Our Need For REBUILDING – RESTORING

Scripture Passage:  Nehemiah 9:1-37; 10:28-39

I want to first take a quick glance at the setting in Nehemiah 9:

  • The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon.  Their Temple (place of worship) and the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Now, after 70 years, they’ve returned and rebuilt their city.

Although, when I say “returned” to Israel, most of them were first-time arrivals.  They were a newer generation, born in captivity.  They found the Law of Moses while working on the Temple.  And when the Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them, they vowed to return to God’s Law.  They were determined to get back to God’s ways.

Chapter 9 continues on this theme.

Then Ezra leads out with the beautiful PRAYER (vs. 6-37) and in that prayer, you can clearly see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.

This is the longest recorded PRAYER in the Bible. 

It was a prayer of CONFESSION & REPENTANCE, recounting what God had done for them personally, as a nation, and man’s failure to honor Him.  This prompted me to read and re-read this prayer, making notes in my workbook while checking down the examples in the prayer with my own prayers.

How selfish we can be at times in our prayers.

There was this realization by the people just how far they had drifted from God and an honest CONFESSION of their sin. 

This is the first step for RESTORATION, for REVIVAL–a realization that we have drifted away from God and a desire to return to a Godly life in an ungodly culture.

This CONFESSION makes RENEWAL possible!

TRUE CHANGE OR RENEWAL –

This can only begin to happen when three things happen.

We need the 3 A’s to take place:

  1. Admit our wrongs,
  2. Acknowledge God’s ways, and…
  3. Act on it!

THE FIRST STEP…

CONFESSION is to admit that there’s a need for change!

James Montgomery Boice, a Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author, a speaker says, “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”  

It’s important that we all examine ourselves in reading God’s Word.

In Nehemiah 8, we can see where it began with the people – when they heard the Word they mourn and wept.

In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we see this again in corporate prayer.  If we’re not convinced that we need a CHANGE, we won’t.

This realization leads to REPENTANCE.

And by the way, it doesn’t help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.

We should CONFESS because we are being prompted of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.

We want to CONFESS because we are moved by God’s Word or convicted by the Holy Spirit.

This is what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-18 (confession).

QUESTION:  Why does God want us to confess?  Surely not to inform Him of something He already knows about us.

First of all, God wants us to admit our sins so that we can take the steps toward CHANGE. 

Only when we agree with God of our faults, our trespasses, and our need to change can we find the commitment to do so.

Secondly, CONFESSION makes us real.

REAL, if we are honest with God, honest with SELF and honest towards people.

It’s being AUTHENTIC, being VULNERABLE and BEING REAL!

This is the way to happiness.  We’re not weighed down, burdened with GUILT or SHAME.  We experience God’s FORGIVENESS and the JOY of forgiveness.

REAL FELLOWSHIP with God can’t happen when unconfessed SIN is in our lives.

WHAT IS SIN?

I’ve had the question directed at me over the years to what I think “SIN” is.  And my response is always redirected to,  “What do you think “SIN” is?

In a nutshell, according to the classical definition, “hippo”, SIN is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to God’s Word.”

The second thing that’s necessary for RESTORATION to take place is to acknowledge God’s way–or take God’s Word seriously.

It’s this deep conviction of His Word that’s the only blessed way!  This conviction is closely related to the first thing–CONFESSION.

GOD’S WORD LEADS TO CONFESSION!

The reading of the Law in Nehemiah and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures led to the people’s confession and repentance.  It wasn’t the preaching of Ezra, the Levites that brought about restoration.  It was God’s Word!

The realization that yes, we’ve sinned against God, comes through the reading of the Word of God and by the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

We will never acknowledge SIN to be SIN or grieve, weep over it unless we understand it’s an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.

So what are we looking at in all of this?

If we want CHANGE to happen we’ve got to have an alternative:

  • What do we really want to change into?
  • What kind of a change are we looking at?

It can’t be your way against my way or his way against the world’s way.  It must be God’s WAY we’re looking at.  It must be God’s Word we’re fixed on.  That’s the standard.  God’s Word is the MIRROR of our soul. our character, and our conduct.

In the prayer of CONFESSION, the Levites directed the people’s thoughts–notice I didn’t say ‘manipulated’ their thoughts–to the goodness and grace of God.

NOTICE how many times“YOU” appeared throughout the PRAYER.

Despite their failures, they were to recognize God’s KINDNESS in their betrayal, that God remains FAITHFUL and continues to shower His blessing on them.

NEHEMIAH 9:17

“YOU” didn’t desert them in the desert; “YOU” gave your good Spirit to instruct them; “YOU” didn’t withhold your manna from their mouths, and “YOU” gave them water for their thirst; “YOU” made their sons a numerous as the stars in the sky.

NEHEMIAH 9:31

NEHEMIAH 9:33

THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER…

In the PRAYER, the people were led to see through their history a God who is great, good and gracious despite man’s SIN AND FAILURES.  This is the basis why we CONFESS our sin.  We have a forgiving God, a merciful and gracious God.  This is why the father waits for the prodigal son to return.  Not to judge or condemn him, but to embrace and forgive him (Luke 15:11-32).

Our PARDON today is not based on our MERIT or our WORTHINESS, but upon His goodness and grace. 

We shouldn’t base our appeal on our past accomplishments (how much I HAVE DONE for God), but simply upon His grace and mercy (Nehemiah9:17-b) –

[17-b]  But You are a God ready to PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great steadfast love; and You did not forsake them” (AMP).

The THIRD STEP in a CHANGED LIFE is to ACT ON IT!

When we know that we know, where we are and where we want to go, we need to take the necessary steps to bring about the CHANGE.

NEHEMIAH 9:38 –

The LEVITES led by Ezra ended the people’s prayer saying, 

THE COMMITMENT –

The ASSEMBLY, the gathered people are going to make a COVENANT (an agreement, COMMITMENT) before God that they are willing to do the following:

Nehemiah 10:30 – “We shall not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons,”

10:31 – “We shall forego raising crops the seventh year [letting the land lie fallow] and the compulsory payment of every debt” [Exod. 23:10, 11; Deut. 15:1, 2].

10:32, 35, 36, 37 – “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites”

10:39-c  “We will not forsake or neglect the house of our God.”

The people were determined to make right what was wrong and so should we today.

OUR NEED FOR REBUILDING – RESTORING BEGINS NOW!

EXAMINING ourselves in light of the world that surrounds us is a great place to start if you are looking for REVIVAL.

David – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

[23]  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24]  “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Allow the Holy Spirit to take away the hindrances and obstacles we’ve placed in God’s way.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Tell Him what you did wrong.
  • Is there someone or something you love more than Him?
  • Is God’s Word a concern to you?  Can you really worship Him, or has something taking the place of God in your spirit?
  • Tell Him the attitudes you have that aren’t good – pride, arrogance, jealousy, lust, unwillingness to forgive, laziness…

Allow Jesus to minister His CLEANSING & HEALING to your spirit.

  • If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.      (1 John 1:9)

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CREDITS –

Christian views on SIN – Wikipedia.

Photos & Images:  Google Image Search – Settings advance, using referencing bible verses.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP);  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

Is It Time For A New Wardrobe?

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE – Colossians 3:1-17

There seems to be trending on cable television several SELF-IMPROVEMENT shows. Some of the appeal I think is the DESIRE to make some changes in our own lives.   Also, some of the appeal is seeing others being able to make the needed changes.

There’s a show called What Not To Wear on TLC.  It’s interesting to watch friends and family rat out a loved one as one who has no style and then the show secretly films the offender.  Then the offender is confronted by the hosts of the show with the chance to change what they wear and given a $5000 pre-paid Visa Card to get a new wardrobe.

I’m certainly NOT a fashionista, but really, you should see some folks sense of style. Almost always it’s a lady who needs to make a change.  I guess us men have an instinctive sense of style  (NOT!).

I’m thinking that most who are reading this have something you would like to change about yourself.  I would like to lose 10-15 pounds myself.

Let’s consider our life with Christ for a moment,

How many of us are totally happy with where we are in our RELATIONSHIP with Jesus?

When we give our lives to Christ, we hear about this NEW LIFE God wants us to have.

John 10:10, Jesus tells us that “I came that they [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”  

But it doesn’t seem to be happening the way we think it should be.

You’re going to have to realize that in order to be able to make those changes about yourself, you actually have to change some things in your life!

For instance, if I want to lose weight, I have to change my eating habits, my exercise habits (currently, no habits here!), along with my attitudes concerning food.

Without CHANGING these specific areas of my life, the weight is not coming off.  No miracle cure is going to change my weight without me changing some things.

THERE IS NO NEED FOR “WHAT NOT TO WEAR” POLICE…the truth is, what we WEAR daily will have an effect on our lives.  

What we WEAR can help us or hinder us.

For one to grow in Christ we need to realize there are some things we ought NOT to WEAR in a figurative sense.  We all need to rid ourselves of some or our entire current wardrobe so that we can really TRANSFORM our image of Christ.

Colossians 3:5-7 (PHILLIPS):

On so far, then, as you have to live upon this earth, consider yourselves dead to worldly contacts: have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty mindedness, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and the lust for other peoples’ goods, which last, remember, is as serious a sin as idolatry.  It is because of these very things that the holy anger of God falls upon those who refuse to obey him.  And, never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived that old life.

FIRST, WE NEED TO CLOSELY EXAMINE WHAT’S IN OUR CLOSET

One of the most difficult things for people on the TV show to do is get rid of the old wardrobe…snake skin tights and pink boots.  They gotta go!

They need a wakeup call, and the wakeup call on the show is a 360-degree mirror, a truth teller.  It helps make the fashion offender realize that they need to look at changing what they wear.

After the view in the mirror, the hosts of the show go through their closet and throws almost everything in a nearby trash can.

Well, the Apostle Paul gives us a list of items that need to be taken out of our closet and throw in the trash can.

  • WE NEED to throw out the old clothing that no longer fits
  • WE NEED to realize that we are DEAD to the old life; we’ve outgrown many of the items hanging in our closet.

In VERSE 5, we are told literally “put to death” these things.

To consider DEAD means we’re to hold these items in check, restrain them.  Left unrestrained, they will lead us in the wrong direction.

If you look at VERSE 3 casually, we are told that we have DIED with Christ Jesus…BUT here we are told to consider our members of our earthly body as DEAD!  Remember, someone who is DEAD is no longer aroused by the world around them.

This VERSE should remind us that WE have a part to play in our WALK with God.

We need to toss out the clothing that no longer reflects who we are in Christ.

In VERSE 5 we are given a LIST of things that we are to consider ourselves DEAD too.

IMMORALITY deals predominantly with sexual sin.  The word is the same word we get “pornography” from.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (GNT)

[3] “God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality.”

This list includes impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.  All of these deal with getting what we want.

The list is actually in reverse order…the root of all these issues is GREED!

GREED is the overmastering desire for what belongs to another; it includes the breaking of the laws of right and justice in order to obtain them for oneself. 

It’s the relentless urge to get more.  This is really the ROOT of the rest.

We must move in the direction of pleasing our heavenly Father rather than ourselves.

God isn’t against SEX, but SEX outside of MARRIAGE is wrong, no exceptions!

As long as we live in a fallen world, we’ll struggle with these issues.  The last part of VERSE 5 tells us that these things amount to IDOLATRY.

When we REJECT the true and living God of the Bible, we make up one of our own imagination, and we make our desires, appetites, and lusts our god by the deification of them.

WE NEED TO THROW OUT THE OLD CLOTHING that hampers our growth!

The THINGS listed in VERSE 5 are to be a part of the OLD LIFE.  This is the reason for us to put SIN to death in our lives.

We now walk with God and what WE WEAR should reflect that!

Colossians 3:8-9 (NIV)

WE NEED TO DEVELOP A NEW ATTITUDE ABOUT WHO WE ARE IN JESUS.

VERSES 8-9 really deal with issues that have their roots placed in our attitudes.

We are told that we are in need of putting some old attitudes in the “trash can.” And don’t worry, there’s plenty of room in the can!

To put aside, or rid yourselves means to take off–like taking off clothing.

Each of these ATTITUDES if left unchecked will build upon one another.

ANGER is a deep smoldering bitterness…leads to REVENGE by which being bent on causing injury to another either physically or to their reputation.

ALL these things can lead to SLANDER and FILTHY SPEECH.  We need to rid ourselves of these things.

There are many Christians who still to this day struggle with these attitudes.

Ephesians 4:29 The Message (MSG)

“Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, each word a gift.”

It’s easy to focus on the EVILS of verse 5 and then forget about the EVILS in verse 8.  It may be more difficult for us to deal with BECAUSE…WE can always rationalize our corresponding actions.  “THEY MADE ME MAD!”

Bad ATTITUDES lead to bad actions!

VERSE 9 encourages us not to LIE to one another.

When we harbor bad things in the heart, they will come out in our actions.

If you find yourself struggling with ANGER issues, don’t just sweep them under the carpet.  Don’t rationalize your ANGER.

Our ATTITUDE towards others needs to reflect who we are in Christ Jesus.

We are called and obligated to treat others in a Christ-like manner, even if they don’t deserve it!

Colossians 3:9-11 New International Version (NIV)

 

We need to rid our closets of things that don’t line up with who we are in Christ.

If you go from digging ditches to being a salesman, be wise to get rid of the work clothing that you used to wear daily as a ditch digger and replace it with clothing that matches up with the new job.

I remember when I went from driving a plumbing supply truck to working in the sales office and I had to do the same thing.

Our new purpose in Christ is to be RENEWED to the true knowledge of Christ.

We can’t be RENEWED to the true knowledge of Him if we don’t know anything about Him.

We need to rid ourselves of the CLOTHING that doesn’t reflect our RENEWED PURPOSE.  By obtaining knowledge of Christ and His will through His Word found in the Bible, our spiritual being is being changed into the likeness of Jesus.

We learn to feel, act and think like Christ!

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

[2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  [Capitalization for emphasis by the Word Detective]

Our ultimate purpose in life is to be TRANSFORMED into the IMAGE of Jesus!

2 Corinthians 3:18 (AMP)

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being TRANSFORMED into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.

That is our calling!  Anything that we figuratively WEAR that hinders, THAT needs to be thrown out!

The way some of the people on the TV Show would dress often hindered their advancement chances at their job.  IF we choose to WEAR the STUFF from our old life as described in our passage of Scripture; we will be severely hindered in our TRANSFORMATION.

TACKY IS IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER.

It amazes me what some people will wear and thinks looks great.  It seems as though they are the ONLY ones in the room who cannot see it.

Are you one of those TACKY DRESSERS who wear things such as:

  • Sexual immorality,
  • Impurity,
  • Passion,
  • Evil desire,
  • Covetousness.

DO you wear things such as…

  • Anger,
  • Wrath,
  • Malice,
  • Slander,
  • Obscene talk (dirty talk) coming from your mouth?

IF you do, others can see and hear it and it’s time to put on some NEW clothing.

 

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CREDITS –

Wikipedia What Not to Wear (U.S. TV series); http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/what-not-to-wear

Photos:  Google Image Search/Advance settings.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) except where noted.

IN THE UPCOMING NEW YEAR…Put On Your Seat Belts And Hold On!

SCRIPTURE, JOEL 2:21-27:

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Looking at JOEL, chapter 2 in this BLOG-STUDY, we read that an invasion had taken place in Israel; an invasion of “locusts” that stripped God’s people of everything, and I mean everything (Joel 1:4-20).

What those nasty swarming locusts did to the people, our persistent ‘nasty’ sins will do to us.  Our only HOPE is to recognize God’s CALL:

“Return to Me with ALL your heart” (Joel 2:12)

To those who turn to the LORD in REPENTANCE, regardless of the sins that envelope them, He promised…

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten–” (v. 25)

The Land That Suffered Under God’s Judgement Would Be BLESSED!

There is a “now, but not yet” taste to this passage of Scripture.

Eventually in the new heavens and the new earth, in the consummation of ALL THINGS, the Church will see the total fulfillment of God’s PROMISES here.

RESTORATION is the work of the LORD alone;  “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!”

JOEL maintains a “prophetic” observance forming part of the New Year ritual.

QUESTION:  So how will God RENEW us in 2017?

  • NO FEAR (vs. 21-22):

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FEAR is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  It prepares us either to run from or fight against the presumed danger [ *See footnote [i] ].

The BIBLE uses words like fear, afraid, terror, dread, anxiety, tremble, shake and quake over 850 times to portray the center core of our emotions.

We are fragile beings, given to fears of every kind.  We have a built-in insecurity that no amount of ‘whistling in the dark’ can lessen the anxiety.

FEAR attacks the most precious parts of our life, keeping us from living the life God meant for us.  So God wants to help us overcome our insecurities; our fears as we learn to “FEAR NOT!”

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control”  (2 Timothy 1:7 – AMP).

With everything that’s going on in the world today, the SPIRIT OF FEAR seems to be working overtime!  BUT…the “spirit of fear” doesn’t come from God, crippling to anyone who holds on to it.  SATAN wants us to be overwhelmed so we cannot accomplish the things we need to do.  Remember, if God is for us, no one (including the devil) can be against us!

The Land Had Suffered…

The prophet Joel has vividly pointed out the impact from the drought connected with the locust devastation on the land; BUT NOW…the call is to JOY and GLADNESS.  Things are now reversed.  Instead of mourning, exaltation; instead of sadness, there’s joy and gladness; instead of ‘the day of the Lord’–the very great and terrible FEAR, there is “FEAR NOT”!

We can conquer our fears!

To admit that we are afraid is to admit that we are human.  But to admit being afraid and then trusting the Lord and going forward will take the FEAR out of FEAR.

FIRST MONTH OF FORMER/LATTER RAIN (vs. 23-24)

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ISRAEL has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot, rainless summers and relatively short, cool, rainy winters.  Rainfall is unevenly distributed, significantly lower in the south of the country [Wikipedia].

Bible history also shows that the patriarchs, like Abraham, dug wells wherever they went with quarrels of water.  Thus, RAIN was directly correlated with the livelihood of the people in Israel; their survival was threatened when it didn’t rain!

THE FORMER RAIN–

The FORMER RAIN should fall enough to yield a good harvest for the upcoming year.  

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Since there is no rain during the dry season, it’s impossible to cultivate farmland unless it rains.  That is why the FARMERS wait with anticipation for the FORMER RAIN while getting ready to farm for the year (James 5:7):

[7] Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn ans spring rains (NIV).

The former and latter rains, which comes at the right time for farming in Israel, is a BLESSING from God.  So most of the RAIN recorded in the Bible figuratively, represents God’s GRACE & BLESSINGS poured out on His people.

Physical farming in ISRAEL, controlled by RAIN, represents the GOSPEL work of God spiritually (Mt. 13:24-30; 36-40).

The two special rains in the farming season–the former and latter rain (Autumn & Spring rains)–represent the Holy Spirit that God gives us in spiritual farming.

THE PROPHECY OF THE LATTER RAIN–

The coming down of the “latter rain” at the HARVEST TIME is to be fulfilled through the work of the Holy Spirit, which in turn, God POURS OUT on us for the Gospel Work of gathering God’s people represented by the WHEAT, from the ends of the earth, in the SPIRITUAL HARVEST TIME.

Now is the age of the Feast of Tabernacles–

It is the spiritual fruiting season–when we should ask our Heavenly Father, who rules and manages ALL THINGS, to pour out on us the Holy Spirit of the latter rain.

As gospel workers, we are to accomplish the amazing work of the Holy Spirit by preaching the “good news”–the Gospel; boldly being clothed with the abundant GRACE of the Holy Spirit our Heavenly Father has poured out.

This is what we need church in our day!

  • WE NEED the Lord to open the windows of Heaven to erase the spiritual drought we’ve been living under of late.
  • WE NEED Him to send the heavenly RAINS upon us one more time.
  • WE NEED Him to give back everything the enemy has tried to take away from us.
  • WE NEED revival of His manifest presence among His people.
  • WE NEED power in our services.
  • WE NEED a revival of holiness in the church.

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WE NEED REVIVAL!!!

Oh that God’s people would SEEK His face and ask Him for the move of God we so desperately need in these last days.  This should be at the top of our prayers!

RESTORATION (vs. 25-26 a.):

Whatever the ENEMY has taken away from you, God wants to RESTORE IT!  God wants to make it better than before!!  That’s the kind of Father He is.

Every day we have CHOICES put before us.  We can be tempted to get hurt, wounded, or sometimes, depressed.  And believe me, I’ve been down this beaten path before over my lifetime.

We can complain and remain in the same awful condition, OR…we can PRAISE God and be raised up.

ISRAEL’S CROPS had been destroyed by a LOCUST INVASION

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AND, the impact lasted more than one year.  When locust destroyed the crop, they wiped out the SEED saved the previous year and the HARVEST of the current year and the SEED that would be used the next year.  It was a multi-year impact on the people.

JOEL 2:25 now complements the preceding verse, which says,

And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten–the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust…”

Joel has used the LOCUST INVASION as an illustration of God’s judgment.  In His promise to “restore/replace” the years lost to the locust, God is pledging to RESTORE His repentant people with a place of BLESSING after judgment.

THE TEXT describes other positive things that would take place during this RESTORATION:

  • GREEN PASTURES for livestock in verse 22.
  • TREES & VINES that bear fruit–verse 22.
  • THE SPRING & SUMMER RAINS would come as needed for a good crop in verse 23.

And the RESULT of the RESTORATION would be physical and spiritual:

— THE PHYSICAL:  “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full” – verse 26.

— THE SPIRITUAL:  “You will praise the name of the Lord your God” – verse 26.

God’s ultimate desire is not to punish His children, but to RESTORE them!

He PROMISED to send new wine, grain and oil.

He PROMISED never to make them an object of scorn among the nations.

In addition, He PROMISED to drive the “army.”

NO DISGRACE HERE!  (vs. 26 b.-27).

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The prophet JOEL is talking about the FUTURE PROSPERITY of the church–the ABUNDANCE of spiritual food that the church will not be in shame or sorrow.

BUT…when much is given–much is required from us.  There is an EXPECTATION from God; ALL these plentiful provisions we enjoy are going to testify that there is only ONE God–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is also the ‘Great I AM.’  In no way or form will the body of Christ (the CHURCH) be disgraced.

In today’s headlines, we see many nations trying to DISGRACE Israel…but not entirely.  Their negligence of God, by cutting Him off from their lives, has escalated them to this position.

Our nation is walking down the same road that Israel took centuries ago and lost all their blessings.  So it becomes imperative that the church rises up and takes hold of their responsibility in leading the people in a godly way and direction so that they are RENEWED!

The PROMISE of ‘no shame’ to God’s people.

This PROMISE is mentioned twice in this passage of Scripture, solidifying the seriousness of God to bestow this on His people.

If we are going to call ourselves ‘children of God,’ we can’t take this lightly–but should hold tight to this assurance and allow God to RENEW us in the New Year.

Now the ROAD to get there at times may be rough–we may be deceived by the enemy; that we will not be granted with this BLESSING, but when God is with us, we will surely get there!

My desire is to be a ‘BARNABAS’ [*Bible Study Tools, Barnabas meaning] to my readers in the upcoming New Year by encouraging and articulating in the year of 2017, bringing RENEWAL and ABUNDANCE that God offers to all of our lives!

For that FIRST and FOREMOST, we must…

  • Fear not!
  • Enjoy the blessings of the latter and former rain.
  • Accept God’s restoration plan for our life.
  • You shall not be put to shame and know that He alone is God and there is no other!

So get ready, and buckle up, and hold on!!!

 


CREDITS & fOOTNOTE:

Footnote [i]:  Google Dictionary for FEAR.

Photos:  Google IMAGE Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified bible (AMP), unless noted in the text.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

Receiving A New Heart and New Spirit to Reach Our Potential

Ezekiel 36:26-27 in the Amplified Bible:

[26] A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  [27] And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them.”

Ezekiel 36:26: A Heart of Stone Transferred to a Heart of Flesh
Ezekiel 36:26: A Heart of Stone Transferred to a Heart of Flesh

For the past month, I have been leading a small group at our home, calling the study Being Gifted for a Purpose.  I am using The 9 SPIRITUAL GIFTS listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 as an introduction to the study.

In using my Bible Concordance, listing specific verses concerning Spiritual Gifts, I found some interesting facts in the Old Testament which refer to Spiritual Gifting.  So much so, I decided to write down my thoughts in a Blog-post.

I also learned from God’s Word, I should have presented a portion of the facts found in the Old Testament before launching into the Spiritual Gifts Study mentioned in I Corinthians 12, and Romans 12.  Lesson learned.

Renewal Is Promised–

According to Ezekiel 36:26,27, the hardened heart of man is replaced with a soft heart [“a heart of flesh”], where RENEWAL is promised at this occurrence.  Now compare this with the New Testament verse of being “born again” (John 3:3)–meaning to be RESTORED to what we were created to be according to God’s plan.

What is God’s Plan After Receiving “A New Heart”?

Your specific calling is related to the Spirit’s work in several areas:

1.  CREATION.

2.  REGENERATION.

3.  EMPOWERING BELIEVERS FOR THE WORK IN THE CHURCH & THE WORLD.

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT Found in the Old Testament and the New Testament:

Three Basic Areas in The Old Testament:

1.  COSMIC – referring to the Spirit’s role in the CREATION.

2.  INDIVIDUAL – referring to the Spirit’s role in REGENERATION and the SANCTIFICATION (setting apart) of individuals.

3.  THEOCRATIC – referring to the Spirit’s role in EMPOWERING the children of Israel.

A.  HOLY SPIRIT’S WORK IN THE CREATION PROCESS:

In my detective work in Scripture this week, I found a number of biblical passages pertaining to the COSMIC area.

“By His breath the heavens are cleared…”  ~  Job 26:13.

“The Spirit of God has made me,  And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” ~ Job 33:4.

“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” ~ Psalms 104:30.

We can look at the GIFTS we’ve expressed throughout our lives; indicating where we are to SERVE in the church and in the world.  BUT, how does this whole process even begin?

B.  Individual: the Spirit’s work in us–

JESUS talks about this process, when He discusses the topic about being “BORN AGAIN” or “BORN FROM ABOVE”:

3 times in a conversation with Nicodemus in The Gospel of John 3:1-10:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”  (verse 3).

In Verse 10, JESUS asks Nicodemus,  “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet do not know or understand these things?”  

JESUS is making a clear point, that based on Nicodemus’ knowledge of the Old Testament, he should have a grasp about the Spirit’s RENEWAL or REBIRTH of individuals.  Ezekiel 36:26 speaks of this language.

Note the new heart and new spirit that is promised–the HARDENED heart is REPLACED with a soft heart.  RENEWAL is promised to take place.

Being “born again” means the beginning process–being RESTORED to what we were created to be according to God’s plan.  Again, this PROCESS includes our gifts.

C.  Theocratic: where the Spirit is, There is POWER–

In some ancient languages, the words for “spirit”, “breath”, and “wind” are identical.

The Old Testament uses two Hebrew words “breath” and “wind”–  

1.  Ruach, refers to heavy breathing, or breathing through the nose with violence.  Exodus 15:8 uses ruach to refer to a “blast” of the nostrils:

“With the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood fixed in a heap, the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea”  (Amplified Bible).

2.  Neshamah, refers to quiet breathing.

“when the breath (or Spirit) of the Lord” is used, Ruach Yahweh could mean Spirit of the Lord or Wind of the Lord.  In both cases, the idea is POWER.

Holy Spirit gives GIFTS and He can and will…EMPOWER those GIFTS in our lives.

In The Book of Acts, we see an instance where the empowerment is given and the results:

“AND WHEN the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place.  When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them.  And they were ALL FILLED (DIFFUSED THROUGHOUT THEIR SOULS) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words]”  (Acts 2:1-4 AMP).

OUR “GIFTS” ARE FROM THE SPIRIT:

Being EMPOWERED by the Spirit of God is to accomplish the PURPOSE for which they are given.

Empowerment of the Spirit On Display From the Old Testament–

Do the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit really matter in our everyday work, our ministry, our witness?

In the Old Testament, there are a number of gifts the Holy Spirit gives Israel which I found applicable to our life and work today.

Strength and Leadership–

The Holy Spirit EMPOWERED various people in different ways which establish and protected the kingdom of Israel.

GIDEON in Judges 6:34:

“Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon GIDEON…”

The words “came upon” literally mean “clothed”; the Spirit put on GIDEON as a cloak.

JEPHTHAH in Judges 11:29-33:

In a similar way, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon [or “fell on”] Jephthah,” when he was able to win the battle that was rapidly approaching.

SAMPSON:

When the Spirit of the Lord fell on Sampson, he became supernaturally strong.  Now he was strong to begin with, but Holy Spirit used this God-given ability to make him stronger.

“And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion as he would have torn a kid…”  (Judges 14:6).

Clothed With Power From On High.

“And behold, I will send forth upon you what My Father has PROMISED; but remain in the city [Jerusalem] until you are CLOTHED WITH THE POWER FROM ON HIGH”  (Luke 24:49 AMP).  [I capitalized words for emphasis]

QUESTION:  Why did Jesus choose the word “clothed” ?

He lifted it from the pages of what we call as the Old Testament.

Thinking it all through, it’s plain to see. The Spirit is a spirit; He does not have a body.  Holy Spirit needs a human body to accomplish the works, the gifts listed in Scripture [both in the Old Testament and the New Testament] God wants done on Earth–To SPEAK THE WORDS God wants spoken.

God’s Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and the RESULT?:

Gideon’s mind, voice, and hands became tools the Spirit used to accomplish God’s purposes.

REACHING OUR POTENTIAL:

What is POTENTIAL?  The Online Dictionary defines it as,  “latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”

How does the Lord define POTENTIAL?  The Lord takes people who are already GIFTED by His Spirit, causing their gifts which are already present, to reach their full potential.

An Old Testament Example — Bezalel, A Gifted Artist and More! :

“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding

in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship

to make artistic design for work in gold, in silver, in bronze, and in cutting

of stones, and in carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”

Exodus 31:1-5

All of your GIFTS are affected by the Fall (SIN).  Holy Spirit can take our GIFTS and cause them to be renewed and energized:

1.  Be directed to His glory.

2.  Unfold and reach their potential.

The Work of Holy Spirit Gives Direction in Our Work and the World–whether in Creation or Regeneration.

The Spirit constantly EMPOWERS us to carry out the CALLINGS God places in our lives.  The examples that I gave in the Old Testament should bear witness for our work in  the Church and the World today.

1.  The Spirit gives us POWER!

Where we have GIFTS of the Holy Spirit given to each one of us as Christians, we have power.  Now we can fail to take ownership; bury them in the ground, fail to fully utilize them from either false-humility or lack of discernment of God’s potential in our lives.  In either case, using these GIFTS is our responsibility, yet in our failure to do so doesn’t deny their potential POWER in this temporary residence we call “the world.”

2.  We shouldn’t separate “natural” and “spiritual” gifts.

It’s wrong to depreciate or separate our natural (created) gifts and our “spiritual” gifts.  Both gifts are from the Holy Spirit.

Although God can give each one of us new capacities at anytime He so chooses, in most cases, He empowers or develops the POTENTIAL from our created gifts; for the use in the Church or the World.

3.  The Spirit helps us reach our true potential.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament, people need the Holy Spirit to overcome spiritual blindness and grab hold of spiritual realities.  People in both testaments needed to be born again, their hearts made anew.  This transformation kindled by the Holy Spirit enables us to develop and reach our potential.

4.  The Spirit can increase our gifts for specific tasks.

God gave people the artistic skill and even more skill through the Holy Spirit, so they could fulfill His plans; building the Tabernacle and fashioning its utensils.

GOD’S PROMISE:

Likewise, God can unfold, redirect, or develop our potential with the Spiritual Gifts He has given each one of us.  That’s His PROMISE to those who have received a New Heart and New Spirit.

This applies to people with a variety of skill sets, not just those with artistic gifts.  And by-the-way, it’s okay to pray that the Lord will unfold the partially developed GIFTS.

Holy Spirit Empowerment
Holy Spirit Empowerment

My Personal Story–

Several years back, I was asked by a pastor if I could come up with an idea for an Easter Play.  One that would include some of the people in church as cast members.

Over the years, I had acquired some acting experience; even came up with an idea for a church choir performing an Easter Musical .  But to write, cast, set-design, and produce an original Christian play…NO EXPERIENCE AT ALL!  NONE!!

With the days passing, with fervent prayer in my spirit asking God for direction, I still found myself at a dead-end.  And then one night, while sound asleep, I felt a touch on my right shoulder.  I turned to see if my wife was still asleep and not standing beside the bed trying to get my attention for some reason. But she was sound asleep.  As I rolled over on my side, I felt another touch, but this time it was more forceful.  Still unaware, I looked at the alarm clock on the bed stand noticing it was 3:30 AM.   The room was dark and still and at that moment, I heard a soft voice:  “Mel, get up! Grab your notepad, a pencil and your Bible and go out to the kitchen table.  I’ll tell you what to write and do.”  I’ve learned from previous experiences, when God’s Spirit speaks, you better listen and do!

Following the Instructions and Directions–

Starting at 4 AM and finishing at 6:30 AM (seemed like 10 minutes and not hours), the play was done: the staged set sketched out on paper, lighting diagram positioned,  and the title:  MERCY On Trial.  My only problem…I had no clue how to write a Script for actors to follow including stage directions.   But I did have HOPE in reaching what God had planned.  I love one definition of HOPE:  “A heartfelt expectation of something with an out-stretched neck.” By, was I ever stretching my neck out, HOPING God’s Spirit would develop my potential.

And then I remembered.  My daughter-in-law graduated from college with a minor degree in Performing Arts.  She could help.  Thank You Jesus!

Later that morning, I called her at work and presented my hopes and the time frame I was up against to have a finished product.  “Can you help out Loretta?”  

Loretta:  How much time will I have?

Dad:  Two weeks?  (holding my breath).

Loretta:  Dad, if you will call me late Saturday morning and present me with your ideas, I’ll see what I can do.  I’m going down to Phoenix on business next week and I’ll take my laptop computer.

Two weeks later, I had a finished Script and had her FAX the 3 Act Play to the church.  On a Monday night, the play was cast and rehearsals began.  God gifted my daughter-in-law’s talented abilities along with my natural desire, to present a Spirit-led prophetic, Resurrection Day drama.  Thank You Father for developing my potential and empowering the both of us for Your glory.

What is your POTENTIAL?  With a new heart and a new spirit, God promises to reveal His plans to you.  It’s up to you to have a willing heart that will be transformed!  He promises!