Putting God's Word into Practice…

The End of Nehemiah and Blogging (13:30-31)

This is it!  542 blogs in three years.  God has been faithful to speak to me and strengthen me.  And my prayer has been that He would do that through me for you.  God is calling me to deeper intimacy with Himself.  I’m not quite sure what that means or what it will look like, but based on my prayer time Saturday it means, “honest, raw and private.”  Even though my quiet times in God’s Word have been personally reflective, there is always the underlying knowledge that I’m studying to share.  There is often more urgency to get thoughts typed up than to “sit and soak.”  This, coupled with leading women’s Bible study at my church has left me feeling like I’m wading in shallow waters.  Like I’m trying to draw out water from the ocean with a hole-y bucket instead of a holy bucket!

How appropriate that my last blog will be from Nehemiah 13:30-31. “Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.” Chronologically this is the end of the Old Testament.  It ushered in 400 years of silence.  Nothing more is recorded in the Bible until Jesus-the Light of the world-is born.

Nehemiah’s legacy is that he restored Jerusalem, the temple, and the inhabitants back to purity with their God.  Everything was left in tact as the world awaited the Messiah!  Likewise, may our hearts be “in tact” as we await His return.  Come Lord Jesus!


Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 3)

Have you ever been walking down a sidewalk and then tripped on a broken piece of concrete?  Or gotten your stroller wheel stuck in a big concrete gap?  Frustrating isn’t it!  If only the homeowners would be responsible for their little section of walkway, things would be so much better!  Could you imagine a neighborhood where everyone’s sidewalk was in desperate need of repair?  That is kind of how I picture the city of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. (3:1)  The leaders started rebuilding first!  They led by example.  Manual labor was not beneath their position before the Lord.

Next to them/after him…These phrases exist in this text over 30 times.   It reminds us again that the work was a group effort.  Everyone worked diligently in front of their own place.  They worked shoulder-to-shoulder–priests, goldsmiths, perfumers, merchants, government rulers, and families.

And next to them, the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. (3:5)  Ouch!  What an eternal indictment!  The Tekoite nobles had it all backwards.  They thought of themselves as elevated above the Lord and above the people they represented.  Truly noble people see themselves as servants of the Lord and His people first.  Whenever we think we are too good to serve, we put God beneath us!  How do you view your station in life?  Do you think of serving as an honor and privilege or something you have to stoop to do?

Repaired/Rebuilt/Restored…are used nearly 45 times in this chapter alone.  This tells me that the walls were built solid and secure at one time.  However, over the course of time, neglect caused them to fall into disrepair, and everyone was responsible!

In our own lives–the dwelling place of the Spirit of God–how do our walls look?  Are they strong or are there gaps and crumbling stones?  Are there areas of our heart that need desperately to be restored?  What can we do to start rebuilding right now?  Lord, send revival, and let it start with me!

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 2)

Reading news stories and seeing pictures coming out of Ferguson, MO from last night’s riots reminded me a lot of Nehemiah’s plight–desperation and grief over the broken down and burned out condition of the city.  I’m sure there are people in Ferguson weeping and mourning and crying out to God for help, healing and restoration as the sun rises over their city.  That is where we left Nehemiah yesterday–completely devastated over the condition of Jerusalem.  His burden was so heavy that he couldn’t hide it.  King Artexerxes recognized it as “sadness of heart.”

When Nehemiah was questioned by the king about his sadness, Nehemiah prayed to God for direction and began requesting of the king things that only the favor of the Lord could move his heart to give.  Although it is interesting that in parenthesis in verse 6 it says, “(the queen sitting beside him).”  Maybe God used her presence to sway the king’s heart toward compassion and generosity?  King Artexerxes gave Nehemiah the all clear to return to Jerusalem and see the condition of the city for himself.  He sent along letters authorizing Nehemiah to pass through the country and also to receive timber from the king’s own forest for temple gates, city walls and a personal home for Nehemiah.  He then sent along army officers and horsemen for traveling protection.  ONLY GOD COULD MOVE THE HEART OF A KING IN SUCH A WAY!

When Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem he did four things that are important for leaders who have a heart for revival to see:  1) He personally investigated the conditions. 2) He found out where the greatest needs were. 3) He made a plan of action. 4) He enlisted the help of other leaders. 5) He built them up by telling the wonders God had performed on his behalf already.

The people responded by saying, “Let us rise up and build.” And they strengthened their hands for the good work. (vs. 18) This was going to be a group effort!

The opposition came almost immediately.  There will always be detractors who don’t want to see God’s people and land restored.  They might jeer and despise, distract and discourage, BUT good leaders fix their eyes on the LORD, not on the overwhelming circumstances.  They cast a vision and excite the hearts of the people with God’s power and plan!

Nehemiah’s response to the opposition deserves a closer look:

The God of heaven will make us prosper…not their strength, not their verbal commitment, not their talents and skills, not their manpower–but God alone!

And we His servants…Nehemiah included himself among the servants.  He was a servant-leader and did not think more highly of himself than he ought.  He recognized God’s authority.

Will arise and build…The work belongs to the people, the results belong to God.

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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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James 5:14-20 Prayer Unleashes God’s Power

Prayer unleashes God’s power to heal, restore, forgive sins, experience the impossible and to help us rescue others.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them PRAY over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the PRAYER of faith will RESTORE the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be FORGIVEN.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and PRAYER FOR ONE ANOTHER, that you may be HEALED.  The PRAYER of a righteous person has GREAT POWER as it is working.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he PRAYED FERVENTLY that it might not rain, and for three ears and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he PRAYED again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.  My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The sicknesses mentioned in these verses are specifically linked to sin.  NOT ALL SICKNESS IS A RESULT OF SIN!  Sometimes physical ailments and weakness are a result of sin in our lives.  Some common sins that lead to physical sickness are: addiction, anxiety, anger, fear, bitterness, unforgiving/unmerciful, disobedience, jealousy, critical spirit, sexual immorality, etc…  THERE IS HOPE!  Prayer unlocks the power of God to forgive our sins and heal our hearts and then to restore our bodies from the physical consequences.

You may think, “There’s no hope for me, I’ve tried.”  But through humble confession, help from others, and fervent, energized prayer God can and will do the impossible in our lives.  Can you imagine praying for no rain for 3.5 years, and it not raining? And then praying for rain, and the dark clouds begin to roll in and release great rain.  God has the power and ability to change and heal people!

Or you may think, “There’s no hope for so-and-so.”  But through prayer, God’s power is loosed in us to grant us the ability to restore others.  God can do anything He wants, but how awesome that He has given to us the privilege of prayer to be part of His processes and plans in the rescuing and restoration of others!

If you do nothing else today, pray!

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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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