Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

Month: November 2018 Page 1 of 6

“In View Of All This…”

November 29 – Today’s Readings – Nehemiah 10-11 and Psalms 149

Nehemiah 9:38 and 10:28-29 reads, “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”…“The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand – all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.”

At the end of Chapter 9 and the beginning of Chapter 10 the people entered into an oath to keep the Law of God. They promised to tithe, to keep the Sabbath, to not get involved with the sins and customs of “the world”, and to not neglect the house of God. I’m sure there were other aspects of “the Law” that they promised as well – but we understand the general meaning – these people were committing themselves to obeying God’s Word.

There are many who would scoff at this practice today, citing the fact that none of us can keep the Word by a commitment of our wills alone. This is true. Living according to the Word of God comes by the grace of God and living in a humble attitude of repentance. What benefit then is there to our commitments? Is there any value in deciding to follow and obey Jesus? Is it all up to God? Well of course its all up to God – – well of course its all up to us!

Do you see it? We have to be 100% percent committed to obey and God has to do 100% of the “work”. This is called the grace of God. It’s like a good marriage. 50/50 will never work. Each spouse has to be in it 100%.

We are not nor will we ever be “saved by works” – or by committing to the “Law”. However when we are saved we must set our wills to obey and we will be progressively transformed to the image of Christ by constantly running to the arms of grace. Our good works will be the fruit of our salvation and of our relationship with the Lord.

Romans 12:2 – “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.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Questions:

1. Give your own definition of the word “redemption”.
2. Give your own definition of the word “consecration”.
3. Give your own definition of the word “justification”.
4. Give your own definition of the word “sanctification”.

Good Things Converge

November 28 – Today’s Readings – Nehemiah 7-9 and Psalms 148

As you read this portion of Scripture today, you no doubt noted the convergence of good things taking place in Israel at this time in history. First the people had been challenged to put sin behind them and begin to live according to God’s plan for the nation. Next, they had been commissioned by the Lord to finish the Temple and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. When they completed the walls and fortified the city, they began to meet together, reading the Word of God and repenting for four hours at a time. During these meetings they would receive explanations concerning what the Word meant – they combined this with worship and confession but they also had great fellowship parties!

This combination of action and faith also provides an excellent dynamic for a spiritually mature New Testament Church. I see elements of these things at work in any “alive” modern-day Church. We meet to worship and to understand the Word. We have parties and are willing to roll up our sleeves to accomplish works of service in the community and the Church. We value “the Temple of God” and the “City of God”. The only thing we seem to be missing from Nehemiah’s formula is the repentance! These people would repent for four hours at a time! They would go over the history of sins that Israel had committed and confess them to the Lord – then worship some more. Is there value in this type of repentance? – Digging up the past? – Ancestor’s sins and the nation’s sins?? Well – yes to some degree. There is something special about people taking note of past sins so that they won’t repeat the same failures. It’s called learning from history. If backslidden historical Church groups went out and fought “crusades” it doesn’t mean we have to follow the same sinful (and stupid) ideas and practices. If past denominations fought wars against each other to have the upper hand politically, then we should repent of that attitude so that we can resist the temptation of being too sectarian.

True repentance then is when we consciously turn from sin and the Devil’s kingdom and run to God. Most Christians mark a single day of repentance as the date they “got saved”. This is true because there was grace – there were decisions made – and your acceptance of His love led you to salvation. However, there is another “repentance” that most of us ignore. This is the lifestyle of repentance – an attitude – a living part of our everyday thinking. Repentance is a “living foundation” for the Christian life. We must learn to be instant in repentance. It must become part of our new nature. As soon as the Holy Spirit challenges something in our lives, our first response must be repentance. Is there a need for four-hour repentance sessions? Not typically – although I’ve seen it in the past. Let’s focus instead on continually cultivating a soft, repentant heart before God.

Questions:

1. Give another Bible example of a group of people repenting and getting God’s attention.
2. Is there a modern-day example you can think of where a group of people repented and “revival” followed?

Broken Down Pieces Of Rubble

November 27 – Today’s Readings – Nehemiah 4-6 and Psalms 147

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?’ Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, ‘What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” [Nehemiah 4:1-3]

“Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” [Nehemiah 4:10]

This was the state of the city of Jerusalem. It was burned with fire – its walls were broken down – there was only rubble everywhere. People were openly mocking the work of God because the job seemed humanly impossible. Yet God called His people to take those burned out rocks, bricks and timbers and rebuild. I can imagine that one crew would be responsible for separating the materials – another crew would wash and scour the large stones – still another would reshape any bricks that were broken. Someone would mix fresh mortar and a fifth crew would mortar the materials into place.

1 Peter 2:4-5 says, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…”

We too may have been burned out, broken-down pieces of rubble, but God got a hold of us and began to clean us up – reshape us and build us into a “spiritual house”. Our job is to submit to the master “bricklayer”. Because we are “living stones” we have to hold still long enough to be built into God’s wall. In North America many of God’s “living stones” are refusing to be built into a spiritual house for the Lord. They insist on removing themselves from the wall – trying to make their own walls – deciding on the shape they should be so that they can place themselves in the most visible spots in the wall – making sure that they don’t carry too much weight in the wall – etc.

God’s Church is and has always been built by Jesus and upon Him. He takes those who are willing and places them. The end result will be a beautiful “Jerusalem”, fit for the King. No doubt the enemy will fight hard to keep this spiritual house from being built but, just as God has determined, there will be a New Jerusalem – a dwelling place for The Most High. If at times you look around in Church, and all you can see is a heap of rubble, then you need to see through the eyes of faith. Each “stone” is being transformed – built into the house. Lets enjoy the process.

Questions:

1. Tell about an incident where you felt the master builder pick you up, perhaps knock a sharp edge off and place you in His wall.
2. Give an example of how you were once a burnt out brick, but God began to clean you up.

A Habitation Of God

November 26 – Today’s Readings – Nehemiah 1-3 and Psalms 146

After the rebuilding of the House of God (the place of worship), the next task for God’s people was not to rebuild their personal wealth but to get involved in a communal project – the rebuilding of the City of Jerusalem. It’s interesting that people’s individual prosperity did not pose a threat to the enemies of God but when the city of Jerusalem was under reconstruction there was great opposition.Is it your private earthly kingdom and wealth that is a threat to the Devil? Hardly. If however, the Kingdom of God and the Church of God begin to advance and prosper, the enemy really gets his knickers in a knot. Jesus is returning to Earth for a glorious Church, not just a glorious YOU. If the Church advances, then you too will be glorious as a by-product as you submit to Him. We are individually “saints of God” but a part of the Whole Body. A big toe is hardly glorious in itself, but when attached to a functioning body it is indeed a thing of wonder. Just imagine the bridegroom coming to marry his bride and he is presented with a barrel full beautifully dressed but dis-membered body parts! This would not be a thing of beauty but a something straight out of a horror movie. The beauty is found in the whole, functioning, coordinated body – not the individual parts each trying to be something. 1Corinthians 12:18-19 & 27 reads this way – “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?”… “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

So then it was not so much the individuals who had to be rebuilt, but it was the city of Jerusalem that had to be rebuilt. Revelation 21:2 reads, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” The old Jerusalem was close to the heart of God for in that city dwelt the habitation of God amongst men. So too, the New Jerusalem is paramount in God’s plan for it is the dwelling place of God in our world. We have become incredibly “me” focused so that we can no longer see as God sees. The Kingdom of God is within you when the lifeblood of the Body flows through you. A body part without the lifeblood of the body or the connection to the body is soon returned to the earth as dirt. So too, is the branch which does not abide in the vine. The glory of the branch is in its fruit. The fruit comes from the whole vine functioning, as it should. Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” [John 15:4-5] Let’s take careful heed that the Church of Jesus Christ continues to be strong and thriving. Only in this way will the world see the Glory of God. Only in this way will the world come to Him.

Questions:

1. How is it that we have become so “individual” focused and have neglected the thing that Jesus cherishes most – the “bride of Christ”?
2. In which ways can we build God’s Church in order to see the glory of God be evident in the earth?

The Biggest Trouble Came From Within

November 25 – Today’s Readings – Ezra 9-10 and Psalms 145

Trouble from outside sources brought serious difficulties for Israel – but – trouble from the inside was the main cause of strife. “Sin in the camp” caused division and infighting amongst the people and separation from God! This in turn brought “judgment” from God – invading armies ruining the land and taking the people captive to places like Babylon. It was almost always issues on the inside that led to troubles from the outside. When Israel was invaded and destroyed it was because they had compromised with sin and broken faith with the Lord. Think back to our readings this past year. There was often a cause-and-effect relationship between the sin of the people and the problems they faced.

Here, in this passage, we find a leader who was pro-active about the sin in the nation. Ezra heard about the people’s sins and immediately went into full repentance mode. You may be asking – “What’s so sinful about getting married and having children”? Great question. The figurative nature of Scripture is the only explanation here. In the Old Testament, God had insisted that the people keep themselves from the nations around them because it would lead to compromise in their special relationship with Him. This is the Old Testament equivalent to New Testament Christians keeping themselves from the entanglements of sin or marrying people who want nothing to do with God. I know it’s a bit of a stretch but all the “nations” that surrounded Israel represented an image of a sinful world. The “Jebusites”, “Ammonites”, “Perezites” etc. may as well have been called “lust”, “pride” and “coveting”. Such is Old Testament “typology”.

Getting back to keeping God’s people from sin – this lesson applies directly to the Church of the present. The more the church “inter-marries” with the sins and moral decay of the world around us, the more we can expect to be distant from God. As we identify sin in the Church and repent of it, we can expect more of the anointing of God in our midst. All of this comes right back to the members of the Church walking “in the light” [1John 1:7] and judging themselves in the spotlight of the Holy Spirit. We really need a few more Ezras around to keep the Church on track. Otherwise we will find ourselves in the same state as the Church of Sardis in Revelations – “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” [Revelations 3:1-3]

You see the tie-in don’t you? If we form close bonds with things, habits and even people that don’t share our passion for the Lord we will be dragged into life choices that distance us from Him.

Questions:

1. Give another Bible example of how trouble from within caused big trouble for God’s people.
2. Give an example of how infighting and “marrying the world” cause huge problems in the Church.

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