Preparation, Prepared, Preparing

* Preparation leads to peace

Judah had peace with all her neighbors.  Times of peace are not just for resting.  They allow us preparation time to prepare for trouble.  King Asa recognized the period of peace as the right time to build his defenses—the moment of attack would be too late.  It is also difficult to withstand spiritual attack unless defenses are prepared beforehand.  Decisions about how to face temptation must be made with cool heads long before we feel the heat of temptation.  Build your defenses now before temptation strikes. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 14:7 – Asa told the people of Judah, “Let us build towns and fortify them with walls, towers, gates, and bars.  The land is ours because we sought the Lord our God, and he has given us rest from our enemies.”  So they went ahead with these projects and brought them to completion.

* Preparation vital to a project well done

It took from September (September was the seventh month because the year began in March) to April just to prepare to build the Temple.  The exiles took time to make plans because the project was important to them.  Preparation may not feel heroic or spiritual, but it is vital to any project meant to be done well. (NLT)

Ezra 3:8 – The construction of the Temple of God began in mid-spring, during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem.  The work force was made up of everyone who had returned from exile, including Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jehozadak and his fellow priests, and all the Levites.  The Levites who were twenty years old or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Lord’s Temple.

* Staying prepared for opportunities

When Pharaoh’s cup-bearer was freed from prison, he forgot about Joseph, even though he had Joseph to thank for his freedom.  It was two full years before Joseph had another opportunity to be freed.  Yet Joseph’s faith was deep, and he would be ready when the next chance came.  When we feel passed by, overlooked, or forgotten, we shouldn’t be surprised that people are often ungrateful.  In similar situations, trust God as Joseph did.  More opportunities may be waiting. (NLT)

Genesis 40:23 – Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

* Our most important opportunities may come when we least expect them.  Joseph was brought hastily from the dungeon and pushed before Pharaoh.  Did he have time to prepare?  Yes and no.  He had no warning that he would be suddenly pulled from prison and questioned by the king.  Et Joseph was ready for almost anything because of his right relationship with God.  It was not Joseph’s knowledge of dreams that helped him interpret their meaning.  It was his knowledge of god.  Be ready for opportunities by getting to know more about God.  Then you will be ready to call on him when opportunities come your way. (NLT)

Genesis 41:14 – Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was brought hastily from the dungeon.  After a quick shave and change of clothes, he went in and stood in Pharaoh’s presence.

* How God was preparing Moses for leadership

What a contrast between Moses’ life as an Egyptian prince and his life as a Midianite shepherd!  As a prince he had everything done for him; he was the famous son of an Egyptian princess.  As a shepherd he had to do everything for himself, he was holding the very job he had been taught to despise, and he lived as an unknown foreigner.  What a humbling experience this must have been for Moses!  But God was preparing him for leadership.  Living the life of a shepherd and nomad, Moses learned about the ways of the people he would be leading and also about life in the wilderness.  Moses couldn’t appreciate this lesson, but God was getting him ready to free Israel from Pharaoh’s grasp. (NLT)

Exodus 3:1 – One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-n-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he went deep into the wilderness near Sinai, the mountain of God.

* Preparing ourselves for fulfillment of God’s promises

Eating the Passover feast while dressed for travel was a sign of the Hebrews’ faith.  Although they were not yet free, they were to prepare themselves, for God had said he would lead them out of Egypt.  Their preparation was an act of faith.  Preparing ourselves for the fulfillment of God’s promises, however unlikely they may seem, demonstrates our faith. (NLT)

Exodus 12:11 – “Wear your traveling clothes as you eat this meal, as though prepared for a long journey.  Wear your sandals, and carry your walking sticks in your hands.  Eat the food quickly, for this is the Lord’s Passover.”

* Prepare leaders to succeed you

Moses did not want to leave his work without making sure a new leader was ready to replace him.  First, he asked God to help him find a replacement.  Then, when Joshua was selected, Moses gave him a variety of tasks to ease the transition into his new position.  Moses also clearly told the people that Joshua had the authority and the ability to lead the nation.  His display of confidence in Joshua was good for both Joshua and the people.  To minimize leadership gaps, anyone in a leadership position should train others to carry on the duties should he or she suddenly or eventually have to leave.  While you have the opportunity, follow Moses’ pattern: pray, select, develop, and commission. (NLT)

Numbers 27:15-21 – Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, the God of the spirits of all living things, please appoint a new leader for the community.  Give them someone who will lead them into battle, so the people of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

The Lord replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.  Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him with the responsibility of leading the people.  Transfer your authority to him so the whole community of Israel will obey him.  When direction from the Lord is needed, Joshua will stand before Eleazar he priest, who will determine the Lord’s will by means of sacred lots.  This is how Joshua and the rest of the community of Israel will discover what they should do.”

* Benefits of preparing for worship

Offerings had to be brought regularly and presented according to prescribed rituals under the priests’ supervision.  Following these rituals took time, and this gave the people the opportunity to prepare their hearts for worship.  Unless our hearts are ready, worship is meaningless.  By contrast, God is delighted, and we get more from it, when our hearts are prepared to come before him in a spirit of thankfulness. (NLT)

Numbers 28:1-2 – The Lord said to Moses, “Give these instructions to the people of Israel: The offerings you present to me by fire on the altar are my food, and they are very pleasing to me.  See to it that they are brought at the appointed times and offered according to my instructions.”

* Good leaders prepare their people to function without them

God had made it clear that Moses would not enter the Promised Land.  So God told Moses to commission Joshua as the new leader and encourage him in this new role.  This is a good example to churches and organizations who must eventually replace their leaders.  Good leaders prepare their people to function without them by discovering those with leadership potential, providing the training they need, and looking for ways to encourage them. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 3:26-28 – “But the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he would not listen to me.  ‘That’s enough!’ he ordered.  ‘Speak of it no more.  You can go to Pisgah Peak and view the land in every direction, but you may not cross the Jordan River.  But commission Joshua and encourage him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan.  He will give them the land you now see before you.’”

* To serve God often begins at a young age

Samson’s tribe, Dan, continued to wander in their inherited land, which was yet unconquered.  Samson must have grown up with his warlike tribe’s yearnings for a permanent and settled territory.  Thus, his visits to the tribal army camp stirred his heart, and God’s spirit began preparing him for his role as judge and leader against the Philistines.

Perhaps there are things that stir your heart.  These may indicate areas where God wants to use you.  God uses a variety of means to develop and prepare us: hereditary traits, environmental influences, and personal experiences.  As with Samson, this preparation often begins long before adulthood.  Work at being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and the tasks God has prepared for you.  Your past may be more useful to you than you imagine. (NLT)

Judges 13:25 – And in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol, the Spirit of the Lord began to take hold of him.

* Preparing children to fulfill God’s call

God told David he would not be the one to build the Temple.  Instead, the task would be left to his son Solomon, David graciously accepted this no from God.  He was not jealous of the fact that his son would have the honor of building God’s Temple but instead made preparations for Solomon to carry out his task.  Similarly, we should take steps now to prepare the way for our children to find and fulfill God’s purpose.  Sooner or later our children will have to make their own decisions, but we can help by supplying them with the proper tools: showing them how to pray and study God’s Word, the difference between right and wrong, and the importance of church involvement. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 22:7-10 – “I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him.  “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the great battles you have fought.  And since you have shed so much blood before me, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name.  But you will have a son who will experience peace and rest.  I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands.  His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.  He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name.  He will be my son, and I will be his father.  And I will establish the throne of is kingdom over Israel forever.’

* David’s preparations for Temple

Although David couldn’t build the Temple, he could make preparations, and he took that job seriously.  He not only gathered funds and materials for God’s house but also planned much of the administration and arranged the worship services.  The original readers of Chronicles were rebuilding the Temple after it had been destroyed by invading armies, and this information about its procedures was invaluable to them.  The next five chapters demonstrate that organization is essential for smooth and effective service.  (NLT)

1 Chronicles 23:1 – When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel.

* David had wanted to build a Temple for God.  God denied his request because David had been a warrior, but God said that David’s son Solomon would build the Temple.  God allowed David to make the plans and preparations for the Temple.  David bought the land, gathered most of the construction materials, and received the plans from God.  It was Solomon’s responsibility to make the plans a reality.  His job was made easier by his father’s exhaustive preparations.  God’s work can be moved forward when the older generation paves the way for the younger (NLT)

2 Chronicles 2:1 – Solomon now decided that the time had come to build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

* Making spiritual preparations

Before making all the physical preparations for the journey, Ezra made spiritual preparations.  Their prayers and fasting prepared them spiritually and showed their dependence on God for protection, their faith that God was in control, and their affirmation that they were not strong enough to make the trip without him.  When we take time to put God first in any endeavor, we are preparing well for whatever lies ahead. (NLT)

Ezra 8:21-23 – And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God.  We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled.  For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way.  After all, we had told the king, “Our God protects all those who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.”  So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.

* Combining prayer with preparation

Nehemiah constantly combined prayer with preparation and planning.  His people trusted God and at the same time kept vigilant watch over what had been entrusted to them.  Too often we pray without looking for what God wants us to do.  We show God we are serious when we combine prayer with thought, preparation, and effort. (NLT)

Nehemiah 4:9 – But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.

* Preparation for temptation

At the end of your life, it will be too late to ask for advice.  When desire is fully activated, people don’t want advice—they want satisfaction.  The best time to learn the dangers and foolishness of going after forbidden sex (or anything else that is harmful) is long before the temptation comes.  Resistance is easier if the decision has already been made.  Don‘t wait to see what happens.  Prepare for temptation by deciding now how you will act when you face it. (NLT)

Proverbs 5:11-13 – Afterward you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body, and you will say, “How I hated discipline!  If only I had not demanded my own way!  Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers?  Why didn’t I pay attention to those who gave me instructions?”

* Preparation to meet Jesus

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.  People who do not know Jesus need to get ready to meet him.  We can prepare them by explaining their need for forgiveness, demonstrating Christ’s teachings by our conduct, and telling them how Christ can give their lives meaning.  We can “make a straight road for him” by correcting misconceptions that might be hindering people from coming to Christ.  Someone you know may be open to a relationship with Christ.  What can you do to prepare the way for this person? (NLT)

Matthew 3:3 – Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Prepare a pathway for the Lord’s coming!  Make a straight road for him!’”

* The purpose of John’s preaching was to prepare people to accept Jesus as God’s Son.  When John challenged the people to confess sin individually, he signaled the start of a new way to relate to God.

Is change needed in your life before you can hear and understand Jesus’ message?  You have to admit that you need forgiveness before you can accept it.  To prepare to receive Christ, repent.  Denounce the world’s dead-end attractions, sinful temptation, and harmful attitudes. (NLT)

Mark 1:5 – People from Jerusalem and from all over Judea traveled out into the wilderness to see and hear John.  And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.

* Efforts to determine the date of Christ’s return are foolish.  Don’t be misled by anyone who claims to know.  We are told here that no one knows and that even believers will be surprised.  The Lord will return suddenly and unexpectedly, warns Paul, so be ready!  Because no one knows when Jesus will come back to earth, we should be ready at all times.  Suppose he were to return today.  How would he find you living?  Are you ready to meet him?  Live each day prepared to welcome Christ.   (NLT)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 – I really don’t need to write to you about how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters.  For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.   When people are saying, “All is well; everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as a woman’s birth pains begin when her child is about to be born.  And there will be no escape.

* How to prepare for Jesus’ return

Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the very place where the prophet Zechariah had predicted that the Messiah would stand when he came to establish his Kingdom.  It was a fitting place for the disciples to ask Jesus when he would come in power and what they could expect then.  Jesus’ reply emphasized the events that would take place before the end of the age.  He pointed out that his disciples should be less concerned with knowing the exact date and more concerned with being prepared—living God’s way consistently so that no matter when Jesus came, they would be ready. (NLT)

Matthew 24:3 – Later, Jesus sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.  His discpl.es came to him privately and asked, “When will all this take place?  And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?”

* Jesus’ purpose in telling about his return is not to stimulate predictions and calculations about the date but to warn us to be prepared.  Will you be ready?  The only safe choice is to obey him today. (NLT)

Matthew 24:44 – [Jesus said] “You also must be ready all the time.  For the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

* Jesus asks us to spend the time of waiting taking care of his people and doing his work here on earth, both within the church and outside it.  This is the best way to prepare for Christ’s return. (NLT)

Matthew 24:45-47 – [Jesus said] “Who is a faithful, sensible servant, to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his household and feeding his family?  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.  I assure you, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.”

* Jesus preparing a place for his own

There are few verses in Scripture that describe eternal life, but these few verses are rich with promises.  Here Jesus says, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” and “I will come and get you.”  We can look forward to eternal life because Jesus has promised it to all who believe in him.  Although the details of eternity are unknown, we need not fear because Jesus is preparing for us and will spend eternity with us. (NLT)

John 14:2-3 – [Jesus said] “There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you.  If this were not so, I would tell you plainly.  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

* Preparation for the Lord’s Supper

When Paul said that no one should take the Lord’s Supper unworthily, he was speaking to the church members who were participating in it without thinking of its meaning.  Those who did so were “guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord.”  Instead of honoring his sacrifice, they were sharing in the guilt of those who crucified Christ.  In reality, no one is worthy to take the Lord’s Supper.  We are all sinners saved by grace.  This is why we should prepare ourselves for Communion through healthy introspection, confession of sin, and resolution of differences with others.  These actions remove the barriers that affect our relationship with Christ and with other believers.  Awareness of your sin should not keep you away from Communion but drive you to participate in it. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 – So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord.  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

But if we examine ourselves, we will not be examined by God and judged in this way.  But when we are judged and disciplined by the Lord, we will not be condemned with the world.  So, dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other.  If you are really hungry, eat at home so you won’t bring judgment upon yourselves when you meet together.

I’ll give you instructions about the other matters after I arrive.

* Preparation important in serving God effectively

After this conversion, Paul spent many years preparing for the ministry to which God had called him.  This preparation period included time alone with God, as well as time conferring with other Christians.  Often new Christians, in their zeal, want to begin a full-time ministry without investing the necessary time studying the bible and learning from qualified teachers.  We need not wait to share Christ with our friends, but we may need more preparation before embarking on a special ministry, whether volunteer or paid.  While we wait for god’s timing, we should continue to study, learn, and grow. (NLT)

Galatians 2:1 – Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too.

* Preparation for those who challenge your faith

Peter concludes this brief letter as he began, urging his readers to grow in the special favor and knowledge of the Lord and savior Jesus Christ; that is, they were to get to know him better and better.  This is the best way to discern false teaching.  No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, no matter how mature we are in our faith, the sinful world will always challenge our faith.  We still have much room for growth.  Every day we need to draw closer to Christ so that we will be prepared to stand for truth in any and all circumstances. (NLT)

2 Peter 3:18 – But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore.  Amen.

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