God brings us joy through the law.

God brings us joy through the law.

Nehemiah 8

Ah, the law. The one topic that is the time-honored whipping boy of Christianity. Is the law still in effect? Was it nailed to the cross? Done away with? Is there a difference between law and grace? And what does "law" mean? Are we talking about the Ten Commandments? The Mosaic Law? The Law of Love as defined by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40?

God sometimes says no.

God sometimes says no.

Nehemiah 6

I was recently engaged in a conversation about whether God really answers our prayers. A question had come up regarding the passage where Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mk 11:23-24) and we were discussing the merits of "name it and claim it" theology.

Everything In-between {ex29:19-20}

exodus-devotion-everything-in-between-poem.png

In the end,
what You will have of me is
all
or
nothing.

There is no in-between.

Either I will be consecrated
head to toe,
my entire being
holy ground,
or
I will be a vast, open
wasteland—
a demonic haunt.

There is no in-between.

For You
(the indwelling universe-God)
will not be relegated to
a shelf
a building or
a weekly (better-not-be-longer-than-an-hour) visit.

You will either dwell
in the midst
or
You will be completely
banished from the land.

There is no in-between.

You are uninterested
in negotiation
or compromise.

Come, then,
and take no prisoners—
except me, that is.
Captivate me
head to toe
and all that's
in-between.

Come, Divine Intruder:
Make me
holy ground.

 

God values responsibilities over rights.

God values responsibilities over rights.

Nehemiah 5

It is an interesting trend in our culture that we value rights over responsibilities. Just ask yourself how often you hear language such as "It’s my right!" as opposed to "That’s my responsibility." In fact, we even like to use the smokescreen of "rights" to shirk responsibility. But this is the opposite of what God is like. He values responsibilities over rights.

God dissolves fear.

God dissolves fear.

Nehemiah 4

Well, some people just didn’t want that Jerusalem wall rebuilt! "When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry." (vs 7) First, they had tried to intimidate the people with insults and threats. When that didn’t stop the work, they plotted to attack the people who were rebuilding the wall.

God is a team leader.

God is a team leader.

Nehemiah 3

Several times in our journey so far through the Old Testament, we have witnessed God’s love of community. Since love is relational, it is always seeking community. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the type of community God wants is only found in the mutual unity of a group of individuals. (These days, when some think of community, they tend to think of a community as a single organism that is more important than an individual. But true community begins with the individual.)

God gets His hands dirty.

God gets His hands dirty.

Nehemiah 2

This chapter, for me, held another stunning example of what God is like, as observed in the actions of His ambassador Nehemiah. After hearing about the state of things in Jerusalem, Nehemiah had prayed to God that restoration would come to that great Israelite city. He determined that, at some time, he would have the opportunity to speak to the king about what was on his heart.

God's position doesn't isolate Him.

God's position doesn't isolate Him.

Nehemiah 1

When I was growing up, Bette Midler’s song From a Distance was popular on the radio. Perhaps you remember the last line of the chorus: God is watching us from a distance. I think this is how a lot of people see God—as some sort of distant, unengaged Deity who doesn’t really care about the day-to-day lives of His creatures. He may be up there, and He may be running things, but He certainly doesn’t have time for the "little people."

God specializes in internal medicine.

God specializes in internal medicine.

Ezra 10

Have you ever heard this saying? You can take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. That’s what I thought of as I read this last chapter in the book of Ezra. Only, in this situation, I suppose it would be more accurate to say, You can take the Israelites out of heathenism, but you can’t take heathenism out of the Israelites.

The Sacred Chestpiece {ex28:29}

exodus-high-priest-the-sacred-chestpiece-poem.png

By the time Jesus came,
the office of the high priest
was highly sought after,
often secured by bribery
and fraud
and murder.

The position had become
synonymous with
power
and prestige
and an opulent life.

But it was never meant to be that way.

The high priest was supposed to be
the one man in Israel
most like God:
consecrated to a life of service
sold out to truth
dedicated to all things right

his only luxury
the burden of bearing the beloved
forever close to his heart.

 

God's protection isn't universal.

God's protection isn't universal.

Ezra 9

In this chapter of Ezra, we encounter an idea that weaves its way throughout the Old Testament: "Blessings" for those who obey the Lord, and "punishment" for those who do not. In this case, Ezra is lamenting the discovery of further disobedience by the exiles. "I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today." (vs 6-7)

God has a reputation.

God has a reputation.

Ezra 8

Have you ever given much thought to God’s reputation? I guess if you asked ten different people what they thought of God, you would probably get ten different answers. But the fact that there are so many atheists in the world might suggest that, with some, God’s reputation isn’t a very good one. Many would rather believe that there is no God as opposed to believing in the kind of God they’ve been introduced to by some Christians. Makes me think of that bumper sticker I see from time to time: Please, Lord, save me from your followers!

God is our strength.

God is our strength.

Ezra 7

Seven chapters into his book, Ezra finally arrives on-scene, and the first thing he does is conduct a massive undertaking. It’s a huge task, including making a great journey across a large desert, transporting sacred items and gold and silver for the temple, and appointing judges to rule over the land. With such a monumental list of responsibilities at hand, Ezra was definitely going to need a lot of strength.

The Executioner of Darkness {ex27:20}

exodus-light-the-executioner-of-darkness-poem.png

Darkness does not exist
It has no properties
no matter
no makeup

Darkness does not exist
It cannot be measured
or observed
or heard

Darkness does not exist
It functions only as a corollary
It's a symptom
a condition
/and a temporary one at that/

Darkness does not exist
It's just the absence of something else
a ghost quantity
a negative integer

Light obliterates darkness.
Every time.
It's not even a contest.
There's never a doubt.

When darkness presses in around you,
you need only remember the Lampstand.
Let the tiniest, flickering flame appear—
the darkness must obey
and immediately poof away.

 

God watches over us.

God watches over us.

Ezra 5

In the previous chapter of Ezra, we learned that there was some fierce opposition to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. It continued in this chapter: "At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, 'Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?' They also asked, 'What are the names of those who are constructing this building?' But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received." (vs 3-5)

God reveals our hearts.

God reveals our hearts.

Ezra 4

I was recently discussing the topic of The Judgment with some friends. I think this is a widely misunderstood concept. I believe that when most people think of The Judgment, they envision some sort of heavenly court where we are each going to stand before God and hear Him pronounce a verdict about us. Are we wicked? Are we righteous? He will make His decision and bang His gavel, and that will be that.

God's love is the foundation of His government.

God's love is the foundation of His government.

Ezra 3

This was a short and sweet chapter, so I thought a short and sweet blog would be in order. Did you catch these verses? "When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: 'He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.' And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid." (vs 10-11)

God calls us His children.

God calls us His children.

Ezra 2

In the nation of Israel, it was very important to know (and be able to show) where you came from. Who was your family? Your clan? Your tribe? After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, I’m surprised that those who returned to Jerusalem following the decree of Cyrus could even trace their family history. Yet, the vast majority of those who made the journey home were able to show that they were, indeed, descendants from the tribes of Israel.