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

 

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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

 

 

Have You Ever Eaten a Maggot?

 

Does anybody remember the show Fear Factor, a reality contest on TV about ten years ago? The worst part about the show was seeing people eat the worst things imaginable–spiders, roaches, crickets, maggots, etc. And all for the chance to win $50,000.00. The truth of the matter is our enemy, the devil, is a master of deception. His tactics are subtle and we must be vigilant if we are to avoid falling for his FEAR FACTORS.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the qualities of a leader in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. In chapter six, Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the rest of his enemies devised another plot to throw Nehemiah off target. Four times they sent a false prophet to intimidate him. Nehemiah refused the bait. Then he was FALSELY ACCUSED of setting himself up as king. Once again, Nehemiah recognized the enemy’s primary tool–FEAR!

You’d think the enemy would quit. Not so! When that didn’t work, the band of naysayers PLANTED AN INFORMER in Nehemiah’s camp. That person told Nehemiah that his enemies were planning to kill him that night and that he should hide in the temple. Now how can a leader accomplish a task if he or she is hiding? Once again, Nehemiah recognized the FEAR FACTOR. He called on God to help him and prayed about his enemies.

Are you facing a tremendous trial? Sickness, unpaid bills, unemployment, bankruptcy, death of loved ones, separation or divorce, or other difficulties? Has the enemy been playing FEAR FACTOR with you? Are you entertaining thoughts like these? Why me? Why now? You’ll never get through this. God doesn’t love you. Why are you wasting your time? Sound familiar? Believe me, I’ve heard them all, and entertained a few.

What can you do when these FLIES are buzzing about your head? RUN TO GOD’S WORD! FAST! FIND A VERSE OR TWO TO HOLD ONTO WITH ALL GOD’S STRENGTH!

We used to sing a line like this: “Whose report shall you believe? We shall believe the report of the Lord.”

MEMORY VERSE: Philippians 4:13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then picture yourself in His arms strengthening you, pouring His love into you, and lifting you up on your feet, with Him in you and behind you. Then thank Him for the victory (every day, every hour, every minute). Sing His Word over yourself!

I’M PRACTICING. Won’t you join me? For Week Eleven, read chapter 7 and use the GROW METHOD (G- God 1st, pray; R- Read; O-Observe key words; W-Write your thoughts) to answer these questions:

1. What appointments did Nehemiah make after the wall was built?

2. What do you think was the purpose of registering the people by genealogy?

Blessings to all! As Always,

Patricia

 

 

Have You Made Room for Him?

As many of you may know, I grew up in a house of twenty-one people–my grandmother, Mamie and Grandfather, Pop Pete; my father and mother and us seven children; my uncle George and Aunt Clara and their four children; my uncle Skip and his wife; and my older cousin Myrtle and her “husband.” Oh, did I tell you we had five small bedrooms in a house about 1,500 square feet? You do the math. Two couples had their own bedrooms. What about the others? You’ve guessed it right. We lived “dormitory style.” Did we have everything we wanted? No. Did we have times of hardship? Yes. But we were happy, without electronics (or electricity and running water). Some weekends we made room for Mickey, a close family friend.

When I think about the hustle and bustle of the season, I’m reminded that we have a choice to make. We can join in the “festivities” and focus on what we have or don’t have, or we can give thanks to the One who is the reason for the season. Pastor Jimmy Robinson asked this morning, “Can anybody invite Jesus to His own party?” When God gave His Greatest Gift, He made room in His heart for us. Can we make room in our hearts for Him and let the world see JESUS? If not through you and me, then how shall they know Him?

  I’m reminded that some of you may be dealing with tremendous challenges during this season: health issues, disappointments, unemployment, broken relationships, homelessness, frustration, etc. You may feel like God has forsaken you. While we all face difficulties from time to time, the bible tells us to PRAISE GOD in our situations (not FOR our situations). When we do so, we make room for Him! He supplies the grace we need to overcome.

John 3:16 – “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.”

Who Is the Most Generous Person You Know?

 

Who did you think about when you read today’s question? Perhaps a famous person like Bill Gates, or Oprah Winfrey; or a relative, like your mother or father, or spouse or child; or friend or acquaintance or co-worker; or you might be so bold as to say yourself. The possibilities are endless! On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being the highest), how would you rate yourself on a generosity scale? From time to time, my husband tests the generosity of two of my grandsons, Christian and Nicholas. Whenever he asked for a piece of their cookie, Christian always extends his hand with a portion of his treat. Nicholas, on the other hand, hides his cookie and turns away from Pop-Pop. Nick has many fine qualities, but he needs help in the generosity category. What about you?

God desires that we all be generous.  As a person who rose from cupbearer (taster for the king) to governor in Judah, Nehemiah demonstrated uncommon generosity for someone in power.

What definition of “generous” did you have in mind? Was it time, finances, knowledge, food, other goods or compliments? Or something else? The Oxford Dictionary defines “generosity” as “showing a readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is strictly necessary or expected.”

Before Nehemiah, former governors had taken advantage of the people. They levied heavy taxes and took resources like food and drink from them. In Nehemiah 5:14 – 19, we discover that God’s man could have done the same, but he remembered he was accountable to God. Nehemiah remembered his job–to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. He did not allow promotion to cloud his vision or “give him a big head.”

 We have been bought with a price. We are not our own. We have been called to reveal the One, True God. We are strategically placed to allow God to show His glory.  Let us remember whose we are and be known as people of “generosity.” Let us not be stumbling blocks to others but imitators of Christ, with His help.

Memory Verse: 1 Cor. 6:20- “For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

WEEK TEN ASSIGNMENT: USING THE GROW METHOD (G- GOD 1st; R- Read the passage; O-Observe key words and phrases; W- Write your thoughts), EXAMINE NEHEMIAH 6: 1-9.

QUESTIONS:

1. What was the enemy’s next tactic?

2. How did Nehemiah handle the attack?

Until next week, happy studying as we grow together!

As always,

Patricia

I Was Arrested!

 

On April 4, 1968, I and 222 other students attending Bowie State University (College at the time) were taken into custody and carted off to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, in Annapolis, MD, for refusing to leave the State Capitol building by 5:00 P.M., closing time. You see, we were protesting the poor conditions at our predominately black college, feeling like our previous efforts at drawing attention to deplorable conditions had been ignored. We wanted improved dormitories, equipment and other resources. That very night, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. When I watch news events from Ferguson, MO, I feel compassion for the parents and those suffering loss but am saddened by the misguided actions of some of the protestors.

History often repeats itself. In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 5, we find God’s people trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, a city destroyed by fierce enemies. God had provided supplies and people to get the job done.  God’s people faced many obstacles, but their knees buckled when famine hit the land. They began acting like their enemies: Complaining, charging the poor astronomical interest rates, borrowing money and using family members as collateral and treating others with disrespect.

Nehemiah was outraged and gave strong correction. He urged his brothers and sisters to stop their bad behavior and return what was stolen. The people respected their leader and gave back what they had “stolen.” Nehemiah also required the leaders to take an oath, a promise to do what they agreed upon.

At the end, the whole assembly said, “Amen, and praised the Lord.”

It’s easy to follow Christ in good times, but what about bad times? What happens when money, sickness, divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, job loss, unexpected bills, false criticism, and other unexpected events occur? I wish I could honestly say I go immediately into praise, but I often follow the pattern of my biblical friends:

1. Focus on the problem.

2. Try to solve the problem on my own.

3. Realize I can’t solve the problem.

4. Turn to God and remember what He has done in the past.

5. Go to His Word and find scriptures to help me.

6. Thank and praise Him and develop a positive outlook.

7. Worship Him for who He is!

Let’s get to number 7 faster! We can avoid a lot of misery in between.

Memory Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, IN EVERYTHING give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

WEEK NINE ASSIGNMENT: Using the GROW METHOD (G- God first-pray; R- Read the passage; O- Observe key words and phrases; W- Write your thoughts), read Nehemiah 5:14- 19 and answer:

1. What was Nehemiah’s challenge now?

2. What did he do differently?

Be blessed and let’s continue growing together!

As always,

Patricia