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How To Change

changeStudy God’s Word

On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”

Obey God’s Word

So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. (Nehemiah 8:13-16 ESV)

Obey God’s Word With Others

And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. (Nehemiah 8:17 ESV)

Do the Right Thing Again and Again

And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule. (Nehemiah 8:18 ESV)

Ordination 101

Sunday we were privileged at Grace to ordain Gale Wilson and Adrian Early into Christian ministry. What a remarkable day as Grace affirmed God’s call on these men. My succinct definition of ordination is: a church affirming and confirming God’s call one someone’s life into the Gospel ministry. Some of you have been curious as to the questions Adrian and Gale answered. Here they are. Allow this to give you an appreciation for the preparation these two men made prior to Sunday.  Here goes.

Bibliology

  1. Special and general revelation
  2. Inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility
  3. Illumination and interpretation defined
  4. Is the canon closed, is revelation ongoing?

Theology Proper

  1. The Trinity
  2. Attributes of God.
  3. God as Creator.
  4. Decree, plan and will of God.

Christology

  1. Deity and attributes of Christ. His pre-existence.
  2. Incarnation and humanity
  3. Earthly ministry – purpose and activities.
  4. Death, resurrection, ascension and return.

Pneumatology

  1. Deity and “personhood.”
  2. His ministry related to Christ, believers and the world.
  3. Spiritual gifting
  4. Terms and concepts: Spirit baptism, indwelling, sealing, filling and fruit.

Angelology and Satanology

  1. Existence, creation and nature of angels.
  2. Holy angels – their purpose, work and ministry.
  3. Satan – who he is, his rebellion and fall, his present activity and judgment.
  4. Demons – their fall, work and judgment.
  5. Demonic oppression and possession – who can be possessed and how.

Anthropology and Hamartiology

  1. Theory of creation – literal, day/age, etc.
  2. The temptation and fall of man: original state, resultant state (sin nature), 
sin defined, the results of sin (penalty, depravity, inability).
  3. Transmission of sin: imputation, inheritance of sin.

 Soteriology

  1. Grace/works in salvation
  2. What is the basis and cause of our salvation?
  3. How does one become a Christian – what is man’s responsibility?
  4. The results of salvation.
  5. Terms: election, foreknowledge, security, redemption, reconciliation, 
propitiation, conviction, glorification, sanctification.

Ecclesiology

  1. Origin, essence and foundation of the church.
  2. Christ as Head, purpose and ministry of the church.
  3. Church leadership and government.
  4. Church ordinances.

Eschatology

  1. Death and resurrection.
  2. The Great Tribulation – purpose, time and participants.
  3. Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.
  4. Eternal state, new heaven and earth.

Please congratulate Adrian Early (adrian@graceforall.org) and Gale Wilson (wildlifewilson@hotmail.com).

I Wonder What Would Happen

Wonder with me what would happen this Sunday in churches across our troubled, needy world if…

  • unity-hands-796x450The people gathered as one man  And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. (Nehemiah 8:1a) What if the rich and poor, black and white, educated and uneducated, healthy and unhealthy, grieving and rejoicing, Republican and Democrat, simple and wise, came together laying aside all differences. What if no one noticed clothes or cars, skin color or diplomas earned, political affiliation or personal taste. What if God’s people Sunday gathered with no distinction except for being the people of God.
  • The people had one desire And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. (Nehemiah 8:1b) 45,000+ people gathered with one request of Ezra, their priest and scribe. Bring out the book! They wanted to hear from God. This marked a significant departure from Israel’s normal form of worship. Prior to this, their focus was on the temple with its grandeur and glory. Though the temple had been rebuilt, it wasn’t near as grand nor glorious as it once was. Their attention now turned to the Book, God’s law he had given them through Moses.

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. (Nehemiah 8:1-3 ESV)

  • The people had one response  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:5-6 ESV) They worshiped God. When they heard the words of God, they worshiped God. They didn’t look at their watches, play games on their smart phones, wonder where their neighbor bought the outfit they were wearing. They fell on their faces in awe of reverence of their great God. They worshiped the God of the book.

I wonder what would happen this Sunday if people showed up as one man with one desire and one response.

Building God a Platform

And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. (Nehemiah 8:4 ESV)

The returned exiles built a platform so that their pastor/scribe could climb it, open the scroll of God’s law, and read it. They made it for that purpose.

It’s Monday. The week is young, the weekend is over. You’re back in the swing of things. Before the week begins, grab a hammer and some nails and build God a platform to reveal Himself to you through His Word. You won’t need a real hammer–nails won’t help either. Here are the materials and tools you need:

  • An open heart. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law. Psalm 119:18
  • An open schedule.  My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:9 ESV)
  • God’s Word. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9 ESV)

Seek God on purpose this week.

The Leper’s Song

leperThe Request

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:11-13 ESV)

Jesus’s Answer

When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14 ESV)

One’s Response

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16 ESV)

In order to understand this leper’s response you must read the prior two days’ blogs. Everything in his world had changed. He came out of darkness into the light, out of the land of the dying into the land of the living. I think he very well could have written the following song of thanksgiving. Maybe you can identify:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will bring me home.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine; but God who called me here below will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.

And I think he would also have added:

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood his mercy reigns; unending love, amazing grace.

(The above lyrics were written by John Newton and Chris Tomlin respectively)

Alone (cont)

The story of the leper continues…

The priest comes out. I stand up. I recognize him and he me. I’ve been here many times, never like this. He can tell by the look on my face that things aren’t good. I show him the spot. He examines it carefully, asking me all kinds of questions. Then he tells me what I already know.

For seven days I will be confined. You might say, quarantined. Alone with my thoughts and with my God. Praying. Begging. Please God. Waiting is so hard. Wondering is torture. And I’ll watch. I’ll watch that sore like I’ve never watched anything before. Will it spread? The priest interrupts my worry. He shows me to my home for the next seven days. Tells me he’ll see my on the seventh day. That’s seven days. Seven days to wait…and think. 168 hours alone with my thoughts. No conversations. They’ll bring me food every day. But they’ll just slide it in to me. No one will touch me. I’ll touch no one. I’ll wait. And pray. Pray and wait. 10,080 minutes alone with my thoughts. Minutes that will seem like decades. Hours that will seem like centuries. A week that will last an eternity.

Seven days passed. The seven longest days of my life. They called for me. I went again to see the priest. I showed him the sore. He’s seen many of these, unfortunately. He knows what to look for. I know what he’s going to say before he says it. I’ve seen a change. Oh, I’ve tried to convince myself that what’s there isn’t really there.

Like you hope you’ll wake up from the nightmare in your life. Your boss didn’t really say “you’re fired.” Your husband didn’t really have that affair. You think, “I’ll wake up and it will be gone.” Sleep is your friend. The only time you’re not thinking about your problem is when you’re asleep. That was me. When I woke up I had a moment of peace, then I remembered. And my day was spent in worry.

The priest again interrupted my troubled thoughts. It has spread, he says. It isn’t good. His eyes are full of compassion. He’s seen this too many times. His next word pierces my heart like a dagger.

Leprosy.

The word hangs in the air. There is silence. He then reads my sentence. It is a death sentence. It’s a diagnosis and a prognosis rolled up in one. I’ll tear my clothes. Cover my face. And cry “Unclean. Unclean!” I’ll leave town immediately. No time to say goodbye to my wife. No hugs for the kids. No one will touch me. And I dare not touch anyone.

With that one word my world changes. Leprosy. I rip my clothes. I cover my head. I make my way out of the synagogue never to return. I walk through the city streets a different man than I was seven days ago. I cry “unclean, unclean.” I can hardly get the words out. I walk toward the city gates. I want to go home. I want to be with my wife. My kids. Just one more embrace. Just one more time for them to run and jump into my arms.

What will she do? How will she make it? I look down the tiny dirt street that leads to home. I dare not go there. She can’t get this. I want to hold her, want her to hold me. But I would never do this to anyone I love. My kids. They deserve better. Who will provide for them? Who will make sure they’re fed, they have clothes on their backs? Who will…? The questions come faster than answers.

I arrive at the gate leaving the city. I look back. Back to a place I will never call home again. With one spot on the outside and infection on the inside I have become an outsider, an outcast. I look again toward my home. I already miss them. How I miss them.

I enter the world of the leper. There is no cure. No treatment. Just waiting. Waiting for the sores to spread. And they spread. All over my body. I’m covered from head to toe. I itch. I hurt. I smell. My clothes are torn, my body is wrecked with pain. Emotionally I’m spent. I feel worthless, helpless, hopeless.

Sometimes I slip into town. I try to go when nobody’s around. I hate yelling “unclean, unclean.” I hate even thinking that about myself, let alone telling everyone else. Who wants to be an outcast? A misfit? An outsider?

Sometimes I slip into the backside of my little neighborhood. I hide behind a tree and watch my kids play. They don’t know I’m there. And if they saw me, they wouldn’t even recognize me now. Oh, how I’d love to run and grab them up. Just to hear them call my name out. To hear them say, “Daddy.” To rush to their side in the night when they’re scared. To greet them first thing when they wake up in the morning.

Tears run down my scarred faced. And there’s my wife. She gets more beautiful as the days go by. Just one embrace. One hug. If I could put my arms around her one time. The tears come again.

I am alone. I know no other word to describe me. Alone. I have no one and no hope. No future, only a past. Nothing to look forward to. Nothing to work toward. No goals. No thought that tomorrow will be better.

Alone

This is part one of a 3 day post…in order to understand why the leper returned to Jesus praising God, you must understand his plight before Jesus healed him.

I had heard of him. News spreads fast…good news and bad news. It was all good news. His name. Jesus. The news. He was healing people. All kinds of people. When something good happens around here, it’s news. And when something bad happens it’s news. I know about that, too.

It’s hard to describe. How I got where I am. It’s one of those things you never expect, and hope all your life will never happen to you. I was an ordinary guy. Like you. Had a wife. Kids. I loved them. They loved me, too. It was an ordinary day. You see I’m a carpenter. Nothing fancy. Just simple stuff. I went into my carpentry shop, a modest shop, nothing to brag about, and went to work. Just like every other day. I like what I do. Love working with my hands. Starting with a bare piece of wood and turning it into something useful. And so, on this day, wow, how I remember this day, I was working on bedpost. Had almost finished it. I happened to look down. Something caught my eye. It was a spot, uh, barely swollen. Now you might think little of such a thing. See a spot on your skin. It’s inflamed. Swollen. In my day, you wouldn’t. I looked closer. I dropped the tools I was working with.   Before I could think I was gripped by fear.

I sat there for a moment. Spellbound. Speechless. Alone. Afraid. Surely not. Oh I hope not. God, don’t let it be. I knew what I had to do. What would my wife say? The bedpost would have to wait. I dropped everything. Like you do when the phone rings and the doctor says it’s cancer. Like you do when your teenager says she needs to talk, and she’s pregnant. I dropped everything. I ran home. I never run. Today I ran. To my wife. I love her. I love my children.

She was going about her morning routine like always. She didn’t expect to see me. When our eyes met she saw the fear in mine. And my eyes brought fear to her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

I held out my arm. “Look. Tell me this isn’t what I think it is. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me.” She stepped back. I held out my arm. She looked. Tears filled her eyes. She shook her head. Yes, I think it is. Leprosy? I didn’t want to say the word. It seemed like saying the word made it worse. Maybe if I didn’t say it, it wouldn’t be so. Maybe if I didn’t say it out loud, it would go away.

We’re Israelites. And so I said goodbye to my wife. I knew I wouldn’t see her again, for at least seven days. I made my way to the synagogue. I’d been to the synagogue many times. Great times of worship. This time I went with my head down, walked slowly. I never dreamed of going to the synagogue like this. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. What would the priest say? What would he do?

Though I didn’t want to go, I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew the law. The priest would look at me. He’d look at the sore. The one tiny sore. If it only appeared to be skin deep, then there was hope. He’d isolate me for seven days. Seven days is much better than a lifetime. I arrived at the synagogue, waited for the priest. I sat there, much like you’d sit in a doctor’s office waiting for him to give you the report. I sat there. Did anybody else notice? I tried to cover my hand.

If at the end of seven days the sore hasn’t spread, then the priest will give me another chance. Another seven days away from everyone and everything. Then he’ll look at it again. If it’s started to fade, then the priest will declare me “clean.” I’ll wash my clothes, thank my God, and go home to my wife and kids. I don’t fault the priest for this. I understand. I wouldn’t want my wife to get this, my kids to get infected. It’s right for me to be isolated. It’s good. I know that. But it’s hard. At the very least I won’t see my wife and kids for a week or two—at the most—a lifetime. I’ll take a week any day.

The Wrong Question

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  Judges 6:15-16

Gideon asked the wrong question. “How can I save IsrGideon1ael?”

God never asked Gideon to save Israel. And God has not asked you to save anyone either. You can’t. You can’t even change them.

Some of you are trying.  You’re trying to save your husband. Only God can do that. Others would love to save your boss–before you lose your job! As a mom, you would save your son in a heartbeat. You can’t. You can’t even change your husband, your boss, or your son.

Your prayers will never be answered as long as you ask the wrong question.

How can you save? You can’t.

So there’s no need to list your weaknesses. They don’t matter. You’re not doing the saving anyway. You’re not doing the changing. Your weaknesses are inconsequential to what God is wanting to do through you.

Change the way you pray.

Change your focus.

John said, “He must increase; I must decrease.”

7 Questions

In the Lord’s Prayer (probably more accurately known as the disciples’ prayer), Jesus teaches us how to pray.  Ken Hemphill has written seven accountability questions connected to this prayer.  Let me encourage you to ask these questions of your spouse or your accountability partner.  They take Jesus’ prayer and make it applicable to everyday life.

1.  What did you do today (or this week) that hallowed God’s name?

2.  What actions, words, or deeds may have brought reproach on God’s name?

3.  What kingdom opportunities did you encounter, and how did you respond?

4.  How have you responded to God’s will throughout the week?

5.  How have you experienced God’s daily provision this week?

6.  How is your spiritual debt ledger?  (What do you need forgiveness for, and who do you need to forgive?)

7.   Have you avoided all issues of temptation and experienced spiritual victory throughout the week?

Be honest and watch God transform your time with him, and as a result, your very life.

Keep Calm and Worship

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanWikipedia reports it like this:

Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. Although 2.45 million copies were printed, and although the Blitz happened, the poster was hardly ever publicly displayed and was little known until a copy was rediscovered in 2000.

Between September of 1940 and May of 1941 London was bombed 71 times. 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on cities in England. One million houses in London were either destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 citizens of England were killed. War is bloody and dangerous.

2 Chronicles reports it like this:

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. (2 Chronicles 20:22-23 ESV)

Three enemies are storming Jerusalem. All conventional wisdom says do anything but sing. Plan your strategy. Draw your swords. Man your stations. Certainly there are times when conventional wisdom works. Then there are times when conventional wisdom falls short, when you’re outnumbered, when the enemy is just too strong and the odds are stacked against you.

What can you do in those times?

Keep calm and pray. Remember Jehoshaphat’s prayer? We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you. Jehoshaphat prayed God’s character and remembered God’s works.

Keep calm and worship. He did the most unconventional thing: he placed the worship leaders in front of the generals, the praise team in front of the army. The choir marched into battle first. You see, we have the advantage of knowing the outcome. Jehoshaphat didn’t. He had the diagnosis, not the prognosis.

I love the progression of events! And when they began to sing and pray, the Lord. Their sacrifice of praise filled the halls of heaven. God acted on their behalf. He created confusion in the enemy camp, turned them on one another, and his people watched it unfold.

Whatever you’re facing today, sing. I know it sounds simple, maybe even trite. It isn’t. Worship in spite of your circumstances. Do not allow your current predicament to rob you of giving God the praise He deserves. Do not allow your current crisis to curtail your worship of the crucified and risen Christ.

Keep calm and worship.