Putting God's Word into Practice…

Deuteronomy 5 ~ The Ten Commandments

And Moses summoned ALL Israel and said to them, “HEAR, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall LEARN them and be careful to DO them,” (vs. 1)  God’s people have to put themselves in the place to hear His Word.  A truth-proclaiming church or Bible study would be a good equivalent today.  He requested that they not only hear it but learn it.  Learning requires studying and memorization.  It’s not enough to hear God’s Word, but we must search it out ourselves.  And the final requisite is obedience to God’s Words.  A memorized verse is never better than an applied verse!

The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. (vs. 2-3)  God is the only living God, and He is the God of the living.  He if faithful from generation to generation–freshly speaking His truth into each one.  It’s not what our fathers know of Him that matters, but what we ourselves know of Him.

I am the LORD YOUR GOD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (vs. 6)  These are the words that inaugurated the giving of the Ten Commandments to the new generation.  God is saying “I am YOUR GOD–I belong to YOU!  I rescued you and saved you from slavery and oppression.”  When God asks us to be obedient to His commands it’s because He loves us and has our best interest in mind.  He is worthy of our obedience because our very life is due to His salvation.

The 10 Commandments:

  1. Have no other gods before the LORD. (vs. 7)
  2. Do not make or bow down to idols. (vs. 8-10)
  3. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. (vs. 11)
  4. Observe the Sabbath day–to keep it holy. (vs. 12-15)
  5. Honor your father and your mother. (vs. 16)
  6. Do not murder. (vs. 17)
  7. Do not commit adultery. (vs. 18)
  8. Do not steal. (vs. 19)
  9. Do not bear false witness. (vs. 20)
  10. Do not covet. (vs. 21)

Interestingly, in the New Testament we are told that the only commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself.  Looking at the 10 commandments we can see how “all the law hangs on those two commands.”  Commandments 1-4 explain how we are to love the Lord, and commandments 5-6 speak to how we love others.  (Matthew 22:36-40)

Look through the list, it is impossible to keep all those laws!  Thankfully our righteousness doesn’t depend on our ability to keep them.  Our righteousness depends on God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness because we’ve broken them!  Our righteousness depends on Jesus’ righteousness, because He is the only person who ever walked this earth blameless and sinless.  Therefore, when He died on the cross it was for our sins–our broken commandments–not His.  When we put our faith in Him, His righteousness becomes ours! (Isaiah 61:10)  Once we are made righteous before our Holy God, we are called to live lives of holiness.  Therefore, the 10 commandments are still relevant today–they teach us how to love God and others! They give us the standard of living that pleases God.

God spoke these commandments directly to His people “with a loud voice, and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” (vs. 22) What a generous God! Only 10 commandments–spoken and written for the safety, salvation, and joy of generations to come.  The voice of the Lord caused His people to fear Him–to have the utmost respect for Him.  They took His commands very seriously, and promised to do everything He said.

I’ve been there.  Several times I have attended conferences–times set apart to hear from the Lord and let Him speak to my life.  His presence is palpable; He shows His glory and greatness; He speaks a word to me igniting conviction, change and freedom.  I am revved up, enthusiastic about obedience.  But I know that those feelings won’t last, and what’s more, God knows that initial passion won’t last.  But it doesn’t keep Him from speaking to me, from wanting the best for me, or from charging me to “not forget.”

Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (vs. 29)

You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. (vs. 32-33)

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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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1 John 2:18-29 ~ Abiding

This passage offers four steps to starting and maintaining fellowship with God the Father.

  1. Confess the truth about Jesus Christ (2:23).  The truth about Jesus is that He is God’s Son and the Savior of the world.  He is the only way to the Father.  (“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6)
  2. Upon confession of Jesus as Lord, we are given by God the gift of His Spirit abiding in us.  We are never alone.  We cannot make excuses that we don’t know right from wrong.  We don’t need any other teacher.  The Holy Spirit and God’s living word are sufficient to teach us all we need to know to discern lies from truth in this world.  To be in fellowship with God and live a joy-filled life, we must be surrendered to the teaching of the Holy Spirit abiding in us. (2:20, 27)
  3. Abide in Christ (2:28).  In John 15, Jesus had a lot to teach the disciples about what it means to abide in Him.  It is like a branch being attached to a vine.  When we abide in Christ, we depend on Him for life, nourishment, strength, fellowship, unity and joy.   Jesus himself said in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you (regarding abiding), that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  As I wrote in my journal, a wind-blown leaf caught my attention outside of my window.  It looked so free, but it was dead because it wasn’t attached to its tree!  That leaf was only going to end up decomposing in some neighbor’s landscaping.  Life is found in abiding in Christ!
  4. Practice righteousness (2:29).  I don’t have any righteousness of my own–the only thing righteous about me is that Jesus has given His gift of righteousness to me–wrapped me in it like a robe!  Therefore, my life needs to reflect His righteousness, and that is only possible through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in me.  Practicing basketball every day doesn’t make us part of the basketball team.  Someone with authority has to declare us on the team–officially making us basketball players.   But a basketball career doesn’t stop there.  The team members must practice with the team everyday so that others know we are on the team and we better reflect the title of basketball players.  Practicing righteousness does not make us righteous, it just proves that we know Christ has declared us righteous before His Father.

And now little children, abide in Christ, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29)

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Psalm 24:7-10 Who is this King of Glory?

“Who is this KIng of glory?” That is the question I asked myself this morning.  Substituting the definitions of glory in this phrase helps me visualize the King of glory.

  • The King of high honor won by notable achievements
  • The King of magnificence and splendor
  • The King who deserves my respect and delight
  • The King of all our praise, worship, and thanksgiving.

“Why is the LORD worthy to be called the King of glory?”

  • He is unconquerable, eternally victorious
  • All of heaven’s armies of angels are under His command
  • He is the highest authority in Heaven and on Earth.
  • He overcame my sin and death with salvation and righteousness.

Do I view the Lord as the King of glory? When was the last time I was in awe of the King of glory–recognizing His might and power over the things of this world? Do I realize this valiant warrior lives in me? When I invite Jesus to be the King of my heart, He is strong and mighty in me and gives me victory in my battles.

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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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James 1:19-21 Hearing, Speaking and Anger

Know this, my beloved brothers: let EVERY PERSON be QUICK TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK, SLOW TO ANGER; for the anger of many does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Quick to hear! In controversy or confrontation, humbly listen to the other person’s perspective and criticisms.  In temptation, be quick to hear the truth and listen for a way out from under it.  In trials, be quick to hear wise counsel and direction.

Slow to speak! In conversations, don’t interrupt or plan ahead the “wisdom” or experience I want to share.  Don’t turn conversations around to be about “me.”  In temptations–failed or otherwise–don’t be quick to defend myself or have the last word.  In trials, don’t be quick to grumble or complain.

Slow to anger!  I heard someone say once, “Anger is counter-productive to God’s plan for our lives.”  Anger produces bitterness, steals joy, enhances pride, enables impatience, defends entitlement, and promotes selfishness.  Anger is often our first and immediate response to trials and to relational conflict or confrontations.

The verse says, “LET EVERY PERSON,” not just introverts, counselors, people of few opinions, but EVERYONE.  For some of us these directives are harder than others.  Especially me!  I tend to be opinionated and naturally loud.  Pride often makes me want to be heard at the expense of others, and when I feel like I’m not being heard, I am quick to anger.  It’s a vicious cycle!

Deuteronomy 24:6, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, Nahum 1:3 all say the same thing.  God defines Himself and carries the reputation through hundreds of generations as being merciful, gracious, SLOW TO ANGER, and abounding in love and faithfulness.  Throughout the Bible we see that the Lord hears us and speaks to us.  Many people claim repeatedly, “The Lord heard my cry and answered me.”  God would not give us directions for holiness, that don’t define His own character.  However, holiness does not come naturally to us like it does to Him.  That’s why He gives us tools to use in our trials.

Trials in our relationships our a sanctifying tool God can use to make us more like HIm in how we view and treat others.  Receiving the Word and wisdom of the Lord with meekness (humility) is the first step in treating others with meekness.

Knowing, gaining wisdom from, and living according to God’s Word is the primary weapon we have in enduring trials, resisting temptation, and relating to others.

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2 Timothy 2:14-26 Pursuing Together

Because God is faithful, His foundations stand firm!  When other things lead to ruin, His truth leads to good!  Verse 19 says, “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal:

“The Lord know those who are his…”  Is that my foundation?  I am KNOWN by God!  All of a the Christian life must be built on this truth.  My boys and I just finished reading through the Old Testament this morning, and its history shows us that that those who forget that God knows them often turn to foolishness and falsehood.  Many times God’s people forgot that God knew them, saw them and heard them so they proceeded to dishonor him with they lives and pursuits–doing what was right in their own eyes.  This led them to devastating consequences, destruction and strife.  

This past week at church, my husband taught on Romans 8:29-30 and reminded us afresh of the comfort and confidence in knowing that God not only knows us, but knew us before we even came into being.  He knows when we sit, and stand, and lie down and when we are going to speak and what we are going to say before we even open our mouths, even what we are thinking.  He is acquainted with all our ways! (Psalm 139)

God knows me!  I am His!  Wonderful truth!

“…and “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”  If I say I know God and call myself by His name, (I’m a “Christ”ian.)  I must turn away from sin and wickedness.  When we turn to Christ, we turn away from sin.  When we pursue the things of God–righteousness, faith, love and peace; we flee from immature passions and desire.  We need to be pursuing those good things together with others who bear the name of Christ.  This is the foundation of unity that God is pleased with and desires to see in His people!  When believers pursue their own interests and desires, it creates a breeding ground for quarrels and controversies that spread “like gangrene” and lead to the ruin of the body of Christ.

I have been so thankful to overhear and be part of conversations over the past two weeks in our church between the women.  Since starting a new Bible study on January 23, more and more women are pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace together.  It is fun to hear how God is working in them each differently according to His Word.  He can do this because HE KNOWS each women and what truths they need to apply to their life’s circumstances.  He is a great God!  And pursuing Him together with my “sisters” is a wonderful gift!

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Ephesians 6 ~ Cosmic Battle Between Good and Evil

For this post, I am skipping right to the armor of God starting in verse 10 because it holds the most application for me.

The enemy–the Devil–is a strong, deceptive, manipulative schemer.  He delights to knock Christians down–to disqualify us from the fight.  Yet we, as followers of Christ, are called in these 11 verses to be strong in the Lord and are told four times to stand.  God has given us all we need to stand in His strength–we just need to put on our armor and take up our weapon!

Belt of Truth.  Satan schemes in this area by causing us to doubt and question truth, just like he did to Eve in the garden.  He put doubt in her about the truth of God’s character–His generosity and goodness.  If he gets our belt, our pants will fall down and cause us to trip! Truth is what holds all the armor together!  We can only stand on truth–“all other ground is sinking sand.”

Breastplate of Righteousness.  The Devil aims to fill our minds with condemnation, guilt and shame to make us forget that Christ alone is our righteousness.  If we lose our breastplate, our heart is exposed.

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace.  Satan will cause us to doubt that Jesus is truly our peace.  In so doing, he distracts us to look for peace other places.  This steals our time and energy from pursuing Christ our peace and gives it over to chasing down other things–immobilizing us spiritually.  When we know that Christ is our peace, we can be filled with gratitude and contentment and walk with Him in peace.

Shield of Faith.  The enemy will try to persuade us to worry, fear and not trust the Lord.  When we drop our shield of faith, we are wide open for any and all attack.  But when we remember God’s faithfulness to His character and His promises and His purposes, we can extinguish any flaming arrow that is shot in our direction.

Helmet of Salvation.  If Satan can distract us from the real hope of our salvation, he can replace our eternal vision with temporal vision–effectively getting control of our minds. When our minds are fixed on Jesus our Savior and our everlasting reward of salvation, it is like a helmet protecting our mind.

Sword of the Spirit–The Word of God.  Satan will attempt to knock the sword from our hands by making us think we don’t have time to be in God’s Word or causing us to think we are unqualified to open up God’s Word and learn from it.  God’s Word is our only weapon.  If we don’t take it up, we cannot effectively fight off temptation.  If Jesus was tempted just like me and was without sin (Hebrews 4:14-16) and Jesus only used His Father’s Word when He was tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11), then God’s Word is powerful and effective enough for me!

Recently I have felt this spiritual battle in my own heart and life.  I have been tempted to give up, quit fighting, fall down.  But my God is stronger–He has given me the victory through Jesus Christ my Lord who is my peace, my righteousness, the truth, my salvation, my faith-giver, and He is the Word!  I can be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!  Jesus is all we need for victory!  He is our champion!  He is our armor! He is everything!

I close out the posts on Ephesians with Paul’s closing words–“Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible!”

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Romans 6:15-23

*I was on family vacation for Romans 5-8 and believe it or not, we did not have access to a computer daily.  So in an effort to catch up, I am going to simply type up my notes from each day.*

People who are enslaved to sin are free in regard to righteousness, but the result is death, despair, emptiness, loneliness, and/or shame.

People who are slaves of righteousness are free in regard to sin.  The result is life, peace, love, joy and clean heart/mind.

We are all slaves to something and free to its opposite.  The difference is the fruit that the slavery/freedom yields.

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Romans 3 – Bad News First, Then Good News

This may be the most doctrine-rich chapter in the whole New Testament.  So many key principles of faith are taught, and it is teeming with attributes of God.  God is faithful; He is true; God is righteous; He is a just judge; God is glorious; He is a grace-giver; and my favorite, He is divinely forbearing!

The Bad News.  Although created in the very image of God, we have defiled and distorted that image and do not look like Him anymore.  Humanity is condemned under sin.  We are unrighteous liars.  We sin with our hearts, our mouths, our feet, and our eyes.  People do not fear God.  God in His grace, gave the law to the Jews and wrote it on the heart of everyone else not for our justification–because no one can keep the law–but to point out our sinfulness and God’s holiness.  We stand condemned and hopeless before a just and perfect Judge!

“BUT NOW GOD has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law…” (Romans 3:21a)

The Good News.  God sent His one and only perfect Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17).  The only way that Jesus could save us was to rectify our sinfulness by making atonement for it with the shedding of His own blood.  At the cross God’s anger against sin and His love for His created people came together in a painfully, beautiful moment of justice and victory.  EVERYONE who believes by faith in Jesus Christ is made right with God.  There are some big words used in these verses to describe the outcome of believing by faith in Jesus that I’d like to share some thoughts on.

1) Righteousness-We are not righteous, but Jesus is.  When we humbly recognize our sinfulness and lack of righteousness, then He imparts His righteousness to us and when God looks at us to judge us, He sees Christ’s righteousness in place of our sinfulness.

2) Justification-being declared “not guilty” by God “just as if I never sinned”

3) Receive gift of grace–undeserved kindness from God

4) Redemption. I have heard this term in context of Olympic victories several times this week.  I think in our culture we have watered down the meaning of the word “redemption.”  To redeem something means to buy it back.  In the spiritual setting, this means that we belonged to God, and we gave ourselves over to sin and consequently belong to His Enemy.  He had to pay a price to buy us back–the blood of Jesus.  That is what each of our souls cost–the priceless blood of the innocent God-man.

5) Propitiated by His blood.  We have been freed from the penalty of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus’ shed blood satisfied God’s wrath against sin.  Jesus died in our place.

What can I boast in?  Nothing!  All I am in Christ cost me nothing.  Jesus paid the way with His own blood; Jesus made the way for my sins to be obliterated.  I cannot earn redemption or righteousness.  I can only boast in Jesus Christ!

If you have believed in Jesus Christ, I encourage you to spend time thinking about what that really means  with fresh perspective.  Praise and thank Him for all His death and resurrection means to you!  If you have not received the good news and see your sinful nature for what it is, there is hope in Jesus.  Ask Him to forgive you and trust that He paid the price to make you right before God.

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