1. Wise thinking leads to right living; Stupid thinking leads to wrong living. (Ecclesiastes 10:2 MSG)
2. With my voice I cry to the Lord, and He hears and answers me out of His holy hill. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! (Psalm 3:4 AMP)
3. Do not be like children in your thinking, my friends; be children so far as evil is concerned, but be grown up in your thinking. (1 Corinthians 14:20 GNT)
4. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. (Romans 8:5 NLT)
5. Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think. Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear. God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better. (Ecclesiastes 5:2 MSG)
6. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. (Colossians 3:2 NLT)
7. Think of what he (Jesus) went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. (Hebrews 12:3 GNT)
8. Think over these things I am saying [understand them and grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you full insight and understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7 AMP)
9. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. (Psalms 4:4 NLT)
10. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. (Philippians 4:8 AMP)
I love the book of Nehemiah. To me, it represents the struggle of life. It shows the emotions of a life that has its share of ups and downs. It lets us know that one person can make a difference in a city and a nation. It gives us hope that we can accomplish great things when God gives the vision and the burden. It gives a great example of teamwork and how people can work together for a common goal. It also challenges our faith and pushes us to a deeper trust in God through fasting and prayer.
In chapter 4, the people were working to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They were making great progress, but there were those who were angry about it. They plotted to attack and confuse those who were working to rebuild. They remind me of the people who want to keep you in a state of ruin. They fight progress in your life at all costs. The old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” Those who are miserable will do everything they can to keep you from rebuilding. They want you to stay in the shambles of your life and prevent you from moving forward. They stand in the way of what God called you to do, but you can’t let them.
Nehemiah wasn’t going to let people like that deter him. He knew God had called him to rebuild. Verse 9 tells us how he fought against those who wanted to hold back progress. It says, “But we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night.” He didn’t pray alone and he wasn’t a watchman alone. He used the word “we”. In rebuilding, you’re going to need a team around you who can pray with you and for you as well as to help stand guard over your life against those who would drag you down and slow your progress. You’re going to need someone who can be honest with you and stay up all night praying if needed.
Even though Nehemiah had the help, the people still got discouraged from the attackers. They started focusing on the work instead of the vision. In verse 10, the people began to sing, “We grow weak carrying burdens; there’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?” When we lose sight of God’s vision in our lives, our daily work becomes a struggle. A wall or life isn’t rebuilt in a day. It’s rebuilt one bag of rubble at a time. It’s rebuilt one brick at a time. Even though it can be destroyed in an instant, it takes time to rebuild. Don’t get caught up in the burdens of rebuilding wanting quick progress. Remember God’s vision of what could be and continue the work.
Helping people remember the vision and who gave it is how Nehemiah rallied them. In verse 14 he said, “Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers and sisters, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” He had to remind them how great our God is and why it’s worth rebuilding. In the next verse, it says that they returned to their work. They quit worrying about those standing in the way of progress and quit focusing on the day to day operations because they remembered it was God who called them. That same God gives us the increase when we pick up a brick and start to rebuild.
I was recently at the viewing for a friend I’d known for over 20 years. As I went around hugging necks and catching up on where everyone was in life, I decided to stop and take a moment. I sat down on one of the pews and watched the crowd as they interacted. There were a group of young men standing near the coffin silently staring at the body. I then noticed there were huddles throughout the sanctuary around the family members left behind. They were hugging and offering condolences. Then there was everyone else affected by this person’s life. They weren’t stationary like the others. They moved around making their way up front and then around and that’s when I noticed something out of the ordinary.
There were smiles on their faces. I checked another roaming group and they were smiling as well. I gazed back to the family huddles to look at their demeanor and it was the same. The atmosphere was not one of sadness, but of joy. It was then that I was reminded of I Thessalonians 4:13. Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.” Here was living proof of this scripture. I was in a crowd of people smiling and enjoying themselves, while mourning the loss of a friend, because we have hope beyond the grave.
Yes, it hurts to lose someone who impacted our lives and there’s a big, gaping void in us that only they could fill. But we don’t have to carry on like those who have no hope. We don’t see this as the end of life, but rather that person’s birth into eternal life. Their spirit has been set free from the cocoon of the human body and they have been released into the heavens. We know that one day we will cross from death to life as well and be reunited with them and a host of others who knew Jesus as their savior. That’s how we can smile in midst of such a great loss. It seems foreign to those who have no hope, but it’s natural to those of us who do.
I Thessalonians 4 concludes with these words, “Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words.” We have comfort in sorrow and courage in despair because our loss is Heaven’s gain and we know that we will be reunited. Hope is a powerful force that can light up our darkness and give us strength to smile in the pain. It keeps us from the pit of despair and points us to better days. I’ll finish this post with the words from I Corinthians 13:12-13 that I think are fitting. “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (MSG)”
I was talking to a guy at work the other day when I noticed his tattoo. It said, “1-1-six”. I said, “Isn’t that Lecrae’s logo? You must really like him!” He laughed and said, “It’s more of a movement than a logo. It stands for Romans 1:16, my favorite verse in the Bible.” In my head I quickly went searched through verses I had memorized and remembered it said, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for the Jew first and also to the Greek.” I then replied, “Indeed, it is a great verse.”
The more I’ve thought about our quick conversation, the more I wanted to dig into that verse. Yes I had memorized it as a kid, but memorizing something only helps you to recall it, not to understand it. I read it in different versions and the Amplified stood out to me most. It had three main parts that I loved. It interprets that verse this way, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation, for deliverance from eternal death, to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and a firm reliance, the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
The first thing that popped out at me was the phrase, “to everyone who believes with a personal trust.” The trust you have in God has to be personal. It can’t be vicariously through someone else’s faith. You have to experience God for yourself to fully trust Him. The more personal God is to you, the deeper your faith is. The way to get a personal faith is to spend time being honest with God. If your faith isn’t personal, it won’t survive hard times. It will be like the seed sown by the way side that quickly sprouted, but was burned by the sun because the soil wasn’t deep.
The next thing that I saw was the phrase, “a confident surrender”. It sounds like an oxymoron as first. How can you be confident in surrendering? God requires that we surrender our will for His. He wants us to let go of what we have for all that He is. Reading this reminded me of the cartoon you see below. We can confidently let go of what we have because He wants to give so much more. The only thing He asks is that we let go. We can confidently surrender when we have a personal trust.
The final thing that stands out is “a firm reliance”. When we’ve learned to personally trust God and have confidently surrendered, we can have a firm reliance that He will do what He said He will do. Andy Stanley defines faith as, “The confidence that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do everything He’s promised to do.” To know who God is and what He said He will do, you will need to know the Gospel of Christ. And when you know it, you will not be ashamed of it. You too will get caught up in the “1-1-six” movement that lives their lives with a personal trust, a confident surrender and a firm reliance.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
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1. Mercy to the needy is a loan to GOD, and GOD pays back those loans in full. (Proverbs 19:17 MSG)
2. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:23 NLT)
3. So be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate) even as your Father is [all these]. (Luke 6:36 AMP)
4. But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 GNT)
5. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7 NLT)
6. But GOD ’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. (Isaiah 30:18 MSG)
7. The merciful, kind, and generous man benefits himself [for his deeds return to bless him], but he who is cruel and callous [to the wants of others] brings on himself retribution. (Proverbs 11:17 AMP)
8. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. (James 2:13 NLT)
9. Light shines in the darkness for good people, for those who are merciful, kind, and just. (Psalm 112:4 GNT)
10. Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (James 3:17-18 MSG)
Each morning as I drive to work, I have the privilege of watching the sun rise. I watch as the sky goes from black to purple to blue. As the sky becomes a lighter blue, the clouds change from a deep red to orange then yellow and a stark white. As I watch God pain the sunrise each day, I’m reminded of His goodness and love. To me, it’s like God is writing, “I love you” across the sky. There are some days where I watch in awe and think He’s just showing off.
When I’ve watched some of the most spectacular sunrises, Psalm 19 has come to mind. Verse one says, “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what He has done! (GNT)” When I read this chapter, I imagine David sitting on a hillside marveling in one the sunrises where God was showing off. I see him overcome, as I often am, at the goodness of God as He watches. When the sun finally peeks through the brilliant colors I hear it reminding me that God’s mercies are new.
In the next few verses in that chapter, David tells how the sky speaks without a word, yet its message goes throughout the world. He wrote, “God made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.” It reminds him, and us, that the instructions of the Lord are perfect and revive the soul. As the sun brings life to everything on the earth, God’s word brings life to us. It chases the darkness out of our lives and fills us with His perfect light.
Darkness can only abide where there is no light. It can only linger where light isn’t let in. When hard times come and we are under attack, our human nature wants us to go into a bunker for protection. It wants us to hide, but somewhere in that hiding, we usually run from the light and our lives become dark. God wants to pierce that darkness with His marvelous light. I Peter 2:9 says, “But you (this means you) are a chosen race, a Royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, God’s own purchased, special people that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfect ions of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (AMP)”
God reminds us who we are in that verse. We aren’t the type who hide in the shadows. We are children of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We are royal priests who are called to take light into the dark places. God purchased us with the blood of Jesus and He calls us to walk in His light. The sun coming up each morning is our reminder that God’s desire for you is to come out of the darkness and to burst forth with brilliant colors so the world will see what great things He has done in your life. It is the metaphor of what He wants to do in your life, but you have to hear His call and come out of that darkness in order to walk in that light.
There used to be a group of friends in my town who had trucks with the inscription, “Never satisfied” written on their back windshield. Their trucks were tricked out and had about every accessory known to man on them. Those trucks had the anthem of so many of us on them. Never satisfied. We are taught that hunger is a good thing. We learn in business that the day you’re satisfied is the day you quit making money. We are told to stay hungry. Keep pushing ahead. Do better than your best. Have a relentless pursuit of constantly getting more.
I think those are drives that God put in us, but they are often channeled in the wrong direction. God has given us the desire for more, but it’s never about the physical, temporary things. For the temporary things, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned how to be content with what I have.” When it comes to possessions, God wants us to be content. Hebrews 13:5 reiterates, “Be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have (AMP).” The desire to want more that was placed in us was not for physical things, but for spiritual things.
I Corinthians 12:31 says, “Earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and choicest graces)(AMP).” Paul had just written about the spiritual gifts available to believers and wanted us to go after them. The adverbs earnestly and zealously tell us how hard we are to go after the things that matter. We are to spend our energies of never being satisfied on the spiritual gifts that God gives. We are to spend more time thinking about how do we get better gifts than we are on how to make more money. We are to exert ourselves in God’s Word and prayer more than developing physical skills for a temporary pay out.
I’m not saying that desiring a better life or getting a better job is wrong. The question is how much of your mind is occupied with never being satisfied with things that you can’t take to Heaven? I Corinthians 3:13 and 15 tells us that on judgement day, each of us will present to God what we worked hard for in life. It says, “On judgement day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value… But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”
What you pursue on this earth will be offered to God once you get to Heaven. The question to ask is, “Will the things I’m not satisfied with here be burned up in that fire or will they be purified like gold?” If your lack of satisfaction is on things that don’t matter for eternity, there’s still time to channel your energy on the things that matter. It’s ok to be satisfied with what you have here, but it’s not ok to be satisfied with where you are spiritually and what you’re doing for God’s kingdom. We should never be satisfied with that.
My wife and I often talk about our first Valentine’s Day after we got married. We didn’t have a lot of money so each of us got creative. I got a cheap frame that held multiple pictures and I put in photos of us on our Honeymoon. She cooked dinner, cleaned the house and ironed all of my work clothes. Each of us were disappointed with our gifts and each of us were offended that the other wasn’t appreciative. We hadn’t learned how to give each other a gift that had value in the other’s eyes. As we’ve learned more about each other, we’ve learned how to give each other better gifts.
In II Samuel 24, King David was tested by God. He was told to take a census and he did. His commander knew it was a test and begged David not to do it, but he insisted. When it was all done, David became overwhelmed with guilt for taking the census. There’s a debate over what the sun was in taking the census. I believe that sin is an attitude more than it is an action. It could be that David became prideful in looking at the numbers and began to think it was his doing and not God’s. It could be that he trusted statistics more than God. Whatever the case, God was upset.
In verse 13, the prophet came to David with a message from God of what the penalty of his sin would be. He could choose to either have three years of famine, three months of running from his enemies or three days of an epidemic in Israel. David knew God was merciful and let Him choose. God chose the epidemic. After 70,000 people had died, the epidemic looked to wipe out Jerusalem, but God said, “Enough’s enough,” and stopped it. David then went to offer a sacrifice to God where the epidemic stopped.
He wanted to buy the threshing floor from the person who owned it so he could build an altar to God, but the man offered it to him for free because it was the king asking. He offered for free everything that David needed for the sacrifice, but David refused. He said he needed to buy it for a good price because he wouldn’t offer God sacrifices that weren’t a sacrifice to him. He knew what my wife and I didn’t on our first Valentine’s. The best, most meaningful gifts that we can give are a sacrifice for us to give. They hit us where it hurts. For some, it’s money. For others, it’s time. Each of us have a different way of sacrificing.
What’s the greatest sacrifice you can make for God? Fasting? Money? Time? Whatever it is, if we want to see God show us greater mercy, then we have to offer greater sacrifices. We can’t be complacent in our gifts to him. We can no longer give Him that which costs us nothing. When we think of Biblical heroes, many of them made great sacrifices as a gift to God. If we want to be great in God’s Kingdom, we need to find a way to sacrifice greatly for Him. We need to offer Him something that costs us, not something that was given to us.