Scripture Read: Malachi 3
Title: The Messenger of the LORD
(H) Highlight verse: "Behold I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight , behold he is coming says the LORD of hosts" Malachi 3:1
(E) Explain: Malachi has spoken the words of judgment and repentance to the Priests and people of Israel. Now he gives to them hope and this hope is found in the coming messenger of the LORD. This is a prophecy about John the Baptist. In a few days we will look more closely at John, but we see in this passage that his call and purpose in life was to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. The priests and the people had lived in rebellion and disobedience to God for so long and Malachi has been warning them about God's displeasure. God claims that they have robbed from Him, have spoken against Him, profaned the covenant, and lived in disobedience to Him.
(A) Application: As the Old Testament comes close to ending it would seem as though there is despair and hopelessness abounding in the final chapters. As hopeless as it seems there is hope. Jesus is coming. John the Baptist will prepare the way for the coming King of glory. Hope abounds in the throngs of hopelessness. This remains true to this day... I have to continually remind myself this at this point of my life, maybe you need to as well. Today I am feeling hopeless and in despair, but I need to be reminded the Lord has come and He is on His throne of grace and sovereignty. So, I do not need to wallow in despair and hopelessness because the king of grace is on His throne and He will make all things right with him.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I prepare the way in my heart for you to come in and make right all that is wrong. May I trust that in my dark place there is light and that light is Jesus.
Scripture Read: Malachi 2
Title: God Rebukes the Priests and Judah
(H) Highlight verse: "You have wearied the LORDwith your words. But you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' By saying, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.' Or by asking, 'Where is the God of justice?'" Malachi 2
(E) Explain: In this passage the prohet Malachi is speaking a rebuke from God to both the Priests and the nation of Judah for their unfaithfulness. The Priests, who were called to be people of wisdom and integrity were now corrupt in action and in words. They were causing many to stumble in their walk with God. Much in the same way the Judah was living in rebellion to God beause they were unfaithful to God and profaned him by not keeping His covenant. At the conclusion of the passage Malachi tells the people that they have wearied the LORD with their words. He has grown tired because the people were knowlingly and willingly calling what was evil, good and what was good, evil.
(A) Application: One of the things I love most about the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament is that they didn't mince words. They spoke with conviction (because God had called them to do so), integrity and with passion. Often this didn't bode well for the prophet. As a result they were persecuted, threatened and even killed for the words they spoke. However, their message was often clear... Repent and come back to God. Or, Be ready because God is going to discipline you all. These messages or warnings were always delivered because Israel had been unfaithful to God and He wanted to call his chosen people back to him and he would do whatever it took to bring his people back.
Know what we know about the Prophets of old it is safe to say that God desires faithfulness to Him. I believe God still uses people as a voice to call people to repentance. I believe God places individuals in our lives when we have strayed to help lead them to repentance and restoration. I believe God calls us individually to be the voice to people in our own lives... Not as a way to abuse and manipulate others to do what we want them to do, but to truly help those walking in disobedience and rebellion back to God. Unfortunately, like the prophets of old the message may not be well received and we may be persecuted for righteousness sake. However, when God calls us to give the message to someone we are not responsible for the response, we are called to be faithful to God.
Another unfortunate response is that when people are being rebellious, disobedient and unfaithful to God their minds will become corrupt. They will begin to believe the lie that endorsed their sinful ways and believe that what is evil is good and what is good is evil.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I be faithful to you. May I be receptive to those you have placed in my life that speak words of truth, repentance and restoration and may I be faithful in speaking truth, repentance and restoration when you call me to do so.
Well, it has been a hard August so far, there has been a lot of transitioning going on in my life. First, I sent my oldest daughter off to college this past weekend. I am so happy for her and excited to see what God does in her life. Her mother and I have been preparing our daughter for 18 years for this very time. She has a lot of experiences to experience, she has new people to meet, new opportunities before her and a bright future with a clean slate and God is going to bless this young woman. I ask you to pray for her.
The second transition is my resignation from at church where used to work. This resignation came as a necessary surprise and was a health choice. God is sovereign and I trust He will bring me to a place of health both spiritually and for work in the near future. I pray that God used me in some way to help people grow in their faith and establish lifelong relationships in the three years I served there.
So, what now? Good question. I am convince now, more than ever, that God has a calling on my life for full-time ministry. These transitions are not going to slow me down, in fact they have ignited a fire and passion to continue my calling. Nobody can take my calling away and nothing, aside from God, is goint to stop me from pursuing His will in my life.
Neddless to say I could certainly use prayer. There will be days that I will be down in the dumps and other days that I will not. I know I won't struggle with God because God is faithful, I will struggle mostly with myself... Getting anxious, worried, and impatient. Pray that God will lead me to the right ministry in my hometown or close by. I want to serve God with my whole being without drama. I know this is a big request because where people are involved drama is involved, but there are many healthy churches out there and quite honestly I would like serve in one.
I am going to try my best to continue my Foundations 260 morning posts, but I may not be successful in posting every single day. However, do know that if I don't post a devo that I am at least reading the passage for the day. God's Word is alive and active and I will remain alive and active in His Word so I may continue to grow in this journey of faith.
Thank you everyone for your prayer and support.
FOUNDATIONS WEEK 30, DAY 2
Highlight: "And now entreat the favor of God, that He may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? Says the Lord of hosts." Malachi 1:9
I am asking God for His favor. He has been gracious to me and my family and this is a beautiful gift from Him. Will you join me in praying for favor from God today?
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 11
Title: Individuals Chosen to Live in Israel
(H) Highlight verse: "And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem." Nehemiah 11:2
(E) Explain: God had called certain people to live in Jerusalem once the rebuilding of the wall was complete. These individuals willingly chose to respond to God's call to move into the city which was still not fully functioning. They were choosing to live in any area that was still in shambles. These individuals were choosing to start new lives in the city and uproot their families (if theyhad them)to serve God in the city. These men were chosen by God (through casting of lots)and they faithfully served Him as they sought to reestablish the city to its former glory.
(A) Application: Where you are is where God has placed you. This is a truth that we all need to embrace. God has sovereignly chosen you and me to serve Him where we are today. This may be comforting to some or it may be somewhat discouraging to others. We sometimes have the natural tendency to not be satsfied where we are in life at the present. But we need to be encouraged that God has a plan for you where you are today. Sure, the weather may be undesireable, the economy may be in the tank, your city may be dying or dirty where you live, or maybe it's paradise. Either way, we need to come to terms with the reality that God has you where you are today. So what are you going to do about that? Complain? Be miserable? Be lazy? Grow apathetic? How about we seek God and ask Him to use us right where we are today so that we can be Christ in our cities (small towns, villages, communities, and neighborhoods). There is work to be done for the Kingdom of God and it may not be a glorious task, but God has called us to do it; so let's be faithful in serving Him where He has placed us.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I serve you where I am today. I do not want to complain, be miserable grow lazy or apathetic. May I not focus on my surroundings, but focus on Your Kingdom work.
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 10
Title: Israel is Set Apart
(H) Highlight verse: "The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, thier sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter a curse and an oath to walk walk in God's Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and statues." Nehemiah 10:28 - 29
(E) Explain: After the Israelites confessed and repented of their sins they made an oath to God that they would get back to observing and doing all the Law of God commanded. In Chapter 10 we read about the specific details of their oath. The people of Israel separated themselves from all other peoples and nations and dedicated themselves to the Law of God. The specifics of their oath cover everything from not giving their daughters to foreigners to Sabbath observance to sacrificial rituals and more. The key words in this passage are set apart. The Israelites separated themselves from all other nations because they were a unique people and a people set apart by God to live fully for Him.
(A) Application: God has called us to be set apart people. We are called to live our lives set apart from the world and it's influences. Now, this can be taken the wrong way so I want to clarify what living a set apart life means and looks like. To begin, I would like to determine what being set apart does not look like. It does not mean we shelter ourselves from the world and not engage in our cultures and communities. I believe it means just the opposite. We are called to live in the world, we are called to engage our communities, and we are called to go out into the world and share the Good News of the Gospel. But the way we, as Christians, live looks ry vedifferent from everyone else. When we engage in communities we are engaging them with a Kingdom mindset. What we do for our communities promotes the work and words of Jesus Christ. When we live in the world, we live as unto Jesus Christ. We model our lives, actions and words around Christ. We do not let the world influence the way we live, but we live as to influence the world and promote the Kingdom of God. When we go out into the world we share a message of redemption and hope found only in Jesus Christ. Our message is not self-focused it is Christ-focused.
So as we live in this world it is important for us to be separate from the influences of a godless society, we are to be set apart from a culture that focuses on self, and we need to proclaim a message that true hope, joy and peace can and is found in Jesus Christ. May we go out into the world and make an impact for the Kingdom and be an influence to a world that desparately needs hope and redemption.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I live my life set apart for you, but in my separation from the world may I engage my community, my loved ones and my neighbors for the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 9
Title: The People Confess and Repent
(H) Highlight verse: "And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers" Nehemiah 9:2
(E) Explain: On the twenty-fourth day of the month the Israelites read from the Book of the Law and they confessed and repented of their sins and they worshiped God. They acknowledged the faithfulness and patience of God as they recalled Israel's unfaithfulness to Him. They recounted how Gow has been with His people even when they turned their backs on Him and that his actions were indeed righteous. They talked about the reason that the Israelites were in captivity was because of their idolatry and turning their backs on God.
(A) Application: Confession, submission and repentance are important aspects of a believer’s life especially when we desire to get right with God. We must make it a point to confess often to God our short comings and sins. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." James 5:16 says, "Therefor, confess your sins to one another and pray for each other. that you may be healed." and Psalm 51 is the prayer of confession from David after his sin was exposed by the prophet Nathan for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband.
Submission is always the first act of repentance. Submission is when a person resigns himself or is put into subjection to or yielding to someone. We do well in acknowledging and believing that we are not in control, God is. The sooner we are able to submit ourselves fully to God the sooner we will see that when we do, things are on the way to how they should be. Submission is probably one of the more difficult things to do because we are giving the controls of our lives over to someone else and humans like to feel like they are in control. In repentance it is not enough to just say, “I am done sinning now let’s move one.” Repentance means stop doing the sinful act you are doing and do the complete opposite.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I be disciplined and reminded daily to confess and repent of my sins to you.
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 7 - 8
Title: The Law is Read and the People Respond
(H) Highlight verse: "So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and al who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law." Nehemiah 8: 2 - 3
(E) Explain: Once the wall was complete Nehemiah set his brother to have charge over Jerusalem. He appointed guards at gurad posts and some in front of their homes. The city was large but there were not many people in the city and few homes.
In the seventh month Ezra, the priest, read the Law before the people who were assembled and they all gave a sense that they understood what was read. A revival of sorts occured as the people responded with weeping and mourning in conviction of their sins. They declared the day to be a holy day and demanded the people not be sad, because it was a cause for celebration.
(A) Application: The word of God is powerful. We are told in Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." We see this to be true not only in this passage, but in our lives today. If anything we see the importance of reading God's word regularly. The discipline of Bible reading can be difficult because we tell ourselves we don't have the time, or a good understanding of God's Word, so we often don't read it. However we cannot believe that we can grow closer to God or even truly know how to live as Christ lived if we are neglect to read His Word. The Bible helps us to know our God intimately, it helps us understand God's plan of redemption and restoration for humanity through Jesus Christ, and it shows us a Savior who loves us, and shows us how to live so that we may bring honor and glory to our Father in heaven. Don't listen to or believe the lies that you do not have the time or the intellect to read the Bible. God gave us His Word and He wants to speak to you through it.
(R) Respond: Lord, I shamefully admit it is hard to be disciplined in reading your Word. Help me to be fully engaged in the Bible and may I grow closer to you and I read, study and meditate on it.
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 5 - 6
Title: A Conspiracy Against Nehemiah
(H) Highlight verse: "Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, 'Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.' But they intended me harm. And I sent messages to them saying, "I am doing great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?'" Nehemiah 6:2, 3
(E) Explain: As the work on the wall was about complete Sanballat, Tobias and the enemies of Nehemiah became more and more enraged. They did not want to see the work completed and they certainly had it in for Nehemiah. They came up with a story to try and frighten Nehemiah in hopes to him look like he was trying to rebel and to become the king of the Jews. But Nehemiah saw through their made up story and did not meet with them. The enemies also hired a man to trick Nehemiah into believing his life was at stake and he implored him to take refuge in the Temple thus making him look like a weak leader. These were all diversion tactics to try and stop the work that God was doing through them people in Jerusalem.
(A) Application: Satan is a master at diversion tactics. God has called his people to do a great work for the Kingdom of God. God is at work today in this world and in our lives and Satan does not want to see this work come to completion. He knows that if he can cause us to take our eyes off of the goal of God and focus on fear, quarreling and worry that he can easily cause God's people to be thrown off track to fulfilling their calling.
Although C.S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS is a work of fiction there is a lot of truth interwoven throughout the story. In the story a Demon named Screwtape writes to his young novice demon nephew, Wormwood in correspondance to how he is doing in tempting an ordinary young man to walk away from God. Screwtape writes, "An important spiritual law is here involved. I have explained that you can weaken his prayers by diverting his attention from the Enemy Himself to his own state of mind about the Enemy. On the other hand fear becomes easier to master when the patients mind is diverted from the thing feared to the fear itself, considered as a present and undesirable state of his own mind; and when he regards the fear as his appointed cross he will inevitably think of it as a state of mind."(Pg. 26) What Lewis was getting at was that evil wins when our minds are diverted from God and we instead focus on our worries, fears, anger etc. because when we do we become more succeptible to sin. Philippians 4:7 says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Let us remember this as we live our lives today for God's glory.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I keep my eyes on you and your call in my life. Do not let the distractions of life and the world divert me from fully following you every day.
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 3 - 4
Title: Repair Begins, and Opposition Continues
(H) Highlight verse: "And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night." Nehemiah 4:8, 9
(E) Explain: Chapter three contains the names of all the people who worked on rebuilding the wall. It was truly a joint effort and one that they were all committed to and the opposition from Sanballet, Tobias, the Arabs, Amonites and Ashdodites continued. The opposition goes from taunting and jeering to plotting violence against them. The workers prayed and set guards up around the wall. Nehemiah stationed men at the low parts of the wall with spears and bows and he had half the workers stand guard while the other half worked. However, the workers had weapons in hand as they worked as well.
(A) Application: When God unites his people to work together for His glory and honor, nothing can stop what He is doing. There will always be opposition to God's work, sometimes it may be just taunting but other times it can turn to violence. We can learn much from Nehemiah and the workers as theycould have easily been discouraged and walked away or caved in to the pressure, but they didn't. They prayed and sought God from protection and guidance, but they didn't stop there they knew they had a part to play as well. They needed to be proactive in continuing the work and in protecting the work they were committing to do. They didn't just sit around and expect God to fix everything. They took took action as well.
When God calls us to do His work it is important we be in continuual prayer, but it is also just as important to be involved in the work of God as well. So many people are willing to commit to praying for God's work to be done, but few are willing to actually engage in it. When God calls us to kingdom work He doesn't just call us to pray, He calls us to pray AND do the work.
(R) Respond: Lord, I know prayer is important in seeing your work come to completion, but I also know you have called me to be a vessel you can use to accomplish your will. May I always be a person who is actively and willingly doing your Kingdom work.
Scripture Read: Nehemiah 1 - 2
Title: Nehemiah's Plan to Rebuild the City Wall
(H) Highlight verse: "O Lord! Let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to hold Your name in awe. Grant Your servant success today, and dispose that man to be compassionate toward him!" Nehemiah 1 - 2
(E) Explain: Nehemiah and Ezra were contemporaries. If you recall, Ezra had a call and a vision to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem while still in exile. Similarly Nehemiah had a call and desire to repair and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was King Artaxerxes cup bearer at the time of this writing. One day he inquired his brothers and and some men of Judah about the Jews and the remnant who survived the captivity. They told him the city was in trouble and the wall surrounding the city was full of breaches and the gates had been destroyed. This news caused Nehemiah to weep and mourn over the city. He prayed to God and implored Him to hear his prayers and grant him succcess and compassion from the king when he asked him to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.
Nehemiah asks the king for permission to go back and rebuild the walls and the king grants him his request. Nehemiah asks for a letter from the king so he go beyond the rivers and safely return to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, two men, Sanballet and Tobias were not happy that he was coming back to rebuild the wall. They began to taunt and mock Nehemiah for their work, but Nehemiah held fast and proclaimed that God would give them success in their endeavor.
(A) Application: Many Christians face opposition everyday simply because they are Christians. In the United States the opposition we face is not as extreme as those in countries that are hostile towards Christianity. However, we can face various trials and tribulations on a regular basis that can tear us down, cause us to respond poorly or retaliate.
I remember working various secular society (like many of you reading this today) and there were times I was mocked, ridiculed and taunted by co-workers simply because I was a Christian (or a Pastor). The reason for ridicule was unprovoked, but I knew that the opposition I was facing was not so much an attack on me as it was on the faith that I had in Jesus. Sure, there were times when I wanted to respond by lashing out or condemning someone to eternal damnation and hellfire (I know a bit extreme) but I knew that God was with me. The Spirit was in me and my response needed to be God honoring. Fortunately, over time most of my responses (or lack of responses) led to people backing off. Actually I ended up befriending some of my taunters and they may not have ended up being followers of Jesus Christ, but in the end some told me that they respected me and the faith I held on to.
I share my experiences with you not as a way to boast or preach, but to give encouragement to any of you who may be facing opposition in your life for doing the right thing (or nothing at all). Take courage, God is big enough to protect you, guide you, and bless as you remain faithful to Him and follow his calling on your life daily.
(R) Respond: Lord, I pray that I remain faithful to you today and everyday. I pray for protection, guidance and success in walking faithfully with you when I face opposition from others who do not know you.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books