I love the story of Nehemiah. His concern for the people of Israel is something that I pray more people would have for their neighbors. God raised him up to go and rebuild the walls of the city. To see the people of God thrive again. He truly showed the heart of God when he prayed and fasted for a people who had just come through a long exile period. But Nehemiah’s mission to promote the welfare of Israel drew heavy fire from the enemy. Whenever you step out and do something to the proportion that Nehemiah attempted, even good people can react in shocking ways.
There was mockery and ridicule (2:19), a plot to disrupt efforts by force (4:8), trickery (6:2), intimidation (6:13), and when all else failed, infiltration (13:7). There was also internal undermining that needed to be nipped in the bud (5:7). Nehemiah treated all these as spiritual warfare – with the Lord as his main source of strength. When the work was completed in only 52 days, his enemies lost confidence because they realized they had been fighting against God himself.
15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. -Nehemiah 6:15-16
People who long for a spiritual awakening are not naive. The enemy doesn’t give ground easily, fierce opposition can be expected. But seasoned troops don’t run at the first sign of hostile fire. People who are truly seeking the Lord with all of their heart and saturating in the Word of God know that the battle is the Lord’s and that great victories come only in His strength.
May God encourage you to keep praying and believing for victory. May the big obstacle you are facing be revealed for what it is. If it is not of the Lord then just watch it begin to fail in God’s time. Be patient and strong in the Lord.
I am looking forward to continuing on with Acts 11 on Sunday as we gather for worship.
Joy in Jesus!
It seems so long ago that our church went to Cuba for a Work and Witness trip. It was good to go and help the churches and encourage the pastors along the way. We arrived back safely in the United States just before the quarantine hit in February of 2020. While in Cuba, it was very oppressive due to socialism. I will never forget the control the government had on the people and how their personal freedoms were infringed upon even to the point of their grocery shopping. But the church continued to thrive even in the midst of socialism. Castro’s experiment with communism failed.
Sometimes seeing mistakes of other countries makes you realize how blessed we are as a free nation under God. I have been reading through the Bible and last week I finished the book of Amos. He began prophesying against the surrounding nations. But the Israelites didn’t like it when he brought up their sins.
Over 150 years earlier, the ten northern tribes had officially established the worship of golden calves in their capital, Samaria. Over the years, the inevitable results were widespread idolatry, immorality, and injustice. Amos warned them to prepare to meet God (Amos 4:12). The people would meet Him in either revival or destruction. Amos basically boiled it down to this: “Seek the Lord and live” (Amos 5:6). He was challenging what they thought was the status quo. But those were prosperous times for Israel so they were not too quick to listen. They didn’t realize that time was short.
Many nations make wrong turns that result in negative long-term consequences. It’s the role of God’s servants to point out these mistakes and to suggest corrective measures. The message of revival represents the only hope for life to return to a people, but it is often resisted by those who have the most to lose. Even so, all nations must prepare to meet God – in repentance or in judgment. I vote for repentance.
This Sunday we will jump back in the book of Acts as we look at the Church continuing to thrive in difficult days. May God give you strength for the task before you this day.
Joy in Jesus!
What a great week we are having at Vacation Bible Adventure. There are many families who are coming with their children to experience the presence of Jesus. There are lots of science experiments sprinkled in the foundation of God’s Word. God has created everything and has given us the opportunity, through science, to see how purposeful his creation is. We appreciate the Toledo Imagination Station for joining us this week. We also appreciate the many families and people from our church who are stepping in and ministering in Jesus’ name. It is good to see the Family of God come together to pour into the next generation.
As I pray and ponder the new faces and the many things the Lord is doing, I can’t help but think of our church as a whole. A place of grace that is made up of the people of God. I want to share the lyrics of a song from the Gaither Vocal Band entitled, “This Is the Place.” It encompasses what this church is all about.
“This Is the Place” by: Bill & Gloria Gaither / Gordon Mote
Come, my child, there is a place
When you're lost, you will be found
You'll be safe, and you'll belong
You will hear the sweetest sound
Break some bread, come share the wine
At this table there is a place
Bring your fears, take His peace
Come and share this Holy space
This is the place where we pray
This is the place where we cry
This is the place where we start
'Til death do us part
Where we say good-bye
Here we leave all our pain
Find forgiveness and grace
Here we walk down the aisle
Dedicate every child
Here in this sacred place
I realize that the Holy Spirit dwells not only in the church but in our body. Each one of us take the Holy Spirit with us in every endeavor and every challenge. We have access 24/7. But it doesn’t negate the fact that when the church gathers in one place that the Spirit of God comes and miracles happen spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I am so glad to be a part of this church where God is moving mightily.
Tonight our church board will be serving up some good hot dogs with some delicious toppings. Come tonight between 5 and 6 before VBA begins and share in the rich fellowship. It’s going to be a great time.
Joy in Jesus!
“For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
All throughout the book of Acts we see people coming to faith in Jesus and then getting baptized with water. Luke is now showing another baptism. It is done by the Holy Spirit. This baptism takes place through a consecrated life. We don’t baptize ourselves and it does not involve water. This baptism is from the Holy Spirit and a cleansing and purification takes place. It is an empowerment directly from God to live and do as He has called us. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. After experiencing a service like we did on Sunday, I truly see where the Spirit of God is doing a new work in the people of our church. It is exciting to hear so many stories of how God is moving.
Salvation Army founder, William Booth wrote, “Before we go to our knees to receive the Baptism of Fire, let me beg of you to see to it that your souls are in harmony with the will and purpose of the Holy Spirit who you seek. See to it that the channel of communication, by which the baptism of the Holy Spirit must be received, be kept open. I heard some people the other day who could not get any water. They turned the tap repeatedly, but no water came. They sent word to the office of the company, who sent a man to examine the connections and fittings, but all was right. Plenty of water in the reservoir; pipes, taps and connections all right, but no water. At last they pulled up the pipe and found a mouse in it. It is no use turning the tap, praying, singing, or even believing, if there is something you are holding back or refusing to do – some idol, something about which you feel condemned, but which you refuse to give up. Destroy your idols and hindrances and stoppages, with an everlasting destruction. Let there be free communication between you and God. Let all go, and you shall be flooded before you rise from your knees; the world shall feel the power of it, and God shall have all the glory.”
Let’s keep seeking the Lord this Summer and see what the Spirit of God wants to do in and through us. I’m ready for more…
Joy in Jesus!
Have I told you lately how fortunate I am to be married to Vickie? She is the most disciplined, well prepared, loving person I know. Next week we will celebrate 33 years of marriage. I used to hear people talk about being married that long when we were first married and wonder what it would be like to be married that long. Now here I am, feeling old and blessed at the same time.
Before we got married, there was a lot of preparation. When you think about it, before every good meal there is a preparation time. It’s the same with revival. In Acts 13 we see preparation work before the great movement of God on the Antioch church.
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3
All times of revival are saturated in prayer. Evangelist Billy Sunday understood that well. Tens of thousands of people would meet in homes and pray for his upcoming crusades. The same with Billy Graham crusades. “No politician ever divided a community more carefully that did Billy Sunday’s volunteers…” By preference, the meetings were held in homes of those who did not know Jesus as their Savior. It was a normal experience for people to get saved even before the evangelist arrived. In December of 1914 you could drive down the streets and see signs in private homes announcing prayer meetings in their homes. For the month leading up to the revival, each home would hold two meetings. When you totaled the number of people attending prayer in over five thousand homes, there were several hundred thousand Christians preparing for the services in prayer.
The Shantung Revival took place less than twenty years before the communist takeover of China. Missionary C.L. Culpepper recalls, “People loved to pray. Many times prayer meetings lasted two to three hours. The prayers were not long and monotonous but fervent, sometimes tearful, always as if those praying were simply talking to the Father with the confidence that He was listening… Many parents came to know the Lord through the prayers of their children, and teachers were saved because their students prayed for them. There was no cheap advertising of prayer for the sick; but in simple, childlike faith these people prayed for the sick, and many were healed.”
How many people in our church would it take to pray in the experience of revival? Wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, the Word says that He is there. So if you get your calculator out then you will find that revival can take place in the hearts of all people who gather together and seek the heart of God. That sounds like a guarantee that if you want it you can experience it. That is something to ponder on.
Joy in Jesus!
When you read about Daniel and how strong he is in the faith, you have to think to yourself, “How, as a young man, did Daniel become so strong and disciplined in his faith? How did he stand up against the temptations of the world?”
Now one thing is obvious, he was in a growing relationship with the Lord Almighty. When you think of young men, you can’t help but think of a time when they are figuring out their faith. Many have had to overcome choices they have made in haste. But for Daniel, it seems to be a little different. He was strong and deliberate in his choices. Keep in mind that he was picked by the Babylonians from a royal family without any defects, he was handsome, showed an aptitude for every kind of learning, and was well informed. That’s a pretty good resume. He is someone I would want on my staff or debate team.
As the chief of the court official carried out the wishes of the king of Babylon, he chose young men from the Israelites to train in Babylonian ways. He was to fatten them up and indoctrinate them to be future leaders. “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way" Daniel 1:8. The official wasn’t too sure about Daniel’s plan because it would have meant his job. I would recommend that you read the story found in Daniel 1:1-21.
God eventually gave Daniel and his friends knowledge and understanding in all kinds of literature and learning. Even to the point of understanding visions and dreams. As a matter of fact, the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. Not too shabby.
How did these young men like Daniel get to have rock solid faith in God? Daniel and his friends kept untainted by the culture around them. They must have had someone mentoring and praying for them back in Jerusalem.
Joseph Kemp (1872-1933) was only seven years old when his father died. Two years later his mother passed away, and the six siblings were scattered. A devoted Christian took in Joseph and told him lovingly about Jesus. Kemp was converted at the age of fourteen. In his early thirties, while he was a pastor in Edinburgh, Scotland, a powerful season of revival broke out. In his book “Listening to the Giants,” Warren Wiersbe reports Kemp’s words on revival:
“Go after the young. We are much more likely to get a boy at seven than at seventeen, and certainly much more likely to get the youth of seventeen than the old man of seventy. A wise evangelism will not neglect the home, but will make that the starting point in the great campaign to evangelize the world. There is need of a revival of family religion. Parents cannot be held responsible for the conversion of their children, but they are responsible for the evangelism of the home.”
That is why we encourage families to be faithful in living out their faith with their family. That includes bringing them to church and events. That is why we have Vacation Bible Adventure. Please pray for our families and our neighborhoods as we try to disciple the world one family at a time. We need more Daniels in our world to impact the culture for Jesus!
Joy in Jesus!
There is an author by the name of Robert Boyd Munger who wrote a book entitled, “My Heart – Christ’s Home.” It was actually a sermon he preached in 1954. Over 10 million copies of the book have been printed over the years, which makes it one of the most widely distributed sermons of the 21st Century.
Robert passed away in 2001. He will always be remembered for his gentle, humble, Christlike spirit as well as being a gifted teacher. Rod Denton recalls being a young seminary student in one of Robert Munger’s classes. After class one day, he asked Robert to be his mentor. They met every week for one hour and this was a time that Rod will remember forever. One time Rod recalls Robert asking him to pray for him. Robert said, “For some time we have been talking about the renewal of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life and I have come to realize that I am in need of a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit in my life. I believe that you are the person who should pray for me.” Immediately he got out of his chair and walked to the middle of the room in his office and invited him to lay hands on him and pray. This great man of God, well known across America, at the age of 80 wasn’t finished and humbled himself on his office floor for more of God. One of the greatest qualities a follower of Jesus is one who possesses a teachable spirit and humble heart. There should never be a time when we stop learning and growing. The attitude of a teachable heart is a prerequisite for more of the Spirit of God.
This message begins with the Apostle Paul’s prayer found in Ephesians 3. I want to center in on verse 16 and the first part of 17 from the message, “I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit – not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ may live in you as you open the door and invite him in.”
One of the most beautiful thoughts is the fact that Jesus Christ Himself, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, will actively enter a heart, settle down and be at home there. Christ will make the human heart His home.
Jesus said to the disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23 ESV).” It was difficult for the disciples to understand what He was saying because it was impossible for this to physically happen. The same word that Jesus used here was used earlier in John 14:1-3: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus was promising them that just as He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and would welcome them one day, now it would be possible for them to prepare a place for Him in their hearts and He would come and make His home with them.
Munger mentioned in his book, “I have discovered through the years that when my thoughts are centered on Christ, the awareness of his presence, purity and power causes wrong and impure thought to back away.”
So let me encourage you to do as Paul says in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” By doing this, you are preparing a place for the Holy Spirit to live in your heart and direct your paths.
Go to a safe place and humble yourself before the Father and ask for more of His presence in your life. Yes, He will answer your prayer as you seek Him with all of your heart.
Joy in Jesus
Personal renewal is marked by a strong presence of Jesus in our lives. In John 15 it tells the way you experience more of God. The more you experience, the more you have. In a small book by Harriet Beecher Stowe called, “How to Live on Christ,” she writes, “How does the branch bear fruit? Not by incessant effort for sunshine and air; it simply abides in the vine, in silent and undisturbed union, and blossoms and fruit appear as of spontaneous growth. How, then, shall a Christian bear fruit? By efforts and struggles? No: there must be a complete surrender of the whole being to Him; a constant looking to Him for grace.
People who get in a rhythm of life where the Spirit is in control are firmly fixed on calmly moving in sequence throughout their day and week. It is as if their schedule is unfolded as they respond to the leading of the Spirit.
In the English Standard Version it says, “Abide in Me!”
“4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:4-5.
Abiding has to do with being in the presence of Jesus. There are many ways we do this. We can do it when we pull away from the hustle and bustle of life and spent time seeking God through prayer and Bible reading. Another way we do that is through a daily routine of devotions before we begin our day. I know that another important part is spending time in Worship with other believers. We come together every week and study God’s Word in Discipleship Classes and Worship. This is a time when we bring our families together and actually set aside a Sabbath rest from our regular schedules. I know for me that I am rejuvenated, encouraged, and raring to go because I have experiencing the Lord and others in this place called the church. I am ready for another week of serving those I come in contact with. As a matter of fact, I look forward to being with the Body of Christ to reset my week. Thank you for being such a bright spot in my week.
Just a reminder, anyone who wants to come out tonight and serve alongside of others can come to the Family Life Center at 5 or 7pm ready to greet, welcome, pray for, and just help families as they celebrate the beginning of summer. See you there!
Joy in Jesus!
This morning for prayer we read different Psalms and prayed the Scripture together. It is good just to push pause and pray the Word. So today I want to pull a verse out of Psalm 106:15. It reads, “So he gave them what they had asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.” The King James says, “…but sent leanness into their soul.”
The Israelites would have amnesia set in from time to time. They would forget that God had a plan and was to be trusted. They would complain and disobey. Then they would come back to their right mind only to do as they pleased.
There was a book written in 1959 by David Head called, “He Sent Leanness.” It dealt with this particular verse. In it there is a chapter, in tongue in cheek tone, that talks about how our requests must sound to God at times. Here’s a sample from the section titled, “Private Prayers Before Public Worship”: “Lord, give us all a nice feeling this morning. May thy special blessing be with those who will be active in this service while the rest of us sit still and listen. We pray that we may enjoy the preliminaries, and that the sermon may give us all a glow. I know I have offended at least two people this week with my quick temper, but please do not let the thought of that intrude upon this spiritual feast. Praise God. Amen.”
We have to be careful what we ask for, don’t we? If our prayers for revival are from the church to continue the way it’s always been for a faith that makes no demands, we could easily make God angry just like the Israelites did. It would hardly be to our advantage if he said yes to our request by giving us precisely what we wanted – and sent us leanness of soul.
Let’s not only pray for revival, let’s be willing to do what it takes for revival to overcome our hearts and actions. Wouldn’t it be good if revival started in Findlay, Ohio and moved across the Nation? I’m in, how about you?
Joy in Jesus!
Tucked away in Numbers 13 is a lesson we all can learn about our perspective. Moses was to choose someone from each Hebrew tribe to go and explore the land of Canaan which the Lord was giving to them. Remember, the Lord had promised to give them this land. That means it was there for the taking. It was just a matter of following what the Lord says to do to possess the land. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Believe me, it got complicated from the very beginning. We have a way of doing that in life even now.
So they go up and explore this land flowing with milk and honey. They grabbed some grapes on the way out and it took two men to carry them because they were so large. This journey took a total of forty days. When they returned they confirmed that it is all that they were told it would be. It was flowing with milk and honey and the fruit was huge. Then they began to talk about the people. “28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.” Numbers 13:28
Caleb quickly says, “We can take them.” I believe he totally trusted in the Lord who provides all that we need to fulfill His promises. Caleb and Joshua represented the minority report. It was ten against two. It is almost like the ten who had a bad report came down with amnesia. Weren’t these the same people God had miraculously freed from captivity? Hadn’t they seen his mighty power displayed? How could they even hint to go back to Egypt? Following the advice of the ten over the two cost them their lives. This lack of faith cost an entire generation (age twenty and older) the privilege of entering Canaan. Now they were forced to wander four decades in the desert until the last of the doubters was dead. Then the next generation would be given a similar opportunity.
Living as grasshoppers is not an option. Caleb and Joshua was walking with spiritual sight which breaks open the reality of the unseen world. That is what sourced them with their spiritual supplies to draw from. Living in the realm of the seen only leads to the power that God provides to become anemic. Sure, the people who currently occupied Canaan were giant people. But as you look through the lenses that Caleb and Joshua looked through, you realize the bigger they are the harder they fall. Choosing to turn and run from the giants only produces fear.
What giants are you facing today? Following the ways of God will help you to get where you’re going quicker. “Lord, help those who are reading this devotional thought to trust you in spite of the way things appear.”
I want to encourage you to sign up for the Church Workday on Saturday. There are two shifts you can choose from (9-Noon or 1-4). There will be a lunch in between each shift. I plan on being at both. To sign up, call the church office or text the word, “workday” to the church office (419-422-8660).
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene