Tag Archives: old testament

Walking With Integrity

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”

– Proverbs 10:9 (ESV)

I’m reading a Proverb a day for the month of December along with Kurt Michaelson and stopped for a bit on this verse in Proverbs 10 this morning.

We often project an image of how we want others to view us and go to great lengths to protect that image. We would all like to be known by others as a person of integrity. Integrity though is most clear when we are alone and the eyes of everyone are no longer on us. Everyone, that is, but God. Leon Morris once said that, “No man is as he thinks himself to be. He is what God knows him to be.” Walking with integrity means walking in the ways that God has commanded us to in His Word. Taking detours from that, no matter what approvals we receive from others, is frowned upon by God. Proverbs 4:26-27 reminds us, “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” The ways of the world are to the right and the left and full of ways for us to compromise our integrity. Jesus Himself reminds us in Matthew 7:14 that “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Let us walk with integrity before God today.

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Judges 10:15

“I don’t mind whether you’ve been baptized, confirmed, christened, publicly professed, walked the aisle, learned the funny handshake, signed on the dotted line, filled out the response card, sat up, knelt down, been knocked over, danced, or done any number of religious activities.

“What I want to know is if you are in the place of verse 15 ? Because there can be no joy without great sense of sin. There can be no realization of the wonders of Christ and who He is without a profound realization of what He has done for you.”

– Dr. Josh Moody, Senior Pastor, College Church, Wheaton, IL

The Book of Remembrance

I read Malachi last night and stopped for a while on these familiar verses. We could all spend a little time on these.

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. ‘They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.'”

Malachi 3:16-18 (ESV)

Lessons from Nehemiah (II)

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5 (ESV)

Last week I wrote about some of the lessons I’ve taken from the book of Nehemiah. I wanted to continue with a few other observations, ones that I’ve thought about after reading through several of Paul’s letters the last few weeks.

One of my favorite chapters in all of the Old Testament (and probably the whole Bible) is Nehemiah 8. Here we see that the wall has now been completed, and the people of Israel are now gathering to worship. Nehemiah has led the physical labor that has brought the people to this point, and now he steps to the side as Ezra takes the stage to preach. We’re told from the text that Ezra read from the Law “from early morning until midday” (8:3), which we can assume was at least a couple of hours (and to think that some folks get antsy at the lengths of today’s sermons, which are usually no more than 20-30 minutes long). Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites helped to explain the preaching to the people, and sought to encourage them as they wept at the reading of the Law (8:9-10):

“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

If we go back to the book of Ezra, we see a similar type of episode. In chapter 4 of Ezra, discouragement had set in as the rebuilding work was ordered to cease, and there were hecklers lurking as well. But in chapter 5, we see the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encourage the people in their rebuilding of the temple (5:2) – “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.”

And as we read through Paul’s letters, we see a similar theme as he talks about the body of Christ. Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4:11-16 are just some of the places we see Paul explain this for us.

As a Christian, I have struggled mightily in trying to discern what gifts I have to contribute to the body of Christ. Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah all contributed to very significant events in Old Testament history, and each was necessary in their own individual way. Without any one of these men, the rebuilding, both physical and spiritual, would not have been completed, or at the least would have been radically different. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains to us how this is similar to our own physical bodies and the necessity of each part in making up the whole (v.14-20):

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

Next to my daily battles with sin, this has been my greatest struggle…praying about and seeking what ways I can contribute to the body, to others, to the church. A few months ago I actually drove to a weeknight Bible study at church, got to the parking lot, and then let these thoughts race through my mind. What could I contribute ? Everyone there knows more than I do about this anyway. Who wants to hear my take on it ? So I drove away without even going in. I often think the same things when service opportunities are presented. Someone can cook better than me. Someone can organize this better than me. And on it goes…

Reading through Ezra and Nehemiah, and Paul’s letters as well, has really helped to remind me of the importance of each member in the body of Christ. It has been a painfully slow process for me to come to that realization in my own life, but as always, Scripture points the way. I will think long and hard about the lessons given by these men, with the prayer that it turns into godly action.

Lessons from Nehemiah (I)

Last night I read Nehemiah and decided to just note a few things about this great man of God. I’m writing these mainly as a reminder to myself what a servant should look like, particularly in times of difficulty.

1) Nehemiah had a heart and burden for others – We find out quickly in the account of Nehemiah that he was a man burdened by the circumstances around him and of his own brothers and sisters. In chapter 1, we’re told that Nehemiah is in the city of Susa, and while there he is informed of what has happened in his beloved Jerusalem. The men and women who’ve returned from exile are struggling – badly – and the physical surroundings there are in shambles. Nehemiah is so troubled by this news that he responds in 1:4, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” As cupbearer to the king, Nehemiah enjoyed a position of some status, but he still identified primarily with his fellow countrymen. I read this and realize my own eyes are not open as wide as they should be. As we look around, it does not take long to find brokenness and hurt in the world around us. Often times though I have such tunnel vision of my own weekly schedule and my own comfort that these images just flash across my mind and then disappear as quickly as they entered in. Matthew Henry comments that, “Nehemiah lived at ease, and in honour, but does not forget that he is an Israelite, and that his brethren are in distress.” I would do well to remember the same.

2) Nehemiah sought God in prayer as he faced great decisions – Nehemiah is entering the presence of the king in chapter 2, with the news of his brothers & sisters weighing heavily on him. At that time, it could be considered a serious offense to be in a sad condition while in the presence of the king. When the king asked Nehemiah what he needed, Nehemiah did not answer immediately, but sought God first in prayer (2:4) – “Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Nehemiah knew the correct order of who was most likely to give him what was needed. He did not neglect to ask for the earthly provisions that the king could grant, but his first instinct was to turn to the ultimate Provider. Another good reminder.

3) Nehemiah lived with purpose – To put it mildly, as Nehemiah set out to rebuild the wall, he met with some resistance. The Abbott and Costello of their day – Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite – made sure to discourage Nehemiah and make his life uncomfortable while the rebuilding was taking place. But dealing with these clowns did not send Nehemiah off on a permanent detour. They attempted to ridicule and even harm Nehemiah, but Nehemiah’s focus and faith in God ultimately prevailed (6:15-16) – “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” We are so distracted these days, and can easily get sidetracked and discouraged. Nehemiah’s burden was great, but his efforts were strengthened throughout by God, as he kept going straight ahead until the task was complete. “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” – Proverbs 4:27

4) Nehemiah lived above reproach – Rebuilding a wall of that magnitude in a span of just 52 days was quite a feat. We could have expected Nehemiah to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor, and many of his fellow workers probably would have agreed. Nehemiah would have none of it however. He admonished the officials who heavy taxes and burdens on their brothers & sisters (5:1-14), and when the time came for Nehemiah to be fed like a king as “governor”, he declined (5:18) – “Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people.” Unlike the officials he scolded, Nehemiah could live with a clear conscience in how he treated his fellow brothers & sisters. Can I ?

*** to be continued ***

Lingering With Lot

“As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.'” – Genesis 19:15 (ESV)

A few days ago, I started what will now be my 4th journey through the Bible. I’ve done it differently each time, and this year I’m planning on alternating Old Testament and New Testament books (Genesis, then Mark, then Exodus, etc.), while reading a Proverb or Psalm every morning as well. I find that I focus better when I’m concentrating on just one book at a time, although I see the value in plans that have you in different areas of Scripture every day.

This morning I read Genesis 17-19 and Proverbs 5. The chapters in Genesis cover God’s covenant with Abraham and His promise of a son in Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. We also see the depravity in Sodom and Abraham’s plea with God to spare its residents. There was one verse that grabbed me from Genesis 19 in regards to Lot’s conduct as the situation in Sodom unravels:

“But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.” – Gen. 19:16 (ESV)

Lot and his wife apparently shared the same misgivings, as she turned back herself and turned into a pillar of salt. But that word “lingered” in the above verse got to me. How often does that describe my own condition ! We all have our pet sins and things that we just know are contrary to God’s Word…yet we let them linger in our lives, maybe as some kind of safety net, afraid to cast them away for good. We’re also told in the above verse in regards to Lot that the Lord was “merciful to him”. We should never lose sight of that. God is in fact patient with us, but the opportunity for mercy will not last forever. Paul asks us in Romans, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4, ESV). We should rejoice in the fact that, in Jesus, we are set “outside the city” of sin and thank God for His mercy towards us.

This was my prayer this morning after reading Genesis 17-19:

“Heavenly Father, remind me again today that nothing is too hard for you (Gen 18:14). You can make old women conceive who are barren, and you can work in sinners like myself to change them into the likeness of Your Son. Thank you for your covenant and your faithfulness. Help me not to linger at the impending doom as Lot did. Keep me in the way of Your Word and remember its warnings, as well as its promises. The vileness of sin is on full display here in Genesis 19. I am sorry for the sin I engage in daily Father. Help me to turn from it today and not look back, as Lot’s wife did.

I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

For The Sake of Your Name

“For the sake of your name do not despise us;
do not dishonor your glorious throne.
Remember your covenant with us
and do not break it.”

– Jeremiah 14:21 (NIV)

Names of God

Reading through Jeremiah today and thinking about two verses in chapter 14. Jeremiah is praying to God on behalf of his fellow countrymen and women and twice in this chapter (verses 7 & 21), he uses the phrase “for the sake of your name”

Lately I’ve been struggling with how lacking my own prayer life can be at times. Jeremiah’s plea here that God’s Name would be glorified is something that I realize I don’t focus on enough…that a family member would be cured of sickness so that glory would be given to Him as the ultimate Healer…that friends’ needs would be taken cared of so that others would see that God is the ultimate Provider…and on and on. A great mystery to me is why I struggle so much in prayer when there are so many wonderful examples and models of it in the very pages of the Bible. Jeremiah’s examples here in chapter 14 add another layer that I had glossed over in the past, but have reminded me of what being earnest in prayer really looks like.

A good reminder from a great prophet today.