THE BEAUTIFUL DOCTRINE OF GOD
By Pastor Rob Benardo
In this week’s Tab-A-Letter, Pastor Rob shares with us his Introduction to Ezra and Nehemiah which is our next week’s quarterly lesson. Enjoy!
LESSON #1: Two Men with a message.
In the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, God had a job that He wanted to do through his people- the rebuilding of the city and the temple. The work began hardily but quickly came to a halt and there was a great disappointment. God then sent two men (Haggai and Zechariah) with a most precious message of instruction and encouragement, and the work restarted and finished in record time. Fast-forward 2400 years or so. God’s people had begun to rebuild what had been broken down through the dark ages. However, the rebuilding effort quickly stopped as there was a great disappointment. Soon after this time, God would send two men (primarily) with a most precious message that would encourage and enable the people to finish the work (the cleansing of the sanctuary) and usher in the most cataclysmic event in history- the second coming of Christ. In 1888, the latter rain and the loud cry began to shed their precious saving presence with all the resources needed to prepare a people for translation. Unfortunately, that is where the comparison loses traction. In Nehemiah’s time the temple was finished while we continue to wait. In both cases God was ready to finish the work through His people, but in our case, we would not have it. “We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action” (Evangelism 696). That was written in 1901. The good news is, God will finally have a people that will accept the counsel to the church of Laodicea and usher in the return of Christ that He so longingly desires and deserves! May that day be soon, for His sake!
LESSON #2: Historical Accuracy matters.
It would be hard to read through Ezra/Nehemiah without noticing that there are a lot of detailed accounts of the workers and their job locations, genealogies, etc. Does the history of the rebuilding effort really matter? What about the chronicling of the historical narrative of 1888? Oh indeed it does. Ron Duffield has done an excellent job of showing how there were two streams of data that flowed from the 1888 era, which vary greatly. On stream is polluted with misinformation as to the message and the character of the men whom the Lord used so mightily (Jones and Waggoner), while at the same time glorifying the hearty response of acceptance of the doctrine of righteousness by faith. The other stream runs pure with the truth that the messengers, far from perfect as they were, had been ordained by God and that the message was unfortunately largely rejected and spurned. I have been asked by people; “if the message is so powerful, why spend time rehearsing the history and the rejection? Why not just preach the concepts?” I would answer it this way. It is for the same reasons that the history of Israel was repeated so often in the Bible. It is so that we may learn from the past, accept the fact that we were a part of that corporately, and repent and receive the victory that Christ longs to give. Also, if you believe in the Spirit of prophecy, three hundred non-repeated endorsements are enough to make anyone take notice and want to study more!
LESSON #3: Corporate Solidarity
The corporate solidarity concept comes to us over and over in both Ezra and Nehemiah, especially in their prayers (Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9). Many of the prayers look back at those gone before and seem to be one with the present. When we speak of corporate solidarity, we mean accounting oneself as part of a communal whole. That could be as part of a family, a church, a nation, or the human race as it is used with both Adam and Christ (Romans 5). The corporate concept does not lessen or undermine our individual responsibility in any way. Joel Kaminski in his book, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible puts it this way: “There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the corporate ideas contained within the Hebrew Bible may provide certain key elements to new theological constructs that would take greater account of the importance of the way in which the individual has communal responsibilities. Such a theology is very necessary at a time when it is becoming apparent that many contemporary problems are communal and even global in nature.”
Gleaning from the depths of Ezra/Nehemiah
In Ezra seven, we see that fidelity is rewarded as the people continue the work in spite of their feelings (fears), and in chapter ten, one man’s prayer leads to many prayers, which is followed by hearty repentance. In Nehemiah we find the importance of prayer, strategy, courage, cooperation, unity, dedication, delegation and sacrifice – people that were not wall builders were building the wall. What does a man and his two daughters, a goldsmith and a perfume maker have in common? They were all wall builders! Chapter four shows us that nothing good happens without opposition and slander. We saw there also Nehemiah’s imprecatory prayer, which might sound a bit rough at first, but is clearly very God centered when seen in its context. “And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before you: for they have provoked you to anger before the builders” (Nehemiah 4:5). Notice the focus is not on Nehemiah but on the provocation aimed at God Himself. The thought is not so much about an unwillingness to forgive but a respect for the true representation of the character of God before the builders, and by extension, the world.
We find also in Nehemiah that “building and battle” go together, as well as “wall and war”. Chapter five gives us the imagery of enslaved and powerless people who could not be redeemed. Here Nehemiah steps in as a type of Christ who sets the captives free and redeems the race. Chapter six gives us a picture of wisdom, discernment and victory, while chapter eight highlights praise, prayer, and the primacy of the word of God. Throughout the narrative here, we see that spirituality is not isolated or in a vacuum. For success to occur it involves a succession starting with spirituality, leading to sound strategy followed by sustained effort – all spurred on by the Spirit of God. Surely there are many spiritual gems awaiting us this upcoming quarter!
HE LEADS US HOME
By Lorrie Rietman
We have two dogs: Beni and Bandit. The other day Bandit got outside our yard. A certain red-headed girl let him out the garage door when we were all headed to the van. When I noticed her chasing him around the front yard, I, of course, was frantic to get the dog inside. Unfortunately, Bandit ran across the road and into our neighbor's backyard. Off I went after him, with my two children in hand and a box of dog treats. We followed him into the fields behind the neighbor's house. Then he went running into the woods bordering the fields and I we could not see him. It was a very helpless feeling as I called him and shook the dog treats. We stopped to pray that Bandit would come back. We traversed the whole length of the very large field which looped around a central wooded area as well as being bordered by woods. I had no idea where Bandit was. At the end we turned around and started back home. The whole time Miss Lily was saying "I'm sorry Mommy!" while Nathaniel kept asking over and over again, "where is Bandit? Is Bandit lost?" I did not know what else to do but start back home. I could not hold back the tears. I was frustrated and helpless. As we neared the back side of our neighbor's house, I got a phone call from them. "Lorrie, are you looking for your dog? I see him by the side fence of your house!" "Oh, thank you! Yes! We are almost back home!" We carefully and urgently crossed the road and I walked quickly over to Bandit who now was panting heavily and completely docile. Back into our house I whisked the dog and we stopped to thank the Lord for restoring the dog to us. As we had been walking in the field the thought had come to me, "Is Bandit smart enough to know his way home?" I confess I do not have a high opinion of his intelligence! Apparently, he proved me wrong, or else I wonder if he heard his brother barking. Benji barked the entire time that Bandit was gone. Perhaps Bandit heard the voice of his brother and that led him home.
Every day we pass by lost people. Do they know the way home? Or do they need a brother or sister to call them to show them the way? Bandit was scampering through the woods and fields completely oblivious to the dangerous roads not far away. He was completely oblivious to the fact that he had separated himself from his source of comfortable bedding and a full dog bowl. He had no idea he was jeopardizing his posh life by this wild escapade. He thought he was playing games when he charged away from my grasp while in reality I was trying to protect and save his life. Bandit is like us all without the Lord and he is like so many of our family members and neighbors. We are helpless of ourselves to save our friends but by God's grace He can enable us to keep searching and keep calling. By the grace of God, He will lead them Home in answer to our call.
When you think of financial guardrails, you may think of staying out of debt. Staying out of debt is good, but according to Jesus, you could have zero debt and lots of money in the bank and still be in a ditch financially. Intriguing, right? Keep reading.
In today’s verses from Matthew, Jesus says that all of us are mastered (or owned) by someone or something. Then he gives us two unexpected options: God or money. Most of us would expect him to say we could either be mastered by God or Satan. But Jesus says his chief competitor is our money. Essentially, he tees up the question: Do we own money or does money own us?
Without financial guardrails, most of us will end up in one of two ditches. We’ll either veer off the cliff of spending or we’ll crash over the median of saving. One is unbridled desire: buy, upgrade, repeat. The other is unbridled fear: What if I don’t have enough? What if that happens to me?
In both cases, money is our master. We’re chasing it so we can consume it now. Or we’re chasing it so we can save it and consume it later. We need a financial guardrail that makes God our master. And that’s exactly what we find in Matthew 6:33, tucked at the end of a long talk about how we should view and use our money. It’s just four words: "seek first his kingdom."
God’s kingdom is an others-first kingdom. Or, to use the same words as yesterday: in God’s kingdom, what’s best for other people is what’s best. The guardrail that will keep us out of the ditches of spending and saving is putting others first in our finances.
Give to others first. Save for your future second. Then, live on the rest. Give first. Save second. Live on the rest. And here’s the good news about this guardrail: it can be automatic. Once you’ve identified an organization or cause you care about and set up a system of giving, this guardrail will keep your finances on track without any extra effort or thought.
Devotional taken from - Guardrails: Avoiding Regrets in Your Life by North Point Ministries and Andy Stanley.
UPCOMING EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
LADIES TEA: Oct 7 at 1:00 p.m. in the Dining Room and Oct 21 at Fazoli’s.
VISITATION MINISTRY: We will resume on Oct 19 at 3:00 p.m. in the Seminar Room.
SAVE THE DATES: Oct. 12 – Laura Williams in concert at 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 19 & 20 – Health Fair at the Kellogg Arena - 9:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Oct. 26 – Church Social
Nov. 2 & 3 – Chef Mark Anthony (worship service/cooking class)
Nov. 2 – Ministry Fair after the worship service
USED BOOK SALE: Battle Creek Academy will be having a used book sale on Wednesday, Oct 30, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Looking for Christmas gifts or just want to update your reading library? How about books for the kids or grandkids? We have books in all categories: devotional, history, historical fiction, biographies, cooking, health and wellness, travel, and lots of children's books. Most of these books can be purchased for just one or two dollars! All proceeds go towards special projects at BCA. Add this date to your calendar and plan to stop by the academy for some great bargains.