God’s Wooden Spoon

When I was growing up, “The Wooden Spoon” was a dreaded utensil in the kitchen drawer. That wooden spoon represented a great deal of things to me; none of which were enjoyable. You see, my mother used the wooden spoon to apply correction to my seat of education when necessary. I would like to tell you it wasn’t necessary that often, but I have such vivid memories of it, that I imagine I saw it more than I would like to admit. In all seriousness, I am so thankful for my mother’s wooden spoon, and her willingness to use it properly on my behalf.

To this day I have no problem with showing respect for police officers, teachers, pastors, and other leaders I am under. That all came because I had parents that were willing to love me enough to discipline me when I misbehaved! I know that sounds like a crazy statement in the days we are living, but I want to show you where my parents learned this great teaching technique. “The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Blessed in the man whom Thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of Thy law” (Psalm 94:11-12).

There are a number of things that got my attention with these verses today. First, I still do not like to be disciplined, but I continue to need it. If left to my own plans, I would make a mess of things. My own thoughts really are vanity. If God left me alone and I had to live with all my choices without His help, I would be in trouble, and so would you. I am thankful that when I am preparing to make a wrong decision, or a wrong move, that God loves me enough to stop me … to chasten me if necessary … to keep me on the right path.

The second thing I noticed in these verses is that it says clearly, “Blessed is the MAN whom Thou chastenest …” We often think that once we reach a certain age that the “spankings” stop. I am thankful that when I am going the wrong way today as a middle-aged (or old depending on how you look at me) man, that God is still willing to work on me. God still disciplines me to keep me on the right path. I wish that when I was a younger man I would have learned all the lessons I needed to learn, but I am still learning as I go today. I am thankful that God has not given up on me!

Rather than complaining about the discipline of your loving Heavenly Father; go to the drawer for the wooden spoon and thank God for continuing to love you so much. Go so far as to ask Him to make sure that you do not miss one part of the lessons He wants you to learn. Thank Him today for helping you to walk in the center of His will. There’s no place like it!

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Victory in the Trial

Nevertheless for Thy great mercies’ sake Thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for Thou art a gracious and merciful God. Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, Who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before Thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all Thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. Howbeit Thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly” (Nehemiah 9:31-33).

Trials in our lives are coming … whether we like it or not. Throughout the Word of God, we have witnessed trials on the people of God ever since time began. We must face the facts that these Israelites had to face with Nehemiah. We are sinners that make bad choices, and those choices result in some difficult times in our lives. It is good for us to look back and review these times of difficulty for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons are seen in these verses.

It is good for us to realize that when bad things come in our lives, that we have had something to do with those things. We are not perfect. When we have gone through a difficult time it is a perfect time for us to reflect on what we have done wrong, and determine to make some adjustments. This is not to say that every time something bad happens to us that it is the result of some sin in our lives. Remember, we are not living in a perfect world, and there are times that other people’s sin will affect us. Trials afford us the opportunity to honestly evaluate where we stand with God.

The best part of a trial is that it allows us an opportunity to remember God’s grace and mercy! Even during this time of captivity for these Jews, they were able to see the hand of God on their lives at work. They witnessed the favor of King Artaxerxes in the beginning, and the ongoing protective hand when the opposition came on them. They could stand this day and rejoice in the goodness of God in spite of all that had happened to them. Take some time today to reflect on the good things that God has done for you in the midst of the storm.

The last thing that I notice in these verses today is that our trials get our focus on our God, and off of ourselves. We realize very clearly in the middle of our trial that we need Him to come and help us or we are going to be in trouble. The reality is that we need God every day, all day long … but when things are going good we don’t stop to realize that. In a trial we will.

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Clear Teaching

So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, ‘This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, ‘God your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:8-10).

What a powerful set of verses these are for us to consider today! After the law of God was read in the presence of the people, it was explained so that all who were there understood its meaning. We are still doing this today. The thought struck me today that the Word of God is so deep and meaningful that simply reading the words does not tell the whole story. If you read a mystery novel, or some person’s biography, or some book on history; if you have paid attention, when you finish reading you know all the information and you don’t really need to read it again (unless you have a short memory and you enjoyed the book).

It constantly amazes me that no matter how many times I read the Bible there are greater depths of the riches to be found on its pages. That is because this book we have is the living Word of God! When these people heard the words they touched their hearts. However, Ezra and the other leaders mentioned took the time to explain the words even deeper. The result was an emotional response that caused the folks as a whole to weep. Nehemiah stopped them and reminded them that all these things were for their good, and for their joy!

When was the last time you read your Bible and wept? When was the last time the verses were so sweet to you that it stirred your emotions? When was the last time you read you Bible and laughed out loud? When was the last time you read your Bible?

The clear teaching of the Word of God brings a response! Make sure that you put yourself in a place where the Word of God is being accurately taught, and you will find your heart being moved. I’m not talking about finding an exciting story-teller, or loud voice. I am talking about getting under the teaching of someone that rightly divides the Word of truth. The messenger does not make the message powerful. The Word of God brings all the power we need for our lives today! Run to the Word today!

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A Holy Standing Ovation

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people); and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen, with lifting up of their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

Think about it with me today for just a few moments … we rise to our feet when we sing our National Anthem. We rise to our feet at the ball game when someone hits a ball, or scores a basket, or makes a goal. We rise to our feet when someone plays a beautiful song, or we simply want to honor what we consider something outstanding that they have done.

Did you see the reaction of these folks after the wall has been built? Were they looking for others to give them a standing ovation? Were they interested in getting some praise for the effort they had made? Were they waiting for their names to be read, and the part they played recognized in front of all the others? No!

God’s Word was read and it (the Word of God) got the standing ovation! These people who had worked twenty-four hours a day; guarding each other in when they were not building; fighting against opposition there in Jerusalem, as well as back home with their families. These people, stood to honor the Word of God. They did something that we might frown upon today if it happened in our church. They even went so crazy as to lift up their hands … they bowed their heads … they worshiped with their faces to the ground!

These people needed to get themselves under control! They were actually showing emotion in church … and they did it without any music! How is that possible? We need some high quality, emotionally charged music if we expect anyone to worship today! Did you catch why they were reacting this way? It was simply because the Word of God was present and was on center-stage. Man was not recognized. God and His Word had taken the focal point of the attention of all in attendance.

Look at their reaction, and consider following their behavior. Before they knew what they were doing, their hands were lifting in the air. They could no longer look straight ahead, or upward. Their heads bowed in absolute recognition of humility! They could not even look at anyone else! What followed was pure worship. No guitar, drum, trumpet, piano, PowerPoint … just pure worship of our awesome God. Follow their example today!

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A Holy Standing Ovation

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people); and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen, with lifting up of their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

Think about it with me today for just a few moments … we rise to our feet when we sing our National Anthem. We rise to our feet at the ball game when someone hits a ball, or scores a basket, or makes a goal. We rise to our feet when someone plays a beautiful song, or we simply want to honor what we consider something outstanding that they have done.

Did you see the reaction of these folks after the wall has been built? Were they looking for others to give them a standing ovation? Were they interested in getting some praise for the effort they had made? Were they waiting for their names to be read, and the part they played recognized in front of all the others? No!

God’s Word was read and it (the Word of God) got the standing ovation! These people who had worked twenty-four hours a day; guarding each other in when they were not building; fighting against opposition there in Jerusalem, as well as back home with their families. These people, stood to honor the Word of God. They did something that we might frown upon today if it happened in our church. They even went so crazy as to lift up their hands … they bowed their heads … they worshiped with their faces to the ground!

These people needed to get themselves under control! They were actually showing emotion in church … and they did it without any music! How is that possible? We need some high quality, emotionally charged music if we expect anyone to worship today! Did you catch why they were reacting this way? It was simply because the Word of God was present and was on center-stage. Man was not recognized. God and His Word had taken the focal point of the attention of all in attendance.

Look at their reaction, and consider following their behavior. Before they knew what they were doing, their hands were lifting in the air. They could no longer look straight ahead, or upward. Their heads bowed in absolute recognition of humility! They could not even look at anyone else! What followed was pure worship. No guitar, drum, trumpet, piano, PowerPoint … just pure worship of our awesome God. Follow their example today!

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Pay Attention to the Book

And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law” (Nehemiah 8:1-3).

After all the effort of the building of the wall was finished; and after all the persecution the people had endured; they did something very important. They opened the laws of God and gave their full attention to the Word. I stress on a regular basis the importance of reading your Bible. I want to use these verses today to emphasize the point that getting in the Word of God, and allowing the Word of God to get into you is one of the keys to walking with God.

This wall had fallen down because of the captivity of the Jews. There was not anyone in Jerusalem that cared about the wall, or saw the importance of it. The Jews were in captivity because they had neglected God Himself, and had turned to the worship of idols. They corporately had decided to ignore the laws of the Word of God in order to fit in to the societies around them. Their compromise on the principles clearly stated in the laws of God had allowed their hearts to be turned. As a result of their hearts being turned, the law of God had largely been ignored and forgotten.

It impresses my heart that after the victory of the completed wall was accomplished, one of the first things they did was to open the books of the law and give their attention to it! They did what they should have done years before. Perhaps they would not have needed to have made such a monumental effort to rebuild the wall if they had stayed in the laws of God earlier.

Let’s learn from their experience and determine to stay in the Word of God today and also to allow the Word of God to stay in us as well. As I have written earlier, it is not enough to simply read the words of the Bible. We must allow those words to govern our actions and attitudes and thoughts. I want God to take the words I have read today, and use them over and over again in my life to change me for His purposes and plan! I want to give heed to the Word of God today, and let it do its work in my life!

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Qualifications for a Leader

When Nehemiah was planning the leadership roles following the building of the wall, he noted an interesting qualification that I think is good for us to look for in our leaders today as well. “That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem; for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many” (Nehemiah 7:2). These two simple things were mentioned for leadership: a faithful man, and feared God above many. I think that sums it up fairly well.

Think about the importance of these two qualities. Faithfulness has been defined as, 1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker. 2. true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc. 3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal. The meaning of the word in the Hebrew language carries the idea of: stability; figuratively certainty, truth, trustworthiness: – assured, establishment, faithful, right, sure, true. Regardless of which one of these you want to choose, I would like to follow a person who demonstrates this characteristic. I want to follow someone that has stayed true to the cause for their lifetime. I want to follow a person who demonstrates that regardless of past failures, they are walking faithfully today in what they are doing for God.

I not only want to follow a person who demonstrates this quality, I want to be that kind of a person. I want to be true to my promises. I want to be steady in my allegiances. I want to be a man that is considered trustworthy. You see, I would like people to be able to follow me to the feet of Jesus Christ! I would like to be a leader of men/women that does not point people to me, but points them to Jesus Christ. This is my goal for today.

The second qualification Nehemiah had for a leader was that he be a man that feared the Lord. I don’t think that we think enough about the day we will stand before our holy God. I don’t think that we plan our day out enough with the idea that God is watching us and is depending on us to represent Him well wherever we are going, and in whatever we are doing. I think we just “coast” through our lives far too much. I want to live my life with this healthy “fear of the Lord” today.

Have you noticed that people tend to work harder if they know the boss is looking over their shoulder? I want to work for my Heaven Father today with the realization that He IS looking over my shoulder … into my heart … and into my dreams! I want to fear Him, and do all I can to please Him today. I want to be a qualified leader today! I want God to be the focal point of my thoughts and actions today. I want Him to say, ‘Well done!’

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