Monday, September 30, 2013

Hebrews 12

Heb 12:4-5
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
" My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.

When things don't go our way we have a tendency to ask, "Where's God?" But the truth is, very few believers, at least in the USA, have really suffered for their faith. We hit a bump in life and we think God has abandoned us. Like spoiled children we cry at the least inconvenience.

We live in a fallen world; life will be hard. We make poor choices and life gets harder. We get old and aches grow into pains. We live and work with fallen, broken people. Life gets complicated. God is not Santa Claus. He does not exist to make us happy. Rather, he disciplines us to makes is holy.

We have a kingdom that goes behind this life, yet we too often live as though this life is all there is. God, forgive us.

Heb 12:28
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

The bumps on the road of life should lead us to worship, not doubt. We have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our blood. There is one who had already done that for us. Today, whatever the day holds, let us worship him.

Father, forgive me for my narcissistic self focus. Today may I forget about me and worship you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1Corinthians 2

1Co 2:1

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (ESV)

When I hear "lofty speech" I tend to think of $50 dollar words, perfectly turned phrases and "high minded" intellectualism, but that's not the idea here. The word "lofty" here carries more the meaning of superiority or authoritarianism. It is what happens when a child says "Why?" for the tenth time and the parent finally cries in desperation, "Because I said so. That's why!" It is what is the scribes and Pharisees practiced. It is how the Rabbis of Jesus day functioned. Every word was "established" by quoting an authority.

Paul didn't come to Corinth with great arguments nor with an authoritative attitude  that caused him to beat people over the head with truth. It is fine, as a believer, to say, "God says it. I believe it. That settles it." But the truth is, that doesn't necessarily carry much weight in the mind of an unbeliever. In Corinth it was the Spirit and the power of God, not the power of Paul's arguments nor the insistence on speaking with authority. In fact, my guess is that had Paul come into Corinth insisting on his authority and demanding that people listen because "God said...", he likely would have had little or no impact on that city.

As a society moves away from a biblical world view and a Christian perspective of life it becomes increasingly necessary to rely on the Spirit and the power of God to convince a fallen, broken world of the truth of Christ. I recently watched a woman recite a Hindu mantra, strike a partial yoga pose and pray, "Lord help" all at the same time. That is the syncretistic world in which we live. Quoting a Bible verse to her would have had little effect.

There is power in the Word of God and we need to quote it. But it is the Spirit of God that works with the Word of God to convince the lost of their need for Christ. In verse 14 of this chapter Paul will write, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." It is not "lofty speech" but the Spirit and the power of God that will convince the natural man of the truth. Thus prayer and sensitivity to the Spirit's leading are essential to evangelism in our world.

Father, go before me today. Prepare hearts for your truth and give me eyes to see where you are already at work.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hebrews 11

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (ESV)

What is the relationship between faith and works? In reaction to some who insist that faith is simply intellectual assent I have heard others insist that in the Jewish world faith = commitment and obedience. Hebrews 11 is often quoted as substantiating that claim. "See," they will say, "every person in this chapter is doing something by faith. Faith is doing." But that is hardly true. "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive." (vs 11) That is not doing something. That is receiving something. In fact, as I recall, Sarah laughed at the idea. "Through faith ... Women received back their dead by resurrection." (vs 35) Again this is hardly doing something. This is receiving. When we turn "faith" into "commitment and obedience" we destroy the idea of faith.

Certainly faith produces obedience. What we truly believe affects what we do. An alcoholic is convinced either that they cannot quit or that they can quit but that one more drink will solve whatever problem they are facing, or at least will make them feel better. All lies. A person who is angry may know that what they are doing is wrong but they believe that they are somehow justified in their anger this time. Someone sneaking a look at pornography believes that one look won't hurt them, or that the thrill of a peek is worth the risk. It it never is. Or they believe that they cannot help themselves so they might as well give in. What we believe drives what we do, but it is not the same thing as what we do.

The encouragement of Hebrews 11 is not that it is a list of "super-saints" to which we aspire, but that this is a list of normal, average, sometimes even very flawed individuals who did great things because they believed God. Chapter 10 ends with the truth as believers in Jesus Christ we are "of those who have faith." Chapter 11 ends with the reminder that apart from us this list of people with faith is not a complete list. Our names are on the list as well. Therefore, chapter 12 challenges us to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."  How do we do that? By "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." (Heb 12:1-2). In other words, faith is not about our commitment. It is about Jesus' faithfulness and power. Faith is not about us at all. It is about Jesus.

I have said it before: I have no faith in my faith. What I have faith in is Jesus. The Christian life is about resting in and trusting on the finished work of Christ on the cross. We don't need to repeatedly get saved. We don't need to live in constant fear that we might not believe enough or obey enough to be acceptable to God. Samson in brokenness ended his life in simple dependence on God. In doing so he did more good in his death than he ever did in his life. Maybe that is the point where he finally came to faith. I don't know. But what I know is that faith is not about me. And that's the point of the letter to the Hebrews. Jesus is superior to all the systems that have to do with us doing. What he calls us to is simply believing. Believing leads to doing, but they are not the same thing.

Father, forgive me for how quickly I slide back into the "doing" mindset. Thank you that in Christ the work is finished. Today may I walk in the peace and assurance of that truth.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hebrews 10

Heb 10:22, 39

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)

Reading through this chapter three thoughts struck me. First is that verse 14 says exactly the same thing I blogged about on Hebrews 9. I would encourage you to go back and read that blog. Hebrews 10:14 says that "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Our holiness may be in process, but it is on the basis of the truth that in Christ it is already a done deal.

Second is verse 22. I have often heard people challenged to pursue God or to "run hard after" God. In fact, I have challenged people to pursue God. But this verse says the opposite. We don't draw near to God in order to find him or pursue him. We draw near because he has already found us. We draw near in "full assurance of faith." We draw near understanding that we have already been washed clean and accepted by him. We are not trying to find God. We have been found by God. Holiness is not something we run hard after. It is something that flows out of a heart that has already been cleansed by a holy God.

Third is verse 39. It says that "we are of those who have faith." The next chapter will then go on to list those who had faith in the Old Testament and remind us that we are a part of that list. Here is the fascinating thing to me: We often refer to Hebrews 11 as the Faith Hall of Fame, but these were not exceptional people. They were people just like us. Sarah is listed, but we know that she laughed at the possibility of God giving her a son. Moses is listed but we know that he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of disobedience. Samson is listed but he did more good when he died than he ever did when he was living. The list goes on, but the truth is that these are just fallible people like us. Their greatness did not come from their great faith, but from their faith in a great God. "We are of those who have faith."

This whole letter to Hebrew believers is about faith. Faith in the once for all sacrifice of Christ. Faith in the truth that we do not have to try and find God. We have been found by him. Faith in the truth that we are members of that group credited as being men and women of faith. As believers in Jesus Christ that is not who we want to become. That is not something we aspire for. That is not something that we hope to one day achieve. That is who we are and we rest in it.

Father, forgive me for so often forgetting who I am in Christ. Today may I walk by faith.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hebrews 9

Heb 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (ESV)

I'm beginning to think that this verse may be the Key Verse for the whole letter to the Hebrews. Jesus is superior to the angels, to Moses, to the law, and to the blood of bulls and goats thus securing an eternal redemption. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption thus providing a lasting rest. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore let's not try to keep relaying the foundation that has already been laid. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore it should not be ignored, rejected or trampled on. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore we have access to a holy and unapproachable God. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore we have a sure and secure eternal hope.  Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore we do not go on deliberately sinning. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore we live by faith. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore we do not grow weary, knowing that he is not only the founder but also the perfecter of our faith. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore we are members of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Jesus blood secured an eternal redemption therefore the sacrifices we now offer are sacrifices of service to others. The eternal salvation secured by Jesus blood changes everything.

For us this may be, "Yeah [yawn], we learned that in Sunday School." But for those first century Hebrew believers this was revolutionary. And just maybe, if we take the time to reflect on this truth, it will be revolutionary to us as well. This truth means that I do not have a license to sin just because I can confess it when I'm done. It also means that I do not live in fear that one bad thought, one unconfessed sin, one wrong attitude or action will separate me from God and his grace. This truth walks the middle ground between law and license leaving me with the assurance and freedom of faith and rest. It changes everything. Jesus "once for all (entered) into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood." By doing that he secured for us "an eternal redemption." Every word of that verse is important. That, I think, is the heart and soul of Hebrews and it makes me want to shout for joy.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ezra 6 - part 4

Eza 6:22b the Lord ... had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (ESV)

Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king 's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will."  Rom 13:1b further reminds us that "there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." I sometimes wonder whether the influence of the Moral Majority and the political effectiveness of the religious right in the 80's and 90's hasn't had a long term negative impact on the church. Has it caused evangelical Christians to so tie our hopes and dreams to political maneuvering that when politicians no longer listen to us we lose hope?

I regularly hear political conservatives bemoan the condition of our country. I hear expressions of fear and anxiety. I hear longing for a simpler, safer time. I hear the people of God who claim to believe in a sovereign God talking, fretting and acting as though the leftist politicians have more power than God. Perhaps the most incredible truth of the book of Ezra is that we find the Sovereign Lord influencing and moving the politics and politicians of Ezra's day to accomplish the purposes of God.

Maybe, rather than bemoaning the the powerful machinations of politicians with whom we do not agree, we should be asking why God is allowing these decisions to be made. Maybe we should reevaluate our attitudes, fears anxieties and hopes in light of a God who is truly sovereign. Maybe we should relax just a little and accept the truth that God is always in control and no nefarious individual or political plot can undermine nor usurp his authority. Maybe we need to learn to trust God again.

Father, that is easier said than done, but today may I rest in your steadfast love and faithful sovereignty.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ezra 6 - part 3

Eza 6:16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. (ESV)

God takes pleasure in our taking pleasure in him and his blessings. As a father smiles when he watches his toddler squeal with joy at a new discovery, as a mother beams watching her teenage daughter revel in a new ball gown, so God takes pleasure when we find pleasure in him.

Christians have a way of redefining words to meet their experience. In the process we often destroy the meaning of the words. We tend to redefine fear to mean respect. When we read "fear God" we understand "respect God." We respect the neighbor's property line. We respect our teachers whether we agree with them or not. We respect the flag, but none of those come close to what God means when he says that we are to fear him. By the same token we redefine joy. We say that joy doesn't mean happiness. It doesn't mean pleasure. It means something that we can experience even in the darkest, heaviest times of our lives. Certainly there is truth there, but I suspect that when the Israelis were celebrating the dedication of the new temple they would have had a hard time differentiating between the experience of "joy" and "happiness." The truth is that they were experiencing the emotion that we describe with words like joy, happiness, pleasure and a host of other synonyms. And I have no doubt that God took pleasure in watching them experience these emotions,

Each of these words has a slightly different technical meaning. The problem is that when we insist on these technicalities of definition we eventually change the definition until joy is no longer joy. It becomes "I'm okay," or "I'm not angry," or "I'm not depressed," but it is no longer joy. When the Israelis finished the temple they celebrated. They were filled with joy. They were excited, happy, relieved, grateful and filled with joy. "I'm okay" doesn't celebrate. It survives, Joy celebrates.

So if my experience is not joy I have three possible responses. First, I can redefine joy. God says that I am to rejoice in the Lord so I'm rejoicing. I just redefine rejoice to mean something other that the normal meaning of the word. The second possibility is to explain away the experience of joy. We find reasons why we are not supposed to be joyful "all the time." Certainly there is truth to that. Unfortunately what often happens is that "all the time" becomes "ever." The third possible response is perhaps the healthiest. We need to ask why we are not experiencing joy.

Looking for joy and focusing on our experience rarely if ever leads to joy. As C.S. Lewis said, we are often surprised by joy when we are not looking for it. But that is exactly what I mean. Are we not experiencing joy because we are too fixated on finding it? Are we not experiencing joy because we are too focused on ourselves? Are we not experiencing joy because we have too high a view of self and too low a view of God?

The best way to experience joy is to quit looking for it. We need to set our eyes on the providential care of God, the blessing of a finished task by His protection and provision, and the undeserved experience of his presence in our lives. When he fills our vision we find ourselves surprised by joy and God takes pleasure in watching us make that discovery. And that is when we celebrate.

Father, thank you for the blessings with which you have surrounded me. Forgive me for not seeing them. Give me eyes to see and a heart filled with gratitude and joy.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ezra 6 - part 2

Eza 6:21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. (ESV)

The temple is finished. God has protected and provided for this work. Living in Babylonia the People of God had no expectation of every eating the Passover in the Temple. They lived far away and the temple lay in ruins. Yet here they are with a newly finished temple celebrating Passover. What I find interesting in this verse is that they didn't eat it alone.

Other people had joined them, but there were prerequisites. Early in Ezra people had come asking to help with the building of the temple. They claimed that they too served the God of Israel. The Israelis would have nothing to do with them. So why are these people different? The answer is found in the statement that they had "separated (themselves) from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel."

The Jews had influenced others to abandon their former lifestyle and the uncleanness of the surrounding people in order to worship God. They were functioning as lights to truth in a dark world. That is exactly what they were supposed to do, as are Christians. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. Let your light shine in such a way that men see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven."  Like the Jews, our lives should be lived in such a manner that people see us and choose to follow our God making him their God. We call this conversion, evangelism, or a Great Commission lifestyle.

Father, today may people see Jesus in me. Give me eyes to see the opportunities you give to live and to share the truth of the gospel. May it be true of me, as it was true of the Jews in Ezra, that other people separate themselves from the uncleanness of the world around them to come and worship God in spirit and in truth.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ezra 6

Eza 6:22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (ESV)

God has a way of turning dark into light, ashes into beauty and hopeless situations into experiences of joy. When the people of God listened to the Word of God, diligently pursued the work of God and humbly acknowledged the grace of God they found themselves experiencing the protection and provision of God to accomplish the purpose of God. I think there is a principle for life in there somewhere.

We are not talking about manipulating God to give us what we want. Nor are we talking about some kind of "spiritual law" by which God obligates himself to make us healthy and wealthy. But, when God calls his people to a task and his people diligently and humbly pursue that task in dependence and faith God's eye is on them, to use the language of the chapter 4.

Notice that the task they are pursuing, (i.e. rebuilding the temple of God) was a task prompted by God, consistent with God's previous revelation, (i.e. the Mosaic Covenant) and motivated by the proclamation of God's prophets. This was not some priests idea of a good project. This was prompted by God. What was prompted by God was protected by God and provided for by God.

Father, may I listen well to you today. May I follow you closely. May I humbly and diligently pursue your purposes and not my own.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ezra 5 - part 4

Eza 5:8 Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. (ESV)

The diligence of the people of God in building the temple of God is not the result of people diligently committing to obedience. We too often start there. We call for commitment, diligence and submission not understanding that those things are the result not the cause of God's great work.

Note that in this chapter the diligence of God's people resulted from them hearing clearly from God. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah began to prophecy resulting in the work being started up again and diligently pursued. We can preach commitment all day long, but if God's people are not first hearing clearly from God the diligence will be short lived.

Note, secondly, that the "eye of God" was upon them. That is, God was sovereignly guiding and protecting them. Diligent commitment does not result in God's blessing. God's blessing leads to diligent commitment. Humble dependence always leads to obedience, but human commitment alone usually leads to pride.

We too often teach and understand this backwards. We teach commitment hoping that it will lead to hearing from God and enjoying his blessing. But that is not the gospel. Never has the gospel been about commitment. It has always been about a sovereign and loving God reaching out to take the first step in restoring people to relationship with himself.

The Gospel is that God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believes will have eternal life. Some have even gone so far as to redefine "believe" to equal "make a commitment." But that is hardly the idea here. Diligent commitment to God and his work flows naturally from hearing clearly from God and humbly depending on him. Not the other way round.

The Christian life is lived the same way it began, i.e. by grace through faith, not by deep commitment that hopefully leads to grace and faith. Father forgive me for how quickly I turn from your truth to my human effort. Today may I hear clearly from you. May I walking in humble dependence on you. May my life be therefore glorifying to you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ezra 5 - part 3

Eza 5:11 And this was their reply to us:' We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. (ESV)

There is both a confidence and an humility in saying, "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth." They could easily have said, "We are the representatives of ..." or, "We are the people of..."or even, "We are the blessed and blessing of ..." All of those statements are true, but they said, "We are the servants of..." On the other hand, they are not the servants of a territorial god, a god among gods, or even "our god." They are the servants of "the God of heaven and earth."

I think that it is significant that when Tattenai the governor writes his letter to King Darius he says that they are building the house of "the great God." God's people don't need to be arrogant in order to impress people with the greatness of their God. They don't need to try and impress people. Being a servant of the God of heaven and earth is significant enough. We don't need to try and convince people that we are great in order to convince them that our God is great.

Too often we worry about our reputation thinking that by protecting our reputation we are protecting God's. That rarely, if ever, works. People see through it like looking through a window of old wavy glass. It makes us look bad and it makes the God we serve look bad. My testimony is not, "Look how great and righteous and holier-than-thou God made me." It is, "I once was lost but now am found." Our testimony is that we do not deserve God's grace but he poured it out upon us anyway. Our testimony is that in spite of our weaknesses, failures and insecurities God accepts us and uses us. We are servants of the God of heaven and earth.

Father, thank you for your grace and mercy. Today may I be less concerned about what people think of me and more concerned with the task to which you have called me and how that reflects on your reputation. May my life be one of service to you that honors you despite my failures.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ezra 5 - part 2

Ezra 5:1 Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. (ESV)

When the prophets began to challenge the people of God then the work of God began again. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." In Ezra 4 the work on the temple had been stopped. It was when the people began to hear from God through the prophets that they began again to rebuild the temple.

Preachers in our day and place do not always have a great reputation. That is sad. Some became greedy and gave a black eye to the reputation of all. Some abandoned the truth for a lie doing harm to the church and the name of the God they claimed to serve. Some have been sidetracked from ministry by moral failure, frustration and fear, financial pressures, or personal pain. All of this is deeply grievous as the work of God is so dependent on the proclaiming of the Word of God.

It was the continuous attack by the enemy that caused the work to stop. It was the proclamation of God's revelation that prompted the work to restart. For those of us in ministry we need to take heart, and whatever else God may call us to do we must never neglect the proclamation of his Word. For those who are not in a preaching/teaching ministry, please pray for your pastors and ministers that they would be faithful in proclaiming God's Word plainly and powerfully. For all of us, may we be truly committed to the authority and proclamation of God's Word.

Father, forgive us for too often taking the easy path of least resistance when you have called us to walk the narrow path defined by your Word of truth. As a pastor, forgive me for being so easily distracted from the important work of understanding and proclaiming your Word. May my life, my ministry and my daily decisions be molded by your Spirit and your Word.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ezra 5

Eza 5:12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. (ESV)

When the leaders of Israel were questioned about their work to rebuild the temple there was both humility and honesty in their answer. They didn't try to whitewash their past. They didn't say, "The Great God told us to build so we're building." They could have said that, but they didn't. They didn't say, "What right do you have to challenge what we are doing? Cyrus gave us permission to do this." They could have said that, but they didn't. They didn't say, "That evil king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed our great temple and now that he is gone we are rebuilding." They could have said that, but they didn't. Rather, they humbly acknowledged that the mess they were in was the result of the sins of their fathers.

They made reference back to their historical greatness. They mentioned Nebuchadnezzar. They even mentioned that Cyrus had given them permission to rebuild. But, at the heart of what their answer was the humble acknowledgment that the destruction was at the hand of their own God because of the sin of their own people. No blame. No defensiveness. Just honest, uncomfortable truth.

Too often my natural response is defense and excuse. Too often I am tempted to gloss over my own culpability. There is nothing godly about pretending that we didn't make any mistakes. There is nothing godly about glossing over our sins. The way forward in God's economy always lies through humble confession,  Humility and honesty trump trying to look good every time.

Father, forgive me for how quick I am to default to trying to protect my reputation rather than admitting my faults. Today may I walk in humble honesty before you and those around me. May your grace receive the glory, not my polished reputation.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ezra 4 - part 4

Eza 4:21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. (ESV)

We serve a sovereign God who holds all things in his hands and is in control even when things seem the most out of control. This decree in Ezra 4 to stop the building is made by the very same king that will authorize and equip Nehemiah to rebuild the city in Nehemiah 1. In fact, some speculate that it was this very decree that caused word to come back to Nehemiah about the city's destruction resulting in his trip to rebuild.

It is interesting to me that the king did not say, "Stop the work." He said, "Stop the work until you hear something different from me." The enemies of Israel were excited because they thought they had gotten their way. Israel was discouraged. They likely felt as though all their efforts up to that point had been wasted. The truth is that the stage was being set to finish the work with the blessing, protection and provisions of the king. He just didn't know it yet.

God is a chess player who knows his opponents moves before his opponent does and who knew the outcome of the game before it even began. When life is at its most chaotic God is in control. He has a purpose higher than we can grasp, but we can trust him. He has a strategy that is often hidden from our eyes, but we can trust him. He has a plan that we can only vaguely comprehend, but we can trust him. As the contemporary hymn God is in Control, by Twila Paris, says:

This is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination
Don't lose the vision here carried away by emotion

Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
For there is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control

Father, thank you that I can trust you to be in control when everything seems most out of control. I rest in your gracious sovereignty.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ezra 4 - part 3

Eza 4:4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build (ESV)

How many times has the work of God been stopped by fear!? It seems that when the "enemy" cannot distract us from the work of God or convince us to compromise, he then tries discouragement, intimidation and fear. In America it is not uncommon to hear talk about persecution and oppression. Truthfully I think that much of that is just the whining of  Christians who have been in a position of influence for so long that we simply don't know how to live our faith without privilege.

We've seen very little, if any, real persecution yet in our country. I believe that we have moved from the threat of compromise, which came in the 20th century, to intimidation and fear, but that is hardly persecution. As the author of Hebrews wrote, "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Heb 12:4 ESV)

How can we avoid wrestling with fear and intimidation? Just give in to compromise. How can we avoid real persecution? Just give in to fear and intimidation. How can we see the power of God accomplish the purpose of God in us and through us? Don't give in. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16) Don't compromise the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the empowering member of the godhead who dwells within every believer. (Acts 1:8) Keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal 5:16) The enemy is a master of lies and intimidation. (John 8:44) Stand firm in your faith. (1Cor 16:13)

Father, I confess that I too often fail to stand firm in the face of fear. I confess that as a church we too often allow fear to manipulate us, discourage us and keep us from following you closely. Forgive us. May we stand firm in the faith, not belligerent, not angry and attacking, not oppressive and offensive, but firm because we trust you more than we believe the "enemy" who is a liar.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ezra 4 - part 2

Eza 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, (ESV)

The truth is that as a people of God we have an enemy. "Satan" means adversary or enemy. As our enemy he will lie to us and about us. That is what we find the enemies of Judah and Benjamin doing in this chapter. First they lie to the people of God by saying, "We worship your God as you do." Then they lie about the people of God by saying that they are rebuilding the city. It is not the city they are rebuilding, only the temple. But truth is no virtue in the eyes of the enemy. Jesus described him as a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The very first time we encounter Satan in the Bible he is telling a lie. In Genesis 3 he comes in the form of a serpent, hiding his true identity. In that disguise he tells the woman that God has been untruthful. "You will not surely die," he insists. He is a liar and the father of lies.

Most spiritual warfare is waged through lies. Fear results from believing lies. Spiritual bondage is accomplished through lies. Interpersonal relationship issues are caused by telling or believing lies. Personal discouragement results from believing lies and half truths. Recognizing the lie takes us a long way toward embracing the truth.

As a people of God we have an enemy who will use every method at his disposal to convince us of lies or to convince others of lies about us. He will use emotion, miscommunication, misinformation, half truths and more. That is why truth is such a valuable commodity. We need to intentionally speak the truth in love, and listen for the truth with grace and discernment.

Father, forgive me. It seems that almost daily I believe some lie or half truth. Give me the discernment to tell truth from lie, and the grace to always speak the truth in love. May I recognize the true enemy and not give in to his deception. May my life be characterized by transparent truth spoken in humility and love.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ezra 4

Eza 4:24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (ESV)

These may be the saddest words in the whole book of Ezra. They had just celebrated the laying of the foundation and now the work is stopped. The people of God have an enemy. He is a liar, a deceiver and a destroyer. How often a great victory has been followed by a dark time. It is an attempt by the deceiver to convince us that the work of the Lord is not doable. He wants us to give up.

Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th Century Baptist preacher in England, struggled with depression throughout his ministry. He came to see depression as a sign either that God was just about to do something great or that God had just done some great work. The enemy wants the dark times to discourage us. Spurgeon turned the tables on him and recognized the attack as a sign of God's sovereign greatness. Unlike Spurgeon, we too often listen to the lie instead of rejecting the lie and recognizing the truth.

In Israel the work stopped by authoritative decree, but God was not dead. God was not limited by the lies and attacks of the enemy. God was not shackled by the authority of man. God had preserved and prospered his people in a foreign land. God had prompted the king to authorize this trip back to Jerusalem. God had providentially provided for the supplies to rebuild. God was not done yet. When we neglect to set our eyes on the truth we get easily discouraged by a lie.

Father, forgive me for so quickly believing the lies of the enemy. Thank you God for your faithful sovereignty. Today I choose to walk by faith.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...