Faith Applied

In Ezra 8, the godly scribe Ezra, preparing to embark on a journey fraught with danger, tells the king that their God’s favor is with them, “[his] hand is for good on all who seek him.”

At a pivotal point in his journey, he leads his fellow exiles to stop and pray (Nehemiah 8:21-23). He knows what he has stated to the king is true, and realizes that fear, or dependence on their sponsors to provide security detail, would be proof of empty words and weak faith. He applies the truth by gathering his people to beseech their mighty God, their Shield and Guide and Protector, then applies faith’s practical wisdom by dividing the treasures among his priests as a precaution through bandit-ridden territory.

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Cross in Jerusalem, Pamela Bunn

How thoroughly do I pray and act on what I know is true? Do I boldly step in the water to see it part? (Joshua 3:9-17) We do what we do because we believe what we believe. Nehemiah’s brave faith influenced all who traveled with him—imagine how their hearts anticipated God’s care, and eyes were enlightened to behold His sufficiency!

Oh God, give me understanding to know You and Your supply, the faith to seek You, a mouth to declare Your truth, and the courage to act on it.

The Blessing of Service

Daily duties left undone, more needs than were being met. Widows in the early church were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Some of the apostles were appointed to “preaching…prayer and the ministry of the word,” (Acts 6:2,4) while others to serve. Their assignment was blessed with prayer.

In verse 8, Stephen, one of the waiters, “full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. [They] could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” His subsequent speech (Acts 7:2-53) was one of the most articulate and bold recorded in the Bible.

Menial tasks never diminish our capacity to be used by God. Jesus Himself, “the Son of Man, came not to be served but to serve.” Matthew 20:28

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Taking a towel, [he] tied it around his waist, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” John 13:1,4,5

“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly, give yourself to humble tasks. Never be conceited.” Romans 12:16

“How beautiful the hands that serve                                                                                               the wine and the bread, and the sons of the earth;                                                                     How beautiful the feet that bring                                                                                                   The sound of good news, and the love of the King;                                                                    How beautiful is the the body of Christ.”  – Twila Paris

Whatever You assign me today, Lord, may I be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3) and “work heartily, as for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)

Nothing too hard or wonderful

Ezra 6 describes an amazing turn of events–amazing to us, natural to God. After the Jews have been confronted, discouraged, and even halted by opposition, Darius of Persia, as Cyrus had two reigns before him, not only gives permission to complete the rebuilding of the temple, but supplies all they need to do it and the animals for sacrifice. They finish the work and celebrate “at the Feast of Unleavened Bread with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so he helped them in the work of the house of God.” Ezra 6:22

“Is anything too hard [too wonderful] for the LORD?” Genesis 18:14

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“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” Matthew 19:26

“For nothing shall be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Lord, You can do anything, in me, in others. Give me Your eyes of faith in all the impossibilities of attitude, proclivity, and circumstance. May I purpose and persevere in the work You have put before me, trusting You to lead and provide. What seems impossible to man is an opportunity to see Your glorious possibility, power, and wonder. Nothing is too hard or too wonderful for You.

Holy Transformation

What a remarkable change has taken place in Peter! Since Luke 22:54-66, where he denied Jesus three times while following Him at a distance (after cutting of a high priest’s servant’s ear- John 18:10- in an impetuous act of bravery), he is now emboldened to declare in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.” The secret? “God has given the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 5:32) Do I appropriate all the Holy Spirit has to offer?

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In Acts 3:13, Peter preached that the men of Israel had “denied [Jesus] in the presence of Pilate.” He, too, had denied Jesus, but the Lord’s look straight at Peter had cut him to the quick, and brought immediate tears of repentance (Luke 22:61-62). Then came Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’s followers and brought remarkable transformation.

“When the [Spirit] comes he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:8

“[The Spirit will clothe you] with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

Lord, move me to yield to your conviction, to repent, to be emptied of self-will and filled with You that I boldly live your truth.

What am I thinking and doing differently from how I used to, or distinctly from the world, because I have the indwelling Holy Spirit? How can I appropriate His enabling and power today?

Seasons, and Accepting Mine

In Matthew 4:12-17, there is a turning of seasons: “When he heard that John had been arrested, [Jesus] withdrew to Galilee, went to live in Capernaum by the Sea…[and] began to preach.” John’s life and ministry were about to come to an end–he was imprisoned for his stance for truth and would be beheaded; Jesus’s public ministry was just beginning. They were the same age, about three months apart. We all have callings and seasons, and God determines our paths, our work, and the number of our days. I think of Jesus’s later words to Peter in John 21:22: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

S Africa, road along gold field

“So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

“Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

Lord, You have the right and authority to orchestrate my days and years and places for Your purposes. Give me clear understanding of your assignment for me in this season of life–and with it wholeheartedness, courage, and contentment. May I rise, go forth, and follow Thee!

 

The Sides of Fog, and Faith

The damp fog is stirred this morning only by cold that shakes the trees. Visibility is limited. Mists gust horizontally. Only God is calm, only God sees clearly.

From our perspective, we see the cloud, the unknown, and feel the chill. God sees all.

In Ezra 3:3, “They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the people of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, morning and evening.”

Grenadine Islands, mist, island layers

“We do not lose heart. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16,18

When in fear, doubt, consternation, waiting, God bids us to the altar of worship, regularly to lay down our all in faith, to fix our eyes on the unseen One Who holds the fog and dispels it as He sees fit. Thank You, LORD, that we do not see everything, but You give us eyes to see You.

An Undivided Heart

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It is a still, quiet New Year’s dawn–even the birds have been unusually calm as the sun has painted an inky sky violet, then pink, now bright blue feathered with pale grey white. As I read the account of creation in Genesis 1, and King Cyrus’s proclamation in Ezra 1 for God’s people to go up and build His house, contemplating a new year before me, I heard a single, clear note from our wind chimes. One. In barely a whisper of breeze. A solitary tone, no more.

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One note. One vision. One Lord. One focus, this day, and every day of 2018. O God, keep my eyes, my thoughts, my motives, my energies, my intentions and efforts, fixed on Jesus my Lord, the only One worthy of praise, affection, adoration. Amen.

“All things were created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 3:17

“O LORD, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.”  – St. Augustine

“Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.” Psalm 86:11