Monthly Archives: November 2019

Nehemiah 13; Malachi 1-2; John 19

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. Malachi 2:10-11 ESV

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament and features yet another prophet who is sent to correct the peoples’ wrongdoing and give them God’s words. Even after their exile and return, the people of Judah still committed abominations against God and had fallen into sin yet again. As the Old Testament reaches its end, it because very clear that it is impossible to please God by myself. Time and again, the people of Judah repent, only to start sinning again. Their half-hearted sacrifice of blemished livestock bares a stark contrast against God’s sacrifice of Jesus, a pure and unblemished Lamb.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 ESV

When Jesus declared, “It is finished,” he finished my condemnation by taking all my sin upon Himself. Because I trust in Him and believe what He says, His purity is put on me and my sin is cast upon Him. Like the people of Judah, I sin often and repeatedly, even when I know what I am doing is wrong. The Old Testament showcases both the faith of those who trust in God and how it is impossible to please Him on our own. Everything in the Old Testament lead up to Christ crucifixion and resurrection, making it possible for me to come to God with a clean and pure heart. While I am not perfect, I strive to be more like Christ while remember that His sacrifice has washed away all my sins.

Dear God, Thank you for sending Your Son to die for my sins. I know that I could never be perfect enough to please You. Please give me strength to fight against sin and temptation and forgive me when I fail. In Your Holy Name, Amen.  

Nathanael (nborger2017)

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Nehemiah 10-12; John 18; Psalm 1

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (John 18:4, NLT)

These were not friends arriving for a tea or a wayward group looking for directions. The “them” in this passage is a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards accompanied by Judas to arrest Jesus. Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. And everything in me stirs to his acceptance and strength and courage. He walks into his purpose (and he always has).

His character can speak for him.

19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”

22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (John 18:19-23, NLT, emphasis added)

He is smacked by a guard for the offense of truth.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:33-38a, NLT, emphasis added)

The reading in Nehemiah tells of people who recommit themselves to following the Law of God–and I appreciate their telling of what they will do and how it will look.

In John 18, I think long on Jesus, His purpose, His kingdom and truth.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

I attended a choir performance this week. I sat in the section just behind the choir reserved seats. After their special performance, they returned to these seats, and when the rest of the congregation joined in song, I had what felt like a rich privilege to be close to the choir–their voices strong, melodious, ringing out so that my own voice rose to meet theirs, without reserve. It was beautiful, meaningful, joyful worship.

The Lord shows me how to worship too–honoring truth and standing for values even in the midst of accusation, condemnation, aggression. It doesn’t seem as lovely as a song, but my God sees with Kingdom eyes. He sees fruit in seasons of heartache. He watches over the path of the godly.

Lord God, I’m thankful for your character, your example and your sacrifice. I’m thankful for your guidance, your promises and the truth. Thank you for seeing worship in the lovely and unlovely. I keep my eyes on you and look to your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 7-9; John 17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, of course. I love the family all around. And I love having a day designated to reflect and remember the previous year and all that God has done for me.

This passage in Nehemiah fits so perfectly with Thanksgiving. It’s all about remembering. It’s all about recounting. And it’s all about repenting.

It takes place right after the great victory of finishing the repairs of the wall. The people are celebrating by reading God’s word and feasting! But then came the time of repenting and mourning over their failures.

In chapter 9, the Levites cry out to God, recounting all that God had done for them from the very beginning.

You made the heavens… You chose Abram…. You kept your promise… You saw our suffering… You heard our cries… You divided the seas… You led us day and night… You came down and spoke… In our hunger, you fed us… In our thirst you gave us water… You gave us the land…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

But God!

You are forgiving… You are compassionate… You gave your Spirit… You did not withhold… You sustained in the desert… We lacked nothing… We prospered… We were victorious… We reveled in your great goodness…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

And a cycle unfolded. In crisis, they cried out to God. In rest and relief, they rebelled. Even so, God was patient with them. And in this moment, they recognize their failure. They recognize their arrogance. And they recognize God’s righteousness as He was faithful to them even as they were unfaithful to Him. And so they repent. And they ask God for deliverance one more time.

Thanksgiving is all about looking back. And as much as I’d like to be able to say that I look back on the year with only joy and gratitude, I have to admit that there are also moments spread throughout the year where I did not act in a way that honored God. I can see times when I gave in to discouragement and failed to believe His promises. I recall moments of failure that followed success.

When I look back, it’s easy to see God’s hand in every situation. But when I was in the moment, I admit I didn’t always choose to see God’s hand in every situation. Far too often I gave in to fear. And I still catch myself doing that, even after seeing God come through for me every time.

So as I look back over the year, I see some great things God has done. But I also can recognize the not-so-great things I’ve done, and it gives me an opportunity not just to be grateful, but to be humbly repentant as I move forward into the new year to come with fresh vision and fresh goals, letting God lead me step by step into the freedom He has for me.

Father, thank you for your great kindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for not believing you. Forgive me for forgetting all the things you’ve done for me. Forgive me for taking you for granted. Help me to live in constant awareness of your love and goodness so that I can experience the freedom you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Nehemiah 4-6; John 16; Psalm 146

Nehemiah 4-6; John 16; Psalm 146

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Psalm 146:9)

How different would my life be if I truly believed God was always with me and always for me? These verses assure me this is the case. Jesus has overcome the world; my troubles are fleeting. God will protect me from my enemies—he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Nehemiah lived his life believing these truths. As I see in chapters 4-6, he lives his life in constant dialogue with God. He prays continually to God. He was not about to undertake this project without the help of his LORD.

As the Jews rebuilt the walls, they were constantly being ridiculed and mocked. Instead of taking the bait, he took it to God:

Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.

He trusted God was with them and encouraged his workers:

14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

He settles a dispute over the rich Jews exploiting the poor ones. Once the crisis has been averted and everyone has praised God, Nehemiah prays:

19 Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.

Nehemiah was laser-focused on his task. The farther along the rebuilding of the walls progressed, the more pressure he received from the surrounding enemies. These enemies were used to looting and taking what they wanted from the people of Jerusalem. They had intimidated them, stolen from them, and destroyed the city because there was no protection. Boundaries have an important place in our lives to keep good things in and bad things out. People who are used to getting their own way often act out when boundaries are built and fortified. This is what the Jews were experiencing—a constant barrage of intimidation. But Nehemiah was having none of it.

But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

Again, Nehemiah prayed:

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Distractions, intimidations, and false prophets were all called out in full force from the surrounding enemies. I am just amazed at the fortitude with which Nehemiah pressed on. No one was going to deter him. His senses were fully attuned to anything not of God. Only a relationship of total dependence reaps that kind of life.

12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.

14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.

The wall is complete, the gates are in place, and Jerusalem is once again a protected city. It was an engineering feat beyond anything imaginable. No one in the area had any doubt Who was responsible for the completion of this project.

16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

Lord, I am so thankful to read of Nehemiah and his example of how he prayed. His faith and determination came from his constant conversation with you. I am not always like that and confess that I try to fight battles on my own without seeking your direction or protection. I want to intentionally draw you into every part of my life. Please help me to grow stronger in that area. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Nehemiah 1-3; John 15; Psalm 133

. . . I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants (Nehemiah 1:4-6 ESV)

The key to unity in the church, in a Christian marriage, in a family, in a ministry, or in any Christian community is submission to God first and foremost. Nehemiah knew this started with prayer. He prayed with serious intentionality. Fasting, praying, continuing to cry out to God.

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 2:4)

He also had apparently mastered the shotgun prayer. Quick, sent up in a moment of stress. He lived in an attitude of prayer so that God was the first go-to for him in a pinch.

The beautiful result of this habit of prayer and living a surrendered life? Unity in the people of Israel.

I love that throughout these first few chapters, he treasures in his heart the leading of God on his life. He waits for just the right moment, after days of prayer and planning, to invite other followers of God into the project.

18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. (Nehemiah 2:18)

Then, they respond with full enthusiasm and committed hard work. They are all sold out to rebuilding with Nehemiah.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Once again, I love how these chapters for today so beautifully weave themselves together. The unity as the Jews served God in the face of opposition to carry out His commands was “good and pleasant.”

And, it started with one man’s prayer and surrender to God, abiding in Him.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4,5)

17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:17)

As believers we are meant to function this way, one with Christ, one with each other, unable to restrain His love as it bursts from us and floods our relationships with each other. Whether it’s building a house, rebuilding a marriage, sharing the gospel, or heading to the ends of the earth, our personal faith should overflow into corporate unity within the body of Christ.

To God be the Glory.

Erin (6intow)

 

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