Friday, January 23, 2015

Reforming the People


And all the people listened
attentively to the Book of
The Law.
Nehemiah 8:3b NIV
 

     While reading Nehemiah 8 this morning, I was intrigued by the chapter caption inserted by the publishers of my Bible. It reads “Reforming the People.” While reading the previous chapters my thoughts focused on the restoration of Jerusalem and not reformation of any kind.
 
     I wanted a clear picture of what God was saying so I pondered for a while. The difference soon became clear. To restore means to bring something back to its original condition. If you restore a broken vase, you pick up the pieces and glue them together. The vase is together, but the cracks remain.
 
Wayne's Lighthouse (used by permission)
    When you reform something, you make it better than before. By removing errors or problem conditions, the old becomes better than new. An alcoholic becomes sober. A law becomes more effective.
 
     So, while Nehemiah set about to restore Jerusalem, God set about to reform the people. They were called together to hear the Word—The Book of the Law. Nehemiah 8 reveals they ALL stood for the reading of the Law, they lifted their hands in praise and bowed down to worship the LORD. They began to receive instruction in the Law, and it was made clear to them. That clarity enabled them to understand. The people wept!
 
     I imagine the weeping covered areas of personal sin, national sin and grief for years and years of loss both personally and as a nation. But on that day, Nehemiah instructed them “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the people ate, gave food and rejoiced.
 
     With their city restored and the people repentant and reformed, they celebrated.
 
     Thinking about all of this made me hungry for the “reformation” of America. How I long for a time when God’s Word would be respected and obeyed among our fellow countrymen.
 
     Then I remembered, it begins with me and my family. It begins with our local church and our community. It is up to me to “spread the Word” to those with whom I come in contact. It is up to God’s church and people to read and obey His Word and encourage those around us to believe and trust in Him.
 
     As God’s Word spreads across our world, it is not for sinners alone, but a call for God’s people to reform, come back to Him, leave the worldliness behind and focus on the Father. Will you join me in praying that God will begin with you and with me in this process of reforming the people?
 

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

LORD, Gather our Hearts

O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome
God, who keeps his covenant of love with those
who love him and obey his commands, let your
ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the
prayer your servant is praying before you day
and night…
                Nehemiah 1:5-6 NIV 
 
In the weeks preceding Christmas, our pastor preached a powerful series of messages from the book of Nehemiah. As Christmas festivities drew to a close and the New Year approached, I found myself continuing the search for truth, wisdom and instruction from God through Nehemiah’s experiences.
 
Unable to get past Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter one, I found myself praying for my own countrymen and asking God to gather the hearts of Christians across our land.
 
 
The hearts of Christians are often scattered and fragmented with personal needs, concerns and desires taking precedence over the need to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. But through Nehemiah’s prayer God reminded me of the power of one person who, in obedience, follows God’s calling and continues in prayer.
 
Nehemiah was able to pull God’s people in Jerusalem together because he prayed: 
 

     LORD, you are great and awesome. Hear the prayer of your
     servant. I confess the sins of your people against you. But
     remember, You said… LORD, be attentive to our prayers.
     Give me success today by granting me favor. (Italics my
     Paraphrase) 
 
 
After many mornings spent personalizing Nehemiah’s prayer and asking God to teach me, I understood the simplicity of Nehemiah’s request:
 
1.   LORD, hear my prayer
2.   Focus me
3.   Grant me favor in your work 
 
Nehemiah was then able to pull together the resources and people needed to complete the work of rebuilding broken Jerusalem. I wonder! Could we rebuild broken churches, communities and ultimately our nation if all God’s children began to pray, “LORD, hear my prayer, focus me and grant me favor in YOUR work?” That is my prayer as I also pray, “LORD, gather our hearts.”
 

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Just Say the Word!

“The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve
 to have you come under my roof. But just say
 the word, and my servant will be healed.”
                                   Matthew 8:8 NIV

We often use the phrase just say the word—meaning if you say it, I will get it done. But in Matthew 8:8 that statement reveals a beautiful portrait of great faith.

A Roman centurion approached Jesus about his servant who remained “at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering”. Christ replied, “I will go and heal him.” (Matthew 8:6-7) Then the centurion, ruler over 100 men, explained to Christ that he did not deserve to have Christ even come under his roof. “But just say the word,” he said “and my servant will be healed.”
 
Christ responded by speaking to those following Him. “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”  Jesus instructed the centurion to “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.”

I can picture that centurion running home, expecting to find his servant healed and maybe a little confused. I imagine him recounting the story to his children and grandchildren about how Jesus spoke and his servant was made whole, and I wonder how many family members and friends believed in Christ because of the centurion’s testimony.

I’m reminded that, though we may not see Him with our physical eyes, Christ is as accessible to us today as He was to that Roman centurion. All we have to do is speak His name. He is Immanuel—God With Us. He is Jesus the One and Only.

Will we always receive exactly what we ask of the Father through His Son? No! Will we always see an immediate answer? No! Will we be able to name it and claim it? No! But I can promise you this; God’s answer is always for our good. He wants to draw near to you and me, and He wants us to draw near to Him. We do that through His Son—Jesus.

He is waiting for you right now. Just say the word!

© Joyce Powell

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Place of Stillness

Be still and know that I am God.
                  Psalm 46:10  NIV

      I am a morning person. I prefer the quiet dark hours before either the sun or the birds awaken. A stillness that begs me to sit with a cup of hot black coffee and my open Bible rests unobtrusively across the day’s first hours.
 
     Over the years I have developed an early morning routine that has drawn me closer and closer to Psalm 46:10—“Be still and know that I am God.” In the beginning, my mornings were filled with getting three children ready for school and myself ready for work. During those years, my closed and locked bathroom door became my best friend.

     Eventually the children grew, dressed themselves and did not require as much of my time, and my still moments grew from five minutes to fifteen. I longed for more.

     Finally the last child left the nest. My bathroom door no longer needed to be locked. The house grew quiet, and my place of stillness transferred from the bathroom to the dining room table.  Now I have the joy of uninterrupted quiet mornings.

     I miss the days of children calling out, “Mom, where’s my tennis shoes?” “Mom, I need lunch money.” “Mom, don’t forget to sign my field trip papers.”  

     I am reminded that life is not static. Things change—much too quickly. Time passes like Superman—faster than a speeding bullet. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father also changes as we take the time to be still and know Him, abandon our will to His and cultivate an intimate relationship that no earthly force can destroy.

     I am glad that we do not have to search for God. He is always available. Whether we have five minutes behind locked bathroom doors or entire mornings with our hot black coffee and Bibles, all we have to do is be still—abandon ourselves to Him—and be blessed.

     We live in a noisy world, but in God there is a place of stillness.  
 
©  Joyce Powell

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Peaceful Heart

A heart at peace gives life to
the body.
          Proverbs 14:30 NIV 

     We live in tumultuous times. If you do not believe me, turn on your television and watch five minutes of the news. The local news broadcasts robbery, rape, murder and a sundry of personal and political misbehavior.
The national news expands our vision of the world to the self-indulgence of political leaders on a global level, bomb threats, terrorist attacks and war around the world.

     We also get a day by day account of the earth groaning for the return of the creator as we see fires, floods, earthquakes and mass dying off of birds and sea creatures. Just five minutes of the broadcast news is enough to ruin your day. Add to that your personal problems and the problems of those you love, and you have the potential for chaotic living.
 
     But God’s Word provides wisdom for living in this tumultuous time—a peaceful heart. Yes, it is possible to live in the midst of the turmoil and retain a tranquil heart; to live in peace, calmness and restfulness of spirit. Those words may appear as an oxymoron and cause you to ask—How do you live in a world of chaos yet retain a heart of peace? Jesus!

     In John 14 we read the account of Jesus preparing His disciples for His return to heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit who will provide comfort for their broken hearts. John 14:27 explains in the words of Christ, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” NIV

    Peace to live in our troubled times; without fear. Peace to face the daily discouragements that come our way; without despair. Peace to live in our tumultuous world; without a troubled heart. Jesus!

     Fear, worry and anxiety can make your body and your spirit sick. Peace of heart brings restoration and life to a weary soul. If your heart is hurting today and you need peace, speak the name of Jesus. Allow Christ to restore hope and joy and peace to your spirit.

     If you have never given your life to Christ, do it today! There is no peace like the peace of a heart surrendered to life with Jesus for “A heart of peace gives life to the body.”

© Joyce Powell

Sunday, January 4, 2015

When You Pray

But when you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen. Then your Father, who
who sees what is done in secret, will
reward you.        Matthew 6:6 NIV

      When you pray! When you pray! When you pray! For some reason, prayer—the most powerful tool in the Christian arsenal, is often our weapon of last resort. Be honest!

     When you realize that the month is longer than your money—do you first wring your hands…or pray? When you hear a doctor’s dire prognosis for a loved one—do you first panic in fear…or pray? When you have choices to make that could change the course of your life—do you try to logically decide the answer…or pray?

     The suddenly moments in life, those moments that surprise, overtake and overwhelm us are often the moments when we least feel like praying. Yet, those moments, like all the common, mundane and everyday moments of life are important “pray first” opportunities.

     Prayer is a matter of the heart. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught the disciples to go into a room and close the door—get alone with God. Prayer is about the privilege of emptying yourself before God and allowing Him to speak, uninterrupted by ringing phones and televisions. Prayer is a time set aside to “Be still and know that I Am God!” (Psalm 46:10)  

     I wish I could say that I get it right every time. I do not! I wish I could say that prayer is always my first thought. I cannot! I wish I could say that in every dire circumstance of life, I have rushed directly to the throne room of my Heavenly Father. I have not!

     Like you, there are times when I wring my hands, walk the floor and shed my tears before I run to my Father. But, through the years, those times have become fewer and fewer. The longer I have walked with God, the more I have found Him faithful and constant and so close that when I turn to run to Him, He is already there—waiting.

     Prayer is about an intimate relationship with our loving Heavenly Father. He should be our first thought when we are in need. Rather than running for the phone to call a friend, we should run to our prayer closet to call on Our Father Who Art In Heaven. We will never get a busy signal. His number will never be disconnected, and we will never be put on hold while he answers another line.

     Have you prayed today—just to say, “Good morning, Lord. I love you. I don’t need anything—just wanted to say hello.” I wonder if that might be the prayer He enjoys the most.

     Whatever your day holds, don’t forget that God is ready and waiting to hear you when you pray. 

© Joyce Powell