Putting God's Word into Practice…

Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 13:4-9)

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. (4-5)

This is the same Tobiah who was an Ammonite. In 13:1 it was read that no Ammonite should ever enter into the assembly of God because Ammonites cursed God’s people.  This was the same Tobiah who jeered at and despised the wall-builders (2:19) and who mocked their work by saying, “That stone wall would collapse if a fox walked on it!” (4:3).  Tobiah cursed God’s people, opposed their work, and didn’t want to see them prosper, and he was living in an apartment in the temple of the Living God!  In addition, the priest moved out all the offerings stored there in order to prepare the room.  How disrespectful to God!

While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king.  And after some time I asked leave of the king and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. (6-9)

Zeal for the Lord’s house consumed Nehemiah.  His righteous anger over the compromises to God’s house foreshadowed Jesus’ response to similar issues over a thousand years later.  In John 2:13-17, we read about Jesus cleaning out the temple.  Again, three years later in Matthew 21:12-13, we see Him purifying the temple again. How quickly we are prone to compromise and seek our own interests instead of intimacy with God. Prayers and purity are of far greater value than pigeons and profit!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that our bodies are the Lord’s temple. If Nehemiah–or Jesus–showed up at your temple, in what condition would they find it?

  • Is there any area of your heart where what used to be set apart for God has been  moved out to make room for someone/something that is actually opposed to God’s best for you?
  • Is there any area where you have made the flesh comfortable at the expense of following the Lord’s commands?
  • Is there any area where you have cast out what is sacred and holy for what is common?
  • Are there any gifts you’ve received that were meant to serve others, but have been repurposed in order to serve yourself?

We see an amazing picture of God’s grace here.  Just like the temple could be cleansed, refilled and used again for God’s intended purposes; our hearts can be also.

My dad knew a couple who got divorced years ago and were ordered to split the contents of their house.  One spouse took a chainsaw and cut everything in half and threw the other half outside.  Sometimes I think we do that in our hearts.  We know we should divorce ourselves from the world, but we don’t want to really give stuff up, so we keep a portion back, keeping our hearts cluttered with useless half portions of things we want because we don’t want God to have everything.

Throw out the furniture–all of it!  Make room for a new blessing! Be whole-hearted for God!!

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Good News

She WILL bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for HE WILL save His people FROM THEIR SINS! (Matthew 1:21)

Jesus means “the Lord saves!”  What a wonderful name!  It’s the name above all names, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11)

HE WILL SAVE–that’s promise!!

FROM THEIR SINS.  Jesus didn’t come to save us from our unfortunate physical circumstances, not from the consequences of our bad choices, not from our enemies, not from our sickness.  His primary purpose in coming was to save us from our sins.  That’s really our greatest need!!  If our sins aren’t forgiven, and we die with them hanging over us, we will be separated from God and all things good for eternity.  But, if we recognize our need for a Savior, the afflictions and disappointments of this life will be wiped away upon our death and replaced with an eternity of joy and peace in God’s presence.

Whatever I think I want or need today, nothing is greater than my need for a Savior.  Whatever I think will bring me joy and peace, if it’s not Jesus, it will never truly, eternally satisfy.  No material possession, no relationship, no healing will last as long as salvation.

Jesus came to save us from our sins.  Won’t you let Him do what He came to do today?  And if you have been saved from your sins already, worship Him and share your hope with your family and friends today.  That’s the best gift we have to offer.

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 12:44-47)

The role of priest was all-consuming.  They served and ministered day and night.  The people depended on them for so much.  In God’s perfect wisdom, He provided a way for their financial and physical needs to be met.  Out of the tithes and offerings of the people they ministered to, a portion was given to each who served.

The people did not give out of obligation, but out of joy.  This, I’m sure, encouraged the hearts of their ministers.

“For all the people of Judah took joy in the priests and Levites and their work!”

Think about your pastors.  Do you take joy in their work?  Do you find giving joyful, knowing a portion will meet your pastors’ families’ needs?  God is using your generosity to care for His servants!

Going a little deeper:  What was the work that the priests did that the people took joy in?  The “ministry of purification.”  Their job was to help the people maintain purity before their God.  We have ministers who serve in small ways in that capacity, but we have Someone even better.  We have a great High Priest named Jesus! Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore, He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” In 9:13-14 it says, “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. JUST THINK HOW MUCH MORE THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL PURIFY OUR CONSCIENCES FROM SINFUL DEEDS SO THAT WE CAN WORSHIP THE LIVING GOD.”  And finally, in Hebrews 10:21-22 it promises, “And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

Do you rejoice over the work of your great High Priest-Jesus?  Are you thankful that because He shed His own blood as a sacrifice for your sins and is ministering day and night on your behalf, that you are pure before the Father and can confidently worship in His presence?

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Revelation 22:1-5 ~ Faith Made Sight

Have you ever seen a talk show or a news segment when someone who has been rescued from certain death is on, and the producer brings out the one who saved their life to meet face-to-face for the first time?  Everyone’s tears are flowing because of the fullness of joy and gratitude of the experience.  Now multiply that times a billion…The One who died to save our lives–the One who rescued us forever–WE WILL SEE HIS FACE!

Revelation means revealing or unveiling.  In the case of this book, it is the unveiling of Jesus!  John tries his best to describe Jesus in chapter one:  “…one like the son of man clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (Revelation 1:13-16)  That description will just have to hold us over for now knowing that someday WE WILL SEE HIS FACE!!!

WE WILL SEE HIS FACE!  Our Rescuer!  Our Redeemer! Our Savior! And we will worship Him!!!

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him.  And THEY WILL SEE HIS FACE, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)

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Revelation 20 ~ Hard Truth

This chapter feels like a mystery/action movie with one too many twists or battle sequences.  Or like a “good” horror movie: when it feels like the movie is over and evil is defeated, the villain reaches out and grabs the leg of its victim one last time.  The comeback is short-lived as “good” delivers a final blow!

Satan is referred to as the dragon, the ancient serpent, and the devil, but his goal is always the same: to deceive!  At the beginning of this chapter, Satan is bound and sealed in a bottomless pit.  Jesus sets up His kingdom on earth and reigns for 1,000 years.  Can you imagine life on earth without the devil prowling around deceiving all of mankind and with Jesus tangibly at the center of all things?!  The problem is that humans have free will!  Our hearts are desperately wicked!  Even in a perfect environment, being ruled by a perfect King–people will choose to rebel against Jesus and try to make their own way.  At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released from captivity and start deceiving again.  Revealing the rebelliousness of hearts, he will raise up an army of unbelievers who would rather follow Him than side with a Savior.  But just like the villain making one last run at his victim in a movie, Satan will be crushed.  He will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur and “be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (vs. 10)

I wish that was the end of the story, but there is one more event–one that gives a lot of company to Satan in the lake of fire–one that sentences many to eternal torment and total separation from God–the great white throne judgment.  This is where all the dead from all time will stand before God’s throne and be judged “according to what they HAD done.”  No more chances–the past will finally catch up with them.  Those who spent their whole lives refusing God’s grace and salvation will have to give an account before the Lord, and it will be too late to change their minds. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (vs. 15)  

So what does any of this mean for me:

  1. Satan was defeated at the cross, but not bound!  Therefore, he is roaming, prowling, deceiving, destroying, devouring, killing, stealing all day long (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10).  I need to be alert, on guard, sober and watchful!
  2. I know my name is written in the Lord’s Book of Life.  I have received Christ as my Savior and surrendered my life to Him.  My sins are forgiven because of His sacrifice, grace, mercy and forgiveness.  I need to walk out my life in accordance with this miracle!  I must be diligent to love God and others, to disciple and teach people to obey God, to aim for holiness in my thoughts and actions, to “do” God’s Word.  I only have so much time and I need to be faithful!  “Only one life, will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
  3. Many, many people will choose to reject the good news of salvation through Jesus–thinking they don’t need saving and that there is nothing to be saved from.  But in order to reject something, it must be heard. And how will they hear if no one proclaims (Romans 10:14-15). I have a responsibility to “each day proclaim the good news that He saves,” (Psalm 96:2b) to “rescue those who are being taken away to death,” (Proverbs 24:11a), and to “save others by snatching them out of the fire.” (Jude 1:23a)
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Revelation 19:11-21 ~ Grass-eater and Fishguts

When I was young, an older kid dared me to eat the grass clippings that had been tracked into the baby pool we were playing in. I ate a few to “impress” him and consequently earned the name “Grass-eater.”  The summer after seventh grade, I had my mom put highlights in my hair. I swam every day and spent a lot of time in the sun.  The highlights quickly turned green and orange.  That same summer there was a drought in my city and the fish died, and they were green and orange laying in the cracked mud of the riverbed.  You guessed it, I received a new nickname–Fishguts!

Nicknames reveal who we are and what we do.  They are often not self-proclaimed but given by others who witness our lives.  Jesus is called two names right off the bat in this section of verses–Faithful and True!  He received those names because that is Who He is and how He functions.  His faithfulness and truth is what is valuable about His character.  He will fulfill all promises and prophecy.  In this chapter Jesus is also called The Word of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and He has a private name that no one knows.  This reminds us that we cannot fully know Him in our human understanding–He is unfathomable and exceptional!

Verses 17-21 give us a glimpse into the future when Jesus will fulfill the most anticipated promise–His return to earth to rule and reign and set the world free from the curse of sin.  Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection are only part of His victory.  They give us victory over sin and death personally and daily.  But a time is coming when Jesus will purge His creation from all evil and completely redeem forever giving the final blow to Satan and sin and all the pain and repercussions that come along with living in a deceived world.

Jesus is Faithful and True.  He is Lord of lords and King of kings.  He is a valiant warrior who fights for us.  During this final battle against sin, those who belong to Christ will follow Him into battle, but we will not lift a finger.  The victory is eternally His alone.  And those who are behind Him will be the only survivors!  Evil will make war on Jesus, and Jesus will prevail.

Maybe you’re thinking, “What kind of God would annihilate all the people who oppose Him?”  Any world leader has the power–and even the responsibility–to destroy evil and uphold good.  Right now there is a “Christian genocide” happening in Iraq–this should ignite in us a demand for justice and a desire to see the blood of innocent children avenged.  Any good ruler would take action.  How much more so for the King of kings and Lord of lords!

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Revelation 19:1-10 ~ Worship God

Hallelujah ~ An expression (often spontaneous) of joy, thanks and praise to God; hallal (praise) Yah (Jehovah)

Revelation 17-18 foretells the destruction of this world system–labelled as a prostitute–and the vengeance poured out on those who trample the blood of Jesus and oppress His followers.  Revelation 19 is all of heaven’s response to this swift vindication and display of power.  They cry out, “Hallelujah!”

Worship and praise is the only proper response when we see God’s character and authority on display through His actions.  They worship Him for His salvation.  Those who follow Christ–who love and fear God–will be rescued/saved from judgment and destruction (vs. 1-2).  That is reason enough to worship!  In God’s judgment, His character is evident; He is just and true (vs. 1-2).  What He promises to do, He fulfills.  He is generous; He gives righteousness freely to all who come to Him (vs. 8) and then invites them in for a wondrous wedding reception in Heaven.  (No Macarena line dances there–just our own Personal Jesus!)

Based on John’s response to seeing the worship in Heaven, we see that we are made to worship but sometimes it can be misdirected.  We need a reminder to: “Worship God!”  He alone is worthy of our praise, joy and thanks.

So what can we learn about worship even now:

  1. Focus on God–keep Him central.  Fix our mind on His truth, His character, His power and authority.  He is seated on the throne–in the middle of heaven and our hearts!
  2. Join together!  John witnessed a “great multitude” worshipping God.  Sure, we can worship in our cars or at our kitchen sink, but the joy and power that is experienced in corporate worship can’t be beat!  Recently I attended a Jesus Culture concert and the unified worship of God was powerful!
  3. Be loud! Several references to the volume of worship in heaven are mentioned along with the praise being “cried out.”  God likes loud worship!
  4. It’s acceptable to “fall down” and worship.  Worship should make us feel small and bowing down is a tangible expression of our smallness in light of His greatness, our unworthiness in light of His holiness; our weakness in light of His strength; our humility in light of His honor.
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Revelation 14:14-20 ~ Grain and Grapes

We read in Revelation 8 that the prayers of the saints were mixed with the incense that continually rises before God’s throne.  The specific prayers mentioned were petitions to God to exact vengeance on His adversaries.  God always answers prayers, and He always answers them in His timing.  The angels that come bearing the command to “harvest” the earth do so straight from His presence.  God knows the appointed time for judgment–when there is no one left on earth who will turn to Him.

There are two “reapings” mentioned in these verses.  In verse 16 it says,” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.”  This is a reference to wheat or grains. Verse 19 says, “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”

When I read about the grain and grape harvest, it reminded me of communion.  Bread is the physical representation of Jesus’ body being broken for us, and wine is the symbol of Jesus’ blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus was taken outside the city and nailed to a cross where He bore the full wrath of His Father on behalf of sinners.

When we trust in Jesus and believe His sacrifice is sufficient to purify our hearts and lives, then we don’t have to face God’s wrath and judgment.  “It is finished!”  But for those who don’t surrender their hearts and wills; who don’t believe and trust in Jesus; they will face God the Father’s wrath.  And it is not unfair of Him.  What is unfair is that He chose to send His perfect, divine Son to bear the wrath over sin in our place.  In His steadfast love and unfailing mercy, He gave us a way to escape His coming wrath.  He didn’t have to–He did it for love!

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Revelation 12 ~ Satan Is…

Recently I was harsh and snarky with my sons.  I wasn’t really mad at them but at some other situation. They were just closest ones on whom to take out my anger.  It is like that with Satan.  He is really angry at God, but he takes it out on us.  He is an enraged enemy! (vs. 13)

Satan is a deceiver.  (vs. 9) There is not one place in the world where his deception is not heard, believed and acted on.  All evil in the world is a result of being deceived.  All pain in the world is a repercussion of people believing his lies.

Satan is an accuser.  (vs. 10) Day and night he is before the Lord throwing mankind under the bus!  He is a diabolical tattle-tale!  “Did you see what she did?”  But Jesus is an awesome absolver!  If our sins are washed away by Jesus, there is nothing that he can accuse us of that holds water.

Satan is a warrior. (vs. 17) Anyone who obeys God and trusts in Jesus, Satan is making war against.  His chief aim is to keep people from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to destroy anyone who already believes.  He can’t destroy the Lord, so he tries to demolish His followers.

SATAN IS DEFEATED!  (vs. 8, 12) He knows his time is short and that Jesus already claimed victory over him when He died on the cross and rose again.

Satan’s power is limited. (vs. 13-16) The Lord still controls everything.  Protection comes from the Lord.  He is our powerful, victorious ally!  Jesus and the armies of Heaven are fighting for us.

Satan is unstable. (vs. 17) When this chapter finishes, Satan is standing on the sand of the sea.  Sand is a false foundation!  There is no real stability or longevity for anything that puts its stakes down in sand!

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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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