Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah

Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah

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Monday, February 04, 2019

Firsts - John 2

Firsts. We remember firsts. The first child. The first birthday. The first steps. The first job. The first date. John 2 points us to a first. “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee…” (2:11). 

It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Of all the signs Jesus could have started with, His first seems kind of simple, especially compared to healing incurable diseases, or resurrecting the dead. We tend to struggle with this chapter – what was the big deal? They ran out of wine. It’s not as if someone was dying, or facing a chronic illness. Did this really demand a miracle? When we peel back the layers of John 2, we see why Jesus did what He did, and why this is a fantastic “first” sign. 

The setting of this miracle is a wedding. Typical Jewish weddings could have lasted one to two weeks. It’s easy to understand how the refreshments could have run out in such a long duration. When they realize the wine is gone, Mary comes to Jesus with the problem (v. 3). Though she didn’t know everything about God’s plan for Jesus, from the start we see her great faith. She knew where to turn. When faced with a problem she knew where to go. Do we? 

Notice Jesus’ statement in v. 4. It’s a key statement to understanding this text. “My hour has not yet come.” When Jesus spoke about His “hour,” He was speaking about the plan for which He came – His death, burial, and resurrection (see JN. 7:30; JN 8:20; JN 12:27). Isn’t that an amazing thought? Here, early in His ministry, Jesus is already focused on Calvary. His eyes looking to Jerusalem, His thoughts on His death. 

Jesus has them fill 6 stone water pots to the brim. But don’t miss the detail! What kind of pots are they? What were they used for? In v. 6 they were used for the Jewish custom of “purification.” Think of that word: purification – cleansing – washing – forgiveness. Jesus chose the vessels used for cleansing pointing the “hour” He came for. The water turned to wine – red wine – which carries a strong resemblance to blood. Through Jesus hour He will be offering real cleansing, real forgiveness, through the shedding of His blood. And they didn’t just fill one pot – this cleansing isn’t just for one family or bloodline – they filled 6 pots containing 20 or 30 gallons each (v. 6) – an abundance of supply – Christ and His abundance of grace. And the scene ends with merriment and joy. Christ came and supplied a great need, replacing sorrow with joy. The result of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary is great joy in the freedom found in the blood of the lamb (MAL 4:2). 

Keep this phrase in your mind: “…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30). The result of this miracle was exactly that – the revealing of Christ’s glory, and the development of faith in His disciples (2:11). How about us? From this first miracle, do you believe that Jesus is the answer to your life’s problems? Do you believe that Jesus can supply your every need? But let’s get to the deeper meaning – Jesus performed this miracle pointing to His hour – the hour He suffered and experienced for everyone – for me – for you. Realizing that Jesus kept His focus on Calvary, do you believe He cares for you? Do you believe He has your best interest in mind? Do you believe there’s real hope, real forgiveness, real cleansing, abundant grace found in the blood of the lamb? 

“Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, I stand in all of you! I am amazed by Your love. I stand in wonder at your power. I am speechless in seeing your grace, your devotion to Your Father, to the plan that led you to Calvary. Thank You for this miracle. Thank You for showing us your devotion to the Father, and to our forgiveness. Thank You for the cleansing that comes through Your blood. Lord, I believe. I believe You love and care for me. Help me in my moments of doubt to follow Your example, and to keep my gaze on Calvary. Help me, like You, to live today focused on God’s plan, and how to live this day for His will. 

A Month With Jesus - In The Beginning

Friday, February 01, 2019

Today we begin our month long journey through the Gospel of John.  Come along with us as we will be reading, reflecting and praying our way through the book.

In The Beginning

I know when we read these words “In the beginning,” we immediately think of Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth.  I’m not so convinced that’s what John is talking about here.  For one thing, the literal reading is “In beginning”, not “in THE beginning.” But He says, “In beginning.”  I think that John is not talking about a particular moment, but assuming timeless eternity.  In other words, he’s saying, “In the beginning, when there wasn't any beginning, the Word was there.”  

Now, how do we explain that? How can we explain what we can’t even understand?  We are too limited in space and time to try to perceive eternity. Who can understand, before beginnings ever began?  But that is what John is saying.  In fact, one translation says, “When the beginning began the Word was already there.” I think that’s what John is saying. Now, that’s easy to read, but it’s difficult to conceive.  

Jesus is the Word. The word “Word” denotes the essential word of God, i.e., the personal wisdom and power in union with God: His minister in creation and ruler of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human flesh. Jesus is the final and complete revelation of God.

Notice, it does not say that the WORD came into being at the beginning but that the WORD was in the beginning as a pre-existent being. All things came into existence through Christ.

The point is that the WORD possessed all of the characteristics and attributes of Deity. This does not say He was “a god” or that He was the Father. Rather, the passage states He who existed from the beginning was no lesser being, such as an angel, but Deity.

Jesus was the person of the Godhead that created the design of the Father.

Prayer: Lord You are more than we can comprehend. But, is by faith we see. You are mighty and our Creator. You have been and are always there. You will never leave us. Thank you! Amen


The End of God’s Revelation

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The End of God’s Revelation - Revelation 22

We’ve come to the end of our month, the end of Revelation, and the end of God’s book. It’s good to pause and consider – this is how God chose to end His revelation, His message to us. There’s something special about how the Bible begins, and how it ends. 

Revelation 22 takes us back to the glorious scene of Heaven. What we see in this last chapter of the Bible takes us back to the first 2 chapters of the Bible. The images of Heaven reminds us of what we saw in the garden of Eden. There’s the river (v. 1), there is the tree of life (v. 2), and there is no more curse (v. 3). The perfect picture of fellowship with God in the garden, destroyed by sin, has now been restored. Once again man is with God, now face to face (v. 4). And this perfect relationship, this perfect fellowship, this perfect habitation will last forever (v. 5). 

In v. 6 the book transitions to it’s conclusion. The words given to John were “faithful and true” (v. 6) – John, and those who heard these words could trust in the message. God would answer the affliction on His people. Those who overcame with the lamb would be victorious. 

Revelation concludes with the reassurance that Jesus was coming quickly. It is stated 4 times (v. 7, 10, 12, 20). The coming Jesus is referring to isn’t the second coming. It’s in reference to the judgment He has spoken of throughout this book – the answer to the cries of the martyrs. It is Christ’s message to the churches (v. 16). And those who hear Christ is coming soon reply, “Amen, come Lord Jesus” (v. 20). Christians then, as Christians today, look for and long for the coming of Christ – the temporal judgment then only points to the ultimate victory to come! 

Well, we’ve made it through Revelation. This whole month we’ve been reading about this book, and the fitting question is, “now what?” What is our “take-away” from this book? 

Remember, there is a dragon at war with God’s people. He was then, he is today. He will use whatever he can to win the battle over your soul. 

Remember, you are not alone in your suffering. Others have faced hardship for their faith in Christ. They have remained faithful. They overcame. So too can we. 

Remember, God hears our prayers. God knows what’s going on here on earth. He sees our struggles. He understands our pains. 

Remember, God expects us to overcome (21:7). Endure. Be strong. Hang in there. Be faithful. Look to Jesus. Overcome this current crisis, realizing the momentary suffering won’t compare to the eternal reward for those who stand with the Lamb. 

Remember, God wins. Christ is and will ever be victorious. You can win your battles today in Christ. You can overcome Satan and his attacks, in Christ. You can stay true to the end, and be welcomed into God’s glorious abode, in Christ. You can claim the victory in Christ. 

“Thank You God for Your revelation. Thank You for this wonderful message of hope and victory. Thank You for hearing our prayers. Thank You for providing us hope and strength for our times of struggles. Thank You for Christ who gives us the victory. Help me today to overcome the temptation to quit and give in. I know I can find my strength and my help in You. Lord, I long for the day You return. I sing and dream of how wonderful Heaven will truly be. Until then I live for You, and will work for You, and will fight the good fight – claiming the victory only found in You. All praise and glory belong to You, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the alpha and omega, the Lamb of God.” 

What Makes Heaven, Heaven?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Makes Heaven, Heaven? - Revelation 21

The book of Revelation was written to Christians undergoing severe persecution.  So, it’s message was written in symbols in order to comfort the believers, while concealing its truths from their enemies.  So, it is already a very symbolic book—written in pictures, metaphors and similes.  

When we come to chapter 21 we have the added problem of, “How do we describe heaven?”  Just imagine that!  Imagine trying to describe calculus to a three year old.  How will you do that?  Or maybe a better illustration is this: Consider trying to describe Hawaii to a man who has lived his whole life on the barren ice of Antarctica.  How are you going to describe the feel of the sun, the sound of the waves, the smell of the sand, and the shape of the palm trees?  

That is John’s daunting task. The pictures he uses are not literal, but they do describe the characteristic of a real place.  

Let’s begin with this initial and foundational question, “What makes heaven, heaven?”    There are those who take a “man-centered” view of heaven (Anthropocentric).  These are the people who think of heaven in terms of “my friends, and my family.”  They will say, “If I get to play golf all the time, that will be heaven. Heaven will be an endless massage with ice tea and chocolate.” 

This man-centered view of heaven is prevalent even among those who would call themselves Christians.  For many people, what makes heaven, heaven, has to do with our senses, our earthly pleasures, and our earthly relationships. 

These descriptions of heaven end up being nothing more than projections of our own values; a form of escapism that has nothing to do with reality.  

The Bible presents an entirely different view of what makes heaven, heaven.  It says, “God’s presence is what makes heaven, heaven.”  This is a “God-centered” view of heaven (Theocentric).  Heaven is not the projection of our greatest wants. Heaven is an expression of God’s very nature!  Now, that is a very different way of thinking of heaven.  A very Biblical way of thinking of heaven.

Did you notice in our reading that God is at the center of everything with regard to heaven?  Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.’ ”  What makes heaven, heaven, is that God is there!  In heaven, God ‘s the light in which we live, the throne before which we bow, the temple before whom we worship, the name we have written on our foreheads!   What makes heaven, heaven, is His presence there.  As Paul would say in Philippians 1, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and that is far better.” (Phil. 1:23).  What makes heaven, heaven, is the presence of the Lord.

Those who love Christ long to go to heaven because Jesus is there; because God is there.  You see, our view of heaven tells us a lot about the focus of our lives.  If we don’t think much of the Lord here, then our view of heaven is going to be very man-centered.  But, if our lives are full of all the Lord has taught, all the Lord has done, and all the Lord is doing, then we will long to be with Him. A heaven that has nothing to do with Christ is a heaven of your own imaginings, and has nothing to do with the heaven the Bible speaks of.  For the heaven the Bible speaks of centers around the Lamb that was slain and the worship of God Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ.  

It is because God is there that heaven is a real place.  It is because God is there that heaven is such a beautiful place.  It is because God is there that heaven is beyond human imagination.  

The End of Evil

Monday, February 26, 2018

The End of Evil - Revelation 20

In the past few chapters of Revelation we’ve been reading about God’s judgments against the enemies of His people. In chapter 17-18 Babylon the great met her end. In chapter 19 the two beasts were defeated. That leaves one last enemy – the one who is behind all this evil – the dragon. 

While the first part of the chapter gets the most attention, and is the focus of many different end time theories, the main thought of this chapter is simply: Satan is defeated. 

His end is announced in v. 10: the devil…was thrown into the lake of fire, there to be tormented day and night. Satan, the accuser (Rev. 12:10), has now himself been accused. Every time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. 

The chapter ends with the book of life being opened (v. 12). All those whose names were not found in the book of life were also thrown into the lake of fire (v. 15). Chapter 20 describes all the enemies defeated: Satan, the wicked, even death (v. 14). Chapter 20 points us forward – there will be a day when all will stand before the thrown, with the book of life opened, being judged for the things they’ve done. This chapter is both comforting and sobering. Evil will be punished – God wins. Yet remember, we will all one day stand before the throne. Will our names be found in the book of life? As we sing, “There’s a great day coming, when the saints and the sinners will be parted right and left, are you ready for that day to come?” Everyone on God’s side wins – are you on God’s side? 

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