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 1–The Right Man for the Job

Nehemiah was the king’s cup-bearer. In those days, that simply meant that he was the guy to take the first drink and bite to make sure the king was not poisoned.  No small task.  As that guy, the king became very attuned to changes in attitude and behavior. So when the king and his wife noticed Nehemiah’s sadness, they wanted to make sure it was not about them.  Nehemiah  knew that not being focused and positive to the king could literally cost him his job and his life. So, Nehemiah came clean.  He told the king he was heartsick about the devastated Jerusalem.  The exiles had returned a generation before, and yet it was still in shambles and the people a mess.
 
The king was probably relieved–Is that all? We can fix that–so he asked Nehemiah what he wanted to do and God’s man set a plan out to effect repairs.  If the truth were to be told, no one else was closer to the King, no one else was more passionate about the nation of Israel–so the king’s protector was now the man God chose to rebuild Jerusalem. It is so like God, He picks the last person we would expect but the absolute best person for the role.
 
In our lives, God chooses us often to fulfill roles we would never expect to fill.  He stretches us, tests us, disciplines us and prepares us to navigate the difficult path we call life. Sometimes we simply cannot understand why we are cast in the role He selects. We do not have to understand, we only have to trust and follow His lead. That is the life of Nehemiah–as we will see. More importantly, it is the life of all who would seek God and His leadership. Help me, Lord to trust and follow you!!!
 
God Bless You

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, 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, 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?”

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 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.”

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.

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? 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. 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.

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.

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 3 Part 2–God’s Plan v. Our Plans!

Boaz had a big job.  As Kinsman Redeemer for Naomi and her family, he was charged to care for them.  What does that look like for a man of means and the poor relations just back from Moab?  Well, first he made sure that Naomi did not starve.  He provided Ruth with grain and care and protection. Next came the job of looking more long term.  Naomi encouraged Ruth to go to the threshing floor and show kindness and humility to Boaz.  She did as she was instructed.  Now Boaz came face to face with the dilemma of being attracted to Ruth and being her redeemer.  Soo he set his heart to do right.  She needed a Husband.  He would present her to the nearest eligible relative to consummate the deal and get Ruth a husband, even if that meant not pursuing her himself.
 
So often our lives, we are faced with the opportunity to trust God to lead us. Many times His ways are not our ways. But, every time His way is best. If we truly believe that God is in charge, and loves us; and if we can cling to his word, then, when facing tough choices, we will honor God and allow Him to make our path straight.  It is very difficult to do so.  we want to “Help God Out” and give the Lord direction and instruction on how to proceed.  Amazingly, He does not need our help–He has this.  “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you–not to harm you! Plans to give you hope and a future!” Jer. 29:11.  
 
We, like Ruth and Boaz, must trust God’s way and follow His plans. If we will–great things will follow.
 
God Bless You

11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”

14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”

15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he[c] went back to town.

16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”

Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

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 5–In Closing…

In the end, there have always been two great commands from God; Love the true God, and love others as you love yourself.  All other commands and direction fall within those parameters.  John closes his letter to the church by laying that out very clearly.  We are God’s chosen adopted children if we believe that Christ is the Savior and Lord. The evidence of our belief is our love for God and his people.  Further evidence is following Him and doing what He has called us to do.
 
We see the truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We also testify to that truth by our words and our daily lives. We are not expected to be perfect, but, we are called to be different. That difference is a lifetime process of transformation that always centers on the gift of salvation. As we journey, we see God’s hand on our lives and become more like him with the passage of each day. In the end, however, it still comes down to this: “He who has the Son Has Life; and He who rejects that gift does not have eternal life.”
As we end the decade, we need to be reminded that our Journey is swift and our destination is eternity. We, therefore, are called to live for that end and not for the temporary promises of this world.  Happy New Year.
 
God Bless You

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I John 4 Part 1–Loving the Church

John reminds the church that if it truly knows God, it will not be fooled by false teachers and lying spirits.  When one starts a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit comes in and dwells.  The Spirit guides and directs God’s people to know Him and to know the enemy.  
 
Further, the Spirit teaches us to love others as Christ loves His own.  One major factor that sets the Church apart is its love for one another.  Jesus said it Himself, “This is how all men will know you are my disciples, that you love each other!” John 13:35. Love is what the Church is supposed to lead with.  That love will manifest in the way the Church reaches out to the community and how it protects and supports its own.
 
If we, as the Church, treat our own with contempt, how can we then expect to treat the lost any better? We have to first there for the family of believers, and then allow that same love and devotion to reach out to the world. If we are not loving the church, then the world would not want anything to do with us. Further, if we are not loving our own; we are failing the primary mission–to love one another.   This new year should charge us to practice our faith by listening to the spirit, Loving the Church and seeking and saving the lost.
 
God Bless You

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this, we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

God Is Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.