Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not This Time, Not Right Now

As a child I remember hearing my mom tell me, "Not this time" or, "Not right now" more times than I wanted to hear. It's not her fault and she was right to say it to me. These phrases usually followed a selfish request at the check-out line at Safeway, the local grocery store. "Mom, can I have gum? Mom, can I have a Heath bar? Mom, can I have Fruit Stripes gum? Mom, can I get a drink?" Don't get me wrong, sometimes mom would get something for me. Unfortuantely I wasn't as grateful in those moments as I was frustrated in the moments when she said, "Not this time."

As a parent of three request-laden sons, I understand why she told me "not right now." Sometimes I say "not right now" for health reasons (i.e. I don't want to have to take you to the Dentist 5 times a year for cavities from all the candy). Sometimes I say "not this time" because we can't afford it. Sometimes I say "not right now" because I want them to learn the value of earning what they get.

As many times as I heard, "Not right now" in my life, I never remember hearing my mom say it when I really needed her. If I was hurt my mom never said to me, "Not right now." If I had a rough day at school and needed a hug she never said, "Not this time." When my grandmother passed away and I cried she didn't push me away and say, "Not right now." My mom loved me- and I knew it because she was always there for me when I really needed her.

In John 11 the Bible tells the story of a family who really needed Jesus. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was deathly ill. This was not just any family to Jesus: "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (John 11:5). Because they knew Jesus could heal Lazarus they sent word asking Him to come.

This was not a request for a Heath bar: this was a request for healing. It was a deep and profound request- if Jesus comes, Lazarus lives. If He doesn't, Lazarus won't make it. So how did Jesus respond? "When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was" (John 11:6). He said, "Not this time. Not right now."

That's a tough answer to swallow, and what they feared would happen without Jesus did happen. Lazarus died. And to make matters worse, Jesus could have done something about it, but He didn't. Without a doubt the questions started circulating, "Why? Why didn't Jesus come? Doesn't he care? Is there something wrong with me? He got the word, didn't he? Where was Jesus when I needed Him the most?"

That's what Martha and Mary said to Jesus when he finally came- four days late, as it turned out. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21, 32). "Lord, where were you when I needed you the most?"

I have heard people say, "God is rarely early, but He is never late." Not for Mary and Martha. It was too late. Lazarus was dead. Jesus himself said it to His disciples- "Lazarus is dead" (John 11:14). Dead is dead, or so we thought.

To Martha's respectful complaint Jesus spoke words of hope- "Your brother will rise again" (John 11:23). Martha reasoned, "Oh yes, Lord. I know. I've been to funerals before. I know that we will see our loved ones again one day. But what about right now? Why didn't you come when I needed you?"

He had a reason- in fact, 3 reasons for coming four days too late:
  1. Jesus knew this death was going to put the glory of God on display- When he received the first message about Lazarus' sickness Jesus replied, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4).
  2. Jesus knew this death was going to deepen the faith of His disciples- "Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that you may believe" (John 11:14-15)
  3. Jesus knew this death was going to bring life. Jesus came to Lazarus' grave and said, "Take ye away the stone. And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus come forth.' And he that was dead came forth...Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him" (John 11:39, 43-45)
Lazarus wasn't the only one raised from the dead that day. The faith of the disciples rose to new heights as they watched a dead man raised to life, the glory of God rose out the ashes of death, and unbelievers were raised from death to life when they believed, with full assurance, that Jesus was "the resurrection and the life." (John 11:25).

Sometimes God allows a death to bring glory to Himself. Sometimes God allows a death to deepen your faith. Sometimes God allows a death to bring life. Remember that truth the next time you pray and God answers, "Not this time. Not right now." Just because Jesus doesn't come doesn't mean He doesn't care. Where is God when you need Him the most? Where is God when you need a breakthrough that doesn't seem to come? Where is God when your circumstances are consuming you? He's right where you need Him to be, even if you think He should have been somewhere else.

"Not right now" and "not this time" doesn't mean never. It means that you will be amazed on the other side. You will see God's glory. You're going to grow. Others will be brought to life. Sorrow lasted for a night...or four. But joy came in the morning. It always does.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 12 of 50 Days of Prayer- All Calls from God Are Not Equal

All calls from God are not created equal. Consider these three calls of God from scripture:
·         Abraham: “Now the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.”(Gen. 12:1).
·         Moses: “The cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have seen [their] oppression…Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:9-10)
·         Jonah: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:1)
All calls of God are not created equal. Abraham’s call was to leave His country for an unknown destination while Moses and Jonah knew exactly where they were headed. Moses’ call was to stand before the most powerful man in all of the known-world and demand the release of God’s people, Jonah’s call was to preach God’s message of impending judgment to a city completely given to evil and idolatry but Abraham wasn’t called to say anything. Abraham was called to go with his entire family, Moses was allowed to take Aaron along, but Jonah would be going alone. Moses received His call from a burning bush while Abraham and Jonah didn’t. All calls of God are not created equal.
When God calls there is only one right response: faithful obedience. When God called Abraham, he “departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him” (Gen. 12:4). After debating God about whether or not He had chosen the right man for the job, “Moses took his wife and his sons…and he returned to the land of Egypt” (Ex. 4:20). Abraham made it to Canaan and God multiplied His family just as He promised. Moses went into the court of Pharaoh and demanded the release of God’s people, and God brought deliverance to the people just as He promised.
Jonah took a different route. He went the opposite way- “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa” (Jonah 1:3). One terrible storm and three nights in the belly of a great fish later, Jonah finally snapped to it. “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord” (Jonah 3:3). Jonah made it to Nineveh, preached God’s message, and the entire city repented before God.
The only right response to God’s call is faithful obedience. Peter realized this important truth in a conversation he had with Jesus on the shores of Galilee. Jesus told Peter that when he grew older he would not enjoy the freedoms and the liberties he once had when he was young. Instead, He would be bound and led where he did not want to go (John 21:18). "This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, 'Follow me'" (John 21:19). Jesus' call on Peter's life was to follow Jesus and give his life in that pursuit.
Peter sensed possible inequality in his call. He noticed another apostle nearby (John) and asked, "Lord, and what shall this man do?" Lord, are you going to ask him to do the same? Are you going to ask him to give his life for you as well? Is he going to have to sacrifice as much? Jesus' response was direct and to the point- "If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to you? Follow thou me" (John 21:22).
Although all calls of God are not created equal, they are the same in two ways: 1) When God calls, He will be with you. If He asks you to uproot your family, go before Pharaoh, preach to a wicked city, walk into a fiery furnace, spend the night in a lion's den, build an ark, preach in some remote, unknown village of the world, pastor a church, serve as a greeter at the church, change diapers in the nursery, lead worship, serve as a deacon or give your life in pursuit of following Jesus- He will be with you. 2) The only proper response is faithful obedience.
The choice is yours. Stop worrying about inequality and focus on obedience. Disobedience will land you in the belly of a whale. Obedience will lead you to be what God has called you to be.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 5 of 50 Days of Prayer- Stop Being So Negative

"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good thing so your youth is renewed like the eagle's." -Psalm 103:1-5

If you want to feel really great about life and the world, watch the evening news (you should be picking up on the sarcasm right here): struggling economy, West Nile virus, a divided country, anti-American protests in the Middle East, government corruption, and (fill in the blank here).

I came downstairs a few nights ago after putting the boys to bed and Leslie had a sad, troubled and frustrated look on her face. I instantly began to wonder, "Uh-oh, what did I do?" She then explained her frustration to me, "I can't watch the news anymore. It's so negative." It's true. It's a sad commentary on our society, but we're almost like piranhas feeding on negativity.

As I read Psalm 103 this morning and worshiped the Lord through music by listening to Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons (listen to the song here), I fell under conviction about my own tendency to be a negative News Anchor for my life. "This morning Robby Pollard went to purchase gas and gas prices have risen yet again. In an unexpected turn of events Robby's son, Luke, had to go to the doctor. The co-pay was $25 and the medication was over $100. This isn't fair. That isn't fair. Why didn't this work out like I thought it should."

Sometimes my outlook is very different than David's. I choose to complain, David blessed the Lord. I have a tendency to focus on the sickness, David blessed the Lord for healing. I am prone to wallow in guilt over my sin and past failures, David blessed the Lord for forgiveness. I can become so easily focused on the destruction around the world, David blessed the Lord for redemption.

Stop being so negative. I'm not saying that we shouldn't face reality. What I am saying is that we should spend more time blessing God and less time complaining. Instead of griping about the cost of gas, bless the Lord for your job, your car and for living in this country! Instead of complaining over a $25 deductible, bless the Lord for doctors. Instead of complaining about the cost of medicine, bless the Lord for the $100 He provided for you to have that medicine. Bless the Lord for your children. Bless the Lord for your health. Bless the Lord for life. Instead of crying about what's fair, bless the Lord for the cross where God, in the ultimate act of selfless love and grace, gave His life for you.

Try it today. When you feel the urge to be negative or complain, bless the Lord instead. Stop being so negative. Stop playing the part of the negative News Anchor of your life, and bless the Lord.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 4 of 50 Days of Prayer- More than You Can Imagine

"Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Eph. 3:20-21)

He is able to do more than we dare to ask, think or imagine. That's an interesting thought. because, as a follower of Christ, I believe God can do anything He chooses to do. In other words, He is limitless in knowledge, power, ability, wisdom, love, holiness. He is better than good- He is perfect.

Yet my thoughts about God aren't quite high enough. He is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think. Incredible. He is more perfect than my idea of perfection. He is more powerful than my thoughts about what all-powerful means. He is more loving than my thoughts about perfect love may be.

He is able to go above it all. In this exhortation to the church in Ephesus, Paul challenges our thinking about God:
  1. God's work in the church is ultimately for His glory.
  2. His power at work in you is to bring glory to Himself.
  3. He is able to do above what you ask or think.
So why not go to Him with lofty prayers for the church? Why place limits on what He can do? Approach His throne today and ask Him to do the very best- because your idea of "best" isn't "best" enough. Then sit back and watch His best radiate in your life and in your church- all for His glory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 3 of 50 Days of Prayer: His Way or the Highway

"No, Luke! That's not how you play!"
"Stop it, Noah- I want to play this way."
"But Luke, this is my game and I'm the boss!"
"Fine, I'm not playing this game. I'm going to play my own game."

I watched this conversation take place right in front of my eyes as I laid down on our game room floor for a little "Trouble! Scooby Doo Edition." For those of you who have not played the game before, here's a simple breakdown: each player has four pieces which start in your base. You take turns "popping" the dice (it's in a little plastic dome). You have to get a "1" or a "6" to get out of your base and start moving around the board. The first person to get all four pieces out of your base, around the board and into your "home" is the winner.

But here's the catch, and the frustrating part of the game (and the reason for the above conversation): if another player's game piece lands on your game piece, that game piece is returned to base and you have to start all over. Now that you know the rules, here's what happened:

Luke and I were having fairly favorable rolls (or pops) of the dice and we were moving around the board with ease. Noah, however, was having trouble popping a "1" or a "6" to get started. He finally rolled a "1" and was super excited. However, the trouble came on the next turn when Luke popped a 4 and landed on Noah's game piece. Noah got upset. He didn't like the rules. He wanted the rules to change to suit him. over.

As I watched this scene unfold I thought about what hinders my relationship with God so many time: selfishness. What I have learned about myself and my kids is that no one had to train us to be selfish. We do it quite naturally, and we're pretty good at it.

That's what makes Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane so powerful, divine and intriguing: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). The "cup" Jesus prayed to be removed was the cup of suffering and death. Make no mistake about it: Jesus knew what He was here to do. He came to earth to give His life on the cross as a payment for my sin and for yours.

In the ultimate act of selflessness, he prayed: "It's not about me, it's about you." Why don't you make this your prayer today: "God, it's not about me, it's about you. Not my will, but yours be done." It might just alleviate your frustration. It will probably end the fighting in your life. And doing His will always leads to victory.

The cross and the empty tomb are proof.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 1 of 50 Days of Prayer: Living On Mission

The mission of the church matters, so Jesus instructed his disciples to "pray about it." Let's be honest: for many Christians this phrase has become a cop out and at times an excuse for disobedience. Unfortunately we spend our time praying about things that, quite frankly, we shouldn't be praying about.

What is the mission of the church? Go. Make disciples. (Matt. 28:19-20, Mk. 16:15, Lk. 24:46-47, Jn. 20:21, Acts 1:8). If Jesus said it, there's no need to pray about it. It's what we are supposed to do. No need to seek God's will: it has been revealed.

Yet Jesus instructed his disciples to pray about it in Matt. 9:38. Having just healed a paralyzed man (Matt. 9:1-8), stood down religious snobs who questioned why he was eating with dirty low-lifes (9:9-17), healed a woman of her sickness, raising a girl from the dead (9:18-25), healing two blind men (9:26-31) and delivering a man from the prison of demon-possession (9:32-34), throngs of people came out to see Him, listen to Him teach and be healed (9:35). When Jesus saw the multitudes, "he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (9:36).

Jesus knew the needs were great. He knew that He had been sent to the earth to do something about it. He was here to make disciples. He was here to heal the hurting, give hope to the hopeless and bring salvation to the hearts of those who would believe. He didn't have to pray about it, but His disciples did. He told them, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest" (9:38).

Do you see why Jesus didn't have to pray and his disciples did? Jesus was living on mission. He was doing the work of the kingdom. He was sent to make disciples and that's what he was doing. You don't need to pray about whether the needs in your community are great. They are. You don't need to pray about whether or not you have been placed in your community to make a difference for God's kingdom. You have. You don't need to pray about whether or not God wants to use you to do something great for Him. He does.

What you need to pray today is not, "Lord, do you want me to make a difference? Lord, do you want me to be serious about your commission? Lord, do you want me to try and lead someone to Jesus today?" What you need to pray is simple, "Lord of the harvest, send me forth into the harvest."

The mission of the church matters, so pray about it. Then live it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Child of God: Move that Bed!

I enjoy watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition. If you haven't seen it, let me give you a brief synopsis. A family is chosen for a complete home renovation. Normally the family has experienced some sort of difficulty that has left them in great distress- hurricanes, sickness, loss of a job, death of one of the members of the family, etc. The stories are powerful and emotional and I admit they often leave me with watery eyes (although I would blame it on allergies when my wife would ask me if I was crying).

The crew shows up, sends the family on vacation, demolishes the old house and builds a new home for the family- in 7 days! Once the project is compete they bring the family home from vacation and place them behind a huge bus. At just the right time the family and the crowd yell, "Bus driver, move that bus!" The bus slowly pulls away revealing the stunningly beautiful home. The music plays, the crowd cheers and the family breaks down in tears (that's when I "struggle with my allergies"). Sometimes the family falls down in the street: other times they stand in stunned disbelief. But all of them go from distressed to overjoyed in one moment. Their lives will never be the same.

Imagine a slightly different scenario for a moment. Imagine the beautiful home on the other side of the bus, but the bus never moves. The family in distress never sees the house and they continue in their life of struggle even though there's a better life on the other side of the bus.

This describes the reality of people all around us. Their marriage is in distress, they've lost a loved one, they've lost a job, they're struggling with raising their children, or they've lost hope. They need a break and a break through. Jesus had an encounter with such a man in Mark 2. When Jesus first met him he was "sick of the palsy," a condition that left him paralyzed, disctressed and hurting (Mark 2:3). Jesus came into Capernaum and was in a house, teaching.

Word got out that Jesus was in town. Just on the other side of town was a man who could heal him, but the paralyzed man couldn't get there. So his friends came over, picked up his bed and carried him to the house where Jesus was. I don't know how far they went. I don't know if it was 10 blocks or 10 miles. I don't know if they had to put the bed down and rest on the journey. What we know is this: their friend was hurting, they could do something about it, so they did and they weren't going to let any obstacles get in the way.

Their friend couldn't walk, so they carried him. The house was too crowded to get in, so they went around. The roof was in the way so they went through. What matters in the end is they got their friend to Jesus. When they did, they heard God heal their friend- "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:5). God healed him spiritually...then he healed him physically- "I say unto thee, 'Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house'" (Mark 2:11).

So he did. "Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, 'We never saw it on this fashion'" (Mark 2:12). In the end, when the bed was moved, the whole crowd was amazed. The music played. The crowd cheered. The tears flowed. They glorified God and said, "I've never seen anything like it."

This story would not have happened if the formerly-paralyzed man's friends didn't care enough to bring him to Jesus. It wouldn't have happened if they let all of the obstacles stop them. Look around you for people who are paralyzed with fear, hurt, despair or disappointment and "move that bed!" Bring them to Jesus.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Can't Drop Out of the Race

With such a political fervor in the air candidates have spent the last year posturing and positioning themselves for the election year. There is a lot at stake in an election year. There is much to fight over. There is much to debate. There is much to decide...and there are a lot who drop out of the race.

The reasons vary. Some drop out because of a scandal. Others drop out because the pressure is too great on the candidate's family. Some drop out because of political pressure and others stop their race because they feel like they can't win. The term that is used is "unelectable."

Perhaps this mentality has invaded churches. At pastor's conferences I hear pastors say things like, "It's worse today than it's ever been" (which is a gross overstatement) or "People just don't want to hear the truth any longer." You can hear the resignation in their voices and it is sad and discouraging. It's almost as though they are holding their press conference and with cameras clicking and TV cameras rolling they are saying, "I'm dropping out of the race. The gospel of Jesus Christ is unelectable."

The gospel may be unpopular and it may not be the belief system of the majority, but it is still the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). I believe the good news that Jesus died, was buried and rose again for our sins is the only hope for this messed up world in which we live (1 Cor. 15:1-4) we must not drop out of the race. Christians can't quit.

We must stand with courageous faith and proclaim this hope for the world. I'm a young man (35 years old). I realize that I have a lot to learn. But here's one thing I do know: by God's grace, I want to finish the race. I'm not dropping out. I don't care how unpopular the message may be to others. I'm not concerned with whether or not the gospel is politically correct with its exclusive claims. I believe with all my heart it is the way, the truth and the life and hope is impossible without it.

So whether you're facing the workplace, the classroom, the grocery store or your kids today- run the race with patience. There's a lot more at stake than tax rates and social issues. Eternity hangs in the balance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Giving Up Your Cheerios, Not Broccoli

Let me begin by saying I'm a Lucky Charms kind of guy. I was the kid who would pour me a nice bowl of Lucky Charms and skip over the puffs and dig for the marshmallows. But this post isn't about me, it's about my kids.

When Luke was a baby and started eating solid foods he loved Cheerios. I believe if we would have offered Cheerios for breakfast, lunch and dinner we would have never had any of those arched back, red-faced, closed-lips-which-won't-let-anything-through kind of fits. He loved Cheerios. Broccoli, not so much. When you would put a Cheerio in front of his face his mouth would open, his head would move forward and the face would light up with joy. Hold up some broccoli, his mouth would close more securely than a bank vault, his head would swivel, move and juke with cat-like elusiveness and his face would turn red. I don't miss those battles.

On one particular I was serving breakfast to him- a nice bowl of Cheerios. I was half awake, sitting in the chair beside him watching him go to town on his beloved Cheerios. He was too young to talk but he did something to me that communicated something I'll never forget. He took one of his beloved Cheerios in his fingers and reached toward my mouth. What I am about to say may seem really dumb to you, but my heart melted. My son had offered me a Cheerio.

He had no problem offering broccoli to daddy. He didn't hesitate to offer other vegetables, but he rarely offered to share Cheerios. They were his favorite. They were the best he could offer.

I wonder if we are offering God broccoli or Cheerios? I think we would all like to think we are giving God the best we can offer, but are we really? Is God getting the best or just the leftovers? Is God getting things from us which are a sacrifice or is he just getting what's convenient? It's a good question.

In Nehemiah 8-10 the people of God rededicated themselves to the Lord. In doing so, they made a covenant with God. The covenant is described in Neh. 10:29- "They...entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and statutes." Let me paraphrase: We are entering into a covenant to live in obedience to God.

It's important to understand the depth of this covenant. Incomplete obedience to God is not living in covenant with Him- that is disobedience. Giving God less than the best of your life is not living in covenant with God- that is disgraceful. Living for yourself and giving God the leftovers is not living in covenant with God- that is idolatry.

Living in coveannt with God is obediently giving God the best of your life. After making this covenant with God it affected their attitude toward marriage (Neh. 10:30), it changed their attitude toward obeying God's law regarding the Sabbath (Neh. 10:31), it changed their attitude toward money (Neh. 10:32) and it changed their attitude toward the house of God (Neh. 10:32-39).

The fact that they were willing to give God their best is seen in the word "firstfruits" in Neh. 10:37. The firstfruit was first in order and quality. In other words, they gave to God first and they gave Him their best.

Can the same be said of you? What are you offering to God- Cheerios or broccoli? Are you only willing to give God the leftovers of your life or is He first in order and importance?

I know how it felt when my son offered his best to me. I know the heart of God is moved when His children do the same.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Incomplete Obedience is Disobedience

I consider myself a "compartmentalizer." I'm not even sure if that's a word, but it describes me perfectly. Allow me to define it for you (although you may have already looked at to verify the word). A compartmentalizer is someone who likes to put things into categories. If you were to check my file cabinet at home you would see this is true. I love to file things and have them orderly so I can easily locate them when needed.

However, my tendency toward compartmentalizing bleeds over into my walk with God. Unfortuantely I will sometimes try to compartmentalize the will of God. One comaprtment is labeled "Big Deal to God." The other one is labeled "Not such a Big Deal to God." Now you may not have ever given much thought to your labels, but it is highly likely that you have compartmentalized God's will as well. For example, it is likely that you believe the teaching of "salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone" is a bigger deal to God than the biblical teaching about faithfulness to church, or tithing or baptism.

The problem with compartmentalizing the will of God is it leads to incomplete obedience, as illustrated in Nehemiah 8. After the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt the people found themselves face to face with God's word and His will. The Jewish people had a festival known as the "Feast of Tabernacles" or the "Feast of Booths." God's instructions for how this feast was to be celebrated are spelled out in Lev. 23:33-43: the first day was a Sabbath day of rest (v. 35), seven days of offerings to God (v. 36), keeping of the feast after the ingathering of the harvest (v. 39), and building temporary booths to live in for 7 days (v. 42).

As Nehemiah, Ezra, the priest and the people looked into the word of God something happened- "And they found written in the law which the Lord commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the fest of the seventh month" (Neh. 8:14). It's obvious in other portions of scripture that the people of Israel had celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles at least since the first exiles returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:4). Although they were celebrating the feast, they weren't obeying completely. They had been celebrating the Feast (Big Deal to God), they just had not been making the booths and living in them (Not such a Big Deal to God). Somewhere along the way their compartmentalizing had led to incomplete obedience.

It seems logical, doesn't it? They were keeping the feast for 7 days. Wasn't that enough? Did God really care about the booths? What if they just kept the feast but they did it in another way? The booths weren't nearly as important as the feast, was it? We do this, don't we? I go to church, is it really that big a deal for me to serve? I've been saved by grace through faith, but is baptism that big a deal to God? I am faithful to church, but is it a big deal if I'm not sharing the gospel with others?

Another term for "incomplete obedience" is "disobedience." The slide from "compartmentalizing" to "disobedience" and although it may be more convenient to compartmentalize the will of God, it is harmful to do so. God had a specific reason for asking the people to live in booths- "That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 23:43).

The Feast of Tabernacles wasn't about the people. It wasn't about the booths. It was about the glory of God. The booths were a reminder of God's provision for them in the wilderness. The booths were a reminder of God's deliverance. The booths declared the glory of God among the nations- "He is the Lord our God." That message was lost because the people did not obey completely.

Although we may feel compelled to file some of the teaching of God's word in the "Not Such a Big Deal to God," foler, doing so will cause the message of God's glory to be lost in the shuffle. Your file cabinet for God may look nice, but your life will not declare the message of God's glory as effectively. Complete obedience helps makes His glory known in your life. So stop compartmentalizing and start obeying...completely.

Monday, March 12, 2012

God Plus One is Not A Majority

I have heard pastors and teachers use a phrase to encourage people to be strong and courageous in the face of adversity. Although the intent is good, the theology is completely flawed. Here's the phrase, "God plus one is a majority."

Just one question exposes the flaw in this thinking: Before God created Adam (the first "one" among humans), was God in the minority? Was God sitting around looking for some"one" to agree with Him so He could become the majority opinion or power in the universe? Of course not. Before Adam was, God was. Period. End of story. God is a majority- with or without one.

It might seem trivial, but our flawed thinking about God leads to flawed living. In the book Deuteronomy Moses recounted an event in the life of God's people which vividly illustrates this erroneous mindset. God had delivered the people of Israel from slavery and bondage and had brought them to the brink of the Promised Land in Kadesh-Barnea (recorded in Numbers 13-14). Moses recounted what happened next, "And I said unto you [the Israelites], Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto us. Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged" (Deut. 1:20-21).

When God speaks, the majority has spoken. He's not waiting for your opinion, your strategy or your voice in the matter. If God says, "The land is yours, go take it," then go take it.

That's sound theology, but we doubt the pragmatism of such a statement. So did the Israelites. They sent in spies to see the land (Deut. 1:22-24). They came back with a good report about the land and its abundance (Deut. 1:25). However, they didn't go take the land (Deut. 1:26). Numbers 13 gives us the reason for their hesitation: "Nevertheless the people that dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are walled, and very great...We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we" (Num. 13:28, 31).

Actually, Moses didn't consider it a hesitation. He called it something else: "You would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God." Failure to heed the voice of God is not a failure, mistake or misstep- it is rebellion. But "hesitation" sounds so much better, doesn't it?

So I guess the question you have to answer is, "What is God telling me to do?" Take some time to listen for His voice today. Oftentimes what God asks us to do is much greater than what we can accomplish on our own. The "giants" in our lives are stronger than us. The walls that need to rebuilt are too much for one person to handle. The job is too difficult for us. But that is okay. "Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you" (Deut. 1:29-30).

When Nehemiah stepped up to answer God's call, he was the only one in the nation who heard the voice of God and did something about it. He listened and obeyed God's voice. He went in and took it, just like God said.

God plus one is not a majority. God is the majority- with or without "one." So find out what He is telling you to do. And even if you're in the minority among other people, go take it. Don't hesitate. Listen. Obey. Your God will go before you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fear: the Enemy of Faith and Progress

It's interesting how our fears change over time. When I was a kid I had a recurring nightmare. The dream would start with me on the Pee-Wee baseball field at North Houston National Little League. Behind the fence and rising up above the scoreboard in left field was a huge wall of trees. Because it was my dream I would inevitably make the game winning play in the last inning.

As we celebrated on the field a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex jumped up from behind the trees, let out a huge roar and came crashing through the trees. He took a huge bite out of the scoreboard and started coming after me. My family and I jumped in the car and my dad would speed through the parking lot trying to escape. The T-Rex chased us through the parking lot as we desperately tried to escape to the front gate of the ball park. However, with each step, he was gaining on us. To the right of the gate a man sat playing a guitar with his pet chihuahua by his side. I've never figured out what he was doing there. Back to the nightmare, the tires would screech, the car would swerve and my dad kept the gas pedal down as we sped toward the gate. Right before the T-Rex got to us, we would get to the gate and I would wake up.

I know, it was terrifying just to read, wasn't it? I am a little ashamed to admit this, but as I grew up and moved from the Pee-Wee field to the Majors field and to the Senior Major Field, I would often look at the trees and wonder when the T-Rex was going to come crashing through the trees. On Monday night I took Luke to his baseball practice, and I cut my eyes to the trees once or twice.

While it is true that most of us eventually outgrow our childhood fears, most of us never outgrow fear. Fear is the enemy of faith and progress. We often find ourselves paralyzed by fear- fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of opposition, or fear of failure. Because of this, many of us never get past our fear and make progress in rebuilding the broken down areas of our lives.

In Nehemiah 3 the people overcame their fear of persecution at the hands of pagan rulers and began the important task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Chapter 3 records the names and families of those who stepped out in faith and rebuilt the walls. The moment they stepped out in faith, opposition arose. Sanballat and others who opposed the rebuilding project mocked the Jewish people and hurled insults at them (Neh. 4:1-3). "They'll never be able to do it. They are too weak. They won't be able to revive the dead stones of this wall."

Nehemiah responded to the opposition as we all should: he prayed (Neh. 4:4-5) and he kept on building. Faith was still overcoming fear at this point and the people were able to build the wall to half of its height (Neh. 4:6). But the opposition continued. They devised plans to cause confusion among the people and to stop the work (Neh. 4:7-8, 12). As the opposition continued, the people began to lose faith and fear took over.

When fear overcomes faith we become consumed by "what ifs". "What if I am attacked? What if I am not strong enough? What if I can't salvage my marriage? What if I can't rebuild my broken financial situation? What if I fail? What if I am overrun? What if the job is too big" When fear takes over, discouragement settles in and progress stops.

This happened to the Jewish people as they faced opposition. "And Judah said, 'The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall" (Neh. 4:9). Does that sound like someone you know? Does that sound like you? Are you saying "It can't be done. My marriage is too far gone. My relationship with my child is broken beyond repair. There's no hope for the church. My finances are such a mess that no one will be able to help!"?

Opposition to the work of God in your life is a constant. Jesus said we should expect difficulty in this life (John 16:33). However, when you see an area of your life is broken down and God gives you the vision of what should be, arise and build. Don't stop just because someone says you can't do it. Don't give in because quitting is easier than continuing. Opposition to the work of God in your life is really an opportunity for God to work.

When the people got discouraged, Nehemiah put them behind the wall by families with their swords, speaks and bows. Then he said to them, "Do not be afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses" (Neh. 3:14). In other words, have faith, not fear. When opposition comes, that's the time to fight, not surrender.

What happened in Nehemiah's story will happen in your life. Faith began to overcome fear and the people "returned to the wall, every one unto his work." Your part in rebuilding is to have great faith and work hard. God's part is to turn opposition into opportunities. Trust him. Work hard. And do not fear the "T-Rex" beyond the trees. God is big enough for him as well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Work Smarter and Harder

When I was a Houston Fire Fighter a saying would be used quite frequently by firemen working the scene of a fire: "Work smarter, not harder." This phrase would be used if someone was using his or her hands to do something instead of using a tool which would have made the job easier. Other times it would be used when someone was using his back to lift something heavy rather than using his legs. It would also be used if someone was holding the fire hose or nozzle incorrectly causing him or her to exert too much energy.

However, more often than not, it was used as an excuse to be lazy. Often firemen would whisper it to one another as they watched someone else doing the work. Let's face it, if you had the choice between getting up, walking across the room and scanning channels during the commercial break of the football game or using a remote, who in their right mind would get up when that wonderful device is within arm's reach? We even take it a step further sometimes. Why get up and reach for the remote when you could ask someone else to bring it to you?

Let's face it, we'd all like life to be easy. We mask this desire with phrases like "work smarter, not harder," but at our core we want things our way, we want it now and we want it at the cheapest price possible. That's why we freak out and get frustrated when the person taking our order at McDonald's takes too long or is too distracted and we have to do the unthinkable: repeat our order. "Just take my order, and listen to me when I order it so I don't have to waste my time repeating the order, and give me what I want, right now. And it better be on the Dollar menu."

Unfortunately, the "work smarter, not harder" mindset invades our walk with Christ. When it comes to doing our work for Christ, we should work smarter. It has been my experience that "working smarter" means "having great faith." Faith is simply taking God at His word, so working smarter means:

1. Do only the work God calls you to do.

For Nehemiah, God's vision was clear: rebuild the wall (Neh. 2:5, 17). God did not call Nehemiah to build the temple, build a cistern, build an aqueduct, dig a well, or build a road. God called him to build a wall. So Nehemiah led the people to build a wall (Neh. 2:18, 4:1, 4:6). It is always smarter to only do the work God calls you to do.

2. Trust in God as you do the work.

When opposition arose as Nehemiah and the people strengthened their hands for the work of rebuilding the wall (Neh. 2:18), His faith in God rose to the challenge: "Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build" (Neh. 2:20). Nehemiah's confidence was not in his ability, rather in God's calling.

Now to the second part of the phrase: "not harder." When it comes to working for God, the phrase should be: "Work smarter and harder." Nehemiah 4:6 is a great verse which illustrates this principle: "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." Two important words are used in this verse: "mind" and "work."

The Hebrew word for "mind" is used 593 times in the Old Testament. It refers to the inner man, the mind, the heart, the seat of appetites, emotions, passions and the will. It is the real you at your deepest inner point. It is your core. Working hard means doing a work that is birthed in the depths of your heart, in the secret, quiet places of your soul where only you and God enter.

The word "work" in the Hebrew language is used 2,633 times in the Old Testament. That's a pretty staggering number. Over half of the times it is used (1,333) it is translated "do." God wants you to do something. Great faith doesn't mean just standing around doing nothing. It means stepping out in obedience and working hard.

James said it this way: "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22). Hearing the word is not enough. Application is everything. Application means doing. Your part in rebuilding requires great faith and hard work. When we hear the word, we believe it (great faith). Then, stepping out with courage, we do the work.

Today, commit to no longer standing around and watching others do the work. If your marriage is falling apart, get God's vision of what should be and do the work He calls you to do. Take your wife on a date. Treat your husband to a special dinner. Communicate better. Arise and build. If your relationship with your son or daughter is broken, stop waiting on someone else to do the work necessary to rebuild. Get God's vision of what should be and step out in courage and faith to do the work of rebuilding. Write a letter of apology. Make a phone call. Make a trip. Send flowers. Arise and build with great faith and hard work. If your neighbor's life is broken, get God's vision for your neighbor (just look at the cross for that vision) and do the work: share the gospel, pray with your neighbor, bake some cookies. Stop waiting for someone else to rebuild. You arise and do what God has called you to do. If your church is hurting, get God's vision of what should be (just look at the cross for that vision as well), then do your part to rebuild. Your part in rebuilding requires great faith and hard work. So believe in God, His word and His calling on your life with all of your heart and work with all of your might.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Start With the End in Mind

"And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant has found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it" - Nehemiah 2:5

I recently interviewed a friend of mine who builds custom homes for a living. I asked him a real softball question, "In construction how important is it to have the vision in mind before you start any phase of the construction project?" It was one of those "Duh!" kind of questions, I know. You know what I'm talking about. It's like the reporter who asks the Super Bowl Champion quarterback who just won MVP for his outstanding performance, "How does it feel to win the Super Bowl?" What's he going to say? "It feels terrible?" Of course not. I knew the answer when I asked the question. Everyone knows you have to have the vision before you start to build. In his answer he shared one of the common sayings in the construction industry, "Start with the end in mind." So profound. So simple. So difficult.

Nehemiah was a man that received devastating news about his people and his city- your people "are in great affliction and reproach" and "the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire" (Neh. 1:3). Nehemiah faced reality but God placed in his heart a vision of what should be. That vision is found in the last five words of Neh. 2:5- "that I may build it." God wanted Nehemiah to rebuild the wall. That's the end Nehemiah had in mind.

It is such a simple principle, but "simple" doesn't mean "easy." Many of us try to start rebuild the broken areas of our lives with other things in mind.

We start with our past failures in mind. We acknowledge areas of our lives that are broken down and we even accept our responsibility for those failures. However, we can't forgive ourselves and others in order to rebuild. As we try to rebuild we don't have the end in mind, our past failures are there. This keeps us from building what God wants. We can only build as far as our forgiveness reaches. Nehemiah acknowledged his failures, but those failures did not keep him from rebuilding. God wanted the walls rebuilt, so Nehemiah accepted the forgiveness of God and moved forward.

We start with our guarded hearts in mind. This is especially true in relationships. Once we have been burned by someone, we have a hard time trusting again. We try to rebuild and we try to repair the broken relationships, but rather than a clean slate and new relationship in mind, we start with our guarded hearts in mind. We say things like, "Yes, our relationship can be repaired, but I'll never trust you again. Yes, we should rebuild this relationship, but you have to understand our relationship will never be the same."

Take a moment and think about the broken areas of your life. What relationship needs to be repaired? Does your church need to be rebuilt? Do you need your financial life to be rebuilt? If so, start with the end in mind. Not your end in mind, but God's end in mind. God's vision is always as things should be. Here are a few steps you can take:

1. Confess. Acknowledge your part in creating the mess you're in and take it to God in honest confession.

2. Capture God's vision. Nehemiah got a clear picture of the goal: the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt and the gates restored. To get a clear picture of God's vision for the broken down areas of your life, imagine a blank canvas. In your heart, paint a picture of what that broken down area would look like if it was built by God. That's the vision you need: how things would look if God built it.

3. Start. You can't change the past. You can't undo the mistakes you've made. God doesn't expect that. Confession frees you to move forward. So grab a brush and start painting that picture. The first brush stroke may be a phone call. You might need to send an email. You may need to make a visit. It might be an "I'm sorry." It might be cutting up a credit card. It might mean putting an end to a poisonous relationship. Whatever it is, you have to start rebuilding.

However, as you start, don't keep the past mistakes in mind. Leave out the guarded heart. Step out in great faith and courage. Build what God leads you to build. Start with the end in mind and build for His glory.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Right Place at the Right Time

Nehemiah 1:11- "For I was the king's cupbearer."

I remember the first (and only) time I got paid to play basketball. I was 10 years old and playing in a YMCA basketball league. As we were leaving the gym one day, something on the floor to my left caught my eye- it was a crumpled piece of paper that looked a lot like money. I stopped and picked it up, unfolded it and to my surprise it was a $100 bill. My dad and I went back inside the gym and talked to one of the officials about it. They made an announcement asking if anyone had lost some money. When no one stepped forward, the official looked at me and said, "I guess you can keep it." I was smiling from ear to ear! Do you know how many Nintendo games that could buy?

Sometimes we just find ourselves in the right place at the right time. But not every place and time is pleasant like finding a $100 bill. Nehemiah was such a man whose circumstances (and this is putting it lightly) were unpleasant. His nation felt like it was crumbling. His people had lost their identity. They were "in great affliction and reproach," the walls of their city (Jerusalem) were broken down "and the gates thereof [were] burned with fire" (Neh. 1:3). Not exactly a crumpled up $100 bill, wouldn't you say?

But Nehemiah realized a great truth about his circumstances: "For I was the king's cupbearer" (Neh. 1:11). Huh? Come on, Nehmiah, what does that have to do with your nation, your family, your city and your heritage? Actually, everything. The cupbearer to the king was usually a trusted confidant of the king. He was responsible for testing the king's wine for poison by putting his life on the line and drinking it first. Because of this, no one was more trusted by the king than his cupbearer. The cupbearer was a position of privilege. He was given access to the king who could do something about having Jerusalem's walls rebuilt. Nehemiah realized that he was in the right place at the right time to do something to change his family and nation's situation.

The same is true for me. "For I am the husband to Leslie. I am the dad to Luke, Noah and Adam. I am the spiritual leader of my family. I am the pastor of Berean Baptist Church. I am the friend to...I am the co-worker of...I am the neighbor to..." God has palced me in these places to rebuild what is broken down.

The same truth applies to you. God placed Nehemiah as the cupbearer to the king because he wanted Nehemiah to do something about the broken down walls of Jerusalem. God has placed you in your position to do something about the broken down areas of your life.

What areas of your life are broken down? Do you know someone else whose life is crumbling? God has placed you in the right place at the right time to do something about it. So fill in the blank with all of your positions and relationships: "For I am _____________ (husband/wife, father/mother, friend, neighbor, son/daughter , etc.) to _______________."

Realize that you are in the position you're in to do something about the broken down areas of your life. Your circumstances are no accident. God has put you in the right place at the right time to rebuild the broken areas of your life. As Nehemiah did, admit your responsibility for the areas where you have failed and call out to God in complete surrender. He can use you to rebuild.

Be blessed. Arise and build.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Climbing Out of the Pit

Betrayal. We've all felt the sting, and it hurts deeply. The betrayal of a trusted friend, a wife who betrays the trust of her husband and has an affair, a husband who betrays his family by not providing godly leadership, a child who turns his back on his parents. Betrayal. We've all felt the sting and we all know the hurt.

Joseph was a man who experienced one of the most heinous and vicious acts of betrayal- his own brothers sold him into slavery. Their act of betrayal was fueled by jealousy and envy. Joseph's father (Israel) loved Joseph more than his brothers (Gen. 37:3). Joseph was his father's pride and joy, and it incensed his brothers. To make matters worse, God had given Joseph some dreams that made it clear to his brothers that even God's favor rested on Joseph. Talk about sibling rivalry- it was more than his brothers could handle.

So they sold him as a slave. Because of their act of betrayal Joseph had to suffer through enslavement, imprisonment and hardship- 20 years worth! What made matters worse: Joseph had to suffer for things that were beyond his control. He couldn't help that God gave him the dreams. He couldn't help that his father loved him more and showed favoritism. He couldn't control what his brothers did. He couldn't control the lies of others that landed him in prison.

Sometimes a single act of betrayal can lead to years of suffering. We can't control the words, thoughts and actions of others (and that is so frustrating). We can only control ourselves.

20 years after he was betrayed Joseph had a moment for revenge. His brothers came to Egypt to get some food because of a difficult famine in the land. They didn't know it was him. No one would have ever known had he decided to exact his revenge. However, rather than push his brothers into the pit of betrayal, he pulled them to the power of forgiveness. Rather than pay them back, he gave them food. Rather than push them away he moved his family to Egypt and took care of them through the famine. He returned good for evil- and God blessed him for it.

Truth be known, we have probably spent more time in Joseph's brothers' sandals than we care to admit. You can see this in your relationship with God. We were graciously created in the image of God, yet we betrayed God by our sin. Rather than pushing us into the pit for all eternity, God returned good for evil and sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us. What a picture of grace.

So when you feel the sting of betrayal, realize that God can use it for good if you will respond with grace rather than revenge. In so doing God can tell a beautiful story with your life- even when you find yourself in the painful pit of betrayal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reality Check

Over the past 10 years or so "Reality TV" shows have dominated the airwaves. These shows are really nothing more than an escape from reality. Many of the stars of the show are placed into a spotlight they would otherwise have never been in and millions of Americans tune in each week to watch un-reality play out on their TV screens.

Unfortunately, many of us live as though life is Reality TV. At times it can be difficult to face reality. It's much easier to play the part than face the facts. It's easier to pretend that your marriage is in good shape than it is to face the reality that it is unraveling at the seams. It's easier to spend as though you have money in the bank than it is to face the reality that you are head over heels in debt. It's easier to look the other way when you see rebellion in your kid than it is to discipline your child and guide them toward right behavior.

A man named Nehemiah got a reality check when he received this news about his people: "They are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire" (Neh. 1:3). This is probably not what Nehemiah wanted to face, but it is what Nehemiah faced. This was his reality. My friend, Lester Hutson, used to say, "Things may not be what they seem, but they are always what they are."

Take some time to look around your life today- and look carefully. It is likely that areas of your life are broken down but you have not been facing the facts. The first step toward rebuilding what is broken down is to see things as they really are. Seeing what is broken down is just the first step to rebuilding, but your life can't be rebuilt without this critical step. So don't try to skip it. Look around you. Look for some stones on the ground. Stop escaping reality by denying the facts. Instead, face the facts and change your reality.

Beginning Sunday, Feb. 5 I will begin a series through the book of Nehemiah titled "Arise and Build." It is a story of courage. It is a story of faith. It is a story of hope. It is a story of rebuilding what is broken, and it is a story that changed a nation.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hearing Voices

Gen. 16:2- "And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai."

We all hear voices. I'm not talking about hearing voices in your head, but unless you're living in complete solitude, you are going to hear voices. Adverstisements, suggestions from a friend, an assignment from your boss, a blog, the news. Voices.

Abram (later known as Abraham) heard the voice of Sarai (later known as Sarah), but it went beyond just hearing. The Bible says he heeded what she said. He did what she asked him to do. The problem is Sarah wasn't asking him to take out the trash, mow the lawn, feed the baby or clean his whiskers out of the sink. No, her suggestion was not over such trivial, every day matters. Hers was a suggestion of profound weight and consequence.

God had promised Abraham a son, but in Sarah's mind, God wasn't making good on His promise. So she took matters into her own hands- "And Sarai said to Abram, Behold, now, the Lord hath restrained my from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her" (Gen. 16:2). This suggestions was terrible on so many levels:

  1. It revealed a complete lack of faith in God.

  2. It was a human "fix" for a "God-sized" dillemma

  3. It went against the will of God

We are tempted to look down on Sarah for making such a suggestion because it's so easy to discern looking from the outside in. We look down on Abraham even more for following her suggestion. But let's be real for a second: we've all listened to and followed bad advice at least once in our lives. We've all probably given some bad advice as well.

Here's the crux of the matter: we all hear voices- voices that want our time, our money, our minds, our obedience and our affection. We can't always prevent the voices that speak into our lives, what we can control is which voice we listen to and follow.

Abraham should have "hearkened unto the voice of God" regardless of what He asked Him to do and no matter how impossible it may have seemed. So should you. So start paying attention to the voices you're hearing. Above all the noise, above human solutions to your problems, above good sounding suggestions- listen to one voice- the voice of God. His is a voice of truth.