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Worshiping the Lord

The value of leadership cannot be overestimated, and Nehemiah is an outstanding example of what faithful leadership can accomplish. The Israelites celebrated loudly because they were grateful for God?s protection, guidance, and blessings. ?At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres? (Nehemiah 12:27).

The celebration was well organized. Two large choirs were assembled to praise the Lord and give Him thanks. Both choirs were placed on the wall but went in opposite directions: one to the right and the other to the left. Ezra led the group that went to the right (verse 36), and the second group was led by Nehemiah (verse 38). Other leaders of Judea were divided in half between the two processions. Priests were part of the celebration, and the singers were accompanied by musical instruments, including cymbals, harps, lyres, and trumpets.

God?s people worshiped the Lord and sang about His faith-fulness, goodness, and love. It was a celebration of God?s kind-ness toward them. ?And they o?ered great sacri?ces that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away? (verse 43, ESV).

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Worshiping the Lord

As the people journeyed through the wilderness, many precious lessons were fixed in their minds by means of song. At their deliverance from Pharaoh?s army the whole host of Israel had joined in the song of triumph. Far over desert and sea rang the joyous refrain, and the mountains re-echoed the accents of praise, ?Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously.? Exodus 15:21. Often on the journey was this song repeated, cheering the hearts and kindling the faith of the pilgrim travelers. The commandments as given from Sinai, with promises of God?s favor and records of His wonderful works for their deliverance, were by divine direction expressed in song, and were chanted to the sound of instrumental music, the people keeping step as their voices united in praise. ?Education, p. 39.

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Dandelions and the Judgment

I?ll offer you two suggestions on how to be ready for God?s coming judgment.

First, give God permission to search and destroy sin in your heart, the way David did. ?Search me, God, and know my heart,? he begged. ?Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting? (Psalm 139:23, 24). It?s as if God is a homeowners? association volunteer who not only spots the weeds in your yard but comes into your yard and deals with them!

Second, allow the Holy Spirit to change you. Hacking fiercely away at those dandelions in my own strength wasn?t the way to get rid of them. I needed a weed killer. That?s a rather indelicate way to talk about the Holy Spirit, but that is one of His roles! He eradicates sin, not by hacking away at it, but by replacing it with something healthier. . . .

As we continue to seek His presence in our hearts and make the choices He guides us to make, we?ll be ready for the judgment.

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How To Be a Family

Family, as Heaven defines it, is constructed of people who put God?s words into practice?even if that means separating themselves from what humans define as family. Even if we aren?t part of a traditional family, those are also family members who do their best to live Christlike lives, even if that means separating from their traditional families. They?re still brothers and sisters to each other.

The second cornerstone centers on the matter of love. The Bible identifies two types: romantic and divine. Romantic love literally drips from the words of the Song of Solomon. This is the type of love that finds fulfillment in marriage.

However, there?s another type of love that identifies God?s ideal for family like nothing else. It flows from the heart of the same Being who brought our world into existence. ?As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you,? Jesus says. ?My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you? (John 15:9, 12).

Here they are?the two cornerstones for being a member of God?s family: (1) doing one?s level best to live a Christlike life, and (2) loving others with the same purity and intensity that God loves us.

Being a part of a family is within reach of every person on Earth. It doesn?t matter what condition our earthy family happens to be in, or even if one exists. Single parent, divorced, widowed, homeless, infirm, incarcerated, or orphaned?God?s family is available to everyone.

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A New World

After the Flood, God promised Noah that He would never again destroy the world by a flood. Noah and those who loved and followed God believed His promise. Others did not. This is the story of the tower builders.

People knew all about the Flood. They also knew about God, but they didn?t believe or trust Him. So they formed a plan to outwit Him. They lived in strong, fortified cities for safety. Most were located on high ground. They thought that if they built on hills and were safely behind city walls nothing would ever harm them, even another flood. To ensure this, they had a second plan.

God had told Noah and his family to spread out over the entire earth and to cultivate the ground and raise crops. They were to be farmers. Building cities was the opposite of what God wanted them to do. Why? It is because cities tend to encourage idleness, crime, and a strong craving for excitement, fun, and entertainment.

Satan also finds it is easier to attack more people with his evil intentions when they live close together in large numbers. It is more difficult for him to work out his deadly plans when people are spread out.

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Trials, Tribulations, and Lists

Ezra is the sixteenth generation from Aaron. The purpose of including his genealogy is obvious: the narrator wants to be sure that everyone knows that his priestly line traces back to Aaron, the ?rst high priest in Israel and the brother of Moses. In this genealogy lies his ?rst authority?God has chosen him to be a priest. But beyond genealogy, it proves Ezra to be a man of distinction because he is the person who ?devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel? (Ezra 7:10). He was a man of integrity, a priest, a scribe, and a teacher. The Lord was present in his life, demonstrating that Ezra was God?s blessed instrument. ?The gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him? (verse 6, NLT).

Ezra?s life story proves beyond any doubt that he was God?s channel of bringing the people back from Babylon to Jerusalem and of helping them to know their God and His teaching through a careful study and interpretation of the Scriptures. This study stirred a great revival and reformation among the people in Judea (Ezra 7?10; Nehemiah 8).

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Parting With Problems

"By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land."  ~ Hebrews 11:29

Today we?re hiking through the desert with the children of Israel. Finally the Egyptians have let us go free. Wow! Look at that huge sea up ahead of us. It?s the Red Sea. How are we going to get across? Wait, what do I hear? Look at the clouds of dust rising into the sky. Oh no, it?s the Egyptians coming after us with swords and spears. Wait. Listen to what Moses is saying. He?s telling us to be still and watch God fight for us. How can God save us? There are mountains and desert and sea and Egyptians all around us. Where will we go?

Look, a dark cloud is coming down from heaven. I can?t see the Egyptians anymore. What?s Moses doing now? He?s raising his shepherd?s staff over the Red Sea. I don?t believe it! I can see the sand on the bottom of the Red Sea. The water is standing up. This is amazing. We?re walking across the bottom of the Red Sea on dry land. Isn?t God good?

Sometimes problems come our way and it seems there?s no way out. But God always has a way. Trust in Him today and watch Him part your problems.

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Trials, Tribulations, and Lists

It is true that disappointments will come; tribulation we must expect; but we are to commit everything, great and small, to God. He does not become perplexed by the multiplicity of our grievances, nor overpowered by the weight of our burdens. His watchcare extends to every household, and encircles every individual; He is concerned in all our business and our sorrows. He marks every tear; He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. All the afflictions and trials that befall us here are permitted, to work out His purposes of love toward us??that we might be partakers of His holiness,? and thus become participants in that fullness of joy which is found in His presence.?My Life Today, p. 292.

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Books About God's Love

One of Ellen White?s books that people love most is called Steps to Christ. It?s all about learning to follow Jesus?learning to be more like Him. In her book, Ellen says the first step is to know that God loves us. . . .

Do you see how much God loves you? He created all things we see in nature to make us happy. And the Bible says that God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to this world to save us. . . .

And that?s why Jesus came to our earth. Ellen White?s book explains that the story of Jesus tells us what God is like. When we learn that Jesus was always fair and truthful, we know that God cares about doing the right thing. When we learn that Jesus healed sick people and cheered up those who were sad, we know that God cares about how we feel. When we learn that Jesus never hurt another person and was always kind, even to those who hurt Him, we know that God loves every person?including us. . . .

Who was Ellen White? She was the writer of many books, and they all tell us how much God loves us.

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Hypnotic Hyper-Hypocrisy

Hyper-hypocrisy of those who claim to be Christian is tarnishing the name of God and spreading skepticism about Christianity. It seems Christians find reasons to shamelessly compromise Christian principles in exchange for power, material advantage, and selfish gain. And then, Christians defend those who consistently violate Christian principles if those people divide with them the spoils of dominance. It is shameful. But it is happening more and more. Right before our eyes, the love of many is waxing cold (Matthew 24:12).

In an age of heightened xenophobia (intense dislike or fear of people from other countries), discrimination due to skin tone, gender, sexual orientation, economic disparities, age, and many other differences. Paul points the way to living with a clear conscience. He did not let the lure of this world distract his focus from the everlasting rewards of eternity. This was not a ?pie in the sky by and by? mentality. It was the realization of an inescapable truth. Everyone eventually reaps what they sow (Galatians 6:7).

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Called to Reach a Higher Standard

Paul tried to impress the believers with the importance of spiritual self-discipline and used an example from the athletic competitions in Corinth. The most popular sport was foot racing. Young men from all ranks of society took part. Contestants disciplined themselves and trained hard to win. Commoners, nobility, and public officials all followed the races.

The rules for the competition were strict and judges? decisions were final. If a runner broke the rules, even if he came in first, he did not receive a trophy. However, if he did everything right and won, he won the trophy and the applause of the people, which was so loud that it echoed back from the surrounding hills.

Paul used these games as an example of the spiritual race for Christians. We also must employ self-discipline and strength, focus on Christ, and follow God?s rules without collapsing or quitting. The trophy is eternal life.

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Tithes and Offerings

To keep the economy of the country going, God?s system of tithes and offerings continued as it had been for years. The Lord had said to the people, ?The tithe is mine, which includes one-tenth of your income and from whatever you get from your flocks and herds. It is for the support of the priests, while the freewill offerings support the sanctuary and help those in need.?

God also reminded the people that each per-son was a steward of the Lord?s property because everything belonged to Him. In that sense we are laborers together with Him, advancing His king-dom, and He wants us to tangibly and sacrificially express our gratitude to Him. In return, he pours out blessings from heaven on the faithful.

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