Putting God's Word into Practice…

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 12:27-43)

God loves a good celebration–joy, thanksgiving, singing and a band!  It was time for the Israelites to dedicate their wall built with the help and strength of the Lord.

And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall. Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. (vs. 30-31)  After a day of intense manual labor, I would take a shower before going to a party.  If I didn’t, I might spend the whole time avoiding people, justifying my smell, feeling insecure, lonely and embarrassed.  I wouldn’t have fun and my host might be disappointed.  Similarly, before the celebration was the purification.  A clear conscience always paves the way for true joy.  The people needed to prepare themselves to be in God’s presence where fullness of joy is found (Psalm 16:11).

This party was not for the people’s gratification; it was solely for the Lord!  It was a party of thanks.  Great choirs stood on the wall surrounding the city.  Trumpets blasted!  Instruments bellowed!!  And people sang with all their hearts.  This week  we attended my middle son’s Christmas program at school. When I tried to picture this celebration in Nehemiah’s day, I pictured the kids in the program on the risers singing with all the volume their beaming faces could muster.  My son happened to be the one kid who was trying to out-sing everyone.  He was whole-heartedly celebrating.  Now picture that kind of rejoicing times thousands of people.  This is what it says in Nehemiah 12:43:  Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, FOR GOD HAD GIVEN THE PEOPLE CAUSE FOR GREAT JOY. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.

God not only gave them supernatural strength to rebuild the wall, but He also transformed their hearts and lives with His amazing power.  This caused their joy to overflow.  And it didn’t just impact them, their joy was heard far away–impacting everyone around them.

God has given us cause for great joy too!  In Luke 2:10-11 an angel said, “I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  God has the power to transform our lives by this Savior–Jesus!  This Christmas let’s allow the good news of GREAT JOY to cause a celebration in our lives that rings out and impacts everyone around us!

Let it start this morning!  I hope our churches are filled with praises that shake the building and cause the neighbors to hear our joy!!

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 8:1-12)

Wow!  What a beautiful example of real revival!

UNIFIED:  “And all the people gathered AS ONE MAN into the square before the Water Gate.” (8:1a)  

HUNGRY:  ‘And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel…And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand.” (8:1b,3a)  

ATTENTIVE:  “And the ears of ALL the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” (8:3b)

REVERENT:  “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people (on a wooden platform) and as he opened it ALL the people stood.” (8:5)

RESPONSIVE:  And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and ALL the people answered ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” (6)  They were so overwhelmed by the truth of God’s Word–so drawn into His presence–that nothing else mattered except humbly bowing in awe!  No manipulation, no formulas, no man-made eloquence–just God’s Word read and explained.

REPENTANT:  “‘This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For ALL the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” (8:9b)  God’s Word brings brokenness–a recognition that He is holy and we are not.  It exposes the areas where we are falling short.  It breaks our hearts over sin.

REVIVED:  “‘And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ And ALL the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make GREAT REJOICING, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (8:10b-12)  Rejoicing is the natural outflow of a clean heart!

What if we approached God’s Word like that all the time on Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights)?  What if we viewed it as time set apart as holy to the Lord?  What if we gathered as “one man?”  What if we were excitedly asking for the Word to be read to us?  What if we were all attentive to each word for as long as the pastor read and explained?  What if we were moved by the truth–not holding back the “Amens” and humble worship?  What if we allowed God’s truth to move us to repentance and revival?  All of us in all of our churches in all of the world…IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE!  It starts with ME!  Lord, unite my heart to fear Your name; move my heart to long for your pure truth; humble my heart to respond to Your Word–let it have full authority over my life; revive my heart so that it is overflowing with joy and rejoicing.

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 5)

Nehemiah 5:1-5.  Building up a physical wall of protection against outside enemies is good work.  But what happens when the people inside the wall are in need of protection from each other?  Spiritual walls of oppression must be broken down!  The Jewish people were selling their own people into slavery to cover their bills because their brothers were charging excessive interest on loans.  This “business” style of living among God’s people goes against His economy wholeheartedly!  He commands over and over that the poor and needy are to be cared for, not taken advantage of.  In Proverbs 19:17 it says that when we give to the poor we are lending to the Lord and He will repay.  Taking care of the poor and needy is a gift to Him.

Nehemiah 5:6-11.  When we see our Christian brothers and sisters being taken advantage of, it should anger us and drive us to bold action–because we fear (respect) the Lord!  Just setting them free was not enough.  Nehemiah expected them to get all their belongings back so that they could go on living productive lives.

Nehemiah 5:12-13.  The response to Nehemiah’s confrontation was…silence.  They were not defensive or argumentative.  They fell silent, and followed up with commitment and obedience.  The result of obedience was restoration and worship.  “And all the assembly said ‘Amen’ and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.”  When we are right with God abundant joy floods our hearts, and we can’t help but to give Him glory.  So why do we find it so difficult to obey?  Why do we want our own way instead of following His ways?  When confronted with our sin, why are we often belligerent instead of broken?  If we want joy to define our lives, we must let surrender and obedience define our lives.

Nehemiah 5:14-19. (A note to leaders)  Leaders should never put heavy burdens on their people.  They should not lord over the people in their care.  Godly leaders must be burden bearers and burden lifters!  The Jewish leaders in Nehemiah’s day were putting heavy burdens on their people, Nehemiah was lifting those burdens by pointing people back to the Lord.  His ways are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) and He wants to bear our burdens (Psalm 55:22, Matthew 11:28).  Leaders who want to be godly should follow God’s own example.

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Psalm 29 ~ The Voice

I use this psalm to pray for our church on a regular basis, and I’m really excited to share it on the blog today!  If you are longing for peace and strength, then I encourage you to let the voice of the Lord influence your life!

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness!

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. The cedars of Lebanon are a symbol of pride.  This wood was used to build palaces and military ships.  The cedars of Lebanon represent comfort, and power, a false sense of security and protection.  The Lord is bigger!  He breaks the things in which we put so much pride–he things in which we think we can make our own comfort and security.

He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.  Following the voice of God gives us a joyful, free spirit.  Even big things–like mountains–feel light!

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.  His voice has the power to purify us, to clean out the underbrush that prohibits healthy growth, or to burn away the imperfections so that we can better reflect His holiness.

The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.  The wilderness of Kadesh is where the Israelites wandered because of their grumbling and complaining.  It is also where they sent the spies into Canaan to see what the Promised Land was like.  It represents places of wandering and doubt in our lives.  The voice of the LORD has the power to shake us up–to blast apart the wilderness!

The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth God’s voice is the source of new life!  Behold He is making all things new!  In Him we are a new creation!

And strips the forests bare,  He clears away all obstacles and distractions that keep us from seeing His glory!

And in His temple all cry, “Glory!” This is a suitable response to experiencing the presence of the LORD, to seeing His holiness and strength.

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.  May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless His people with peace!  As King, He has authority over judgment and disaster.  He also has the ability to give peace.  He is always ruling and reigning.  We can trust His voice.  We can find great freedom in listening to His voice.

Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness!

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1 John 5:2-3 ~ No Burdens

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. AND HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT BURDENSOME.

John’s goal in writing this letter was to pave the way for Christ followers to live in fellowship with God, unity with each other, have complete joy, and avoid sin.  All these are met in obedience that flows out of love!

God’s commands are not burdensome–they don’t weigh us down; they lift us up!  The times I have felt the most joy and peace have been when I did things God’s way!  For example:

  • Exercising self-control vs. losing control–of my mouth, emotions, eating, etc…
  • Being protected by peace vs. worry/anxiety
  • Speaking encouraging uplifting words vs. negative, critical words/gossip
  • Practicing patience vs. anger
  • Letting love replace bitterness
  • Forgiving and apologizing rather than holding a grudge
  • Freely offering grace vs. being judgmental and self-righteous
  • Being generous instead of greedy
  • Recognizing my children as blessings not burdens
  • Yielding to leadership instead of being a control freak

These are all mini-commandments and come under the big umbrella commandment of “love.”  When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Neither loving the Lord wholeheartedly nor loving others unselfishly should ever feel like a burden.  If it does, it is not love, merely duty!  I had that happen this week.  Something came up, and I knew what the loving action would be, but I didn’t want to do it.  I did the action, but underneath was a sinful heart–and guess what?  The action felt like a burden–therefore, I know it was not done out of love!

God’s commandments are unchanging, and our obedience is required.  How we choose to view His commands and our obedience is up to us.  Will we let His commands bring us fellowship, joy, and freedom?  Or will we treat them like heavy, oppressive burdens that interfere with living “our” lives?



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Like an Infant

Yesterday I had a bad day–not a “catastrophe and tragedy” day, but an “immature, selfish responses to minor letdowns” day.  I got up at 5:30 a.m. (not by choice) and was in complete meltdown mode by 10:30 a.m. sure that my whole day was “ruined.”  Just 3.5 hours later things were looking up and the rest of the day…well, I’ll get to that in a bit.

This morning as I fed my 6-week old son, I realized just how alike we are!  He woke up crying.  (Sometimes I feel like doing that too!) I soothed him and laid him down while I went to the kitchen to make his bottle.  By the time I got back to him, he was in the throes of a major tantrum–writhing all over the bed, face covered in snot, bellowing at the top of his lungs.   He is not mature enough to trust that I was going to take care of his needs, even though I have been faithfully doing it since he entered the world.  Halfway through his bottle, I needed to burp him, and he went right back into that tantrum–as if I wasn’t going to let him be completely filled and satisfied.  He couldn’t understand that the pause in eating and the back smacking were going to result in his getting more food without a tummy ache.  He’s sitting next to me now fully contented…until the next time!

God is a good Father.  He always takes care of my needs.  He has been faithful to me beyond belief!  He is filled with abounding grace and mercy! Yet somehow in the midst of crisis–even minor ones–I still forget that.  Yesterday, although I had failed him morally, displayed a lack of trust in Him, and refused to take time to pray for change (I asked others to pray for me, without praying myself.)–He was still faithful to redeem the day (The day He created–His day, not my day!)  At 2 o’clock I stopped everything to pray and read His Word.  At 3 o’clock I took a one-hour nap.  At 4 o’clock I took a 2 mile walk out in the sunshine and relative warmth of the day.  It was during that walk that I really talked with the Lord, and let Him show me where everything fell apart.  (I literally talked to him out loud, with my cell phone by my ear, so that anyone passing by would just think I was on a call and not crazy!! I’m a dork!)  Here is what I learned:

Setbacks to Seeking the Lord…Two weeks ago, God revived my heart and put a fresh desire in me to seek Him continually.  (1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 27:8)  There was so much joy and peace in the coming days.  But like the old song says, we are “prone to wander.”  One morning, I forgot to ask the Lord how to use the day He had given me.  The next day, everyone was up in the morning, and I didn’t get a chance to spend time in prayer with the Lord and had a quick Bible reading later in the day that I didn’t have time to make applicable to my heart–I just read.  The third day, I skipped prayer and Bible reading because I had so many needs to meet for others.  Three days out, and my joy and peace were gone.  I was back to doing everything according to “my” schedule and in my own strength.  My intimacy with my Heavenly Father was missing, and I forgot that I could trust Him.  Yesterday what I really needed to do in the midst of my meltdown was to stop serving and striving and start seeking and savoring my Savior!  He already knew he was going to give me an afternoon or rest and refreshment.  If I could have just held on by faith through the morning, I wouldn’t have had so much strife and pain in the process. I wouldn’t have a snotty face and sore throat due to a tantrum because I had to wait for my “milk.”

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1 John 1:5-10 ~ A Universal Solution for a Universal Problem

This is the message we have HEARD from him and PROCLAIM to you…

In verses 1-5 the words heard and proclaim are listed together three times.  As followers of Christ we have a two-part mission.  What would happen if the disciples of Jesus only heard him and didn’t proclaim him?  What would happen if we stopped proclaiming the truth we hear from God’s Word? To whom can I proclaim the truth today?

  • Psalm 96:2b says, “Each day proclaim the good news that He saves!”
  • Romans 10:13-14 says, “For EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

…that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. BUT if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from ALL sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. IF we confess our sins, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

God is light!  He is radiant and pure; He exposes and extinguishes darkness; He illuminates our life’s path.  When we choose to live and move and act in the dark (in sinfulness), we break fellowship with him.  We may ask ourselves questions like: Why can’t I feel God?  Why isn’t He helping me?  Why doesn’t my life have any direction?  Why don’t I have any joy?  It may be because we are out of fellowship with God.  Choosing to walk in darkness has consequences.  Come back into the light!!

When we walk in the darkness, we deceive ourselves into thinking that our sins are hidden from God, or we rationalize that they are not really sins at all.  But sin is a universal problem–we all do it!  Sin is never hidden!  There is only one way to restore fellowship with God, our unity with others, and our complete joy–we must admit to our sins.  EVERY CONFESSED SIN RECEIVES FORGIVENESS AND REMOVAL!  God has provided a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins through the blood of His own Son!  He would never leave His created ones with a universal problem–that would be unloving.  He has provided the only universal solution to our sin–believing on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!

God is faithful and just to take away EVERY sin and unrighteous action we confess–EVERY SINGLE ONE!  My husband gave an illustration at church once that has always stuck with me regarding this complete forgiveness that I would like to share:

Every once in a while we miss trash day or have an exorbitant amount of garbage.  We haul it all out to the curb and almost wince as we hear the garbage truck approaching.  (My husband was a garbage man for a short while, so he is extra sensitive!) Will they take it all?  Will they be angry with us?  But every single time, the garbage is all gone.  They don’t come to the door and question us as to how we accumulated so much trash.  They don’t see us peeking out the window and flip us the bird.  They don’t leave any behind just to spite us.  No questions–complete removal!  They are garbage men–it’s what they do!  God is faithful and just to forgive all sins–it’s what He does!

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Psalm 34:8-10 ~ Tasty!

If you’ve read this blog recently, you may remember that my son and I are trying to memorize Psalm 34.  Memorizing Bible verses is good because it hides truth in our hearts that we can draw on throughout life.   I’ve also found that it is more than memorizing words on a page, it is practical help for daily life in the process of committing it to memory.

This section of verses has many great promises, but it also has some directives in order to experience the fulfillment of those promises.


One of the most impacting quotes I’ve heard is, “Don’t even taste what you don’t want to be hungry for.”  But if we want to be hungry for the Lord and His goodness, He invites us to “taste and see.”  So many people say, “God is not good, or He would….”  But have they tasted His goodness–even tried to see His goodness.  When I am more focused on worry and complaining, I am not tasting and seeing!  We cannot see the Lord’s goodness, if we don’t look to Him!


We are all looking to encounter true joy in our lives…in fact most of us will pursue it constantly until we take our final breath.  The answer to experiencing true, fulfilling, and lasting joy in our lives is in drawing near to the Lord.  When we allow Him to be our place of safety and shelter, we will realize that all we’ve been searching for is found in His presence!


To fear the Lord is not to be afraid of Him, but to respect Him and recognize Him as the source of all things.  This promise to have all we need is not for every person, but it is for every person who belongs to God and shows proper respect and awe of Him.

When I first read this verse, I immediately thought of all the things we need to prepare for the arrival of our baby in January.  I thought, “If I fear the Lord, He will provide the dresser, rocker, high chair, diapers, formula, etc…”  But the more I meditated on the words, I realized that my greatest needs are not always material.  What I really need is grace, love, patience, guidance, a gentle spirit, more of God’s presence, and strength.  If I fear the Lord, I will have all I need to embrace and thrive each day!


Often times I feel like I am lacking something I need, and I don’t trust the Lord to provide for my needs.  In fact, over the past several weeks, He has been continuously revealing the ways that I see a need and go out on my own to provide for myself.  For instance, my boys needed jeans and I didn’t pray and wait for the Lord, I went to Old Navy and bought some with my credit card. Then I felt anxious about paying it back.  Thankfully, God brought this to my attention.  I confessed my lack of trust in Him and asked for His help.  Today, the bill is paid in full!  Praise the Lord for His goodness!!

When we trust in the Lord we will lack no GOOD thing.  God always and only wants to give us what is good for us.  It may be different from what we think is good for us, but it will always be best!  God is good and only does/gives good things!

Want to experience all good things?  Need joy in your life?  Want to eliminate the fear of not having your deepest needs met?  It all comes down to the Lord–taste and see that He is good; take refuge in Him; fear Him, and trust in Him!


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James 1:2-8 ~ Trials

James doesn’t pull any punches or put forth any pleasantries in this letter, but proceeds right to the point with precious principles we need to put into practice!

Trials are inevitable, but they have great purpose!  God allows us to meet trials in life to test our faith and to produce endurance and character in our lives. However, it is our responsibility to remain in the trial until His work is complete and we have passed the test.  So often I try whatever it takes to get out of trials.  But just like any other test that we don’t pass in life, unfortunately we must keep re-taking it.  Trials continue to pop up until we have learned and grown the way God intended for us.

Trials give us an opportunity to ask for wisdom.  What a privilege!  We don’t have to go through trials with our limited insight and knowledge.  Trials are tools that point us to a wisdom unfathomably higher than our own!  Sadly, asking for God’s wisdom is sometimes our last resort.  When instead we should be asking Him at the onset: 1) What do you want to teach me or produce in me through this trial? 2) What will it take to pass this test?

God gives wisdom freely and generously–without reproach, reprimand, or rebuke–to all who ask in faith, believing they will receive it.

Proverbs 2:6-7 says, “For the LORD GIVES WISDOM; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; HE STORES UP SOUND WISDOM for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.”  Prior to these promises we see our role in gaining His wisdom:  Make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding; call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, seek it like silver and search for it as for a hidden treasure…  Do we value God’s wisdom enough to seek it like that?

How often do we receive godly wisdom for our trials and think with our human minds, “That won’t work.” Then we proceed to use our own “wisdom.”  God calls that being double-minded and unstable.  One could also call it disrespectful!

When we were in Sarasota a few weeks ago I got a flat tire.  I prayed that God would show me who could help and walked into a Walgreens.  I remember looking at the people in there and wondering who was capable of changing a flat. I specifically remember looking intently at one gentleman in the photo department and thinking, “Definitely not that guy, but maybe he’ll know someone.” I didn’t ask.  An hour passed, and I found myself back in the Walgreens trying to get cooled off when an associate asked if I needed anything.  I told her my story and she called someone on the phone.  Guess who showed up to change my flat tire??  The gentleman from the photo department, who happened to be the store manager.  My trial could have been greatly abbreviated if I had not been doubtful, and just asked for help. It’s the same with God’s wisdom.  He has all the tools, knowledge and ability stored up for us, we just need to ask without doubting that His ways are best and that He can handle our trials.

Because trials are an occasion for growth in endurance and wisdom, they are also an opportunity for joy!  Just like Jesus’ example in Hebrews 12:2 where we learn that He faced His suffering with joy because He knew that the outcome was more wondrous than the pain.  Let’s not waste our trials, but celebrate them.  The Lord is able to bring beauty out of our various tests and trials.

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