dailybiblereader2012

Putting God's Word into Practice…

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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1 John 3:20-22 Present Tense Purity and Prayer

For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and HE KNOWS EVERYTHING.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, WE HAVE confidence before God: and whatever WE ASK we receive from him, because WE KEEP his commandments and WE DO what pleases him. (20-22)

First, I’d like to clarify some thoughts on condemnation (being guilty of wrong and sentenced to punishment).  Those who belong to the Lord have finished with condemnation.   (Romans 8:1~ “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”) The moment that Christ’s forgiveness and grace washed over our sins we were made righteous before the Living God.  The wrath of God toward our sins has been satisfied by Christ’s finished work on the cross.  Jesus Christ took our guilt and our punishment.  He was condemned on our behalf.  God knows everything!  If our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, and He has given to us His righteousness as our own–we are not condemned!

However, God also knows our hearts in each circumstance.  He knows whether our motives in giving and our words of love flow from a pure heart.   He knows if we are being obedient in doing all that He asks with all that He’s given to us.  Basically, we can’t fake God out with our actions…and we can’t pray to him with fake, selfish motives and boldly expect Him to give us what we want. Powerful praying requires purity!

Pure prayers require an inclination towards obedience and a submissive heart that longs to please the Lord.  All the verbs in the verses are present tense.   When we make a practice of love, obedience, and pleasing the Lord, our hearts are aligned with His and we can ask anything and trust we will receive it.  What a promise!!!

Lord, align my heart with yours.  I want to be a bold pray-er.  I want a heart set on obedience to your answer even if it is different from my will.  May your will be done in all I ask of you…specifically regarding my sons, my husband, the church, and my daily activities.

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1 Peter 4:1-11 Purity and Purpose

Purity

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2

Jesus suffered on behalf of sinners, so that we can have victory over the sins that enslave us.  His suffering made our way for salvation.  When we “arm ourselves” with that way of thinking, it gives us another reason to embrace the suffering that we go through.  Suffering is a tool that God can use to purge us of our selfishness and pride.  Enduring suffering and overcoming sin are battles that start in the mind.  The way we think is a weapon that we can take up to make war against our unholy passions and desires.

So why does it even matter if we do battle against sin in our lives or continue in it after we have embraced the good news of Jesus Christ and His salvation by grace through faith?  Because we will stand before the Lord someday and give an account for our lives and actions.  There are only two ways that we can live: for our own human passions or for the will of God.  Living for ourselves does not demonstrate the change that takes place in our heart when we submit to the Lordship of Jesus.  When we let Him change us, and our lives don’t look like they did before, people may malign us and our old friends abandon us, but we will have the Spirit of God to carry us through until eternity.

Purpose

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace, whoever speaks, as one who speaks the words of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11

Jesus is coming back to take those who believe in Him by faith home to heaven!  We don’t know when that day will be…it could be today!  That begs two questions: 1) Are you ready?  If Jesus came today, would you go with Him to heaven?  2) What should we do with our time while we wait for Him to come? What do we hope to be doing when He comes?

God graciously gives us great ways to fill our time on earth…ways that are according to His will, not serving our own passions.  We are called to pray; to love others earnestly; show hospitality; and use our God-given gifts to serve one another; and generously share God’s grace with others.  Can you imagine what our lives would look like, the joy and fulfillment, the productivity/fruitfulness we would experience if we approached our daily lives with this “to-do” list?  We would be achieving the purpose of man–that God would be glorified through Jesus in our lives.

The thing that gets in the way of our loving, serving, and caring for others is our own selfish desires.  Until they are put to death, we are of no use to others.  That is why we need to do battle against our flesh.

For any John Piper or Tedashaii fans, here is a great song about making war on the flesh:

http://youtu.be/a4mbn1u0wBs

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Titus 2:1-10 God Values Educating Women

Newsflash!  Younger women grow into older women!  To become the kind of older women that is beautiful in God’s eyes, younger women need training.  Younger women don’t need older women sitting around complaining about, “Young women these days….”  They need older women who will get up and help!  Older women–who teach what is good and train younger women; who don’t slander, but speak words of truth, grace, kindness and wisdom; who are respectable in their behavior; and who have so much trust and intimacy with the Lord that they don’t need to indulge in other things to relax or medicate their lives–have great value in the eyes of God.  Young women have value too–that is why God wants them to be trained.  God values education!

I’m not sure exactly where I fit in this training model–so please excuse in advance any vacillating between the two in the following comments.  I think I need to be the “older woman” in someone’s life, but I desperately need an “older woman” in my life too.  There are so many things out there vying to train us as women–magazines, blogs, pintrest, google, talk shows, documentaries, etc…but what they are teaching usually is not the sound doctrine–healthy truths–that God is intending for us to learn.

As a young woman, what is it that God wants us to learn from older women? What should the core curriculum look like?

  • How to love our husband and children.  Isn’t it interesting that we need to learn to love those who should be the easiest to love?  God’s definition of love is so different from what we know of love that it needs learned.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”  Most older women have not loved like that, yet we turn to those women to advise and train us on love!  If you are young, find an older women who loves her husband and children according to this model and learn from her!
  • How to be self-controlled.  As I’ve gotten older and look back at my interactions with people when I was in my 20s I get really embarrassed.  I thought I knew so much!  I had a quick tongue, was emotionally driven, and acted impulsively.  I still do in some respects, but I have grown a little I hope =)  Young women need to be trained to have self-control over their mouths, actions and emotions.  Looking back even 15 years, I can see how I would have benefited from training in self-control, but at the time I didn’t think I needed anything!  If you are younger, look for a self-controlled older women to be honest with you about the lack of self-control they see in your life and listen to their wisdom.  Even though maturity has helped some with this, I still need an older woman to help me.
  • How to be pure.  I’m sure there is more to it than this, but as I look back again at my younger years, I am embarrassed by the movies I watched, TV shows I enjoyed, music I listened to, and books I read.  I filled myself with a lot of impurity.  In looking for an older women to train on purity, beware of legalism!! (a set of rules to maintain purity)  Purity is about the heart!  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart. It is the wellspring of life.”  A pure heart grows us into women of respectable behaviors.
  • How to keep the home.  Believe it or not, we need to be taught how to manage a home.  This may involve such practical training as how to properly clean and organize a home.  But even more, it is learning how to make our homes a sanctuary of peace and safety for all who come through our doors.  The older women who trains in this may be our mother, but that is not always the case.  (Thankfully, my mother has been a great example of home management to me and taught me at a very young age how to care for a home.)
  • How to be kind.  Kindness is not our natural reaction to others. (In fact, my son just walked in for the umpteenth time, and my response was rude instead of kind.  I obviously need an older women in this area of my life.)  It is especially hard to be kind in a culture that promotes self-comfort, self-promotion, entitlements and rights.  But Proverbs 31:26 says that a women of great value, “Opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”  When we are squeezed–does kindness come out?
  • How to be submissive to our own husbands.  We do not need to yield to any other man! But we are called to value and respect our OWN husbands, and we do this by honoring their leadership as we would honor the Lord’s leadership over us. (Ephesians 5:22-24)  This is definitely not the education that the world will give to young women!  But older women who have done things their own way instead of God’s usually have lives that have resulted in feelings of discontentment and dissatisfaction–unless their lives have been redeemed by God!  Think about any women you know who did not obey God’s plan for marriage…think honestly about your own life when you haven’t followed this plan…what was the outcome???  Older women who have been submissive to their husbands have experienced the beautiful fruit of it in their lives.  Trust them when they say to be reverent, respectful and yielding to your spouse.  Let them show you how!  It may go against every fiber of our being, but the Holy Spirit has the power to overcome our flesh.  When we are submissive to the Holy Spirit, we can be submissive to our mate.  The fruit of living according to the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If we can be trained to surrender our lives to the power of the Holy Spirit all these other things will fall into place.

The outcome of all this education is not an A+ on a grade card, but is intrinsically more valuable.  Growing into a godly older woman puts the  wonder of God, the beauty of the Gospel and the transforming power of His Word on display!

Here is the beauty–God doesn’t use perfect older women to teach!  There is no such thing!  Only redeemed women.  We can teach out of our mistakes even more than our successes when a Redeeming, Saving God is involved!

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2 Corinthians 10:4, 11:1-29 ~ Can’t think of a good title =)

I’ve often prayed 2 Corinthians 10:4 and heard it taught as a way to avoid temptation, “Let me take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.”  However, as I have studied it and mulled it over during the last few days, I think that is only a small part of the power of that verse.  Any idea or opinion raised against the knowledge of God must be taken captive–our own and others!

This is why Paul is so bold in facing sugar-coated and outright untruths!  He is jealous to protect the purity of the church.  He knows that Satan works diligently to deceive and he does it by leading our thoughts astray.  As we think, so we act!

If Satan has our thoughts, he has power over our actions.  He is working to divide our devotion to and steal our sincerity in our relationship with Christ.  In contrast, Paul wants to help people take their thoughts captive to obey Christ.  Paul is waging war on their behalf to keep them pure, which he says in 11:28 causes daily pressure and anxiety.

If your pastor is committed to your spiritual purity, thank him by listening and respecting him.  So many people forfeit the blessing of truth by listening to people who don’t care for them personally or have their best interest in mind.

If you read this and you are from our church; I want you to know for sure that your pastor and his wife love you!  We carry concern daily that you are growing in truth; that you are purely and sincerely devoted to Christ; and that you are consistently experiencing the love, joy, freedom, peace and grace of God.

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Acts 5

Acts 5:1-16.  Seeing all the generosity of the fellow believers, one couple decided to sell some property and vowed to give the proceeds to the apostles.  However, in their hearts, they planned to pretend that they were giving all while keeping a little back for themselves.  Their sin was not greed–it was lying.  Peter was very distinct about to whom they lied.  In verse 3 Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie TO THE HOLY SPIRIT and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?”  They had just received the gift of the Holy Spirit and to do something so grievous to Him was astonishing.

Things had been moving along so well for the early church–characterized by power, purity and unity.  Then Satan came along and deceived Ananias and Sapphira causing them to take something for themselves that was set apart for the Lord.  Their sin was punished with death.  The result was that great fear came into the church.  (Sounds a lot like Genesis 3)

The fear of the Lord is what’s missing in many churches today.  Could you imagine if God immediately judged hearts and disciplined us in the midst of our gatherings today?  Could you imagine getting a chance to be honest about our sins and receiving grace, but choosing to lie and hide our sin instead only to be met with immediate death?  Maybe it would put some healthy fear of the Lord in our churches and restore the purity of Christ’s Bride!  Maybe the Holy Spirit would be restored to the rightful place in our lives and the church would be filled with power and boldness again!  Maybe God would start to receive the honor and glory that is due Him in our land!  Maybe multitudes of believers would be added to the Lord daily!

Acts 5:17-42.  All that power and boldness came at another cost, too.  The apostles had some enemies.  The Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy–quite the opposite of what the apostles were filled with–the Holy Spirit.  I just made a quick list of some contrasts between the two types of people from these verses.

  1. Jealousy-filled men fear man while Spirit-filled men fear God.
  2. Jealousy filled men are wishy-washy with no distinct plan while Spirit-filled men hear and follow God’s plan.
  3. Jealousy-filled men are held back by fear while Spirit filled men boldly proclaim the name of Christ and forgiveness of sins through Him–daily and tirelessly.
  4. Jealousy-filled men are distinguished by disunity while Spirit filled men work together for sake of Jesus.
  5. Jealousy-filled men stay inside and question/criticize while Spirit filled men go to the people and  speak about Jesus.

Lord, send conviction and confession to your people and restore your church.  Restore our hearts for Your Spirit to live in, restore our boldness with the gospel, restore our desire to tirelessly point people to Jesus.  Restore our fear of You. In Jesus’ holy name I ask it, amen.

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