Category Archives: Nehemiah

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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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Nehemiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Revelation, Uncategorized

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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Genesis 18; Matthew 17; Nehemiah 7; Acts 17

The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son. But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” Genesis 18:13-15 NLT

If I am honest with myself, there have been times when I have laughed at God like Sarah did. I’m sure she didn’t think that God heard her, since it says that she “laughed within herself” (Gen 18:12NKJV) She even denied it, but God knew her heart. How many times has God spoke to me, but I laugh instead. I explain away my disobedience. God was fulfilling His purpose in Sarah’s life. He is fulfilling his purpose in my life too. Even when I am confused and don’t understand. I am thankful for a God who is much more patient with me, than I am with myself. He pursues me. He never gives up on me. I give up on people far too easily. Sometimes I stop praying for them if it seems they are beyond reach. But God is prodding and showing me that he is still working in hearts.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, we can’t get away from him!” Acts 17:26-28 MSG

Abraham asked the Lord to show mercy on Sodom.

Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for a lack of five?” And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five righteous people there.” Then Abraham pressed his request further. “Suppose there are only forty?” And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of forty.” Gen 18:28-29 NLT

Nehemiah listened to God to return the exiles from captivity.

Then God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, the people, that they might be registered by genealogy…There are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away.” Nehemiah 7:5&6 NLT

The disciples were relying on their own strength.

Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:19-20 NLT

Dear Jesus, Help me to be obedient to your plans for my life. I pray that I would listen to your voice even when it is hard. You might be using those times to refine me. Asking me to step out in faith to overcome my fear. Thank you that you are always with me. Give me a boldness and courage that can only be found in you. Help me to truly love others like you do. And to reach out to them with your grace and mercy, like you have done to me. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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