Wednesday, August 20th

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“Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise... Nehemiah 9:5-6)”

Have you ever needed a vacation? I mean, not just a time to get away and have fun, but a vacation from everything around you? A time to get away, to be alone, in silence and solitude?

A couple of year’s ago I took one of these vacations. I just needed to get away and spend time with the Lord. I had my whole week planned out, how I would spend each hour of each day. I arrived at my destination early on a Sunday evening, ready for a time of prayer. I pulled a comfortable chair out onto the deck of the cottage, got myself into position, closed my eyes…and nothing. I opened my eyes, looked around, closed them again, focused myself…but to no avail. My mind was completely blank. It was as if I had never prayed before. I could not think of anything to say. On top of that, I could not focus. I felt completely lost, not knowing where to begin.

Then, out of nowhere, I began saying the names of God as they appeared in my mind. One right after the other. God. Jesus. Holy Spirit. Lord of All. Almighty God. Lord of Heaven. Lord of Heaven’s Armies. God our Provider. God our Healer. God our Banner. The One True God. Holy One of Israel. The Great I AM. The Good Shepherd…They kept coming, and I continued to speak them. As I declared who God was, His praises I began to sing. The declarations turned to praise, the praise turned to worship, and the worship turned to confession. At the end of my time of prayer, God was in his rightful position, and I found my rightful place. Once I was in this place, the prayer and the praise seemed completely natural.

Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

Have you ever considered what it means to “hallow” God’s name? And what do we make of the fact that God actually has many, many names? To “hallow” is to make holy, to set apart, to revere. I used to think this was just another way of saying that I should not use God’s name in vain. However, I think there is so much more to it than that. When we “hallow” his name, we recognize that his name is far above every other name, because He is far above everyone and everything. When we “hallow” his name, we not only declare the greatness of our God, but we recognize who he is, and what he does. Two years ago, I discovered this truth, and it changed my week. It changed my prayer times, and it continues to transform my prayers to this day. Before I pray, I want to recognize who God is. And to worship him, for who he is, before I begin making requests of him.

The Israelites find themselves in a similar situation. For centuries they have been living apart from God. After worshipping and celebrating, they confess their sins before God. And now, we find them proclaiming who God is. What they discover, is that God has always been true to his name. His name proclaims his character, and God’s character never changes. As the Israelites confess their sins, and the sins of their ancestors they recognize God’s faithfulness, even when they were unfaithful. They recognize that God is the one true God, even though at times they chased after idols. They recognized that God has always kept his promises, even though they continually went back on their word. They recognized God and his righteousness, and this led to their repentance from their sinful behavior.

Before you spend time in prayer today, take some time to praise God for who he is and what he has done. Call out specific names of God. Consider how he has revealed himself to you by name, at specific times in your life. Praise him for each of those sweet moments.

Pastor Jonathan Goble

Tuesday, August 19th

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They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. (Nehemiah 9: 2b)

From the Israelites point of view, it made sense to confess their sins before the Lord. They had not experienced the forgiveness that is available to us today because of the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross. It was custom for them to confess their sin, and to follow that up with an animal sacrifice depending on the occasion, or the context of the sin. Perhaps the greatest example of confession can be found in psalm 51. David confesses his sin to the Lord after committing murder and adultery. The word of the Lord is brought to David through the Prophet Nathan, and David’s sin is realized. Listen to his confession:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51: 1-12)

What we see here is not only a beautiful example of a pure and authentic confession, but we also get insight into the mindset of God’s people before the Cross. David has a great desire to have the heart of God; pure and righteous. And he makes his request for that in his confession. But, there is more. David confesses his sin before the Lord because there is a legitimate fear that the Lord could remove his spirit from David. If this were to happen, David would never again experience life in the presence of his God. This is something David had grown accustomed to in his life. He could not imagine life outside of the presence of God. He had watched this happen with Saul, the king who preceded him. After God rejected Saul as King, God then proceeds to remove his Spirit from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). David wants to avoid this at all cost. He has learned that this will not only lead to his demise as King, but it could ultimately lead to the collapse of the kingdom, and quite possibly the nation of which he is responsible for.

But what about those of us that are living on this side of the cross? We know that our sins have been forgiven once and for all. Christ died not only for our past sins, but also for those sins that we have not yet committed. We also do not need to live in fear of God removing his Spirit from us. So, is confession even necessary today? And, if so, why should we do it?

John writes, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1: 9)

Confession displays the attitude of our hearts. It is our hearts that the Lord is most concerned with. Confession reveals a desire to live a life of holiness. It creates a “clean heart” and a “right spirit” within us. It is an act of humility that allows room for the Spirit of God to remove the sinful desires that dwell within us. This is the process of sanctification. The removal of our old sinful self, replaced with a filling of God’s Spirit. In this process, God brings a spiritual cleansing and a spiritual healing to us.

Like David, we too know that a life left uncorrected, given over to specific sins, will lead to our downfall. For those of us with a spouse, or children under our care, we know that this is a price that is too steep for us to pay. For those of us in positions of leadership, be it a small group, a board member, a teacher, a care taker, or a discipler of others, we want our lives to be above reproach; A life that leads by example. For all of us in the body of Christ, we know that our greatest calling is to become more like our savior. Confession is a movement towards the finishing work of Christ in us.

Pastor Jonathan Goble

Monday, August 18th

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On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God… They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God (Nehemiah 9:1-4)

Confession is born out of a revelation of who God is. It is not until the people had the Book of the Law opened and read to them that the realization of their sin lies before them. They had been living in sin. Their parents had been living in sin. Most likely, they were teaching their children to live in sin. After all, people can only do and teach what they know. Yet, after a few hours of reading from the Book of the law everything changes. Imagine that! Generations of Sinful behavior wiped clean, as lives are transformed in only a few hours. Talk about Power! As the law is read, the holiness of God is revealed, and the people realize just how short they have fallen from the holiness of God. Therefore, “They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God.”

We see the same thing happen in Isaiah, as the Lord reveals himself to Isaiah, before Isaiah’s ministry as a prophet begins:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:1-5)

It is only when we have caught this revelation of the holiness of our God that we are able to realize “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The Israelites caught this after spending a quarter of the day in God’s word.

It is only when we have caught this revelation of the holiness of our God that the weight of our sin is before us. A weight so great, that it causes us to fall down with our faces to the ground, before the one whose holiness is our standard. The Israelites caught this, and then began a fast, wearing sackcloth and placing dust on their heads to show their remorse and their repentance.  

And, once we have caught this revelation, our response should be nothing less than to cry out with a loud voice before the Lord our God.

It may just be that our greatest need today, personally, as a church, and as a nation, is to once again receive a revelation of the holiness of God. Make this your prayer this week, as we continue to unpack this passage.

Pastor Jonathan Goble

Friday, August 15th

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Friday, August 15th: “Obedience”

“Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear…the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13: 8-9, 23)

It is easy to fall into the deception of religiosity. If I go to church and sit under the teaching of the Word, then I will automatically be changed. Or, if I go to God’s house, then he will be pleased with me, and his favor will rest upon me. From the parable of the sower, we have seen that it is not merely listening to the Word, but rather coming to hear with an open and receptive heart, allowing the Word to take root within us, by laying aside our worries and troubles so that God can be the sole possessor of our hearts. But there is one more lesson in this for us.

James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1: 22-25)

If my heart is truly receptive to the Word, then I will not only listen and understand, but I will then be compelled to do what the Word says. Often, when God speaks into our life through his word, there is something greater that he is calling us to. He may call us into a deeper relationship. He may call us to love someone that we don’t get along with. He may call us to serve his people in a way that we had never thought of. He may ask us to give something up that we have been holding on to. He may ask us to move, to leave everything behind, and follow his leading. If I merely listen to his word, but then do not follow through with what it says, I will find myself consciously disobeying the Word of God. Therefore, I may find myself in a worse position than the person who does not understand the Word of God. They disobey because they do not know, while I choose to disobey even though I know better. I should not expect blessing, but rather discipline. I should not expect to produce a crop of 100, 60, or even 30, times what was sown, but rather I will find a Word that has been choked and is unfruitful.

But this is a message of good news, and fortunately for the people of Israel, they followed through in obedience according to the Word of God. Listen to what is said about them:

“Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them...The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.” (Nehemiah 8: 12, 17)

The people celebrated like never before. They did not allow the worries of the famine to consume them. They did not allow the fear of a possible attack to paralyze them. Instead, they worshipped and acted in obedience according to the Word of God, and because they did this, their sorrow and mourning turned to great joy! They reaped the blessing of the harvest. Where they were once weak, now they stood strong. For, the joy of the Lord was their strength!

Pastor Jonathan Goble

Thursday, August 14th

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Ten Minutes with God
Thursday, August 14th: “Worries of Life”

“As he was scattering the seed…other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants… The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matt. 13: 7, 22)

Few passages are quoted amongst American believers more than that from Matthew 6:25-34. You may recognize this as the “Do Not Worry” passage. Don’t worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink. Don’t worry about what to wear. Do not worry about tomorrow…

If I had not been forced to memorize the Ten Commandments at an early age, I would probably assume that this one made the list.  If my generation were to “re-write” the Ten Commandments there is little doubt that it would be at the very top. Most references to this passage are appropriate. We are definitely a culture of worry. I can do my best not to “worry” but the mortgage still needs to be paid. I can do my best not to “worry” but the family still needs to eat. I can do my best not to “worry” but college loans don’t just disappear after graduation. The list goes on and on.

Consider our study subjects from Nehemiah Chapter 8:
“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 said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. ”The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
I can almost hear the Levites walking around, some whistling, and others singing the lyrics to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”
The people have been cut deep by the Word of God. But they are not to worry about that at the moment, instead, they should celebrate.
This is the same group that just a couple chapters back were crying out to Nehemiah because the famine was so severe that there was no food to eat. In order to eat they had sold everything that they had, and some even sold their children into slavery. But they are not to worry about the famine, as they have now been told to enjoy choice food and sweet drinks.
Included in this group are leaders that had heavily taxed the poor in order to selfishly receive an even greater wealth for themselves.
This is the same people that received threats from Sanballat and Tobiah, surrounded by the entire Army of Samaria. Are they supposed to leave their post and expect not to be threatened just because the wall is up?  Or should they now expect something much worse?
I am amazed that this nation could even be sensitive enough to the word of God that it would penetrate their hearts the way that it did. How did these worries not “choke the word, making it unfruitful” as we read in Matthew chapter 13?
I believe the answer to that question is found in the worship of the people. In their times of worship, the people laid all of their worries aside, and made God their sole focus. He received all their attention, and their devotion. In that moment, nothing else mattered. Worshipping God has a way of doing that. When we truly worship, everything else falls away, and the only thing left standing is God.
We should not expect anything less. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt.7: 33) 
Pastor Jonathan Goble

Wednesday, August 13th

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Ten Minutes with God
Wednesday, August 13th: “Trouble”

“As he was scattering seed…some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root…the seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. “
(Matt. 13: 5-6, 20-21)

How easily our hearts waiver due to the circumstances that surround us. How quickly our minds forget the instruction and the encouragement found in the Word of God. And, how swiftly is the joy stolen from us, replaced by trouble and fear. This is the great work of the enemy. It is something that we should constantly be on our guard against.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, we find a people ready to hear from the Word of God. But it was not always this way. According to Ezra 7:9, Ezra had gone to Jerusalem about thirteen years before Nehemiah, and had a weary time of fighting against the corruptions which had crept in among the returned captives. The arrival of Nehemiah would be hailed as bringing fresh, young enthusiasm, nonetheless welcome and powerful because it had the king’s authority entrusted to it. Evidently the two men thoroughly understood one another, and pulled together heartily (Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander MacLaren).

Just as Ezra and Nehemiah fought against the corruptions of the surrounding nations on behalf of the people of God, so too, must we be ready when trouble comes our way. 1 Peter 5:7-9 reads “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Take heart. Be of courage. Do not lose faith. Hold fast to truth.
Pastor Jonathan Goble

Tuesday, August 12th

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Ten Minutes with God Tuesday, August 12th: “Understanding”

“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up… When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” (Matt. 13:4, 19)

If we have learned to come with an open mind, and an open heart, and we have come with anticipation that God is going to speak, and yet, we receive nothing, our problem may not be one of desire, but rather, understanding. Have you trained yourself to listen and to know the voice of God? Jesus said, “his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Are we aware when God is trying to get our attention? Can we pick out his voice above our own desires, or the lies that are thrown at us from the world? Do we know when he is gently “nudging” us, or giving us his compassion for the Lost? Are we able to receive direction through the guidance of his Holy Spirit?

For quite possibly the first time in their lives, the Israelites, after gathering to hear the Law read, understood the Word of the Lord.

“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. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.”

After hearing the Words of the Lord, the people waited from daybreak until noon so that they may receive understanding. How desperate are we for understanding? Are we willing, like the people of Israel, to wait upon the Lord to receive insight and understanding?

In Proverbs chapter 2 Solomon exhorts his children to seek understanding above all other things, to seek it out as if looking for Silver, to search for it as if looking for treasure.

May this be our desire.
Pastor Jonathan Goble