Psalms 126-127

Unless God….

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” – Psalm 127:1 NLT

The Bible describes the fool as someone who says, “There is no God!” (Psalm 14:1). They live their lives as if God does not exist, sinning willfully and regularly, expecting no punishment or consequences. But the fool is not necessarily an unbeliever. We have seen how many times the people of God lived their lives as if God did not exist or that He was unable to see what they were doing. They treated Him unfaithfully and never expected anything to happen to them. Then there are the countless times they acted on their own – not in sin – but in living their lives without asking for or relying on God’s help. That is probably the greater offense to a loving God. When we attempt to do anything, great or small, without God, we are living the life of the fool. We are assuming that we can live our lives without Him and accomplish great things without His help. But the Psalmist reminds us that nothing could be farther from the truth. As God’s people, all that we do is to be done in reliance upon the Lord. We can accomplish nothing of significance apart from Him. If we build a house without Him, we do so in vain. We may get it constructed, but if He is not part of the process and central to our lives, what good will that house be without Him. Without His power and presence that house is nothing more than a shell. Ultimately, it can’t provide real shelter and protection. It can’t keep us alive. It can’t bring us joy. It can’t provide us with peace. Only God can do those things.

Think about how much we do without God. Consider how little we rely on Him when it comes to our daily lives. We work hard. We expend a lot of energy. We go to bed tired and wake up the same way, lacking rest and facing another day of more of the same. The Psalmist describes this kind of life as futile. “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2 NLT). Our lives were not meant to be lived apart from God, in our own strength. They were created by God for complete dependency upon Him for strength, sustenance, direction, protection, comfort, and rest. Nehemiah knew that rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem without God would have been useless. That’s why he prayed like he did. He knew that posting guards on the walls to protect the workers was pointless if God was not a part of the plan. Ultimately, he recognized that God was essential to all that they did. God had to be the central focus of their efforts. When will we learn the same timeless truth? Unless God…builds our homes, our marriages, our businesses, our communities, our churches, our lives … everything we do is in vain. We may appear successful and satisfied, but we will be missing the only thing we really need … Him.

Father, we need You. We don’t always realize it or live like it, but we do. All the things we try to accomplish apart from You are useless and meaningless in the long run. Give us a perspective that recognizes our utter dependence upon You for everything we do. Don’t let us become fools, living our lives as if there is no God. Keep us in a constant state of need for You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Jeremiah 40; Psalm 79

God’s Remnant.

“When the Judeans in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the other nearby countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a few people in Judah and that Gedaliah was the governor, they began to return to Judah from the places to which they had fled. They stopped at Mizpah to meet with Gedaliah and then went into the Judean countryside to gather a great harvest of grapes and other crops.” ­– Jeremiah 40:11-12 NLT

The land of Judah had fallen. Jerusalem had been sacked and destroyed by the Babylonians. The best and the brightest of the nation had been taken captive and deported to the land of Babylon, and only the old, the poor and the helpless had been left in the land. Things could not have looked any bleaker. Even Jeremiah, the despised prophet of God, chose to remain in Judah with the few who were left in the land. Asaph, the Psalmist, records just how bad things seemed to be in Psalm 79. “O God, pagan nations have conquered your land, your special possession. They have defiled your holy Temple and made Jerusalem a heap of ruins. They have left the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of heaven. The flesh of your godly ones has become food for the wild animals” (Psalm 79:1-2 NLT). From a human perspective, things did look desperate. It did appear as if God had completely abandoned His people. The unthinkable had happened. A pagan, godless nation had completely destroyed the nation God had set apart as His own. The land of promise lay desolate and ruined. Or did it?

Even in the aftermath of the destruction of Judah, God was still extending grace to His people. Slowly, those who had fled to the hills in anticipation of the coming judgment at the hands of the Babylonians, began to return. Yes, many of the cities lay in ruins and the land had been stripped bare by the invading army of Babylon. But Gedaliah, who had been appointed governor of Judah by the Babylonians, encouraged the people left in the land to “settle in the towns you have taken, and live off the land. Harvest the grapes and summer fruits and olives, and store them away” (Jeremiah 40:10b NLT). And as they made their way into the Judean countryside, they found “a great harvest of grapes and other crops” (Jeremiah 40:12b). The Land of Promise was still fruitful and abundant. God was still providing blessing in the midst of even the curse of destruction. His promise of a land of abundance and blessing was still true and He was still providing for His people. Once again, the people of God were going to harvest crops they didn’t plant and drink wine from vineyards they didn’t cultivate. God was going to provide for His own even in their need. Those who had been left behind or who had hidden themselves during the siege of Jerusalem, were not more deserving of God’s blessing than those who had been taken captive. This was not about one group being more deserving than the other. This is a picture of the mercy and grace of God. He mercifully left a remnant in the land and graciously provided for them. He showed them His undeserved merit and favor, in spite of their rebellion and resistance to His will.

I am reminded of the words of Paul, when he tells us to consider just how fortunate we are as believers to have been chosen to be a part of God’s redeemed remnant. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 30:26-29 NLT). We are like that remnant – a small, helpless and seemingly hopeless group of individuals, left behind after the fall. But God has graciously showed us favor and extended to us His grace through His Son Jesus Christ. As a result, we can experience blessing and spiritual abundance even while living in a world that is suffering as a result of their own sinfulness. We reap the rewards of a relationship with God that we didn’t cultivate but that was provided by the word of Jesus Christ on the cross. We were weak, powerless, foolish, and despised, but God has chosen to reveal His power through us. God has always worked through a remnant. He has always kept His promises alive by keeping a remnant alive. We may be in the minority. The odds may seem overwhelming. But God will provide. And He will get all the glory.

Father, I am so grateful that You chose to make me a part of Your remnant. Thank You for choosing me in spite of my weakness and foolishness. Thank You for providing for me when I couldn’t provide for myself. May I live for You because Your Son died for me. May I recognize each day that my presence here is because of You, and not because of anything I have done to deserve Your favor. Your blessings are undeserved by me, but certainly not unappreciated. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Jeremiah 38-39; Psalm 74

Salvation By Grace Alone Through Faith Alone.

“Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe. I, the Lord, have spoken!” ­– Jeremiah 39:18 NLT

Ebed Melech. Not exactly a household name, and certainly not one that people have on their short list of names for their newborn sons. Yet Ebed Melech, this rather obscure character holds a very important place in the history of Israel and the plan of God. He is recognized for his faith and remembered for the risk he took to preserve the life of the prophet of God when everyone else was ready to see Jeremiah silenced for good. When Jeremiah had been arrested, thrown in an empty cistern, and left for dead, Ebed Melech came to his rescue. He reported Jeremiah’s circumstances to the king and then formed a rescue party to extract the prophet from the cistern. And he did all this at great risk to his own life. As an official of King Zedekiah’s court, Ebed Melech ran the risk of angering his boss and alienating his peers. He also risked being misunderstood for his compassion for the prophet and ending up in a similar of worse predicament. But Ebed Melech stepped out in faith and did what he believed to be right. He knew the prophet of God was not guilty or deserving of what had been done to him. He knew that Jeremiah had been speaking truth – even though he was an Ethiopian and not a Jew. As a Gentile, he better understood what God was going than the children of Israel who claimed to serve Yahweh. And God makes it clear that it was Ebed Melech’s faith that saved him. God told him, “Yes, I’ll most certainly save you. You won’t be killed. You’ll walk out of there safe and sound because you trusted me” (Jeremiah 39:18 MSG). Ebed Melech trusted the God of Jeremiah. The Hebrew word used here for trust is batach and it means “to put confidence in, to trust in.” Ebed Melech was not trusting in King Zedekiah, or the military strength of Judah. He was not trusting in his ability to keep quiet and mind his own business. He was going to do the right thing and trust God for the outcome. He knew what he had to do and he did it. And his faith resulted in not only Jeremiah’s salvation, but his own. God responded to his faith with grace. He extended to this Ethiopian, non-Hebrew official, His undeserved mercy and grace. God did not save Ebed Melech because of what he did, but because what Ebed Melech did was based on a confidence and trust in Him. His action was trust in action. Doing what he did required that he ignore common sense and reason, and step out in faith. Ebed Melech didn’t know how any of this would turn out. He wasn’t assured that the king would even listen to him when he appealed for Jeremiah’s release. He didn’t know how his fellow officials would react when he secured the release of the very one they had tried to get rid of. Ebed Melech was probably not going to be a popular figure for having rescued the prophet from death. He would not be hailed as a hero. But his actions were not based on a preferred outcome. They were based on faith. He did not do what he did because he knew it would all turn out for the best, but because he knew it was the right thing to do. He saw an innocent man being unjustly sentenced to death and he knew he could not stand by and just watch it happen. So he put his faith in God into action for Jeremiah, and he trusted God for the outcome.

Every day, you and I are faced with opportunities to put our faith into action. We are given occasion after occasion to take our trust in God and bring it to life through acts of love and service to others. We are given the chance to do the right thing, when we don’t know how it will turn out if we do. We are prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak up, stand up, reach out, and rest in the power of God. Stepping out in faith is not a guarantee that all our problems will go away. Ebed Melech still had to go through the fall of Jerusalem. He would still have to witness God’s punishment on the nation. But he would be spared. God would protect him through it all – all because he showed faith. When you compare Ebed Melech with Zedekiah, the king of Judah, you see a marked contrast. The king of Judah refused to trust God. He had placed his faith in Egypt. He had hoped for salvation from a different source than God. He had refused to trust God and leave the results up to Him. God had told him to simply trust and obey, and things would turn out for the better. “If you will turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, you will live, this city won’t be burned down, and your family will live” (Jeremiah 38:17 MSG). All Zedekiah had to do was trust God. He had to give up his plan for God’s. He had to exchange his will for God’s. He had to quit trying to control the future and leave it in God’s faithful hands. Ebed Melech did just that, and he enjoyed salvation at the hand of God. He was extended the grace of God as a result of his faith in God. And we can enjoy that same experience each and every day of our lives.

Father, thank You for the life of Ebed Melech. He is a picture of what it means to trust You in the midst of life’s darkest moments. May I learn to trust You more with each passing day. May I learn to step out in faith, based solely on Your trustworthy character and grace-filled love for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 46; 80, 135

Our Refuge and Strength.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” ­– Psalm 46:1 NLT

These three Psalms in today’s reading form a very fitting summary of Israel’s life-long relationship with God. In Psalm 46 you see their attitude when all was going well. They have a confidence in God because He has given them the Promised Land and allowed them to build the magnificent city of Jerusalem containing God’s dwelling place – the Temple. “God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it” (Psalm 46:5 NLT). They believed they were indestructible and that the city of God would last forever. Why? Because they were His chosen people and it was home to His Temple. But there is an interesting line in the middle of this short Psalm, and it is one that most of us are familiar with. It simply says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NLT). This is a personal invitation from God to cease from striving and enter into a personal and intimate relationship with Him. That is what God wanted from the people of Israel and Judah. He wanted them to know Him – not just intellectually, but personally and experientially.

But we know the story. The people of God refused to remain faithful to Him. They disobeyed Him and turned to other gods. Instead of being a witness to the pagan nations around them, Israel adopted the lifestyles and practices of the world. They became infected instead of being an influence for good. And so God had to discipline them. Psalm 80 was probably written about the time that the northern kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Judah to the south was under attack as well. So they called out to God. “Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved” (Psalm 80:3 NLT). They were in trouble and knew their only hope was in God. “ome back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Look down from heaven and see our plight. Take care of this grapevine” (Psalm 80:14 NLT). They claimed that if God would revive and restore them, they would never abandon Him again. They recall how God had chosen them, redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, given them the Promised Land and made them flourish there. But all that had changed. They were now the hopeless victims of Assyria’s power and God’s punishment. How quickly things had changed.

But Psalm 135 brings it full circle. It reminds us of the power and praiseworthiness of God. “I know the greatness of the Lord— that our Lord is greater than any other god” (Psalm 135:5 NLT). This Psalm reflects an understanding that God alone is the source of all hope and deliverance. It is a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It recalls God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt and, more recently, from the hands of the Amorites and Canaanites. It reflects an understanding that God will deal faithfully with His people. He will not abandon them. “For the Lord will give justice to his people and have compassion on his servants” (Psalm 135:14 NLT). So He is worthy of praise. He will once again establish the city of Jerusalem as His dwelling place. The day is coming when He will restore His people to their land and dwell among them. In spite of their unfaithfulness, He will remain faithful. He will once again prove to be their refuge and strength. Because that is the kind of God we worship and serve. He is reliable and trustworthy. He is faithful and true. He is a covenant-keeping God who never abandons those He loves. No matter how bleak the circumstances may look, God is there. He is working behind the scenes in ways we can’t see. He is faithfully and perfectly working out His divine plan. He is our refuge and strength.

Father, You can be trusted. You are always faithful. Your love for us never fails. Your plans for us never get derailed. You are and always will be our refuge and strength in times of trouble. So there is no reason for us to fear. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 39; Psalm 76

The Power of Pride and Presumption.

“Our boldest enemies have been plundered. They lie before us in the sleep of death. No warrior could lift a hand against us. ” ­– Psalm 76:5 NLT

More than likely, the writing of Psalm 76 by Asaph was immediately after the Assyrians had been routed by God. They were camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, issuing edicts and threats against Judah, taunting Hezekiah the king and warning him not to trust in God. But that night, an angel of God visited the camp of the Assyrian army, wiping out 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers without Judah having to lift so much as a finger. God had miraculously defeated a superior army and rescued Judah once again from their enemies. “God is honored in Judah; his name is great in Israel. Jerusalem is where he lives; Mount Zion is his home. There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war” (Psalm 76:1-3 NLT).

God is honored in Judah. Really? It seems that not long after the defeat of the Assyrians Hezekiah received an official visit from emissaries of Merodach-baladan, the son of the king of Babylon. It seems that Babylon, an upstart nation, struggling under the superior power of Assyria, was planning a revolt against the Assyrians and was enlisting nations to form an alliance. When Hezekiah received the prince’s envoys in Jerusalem, he proudly gave them the grand tour of the royal city, and “there was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2b NLT). That phrase is repeated over and over again in this chapter. “Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries!” (Isaiah 39:2a NLT). “‘They saw everything,’ Hezekiah replied. ‘I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries'” (Isaiah 39:4b NLT).

So what was the problem? Why does Isaiah make such a big deal out of Hezekiah’s “tour of homes” mentality? It seems that Hezekiah, in revealing all his wealth to the officials from Babylon, was acting in pride and presumption. He was proud of all his wealth. He wanted these officials to see just how rich and prosperous he was. His vanity got the best of him. He was presumptuous in that he failed to see that Babylon might one day become a threat to Judah’s very existence. At this point, Babylon was just another nation, struggling under the heavy hand of the superpower of the day, Assyria. Hezekiah seemed to be trusting in his wealth and his weapons. He appeared to place his trust in a possible alliance with Babylon. He failed to remember that it was God who had delivered Judah from the hands of the Assyrians. Not Egypt. Not Babylon. Not even Hezekiah’s own army.

So God tells Hezekiah the bad news. “The time is coming when everything in your palace – all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now – will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left” (Isaiah 39:6 NLT). The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 25. It would not take place during Hezekiah’s lifetime, but it would happen nonetheless. Hezekiah seemed content with the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to live to see it come to fruition. He could live out his life in peace and security. He was legitimately grateful to God that he would be spared having to see the destruction of Jerusalem, but there is a certain sadness to the fact that Hezekiah was so short-sighted and not concerned about the long-term security of the nation of Judah. His prayers had seen God defeat the Assyrians and heal him from disease, but in this case he doesn’t even voice a single word of intercession on behalf of the nation. Hezekiah’s pride and presumption had led him to trust in himself and a possible alliance with Babylon. He had taken his eyes off of God and become distracted by his own self-importance. God was to be his help, hope, and security. Nothing else. And the same is true for us today.

Father, how easy it is to get distracted by our own self-importance and the world around us. We can take our eyes off of You and forget that You alone are all we need. You are our provider and protector. We are to trust in nothing and no one else, including ourselves. Keep us focused on You. Keep us dependent on You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 18:1-8; Psalm 48

The Secret To Spiritual Success.

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses.” ­– 2 Kings 18:5-6 NLT

What do you want said of you when you die? I once heard it said that we are writing our eulogies right now – as we live our lives. What we do right now will determine how we are remembered. Our actions and attitudes will form the opinions of others and influence their memories regarding us. So if I hope to be remembered as a godly man, I must live like one now. My spiritual legacy is being made with each breath I take and every move I make. We see this truth lived out in the life of Hezekiah. After reading the stories of countless kings in both Judah and Israel, we come to the brief review of the life of Hezekiah, the king of Judah. He came to the throne at the age of 25 and took over the throne from his father Ahaz. Hezekiah did not have a great role model to follow in Ahaz. Ahaz did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Instead, he led the people to worship false gods, even sacrificing one of his sons to a pagan deity. His legacy was lousy. He did not leave his son with an example worth following. But for some reason, Hezekiah was able to remain faithful to God and did not follow his father’s example.

Hezekiah gives us hope that we can break the cycle of sin that exists in some of our families. We do not have to live out the sins of our fathers and mothers. We can remain faithful to God even when we are raised in environments that are faithless. We can begin a new legacy. We can leave our children and our grandchildren a new example to follow. Hezekiah became a powerful reformer, restoring the worship of God in Judah and restoring the Temple and reestablishing the sacrificial system God had commanded. He put his trust in God, not alliances with pagan nations. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything – every area of his life – no compartmentalization. He obeyed the commands of God, and not just when it was convenient or easy. And as a result the Lord was with him. God gave him success in all that he did. God blessed him. When it would have been easy for Hezekiah to follow his father’s example and continue his legacy of self-centeredness and self-destructiveness, Hezekiah charted a different course. He determined to follow after God. He chose to live a godly life in the midst of a godless generation. And he left a legacy of faithfulness, trust, and obedience. What will your legacy be? You are building it right now. Will you be pleased with the results when you are finished?

Father, help me remember that I am building my legacy right now. With every decision, action, and attitude, I am writing the eulogy of my life. I will be remembered for who I am right now. The memories my children have of me are being forged right now. What people recall about me will be based on how I live from this moment forward. May I be a man of faith and faithfulness like Hezekiah. A reformer, not a follower. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 82-83

Good Luck With All That!

“Come,” they say, “let us wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence.” ­– Psalm 83:4 NLT

How many times over the centuries have these words been expressed? It seems like ever since God set apart the people of Israel as His own, there has been some individual, group, or nation ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. This morning as I was reading through the book of Esther, I was reminded of the attempt by Haman to do just that. Stung by Mordecai’s refusal to bow down in his presence, Haman convinced King Xerxes to issue a decree giving him permission to put every Jew living to death, including all Jews living in the land of Judah. With the paperwork in hand, he was ready to annihilate an entire people group, effectively ending God’s promise and plan to bring the Savior onto the scene as a descendant of David. But God’s plans are not so easily ended. He was not about to let a royal decree end His divine plan for the redemption of mankind. The Jews would survive Haman’s threat as they have survived threats against their existence for years.

These two Psalms remind us that God is in control. And He will hold judges accountable for how they have treated the poor, orphans, widows, and oppressed. He has a heart for the downtrodden. He stands up for them. He hears their cries of distress. He knows when they are being abused and taken advantage of. And when He hears, He acts. God will bring about justice. He will protect His own. He will do what needs to be done. The key is, He will do it in His way and according to His timing. Israel has suffered greatly over the years. They have been abused and attacked regularly and relentlessly. Even today, nations plot their destruction. But God is still on the side of Israel. He is not done with them. Our faithful God will act faithfully toward His own. We can trust in that. We can rest in that.

Father, You never sleep or slumber. You never turn your back or get caught off guard. You’re never surprised or at a loss as to what to do. When we see all that is happening in the world we can get anxious, but these two Psalms remind us that You’re always watching and working Your plan to perfection. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 149-150

Warriors, Not Just Worshipers.

“Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.” ­– Psalm 159:6 NLT

What an interesting phrase. “Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands — to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains, to execute the judgment written against them” (Psalm 149:6-9 NLT). These last five psalms of the entire psalter are hymns of praise to God, encouraging us to praise Him for His power, provision, mercy and grace. But right in the middle of Psalm 149 the psalmist mixes in a little weaponry and war-like language with his call to worship. He tells the people of God to praise God with their lips, but to have a sword ready in their hand at the same time. I think we sometimes forget that our God has called us to be a part of His glorious army. We are at war. We are engaged in an epic battle between the dark forces of this world that have aligned themselves against the rule and reign of God Almighty. Jesus told us that the enemy (Satan) seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Paul reminds us that we have weapons we are to use in this battle – the weapons of our warfare. “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds” (2 Corinthians 7:4 NLT). Paul also tells us to equip ourselves with the armor of God. “Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:13 NLT). This is not Disneyland. This is a battle field and there are casualties of war all around us. Every day we see marriages destroyed, relationships blown apart, children rebel, individuals succumb to addictions of all kinds, and fellow believers fall prey to the attacks of the enemy because they were ill-prepared for battle.

This psalm is a vivid reminder that we have been called to praise God, but to also be ready to fight for God. As Paul tells us, our enemies are spiritual, not physical. Our weapons are not made of steel and chrome. They are the Word of God and the power of faith in God. Paul tells us, “Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT). We have the promises of God’s Word, the power of believing prayer, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the protection of our faith in God’s love for us, and the peace-providing reality of our ultimate salvation and victory over the enemy. So praise God and be ready to defend the cause of God. One day His Son is going to return. This time He is not coming as an innocent, helpless baby in a manger. He is coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is coming in might and power and He is bringing the army of heaven with Him. And He will put an end to this war once and for all. He will destroy the kingdom of Satan and restore the earth back to its former glory. We fight for the side that is going to win in the end! And that’s something worth shouting about.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True. For he judges fairly and then goes to war. His eyes were bright like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him, and only he knew what it meant. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword, and with it he struck down the nations. He ruled them with an iron rod, and he trod the winepress of the fierce wrath of almighty God. On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16 NLT

Father, we praise You, but we also want to be ready to fight alongside You in this earthly struggle between the kingdom of righteousness and the kingdom of wickedness. Never let us forget that we are at war. While we sing songs and worship You on Sunday, there are countless people dying at the hands of the enemy all around us. As we read our Bibles and study Your truths, there are people who are being destroyed by the enemy and his lies, and we have the means to rescue them. Show us how to be warriors, not just worshipers. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 146-148

Our Great and Gracious God.

“How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” ­– Psalm 147:5 NLT

These three Psalms are three-fifths of the closing hymns of the entire psalter. They help wrap up this collection of songs by offering praise to God for His power, provision, grace, and mercy. They remind us of just how great a God we serve. He is not a mere concept or force, but a being of immense power and intelligence. He is a loving creator who made all that we see by simply speaking it into existence, and He sustains it all with ease. When we consider the immensity of God, it seems ludicrous to trust in men. God alone has the power to rescue, redeem, and restore. He brings healing to the brokenhearted, sight to the blind, support to the fatherless and widows, food for the hungry, freedom to the captives, support to the afflicted, and favor to those who fear Him. As followers of Christ, those phrases should sound familiar. On a visit to His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus stood in the synagogue and read from Isaiah chapter 61 the following words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT). Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God’s grace and mercy. He is the real answer to oppression, illness, disease, inequity, spiritual blindness, hunger, affliction, fear, and even death.

God does not offer just temporary relief from the cares and concerns of life. He offers eternal salvation from the rule of sin and the penalty of death. He has provided a way for men to be restored to a right relationship to Him, in spite of their sin and rebellion against Him. He has made possible a way to remedy the results of the fall and restore mankind and the earth to their former glory. He not only created the earth and all it contains, He is one day going to recreate it – restore it to the way it was intended to be all along. Only God can do that. Any attempts by man to improve the earth and our lives on it are fleeting and temporary. In many cases, our attempts at improvement have resulted in greater devastation. From nuclear power that resulted in nuclear weapons to the combustion engine that has polluted our atmosphere, every “improvement” by man has ended up having a negative impact. God alone is our salvation. He alone has the power to provide us with hope and healing. So the Psalmist reminds us to praise Him. From the oldest to the youngest, the rich to the poor, the wealthy to the needy – everyone and everything should praise the Lord. “Let them all praise the name of the LORD. For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven!” (Psalm 148:13 NLT).

Father, only You are worthy of our praise. Only You have the capacity to do anything about our neediness and hopelessness. I can praise You even before You answer because I know You will – You always do. You have sent Your Son as the answer to every single one of our problems and as the solution to all that’s wrong with our planet and the people who occupy it. Even as I read the news this morning I am amazed at all that is wrong in our world. Earthquakes, riots, rebellions, murders, genocide, war, hatred, greed, and immorality of all kinds. But I can praise You because one day You are going to make all this right. You are going to restore Your creation to the way it was meant to be. And even in the midst of all this, You have given me hope through Jesus Christ, Your Son. He is the ultimate expression of Your favor to man. So I praise You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalm 134

Unseen, But Far From Unappreciated.

“Oh, praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, you who serve at night in the house of the Lord.” ­– Psalm 134:1 NLT

Just three verses long, this Psalm seems to be a short, simple conclusion or benediction to the Song of Ascents, the hymnbook used by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Booths. The Song of Ascents included Psalms 120-134. In this particular concluding Psalm the emphasis turns toward those who serve God in the Temple at night. Care for the Temple was an around-the-clock affair. While the people slept, the priests were busy caring for, cleaning, purifying and readying the Temple for the following day. It seems that there was a group of the Levites whose duty it was to perform some of the more mundane or less-than-glamorous duties associated with the Temple. According to 1 Chronicles 23, “The duty of the Levites was to help Aaron’s descendants in the service of the temple of the LORD: to be in charge of the courtyards, the side rooms, the purification of all sacred things and the performance of other duties at the house of God. They were in charge of the bread set out on the table, the flour for the grain offerings, the unleavened wafers, the baking and the mixing, and all measurements of quantity and size.  They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening, and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the LORD on Sabbaths and at New Moon festivals and at appointed feasts. They were to serve before the LORD regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them (1 Chronicles 23:28-31 NLT).

This Psalm was meant to be an expression of encouragement to those who serve the Lord at night, in relative obscurity – serving Him joyfully, offering Him praise even in the midst of their nightly duties. It was a reminder to the pilgrims and the priests that the role these priests played was far from unimportant. While no one saw what they did, God was watching. Their duties were just as important as those of the priests who offered up the sacrifices in the courtyard. Without their careful purification of the utensils and objects used in the sacrificial system, the sacrifices offered up to God would have been considered unclean and unacceptable. I can only imagine the cleanup job each evening after a full day of sacrifices with the blood of thousands of animals having flowed within the grounds of the Temple. Everything had to be cleaned and purified. These men played a critical role in the sacrificial system of Israel. And their efforts were a blessing to God.

What a reminder to us that there are those who serve the body of Christ in obscurity, doing roles that many of us would think are unglamorous and even unimportant. I think of the men and women who serve each week on our Parking Posse, overseeing the flow of cars on to and off of our campus each week. Without their efforts, the chaos that would ensue would be unbearable. Yet many don’t even notice these people are there. I think of the hundreds of Sunday School teachers and volunteers who serve each and every Sunday throughout the year, caring for and teaching our children. We take them for granted. We come to church knowing they will be there to provide our children a safe environment in which to learn and grow in their knowledge of God and His Word. What about the maintenance staff who work all throughout the week, caring for the buildings and grounds, ensuring they are clean and that everything works properly? They operate behind the scenes, invisible and unknown to most of us. But just think about how their efforts enhance our worship of God on Sunday.

From those who design and print the worship folders each Sunday to those who prepare the coffee, countless individuals serve behind the scenes in an effort to make our worship of God as comfortable and hassle-free as possible. May God bless them for their efforts. And may we learn to thank them for all that they do.

Father, thank You for reminding me of all those who serve You selflessly each week. Create in me a heart of gratitude, expressing my thanks to them for all that they do to enhance our worship experience each week. May You bless them Father for their willingness to serve in ways that many of would not do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men