Engage Discussion Questions for September 2

  1. In your own life, how has the Spirit of God been working lately to make you more like Christ?
  2. Do you feel like you need more of God? In what way?
  3. Do you feel like you have been walking in the Spirit of adoption as described in Romans 8:15? Why? Why not?
  4. Read Genesis 1:2. What was the Spirit doing in this verse?
  5. How would you rate your focus on your walk with the Spirit on a scale of 1-10? What are you willing to do to improve it?

Blog — August 28

In this passage, God uses the prophet, Malachi, to correct several specific issues. Before He starts the list of corrections, God lays the foundation for which the corrections are to be received.  “’I have loved you,’ says the Lord” (Malachi 1:2). Love is God’s primary motivation toward us. I like how the biblical commentator, John Morgan, translates this passage: “’I have loved you, I do love you, I will love you,’ says the Lord.”

As a father, there are a few times that I have had to correct my children, but my love for them exists all the time. They know that it’s because I love them so much that I correct their misdeeds and praise their good moments.

Blog — August 25

As Nehemiah 8 opens, the people gather together to celebrate the Festival of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month. This festival was introduced in Leviticus 23:24 as a day of holy rest, a Sabbath. The blowing of the trumpets could be considered a call to shake off spiritual “laziness” or “dryness.” The tenth day of the seventh month was the Day of Atonement, so the people are preparing their hearts for that day by humbling themselves and repenting of sin.

As we have been reading in Nehemiah, the Israelites are once again in a deplorable state, but Nehemiah shows compassion and works for restoration. When I read about the Israelites in the Old Testament, I sometimes despise them for repeatedly turning their backs on God—the God who delivered them out of bondage and misery. But don’t I do the same thing at times? Don’t I neglect God and take Him for granted even though he has brought me out of bondage and saved me? Don’t I have to rely on God’s mercy and grace? Yes!

I find it interesting that when the people hear the word of God read to them, they are sad because they are reminded of their sins. Then, Ezra and the other Levites encourage them not to grieve but to rejoice.  Nehemiah tells the people in verse 10, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” What a great parallel for us all! When we are grieved by our own sin, we can repent and then rejoice because God is faithful to forgive! I’m thinking there are times that I need to have my own “festival of trumpets” and shake off my spiritual dryness—to prepare my heart for The Spirit to be water to my soul.  How about now?  Do you want to join me?

August 23 Sermon Recording and Handout

Sermon Recording: Click here to listen or download.

Sermon Handout: Click here to view or print.

Blog — August 24

The world says, “There is no place like home.” That was largely accepted until the hymnist, John M. Henson, gave us another perspective of the idea of where home is in the song, “Anywhere is Home.”

Earthly wealth and fame may never come to me

And a palace fair here mine may never be

But let come what may, if Christ for me doth care

Anywhere is home, if…Christ my Lord is there…

Home is not where we live. Houses rust and rot with the passage of time. Home is where the Father is. God does not dwell in buildings made by man’s hands. He has chosen the heart of man to be his dwelling place (1 Corinthians 3:16). Then again, why do we have physical buildings or churches? Buildings are mere symbols of His presence and largely serve the purpose of bringing His children together to fellowship, grow and learn more of Him. That, I suppose, is much delight to the Father, especially when such a house is made a “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13).

In our texts today, we see that the opulence and comfort of Persia could offer no joy to Nehemiah. Although in captivity, he appears to be without physical oppression as the King’s cupbearer, a coveted position. Rather, he faces oppression of another kind. He is sleepless and restless by the state of the remnants in Israel and of the walls of Jerusalem that were destroyed by the invaders. His countenance shows this, too (Nehemiah 2: 2). He receives the King’s approval to return to Israel to rebuild the broken walls and restore the gates. He goes back and with a handful of men, he begins to rebuild. This is when the challenge begins.

Sanballat and Tobiah grieve in their hearts that someone came to seek Israel’s welfare in their trying time (Nehemiah 2: 10). However, they are weak and cannot challenge Nehemiah and his men to a physical confrontation. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, the Arabian, use a weapon that men have proved over the ages to be more destructive than that of guns—the fire of the tongue (James 3:6). The tongue has brought down many projects and killed many dreams. Nevertheless, it can do nothing to a heart that is made up (Nehemiah 2:20). As a result, Nehemiah and his men rebuild the wall. They accomplish their project.

It is time to ignore the dissenting voices. It is time to prove wrong those who think you will fall by the wayside. It is time to be strong for our God and His Kingdom and help Him build it.  That is where the Father is; that is home! Let us pray.

Blog — August 21

Nehemiah shows us three characteristics of a servant leader whom God raises up.

  • Unselfish Concern
    • The first time we see Nehemiah, he sits down, weeps, mourns, fasts and prays. This is a guy of deep concern for the good of God’s people.  He hears that they are in great trouble. He focuses on them, not himself!
  • Uncompromising Devotion
    • When Nehemiah hears the need, he falls on his face, weeps and prays. For four months he prays, mourns and fasts; he doesn’t start to plan or strategize. He is devoted to seek God’s face! In a book of thirteen chapters, Nehemiah prays in almost every chapter. God reveals the intimate things of His heart when we seek His face. Then we begin to see what God puts in our hearts because of His gracious hand upon us.
    • God is always working behind the scenes to prepare His way. This is why it is so important to wait on His timing. Remember that the vision God has for our life is only a small piece of the entire puzzle.
  • Unyielding Desire
    • Nehemiah 1:10-11 says, “They are your servants and your people…Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.” Nehemiah has everything. He lives in a palace, has plenty to eat and drink, has a personal relationship with the king, and lets his deepest delight to be in “revering God’s name!” Our deepest delight should be in seeing God’s name honored and glorified!

When you stand as a leader in God’s church, there will be difficulties, sacrifices, opposition and slander. It’s through those times of weakness, trial and struggle that God shows His glory.  He shows His strength in amazing ways, and that’s exactly what He does with Nehemiah. When our vision for God is strong, our ambition for God in prayer will be strong. However, when our vision of God is weak, then our ambition for Him in prayer will be weak.

What faith Nehemiah has to wait and to continue to pray! Jesus said living faith can move mountains [Matthew 17:20]! True faith in God brings calmness to our hearts and keeps us from rushing about and trying to do in our own strength what only God can do.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Blog — August 20

One of the greatest difficulties I am often asked for advice about is also one of the greatest difficulties that I observe in the lives of believers—difficulty in pursuing God.  In my own life, I make the same observation. How do I move from a position of paying “lip service” to a position of actually pursuing God? There is no doubt we live in a world and a culture that demands our attention in so many ways. Each of us, depending upon where our station of life currently puts us, are likely being pulled constantly from one thing to the next. In our daily battle to keep up, we often exhaust our own physical and practical resources. Unfortunately, too many of us follow that same routine spiritually; we attempt to walk out our faith through our own resources, in our own strength and by our own plans. While you may accomplish what you are pursuing outside of the Kingdom of God in such a maner, you will never accomplish what you are pursuing within the Kingdom of God this way.

Take a few notes from these few chapters in Ezra today. If you want to pursue God so that you might feel His gracious hand upon you, then determine to “study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach these decrees and regulations” and “fast and humble [y]ourselves before our God” (Ezra 7:10 & 8:21).  As today’s Exploration Point accurately states, “On our own, we are weak; supplied with God’s power, we can accomplish great things” (p. 549).

Blog — August 19

We have heard the saying, “When life throws you a lemon, you can turn it into lemonade.” In life, we always have a choice when given bad news. Do we lay down and give up or do we stand up in the strength of the Lord? We stand up because we know that our God can bring us through! The Lord our God, who is mighty in battle, is powerful enough to bring us through any and all situations. Praise the Lord!

We are dressing in the Lord’s battle clothing, ready to take action when He says, “Go!” The Lord will show you the way out! Ask Him to give you the wisdom, knowledge, understanding and the strength that you need to tunnel through the mountain of problems that you face. There isn’t a problem or a situation that God can’t get you through. When you are trusting and leaning on Him, nothing is impossible. He is the power behind the wheel and the light that makes the darkness flee! He is the strength in the time of weakness—that’s God!

God gives us the boldness to do things that would be impossible in the natural world. So, go! Climb that mountain, overcome your fears and turn what seemed like a hopeless situation into a day of praise and victory! With God on your side, take on the Haman in your life. What man means for evil, God can and will, turn it around in your favor—in Jesus’ name!

Engage Discussion Questions for August 19

  1. Discuss the questions and scriptures contained within the sermon handout.
  2. What can we gain from Smith Wigglesworth’s approach to the Holy Spirit when he says, “I never get out of bed in the morning without having communion with God in the Spirit?”
  3. Have you struggled or are you currently struggling with spiritual dryness? Do you know why?
  4. Have you ever experienced anything like this statement in your walk? Share your thoughts: “I had an overwhelming experience of the Lord’s presence. I felt so powerfully overcome by the nearness of the Holy Spirit that I had to ask the Lord to draw back lest He kills me. It was so glorious that I couldn’t stand more than a small portion of it” (Mordecai Ham).
  5. Discuss this statement as a group: “The key is not money, organization, cleverness, or education. Are you and I seeing the results Peter saw? Are we bringing thousands of men and women to Christ the way he did? If not, we need to get back to His power source” (Jim Cymbala).

Blog — August 18

Esther, a Jewish woman, was taken to the king’s palace when a decree was sent to find a new queen. She immediately found favor and was placed in the care of the woman, Hegai (Esther 2:8-9). She, with other women, went through 12 months of beauty preparations and obtained favor from everyone who saw her (Esther 2:15). Likewise, when presented to the king, she, more than all the other virgins, obtained favor and grace from him. She continued to be favored over others throughout her journey. This favor was needed for the big plan God had to raise her to be the queen so that she could be used to save the Jews, His chosen people.

Like Esther, as God’s people, we have His favor upon us. We are the righteousness of God, in Christ. God never intended His favor to be found by a mere handful of people. Every believer—you and I included—can find His favor to do the things that cannot be accomplished without it, all for His big plan. In reference to Luke 2:52, the four areas that Jesus grew in were wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with men. Likewise, although His favor is readily available for us, we need to grow in His favor. Proverbs 3: 3-4 says that favor can be found through the knowledge and understanding of mercy and truth. As we grow in understanding of His great mercy and truth—revealed to us through His Word—we will grow in favor with God and men.

God wants to bless you, personally, with His favor. As you expand your mindset to expect and believe for His favor and as you open your mouth to confess God’s promises, you can find favor with God and men!