Double Fruitfulness – Nehemiah 8:16-17

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Would you like to be doubly fruitful? In all you do would like to have double fruitfulness in your life?

If so, read on.

We learned that people in the days of Nehemiah revived the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Part of this revival was to build temporary shelters out of specific materials, namely branches from 4 trees. We learned these branches represented God’s blessings (connected directly to our obedience to His Word), our fragrant witness of Christ to the world, God’s keeping us through His Holy Spirit until Christ returns, and our long term fruitfulness all of the days of our life.

So we know WHAT to build it with (these temporary shelters called our life here on earth), but WHERE do we build them?

Nehemiah 8:16 tells us. These people built them at 5 different places.

First was the roofs of their homes. This represents our families. Parents, are you modeling for your children how to live a godly life? Children, are you honoring your parents? Are we taking these materials listed above and building them into the fabric of our families?

Second was their courtyards. This represents our communities. Where we live desperately needs the sweet fragrance of our witness of Christ, among the materials listed above. Let’s make sure we’re making available these materials in our communities and make a difference where we live.

Third was the courts of the House of God. This represents our coming together in corporate worship in God’s House. Church is a powerful place where we can God’s presence, God’s people, and God’s Word. It’s a place that God designed for us to grow into the likeness of Christ. Let’s not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but build the temporary shelters of our lives centered around God’s. House.

Fourth was by the Water Gate. This represents staying in close proximity to God’s Word where we can be constantly washed from the filth of the world and keep ourselves re-calibrated back to what God has called us to be. His Word is our standard for living. We would be wise to make sure the temporary shelters of our lives were constructed by the Water Gate.

Finally the fifth gate was the Gate of Ephraim. Ephraim was Joseph’s youngest son, and his tribe set up camp north of Jerusalem. This gate faced that direction, thus the name.

You know what Ephraim means? Double fruitfulness.

Let me clarify something here. When we read this we think, “blessing”. But blessing means “coming in”. Fruitfulness means “going out”. God wants us to be fruitful. This means we’re impacting others, not looking for the good stuff just for us. It’s a selfless approach to life. “What can I do be to be fruitful?” Not, “what can I do to be blessed”.

God wants to bless us, of course, but we are blessed to be a blessing.

These first four, families, communities, Church, and God’s Word, are powerful places to build our shelters, but God wants you to be doubly fruitful in all you do as well!

So, let me declare over you today that as you construct the temporary shelters of your life with the materials listed above in your families, communities, churches, and God’s Word, that you can get the bonus of double fruitfulness, in all you do that God would bless you to be a blessing!

Please click on the link below to listen to the podcast entitled “Double Frutifulness”, as well as others you may have missed from previous Sundays.

May God bless you this week to be a double blessing to others!

Are You Ready? Nehemiah 8:13-14

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Are You Ready?

Nehemiah 8:13-14, “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month.”

When we read God’s Word it reminds us of things that maybe we’ve forgotten or overlooked.

We get busy with life. Others things crowd in. The urgent consumes the truly important and before long we’ve drifted from the foundational, fundamental importance of our relationship with Jesus. He becomes “one of the things” in our life instead of “our life”.

God’s Word helps us to recalibrate back to His standard.

That’s what happened here.

For over 1000 years this sacred “festival of the seventh month”, this “Feast of Tabernacles”, had been overlooked, ignored, and deemed irrelevant.

Other things had taken priority, and the celebration that had reminded the people of God’s faithfulness and goodness had been thrown in the scrap heap as out of fashion and outdated.

This was to be a yearly celebration, a time of joy, a week long festival of banquets and laughter and honoring God for His bringing of the people out of the wilderness into the Promised Land.

This was the last of the seven yearly sacred celebrations, to be held at the final harvest of their growing season.

Of the seven festivals, three were considered high festivals, to be held in higher esteem and importance. They were the sacred celebrations of Passover, Pentecost & Tabernacles.

The Passover in the O.T. was a solemn celebration of God’s provision of a Lamb’s blood to rescue the people of Israel from the death angel on that terrible night in Egypt during their captivity. It’s also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and can be found in Lev. 23.

This sacred seven day festival commemorates the people of God’s rescue from captivity and their exodus into the wilderness to follow God until they reached the Promised Land.

In the N.T. it signifies the first coming of Christ, the Lamb of God, who gave His life on the day of Passover and made provision for our sins by His shed blood, and our freedom from the captivity of sin and our privilege to follow Him as He leads us through our lives until we reach our Promised Land of Heaven.

Pentecost in the O.T. is a joyous celebration of the first harvest in the spring mentioned in 2 Chron. 8. It’s also known as the festival of the first fruits, the festival of reaping, or the festival of weeks. It’s also traditionally (but not scripturally) a celebration of when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which tradition says were given 50 days after their Exodus from Egypt, on Mt. Sanai, which in many ways was the “birth” of the Jewish nation. In Greek “Pentaconta” means 50 , thus the modern term “Pentecost”.

In the N.T. it has become the birthdate of the Church, the gift of the empowering Holy Spirit, and signifying the ongoing harvest of souls until Christ’s return. The Holy Spirit fell in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost (50 days after the Passover) and filled each Believer with the power of God to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness.

The thousands that were added to the Church that day were the first fruits of many souls, including you and I today.

We are known as Pentecostal Believers, because we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to boldly work through us as He did through those in the N.T. to proclaim the Gospel, with signs and wonders following those who believe.

This powerful relationship we have with the Holy Spirit is for the harvest of souls and is ongoing until Christ returns.

The Festival of Tabernacles in the O.T. celebrates the final harvest of the season, and a recognition of God’s faithfulness and goodness during that growing and harvest season.

It is a seven day celebration where the people were instructed to live in temporary shelters, or booths, in remembrance of the children of Israel and their residing in temporary shelters during their 40 years in the wilderness.

It was designed to be time of great joy and celebration as God’s Word was read aloud each day.

In the N.T. it has become for Christians symbolic the second coming of Christ and the final harvest of souls before His return.

I believe this is going to happen very, very soon. Jesus is coming back! What we’ve read about and heard about all of our lives and others have longed to see from centuries past is about to take place!!

In meteorology there are such things as tornado warnings and tornado watches. A warning means it’s here so take cover, a watch means conditions are favorable, so stay alert.

I believe we are in a season of watching. The conditions are favorable. We need to go about our business but be keenly aware that at any moment this could happen, so make your plans accordingly.

Recalibrate your lives to be ready at a moment’s notice, because we won’t have time to respond when the Rapture takes place, for the Bible says it will happen “in the twinkling of an eye”.

Jesus instructed us to stay alert. Luke 21:34-36 says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

I’m hearing from many, many, many people, Bible scholars, pastors, laymen and lay women, more than ever before say, “Jesus is coming soon. Get ready!!!”

These are watchmen.

Isaiah 62:6 says, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest.”

Today I’m being a watchman on the wall. And if I don’t give warning that conditions are favorable I’ll be held accountable by God.

Listen to how God puts it in Ezekiel 33:2-6, “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”

Today I plead with you to heed this warning. Jesus is coming back. It’s soon. He’s at the door. The trumpet is about to sound. Things are about to get real!!!

As I said a few months back the Holy Spirit has quickened my spirit to inform the Church, “Get Ready!”

The sword of God’s righteous judgment is getting ready to strike against sinful mankind. God’s wrath is getting ready to be poured out because of man’s rebellion and rejection of God and their choice to live apart from Him and His commands.

It’s no different than in every other time before documented in God’s Word, but this upcoming judgement will be the last time. Jesus is coming back and the Great Tribulation as described in Revelation will begin. Those who are left behind will experience catastrophe and heartache and agony unlike the world has ever experienced before.

And we’re not ready, Church. The world isn’t ready and the Church isn’t ready!

Let’s get ready!!

Let’s get our bags packed! Let’s get our houses in order! Let’s not be caught by surprise!

Fortunately God hasn’t left us in the dark about this. He’s made it clear that there are signs to look for, clues to decipher, and conditions to be aware of that will help us to know what season we are approaching. I believe we are approaching very quickly into the season of the return of our Lord!

We can look to prophecy for strong signs and clues, and there is none more relevant than when Israel became a nation again back in 1948. This started the clock ticking to the return of Christ, because in prophecy all eyes must always be on Israel and Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:32-34 says, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

The fig tree is symbolic of Israel in God’s Word. It’s leaves came out in 1948. After not being a nation for about 2500 it was re-birthed supernaturally by God in May, 1948.

Jesus said, “This generation will certainly not pass until all these things have happened.” So how long is a generation? 40 years? 50?

Psalm 90:10 I believe says it most clearly, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”

So if we take a generation of 70-80 years and add it to 1948 that brings us to a window of 2018-2028.

If this holds true, then we could be right at the time just before the return of Christ. But then if we take the 7 year Tribulation and factor that in, deducting that number from 2018-2028 makes it 2011-2021, which actually places us right in the middle of that range where Jesus could return.

Are we living on borrowed time? Is God holding back just a bit longer so that one more soul can be saved? Only He knows the day and the hour, but I’m sure keenly aware and believe that we are in the season and the conditions are favorable for Christ’s return!

And what about “all these things” Jesus mentioned must happen as a sign just the trumpet sounds?

Listen to the conditions just before He returns – Matthew 24:6-7, 9-12, 14, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and pestilence and earthquakes in various places. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Wars and rumors of wars? Check
Nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms? Check
Famines & pestilence? Check
Earthquakes in all kinds of places? Check
Persecutions and killings of the Saints of God? Check
Hated by everyone because of our Faith? Check
Many turning from the Faith? Check
Betrayals and hatred of families and friends? Check
False prophets deceiving many? Check
The love of most growing cold? Sadly, Check
The Gospel being preached in the whole world? Check!

Luke 21:25-26, adds to this list the following signs, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

Joel 2:31-32, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Many of us may know that we are in the middle of what is being called the 4 consecutive blood moons, also known as a tetrad.

A blood moon is a lunar eclipse, where the moon gets between the sun and earth. This phenomena makes the moon look red, like blood.

There have been many, many blood moons over the natural course of history, but this tetrad is significant in that they land on the high festival days of Passover and Tabernacles.

First blood moon was April,15, 2014, Passover.
Second blood moon was October 8, Feast of Tabernacles
Third blood moon will occur this April 4, Passover.
Fourth blood moon will take place this September 28, Feast of Tabernacles.

This has only occurred where 4 consecutive blood moons have fallen on high festival days since Jesus crucifixion 7 other times. This is the eighth. All other times it has happened have been significant in the history of the nation of Israel and the Church.

The first tetrad was in 162-63 A.D., the second in 795-96 A.D., the third in 842-43 A.D., the fourth in 860-61 A.D., fifth in 1493-94 A.D., the sixth in 1949-50 A.D., and the seventh in 1967-68.

It’s interesting to note that the sixth occurred the year Israel was officially recognized by the UN as a nation, the seventh occurred during the Six Day War, which saw Israel take back Jerusalem as their capital for the first time in 2500 years.

We are in the midst of the eighth tetrad since the Crucifixion of Christ. In fact, the midpoint to this was just a couple of weeks ago, on January 5.

Now the number eight in the Bible signifies regeneration, resurrection, and new beginnings.

Could it be that this eighth tetrad since the Crucifixion could mean a new beginning?

Could it be that we are coming up on a very interesting time in world history as it relates to prophecy?

This is not a warning, per se, but a watch.

And one more significant aspect of this year is that it’s a Jubilee year. What is a Jubilee year?

Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. Every seventh year is a sabbath or a sabbatical year, where the land is to lie fallow. Every seventh seven (49 years) is a year of sabbath, called a year of Jubilee, where they sound off a trumpet blast and announce throughout the land that slaves are to be freed and debts cancelled. You can read about in Lev. 25.

Did you catch that? I’ll say it again. This year we are in right now is a Jubilee year. It’s a year where slaves are to be freed and debts cancelled! This is the year of God’s universal pardon! Could it be that we’re getting ready to hear a trumpet blast and be set free!?

That’s why we sing, “Behold He comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, at the trumpet call. So lift your voice, it’s the year of Jubilee, and out of Zion’s hill salvation comes!”

This Jubilee, also knows as the Shemitah, begins at 6pm on Sunday evening, Sept. 13, and concludes at 6pm, Sept. 14, of this year, which happens to also be the lunar seven year anniversary of the global financial meltdown of 2008 which was also the seven year lunar anniversary of the response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Could these last two be warnings for America? Could this next one on this Jubilee year be more significant?

By the way, another tetrad coinciding with Jewish festivals won’t take place for another 500 years or so.

The climate is juicy, the atmosphere is ripe, the conditions are favorable, the signs are all around us. And whether the Lord returns this year or next year or a hundred years from now, we are warned to be wise in staying prepared, keeping watch, and not being at all caught by surprise.

I’m not saying Jesus IS coming back this year, I’m saying the signs point to a heightened possibility.

I’m saying that this year may prove to be a year where, if we don’t recalibrate, if we don’t get our houses in order, if we don’t realize that it’s not business as usual anymore and don’t wake up, we might be reeling because of our being ill prepared.

Let’s get ready! Let’s recalibrate back to God’s Word! Let’s repent, turn from our wicked ways, humble ourselves and pray, seek God’s face, cry out to Him and place our whole beings in His care! Seek Him first and only! Prioritize Jesus as number One again in your life!! As Joel wrote, “All who call on the Lord will be saved!”

No man knows the day or the hour that Jesus will return for His Bride, but we can know the seasons and the signs.

The men of Issachar in 1 Chron. 12:32 knew the seasons and the signs of the times and knew how to respond and live their lives accordingly.

This festival of the seventh month, the Festival of Tabernacles that celebrated God’s faithfulness of the harvest is coming up again this September. It’ll take place at the final of the four blood moons.

Right now we’re still in the Church Age of the Festival of Pentecost, or the Festival of Weeks, signifying the ongoing harvest of souls in the power of the Holy Spirit until Christ’s return.

We are in the days between Passover (the provision of the Lamb) and Tabernacles (the final harvest).

But there’s coming a time, and I believe it to be soon and very soon, that we are going to see the King. The most grand Feast of Tabernacles will be held at the marriage supper of the Lamb, as we celebrate God’s faithfulness and the final last harvest of souls in these final days where He is pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh, as He promised to do in Joel 2:28-29, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

So let’s get ready. Let’s not be caught unaware.

Jesus told this parable immediately after He spoke of the signs of the end times. Listen.

Matthew 25:1-13, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

The watch has been posted this January 18, 2015. Lift up your head, for your redemption is drawing closer and closer and closer. Are you ready?

The Very Best Booth Materials Money Can’t Buy

 

Today I’d like to provide for you some direction in pointing you to the very best booth material money CAN’T buy.

This festival of the seventh month was called the Festival of Booths, to celebrate the final harvest of the people of Israel’s growing season. It was a seven day celebration that included the building of temporary shelters in which the folks dwelt. It was one of seven yearly celebrations meant to be a joyous time of thanksgiving to God for His blessings and faithfulness. It had not been observed for over 1000 years, but the people in Nehemiah’s day, in response to the reading of God’s Word and their desire to honor Him in all they did, determined to resume the celebration with all of their hearts.

So, they went out to get the materials listed in Nehemiah 8:15 to make these temporary shelters.

“Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.”

This temple, this body in which we dwell, is temporary. Our bodies were not made to live forever. One day we will die. This flesh and blood is temporary, but our soul will live forever.

But while we are here dwelling on this earth, it would be wise to make sure this “booth” we are in is constructed with the proper materials for us to have the most successful, fruitful, blessed life possible. Wouldn’t you agree? How many would like to live a life that that?

Today I want to give you four materials for you to construct as a temporary dwelling in which you can live until Jesus comes back to get you. This material can be found in our text today. It’s four wood products, all of which have symbolic meaning in our walk with Christ.

I’m not a cabinet or furniture maker, but I do know that they prefer certain types of wood depending on what they will be creating. Pine, Oak, Cedar, Hickory, Walnut, all have their best applications in certain pieces. The same goes with these dwellings we are going to construct today.

So with that in mind, we are going to pull from our forest stockyard the branches of the Olive Tree, Pine Tree, Myrtle Tree, and Palm Tree and see what Carpenter Jesus would have us do with them.

First, let’s look at the Olive Tree.

The Olive Tree in the Bible is most always used as a symbol of abundance & blessing.

How many would like to live a life of abundance and blessing? All of us!

3 John 1:2, “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”

We all love this verse, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be blessed. But do you see the correlation here? John ties our physical prosperity with our spiritual prosperity.

He’s saying, “I wish that at whatever level you focus on and pursue your creature comforts and your wealth and your physical strength and appearance and your careers and titles and such, that you would take that same effort and passion and make sure your soul is doing at least equally well.”

To add to our construction materials the Olive Tree is to say, “I want to cover myself with God’s abundance. I want to surround myself with God’s blessing. I want to undergird myself with His prosperity, that my soul would prosper as I walk in obedience to His Word and pursue relationship with Him.”

As I seek Him first and His righteousness, then these other things will be added unto me!

Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and the words spoken to the children of Israel just before they were to enter their Promised Land. This is a promise we can claim for us!

Regardless of how it has been in the past for you, if going forward we include the Olive Tree, the tree of abundance and blessing that’s directly connected with walking in obedience to His Word, as part of the materials of our temporary shelter, we can be assured of God’s prosperity in every area of lives as our souls prosper in Him!

Amen!

The second material we see in our text today is the Pine Tree.

One of the main components of pine is it’s pleasant, aromatic fragrance. We just came out of a season where many of us had live pine trees in our homes, emitting the wonderful fragrance that so symbolizes the Christmas season.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

The Pine Tree in this way is a symbol of our fragrant witness of Christ.

We can tell when we are passing by a pine tree. It’s fragrance is undeniable. We just inhale and enjoy the refreshing scent and are invigorated.

So let me ask you this. When others get around you, do you put off the sweet fragrance of the witness of Christ? Do people smell His love, His compassion, His tenderness, His goodness, His forgiveness, and all the rest of His characteristics coming out of you?

Are they refreshed or repulsed?

And we all know some repulsive smells we produce. We won’t even go there!

The Pine Tree represents in our lives the sweet fragrance of our witness of Christ. Jesus commanded us to go tell everyone everywhere about this good news the angels proclaimed at His birth of great joy which shall be to all people!

The Pine Tree is our fragrant witness of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. May it always be a sweet, life-giving, refreshing fragrance to a lost and dying world.

So we have the Olive Tree, which represents God’s blessings and abundance, and we have the Pine Tree, which represents the sweet fragrance of our witness of Jesus emanating out from us to others.

Next we have the Myrtle Tree.

The Myrtle Tree has large, low lying, expansive branches that provide shade from the heat of the day.

In this context, the Myrtle Tree is a symbol of God keeping us through the Holy Spirit.

We are living in times of danger and uncertainty. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but God has promised this in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

These words were spoken to Joshua as he was taking the leadership reigns from Moses. God was assuring him of His constant watch care. He would go before him. He would never leave him.

Jesus said the same thing when He was speaking to His disciples just before the Crucifixion. John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, our Keeper, our Protector, our Guide, our Helper, our Teacher, among so many other things. Do you see how imperative it is to have this building material as part of our temporary shelter until Jesus returns for us?

Jesus gave us His Spirit to keep us until He returns. Without the Holy Spirit we are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks from the evil spiritual elements. The large, low-lying, expansive branches of the Holy Spirit provide shelter and shade from the withering heat of the noon day attacks.

He is our refreshing. He is our cool in the midsummer noon day sun.

Psalm 91:1-7 says it best, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”

The Olive Tree of God’s abundance and blessing, the Pine Tree of our fragrant witness of Christ to others, and the Myrtle Tree of God’s keeping us through His Holy Spirit…

Which bring us to our fourth and final tree, the Palm Tree.

We all know what a Palm Tree looks like, very distinct in its appearance. One large towering post, maybe 40-50 feet high, with a beautiful spray of large palms emanating from the top and drooping down. What a display!

The Palm Tree has many symbolisms in the Bible, but in this context it represents our long term commitment to serve God.

Listen to Psalm 92:12-15, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”

Palm trunks were used as posts for the temporary dwellings during these festival, which symbolizes our need for a long term, standing firm in the Faith.

In our walk with Christ, along the way there will be opportunities to stray, temptations to veer from the path, times that we’ll just want to park at a roadside rest stop and just never get back in the car.

The Palm Tree material will keep us from that. As we construct our lives with the determination to serve Christ no matter what, and to not shrink back, give in, or give up, we will be, as the Psalm says, “a flourishing tree still bearing fruit in our old age”. But make sure you read it again carefully. It says we must be “planted in the House of the Lord”. Only then will we flourish. Only then will we continue to be fruitful.

I see so many people throughout the years of my ministry come and go from church. When things are going well, they fade away. When there’s an urgency, they run back to church.

How sad that we treat God like some sort of emotionless sugar daddy, not considering His feelings and only running to Him when we need something.

As I studied about the Palm Tree, I discovered something very interesting. It was of great abundance in Biblical days, and it was a tree that actually helped the people in that part of the world to survive. But today, the Palm Tree in the Middle East has become more neglected and scarce. The Palm Trees are disappearing where they used to be abundant.

I find that correlation not coincidental. How many times do Christians start off strong, being completely sold out to Christ, serving Him wholeheartedly, Him being their very life and breath, only for that passion and commitment to fade as the circumstances and temptations of daily life lure them away and other things take His place.

The relationship becomes neglected, passionless, and cold. And the fruit withers. And the tree dies.

The Palm Tree symbolizes our desire to serve God long term. We stand firm in our commitment to serving Him, and we are fruitful throughout our lives as we are planted and continue to dwell in the house of the Lord.

Let’s add this material along with the Olive Tree of God’s abundance and blessing, the Pine Tree of our witness of Christ to others, and the Myrtle Tree of God’s keeping us through His Holy Spirit.

God’s blessings, our witness of Christ, the Holy Spirit’s keeping, and our long term commitment.

Blessings, witness, keeping, commitment.

I hope that as we recalibrate our lives back to God’s Word in 2015 that you’ll look at the building materials with which you’ve chosen to build your life, replacing the materials that won’t help you with the materials that WILL.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

With Jesus as our solid foundation, let’s take the material of the Olive Tree, which represents God’s blessings and abundance that’s directly tied to our obedience to His Word, the material of the Pine Tree, which represents our fragrant witness of Jesus to others, the material of the Myrtle Tree, which represent the Holy Spirit’s keeping of us until Jesus returns, and the material of the Palm Tree, which represents our commitment to serve God long term, consistently, throughout our lives, dwelling in His House, and remain fruitful all of our days on this earth for His glory!

In this temporary shelter of our time on earth, we would be wise to include these materials as we recalibrate our lives back to God’s Word as the people did in the days of Nehemiah.

Recalibrating To God’s Word – January 4th, 2015

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Nehemiah 8:13, “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law.”

Calibration. We put our faith in it every day.

Calibration is a comparison between weights and measurements, one of known correctness made with one device against another measurement made with a second device. The device with the known correctness is called the standard. The other is the test unit.

If the test unit doesn’t measure accurately, then we recalibrate it to make sure it eventually lines up with the standard. This keeps everything running evenly, correctly, and with integrity.

We rely on calibration more often than we know. Did you get some gas this week? Shop for new clothes? Buy some groceries? All of these required inspection and analyzation of weights and measurements. How many gallons of gas? What size outfit? How heavy of a container of goods?

We trust that what we purchased were true weights and measurements and that we were getting the correct value for our money.

I know many of us as we pondered a New Year’s resolution of weight loss probably looked down at the scale we stood upon and said to ourselves, “Surely this scale is off! It needs recalibrating!”

Many scales haves dials you can adjust, but pushing it back to negative 10 to get the scale to tell you you weigh 200 when you step on it won’t change the fact that you still weigh 210!

A yard stick (inches), a weight scale (pounds) and a gas pump (gallons), all require calibrations.

But where did these measurements come from?

We all know a yard stick to be 36″ long. No debate. No argument. It’s a fact. We put our faith in and use it every day. What size clothes do you wear? You can rattle off the measurements in inches without thinking twice.

But who made an inch an inch and a foot a foot and a yard a yard? Where did this come from?

The fact is, the precise origin of the yard measure is not definitely known. There are many speculations. Some believe it derived from the doubling of the cubit. Others believe it came from the length of a stride or pace. Others say it was derived from the girth of a person’s waist, while another claim held that the measure was invented by Henry I of England, who reigned in the 1100’s, as being the distance between the tip of his nose and the end of his thumb.

Yet today we take it as fact and in faith and non-negotiable that a yard is a yard.

And who said a pound was a particular weight? Who started this?

There were many definitions of pounds throughout the centuries, depending in which country you lived, and, again, there’s no definite date you can say, “There’s where it began”. It just evolved over the centuries.

Merchants used scales to weigh their items against an individual, calibrated standard, much like a balance scale. In fact, lady justice is shown blindfolded and holding a balance scale to represent impartial fairness in court proceedings.

But since July 1, 1959, the United States and countries of the Commonwealth of Nations agreed upon common definitions for the pound and the yard. The international pound has been defined as exactly 0.45359237 kg and the yard was legally defined to be exactly 0.9144 meters.

Did you know that? So, we put our faith in a pound being a certain weight. It’s, in spite of what our mind says when we look at our bathroom scales, non-negotiable.

Who created a “gallon”?

This seems to be derived way back in old European days in the northern part of France, where they used jugs to measure out wine for sale. I imagine one day they were trying to figure out how to conveniently get their product from where it was produced to the customers homes when they searched around their house and found a jug large enough to hold a good supply, but small enough to carry without it being too cumbersome. And the gallon was invented!

Some clueless pottery maker, just trying to make a living, invented the perfect size container which became the standard measurement throughout Europe and America and which we now know as the “gallon”.

Gasoline pumps from the early days actually had a see through widow because customers wanted to see the product they were buying measured out as they were purchasing it.

It’s interesting that all of these measurements had sketchy, vague, and undetermined origins. Yet we accept these measurements in faith today as non-negotiable facts and absolutes. A pound is a pound, a gallon is a gallon, a yard is a yard.

Granted, there is such a thing as weight and length and mass. God created these things. But we’ve chosen to embrace the pound, the yard, and the gallon as our calibrators for what is true and accurate to determine the weight, length, and mass of items.

We hold up our test items that need measuring to the known and agreed upon standard of pound, yard, and gallon, and determine the veracity of their claims by them.

If they don’t measure up, we adjust the test items to match the standard. We never change the standard to match the test items.

If we were to take a yard, a gallon, and a pound and each of us were to say, “No, I think a yard should be this long and a gallon should be this much and a pound should weigh this much”, our economy and our society would be in mass confusion.

What if a football player had a different definition of a yard than the referee? What if your idea of a gallon of gasoline was different than the BP station? Ladies, what if you arbitrarily decided you were a size 2 regardless of what the tags said on the rack?

The score would be in question, the gas would be much cheaper, and the clothes, most likely, wouldn’t fit! All these measurements would be skewed to our benefit.

If we all base our measurements on what our individual interpretation of them should be the foundational, non-negotiable standard is lost.

The test becomes the standard and everything falls apart.

Morally, this is what we see happening in our world today.

Truth is subjective. Truth is relative. There is no absolute truth. It’s too confining, too restricting, too narrow for our modern, liberal, anything goes generation.

It’s called “moral relativism”, and it’s eroding the very foundation of God’s solid, unchanging, dependable moral foundation based on His Word upon which our society was built.

What may be good for you maybe isn’t so good for me. They say, “Hey, I can believe whatever I want to believe as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody.”

But it IS hurting somebody. First, it’s hurting YOU! And Jesus loves you and cares for your soul! Why trade a life of joy and peace and love in the Lord for the empty, unsatisfying trash the world has to offer that will eventually destroy you?!

And, second, it’s collectively hurting our children, our families, our institutions of education and government, and society at large as individual sin and compromise infect the larger culture with its selfishness and filth.

Why is it we accept by faith the standard measurements of yard, pound, and gallon as absolute and non-negotiable, even though they were created by man, but when it comes to the absolute truth of God’s Word, all of a sudden it becomes relative and optional?

Why can’t truth be absolute? Isn’t a lie a lie? Isn’t stealing stealing? Isn’t cheating cheating?

No matter how you dress up a pig, isn’t it, underneath all the disguise, still a pig?

Yet we live in a world that justifies actions and decisions and choices and lifestyles.

“I was born that way”, or, “It was just a little white lie”, or, “I did it for the common good”, or, “Everyone is doing it.”

2 Cor. 10:12, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

The test (Moral Relativism) has become the standard and our society, including our churches, are in chaos, because you can’t have a million or two million or one hundred million standards! You can only have one standard!

And that standard is God’s Holy Word!

Jeremiah 50:2, “Declare among the nations, Proclaim, and set up a standard; Proclaim—do not conceal it.”

Not standards, but A STANDARD. God’s Standard found in His Word for us!

It’s time to recalibrate.

The standard of gallon, yard, and pound, were created to prevent fraud in the marketplace.

For thousands of years merchants seeking to defraud customers and line their pockets with greater profits, operated with uneven scales or inaccurate weights or both.

The uniform standard created truth, veracity, and a solid foundation in which to live our lives.

The people of Israel had just come out of years and years of slavery, exile, and suffering as a result of their rejection of God’s Standard, His Law, His Word.

They chose to live life apart from the absolute standards and rules God had established for their good and well being and live a life based on subjective truth.

They thought they knew better than God and thought they were immune to any punishment or reaping of any bad seeds sown, so they went their own way and did what seemed right to them.

But you always will reap what you sow, in kind and in greater proportion to what was sown.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death & destruction.”

It may SEEM right, it may APPEAR correct, based on our analyzation of things it may LOOK like a good way to go, but if we are comparing our lives to others and feeling like we’re doing pretty good in comparison, and we’re not holding up that “way” we’ve chosen to God’s Standard, we are simply taking a stab in the dark and taking a real risk of some pretty terrible things happening in our lives.

On the second day of the month the heads of the households gathered around the Word of God and gave It, His Word, their undivided attention.

God has given us His Word as the Standard by which to live our lives. It’s dependable, unchanging, and as we take it in faith, non-negotiable. We just believe it and embrace it as so.

I can’t think of a better way to begin the new year on this fourth day of the month than to recommit to God’s Word as THE Standard for our lives in 2015. It’s time to recalibrate.

Let’s commit to giving Him our undivided attention. Let’s laser focus on His Word as our Standard for living. Let’s gather around it as individuals, families, and churches and see what it has to say for our every day lives. Let’s recalibrate.

Got questions? Find the answers in His Word. Got hurts? Find solace in His Word. Got confusion? Find direction in His Word. Got weariness? Find rest in His Word.

His Word is not just a truth, It’s THE Truth. His Word is not just a way, It’s THE Way.

Let’s determine at the first part of this new year, IN FAITH, to recalibrate our lives to God’s Word, not the other way around.

Listen to Wikipedia’s write up of measurements, “Materials traded in the marketplace are quantified according to accepted units and standards in order to avoid fraud. The standards themselves are legally defined so as to facilitate the resolution of disputes brought to the courts; only legally defined measures will be recognized by the courts. Quantifying devices used by traders are subject to official inspection, and penalties apply if they are fraudulent.

What needs to be officially inspected in your life today? What means of measurement have you allowed to be set in place as the standard in your life and the life of your family?

Has the test become the standard?

Have you taken God’s Word and tried to adjust it to your lifestyle, or have you taken your lifestyle and held it to the standard of God’s Word?

The measurements of pound, yard, and gallon are man-made yet we embrace them as absolute. God’s Standards are Holy Spirit written yet we treat them as optional, outdated, and changeable. His truths and standards are unchanging and unchangeable, regardless of what a culture or people may say otherwise.

We would be wise to do as the people of Israel did on that day and not only give careful attention to His Word, but respond with actions of obedience and reverence and repentance in EVERY area we have made the test the standard.

If you were to try and draw a line freehand from top to bottom on a piece of paper, it would be crooked at some point, no matter how hard you try, no matter how careful you are, guaranteed.

But then if you take a ruler and use it to draw a line, it’ll be straight.

We can’t be straight in our lives, no matter how we try or how good we are, without a ruler, and God’s ruler is the Word of God. It’s our plumb line, our true north compass.

God’s Word is the only standard that will enable us to draw a straight line in our personal life, in our family life, in the church, and in society. There’s only one King in this Kingdom, His name is Jesus Christ, and He has a ruler called His Word.

That’s our Standard.

In 2015, let’s consistently hold up in faith the Standard of God’s Word to test our lives, and then make the adjustments and recalibrate back to the Standard where we need to.

We would be wise to recalibrate our lives to His unchangeable, life giving, dependable, strengthening, helpful, all powerful, wise, guiding, protecting, correcting, saving Word.

Great Joy – Nehemiah 8:9-12

Christmas is a time of joy to the world. It’s a time of great joy to all people. It’s a time of joy bells ringing and choirs singing the glad announcement that The Savior is born.

We see this emphasis in the announcement the angel made to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The angel could have said, “He will bring you great prosperity”, or “He will bring you a successful career”, or “He will bring you super intelligence”, but he didn’t. This good news will bring to all of mankind the antidote for its sorrow, that of “great joy”.

It seems that this season of “great joy” has become anything but that for so many folks. There’s a striving, a sadness, a loneliness, an emptiness in so many throughout the year, and that’s only magnified during the Christmas season.

God knew of mankind’s need for “great joy”. The sadness and despair that had plagued humanity from the moment sin entered in and fellowship was broken with God needed a remedy. And “great joy” was the heavenly antidote for the sadness of man’s sorrowful hearts.

Loads of money won’t solve it, a successful career won’t solve it, super intelligence won’t solve it. Only the Good News of The Savior’s birth will bring to mankind “great joy”.

You’ve heard of the phrase, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”. Maybe some of us think that verse is found in Psalms. It sounds like something David would write. Or maybe Solomon wrote it as part of his Proverbs. Or maybe Moses penned it in some of his writings. Maybe it’s a New Testament writing by the Apostles Paul or John. But this phrase we know so well is found in our text today in Nehemiah, and it’s context gives us the understanding of why it was said and how we can apply it this Holiday season and all year ’round.

Nehemiah 8:9-12, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.”

There’s a couple of things this passage tells us today.

First, Understanding God’s Good News Brings Sorrowful Repentance

These people were so upset. They knew they had sinned. They knew they had been rejecting God. Their understanding led them to godly sorrow which led them to repentance and salvation.

Paul spoke of this when he said in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Know this, satan would want you to live in worldly sorrow, to remain in condemnation for your sins, to live in a constant state of NOT being joyful. He wants you to think you’re never good enough, that you don’t deserve forgiveness, that you’ve messed up too much, and that you’ll never measure up to God’s standards of holy living. “It’s just too late for you”, he says.

But satan is the father of lies. God says you’re loved and you’re forgiven. So don’t be sad any more. Don’t cry. Don’t mourn. Instead, REJOICE!

That’s what Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites were saying to the people that day, “Don’t be sad! Be glad! This is a day of celebration and rejoicing! You’ve been made aware of your sins, and your sorrow has led to godly repentance and right relationship with God!”

That’s where we all are today as Believers. We’ve been forgiven. Our past is forgiven and forgotten by God. Godly sorrow has led to repentance and we are now children of the King!

Listen as Paul continues with the fruit of godly sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:11 says, “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, and what readiness to see justice done.”

Godly sorrow produces:

An earnestness, which is a deeply sincere, sober intention to serve God wholeheartedly.

An eagerness, which is living for God with gusto and excitement

An indignation, which is a righteous anger against evil and sin

An alarm, which is a holy fear and reverence for God

A longing, which is an unabated desire & hunger for more of God

A concern, which is giving God our complete, undivided attention always

And a readiness, which is a desire to see the final justice pronounced on sin at the return and eternal reign of Christ.

Godly sorrow is a necessary element in our repentance. It’s a conviction of the Holy Spirit who will birth and nurture the qualities that help us begin and maintain a life that is ever growing and effective for Him.

Isaiah spoke prophetically of Jesus, and Jesus read this very passage in the Temple at the beginning of His ministry, to describe what He came to earth to do.

Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”

Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Jesus came to comfort those who live in a constant state of hopeless mourning, to get us out the ashes of sorrow and place a crown of life upon our heads, to exchange our sorrow for joy, our mourning for gladness, to robe us in a garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness and despair.

A robe, a crown, a reason to rejoice today and a hope for the future! Sounds like a King’s kid to me!

So let’s move beyond our sorrowful past and look around in thanksgiving to what He’s done and look forward in joyful celebration to what He has in store for His children!

But let’s not stop there!

Once the people got it, they needed to share it. You just can’t keep good news to yourself! So their understanding God’s Good News brought sorrowful repentance, but then their –

Embracing God’s Good News Brought Joyful Sharing.

Listen again to what happened. Ezra and his team said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.”

The shepherds did the same thing. Luke 2:17-18 says, “When they had seen (the baby Jesus), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Just moments before the shepherds had been in their usual spots doing their usual things that had gone on for generations before. There was little hope, little joy, little expectation that anything would ever change.

Then suddenly things changed for ever. They couldn’t keep it to themselves. They had just experienced the revelation of Jesus the Messiah and couldn’t wait to go around joyfully sharing the good news of great joy with those who were living in sorrow & despair. They brought hope to the hopeless, joy to the sorrowful, and gave the Bread of Life to those who had nothing.

So many today are like those in Nehemiah’s day and when the shepherds heard the Good News. They doing their usual things in their usual way with little hope, little joy, and little expectation that anything will ever change. They’re stressed, alone, and living in worldly sorrow that eventually will lead to death. They need the joy of the Lord to be their strength.

In this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s be thankful for the godly sorrow in our lives that has led us to repentance and salvation. But let’s also keep at the forefront of our daily activities that we’ve been called to share this Good News with those who have nothing. We see them everywhere. Those who are living in earthly, joyless, worldly sorrow.

Let’s not let this truth get lost among all the tinsel and lights.

As the shepherds did on that first Christmas Day, as those in Nehemiah’s day did to those who had nothing, let us share the Good News with those around us. Let us take the food of hope to those who have none. Let’s wrap up a life giving meal and deliver it to those who are in desperate need of true joy. Let us go around sharing the Good News with those who are living in mournful despair.

There’s an old saying that goes, “The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.”

Let’s give away the love of Jesus to those who so desperately need it.

It’s the good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, for unto us is born this day in the city of a David, a Savior, the Hope to replace all hopelessness, the Richness to every poor soul, the Mender of every broken heart, the Liberator for every captive prisoner, the Comforter to all who mourn, the Provider for those who lack, the One who exchanges a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

His joy is our strength. He is Christ The Lord.