Bible Reading- Nehemiah 1-5

Nehemiah 5:19 – Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

I have never read Nehemiah non stop, but part of our Sunday School lesson was to do so. It is very difficult for me to read the Bible for long periods of time without stopping because there is just so much good in it and I am afraid I am going to forget my thoughts and questions. So when the first thing I had to do was read the whole book without stopping, I did feel a bit anxious because I can’t stand doing that! I tried, I really tried, but I only got to chapter 5 before I just HAD TO stop and write down my thoughts. Here they are:

The only things I can remember somewhere in the back of my brain about the book of Nehemiah is something about a wall that needed to be rebuilt and about the Jews working on rebuilding along with packing a sword because of all the haters. I remembered that Nehemiah was a cup bearer and he asked the king’s permission to go and rebuild Jerusalem, other than that, I don’t really remember anything else. The book, up to chapter 5, talks about that a bit. It also gives a lot of numbers of who showed up and who did what. Nehemiah, besides being a great leader, is an A-type organizer, but throughout the book there are sprinkled these short prayers, like the one I cited above. AND I LOVE THAT ABOUT HIM! It is like, “Joseph, you and your family fix this wall. James, you and your family fix this gate. Mary, you bring water to this section. OH LORD GUIDE ME WITH THESE PEOPLE! Now, Thomas quit doubting the wall wont get done. OH LORD HELP ME! Miriam, she doesn’t hate you. She is just not feeling well. Go give her a hug. We need 480 more cedar planks for this structure. OH LORD REMEMBER ALL I DO!”

What a human. That is the best way I can describe Nehemiah. He was is so real. And in ministry I think that is so beautiful. These exclamations throughout the book just reminded me of how life is as an active Christian. There is always so much to be done within our church body. Women are hurt, children need homes, men are discouraged, finances are tough, jobs are lost. Then there are those who are sick or healing. And that’s only the spiritual. There is also the administrative and maintenance side of church life. And let us not forget those who are not yet believers. We must love on them also. Can you relate!? There is just so much to do and I empathize with Nehemiah as he exclaims a prayer and simultaneously an encouragement to himself. “Lord, FOR MY GOOD, remember all I have done for this people.” It is good for Nehemiah to let God know what he is doing for his people. It is good for us to see and admire the works we do in the church body. Never boasting, but as an encouragement. Lord, for my good, remember that children’s ministry is hard for me; but in my weakness you make me strong. Lord, for my good, remember how difficult it is for me to love my sister in Christ who hurt my feelings last week, but you loved me when I was still Your enemy. These prayers are so conversational and it is so great to have that kind of relationship with God. Can  you just see yourself throughout your day, toiling, mortifying your flesh, struggling through sanctification and then bust out, “Lord, this is hard! I didn’t think it would be this hard! Help me!” Or you are looking out your car window and your phone is dead so it is all silent and you see the most beautiful sunset and then bust out “Lord, what beautiful things you make! I will never see those exact same shades of purples, pinks and oranges ever again! What an artist You are!

Involve Him in all things! Let Him know your feelings. He knows them, but something happens when we admit them to Him. We suddenly connect to our Creator. Yes, are there moments of long prayer times. Yes! And I hope we have them every day. But there are also lots of moments and seconds where we can connect with Him in this way. When we naturally respond to our circumstances by exclaiming a short prayer that reflects our emotions and heart.

It is good to remind the Lord what we do, not because He forgets or because we want acknowledgement from Him or others, but because it reminds us what we do, always remembering that it is the Lord’s work. It is encouraging to see the fruits of our labor grow or mature. We sowed,watered or planted. God made it grow. What a great collaboration with our Father and Creator!

In the previous chapters Nehemiah constantly gives God the credit and mentions how all of this is the Lord’s fight, doing and work . But what a beautiful thing to remember that He allows us to be a part of it.


Sermon Notes 8/12/18

Yesterday’s sermon was on Mark 15:16-20. This section is titled “Christ Mocked by the Military” in my Bible.

There are six things that the Roman soldiers did to mock Jesus.                                                1. They clothed Him in a purple cloak. A question I asked myself is where did they get the cloak. My Pastor shortly answered my thought and said that a commentator says that it was probably from one of the soldiers and that it may have been crimson and stained by sweat giving it a purple color.

2. They twisted a thorn branch and made Him a crown. Genesis 3:18 interestingly points out that God cursed the ground and made it produce thorns and thistles. These things reminds us of the fall of man. Similarly, because of the fall of man, Christ had to place upon himself the sin of man – just as the thorns on His head where then placed on Him. Galatians 3:13 says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. A thought I had also was about placing the sins of the people on a goat’s head and sending it off. Where the word “scapegoat” comes from.

3. They saluted Him and acclaimed Him by saying “Hail King of the Jews”. A question our Pastor asked us was “Do we also mock Christ when our actions do not coincide with what we say?”

4. They struck his head with a reed. It was used also as a scepter to further mock Him.

5. They spat on Him

6. They bowed down before Him in fake worship.

In all of this humiliation, Jesus showed great patience. Never did He once retaliate even when He could have called a league of angels to tear up the Roman Empire. Never did He reciprocate their sin and their mockery. His behavior in all of this reminds us to have patience with unbelievers.

It hard for me to see Christ go through so much barbarity. I want to scream at the soldiers and let them know who they are doing this to. But I can’t judge them to harshly. I myself struggle sometimes to believe He is King and mock Him when I don’t believe what He says in His Word. I struggle with my allegiance to Him when I seek other pleasures that corrupt my mind and body. I struggle with insubordination when I question what He does and do as I please. And what makes it even harder to bear sometimes is that I know better. The Roman soldiers didn’t.

My prayer is that I may joyfully join myself more and more to Him. That I may willingly submit to a very tender Savior who loves me. And that I may always remember that any good in me is because of the good in Him.



A Jealous God

As a woman, I am no stranger to jealousy.

There is a difference between jealousy and envy though. Put very simply, jealousy is when something is mine and I hate that you’re using it. Envy is when something is not mine and I hate the fact that you have it. Lately, I have been feeling jealous a lot with my handsome 19 year old spending all his blooming time talking to his little girlfriend. He is mine and someone else is “stealing” his love, attention and smiles from me. (Once he is married, I pray my feelings will change, but until then HE IS MINE, NOT YOURS!)

In my devotional today I came across a word I don’t often hear as a characteristic of God. In Exodus 20:5 it says, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. . .” God is a jealous God. He is jealous of what comes before my eyes. He is jealous of what I do with my time. He is jealous of anything that “steals” my affections, my attention and my smiles from Him. Notice it’s not that I spend time with my children; it’s that I enjoy spending time with them more than I do spending time in His Word. It’s not that I love to crochet and listen to music, it is that I love doing that more than I love spending time in prayer – speaking to Him. It’s not that I love trying new foods and visiting new places, its that I enjoy them more than visiting with His people in His church. It is about my affections, or feelings about things that is the problem.

God does not want to compete with my loyalty. But before God can be jealous of what takes His place -this is something I have missed all this time – I first have to be His. Unlike my son who will one day marry and no longer belong to me, I will always belong to God. And He is rightfully jealous of anything that takes priority over Him.

In “Knowing the Living God” Paul Washer writes: “God is jealous in that He will not surrender His claim to that which is rightfully His.” God is not envious of my time spent on facebook. He doesn’t pine away hating that I have more fun with a screen than with Him. He’s is rightfully jealous of it! Why? Because He bought me with a price! Because He made me co-heir! Because He adopted me! Because He justified me! Because He is my owner and I take that for granted and meander into the arms of anything shiny. In a way, I am adulterous! We have all seen it. The wife who has a husband with a wandering eye. How quickly she tries to avert him with anything to keep him from giving his affection away. I am like him, belonging to someone else, placing my eyes on things that do not satisfy. Allowing my love to fleet to other things that continuously let me down. Busying myself in the temporal, the mundane and the finite. Hi, my name is Anna, but you can call me Gomer!!

It is Holy Week and revival week in my church. I have spent the last couple of days really contemplating my affections and what I delight in. Do I delight in His Word? Do I love His Church? Do I enjoy spending time in prayer? Do I rejoice in telling my children, friends and family what He has done in my life? Do I find spiritual things boring? Is my devotional a chore? And if I answer these questions honestly and the answer isn’t the one God would approve, what am I going to do about it?

There is comfort in belonging to Him. I am comforted that He is jealous because if He wasn’t, that would be even more frightening. It would mean I am an orphan (John 14:18). It would mean I am a commoner (Romans 8:17). It would mean I am abandoned.(Hebrews 13:5) It would mean I am alone.(Matt.28:20)  It would mean I am a child of darkness (Acts 26:18) and of wrath (Eph. 2:3). It would mean my father is the devil. (John 8:44) So, I am thankful, He in His mercy, has laid claim to me. But because He has, He perfectly harbors certain feelings because of what I do. He is perfectly and justly  jealous of my affections, and it is I, not Him, that needs to change.

Thankfully, He is also perfectly patient, forgiving, compassionate, loving and longsuffering. He will not abandon me or forsake me. My Father owns me, and knowing that, may I strive not to make Him jealous.












Destroying our Nehushtans

So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:9

About 700 years later . . .

He (King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. – 2 Kings 18:4

King Hezekiah was a good king. Verse 5 of the same chapter says this of him: “He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”

I like old things. I love to hear the history of things. An object can seem inanimate until someone tells me the story of how it was made, where it traveled, what it did, and how it got to where it was found. Houses, castles, ships, cottages and cabins all take on a presence when a story is shared about who lived there, who died there, what the walls within “saw”. The same can be said of pictures, especially old pictures. The joy of seeing yourself as a child. The pain of looking at a picture of a loved one long gone. The sigh of a past that didn’t seem so long ago, but really is. Things, bring about in us emotions and feelings and memories that we had forgotten were even there.

God told Moses to make the bronze serpent because like always, the Israelites complained against God and loathed their salvation from Egypt. So God sent fiery serpents to bite them and many died because of this. So the Israelites repented (yet again) and to save them from death all they would have to do is look upon the bronze serpent Moses had made. Later Jesus would refer to this deliverance of death from the snakes, to His own redemptive power over spiritual death (John 3:14)- but that’s another blog.

The name “Nehushtan” wasn’t applied to the bronze serpent until later when it started to be worshiped. When I read 2 Kings and how King Hezekiah destroyed this old relic, I hate to say it, but I felt a bit sad. This inanimate object had a story. It had a 700 year old history. God used it to save His people from death. Moses touched it. It was preserved for centuries. How many people had it saved? How many old mothers and father pointed to this bronze figure and told their children and grandchildren that if it wasn’t for this bronze serpent they wouldn’t be here. This wasn’t just some measly thing to just be destroyed. It was a symbol of something good! And like all my idolatry, it is the good things that God has given me that take His place. Being a good wife, my children, sex, food, wine, money, freedom, social media, tv, music, cell phones, clothes, jewelry, relationships, confidence, my abilities, my looks, knowledge, books, fun, vacations, health, rest – and so much more are all good things God has graciously given; but oh so quickly these and so many more things are what steal my love for God. The Nehushtan was there as a reminder of the grace of God. He rightly was punishing His people, but he showed them grace when they didn’t deserve it.  All the things I have, I do not deserve. They were given to me not because I am good, but because He is good to me. And putting any of those things, no matter how good they are, before God is idolatry – they are my Nehushtans.

So how do we combat and “destroy” our Nehushtans in our lives. First of all, don’t smash anything – including your children – some verses are not meant to be literal. Second, don’t be legalistic and make a list of “don’ts and do’s”. The latter can be a good thing, but for me, I tend to lose those lists and then find loop holes. Jesus summed up 613 laws to two, and I want to do the same.  Love God, and then love others. Love God through what He has given you. Learn and know Him through the access of technology. Skype with lost relatives, feed others and pray together, host strangers and tell them something awesome God is doing in your life, have more sex with your spouse when he least expects it, play a super silly game with your children and tell them about God constantly (Deut. 11:19), make a lot of money and have fun giving to charities you’ve never heard of, assemble the cutest outfit and give it to someone who would look fabulous in it, text everyone on your phone a scripture of encouragement, read a book about who God is and marvel at His majesty, train your spirit and body for a laborious mission trip, listen to music tasting a bit of heaven, message your fb friends with a unique prayer just for them. And the list can go on forever. Bring God into everything  you do (Deut. 6:7, Col. 3:23). Have a good laugh and praise God. Eat a good meal and praise God. Have great sex and praise God. Read a good book and praise God. Have a good conversation and praise God. Sing and praise God. Pray constantly, give thanks constantly, love constantly, praise constantly always remembering that if any of these good things were ever taken away we still have the ultimate good thing – God himself!  And if/when you can’t, my dear Christian, may I suggest that you may be in sin. You may be enjoying something sinful. You may be enjoying  something that you are not meant to enjoy just yet. You may have overindulged and enjoyed something too much. You may committing the sin of idolatry. Pray, seek Scripture and counsel, repent, and live again.

There is so much good God has given us and it is wrong NOT to enjoy them as long as we enjoy God more. And when we do love God more, know God more, and enjoy God more we tend to love people more and better – even our own kids! But something else happens also and that is that all these good things of this world do go strangely dim, in the light of His glory. And I believe the dimmer things get here, the more we yearn for our true home. Which isn’t a bad thing, but yet another good thing.


Into the Arms of Molech

Bible Reading: I Kings 11:1-8

There is so much here that just shocks me. And just as quickly as the shock sets in, the Spirit convicts me, that I too am a Solomon.

Chapter 11 starts with: “King Solomon loved many foreign women”. In order to set alliances and also just because he could – Solomon married women who were not Hebrew. One of these foreign women is said to be the daughter of the Pharaoh. (I Kings 3:1). He built her a beautiful palace. There were 700 of these “alliance wives” and 300 concubines. And these women led him astray in his faith. Later Solomon goes on to warn against these kinds of women in Proverbs 5-7.

As Solomon grows old he ends up worshiping Ashtoreth (goddess of the Sidonites), Chemosh (god of the Moabites) and Molech (god of the Ammonites). He then actually builds two places to worship these gods and he joins his wives in worshiping these detestable gods. The place where he builds these places of worship was on a hill east of Jerusalem which is actually the Mount of Olives (the place where Jesus later wept for Jerusalem and gave His sermon on the mount). Even though Solomon did these horrible things, God still appeared to him twice so that he would turn away from these gods, but the Bible tells us that he turned away from following the God of Israel (I Kings 11:9). God then tears the Kingdom of Israel from Solomon and divides it into two kingdoms.

Reading I Kings 1-10 consecutively we see the glory of Solomon’s reign.   In these chapters we see how he became king, how God blessed him, how he brought the people together, how he luxuriously spends to make an astonishing temple to worship God. We see Solomon’s wisdom and judging techniques. We hear of his beauty and his love for justice. We see kings and queens from distant lands pay him homage for his wisdom and splendid kingdom. He just overflows with excess, riches and elegance. I can envision a shining city where nothing is made of silver because it has no worth because there is just so much gold (I Kings 10:21). But God is not flattered by the pomp. He reminds Solomon to obey His commands and warns that if he doesn’t He will leave the Temple and tear his kingdom apart.  In chapter 9, Solomon finishes the Temple, but by chapter 11 he is building temples for the gods Chemosh and Molech. These gods are called detestable/hated (11:7) and required human sacrifice as a form of worship. Molech specifically required child sacrifice through burning them (what was called “passing them through the fire”) in order to bring prosperity and success. Molech was molded to have extending arms where a fire could be lit underneath and a child could be placed within his arms. We see Manasseh King of Judah use this type of worship in 2 Chronicles 33:2-6. How horrific to have a Temple where God has decided to live and then down the road we hear the screams of humans and even children as they are sacrificed to abhorrent gods and then to find among the worshipers Solomon, God’s chosen king. The son of the man after God’s heart. Among this beautiful city made of gold is the excrement of man-made worship. I can’t help but wonder if Solomon, fearing losing his success and prosperity, placed one of his little ones in the burning arms of Molech.

Our God is longsuffering and patient. (Psalm 86:5,  2 Peter 3:9, Joel 2:13, Isaiah 30:18) and gave Solomon time to return to Him, but Solomon had made his decision. Despite all God had given Solomon (and by all, I mean ALL!), Solomon betrays God for the arms of women who would eventually lead him astray to the arms of a burning god. He became lost in the glitter of the world that surrounded him. The blessings bestowed on him eventually cursed him. The riches given to him made him a poor and miserable man. Even the knowledge and wisdom God entrusted him with brought about him misery and emptiness. Just read Ecclesiastes.

In the end, God is not mocked and the fools are us if we seek to do things our way. We have a tendency to wander from God and His holy ways, and most of the time He is gracious to lead us back with tenderness. But there is a thin line that once it is crossed, God says enough and the buck stops with Him. Solomon worshiped the way the world in his day worshiped. Are we also tempted to do the same? Do the lights, speakers, smoke, and full out rock band tempt us to say “if we had a worship service like that, we would feel the Holy Spirit every Sunday, more people would come to church, people wouldn’t be so bored” etc etc? Is there anything inherently wrong with these things, no. But if you need those things in order to “feel” like you worshiped God, we must examine ourselves again.(I John)

The kingdom of God is a mustard seed (Mark 4) or leavening (Matthew 13) meaning it is small and in time it does something great. But not great in our fickle eyes, but greatness only God could invent. Solomon had a thousand women to bring him pleasure, wealth and power beyond measure, unprecedented wisdom and knowledge and the admiration of the known world, but it all crumbled under God because he worshiped other gods. And before he knew it, that road lead him to a place where he allowed the slow and painful death of children and maybe even participated in it.

I don’t believe that the moment Solomon finished building the Temple of God that he turned around and said “I think we will worship Molech now.” I do believe though, that there were some red flags that he chose to ignore and although it may have bothered him at first, he eventually stopped seeing them. Besetting sins don’t ever start off shocking us into humility and repentance. I know my ugly sins didn’t look so ugly at first. But our God is merciful to forgive us and sent His Son to bring us into communion with Him.

Let us not be tempted to worship like the world. Let us not become lost in the glitter of things that will not bring true happiness. Let us only look to the God who saves us from ourselves and allows us to truly rest in His arm.