September 2012


Prayer Focus: Pakistan

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8-10

Scripture:

1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.  2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.  3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

 

7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.  8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it cleart and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.  9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.  (Nehemiah 8:1-3,7-9)

Observation:

After years of rebellion and then exile, the people gathered once again within the walls of a newly built Jerusalem.  Ezra read the book of the law in front of them for all to hear.  Then they explained what they read to the people so that all could understand.  The Bible says that they listened attentively to the book of the law.

 

Upon hearing it, they wept.

 

I’m sure there are as many reasons for the tears as there were people.  I can speculate on some of the things that moved them.  This was the end of a seventy-year exile.  The return to their homeland reunited some families with the very few who stayed behind as the remnant.  Families would now have land to work, an income and an inheritance to leave behind for their own children.  All of these things are powerful motivations to weep.

 

However, I would also think that hearing the law read to them awakened something in their spirits: conviction. I think they realized how far astray they’d gone for hundreds of years, and desired to be in a right relationship with their creator. This was more than a dry list of rules.  Crouched in the instructions for worship and daily living, the personality of God, showed through.  His word, kindled them.

 

Application:

I take courage from this story.  It doesn’t matter how far I think I’ve gone from God, he always provides a way for me to come back to Him.  His word convicts us.  Not convict as in pronouncement of judgment.  But rather, as an internal understanding of right and wrong, because his word is living in us, convincing us.

Prayer:

Father I pray that you convict me of sin, and give me the courage to deal with the consequences of it.  Help me become wise through your word and place in me a longing to understand you.

Prayer Focus: Pakistan

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 5-7

Scripture:

For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”

13 He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me.

16 When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:9,13,16)

Observation:

Fear and intimidation is at work here. Nehemiah and the Israelites are back and rebuilding. The enemy came looking to put a stop to the work by any means necessary. They tried diplomacy, “come speak to us,” but Nehemiah wouldn’t stop. They tried intimidation and lies, “If you don’t come out, we’ll say you’re doing horrible things,” and Nehemiah stood his ground, then prayed for strength. Next it was infiltration, but Nehemiah recognized the threat to his life, but also the greater threat – fear that would lead to sin. When confronted with a situation outside of his control, Nehemiah aligned himself with God. In the end, It wasn’t Nehemiah that trembled from behind the temple doors, it was the group on the plain of Ono that lost their confidence because they saw God at work in Israel.

Application:

Fear has no place here. At least not the type of fear that Sanballat and his crew are trying to lay on Nehemiah and the returning remnant. Repeatedly Scripture tells us – “Do not be afraid. Fear not. Don’t be anxious.” And why can we let go of that fear? Because Scripture reminds us that He is with us, He will never leave us, and that we have His Spirit – not of timidity or fear – but of power, love and self-discipline.

Has the enemy ambushed you with fear? Have you been overwhelmed by intimidation? Are you buried under lies? Remember whose you are. Align yourself with God. Pray for strength. Rest in the confidence that the Spirit brings. To quote Francis Chan from his book, The Forgotten God, “There’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child.”  Meditate on this. Internalize it. Let it impact you. Then act in the certainty that God is with you.

Prayer:

Father, teach us a right understanding of fear – awesome reverence for Your ways and Your truth. Help us to overcome the paralyzing fear that binds us and undermines our walk with You.  Strengthen us, Lord. May You accomplish all that You desire in us. May we be willing accomplices in the building of Your kingdom, so that those around us see You at work in us. For the glory of Your name, Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Norway

Bible Reading:  Esther 6-10

Scripture –

Observation –

Application –  

Prayer – 

Prayer Focus: Pakistan

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 1-4

Scripture

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

Observation

Nehemiah is one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. He was grieved at the state of Jerusalem and boldly asked the king not only for permission to leave his post as cupbearer but also for supplies to rebuild the broken wall. Before he did anything, though, he prayed.

Application

Nehemiah certainly had skills and ability. He worked closely with the king, yet he did not rely upon his skills and talents. He began on his knees. When there was great opposition—after great progress—he reminded the workers that God is greater than any obstacle or enemy. He is truly awesome.

Prayer

LORD, I often see the opposition clearer than the vision. I allow my fear to become greater than my trust in You. I want to always remember You, Your power, Your wisdom, and Your love, whatever the circumstance. Increase my faith, that it may always prevail over my fear. Thank You for being so great—truly above all. I love You, LORD. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Pakistan

Bible Reading: Ezra 7-10

Scripture
Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. Now make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.” (Ezra 10:10, 11 NIV84)

Observation
Reestablishing the purity and identity of Israel was a painful process. The joy of returning home quickly gave way to the realization of all the sin that brought God to exile them in the first place. In some cases the sin hadn’t even been removed.

That was the case with bringing back pagan wives. These wives weren’t just foreign. Moses had a foreign wife. Rahab and Ruth were both foreigners, but because they repented and turned to the one true God they were fully accepted as Israelites.

The integration of pagan beliefs led to the punishment of Israel time and again. Solomon’s pagan wives caused the division of Israel into two kingdoms. Kings who follow pagan gods brought in all that the pagan religions practiced; idolatry, adultery, incest, child sacrifice, and subjugating the people of Israel, among other things.

As Israel is being rebuilt God wanted the pagans purged from His nation to keep that from happening again. The Israelites listened and sent the pagans away.

Application
I admit hearing about people being sent away, especially women and children sounds cruel. It was hard for me to find something redeeming about that passage until I was reminded what the pagans brought with them. At least they were given the opportunity to start a new life somewhere else.

Things are so much different today. We live in a time where Jesus has fulfilled the law. If we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who doesn’t love God, unless they are unfaithful or abusive, we pray for them and love them in hopes that they will repent and put their faith and trust in Jesus. The result is that someone could be saved instead of put out on their own.

Prayer
Lord, I thank you that you gave me a wife who loves You and has taught me so much about You. I pray for those who find themselves in marriages where they are “unequally yoked.” I can’t imagine the difficulty and the loneliness of not being able to share your deepest beliefs. I pray that those spouses who are lost would find you, that those marriages would be strengthened because of it and a revival of what marriage is in your eyes would sweep this land. Amen!

Prayer Focus: Oman

Bible Reading: Malachi 1-4; Psalm 50

Scripture

“You place defiled food on my altar.

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 1:7-8)

Observation

God required the best animals for sacrifices. He did not want scraps and leftovers, which is exactly what He was given. The people, perhaps, thought God wouldn’t notice—or care. He did. He knows a lot—everything! He not only saw their sacrifices, He knew their wicked and selfish hearts.

Application

Do we give God our best? Does He get the first fruits of our labor, our best time, our best energy, our best talents, our best gifts? Do we offer our tithes and offerings before we pay bills, or only give when we have extra money at the end of the month? These are seriously important questions that address not only true worship but true relationship with God.

Prayer

LORD, I want to give You my best. I know I don’t always do so, and I am so sorry. Forgive me for offering scraps and leftovers to You when You deserve nothing but the highest priority and quality of everything I am and possess. Have mercy on me, LORD, for the countless times I have failed You, and give me a greater desire to love, honor, and worship You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Nigeria

Bible Reading: Esther 1-5

Scripture:

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai,13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions. (Esther 4:12-17)

Observation:

Every time I read this scripture, I have to pause and check my heart.  What place has God brought me to?  What thing has God put in my path that requires His help to carry out?  Do I step away, letting God raise up another?  Do I step out in faith and let the results rest with God?

Most of us will never have to petition a powerful man to avert genocide.  But each of us live lives  touched by violence.  Each of us have everyday choices that will either invite us to participate  in it, or stand against it.

Application:

When faced with those tough things in our life, the proper response is prayer and fasting.

Contemporary Christianity doesn’t seem to practice fasting any more.  I wonder what we’ve lost in terms of power in our prayer life because of it.  I urge you to see what God has to say about fasting and prayer.  Discover their links, find out why He calls us to this spiritual discipline.  Search for those answers in the Word, then put it into practice for yourself and see if there is a difference in your prayer life.

I don’t know what you are going through.  But I do know that violence touches all of us.  I paraphrase Mordecai “Who knows but that you have come to this place for such a time as this?”

Prayer:

Father God, I pray for those reading this journal entry; that you would draw them to you through whatever circumstance they are in.  Life is messy, and confusing and we have so many voices trying to lead us astray.  I pray you honor those who practice spiritual fasting in the coming days and weeks.  Meet them where they are, give them direction and courage and deepen their faith as they seek you first.  Amen.

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