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Somebody Had To Do It! by Steve Patton

“Malchijah the son of Rechab, ... repaired the Dung Gate.” - Nehemiah 3:14
   Taylor has been teaching an excellent class on Ezra/Nehemiah that has helped me reflect on some new things. In the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, different families had responsibility for a wall section, a gate, or a tower. Some rebuilt the Fountain Gate. Others the Valley Gate. Others repaired David's sepulchre walls. Shelah rebuilt the walls by the King’s Garden. What an honor! But Malchijah was assigned…the Dung Gate. 
   The Dung Gate is assumed to be at the southern end of the wall overlooking the Valley of Hinnom. All the city’s garbage and refuse was dumped there. I rather doubt Malchijah’s great-grandchildren would later brag about what part of the wall their ancestor rebuilt. I wonder if Shelah’s kids made fun of Malchijah’s kids about their father’s Dung Gate assignment.
   But someone had to do it. The King’s Garden walls were important but they were worthless if ALL the wall was not rebuilt. The Dung Gate had to be repaired. Everyone likes the prestigious jobs. Few care about the seemingly lowly tasks because they can be unpleasant. Sometimes we think, “Anybody can do that. I have skills for more important jobs." After all, what glory or satisfaction is there in repairing "dung gates?"
   When Jesus got up from His hands and knees after washing his disciples dirty, smelly feet, He reminded them: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13.14,15)
   Jesus emphasized the greatest in his kingdom would be the lowliest - the ones willing to   repair the dung gates. Maybe there is little honor among men in such tasks. But there is great honor in God’s eyes for such willing and humble service. 
   “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28)
   True servants are ready to do anything. There are no unimportant tasks in the kingdom. Be ready to serve humbly. God will honor those who honor Him by such humble work.

Pursue Love...In Worship by Steve Patton

As Paul addressed Corinth's problems in their public worship he begins First Corinthians 14 by saying "Pursue love..." That may seem an odd statement when discussing their worship. But it was clear to Paul that one of the reasons their worship was unacceptable was because they did not show love for one another. There were divisions within the church that were affecting their congregational worship. Those divisions were there because of pride and a lack of love for their brethren. Some were even refusing to worship with some of their brethren (11:20,33). It was a sad state of affairs.
Worship begins in the heart. When he wrote "Pursue love" he had just finished writing about the characteristics of love of the brethren in great detail. He wrote that love is not being arrogant or rude; does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice in the unrighteousness of others but rather in truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Without these attitudes toward your brethren you cannot worship acceptably (Matt. 5:23,24).
Although our worship is very personal we must recognize that it also indicates our oneness and our love for one another. Remember, John said, "If a man says 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For he that loves not his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:21). Let us all be sure we pursue love for one another before we offer our worship to God.

From the desk of Steve Patton

Making God In Our Image
“Up, make us gods who shall go before us.” - Exodus 32:1
Pagans constantly surrounded the Israelites. It was easy to observe the pagans’ licentious worship. The carnal nature of such practices would appeal to anyone’s lustful desires. And if they worshipped their gods in such immoral ways, it is not hard to imagine the immoral character of their daily lives.
When the Israelites left Egypt it is clear many of them practiced idolatry. The first two of the Ten Commandments are about false gods and their images. Even when they are about to enter the promised land, Joshua told them, “Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:14).  They desired to worship and live like their pagan neighbors. So, in the absence of Moses at Sinai, they made an idol, worshipped it, and “sat down to eat and rose up to play” (Exo. 32:6). 
Some scholars suggest they did not cease Yahweh worship. Rather they made a representation of Him they could see and then began to worship Him as they had worshipped idols in Egypt. If so, that sounds a lot like what we often do today.
How often do we remake Yahweh into a God that suits us? We may not turn to immorality but we begin to rationalize ways for God to approve what we want to do. We justify keeping the money when the cashier give us too much change. We justify dressing immodestly by saying it’s not as bad as the world dresses. We justify little lies in business. We become servants of mammon and no longer faithfully serve the God who saved us. After all, we don’t murder, rob, do drugs, get drunk, or practice immorality. Our God will still accept us.
We can’t remake God into our image. We are made in His. Do not let an ungodly world influence you to rationalize sin in your life. Hear Joshua when he said, “…Choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

2017 Bible Reading Plan

Commit to spending some time each week in 2017 paying attention to the message of the prophets! Download the Bible reading schedule here. This week's reading is Lamentations 1-5.


From the desk of Joshua Creel

It's Not A Sin If You Don't Act?
Being tempted isn't a sin. I've said that many times to many people. I've said it to people who were struggling with sin, seeking to encourage them that not acting on the temptation is itself a victory. And this is true... in part. After all, we know our Savior was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4.15). Being tempted isn't a sin.
However, we might have mistakenly lumped temptation in with desire. Temptation arises from an external stimulus and seeks to arouse our desire. And when our desire is sufficiently enticed, we sin (James 1.14-15). So, it's not just the actions that are wrong, but the condition of our heart which make those actions possible. This was Jesus' point in the sermon on the mount when He emphasized that true righteousness warns against more than the actions of murder and adultery, but must govern the hatred and lust within (Matthew 5.21-28). It is why He said our sinful actions proceed from the heart (Matthew 15.19).
We cannot prevent temptation from coming our way; the world is filled with them. But our aim is to condition our hearts so that not only do we refrain from acting on temptation, our hearts don't even desire to act! Then we will truly be "pure in heart" and have the hope of seeing God (Matthew 5.8).