Get Up

God tells Joshua twice in chapter seven to “Get up”, or some versions say “Rise up.” What was Joshua doing? Lying prostrate and asking God “Why?” They had just lost a battle that they thought was going to be an easy one, in fact all of their fighting men hadn’t even gone along to the battle. Even worse, it was the very first battle after they saw the walls of Jericho fall down.

Joshua was perplexed, he was doing what most of us do…lie down and cry out “Why didn’t you come through for us, are you just going to let me die?”

So God patiently explained Himself- Nope, He told Joshua to “Get Up!” He had already given them something to do with very clear instructions. Yet they hadn’t obeyed. God told Joshua they had sinned. When we disregard God’s instructions there are consequences. They hadn’t won the battle at Jericho because of their strength and courage, but because God’s strength! When we obey, He always has our backs.

Are things tough, maybe it wasn’t your fault, maybe it was sin, no matter what, don’t lie and cry. Get up! Repent if you need to, and then get back to the battle. Have you left something unfinished? Get up and do it!

James 1:22 (NIV), “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Consider Joseph and Daniel

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Colossians 3:22-24 (HCSB), “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while they are watching, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will gain the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thankfully, those of us in most of the world don’t have to worry about being slaves. However we can apply this passage of scripture to employees, servants, and anyone who is under another’s authority. The world would be a better place and much more productive if we did this. There wouldn’t be such a spirit of “socialism” in the world either. Everyone would do their part to the best of their ability. There are way more people who could be working at something than there are those who truly can’t work at anything.

In America we complain a lot, about a lot. We tend to complain about Mondays, why? Because we have to go back to work. We complain about having to work at all, or we complain about the hard hours, or those who don’t work as hard as we do, or that we aren’t appreciated, or recognized, or praised…need I go on? This week I was reading my Bible and came across that scripture in Colossians, which led me to these:

Ephesians 6:5-6 (NIV), “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”

Hebrews 13:17 (KJB), “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Do your job even if no one is looking. Submit to those in authority over you, even if they are wrong. Now, I have to clarify that we don’t have to go against our morals here, that isn’t what I am talking about. What I am saying is we don’t have to be right. As an example, let’s consider a couple of men from the Bible.

Joseph and Daniel were both slaves. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, actually only one, the rest of them wanted to kill him, and ended up with years slavery. First in the home of Potiphar where he did such a good job the Egyptian put him over his whole household. Then when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, and Joseph literally ran away, she accused him or rape and Potiphar sent him straight to prison. In prison he quickly rose in authority until he pretty much ran the place. He was released from his confinement after interpreting some dreams of Pharaoh’s. He saved not only Egypt from famine, but his own family as well. His ending was that he was second only to the Pharaoh himself, who pretty much ruled the known world at the time.

Daniel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and taken from his own homeland and relocated to Babylon. He too due to his obedience quickly rose in rank and authority. He ended up serving under seven different rulers and kings, none of them Jewish. Like Joseph, he stood for righteousness and continued to serve God where he was. And like Joseph he also interpreted the dreams of a king through God’s revelation. He didn’t use his captivity under a gentile foreign king as an excuse not to serve God along with serving the king. He was almost killed for continuing to obey God when the king made a law that contradicted God’s law. God however, intervened and saved Daniel’s life.

If we look at these two men we see a pattern. They didn’t just obey God. Had they snubbed their noses at their captors, they would have at best, not risen in authority, and at worst, been killed. Yet, when it came to sinning against God they both refused. Daniel calmly continued to pray three times a day as was his custom, and Joseph refused to allow temptation to commit adultery with another man’s wife. They didn’t fight their captors, they didn’t refuse to work, they didn’t try and sabotage their new governments, but they did obey in every way that didn’t go against their faith in God.

How much more should we obey our bosses, teachers, parents, government officials, Church leaders, and God himself? We who are free from the law and are not obligated to follow it, but have the grace of God and His love inside of us; shouldn’t we be even more obedient? We are representing Heaven and our Heavenly Father let’s represent Him well. When we do that our bosses, leaders, etc. can do their jobs with joy. God will get the glory and people will be blessed.

It’s always right to do the right thing. It’s always best to do our best.

I am not sure who coined this phrase, but the school I taught at for years had this as our motto: “Good, better, best, I’ll never rest, until my good is better and my better is best.”

I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV), “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

 

What Reward Do You Want?

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Hebrews 11:6 (NIV), “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

God rewards us. Pretty cool huh? There are many actions and activities that He rewards. There is a prize at the end of the race (Phil 3:14), a crown for those who persevere (James 1:12), perfect peace for those who set their minds on Him (Isaiah 26:3), and I could keep going. But according to Matthew we can either store up treasures here on earth or we can store up treasures in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT), “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Jesus was probably talking about worldly goods here, because rust, moths, and thieves take these kinds of things away from us. However, I don’t think it would be stretching this scripture to include recognition of men, or self aggrandizement because if we continue to read on in Matthew, Jesus warns us of doing just that.

Matthew 6:1-6 (KJB), Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Did you catch what kind of reward we get for wanting to “be seen of men”? Oh, there is still a reward; it’s the recognition of men. That reward lasts for a season, it is fleeting, fame is fickle. The fifteen minutes of fame that people used to talk about has now turned into fifteen seconds. The media has overloaded us with information on so-called famous people and their deeds. Millions watch “reality” tv to see every detail of someone’s life, the good, the bad, and most of the time the ugly. “I don’t want that kind of fame”, you say. Do you want the people in your life to know about all your good deeds? Do you spend more time talking about what you do than what God did through you? Do you only volunteer for the jobs that you can be seen doing? At work, do you have to take credit for everything you do above and beyond the call? At school, do you need to be the center of attention all of the time? Same thing. You may think that is a great reward, but it never lasts. Why? Because we may look good one day, then mess up the next. That perfect “hair day” is called a day for a reason.

What’s worse is that most people can’t handle being around someone like that. Those seeking fame, recognition and acceptance through their actions may write it off as jealousy, but I assure you that isn’t what it is. There is just something about a person who is so insecure, or so puffed up that they have to be in the spotlight, that turns our stomachs. On the other hand when we find out someone did something behind the scenes, whether it is simple or grand, we feel good about that. It touches our hearts. They did it because it needed done. They were motivated by love not by recognition. Sometimes they may have done it as simple obedience to God and His word. They may have had to grit their teeth and do it. It isn’t always fun cleaning toilets or dealing with hard situations, but obedience is better than sacrifice.

In Matthew, Jesus promises us that when we do our good deeds in secret that the Father rewards us openly. One day someone is going to say, “Let’s thank so and so for all they have done,” and more than likely that person will blush and be embarrassed, or maybe grin like it’s their birthday and give God the glory.

There is always something to do. We are called to do good works, and there will be rewards.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

There are two kinds of rewards: eternal or temporal. One lasts forever, the other is only temporary, fleeting.

What kind of reward do you want?

Truth?

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Psalm 25:5 (Darby Bible Translation), “Make me to walk in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

Psalm 12:6 (NIV), “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.”

David wanted to walk in God’s truth. He understood that God’s word protects us and keeps us safe.

II Samuel 22:31 (English Standard Version), “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”

Samuel also points out that His word, His truth, is a shield for us.

So, you would think that all of God’s people, His chosen, His children would want His truth.

There was an Old Testament king, Ahab, who most of us know about. He was married to that great manipulator, and idolater, Jezebel. In II Chronicles and I Kings we read about this notorious king of Israel. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than any of his royal ancestors. At one point he is trying to convince Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, to go to war with him. Jehoshaphat agrees on one condition, he wanted Ahab to inquire of the Lord. Ahab gathers 400 false prophets who give him the wonderful, and fully false words, “go and you will be victorious.” Good King Jehoshaphat wants a true prophet of God.

Against his better judgment, Ahab calls for Micaiah, who he says always gives him bad news. When the messenger warns Micaiah to speak the same words as the false prophets his reply is sure.

II Chronicles 18:13-15 (NIV), “But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says.” When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I not?” “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for they will be given into your hand.” The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”

Notice Ahab, he is sitting with a righteous king, he has already admitted that Micaiah always gives him bad news, so he acts the righteous ruler and admonishes the prophet for lying. But, did he really want the truth.
No. Let’s take a look.

II Chronicles 18:16-27, (NIV), “Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’  ” the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?” Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “ ‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “ ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “ ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.” Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked. Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.” The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son, and say, ‘This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.’ ” Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”

How do we know the word was from God? It comes to pass.

There are spirits that the enemy sends to deceive us. God allows one to work in Ahab’s life to help fulfill His own word earlier. They are more than ready to convince us that a lie is the truth. Our flesh is weak and our ears “tickle” to hear what we want to hear. We want to hear facts (the doctor’s report, the news report, the stock market report, the latest statistics) but do we really want to hear The Truth? Or are we like Ahab, putting on some self-righteous act, saying we want the truth, but scorning it when we hear it?
Worse yet, do we hear the truth, and not obey it? Notice that though Jehoshaphat asks for a prophet of God, and listens to the word, he still goes with Ahab into battle. He even allows Ahab to disguise himself as an average soldier while sending Jehoshaphat out in his royal robes. Ahab was killed that day by a random arrow, by the way. God, in His faithfulness to the promise He made David, spared Jehoshaphat when he cried out to Him during the battle. But on the way home, another prophet of God soundly rebuked him for going out to war with Ahab.

James 1:22 (NASB), “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

When Jesus is confronted by Pilate He told him that His whole purpose for coming into the world was to witness to the Truth.

John 18:37 (ESV), “Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.””

Are we like the philosophers of Pilate’s day, as well as our own, who say, “What is truth.” (James 18:38) Here is another common and popular saying, “Truth is relevant.” I want to know, “relevant to what?” Our own stinking thinking? Our whishy washy beliefs? How about our ever changing and changeable circumstances? I would like something a little more concrete, wouldn’t you? Then how about The Truth. Written by a God who cannot lie, a Truth that doesn’t look at “facts,” ignores the statistics and negative reports, the Truth that does not change, ever!

Give me that Truth.

Then once I have it, and continue to search it out, and listen to it when it comes through sound teaching, I pray that I have the courage to walk in it. To do what it says, what He says.

John 14:6 (KJB), “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Let’s follow Him.

Consider Esther

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As I study the book of Esther, I can’t help but think she typifies the Church. Esther lived during the time that the Jews were living in exile from Israel. Nebuchadnezzar had taken the princes, royal family and the top of Jewish society with him to Babylon. Later the Medes and the Persians had taken over the territory of Babylon and King Ashasuerus (Also known as Xerxes) was sitting on the throne, ruling over 127 provinces. He decides to throw a great feast, inviting all of the princes of these provinces, chief officers of the Persian and Median military, the nobles and governors, all of the ‘who’s who’ of his society. Then he invites all the men, both great and small to come for seven days of parties. His wife, Queen Vashti, not to be outdone, does the same thing for the women.

At some point during the celebration the King calls for Vashti, wanting to show off her beauty. She point blank refuses. As a young Christian, I used to think “Good for her!” Fortunately, now I have a better understanding of the rebellion in Vashi’s heart. Ashasuerus is King. King’s have complete authority. Period. We have no reason to assume he was an evil king, in fact later in the book of Esther, we find information contrary to that fact. Here is where the spiritual implications come in.

If Jesus is my King, shouldn’t I obey His every command? Whether I understand His request, or agree with it? What if it is not convenient for me to do what He says, right when He asks? Vashti may have been beautiful on the outside, but inside she was a rebellious and disobedient woman. Her disobedience is a bad example to all the woman, great and small, in the 127 provinces who are witnesses of her actions. What example are we, the Bride of Christ, setting for the world?

Ashasuerus has not choice, he has to divorce her, put her away! Another queen must be found. Jesus turned from the Jews, and chose a new love to pursue, the gentiles. He chose us, just as King Ashasuerus chose Esther. Unlike him, God didn’t clean us up first, there were no beauty treatments to get us ready. He chose us in our mess and dirt. Our purification comes after, not before.

Esther is a woman of obedience. She obeys her Uncle Mordecai, who raised her. After she was taken into the harem of the king, she finds favor with the chief Eunuch, Hegai. It is safe to assume that her humble behavior and her submissive attitude is what bring her that favor. There are countless beautiful woman there, who are all virgins. There is something different about our Esther.

When the women are allowed to take anything they want with them when they go to see the king, Esther only took what Hegai advised her to take. She deferred to the one who knew the king. It paid off for her; she is chosen above all others to be queen in Vashti’s place. Once sitting in her place of honor, she continues to obey her uncle.
We are all familiar with the story of Esther. How evil Haman desires to destroy her uncle and all of the Jews, even getting the king to sign into law a day of Jew killing, with a reward. Doing as her uncle requests, she goes uninvited into the throne room, which was punishable by death. But the king in his generosity and love for his queen, offers to give her up to half of his kingdom. Through Esther’s bravery and obedience, not only is her uncle saved, but her people as well, and evil Haman is hung on the gallows he has built for Mordecai. She put her life in the hands of the King and won the right for her people to fight back against those who would harm her. The Jews celebrate Purim to this day, marking their victory.

As modern day Esther’s, we don’t have to fear for our lives. We can boldly come to the throne of our King. Unlike Ashasuerus, our King has given us all of His kingdom, not just half. Our obedience is important. We have the whole world watching us!

Are we going rebel like Vashti?
Or obey, like Esther?

Consider Jeremiah

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God called Jeremiah at a young age, telling him that before He formed him in the womb, He knew Jeremiah-consecrated and appointed him a prophet-before he was even born (Jer. 1:4-10). Jeremiah was concerned about his immaturity, but God commanded him to go and speak, and placed His word in Jeremiah’s mouth. From the very beginning God told Jeremiah that He watched over His word to perform it (verse 12), and that He would use Jeremiah to pronounce judgment over His people.
Sounds like a fun calling…Obviously God knows it was going to be rough as He tells Jeremiah in verse 17, “Now, gird up your loins, and arise and speak to them all which I command you. Bo not be dismayed before them, lest I dismay you before them.” He encourages Jeremiah in verse 18 by saying that He had strengthened him. God then tells him in verse 19, “‘and behold they will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the Lord.”Israel had exchanged their glory for that which does not profit, chasing after other Gods. Israel had done two evils according to God. First they had forsaken Him, and secondly, they had hewn their own cisterns instead of taking His living water. The word that Jeremiah had to give wasn’t an easy one. It wasn’t “I haven’t seen you in Church lately,” or, “you need to read your Bible more.” No, he was to declare them as “harlots, prostitutes, and faithless adulterers. He had to tell them that God had given them their divorce papers, because they had even polluted the land.
Jeremiah did it! That is what amazes me. I a time when false prophets were the norm, he chose to do what God told him, to say what God said-knowing that the people would not listen to him (Jer. 7:27). God even warned him in 11:18-19 that the people were plotting to kill him. Not only was he responsible for telling God’s chosen people that punishment was coming, he had to do all of these strange object lessons to prove his point. He did it all knowing that they wouldn’t turn their hearts to God, knowing full well that they were going to be given over into the hands of their enemy and slaughtered. Why would he do this fruitless task? Because God told him to, plain and simple. He did complain, and even cursed the day he was born. He cried and lamented the plight of his people and at one time pleaded for them. But God had had enough.
Jeremiah was beaten, cast into a cistern of mud, put in stocks. He was mocked and was made a “laughingstock” to all of those around him. Jeremiah 20:7-9 says, “O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived, you overpowered ma and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Yes, he had his moments of pity partying. But let’s move on to verse 11, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.”
God showed Jeremiah the destruction of His people. But He also showed Jeremiah their salvation. “’The days are coming,” declared the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.’” God never leaves us hopeless. True to His promise, He preserved Jeremiah as well as a remnant of His people and sent the Savior.
So consider Jeremiah…What has God asked you to do? Did you think it was a hard thing? Do you still?