The Most Important Purpose of Praise

 

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I wanted to pull the covers over my head. I’m usually excited about going to church but I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep and every part of my body shouted, “Stay in bed! You’re tired! You deserve to rest.” You see, I had wrestled with some thoughts and my energy was sapped. “Ugh!” So what did I do? I got my butt out of bed and made up my mind that I needed to go, just as I was. Isn’t that how God desires us to come to Him? In a conversation with a friend and mentor today, I got further insight. I was thinking I needed to praise God to make myself feel better, but she reminded me that we as believers have kingdom work to do and that starts with PRAISE!!!!

In Nehemiah 12, we see just how important praise and worship was in temple worship. After returning from Babylonian captivity, certain men in Jerusalem were put in charge of songs of thanksgiving and praise. Others were brought in from neighboring villages to joyfully celebrate the dedication of the rebuilt wall around the city. Other people were assigned various duties in the temple to support the priests. Much to my surprise, choirs existed back then, giving thanks with musical instruments. The word “choir” literally means “thanks.” Above all, everybody–men, women and children–rejoiced! They were so loud they could be heard far away! In addition, everyone brought tithes and offerings into the storehouses for temple support.

Wow! Praise and worship is absolutely essential to create an atmosphere where God shows up and reveals Himself. The Psalms reminds of our call to worship the One True and Living God:

Psalm 100:4 reads “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice for He has made me glad!”

Psalm 27:4 reads “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my lie, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”

Passionate pursuit of God creates an atmosphere for God to show up! Teach us, Father, to chase after You–to hunger and thirst for you. When Jesus was on the cross and said, “I thirst,” He was crying out for Your Presence. Let passion be born out of our praise and thanksgiving and let the Spirit of God fall on us today! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done! LET US GET TO WORK!

Next week is our last lesson in Nehemiah. Read chapter 13 and discover the man of God’s final actions. You’ll be surprised!

As always,

Patricia

 

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Why I’ve Chosen to Live in the City

“Mommo, Nicholas won’t stay in the tent with me!” My seven-year-old grandson Christian was at his wit’s end. He had found a place to build a tent and had invited his younger brother Nicholas to spend some time with him. The problem was that Nicholas, only five, got distracted and was soon headed to play with his race car. Sound familiar?

In Nehemiah 11, the people of God returned to Jerusalem, the holy city, and rebuilt its walls, under the direction of Nehemiah, a great leader. However, many people settled in the “suburbs,” not in the holy city, similar to people living outside Atlanta, such as Norcross, Lawrenceville, or Dacula.

Very few chose to live in Jerusalem. Many were fearful of living in a hated city, even though its walls had been secured again. They understood that Jerusalem was likely to be attacked by enemies and preferred the comforts of the “suburbs.” They chose to take their chances and dwell in unprotected areas to pursue their own desires. Others did not want to sacrifice their own agendas. Nehemiah knew that if more people made the holy city their dwelling place, others would be encouraged to follow.

Scripture reassures us of the benefits of making the Most High God our dwelling place today. Here are three examples:

Psalm 27:5-6 “For in the day of trouble he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:9 “If you make the Most High your dwelling–even the Lord, who is my refuge–then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

You might ask, “How do I make God my dwelling place?” Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the beginning. After that, you must spend time in his Word and practice his presence throughout the day. Talk to him, sing, meditate, clap, dance, listen, etc. The more you do this, the more real he becomes to you. Our circumstances may not change but our praise and worship will affect our perspective!

Continue reading Nehemiah 12 and find out how the Jews celebrated in the city.

As always,

Patricia

A Fresh Revelation of God’s Love Is Coming

 

One of my grandsons often asks me if I still love him whenever he feels he’s disappointed me. My natural tendency in the past was to withdraw from God when I felt I had disappointed Him. Even today, I have to remind myself to go to His Word for the Truth when my attitude stinks. It’s very easy to look at our faults and mistakes and feel unworthy of God’s love, but the truth is God’s love is unconditional. He does not condemn us. He desires that we run to Him, press into His presence and admit our need. Oh, how great is His love toward us!

At the end of Nehemiah 9, God’s people realize they’ve fallen short of the Law of Moses. They call out with these words: “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God, who keeps covenant and mercy; do not let all the trouble seem small before You….” In Chapter 10 some gather together and make a covenant (a promise to God) to faithfully obey the law. But guess what! They fail Him over and over again.

What about us? The enemy of our soul, Satan, desires to keep us under condemnation. He wants us to question God’s love for us. Contrary to the lies of the enemy, here are reminders of God’s everlasting love:

Ps. 6:9

     “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.”

Ps. 105:8-10

     “He remembers His covenant forever, the word He commands for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.”

John 3:16-17

     For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Only one person, the Lord Jesus Christ, fulfilled the requirements of the Law. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus paid it all!

Because of Christ, we have full access to the Father. He invites us to come and sit at His feet and be loved. Let us draw near to God, for God is Love and His love is everlasting. Wrap your arms around us, Father. Let us pour our hearts out to you and shower you with our affections. As we do so, we find unconditional love in You. Abba Father! Help us to live in Your presence and daily gain a fresh revelation of Your love!

NEXT WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT: Read and study Nehemiah 11 and focus on the importance of the people finding DWELLING PLACES.

Be encouraged! As always,

     Patricia

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does It Mean to Stand?

One of my favorite songs by Donnie McClurkin, Stand, begins like this:

What do you do when you’ve done all you can

And it seems like it’s never enough?

And what do you say when your friends turn away

And you’re all alone, alone?

Tell me, what do you give when you’ve given your all

And it seems like you can’t make it through?

Well you just stand when there’s nothing left to do

You just stand, watch the Lord see you through

Yes, after you’ve done all you can, you just stand.

As I began to think about the 9th chapter of Nehemiah, I heard Stand so clearly. The Jews who had lived in a foreign land had returned to Jerusalem, their homeland, and had worked hard to rebuild the wall of the city. They read the Book of the Law of Moses and mourned when they realized how far they had come from keeping God’s commandments. Nehemiah encouraged them by saying,Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

After a time of rejoicing, the people gathered together for a time of prayer and fasting, confessing their sins and the sins of their fathers. They spent a quarter of the day reading the Book of the Law of the Lord and another quarter in confession and worship.

Then several dedicated men encouraged the people to STAND UP!  As I read verses 5 – 6, I saw THREE STEPS IN STANDING:

1. Humble yourself and make His name great- “Bless the name of the Lord your God forever and 

         ever!” 

2. Remember and Celebrate God’s past deeds- “You have performed Your words, for You are

righteous.” Most of Chapter 9 covers God’s mighty acts in the history of His people.

3. Remind God of His promises- “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome

God who keeps covenant (promise) and mercy: Do not let all the trouble seems small before

You.”

God is great and greatly to be praised. He delights in helping us. Like a mother hen gathering her chicks, He desires that we come to Him, realizing our need and draw strength from him. He is our peace, our comfort, our everlasting Father. Let us boldly acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the same God who is there for us at every turn.

All the promises are “Yes and Amen in Christ!” He has called us to rest in Him. Do you find yourself struggling, distracted, frustrated in your circumstances? If you do, STAND!

Next week, read Chapter 10 and meet me at the “Water Gate.” Let’s continue to drink deeply!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

Our Time to Celebrate!

“Not now, Nicholas! Pop-Pop’s sleeping.” My grandsons, Nicholas and Christian, are early risers. That can be dangerous, considering they enjoy beating on anything from sun-up to sun-down. Before they go to bed, I remind them they cannot come out of their room until it’s light outside. The last time they spent the night Nicholas started drumming on his bedpost at 6:00 a.m. Ugh! Who needs an alarm clock? When he really wants me to join his party, he yells, “Dance, Mommo! Dance!”

That reminds me of a time of celebration in Nehemiah 8:13 – 18. The people of God brought out the Book of the Law of Moses and had Ezra, the scribe, read it. They realized how far from God they had wandered. Nehemiah told them not to sorrow but to rejoice, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Their celebration, The Feast of the Tabernacles,  lasted eight days. The tabernacles were booths or huts made of various tree branches. The people sat under the booths and rejoiced, remembering how Joshua and their ancestors had set up tents during their years of traveling to the Promised Land, conquering giants along the way.

Sometimes we forget how far we’ve come.  God desires that we count our blessings. He decrees a party, a time of celebration!

I want to share two memory verses to encourage you today:

The first is Psalm 27:5, “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”

The second is Psalm 91:1-2,  “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust.”

Let’s join together and make Our God big! He is our Tabernacle! Let us remember, rejoice and be glad in Him! Are you with me?

For next week, read Nehemiah 9:1-8 and answer these questions as you study, using the GROW METHOD, G: God 1st-Pray; R: Read the passage; O: Observe key words and phrases; and W: Write your thoughts.

1. What happened on the 24th day?

2. How did they honor God?

Until next time, let us remember what God his done through Jesus Christ and celebrate His goodness!

As always,

Patricia

 

Have You Ever Heard of Water Gate?

1972. What a banner year for my husband and me. Why? That’s the year Willie and I got married. Something else happened a couple of weeks before our wedding, an event which brought down a powerful man in the Nation’s Capital. In an attempt to bug offices of the Democratic Party’s National Committee, five men broke into Watergate, a hotel in D.C. Their goal–to help President Nixon’s re-election campaign. A major investigation occurred and heads rolled. After a series of events, the president resigned in disgrace. It’s amazing how a name, originally carrying a positive meaning, changed into something so negative. There’s another Water Gate (different spelling) which has significance for you and me.

In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, we find God’s people gathered AS ONE in an open square in front of the Water Gate, a place which led down to a spring. They had recently returned from captivity and gathered for the reading of the Law of Moses. Under Babylonian rule, many had worshiped foreign gods, married foreign women and adapted various customs of their captors. Some had been born in captivity and had no idea who they were. Nehemiah enlisted the help of Ezra, a man skilled in studying the word, to read out loud to the people. When they heard the word, they realized how far they had fallen as a nation and wept bitterly. Nehemiah told the people not to mourn any longer. He said in Chapter 8, verse 10, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” All the people quieted down, set out to help others and celebrated. God’s grace overrode His judgment. That’s good news!

What about you and me? Maybe you’ve been bound by fear or doubt due to sickness or divorce or unfulfilled relationships or unemployment or completed financial ruin or wayward children. You name it. Perhaps you’re thinking there’s no way my circumstances will ever change. You feel alone. The good news is GOD IS WITH YOU. HE PROMISED NEVER TO LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU. Circumstances change but He does not. Are you thirsty? It’s time to bathe in the water of the Word–daily.

We are a part of the Body of Christ. We are our brother’s keeper. Let us reach out for help or to give help when we see others in need. Our turn may be just around the corner! No one need sorrow alone. Then let us remember Neh.8:10 again, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Jesus paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Let us remember the cross but not stop there. He rose on the third day! Hallelujah! We will trust in the name of the Lord!

Assignment: Read Neh. 8:13 – 18 and answer:

1. What was the discovery?

2. What did the people do?

Until next week, let’s grow together.

As always,

Patricia

 

 

Have You Ever Felt Forgotten?

 

Have you ever watched the TV shows Finding Your Roots or Who Do You Think You Are? Basically, both shows involve famous people who go on a search to discover more about their ancestors. They usually begin the search with a deep hunger to know more about someone in their father’s or mother’s bloodline. The journey of discovery often takes them back to faraway places.  About five years ago, I started my own search. I knew my grandmother came from Annapolis, but I wanted to know more about my grandfather, who came from Monroe, N.C. You see, I had traveled there with an older cousin Myrtle, my sister Bessie and my cousin Lillian when we were kids. We were thrilled to meet one particular household of cousins and had a great time, but after that trip, we never went back and soon lost touch. I’ve made myself content but occasionally wonder who I’d find if I ever went to Monroe again. Would anybody even remember me, my cousins or the visit?

In the book of Nehemiah, Chapter: 6- 70, we see another list of people, the first wave of exiles who returned to Jerusalem after spending years in a foreign country, Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar. God directed Nehemiah to register the people by genealogy ( family lineage). About the same time, Nehemiah found that earlier list. Forty-two thousand people had been listed. But one verse troubled me. In verse 61, one group had a serious problem: They could not identify their father’s house nor their bloodline. That was serious! No one could verify if they were Israelites. They were excluded, considered as outcasts, devoid of privileges. Their fate was in the hands of the priest, who had to cast lots to determine their destiny.

I can imagine how the undocumented ones felt: scared, lonely, alienated, like lost sheep, forgotten. Since studying this passage today, I’ve been hearing a familiar praise song by Israel. I may have mentioned it in a previous post: “I am not forgotten, never forsaken. He knows my name.” Often, during times of extreme temptation–sickness, joblessness, divorce, incarceration, bankruptcy, and the like, the devil wants us to think God has forgotten us. We may feel like undocumented aliens, in a foreign land, but we have to remind ourselves who we are, children of the Most High God! Trials will come, but God is Our Father and we are not forgotten!

Memory Verse: Romans 8:37- 38  “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

WEEK TWELVE ASSIGNMENT: Read Chapter 8:1-12 and use the GROW METHOD  to find your treasure. (G-God 1st; R-Read; O-Observe key words;and W-Write your thought). Answer these questions:

1. Who was Ezra and what did he do?

2. What advice did the leaders give the people?

Keep digging!

As always,
Patricia