Thursday, July 26, 2012
Hosea 10: 12 NLT
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’
God plead with Israel to turn from their wayward path and to come back to Him. He promised as they did so He would rain upon them with showers of righteousness. This year has been a dry year. The grass has been brown and the rains few and far between which have led to bans on water usage and burning . Last night and today were different though as a nice steady rain has showered our region with needed precipitation. The rain caused some roofs to leak and puddles to walk through, but the benefits for our dry land out weigh side effects.
God tells us to plant seeds of righteousness and we will receive a harvest. Israel had turned from the ways of God so they were hardened toward the things of God. The Lord advised, "plow up the hard ground of your hearts" and seek the Lord. Sometimes we don't even realize we have hardened ourselves about something for which God is trying to get our attention. Sometimes we find we've compromised and have gotten to the place where we don't recognize it. As we desire revival for our church and our homes our prayer needs to reflect that we need the Lord in every part of our life. We need Him to show us the areas that we have allowed ourselves to become blind to, the areas we've gotten hardened to.
Seeking the Lord is something that we all can engage in actively and in so doing we become receptive to God's prodding concerning our life. We become aware of seeds of righteousness and compromise. We can see God's blessing.
I used to love sitting on the porch with my father during a rain storm. I listened to the rain on the roof, and smelled the freshness of the water in the air. It seemed to wash over me and minister peace to my spirit. God's Spirit is like that too. When we rest in Him, when we seek His face, He shines upon us. He brings us righteousness and changers our life course. His rain brings godly change and peace.
Seek Him today, Let Jesus deal with your heart and your issues,
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Hebrews 13:7-19 NIV
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Some worry about this verse. We've all heard about misuse of power and authority...or about doctrinal error creeping in to the picture. Yet the truth here is evident. God desires that we know our leaders and have confidence in their calling and love. Even harder for some is the exhortation to submit to the authority of your Pastor. We want to do our own thing and we'd rather think of our Pastor simply as a friend rather than a person of authority. Yet God tells us through His word we should honor and be willing to obey our leaders in matters of the church. That doesn't mean we don't have a voice, but it does mean that we lay our pride down and submit even when we'd rather have our own way. Maybe we are asked to step down from ministry for awhile, maybe someone else gets the position in church we wanted, maybe we are asked to do a chore that we'd rather not have to do temporarily to help out in a time of need, maybe our suggestion is heard but not taken at the moment because the Pastor feels led of the Holy Spirit in a different way, maybe we are corrected in someway. I'm not talking about an abusive use of power or doctrinal error, but simply a willingness to yield to the authority God has placed. How we respond in these situations is key to our character development and shows our maturity. Do we get angry and grumble, do we gossip and declare that Pastor is not spiritual, or do we pray and yield?
Father, I pray for (LWF..Pastor John or place your Pastors Name here) and his wife (Sis Ruth or place your pastors wife's name here). I pray for my Pastor and his family. I know their are many pressures that come upon a pastors family. Give direction about what course to take and help him yield to the voice of the Holy Spirit in all things. Refresh his spirit and shake off the dust of discouragement. Bless financially so that he and his family can give their full attention to ministry. Draw him close to Your heart so He can hear Your voice clearly. Help me to make his job a joy as I yield to the Holy Spirit and also to my Pastor in areas where he is called to help me.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Psalm 27 is an amazing chapter that gives hope to the reader and encourages trust in God. The portion we will look at today talks about the thing David most sought after from the Lord.
Psalm 27:4 NLT
The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
The house of God David referred to was the literal temple in Jerusalem. The presence of God abided there especially in the Holy of Holies. I know that this verse can be looked at in two ways. The New Testament teaches us that we are the temple of God and the Holy Spirit abides in us. We are able to come through prayer and praise right into the throne room of God. Also the verse reminds us that there is something special about the house of God where God has placed us. When God's people prepare their hearts and have a loyal heart toward their local house God can do wonderful things.
King David knew that the presence of God had to be premium in his life if he was to fulfill his true destiny. His also knew that God's presence doesn't come without a person seeking it. Many folks today desire God's presence and that is a good thing, but we have to remember there is a price to that presence. God doesn't play favorites, but there are people who take the initiative to spend time with Him who experience His presence and His power. Believe me our Lord knows your schedule. He knows your work schedule and family obligations. You may not feel as if you have a lot of time to give, but when you purpose to spend some quality time with Him He will bless you. At present I work a secular job along with ministry and it really tires me out....but in it God has given me a time at work where I can spend time with him and still fulfill my obligation to work. He will make a way for you too. You don't have to be like someone else...God will draw you to Himself.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Proverbs 11:20 New Living Translation (NLT)
Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight
Sunday, July 22, 2012
For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Sometimes when we look at our circumstances we can't imagine that God really has a plan for us. Things may look dismal or just plan normal. Frustration may try to set in as we read this promise from God's Word. God's people were going through a time of dryness because many had rejected Him, yet He was drawing them back and assured them that He thought good thougths about them every day.
God is drawing our church to Him at this time too. We've went through many things in the last little while. Yet God has promised a year of Restoration. We felt His presence today as we worshiped and as God spoke His encouragment to our souls.
Let God comfort you, Let him whisper His promise and purpose in your ear in worship, and rest in His hope. Speak His Word over your life and over Living Waters Fellowship.
New Living Translation (©2007)
For I know the plans I have for you," (insert your name and Living Waters Fellowship of Watertown, NY )says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Seeing God's Heart
Nehemiah's heart was touched when his brother brought news of what was happening in Jerusalem. He was in the palace with an influential position. He could have let the conversation go or simply prayed a quick prayer that God would help, but instead his concern became a desire for action. He allowed himselfl to see God's heart concerning the danger Jerusalem faced without a wall of protection, and began to pray for the favor of God to go to Jerusalem and make a difference. If we are going to do anything for God we have to allow Him to share His dream with us and desire to see it come to past.
His Life of Prayer
Throughout the book of Nehemiah we see Nehemiah praying to God for help and wisdom. His first prayer was to ask God for favor with the king and to be allowed to go to Jerusalem and work on the wall. "Strengthen my hands" was a prayer he prayed when he realized his enemies wanted him to give up the task. He also asked God to remember those things he did for the people. Each step of the way we see Nehemiah praying. Some folks thought Nehemiah's prayers to be bold and brash, but if one is going to do something to change the world they must know who they are in Christ and be willing to seek God at every turn.
Nehemiah would not come down off the wall despite all the distractions that the enemy sent his way. The book of Nehemiah is a roller coaster ride of a book. Just when it seems like one crisis is contained Nehemiah is having to put out another fire with enemies, supposed loyal officials, false accusations and even physical threats and attacks. He had to build moral among the workers, assign protection details, and stay steady while a steady stream of voices made it seem he should come make a deal. Anyone who desires to be a successful leader will have to develop similar tenacity in times of trial. People who desire to make a difference cannot be moved because some obstacles come their way. Prayer and steadfastness go hand in hand. Do you fall apart at the first sign of trouble? Steadfastness is learned project by project trusting God each time more and more.
Nehemiah was a voice of right and wrong. Some that read the book may cringe at his insistence on right living before God. He told the people that they should not marry folks that were foreigners and served other God's. He was adamant about not allowing the Sabbath to be profaned. He invited Ezra and the scribes to read the Word of the Lord aloud to the people so that they would know what was right and wrong. He wasn't afraid to rock the status quo.and speak up even when the offenders were the rich and powerful. Godly leaders have to keep themselves pure and also be wiling to speak.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Chapter 11 is interesting. Jerusalem was under populated. Many of the Jews lived in the surrounding towns which had family lands. When people came back from captivity they went back to their family homes and settled. We've studied all the trials Israel went through building the wall. Now the commitment became even higher for some who didn't live in the city. They cast lots and agreed that one out of every ten would live in Jerusalem. It would be a life change that would effect their family line and their everyday life. I don't know about you but it would be hard for me to depend upon a lot to decide where my family would live. However, their commitment to the good of the country made them willing to sacrifice their own freedom of choice in regards of where to live. They considered the lots a way to fairly choose and that God would be in the choice. What sacrifices are you willing to make?
Jerusalem needed to be properly populated to keep a defense. I wonder how the families reacted and if they began to have a love for their new circumstances. There are two ways you can handle things that create a God ordained change. You can follow the new path in peace and find joy in the new circumstance or you can follow the new path but be resistant to finding purpose and joy. Chapter 11 names some of the people who left their land and home to move to Jerusalem and start a new life. What changes are you undergoing in your life? Remember God can give you wisdom and purpose for your everyday life.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Marriage to unbelievers had caused many of the Jews to loose their love and devotion to the Lord. The parents were responsible for arranging marriages and sometimes they were arranged for the perceived financial or power broker benefits to families involved. This promise was an acknowledgement that choosing someone who loved God was more important than any other benefit that may be brokered through a marriage to an unbeliever. God desired the adults who married to stay true to Him and the children born to have a godly influence. That brings their promise into modern focus. We usually marry for love in our country...but if we love God we can see that the consequence of marrying an unbeliever can have the same bad consequences the Jews faced. Many young people have been drawn away from the Lord while trying to please someone whose heart isn't attuned to Jesus. Someone may seem pleasing....but if we want to please the Lord we won't go down that path. We need to be careful who we allow to influence our life. Think about how this aspect of the promise should affect your walk.
Honoring the Sabbath was very important. It consisted of remembering God, resting, spending time with family and a day of worship. How can this promise relate to you? What do you do to honor God on the Lord's day. You may be resisting a little bit. The phrase "worship God everyday" comes to mind. It is a true statement...however that doesn't negate that we are called to set aside the Lord's day to honor him. The flesh may not always want to do this....it might be a temptation to sleep in or go to a ball game...but the Word says, "Neglect not the gathering of yourselves together". Don't forget the rest part...set aside time to relax and renew your body and spirit.
Gifts of tithes and offerings. Some would love to think that tithe and offering was simply an Old Testament command. When we examine the promise it is evident that they wanted to promise to obey out of love for God and His house. They didn't want the temple to fall in disrepair or the ministry have to abandon the house House of God. They understood that the temple was important to their relationship with the Lord and they needed to keep a clean heart before the Him. Do you have a passion for God's house and the spread of the Gospel? What can your support do for your local house of worship?
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Israel had such a revival of repentance and desire to obey and please God that they wanted to make a binding agreement with Him. They had read the Word and found his decrees, they had recalled their history of turning from Him and they wanted to avoid a repeat of that at all cost. Let's take a look at the things they felt were important to promise. Examine your heart and see what things God would have you promise and decree. Remember knowledge of God's decrees and repentance came before they formed their promise.
Overview of Israel's promise
- Marriage: We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the people of the surrounding people's and not to take the daughters of the surrounding people's for their sons. They saw the importance of not allowing the influence of those who did not serve God come into their families. They realized that this was a prime tool of the enemy to draw them away from faith in the true God.
- Sabbath: When the people's surrounding us try to sell things on the Sabbath we will not. We will remember the Lord. When people today try to get us to forsake God's house are as determined. When we are tempted not to have a day of rest do we remember God rested as an example to us.
- Offerings, tithe, and first fruits, storehouse The people wanted to bring a prescribed offering that would sustain the temple. They also wanted to bring the offerings that the law required. The tithes and offerings and the first fruits of their crops. They wanted to trust God with their finances and have a heart toward God in their giving so the ministries of the temple would go forth. Do we have that same enthusiasm toward giving for the right reasons. Keeping the ministry of the temple would keep the nation on track with God, it would reach out to those who would seek the living God and it would give Glory to the living God.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Today we'll see that a history lesson was used to solidify God's object lesson. Some of you might not share my passion for history...maybe you don't find yourself enjoying the History channel or documentaries...but you can still get the picture of how God works in our lives and in the life of a nation.
This History lesson begins with Abram and brings to remembrance how God brought him out of Ur and found a faithful heart in him....to Moses who is used of God to bring deliverance to his people, to the kingdom of Israel, to the time when they were dispersed to foreign lands. It was a story of a people following God and being greatly blessed to a people who forgot God and become stiff necked. It is a story of the grace of God even in the midst of disobedience. The story...their very own story....brought the people of Nehemiah's day to a a place of decision. Chapter 9 ends with the following promise. 9: 38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.” Tomorrow we will look at that agreement. Today....take a look at your own History and see how God has lead you to where you are right now. I pray you will be taken with the heart of the people of Israel and that you will have your own awakening which brings worship, confession and repentance.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Nehemiah 9:1-6 Revival of the Word and Repentance
The Israelite's had just celebrated the feast of Tabernacles where the emphasis was to remember all those things God had done for them and their people throughout their history. They recounted the blessing of the Lord in the wilderness. All of this along with the heartfelt desire and obedience to build the wall put the people of God into a position to hear God's voice. They took steps to listen clearly. First they gathered together to hear God's Word read. Men, women and children who were old enough to be able to understand spent a quarter of the day listening as the Word was read. They responded to the Word with confession and repentance. They realized that they and their fathers had fallen short of the glory of God, of the calling of God for their nation, but mostly of failing to stay in proper relationship with their God. There was weeping as they began to truly see these things and worshiped before the Lord.
The Word, Confession and Repentance in Your Life
As I read the book of Nehemiah I'm reminded of what the Holy Spirit has done and is continuing to do in my life. I see those areas that He desires to help me in and that I need to confess have been wrong in His sight. The Word of God tells us is that it is like a mirror that shows us the reflection of what is truly in our soul. The choice of what we do with that reflection is up to us. The Word tells us not to look at the mirror and do nothing about the image we see. God is the one who forgives, He is the one who gives us the strength and ability to change, but our confession, acknowledgement, and willingness to listen to His Word is what opens the door to His ability to bring the transformation of our life. When we put the Word in our heart, when we confess our sin, when we humbly obey the Word He gives us the power to overcome the vilest of sin and change our lives forever. He puts us in position to live a life pleasing to Him
Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Feast of Tabernacles
The people began reading the Word and realized that they should be celebrating one of the feast days. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time of remembrance. Tents or huts were made to remind the people of their time in the desert with just a tent or hut. The reenactment was to remind them of God's love and protection during the wilderness wanderings. They had rediscovered the God's command to remember and they wanted to start fresh in obeying God's Word. The feast days have always intrigued me with the food and object lessons. Can you imagine what it would be like as a child to build a hut and have it be your temporary home. The stories of God's provision and deliverance from slavery would be recounted. Even adults would be touched as they told of how Israel's needs were provided for in the midst of the hard ache they went through. Maybe you don't want to camp out for a week or so in a hut but there may well be some ways you can walk down memory lane and recall just how often God has met your need and helped you. Take some time today to examine God's goodness to you.
13 Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. 14 And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” 16 Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. 17 So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. 18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Ezra and the scribes read the Word
The people both men and women came to listen to Ezra read the Word of God. The scribes broke down the word and explained in such a way the people would understand. Everyone was willing to spend time listening and learning. They wept perhaps because they realized all they had missed with a lack of knowledge about the Lord and His Word. Ezra and Nehemiah had a different take on the situation. They advised the people to rejoice with rich foods and gifts because it was a day when the people gathered to hear and understand the Word and their heart was after the Lord.
We can have the same passion
I get so blessed when I go to the studies and see people hungering after the Word and after the presence of the Lord. Don't let the Word and His presence be put on a shelf...God desires to ignite a fire within us that will bring joy and peace to our lives. This revival of spirit is more than a head knowledge it is a passion to know God with the heart. Some days it may seem like a sacrifice to come into His presence and read His Word....yet we can come with joy because God honors those who diligently seek him.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
When God first puts something on our heart and gives us a dream to go forward we often don't realize the sacrifice and struggle that is involved in doing the work and trusting God to make it happen. It takes grit to complete the task. Today I pondered all the obstacles Nehemiah faced as he rallied the people to complete this huge task. He had to overcome the discouragement that had settled over Jerusalem, the removal of great amounts of rubble from the old wall, the fierce threat of enemies, and finally the unholy actions of the nobles who should have been in sync with God's plan but instead were "in bed" with God's enemies. Finally the task was complete, but that didn't mean it was the end of the work. Nehemiah knew that the wall had to be guarded and the people had to remain diligent. He assigned his brother Hanani along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress to govern the city of Jerusalem. He also arranged for the people to guard the wall both from century post and from their homes. He had the people register their heritage so that they would be properly placed.
What are you guarding?
God gives us some pretty understandable things to guard and keep tract of in our life. Just because a task is completed doesn't mean all is completed.
Monday, January 23, 2012
15 So on October 2[d] the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.17 During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. 18 For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.
This portion of Scripture is so sad to read. Yet that same thing happens today. Some of the leaders of the people had connections to a person who did not want God's people to succeed in building the wall. Marriage connections to powerful families had caused some Jews to be willing to align with a man who really had no love for their people. He endeared himself enough to make some extol his supposed good deeds to Nehemiah. Not everyone who appears to do good things has the best interest of God's people in mind. His actions against the wall should have shown these powerful men his true character. The wall represented protection against enemies. It would protect the city from attacks. They sent letters back and forth and telling him what Nehemiah said. These people were blinded by this man and his sideline "good deeds" that they could not see his disdain for the wall confirmed his true character and thoughts about God's people. These people actually hurt the cause of God for their own people because of their connections and because they allowed themselves to believe a lie.
We need to be careful about our connections too. While I'm not advocating we go about accusing people or looking for trouble, we must be careful and know the plan of God being aware of those who do not promote it. Even if we have connections because of marriage, friendships, or the recommendations of someone we respect it is so important to look at character and listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The sad part of this reading is that these leaders seemed duped by those they allowed to have power in their lives. They didn't seem the kind that would out of the blue reject the blessing of God upon their own people. Instead they were fooled by supposed good deeds and connections to important people.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
We find Nehemiah and the people steadily working on the wall. The enemies of God, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were still getting angry about it. They sent message after message asking for a meeting. An unsealed letter was also sent (so others could read it and become afraid) accusing the Jews of desiring to make Nehemiah king so they could revolt against the king. They threatened to get word back the king of this plot.
They just want to scare us into backing down.
Nehemiah's assessment was that these enemies were doing their best to scare both he and the people from finishing God's project. So he sent them a reply by messenger. Kind of reminds me of email. "8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” I want you to think about a few things here. First, Nehemiah had to rely upon his character that he had built with the king during his time of service. Our everyday life of hard work and loyalty really do matter and will effect our mission. Second, Nehemiah wasn't fooled. He knew their plan and he prayed against it. They wanted him to become weak...his prayer was that his hands be strengthened. We need to pray and declare the opposite of what the enemy is trying to proclaim over us.
Prophets of Doom hired by enemies
Folks who called themselves prophets called Nehemiah and tried to get him to go to the temple for sanctuary because that was the only way he could protect himself against those who wanted to kill him. It was not God but a trick. It is a sad state when sometimes even those who use a cloak of spiritually really are hirelings. Nehemiah's prayer life caused him to see this for what it was. We hadn't heard about it throughout the book, but apparently these prophets had been trying to intimidate him all along.
Father, we ask in Jesus Name that we would discern the plots of the enemy like Nehemiah did. We pray along with him, "Strengthen our hand".
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
I'm taken with Nehemiah's life of prayer, his treatment of others and his desire to see righteousness in his people. Nehemiah was willing to speak for those who were being mistreated and didn't have the power to change things on their own behalf. He saw things in society that were wrong and addressed them. While some folks may not like his words to me they confidence in God's blessing upon righteousness.
Mistreatment: Nehemiah 5
Smack in the middle of all of the problems with enemies fighting against the building of the wall and the discouragement among the ranks we find some disturbing facts about the officials and nobles of the people. The rich were charging high interest to other Israelite's who needed help to pay taxes. Some of their children had been sold into slavery. They cried out to Nehemiah and declared that their children were just as important as the children of the rich. Homes and lands were lost to the profiteering of the nobles. Nehemiah rose up and decried this injustice....and demanded that they stop mistreating the poor and give back the money and lands that they wrongfully had taken.
9 Then I pressed further, “What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations? 10 I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of charging interest. 11 You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. And repay the interest you charged when you lent them money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”
Nehemiah was a man that would not let go whether against foreign enemies or Jewish nobles who took advantage of their countrymen. When we are trying to do God's will and there are ungodly issues in our lives that we have not dealt with God brings those things to the surface. The wall which would bring protection was God's plan...but sin against others would hinder what God was doing. When something comes to the surface in your life it may well be that God is helping you to repent and walk uprightly both to safeguard you and to bring about greater blessing. The officials and nobles repented. What areas to do you see in your life....What areas are you willing to address in your circle.
Nehemiah talked to God and others about about how he did not exploit the people as other governors had. He ends with this statement.
Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” 11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” 12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”[e] 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.
The enemy wants to swoop in and the local news is broadcasting "Attack is imminent". I don't know about you, but sounds like a scary problem. The enemy must have surely thought he had them just where he wanted them. Nehemiah set guards according to families. Let's take a look at his reaction.
He looked the situation in the eye and declared. God is with us...Don't let this throw you...fight for your families. God brought us this far so he will take care of us. The road to God's will often has obstacles placed by the enemy of our soul...but those w ho complete the course please Him.
Nehemiah 4:15-23 and hard work
15 When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. 16 But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!” 21 We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. 22 I also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. 23 During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.[f]
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
7 [d]But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. 9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.
The Jews had been working together in a spirit of unity repairing the wall of Jerusalem. They believed God was doing a work and put their heart into doing their part. They had endured the ridicule of enemies who spoke against them and God's plan. Steadily these enemies put more pressure on the workers in order to keep them from completing the wall. Completion would cause these enemies to lose power and show God's hand toward His people. When intimidation didn’t stop the work the ante was raised to threats of physical confrontation that could result in deaths and confusion. The Jews prayed and began to guard the city day and night.
Wow. Things sure heated up in Jerusalem. Sometimes that happens in our lives too. We start a the path that God has set before us trusting Him to help us do our best to honor Him. When obstacles come it can grow harder to remain steady to the course. The Jews prayed and set a guard.
10 Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.”
Sometimes feelings can lead us astray. The workers became tired and overwhelmed with the tricks of the enemy. There was a choice to be made. The task seemed way too big for them and discouragement and disappointment threatened to derail progress. What would they do? Sometimes we just want things to go smoothly without a hitch, but the real test is what we will do when the pressure comes. Nehemiah wisely prayed and remained steady and gave the workers a good example. Whether we are the lead or a worker on the line we can learn from this. Maybe we’ve fallen prey to the enemies tricks in the past but when we know the plan of God we can remain steady despite attacks. Brush off feelings of failure and lack of confidence and listen for the voice of the Lord. It may seem like a battle at present, but Jesus always has a plan for success when we listen to Him.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Is the enemy getting angry because his attacks are not keeping you from moving forward? Sometimes the attack will intensifiy with greater attacks. It is important. Nehemiah and the Jews faced the same thing when the wall was at half height. Intimidation didn’t stop the work and that made their enemies furious. You will sometimes see and intensification of the battle in such cases.
6 At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm. 7 [d]But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. 9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.
Sanballat increased his assault as well as influencing more groups of people in the surrounding area to join with him in his attack and hatred towards the Jews. They were incensed that their intimidation didn’t stop the wall from going forward. So they plotted together to physically attack the city and bring great confusion. Today was like this for me and it took me awhile to see what was happening. I’d overcome attacks and the devil’s whispers….so he launched an all out attack . I missed the truth of it for awhile and fell prey most of the day, but God in His Great Mercy kept speaking to my heart. The Jews had to guard the city….we need to guard our heart.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Tactics of the enemy and ways to overcome
Nehemiah's book reminds me of real life and the spiritual battles we face. Throughout the book we will see core enemies again and again. It will become apparent that these enemies have intertwined themselves in such a way that one would never imagine. Yet God gives wisdom to Nehemiah and those who will work toward God’s plan for Jerusalem. The enemy has many weapons that we need to be aware of in our walk with God.
1 [a]When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
Sanballat and his team were human beings, but they give us information about how the enemy of our soul works to bring destruction. The first thing we see here is intimidation and the casting of doubt. He calls the Jews feeble and mocks their ability to accomplish the task. He intensifies weakness instead of what unity under God can do. Think about this a moment. Are there things that God has placed in your heart that have been set aside because of the enemies tactic of ridicule and doubt casting? Don’t brush over this question. You may well find yourself realizing that you laid down the dream because of the enemies voice of intimidation. He may use people or simply plant a thought of inability in your mind. The question is what are we going to do with those voices the enemy yells in our ear?
4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of[b] the builders. 6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
The people worked with all of their heart despite the insults and mockery thrown their way because they trusted God and Nehemiah’s leadership of steadfastness. Nehemiah’s response was so important because it would determine what those under his leadership would do. If he gave up and accepted the seeds of doubt and inability it would funnel down to the workers. He had to stand firm in what God told him and in God’s ability. You see it wasn’t just what he thought he could do…it was about what God could do through yielded vessels who understood the need to reject the tactics of the enemy and believe what God said to be true. Notice the prayer of Nehemiah. Basically, “Lord, I trust you to deal with these enemies.”
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Chapter 3 is an amazing chapter that relates to any project God asks you to undertake. It gives the names of groups of people who worked on the wall. People of differing social standings began to work together on the wall that was near their dwelling. Priest, perfumers, sons, goldsmiths and even a father and his daughters worked on the wall. When we get in line with God's vision, God's leader, and work together God will bless the work of our hand.
Unfortunately we also read in this chapter about some nobles (leaders) that refused to put their shoulders to the work.
Whether our current God project involves church, home or community it is important to follow His lead, His leaders, and put our shoulders to work in a spirit of unity. All those who willingly do this are surely leaders to be admired.
Take a minute to read Nehemiah chapter three and ponder how God can use unity and the hard work of individuals to fulfill His purposes.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Get used to seeing these enemies throughout the story of Nehemiah. They hate the people of God and anything that would help give courage and peace to Israel. Nehemiah's reactions keep everything going according to God's plan. Remember your reaction to the devil and his assaults can make or break a situation. First of all, remember God's plan is to prosper His people and to see their good come about. Remember also that even things that seem impossible are possible with God. Nehemiah's enemies try to claim they have a right to the land...Nehemiah lets them know that in reality they have no historic right to the land. The enemy of our soul tries to destroy God's plan....I'm convinced we can like Nehemiah stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Has God shared something with you? Ask him what if anything you should share with others at this moment. Perhaps there is a waiting period. You can use that time wisely by allowing the Holy Spirit to help you be prepared for the task and how best to present it.
11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. 13 And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. 15 So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.
Monday, January 9, 2012
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Doesn't it baffle the mind that when God gives favor there is often an enemy that emerges? Sanballat's name means the god of sin (moon god) . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin_(mythology) We will see these enemies as the story continues. They have no desire to see God's people succeed. Nehemiah fights the enemy with God's power and so can we. When ever we do some thing great for God we will see resistance from God's enemies.
Whenever we have a God given dream in our heart the devil fights. He uses people, intimidation and a whole arsenal of weapons. The Word tells in Ephesians 6:12, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
As we read we further we will see how Nehemiah fought this and how he avoided getting entangled with the enemies plans. Sometimes our own flesh can bring hurt to God's plan. The enemies introduced understood clearly....they didn't want Israel to be blessed of God or succeed in anyway. We will learn the difference between enemies and the uninformed as we read this amazing book of the Bible.
God is still able and is greater than any enemy.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
Favor can come in the midst of our daily life. Nehemiah didn’t barge in to the king and demand anything. God prepared the kings heart. You may not be in a palace, or work for a politician like Nehemiah but God can still bring the right person into your life. It is not always quite what we expect. Nehemiah was afraid when the king noticed his sadness because a cup-bearer or advisor of the king was not to show his own cares….he was to concentrate on the needs of the king. Yet God prepared the kings heart to care about Nehemiah and Israel. Nehemiah…spoke up when asked and began to share his heart about why he was sad and what God had put on his heart. We have to be careful not to let fear keep us from favor.
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
Have you ever thrown up a quick prayer in the midst an important situation? He hears. (Remember though Nehemiah had already been seeking God and fasting )When we have prayed and believed He is in the midst and can help us say and do the right things. The queen sat by the king that day (a practice that was employed to bring mercy) Nehemiah was asked what he wanted. He could have just asked for permission to take time off to go to Jerusalem and access the situation. Instead he went beyond the obvious and asked for more. His request was granted.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Sometimes we are afraid to pray bold prayers. Maybe we've been disappointed. Perhaps we are not confident we can succeed in the en-devour the Lord has put before us. We cannot do it on our own. This week as we've studied Nehemiah we've seen God place a burden upon his heart, we've seen him pray day and night and fast before the Lord, We've seen him humble himself before the Lord and admit his sin, the sin of his family and the sin of his nation. He positioned himself for favor. Nehemiah's boldness involved a prayer to bring favor before the king of Persia. He was the kings cup-bearer.
11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cup-bearer to the king.
Nehemiah was in an influential position. His job was to keep the king safe from poisoning by tasting the food first. Cup-bearers also became confidants and advisers to the king...no doubt due to the access they had and their willingness to risk their lives. However, that didn't mean that the kings heart would honor God and Nehemiah's heart's desire to help his country. Thus the bold prayer in the natural was a risk. Nehemiah bold prayer may be called presumption by some...but to me it spells faith.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
7We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. 8Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 9But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. 10Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
Nehemiah knew the history of his people and that they had not kept God's commands. He realized that their present situation was based upon their past behavior of disobedience. The New Testament tells us, James: 4:7 ; When we yield to God in obedience the devil must run in Jesus Name when we resist him. Sometimes we are waiting for a huge revelation about how to have the power of God in our lives and we miss the obvious promise to those who obey. Nehemiah reminded God that when the disobedient turn from their way and obey God he will gather them to Himself. He promised the Jewish nation that He would gather them back to Jerusalem. I mentioned yesterday that Nehemiah prayed for the nation and admitted both personal sin and national sin. God has an assignment for you...He is in the process of revealing it to you. Take an inventory and ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything that needs repentance in your life. Obedience from the heart and out of love for God brings power and victory. It doesn't mean there will be no problems to overcome...but it does mean God will be with you.
Here is a promise that gives great comfort.
I John 1:9
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Nehemiah’s prayer takes up the rest of chapter one. Go ahead and read the whole prayer and we will discuss portions of it the rest of the week.
God Keeps Covenant and is Merciful
5And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
6Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
A covenant is an agreement. God doesn’t break His word. He keeps covenant…take a minute and ponder that. He remembers what He has said and promised. He works this divine trait in us as well. Psalms 15:4 talks about how we are to keep our word even when it hurts. Perhaps the Israelites wondered if God was still willing to remember them. Things were not looking good for them at the moment. Nehemiah’s prayer reminds us that we serve a merciful God. When we love Him and are obedient His mercy overflows towards us. Verse 6 starts a very important part of the prayer. Nehemiah asked God to listen to his prayer and then he confesses that he and his people have sinned. Nehemiah is placing himself and the nation in a position of receiving God’s mercy. Tomorrow we’ll see Nehemiah getting more specific about what went wrong…but today we will simply ponder the fact that sometimes our situation has to do with disobedience….and that God hears a repentant heart. Notice also that God can use one of His people to begin repentance for a group.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Yesterday we found Nehemiah in the palace in Persia. We will see as time goes on in our study that the Lord had Nehemiah placed where he could make a difference concerning the problems in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 1:3-4 says,
3And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.4And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
Nehemiah's brother tells him that things are not good in Jerusalem. This passage reminds me that "the steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord". Here is a man that as we will soon see had an important job in a large kingdom. He was in the palace , a place of luxury, and a place of influence. He grew up knowing that the God of Israel had plans to restore what was lost to them. Knowing all of this didn't mean he had to act. He could have excused himself of caring too much about the condition of his people's home land...after all he was a busy man and could have even reasoned within himself that his current position was too important to give up not just for himself, but for his people.
Think about this for a moment. We all have times when we have to discern if something we've learned about is meant to be our passion. Nehemiah knew within his heart that God wanted him to do something, but he wasn't sure what his role would be yet. He started at a place many skip altogether. Prayer and fasting. Some people would get stuck with the weeping and the mourning and go nowhere, some would shake off the weeping and mourning and go on about their business. Nehemiah determined to seek the wisdom and revelation of the Lord. He cast this great care upon the Lord and asked God to make clear what he was to do. I'm convinced we can do the same thing. We can cast the burden on Jesus and seek His council about what to do about what is presented to us in our everyday life. He can help us find our passion and make a positive difference in our world. Take time to pray and fast this week if even only a meal seeking His goals and passion for your life.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Nehemiah’s family line had been taken to Persia in the dispersion when disobedience towards God had caused the Israelites to be taken captive. Daniel was one of the captives who was used of God at the beginning of the captivity and is still an example of trust in God. Jeremiah had prophesied about it and declared it’s length would be seventy years. In Ezra’s time God gave favor to the Israelites and many were allowed to go back to the Holy Land and repair the temple. Nehemiah opens with Nehemiah in the palace (citadel) in Persia when he receives a visit from a brother with news of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s name means Yahweh comforts (comforted of the Lord).
News From Home: Nehemiah 1:1-3
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.
It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan[a] the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”
The splendor of the palace could not hold Nehemiah's heart when his brother Hanani (God is gracious) explains to him that city of Jerusalem is in great distress with the walls which are meant to be a protection are instead broken allowing enemies to have a foothold to bring destruction. So many times when we are shown a need that grips our heart it is God giving us opportunity to make a difference in this world and fulfill His plan for our life. Chapter one reveals how God places in Nehemiah’s heart a burning desire to bring help to his country as well an understanding that God would show him great favor. As we read we will see that we all need the wisdom and revelation of the Lord. Perhaps there are area’s in your life where the walls are broken down, where the enemy wants to get a foothold and cause destruction and reproach. Rising to the call of the Lord is not always an easy road, but God brings joy in the fulfillment of His plan. He sees and He always has a wise plan. Keep reading to see how Nehemiah walked out the plan of God and helped his nation.