Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ezra 9 - part 1

Eza 9:15  O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this." (ESV)

Ezra becomes aware that the leaders of Israel, along with others, have married pagan wives. He is immediately broken over this sin, tearing his clothes, tearing his hair and sitting stunned over their sin. These are signs of brokenness, humility and fasting. Ezra grieves this sin.

How do we address sin in our lives? Too often we are angry at the sins of others, while quickly excusing our own transgressions. They are usually referred to as mistakes, poor judgment, or weaknesses, but rarely sin. How would things be different if we grieved the sins of others and admitted our own? What if we recognized that our sins and those of our brother/sister affect the whole body of Christ?

Ezra understood that Israel was in captivity because of sin. He recognized that God had graciously allowed them an opportunity to rebuild. This sin threatened that. This was why they had been in captivity in the first place. They were right back where they had started. This was not about sinning against other people. This was an offense against the God who had just graciously and abundantly brought them home.

David understood this. When he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed he confessed to God, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight..." (PS 51:4a ESV) How can he say that? Hadn't he sinned against Uriah? Hadn't he sinned against Bathsheba? Hadn't he sinned against Joab by commanding him to place Uriah in a position where he would be killed? But, David understood that ultimately sin is about God.

We forget that. We tend to think that sin is about us. We tend to think that the sins of others are about those they have hurt. We tend to think that private sins that no one sees are private. But ultimately sin is about the nature and character of God and his creation. Every sin we commit distorts the image of God in us. Every sin turns the order of creation wrong side up. Every sin public or private affects everyone around us. Sin is a big deal. Every sin should lead us to brokenness and grief. It is time we stopped making excuses and recognized the destructive power of sin.

Father, forgive me for playing God by trying to punish others for their sins while excusing my own. May my heart break along with yours over sin.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ezra 8 - part 4

Eza 8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. (ESV)

The Mosaic Law prescribed one annual fast per year. Because of the captivity however, the Jews apparently added four annual fasts (see Zech 8:19 where God says that these four fasts will be turned into feasts). One document lists 25 different prescribed feasts, although most of them were apparently never accepted by the general public. ( http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6033-fasting-and-fast-days)

Most of us have a stubborn streak in us that doesn't like to be told what to do. We get irritable when we miss a meal, and we get a headache is we miss our sweets or our coffee. So, between stubbornness and discomfort we just do not fast. But, I have to admit that those are poor reasons to not fast. There are no biblically prescribed fasts for the Christian Church. That does not, however, mean that a fast is inappropriate. Jesus did say that his disciples would fast after he was gone, and the early church did practice occasional fasting.

Fasting is for the purpose of humbling ourselves before God. It indicates our brokenness and our dependence on Him. And it provides time, means and opportunity for us to seek Him and draw closer to him. That is exactly what Ezra is calling his people to in this passage. This is not a fast to twist God's arm or somehow get his attention. It is intended to demonstrate humility and dependence. Their only hope is God, and this is how they are expressing that truth.

Perhaps as our world changes around us we need to reconsider the value of a fast. We occasionally need those times when drawing near to God is our primary focus. We occasionally need those times when we humble ourselves before God and seek His face. We occasionally need those times when we acknowledge our dependence and our need.

Our Church just had our annual business meeting. It was a good meeting, but I wonder what would have happened if we had fasted and prayed and sought God's face before going into a meeting like that. I wonder if it would have been less business and more Spirit. We acknowledge that we want to be guided by the Holy Spirit. We affirm that we want Holy Spirit led living and teaching of the Word of God. This is good, biblical, and important. The question is: Do we put ourselves in a position where we can actually hear from the Spirit of God?

I'm not about to stand up on Sunday morning and impose a fast on everyone in the church. But as a church and as individual believers perhaps we need to give this some more thought. Father, guide us clearly, guard us carefully, and may we keep in step with you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ezra 8 - part 3

Eza 8:34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded. (ESV)

I recently had a conversation with a property manager. They told me that when they rent a house they do a walk through once a month to make sure that the house is being properly taken care of. How do they keep the renter from feeling like they are being spied on? They make sure that the renter understands that they are also looking for anything that might need fixed or repaired. Accountability is a two way street. When Ezra set up a system of accountability for those carrying the gold, silver and bronze to Jerusalem, he was not saying that he did not trust them. He was guarding them against both false accusations and temptation.

Too often when a church asla us to be accountable in some way we are offended. We assume that they do not trust us. But churches and church leaders understand two things: 1. They understand that all people are subject to temptation and so systems of accountability protect us in that area. 2. They understand how people with responsibilities are subject to false accusations. Systems of accountability protect us in both of these areas. Carefully established systems of accountability both in the areas of money and morality are wise, not divisive.

Too often fragile egos has caused people to misunderstand this truth. Too often systems intended to protect have been misunderstood as mistrust. Too often a lack of systems of accountability have harmed the name of Christ and the church in this world. Church leaders have slid into misappropriation of funds and other grievous sins because of a lack of accountability. Ministries have been destroyed because of false accusations. For the sake of those who serve, those who are served, and the Lord God whom we serve established systems of accountability are clearly wise and biblical.

Father, thank you for this example of accountability that Ezra set for us. For the sake of your name may we be as wise.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ezra 8 - part 2

Ezra 8:15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi.(ESV)

After listing the leading men in the first paragraph of this chapter Ezra then says "I" several times. "I gathered them to the river... I reviewed ... I found ... I sent ... Then I proclaimed a fast... I was ashamed to ask the king... Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests... I weighed out to them..." etc. Ezra gathered everyone together to prepare for the trip, proclaimed a fast, and set apart twelve leading priests. From that point on he never says "I" again. First it is "we." "Then we departed from the river..." After that it is "those" and "they." "Those who had come from captivity ... offered burn offerings... They also delivered the king's commissions... and they aided the people and the house of God." In this chapter Ezra moves from I to we to they. Isn't that what biblical leadership does?

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) In the next chapter, however, he reminds them that "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5) In Matthew 5 he says to his disciples, "You are the light of the world." Jesus knew that when he left this world his role would change and the light would be seen through his followers. He spent three years training up his disciples in order to commission them to take on that ministry of reconciliation through the Great Commission. Biblical leadership trains and equips rather than controlling and commanding. Biblical leadership trains up people to replace us. It equips and then commissions those who follow. 

That is what Ezra did. He called people to a vision, brought them together, led them to the Lord, appointed leaders, and then apparently gave them room to lead. We will see his continuing influence and leadership in the following chapters, but it is significant that he moves from I to we to they. Maybe he was elsewhere on the kings business during the last part of the chapter. Indications are that he was given extensive responsibility by the king. But that only strengthens the point. When biblical leaders do their job they do not have to be around and in control. The influence of their teaching and equipping allows for the people of God to function quite well without them. 

As parents it is our biblical responsibility to raise up and train children that can make wise choices on their own. As church leaders it is our responsibility to train and equip believers to hear from and follow God whether we are there or not. Pastors and elders do not stand in for God telling people what to think and do. They train and equip so that believers under their care can understand the scriptures rightly, discern the Spirit's leading well, and carry on in life and ministry effectively. If we fail to do that then we have failed as leaders and we have followed the example of neither Ezra nor Jesus.

Father, I confess that too often I want to control rather than equip and release. Forgive me. Maybe it is fear; maybe it is arrogance, but I acknowledge that it is not right. Give me the wisdom, discernment and humility to grow, equip and release those under my leadership to follow you wherever you may take them.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ezra 8

Ezra 8:15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. (ESV)

I find it interesting that no Levites had answered the call. The Levites should have been leaders in this expedition. They were the ones set apart to care for the temple and everything connected with the temple. This expedition was all about the temple and worship in the temple. Where were the Levites?

As a church leader I sometimes wonder whether I'm not the biggest hindrance to ministry. Church leaders feel responsible, but in that responsibility they sometimes put the brakes on ministry that is burning in the hearts of those they are leading. Sometimes that needs to happen when passion is not joined with wisdom and discretion, but more often I fear that it is a matter of church leaders wanting to control, or not listening well to the Lord themselves, or fear, or ...

I wonder how many times as a church leader/pastor I have quenched the Spirit by dragging my feet or by a lack of passion. I expect that when I stand before God he will not be all that impressed with my sermons. But, will he be pleased with my leadership or will he want to know why I didn't show up when he had placed a vision and passion for ministry in the hearts of his people? Leadership, whether in a home and family or in a church and ministry is not about being the commander and chief. It is more often about recognizing God's call on individuals and equipping and releasing then to run after it. Leadership is about service, not ego, control, power or personal comfort.

None of the Levites originally responded to the call. Thankfully, when they were challenged they responded positively. The lack of their presence could have seriously affected the effectiveness of the mission. Father, forgive me for the times I haven't shown up when you called. May I never be a hindrance to what you are doing in the lives of those around me.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ezra 7 - Part 4

Eza 7:7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. (ESV)

Ezra's leadership is indispensable to this mission of reviving the worship of God, but he cannot do it alone. Ezra's name means "helper." To often we look at churches and ministries as extensions of the pastor, founder or leader. Clearly their leadership is key, but the truly biblical leader understands their role a one of servant, not commander.

Ezra didn't go to Jerusalem alone. A whole contingent of temple workers went with him. The ministry of Northern Bible Church cannot accomplish its call to reach, grow and equip devoted followers of Jesus without the involvement of the entire body. It is the role of the pastor and the elders to serve and equip the body to do the work of the ministry.

When I, as the pastor, begin to think that somehow this church exists to serve me or my agenda then I am walking on dangerous ground. I am so blessed to serve in a church filled with growing, serving brothers and sisters in Christ. May we never lose sight of God's call on our lives. God forbid that I should ever begin to think that somehow the church is here to serve me.

Father, thank you for how you are working in the lives of those around me. Give me the wisdom and discernment to know how to effectively help and equip them for the unique ministries to which you have called them.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ezra 7 - Part 3

Eza 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (ESV)

Here is a man that God used mightily to influence others. A number of people made the trek from Babylon to Jerusalem because Ezra was going. People will repent and make major changes in lifestyle because of his ministry. People want to be an influence for good in their community. In certain individuals there is a yearning to be the one standing up front teaching. But there is a necessary prerequisite to being a godly influence and to teaching. James warns us, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1)

So, if we want to teach, or if we simply want to be an influence for God in our families, our communities, or among our friends where do we begin? I think it is significant that before Ezra set his heart to teach he first set his heart to both know and do the Law of the Lord. Too often we divorce these things from one another. We find individuals who want to teach but aren't willing to do the hard work of study and practice first. Or, we find individuals who love to study and because they "learn" something they think they are ready to teach it, but they have never allowed the truths of scripture to actually change their attitudes and actions. Finally, there are those action oriented individuals who feel that deep study is a waste of time and energy. "Just do it" is their motto. Unfortunately when the focus is on doing without being we only communicate legalistic obedience. When the focus is on doing without understanding what the scriptures are accurately teaching we are likely to teach wrong, or even unbiblical behavior.

Ezra set his heart to study the Law of the Lord. If we want our lives to be an influence for God and for good then we must make sure that we are learning to handle God's Word accurately. If we want our lives to be an influence for God and for good then we must make sure that as we study, the things we are "learning" affect our lives first. God's Word must change what we think, feel and do first if we expect it to affect others for good. Finally, If we want our lives to be an influence for God and for good then we must be committed to not only do what God teaches us but to communicate it as God gives us opportunity.

Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. May that be true of us a well.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ezra 7 part 2

Eza 7:1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, (ESV)

Ezra has ancestors with names that mean things like wasting, rebellious, and retribution, but his father's name means Jehovah is ruler. His grandfather's name means Jehovah has helped. His great grandfather's name means my portion is Jehovah. Ezra's name means help.

Ezra is going back to Jerusalem to help his people set their hearts toward God. He is apparently the fifth generation of a line of priests who have turned their hearts to God. A man named "retribution" chose to name his son "my portion is Jehovah." That started the line of faith that brought Ezra into the picture.

No matter what our past holds, no matter what our history, it is never too late to start down a different path. Who knows where that may lead and what God might do down the road because we chose to honor him. "Retribution" likely never saw the fruit of his decision to transition from retribution to faith, but we still reap benefit from that choice every time we pick up and read the book of Ezra.

Father, thank you for your grace and mercy that can turn ashes into beauty and bitterness into humble service. Today may I make choices that honor you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ezra 7

Eza 7:1, 5 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah ...  son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest — (ESV)

Ezra finally shows up on the scene in the book named after him. Almost 60 years pass between Ezra 6 and 7. The old leadership is gone but there is still much to do as the people of God. The king sends Ezra, but God qualifies him. What is it that qualifies an individual to serve in a leadership position over God's people?

Ezra qualifies on three counts. First, he is Biblically qualified. According to the Mosaic Law in order to serve as a priest he must be a descendent of Aaron. Verses 1-5 demonstrate this to be true. He is then Biblically qualified to step into that role of leadership. For New Testament leadership the qualifications are issues of character rather than ancestry. 1 Timothy, Titus and other passages list the biblical qualifications of church leadership. We need to pay attention to these.

Secondly, Ezra was adequately trained and skilled. Ezra 7:6 says that "He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses..." Leadership is not just about being a godly individual. Jesus took three years to train his disciples before leaving them. When he left he instructed then to make disciples "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:20) I have listened to preachers and church leaders who were arrogant about their ignorance. There is nothing biblical or godly about being ignorant. Yes, God can mightily use people with little or no training, but the biblical mandate is to train and be trained.

So Ezra was Biblically qualified and adequately trained. He was also called and gifted by God. Ezra 7:6 ends with these words, "the hand of the LORD his God was on him." God has uniquely gifted every believer. His places his call on the lives of those he has marked out for leadership. Churches do a disservice to themselves and their God when they settle for leaders who are not qualified, trained and called to leadership. Church leaders do themselves and their God a disservice when they neglect to train up a next generation of Biblically qualified leaders. Individual believers do themselves and their God a disservice when they live lives that disqualify them from service, fail to seek training to learn and grow in their faith, and neglect the gifts and calling God has placed on their lives.

Father, thank you for the example you have given us in Ezra. May we humbly follow his example. Open our eyes.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, October 14, 2013

Daniel 2

Dan 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. (ESV)

These young men did not need any time to consider Nebuchadnezzar's offer. They knew they would not bow down to his statue because they had determined to remain undefiled and because they had made a habit of life to live in that manner. (see Dan 1) Good decisions in the past help us make good decisions in the present. Poor choices in the past undermine our ability to make good choices in the present. We cannot live with little compromises expecting that when the big issues arise we will somehow make the right choices.

There is a second principle that I see at work in this chapter as well. That is, God uses apparently bad circumstances to display his glory. Imagine you are one of these three. Wouldn't the thought go through your mind, "Why is God letting this happen?" Their answer to the king reveals their uncertainty. They are committed to faithfully serving God, but they are not sure how things will turn out.

Dan 3:17-18a If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not ... (ESV)

They didn't really know what God was up to, but they trusted him. Often in our lives circumstances arise that make no sense to us. Why hasn't my house sold in three years? Why are we facing these insurmountable obstacles? Why did our car break down here? Why did we feel God called us to a ministry that feels fruitless and pointless? Why, why, why? But so often when we look back we can see the hand of God bringing about circumstances for his glory in ways we could never have anticipated. I expect that when we get to Heaven God will reveal far more of those incidents in our lives then we were ever aware of. (Just to clarify, I don't feel like my current ministry is fruitless and pointless, but there have been times in the past when I have felt that way.)

Small decisions to honor God prepare us for the bigger decisions in life that honor God. Decisions to honor God when life doesn't make sense lead to God's glory. Father, forgive me for the small compromises I too often make. Today may you be honored and glorified in all I do.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Daniel 2

Daniel 2:27-28a
Daniel answered the king and said, " No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries (ESV)

Reading through this chapter three thoughts occurred to me. First is the idea that God uses pagans. Here is a pagan king receiving a vision from God in a dream. Why didn't God choose someone holy, godly and Jewish? Why didn't God give this vision directly to Daniel? When we talk about total depravity we often misunderstand the term. By total depravity we do not mean that God cannot speak to or through lost individuals, nor do we mean that there is no possibility of compassion, goodness or moral purity in them. God often uses the lost to accomplish his purposes. Why? Perhaps it is simply to remind us of the truth Daniel understood so well. When God uses believers it is not because of them, but because of God's grace and mercy. Were all goodness in the world to be found only in believers we might be tempted to begin believing that it is because we are somehow inherently better than anyone else. The truth is, God uses us in spite of us, not because of us.

That brings me to the second thought that occurred to me in this chapter: Daniel's humility. The other wise men, magicians, etc. had acknowledged the truth that no man could do what the king was asking. It would have been easy, however, for Daniel having the answer to stand up and say, "I've got an inside track with God so I can do it even when no one else can." But that's not what he said. He too acknowledged that no man, including himself, could do what the King was asking. But... "there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." That answer did not come from Daniel but from God who reveals mysteries. As a pastor it is easy, when someone compliments a sermon that I preach, to say "Thank you!" and take the credit for the message. It is even easy to begin to believe that I am somehow a better preacher than others when someone says, "That's the best sermon I've ever heard!" Of course it's not true, it is simply how they feel because God, by his grace, happened to speak to them in a powerful way through the message. When God works in peoples lives it is never about the messenger. It is always about the one who sent the message. 

The third thought that occurred to me in this chapter relates to Daniel and his friends. It is really easy when we rise to a certain level of authority, notoriety or popularity to forget those who got us there. Daniel's ability to reveal the king's vision came about because his three friends were praying. My uncle was buried yesterday. He used to pray for people when he would wake up in the middle of the night. Every Sunday morning at 8:30 he was in the pastor's study praying with the pastor and a couple other men. Other people behind the scenes who are never really visible support the work of the ministry through prayer, encouragement, service, giving, etc. They are not the ones who are seen on stage on the Sunday mornings, but the work of the ministry could never be done without them. It is really easy when the accolades come to forget where the real glory lies. Daniel, when he was promoted, made sure that his friends were not forgotten. Should we do any less? Who is going to replace my uncle at 8:30 on Sunday mornings in the pastor's study? The work of the ministry cannot go on without him any more than it can go on without someone in the pulpit. The pray-er is more important that the preacher.

Father, forgive me for how easily I begin to believe the lies about my own importance. Thank you for those who serve behind the scenes. Pour out your special blessing and encouragement on them today.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Daniel 1

Dan 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king 's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. (ESV)

Daniel's home has been destroyed. He has been carried off into captivity, turned into a eunuch, had his name changed to honor a foreign god and is now being groomed to serve the very government that destroyed his home and his way of life. How should he respond?

He could experience what we have come to call the Stockholm syndrome by making friends with his oppressors, embracing their values, goals and lifestyle. He could openly rebel, staging a demonstration, starting a rebellion,  or initiating a hunger strike. What he did instead took a great deal of faith and character. He resolved not to defile himself, yet he humbly and respectfully approached the chief of the eunuchs to request a change in diet. He even had a wise response to the chief's objections.

What strikes me about this chapter is the lack of demand for Daniel's rights. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." The idea of demanding ones rights is a particularly American export. While I applaud the idea, am grateful for those who died to preserve my "rights," and believe that I have a responsibility to honor the "rights" of others, this also raises a question for me. Do I have the right to demand my rights?

One could certainly argue that all Daniel's rights were stripped from him yet he responded in humility and respect. Jesus set aside his rights in order to take on the form of man, suffer, die and be buried in order to save people who deserved to be sent to Hell. If believers are to walk in the steps of Jesus then perhaps we need to be less concerned about our rights and more concerned about what it means to serve rather than be served.

Daniel and his friends would all risk their lives in order to maintain their resolve to never defile themselves, but even then they did it with respect and humility, not stubborn arrogance and disrespect. That is what made Daniel and his friends different. It is what caused them to have the impact and influence that they did.

Father, forgive me for too often being so concerned about what I deserve that I neglect to understand what others need. Forgive me for being so self focused that I lose sight of your gracious, sovereign hand behind the scenes. It seems that in my passion to preserve my rights I too often defile your name. Today may I, like Daniel, live a life without compromise, yet live it in humility and respect.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hebrews 13

Heb 13:5-6 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say,
"The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?"
(ESV)

Money was the measure of God's blessing for the first century Jew. As they understood the Mosaic Covenant, wealth indicated God's approval. For the Christian, life with God is measured very differently. It is measured by faith. It stands on the faithfulness of God. It is not measured by the present, but by a future hope. Therefore, keep your life free from the love of money. Therefore, be content with what you have. Therefore, live lives of holiness and peace. Therefore, do good, share what you have, submit to the leadership or those over you, avoid sexual immorality, and above all, don't be afraid to face opposition and persecution with confidence. We live and walk by faith in a manner that those focused on externals are not worthy to know. Our worthiness comes from Christ, who was himself rejected. Don't be ashamed to "go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured." (Heb 13:13)

This may be the point of this whole letter to the Hebrew believers. In the face of persecution and opposition we need to understand that following Christ is not about external temporal wealth, but eternal wealth. Following Christ is a walk of faith not sight. Those who went before were individuals who did not receive the promises of God in this life, yet they believed. Therefore, because things are not going well, because bills are piling up, cars are breaking down and money is not flowing in does not indicate that you are not saved. Persecution and opposition does not mean that you need to go back and "get saved again." The foundation is laid. It is a "once for all" deal. Now we walk by faith looking toward to that blessed hope that we have in Christ.

It is really easy when things go wrong to begin questioning the presence of God in our lives. We should not be surprised when life is hard. We walk by faith, not by sight. It is easier to "sell" a religion that promises health and wealth, but Christianity promises hope. Health and wealth end at the grave. Hope extends beyond this life. Health and wealth always involve hoops to jump through in order to somehow gain a god's approval. Hope rests on the finished work of Christ. Health and wealth always leave us with an empty taste in our mouths. Hope makes us not ashamed. As Jesus said:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
( Mat 6:19-21 ESV)

Father, forgive me for how often and how quickly my heart turns to things of this earth. Today, by your grace, may I live by faith "with eternities values in view."

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bob Vincent

Heb 13:7
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
(ESV)

Approximately 2am Sunday morning Bob Vincent quietly slipped from this life into the presence of God. When Hebrews says to consider the "outcome of their way of life" it is talking about how they died. How they lived led to how they died. In the case of the Hebrew leaders it is likely that their lives where characterized by a faithfulness that led to an early death at the hands of oppressors. In the case of Bob it was a faithful life that led to a quiet and peaceful transition from one life to another.

He told me, "God has placed in us the will to live." Bob loved people. He loved a good joke. He loved life. But his love for life was not limited to this life. He wanted to go home, but he was ready to go "Home." He taught Sunday School up until the last weeks of his life. His teaching impacted generations of young people, many of whom are now old people. He was quick to lend a hand, always ready to give to a friend, never concerned about getting paid back. He was faithfully at church early every Sunday to join the pastor and a couple other men to pray for the church, the community and our missionaries. Even in his last days visitors would ask to pray with him and he would say, "I'll start and then you close." Then he would pray. His life reflected the faith he taught. His death did as well.

As his pastor I am grateful for his faith, his faithfulness, his commitment to prayer and his heart of service. As his nephew I am grateful for the years of knowing him, the smiles he brought to my life and the example of faith he left behind. He exemplified Paul's words, "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Father, may I be found as faithful.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...