Seize the Moment – Day 989

Boast in the Lord!

Ezra 8

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Thursday, December 1.

 

Does God get glory from your success? That all depends on whom you boast! Ezra was caught in a catch-22 as he prepared to make the four-month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, which covered approximately nine hundred miles of dangerous terrain. The priest describes his predicament in Ezra 8:21-23:

 

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.

 

Ezra was an expert in God’s Word, so, in doing what he did, he was doing more than trying to save face with Artaxerxes the king of Persia. He was exercising his faith in God’s promise from Deuteronomy 20:1-4, which had been invoked previously by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 31:1-3). Ezra knew that the victory belonged to God, not in horses or chariots. Ezra 8:31 records the fulfillment of the promise in Ezra’s decision to entreat the Lord rather than the king for the caravan’s safety, “Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way.”

 

Seize the moment and boast in the Lord – “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God” (Psalm 20:7; cf. Proverbs 21:31; Jeremiah 9:23-24).
 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 

 


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Seize the Moment – Day 986

The Eye of the Lord Watches Over Me!

Ezra 5

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Monday, November 28.

 

You’ve heard parents say, “I’m keeping an eye on my children.” You can feel the love and concern for their children’s safety in this statement. This nurturing image is used in the Bible to express God’s concern for His people.

 

After the previous chapter’s broad stroke of time, Ezra 5 details a specific moment of history – approximately forty years since the proclamation of Cyrus the king of Persia (Ezra 1:1), a time of political upheaval in the Persian Empire. The remnant no longer had a copy of the decree that authorized their work in Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, so a letter had to be written from Tattenai, the governor of the province, to the new king of Persia, Darius (3-17).

 

Ezra 5:5 demonstrates the remnant’s faith in God, “But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until a report could come to Darius, and then a written reply be returned concerning it.” They kept working because they believed God was watching over them. The anthropomorphic phrase, “the eye of their God” is also found in Deuteronomy 11:12 regarding God’s protection of the Promised Land; in 1 Kings 9:3 regarding God’s care for Solomon’s Temple; and in Psalm 33:18 of  God’s love for His children (cf. Job 36:7).

 

What a beautiful truth that God is watching over us to protect and provide for us. I recently heard a man declare this truth in song at a funeral for his beloved family member, “For His eye, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know, I know He watches over me” (based on Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 6:26). That comforts me!

 

Seize the moment and rest in God’s watchful gaze – He has His eye on you because He cares about you, so cast all your anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 

 
 

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Advent 2022 – Week 1

Welcome Home: Inviting Jesus to Make My Heart His Home!

“A Home of Hope”

Psalm 62:5-8

 

He was fresh out of the military and multiple deployments oversees. He saw ghosts during the day and fought them in his sleep. He saw the eyes. The eyes that never blinked. The eyes he would never forget. The eyes that looked back at him every time he shaved. They weren’t his own, but they were the eyes through which he experienced the world. The drinking helped, but it was never enough. He was desperate for peace but found none. He told himself he was unforgiveable for what he had done; what those eyes saw him do. What he knew he was guilty of. His buddy told him that he had found some peace after becoming a part of a group that met a couple times a week. He said they talked about real life, prayed about real struggles, read from the Bible, and found real answers, helped each other out in real ways. He was happy for his buddy. God knows everyone needs a little peace in this hell of a world we live in. But they weren’t him and they hadn’t done what he did. He had to be cursed because it sure did feel like his demons were getting the best of him. He called up his buddy, not knowing where else to turn. It was late, really late, he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t want to sleep. Nights were hard. His buddy answered the phone. They were going to meet at Steak-n-Shake in 30 minutes. His buddy told him that he had been praying for him and that he had been waiting for this moment. He told him that he had some good news to share with him. God knows he needed some good news. He wasn’t sure how much more he could take of this hopeless existence. He walked out the door to go meet with his buddy, hoping to feel hope for the future again.[1]

 

This is a situation that has been playing out for generations, in many shapes and sizes. There are the lost stories of the Civil War and World War I veterans who came home. There are the whispered stories of the World War II & Korea War veterans who came home. There are the loud stories that I grew up with of the Vietnam veterans who were homeless and struggling with substance abuse. There are the sensational stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home lost to themselves and their families, with devastating suicide rates.

 

These stories of veterans coming home from war and struggling to transition back into their families and communities have a theme – the soldier may have left the war to come home, but the war didn’t leave them just because they came home. We’ve said, “Welcome home!” Now let’s welcome soldiers home from war in a way that invites them to experience the qualities of a home of faith that will be healing to them and to all our families – a home, which is characterized by hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a homecoming, for both those at home and the soldier who is returning. The home itself must be actively prepared to be a home of hope, love, joy, and peace, just as the soldier must intentionally work on transforming his mind and heart from a posture of hyper-vigilance (called “Battle Mind”) to being in a posture of rest. Jesus wants to make His home in each of our hearts and in all our homes, and it is His presence in our hearts and homes that transforms us.

 

This Christmas, I am inviting you to surrender your heart to be Christ’s home so that your home may become a home of hope, love, joy, and peace – a place where the weary of mind and body, and heavy-burdened of heart and soul, can come and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). If you want to transform your home, you must start with your own heart – you must become a person of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 

Today, the message will focus how our faith invites Jesus Christ to transform our hearts into a home of hope. Our Scripture for this message is Psalm 62:5-8:

 

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

 

Selah invites us to take a breath, pause, and pray. So let us do that. Let us be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Let us pray.

 

As we see in our passage today, a home of hope is a place of patience – a people who have learned to be still, to wait in silence, to trust God in the uncertainty and unknowing. We create a safe place for soldiers to come home when we are a patient presence for them and create space for grace amid the struggle and turmoil of stress, uncertainty, insecurity, and fear.

 

We come to know that God is our refuge only after we have learned how to hide ourselves in Him. It is easy to hide yourself behind a façade of success, a busy schedule, a nice appearance. But hiding in anything but God only leads to a loneliness that seeps into our souls. We hide in God so that we can risk being seen by others.

 

We come to know that God is the rock of my strength only after we have learned to build our lives firmly upon Him – the rock, the only secure foundation. It is tempting to build our lives on our jobs and reputations, our volunteer efforts and good works, and our pleasures and hobbies. When we build our lives on anything other than God, we are building our lives on shifting sands. We build on the rock so that we can risk being involved in real ways in real life.

 

We come to know that God is our salvation when we learn to put our trust in Him alone. It is preferable to keep ourselves as the center of our lives, to fight for control, to carry the full weight of responsibility for our own destinies, but when we do so we never learn to trust anyone else, and we end up crushed by our inability to carry the load to the finish line. We trust God alone for our salvation so that we can risk loving and trusting others in everyday life.

 

We must wait upon God so that this hope gets in our bones, so that our faith is a truth that transcends a propositional statement. Faith is meant to be what upholds us as we learn to hope in what we believe is true and wait upon the God who promises to deliver on our faith. A home of faith gives us the hope we need to be a soft place to land and a space of grace for living.

 

Hope is a right expectation in God – I wait upon Him knowing that He will show up in my situation. As the prince of prophets taught us in Isaiah 40:28-31:

 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

 

Hope is not wishful thinking – it is the certainty of Immanuel, God is with us! The Christmas miracle provides you stability during the trials and tribulations of your everyday life. Today, the first Sunday of Advent, we are invited to remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, which was awaited for a thousand years, from the time of God’s promise to King David, and for four hundred years since the faithful remnant of Jewish people received the promise of God in Malachi 3:1, “‘Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

 

The Jewish people were forged in a long season of waiting. When Jesus Christ came, the messengers of God proclaimed the fulfillment of their waiting in Luke 2:8-14:

 

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

 

It’s as if they were saying, “The wait is over! God has delivered on His promises! Your hope has been fulfilled. The victory has been won, and bestowed upon you, through faith in Jesus Christ! Don’t miss it!”

 

And I say to you, “DON’T MISS IT!” As those who believe in the Christmas miracle, hope is our superpower because hope never disappoints. God’s promises are worth waiting for, no matter how long you must wait for their fulfillment. As Paul promises in Romans 5:1-5:

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

 

Hope is a mindset – a mental perspective that anchors your everyday life and situations in the reality of God and His victory over the devil, death, and sin through His Son Jesus Christ. Hope is an “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19), which allows us make space for grace in our hearts and homes. If we want to welcome home the soldiers, then we need hope to be an essential quality of our lives. This hope is forged into our lives as wait for the Lord’s second coming. We conclude with the declaration of this hope from 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11:

 

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

 

Let us wait upon the Lord’s return, and in doing so, may the Holy Spirit transform our hearts into a home for Jesus Christ – a home of hope – a safe place to invite the soldiers to come home and find rest for their souls.
 
 

You can listen to this message by clicking below:

 

You can watch this message by clicking HERE.

 
 
 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] I found this story in my files. I’m not sure if I originally wrote it or if someone else did, but either way I modified it for this sermon. I am happy to give credit where credit is due, if I knew, all glory to God!


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Seize the Moment – Day 983

Face Frustration with Faith!

Ezra 4

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Friday, November 25.

 

Every single one of us will face frustrations. Trials and tribulations are a part of life, just like Jesus explained in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

Having faith and seeking to walk in the will of God does not give you a free and clear passageway through the frustrations and tribulations of living under the sun. Rather, faith gives you access to the Good Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, who promises you peace by walking with you through your valleys – “I fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

 

The remnant of Israel had to cry out to the Good Shepherd to walk with them through frustrations and tribulations. Ezra 4 provides snapshots of nearly a century of opposition that the returning Israelites had in rebuilding Jerusalem. Ezra 4:4-5 introduces the opposition,
 
“Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

 

These frustrations did not last for a single town council meeting or a string of difficult congregational meetings; rather, the opposition to God’s plans lasted for decades. Would you persevere in the work of God if you had your initiatives approved by one administration, only to be shut down by the next? Would your church remain unified when the neighbors disrupted your work with threats, complaints, and discouragements? How do you face frustration – in faith or fear?

 

Seize the moment and don’t walk alone when you face frustrations! Cry out to the Good Shepherd of your soul to walk with you through the valley of the shadow (Psalm 23).

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 


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Seize the Moment – Day 982

The Day of Small Beginnings!

Ezra 3

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Thursday, November 24. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

There are many reasons to be thankful today so count your blessings one by one! God is doing a new work in our midst, but we must have eyes to see it. The remnant of Israel had to be reminded of this very thing in Ezra 3:11-12:

 

They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy.

 

This was not a time to weep so God sent two prophets to encourage the remnant and give them courage to persevere in the rebuilding of the temple. In Zechariah 4:10, the prophet asked a piercing question, “For who has despised the day of small things?” Boldly, in Haggai 2:9, the Lord trumpeted to those who were weeping, “‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the Lord of hosts.”

 

The prophets were exhorting the people to persevere in the work of the Lord and to not be discouraged by how these small beginnings compared to what it used to be – God was doing a new work! Paul exhorts in Philippians 3:13b-14, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

Seize the moment and don’t despise small beginnings – every new work must begin with a single cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22). Build your life on the firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ today (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 


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Seize the Moment – Day 981

Firmly Rooted in God’s Promises!

Ezra 2

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Wednesday, November 23.

 

When you transplant a tree or plant from one location to another, you can’t just pull it out and place it on top of the ground. It’ll die! You need to dig around it to ensure you have the root system in place, then you need to prepare the ground for it to be firmly rooted in its new location.

 

God preserved a remnant so that He could transplant them back into the Promised Land. Ezra 2 is a long chapter of names and numbers, introduced by verses 1-2:

 

Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. … The number of the men of the people of Israel:

 

The introduction ended with a faith declaration – these are “the people of Israel.” Remember that Israel is the covenant name of God’s people, which God gave to the patriarch Jacob in Genesis 35:10-12:

 

God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.”

 

After seventy years of captivity in Babylon, Ezra was reminding the remnant of who they really were and why they existed. He was giving them deep roots so they would thrive where they were transplanted to grow – in Jerusalem.

 

Seize the moment and be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19; Colossians 2:6-7). God has given you deep roots so you can bloom where He has planted you!

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 980

Be an Unlikely Hero!

Ezra 1

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Tuesday, November 22.

 

The book of Ezra begins exactly where the Chronicler left off – with the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that after seventy years Israel would return to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. Interestingly, God’s hero of the first chapter of this post-exilic history book is not an Israelite, but a Persian king named Cyrus, who, after conquering the Babylonian Empire, was moved by God to “build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (2 Chronicles 26:23; Ezra 1:2). Cyrus was an unlikely hero!

 

The first temple in Jerusalem was constructed by Solomon, and it was destroyed by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, some four hundred years later. As you learned from our journey through the Kings and Chronicles, those centuries were filled with division and devastation as Israel struggled to worship God with pure devotion.

 

But God, in His great compassion, redeemed Israel and chose to give them another chance. God did so by utilizing the resources at His disposal – real people in real history. In Ezra 1:3, Cyrus the king of Persia decreed to the remnant of Israel in Babylon, “Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.”

 

If it wasn’t for this unlikely hero, God’s people would have been left in exile. If it wasn’t for this pagan ruler, God’s Word, through His prophet Jeremiah, would have failed. But that’s impossible because God promises that His Word “will not return to Me empty” (Isaiah 55:11). God uses real people in real history to bring about his purposes. That means God can use you.

 

Seize the moment and be an unlikely hero in your world today. You never know how one faithful act of obedience could change history for a person, or a people.

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 979

Heed God’s Discipline!

2 Chronicles 36

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Monday, November 21.

 

Growing up, my dad would travel for work and my mom would be left at home outnumbered by us boys. We were always pushing one another’s buttons and pressing the limits of our mom’s patience, but there was one warning that we heard again and again, “You wait until your father gets home and hears about this.” Mom warned us of the coming danger…

 

The last chapter of 2 Chronicles walks through the last four kings of Judah – Jehoahaz (or Joahaz, 1-3), Jehoiakim (4-8), Jehoiachin (9-10), and Zedekiah (10-21). But the focus is not on the kings themselves; rather, it’s on God and why He brought justice to His people. As 2 Chronicles 36:21 explains, it was at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire that Jerusalem was destroyed and Judah was exiled, “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete” (cf. Leviticus 26:34-35).

 

Jeremiah gave this word in Jeremiah 25:12 and 29:10, but he was not the only prophet to have warned them of God’s coming justice, as 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 states of God’s compassionate efforts to rescue His people from the consequences of their rebellion:

 

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy.

 

I get it now that I’m older and a parent myself – I should have listened to my mom’s warnings. In the same way, we need to pay attention to the Spirit as He speaks to us through God’s Word – Jesus is coming and only He can rescue you from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 5:9).

 

Seize the moment and heed God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11)!

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 

 
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 972

Lead by Example!

2 Chronicles 31

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Monday, November 14.

 

Whose example are you following? In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul invites, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Similarly, in Philippians 3:17, he exhorts, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” Paul is being very clear about following leaders who are walking in the way of Jesus. If a leader is not first following Jesus, then that leader has nowhere good to take you!

 

King Hezekiah is a leader I would follow. He led by example so that when he asked anything of his people, they knew that he was leading them in the right direction. A powerful example of this, then and now, is how a leader handles his or her money. Hezekiah followed the example of King David, as described in 2 Chronicles 31:3-4:

 

He also appointed the king’s portion of his goods for the burnt offerings, namely, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons and for the fixed festivals, as it is written in the law of the Lord. Also he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the law of the Lord.

 

Hezekiah was an excellent leader because he followed the ways of God, as testified about him in verses 20-21,
 
“Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the Lord his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.”

 

Seize the moment and follow the example of Jesus Christ – “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6). Be a person worth following!

 

God bless you!

 

If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.

 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.

Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.

 


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Train to Live on Mission – Week 36

Battle Drill #36:

Learn Discernment to Make Wise Decisions!

Proverbs 26:16 (NAS95)

Pastor Jerry Ingalls, First Baptist Church of New Castle, Indiana on November 13, 2022

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the next battle drill – “Learn Discernment to Make Wise Decisions!”

 

It is my desire to train you to make wise decisions in a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual way, no matter the pressure of the situation or the stress you’re under. It is for this reason that I went through the rigors of the US Army Ranger School, to learn how to apply the military decision-making process (MDMP) under duress and in extreme situations. I wanted to be the very best leader I could be to accomplish the mission. While I learned MDMP in a classroom environment first, it had to be trained into me so that it was reflexive, instinctive, and habitual. That does not happen by accident! I needed to be able to lead soldiers in ways that defeated the enemy and accomplished the mission, just like we need to be trained to heed God’s wisdom and make wise decisions based upon it. I can’t put you through a spiritual ranger school, but I can open your eyes to the reality that God is using your everyday life as just that – the ranger school of life to teach you discernment. Let’s give our pain and suffering meaning for the glory of God (James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:1-5).

 

Discernment, according to the Bible, is the capacity for rational thought and the ability to make wise decisions, to understand what is right and true, and to act upon it. In other words, the discernment that we are to cry out for is not that God should make the decision for us, but that He would give us the capacity to know what is right, to understand truth, and to act upon that information to make good decisions that glorify Him and manifest the good fruit of His Spirit.

 

When people approach me to seek counsel on the will of God for their lives, I teach them that discernment is more about how you make the decision, than about what decision you end up making. While I do believe what we do matters (of course it does!), I believe discernment is the why and how of the what. If you learn how to discern God’s will, then you will more times than not choose life and blessing. This is the exact opposite mindset of the “Magic 8 Ball” understanding of God’s will that so many people use in their prayer life, which, by the way, is the complete absence of the wisdom God entrusted to you with a brain to learn how to use and apply to your everyday life. Quite the opposite, discernment is the ability to apply the wisdom of God to real life decisions, using the agency and faculties God has commanded you to steward as one who is wise – Don’t be a fool, learn discernment to make wise decisions!

 

Let’s turn to the Field Manual and take the first step of a soldier’s training regimen.

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs 26:16,
 
“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet [discerning] answer.”
 
This is what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply it to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

For each soldier to be on the same sheet of music with their Commander, if that is even possible on this side of Heaven, we must strive towards the goal of wisdom by reading from the same field manual – the Bible – and by training ourselves for godliness according to the same training regimen (1 Timothy 4:6-8). Today, we are learning that we must prioritize the urgency of making right decisions as individuals and as a member of a spiritual community called the body of Christ.

 

The word translated “discreet” in today’s battle drill is more often translated discernment, as in Psalm 119:66, “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments.” Another time it is used serves as a beautiful illustration of today’s battle drill, from 1 Samuel 25:32-34, when David praised Abigail for being wise and admonished her husband, Nabal, for being a fool:

 

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male. [emphasis added]

 

Abigail applied wisdom to her situation by assisting David and his men who had protected her husband’s flocks, even though her husband refused to help David, and, in fact, was so foolish as to offend David and throw gasoline on his burning anger. If it wasn’t for Abigail’s discernment all her husband’s household would have been destroyed that day.

 

Remember, discernment is the ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in a rational decision-making process which seeks to apply God’s wisdom to your specific everyday circumstances. As we learned from this powerful illustration from God’s Word, we learn that there is a life-or-death reality to our need to learn how to apply today’s battle drill. Solomon made this urgency clear in how he gave multiple examples to the importance of “giving a discerning answer” in Proverbs 26:17-28:

 

Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “Was I not joking?” For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body. Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are burning lips and a wicked heart. He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred covers itself with guile, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. He who digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him. A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

 

The urgency of learning how to apply God’s wisdom to our everyday lives in a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual way, no matter the pressure of the situation or the stress you’re under, brings us to the third action step of a good soldier of Jesus.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

Biblically, the process of knowing and proving God’s will for your life begins with the same step for every member of the body of Christ, as Paul explained in Romans 12:1-2:

 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

We must first decide to gather around the Commander, Jesus Christ, and set our ambition on becoming like Him, gentle and humble in heart, before we can do or decide anything else – this is your spiritual service of worship, being transformed into His image through the renewal of your mind. To emphasize how this renewal of the mind process works, I want to emphasize an important teaching on discernment from Proverbs 2:1-9:

 

My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. [emphasis added]

 

When you examine Proverbs 2:1-9, you see that it is one large conditional statement, an “if-then” proposition:

 

IF you:

  • Receive My words (1)
  • Treasure My commandments in your person (1)
  • Make your ear attentive (2)
  • Incline your heart to understanding (2)
  • Cry out for discernment (3)
  • Lift your voice for understanding (3)
  • Seek wisdom as silver (4)
  • Search for wisdom as hidden treasure (4)

 

THEN you will be able to:

  • Discern the fear of the LORD (5)
  • Discover the knowledge of God (5)
  • Discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course (9)

 

Why is this important? The passage explains that this “if-then” conditional statement holds true in life BECAUSE doing the IF’s puts you in the pathway of God, who:

  • Gives wisdom (6)
  • Speaks knowledge and understanding (6)
  • Stores up sound wisdom for the upright (7)
  • Shields (“He is a buckler” in KJV) those who walk in integrity (7)
  • Guards the paths of justice (8)
  • Preserves the way of His godly ones (8)

 

This is the logic loop of God’s Word and just like in computer code, a conditional statement determines the path on which you will walk in life. But unlike computers, you have free will – the responsibility to make wise choices and deal with the consequences of your choices. If you stop at a red light, then… If you look both ways before you cross the road, then… There is a rationality to an IF-THEN statement that you can train into your life to live on mission for God.

 

This battle drill must become instinctive, reflexive, and habitual. You must make learning discernment to make wise decisions a daily habit of your life. Every promise of God comes with this choice – choose obedience, which leads to life, or choose disobedience, which leads to death! These were Moses’ parting words to God’s people before they entered the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 30:19-20:

 

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.

 

Either consequence – “life and death, the blessing and the curse” – is a promise of God! That’s why the Commander calls us to learn how to “give discerning answers” as today’s battle drill. This leads us to the final action step of our soldier’s training regimen.

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission.

What differentiates the church from every other team or community is that we gather around Jesus and not around a goal or task.
 
No matter how biblical or spiritual the goal may sound, if it is not around the person of Jesus Christ and becoming like Him to reflect God’s image to the world, that task can take you off God’s mission and into your own ambition. While the church is a missional organization, our primary purpose is to become like the One who has enlisted us to Himself so that we can offer Him right worship and bring glory to God. Becoming like Jesus is our greatest calling, and it is only through the spiritual transformation process that the church can ever make wise decisions or live on mission or even offer right worship to Him. To prioritize “doing” before “being” is the fundamental error of the American church. As Ruth Haley Barton stated in her book Pursuing God’s Will Together:

 

We are unified by our commitment to be transformed in Christ’s presence through the work of the Holy Spirit so we can discern and do the will of God as we are guided by the Spirit. We participate in Jesus’ prayer “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done” in our own small corner of the world.[1]

 

If we are going to be a people who live on mission for God, then we must be a people who “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” as our greatest priority (Matthew 6:33). As we just learned from Proverbs 2:1-9, only by God’s grace can we receive wisdom (6), speak knowledge and understanding (6), store up sound wisdom for the upright (7), shield those who walk in integrity (7), guard the paths of justice (8), or preserve the way of His godly ones (8).

 

To make any one of these things the purpose in and of itself, is to risk losing focus on God’s mission. That is why we must prioritize our spiritual formation and seek the transformation through the renewal of the mind that only comes by walking closely with God in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 12:2a). We must be the ones who receive God’s words (1), treasure His commandments in our person (1), make our ear attentive (2), incline our heart to understanding (2), cry out for discernment (3), lift our voice for understanding (3), seek God’s wisdom as silver (4), and search for His wisdom as hidden treasure (4).

 

When we do this, then we will be able to discern the fear of the Lord (5), discover the knowledge of God (5), and discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course (9). Just as Psalm 119:9 simply teaches, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” We train discernment by abiding in God, hiding His Word in our hearts, and prioritizing our lives around His mission! The more we invest daily time into the meditation upon and memorization of God’s Word, the more instinctive, reflexive, and habitual it will be to remain on the path of God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will (Romans 12:2b).

 

Therefore, today’s battle drill of learning discernment to make wise decisions is you deciding to apply what you have learned from Jesus, doing what He would do in each of your circumstances and difficult situations. You learn to make wise decisions by walking with the One who is the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). This was Jesus’ promise for your life when He first invited you to walk with Him, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).

 

It is the Holy Spirit at work in you to bring about God’s will in and through your life as you walk with Jesus, so keep on walking with Him (Philippians 2:12-13). John said in 1 John 2:5-6, “Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

 

Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.
 

You can listen to the message by clicking the below:

 

You can watch the message by clicking HERE.

 
 
 

FOOTNOTE:

 
[1] Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 77.
 
 
 

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