Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Posts tagged ‘heart’

Sorrowful Homecoming

Israeli celebration

Israel 60 Years photo by FaceMePLS on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

The book of Ezra chronicles the beginning of the return of the Jewish exiles from captivity in Babylon back to Israel and Judah. King Cyrus of Persia was moved by God to not just allow over 42,000 Jewish captives to return to their homeland, but to finance the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. He even returned much of the gold and silver articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple during the original conquest of Jerusalem.

As the Temple was being rebuilt, Ezra 3:11-13 describes the scene of younger people praising God and rejoicing while the older folks who remembered the previous Temple crying out loud in sorrow for what had been lost over the years. The noise was heard from far away, but the voices mingled into a loud roar indiscernible whether it was joyous or sorrowful.

The construction of the Temple was met with resistance from those who were enemies of Israel and they were successful in stopping the progress until several years later. The succession of Persian kings from Cyrus to Ahasuerus (Xerxes, who married Esther), Artaxerxes and then Darius (mentioned in Daniel) is discussed in chapters 4-7, with a gap of over 50 years between chapters 6 and 7. King Darius got the ball rolling again and the Temple was finally completed in the sixth year of Darius’ reign. (Ezra 6:15) In the chapters that follow,

Ezra the prophet leads the people back to Israel/Judah with hearts of repentance and humility before God.

Chapter 9 explains that when the genealogies were reviewed, it was found that many of the Jews had married Babylonians against God’s separation commandment in Deuteronomy 7:3-4:

“Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so that the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” (NKJV)

Despite the claims of some, this prohibition was never a call for racism (they were all Semites) and the reason is explained in verse 4. At the time, the Jews were the only people to whom God had personally revealed Himself. As it turned out, when the Jews intermarried with their pagan neighbors, they did indeed turn away from their faith in God. Ezra and the exiles understood very clearly the reason for the 70 year captivity and begged God’s forgiveness for them and their ancestors.

The events that followed in chapter 10 are indeed sorrowful. Many of the Jews who had married Babylonians sent their spouses and children away (presumably back to Persia) in an extreme act of devotion to God. I really have trouble reading this chapter, knowing how much God hates divorce. In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus laid it out that we need to love God above all else, including family, should it come down to that. This is the reason we taught our children to date only Christians; there is no call in the Bible for “Missionary Dating.” For those who are already married to non-believers, I Corinthians 7:12-16 persuades believers to remain in the marriage if the non-believing spouse is willing to stay in the marriage.

Proverbs 4:23 simplifies the whole matter by encouraging us:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to three boys, a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside. Lisa is a member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon. 

Lessons in the Clay

pottery-wheel-spinning

North Carolina Potter photo by gurdonark on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

I love object lessons because they can be very powerful teaching tools. God knew this when He told Jeremiah to “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” (Jeremiah 18:2, NIV) The art of pottery seems to have changed very little in the past three thousand years, because Jeremiah went to the potter’s house and found him making something at the wheel.

Just as the art of pottery has not changed, God’s message to the nations has not changed, either. This is what God had to say in Jeremiah’s day:

“Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jeremiah 18:6-10, NIV)

This passage makes it clear that God considers the actions of the people in deciding the fate of nations. It is entirely up to God to decide which nations will rise up and which will be torn down, but the hearts, lives and faith of the inhabitants play an important role in the success or downfall of every nation. God does not just randomly build kingdoms and then destroy them like a child playing with Legos; He blesses those nations whose citizens obey Him and are faithful to His Word. Likewise, God gives plenty of warning to nations that reject Him long before the destruction comes.

What about our country? Is God blessing us because of our faithful obedience or are we being warned to repent before destruction comes? Whatever your opinion about the current state of affairs; the one thing that doesn’t change is that God wants to have a personal relationship with us, His most precious creations. The fate of each nation in our world depends on our faithfulness and obedience to His perfect will. If we really want to save the world, then we need to live the lives that God asks us to live; today and every day!

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to two boys with a third on the way (!), a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon.

Hear the Voice

Lisening

Photo by iMorpheus on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

Have you ever heard God speak to you? Sometimes life would be so much easier if we could just hear a voice tell us what to do next. Although it does not always work that way, there are ways to tune up your heart and soul to hear the voice of God just like Elijah and the prophets of old.

First of all, you need to know what God has already said to humanity by reading His Word, the Bible. It is quite all right if you don’t understand it all, jot down your questions in a journal and keep on reading. The interesting thing about reading the Bible is that each time you read it, you are in a slightly different place, so different elements will stand out in your mind. Write those things down in your journal, too.

The next thing you need to do is to follow Jesus on His terms, as the Bible teaches. In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus compares Himself to a good shepherd who cares enough about His flock to lay down His life for them. The important part about this analogy is that His sheep know the voice of their Shepherd and will run away from any other voices who call them. We cannot expect to hear His voice if we don’t even belong to Him! Romans 10:9 spells out how to belong to Jesus: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (NKJV)

Finally, we live in a very noisy world, so turn off the noise and listen. As Elijah learned in his mountaintop experience with God in I Kings 19:8-13, the voice of God was not heard in a loud windstorm, an earthquake or in a fire, but rather in a still, small voice; a whisper. Once we are familiar with God as He has revealed Himself through the Bible, we need to spend time in prayer, talking with God. Some of that time needs to be spent quietly listening. Allow God’s voice to speak into your thoughts through your open heart. Allow yourself some peace and quiet throughout your day, like when you are driving in your car or working out. Music is great, I love music, but sometimes we need to just turn everything off and listen to the silence. That is where you will hear God when He chooses to speak.

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to two boys with a third on the way (!), a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon.

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