Good morning, glad to see you

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Nehemiah chapter 3 seems long and daunting when you first read it, but if you pay close attention you find that it is a recounting of everyone who put in work. That might not seem important but think about this those are real people like you and me. Their names are recorded in the Bible for us to read because they put in the work to build what God had planned. God placed a burden on Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and then he gathered people together to join in that work. They were building something great for and because of God. Who wouldn’t want to do that? I mean when God is moving and you get to be part of that why wouldn’t you want to jump on board?

Well, the nobles of the Tekonites did not want to help. For some reason, these nobles from the city of Tekoa had it in their head that they were above the work. Sure they wanted to enjoy the rebuilt walls but they did not want to put in the work. They thought themselves better than the work. The thing that is nagging at me is not to say “stupid nobles” but instead “God help me not become conceited.” See I have worked in almost every position you can work at in a church. Sunday school check, nursery check, youth group check, preaching check, cleaning toilets and vacuuming check, mowing the lawn no but I would. Now because of a long series of events, I am in a new church and they don’t know my history or ability so what am I doing? I am greeting at the front door. I want to preach, I want to share the Word, I want to pour into people. But none of that is happening right now so I have two choices I can either whine about it and find ways to move into something or I can just shake a hand and say “Good morning, glad to see you.” I am not going to lie it is hard to just say “Good morning, glad to see you” when I have a three-part sermon prepared on Nehemiah. But I know I am not above it (at least, I shouldn’t be), it is what needs to be done so I will bend my neck to the work.

I am still applying for every position I can for full-time work but in the meantime, I cannot become bitter or above something else. Sure there are positions I am not applying for because there are things I don’t feel called to but right now right here I am doing what I can. We cannot become so consumed with the future or ourselves that we neglect the things of now. It is not about doing everything but it is about not having an attitude of being above the work. If we start to think too highly of ourselves then we are the only ones who think that way of ourselves. Jesus said it is better to sit in a lowly place and let someone else move you forward.

Just a thought,

Mike

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I get knocked down

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Some things are so big, so overwhelming, so much more than we can handle that they drive us to our knees and that is OK. If something is so big that it drives you to your knees then stay there a bit. Don’t rush to jump back up and starting fighting. You need to take some time on your knees with the King before you can get back up and get back to it. You need to spend time with the One who can strengthen you properly. There is nothing wrong with taking some time before you get back up. Some things should drive us to our knees. Some things should knock us down.

When we get knocked down we are in a good place because we are right where we should be before God. We are low, we are humble, and we are in a place to receive from the One who can give what is needed. Here Nehemiah goes into prayer and confesses that he has not done what he should. He first admits his own shortcomings and then goes into the promises of God. This is not some false humility to gain God’s good graces. No this is a man who has been knocked down and realizes that he needs the One who is greater. It is a beautiful picture of surrender.

When we humble ourselves before God we give Him permission to pick us up instead of picking ourselves up and asking Him to bless our own strength. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” If you want God to strengthen you then you can’t do it. It is either His strength in you or your strength but you can’t have both.

So next time life knocks you to you knees stay there a minute and let God pick you back up. You’ll find you are fighting from a different place after that.

Just a thought,

Mike

Weapons of Battle

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This verse is awesome, just plain awesome. This verse calls you out to be a warrior. A lean mean devil slaying warrior machine. The word that is used here for weapon (hoplon) is usually translated instrument in most translations, but in all other instances of this word in the Bible, it is translated weapon or armour (think 2 Cor 6:7). I think weapon the better translation. Instrument is ok if you think in terms of warfare, though. Anyway, this verse tells us that we can either be weapons for fighting for unrighteousness or weapons for fighting for righteousness. That means you are not passive you are active. Weapons in warfare are not decorative they are for battle, you are not to be passive you are for battling. Your job is to fight for the kingdom. So rise up and fight. Now before you get carried away and storm the city know how and who to fight. Ephesians 6:10-18 tell us exactly what we need to know.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. That means it is not about this guy or that gal but against evil itself. We are not awaiting a political messiah to fix our problem. We don’t need to look to Washington to solve everything we need to look to the Cross and the Empty tomb. We already have a Messiah and His name is Jesus! So let’s fight the battle He said to fight. So we now know who we are fighting but how do we fight?

With Truth (belt), with righteousness (chest plate), with the Gospel of peace (shoes), with faith (shield), with calming our salvation (helmet), and with the Word of God (Spirit Sword). Those are our weapons. Those are our tools of battle. If you are fighting and you are not using those weapons, then you are fighting with the wrong weapons and I can’t guarantee victory. You see these are the weapons our Commander has issued us. These are the tools He expects us to take up. This is how we defeat the spiritual forces that are trying to take us down.

So you are a weapon for righteousness. I suggest you fight.

Just a thought,

Mike

Personal Disappointment

I haven’t been writing much lately because life is crazy right now, but I did manage to find a few minutes throughout the week so here goes…

I wanted to take just a minute or so to talk about personal disappointment and what to do about it. By personal disappointment, I mean something that affects you on a personal level (think day to day). For example not getting a job that is a personal disappointment, your favorite sports team losing again is a corporate disappointment. It affects me but not in a day to day emotionally affected way. Going to jail is a personal disappointment, the wrong person being elected president is again a corporate disappointment. Yes, the wrong president affects you day to day but generally not emotionally and there is nothing you can do about it anyway. I think we get it. We are talking about things that hit you at home (so speak).

ADMIT IT!

So what do we do with personal disappointment? Well, I think the first thing and a very healthy thing is to admit it. Christians (myself included) usually like to skip over this piece of advice because generally speaking Christians are horrible at giving advice. We try to fix and spiritualize everything. Did You lose your job? Oh God is moving you into a promotion. Did You lose your house? Oh God is giving you a fresh start. Now maybe those things are true but the timing for those things is not right which makes them wrong. The first thing you should do is pray. Go straight to God and admit that the thing that just happened or disappointed you stinks. You can even say it sucks (I know I am walking a fine line here)! It is OK, no it is good and healthy to admit it. Don’t go right to seeing how it will all be OK, because again, generally speaking that personal disappointment feeling will not go away just because you “saw the silver lining.” Notice in Job chapter 2 verse 10 Job admits that this situation is bad. He did not sin but he admitted it was a bad situation. Admit the situation is not what you want and you don’t understand and then let it sink it. I assure you God is not going to smite you because you asked Him why something happened. He is a good good Father.

CAN IT BE FIXED!

The next thing to do after admitting it and letting it sink in is to look at the situation and see if it can be fixed. Some situations can some cannot. Each situation is different so I cannot say every situation can be fixed. Sometimes it can’t. Maybe you did not get a job and they hired someone else. Maybe you were a drunk driver and someone died. Maybe someone died from a drunk driver. Maybe… I don’t know there is a multitude of things that can cause personal disappointment and in one way it does not really matter (to us at this moment) because the question is “can this be fixed?” If it can then great! If not skip the next paragraph and jump down. But if you do not first address whether this can be fixed then you miss an opportunity. A word of caution here. Don’t skip prayer. If you see how it can be fixed and do not take the time to pray and let the Holy Spirit guide you then you can  end up making a mistake. Always, always pray!

TIME TO WORK!

OK, so you have decided it can either be fixed or you can do something to avoid it in the future. Let’s use a job as an example because it is a little easier. You didn’t get a job because you do not have the right education. So to fix it you will work towards either getting an education or the experience to compensate for the education. It doesn’t change the one you didn’t get but you are going to make sure you get the next one. A word of caution here. Be careful that you do not jump again too soon. You are still healing from the last personal disappointment and how long you need to heal depends on how deep the wound is. So I am not saying don’t jump again. Maybe you are ready to jump again but just make sure. If you rush into it and you were not ready you can add to your personal disappointment or worse become bitter. I’ve done both and it is bad because now you’re healing from both personal disappointment and undoing roots of bitterness. If you are wise here you end up being more like David who learned he needed to gather support and respect the king, if you are stupid you are like Saul and pretend to be something you are not forfeiting your right.

JUST HEAL!

OK now will jump back to when it can’t be fixed. This one is hard because it takes time, and you need to give it time. Some of the best advice I ever received was from Pastor Ryan at Curtis Lake Church up in Maine. He said that I could not serve in the church right now because I was healing from personal disappointment and I need to take the time to heal. So I just needed to chill. That was hard for me. I am not a chill guy. I don’t chill! But he was right. I needed to just take some time to sort it all out. There was nothing I could do about the situation that happened. I could not fix it, it was just sucky (there I go again). But from that time of just chilling and letting it all soak in I was able to learn what I needed to do and what I wanted. It took a few years to get back into the swing of things but I am there (I think). The healing process could not be rushed, and I certainly could not see “a silver lining.” I made a few mistakes from that and it has caused me to second-guess a lot of things but God’s faithfulness has never been one of them. So just take some time and heal. You will find a depth of relationship with God you never knew possible in this healing time.

Alrighty then! So we have a few things to think about. I do have one last thought. If you are at fault for your personal disappointment even a little bit. Do yourself a favor and admit it. Trust me it is much better for you than denying your own culpability. You cannot truly heal until you admit it. Again this is only if you have some blame to share.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Answer the call

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The first time God called Jonah he ran. Then Jonah went through some stuff. God called to Jonah again and Jonah answered the call. Sometimes we don’t respond to God the way we should when He calls but God is not up in heaven mad at you. He’s not plotting against you to make you suffer. Maybe He’s waiting for the right time to call again. Waiting for a time when you will be ready to listen and answer he calls.

Just a thought,

Mike

Crucified flesh

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I have been chewing over these verses for a few days now. I keep thinking about how horrible crucifixion was, and what those reading this letter from Paul must have thought when he wrote these words. They lived with a real and tangible understanding of what crucifixion was. I like the way the Wikipedia article explains it “Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful …, gruesome, humiliating, and public[.]” It was not just a horrible way to die it was designed to be horrible. It was created to be completely and totally barbaric. There are no modern western examples to point to (in our justice system). We can’t even say it was like the electric chair because that does not come close. It was just horrible (I think I have already said that). But that’s not even what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about who received this horrible death sentence. Again to Wikipedia “Crucifixion was used to punish slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state.” In other words the lowest of the low. The most worthless members of society were crucified. Those who either had no value or who were an enemy of the state. It was not allowed for citizens unless they committed treason in which case they were an enemy of the state now. This form of punishment was so severe and gruesome that only those who were already considered useless could receive it. Paul knew his audience would know this, this was all understood information to them and now to you and me.

Now that we have some background we can look at these verses and see what he is saying. He is saying that your flesh, the thing that desires sin is as useful to you as the Romans considered slaves and enemies of the state to them. It has no value to offer you. It has nothing of benefit to give and should not be looked at as something useful (see verse 21). It will not get you anything, instead, it will cause you problems. It will disrupt you from pushing towards your goal. So consider it dead!

Don’t think that this means you need to actual mutilate (harm) yourself, though. That will never work. You can never beat yourself into submission because the flesh is not the body but the mindset of self-fulfillment. People often think that the body itself is the problem, no, the problem is the fleshly mindset that desires to gratify (please) the body. So what it the answer then? Paul tells us back in 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus already did the work. He took a literal crucifixion and you get to reap the benefits of that. We died with Christ and now we live in Christ (see Colossians 3:3).

Paul is not saying here that we need to harm ourselves but that we need to remember that Jesus died and as Christians we died as well. We are a new creation and in that we no longer have the fleshly mindset controlling us but can live under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. I say can because you must yield (submit) to the Holy Spirit. We allow Him to lead and guide our lives. We allow Him to determine our desires and in that we continually remind ourselves that we have been crucified because our flesh had no benefit to us.

 

Just a thought,

Mike