Monthly Archives: September 2019

September 20; A Real Life Author

Psalms 111, 112, 117, 119:1-72

When I worked in the middle school, we invited one of our students’ favorite authors to come and spend a day with us. This woman had written a series of books about children which had captured the imagination of pre-teens all over the country. And she was coming to visit us!

The kids were in awe when that woman entered a classroom. I have to admit I was a bit awe-struck myself.

Here’s what I remember about that day. The students who had read the books were attentive, and asked great questions. It was almost like they already knew and loved her. They couldn’t get enough of this woman’s story. The students who hadn’t read the books looked bored, either didn’t participate or they asked silly, meaningless questions. And those who hadn’t read the books were the students who were first out of the door when class was over. The others had to be pried away from the author.

The author of Psalm 119 spends 176 verses writing about his love for God’s Word. He believes it, studies it, cherishes it, lives by it, considers it precious. The psalmist knows and loves the Author because he’s spent time reading and learning what the Author has written.

Sometimes I think we put so much emphasis on worshiping and serving God we forget to get to know Him. And the only way we can know Him is by reading what He wrote. I find that the more I read God’s Word, the more I love reading God’s Word. The more I get to know God through His Word, the more I love Him. The more time I spend in God’s Word, the more I want to worship Him in Truth, serve Him out of gratitude for the privilege of knowing Him through His Word.

As I look back on the day that real life author came to town, I realize some of the kids got to hear about her books, the plots and characters, through what other people said about them. But the kids who had spent time actually reading the books got to know the author, could understand the plots and characters because they had experienced them first hand on the pages of the books. It seemed they shared an inside secret with the author the others could not understand.

One day we will all meet the real life Author. Will I know Him as a result of having had the first hand experience of getting to know Him through His Word? Or will I look into His eyes and only know what others have told me about Him?

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit “publish,” and re-read these psalms today. I’m going to spend some more time with the real life Author.

 

September 19; Somebody Said…

Nehemiah 5-7; Psalms 1, 107

How do you act when you hear gossip? Do you automatically assume that what you’re hearing is the truth? What is your reaction if the gossip is about you? Can you feel your blood boil?

I think most of us could do with a lesson from Nehemiah. Look how many times his enemies tried to get him to react, tried to intimidate him with cunning words and gossip. Then look at how Nehemiah reacts.

I’m pretty sure reality TV and FaceBook would crumble if we did what Nehemiah did. And I’m even more sure we’d all be happier if we learned to keep our heads whenever we hear, “Somebody said…”

September 18; Beneath Me

Nehemiah 1-4

There are a lot of things required for the effective running of a local church. Of course we need pastors, deacons, teachers, singers, song leaders, and musicians. We need cooks and childcare workers.

But we also need people who sweep floors, clean toilets, mow grass and pull weeds. We need people who visit the sick, and move furniture for widows. Not all jobs in a church are glamorous.

I’ve often said the book of Nehemiah might be my favorite book of the Old Testament. It’s a beautiful picture of what a church should look like. But I saw something today I don’t remember ever noticing before. 3:5 says:

The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.

The thing that I love about Nehemiah’s book is how everyone chipped in and did their part in the building and repair of the wall around Jerusalem. Even some of the women got their hands dirty. But here we see the “nobles” refused to lend a hand.

Shame on them.

But as God often does when I begin to fill a little self-righteous and point my fingers at those obviously not doing the right thing, He places a hand on my shoulder. “Shame on who, Connie?” He seems to ask.

Have I declined a ministry I felt was beneath me? Am I too proud to work behind the scenes? Do I think someone less educated is better suited to some menial task than I who have gone to college? Am I afraid to get my designer clothes dirty?

Shame on me!

My thoughts went to Jesus. Was anything beneath my Savior? Was He ever too proud to get down and dirty with people who needed Him? Was He too dignified to be hanging on a cross stark naked?

If the God of the Creation stooped so low for me, there is nothing too low for me to do in response. I don’t want to be counted with the “nobles” we read about in Nehemiah who would not put their shoulders to the work. Count me in with Shalhum’s daughters, chipped and dirty fingernails and all.

I guess God may be speaking to me about this topic today as I get ready to serve on the Nominating Committee at my own local church. We will be talking to people about the various areas of service that keep our fellowship running smoothly. We will be asking people to consider serving on the food committee, the grounds committee, the congregational life committee, etc.

May we all remember that nothing done for the glory of God is beneath any of us. May I remember nothing done for God’s glory is beneath ME!

September 17; Hold Your Horses

Ezra 8:15-10:44

Ezra had the go-ahead from the king, and from God to gather the Jews and head home. Ezra immediately organized the people, but when he discovered there were no priests or Levites among them, he waited. He sent for the spiritual leaders, and didn’t move until they were present.

But Ezra didn’t move out the minute the priest got there, either. He led the Israelites in a time of fasting and prayer. They humbled themselves and asked God for a safe journey for all of them, men, women, and children.

Have you ever found yourself moving ahead of God, of jumping into service without really praying about it, of beginning a ministry before you humbly give it to God?

Hold your horses!

I think Ezra’s example is a good one for all of us excited about doing God’s will.

He knew upfront that God was in it. But Ezra still prayed. He surrounded himself with Godly people and they prayed. He humbled himself. He gave the journey to God, asked God to protect him, and to bless their efforts.

And God brought them all safely home. Sounds like a recipe for a successful ministry to me.

 

September 16; Getting Our Priorities Straight

Ezra 7:1-8:14; Psalm 106

There’s no question Ezra was used by God in amazing fashion. He was instrumental in re-establishing Jerusalem as the City of God, of re-settling the returning Jews into the Promised Land, and of reminding the Jews of their relationship with God and their need of Him.

But there is one verse that struck me today as I read these verses. Ezra 7:10:

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Sure, Ezra wanted the temple up and running again, he wanted the exiled Jews home again. But he wasn’t devoted to any of that. His devotion was toward God’s Word, for himself and for others. Ezra had his priorities straight. And because he spent time in God’s Word for himself, then shared it with others, he was able to then do great things for God.

Sometimes I think we forget that first important step. We get busy doing things for God, teaching SS, singing in the choir, volunteering, visiting… we neglect our personal time in God’s Word.

Please don’t let this blog, or a commentary, or a study guide replace your time reading the Bible, opening God’s Word and allowing Him to speak to you personally. I mean, I’m glad you drop by here to see what God has impressed on my heart. But don’t ever let that take the place of allowing Him to speak to you directly through the pages of His love letter to you.

What are you devoted to? Let’s be sure we all have our priorities straight.

September 15; Ups and Downs

Esther 9:18-10:3; Ezra 4:6-23; Psalm 105

The history of the Jews is a picture of life, isn’t it? In the book of Esther we see a great celebration lasting days. They had enjoyed a great victory over evil, and they were on top of the world.

But when they got busy rebuilding Jerusalem, they were stopped in their tracks. Scripture tells us the Persians “compelled them by force to stop.” (Ezra 4:23)

I find it the same in my life. I may have victory over a sin, or am able to successfully navigate a difficult situation. I may get a raise at work, or get a “thumbs up” medical report. Things in my life may be working out. I feel blessed!

Then I run into a roadblock, a temptation, a hardship, and I don’t feel blessed at all.

It’s interesting that the organizer of the chronological Bible I am using places Psalm 105 after Ezra’s account of the work-stoppage.

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him… (vs 4)

It just reminds me that life has its ups and downs. Good times and bad. Successes and failures. There is only one constant.

God.

And I am reminded God is good all the time. God deserves praise all the time. And I can rest assured that He does all things well, all the time. May I, may we, sing His praises from hearts that are overwhelmed with WHO He is, circumstances aside. Because life will be hard some time. Life will be great sometimes, too. We will have victories, and we will blow it.

But God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Praise Him.

September 14; The Gold Scepter

Esther 5:1-9:17

Esther went uninvited to the king. People didn’t just do that. It could cost you your life if you went barging into the throne room without the king’s permission. But Esther had a problem, and went to the only one who could help her. Instead of receiving a death sentence, Esther received the King’s acceptance when he pointed the gold scepter toward her.

Our King on the throne of heaven is to be feared much more than anyone feared King Xerxes. Yet it’s nothing for some to go barging into His throne room with complaints and demands as though the King were subject to them. I think the Bible tells us God takes a dim view of that audacity.

Do you pray? I hope so. But have you first accepted the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ blood? If you have not, I think you might need to consider who it is you are approaching. Barging into God’s presence is serious business.

As a child of God, I can go into that throne room any time I want to or need to. You see, I am wearing the royal robes of Jesus’ righteousness. My King is my Father my Savior who holds out the gold scepter to me, then gathers me in His arms. He knows me. He loves me.  He wants me to talk with Him.

And when I, as his beloved, have a problem, I can go to Him without fear, without hesitation, fully trusting that the answer I seek is right there in the throne room. In fact Scripture tells me I can go boldly.

And I do.

 

September 13; Raising Obedience

Esther 1-4

Queen Vashti was busy doing her own thing and couldn’t be bothered to obey her husband’s, the king’s, command. Her disobedience cost her her crown.

Enter Esther, a Jewish orphan being raised by a cousin. This seemingly insignificant girl would be queen in place of the disobedient Vashti. Scripture tells us Esther was pretty. We see that she wasn’t flashy or demanding. It appears she was beautiful inside and out.

But something else about Esther stood out to me today. Esther did as her cousin Mordecai told her, “for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when bringing her up.” (1:20)

Esther learned obedience at home, and it opened doors for her and saved the Jews. Mordecai said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14)

It reminds me of the heavy responsibility parents have to teach their own children to obey. It saddens me that so many have adopted the lie that children should be empowered to decide for themselves, that disobedience should be met with understanding and patience. That, my friend, is not what the Bible teaches.

The Bible teaches that God demands obedience. Obedience is not just one of several options He’ll accept. The Bible teaches consequences for disobedience are severe and painful. And disobedience toward God is never ignored.

Are your children learning those lessons in your home? Esther seems to have learned them in Mordecai’s. The way Mordecai raised her put her in a position to save the Jews, “for such a time as this.” Had she been willful, disobedient, prideful, I doubt Xerxes would have given her a second look.

I wonder what great things God is going to ask of your child. Will that precious one be ready to obey because they learned to follow your instructions while you were bring him or her up? I’m praying for you.

 

September 12; Don’t Praise The Lord

Zechariah 10-14

Are you careful about what kinds of things you attribute to God’s hand? I have seen people (and have occasionally been one) who are quick to say, “Praise the Lord,” and “God has blessed me,” when their actions bring into question whether or not God really did have a hand in it at all.

Like the shepherds God refers to through Zechariah in chapter 11. They were slaughtering their flocks for personal gain, and covering up their sin with, “Praise the Lord, I am rich!”

I hope you’ll read what God thought about that.

God does bless us, doesn’t He? And I hope you are quick to praise Him when he does. But always remember, God blesses obedience. Let’s not use Him to rationalize actions that don’t really honor Him. Let’s not try to justify sin with a, “Praise God.” He deserves better than that.

Besides, He will not turn a blind eye to any sin just because we give Him praise. Rather than using praise as a cover-up, just don’t praise the Lord. He knows when your praise is real.

September 11; I Choose God

Psalms 118, 129, 148-150; Ezra 6:19-22; Zechariah 9

I’ve sat here with my Bible open in front of me for some time this morning, wondering what God would say to me through these psalms of praise. These psalms talk about God’s enduring love, His power over the enemy, His goodness and salvation. “This is the day God made, let’s rejoice and be glad.”

But God made September 11, 2001, too. Are we to rejoice and be glad for the day 3000 people were murdered by Muslim terrorists? How do you reconcile that awful scene seared into the memories of all of us who were around that day, with a God of love?

So I started to re-read the psalms, asking God to teach me, and He pointed my attention to 118:4-9:

Let those who fear the Lord say; “His love endures forever.” In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (emphasis mine)

God is good. And this good God DID NOT place in the hearts of those evil men a sinister plan to fly commercial planes full of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people in the name of Allah. God did not do that.

What God did, however, was remove His presence and protection from a nation that had removed ourselves from Him. The psalmist tells us God’s salvation is tied to our position in Him. Do I fear Him? Do I walk with Him? Because if God is with me, I need not fear any man, or terrorist cell, or Satan himself.

But hear this: if I reject God, I have every reason to fear.

I wish I could say we Americans learned our lesson that day eighteen years ago. We said we’d never forget. We’ve not only forgotten, we’ve made the evil of the Muslim religion look peaceable. We’ve elected Muslims into our government. Islam is more revered than Christianity to some in this country. We’ve made Muslims our heroes, and a former president even apologized for the USA inciting them against us.

We didn’t learn to embrace the God of the Bible. We’ve made Him the enemy.

I remember standing in front of a classroom full of sixth graders when I heard the first plane hit one of the towers in NYC. I remember one frightening event after another reported that morning, and looked in horror as the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground, picturing the terror those inside must have felt before they died.

I heard people cry out to God, saw churches filled, flags proudly flown, promises made.

But that was eighteen years ago. Things change.

Dear one, 9/11 is only a glimpse at what can happen when a nation turns from God, when He removes His protection. Are we any closer to Him than we were back then? Are our churches teaching the Truth, our brothers and sisters in Christ rejecting Satan’s lies? Our we praying for our nation, our neighbors, our families to fear God and serve Him?

Do we want God to protect us? Then we had better be running to Him, obeying Him, loving and serving Him on His terms. Otherwise, He’ll let us to our own devices.

Our choice: Ourselves or God?

I choose God.  I pray you say the same.