Archive for June, 2011

I publish this blog at the risk of overdoing a theme. I hadn’t planned on having my next blog be about praising God, but somehow He keeps bringing me back to the theme.

I left my husband in the ER tonight waiting for a bed in the hospital to be available for him to spend the night there. Or at least what’s left of the night. When I left it was 1:30am. We’re hopeful he’ll be home tomorrow.

On the way home, the wonderful Holy Spirit reminded me that this is the Summer of Praise. My tired brain couldn’t remember a song to sing, so I spent the drive home making up (I guess a more confident person would say “writing”) a new song to the Lord. You can hear it here.

Comments Comments Off on I Will Rejoice in the Lord

 

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

A Season for Praise & Reading

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:1

And the month of July, in addition to falling during our Summer of Praise, is the season for reading Ecclesiastes this year! We’ll follow that up with several minor prophets – Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Jonah. In late July, we’ll relax with some Psalms.

In the New Testament, we’ll read Galatians, Philippians and begin the Gospel of Mark.

Here are just a few great Scriptures from the passages we’ll read this month:

To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:26

Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence.
Ecclesiastes 8:3a

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand.
Joel 2:1

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
Joel 2:28-32

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7

The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.
Obadiah 1:15

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.
Jonah 2:8-9

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

We’ve got some great reading ahead of us,  friends! Enjoy it!

Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

To download a PDF of the July 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments Comments Off on Resting at the River’s Edge Reading in July

It was a week ago today that I introduced you to my “Summer of Praise.” Since then, my excitement has grown when I think about what God will do as I spend the summer focusing on praising Him. I have several themes running in my head – I suspect they’ll work their way into blogs in the coming weeks. Additionally, other articles, blogs and e-mails on related topics seem to be coming across my desk with increased frequency. I think we’re in for a great summer, friends!

Even as I write this, my mind reminds me that not everyone is celebrating: A friend is in pain, a nephew has lost his grandfather, another friend is over-stressed with life and yet another is depressed. Despite it all (and of course, there are many more examples), I am convinced God will transform us as we are obedient to praise Him, perhaps especially when that praise is a sacrifice. And I am excited about experiencing that transformation in myself and with my friends!

Today I read a blog that has been in my inbox for three weeks. Titled “Happiness is a Choice,” I expected the blog to be a bit too familiar – “there’s nothing new under the sun” was my reaction to the title. (Lord, forgive me for my cynicism and lack of respect.) The blog is written by a woman I’ve included here before, so I kept it in my inbox to read at some future time. The future became today, and I found that not only was I wrong about there being nothing new under the sun, but that the blog was extremely well written. Among other things, I love her line in the first paragraph about electricity and friction and her discussion about grafting our happiness onto others.

This “Today I Realized…” blog is worth the read. It’s short but powerful and will enhance your Summer of Praise.

Let’s make good choices and let’s continue to praise Him!

Comments Comments Off on “Summer of Praise” Check-Up – Try Choosing Happiness as Part of Your Plan

Yesterday’s blog looked at the situation Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, found himself – a “vast army” had come from across the sea and were almost upon his country to wage war. He stood little chance of defeating the army on his own, and when he heard the news he was “alarmed” and “resolved to inquire of the Lord.” Yesterday’s lesson was that Jehoshaphat quickly moved from being alarmed to seeking the Lord. We’re going to pick up the story there and look at three things today:

  • How Jehoshaphat went about seeking the Lord
  • What he did when he transitioned from seeking the Lord to taking action
  • What the outcome was

Let’s start by reading the passage that describes Jehoshaphat seeking the Lord.

Jehoshaphat Seeks the Lord

3Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

5Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard 6and said:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

10“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

13All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.

14Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

15He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’”

18Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. 19Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with very loud voice.
2 Chronicles 20:3-19

In seeking the Lord, Jehoshaphat did seven things. We can learn from this process an approach to seeking the Lord when we are alarmed. Let’s look at what Jehoshaphat did:

  1. He brought others into the process – he didn’t seek the Lord alone (verses 3-5)
  2. He humbled himself with fasting (verse 3)
  3. He acknowledged God as sovereign over all (verses 6-7)
  4. He admitted his weakness to God (verse 12)
  5. He demonstrated faith (verses 9, 12 and 18)
  6. He waited (verse 13)
  7. He worshipped (verses 18-19)

While there’s no “magic formula” to seeking God, Jehoshaphat’s approach is a good one because it brings us into a right relationship with God through humbling ourselves and admitting our weaknesses, demonstrating faith, properly exalting God and waiting upon Him. We would do well to emulate Jehoshaphat when we face seemingly insurmountable battles in our lives.

In response to Jehoshaphat, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel” and he prophecied a wonderful promise from God – that the people would not have to fight the battle. I find the prophecy fascinating in that God tells the people “you won’t have to fight, but take up your battle positions and stand firm.” At first it caused me to wonder why they had to take up their battle positions and stand firm if God was going to fight their battle for them. Why did they have to go out to face the enemy if they didn’t have to fight that enemy? I’m sure the Israelites were wondering this, and God doesn’t answer the question, He simply reassures them that He will be with them. Let’s tuck this question in the back of our mind and read on to learn what happens.

Jehoshaphat Leads the Israelites into the Battle

20Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:20-21

After seeking the Lord, Jehoshaphat did three key things as he prepared to step into the battle.

  1. He encouraged the soldiers. He builds up their faith. We can do that to ourselves. Psalm 42 provides just one example of King David encouraging himself. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God…” (verse 5a).
  2. He got advice of others – “after consulting the people” he made decisions. Proverbs 15:22 tells us that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” King Jehoshaphat wasn’t afraid or too superior to ask for advice.
  3. He led with worship. There are many reasons to lead with worship. Here are just a few:
  • It continually builds our faith.
  • It glorifies God.
  • It demonstrates the source of our victory.
  • It stirs God to action.

Well, Jehoshaphat and the Israelites are headed into the battle the Lord has promised them they will not have to fight. How will God keep His promise? Let’s finish the story and find out.

Victory, God’s Way

22As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

24When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Beracah to this day.

27Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. 28They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lutes and trumpets.

29The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
2 Chronicles 20:22-30

Doesn’t it just make you want to shout? Hallelujah! “As [the Israelites] began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against [their enemies].” That’s my kind of God! Let’s look at the results of those ambushes:

  • The “vast army” was a desert of dead bodies.
  • The plunder – so much of it that it “took three days to collect”– went to God’s people
  • Praise and worship – the people returned joyfully and went into the temple and had a praise party! One of the greatest lessons in all of this is that what starts in worship ends in worship! The people entered the battle in worship. They ended it in worship.
  • The fear of God came upon all Judah’s other potential enemies
  • There was peace

That’s a God-sized result!

Remember that question you tucked away until the story was further developed? The question about why the people had to go out to the battle if God was going to win it for them? Scripture doesn’t answer the question outright, but I believe that it was largely to increase their faith. God’s instruction to the Israelites in verse 17 was “see the deliverance the LORD will give you.” God wanted them to see with their own eyes and be a part of the action to build their faith. Could God have accomplished the same thing while the Israelites slept? Absolutely. Do you think the impact would have been the same? I don’t. I think the Isarelites needed to encourage themselves in the Lord, and they needed to put their faith into action by suiting up and marching out toward the battle. They needed the practice of holding on to the promise of God. And perhaps, just perhaps, God wanted to “wow” them – to see the looks on their faces and the rejoicing in their hearts when they looked upon the battle God had won for them.

I know I need those things. I need God to increase my faith sometimes, and the way that happens is by allowing me to be put in situations that cause me alarm and force me to push past the alarm and run into God’s arms – situations where I am required to demonstrate my faith by taking steps toward an enemy (or a challenge) that only God can defeat (or accomplish).

I love that about God! He wants to help me grow and He wants to delight me in the process. That’s the purpose for the battles in our lives. I encourage you, as I did in yesterday’s blog, to choose the supernatural response when facing your battles – “resolve to inquire of the Lord.” If you follow a pattern similar to Jehoshaphat, I’m confident that you’ll “see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”

Friends, I pray God’s richest blessings for you – and that includes situations that might initially cause you alarm, but allow you to see Him in greater glory!

Comments Comments Off on Choosing the Supernatural Response (Part 2 of 2)

In the history of Judah there was a king named Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was generally a good king. He went to his various towns and urged the people to follow the Lord, and he urged the priests to judge righteously.

In 2 Chronicles 20 we read that a “vast army” of warriors from three different nations were marching to toward Judah:

1After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat.

2Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
2 Chronicles 20:1-4

When Jehoshaphat learned that the enemy was coming to “make war,” Scripture records his two reactions.

First, it says he was “alarmed.” This was not some bully down the block who had come to steal his lunch money. He might be able to deal with the bully. No, this was a vast army from three nations coming from the other side of the sea and they were almost upon Judah. You don’t travel that far unless you plan to kick some Jehoshaphat butt!

So “alarm” was Jehoshaphat’s first, and very natural reaction. There is nothing wrong with this natural reaction. Jehoshaphat did not sin in having this natural reaction. When I get phone calls that have “catastrophe” written all over them, my first reaction is alarm. I’ll bet the same is true with you.

You undoubtedly have seasons and situations in your life when enemies come together to make war with you. It might be those times when you feel like you are fighting the battle on too many fronts. When things are going wrong in too many areas of your life or you are suddenly too busy in too many areas of your life. You are in the same position as Jehoshaphat. And you probably feel like you can’t get it wrong in any of those areas or your life will come crashing down. You and perhaps those around you will be defeated.

Or maybe your “vast army” is a single pressing issue that is advancing like a vast army about to overtake you. Maybe it’s a looming bill that needs to be paid or an upcoming event.

Whatever “vast army” is advancing upon you, it’s important that you have the same second reaction as Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat’s second reaction was to “resolve” to “inquire of the Lord.” This might be described as Jehoshaphat’s supernatural reaction, because turning to the Lord happens only when we look beyond what we can see in the natural.

Notice that Scripture records Jehoshaphat’s two responses in a single sentence – He was alarmed and he resolved to inquire of the Lord. A mark of our maturity in the Lord is how quickly we move from our natural response to a supernatural response. Stepping away from our natural response requires a decision and a resolve on our part. It’s so much easier to wallow in our fear and anxiety. It’s so much easier to dwell on the enemy or enemies coming against us. But we need to respond supernaturally to the situation those enemies pose immediately rather than continue in the natural. If we want to live supernatural lives, we have to make supernatural choices.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the Jehoshaphat’s supernatural response in more detail, but for today, I invite you to join with me in resolving to inquire of the Lord – immediately when we feel alarmed. Let’s invoke a supernatural response quickly so that God can impact our situation quickly.

Comments 1 Comment »

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
Psalm 150:6

A couple of weeks ago the phrase “Summer of Praise” came to my mind. As the pastor preached on a totally different topic, I got more and more excited about the possibilities of making that phrase a reality.

Imagine – a whole summer dedicated to praise! It makes me smile just thinking about it. Imagine how powerfully your spirit could be impacted by such an emphasis of praise! I get excited thinking about the change that will occur. I have every confidence that no matter what happens in the world and in my life over this summer, if I continue in praise my spirit will be renewed and I will become a stronger woman of faith and joy.

I know what you’re thinking…how naïve that woman is!

  • First, by proclaiming it a “Summer of Praise” she is almost guaranteeing that the enemy will attack her.
  • Secondly, life happens to everyone – does she really believe she can praise through it?
  • Thirdly, she might be excited about the Summer of Praise now, but how is she going to react when she’s tired, hungry or just plain out of sorts?

You’re probably right. But I am taking a step of faith. One that says “I believe that with God’s help I can live differently in the summer of 2011. I may experience setbacks, but my God is able to keep me on track.” And as I’ve already written, I am excited about the person I’ll be in late September – a stronger, more positive Sandy who has seen God change my perspective in the midst of whatever the summer brings.

Friends, I encourage you to join with me in this Summer of Praise. If you’re not as confident as I am that you will be changed, consider it a Summer of Praise “experiment.” Commit to extra-ordinarily praising God this summer and see what He will do. I am confident He’ll change your heart and your perspective, and that will change your life!

So how will I observe the Summer of Praise? What will I do differently? What might you do differently during your Summer of Praise? I’m planning both public and private “praise events” as well as planning some changes in my lifestyle. These events and activities will allow me to focus on the Most Important thing instead of the most urgent things in my life. Here are some ideas for making the summer of 2011 a Summer of Praise:

Public Praise Events

  • Contact a local nursing home and ask if you can lead a “Hymn Sing” one evening for the residents. You’ll probably receive a great response – nursing home residents love to sing the old hymns. Invite a friend or two to join you.
  • Ask your church to have a “worship night” some summer evening.
  • Hold a worship night at your home, worshiping to CDs. You can do this by yourself (think of it as a date with God) or as a family (make it a Family Worship Night) or invite your friends (how about a “Ladies’ Praise” or “Men’s Mighty Praise” night?)
  • Many communities have outdoor summer music concerts and sometimes worship teams participate. Check out your community schedule and join them some evening.
  • Turn one of your small group meetings into a time of worship & praise.
  • Plan a simple “Praise Party.” Everyone brings a psalm of praise or favorite praise song and serve special “feast” food.

Private Praise Events & Lifestyle Activities

  • Add singing a worship or praise song to your devotional time.
  • Sing a praise song as your prayer before meals.
  • Take “praise breaks” during the day. Muslims pray five times a day. I am challenged by this. Could I possibly set five times each day when I’ll take a five minute praise break? How about 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm? I’m not legalistic about such things, but I’m going to shoot for those times. Even as I write this (because I haven’t done it yet), I wonder how it will change my day and life? I’m excited about the possibility. During your praise break, praise God (aloud if at all possible) for who He is and what He’s done, sing a song of praise or take a few minutes to write Him a note of thanksgiving.
  • Keep a gratitude and praise journal.
  • Put worship music in all your CD and tape players. (Does anyone still use tape players?)
  • Set aside a couple of times over the summer to watch worship videos on YouTube. Imagine how different you’ll feel going back to work if you did this during your lunch hour! Treat it as a date – something to look forward to and plan for.
  • Do a word study in the Bible on “praise” and/or “hope.”
  • Meditate on the hope we have in Christ.
  • Read a book or two about praise.
  • Practice the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) – praising when you don’t feel like it. This is the praise that will strengthen your praise muscle more than all the other activities.

I’m not planning on doing all of these things, but many have been added to my daily plan and monthly schedule. May I encourage you to pray about making this summer your Summer of Praise? I’m praying that you will catch the vision for praise and that your life will be changed over the next 120 days.

1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

Psalm 150

Comments Comments Off on Summer of Praise 2011

27Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way 28and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials.
Ezra 7:27-28a

As I read through the book of Ezra last week, the thing that made the greatest impression on me was God’s ability and willingness to change the hearts of powerful people to accomplish His purposes. I’m thankful that we serve a God who is active in the lives of men and women and changes the hearts of those in authority to accomplish His will here on earth. It doesn’t even matter whether those in authority recognize or serve Him! It’s easy to doubt that such a thing will happen when those in authority over us seem to be brick walls in our path. When our parents or boss or clients or even spouse have a history of treating us one way, it’s hard to imagine that anything will change.

That’s the situation the Israelites found themselves in after being taken into captivity in Babylon. Yet God moved on the hearts of three different rulers to release the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city and their temple. First, the Babylonians (Israel’s conquerors) were conquered by King Cyrus of Persia. You can imagine that the Israelites could hardly imagine, barely believe it possible, that a man who had just conquered their conquerors would set them free to return to their homeland. But that’s exactly what happened. It’s described in Ezra 1:

1In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

2“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.
Ezra 1:1-3

Here is this pagan king acknowledging that God has appointed him to build a temple Him! There are a number of theories about why Cyrus would believe such a thing and release the Israelites, but they are just theories. Perhaps he wanted to ingratiate himself to his new subjects. Maybe the prophecies of Jeremiah were shown to him and he understood himself to be God’s instrument. Maybe he had a reverence for the God of the heaven.

No one knows the mind of the king except the one true King who clearly influenced it. Matthew Henry points out in his commentary that releasing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem went against all common wisdom: It would have been in the interest of Cyrus’ government to continue to have the Jews as slaves; it would certainly not have been in the interest of his country to allow the Jews to establish their own homeland and government again; and in allowing the Israelites to build a temple for worship, King Cyrus was going against the religion of his own country.

But God moved on his heart and he released the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and establish themselves in the city, rebuilding the city walls and the temple. Rebuilding is a long process, however, and after a few years Israel’s enemies tried to hinder the rebuilding. They tried to intimidate the Israelites and wrote letters to the current king, King Darius, warning him of the dangers of allowing the Israelites to regain their autonomy. So God moved on the heart of King Darius. He sent this memo:

Memorandum [from King Darius]:

3In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem:

Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid…The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. 5Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.

6Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. 7Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.

8Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:

The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. 9Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, 10so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.

11Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble. 12May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.

I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.
Ezra 6:1-12

Did you catch that? Not only did Darius support the work of the Israelites, he commanded that those who had been opposing it provide the Israelites with all they needed to finish the work! Oh, and while you’re at it, provide whatever they need to make offerings to their God, too! What an amazing turn of events. Israel just received “most favored nation” status in the Middle East!

But God wasn’t finished. Some time after the temple was finished, God moved on the heart of King Artaxerxes to release Ezra and all Jews remaining in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.

11This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel:

12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,

To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:

Greetings.

13Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. 14You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. 15Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.

18You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. 19Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. 20And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you may have occasion to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.

21Now I, King Artaxerxes, order all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you—22up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. 23Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and of his sons? 24You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.

25And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. 26Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
Ezra 7:11-26

Three kings, all who’s hearts were changed to favor the Israelites. I’ve included lengthy passages here to illustrate how completely their hearts were changed – how incredibly favorably disposed they were toward the Jews.

Many years ago I sat across the desk from a potential client. We had completed a couple of small projects for him and had quoted on a very large project. He looked me in the eye and said “We’ve had the budget approved for this large project for a very long time, but I’ve never given the job to anyone because I never trusted anyone to do it well. I’m ready to give the project to you.” I wanted to respond by saying “Why?” Instead I graciously accepted the large project, went back to the office and did the happy dance!

From an earthly perspective, this new client had no reason to trust me with his large project. Performing well on a couple of small projects in our line of work is not a strong indicator that a firm will perform well on a large project. The skill set is significantly different. Additionally, I had only met with him a couple of times, so we hadn’t had enough interactions for him to truly gauge my integrity. I like to believe we’re nice people and comfortable to work with, but still…“Why?” was the question in my mind.

Almost as quickly as the question was formed, the answer came…nothing but the grace and favor of God. God wanted to make it clear to me that our business would grow by His grace. My job was to do my best, lead and work with integrity, and trust Him for grace and favor with clients.

Sometimes I forget that. When clients seem impatient or make unreasonable demands I can fall into the trap of feeling like I have to “do it all” to please them or to keep our business afloat. It’s times like that when I am glad that I serve a God who changes the hearts of those in authority.

How about you? Are there situations in your life that where it seems hopeless that someone in authority will change their mind or behavior? God can change their hearts! Take a few minutes today to ask God to forgive you if you’ve been responding poorly to that person’s leadership or if you’ve doubted that God can change the situation. Then ask God to change the person’s heart and ask Him how you should be responding to the situation. Is some change required on your part? In each of the examples above, the Israelites were serving the king before God changed the king’s heart. Are you serving well?

Remember, friends, that no situation is hopeless. Our God changes the hearts of men (and women).

Comments Comments Off on A God Who Changes the Hearts of Kings

5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8

What channel is your mind tuned into? Is it the local or international news channel? Maybe it’s the daytime soaps channel, or the nighttime equivalent? Dare I ask if it’s the cable porn channel?

The Apostle Paul puts it simply – whatever channel our mind is set on determines how we’ll live our lives. If our minds are tuned to anything but God, we will live lives that are controlled by everything but God. And that’s called sin. And sin leads to death.

When we tune our minds to God’s channel, we experience life and peace.

When my mind is tuned to the channels of this world, Scripture says “it does not submit to God’s law…[and it] cannot please God” Everywhere I turn, I see obedience as an integral part of saving faith. Without obedience, there is not true faith. That’s a strong statement, but the more I read, the more I believe it is an accurate statement. I believe that God is merciful and gracious and I don’t know how much obedience is required to be considered a child of God. But I do know that reciting a simple prayer isn’t all that’s required (as we evangelicals are so prone to teach).

Living for Christ and not for myself, my husband or my family is what we are consistently called to in Scripture – keeping our minds tuned to God’s channel and obeying Him. That’s how to please our loving Savior.

 

Comments Comments Off on Change the Channel

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

I apologize, readers, for blogging so infrequently over the past eight weeks. I have been working unusually long hours and have had little energy or brain-power left for blogging. As I get back into the habit, I thought I’d start with a short blog about dealing with over-busy times.

We all find ourselves unexpectedly over-scheduled at times. This blog is about those times. Let me start with a caveat, however. If you find yourself perpetually over-scheduled, may I suggest that you take a time out (yes, you can – really!) and evaluate your life. I truly believe that God is not honored by a life that is perpetually over-scheduled. Some of these tips will help you, but stronger medicine is required to heal the perpetually overly full schedule.

8 Things to Do When You’re in a Short or Temporary Season of Over-Busyness:

  1. Pray specifically asking God where your priorities should be. Ask Him for guidance about the big picture (i.e., those tasks that should be dropped or handed off for a period of time) and ask Him about your priorities each day. Here are just a few ways that God might make His priorities known to you:
    • A persistent thought or leaning toward one project or another.
    • A peace about passing some tasks to others or leaving them undone.
    • A change in your passions for specific tasks.
    • An unexpected person offering to shoulder some task you were wondering how you’d accomplish.
  2. Be obedient – Do those things that are God highlights as priorities. Sometimes you may want to do other things instead. Trust that God knows best.
  3. Act with integrity – Be proactive about asking others to help and advising others when you will not be able to accomplish something you’ve promised. Don’t wait until the last minute or until you’re already late with something.
  4. Trust that God is in control – When we are over-busy, it is easy to become stressed about the many, many things we ought to do. Trusting God brings a confidence that pushes that stress away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reminded myself over the past two months that none of this unexpected busyness took God by surprise. When each person created the schedule that I’m responsible to meet, God knew about it. He will either enable me to meet that schedule, provide someone else to meet it for me, or He will give me the grace to honestly admit that I cannot meet it. Guess what! Even though I am quite tired from my busyness over the past eight weeks, it’s been fun watching Him in action.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up for not accomplishing those things that God has said is not your top priority. I have hated not writing my blog more regularly, but I’ve also been confident that it was lower on the priority list than meeting working deadlines, maintaining some ministry locally, and visiting my parents. It would be easy to feel remorse or guilt for not blogging regularly. To do so, however, would be acting as if God’s priorities for my time were wrong.
  6. Don’t neglect Bible reading. You may not have time to do as much study or meditation of the passages, but be sure to read.
  7. Be thankful. It’s so easy to become overly task driven and forget to pause to be thankful. It will change your day.
  8. Don’t neglect church and continue to observe a Sabbath. Scripture says that we are to observe the Sabbath even during times of harvest. This is a harvest time at work and it is so tempting to spend just a bit of time on Sundays “catching up” so that Monday will be better. Trust me. God knows best and you will be more “caught up” on Monday if you fully step away from work on Sunday. (No, I’m not legalist about Sabbath being Sunday – any day of the week is fine, so long as you are careful to observe it.)

I know it doesn’t seem like you need 8 more things to do when you’re already over-busy. Trust me, put these 8 things first and God will control the over-busyness. Of course that’s not to say you won’t be tired for awhile! Blessings, friends!

Comments Comments Off on 8 Things To Do When You’re Too Busy

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter