A Life Well Lived

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB

 

I was sitting outside a restaurant in Brea, California in November of 1997. I had flown to California for some training for my new job in Virginia. I had lived in California from 1983 until 1997. When I found out I was going back for a week I decided to call two of my closest friends to see if they would like to have dinner. They said sure and I was waiting on them.

I had been diagnosed with type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes earlier in 1997. I found out by nearly dying from it. I am still not sure how I did not die – actually the reason I didn’t die is because God didn’t want me to die. Anyway, back to my evening in California.

I sat outside the restaurant waiting on my friends to arrive. I had mixed my insulin for my evening dose, which I would take when we sat down to eat. The timing of one’s insulin dose is important so it is peaking when blood sugar after eating is peaking. I was gently rolling  my syringe between my fingers to warm the insulin (my insulin was stored in a cold pack. Injecting cold insulin is not a fun experience). I could not believe what happened next.

A young man came up and asked me if he could sit next to me. I said I didn’t mind. He sat down and introduced himself. I don’t remember his name but I do remember him. He looked at me and began a conversation.

“I’d like to share some information with you, if thats ok.”

“Sure” I said.

“Well first” he began “I want to say that I am not judging you for your addiction”

I responded “My addict-”

Before I could finish he jumped back in saying “I see the syringe in your hand. I know what you are going to do. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to do this.”

I smiled, figuring he mistook my insulin for some kind of illegal drug. “You don’t understand.” I said.

“Yes I do” he protected. “I was once addicted too but God delivered me and He can deliver you too.”

“Wait, wait. You really don’t understand. I need this to live.” I said.

He replied “I said the same thing when I was nailing up [slang IV drug users sometimes use to describe injecting heroin]. But I’m here to say, you don’t need that drug. You need Jesus.”

Well this little disagreement continued for a few more minutes until I finally said “Dude, I’m a type 1 diabetic This is insulin. See, I have a prescription for this [showing him my insulin vials]. I’m a Christian. Been one since December 2, 1984.”

He grimaced a bit. He looked sheepishly at me and apologized for his mistaking me as a drug addict. Before he could finish his apology, I stopped him and thanked him for his boldness. We talked a few more minutes, I assured him I wasn’t offended by his conduct but encouraged by it. I thanked him again for being willing to share Christ with a stranger apparently in need.

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I wonder how many of us – me included – are willing to risk embarrassment like this young guy did? Are we willing to share Christ with anyone we see, risking we may share with someone who is already a Christian? Or maybe we are worried the person we share with will be openly hostile to the Gospel. Whatever our fear, we need to get over them and share Christ to all who cross our paths – yes, that includes those e disagree with on silly issues like politics.

People around me may give me flack for sharing the Gospel. They may laugh at me for believing it. Because I am a Christian, I have not received promotions and being a Christian contributed to my losing one job. I chose not to sue or strike out against that employer because I feel like that kind of treatment is part and parcel of being a Christian.

I don’t want to live a life that is camouflaged. I don’t want people to wonder if I belong to Christ or not. My life – all aspects of it – should preach the Gospel.

Don’t just preach the Gospel with your words. Preach it with your life. And don’t just think that living an outwardly moral life is OK. Preach the Gospel with your mouth too. Really, it is as simple as Paul wrote to Timothy: be always preaching, be always ready, be always teaching sound doctrine, and know those who don’t want to hear, won’t.

In doing this simple thing, we can be assured that we will live a life well-lived, regardless of the bumps along the way. And maybe, just maybe, we will meet someone on a bench and bless them with our boldness and forever leave a mark on them.

 

 

Repentance, Worship and Revival O My!

nehemiah wall_final

God is alive and well. He is on His throne. I belong to Him. He alone is righteous

When revival starts to spread in the land a number of things begin to happen. Here in Nehemiah 9 we will see two of the more prominent things that happen when revival hits the land.

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. Now on the Levites’ platform stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Chenani, and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. Nehemiah 9:1-4 NASB

Repentance

Repentance is an interesting thing to observe. The reason it is interesting is that it is more than one action but it is only one action. Have I confused you yet? Let’s see if I can clear things up a bit.

The twofold nature of biblical repentance is what sometimes gets confusing. The first aspect of repentance is a turning from action. Now what is this turning from action? It is a turning from sin and a sinful heart. Here we see the beginning of their turning from in v. 1 – sackcloth and ashes is a way to illustrate mourning. Then in v. 2 we see that they separated themselves from foreigners. Now this separation is not based on frivolous things. This separation is based on religious grounds. Do you see what is being said here? The people had recognized that the Lord had made them a special people that was distinct from all others. They turned from their inclusion of other nations. They chose to return to the way the Lord wanted things done.

Now for the turning to part of repentance. We start to see this in v. 3: they stood and read from the book of the Law. They turned to God. So not only did they turn away from their previous sin, they turned to God and the way He wanted them to do things. This turning to God led them to worship here in vv. 3-4. This worship will continue in a different form in the coming verses.

Worship

This section constitutes one of the longest prayers in the OT. It was meant not only to serve as a traditional prayer but also to instruct those who were hearing it. This occurs in some of the Psalms (78, 105, 106, 135, and 136). It is quite interesting to see the heart change from grieving to rejoicing.

The first thing I want you to notice is God is praised as the Creator and maker of everything:

Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah, said, “Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Your glorious name be blessed And exalted above all blessing and praise! “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens…” Nehemiah 9:5-6b NASB

This is always a good way to start a time of intense prayer. How often have you begun your prayers with a simple praising of God for who He is and what He has done? Regardless of what Mr. Darwin thinks or theorizes, we did not arise from a bubbling sea of cosmic ooze to then evolve into man through a number of random mutations (all of which were positive). No, we were specially created by God to reflect His image in His creation.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Think of what is happening in your body right now. You are breathing, your heart is beating. You are reading this blog and comprehending the thoughts I have written. You do all this with very little effort. Just think of what you would need to to if you had to think “breathe in lungs, heart beat again, think brain!” I doubt much else could be accomplished if we had to will ourselves to continue to perform  basic functions.

In the next section we see the Lord as the all-sovereign one. He is the one who chooses man, not the other way around.

“You are the Lord God, Who chose Abram And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, And gave him the name Abraham. “You found his heart faithful before You, And made a covenant with him To give him the land of the Canaanite, Of the Hittite and the Amorite, Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite— To give it to his descendants. And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous. Nehemiah 9:7-8 NASB

I love these verses in Nehemiah – they are theologically rich and so challenging to me. I hope they are challenging you to take a look at your life and how you are conducting yourself in this world.

Look how this section begins: You are the Lord God…. The declaration that their God, known by His covenant name YHWH, is THE sovereign one is quite the statement. these folks were not worried to say their way was the only way. Seems like we could learn a thing or two from them. Standing for what we believe is all good. But standing for truth is better. Are you ready to say that our God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – is the ONLY God in the universe worthy of our worship? I hope so.

Continuing through this section we also  see that His sovereignty is affirmed when they state that He chose Abram and called him to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Notice it doesn’t end with the call of Abram. God made a covenant with Abram to give him the land of the various “ites” that lived in the promised land. But God’s covenant didn’t end there. He swore to give the land not only to Abram but also to Abram’s descendants. So who are these descendants? Israel of course. It doesn’t matter what others think – the land known as “Palestine” belongs to Israel. Period. They will inherit it. They will possess it. Why? Because God promised it to them.

The final observation I want to make about this section is the final few words: You are Righteous. Now we may not think much of those words but they are heavy. To be righteous means to be without sin. Who could make such a claim? Only God can. He is the only one who is, by nature, without sin.

Revival

I don’t care what society thinks. Whether they recognize this truth or not, God is not dead. God is on His throne. And I don’t care if I am a laughingstock, a backwards man, or anything else. I will continue to say “God is alive and well. He is on His throne. I belong to Him. He alone is righteous.

How is your revival going? Are you reviving your relationship with God every day? If you know about your sin and repent of it – like the Israelite’s did here in Nehemiah – you’re on your way.

But you also need to work on your worship. Recognizing God’s worth, recognizing who He is, is key to revival and worship. One very important way of worshiping God is how we pray. How are you in your prayer life? This one in Nehemiah sets the bar pretty high. But learning from it this week (and in the coming weeks) can only help you and me be better at praising God when we begin our prayer time. It will help us stay focused on this important truth:

God is still God, and I am not.