Saturday, 31 March 2012

For God or for us?

"Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?  When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves? Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?' " – Zechariah 7v5-7

The people Zechariah had no problem being religious. For seventy years they had fasted in the fifth and the seventh month as part of their religious routine. Everyone would have thought that they were okay with God because of their long, proud religious traditions.

But God knew their hearts. ‘Why do you do this? Do you REALLY fast for Me – for Me? Aren’t you really doing this for yourself? Would it not have been better to obey?’

As these folks demonstrated it is easy to get the worship and the practices right. Who doesn’t feel good after a particularly great service? In a lot of situations we seem to judge the ‘success’ of our church meetings by how they make us feel. If we are not careful we may get the impression that Christianity is about us and what it can do for us.

Is that really what worshipping God is all about? It is all about how it makes us feel? Do we worship God for Him? Do we really? Or do we do it as much for us and for Him?

We need to be careful about who is the object of our worship and service. Sure, it is great to be blessed and encouraged by our service. But if that becomes our goal then we are in real trouble because when things go badly or we don’t ‘feel good’ we blame Him.

Why do we do what we do? Really.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Not by might

So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. - Zechariah 4v6

The first section of the Irish census for 2011 was made public yesterday. As I looked over it I was amazed at what a tiny percentage of people here were part of any group or denomination that could be considered ‘born again.’ Out of 4.5 million respondents only 53,000 fit that description. There were 14,043 apostolic or Pentecostals, 4,188 evangelicals, and 3,531 Baptists in that group.

Let’s double that number of 53,000 to include any on the other Christian religions who might truly be born again and assume that everyone in all those churches above are believers. That means, even with this stretched numbers, that about 2% of the Irish population are born again believers.

It makes our task here in Ireland look a little hopeless doesn’t it? After all, there are about the same number of atheists and agnostics as there are Baptists and evangelicals. The number of

So what do you do in a situation like this?

We take the word of the Lord through Zechariah to heart. Zechariah saw his nation in collapse and yet God was telling him that it would be restored one day. ‘How can this be?’ asked Zechariah. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.’

We as believers in Ireland are greatly outnumbered. Our gospel message is not popular or accepted. We cannot do this job drawing men to Christ through our own might or by our own power. We can only do this through the power of the Spirit. Everything we do must be in reliance on Him. Otherwise we are certainly doomed.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Is the seed still in the barn?

Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.' " – Haggai 2v9

It is easy enough to wonder where God’s blessings are. It is easy to wonder where all the fruit is.

It is easy, while focusing on the ‘nothings’ we looked at yesterday and get discouraged.

Here Haggai asks a rhetorical question. ‘Is the seed still in the barn?’ ‘Of course not’ is the implied answer – the seed has been sown, yet the vines are empty and the trees do not bear fruit.

God’s point is clear. You’ve done what you can. I am going to bless you. Just wait for me now.

This reminds me of the verse in Galatians that reminds us ‘don’t be weary in well doing, in due season you will reap if you don’t quit.’

We do need to check ourselves thought to see if the seed is indeed still in the barn, If we are keeping the message of salvation to ourselves than we have not done our bit and can’t expect God to bless.

Is the seed in the barn?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

When we see nothing

'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says the LORD; 'and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,' says the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the LORD of hosts. 'According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!' – Haggai 2v3-5

So the Temple was built. One would think that this was a time of great celebration after fourteen years of waiting. But Ezra records the day for us.

And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel." Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. – Ezra 3v11-13

The young people were excited about what was done. They were shouting for joy. The old people who could remember Solomon’s temple and all of its glory were crying because this temple was like nothing compared to the old one.

There are times in our lives when we feel like we are looking at nothing. Things don’t go our way. It looks like we are just spinning our wheels. We can wonder if we are doing any good. It just doesn’t seem like the good old days.

But God had a word of encouragement for them and for us. ‘Be strong, I am with you, and I am going to do all that I said I am going to do.’

God is not bound by the size or the splendour of the temple. He is not bound by the size or the splendour of our ministries. God can do His work even when we can’t see how He is going to do it.

Praise God that He can work even when we see nothing.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

They did it

Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD.   Then Haggai, the LORD's messenger, spoke the LORD's message to the people, saying, "I am with you, says the LORD." So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, - Haggai 1v12-14

So finally all the teaching and preaching and challenging was done. It was up to the people to decide what they were going to do about it.

I like the steps involved in doing what God wants.

The leaders and the people obeyed the voice of the Lord
They feared the presence of the Lord
The heeded His word that He would go with them
The Lord stirred up their spirits
And they got to work

I don’t think things are a lot different today when it comes to doing God’s work. The process is still similar. But, obviously, something is missing when we choose not to do what He desires.

Maybe we are just disobedient. Maybe we don’t really fear the Lord. Maybe we don’t trust that He will go with us despite what Jesus told the disciples. Maybe we quench the Spirit so He can’t stir our hearts. And maybe we are just too lazy to get to work.

The important thing is that eventually they ‘came and worked.’ What is keeping us from doing the same thing?

Monday, 26 March 2012

Blessings withheld

You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says the LORD of hosts. "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. – Haggai 1v9

These folks must have been frustrated with their lack of success. Working on God’s temple was a distant memory. They were going about their business watching for God to bless them and wondering why nothing happened. Why was it happening? Because God ‘blew it away’ due to the fact that they had forgotten His work. God held back blessings because they were to focused on themselves.

Obviously we can’t make a blanket statement that we don’t prosper because of our wrong priorities. Sometimes God withholds blessings to teach us needed lessons about depending on Him. But apparently there are times when we don’t see what God is doing for us because we are trying to do so much by ourselves.

Perhaps we need to consider our ways and examine our own hearts when we don’t see God’s blessings to make sure we are doing what He wants us to do. If we honestly can say that we are doing our best we can learn for the lessons He is trying to teach us. If we are focused, like these people, on ourselves we need to make the needed changes and get busy doing want He wants us to do.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Get it done

Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the LORD. - Haggai 1v8

So what do you do to get out of the doldrums? Here’s what Haggai said ‘Go up to the mountains, bring wood, and build the temple.’ Get going, get busy, and just do the work. Like the old Nike ad said – Just so it.’

Sometimes we don’t need counselling or books or seminars or videos. Sometime we just need to get it done.

And what happens when we just do it? God takes pleasure and He is glorified. Our ultimate purpose is, of course to glorify God. Doing God’s work when He wants is to do it though does more than that. It also gives Him pleasure.

Pleasure is part of the issue. What too often keeps me from pleasing God is the desire to please me. Part of showing someone that we love them is doing things that please them. We buy flowers or send cards or unload the dishwasher or whatever because it pleases the ones we love. We lay our own pleasure aside to give pleasure, and if it is done with we can take pleasure as well.

Sadly, for me at least, far too often my pleasure supersedes His. I do what I want without regard to Him. That is a true tragedy considering what He gave up for me. Just do it. Just to the work that glorifies and pleases the One who gave His life for us.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Doing it all wrong

"You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes." Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! – Haggai 1v6-7

I hope I am not overdoing this little exposition of Haggai, I have loved this book for years and every time I read it some fine detail pops out. I like this verse especially because of the last little phrase.

The people wondered why they were not prospering. Haggai gave them an answer after describing how they felt. 'You plant your crops, but don't harvest enough. You eat, but you are never full. You drink but you are still thirsty. You have plenty of clothes but you are still cold. When you make money it is like there is a hole in your pocket.' Haggai didn't try to find words to comfort or sympathise with them in their trouble. He told them again 'Consider your ways.'

So what was the problem? It seems to me that they were more concerned about their crops and their food and water and their clothes and their pay cheques than they were about doing God's work. When we do that we get caught in a cycle of worrying about those things instead of trusting the One who is in control.

What did Jesus say about this? 'Don't be concerned about tomorrow. There is enough trouble to worry about there. Instead of worrying about tomorrow seek the things of God and His kingdom and He will take care of all the rest.'

God knows what we need. When we learn how to be content and trust Him we don't need to worry about the food and drink and clothes and that money that disappears.

Indeed, it is time for us to consider our ways, follow God, and trust Him, 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Consider your ways

Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built." ' "Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! -  - Haggai 1v2-5

Instead of focusing on the procrastination I want to stop and look at the last three words here. After showing them their wrong priorities and dealing with their putting things off Haggai tells them simply – ‘Consider your ways.’

‘Consider your ways’ is something I don’t think we do often enough. We get caught in a day after day routine and before we know we go through day after day after day and never stop to think about what we are doing. This is especially likely when life, like it so often does, is just going along. There are no crises and no great victories. Life is just life.

These folks needed a wakeup call. God is gracious enough to provide it. He does that like He always does through His work. He does it here through Haggai. He does it other places with words like ‘It is high time to wake up out of your sleep,’

Lethargy is a terrible state in which to find ourselves. If our Christian life is just in a rut and plodding along perhaps we need to heed the words of Haggai and consider our ways to see if there are things we can be doing for God that we have let fall by the wayside.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built." ' "Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! - Haggai 1v2-5

For many years as our kids were growing we were blessed by Patch the Pirate songs from Majesty Music. Now, I don’t like everything about Patch the Pirate music but there are so many great character building traits that really stick in your mind even years later.

One of those songs, ‘Do It Now,’ I think it was called fits so well here. The chorus goes like this:

Do it now.
Don't delay.
Don't put it off 'til another day.
Go ahead begin it, right this very minute,
You better do it now!

These folks were procrastinators. Fourteen years earlier they had stopped building the temple because of opposition. The opposition was long gone, but they had not gone back to work on the temple. They had sorted out their own houses. They had put up nice walls and fancied up the interior, but God’s house was still in ruins.

They kept saying ‘It’s not time to build God’s house yet!’ Procrastinating, putting it off, delaying. That was there answer to a difficult task.

Haggai asked them, ‘Is it indeed not time to build God’s house? Think about what you are doing.’

Haggai was challenging them to do the work now. Get your priorities right.

What are the tasks that you and I might be putting off today?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

When God sings

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." - Zephaniah 3v17

I was first introduced to this verse back in about 1985 at a Bible teaching seminar hosted by Terry Hall. Terry authored several helpful books about teaching Bible in creative ways without sacrificing sound doctrine and solid teaching.

He used this verse to teach us how to teach a memory verse in just a matter of minutes.

This whole verse is powerful. The Lord is your God. God is in your midst. He is the Mighty One. He will save. He will rejoice over you with love. He will comfort you with His love. Each of these would deserve its own entry in this list of reflections.

Out of all this marvellous truths two or three of them stick out today though. There are the ones at the end – God not only saves us, but he joys in loving us. He gives us a wonderful quietness in His love. And then, something I think is unique in scripture – ‘He will rejoice over you with singing.’

When I try to imagine this in my mind my thoughts fail me. It is far too wonderful to grasp. God expresses His joy over His people with singing. Did you get that? God’s love for us gives Him cause to sing!

We can only try to imagine this from our human understanding. Think about the things that make us sing. A lovely spring day, really good news, time with family and things like that are ‘happy times’ and being creatures of song happy times make us feel like singing.

There is something about our relationship with God that leads Him to sing. It makes me wonder what it sounds like when God sings. It ought to give us great comfort that when we think things are dark and gloomy our God is rejoicing over us in song when we are walking in fellowship with Him!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

No shame

The LORD is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame.  - Zephaniah 3v5

This little verse draws as sharp a contrast between a good and holy God and wicked and sinful man as possible.

The Lord is righteous in the midst of His people. He will never do anything unrighteous. He brings His justice to light every morning. He never fails.

What a beautiful picture of who God is and how He acts toward His people.

On the other hand we have the unjust who know no shame.

There can be no doubt that we live in a shameless world. Turn on the television, log on to the internet, open a magazine, or read a newspaper and that fact is obvious.

We can expect that, after all the Bible says here that ‘the unjust knows no shame.’

It is tragic however when God’s children carry on like they have no shame. It is a shame when laugh at the same off colour jokes, look at the same programmes that promote wickedness, surf the same questionable websites, and give that knowing wink to those innuendos.

‘No shame’ is the common state for the unjust, but it should never describe God’s children.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Seek the Lord, seek...

Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD's anger. - Zephaniah 2v3

As Zephaniah addresses the people on the Lord’s behalf he specifically addresses ‘the meek of the earth and those who uphold God’s justice.’ He advises them about what to seek in their lives.

Seek the Lord
Seek righteousness
Seek humility

It is amazing how that little list differs from what most of us seek after much of the time. Our normal list might more resemble this:

Seek possessions
Seek approval of others
Seek prestige and honour

When I look at those lists all I can do is be ashamed. We don’t think about them when we are doing it, but seeing it in black and white make the difference clear.

May God give me the strength and the wisdom to seek His list instead of mine.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Turning on the spotlight

And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart, 'The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.' – Zephaniah 1v12

We are really thick sometimes. We just don’t get it. We think that we can hide things from God. The people of Jerusalem though they were pulling a fast one on God and carrying on with their sin.

But God gave them a stern warning. ‘I am going to search our Jerusalem to find and punish those who are settled in complacency’

Complacency is the attitude of ‘I don’t care.’ It is a terrible sin because it is not one we talk about very much but it is one that is so easy to fall into. The KJV used the phrase ‘settled on their lees.’ I think this nails it. You can see folks just stuck in a rut and not really caring that they are they.

My problem is that I can find myself here if I am not careful. The hours and the weeks and the months and then the years roll by and pretty soon I look back and say ‘what have I really done for the Lord.’

That can be discouraging. When we get discouraged we can wallow there and settle on our lees. Or, we can pick ourselves up and get back at it.

It is easy to think we can hide complacency. Nobody can really see it. But God can. He casts the searchlight on our lives and finds out our sin. It may not be as bad as the complacency of the people Zephaniah talks about who say ‘The Lord will not do good or evil’ but the root is the same. We forget who we are supposed to be serving and what He has done for us.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

No fruit on the vines – yet…

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labour of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. – Habakkuk 3v17-19

It is always interesting to see how people in the Bible change as God deals with them. At the start of the book Habakkuk is befuddled and confused and wondering how God can do what He is doing. God doesn’t make any sense to Habakkuk and he doesn’t mind saying so.

By the time he gets done his tone has changed. Now he acknowledged that God was worthy of His worship no matter what. He learned that his joy should not be dependent on his circumstances. He learned that the joy of the Lord was his strength.

‘Even if the crops fail and all the livestock dies off I will still rejoice in the Lord.’ How many of us could say the same thing? How many of us can find our joy of the Lord in desperate times when we can’t find a job and the kids are sick and the car breaks down and we don’t know how we are going to pay the bills?

Habakkuk’s confidence is clear. ‘I WILL rejoice in the Lord. I WILL joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God IS my strength. He WILL make my feet like deer’s feet HE WILL make me to walk on the high hills.’

When our joy is in the Lord we can walk in safety above all the rotten circumstances that we encounter. Paul put it this way writing to the Ephesian church about the mysteries of salvation – ‘and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’

Where is our joy? Where is our hope? Where is our ability to rise above the circumstances? If it is not in the Lord we are in serious trouble.

Friday, 16 March 2012

You went forth with salvation

You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For salvation with Your Anointed. You struck the head from the house of the wicked, by laying bare from foundation to neck. Selah – Habakkuk 3v13

As Habakkuk stood there in silence and waited for God he began to see some things about God. He saw that God was not acting rashly. He saw that God had given them a chance and that they had rejected it.

‘You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your anointed.’

Can we possibly imagine what would have happened if God did not go forth with salvation? There is no way that we could have gone to God for salvation. After all He lived in the High and Lofty Place. He inhabited eternity. He was of purer eyes than to behold evil. He was, in fact, inaccessible to His fallen creation.

This is one of those passages that is much more clear on this side of the cross. It is a part of the mystery of the gospel that Paul writes about in Ephesians. Now it is clear to us what Habakkuk is saying.

Eventually, when the fullness of time had come, God did go forth with salvation. How did He do it? Just as the verse says here He went for with His anointed.

Jesus brought salvation to man. God went forth with His salvation in the person of His Anointed, Jesus Christ. We could not go to Him so He came to us bringing the salvation that only He could provide.

Praise God for the hope that comes because He went forth with salvation. It is our only hope.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Keep silence

"But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him."   - Habakkuk 2v20

'The Lord is in His holy temple.' This powerful statement of faith is so powerful in its simplicity that we can miss the impact. This is one of the verses I find myself clinging to when things seem to be going really, really wrongly.

I am like most people I think. When things don’t go the way I think they should I often get into a funk and wonder what is going on. I may not say it out loud very often, but sometimes I do wonder about all of this stuff.

The problem is that I only wonder when I forget who is in charge and where the one in charge is.

Habakkuk seems about ready to do just that when he remembered something. The Lord was where He always is. He was in His holy temple overseeing all that was taking place.

While we are waiting on our watch for God to answer we need to remember who our God is. We need to remember that He is still in control. And chances are we need stop complaining, shut our mouths, and let God do His work.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I will stand on my watch

I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. – Habakkuk 2v1

Habakkuk was in a real state of confusion. God was going to punish Israel, but he was going to use a nation even more wicked than evil despite the fact that He was too pure to see evil.

I can understand that , Sometimes God does not make any sense to me.

I like what Habakkuk did. Instead of whinging and complaining and griping he decided to sit down and shut up and see what God was going to do.

We are all going to face times when God doesn't make sense to us. This is when we face the real faith test.

The hardest thing for me to do is to sit back and wait for a situation to get sorted. I hate it. My wife has often stopped me from picking up the phone or hopping in a car to go sort something out. Its a good thing, because I would usually mess it up.

When things don't seem to fit one thing is sure. It is not God who is wrong. It is us.

Sometimes I need to sit in my own watchtower and wait for God to work.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Pure eyes.

Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he? – Habakkuk 1v12-13

Poor Habakkuk. He looked around him and saw the miserable condition of Judah. It was a wicked and vile place. So God gave him a solution – He would send the Chaldeans to punish them!

But that didn’t make any sense – the Chaldeans were even more wicked than Israel!

What is a guy supposed to do when God isn’t making any sense? More on that tomorrow, but for now I want to look at a special part of the passage. It is a truth that is real even when we don't understand it. 'God is of purer eyes than the behold evil. God cannot look at wickedness.

It is precisely for this reason that God sent His Son to the cross and at that vital moment hid His face from His own Son. Because God is of 'purer eyes than to behold evil' Jesus could not sense the Father's face and cried out 'Why have you forsaken me?'

Not to long ago I read the novel 'The Help.' We are with Beth and Ronnie and last night the Armed Forces Network showed the film. Toward the end one of the maids has been fired for her role in writing the book about how black servants were treated in the Old South. As she leaves the little girl she cared for is pounding on the window screaming for her as she walks away.

That image reminds me of something of what it might be like to be forsaken. Man's sins separate him from the God who is too pure to look on evil. Man could never look to God for deliverance apart from the sacrifice of the Perfect One who accepted being forsaken for our sake.

Yes, God is too pure to look on evil, but He sent His Son to cover sin over so that we can have communion with Him.  

Monday, 12 March 2012

My favourite verse

The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. – Nahum 1v7

I don’t necessarily like being tied down to one favourite verse or one ‘life verse’ but when I am put in that situation this is my go to verse. I just love the way so much is packed in there together. The Lord is good. The Lord is a stronghold the day of trouble. The Lord knows those who trust in Him.

This says so much about who our Lord is and how He sees us.

First, the Lord is good. What a simple little statement that means so much. God is good, every day, all the time. His goodness is beyond measure. No matter what I face I can face it in the knowledge that God is indeed good and His goodness will carry me through.

Second, the Lord is my stronghold in the day of trouble. I have a place to run when things get tough. I have a keep to run to for protection when things get bad. The troubles will come, there is no doubt about that. But when they come I have a stronghold I can cling to.

Third, the Lord knows those who trust Him. The psalmist put it perfectly in Psalm 139 when he wrote, 'You have searched me and You know. You know all about me,' When we think non one knows or understands or cares what we are going through we can rest in the perfect assurance that God does know.

God is good. He my stronghold when things get tough. He knows.

What more could we ask for?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Lord is slow to anger

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet. – Nahum 1v3

Praise God for the phrase ‘slow to anger.’ I would not have a hope if God were not ‘slow to anger’ because ‘He will not at all acquit the wicked.’ We see a hint of the omnipotence of God here which is a great reminder of His control, but I want to look at this idea of being slow to anger.

What does it mean that God is slow to anger in the context of the rest of this verse?

It means that with God in complete control and able to do whatever He wants to do whenever He wants to do He could have wiped out mankind right after Adam and Eve’s sin. He could have done it when Cain killed able. He could have done it when He flooded the whole world.

But He didn’t do it. ‘In the times of their ignorance He winked.’ Knowing that He had provided a plan to save all mankind He set up a system of laws and sacrifices that looked forward to the coming of Christ.

I am grateful for that patient slowness. For 18 years I wasted my life in my own pursuits and interest. But God was slow to anger and gave me chance after chance to hear the gospel and come to Him.

God is slow to anger. But let us not forget the rest of the verse. He will not acquit wickedness apart from the work of Christ.

God is slow to anger – but one day He will judge everyone. Apart from the finished work fo Christ man is doomed. 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Who is a God like You?

Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7v18-19

Who is the God who will pardon sin? Who is the God who passes over transgressions? Who is the God who does not stay angry forever? Who is the God who delights in mercy? (Wow! Just stop and think about that one for a second.) Who is the God who will have compassion? Who is the God who subdues our sins? Who is the God who casts our sins into the depths of the sea?

There is only one answer to all these questions, hence the rhetorical question ‘Who is a God like You?’

The answer is obvious. There is no god like our God. There is no god who, though He is pure and right and holy and just and demands payment for sin is still full of mercy. There is no god but our God who will cast our sins in the deepest. There is no god but our God who would deal with sin by providing a payment for those sins through His son.

Praise God for His uniqueness. There is none like Him. 

Friday, 9 March 2012

When I fall

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The LORD will be a light to me. – Micah 7v8

Yesterday’s statement of great faith is followed by today’s statement of faith and confidence. I like this verse in so many ways. Micah did not say ‘If I fall and if I find myself in darkness.’ Instead he said ‘When I fall and when I am in darkness.’

Micah knew well that the Christian life was not all victories and great times. He knew that hard times were just a part of serving God. We are not exempt from suffering just because we belong to God.

Sometimes I get tired of falling. Sometimes I get tired of being in those dark days and dark hours. Sometimes I wonder about my faith when I keep going back to those times. How long is it going to be before I quit that falling and quit finding the darkness?

I don’t know. It may very well be heaven before I get there.

The question for you and me is what we are going to do on the meantime. I hope I can have the same determination that Micah had. 

Don’t rejoice when you think I am beaten. Don’t laugh when I fall. Don’t mock when I get down and the darkness surrounds me.

When that happens I WILL get back up again and I will find the light of the Lord. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Looking, waiting, and trusting

Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. - Micah 7v7

Like so many of the prophets Micah found the nation in a mess. Wickedness was rampant. Judgement was perverted. The leaders were crooked and the religious leaders were wicked.

Micah knew well enough that he had no hope in the world around him. It was a disaster. He knew that he had to look elsewhere.

I can sure feel that way sometimes. I have had several things cross my path this week that have been discouraging. It makes the battle heavier. It has not been a battle of full frontal attacks but that very real and damaging battle of attrition. There is not much good to see in all this and not much hope to rely on.

But Micah knew he did have hope and his response is touching my heart today. A lot of stuff is going on right now so I for one definitely need this reminder.

‘Therefore, in the midst of all this trouble and because I have nowhere else to turn, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.’

When times get tough we can get stuck in our misery and wallow in hopelessness if we want. The problem is that we get nowhere doing that. It starts a downward spiral that ends up with despair and depression.

But there is a better way. We can refuse to focus on the present, temporary, visible things or we can focus on the eternal and invisible things. We can sorrow over false hope, or can look to the Lord, wait for Him, and wait for Him to answer.

I need Micah’s faith and Micah’s hope to choose the better option. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

What does God want from us?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6v8

We cannot of course build an entire theology around one verse. We can’t take any one verse and say ‘if you do this you will fulfil all that God wants you to do.’ We can however look at passages like this and see what kind of things God wants from His people.

‘What is good? What does the Lord require of you?’

I think these are questions we would all like to have an answer to.  And here we have a good place to start.
1)  Do justly
2)  Love mercy
3)  Walk humbly with your God

If one were looking for a few character traits to work on in order to live a godly live justice, mercy, and humility would not be a bad place to start. Justice is simply treating people rightly. Mercy is not responding to people badly even if they ‘deserve’ it. Humility means putting me last on the list.

As a matter of fact, I think if I could get those three traits down nearly everything else would follow. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth;– Micah 5v2-4

I like the reminders in the word of God that He is not bound to do things with the people or in the places that we think are important. Sometime God uses nobodies and sometimes He works in Nowheresville.

Bethlehem of Ephrathah was hardly the place anyone would have expected Messiah to be born. It was a little insignificant village in the middle of nowhere. It was not Cairo or Rome or Athens or even Jerusalem. It was just a little town far outside the mainstream and yet this is where God chose to send the Saviour and Redeemer of all mankind.

Out of Nowheresville came the One who was Eteranal, the One who would be the Shepherd who would feed His flock in God’s strength. Out of Nowheresville came the One who would go forth in the majesty of the name of the Lord.

It is obvious that God can use ‘nobodies.’ We see that over and over. But its also good to know that God can work in Nowheresville. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

Nothing is going to harm us

Her heads judge for a bribe, Her priests teach for pay, And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No harm can come upon us.” – Micah 3v11

What utter hypocrisy on the part of the priests. These guys were so sure of themselves that they thought because they were God’s men nothing could happen to them. They were dishonest and corrupt and led by money and yet they said ‘We are on God’s side, nothing can happen to us!’

I firmly believe in the doctrine of eternal security. I firmly believe that once a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ that they are His forever and nothing can ever remove them from Christ’s family. I believe their eternity is from that moment on secure in Him.

However, that doesn’t mean, as those who disagree would say, that once you are saved you can just do whatever you want. Eternal security does not lesson the importance of holy living. Those of us who are saved have liberty in Christ, but that does not mean that we have licence to sin.

I hope none of us ever gets the idea that our sin is no big deal because our salvation is secure. The problem is that these guys were not secure. They mocked God with their sin and destruction soon followed. Their false profession brought about their doom.

Professing Christians who are comfortable with their sin because they are trusting in the fact that they cannot lose their salvation had better be sure they had it in the first place. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Don’t prattle on

“Do not prattle,” you say to those who prophesy. So they shall not prophesy to you; They shall not return insult for insult. You who are named the house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good To him who walks uprightly? – Micah 2v6-7

Micah felt like most preachers feel at one time or another. The people were tired of it and described the prophecy like a drip of water. ‘Stop the dripping, would you?’ the people said.

That sounds like a lot of people who don’t want to hear God’s word. They turn off their ears and tell the believer to stop their babbling. The problem is that those words do not deny the message or the God behind it.

God’s word has the power to do great good but man tends to reject it. That should not be a surprise. We know that the Light entered the world the world rejected the Light. We should not be surprised when people reject.

Even when rejected the power of God’s word remains. 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

God’s mercy to relent

Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. – Jonah 3v10

The story goes on. Jonah rushed to Ninevah to preach and the call the people there to turn from their wickedness. When he did the people ‘believed God, proclaimed a fast, and mourned for their sin.’ The believed that God would judge their sin so they turned to Him. The king of Ninevah then laid aside his sackcloth and ashes and proclaimed that the people were to serve God from that day forward.

At that point everything changed for Ninevah. God saw that they had repented from their sin. These were not just words, but they actions supported what they said they did. Their works proved that they had turned from their evil ways.

So God relented. He did not bring the disaster that was due them. There is a sad story that goes with this. Jonah was mad at God when all these people turned to God, but that is perhaps a story for another day.

But let’s get back to the lesson for us. Praise God that He does relent from doing what sin deserves.

When Adam and Eve sinned they did two things into the human race. They broke the connection with a pure and holy God, and they passed on the sin nature to all mankind. The penalty for sin is death, both physical and spiritual. At from that point on every human deserved one thing. We all deserved to die in our sin.

But God in His grace and mercy relents. He gave man a chance. He planned from that very moment a way for us to avoid death.

He sent His Son to provide us a way out. Much like the Ninevites if we believe God and turn to Him we will not get all that is due us. When we do, like Ninevah, our actions will reflect what takes place in our hearts. We once all waked as children deserving God’s wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, with the great love with which He loves us provided a way for us to benefit from His merciful relenting.

Praise God that He is a God who relents! 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Second chances

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, - Jonah 3v1

I like the fact that our God is the God of second chances. Jonah ran from God. When a storm came and the sailors were seeking blame Jonah acknowledged that it was his fault. Jonah was swallowed by a whale and asked God to deliver him, God led the whale to land where it spit Jonah out. Jonah hardly seems qualified to go on and serve God.  God would have been justified to say ‘Forget it Jonah, if you don’t want to serve me I’ll just get someone else.  

But God didn’t do that, ‘the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.’

Here we see a clear example of how God can use even flawed people to do his work. God simply renewed his call on Jonah to do the work he was supposed to do.

I am not, of course, saying that we can expect God to use us if we do not turn away from our sin. God expects us to acknowledge our sin and call on Him. But when we do that we  are ready for service again.

Praise God He doesn’t give up on us when we blow it. If He did I doubt any of us would be fit for service. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Salvation is of the Lord

“Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” – Jonah 2v8-9

In the midst of his trouble and despair Jonah came to a brilliant conclusion. At least it appears to be brilliant. Being where he was he had no hope. There are very few more hopeless places than in a whale’s belly in the bottom of the sea.

I wonder about Jonah. When we read the whole book he doesn’t seem like the best guy to be a prophet. He ran from God, ruined his testimony, only preached when we go swallowed by a whale, and got angry when people go saved.

But now, in the middle of a crisis he seems to act in desperation when he said ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’

It looks to me like this was a pragmatic decision on Jonah’s part. If I am wrong I guess I can apologise to Jonah when I get to heaven.

Be that as it may, the message itself is true. Salvation is only of God. Man can do nothing. Those who sacrifice to false gods forsake mercy and determine their own fate.

I guess there are two things here. First, I am grateful that God uses even the weakest vessels like Jonah (and me I might add). Second, the messenger is secondary to the message – salvation is truly and only from the Lord.