Wednesday, April 29 2009
Nehemiah documents in the third chapter the building of the gates. He gives credit to those due credit by naming them and explaining how the contributed to the construction of the walls. What I find most interesting is that these "gate builders" were in the city previous to the arrival of Nehemiah. They allowed themselves to live in a city vulnerable to their enemies until a leader that had made himself available to God arrived to cast the vision to build the walls. We know from Proverbs...
29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
A leader gets dirty. A leader fights the enemy. A leader is criticized. A leader is motivated. A leader encourages. A leader does the right thing. A leader casts the vision. A leader leads. A leader continues to cast the vision. A leader leads some more. A leader casts the vision again. A leader does not quit.
As a leader, it is not always easy to have the followers move in the same direction. There will be those that fall away because they lack the stamina to complete the vision. It was John Wooden that said, "It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it." Despite those that do not contribute to the vision, the city must be built. Nehemiah was a leader with the vision to build a wall with the willing. His vision never changed.
Tuesday, April 28 2009
God answered Nehemiah's prayer. We use to sing that would be now an "old school" song, but it simply said "What a mighty God we serve" and since the scripture says...
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
We can be assured that we serve the same God as Nehemiah and can stand on the same promises of God. Nehemiah prayed in chapter one that the king would have mercy on him and chapter two opens with...
1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.
6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
Nehemiah is an example of true leadership. Despite his circumstances and FEARS, he pushed forward with what he knew in his heart was right. The city of his fathers had no walls. This made the people of God that lived in that city vulnerable to the creatures that lurked outside the city. There was no protection because their defences were down. It was time to build some walls.
Our cities are under attack from the enemy. The Bible is clear when it states...
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
It is time that we plant a banner of truth and build some walls around our community through prayer and fasting. It may seem like an uphill battle, but despite our circumstances and fears....we can push forward because we know what is right.
Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem in chapter two. He did not make a grand entrance as the "wall builder", but laid plans knowing that God had anointed him to be a city builder. Perhaps, what I find most interesting about this chapter is the last two verses...
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?
There will be those in every city that will be critics of the truth. The Bible gives us clear purpose, but also warns us of those that will compromise the truth...
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
2 Timothy 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
A true leader does not "turn away their ears", but becomes stubborn for truth knowing that God has called them. Nehemiah was one such leader. He answered his critics with the promises of God...
20 Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
Friday, April 24 2009
I have always found Nehemiah to be fascinating. He is an example of a "go - getter". He did not wallow in self - pity nor was he a complainer, but he was someone that saw a need and he offered himself to God to fulfill that need. Simply, Nehemiah was a leader.
The first chapter of Nehemiah gives us a snapshot into the life of Nehemiah. We know that he was a cupbearer in the king's palace at Shushan. Shushan is in what is now Iran about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf. We know that Nehemiah was a Jews because he identified himself with "men from Judah" and he asked of the Jews that had escaped. He also asked the condition of Jerusalem. There is no evidence that Nehemiah had ever visited Jerusalem, but it was the land of his ancestors. He carried a tremendous burden for his people and their city. As a leader, Nehemiah had the drive and willingness to make a difference.
Nehemiah had the ability to go to the king and ask to leave to help at Jerusalem. He had the access that very few people enjoyed, but he did not run to the earthly king's throne room. He first went to the King of King's throne room. The Bible states...
4 And 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,
The Bible documents the prayer of Nehemiah....
6 Let 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.
7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
Nehemiah came humbly before God. This is consistent with another scripture...
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
9 But 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.
Throughout the Bible are promises of God. I do not believe that Nehemiah was "throwing" the promises at God, but "standing on the promises of God". He simply understood the faithfulness of God. When I pray, I have scriptures written down that are promises to the church. We truly can stand upon the promises of God by praying...
Matthew 16:18 ...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Nehemiah concludes his prayer with a request...
10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man
There is a protocol when entering the throne room of a king. It is not proper to enter in with "I need" or "I want". Nehemiah has set an example for us through this prayer by humbly coming before God, praising God for His promises and then asking God for a need.
Nehemiah is one of the great examples of leadership within the scripture. He was willing and able to do what others would not or could not do. He made himself available to God. We need some modern day Nehemiahs that willing to humbly say "use me".
Thursday, April 23 2009
The 16th chapter of Romans is the last chapter of the book and it gives us a personal look at Paul. In this chapter, Paul greets many people from all walks of life including Jews, Gentiles, prisoners and the prominent. He had not yet visited Rome, but had met many people from the church at Rome in other cities. He had many friends in the gospel and was sure to recognize them as such.
It is in the 17th verse that Paul "gets down to business". He warns them of those that sound good, but have the power to deceive. He writes...
17 I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them.
18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people]. (AMP)18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
How important is the doctrine? It is important enough that Paul warned the church at Rome to avoid those that are in opposition to it. The doctrine is precious and we must protect it at all costs. Our very lives depend on it. Perhaps, you think I am being dramatic, but Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4...
The God's Word Version states the same scripture like this...
18 If it's hard for the person who has God's approval to be saved, what will happen to the godless sinner?
I realize that many blogs include the activities of the writer and that is fine for them, but the readers of this blog knowing that I went to Starbucks or that I play golf does not help them or me. Perhaps, it makes them more comfortable with me as a pastor, but I write this blog as part of my study time with the word of God. It is the word that changes us. I am a pastor that desires to see an increase in souls, and if I can take one thing from the book of Romans it that we need to know the scripture if we are going to make it to heaven. If I can help you better understand the Bible than I have accomplished my purpose.
I challenge you to study your Bible. We cannot rely on someone instilling the knowledge that we need to make it to heaven while at church a few hours a week, but must budget our time to allow us private study time each day.
Thank you for letting me rant.
PS You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 22 2009
The 15th chapter of Romans is subtitled in my Bible (I use a Thompson Chain Reference Bible) "The Duty of Sympathetic and Unselfish Living". Paul begins this chapter with his desire that we as "strong" Christians help those that are weak...
1 WE WHO are strong [in our convictions and of robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; [we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others] and not to please ourselves. (AMP)
I find the last sentence of this scripture very interesting. He was warning them against selfishness. The Christian walk is not just about us making it to heaven, but also those around us. His writings continue with...
2 Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually]. (AMP)
As a "church family", it is essential that we look out for each other. It is counterproductive to tear down or criticize those that "fight the good fight" with you. There is a blessing in the unity of the church and we must be diligent to be helpful and not hurtful. As Paul wrote, we must "edify him". It is truly an attitude and we must make "building" people up part of our character or DNA.
Yesterday, I was at Fossil Beach (Westmoreland State Park) with my children looking for shark teeth. During our search a single duck swam by and my son picked up a rock to throw at it. The duck was not aggressive nor had it done anything to deserve being hit with a rock (can't imagine how a duck would deserve that, but I continue). I immediately told my son to drop the rock. His 10 year old mind had not thought of the consequences of hitting the duck, but somehow he thought it was something to do. I explained to him that I did not want a son whose character thought it was ok to be destructive for destructions sake.
As Christians, we must have the character of Jesus. It must be part of our character to be uplifting and not destructive. We must continually check our attitude and purpose. It comes down to one simple question...Are we pleasing ourselves or Jesus?
Tuesday, April 21 2009
In the 14th chapter of Romans, Paul is settling "disagreements" among the believers. Wherever there are people together then there are going to be people that disagree. I believe that there are commandments and principles within the scripture that we should absolutely embrace and live by and there are some things that are more individual or guidelines. Paul wrote...
6 He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
We must be careful not to make our own views the standard by which all Christians must live. This makes us the judge and Paul penned the following...
10 Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.
He continues to write...
11 For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God [acknowledge Him to His honor and to His praise]. [Isa. 45:23.]
12 And so each of us shall give an account of himself [give an answer in reference to judgment] to God.
13 Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.
We will all stand before God and give an account of our own life. I do warn you that Paul was not addressing salvation nor a holy life in this chapter, but issues that had arisen from those that believed that all should follow the culinary laws of the Old Testament. We will have disagreements within the body of Christ. There are those that are strong and those that are weak, but it is not our responsibility to judge them. We are to love them through prayer and support while holding fast to the Apostolic principles found in the scripture.
Monday, April 20 2009
The 14th chapter of Romans is the shortest chapter in the book, but within its verses are some of Paul's instructions to the church. They words to live by. He opens the chapter by instructing the Romans to be subject to the authority of the government because God has allowed that government to rule....
LET EVERY person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God's appointment. [Prov. 8:15.] (AMP)
Paul continues to write that we should...
7 Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due.
8 Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor [who practices loving others] has fulfilled the Law [relating to one's fellowmen, meeting all its requirements].
Paul writes of love fulfilling the law, but there is one thing that intrigues me. He gives them a warning that it is times to come out of our spiritual sleep, cast off the world and don our armor. Today is a new day and we should be prepared to live the Christian life with energy and passion.
Wednesday, April 08 2009
Romans 12:1 sets the foundation for our Christian walk. It states...
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
It gives us three parameters for which we are to live by. Although, they may seem like a tall order, they are simply the starting point for our Christian walk. Why? Simply, because they are our "reasonable service".
We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice. This means...
We are to be holy. Why is it important to be "physically pure and morally blameless"? It is simply because the Bible says in 1 Peter 1:16...
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
We must be acceptable to God. It is not enough to accept God, but we must be acceptable to God.
The Christian walk can sometimes be difficult, but this scripture reminds us that we must work at it everyday always with the understanding that our relationship with Jesus is our most precious possession.
Monday, April 06 2009
Paul opens Romans 11 with a question...
1 I ASK then: Has God totally rejected and disowned His people? Of course not! Why, I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin! [I Sam. 12:22; Jer. 31:37; 33:24-26; Phil. 3:5.]
I believe this question is a continuation of Romans 10 where Paul writes...
1 BRETHREN, [with all] my heart's desire and goodwill for [Israel], I long and pray to God that they may be saved.
Paul obviously had a great burden for Israel although he claimed to be the "Apostle of the Gentiles" in Romans 11:13. His writings reveal an apparent desire for his people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Paul's burden for souls is great and is a fantastic example to us. We should have a desire to reach souls starting with our family, extending to our neighborhood, our state, our nation and those that live throughout the world.
We are witnesses and have the power to be witnesses...
8 But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.
God give me a burden for those that need Jesus Christ!
Wednesday, April 01 2009
The opening scriptures of Romans 10 reveals Paul's burden for the lost souls of Israel. He acknowledges their zeal for God, but writes that their zeal is not properly placed...
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
It is my desire that my community be saved and I would hope that we all carry that burden. It is our responsibility and duty to be witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not enough to feel comfortable within the four walls of the church building, but we must go and preach the truth to every one that will hear. Romans 10 states...
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
We have to make ourselves available to God and allow Him to work through us. I am willing to go, are you?