(Job 8-10) Prosperity

Bildad was perhaps the first health-and-wealth-gospel preacher.

But if you earnestly seek God and ask the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright… your final days will be full of prosperity. (8:5-7)

If you do this, this, and this, God will pay your bills and heal you. So yes, the prosperity gospel is in the Bible. Are we to base our faith upon it?

Even Job questioned the truth of it. He realized God’s ways are not our ways, and God is not accountable to us humans.

He destroys both the blameless and the wicked. (9:22b))

If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye, then you dip me in a pit of mud, and my own clothes despise me. (9:30-31)

Job’s outlook is bleak. But he is acknowledging that the evidence proves that good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. The truth is you can’t buy God’s blessings with good behavior. So, no Bildad. What you say is not true.

Job needed to learn, as do we, that God’s ultimate goal has nothing to do with our comfort or material blessings. Paul emphasized this fact when he said in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself.

Let go of expecting that check in the mail, and turn off the preacher who promises it will come if you do this or that, pray the right words, have enough faith, give enough money. That prosperity gospel was wrong when Bildad preached it, and it’s wrong in 2021.

(Nehemiah 9-13) Spiritual Integrity

Regarding Nehemiah’s harsh treatment of foreigners and sinners, the commentator in my Apologetics Study Bible used the words, “spiritual integrity.” In order to protect the holiness of God’s people, their spiritual integrity if you will, Nehemiah expelled those who didn’t worship God in truth. He kicked them out, and not all that gently, either.

Nehemiah knew the “negative spiritual ramifications” of accepting non-believers into the family of God. I don’t think we understand those spiritual ramifications today.

Even our pastors encourage us to bring sinners into God’s house. Worship leaders use Bethel and Hillsong music, inviting false teaching into our fellowship. We try so hard to look like our unsaved neighbors we no longer stand as a beacon in a dark world.

What are the negative spiritual ramification? Too many of us, too many of our churches, have lost our spiritual integrity. And you know something that makes me sad about that? Some of you will say that’s a good thing.

(Nehemiah 4-8) The Joy Of The Lord

As I read about the worship service in the square in front of one of the gates in the newly repaired wall around Jerusalem, a couple of things occurred to me.

One is that worship was expressed in two ways – with the raising of hands, as well as the kneeling of people with their faces to the ground. I believe there is a place for both in our worship of God still today.

The other thing that spoke to me is how the people reacted when Ezra read Scripture, and when God’s Word was explained. When they understood what was read, they grieved. Their reaction to the Truth was an honest look at their failure to obey it. And it broke them.

Ezra and Nehemiah encouraged the people with, “Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (8:10b)

It wasn’t that their grief was wrong. But there is a time to recognize sin and repent of it, and there is a time to get up off our knees and allow God to strengthen us to worship and serve Him with joy.

Just being sorry for our sins isn’t enough What you do with that grief is just as important.

When you are faced with your own sin, I pray it breaks your heart; that you realize what your sin does to our precious Father; that you fall on your knees and ask Him to forgive you. Just don’t stay there in your sorrow.

Accept what Jesus offers – complete forgiveness – then get up and allow His joy to fill and strengthen you. Worship Him with gladness. Serve Him, obey Him, submit to Him with joy.

Because the joy of the Lord is YOUR strength.

(Nehemiah 1-3) One Man

Nehemiah wasn’t a builder or an architect. He drank wine for a living. But Nehemiah heard of the crumbling wall around Jerusalem, realized the need, and got busy leading the rebuilding project.

He didn’t do all the work himself. A lot of the Jews picked up hammers and lugged heavy bricks, too. But it took one man to have the vision and the drive to rally people to get it done.

Sometimes I think the walls are crumbling around today’s Church, too. The enemy has an open door into our lives and into our fellowships. Some well-meaning Christians believe that’s a good thing. I don’t happen to be one of them.

The walls around our families, our society are crumbling as well. Some well-meaning Christians think it’s time they do. I believe that’s a mistake, according to Scripture.

Read the book of Nehemiah and see what God was able to do when one man was obedient and led the way. Think about what one man (or woman) could do if he or she was obedient and led the way in your home, in your church fellowship, in our society, or in the Church.

Are you that person? I’m praying for you.

(Ezra 1-6) Not Just My Soapbox

A quote from the CSB Apologetics Study Bible, (Holman Bible Publishers of Nashville, TN, 2017, page 552) regarding 6:21:

“Spiritual holiness was expected of those who worshiped God. Today’s church could learn from this early community. Church discipline has fallen by the wayside as contemporary congregations attempt to shed their image of exclusivity. However, God expects to be served by a holy people. The church today must demand that church members conduct themselves according to certain spiritual standards that honor the faith community and God. (Romans 12:1-2, I Pt 1:13-16)” ( emphasis mine)

I boldly and unapologetically say, “Amen.”

(2 Chronicles 32-34) Pray For Revival. But Be Warned.

What is a revival? Is it an evangelistic effort to present the Gospel so unsaved people find the Savior? That has become the accepted definition in the Christian realm. But in the true sense of the word, isn’t it more a re-awakening? Doesn’t it mean that something dead is brought back to life? Isn’t it more of a transformation from “what is” to “what is better?”

We see a revival here in the life of King Josiah and Judah. The king was already a believer, a follower of God busy doing great things in the name of the Lord. But something happened to Josiah when he read the Scriptures for himself.

He was convicted of sin. He woke up to the truth. He was revived, energized, and began to serve God with a new determination. The result of his personal revival was that it spread throughout Judah so that the nation began serving God anew, too.

I think we need to be praying for revival in our world. But it’s the Church that needs revived. It’s a dead, weak, ineffective Church made up of dead, weak, ineffective believers who need a wake-up call.

Of course unsaved people need Jesus. Of course the world’s problems would be solved if people loved and served God according to His Word. But that won’t happen until a revival happens in the pews first.

Let’s pray for revival. But be warned. When you do, you’re praying that your relationship with the Savior will be revived first, that you will confess and repent of sin in your own life, that you would boldly throw off the chains of this world and stand apart in the truth of Scripture.

Yes, Christian. I am praying for your revival and mine. I’m just warning you.

(2 Chronicles 28-31) It’s Just The Beginning

The Jewish people had just participated in a worship service beyond imagination. There were sacrifices for days, songs, trumpets, praises.

“There was great rejoicing in Jerusalem, for nothing like this was known since the days of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.” (29:26)

But it’s what happened after the benediction that spoke to me today.

“When all this was completed, all Israel who had attended went out to the cities of Judah and broke up the sacred pillars, chopped down the Asherah poles, and tore down the high places and altars throughout Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, to the last one. “ (31:1a)

We have put so much emphasis on the experience of worship we neglect why we worship. If attending church on Sunday doesn’t inspire and equip and encourage us to get out there and confront sin, if we don’t leave the sanctuary like people shot out of a canon eager to go and make disciples, to be salt and light, fishers of men, why do we bother getting out of bed on Sunday morning?

I believe Scripture tells us the evidence of true worship is what happens next.

And pastors: If your goal isn’t to inspire your congregation to use their worship of God as a catalyst to share the Gospel, why do you bother getting out of bed on Sunday?

Worship isn’t the all to end all. It’s just the beginning.

(2 Chronicles 25-28) Sacrificing Children

Sometimes when faced with their sin, instead of repenting, people dig in their heels. That was the case with King Ahaz of Judah. He was told by the prophet Obed that he was guilty of many sins.

“Listen to me and return the captives you took from your brothers for the Lord’s burning anger is on you.” (28:11)

I would think the words, “burning anger” would have been enough for the king to repent. But instead, to arm himself against an angry God, Ahaz plundered the Lord’s temple and gave the treasures to the king of Assyria to buy their protection. Verse 22 tells us:

“At the time of his distress, King Ahaz himself became more unfaithful to the Lord.”

Scripture tells us he went as far as sacrificing his own children by throwing them into fire on altars of pretend gods. If you aren’t appalled by that I suggest you check your heartbeat.

But are we any different today? People still dig in their heels when confronted with sin. And sadly, they are still sacrificing their children.

“You say homosexuality is a sin? I’ll teach my children to love and accept everyone.”

You say abortion is murder? I’ll teach my children, ‘My body. My choice.'”

“You say marriage is between a man and woman? I’ll teach my children they can’t help who they love.”

“You say it’s a sin to worship other gods? I’ll teach my children they are their own god, powerful, capable, strong, worthy, and that their truth is truth.”

This is going to sound cruel, but King Ahaz threw his children into a fire that eventually killed them. The searing pain those precious babies felt while they died stopped hurting when they took that last breath. What people are doing today is throwing their children into an eternal fire, apart from God, and a searing pain that will never stop. An eternal fire without hope of it ever ending.

If you aren’t appalled by that, check your heartbeat.

Call it what you want: wokeness, progressiveness, love…

What it is is sacrificing children to the god of this world.

( 2 Chronicles 24) It’s tax time. Hurray!

When the people of Israel heard that their king was bringing back the temple tax, how do you think they reacted? Did they start a Twitter war? Post rants on social media? Did they start an impeachment process, or complain to their neighbors over the backyard fences? You won’t believe this:

All the leaders and all the people rejoiced, brought the tax, and put it in the chest until it was full. (24:10)

You read that right. They rejoiced! And Scripture tells us they filled the tax collection box daily.

We just passed the traditional tax deadline of April 15th this week here in the States. Anybody rejoice when you wrote that check? Right.

What we see here is people joyfully, willingly, thankfully giving to the building up of the temple, giving to the work of the Lord.

So tomorrow, when you write that check to your church, will you do it joyfully? I hope so. Whether you interpret Scripture as demanding a literal 10% tithe, either from your gross or your net earnings, or if you believe that 10% is a guideline, how you give is as important as how much you give.

God blesses obedience that begins in our hearts. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The work of your local church needs your money in order to efficiently serve God. But equally important to the ministry is your heart’s attitude.

Is it possible to love too much? Is there such a thing as too much joy? Can you ever give God too much from what He’s given you?

I pray you will know true joy as you generously support your church fellowship with your finances. It’s what God deserves.

(2 Chronicles 7-9) Come to Jesus

We all know that Solomon was wise and rich. In fact, he was arguably the wisest and richest man who ever lived. But it occurred to me today that it was the people who flocked to him – ordinary people as well as kings – that is the message here.

And it was the man, Solomon, they came to see. It speaks to me about how the Gospel is presented these days. Do we invite people to come to God for the benefits of knowing Him? Things like health, wealth, peace, heaven?

Or do they hear an invitation to come to the Man, the person of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world? Lay aside the material blessings associated with knowing Him. Lay aside the feelings, even lay aside eternity. Don’t we want people – don’t I want you – to meet Jesus Himself?

I guess I want people drawn to Jesus when they observe my relationship with Him. Not necessarily my lifestyle, or my attitude, or my faith. I want them to see that I have a real relationship with the King, and then want a relationship with Him, too.

The Queen of Sheba remarked how blessed Solomon’s people must be just being in his presence. I’d like people to be able to recognize how blessed I must be as I live in the Presence of God.

And ultimately, I want them to want to live there, too.