Abiding, Bible, Conviction, Correction, Corruption, Discipline, Passion, Scripture

RISING EARLY

ZEPHANIAH 3:7

“‘I said, “You will certainly revere Me, you will accept discipline.” So her dwelling will not be eliminated in accordance with everything that I have stipulated for her. Instead, they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.’”

I am typically an early riser. Sleeping to 6 a.m. is late for me. Normally I am up between 4:30 and 5:30 most days. I just can’t sleep late. The first thing I do after getting dressed is head upstairs to my office and have my Quiet Time. I love spending the first moments of my day in prayer and then in the Word. It sets me on the right course for the day.

In today’s verse the Lord is rebuking those in Jerusalem for doing just the opposite. “They were eager” is better translated “they rose early.” The got up early to corrupt all their deeds. The word “corrupt” actually means “to put to ruin.” Wow! They got up early to mess stuff up. Hmmm. Sounds like the world today, doesn’t it?

APPLICATION

I pray you have the Lord on your mind when you arise. Psalm 3:5 says, “I lie down and sleep; I awake again because the Lord sustains me.” Isn’t that awesome? Even while I am sleeping, the Lord is ready to wake me up and sustain me. Why shouldn’t we have Him on our minds first thing?

Don’t wake up and think What can I get away with today. As believers, we are to strive to be holy as He is holy. He commands that. And if God commands something of us, it is possible. He will never ask you to do something which He will not enable you to do. Do you believe that? You should. So, don’t succumb to the schemes of the evil one. He wants to lead you astray.

My practice of getting up early and having my Quiet Time is a skill I have developed. It wasn’t something I just started doing. I had to discipline myself to do it. Every Man A Warrior helped me to do that. Check it out at everymanawarrior.com. This material was written for men, but women are also taking advantage of the skills it helps develop. Welcome to the journey.

Father, I long to please You. I do not want to do those things anymore that feed my flesh. I want to feed my spirit.

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Abiding, Bible, Destruction, Eternity, Salvation, Scripture

THE END OF THINGS

ZEPHANIAH 2:14

“Flocks will lie down in her midst, all animals that range in herds; both the pelican and the hedgehog will spend their nights in the tops of her pillars; birds will sing in the window, devastation will be on the threshold; for He has uncovered the cedar work.”

I like movies that have the hero stopping an end of the world plot by the villain. There are a lot of those kinds of movies out there. Usually, it comes down to the last second to save mankind. The hero risks everything to accomplish his mission. But in the end, he is successful (and usually gets the girl, lol). That ending is happy, right?

Not so with the destruction of Nineveh and Assyria who Zephaniah is describing here in verse 14 of chapter 2. Their destruction will be so complete that the animals will live in their cities. They will sleep in the fallen caps of the pillars that held up their impressive homes and buildings. And among all that destruction, the birds will still sing. Total destruction and a return to the wild.

APPLICATION

How do we apply a verse like this to our lives? Remember, every word of Scripture is inspired by God and given to us for instruction. So, what does this mean to us? Nothing we can accomplish on this earth will remain. Nothing we build will withstand God’s final judgment on earth. All the wealth we obtain will get us nowhere.

The only thing that will last is our relationship with God. Our eternal destiny rests in the decision we make concerning Him. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 “…‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.’” There is no other way. You cannot earn your way to the Father. You cannot get there through anything you do here. You must go through Jesus.

I pray you have made that decision. I pray you are resting in that decision if you have made it. As believers, we know everything we have here really belongs to Him. We hold it all very loosely in our hands. But we hold tightly to Him. Why? Because He is our hero. He has already defeated the villain of our spiritual lives. We know the ending. Jesus is triumphant. Amen? Amen!

I hold my success and all I have accomplished in my hands and offer it all to You, Lord.

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Abiding, Bible, Blessing, Caregiver, Confession, Covenant, Forgiveness, Salvation, Scripture

IN HIS CARE

ZEPHANIAH 2:7

“And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will drive sheep to pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortunes.”

Yesterday, my wife and I had the privilege to have our youngest granddaughter at our house for the day. She is almost five and is full of energy. She never stops, but we love it. We don’t consider caring for her as babysitting. We care for her because we love her and want to spend time with her.

The same holds true for our Lord. Zephaniah reminds his people that God cares for them and wants to “restore their fortunes.” How did God care for them? He removed their enemies. He gave them possessions to meet their needs. He returned what had been taken from them by their enemies. He proved His promises were true.

APPLICATION

We all desire to be cared for, don’t we? Recently, I was sick and needed someone to care for me. I did not call my neighbor or a stranger. I was cared for by the one person who knows me best here on earth. I was cared for by the person I spend a lot of time with. I was cared for by the person who has loved me and has cut covenant with me these past 37 years. My wife cared for me (and by the way, she did an incredible job).

In the same way, God knows you better than anyone and can meet the needs you have even before you know you have them. He wants to bless you and see your “fortunes” restored. What is required of us to receive that blessing? Simply abide in Him. If you are His child, He cares for you. If you are His child, He wants to see you blessed.

That’s the big question, isn’t it? Are you His child? If you are not sure, go to Him now. Make sure of it. If you know you are not in His family, ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord. Confirm that with someone. Talk to a Pastor or another believer. Tell someone. And then watch the way God works in your life as He cares for you. You will be amazed.

Your blessings blow me away, O God. Your tender touch reassures me of Your care.

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Abiding, Bible, Confession, Repentance, Scripture

GET IT TOGETHER

ZEPHANIAH 2:1

“Gather yourselves together, yes, join together, you nation without shame,”

Have you ever been totally flustered about something? I remember one time I was trying to put a new starter on my 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon (yea, I owned a station wagon). I got the old one off with no problem, but I could not get the bolts to line up to install the new one. I finally left it and returned the next morning. The bolts instantly lined up. I just had to step away and gather myself.

Zephaniah is telling the people it is time to gather themselves, to get it together. They had for too long been wandering around, thus, the judgment had come. Now it is time to pull together and repent “without shame.” True confession does not cause shame. It removes it.

APPLICATION

I don’t know about you, but I need to “get it together” sometimes. If I am not careful, I can wander into the wilderness. I can get my eyes off of Jesus and onto the world. I can get my priorities all out of whack and pursue the wrong things. I have to get it all back together.

So, how do I do that? Only through prayer and the study of His Word. Nothing else comes close to shifting me back. I can’t rely on other people. I can’t rely on a good self-help book. I can’t mellow out with good music. No! Only the pursuit of Jesus through concentrated time with Him does it. And that must begin with confession and cleansing.

I love to quote Psalm 51:2-4. “2 Wash me thoroughly from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my wrongdoings,

and my sin is constantly before me. 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” Will you join me in doing that? Get it together.

Thank You for Your cleansing power in my life, Lord. Because of it, I can walk boldly and courageously.

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Abiding, Accountability, Battles, Bible, Choices, Discipline, Godliness, Integrity, Purity, Scripture

SOUND THE TRUMPETS

ZEPHANIAH 1:16

“A day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and the high corner towers.”

I have never played a trumpet but have the utmost respect for those who do. One of my favorite trumpeters is Phil Driscoll. He is amazing. He’s been playing the trumpet for decades and using it to praise the Lord. If you haven’t heard him, you need to check out some of his music.

Unfortunately, Zephaniah isn’t referring to Phil Driscoll in today’s verse. Instead, he is reminding the people of the trumpets that were played in times of war. There were different trumpets and different sounds played to give signals and warnings. Now, they are going to hear God’s trumpet as He brings judgment on the land.

APPLICATION

God may not sound a trumpet to give us warnings, but we have every warning sign we need in His Word. All throughout its pages God tells us how to live and the consequences if we don’t. It would be nice if we had red lights that flashed and got buzzed with an electric current every time we came close to straying, but God gives us that infamous free will, doesn’t He?

The only way we can stay holy is to follow His Word. I love 2 Peter 1:3-4. “3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.”

So, what is our excuse? It says very clearly that He has given us everything we need to live godly lives. We want trumpets to blare and sound the warning. We want God to reach down and jerk us away from sin. We have to make the choice – the choice to live holy, to live in purity. Will you today?

Take my life, lead me Lord, take my life, lead me Lord!

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Abiding, Bible, Scripture, Treasures, Wealth

YOURS BUT NOT YOURS

ZEPHANIAH 1:13

“‘Their wealth will become plunder, and their houses desolate; yes, they will build houses but not inhabit them, and plant vineyards but not drink their wine.’”

There is a housing development not too far from where I live that sits deserted. The developer started building this high-end, gated community years ago, but had to stop. The parts he finished are elaborate. The houses are big and expensive. The walls and gates are impressive. Yet, no one possesses them. They sit there rotting away.

Those who spurn the Lord find themselves in the same predicament. Zephaniah, in today’s verse, gives us the Lord’s words towards such people. Psalm 52:7 says something similar. “Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and was strong in his evil desire.”

APPLICATION

In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus tells us a similar story. Someone approaches Jesus and asks Him to tell his brother to divide their family inheritance with him. As is customary for Jesus, He illustrates truth through a story. It’s one of greed and possessions, something I am sure the man asking the question was concerned about.

Jesus closes the story with these words. “20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is demanded of you; and as for all that you have prepared, who will own it now?21 Such is the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich in relation to God.”

I guess I am in luck since I am not rich, lol. Seriously, you can be greedy and not possess a lot. It’s all about your heart. How is your heart? Is it rich in relation to God, as Jesus said? Is knowing Him more important than what you have? Things of this earth will not last but knowing Him will.

Lord, thank You for the richness of Your love.

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Abiding, Affliction, Bible, Deliverance, God's Will, Oppression, Rescue, Scripture

LIVING IN A BOWL

ZEPHANIAH 1:11

“‘Wail, you inhabitants of the Mortar, because all the people of Canaan will be destroyed; all who weigh out silver will be eliminated.’”

The city where I live, Chattanooga, is in a bowl. We sit in this valley fringed by mountains which gives our geographic area a bowl-like appearance. Pollen settles here and makes breathing hard for those with allergies. We do get protected from some storms because of our geography, but at other times, if the weather comes from a southwesterly direction, we can get hit hard.

That is the case here in Zephaniah 1:11. The word “Mortar” is actually referring to the geographical location the people find themselves in. They are trapped in a bowl. Much like drugs are crushed by a pestle inside a mortar, their enemies would crush them in their valley, in their bowl. Judgment is sure.

APPLICATION

You may feel like you are being crushed by life’s circumstances. I know sometimes the pressures of life can be horrible. It seems you are being hit from every side. Can I put all that in perspective for you? Philippians 2:5-8 can do that. “5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. 8 And but being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.”

Sure, we suffer hardship. But compared to what Jesus has done for us, it is nothing. The sins of the world were on His shoulders. Can we even imagine the pressure He was feeling? And remember, He had not done anything wrong. He had never sinned. Can we say that?

I am thankful for the opportunities He gives me to trust Him. Even when I am in that bowl of affliction and there seems to be no way of escape, He is there. He will sustain me. He will lift up my head. He will deliver me. Praise be to Him.

Yes, Lord, You are the lifter of my head. To You I will look for my deliverance during each trial and hardship.

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Abiding, Bible, Protection, Scripture, Security, Trust

FALSE SECURITY

ZEPHANIAH 1:10

“‘And on that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘There will be the sound of a cry from the Fish Gate, wailing from the Second Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.’”

There is nothing worse than to think you are safe only to find out you’re not. I have ridden out several hurricanes in my lifetime. Most of them weren’t a big deal. But there was one… We thought we were fine, but when it hit, we thought we had made a mistake in staying. It hit harder and stayed longer than we thought.

Zephaniah is relaying the Lord’s words in verse 10 which describe the people’s reliance on their man made defenses against their enemies. The Fish Gate couldn’t withstand them. Nor could the Second Quarter of the high points of the city. All reliance on their defense efforts fell short. Why? Because the Lord had removed His protection.

APPLICATION

Oh, to think where I would be without the Lord’s protection. I would probably be in some gutter. I know my flesh. But because I have chosen to follow Him and give my life to Him, He has made a covenant with me to protect me. Psalm 17:8-9 give us a promise. “8 Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings 9 from the wicked who deal violently with me, my deadly enemies who surround me.”

Just as the Lord covenanted with David, so He covenants with us. We do not have to rely on our own defenses. And because we are His children, He will never withdraw His protection. The key is abiding in Him. Take a minute and read John 15. There is the key to abiding in Jesus.

I have found that abiding in Him is a whole lot easier than trying to protect myself from a ruthless enemy. I am no match for him on my own. My only defense is Jesus. As I submit to my Master and resist the enemy, he has to flee (James 4:7). Are you tired of failing on your own. Come to Him.

I praise You, O Lord, for keeping me safe from the evil one. You are my Protector and Defender.

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Abiding, Accountability, Bible, Covenant, Discipline, God's Will, Judgment, Scripture

ACCOUNTABILITY

ZEPHANIAH 1:8

“‘Then it will come about on the day of the LORD’S sacrifice that I will punish the princes, the king’s sons, and all who clothe themselves with foreign garments.’”

I have been privileged to be a leader in several Christian organizations and churches through my almost 44 years of ministry. I have served with several very good leaders. I have also had the misfortune to serve under some poor or maybe even bad leaders. What made the difference in those leaders? Accountability to God. Good leaders are not afraid of being held accountable to do the right thing.

The leaders of Judah had flirted with foreign powers. They had welcomed their idols and pagan worship. They had brought in all kinds of foreign influences which led the nation away from Yahweh. Now it is time to be held accountable. God, the maker of all creation, is now demanding they be judged for these offenses. If only they had “checked in” for often with the Lord, they may have corrected their paths.

APPLICATION

Good leaders seek out accountability. I once had a boss who really just left me alone. He trusted me to do my job, and I did it well. I finally asked him for more regular accountability. I wanted to make sure he was aware of what I was doing and that it lined up with his vision for the ministry. Bad leaders shirk accountability. Ironically, they usually hold their employees to higher level than they do themselves, though.

Let me ask you a question. You may not be a leader in an organization or church, but you will be held accountable for everything you do in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.” Are you ready for that?

I want to encourage you today to bring it all to the table. Uncover every detail. Confess it all to Jesus. Ask Him daily for your battle plan. Let Him direct your path. Then you can be accountable to Him. Knowing that you are in His will helps make sense of life here on earth.

I want to know, Lord, how I’m doing. Tell me and direct me in Your will.

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Abiding, Belief, Bible, Choices, Confession, Consequences, Denial, Faith, Scripture

DENIERS

ZEPHANIAH 1:6

“‘And those who have turned back from following the LORD, and those who have not sought the LORD nor inquired of Him.’”

It hurts to have someone turn their backs on you and behave as if you didn’t exist. I have had that experience a time or two in my life. It was no fun. Some of those situations were eventually made right, but others were not. To this day, there is a distance that I do not have the ability to fix.

The Lord is still speaking here in verse 6 and is explaining the extent of His judgment. In today’s verse, He is telling us He will eliminate (that verb is found back in verse 4) all the unbelievers, those that have claimed to know Him and turned their backs on Him and those who have never believed. Denying God is a whole lot worse than denying an earthly friend. Denying Him has eternal consequences.

APPLICATION

Denial is not just a river in Egypt. You’ve probably heard that one before. But seriously, denial is serious. I have heard it hundreds of times. God is love and would never send anyone to hell. That is exactly right. He doesn’t. We do it to ourselves by denying His existence. By making that choice, we choose hell.

Fortunately, I have known people who refused to believe most of their lives but accepted Christ before they died. Whew! That’s too close for comfort. We never know when God is going to say, “That’s it!” We need to be ready, right? Are you? Are you sure? Are you sure that you’re sure?

There is no better feeling than knowing you are securely in the arms of Jesus. He will carry you through. Once you know Him, you will never want to leave Him. Once you are sealed by His Holy Spirit, nothing can take you out of His hand. So, don’t be a denier. Don’t be a procrastinator. Come to Jesus!

I am so thankful that You have me in Your hands, Lord. I know I am secure for eternity.

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