• GOD WAS RIGHT, WE WERE WRONG

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    “Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:”
    Nehemiah 9:33

    God’s people had spent seventy years in captivity in Babylon. Nehemiah led one of the expeditions to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. After the lengthy and difficult building program, the walls were complete. The people then assembled as the Word of God was being read. For several weeks this continued. Hours each day were spent hearing the book of the law of God and several hours a day were spent in confession. In Nehemiah 9, the Levites stood up and began a lengthy recollection of God’s dealings with His people, beginning with the creation. They remembered the call of Abraham, their deliverance from Egypt, the giving of the law at Sinai, the provision of manna and water out of the rock. They confessed how the people had repeatedly disobeyed, making a molten calf, rebelling against the prophets, and resisting God’s commands, which eventually led to their captivity.

    Our text today is a part of the lengthy confession that was made to God. “Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly.” This is an important part of anyone seriously getting things right before God and preparing for revival. They were willing to admit that God was right and they were wrong. The Israelites had consistently turned away from God’s will. Many times they had suffered accordingly. They were now back in the land God had promised them, after spending decades in exile. A thorough time of confession and repentance was in order. They proclaimed that God was “just in all that is brought upon us.”

    There is a great difference between admitting that our correction is just, which they acknowledged, and complaining about God’s dealings with us. Sometimes when chastisement comes, people choose to question God’s actions, as though He is somehow at fault. The Levites in so many words were saying, “We had it coming.” They declared to God, “thou has done right, but we have done wickedly.” Why is it so hard for us to sincerely admit when we are wrong? Without this honest confession and repentance, there can be no revival. Blaming our sin on others will not bring God’s blessings, but heartfelt personal confession will.

  • HER ADVERSARY PROVOKED HER SORE

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    “And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.”
    I Samuel 1:6, 7

    Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was not able to have children. Because of this, Peninnah was constantly being verbally abusive to Hannah. Our text refers to Peninnah as Hannah’s “adversary” who “provoked her sore.” This was not just a momentary or occasional provocation. The Bible says that it kept going on “year by year.” It was something that Hannah was grief stricken over. In time, this bitterness of soul turned into prevailing prayer, which eventually resulted in the birth of Samuel.

    We too have an adversary. I Peter 5:8 calls him the devil. Just as Hannah’s adversary provoked her and made her fret, our adversary is constantly provoking us. We can only imagine what Peninnah must have said to Hannah. She probably made her feel worthless and like a failure because she was barren. Perhaps she tried to get Hannah to blame God for her inability to conceive. It is just like our enemy to do the same with us. He knows how to provoke us and to make us fret. He accuses us in our minds The devil wants to make us worry and grieve over things we have no control over. He accuses God to us. He wants to use disappointments to cause us to think that God has been unjust in the things He allows in our lives. If people do not know where these thoughts come from and what to do with them, like Hannah, they will be sorely vexed. We must learn to recognize the source of these condemning and accusing thoughts that crowd our minds.

    We can learn a lesson from Hannah. Like this godly woman, we should also allow our provocations to motivate us to seek the Lord and His help. Her adversary grieved her, but she did not simply become frustrated or depressed. She kept bringing her needs and burdens to the Lord. When we are assaulted with accusations, let’s use them to drive us closer to our Deliverer. Satan wants to use our problems to drive us away from God, but the Lord wants to use them to do just the opposite. When you are tempted to fret and give up hope, remember Hannah and the answer that she received.

  • THEY LISTENED, UNTIL…

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    “And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.”
    Acts 22:22

    Paul is giving the first of several defenses recorded in the Scripture having to do with his apprehension. He had arrived in Jerusalem and was in the temple when he began to be accused by the Jews as one who taught against the Jews, the temple, and the law. Paul was drawn out of the temple, and the people tried to kill him. Roman soldiers spared his life, and as Paul was being taken to the castle, he was given an opportunity to speak to the Jews. They listened as Paul spoke of his Jewish
    heritage and training. They even listened as he spoke of his conversion on the road to Damascus. They gave their attention to the apostle as he testified of being a witness as Stephen was martyred.

    Then Paul mentioned that God had called him to go to the Gentiles. At that point, they refused to listen any further. Our text says, “they gave him audience unto this word.” But then they cried out, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.” At this point, Paul could say nothing worthy of their attention, and they were ready to kill him. They would listen to many things, but they would not listen to someone speaking of turning from the Jews to the Gentiles.

    Although we would have very little in common with these zealous Jews, there is one thing in our Scripture that most of us can relate to. Just as the thing that Paul mentioned abruptly turned them away, we can have the same tendency. I have worked for many years with teenagers in some capacity or another. I have noticed with some teens that the moment they discern that a lecture is coming, they start to tune you out. More specifically, I think people have a tendency to quit listening when you
    begin to speak of things that they do not want to hear. Quite often, it has to do with some area of their personal sin or conduct. People who are guilty of a particular thing and are not willing to repent, do not want to hear about it. For instance, a non-tither will listen as you preach on many subjects. But when the subject of tithing comes up, he will no longer listen.

    This should serve as a warning to all of us. Be willing to listen to the whole counsel of God. Proverbs teaches that a wise man will listen to reproof and instruction, not turn a deaf ear to it.

  • HE BROUGHT US OUT TO BRING US IN

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    “And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.”
    Deuteronomy 6:23

    In this verse, Moses is teaching the people what to say to their children. Moses instructed the people to tell their children how they were once in such terrible bondage in Egypt, but God brought them out by His strong right hand that He might give them the Promised Land. He did not bring them out of bondage that they might spend their lives as they pleased, with little or no regard for God’s will or plan. He brought them out for a purpose. He brought them out that He might bring them in.

    The same could be said of New Testament believers. Why then did God save us? Why did He rescue us from our hopeless state, through the blood of the Passover Lamb? Why did He pay such an unforgettable price for our redemption? Did He just save us from sin and selfishness that we might ignore Him or His Word? Did He deliver us from bondage to the world that we might live the rest of our lives in bondage to self? We know better than that. He brought us out that He might bring us in. God had a purpose in mind when He saved us. He has a plan for our lives. He brought us out of sin’s darkness that He might bring us into the brilliant light of truth. He wants to bring us into the life He has waiting for us. He wants to bring us into the new life of Christ.

    The new life of a born- again believer is not simply a renovation of the old life. It is a new life. Our priorities change. Our values change. Our purpose changes. Our character changes. God wants to make us more and more like Jesus Christ. We are to put off the old man and put on the new man. He wants to bring us into a life of Spirit-filled living.

    The carnal, fleshly life cannot please God. He wants to bring us into the replaced life, where the Spirit of God is filling and controlling our lives, where the way He is replaces the way that we naturally are. He wants to bring us into a life of faith. Without faith, we cannot please God. He wants us to rely upon Him daily. He wants to bring us into a life of victory through Christ, rather than defeat through ourselves. He wants to bring us into a life of service where we find the joy that only comes from serving others. He wants to bring us into a life of fruitfulness where we are having a part in influencing others for Jesus Christ. Why did He bring us out? He brought us out to bring us in.

  • HE’LL REMIND YOU OF ME

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    “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”
    I Corinthians 4:17

    Throughout his epistles, Paul makes mention of his relationship to Timothy. Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy, and Timothy was a devoted and loyal son. Timothy was a lesson in how a younger disciple can and should learn from an older and more mature man of God. In our text, Paul reminds us that Timothy was “faithful in the Lord.”

    How many times have we heard someone speak of the importance of faithfulness? The reasons are obvious. Faithfulness is required in God’s servants. Without it, no one is qualified to serve. No amount of talent can substitute for a lack of faithfulness. It is so important that others be able to depend on us. Among other things, Yellowstone National Park is known for its many geysers. There is one geyser in particular that sprays mist a couple of hundred feet into the air when it erupts, farther than any other known geyser in the world. The only problem is that you can never know when it might have a major eruption. It is not at all predictable. Only one geyser bears the name “Old Faithful.” It erupts faithfully, and you can always count on it within a few minutes of its scheduled time.

    Paul also said of Timothy, “who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ.” In so many words, Paul was saying, “He will remind you of me.” What a compliment for Timothy and what a tribute to Paul. Paul was reproducing himself in his spiritual offspring, and Timothy was an exceptional learner. It is somewhat rare to find someone who is willing to adapt to the ways of his teacher. Many potential young servants are offended that they might have to surrender some of their individuality, and thus are not interested in imitating the mature and proven ways of a godly mentor. Timothy was not hung up on his individuality, but he was committed to learning all he possibly could from the seasoned servant of God.

    One thing that made Paul’s ways reproducible is found in our Scripture. Paul was a picture of consistency. He said to this effect, “as I teach every where in every church.” His teaching and his manner of life were the same wherever he was – a lesson for us all.

  • ALL FOR ONE

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    “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”
    Philippians 1:27

    The church at Philippi was a truly great church. Paul’s epistle to them reveals his strong love for this congregation. In the Scripture before us, he is urging them towards being a strong and unified body of believers. He uses the words, “one spirit,” one mind,” and “striving together” to describe the harmony and unity they were to experience. This message is as relevant today as it has ever been. The emphasis of this Scripture is not as much an attempt to get all professing believers to be unified, as it is a call for members of the local church to pull together for the sake of God’s work.

    We have seen firsthand in numerous congregations, and in conversations with pastors or church members, the destructive power of division. The world, no matter how wicked it might become, cannot destroy the church that Jesus founded. Persecution has never been able to silence the Lord’s churches. As a matter of fact, persecution often results in the church being strengthened for God’s glory. The devil hates the church and will do everything he can to hinder its work, but his power alone cannot stop the New Testament church. Matthew 16:18 says, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

    Inevitably, the thing that weakens and destroys churches is problems within. And usually, it is not over some major point of doctrine or something of Biblical concern. It is usually over something relatively minor that is allowed to escalate to a place of strong contention because personal interests take precedence over the Word of God. The church should be “striving together” not striving against one another. The word “striving” implies laboring. Unity takes effort. We should be cooperating for the greater cause of the promotion of the Gospel and the work of God.

    This is what suffers when God’s people cannot get along and fail to dwell in unity. The work of God is hurt. We need to take this admonition from the Scripture seriously and personally, always keeping our eyes on the big picture. It is not about having our way, but it is about His way and His work.

  • THE HEAVENS DECLARE HIS GLORY

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    “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”
    Psalm 19:1

    This is one of the foundational truths of Scripture and life. The world that God has created testifies to His greatness. It is natural for a thinking person to see God’s reality and might in the world that surrounds us. One of the first changes some of us noticed after our hearts were made right with God had to do with this subject. We began to notice in a new way how obvious the Creator is seen in His creation. But this awareness is not peculiar to Christians; it is there for all to see. Psalm 19:2, 3 state, “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” The creation continues to show His glory day and night, testifying to every language group in the world. Even where people have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ or read a verse of Scripture in their language, they are able to understand the existence of God and His glory.

    The subject that we are considering makes it clear how destructive the lie of evolution is to mankind. Evolution is the fruit of man’s desire to free himself from his accountability to his Creator. The humanists of recent generations have clung to this ridiculous theory of evolution as a means to declare themselves the centerpiece of the universe. The teaching of evolution to generations of children has caused them to doubt what should be intuitive and natural, that God designed and created the
    world that we live in, and that He is a God of order and power. Parents should not allow their children to be taught such a damaging doctrine.

    The problem with man is not that he cannot see God in creation; the real problem is that man does not want to see Him. The Bible says, for instance, in II Peter 3:5, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old.” They are willfully ignorant. Romans 1:28 says, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” When a person says, “I do not believe in God,” what he is actually confessing is “I do not want to believe in God.” The world around us should inspire within us glorious praise to the great God that we serve. This praise is completely due to God, not to the creatures He has made.

  • WRESTLING WITH THE BLESSER

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    “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”
    Genesis 32:24

    Twenty years had transpired since Jacob left home. He left to escape the wrath of Esau and also to find a bride. God had tremendously blessed Jacob, but now it was time to return to the land of promise. For Jacob, the trip was not joyful. He was greatly apprehensive about meeting Esau. In preparation of their meeting, Jacob separated hundreds of heads of livestock to be given as a present to pacify Esau before Jacob saw his face. Still troubled in his soul, the Bible says that Jacob rose in the night, separated his family and servants, and sent all his possessions ahead.

    Jacob, as our text says, “was left alone.” Being alone, “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” This one that wrestled with Jacob is referred to in the Scripture both as an angel and as God. No doubt it was a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jacob insisted that he would not let Him go until he received a blessing. Jacob needed help. He needed a touch from God. Jacob was indeed blessed, as they wrestled through the night. The Lord touched him mightily. He would bear in his body a limp, which would serve as a permanent reminder of this encounter. Also, his name was changed from Jacob to Israel, as the Bible says, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). The very one that Jacob was wrestling with turned out to be the bearer of his blessing.

    We are reminded of how we have found ourselves wrestling with some event or circumstance in life. Perhaps without realizing it, we are actually wrestling with the One who allowed the circumstance to invade our lives. Have you ever wrestled with something that you did not want to do, even though you thought it might be God’s will? How many of us have, in our minds and hearts, wrestled with the One who has the power to bring great blessing into our lives? To be sure, the wisest thing for us to do is surrender to what we believe God would have for us.

    God wants to bless us in ways that we sometimes cannot imagine. He wants the very best for us. He wants to help us discover and delight in His will. God can be trusted with the details of our lives. Jacob’s trouble turned out to be the occasion for God to do a mighty work of grace in his life.

  • AFTER THE DEATH OF MOSES

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    “Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.”
    Joshua 1:1, 2

    It is hard to imagine how the death of Moses must have affected the children of Israel. He had been their spiritual leader for forty years. God used him to cause Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go from their Egyptian bondage. God performed many miracles through His servant. Moses received the law from God and interceded for His people on many occasions. Moses led them through the wilderness experience. Now Moses was dead. What would they do? How could they possibly continue without such a man of God to show them the way?

    Our Scripture says that “after the death of Moses…the LORD spake unto Joshua.” God had spoken to Moses on many occasions, but now He is speaking to Joshua. Joshua was to be Moses’ successor as the leader of God’s chosen people. Moses was gone, but that did not mean that God would no longer speak to His people. God would continue to speak to the Israelites, only now He would use Joshua.

    Moses had been a man with a mission. His objective in life was to get these people back into the land that had been promised to Abraham. Now Moses was dead. What would happen to this great mission? Our text records that God said these words to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them.” Moses was no longer there to lead, but the work would go forward under the able leadership of Joshua. There are great lessons and encouragement for us in this. For one thing, the Word of God and the work of God do not rest on any individual. As a matter of fact, as much as God wants to use us all, we all can be replaced. We also see anew the importance of discipleship. God used Moses to help prepare the very one that would take over when he went to Heaven. Another thing we should mention – life goes on. When we lose someone that is very dear to us, and think that there is no way to continue, we need to remember that God is there to continue to speak to us, lead us, and use us.

  • COMPLETE OBEDIENCE

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    “Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.”
    John 2:7

    Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding at Cana. When the wedding party ran out of wine, Jesus was called upon and would perform the miracle of turning water into wine. In our text, we have the instructions Jesus gave the servants, “Fill the waterpots with water.” Then the response of the servants to the order of Jesus: “And they filled them up to the brim.” They filled every one of the water pots “up to the brim.” This is a splendid illustration of COMPLETE OBEDIENCE. It
    might seem like a minor thing, but these servants followed their instructions to the letter. They were told to “fill” the pots, and they did exactly as they were told. Surely God included the words “up to the brim” in order to make a point or emphasize something for us. They did not partially or mostly fill the pots, but they were filled “up to the brim.” They were filled as fully as it was possible for them to be filled.

    We all should be as diligent to fully obey the instructions that are given to us. For something to be considered obedience, it must be complete obedience. Partial obedience is not obedience. Delayed obedience is not obedience. As families, it is essential that we teach and reinforce the importance of obedience to our children. This is the place obedience should be learned. And yet in far too many cases, the home is failing in this regard. Complete obedience is almost nonexistent in many
    children of our generation. There are various reasons for this, but a primary factor is that parents do not expect or require obedience in the home. Children are commonly allowed to disobey or partially obey, with little or no consequences.

    As individual Christians, we must demand obedience of ourselves. We cannot afford to disregard the discipline of obedience in our lives. First and foremost, we are to completely obey God and His Word. None of God’s commands are to be slighted. Also, we are obligated to obey those God has placed in authority over us. That would include government rulers, family authority, church leaders, and those in the work place. In addition, as churches, we are to be obedient to the commands the Lord gave His churches. As these servants were quick to fully obey the Lord’s directive, may we be ready and willing to obey His Word.

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