Haters gonna hate

I don’t like being mocked and ridiculed. Who does? Nobody that I know. It doesn’t feel very good. Over the Christmas season, I watched the movie Elf with my family. One of my favorite scenes is the snowball fight. The poor kid is a joke because he is hanging around with a guy dressed like an elf. But when kids start throwing snowballs at them, Buddy gets even. Take that! I will not be mocked.mocking1

 

Today’s reading is a little longer, but bear with me. This is good stuff.  Nehemiah 2:17-20

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

Right off the bat, Nehemiah faced opposition to the very thing God had called him to. He would later receive threats, but he set the tone early as to how he would respond. He basically said, “haters gonna hate” and left it at that. It didn’t seem to phase him. There was no worry, anxiety, fear, or trepidation. He wasn’t phased. Instead, he simply didn’t listen to those that set themselves up against his calling.

When we step out in obedience to the things that God calls us to, we will often hear the voices of those who tell us we can’t do it. They will give us all the reasons why it won’t work. They will tell us we aren’t qualified, that we don’t have the resources. The problem is that they are trying to focus us on what we don’t have. We need to focus on what we do have: God! And a calling from Him. 

There are places that God is calling you to. He has a mission for you. Are you listening to His voice? Or are you listening to the voices that tell you it will never happen?

 

I quit. Can I have a bonus?

Imagine this: you are fed up with your job. You can’t make it another day. So you march into the CEO’s office and tell him you’ve had it up to here. He gets a piece of your mind. Word gets out pretty fast that you aren’t happy and that you aren’t taking it anymore. But then just before you quit, you go to your direct supervisor and ask her for a bonus. Now I ask you, how is that going to go for you? Do you think you’d get the bonus? Probably not.

AY9RA6 I quit!

I know that all sounds a bit far-fetched, but this is exactly what the Israelites did in Exodus 11. Recall that the Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt. That made them pretty much the lowest class. Everyone else was in a higher position of authority. So Moses goes in and demands freedom and then God gives this audacious instruction to His people…

Exodus 11:2-3  Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”(The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

“Sure. No problem. I mean, we OWN you and all, but here’s some silver and gold. Have a nice life. I’ll just do my own hard labor. No bigsilver and gold deal. Be blessed.”

Am I the only one who thinks this is absolutely insane? I mean, who does that? Who quits their job and then asks for more paychecks? Apparently, God’s people. It’s not the “ask” though that got me. It was the response. This little passage of scripture seems to imply that their neighbors ACTUALLY gave them silver and gold.

So here’s the question… why did this work?  The answer: Favor. Faithfulness. Obedience. I think it was all three. They had favor that stemmed from faithfulness. They had been good slaves and had won the heart of people. So people wanted to bless them. Do we have favor? Are we faithful to those who are in authority in our lives? Because if we are faithful, favor will follow. They will want to bless us.  Let me put it this way: have you given people in your life any reason to want to bless you? The Israelites had.

And obedience. Perhaps the biggest reason this whole free silver and gold thing worked out was due to obedience. God’s people were obedient to Him. Obedient to His instructions to follow Him, obedient to prepare to leave Egypt, and obedient to ask their neighbors for some silver and gold. All they had to do was ask, because God has already prepared their hearts.  We tend not to ask because the answer might be no. But we fail to realize that the answer might also be yes. If God says to ask, then ask.

There’s so much here in these two little verses. Let’s be faithful and in turn find favor. And above all, let’s be obedient to the instructions of the Lord. After all, He has a pretty good idea as to what to do in any given situation. So trust Him and find the favor and blessing in the Lord!

Dragging our feet

Genesis 19:15-16 At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!” When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful.

dragging feetI’ll admit it: sometimes I have a hard time making a decision.  The little decisions aren’t so hard, but the big ones are another story.  It’s likely that I am a perfectionist and don’t want to make the wrong decision.  But that often leads me to make no decision at all.  This has caused me to miss out on great deals and great adventures.  I just over think it sometimes; I drag my feet.  By the time I make up my mind, it’s too late.  Can anyone relate?

 There are certain times, however, when dragging your feet is an even bigger deal: when God has told you to do something.  He calls us out to a great purpose, but we aren’t sure if the water is safe.  He calls us out of places of danger, but we refuse to leave the burning house.  Why is that?  Do we fear the unknown more than we fear the danger of the present? Because if God is IN the unknown, that’s actually a pretty safe place to be. 

There’s some good news for all of us in this feet dragging conundrum: God is gracious.  Lot was in a dangerous situation and hesitated leaving it.  But the angels of the Lord grabbed his hand and brought him to safety.  The Lord does the same with us today.  When we are dragging our feet, He grabs our hand and leads us to safe places.  Hesitation happens, but when you feel Him nudging you on to safety, that’s when the feet need to stop dragging and start moving.  Trust that where He is leading you is far better than where you are. 

*Are you dragging your feet?

I double dog dare ya

Malachi 3:10-11 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.

double-dog-dareBoys like a dare.  I remember when I was a kid, us boys could motivate each other with a simple dare.  Jump off that cliff into the water?  Lick that frozen pole? Eat that weird concoction of food?  All we needed was a dare.  And if that didn’t motivate us, a double dog dare would do.  No one could turn that down!  What is it about a dare, anyways?  I guess it makes us feel like we have overcome something impossible.  We have impressed those around us by not chickening out.  There’s really not much more to it.  But when God, dares you – that’s a whole different thing.

In Malachi 3, the Lord was speaking to Israel about the state of their hearts.  They weren’t following Him with all of their hearts and they certainly weren’t putting Him first.  God had put this thing in place called tithing.  Now tithing was and is a heart test for the believer.  It is a measure of putting God first.  Not the only measure, but a measure.  (If you tithe faithfully and put God last in your life – you are missing it!  It’s not about the money, but the heart.)  When our beliefs require action, we find out what we really believe.  We say, “I trust you God.”  Then we find out if that’s true through obedience.

In essence, God said this: “Put me first not just with words but with action.  I’ve asked you to bring the tithe into the storehouse and you haven’t done it.”  He goes on to say: “I double dog dare ya to tithe.   And if you put me first in this way, you will not even be able to comprehend the blessing that I will pour out on you!”

All I can say is this – it’s true!  I can’t explain it in logical terms.  As I have made the decision in my life to put God first in all things (including my finances) and to let His Word govern those things, it is amazing what happens.  Seriously, the blessings of God have poured out so richly on my life that I can’t even believe it.  He said in Malachi that pests won’t devour their crops.  In my case, cars have run far past when they should have.  Money stretched way beyond where it should have.  The blessings of God as a result of obedience are uncontainable.  I wouldn’t live any other way.  Even when it seems there isn’t enough, there is always enough in Him!

*I double dog dare ya to put God first in every area of your life!

Not fair

Zechariah 6:15 “Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the LORD, and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God.”

thats-not-fairBut God, I thought you said ________.  Didn’t you promise ________?  It seems like sometimes God shares with us, His plans for our life.  He gives us a word, a promise, something to stand on.  We are filled with hope and overwhelmed that the God of the universe would reach down and speak to us.  We leave His presence full of life and excited about what He is going to do.  But then we often wait.  We wait for His timing.  We wait for something to happen.  He said He would do this, so why isn’t it happening?  There may be many reasons why, including His perfect timing.  But let me throw out another suggestion that we find in Zechariah 6:15.

“This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God.”  What!?  I have to do my part?  We get all excited about the promise, don’t we?  For Zechariah, it was the promise that people from far away will come and build the temple.  That’s really cool.  I like that idea.  But it will happen IF you diligently obey the Lord.  It’s like there’s a condition on the promise.  Now before you say, “that’s not fair” let me tell you about “not fair.”  Not fair is that I sinned, but Jesus died.  Not fair is that God loves me unconditionally but I am fickle.  Not fair is that God makes a promise but I don’t do my part. 

If we are going to live according to His promise, we would do good to obey His commands.  This is a relationship, not a vending machine.  We can’t just put our prayers in the slot and expect a spiritual candy bar to come out.  God desires to have real relationship with us.  Friends, if we are going to live in that relationship, we need to do our part.  And our part is often obedience.  It’s unreasonable to ask God to hold up His side of the relationship and not hold up ours.  We need to obey; we need to surrender.  Maybe the problem isn’t that God is unfair.  Maybe, just maybe… the problem is on our end.

*Is your life marked by obedience to God?  In what areas do you need to do a better job of obeying?

Does God really need to measure things?

Zechariah 2:1-5  Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.”  While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet himand said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’

BU010618I find this whole scenario a bit odd.  Zechariah sees an angel with a measuring tape: “so, whatcha doing?”  The angel tells him that God sent him to measure Jerusalem.  Let me ask you this – does the God who created the heavens and the earth not know the measurements of Jerusalem?  Does the all-knowing, ever-present God need to send an angel to find out this information?  I find that hard to believe.  God knows everything. He knows the number of hairs on your head.  He knows the days of your life.  He certainly knew the dimensions of Jerusalem.  So why was an angel there doing this job?  Maybe he was there for another reason.

In my mind, there are two possible answers to this question.  The first is that whether or not God needs the help, he chooses to use His servants for His work.  He chooses to allow creation to participate in His great and wondrous plans.  Does He need me to spread the gospel?  Absolutely and absolutely not.  Does He need me to pray in order for Him to do something?  Absolutely and absolutely not.  You see, God doesn’t “need” me for His great plan, but he “chooses” to invite me into it.  He does it for me.  He includes me for my sake, that I would be drawn to Him, rely on Him, and truly know Him.  Yes, the Creator of the earth chooses me to fulfill His purposes here on earth.

There’s another reason that I think the angel was there measuring.  The measuring was just a task that led to the purpose.  I believe the real purpose wasn’t the job of measuring, but the job of delivering a prophetic message to Zechariah.  He was there so that Zechariah could hear the message about the protection of the Lord around Jerusalem.  God promised he would be like a wall of fire around the city.  He would be their protection and their strength.  He would be their glory.  Sometimes God asks us to do something that seems silly.  He asks us to do things that seem pointless.  But maybe… just maybe, the whole point isn’t about the task He has asked.  Maybe there is a greater thing about to happen.  But you’ll never know until you get out the measuring tape and do the little thing He instructed you to do.  It may just be the street that takes you to your destination.

*Have you shrugged off God’s instruction because it seemed unnecessary? 

Shaking your fist…or foot.

Acts 13:49-52 49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

shake fistNowadays when someone is being a jerk, you probably shake your fist.  You do it in disgust, frustration, and a few choice words… either out loud or in your head.  But back in the day, apparently they shook their foot.  They really did.  Well, sort of.  It’s not that they were shaking their foot at them.  Rather they were shaking off even the dirt from the place that mistreated them.  It was something that Jesus had taught them years earlier.  He told them that if they were not received, to shake the dust off their feet and leave.  He also told them to pack up peace and take it with them as they left.

What’s remarkable to me about this passage isn’t the fact that the word of the Lord spread.  It isn’t that they were expelled from the region.  It wasn’t even that they were filled with joy as they left.  Even though the whole shaking your feet thing is quite interesting, it’s not where the power of today’s scripture lies.  The power for me isn’t why they did it; it’s that they did it.  Even after their teacher – their mentor – had left, they were still doing the things he told them to.  Even after much time had gone by, they remembered his instructions and followed them.

It seems like we so often forget the things we learn.  We read our Bible, get hit between the eyes with truth, and say we’ll never be the same.  Then two weeks later we’ve forgotten it.  We go to church and hear a sermon that is certain to transform our lives.  Then a month later we can’t recall what was said.  Why does this happen?  How can we be like the disciples who were still doing what they were taught a long time later?  The key – application.  I’ll be more specific – instant application.  We often take so long to “think about it” or “process the information” that we don’t ever end up doing anything.  If we are going to have change take place in our lives we need to apply what has been taught as soon as possible.  Then we need to keep doing it over and over until it sticks.   That’s what happened to the disciples; they were doing in Acts what they had done so many times with Jesus.  If we would do the same, we might find victory.  We might find peace.  We might even be able to shake our foot, er, fist at the devil. Take that!

*What is something that God has taught you that you haven’t got around to applying yet?  Start applying it today!