Magnificence from Insignificance

Magnificence from Insignificance

By Patricia Knight

In the early history of mankind, for decades God’s people followed a predictable pattern of disobedience, prompting God to allow their enemies to conquer and enslave them as punishment for their sin. When the people could tolerate servitude no longer, they cried out to God in repentance. God was merciful and raised up judges to deliver them from exile and to lead them back into fellowship with Him. Peace was enjoyed for a time until the people once again adopted the pagan methods of worship. Then the cycle revived and revolved as before.

The judges God selected from among the Israelites had no specific knowledge or talent, but God was aware of their potential.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearances,
but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The Lord focuses on a person’s character and desire to submit to His will and instructions.

God called the lowly rather than the mighty to do His work. God used Ehud, the second judge, to deliver peace to Israel. Left-handed and courageous, Ehud was qualified for the gruesome task of killing Eglon, the enemy Moabite king. Because most people of his day were right hand dominant, only Ehud’s right side was searched for a weapon before he entered the king’s quarters. “Ehud made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing” (Judges 3:16). From there he wielded it to kill the king, ensuring peace in Israel for the next eighty years.

Israel had no iron weapons, but for Shamgar, the third judge, an ox goad was the tool of his trade. A crude instrument used for prodding draft animals, it was a long wooden rod, sometimes fashioned with a metal tip. The ox goad doubled as a weapon of war that Shamgar used to kill 600 Philistines who had been terrorizing their main route of travel (Judges 3:31). Shamgar learned that whatever you have, no matter how humble, God will use it for His glory.

Judge Gideon was commissioned to save Israel from the Midianites. As leader of a group of quiet, persistent marchers, Gideon signaled them to blow trumpets and break pitchers at the precise time appointed by God, demolishing the walls of the city of Jericho. The enemy was pursued and subdued by the Israelis, securing peace for forty years.

When God first called Gideon, he was weak, frightened, and timid. Before Gideon could serve, God had to strengthen his wobbly knees and his cowardly heart. It proved to be a long, arduous process. God was patient, always supplying the man He chose with His Spirit of power. Weak vessels are the only kind He will use, not wanting man to boast of his own accomplishments, only those that glorify God.

After judges ruled Israel, the people begged God for a king like those who ruled their neighboring countries. Saul, their first king, had a humble beginning as a donkey wrangler. The people chose Saul based  entirely on his physical attributes. Saul was not God’s choice, but because the people were insistent, God allowed them to learn a difficult lesson. “God changed Saul’s heart; the Spirit of God came upon him in power” (1 Samuel 10:9, 10b). God was patient and instructive with Saul, giving him every opportunity to succeed, but Saul didn’t give himself wholeheartedly to God or to the people’s interests. His monarchy was punctuated with pride, selfishness, personal ambition, disobedience, and jealousy. David eventually replaced Saul as king. Contrast Saul’s performance with that of David, God’s choice for king. David’s heart openly communicated and worshipped his heavenly Father. He was fervent about serving God and his people, whereas King Saul was self-serving.

God typically chose little men in character; mediocre, and feckless, to do His work—to lead and to achieve. They had no obvious talents and often possessed glaring faults, sometimes the very reason God chose them: Moses escaped after murdering an Egyptian; Jesus’ disciple, Matthew, was a despised tax collector; the Apostle Paul sincerely believed he should annihilate all Christians; and Peter, Christ’s disciple, denied knowing his Master on three consecutive occasions. God uses common people to do uncommon jobs; ordinary folk to perform extraordinary feats. He converts His weak children to towers of strength to promote His important tasks, all of them through the Spirit’s power and direction. The weakest and the most unprepared were believers God could mold and make from a previously inadequate person into a useable instrument for His glory. “Does the Potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay something for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21).

Is God using you to your full potential to accomplish His work? If your heart is open to His love and responsive to His leadership, there is no end to the magnificence He will create in your life. You may never be recognized as a person of importance, but God knows that your heart is responsive and prioritizes obedience to Him. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter. We are all the work of your hands” (Isaiah 64:8). No one who yields to the molding of God remains commonplace. Our Lord only deals in the extravagant and the splendid, lavishing believers with unique abilities to accomplish His sovereign work. “But each man has his own gift from God” (1 Corinthians 7:7).The more we submit to His will, the greater power with which He equips us.

Believers, exercising their own efforts, are unable to achieve anything for Christ. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, who provides the strength and grace to please God and makes our lives count for Him. “The Lord… has filled you with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” (Exodus 35:30-32).

As a believer, would you be eager and available to respond when God has a job to be done? To be hand-picked for a unique task, as the judges and kings were in ages past, identifies us as outstanding in our faithfulness toward God today. God delights in His servants and endows each one with spiritual gifts. God peers into your heart, looking for your willingness to serve, obey, and submit to his will. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Let us offer ourselves unreservedly as instruments for God’s work. Mortals cannot submit to the immortal without a major transformation occurring. Insignificance will give way to magnificence under God’s direction!

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to New Testament Believers Today?

Shared from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to New Testament Believers Today?

By Randy Alcorn

A few times I’ve shared Jeremiah 29:11 on my Facebook page. The verse says, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope” (CEB). I always get some pushback on this. Recently a thoughtful reader asked, “But for whom and when does this apply? Is the context meant to include me/us?”

The “you” in Jeremiah 29:11 is plural. It’s spoken not to an individual but to a nation—God’s people Israel, in exile in Babylon. Seven verses earlier it says: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon …” (Jeremiah 29:4). And just a verse earlier it explains that exile will last seventy years. In the near context there is a false prophet, Hananiah, who is basically preaching health and wealth gospel, telling lies to the people that all would be well and that Babylon would be defeated. Jeremiah, the true prophet, who is speaking a message of God’s judgment on Israel, is rejected. God is promising to bring Israel back from the seventy year exile, and that will fulfill His plans for peace and a future of hope.

But the promise of God for all His people is revealed in this passage: that regardless of what judgment and suffering might happen first, God’s ultimate plans for His children (as much for us as for Old Testament Israel) are for good and not evil, for welfare and hope.

Yes, Jeremiah was writing to his fellow Israelites. But so were Moses, Samuel, and David, and nearly all the prophets. That’s true of virtually the entire Old Testament, which in hundreds of cases the New Testament freely applies to the church, followers of Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. Israel was God’s people, and it’s no stretch to say that today’s believers, the church, are also God’s people. So verses that were written to Israel are also written for the church.

Read the rest here.

Grounded in Reason … The Four Factors of Faith

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

Grounded in Reason …
The Four Factors of Faith

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. Luke 17:6

Abraham had waited 20 years for the son God had promised him. He and Sarah even had a son with the help of a surrogate mother, but the Lord had told him Ishmael was not the son He had promised.  Finally Isaac was born, the one through whom God would bless all mankind (Genesis 21:12).  But some years later, before any of these blessings came to pass, God directed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Though heart broken, Abraham took Isaac to the place the Lord had picked out, built an altar there and placed his son upon it (Genesis 22:1-10).

The Prophet Elijah was beside himself. The Israelites kept vacillating between worshiping God and Baal. Their indecision was driving him crazy and he let them know it. “How long will you waver between two opinions? If God be God then worship Him. But if it’s Baal, then worship him.” After much prayer he arranged a public demonstration. Challenging the priests of Baal to a contest, he had two altars built and two bulls slaughtered and placed on the altars. The people gathered to watch. Then he told them that whichever god sent down fire to consume the offering is the one they should worship. Everyone agreed, and the priests of Baal began calling their god.

All morning long they danced, cut themselves with knives as part of their religious ritual and called out to Baal.  During the afternoon Elijah began taunting them, suggesting their god was perhaps busy or traveling or in the bathroom, and they became even more ecstatic in their worship, but alas, no fire. Then about sunset Elijah had his altar doused in water three times and began to pray, reminding God of their earlier agreement (1 Kings 18:16-37).

The court was in a panic. The King of Babylon had just ordered the execution of all his advisers for failing to interpret a dream. Daniel, like the calm in the midst of a raging storm, promised the King’s assistant that he would interpret the King’s dream, thus saving the lives of all the advisers. Then he ran home to pray with his friends. He hadn’t a clue as to what the dream was or what it meant, and was counting the Lord to tell him (Daniel 2:1-18).

Read the rest here.

The Christmas Story … Part 2 (Conclusion)

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

The Christmas Story … Part 2
(Conclusion)

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. (Luke 2:21)

Long before the Lord ordained the ritual of circumcision for males, He arranged for the coagulating pro-enzyme called prothrombin to be at 130% of normal adult levels on the eighth day of life, and for natural analgesic enzymes in the blood to be at lifetime highs as well.

Circumcision on any other day can be a painful and bloody event, but on the eighth day of life it’s remarkably less so. Of course, this is a fact the medical profession has only learned in the last century. Back then people just knew that everything worked better when they were obedient to God’s commands.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)

It was 33 days after Jesus had been circumcised. Since Joseph and Mary could not afford a lamb for Mary’s purification, the Law permitted them to use the two birds instead. (Lev. 12:8)

Read the rest here.

The Christmas Story … Part 1

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

The Christmas Story … Part 1

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1-2)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:26-35).

Some commentators try to cast doubt on the validity of Isaiah’s virgin birth prophecy, saying the clearest Hebrew word for virgin is bethulah.  In Isaiah 7:14a different word, almah, is used. It means virgin too, but can also describe any woman of marriageable age. They contend that Isaiah’s failure to use the most specific word for virgin could mean that he wasn’t really prophesying a virgin birth. As if anticipating this, Isaiah included a rebuttal to their claims.  It’s simple and appears in Isaiah 8, but first some perspective.

Read the rest here.

The Fall Feasts of Israel

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

The Fall Feasts of Israel

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The fall is arguably the most important time of the year in Judaism. Three of Israel’s holiest days are celebrated then, and all in the space of 3 weeks. They are  Yom Teruah, also called the Feast of Trumpets, followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and 5 days after that by Sukkot, the week long Feast of Tabernacles.  They all have both historical and prophetic fulfillment and, following the pattern of the spring feasts, the prophetic fulfillment will occur during the time of each feast. Therefore, Christians study them for glimpses into the future as well as to gain a better understanding of Jewish history and culture. In 2016 they occur on October 2-3 (Feast of Trumpets), October. 11-12 (Yom Kippur) and October 16-23 (Feast of Tabernacles).

Happy New Year

Gentiles are sometimes confused in their studies of these holy days by the fact that the Lord changed the Hebrew calendar at the time of the first Passover (Exodus 12:2). What had been the 7th month was thereafter to be the first, moving the beginning of the year to the spring, 14 days before Passover.

But the people have always retained their original calendar as well, observing a religious year which begins in the spring, and a civil year beginning in the fall. This is why the Feast of Trumpets is also known as Rosh Hashanah (which means “head of the year”) sometimes called the Jewish New Year.  This year Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the year 5777.

Read the rest here.

The Law is Only a Shadow… Old and New, Part 2

From GraceThruFaith, Part 2 of 2.

Something Old, Something New

Part 2 of 2 in the series Old and New

From GraceThruFaith

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley 


What’s external and physical in the Old becomes internal and spiritual in the New.

The Epistle to the Hebrews underscores the issue we covered last time on the nature of the Bible. The 66 “books” penned by 40 scribes over hundreds of years are really components of a single message … a message describing two agreements or covenants, but consistent in design and intent from Genesis through Revelation. You’ll hear liberal scholars (oxymoron?) talk about the differences between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the new. Nonsense. It’s simply a matter of which side of the cross you’re on. We used prophecy as both an example and an authentication of the Bible’s singularity of purpose and its supernatural origin.

Demonstration Please

Now I’d like to demonstrate that every event and requirement commanded by the Lord in the Old Covenant has its fulfillment in the New. They all began as external and physical acts and became internal and spiritual principles. In addition to being real requirements given for sound purpose, they were also symbolic; models meant to teach us lessons about God and His incredible plan for us. Hebrews 10:1; the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.

And just as it is with prophecy, understanding the context of the old dramatically increases comprehension of the new. Let’s try a few examples. 

Read the rest here.