Thursday
Apr232015

Seek Him first 

Explore the Bible
May 10, 2014

Doug Hibbard
Pastor
First Baptist
Almyra

Haggai 1:1-11, 2:5-9

As we read Haggai, we must read this passage in light of the New Covenant, through the empty tomb, the cross and salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Otherwise, we might mistake it for a building and grounds fundraising text.

First, though, let us examine Haggai in his own time. Haggai is a postexilic prophet, writing after the people of Judah had returned to Jerusalem. The nation of Judah had been taken  fully into exile about 66 years before Haggai wrote. In the invasion that took them, the Temple of Solomon had been destroyed.

Upon their return, despite any initial zeal found in the joy of returning, the people had not rebuilt the Temple. Why not? The people kept saying that the “time has not come” to rebuild the Temple (Hag. 1:2). They rebuilt their homes, even with the luxury of paneling (Hag. 1:4), but left the Temple in ruins. It appears that, at first, they were not seeking God’s ways first (Hag. 1:5), and then they were discouraged because their Temple was nothing like the memory of the first Temple (Hag. 2:5-9). God addresses this concern by promising a greater “final glory” for this second Temple, a glory we see when God puts on flesh and walks into that Temple in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How, then, should we apply Haggai’s words to our lives? Notice the heart of the problem: The people have invested their time and effort into their own benefit rather than in unified worship of the Lord God. In our lives, we need to consider whether or not we have done so. For example, how much energy do we devote to our own hobbies and pastimes? In comparison, how much do we devote to building relationships within the Body of Christ? How much effort goes to building relationships to spread the gospel?

Perhaps we should re-examine how much we put into our own comfort while the world needs to hear about Jesus.

Thursday
Apr232015

Stick with forgiveness

Bible Studies for Life
May 10, 2014

Detra Thomas
Speaker
A Heart for Home Ministries
Fort Smith

Matthew 18:21-28, 32-33

In Matthew 18, when Peter asks Jesus how many times his brother can sin against him and Peter be obligated to forgive, we lean in to listen for the answer.

Peter even offers a number that I am sure he thought was generous. Seven times?

Jesus gives an answer that is discouraging and, to be honest, impossible! Seventy times seven – 490 times!

If you are like me, you sit back in disbelief and think, “No way!”

Then Jesus gives a visual of forgiveness. I lean back in to listen because I love stories that paint a picture of Truth. We learn that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who would have a clerk give an account of the servants. One servant was brought before the king because of his huge debt to his master. Since the servant had made no effort to reduce the debt, the king ordered the man and family to be sold for payment.

The servant fell at the king’s feet and worshipped him, begging for lenience. The king was so moved with compassion at the man’s repentance, he forgave the whole debt.

The now “debt-free servant,” leaves the king’s presence and notices a guy who owes him a very small amount of money. The man who has just left from experiencing the favor and compassion of a great king becomes irate and grabs the man and demands payment. Ignoring the pleas of mercy from his friend, he has the man thrown into prison.

Word gets back to the king.

The forgiven man is called back to stand before the king. The king’s face is no longer looking with favor toward the man. His opening words redefine their relationship: “O thou wicked servant” (Matt. 18:32). The king asks him an important question, a question that you and I would benefit from asking ourselves as well. Ready? “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

The servant’s greatest loss: his favor and relationship with the king.

Thursday
Apr232015

Awestruck 

Explore the Bible
May 3, 2014

Doug Hibbard
Pastor
First Baptist
Almyra

Habakkuk 3:1-6, 11-13, 16-19

If you have not read through all of Habakkuk lately, I would encourage you to do so. Using the Explore the Bible curriculum, we gain a great overview of the Scriptures, but be careful not to lose the context of the whole Book. Habakkuk’s prophecy is in the section we call the “Minor Prophets.” Remember that they are “minor” only because of length and not minor in importance. 2 Timothy 3:16 speaks of “all Scripture” as useful. That means even Habakkuk!

As we read Habakkuk, the parallels between his time in Judah and our time start to show up. While we are uncertain of the exact date of Habakkuk, it is clear that he lived in a time where justice was hard to find. Habakkuk saw many people suffering, struggling with the challenges of life. They dealt with a society that was less interested in helping one another.

What made this worse for Habakkuk was that these were God’s people, the people of Judah! He was dismayed that God’s people lived in wickedness and, even worse, that God had not yet done anything about it! Yet our focal passages in Habakkuk 3 conclude with the reminder that God is not powerless. The conclusion of chapter 3, verses 17-19, expresses Habakkuk’s confidence that no matter how bad things get – and knowing that God’s judgment may bring difficulty even for the righteous – Habakkuk can rejoice in God of the Covenant, the Strength of Israel.

Can we draw any application from this? First, like Habakkuk, we should have hearts that are open to the needs of the people around us. Are there areas where we see people who are oppressed and needy? What can we do? Second, as Habakkuk expresses, we need to trust that God is faithful no matter how the circumstances look.

Finally, reread the description of God’s appearance in Habakkuk 3:6. Recapture that sense of awe at the presence of God – and renew your view of the amazing grace that allows us to come boldly before His throne (Heb. 4:16).

Thursday
Apr232015

Stick with encouragement

Bible Studies for Life
May 3, 2014

Detra Thomas
Speaker
A Heart for Home Ministries
Fort Smith

Acts 9:26-28, 11:21-26

A friend reported that a couple of members of ISIS (The Islamic State) came to Christ. As our family discussed this, someone made the comment that they would not trust those conversions. How would you handle these two men?

In Acts 9, we find Barnabas leading the way as our example. Saul, a man who felt it was his spiritual duty to kill all Christians, met the Lord. He was transformed from a Christian-killer to a preacher of the gospel. The problem: No one believed him or wanted to be around him long enough to test his conversion, except Barnabas.

Barnabas took Saul, who was later known as Paul, to the disciples and spoke on this newly converted man’s behalf. The disciples heard from a man that was not only trusted, but well-loved. Barnabas’ real name was Joses, but because of this man’s great compassion to meet the needs of others, the apostles renamed him Barnabas, which means “man of encouragement.”

So Saul/Paul was let into the group, and he began to preach boldly in the name of Jesus. He was so bold in his declaration that Grecians began their plans to kill him. With that action, the men fully embraced their new brother in Christ.

Then later in Acts 11, when some Grecians came to the Lord, Barnabas is once again the ambassador of goodwill.

Barnabas checked out the new situation, not with skepticism, but with openness to the voice of the Holy Spirit and a faith that believed in a mighty God.

So let’s go back to the original question: How would you and I handle the two new converts of ISIS? Should we be people of fear and cynicism, or should we be people of prayer and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit?

Like glue is used to cement layers of paper together to make beautiful cards and books, let the encouragement of the Holy Spirit unite our hearts to other believers for the glory of the kingdom of God.

Thursday
Apr092015

Hard questions, harder answers

Explore the Bible
April 26, 2014

Charles A. Collins
missionary
Spain

Habakkuk 1:1-6, 12-13, 2:1-4

Habakkuk lived in a confusing world in which things at best were not good. His strong and personal belief was in a God who was in charge and had total control. He could not understand if this was true why things were in such a total mess. His questions reflect a sense of confusion and personal questioning of how things could have been so wrong. He goes to God for answers to hard questions (Hab. 1). He probably got more than he was prepared emotionally to receive.

Habakkuk paints an ugly picture of life before God as if God did not know already what was going on.

His question is basically this: “God, now that You know about this mess that we are in, what are You going to do about it?”

I sense that God could have responded something like this: “I’m glad that you asked. I hate to tell you, but if you think things are bad now, just wait – they are going to get even worse.”

Habakkuk’s hard questions received God’s hard answers. There is no good way to give bad news. God began to let Habakkuk know what He had planned. Life as usual was going to come to an abrupt stop. God was preparing the enemy who would come and make life miserable for His people. There was no other way. God’s people had ceased to live godly lives and there was a price to pay (Rom. 6:23).

Hard answers are not hopeless answers.

“But the righteous will live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17).

Habakkuk 3:17-18 describes a desolate situation. Even though times are hard, he will rejoice in his Lord and be joyful in God his Savior.

Life is not much better today. Our concept of Christianity is often simple and wrong. God is not here to serve us. A prosperity gospel is not a gospel. It is quite possible that God has some hard answers to our questions. For Habakkuk, the enemy was coming; for the world today, the enemy is already here.