Nehemiah 7:61-9:21 In today's passage we learn the importance of the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah says, "For the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). We saw this fact demonstrated in a dramatic way when we attended the first Jewish festival that was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. This festival was designed to reach out to the Jewish people. The music artists shared not only their music, but also their personal testimonies of how they came to know Jesus as their Messiah. The first evening as people gathered into the auditorium, I studied each face. The people seemed expressionless, almost without any emotion, and I did not see one smile. Then the music began.
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Psalm 33:1-11 In a world that is falling apart, we need a place of security. Earlier we spoke of such a place—the pavilion in the presence of the Lord where we can hide from the strife of tongues. If you have ever experienced an earthquake or a tornado, you have an understanding of how your life depends upon where you place yourself. If you are in an earthquake, you are to brace yourself in a doorway. If you are in a tornado, you are to go to your basement or storm cellar.
Psalm 32:1-11 Each day I live I come to appreciate the cross and what happened on that dreadful, but victorious day over two thousand years ago. I am a blessed person for no other reason than the blood of Jesus that was poured out for me to cover my sins. David had not yet seen the crucified and resurrected Lord in the flesh, but I believe he saw Him in the spirit. David understood the power of forgiveness of transgressions, the covering of sins and the pardoning of iniquity. He says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (vv. 1-2).
Psalm 31:19-24 Nothing can wound more than the accusations of others, especially if a friend accuses you. David had this experience. What causes a critical, judgmental spirit? The root cause is pride. When we are hurt by others, it is a sign that we have pride in our hearts. When we hurt and wound others with our words, we are also guilty of pride.
1 Corinthians 6:1-20 We continue to meditate on judging others. First we learned not to judge anything before the time. Yesterday we saw where Paul judged the sin of a fornicator in the body and exhorted the body at Corinth to break fellowship with him until he repented. Today's passage states an amazing fact about our ability to judge: "Do you not that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (v. 3).
1 Corinthians 5:1-13 Yesterday we talked about judging nothing before the time. However, we see in this passage that Paul definitely makes a judgment. Remember we said we could judge people's actions, but we do not have the ability to judge their motivations. Only God knows the hearts of men. The judgment Paul makes in this passage is against the sin of fornication. This is the only sin that is a sin against one's own body. Listen to what Paul says about this. "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (vv. 9-13, KJV).
1 Corinthians 3:5-23 My husband and I have only built one house in our lifetime. We lived in an apartment close by to the sight of the home we were building, and one of our joys was to check almost daily on the progress of our new home. We had the privilege of choosing the carpet, the other flooring, paint, wallpaper, lighting fixtures and many other things for our new home.
1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4 One of my most favorite times of the year is Christmas. The preparations for this time give me great excitement. I usually begin early during the spring sales to buy winter clothes as gifts for our family that includes three sons and their wives, our grandchildren, a Russian son and Chinese daughter, and now another daughter named Misha. I diligently search for gifts they will enjoy, and I can't wait until Christmas day when they open their gifts. Sometimes we give trips to the children, and they love this.
1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 When we went to Russia to be intercessors for a music festival in St. Petersburg, we heard many testimonies of Jewish people. As they shared how their lives had been changed when they received Yeshua (Jesus), these testimonies all had a common theme. I do not recall hearing one testimony that did not include some type of sign that God used to reveal His Son Jesus to them as their Messiah. In our reading today we see Paul's insight into those with whom he was sharing the good news. He says,"For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:22-24).
1 Corinthians 1:1-17 Is it possible to live a blameless life? As I meditated on our New Testament reading today, the verse that gave me great hope was, "Who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 8).
Proverbs 20:19 Tattletell! Tattletell!" Remember yelling this phrase at your sisters or brothers when they told your parents about something you did? It is sad to say, but many of us have never outgrown the tattletell stage. We are still telling on people to others.
2 Chronicles 32:1-33:13 For years my husband and I did not have daily prayer together. In fact, we had been married twenty-five years before we started praying together daily. Of course, we did pray for things as they came up, but usually we had our own quiet time with God individually. During those years, however, I had a very special prayer partner. Her name was Zira, our precious little dog. Every morning she would crawl up in my lap and sit quietly as I prayed to the Lord. I often opened my eyes slightly to see what she was doing. Every time I did this, I saw Zira looking up to heaven. I believe Zira could see my angels watching over me. I am convinced that small infants and animals are able to see into the spirit realm. God gives a few of His saints this ability, but in His mercy He usually chooses not to reveal to us what is all around us in the spirit realm. We probably would be frightened if we had this ability.
2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21 God has made us kings and priests unto God (Rev. 1:6). Because we are kings and priests, it is helpful to look into the Old Testament to see what the early priests did. We need to know how they ministered to the people and exactly what their office as priest required. The good news is that we can be even more effective as priests than the priests of the early days. We now have a high priest, Jesus Christ, who through His blood shed on the cross has given us boldness to enter into the holy of holies to find grace whenever we have a need.
Romans 14:1-23 The lordship of Jesus Christ is clearly stated in two of our readings today. Psalm 24 declares the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. Many, however, will never acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in our Romans passage that there will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There will be a day of judgment in which everyone will have to give an account of how they lived their lives on earth. On that day Jesus, the just judge, will reveal the hearts of men. Who am I then to judge my brother today? This is the question Paul addresses in this passage. He says, "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fail in our brother's way" (v. 13).
Romans 13:1-14 Each day our national debt and the debts of many citizens are rising. The convenience of the credit card is sending many to a debtor's prison. I heard recently that the average credit card debt for the American household is $20,000. Can you imagine the interest that will accumulate if this debt is not paid off in a year's time? It is a terrible thing to be in bondage to financial debt. We all need to follow Paul's admonition in this passage "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law" (v. 8).
Psalm 22:19-31 Almost everyone in the United States is familiar with the famous sign-off of the commentator Paul Harvey as he finishes his news report. He says, "Now you know the rest of the story." In yesterday's reading we left the account of Jesus on the cross with the soldiers parting His garments. Today's reading tells the rest of the story and also shares how this wondrous story will be told to the whole world.
Psalm 22:1-18 The psalms David wrote were directed by the Holy Spirit, who knows the future. David was inspired by the Holy Spirit in this psalm to prophetically write about Jesus' death and His mission on earth. We know that as Jesus was dying on the cross, He cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" Jesus was quoting from this psalm. David writes in this psalm about the piercing of His hands and feet. We know this did not happen to David, but it did happen to Jesus Christ. David in the spirit saw the scene of the cross, and he recorded what he saw and heard.
Romans 10:13-11:12 Paul continues his discussion about what it takes to be saved. He says, "For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:13). Then Paul shares how it will be impossible for people to call upon the name of the Lord if they have never heard the gospel. "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" (vv. 14-15).
Romans 9:25-10:12 As I read this passage I see in my mind's eye the religious Jews in Israel as they bobbed back and forth, their prayer shawls waving gently with their movements while they prayed earnestly at the Western Wall. I just returned from Israel and saw this same scene, which always brings tears to my eyes. They are praying for Messiah—when Messiah has already come. These Jews have great zeal in their religious activity, but they are without knowledge. Paul recognized this. He says about them, "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:2-3).
Psalm 19:1-14 I go on a treasure hunt every day. As I read the Bible through each year, I always find a new nugget I missed in the years past. The Bible is a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels. The gold and jewels found in the Word of God are His promises and principles. The principles are the statutes and commandments of the Lord, and they keep us from evil. The promises are given to those who fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever.