Nehemiah 3-Community is Key

Chapter 3 of Nehemiah is a testament of the community effort that Nehemiah’s leadership brought to Jerusalem.  People from all over the land rose up and built a section of the wall and gates. Not everyone was as committed as others, but from preists to artisans; each group attended side by side to the care and rebuilding of the walls and gates!  What makes chapter three more encouraging is the reminder that side by side, the community of God’s people were far more effective than they had neen on their own. If one was to check the history, they would find that all that returned to Jerusalem had nice enough homes and lands. The city’s infrastructure, however remained in complete dissarray.  Once the people banded together as a community, the things that needed to happen began to happen.
 
In our lives, we need to remain committed to the community of believers.  We need to understand that church is a team effort.  We work together to seek and to save that which is lost.  We need to be a part of the group that greets, that repairs, that gives and that prays for the body.  We need to rush forward to be a volunteer and accomplish whatever it is that needs to be done. We need to be generous with our time, our talent and our treasure. We know that it is God that provides all three.  Finally, we need to be a people without excuse. We simply and humbly jump in and be a part of something great–together we can!  As Paul said in Philippians 2–“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but  in humility–consider others better than yourself. Don’t only look out for your own interest, but also the interest of others.  Have the same attitude as Christ!…”
 
God Bless You

Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel.
2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them.
3 The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.
4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs.
5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.
6 The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.
7 Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah—Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth—places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates.
8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.
9 Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section.
10 Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him.

Nehemiah 2 Part 2–Assessing Our Mission

Nehemiah was on task and ready to begin the mission of returning Jerusalem to its former glory.  He was committed to the Lord and committed to the mission.  As he approached Jerusalem, the devestation and disrepair was obvious.  But, Nehemiah was not simply interested in dwelling upon the mess that Israel was, He wanted to gain perspective on what must be done, and what Jerusalem could be again. In that aim, he took his time assessing the city from all perspectives and not taking the advice and criticism of others. Instead he sought the truth 1st hand and  from all angles. As he did this, his detracters wasted no time ridiculing him and calling him a traitor.  They were most interested in the status quo that gave them power and control.  But, again, Nehemiah was not concerned about the criticsm of those that did nothing.
 
In our lives, when God puts us on mission, we have to stay focused onthe mission He assigns. We need not get in a hurry to solve the problem; instead we need to seek him pray and carefully assess the issue.  We also need not fall prey to the outbursts of our detracters. We need to remember our enemy will do any and everything to nuetralize our impact and discredit our Lord.  We are the ones that must be dilligent, remain vigilent and proceed humbly and steadily along the path he sets out.  It is never easy and it is often through chaos and conflict.  But as Solomon so clearly stated in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding! Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your path straight!”
 
God Bless You

11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.

13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
19 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.”

Nehemiah 1 Part 1–It is about the Community

he Book of Nehemiah is a tribute to both God’s faithfulness and the power of faith.  Nehemiah was a part of the descendants of the Israelites that were taken captive in Jerusalem. He was cupbearer to the King of Persia and lived approximately 150 years after the exile began.  After roughly 70 years, the exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem and only 2% did so. Those that returned tried to get reestablished and rebuild the temple of God and the city of Jerusalem. 
 
Some 80 years later, Nehemiah inquires as to the condition of Jerusalem and Israel–God’s promised land.  He is greatly saddened to find that the walls of Jerusalem are still not restored and the city was still in shambles.  He is also saddened to hear that the people were a mess and living in shame.  This broke Nehemiah’s heart and he fasted and prayed to the Lord about how he could help. What happened next would be amazing.  
 
In our lives, we are faced not only with personal struggles, but also struggles within the community of believers and the church. If we are not careful, we become so entrenched in our own lives, that we forget we are part of the community.  The result is shameful. We literally forget about the needs of others and only focus on our own needs. 
The great news is that God never loses sight of the needs of his chosen and when the time is right, the Lord will raise those who are willing to be the leaders of restoration.  We simply need to, as did Nehemiah, pray and seek God’s leadership in how to give back.  It may be financially, it may be with our talents and labor. It may be we are to pray and seek assistance from others.  Whatever it is, like Nehemiah, we must have a tender heart for the church and all those who are a part of it! If we will do that, God will accomplish great things.
 
God Bless You

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.

Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah’s Prayer

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

Now I was cupbearer to the king.

Ruth 1 Part 2–How We Define Ourselves

One of the most difficult disciplines in life is the discipline of definition.  Each day, when one awakens, he/she is given the opportunity to define himself/herself.  Some define themselves by their appearance, others by what they have accumulated. Many, however, define their lives by the circumstances that they face.  Naomi was a woman that loved God.  Yet, life had dealt her a very difficult hand.  She lived in a foreign land, she lost her husband and her two sons.  She had two daughters-in-law that she cared for, but needed to send away–simply because she could not care for them.  Ruth, one daughter-in-law refused to part; and so, the two returned to Bethlehem. When they arrived, the women of the town asked is this Naomi (Pleasant)? Naomi replied, DO NOT call me Naomi (pleasant)…call me Mara (bitter).  Naomi had grown bitter under the weight of the circumstances.
 
In truth, it is very difficult to live a life that rises above one’s circumstances.  Day-to-day events and interactions often fill our thoughts and determine the paths that we take.  Once we are in a relationship with God, however, the Holy Spirit allows us to rise above our circumstances and become defined by who we are, and whose we are in Christ Jesus.  The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance that I am in. Well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:12-13. The Father knows the plans He has for us. Jer 29:11. He is never surprised by trials or tribulations. He provides the grace, strength, and direction to face what lies ahead. If we will trust Him, lean into Him and follow He will navigate us through life’s difficulties. Then, when we arrive on the other side, we can look back and see His fingerprints on each step along the way.
 
God Bless You

 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty[d] has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning

I John 3 Part 2–Love–Love for Us and Our Love for Others.

God truly demonstrated His love for us.  He loved us when we were unlovable.  He accepted us when we were unacceptable.  He calls us to love others the same way.  John reiterated his original message from his gospel, For God So loved the world that he gave his only son. He tells the church –this is how we know what love is…Jesus laid his life down for us. He tells the church its response should be similar…the church should lay their lives down for others.  Selfishness gets parked at the curb and believer’s lives are no longer their own.  It is not a mopey life of dower expression and mundane existence. Instead, it is a life full of meaning and purpose where the needs of others supersede the needs of self.  Amazingly, history reminds us that humans are at their best when they set their personal agendas aside.
 
In our lives, we have to choose each day to live for Christ and not for ourselves.  It is a difficult task. Even on Jesus’s birthday, we can lose the focus and become consumed with the consumerism of the holiday and the consumables we feast upon. If we are not careful, our entire life becomes filled with a desire to promote ourselves and obtain all we feel we deserve.  John’s reminder is stark and plain–live a life like Christ. Lay your lives and agendas on the alter and allow Christ dominion over them. When we live like that, we find ourselves full of life and purpose and we enjoy a glimpse of peace and joy like none other. 
 
God Bless You

 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

I John 3 Part 1–Becoming a Child of God

It is a simple fact that being in a relationship with God changes you.  John took the time to remind the Church that one cannot be a child of God and remain unaffected by His Spirit.  In his gospel, John set it out at the beginning, “To as many as received Him, who believed in His name;  to them, He gave the right to become children of God!” John 1:12.
 
Becoming His children affects us. We begin to take on God’s traits. Selflessness, unconditional love, grace, mercy, purpose, and an eternal perspective all become part of us.  The world thinks we are weird, crazy, gullible and stupid–sadly, they think that because they do not know God. They miss the amazing nature and purpose of a Godly life.  they cannot grasp the joy of following God and living a life that is bigger than themselves.  They think the smile on the face of a philanthropist is an act.  They think people that see answered prayer and are humbly grateful are making too much out of coincidence. 
 
The truth is, once you accept Christ, the Spirit indwells you.  You begin to see the fingerprints of the Father on all parts of your life. You begin to understand how much He loves you and then cannot help but desire to show that love to others.  
 
You realize that you are not the center of the universe and that the more you give of yourself, the more you are living the life you were always intended to have–full of joy, free of fear, and driven with eternal purpose and perspective that helps to moderate the worries of the day.  There is no comparison! A life of faith is deeper, richer and more amazing than the best this world can offer.   
 
That is what makes this week–this Christmas holiday the most amazing. God emptied Himself of His Godly nature and was born in a stable, in a small town, in a small country.  Then, from that humble beginning, He showed the world that the Father truly loved them and only wanted for them to have life–an abundant and eternal life with Him. 
 
God Bless You

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like Him because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him, there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s[b] seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

2 Peter 2 Part 1–No False Teachers Allowed

God has never tolerated Heresy. From the time of Lucifer, when He took a third of the angelic host in rebellion, God has dealt directly with those that would choose evil over God. God cast angels out of Heaven, destroyed most of mankind by the flood.  He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and has dealt with false teachers and cults.  God loves His people and wants to be in a relationship with them. He will not, tolerate that relationship, however, if it is not based on faith and trust in Him. God is a gentleman.  He will not force His way into folk’s lives. He is also, however, not weak.  He does not settle for co-leadership. Either Christ leads and Christians submit to his leadership, or run their own lives.  He does not do a Hybrid version. 
 
In our lives, we try so hard, oftentimes, to help God out. Rather than wait on His timing and leadership; we take matters into our own hands.  Like the false teachers of old, we try to change the message ever so slightly to allow us to manage our lives by committee with God.  Simply put, God does not allow that.  Either we allow him to lead, or we walk on our own and suffer the consequence of running our own show. If we will allow Christ to lead and follow His truth; then, He will give us an abundant life of purpose and blessing.
 
God Bless You

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them in chains of darkness[b] to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.