Monday, September 24, 2018

Fired Up

What makes you mad, I mean really angry?  How about the terrible driver next to you or maybe a sassy child? What about insults, being falsely accused, being interrupted, others taking credit for your work, or a rude store clerk?  Obviously I made all of those up because I’m not so petty they would get to me J but they do all have one thing in common, they are about a perceived wrong done to me.  Let’s go back to our friend from last week, Nehemiah, and see what got him fired up and what we can learn about another kind of anger.

Nehemiah 5:6
When I heard their outcry and these charges I was very angry.

Things to think about:
·      The background is that many of the resettled Jews in Judah didn’t have enough money and food to live on.  The nobles and officials were taking advantage of the situation and extorting their fellow Jews to their own benefit.  When Nehemiah learned of this he was “very angry”. 
o   Nehemiah wasn’t upset because of a personal affront but because of a social injustice. He (and the nobles) knew it was against God’s law to charge fellow Jews interest for lending money.  They were adding to the already heavy burden by taking their money, land, and even their children.
·      Anger is basically a form of frustration: we see something that doesn’t align with how we feel it “should” be
·      Let’s look at John 2:13-16 for another example of someone becoming angry
o   When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
o   We also see in Mark 3:5 Jesus get upset with the religious leaders when He healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath
o   If you really want to hear Jesus get fired up, look at Matthew 23 and His lashing out at the Pharisees
§  hypocrites, blind guides, brood of vipers, sons of hell
·      Neither Jesus nor Nehemiah was angry about how they felt they should be treated personally; rather their anger was in response to God and His people not being properly respected.
o   Making a mockery of God’s laws, God’s love
·      So what makes you angry?
o   Does it have more to do with you or Him?
·      What should make you angry?
o   What do you see in your sphere of influence that would benefit from a righteous man taking a stand?
·      Psalm 4:4 says, “In your anger, do not sin”.
o   Many of us are familiar with Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:26 to “Be angry and do not sin” 
o   How do we manifest this righteous anger and still avoid sinning?
·      God wants us to be bold and defend His cause and His people.
o   Is God firing you up about an issue?
o   How can you use the fuel of anger to burn in a productive way?

Monday, September 17, 2018

What's Your Thing?

God often orchestrates timing, place, position, abilities, passions and need in order to serve Him and to make a difference. When we discover our “thing”, it can be used to demonstrate our love for God, grow in our faith, serve others, and make a difference (both now and for eternity).  So, what’s your thing?

Nehemiah 2:2-3  - so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Things to think about:
·      If you’re not very familiar with Nehemiah, you may think he was one of the great priests or prophets from the Old Testament. In fact, he was a pretty regular guy, working as a government official, serving the king as a cupbearer.  I’m not sure how this would read on his LinkedIn profile but basically he first tasted anything the king might drink in case it had poison in it!
·      The Jews had started returning back to Judah after being in Babylonian captivity for seventy years.  Nehemiah was still back in Babylon working for the king.  One day he caught up with his brother and some other men who had been to Jerusalem and he asked then how things were going there.  They told him that the city wall was destroyed and that the people there were in danger.
o   Nehemiah 1:4 – When I heard these things I sat down and wept.
·      But he didn’t stop there drowning in his sorrow and the tragedy of the situation.  Instead, he PRAYED (Nehemiah 1:5-10)
o   Repented
o   Remembered
o   Requested
·      Then, he took a risk and stepped out in faith.  He went to his boss, the king, to ask for permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
·      Listen to his humanity here, “I was very much afraidbut I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
o   Let’s not let fear keep us from going where God would lead us. 
o   In verse 2:6 it says “It pleased the king to send me.”
·      Do you know what your thing is?
o   If so, what is it?
o   How has God used timing, place, position, abilities, passion, and need?
o   How have you been changed?
o   How have you seen others changed as a result?
·      If you haven’t figured out what your thing is yet, do what Nehemiah did - learn about where there are needs and pray about your role in doing something about it.
o   Everyone has a thing!
o   It doesn’t mean you have to start a new ministry, maybe it’s coming alongside someone or something that is already engaged in a cause you care about
o   Let God’s Word guide you to bring His kingdom to your corner of the world

Monday, August 13, 2018

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love!

The Apostle Paul’s focus was always on others in his quest to build the kingdom.  In some cases this was to the benefit of the unconverted and in other cases it was to help build up believers whose faith had not yet fully matured.  In either event he knew that religious traditions or cultural norms could stand in the way of demonstrating the love of Jesus to the folks God had put in his path.  He boldly proclaims his great liberty in Christ that unshackles us from the demands of the Law, yet at the same time he prioritizes love over liberty.  Given his great intellectual prowess, he could have won the argument and lost the soul.

1 Corinthians 8:9 - Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Things to think about:
·      The issue at hand was the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  For some of the Corinthians this was a problem because it gave the impression that it was OK to eat meat that had been tainted by being in a religious ceremony they didn’t believe in.
·      For Paul, it was no big deal because “an idol is nothing” and “there is no God but one” so if people wanted to fire up the grill to a false god, he didn’t care, he was happy to eat the choice meat.
o   He said that food doesn’t make us closer to God or push us further away
·      The problem is that not everyone fully understood this so for them to eat sacrificed meat was a sin.
·      What are permissible choices we can make today that may not be wrong in and of themselves but can confuse or alienate a less mature saint?
o   Smoking, drinking in moderation, various styles of clothing, language, entertainment choices, church practices/rituals, etc.
·      Paul’s main point here is that we should be careful to not become a stumbling block to the weak, that their welfare is always superior to our knowledge.
o   1 Corinthians 8:10-13 - For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
o   If it’s not wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, what is the sin Paul is speaking of here?
o   Based on some of the hot button topics above (or other ones you can think of), how can we cause weaker brothers and sisters to stumble?
o   What different choice would you be willing to make to change this?
·      Please note that Paul says when we make what are essentially selfish choices, we are actually the ones who are sinning!
·      How did Jesus model the principle Paul is teaching?
o   See Philippians 2:6