Putting God's Word into Practice…

Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 13:1-3)

Strap on your seatbelt and welcome to the roller coaster of my mind!

On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people.  And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them–YET OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING. (vs. 1-2)

My first thought was, “Wait a minute!  There is a Moabitess in the family line of Jesus! How can that be if He is so opposed to the Moabites?”  Step one:  look up a biblical timeline.

The passage they were reading from was Deuteronomy 23:3-6 which was written around 1406 B.C.–nearly 400 years prior to the reading of it in Nehemiah’s day.  Sandwiched between those 400 years–around 1140 B.C.–there was a famine in Bethlehem in the land of Judah and a man named Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and sons to Moab to find bread.  The sons married Moabite women.  Elimelech and his sons died, and one Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, returned to Bethlehem with Naomi.  One thing led to another and Ruth remarried to a man from Bethlehem named Boaz.  They became the great-grandparents of King David and twenty-eight generations later Jesus was born in Bethlehem into their family line. (Matthew 1:5-6, 17)

When Elimelech went to Moab in a time of famine, God knew exactly what He was doing.  It was God’s plan to add a Moabitess into the lineage of our Savior.  It wasn’t Plan B to compensate for Elimelech’s lack of faith.  God is sovereign.

Is it contradictory for God to command “no Moabites” and then bring one into the lineage of His Son, Jesus?  No!  It’s called Redemptive History!  When Ruth said to Naomi, “Your God will be my God,” she was woven into God’s family BY FAITH!

Just like God turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing, He took the curse on Ruth’s life and turned it into a blessing to foreshadow Jesus removing our curse–taking it on Himself– and blessing us with salvation.

All of this has led me to realize anew that Christmas was well-planned by a perfect God orchestrating the times and places of all people to fulfill His purposes in spite of disobedience, rebelliousness and sin and because of our disobedience, rebelliousness and sin.  It’s really quite amazing!

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Psalm 20 ~ A Prayer for the Reader

In times of trouble:

  • May the LORD answer your cry.
  • May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
  • May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
  • May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings.
  • May he grant your heart’s desires and
  • Make all your plans succeed.
  • May we shout for joy when we hear of our victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
  • May the LORD answer all your prayers.

Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God!–He rescues His people.  He answers our prayers.  His hand is mighty to save.  He gives victory in our battles.  He causes us to rise up and stand firm.

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Psalm 17 Eternal Satisfaction vs. Temporary Portion

From June 17-June 30 we were on vacation.  During this time, I took a break from reading through the New Testament to focus on some Psalms.  I read through the Psalm that corresponded with the daily date–i.e. chapters 17-30.  Having quiet time with the Lord like this was very personal and refreshing.

Deliver my soul from…men of this world whose portion is in this life. (Psalm 17:13b/14b)

Before we left on this trip I was really struggling with discontentment…feeling like we never had enough financial/material possessions.  I was focusing on our needs instead of petitioning the Need Provider.  I was focusing on what others have–things that seem average or normal in the world–that I don’t have.  I had deceived myself into thinking that my life should look like “everyone else’s,” that I was entitled to certain possessions, and that life should be fair!

Something about the wording of this verse reminded me that this world and the things of this world are temporary–their portion is only in this life.  They are earthly rewards that will melt away.  It is vain to chase after, to envy over “things.”  It’s not just vain–it’s sin.

This chapter ends with a beautiful reminder:  Because I am righteous, I WILL see You. When I awake, I WILL see you face-to-face and be satisfied!  I am righteous because I have trusted in Jesus’ blood to wash away my sins and let His righteousness be wrapped around my life.  Therefore, I WILL SEE HIM!  He is my portion!  In His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore! (Psalm 16:11)

Eternal satisfaction > temporary portion

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1 Peter 3:8-22 ~ A Life Worth Loving!

How many of us want to live lives we love and enjoy?  When do we get the most joy out of life?  Usually when things are going our way or when there is no conflict in our relationships.  God has a way that we can love and enjoy our lives no matter our circumstances, relational conflict, or harmful events.  It’s counter-cultural!

LOVE!!  Love others, bless our enemies, forgive, speak only what is good and true, search for and maintain peace, worship Christ as Lord of your life!

Unfortunately, most of us would rather wallow in pain, fear, and anger.  It’s easier and makes sense.  But we will not experience the abundant, joy-filled life Jesus died to give to us!  We will not have the presence of God with us, and King David wrote in Psalm 16:11 that true fulness of joy and eternal pleasures are only found where God is!

Think back over the last few days.  Have I retaliated in a conflict with someone?  Have I insulted anyone?  Have I spoken harshly or critically of anyone?  Is there anyone I need to forgive?  Have I spoken evil against anyone for which I need to confess and ask the Lord to forgive me? How can I love and bless EACH person in my life–even difficult ones?

Doing things God’s way is generally opposite of what our culture tells us is acceptable and goes against our own human nature.  But God’s ways promise lasting joy and a life worth loving!

Finally, all of you should be of one mind.  Sympathize with each other.  Love each other as brothers and sisters.  Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.  Don’t repay evil for evil.  Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you.  Instead, pay them back with a blessing.  That is what God has called you to do, and HE WILL BLESS YOU FOR IT.  For the Scriptures say, “If you want to ENJOY LIFE and see MANY HAPPY DAYS, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.  Turn away from evil and do good.  Search for peace, and work to maintain it.  The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and His ears are open to their prayers.  But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”  Now who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you suffer for doing what is right, GOD WILL REWARD YOU for it.  So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.  Instead, you MUST worship Christ as Lord of your life.  (1 Peter 3:8-15a)

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James 5:1-12 Patience is More Than a Virtue

Be PATIENT, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer WAITS for the precious fruit of the earth, being PATIENT about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also be PATIENT.  Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and PATIENCE, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained STEADFAST. You have heard of the STEADFASTNESS of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11)

We are told to be patient, to wait, or to be steadfast about seven times in these few verses–to patiently wait for the Lord’s return; to patiently wait for the Lord to provide what we need; to be patient in trials, hardships and suffering.

We are not naturally patient.  Patience is a result of surrendering to God’s Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23) and a product of various trails in life (James 1:2-4).

Steadfastness comes with blessing, but it is only produced through suffering!  So we can rejoice in our trials because they result in blessing.  Keeping our eyes fixed on the ONE who blesses, the ONE who is compassionate and merciful, the ONE in whom lies our eternal hope through His return can give us a clearer perspective and enable us to embrace trials for our good.

When patience is not evident in our lives, two pitfalls can plague us:

  1. James 5:1-6.  We stop waiting on the Lord.  We become self-indulgent, laying up earthly treasures for ourselves.  We get selfish and greedy.  We try to provide for ourselves.  The results can be  credit card debt, overworked and exhausting days, suffering relationships, and financial anxiety/stress.
  2. James 5:12.  We lose our credibility and integrity.  We say we believe one way with our mouths; but we don’t follow through with our actions.  We defame the name of Christ! When, as His followers, we don’t keep our promises, we become a poor reflection of His character.  We may say how good God is and swear that He is enough for us, but when trials come we jump ship or grumble instead of holding fast to Him.

There is great value in patience, but it is only grown in surrender and suffering.  “Let us know the Lord; let us press on to know him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; HE WILL COME TO US like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

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Psalm 24 Roadmap to a Revived Heart

Lately I’ve been feeling “blah” spiritually.  It’s been ongoing over the past several months with only glimpses of God’s glory.  Seems like it comes around about this time every year.  I thought vacation would help.  I returned relaxed, yet morose towards ministry and my personal faith.  Instead of turning to and seeking the Lord right away, I just put off praying about it and continued going through the motions.  Maybe because I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, maybe because of fear, maybe because of busyness and distractions.  Monday morning I prayed about it for the first time and the Spirit put the song Give Me Clean Hands in my mouth, thus pointing me to Psalm 24.  Over the past several days, I’ve been meditating on these verses and will continue as long as it takes until my heart is revived!  This is just a simple outline and summary I wanted to share with anyone who may also be struggling with feeling distant from the Lord.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers (1-2).

Recognize the Greatness of God.  Everything belongs to God!  Everything!  He is the creator and sustainer and giver of all things! My pregnancy is His.  My family is His.  The church is His.  All my possessions are His.  My neighbors are His.  The land I live on is His.  The grass I mow, the trees I trim and flowers I water are His!  Even the water I put on the flowers is His!  I am His!

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully (3-4)

Realize my Sinfulness.  When I am feeling far from the Lord, there is an area of my life that is out of whack that requires close examination.  Here are the questions I asked myself:

  • Are there any sins in my life I have not recognized or confessed?   
  • Are there any relationships that need repaired?
  • Is there anyone to whom I am refusing to show forgiveness, mercy and/or unconditional love towards?
  • Do I have any impure motives in relationships and/or ministry?
  • Are there any bitter attitudes or negative emotions in my heart that are sinful?
  • Have I lifted up my soul to anything false–anything that is not Christ or God’s Word?  Is my life centered on Christ “The Truth?”  Are there idols in my life?  Am I “committing adultery” against the Lord in some way?
  • Have I been dishonest, broken any promises, or had impure speech that needs to be confessed and forsaken?

He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob (5-6).

Receive Righteousness.  The process of weeding out the sins that separate us from intimacy with the Lord can be painful and long.  It required diligence.  Is receiving the blessing and righteousness of Christ worth the pain and work of seeking it to me?  The verses reminded me of when Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32.  Jacob expended all his energy, yet would not give up until God blessed him. He was not only rewarded with a blessing from God, but also the gift of seeing God face-to-face. If we want the righteousness and nearness of God, we must do whatever it takes to draw near to Him!

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory?  The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!  Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! (7-10)

Restoration of God’s Presence and Power in Life.  These have always been some of my favorite verses. They are shout-worthy!  In fact when we were renovating the church building, I wrote them at the entrance under the fresh paint.  But until this week I never thought about how being on this side of the cross in the timeline of life they apply to me personally.  My heart is God’s temple.  I want to lift up the latch, open the gate and let His glory, might, strength and presence fill me!  That’s revival!

This outline doesn’t just apply to Christians in need of revival, it is also the roadway to salvation.

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Hebrews 11:20 By faith Isaac…

By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. Hebrews 11:20

To get the full picture, I headed back to Genesis 25-27.  It is a fascinating story that could easily be recreated in a soap opera today!

Isaac knew that the Lord promised to make a great nation from his father through him.  Yet the wife that he loved was barren.  He didn’t give up or find another way like his father before him; HE PRAYED! God heard and answered, and Rebekah conceived!  Just because God promises does not mean the journey to fulfillment will be smooth sailing.  Our faith and dependence on Him will be tested along the way!

Rebekah and Isaac had twins, and God told Rebekah that the older would serve the younger.  Rebekah made sure of it through lying, manipulation, and crafiness…not through faith.  BUT GOD even uses the bad things we do to work His purposes.  He is powerful like that!

Isaac, on his deathbed, did bless his sons and set the course for the Israelite nation to flow through his lying, cheating, younger son, Jacob.  In doing so, Isaac passed God’s covenant to Abraham of a great nation and a promised homeland to Jacob and his descendants.  

Even though Isaac himself would not see the fulfillment of God’s promise, he had enough faith to know that even after his death, God’s promise would stand firm.  What a gift–a lasting legacy of faith–to the next generation!  

This will be a common thread in the next two verses as well.  I’m so thankful that God is giving me plenty of time to meditate on these thoughts:  How am I passing on the promises of God to my boys?  When I am dead and gone, will the strength of my faith leave a lasting impact on them?

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Ephesians 1:1-14 So Much to be Thankful For!

Paul was chosen by God’s will to minister to the believers in Ephesus.  He called the recipients of his letter “faithful.”  In Revelations 2:1-7 Jesus said that the Ephesians had a lot going for them.  They toiled for Christ.  They patiently endured, hated evil and tested false prophets, endured patiently and tirelessly for Jesus’ sake.  In a word, they were faithful.  Paul also knew something of this hard work and patient endurance, as he probably was writing to them from house arrest in Rome.

Today, I want my Thanksgiving 2012 focus to be on the truths found in verses 3-14.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us IN CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us IN THE BELOVED.  IN HIM we have redemption through HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of HIS GRACE, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth IN CHRIST, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things IN HIM, things in heaven and things on earth.

IN HIM we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope IN CHRIST might be to the praise of his glory.  IN HIM you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed IN HIM, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In addition to all the great promises found in those verses that can be claimed by all who believe in Jesus Christ, we also have the guarantee that all things in all times are working according to God’s perfect purposes and wise will.  Everything mentioned should fill our hearts with praise and glory for our great God.

I encourage you to take some time to thank your Savior today!  And if you don’t know Jesus, today could be your day!  Admit your sins, ask for His forgiveness and rest in His promises.

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