Putting God's Word into Practice…

Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 9:6-38) Part 3

In my last post, I wrote about the power of God’s Word to move us to repentance, but it also moves us to worship.  As the Israelites praised the Lord for His faithfulness throughout their rebellious past, they were moved by His steadfastness and constancy, which led them to more confession and to commitment.  Our past is an invaluable part of worship because it documents when and where we experienced the presence and character of God in our lives.  I’d like to look quickly at the Israelites, then make it a little more personal.  The Bible is just words on a page, if we don’t let them into our own lives and hearts.

The Israelites started their worship by expressing praise for the power of God to free their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and to continuously provide for and care for them in the wilderness between slavery and the Promised Land. Verse 16 begins with a fretful phrase, “But they…”  The people acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey God.  They were not mindful of the wonders God performed on their behalf.  Halfway through verse 17 we see a faithful phrase, “But You…”  They acknowledged God’s character in the midst of the disobedience–His readiness to forgive, His grace and mercy, His slowness to anger and His abounding steadfast love.

Next their prayer recounts the time their ancestors made a golden calf in the wilderness to worship and claimed, “This is your god.”  And yet God did not forsake them.  He continued to lead and feed them, kept giving, sustaining, and blessing them in spite of their idolatry.

God gave them victories over enemies, allowed them to take over land, bear many children, gave them ease and abundant goodness, and in spite of it, they were disobedient and rebelled again.  God in love and mercy disciplined them so they would call out to Him and recognize Him as their only help and hope. He delivered them out of self-inflicted oppression again.  Verse 28 says, “Many times you delivered them according to your mercies.”  And verse 30 says, “Many years you bore with them.”  God is so patient and faithful!  He waits for years for us to “get it.”

Then the prayer of praise ends with a new acknowledgement: Behold we are slaves to this day…because of our sins…we are in great distress.

Last night God graciously and painfully gave me a look at my rebellious past.  The ugliness and depravity of disobedience was freshly magnified.  This really served to amplify His grace, mercy and protection and intensify my gratitude that He was willing to save me, make me His daughter, and prepare a life for me that is far beyond what I deserve.  Yet several years into this new life, marriage, motherhood and ministry, I found myself discontent, ungrateful, angry, bitter, disobedient, stiff-necked and rebellious again.  In His great mercy, He let me put myself back into slavery to my flesh until it broke me and made me call out to Him.  Because of His unfailing love, He never forsook me but bore with me and delivered me…again!  And even this morning, I’ve found my soul to be in great distress because the sins of selfishness and ingratitude have made me a slave once more.  Once again, I appealed to His mercy and grace, His undeserved faithfulness and steadfast love to set me free from myself!  And He did it again!  “Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.  You are the LORD, You alone.”

God faithfully uses His timeless, eternal Word to lead His people to confession and worship from generation to generation.  He’s awesome!

Time for a revived heart dance party!

http://youtu.be/C2epMyZv5ME Create in Me by Rend Collective

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Deuteronomy 4:25-49 ~ Punished for a Purpose

When my sons get a low grade on a homework assignment, they lose their video game privileges for a certain number of days.  When someone drives drunk, they lose their license.  When someone steals, they spend time in jail.  “The punishment fits the crime” and seems fair.  Idolatry is a big sin to our Holy God!  And the punishment may seem severe, but it “fits the crime.” The goal of God’s punishment is ALWAYS revelation and restoration.

If God’s people, who are set apart for His inheritance, choose to live corrupt, evil, idolatrous lives, He will be angry.  And like a good, loving Father, He will punish them/us.  It says in verses 26-27 that they will not live long in the land that He gives them to possess, that they will be utterly destroyed, and the few who are left will be scattered and driven to other nations where they “will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.”  God will use this punishment–this discipline by destruction and reduction–to help His people realize the emptiness and futility of serving gods instead of Him!  He is a jealous God!

BUT from there you will SEEK THE LORD your God and you will find him, if you SEARCH AFTER HIM with all your heart and with all your soul.  When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will RETURN TO THE LORD your God and OBEY HIS VOICE. For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. (29-31)

Do you feel separated from God by sin?  Do you recognize that you are being disciplined by God because He loves you?  Have you chased after gods, and ended up someplace you don’t want to be?  God let you get where you are so you would seek Him!  Let His discipline make you desperate for Him!

God uses trials, signs, wonders, war, and discipline to get our attention that we may know today, and lay it to our hearts, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other besides Him. (4:34-35,39)

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Revelation 3:14-22 ~ Lukewarm…blah!

There are several things that when experienced as lukewarm are worthless. A lukewarm “I love you” or hug leaves me feeling uncertain about the giver’s love. A lukewarm shower leaves me feeling unclean. Lukewarm coffee is not nearly as comforting as a steaming hot one.  And lukewarm eggs or oatmeal will usually find themselves in the trash and myself feeling undernourished.  People can be “lukewarm” in their faith, too.  And Jesus said, lukewarm people leave him with a sick stomach!  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit (vomit) you out of my mouth.”

Lukewarm things and people don’t generally know that they are lukewarm.  Usually when we judge our lives we feel just right.  Unfortunately, we aren’t the judge of our lives!  Jesus is!  In verse 14 He describes His writing as, “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning (source/originator) of God’s creation.”  Amen literally means “so it is.”  Amen is a word that signifies absolute truth, it is constant and unchanging–the final word!  Jesus has the final word when describing our lives, and only His opinion matters.  When I think of a faithful and true witness, I picture a courtroom and the one on the witness stand swearing on the Bible to give “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  What Jesus says about our lives is sworn truth–even if it is different from our perspective!  And because He is the source and originator of all creation, Jesus has supreme authority over our lives and permission to judge them.

When the Laodicean Believers measured their own lives, they were blind to their self-sufficiency, their spiritual poverty and blindness.  They were keeping Christ outside of their lives and trying to go it alone.  This isn’t just a judgment against the Laodiceans–I find this to be true in my own life on a regular basis. What we provide for ourselves doesn’t make us prosperous, only what God provides can do that because He knows the true definition of prosperity.  When we think we are covering our sins, we are really exposed.  Only Jesus’ righteousness covers our sin and shame.  When we feel like we are insightful and humanly wise; we are really blind.  Only Jesus can open our eyes and cause us to see clearly.  We have nothing apart from Jesus– we are just lukewarm oatmeal!

In the following verses we see that Jesus is loving, faithful and patient with us.  “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so BE ZEALOUS and REPENT.”  GET HOT!!!  As I’ve been typing, my coffee has become lukewarm =(  I could let it sit on the table all day and get film on the top until I decide to empty it and wash it out, or I could add hot coffee to it and stir it up so it’s drinkable or zap it in the microwave.  (I chose option 2.)  It is the same with our spiritual lives.  In February I experienced a real soul revival, but by April I’m back to feeling stagnant.  Guess what–Jesus doesn’t want me to stay stagnant!!  He wants me to get hot and repent!  He loves me too much to let me sit around and get film on my life.

Repentance is the first step!  But we also have to let Jesus back into our lives–in every area.  Verse 20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”  Jesus, the one who holds the keys, is standing outside knocking???  Jesus doesn’t force Himself into our lives or willingly leave us to ourselves.  When we push Jesus out of our lives, He patiently knocks and knocks and calls to us until we open the door and ask Him back into our lives.  He wants to be close to us, He wants to experience life with us.  He offers to eat with us–to be part of a daily necessity.  He doesn’t offer us renovation and domination–He offers us fellowship.

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Isaiah 3 and 4 ~ Rejection and Restoration

(For our ladies’ Bible study this week, we were supposed to spend time in Isaiah 1-6.  It has been a rich buffet of learning and conviction, indeed!)

Chapter 3 starts right out with the Lord’s discipline of His people .  He takes away support, supply, sustenance, rulers, leaders, protectors, wise men…any one or any thing that we are prone to hope in that IS NOT HIM!!!  When God removes His hand of grace, the result will always be calamity.  God sent calamity because His people turned away from Him.  They defied (disregarded, ignored) His glorious presence with their words and actions.  In essence–they were filled with pride!

In chapter 4, we see that God can and will restore beauty, glory and fruitfulness to the land and holiness to His people.  He also will restore His perfect, perpetual presence!  This is the whole point of discipline–restoration!

I was reminded in these chapters that purity in WHO I am seeking, humility before and dependence on the Lord alone for my “self-worth” and as my provider is rewarded with His glorious presence by day AND by night.  And, oh, how I need His presence in the night right now!!

In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.  And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. (2-6)

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Hebrews 12:5-11 Discipline and Love

Returning yesterday from nearly two wonderful and refreshing weeks of vacation, I realized it was time to update the blog! I’m going to try to make sense of the notes I have from what I learned in my daily Bible readings and type them up today.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?  “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline.  If you are left without discipline in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

  • Moses was disciplined by God.
  • The Israelites were disciplined by God.
  • Samson was disciplined by God.
  • David was disciplined by God.
  • Barak was disciplined by God.

If the great “heroes of faith” who’s deeds were counted to them as righteousness were disciplined when their actions and attitudes went off course, should we not also be disciplined for sinning against a perfect God?  Discipline is a gift of love that restores our fellowship with God.

  • God’s discipline is for those He loves and who belong to Him. (vs. 6)
  • God’s discipline proves to us that we are His child and He is our Father. (vs. 8)
  • God’s discipline causes our respect for Him to grow. (vs. 9)
  • God’s discipline is for our own good. (vs. 10)
  • God’s discipline makes us more like Him in holiness. (vs. 10)
  • God’s discipline is painful in the moment. (vs. 11)
  • God’s discipline has a purpose–yields peace and righteousness. (vs. 11)
  • God’s discipline trains us for running a better race.  Training prevents injury and enables endurance. (vs. 11)

Our response to discipline is to take it seriously and not grow weary of it (vs. 5).  

I tried to think of ways that I had been disciplined by God and came up with a few simple ways that I have received “spiritual spankings” over time.

  • There have been several specific times when I experienced anxiety, fretfulness, fear over finances and the very day it peaked I received a check in the mail that covered the need.  Which means, God was taking care of the need before I was anxious about it.  The anxiety was completely unnecessary.  Lesson learned:  God loves to provide for His own and He is always faithful!
  • Some days when it seems like everyone needs a piece of me, I have gotten a complaining, grumbly spirit towards people and started down the path to a pity-party.  Then several people will call and cancel appointments and my day is freed up.  Lesson learned: If I don’t want to do the work that God has planned for my day, He will give it to someone else who will receive the blessing of serving and ministering to others.
  • When I have grumbled and complained to someone and they point out the silver lining or give me a spiritual truth.  It hurts momentarily, but it snaps be back to reality.  Lesson learned: Grumbling and complaining is not necessary when we have such a good God, and everything He allows in our lives has a refining purpose.
  • When I have been “whispering” about someone and they walk up behind me at that moment. Lesson learned: never speak negatively about others, only speak what gives grace and builds up people.
  • Having a guilty pleasure TV show and being called out on it’s offense to the Lord.  Several years back I was secretly watching The Bachelor.  My husband would go into a different room, and I would spend time justifying my actions. Midseason, a women that I know started talking about how evil a show like The Bachelor is in the eyes of God, and I felt a deep pang of truth in my spirit.  Lesson learned: when we try to hide sins from God, He knows and there is no amount of justifying that can cover it up or make it right.
  • When I pridefully start thinking that I can “conquer the world” in my own strength, and God uses sickness to slow me down and remind me of my need for His strength and direction.  Lesson learned: Apart from God I can do no good thing.
  • Last spring I lost my temper with my son, he has responded with gentleness quickly diffusing the confrontation.  When I spoke with him after, he shared with me the verse he learned from Proverbs 15:1 in his morning Bible reading.  Lesson learned: Anger can be diffused with a gentle answer just like God’s Word says.  God’s ways are always best. We don’t need to lose control to prove our points.

So how do we know when we are enduring the discipline from God and not merely experiencing “life?”  His discipline will always line up with truth from His Word (2 Timothy 3:16), it will realign our lives with godliness (10), and will result in peace (11).

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