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Posts Tagged ‘deliverance’


I grew up in the 2-time Money Magazine #1 City to live in.  Of course this was after I moved away (is there a correlation or causation there?).  I spent about 7 years in Orlando, FL.  My 10+ years in Winter Haven were small city-ish.  I now live in a large city again.  But my in-laws live in the middle of nowhere.

Seriously. Friends visiting us there asked where the town was.  “You’re in it.”  The only non-residential buildings I’ve seen are the Post Office, volunteer fire station and the church.  The school is 6 miles and 2 towns over.  The nearest Wal-Mart is about 40 minutes away, as is the nearest mall and actual movie theatre.  Cell-phone coverage?  About 9 square feet on the back porch.  There are only 2 gas stations within 15-20 minutes, and they are next door to each other.

Here in the middle of nowhere, we have chickens and guinea hens.  It is amusing to see a chicken running across the lawn.  Or to see a gaggle of guineas hooting their way around the yard.  This year we discovered a hen being followed by 18 chicks.  The days of mail order chicks may be done.  But there is talk of a highland (or furry) cow.

Mystery Animal

When you live in the middle of nowhere, one of the things you do for fun (read: entertain the kids) is visit petting zoos and alpaca farms.  Each year we make our pilgrimage to the Word of Life Ranch.  I say ‘hi’ to the llama with the offset jaw.  He’s a reminder to me that I am loved by God despite my own brokenness.  The young kids love the goats, sheep, rabbits, horses and more.

This year we stopped in on an alpaca farm.  What, you ask, is an alpaca?  It is part of the same family as the camel, and looks like a smaller version of a llama.  They are not beasts of burden, like the camel and llama because of their size.  Like sheep, they are shorn and their fur is turned into yarn.  Don’t tell the lady who raises them, and calls them all by name, but they are also raised for their meat.

They are fascinating creatures.  Unlike most livestock, they use a common “bathroom” to prevent predators from tracking them.  They are basically helpless.  Which is why it was so funny to watch 2 of them fight.  It was like two geeks trying to hit each other (I can still use the word geek, right?).  Their necks were intertwined (see the picture of the shorn alpacas) and they made camel like grunts while spitting.  See, there is a common denominator between the 3- spitting.  They roll around in the dirt to cool off and lay with their bellies exposed to the sun to soak up the vitamin D.

There's an alpaca under there!

Life here is very different from any life I’ve known.  This summer has been interesting in some new ways.  For instance, this was the first time we were up here for the 4th of July.  We often travel the 11 miles and 30 minutes to a beach a few more towns over.  We decided to head over there on the 2nd of July.  One of the kids’ cousins from NJ decided she wanted to spend birthday up here.  We went to the beach to play and have a cookout.  We didn’t realize it was [name of town] Day.  I guess each year they have their annual meeting, have a parade, covered dish BBQ and watch the fire works.  Could your town have a covered dish BBQ at the local park?  In the process of preparations, we had to move about 3 times on the beach.  We made sure our food was ready before the parade.

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After Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he led the rebuilding of the city wall.  As the people gather to express their thanks for God, a revival breaks out.  First, I’ll mention the elements of revival and then on Nehemiah’s prayer as part of the public worship among these revived people.

The odd part of Nehemiah 9 is that first they read from the Book of the Law for a quarter of the day.  Wow!  Imagine that today- there would be a mass rebellion which indicates just how much we need revival.  We get ticked if the sermon is a few minutes too long.  Another quarter of the day was spent confessing their sins and worshipping God.  Half a day was spent listening to God and then responding to him with confession and adoration.

Then the Levites lead the people in prayer, and a significant prayer it is.  It reveals a depth of understanding in who God is and how he works among is people.

  • He is the exalted above all else!  The host, armies, of heaven worship him.
  • He is Creator!  He made heaven, all the heavenly host (armies), the earth & all that is on it, the seas & all that are in them.
  • He is the Preserver of creation!
  • He is the God of promise and covenant!  He chose Abram, changed his name and cut a covenant with him.
  • He is righteous, keeping his promises!  The reason given for keeping those promises was his righteousness.  God is a promise-keeping God.
  • He is Redeemer!  He saw the affliction of his people in Egypt, heard their cries and set them free with signs and wonders to humble the Egyptians.  He brings judgment to Egypt and salvation to Israel at the Red Sea.
  • God is Sustainer of his people!  He leads them in the pillar of cloud and fire until he brought them into the land of promise.  He provided manna and water during the 40 year wilderness wanderings.
  • God is the Law-giver.  God guides our behavior by his laws (and humbles us greatly by revealing our sinfulness).

In their prayer, they are retracing the history of redemption.  Their focus so far has been who God is.  There is going to be a slight shift in focus.  This prayer is to honor God, but also to instruct the people.  It reflects what they have just read in the Scriptures.  Our prayers could be more grounded in the history of redemption.  Our prayers could benefit from such a focus on the nature and character of God.  We would probably experience a deeper spiritual life.  They are about to introduce a new theme!

  • We are stiff necked.  The people of Israel acted presumptuously, and did not obey God.  They stiffened their necks and chose someone to bring them back to Egypt.
  • God is “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”  This only makes sense in light of the repeated rebellion and stubbornness of Israel.  Even when they made the golden calf, he showed mercy.  Despite their rebellion, he continued to provide manna and water.
  • God gave his Spirit to instruct them!  He sustained them in the wilderness, multiplied their children and gave them the promised land.  Israel became fat and happy.
  • Israel continued to disobey, even killing the very prophets God sent to warn them to repent!
  • ABCD!  Apostasy => Battering => Crying Out => Deliverance cycle.  God gave them over to their enemies, and then provided saviors to deliver them when they cried out.  According to his great mercy, he delivered them many times.  Are you catching the theme here?
  • They stiffened their necks when his messengers came.  He warned them repeatedly by his Spirit through his prophets.  But, they wouldn’t listen.
  • God still didn’t forsake them, for he is “a gracious and merciful God.”

Their view of God was one of “the great, the mighty and the awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love.”  We might look back and think he is a God of wrath (sin does anger him), but the message is really about his mercy and grace.  Despite their stiff neckedness he loves them and works among them.

Finally they come to supplication!

Don’t think lightly of our hardship, even though we deserved it!

Look upon our plight today- slaves in our own homes.  We are in great distress.

Then Nehemiah notes that they renewed the covenant.  Revival should include a fervent commitment to begin to obey, turning away from our stiff neckedness and beginning to listen to his gracious words and be thankful for his steadfast love.

God corrects his people when they become stubborn and rebellious.  He does not destroy them (though it may feel like it to us), but lovingly gets their attention.  I find I have to raise my voice, and sometimes to my hand, to get my children’s attention to call them back to the right path.  God loves us enough to do this lest we destroy ourselves.  Thank him for his persevering grace.

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“Keep hope alive.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that hope was a fragile thing.  And there is nothing Evil wants to do as much as kill hope that we might be overcome with despair.

Hope is one of those words that is easily misunderstood.  Often we think of it as a wish.  I hope the Red Sox win tonight.  But for the Christian, hope is far more profound that that.  As one whose hope is under siege, I needed to read The Dream of Hope in The Healing Path by Dan Allender.

“Hope is the quiet, sometimes incessant call to dream for the future.  The present moment is not enough to satisfy our souls completely; no matter how good or bad, the now leaves us hungering for more.  … Biblical hope is substantial faith regarding the future.”

Hope is not vague, but substantial.  It has weight to it, specifics.  And this is why hope can be so maddening.  It seems so far off at times, as if those desires are impossible to fulfill.

“Only the lenses of faith can put suffering into perspective.  When faith enables us to remember how God has redeemed portions of our past, our anticipation of when and how he will redeem us in the future increases.  … Gabriel Marcel defined hope as “a memory of the future.”

Hope looks past present suffering, aided by past deliverance.  Hope is sure God will come through, at some point, and deliver because he has a track record of delivering his people.  He has a track record of delivering me, so as I suffer I look ahead to when he eventually will reach down and lift me up.

We keep hope alive, in part, by reciting how God has delivered his people and us over time.  We remember, dragging those memories from the forgotten parts of our minds.  We rehearse God’s past faithfulness so we will lean on his future faithfulness rather than despair and give up.

“Hope focuses not on our circumstances, but on Christ’s coming and the redemption of our character.  .. My heart will never become any bigger than that in which or in whom I hope.  … Hope is a muscle that must be nourished and exercised daily to grow throug the normal nutrients of knowing and doing God’s will.  I wish hope progressed naturally and easily just as our body develops from infancy to adulthood.  Instead, hope grows through encounters that require us to risk, struggle, surrender and wait.”

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