words of confession and surrender can be used by God to united us with the Answer.  Again in the words of James, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5:16)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Blessing of Job

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, August 21, 2013:  Job 1:1-3:26

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.  Job 1:20-22 (NKJV)

For many, Job is one of the most confusing, depressing books in the Bible.  Nearly all the action is done by chapter 2, and then we read 40 chapters of an extended counseling session.  It livens up again at the end with a whirlwind, but in between there is a lot of bad advice and moaning and groaning.  I suggest that such a view is a misunderstanding of the basic message of Job.

The main character, Job, is a good man that has terrible things happen to him.  In one day, he loses everything.  The stock market crashes and he loses his fortune.  Thieves break in his house (his farm) and take his stuff.  Fire even falls from heaven and burns up his sheep.  The worst part is his kids -- 10 of them. A big wind flattens the house in which they are partying -- kills them all!  That's a really bad day!

On top of this, Job's health fails.

Most people think that the theme of Job is SUFFERING or PATIENCE.  In fact, we speak of someone having "the patience of Job."  No doubt, these are part of the story, but they are not the whole story.  In fact, they are not the main point.

If we want to find out the purpose of anything, we need to look at the end product.  So, if we slip over to Job 42:12, where we read, "Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning."

The end of this book is BLESSING.  The road to that blessing is certainly rough and confusing, but the end result is absolutely good.

We can labor and worry about why bad things happen around us.  There will never be an adequate answer for the pain that we have to endure.  Ultimately we must acknowledge that we live in a fallen world in which sin and death continue to wreak havoc.  God never promised us that bad days would never come.

The message of the Book of Job is the FAITHFULNESS OF GOD.  He will not fail despite the tumult of a confusing world. At times it seems Satan is winning.  But, if we stay with God, we will find restoration and blessing.

So, here's the lesson:  Don't give up on the God Who never gives up on you.  When things do not make sense, it is only because you do not yet have the whole story.  God is working in all situations to lead you toward the good that He promises (Rom. 8:28).

We ought the look at the Book of Job differently.  Instead of seeing the suffering and patience of Job, we ought to see the blessing of Job.  That's what it's all about.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Matter of Luck

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, August 20, 2013:  Esther 8:1-10:3

23 So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, 24 because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot), to consume them and destroy them; 25 but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.  26 So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Esther 9:23-26 (NKJV)

In mid-March of every year, Jews worldwide celebrate Purim.  This holiday comes from the Book of Esther and refers to the practice of casting lots to determine a course of action.  In Esther, the wicked man Haman cast lots (pur) to determine the date to exterminate the Jews (Esther 3:7).

Casting lots is throwing dice.  It is a game of CHANCE based on luck.  The Book of Esther, however, is anything but a picture of luck.  It is a story about the hidden hand of God working behind the scenes.  

No where in the Book of Esther is the name of God mentioned.  For this reason, some Jewish scholars questioned its inclusion in the Bible.  But, even though the Name is never mentioned, the presence and purpose of God pervades the narrative.  What to one man appears to be chance or luck, to another is the PROVIDENCE of God.

Esther is a book about REVERSALS.  One minute all is lost.  Then, God shows up and the tables are completely turned.

That's the story of Jesus.  Crucifixion turns into resurrection.  Death turns into life.  

It's also the story of you and me in Christ.  Everything was against us.  But, God turned it into victory.  

For the Christian, there is no such thing as LUCK.  That's why the very name Purim is so mind-bending.  Purim stands for luck that really was not luck at all.  It was the hidden hand of God working to bring about His plan.  

In that you are IN CHRIST, no weapon formed against you can prosper (Is. 54:17).  Even though it seems all is random and chaos, there is a plan that proceeds under your life.  He will prevail.  Just as Esther saw deliverance for her people, so you shall see the salvation of the Lord.  

It's not a matter of luck.  It is a display of the glory of our great God!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

ONE FOCUS: "One Person at a Time"

Here are the notes from today's message at New Life Community Church.  This was the third in the series ONE FOCUS and is entitled "One Person at a Time"  If you desire to listen to this message you may do so by going to our website at  God bless!

One Focus, Part 3                                                                               Sunday, August 18, 2013
 “One Person at a Time”

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 (NASB)

Keep it SIMPLE

We do life together…
            LOVE GOD
            LOVE EACH OTHER
            LOVE THE WORLD

As Christians, we are called to make a difference in our world.  We have a simple plan to help you become a force to change the world.

Last week, Mike Walker described ONE by saying that we want you to “make a commitment to God to reach one person this year.”  This involves praying for the Lord to show the one person, then loving them – finding ways to be a friend – there are a thousand ways to express the love of God.  During all of this, we will be equipping you with tools to be able to effectively bring Jesus to your friend.  We are asking you to invite them to church.  In the process, the Holy Spirit will be working to bring the message of Jesus to their heart.

A couple of weeks ago I shared about how it all begins with one. 

What begins???  Changing the World!  Changing your world!

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4:18-20 (ESV)

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.  Acts 1:8 (Amplified)

Three parts to every trial:  the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, and the witnesses.

1.     Become AWARE

Video:  The Apostle

Aware of three things:
Ø  Aware of what you’ve got.
Ø  Aware of what the world does not have.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  II Corinthian 5:16-19 (ESV)

Ø  Aware of the process.
James F. Engel

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  I Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)

2.     Make a commitment to PRAYER

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  Luke 10:2 (NKJV)

John 6:44.  That the Father draws them

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  John 6:44 (NKJV)

II Co. 4:4  That God opens their eyes

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.  II Corinthians 4:4 (NKJV)

Isaiah 43:4  Know how much God loves them

Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you;  Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.

Ephesians 1:17  Know God’s plan for their life

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

3.     Show them you CARE

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  I Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)

4.     Be ready to SHARE

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  I Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cleansing and Commission

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Saturday, August, 17, 2013:  Nehemiah 12:27-13:31

Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps.  Nehemiah 12:27 (NKJV)

So I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, and appointed two large thanksgiving choirs. One went to the right hand on the wall toward the Refuse Gate.  Nehemiah 12:31 (NKJV)

38 The other thanksgiving choir went the opposite way, and I was behind them with half of the people on the wall, going past the Tower of the Ovens as far as the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, above the Old Gate, above the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate; and they stopped by the Gate of the Prison.  Nehemiah 12:38-39 (NKJV)

There is an age-old question surrounding the ministry of the church.  Should we focus on taking care of the sheep we've got, or spend our time reaching people outside the church?  I have heard it a hundred times: how can we take care of new people if we're not taking care of what we've got?  Within any church there is a host of hurting people.  The needs can be immense.  We also live in a world full of people facing an eternity without God.

This is the dilemma between CLEANSING and COMMISSION -- between HEALING and HARVEST.  


Two choirs were assembled to celebrate the completion of the wall around Jerusalem.  These two choirs represent two dimensions of ministry that must be balanced.  One choir walked the wall in the direction of the Refuse Gate (also called the Dung Gate).  This choir represents CLEANSING.  The Refuse Gate was exactly what it sounds like.  It was the portal for the removal of waste.  

A little further along this path is the Fountain Gate and the Water Gate (Neh. 12:37).  I am reminded of the description of Jesus' ministry to the church in Eph. 5:25-26 where it says that Jesus "loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water of the word."

Jesus heals the messed up hurts of His people!  Honestly, this can be overwhelming because practically every person you meet has some sort of ISSUE.  Satan has worked overtime to plant all kinds of pollution and garbage in the lives of some really good people.  

Now here's a key point:  it is not enough to say to someone, "Just get over it!"  In our impatience with hurting people, we can minimize their challenges and leave them wallowing in pain while we try to rally them for advance.

We need CLEANSING!  But, then there is another choir....


The other choir traveled toward the Ephraim Gate that opened toward the rest of Israel (and the world).  That choir speaks to us of COMMISSION.  Along this path we find the Fish Gate, the Sheep Gate, and we end up at the Prison Gate (Neh. 12:39).  

This choir celebrated the HARVEST.  Jesus said to His disciples, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mk. 1:17)  It is incredibly exciting to see the Lord bring in the harvest.  He has many lost sheep that need to be found and brought into the fold.  

Evangelism is, for many Christians, a dirty word. It speaks of rudeness and arrogance.  But the true harvest is not that way.  

This choir celebrated the introduction of many from Ephraim (the world) into the pleasures of a life in Jesus.  


There should be NO dilemma between cleansing and commission.  These two choirs can sing together.  Don't let anyone (including the devil) tell you that you are not fit to lead people Jesus.  Stop fixating on your own problems and realize that we the carriers of the greatest news in the world.  

Jesus is the answer to both cleansing and commission.  He lived it, and so can we.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Overcoming Distractions

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, August 13, 2013:  Nehemiah 5:14-7:73

2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.  3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”  4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.  Nehemiah 6:2-4 (NKJV)

How do you handle distractions?  You have soooooooo much to do, and it's all really important.  There are deadlines to meet.  Yet roadblocks crop up all around to get you off track.  DISTRACTIONS.  

Here's the worst part.  If any of these distractions were really important, then forget all else and DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.  But, usually the distractions are Satan's ploy to get you sidetracked on lesser things.  They are frivolous dead-ends that cause us to lose heart and end up staring at the wall while the Titanic sinks.  

Satan sent Sanballat and Geshem to lure Nehemiah off task.   They sounded so reasonable.  But Nehemiah had enough discernment to see through their request for a meeting.  He gave a simple yet profound answer:  "NO!"  "I am doing a great work, so I cannot come down."

How do you handle the distractions that daily come your way?  So here are a few suggestions:

1. Make a DECISION.  Get really clear about what God wants you to do.  I am big on lists (just ask my wife).  You must be crystal clear about the task you are to do.  Write it out.  If you don't know your job, you will fall prey to the first distraction.
2. Stop CARING.  This probably sounds un-Christian to some people, but let me explain.  What I mean is "stop caring what people think about you."  They will make enormous demands on you that NOBODY could fulfill, and then condemn you for not doing them.  Remember: it is God you need to please, not men.  If Nehemiah had tried to please Sanballat and Gesham, he would have ended up dead!
3. Do the WORK.  Show up!  As one coach said, "The first key to victory is showing up at the game!"  How many times do we sit in the chair but our minds are in Alaska!  We're either re-living the past or playing out the future.  Anything but doing the job before us -- building the wall.
4. Find your RHYTHM.  No one can work non-stop.  You must take a sabbath.  It may be a 15-minute break or a one-day holiday, but you MUST find your correct pace.  This is what it means to "work smart."  

Nehemiah had to overcome the distractions that sought to de-rail him from his God-given assignment.  You and I must do the same thing.  This is the difference between a mediocre, lack-luster life, and a life that is lived to the full.  Jesus promised us FULLNESS. "Satan does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy (to distract).  But I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Ways Satan Tries to Discourage Us

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, August 12, 2013:  Nehemiah 3:15-5:13

1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbishstones that are burned?  3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.  Nehemiah 4:1-3 (NKJV)

Satan's major strategy against you is to discourage you until you quit.  If Satan can't seduce you into sin, he will try to wear you down until you give up.  When we start trusting ourselves and looking at our circumstances, we can quickly isolate ourselves and stop seeing Jesus working in our lives at all.  It is a sure fire formula for defeat. 

That was Satan's strategy against Nehemiah.  God's people, under Nehemiah's leadership, had begun the great work of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  Sanballat, their enemy, did not attack with an army.  He sent messengers to mock.  The plan was to hurl Satan's verbal bombs until the Jews fell apart ON THE INSIDE.  

In the spiritual battle that surrounds your life, he uses the same tactic.  There are six ways the enemy tried to discourage the wall-builders. 

1.      He mocked their WEAKNESS.  "What are these feeble Jews doing?"  Satan constantly points out what do CAN'T do.  He tells you how weak you are and unable to do what God has called you to do. 

2.      He questioned their MOTIVE.  "Will they fortify themselves?"  The key word here is "themselves."  He wants to picture our selfless acts of obedience as selfish, self-serving ego trips. 

3.      He accused them of UNWORTHINESS.  "Will they offer sacrifices?"  Satan is elsewhere called the accuser of the brethren.  He likes to point out our personal sin and then say "Who do think you are trying to do something for God?"  "Who are you to serve God?"

4.      He laughed at their SLOWNESS.  "Will they complete it in a day?"  This is a major strategy of the enemy.  He accuses us of being slow-learners.  He points out how long you've been trying, and then whispers: "It'll never happen."

5.      He made them feel INADEQUATE.  "Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish -- stones that are burned?"  Satan says, "Look how ENORMOUS this job is!"  He focuses on how hard is the work, how huge is the rubbish pile, and how damaged are the stones. 

6.      He predicted their FAILURE.  "Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall."   Satan tells you that all your work will only end in failure.  He points out how shoddy your work is, and how easily you will fall. 

If you have read the book of Nehemiah, you know that these 6 lies did not stop the wall builders.  They went on to complete the wall in 52 days -- something of a miracle.  Nehemiah is an example to us of how to resist the discouragement that comes flying our way.  

When Satan seeks to discourage, let it be fuel to draw you into God and His truth.  DONT QUIT!  Our God will lead you to victory.