Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ebenezer Memorials

In my daily devotions I have been reading on a schedule that will take me through the Bible in a year by reading portions from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs each day.

I am currently in Exodus, and I have recently noticed how many times the Lord instructed the Israelites to "remember" something. As I did a quick word study on the Hebrew word zacar (to remember) I came across some interesting passages.

In Exodus 13:3 the children of Israel are instructed to remember what God in bringing them out of the bondage in Egypt. It was by the strength of the Lord's hand that Israel was released by Pharaoh.

In Joshua 1:13 they were instructed to remember what Moses had said: it was God who gave the Promised Land. Man could not do it - God did. They were to remember...don't forget...God did this.

Judges 8:34 tells us to remember the Lord and His deliverance. This comes in the form of the sad commentary "...The children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God."

1 Chron. 16:12, 15 give instructions to remember the marvelous works of God, and His covenant.

Isaiah 46:9-10 really caught my attention. It reads "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." It seems that we would not need to be reminded that the LORD is God, or to recall to mind the marvelous miracles He has wrought. Yet there are many instructions to remember. Don't forget. God did this.

In my reading today in Exodus 17 I was struck by the fact that God told Moses to write down what He had just done to deliver Amalek into Israel's hand (vs.14ff). It was to be a memorial, and to be rehearsed in the hands of Joshua, Moses' successor. God knows that we will forget His wonderful works and strong hand on our behalf - many times we forget sooner than we like to admit. Should we not also have a book of remembrance - a memorial to the great things which our God has done?

In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel erected a memorial to God and called it "Ebenezer" (stone of help) because he said, "Hitherto hath the LORD helped us." Samuel wanted a physical, tangible reminder of what God had done on their behalf. That is what the stone memorial represented - a reminder of what God had done. I am reminded of the familiar hymn, Come Thou Fount. The second verse reads,

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; (some versions say my sign of victory)
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I know, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

I want to start writing down those things which God does for my family. I want to record the miraculous answers to specific prayers, so that I can look back and see what God has done. Then I will remember. I won't as easily forget. God did this.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Polished Palaces, Part 3

Good morning! Now that we have looked at the polished palace, the cornerstone, and the building materials, we need to consider some questions regarding our motive to be a polished palace.

1. Who is the palace for?

1 Chronicles 29:1 Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation, Solomon my son,

whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the LORD God.

This verse refers to the building of the temple. David was told by God that he would not be allowed to build the temple because he was a man of war, and he had blood on his hands. God chose David’s son, Solomon, to build the temple. In this verse David makes the point that the work was great, because the temple (palace) was for the LORD God. This was a special building designated for the worship of the One True God. It was special, holy, dedicated, and set apart.

Just as the temple was for the Lord, we must realize that the palace of our lives is for the Lord.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

Our motive to be a polished palace cannot be the praise of others, or pride in ourselves, or to "keep up appearances". We must seek to live a life pleasing to God because He is our Lord and Master. The fashioning of our spiritual lives must be to please the Lord and not men

Ephesians 6:6-7 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

Psalm 45:6-11 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. 7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 8 All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. 9 Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. 10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; 11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

What a beautiful description of our God! I want to be beautiful for my God.

Consider also: The King has free reign in his palace – He was not banned from any part. Does God own every room in your heart? Is there a nook, cranny, or closet that you have blocked Him out of?

2. Why is the palace beautiful?

A. Because of the building materials that were used. We discussed this in Polished Palaces, Part 2.

B. Because it is maintained. A palace may be beautiful when it is first unveiled. But if no maintenance is ever performed, it quickly becomes a run-down disgrace.

In the same way, our relationship with God requires maintenance. Just as you cannot physically live on one meal per week, or month, so you cannot live on one to two Bible readings a week. To develop intimacy with God requires effort and consistency. Sporadic Bible reading and prayer will accomplish very little. How is your spiritual palace? Do you need to do some maintenance to get it back into shape? Daily communication and Bible reading and quiet is essential to maintaining your polished palace.

C. Because of what is on the inside. The picture of the outside of the Alcazar de Segovia (at the beginning of this post) is impressive enough, but I would venture that the inside was even more spectacular in its day. The outside merely reflects what is on the inside.

1 Peter 3:1-4 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Matthew 23:27-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

These verses demonstrate that what is on the inside is of prime importance. Our beauty should start inward and work outward. Does your appearance and behavior before others in public match what you are in private? Do you only in conformation to certain standards or expectations, or do you have Biblical convictions that are motivated by your personal relationship with Christ?

D. Because of their size. Just as babies need to grow in order to mature, so Christians need to continue to grow and mature, becoming “larger” in their likeness to Christ

1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

Hebrews 5:12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

E. Because of their location – usually beautiful palaces are not built in the slums or where their beauty does not match their landscape. The grounds are usually nicely manicured to match the edifice. Our location is “in Christ” if we are built on the cornerstone.

F. Because of the riches and wealth associated with the owners/inhabitants of the palace. Who indwells us? The risen Christ, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and who has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Our Owner and Master, who dwells in us from the moment of salvation, makes us beautiful by His very presence. Can He be seen in your life? Do others know that you belong to Him?

I hope you have enjoyed these posts on the Polished Palace. The theme verse first caught my attention as my Pastor summarized Psalm 144 on a Wednesday night, and made some brief comments. As I meditated upon the verse, and mulled it over in my head, I began to draw some conclusions. As a Resident Advisor in charge of a ladies dormitory in college, I chose Polished Palaces as our dorm theme for the year. The devotionals I brought during that year were centered on the theme, and I have further developed some of those devotionals in this blog. May you become more of a Polished Palace for Christ each day!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Polished Palaces, Part 2

Welcome back! In the last post I introduced the concept of becoming a polished palace. In this post I would like to dig a little deeper into our theme verse, and explore the concept of a cornerstone, as well as the building materials necessary to build a polished palace on the right foundation.

“That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:”
Psalm 144:12

What is a cornerstone? It is the stone built into one corner of the foundation of an edifice as the actual or nominal starting point of a building. It is the chief stone in the foundation.

The Scriptures have many references to the cornerstone.

1. Christ is called the cornerstone.

Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

1 Peter 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

Ephesians 2:19 - 22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone. He is the foundation upon which we are to build our lives. Paul refers to this is 1 Corinthians 3 as he discusses the types of materials that can be used to build one’s life.

1 Corinthians 3:11-13 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

Our spiritual lives must be built upon the Chief Cornerstone. If we try to be a good person, or live a good, moral life apart from having a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we are building on the wrong foundation. Once Christ is in the center of your life, then you can start to use the materials described by the Apostle Paul to build your polished palace.

2. We have seen that Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. Our theme verse compares us to cornerstones. How can we be cornerstones? I think that we are to be cornerstones in our homes. As wives and mothers we will have great influence over our husbands and children. What kind of a cornerstone are we? Do we have the right foundation ourselves, or are we striving to have a good marriage and raise good kids without the Lord?

Are we secure? The cornerstone was that by which was the building was made square. If you are not built upon Christ then you are re not stable and secure, and your building will not stand.

3. The Building materials are important. If I were the general contractor in charge of building a magnificent edifice, I would not get my materials from the dump or the junk yard. The quality of the materials used will play a part in the quality of the finished building. When I think of a polished palace, I think of smooth, polished marble and granite, sparkling gold and silver, soft velvet and deep, rich colors.

As Christian women we have a choice in the building materials we will use in developing our palace. 1 Corinthians 3:12 describes them as gold, silver, and precious stones; or wood, hay, and stubble. When I consider the quality of these two different groups of materials I see that one is imperishable, and the other is consumable. One is precious, and the other is economical. Once is expensive, and the other is cheap. One is beautiful, and the other is commonplace. By daily studying the Word of God and developing my intimate relationship with Him, He will help me to implement the correct type of materials in my life. What is done for Christ will have lasting, eternal value, and what is done in my own strength will be burned to dust.

When I was in high school I participated in a leadership development program at the Wilds of the Rockies Christian Camp in Kremling, Colorado. The teens in the program had extra sessions with the preacher during the camp week. I recall discussing the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 about our building materials. The preacher told us that every moment we were living in and operating in the flesh, we were sending wood, hay, and stubble up to heaven. It will be consumed in the testing fire when I stand before Christ. In contrast, every moment that is lived for Christ, and every activity that is performed for Christ and in His strength is making a deposit of gold, silver, and precious stones into my eternal treasure chest. It will come through the fire when it is tested.

What kind of materials are you using as you build your palace? Right now are you sending wood, hay and stubble up to heaven, or are you laying gold, silver, and precious stones upon your foundation? What kind of a cornerstone are you in your home? Are you grounded and firmly established on the foundation of Christ, so that you are an example to others? Take a moment to consider these questions, and to list some practical steps you will take to correct a wrong foundation or poor building materials in your life.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Polished Palaces, Part 1

“That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:”
Psalm 144:12

Let us begin by examining the context of our key verse.

Psalm 144:11 – 15 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: 12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: 13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: 14 That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. 15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.

Verse 12b is the theme verse for this blog. I want to begin by examining this passage, in which David (the author of this Psalm) describes the happy people. David pleads to be delivered from a society of vain words, dishonest dealings, and lying, a society that is strange or foreign to the ways of God. He desired the young men of his kingdom to be mature young men, and the ladies beautiful young ladies who are grounded in godliness. David asked God to increase the produce of their crops and herds, and that their work would be blessed. He desired to live in a place where complaining was not heard. This is the state of the happy people. They are happy because they are godly, prosperous, and blessed. This is a result of having God as you LORD.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in society that could fit that description? It starts with having God as your LORD. If you are unsure of your relationship with God, I invite you to
click here and learn more about Who God is, what He has done for you, and how you can know that your sins are forgiven. Once we are living in a right relationship with God, we can live our lives in such a way that we will fit the description above.

The phrase as plants grown up in their youth refers to a state of maturity. How can one be grown up when he is young? By acting, behaving, choosing, thinking, and living in a way that is fully grown and developed – that shows maturity and wisdom beyond what you would expect for one of such an age. I think our society today boasts a generation of immature young people. But when God is in the center of your life you can learn from His Word how to live wisely, and He will develop in you wisdom beyond your years.

As you sincerely pray the words of Psalm 25:4-5, “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. 5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day,” God will teach you. Psalm 32:8 promises “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Again, Psalm 119:66 – “Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.” James 1:5 promises that He will give wisdom to those who lack it in their trials, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

The phrase that really grabbed my attention in this passage is polished after the similitude of a palace. (Later I will go into more detail on how I believe this can be accomplished.) Have you ever seen a “polished palace”? A structure that your breath away and left you in awe of its richness, splendor, glitz, and beauty? I had the privilege to spend eight weeks in Spain for my missionary internship. While I was there I toured the Alcazar (Castle) de Segovia. This amazing structure was built to be used as a fortress, but it has also been used as a palace in the time since its establishment. The first reference to this castle dates to 1120. That is 889 years ago, yet the structure is still standing today! As I toured the castle I was in awe of its height, its size, and its sure foundation that allowed it to remain standing until this day. I could close my eyes and imagine the royalty that had lived within its walls. I could hear the rustle of fancy dresses as
they swished down the corridor. I could imagine the feasts and banquets that were held in the golden rooms. Although the castle might not be in a “polished” state today, I could imagine it in its splendor.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines polish as “to make smooth and glossy usually by friction; to smooth, soften, or refine in manners or condition; to bring to a highly developed, finished, or refined state.” I would like to be that kind of a lady! Sometimes God brings difficult situations into our lives so that he can polish us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. The process of friction, of smoothing, and of polishing may not be pleasant, but the results are worth it! When I stand before God I don’t want to just be an ordinary, bland palace. I want to be polished, as beautiful as I can possibly be, so that I look like Jesus!

What steps do you need to take in your life to allow God to polish you? Are there areas in which you need God to develop some maturity? Take a few moments and search your heart in prayer, asking God to show you what He wants for your life, and then humbly submit to His will.