Category Archives: Nehemiah

Genesis 23; Matthew 22; Nehemiah 12; Acts 22

When I was in seminary a rather famous religious figure turned his life over to Jesus in a new and fresh way. Then he felt as if he needed to learn the Bible and theology from a whole new perspective so he came to seminary. Well all at once they wanted this person to be speaking in chapel and representing the seminary in many venues. He had been a true follower of Christ for only eighteen months where I had been one for some eighteen years. I felt belittled and not appreciated for what I brought to the table in that seminary.

In today’s reading we have another dramatic conversion in the person of the Apostle Paul. We read it below:

6 An intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light,
10“I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’
11“Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, 15 since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:6-16 [CSB])

Now Ananias could have been like me and sulked because he was a devout follower of Jesus and here’s Saul, one who had persecuted and killed Christians, yet, no he went and even called Saul his brother.

We all have stories. Some are dramatic while others are quiet and deep. What is your story? How has God brought you to himself? Knowing where we were before Jesus — even if we were five or six years old when it happened — it’s a dramatic and awesome story to tell. Tell your story to someone today. I’m sure it will be an encouragement and may even draw someone into the kingdom.

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Genesis 16; Matthew 15; Nehemiah 5; Acts 15

How many times I have struggled with something and called it my “thorn in the flesh?” Abram’s wife, Sarai was no different.

Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne him any children. But she had an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar, and so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Why don’t you sleep with my slave? Perhaps she can have a child for me.” Abram agreed with what Sarai said. – Genesis 16:1-2 GNT

Though I try to hide it, there is pain from not seeing the hand of God moving in my life. If I leave it unattended, even the hope of prayers not yet answered leaves me. If I have been vocal, there is public shame. Then I come to the place where I blame God and that brings a different kind of pain in my life.

So I walk around and from time to time speaking audibly – “Lord have mercy on me” – just to clear my soul. No different then the woman looking to Jesus for healing.

Jesus left that place and went off to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.” – Matthew 15:21-22 GNT

It is a form of intercessory prayer.

That is what Paul and Barnabas wanted to do in their missionary journey – visit all the church plants, see what was going on, and then deliver a report so the whole church could be praying for them.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in every town where we preached the word of the Lord, and let us find out how they are getting along.”  – Acts 15:36 GNT

Am I rejoicing, am I secure in who I am in Christ, am I weeping and am I experiencing comfort in my salvation?  The offer is to come and pray together.

Father, even when I think You are not there, may Your Holy Spirit remind me of Your promise to always be there. Do let let me think too long or too hard on myself so that it hardens my heart towards You. I need Your mercy and if that is all I cry out to You for, give it to me in the largest measure possible. As long as I have You, You are all I need. Being strengthened, I can walk alongside others You send my way that need encouragement and hope just like I did. Thank You that I can talk to You at anytime. Amen

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

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Genesis 15; Matthew 14; Nehemiah 4; Acts 14

“Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can.  That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.  Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession” But Abram replied, O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it? So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River.”  Genesis 15:5-8;18 NLT

In the midst of his faith, Abram still doubted.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage.  I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.  “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:26-31 NLT

Jesus reached out for Peter in the middle of his doubt.

“While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet.  He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked.  He was sitting and listening as Paul preached.  Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.  So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.” Acts 14:8-10 NLT

Oh, to have faith like this man had.  To believe when everything in me is telling me to doubt.  How do I rise above the distrust that threatens to steal my hope?  I choose to remember God’s goodness.  His past faithfulness.  His unchanging character.  I cry out to him, knowing that he hears me.  I stay in his word and listen for his voice.  My faith has been tested this past year.  But, when I change my perspective, there is a shift in how I see.

“Faith is a prism we need to see hope when all seems lost, to survive the furnace of suffering, to grow despite the pain.  Faith is the prism we need to see hope when all seems lost, to survive the furnace of suffering, to grow despite the pain. Faith allows us to see that it’s okay to have doubt, but we doubt the doubt more than the promise of the One who never breaks his word.”(When it’s So Dark All You Can See is Faith,  Dr. Lee Warren, Jan 10, 2020, annvoskamp.com)

Dear Father, thank you that you are with me always.  Thank you that you are fighting for me and my family.(Nehemiah 4:20).  I praise you for who you are.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

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Nehemiah 7-9; John 17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, of course. I love the family all around. And I love having a day designated to reflect and remember the previous year and all that God has done for me.

This passage in Nehemiah fits so perfectly with Thanksgiving. It’s all about remembering. It’s all about recounting. And it’s all about repenting.

It takes place right after the great victory of finishing the repairs of the wall. The people are celebrating by reading God’s word and feasting! But then came the time of repenting and mourning over their failures.

In chapter 9, the Levites cry out to God, recounting all that God had done for them from the very beginning.

You made the heavens… You chose Abram…. You kept your promise… You saw our suffering… You heard our cries… You divided the seas… You led us day and night… You came down and spoke… In our hunger, you fed us… In our thirst you gave us water… You gave us the land…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

But God!

You are forgiving… You are compassionate… You gave your Spirit… You did not withhold… You sustained in the desert… We lacked nothing… We prospered… We were victorious… We reveled in your great goodness…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

And a cycle unfolded. In crisis, they cried out to God. In rest and relief, they rebelled. Even so, God was patient with them. And in this moment, they recognize their failure. They recognize their arrogance. And they recognize God’s righteousness as He was faithful to them even as they were unfaithful to Him. And so they repent. And they ask God for deliverance one more time.

Thanksgiving is all about looking back. And as much as I’d like to be able to say that I look back on the year with only joy and gratitude, I have to admit that there are also moments spread throughout the year where I did not act in a way that honored God. I can see times when I gave in to discouragement and failed to believe His promises. I recall moments of failure that followed success.

When I look back, it’s easy to see God’s hand in every situation. But when I was in the moment, I admit I didn’t always choose to see God’s hand in every situation. Far too often I gave in to fear. And I still catch myself doing that, even after seeing God come through for me every time.

So as I look back over the year, I see some great things God has done. But I also can recognize the not-so-great things I’ve done, and it gives me an opportunity not just to be grateful, but to be humbly repentant as I move forward into the new year to come with fresh vision and fresh goals, letting God lead me step by step into the freedom He has for me.

Father, thank you for your great kindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for not believing you. Forgive me for forgetting all the things you’ve done for me. Forgive me for taking you for granted. Help me to live in constant awareness of your love and goodness so that I can experience the freedom you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Nehemiah 10-13; Revelation 8

27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall. (Neh. 12:27-30 NIV)

Nehemiah is known for being a great leader and orchestrating one of the most amazing building project fetes of all time—rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem in 52 days. He did this by having everyone focus on the area right in front of them–not worrying about any other part.  He defied the opposition that came at him from all sides and was laser focused on the task set before him. Without the wall for protection, Nehemiah knew the temple could be destroyed again, the people would be afraid to live in the city, and Jerusalem would not be the Holy City of God. It was 12 years later, but finally Nehemiah gathered all the people living in and around the city to celebrate. There was a great procession filled with ceremony and fanfare, music and singing—all praising God for His goodness, His blessings upon them, and that He had not given up on them.

This is such a picture of my own life. There was a time when I was an exile from God living far outside His place of protection. I had no boundaries—no walls. The world had free access to me, and I didn’t know a different way to live. Yet, somewhere deep inside I knew there had to be a better way to live. I cried out to the Lord and He answered my cry.

One of the first things I learned was how important it is to build that wall, that boundary, to keep bad things out and good things in. Without that fortified structure in place anything you acquire (peace, emotional distance, emotional growth), any progress you make, can be torn down or stolen. Despite what I always thought, a boundary is a good thing. As we saw in earlier chapters of Nehemiah, people don’t like when walls are built. He encountered anger, intimidation, and threats. Did the enemy try to tear my wall down? You bet. Did things happen to try to distract me from my goal? Without a doubt.  Did I encounter intimidation and scoffing?  Yes–and from unexpected sources.  However, the wall withstood all of that!

From there, God started rebuilding inside of me. We sifted through the rubble of my soul. Piece by piece God lovingly reconstructed a shattered life. I was blessed to have an amazing therapist, a sister in Christ, as my guide. One of the first things we did after establishing boundaries was to purify me. We did this through confession, repentance, and renouncing anything in my life that was not of God. Slowly but surely God put the pieces of my broken heart back together. It was a long, painful process—much like rebuilding the City of David. But I, too, can celebrate with songs of thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.  He is faithful!

Heavenly Father I can do nothing but lift my hands in the air, sing songs of praises to you, and fall on my knees with gratitude for mending my heart, sealing the cracks, and filling it with your love. Where once it leaked out, it now overflows. May I be like Nehemiah and lead the procession joyfully proclaiming Your great name for all to hear. And may my voice join with the heavenly host singing praises of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as this season of Christmas is celebrated. In His name I pray, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Nehemiah 1-3; Revelation 5

And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelation 5:8, NLT).

When I went back to see my doctor after cataract surgery, I knew that I was going to thank him for restoring my sight. What I said to him came from my heart, and gratitude brings me to tears.

During sunrise walks, I think on things that God has done in my life. I challenge myself to discern what a walk with God should look like. I meditate on messages I get through podcasts, and sometimes am brought to tears (like yesterday when one podcast played music from Rocky, an inside story that God would know, and I’m moved mightily by his attention to detail).

In 2017, I chose a focus word RESTORE. I thought specifically that it would mean restoration in a broken relationship, but it didn’t. With some distance in hindsight, I see that year was the beginning of God restoring me. Fixing the brokenness, strengthening weak spots, releasing me from shackles (mindsets and practices) generations long. And today, in 2018, I am lighter in every respect. Life isn’t easier, but I see it in a different way, literally.

That gold bowl of incense holds my prayers. It holds my hurts and deepest hopes. It holds my crying and struggling expressions. It holds Nehemiah’s prayers too. Fragrant offerings.

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” (Nehemiah 1:5-11, NLT)

God made a way for Nehemiah and many others to begin repairing (restoring) the wall in Jerusalem. In Nehemiah, he lists by name the families who came out and where they repaired the broken and weak spots. Perfumers, goldsmiths, merchants, daughters–all had positions to work.

(20 “Next to him was Baruch son of Zabbai, who zealously repaired an additional section from the angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.” Nehemiah 3:20, NLT. I love this notation, emphasis added.)

Imagine a focus and purpose to act on what is in front of us: broken relationships; generational sins; ownership of what is in our ability; a ruthless assessment of our condition, neglect or weakness–couldn’t those things, wouldn’t those things be lifted up to our great God, a fragrant offering in a gold bowl; oh, couldn’t he, wouldn’t he make a way for his people?

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. 29 Next Zadok son of Immer also rebuilt the wall across from his own house, and beyond him was Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the gatekeeper of the East Gate. 30 Next Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section, while Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall across from where he lived (Nehemiah 3:28-30, NLT).

Lord Jesus, when I think of how you have transformed my life these past two years, I am brought to tears (and more so with a Rocky soundtrack, thank you!) at your care, your provision, your direction, your protection in my life. Lord, help me to discern where I should focus this next year, places of neglect and disrepair, and may I work zealously for you like Baruch. Help me to keep the focus. Help me to persevere. I am so deeply grateful for your love.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 23; Matthew 22; Nehemiah; Acts 22

Last week, I watched a drama about the young Queen Victoria. She was being  courted by Prince Albert and had invited him to come visit her at Windsor Castle. When he arrived, a special suit prepared for him was delivered to his room, compliments of the Queen. The gift of the magnificent suit was a great honor; it was the dress of the House of Windsor and to be worn at the formal dinner and party. To wear the suit was to be welcomed into the Queen’s home and family.

That got me thinking about today’s parable:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’  But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’  And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.  Matthew 22:2-14

Thanks to BBC, I have a deeper understanding of what Jesus has offered me: new clothing for his kingdom’s party. Why haven’t I marveled more at the wonder of what he has presented me? He offers to clothe me with his perfect righteousness. Why haven’t I allowed myself to bask in the luxuriousness and grandeur of this gift I have done nothing to deserve and perhaps taken a spin or two to rejoice in the splendor of it all?  When have I declined his gift and stubbornly clung to my old rags before him and insisted that I was “good enough?”  Why don’t I let my heart swell up inside of me and burst out in song at the beauty of it all?

The remnant of Israel understood godly joy when God called them back to Jerusalem and they rebuilt the wall. Their joy seemed to know no bounds:

They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. Nehemiah 9:43

Lord, I know myself in this: I hold back both emotionally and physically in responding to the goodness of what you have done for me. You welcome me into your kingdom and dress me with your righteousness at the cost of your son, Jesus who died for me, and yet I hold back in thanking you and singing your praises. Help me respond to your love with great joy and singing today. Amen

Kathy

 

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