Satan the accuser!

Scripture reading for May 18th: Job 1-3

The Bible teaches us that the unseen world is eternal and the world that is visible is only temporary. (2nd Corinthians 4:18)  God dwells in the realm of the eternal and made this visible creation, including us.  Satan and Adam’s disobedience brought sin and death into the world and corrupted both creation and man.  We are born the first time into the visible realm and face life in a fallen creation with our mortal bodies which have been corrupted by sin.  Satan, the accuser, has been given permission to tempt, test, and try us.  He seeks to steal from us, kill our bodies, and destroy our souls in Hell.   Hell was prepared for the Devil and his angels.  (John 10:10, Revelation 20:10)

God in His love, seeks to redeem us from the world of sin and death.  He has chosen by grace to do this by through faith.  He reveals Himself to us through the creation and by revelation in our inner man.  He gives each person a conscience with a basic knowledge of right and wrong.  We have a free will to choose to seek out God and respond to Him by believing what He reveals to us.  The Bible is the story of God’s gracious plan of redemption being implemented throughout history in the lives of people who by faith knew God.  As we come to this book of Job, possibly the oldest book in the Bible, we have revelation of God at work behind the scenes in the invisible world and Satan, the accuser, doing his best to steal Job’s faith in the invisible God.

In the invisible world, Satan has access to God.  His primary work is accusation against those who have faith.  Satan first accuses Job of serving God by faith because of selfish motives.  (Job 1:9-11)  Satan accuses God of showing favoritism to Job and protecting and blessing him.  He implies that if God removes his hedge and the blessings he is now enjoying, Job will curse God to His face!  God places boundaries on what Satan can do to Job personally and releases Satan to his temptations.  Job then suddenly and catastrophically looses everything he owns as well as his ten children in a violent storm.  (Job 1:19) His response is to humble himself and to worship the God he knows by faith. (Job 1:20-21)

The next scene in the invisible world is Satan and God conversing about God’s servant, Job.  God commends Job for keeping his integrity during the temptation.  Satan responds with another accusation and lie.  He contends that if God will allow him to take Job’s health, Job will then curse God.  (Job 2:4-6)  God again sets a limit and releases Satan to inflict Job physically and emotionally.  During this trial, Job’s own wife suggests that he curse God and die.  Job rebukes his wife and sits in silent suffering.  He finally curses the day of his birth but does not curse God.  (Job 3:1-4)

In these chapters of Job, we learn about the battle going on for our faith.  God allows testing and trials.  Satan accuses us before God.  God is on our side and supports us by revelation of His creation, love and grace!  We win in the end!

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The Feast of Purim

Scripture reading for May 17th: Esther 8-10

When God wants His people to remember something, He usually designs a feast or celebration!  How is that for a new view of God!  Looking back, God gave Israel “Passover” as a way to remember their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.  He gave them “Pentecost” and “Firstfruits” to celebrate the harvest and giving of His Law.  He gave them “Tabernacles” where they lived in booths to commemorate their 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land.  He gave the church the “Eucharist” (thanksgiving) to celebrate Jesus Christ’s final sacrifice and as a picture of the great wedding banquet to come!  Let’s face it, our God likes the idea of His people celebrating and the celebrations will continue in the life to come!

The Jews had good reason to celebrate!  Their enemy, Haman, had been hung on a gallows that he himself built.  The king had extended favor to Esther and Mordecai by giving them Haman’s estate.  If you will remember, he had offered 375 tons of silver, the equivalent of about 120 million dollars, to eliminate the Jews and the king told him to keep his money!  (Esther 3:9-11)   His estate must have been tremendous. Not only that, but they were now granted the right to defend themselves against their enemies and even eliminate their enemies on the appointed day that Haman had picked by casting the l0t!  Their lives were spared and they were able to see their enemies get their due!

This plan was devised by Mordecai after the king granted him authority to write up what the Jews needed in order to counter the first decree which, according to the law of the land, could not be set aside.  Before the day came, many people of other nationalities became Jews for fear of them. (Esther 8:17)  On the day set by Haman, the tables were turned and the enemies of the Jews were themselves destroyed.  (Esther 9:1-2)  Five hundred were killed in Suza and another 75,000 were eliminated across the land of Persia by the Jews.  Esther asked for another day in Suza and the king granted her plea and even more enemies were eliminated!  God truly turned the tables and the lot was reversed in favor of His people!  Thus the feast of Purim (lot) was begun.  They celebrated for two days giving gifts and eating choice foods, for their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into celebration!  (Esther 9:20-22)

What do we learn from all of this?  God is in absolute control of everything!  When His people fast and pray and seek to obey, He comes through.  Evil toward His people is turned back on the heads of those who would touch His children!  His children can celebrate a total victory over the forces of evil arrayed against them!  We win in the end!  Tell someone this good news today! Celebrate the victory that is yours in Jesus Christ!

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Sunday Rest and Reflection–providence!

Greetings on this wonderful day of refreshing!  Every day is a day of refreshing in Jesus Christ, but Christians celebrate a day of worship and rest on the first day of the week because that is the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead!  This supernatural event declares Jesus to be the Son of God with power!  (Romans 1:4)  He stands uniquely above any other person because of this event and the many eye-witnesses that testified to this truth!  We who believe in Jesus Christ have a strong foundation to rest on!

I want to reflect today on the “providence” of God.  Providence is a word that seems to mean “chance” or “luck”.  But we as Christians do not believe in “luck”.  God is sovereign and has the power to bring about His purposes in several ways.  First, He alone knows all things.  He knows what will happen and how things will happen.  Second, He has the power to make things happen.  He is not bound by the creation that He created.  He is bound by His love and the covenant he made with man!  He is also bound by His own Word.  If He has said it, He will do it!  He has also decreed that He will hear the prayers of His people and act upon them in a way to bring about their forgiveness, deliverance, healing and prosperity in accordance with His own Word.

We have the tendency to think of providence as just events happening at random in a way that blesses us or causes us harm.  In God’s economy, everything will work for good for those that love God and seek Him in prayer.  (Romans 8:26-28)  He even gives us the Holy Spirit to help us to pray according to the will of God!  As we pray in the Spirit, according to His perfect will, He causes providence to happen for our good!  He can take that which was meant for evil and turn it to our good.  He can take evil men and turn the tables on them!  He can bring hidden things to light at just the right time to change the course of history!  Esther’s story with that of her Uncle Mordecai gives us glimpses into the miraculous providence of God released when His people pray!  Have a great day of rest and may the providence of our Lord bless your socks off!  Love, Pastor John

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God turns the tables!

Scripture reading for May 16: Esther 5-7

“If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.” Proverbs 26:27

“An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad.” Proverbs 29:6

We must be careful when we plot revenge.  All judgment and vengeance is the Lord’s.  (Romans 12:19)  The Lord has a way of turning the tables on those who seek revenge and plot evil.  He has ways of protecting those who are innocent and especially those who are serving Him.  In today’s reading from Esther, we find God turning the tables on Haman as he plots to destroy the Jews and hang an innocent man.

Haman was thrilled with his position and his influence!  He boasted to his wife and friends of his good fortune and how he was the only one invited to meet with Queen Esther for a banquet.  (Nehemiah 6:1-12)  He was happy, except for one fly in the ointment: Mordecai the Jew would not show him honor by bowing before him!  He complained to his wife and friends who proposed a plan to hang Mordecai on a gallows 75 feet high!  This would have been high enough to display the execution above the walls of the city!  He had the gallows built and was ready for the next day.

God was moving silently behind the scenes.  The king could not sleep, so he had the chronicles of his reign read to him.  He heard the story of the plot to assassinate him–a plot Mordecai had exposed thus saving his life.  He asked what had been done for this man and found out it had been overlooked.  He asked who might be in the court to honor Mordecai, and providentially, Haman had just walked in with his plans in place.  The king asked him what he would do to honor someone special to the king.  Haman thought he himself was to be honored,  so he proposed a grand public honor and was shocked when the king told him to honor Mordecai!  How ironic that God turned the tables so deftly and quickly!

The end of the story finds Haman hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai after being exposed as the one seeking to kill off all Jews, including the Queen!  God worked His plan out for good and turned the tables!  This is exactly what will happen for all of His people who serve Him faithfully.  It looks like death has the final answer, but not with God!  It looks as if the wicked get by with their schemes, but not at the final judgment!  Check your heart today and come clean of any thoughts or plans for revenge.  Forgive and turn the table back toward God’s mercy before He turns the tables on you!

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Civil disobedience!

Scripture reading for May 15th: Esther 3-4

As God’s people, we try to be the best citizens we can be.  We should be known as people who obey the law and serve and pray for those in authority.  We should promote respect for those in authority and aid their proper rule.  However, when a civil authority gives orders to disobey the law of God, we must respectfully decline and obey God!  This can bring trouble and wrath from authority!

In today’s reading, we have a man who is exalted by King Xerxes to a place of honor above all others.  All officials in the king’s palace knelt down and paid honor to Haman.  (Esther 3:2)  One man would not.  Mordecai, Queen Esther’s Jewish uncle, would not bow his knee before a man because of his faith in God and God’s word. (Esther 3:4)   This infuriated Haman and he devised a plot to eliminate all Jews from Persia.  He offered the king 375 tons of silver to allow him to eliminate these disrespectful people.  (Esther 3:8-9)  Do you notice the common thread of insecurity with the disobedience of Queen Vashti?  For those in authority to feel secure, any threat must be removed!

How did Mordecai react to the decree to kill all Jews?  He immediately began to fast and pray.  (Ester 4:1-3)  He called on other Jews to join with him.  He even asked his niece, Queen Esther, to help.  This was not going to be easy.  She would have to exercise some wise “civil disobedience” herself if she were to approach the king.  She asked for prayer covering as she prepared for this potentially life-threatening task of asking the king for help.  (Ester 4:15-17)  Her attitude was one of faith and of willingness to die to protect her people!

Queen Esther, as I see it today, is a type of the church.  The Church has been placed by God in places of influence to be a witness for God and His people.  The Church is to be submissive to the authorities of the world in all things except where that compromises faithfulness to God.  The Church is to be willing to die for what is right, rather than compromise the truth for the passing pleasures of sin for a season.  The Church must speak up or loose its place of influence for God!  Ask God what other lessons might be here for you today as you read this story of God working through ordinary people to accomplish His purposes!

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Public example!

Scripture reading for May 14th: Esther1-2

Esther is an interesting book of the Bible.  It takes place in Persia during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah when the 50,000 Jews were rebuilding the temple and walls in Jerusalem.  It never mentions the name of God, but God’s presence is implied and felt throughout the story.  It is the story of ordinary Jewish people who are trying to be faithful to their God while they live in a foreign land.  As they live out their lives, God is moving and turning all circumstances to work out for the good of those who love Him.  (Romans 8:28)  Even things that look like they are evil!

The first two chapters deal with how God puts Esther, a beautiful virgin and Jew, in the palace of the king of Persia.  This story tells of a partying king who liked to drink and boast of his wealth and possessions, and evidently of his women, too!  He called for his beautiful queen, Vasti, to come and display herself before the nobles who were drinking with her husband.  Queen Vasti refused to do what he asked.  The king was furious and sought counsel as to what to do about this offense.  It was decided that she must be made a public example so that other women would not get the idea that they could disobey their husbands and show them disrespect.  Queen Vasti was removed from her royal position and was never to come into the king’s presence again!  As a result of this, a search was made for the most beautiful and suitable woman to take the queen’s place.  God then exalts Esther, a Jew, to this place of honor!

Let’s talk about this example.  In today’s culture, what Vasti did would have been totally acceptable!  She probably felt disrespected herself by her husband’s desire to display her before a group of drunken men.  She did not want to be eye candy for this group that were already inflamed by wine.  She had her principles and stuck by them.  She would have her rights as well as the king.  She would have been commended by all today, especially Christians!

How is it that the king was so upset?  In that culture, women were expected to be totally obedient to their husbands.  This disrespect by disobedience was not tolerated!  In the pagan culture, no conviction of right or wrong could stop the king from having what he wanted!  All the men in power agreed about that and felt threatened by the queen’s action!  They felt that they needed to take action to protect themselves and their way of life. (Esther 1:18-20)

God used the culture of that day to accomplish his purposes.  He removed the one queen, probably protecting her for her stand of faith.  He placed Esther, a godly Jew, in the place of influence and gave her favor in order to bring about the deliverance of all his people!  (Esther 2:17)  As a godly Jew, Esther knew how to obey the king and still remain loyal to her God.  By faith she became to all an example  of a woman true to her people and to God!

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Remember me, O my God!

Scripture reading for May 13th: Nehemiah 11-13

Would you like to be remembered by God for the good works you accomplish?  It would be a great honor to have God’s smiling approval recorded for all to read and know.  Some in Scripture have had this honor and Nehemiah is one of them.  Others have had a record of their accomplishments but God called them “evil” and wrote them down as a bad examples!  Let’s look at Nehemiah’s last four prayers of petition to the Lord, see his heart,  and learn why God answered his prayers with favor!

“Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.” Nehemiah 13:14

Nehemiah is asking to be remembered for cleansing the temple of Tobiah the Ammonite, who Eliashib the priest had given a room in the temple.  Nehemiah threw out all his things and cleansed the room. (Nehemiah 13:1-2,7-9)  Nehemiah also found out that the Levites had not received their portion of the tithes and therefore had to return to work, neglecting the work in the temple.  He rebuked the officials who had allowed this and ordered the Levites back to work  in the temple. He reminded the people to bring their tithes into the storehouse and replenish the storerooms that had been neglected.  Nehemiah did this because he loved the Lord’s house and knew the people needed the services of the priesthood.  He knew that they needed to bring their tithes into the temple for their own worship and good!  Faithfulness to God’s house is always remembered and rewarded!

“Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.  Remember me for this also, O my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.” Nehemiah 13:22

Nehemiah next rebuked the people for doing business on the Sabbath, closed the gates, and warned those bringing goods to remove them on the Sabbath.  (Nehemiah 13:12-18)  He was concerned that God’s wrath would come upon the people for their disrespect of God’s commandment.  He was looking out for their welfare.  This probably was not popular but was necessary and God remembered him for it!

“Remember them, O my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.” Nehemiah 13:29  “Remember me with favor, O my God.” Nehemiah 13:30b

The last recorded deed of Nehemiah was his dealing with mixed marriages in Judah and the priesthood.  This greatly disturbed this man of prayer and he rebuked the offenders strongly, even beating and pulling out the hair of some of them!  (Nehemiah 13:25)  He made them swear not to give their daughters or allow their sons to marry outside the nation of faith.  He reminded them of Solomon’s sin in this area.  He was a bad example even though he was loved by God and made king!  Sin requires decisive action or it corrupts and defiles and brings God’s wrath.  Wise leaders take action!  In doing so, they are “remembered with favor” by the Lord!  Would that be your prayer today?

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The Joy of the Lord!

Scripture reading for May 12th: Nehemiah 8:2-10:39

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.  This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

After rebuilding the walls, Ezra and Nehemiah had a great church service.  They brought out the book of the Law of Moses and began reading it to all who had gathered inside the walls near a high wooden platform built for this sacred occasion.  Ezra the priest mounted the platform and those who would help with translation stood with him.   When he opened the Book, all the people stood in reverence.  (Nehemiah 8:4-5)  Ezra praised the Lord and the people responded with “Amen! Amen!” and bowed in worship.  As the word was read, the teachers instructed the people and made the meaning clear to them.  The people began to understand what God had said and how they had failed to follow God’s word.  This triggered emotions and conviction in the people and many began to weep and mourn.

Why did Nehemiah tell the people not to grieve and weep before the Lord?  I thought that repentance was needed and that God would be pleased to see them with broken hearts for their sins.  Godly sorrow that leads to true change is commended in Scripture.  (2nd Corinthians 7:8-11)  Nehemiah actually sent the people away to enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and share with those who didn’t have any.  He told them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength!  (Nehemiah 8:9-10)

Joy always follows true understanding of the grace and mercy of God.  Joy is the result of God’s mercy being revealed to us as a gift to be received by faith.  As the people understood God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness for them, they could celebrate as people who were forgiven.  The Book of the Law revealed this mercy and love of God.  They could celebrate it’s restoration to their lives and to the lives of their children.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God.  (Galatians 5:22)   New Testament believers can enjoy the Lord’s promise of joy as a fruit of abiding in Him and His word abiding in us.  When we understand God’s word and promises, the joy of the Lord becomes our strength!  The Holy Spirit comes into us upon our conversion and marks us internally.  We have God’s law written on our hearts and the Spirit gives us understanding of God’s word.  We can have this same joy for our strength, too!  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13

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Opposing injustice!

Scripture reading for May 11th: Nehemiah 5-8:1

Wise and godly leaders stand firmly against injustice!  Our sinful tendencies lead us relentlessly towards selfishness and taking advantage of those who are in need or in crisis or weak.  They lead us to gaining an advantage for ourselves at the expense of another.  Slavery in America is an example of these selfish and sinful tendencies.  Slaves were bought and sold to build wealth for those they served.  Slaves did jobs that their owners did not want to do themselves.   Slaves were treated well by some and harshly and cruelly by others.  Injustice in this system led some leaders to take action and a civil war resulted over this issue that cost the lives of many Americans and many who named the name of Christ on both sides of this issue.

Nehemiah faced injustice in his day among his own people.  Taxes were high in Jerusalem and the Jews had to pay them to the Persian king.  Their brothers who had money were loaning to these Jews who had no money.  Mortgages were taken on the fields and vineyards and even their homes.  Even sons and daughters were being sold into slavery because of the usury that was going on among the Israelites.  An outcry because of this injustice reached Nehemiah and he pondered this problem of usury and the resulting enslavement. (Nehemiah 5:6-7)   Calling a meeting of all those involved,  he accused those with money of their sin, commanded them to stop these practices, and called them to walk in the fear of God!  (Nehemiah 5:9-11)  They publicly agreed to do so.   He charged the priests and nobles to take an oath to do what they had promised in response to his accusation.  He even shook out his own robe and prayed, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise.  So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” Nehemiah 5:13

God’s people must beware of injustice, even in their own house!  Sin and selfishness can cause us to take advantage of others.  We can abuse or neglect the poor and the weak.  We must not manipulate or enslave others by our selfishness.  Spiritual leaders and pastors must guard their hearts in how they encourage giving.  Sometimes, manipulation and injustice takes place among God’s people through selfish leaders.  Slavery today comes when our sons and daughters go into captivity because of injustice in God’s house among God’s people!  Righteous leaders are watchful and take direct action when they know about it!  Pray today for those in authority and let them know of any injustice among God’s people!

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Sunday rest and reflection–prayer

Greetings in the Wonderful Name of Jesus Christ, our coming king and eternal savior!  “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24)   It is a choice to rejoice in the Lord each and every day!  Each day is a new day with new understanding of how great our God is!  As we begin another week, set aside time to reflect on God Himself.  Take time to commune with Him!  Take time to be with others of like-precious faith who gather to worship, study, and thank Him in community!  We especially need this as we see the day of the Lord approaching!  (Hebrews 10:25)

We have been reading this past week about Ezra and Nehemiah, two great men in the history of Israel who relied on God and lived lives of prayer and obedience.  Ezra offered praise and thanks to the Lord for granting him favor to rebuild the temple.  (Ezra 7:27-28)  Ezra prayed for traveling mercies for his party with all the gold and silver articles for the temple. (Ezra 8:21-23)  After God brought them safely to Jerusalem, they met with others and offered sacrifices and thanked the Lord.  Ezra heard about the unfaithfulness of those who had married outside of the faith and he again humbled himself to pray and fast and confess the sins of his countrymen.  (Ezra 9:5l-15)  Others gathered with him and they sought the Lord.  God brought repentance and cleansing as they prayed together.

Nehemiah carried a burden for Jerusalem and it’s broken walls.  He began to pray to the Lord about his burden.  (Nehemiah 1:5-11)  He had opportunity to speak with the Persian king, Artaxeres, and prayed again.  (Nehemiah 2:4) God granted him favor and he was sent by this pagan king to rebuild the walls.  He was given materials and money as well as willing workers.  As he arrived, God gave him a vision and plan to put the people to work by families, assigning them personal responsibility near their own homes.  He shared his vision and God granted favor!  Prayer was offered to combat discouragement and stop opposing forces. (Nehemiah 4:4-5)   Nehemiah armed the workers and encouraged them to work and fight for their own children, homes and families!  (Nehemiah 4:14)  He had a trumpeter near him at all times to sound a call to fight (or pray) when an attack might come.  (Nehemiah 4:20)  Prayer was important for Nehemiah and those who worked together to rebuild the walls.  It brought a focus on God as the source of all help and a vision of God’s plan and purpose!

Take time today to praise the Lord, thank him for who He is, and enjoy sweet communion with Him.  Do this for yourself and for your family!  Meet with God’s people and pray and praise Him in community!  He is coming soon!

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