Putting God's Word into Practice…

Spent with Sorrow (Psalm 31:9-13)

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in DISTRESS; my eye is wasted from GRIEF; my soul and my body also.  For my life is spent with SORROW, and my years with SIGHING; my strength FAILS because of MY INIQUITIES, and my bones WASTE AWAY.

Because of all MY ADVERSARIES I have become a REPROACH, especially to my neighbors, and an object of DREAD to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been FORGOTTEN like one who is dead; I have become like a BROKEN vessel. For I hear the whispering of many–TERROR on every side!–as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

Sin produces grief, results in sorrow and suffering, causes distress, and makes strength fail.  Suffering is a direct effect of sin.  Some suffering is a result of living in a world marred by sin and inhabited by sinful people.  And sometimes it is a consequence of our own sinful choices.

Whether our suffering is a product of our sins or others’ sins against us, we have two choices:  1) try to handle it ourselves and end up empty, exhausted, and angry or 2) turn to the Lord and ask for His grace! (vs. 9)

In verses 9-10, David’s sorrow was a consequence for his own sins.  He took responsibility for them, calling them “my iniquities.”  We cannot receive grace without confession.  Several weeks ago I had been battling despair and a downcast spirit.  But it wasn’t until I recognized the sin of selfish idolatry in my life and confessed it that I received grace and strength from the Lord.  Now I am walking in joy and freedom, again.  Even though the silly circumstances that were causing discontentment and discouragement haven’t changed–I didn’t lose 10 pounds, I didn’t get a new wardrobe or a bigger house–I have found joy in God’s grace alone.

It might be good to take a few moments and examine our hearts:  Could my sorrow be related to my sin?  How am I trying to handle suffering in my own failing strength instead of turning to the Lord and receiving His grace?  Do I really believe His grace is all I need?

Help me, Lord, to recognize my need for your grace!  Your Word says it is abounding even over our darkest sins (Romans 5:20).  It also says that Your grace is ALL I need–in suffering, hardships, weakness, insults, persecution and calamity (2 Corinthians 2:9-10).  May Your grace be multiplied to me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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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 9:6-38) Part 3

In my last post, I wrote about the power of God’s Word to move us to repentance, but it also moves us to worship.  As the Israelites praised the Lord for His faithfulness throughout their rebellious past, they were moved by His steadfastness and constancy, which led them to more confession and to commitment.  Our past is an invaluable part of worship because it documents when and where we experienced the presence and character of God in our lives.  I’d like to look quickly at the Israelites, then make it a little more personal.  The Bible is just words on a page, if we don’t let them into our own lives and hearts.

The Israelites started their worship by expressing praise for the power of God to free their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and to continuously provide for and care for them in the wilderness between slavery and the Promised Land. Verse 16 begins with a fretful phrase, “But they…”  The people acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey God.  They were not mindful of the wonders God performed on their behalf.  Halfway through verse 17 we see a faithful phrase, “But You…”  They acknowledged God’s character in the midst of the disobedience–His readiness to forgive, His grace and mercy, His slowness to anger and His abounding steadfast love.

Next their prayer recounts the time their ancestors made a golden calf in the wilderness to worship and claimed, “This is your god.”  And yet God did not forsake them.  He continued to lead and feed them, kept giving, sustaining, and blessing them in spite of their idolatry.

God gave them victories over enemies, allowed them to take over land, bear many children, gave them ease and abundant goodness, and in spite of it, they were disobedient and rebelled again.  God in love and mercy disciplined them so they would call out to Him and recognize Him as their only help and hope. He delivered them out of self-inflicted oppression again.  Verse 28 says, “Many times you delivered them according to your mercies.”  And verse 30 says, “Many years you bore with them.”  God is so patient and faithful!  He waits for years for us to “get it.”

Then the prayer of praise ends with a new acknowledgement: Behold we are slaves to this day…because of our sins…we are in great distress.

Last night God graciously and painfully gave me a look at my rebellious past.  The ugliness and depravity of disobedience was freshly magnified.  This really served to amplify His grace, mercy and protection and intensify my gratitude that He was willing to save me, make me His daughter, and prepare a life for me that is far beyond what I deserve.  Yet several years into this new life, marriage, motherhood and ministry, I found myself discontent, ungrateful, angry, bitter, disobedient, stiff-necked and rebellious again.  In His great mercy, He let me put myself back into slavery to my flesh until it broke me and made me call out to Him.  Because of His unfailing love, He never forsook me but bore with me and delivered me…again!  And even this morning, I’ve found my soul to be in great distress because the sins of selfishness and ingratitude have made me a slave once more.  Once again, I appealed to His mercy and grace, His undeserved faithfulness and steadfast love to set me free from myself!  And He did it again!  “Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.  You are the LORD, You alone.”

God faithfully uses His timeless, eternal Word to lead His people to confession and worship from generation to generation.  He’s awesome!

Time for a revived heart dance party!

http://youtu.be/C2epMyZv5ME Create in Me by Rend Collective

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Revelation 21:9-27 ~ Good News, Bad News, Good News

In the beginning of Revelation 21, we are told of the new heavens and new earth.  God promises He will wipe away every tear and take away all mourning, pain, and death for eternity.  GOOD NEWS!  In the next section of verses from this chapter we see a picture of what it will be like to live in the heavenly city.  Here are a few quick descriptions and key points:

  • Having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
  • Length, width and height are 1,380 miles.  That’s about the distance from Cleveland, Ohio to Key West, Florida and Cleveland to Laramie, WY and then up into the sky the same distance.  That’s huge!
  • The walls are 216 feet thick.
  • Walls are made out of jasper
  • City made out of pure gold
  • Foundation of the city adorned with every kind of jewel
  • 12 gates made out of a single pearl each
  • Streets of the city are pure gold
  • No temple–for the Lord God the Almighty and Jesus are there
  • No need for sun or moon–for the glory of God gives it light and Jesus is the lamp
  • The gates will always be open
  • There will be no night
  • Nothing unclean will ever enter it.

Reading through the list (or the chapter) what excites your heart the most?  Is it the pure gold streets, the giant pearls, the precious jewels, the size, or the presence of God?  What excites our hearts the most about our eternal home may reveal what it is we are longing for most in the present!  Lord, help me to long for your presence more than any other thing!  Let my amazement over heaven point me to Your beauty and grandeur.  Let me be fully satisfied and contented with You.

Everything above is GOOD NEWS!

However, both sections of verses (1-8 and 9-27) are punctuated with a warning.  Heaven is not for everybody!  In God’s grace and sovereignty, He had John continuously remind the reader that some will not be in His glorious presence where there is peace, love, beauty, joy, and rest forever.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Vs. 8)

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (vs. 27)

You may not be a sorcerer, but have you ever lied?  Have you ever invested your life in something that was not God, elevating it to a place of a god in your life?  Have you been afraid to trust God with your life?  Have you refused to believe that you need Jesus to save you?  All these things will keep you out of heaven!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? DO NOT BE DECEIVED! Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. BUT YOU WERE WASHED, YOU WERE SANCTIFIED, YOU WERE JUSTIFIED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BY THE SPIRIT OF OUR GOD! (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Jesus has the power to wash away all our sins–even the ones we think are unforgivable.  Trust me–I was 7 out of 10 of the lifestyles mentioned above before Jesus saved me.  There is freedom in Jesus.  He alone has the power to change us and make us right so that we can inherit the kingdom of God. God longs to cover bad news with the GOOD NEWS in our lives.


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Revelation 21:1-8 ~ Woo Hoo!

It’s back to school season in households across America!  Even though we have tennis shoes, pencils, shirts, notebooks, folders, etc…it is so refreshing to get all new!  I love looking at the stack of clean lined paper packs, doodle-less notebooks, unsharpened pencils, clean pink erasers, shiny shoes and still creased  shorts and shirts.  New things are wonderfully full of opportunity and unwritten experiences.

God said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  And John saw the prophecy unfold before His very eyes.  After Satan–and all who stand in opposition to the gospel–are  defeated for the rest of eternity, God will create a new heaven, a new earth and a new city–Jerusalem.  Along with this new earth will be a whole new way of living where God is dwelling among His people and we are able to love and worship Him freely–without the dampers of sin, the deception of Satan, and the distractions of the world.

He will wipe EVERY tear from their eyes, and death shall be NO MORE, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain ANYMORE, for the former things have passed away.

With Satan gone, sin will be gone, and everything related to sin will be vanquished!  The Bible says the penalty of sin is death.  Please hear me, I’m not saying that your mourning, sickness, pain, tears, etc…are always a direct result of personal sin.  But because we live in a sinful world among sinful people the consequences of sin are all around us…and every living thing is dying.  So this new world will have no crying, mourning, pain or death…

  • no heart attacks and strokes
  • no ALS
  • no chronic back pain
  • no unfaithful spouses
  • no pornography
  • no addiction
  • no mental illness
  • no poison ivy
  • no autism
  • no allergies
  • no loneliness
  • no depression
  • no wheelchairs, walkers, canes
  • no hearing aids or glasses
  • no sunburns
  • no violence
  • no war
  • no relational conflict
  • no bankruptcy/debt
  • no cancer
  • no broken bones/dislocated shoulders
  • no orphans
  • no widows
  • no homelessness
  • no unemployment
  • no divorce
  • no insecurity
  • no discontentment
  • no doubts
  • no hopelessness
  • no strife
  • no exhaustion
  • no restlessness
  • no …

In His presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore! Psalm 16:11 

I can’t wait!!!

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Revelation 11:15-19 ~ Your Kingdom Come

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. (vs. 15b)

God is sovereign over this world, yet it is in the hands of men who dishonor, oppose and even hate Him. This world is sin-sick, rebel-ridden, and destruction-destined because of the hearts of man.

In the Lord’s prayer we are taught to say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  A time is coming when evil will be eradicated for all time and God will set up an earthly kingdom where He alone will reign.  He will judge those who ignore and oppose Him in wrath and will reward all who serve Him, speak His truths, believe in Him, fear, honor and respect Him–great and small.

When His Kingdom comes–it will be in unavoidable power and fullness of glory.

We give thanks to you, LORD God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.  The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth. (vs. 17-18)

Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!

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Revelation 5 ~ Truth and Worship

Then I saw IN THE RIGHT HAND of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “WEEP NO MORE; BEHOLD, THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH, THE ROOT OF DAVID, HAS CONQUERED SO THAT HE CAN OPEN THE SCROLL AND ITS SEVEN SEALS. (Revelation 5:1-5)

The scroll contains future events.  It is encouraging to know that the entire future of our lives and the world are resting in the powerful, authoritative right hand of God the Father!  The future wrath, judgment, suffering, redemption, and restoration are all in His grasp.  He is always in control!

The unholiness of mankind and the condition of the world broke John’s heart.  He wept–loudly.  Whenever we are in despair, when discouragement sets in, when things feel hopeless; all is not lost! WEEP NO MORE; BEHOLD JESUS!!!  Look at Him, gaze upon Him, set your heart and mind on the One who is able, powerful and essential to our future!!!  He is our Hope!

In Revelation 5 we see Jesus referenced in three ways.  First is as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  He is the ruler and protector of His people.  He is filled with strength and majesty.  His presence invokes reverence and awe! The Root of David is the second name.  Jesus was born into the lineage of a king fulfilling the prophecy that the promised Messiah would also be the King!  And finally in verse 6 we see Jesus referred to as “a Lamb standing as though it had been slain.”  Jewish sacrifice required a pure, spotless lamb to be slain everyday as an offering to cover intentional and unintentional sins.  According to Leviticus 4:7 the blood of the sin offering was “poured out” at the base of the altar in the temple.  In Matthew 26:27-28 Jesus told His disciples that His blood would be “poured out” for the forgiveness of the sins of many.  John the Baptist declared in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Beholding Jesus leads to worship!  Knowing the truth about Jesus–who He is and what He has done on our behalf–leads us to worship!  Jesus alone is worthy of–deserving, entitled to– unadulterated (undiluted, absolute) worship!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (vs. 12)  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (vs. 13b-14)

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1 John 5:16-21 ~ We Know!

The verses I studied for the last blog were about the confidence we have that God hears and answers the Believer’s prayers when the prayers are asked in accordance with His will.  John goes on to tell us that we should also pray on behalf of other believers who are struggling.  These two verses are a little tricky, so I researched several commentaries I trust and prayed for God to show me what they mean.  In light of uncertainty, I’m thankful that these two verses are surrounded by eight “we know” statements that remind me there are many certainties for those who belong to God!  1 John 5:15 says, WE KNOW God hears our requests and WE KNOW God gives us a response…the rest come in verses 18-20.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, HE SHALL ASK AND GOD WILL GIVE HIM LIFE–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (v. 16-17)

This is a call to pray on behalf of other believers struggling with sin.  They are already saved and have eternal life.  These believers should not want to continue sinning.  God has given us the privilege of coming alongside of them (or them alongside of us), and helping them by way of prayer.  Two things stand out to me in these verses: 1) We should want free and abundant life for each other. 2) We are called to PRAY when we see a believer sinning, not judge, condemn, gossip–but PRAY to God!

There is a sin that leads to death, and it is unbelief.  When someone completely disregards God’s plan for salvation, they are headed for eternal separation from God.  It is impossible to ask God to restore someone who has never believed on Jesus for salvation, repented and received eternal life. (John 3:14-18)

WE KNOW that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but He who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  WE KNOW that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (v. 18-19)

Christians should have a distaste for sin–we should want it put to death in our lives.  Satan is constantly tempting our sinful nature, but because of Jesus’ protection–he can’t touch us!  It reminds me of going to haunted houses when I was younger.  There were two things that made me feel safe enough to go inside: 1) My dad or my husband standing by my side. 2) The realization that the monsters can scream, reach, moan, and so on, but were not allowed to touch me.  It is the same for believers in this world–we have the protection of Jesus Christ and the promise that Satan has limitations when it comes to God’s people.  We can have victory over sin in this world!  Satan doesn’t have any power over us!

If someone claims to be a Christian and continues willfully to practice sin, they may not be God’s child at all.  We cannot love and follow the world’s system and be in fellowship with God because the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one.  Loving the world, makes us partners with God’s enemy.

And WE KNOW that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that WE MAY KNOW him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life. (vs. 20)

Jesus came!  Knowing God is impossible apart from Jesus revealing Him to us.  Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God! (Colossians 1:15)  Jesus is the only Mediator between man and God! (1 Timothy 2:5) Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life–the only way to the Father! (John 14:6)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (vs. 21)

I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “Keep yourselves from anything that MIGHT take God’s place in your heart.”  Since we have so much confidence in our salvation and our God, we must keep Him first in our hearts.  Because we live in a world controlled by Satan and his chief objective is to dethrone God, we need to be on guard!  Anything that MIGHT threaten God’s first-place position, must be guarded against.  One of  my favorite quotes is, “Don’t even taste what you don’t want to be hungry for!”  It is better to starve sin because small bites lead to feasts!

Loving God first, loving others well, and not loving the world are the themes of this letter.  Living by loving achieves the four-fold goals John put forth in this writing:

  1. To teach what maintains fellowship with God.
  2. To lead us on the path to unity with all believers.
  3. To help us avoid sin in our lives.
  4. To make our joy complete.


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Isaiah 1:1-20 ~ Hypocrites

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!

Isaiah 1:1-10 ~ When God’s People Stray

  • Separation from the Lord starts when we turn our backs on Him–we rebel, we sin, we act corruptly, we forsake and despise Him.
  • God allows His people to face the consequences of their rebellion (head-sick, heart-sick, battered, wounded, desolated, overthrown by enemies, besieged, abandoned, helpless, and lose the ear of the Lord).
  • In His grace, He always leaves a remnant of His people who will turn back to Him!
  • The pathway to change starts with hearing the word of the Lord, and inclining our ear to the teaching of our God (10).

Isaiah 1:11-15 ~ God’s Description of an Hypocritical Christian

  • vs. 11 Multitude of sacrifices with wrong motive (“Look what I’m giving up for you!”)
  • vs. 12 Come into God’s presence like a parade (“Look at me!”)
  • vs. 13 Sinful celebrations and false fasting
  • vs. 13 Vain offerings–meaningless gifts
  • vs. 15 Pious and plentiful prayers just for the sake of praying
  • vs. 15 Only care about self while trampling others

Mixing sin and church is hypocrisy.  God cannot endure it!  He hates it!  It burdens Him, and He is weary of it! Hypocrites force God to action against His people!

God issues His people a personal invitation to, “Come NOW, let US reason TOGETHER…”  Now is the time to take care of this issue of sin, pride, and false religion!  Our sin is against Him and can only be forgiven by Him.

Isaiah 1:16-20 ~ Getting Right with God

  • Wash yourselves–get clean
  • Cease from evil–just stop!
  • Learn to do good–takes work and diligence
  •           Seek justice/help oppressed
  •           Defend orphans and widows

We can fake others with our religious practices, but we cannot fake God.  Putting His character into practice in our lives proves our position before Him.  Physical, tangible displays of justice, mercy, love, grace, and selflessness–not getting dressed up, appearing at church, putting something in the offering plate, singing songs, or doing what we perceive as required– are what pleases the Lord.  Not to be crass, but a lot of Christians are just “polished turds!”–pretty on the outside but stinky on the inside!

Only Jesus can wash our “religion” away and make us right and pure (18)!  If we submit to His cleaning power in obedience, we will reap abundant blessings (19).  If we rebel, we will be faced with destruction (20)!

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1 John 3:11-15 ~ Hate

John continues the purpose of his letter–keeping fellowship with God and unity with others (1:3), having complete joy (1:4), and preventing sinful practices (2:1)– in these verses.

For this is the message that you have heard FROM THE BEGINNING, that we should LOVE ONE ANOTHER (11)

God’s standard never changes.  His command is constant.  God has been loving since the beginning, and we are called to love from the moment we become His followers, for we are to be like Him!  We are to love others sacrificially, continuously, and completely.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.  Do not be surprised that THE WORLD HATES you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because WE LOVE the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. EVERYONE WHO HATES his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (12-15).  

Hate is never from God–hate is part of this world system that we live in which is under the control of Satan.  Therefore, it is impossible for a true Christian to hate people.  If anyone hates another human being, they are not in fellowship with God.  Hate equals murder in God’s eyes.  Those who hate are murderers.  They take life from others…and take their own lives as well.

It is obvious that hate prevents love, but evil in our hearts also prevents love.  In Genesis 4 the history of Cain and Abel is recorded for our profit as readers to clearly see what type of evil deeds prevent love.  Self-righteousness, pride, jealousy, bitterness, envy, anger, lack of self-control, unforgiving, impatience, etc…  ALL SIN INTERFERES WITH TRUE LOVE!

When we don’t feel connected to God sometimes it is because we have evil in our hearts  towards someone.  Being out of fellowship with others, puts us out of fellowship with the Lord.  Today is the day to release sinful attitudes and actions towards others and let the love of God fill us afresh.  Nothing feels better than a clean heart!

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