The sky is always blue beyond the clouds. There is always hope and encouragement here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014



Nehemiah 1:1-11
Nehemiah was one of the Jews carried into Babylonian exile and is working as cupbearer to the King. This is a pretty high position as the King had to place a lot of trust in him and he worked in the midst of the King's living chambers.
His brother brings him sad news of his homeland being destroyed and burned.
Nehemiah immediately goes into action. Although his homeland is very far away and he is living in the King's palace, he mourns heavily for his home.
He fasts and prays. He intercedes for the people of his homeland. He acknowledges God for His greatness. He asserts himself as a servant of God, (he understands very well the role of a servant.) He remembers the covenant God made with His people. He confesses the sins of himself and the people and prays to God for their restoration.
Questions to ask myself:
Does my position and/or circumstances in life keep me too busy to know of the cares and concerns of others?
When is the last time that I actually mourned over something?
When is the last time that I fasted and prayed for something?
Do I confess my sins against God to Him? 
Lord, I have failed You, myself and others by lack of prayer for them/us. We need you everyday. Lord, I want to be a prayer servant. I want to serve You and others through prayer. Maybe praying is all that I can do for others. If so, I want to do it with a faithful servants heart.
 Neh. 1:11-2:8
Nehemiah is in mourning. And he manages to go about his duties without allowing his sadness to be noticed by the King for over 4 months. But then, the King, who notices somehow, asks him about his mood. Nehemiah, first prays, then tells the King about his homeland.
The King asks what can he do for Nehemiah. Nehemiah asks for a leave of absence. The King grants it. Then Nehemiah asks for timber to rebuild the gates and for a letter of safe passage. The King grants those as well.
So many times in God's word we can see how God uses circumstances to put people right where they need to be to be used by Him for His purposes. People such as Joseph, Esther, Moses and others, including Nehemiah used their seemingly unfortunate circumstances to be in a position to be used by God.
Nehemiah waited, without being glum, for God to present an opportunity to him. When the opportunity came, in God's time, Nehemiah seized the opportunity and it was right.
Why do I find it so hard to be patient and wait for God's opportunities? What blessings do I steal from myself when I try to rush ahead of God?
Lord, please,  help me to wait on You. Help me not to mope as I wait. Then Lord, let me receive your blessings with eagerness.
Neh. 2:9-20
Nehemiah's journey would have taken at about 4 months. So by now, it is at least 8 months since he had gotten the bad news of his homeland. 
Apparently he traveled with an army that the King had sent along with the letters they would need to travel through the lands. Opposition may have been expected. 
Once Nehemiah arrived he rested in the city for several days before he made the inspections. Then he diligently inspected each area.
Nehemiah talked to and inspired the people. He reminded them of God and how a God is favoring this project. They agreed to rebuild.
They did have some opposition from the neighboring leaders, but Nehemiah told them about God's favor.
Very often we know what God wants us to do. And many times there are those that might try to discourage us or remind us of our weaknesses. We need to remain true to the path that God has for us.
Lord, help me to listen to Your voice and walk in Your way. 
Neh. 3
The word banah (“to build”) occurs seven times in this list while the term chazaq (“to repair”) occurs 34 times. In some places, the wall needed to be built from the ground up; in other places, repairs needed to be made to the existing wall.
But everyone had a role. And side by side they worked, each doing their own part.
It is wonderful when people work together. Things get done. 
Ephesians talks of us, the body parts, (Christ's body) working together, (by what every joint supplies) brings growth to the whole body. (The Church)
From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:16 NASB)
Lord, please close my mouth when I dare criticize someone who is working. Help me to be willing to do my part in building Your kingdom and keep me focused on my own part in the building.
There is much to be done for You.
 Neh. 4:1-14
This chapter takes us back to the opposition from chapter 2. We see here the mocking and can almost hear the sneers of Sanballat and the others. 
Although they think they are superior to the Jews, they are feeling threatened by them and their work. 
But Nehemiah, the encourager, motivates the people to keep working and then to defend what they worked so hard to rebuild. 
I wonder why, sometimes we just want to give up so easily on the building up of God's kingdom? If we hear one word of discouragement, we are ready to quit.
Lord, help me to have the backbone to continue what I start in Your name. Help me to work, agreeably with others, close my ears to those who would try to turn me from my task. Bring plenty of Nehemiahs into my life to motivate and stimulate me to keep pressing on.
 Neh. 8:10
It is already day 6 of our studies, and time to take a look back, a reflection. What do you see? Have you learned anything new about Nehemiah, Jerusalem or the tenacity of God's people? Have you learned anything new about yourself or others that you work near or with?
Our scripture today is a gem that we haven't yet uncovered in our reading but it's a look ahead at something good, something to look forward to.
Nehemiah is again encouraging, he is saying, Chin 
up, gain your strength from Him who is strong. Your joy is in His strength.
Maybe you need a little extra something today too. Well, keep your chin up, keep reading, keep meditating, keep praying and keep sharing. We are growing. We are getting richer in our knowledge. God's strength is our joy too.
Lord, keep me going when I feel like stopping. 
Neh. 4:15-23
Today's scripture
I am amazed at how the people forgot their own sorry circumstances and came together in this project. I mean, can you imagine the lives that some of them might have been living? The remnant, probably living in a broken, rubble of a city, each days existence a struggle. Even Nehemiah, while living in the palace, was probably homesick. He was a once noble man now a servant. He more than likely had been castrated so that he might not be a threat to the Queen.  He was tasting every food and drink before the King in case someone had poisoned it. 
 Yet, Now, they are working together and getting it done. 
But then the threats and attacks come, and they have to work and live with a weapon in their hands at all times.
I am sure that they might have wondered why. Why would they yet again have to face the problems? Especially while working so hard in the service of The Lord? 
I have been in that position. I have been down but learned to accept and adapt, then get excited about something only to have my hopes dashed. 
And Although I have never been physically attacked, I have felt emotionally and mentally attacked so that I felt that I needed to be constantly looking over my shoulder for the next onslaught. 
I also believe that the day is very near that we, Christians, will be brutally and physically attacked, right here in our own land, behind our own walls. We will need each other. We need each other now. 
Lord, I know that my strength comes from You and that means that I can have joy knowing that You can handle any situation.
 Aid me in seeking help and strength from my sisters and brothers in Christ. And use me to share my strengths with them. 
 Neh. 5
The people and families that are working on the rebuilding come to Nehemiah. They are feeling too burdened. They are working day and night, with weapons in hand on this project. But they also have personal lives. They each have their story. 
"My fields are overgrown and untended."
"I have had to sell my daughter to have funds to feed the rest of my family."
"I believe that the men that collect my taxes for the King are charging me too much."
"My wife is sick. The famine has taken it's toll. I have no one to look after her."
"I no longer have the heart for this mission."
Can you hear them? Can you hear each come in to give their account to Nehemiah?
Today, in our churches, we hear the reasons, we hear the stories of why so many give up the work. Sometimes we call it, making excuses. But often we forget that people have lives, we have jobs, we have families, we have illnesses, we have concerns. 
Nehemiah, was a champion. He took on the many jobs required of him to fulfill his personal mission of rebuilding. And by doing so, he took on the many challenges that came with the project, the obstacles that threatened. 
He must have been a very wise man. But one thing I know. One thing that is clear to me is, he never acts without pondering and praying. And then he takes action.
Lord, help me face ALL of my work, ALL of projects by first pondering and praying. And then after praying, to take the necessary course of action. Give my Your strength each day to accomplish what needs done. Give me wisdom that comes from You. Grant me boldness in my action and give me persistence to see the job completed.
Neh. 6:1-14
Finally, the walls are built, except for hanging the gates. The enemy leaders are really feeling threatened now. They send for Nehemiah. They want a "meeting" with him. They say that they hear that Judah has a new King and that Nehemiah is that King. So we should meet to discuss trade, strategies, etc.
Nehemiah refuses. He will not be bullied. He won't take his focus off the completion of his work. "No," he says, "I am carrying on a great work. I will not go down."
Over and over again they send him messages to come, each time he answers them in the same way. He consulted the Prophet who tried to convince him to hide out in the Temple. But Nehemiah recognized the ploy, the Prophet had been bought and told to give false counsel. Then he talks to God about his enemies. "Remember them, each one." He tells God. 
Nehemiah does not turn from his work in serving The Lord. Even when seemingly important people want to see him, even when his own spiritual leader gives him advice (that he recognizes as ungodly.) 
Lord, help me to be steadfast in my service and attention to You. When other things and/or people try to "bring me down" help me remember to say, "I am carrying on a great work. I will not go down."
Lord, too, help me to know You so that when even those who say they speak for You give me false information, that I will recognize it and turn from it.
And too, remember my enemies and oppositions. You deal with them so I can forget them and remain focused on my work for You.
 Neh. 6:15-7:72
Today's scripture reading
I love hearing your thoughts on what you read. It makes it so much more interesting for all us. Please share. 
The work is done, in quick time. 
Now Nehemiah gathered and counted the people. They are mentioned by name. And if you are like me, it is easy to just whiz right past these names as you read. I mean, who cares, right? Well, Nehemiah did care and so does God. Each individual contribution, no matter how small, helped to complete the task. So each was recognized.
But when you really notice the names, and their meanings you will see:
Yahweh is Salvation
Yahweh has helped
My comfort is Yahweh
Yahweh has strengthened
Yahweh has seen
And many others.
Every person is valuable. 
In our gatherings, meetings, individual bodies/churches, everyone is needed. Don't think that you are unimportant. Don't think that you won't make a difference. Don't imagine that you are insignificant. ALL of us are important, valuable and needed.
Even in this little Bible study I have noticed that the more of you that comment and share, the richer the study becomes.
Neh. 7:73-8:18
The people all gathered. They gathered at the Water Gate. This is the one gate that everyone used and was familiar with. Everyone who could hear and understand was there.
Ezra, the scribe opened the Book of Law and read from it. He read from morning to midday. And while he read, the people stood. 
They understood the importance of reverence to the reading. They had a desire for instruction and were eager to do what was required of them by God, because they truly understood that IT WAS THEIR OWN SIN that had gotten them into bondage, and that ONLY OBEDIENCE TO GOD would free them. They got it. They understood.
They displayed their understanding by their willingness to humble themselves before The Lord. 
They lifted their hands to Him, they cried out to Him. They bowed with their faces to the ground to Him. They grieved. 
I love this example. 
Often in my sin I want to justify it somehow. I want to blame someone else. I want it to be the fault of my circumstances. 
I need to accept that it is MY SIN that separates me from God. I need to be willing to reach out to Him. To grieve because of my sin. I need to be willing to come humbly before God and be ashamed.
But wait, there is joy! There is hope.
Nehemiah told the people, "Don't grieve.  Go celebrate! Look what God is doing for you. His strength is your joy. Go, eat drink, and share with others. But don't grieve."
 There is hope for us too , when we humbly repent of our sin and acknowledge God in our obedience to His word, we have strength. We can go forward without the shame and blame of our past.
Neh. 9:1-37
Sometimes we need to humble ourselves and be reminded of all the love and mercy that God pours out on us. We often forget. And it doesn't take long to forget. Things start going smoothly in our lives and we lose our dependence on God. We forget to be thankful and we forget to talk to Him. 
 Neh. 9:17
How quickly people get discouraged and lose hope. Satan is here to steal, kill and destroy. He will steal our joy and our hope. He kills our trust and courage and he destroys anything that might hold on to. However, we can resist him. We are told to be alert and watching for him. 
Unless we remain focused and do not allow ourselves to become distracted, satan can grip us. 
Only be surrounding ourselves with strength of other Christians, hiding God's word in our hearts, keeping our eyes on Jesus, Trusting in God, obedience to Him, being steadfast and immovable, can we win in this life.
 Neh. 9:30-10:39
The people are guilty. They are ashamed. They have violated God's laws so entirely that God has given them over to foreigners, including their city, their animals, and their servitude. While living as foreigners they continued in their sinful state and even intermarried with them.
But they have come back. They are asking for yet another chance. 
They have heard and remembered all that God had done for them. They have reminded themselves of God's laws and once again DECIDE to commit to obedience. They even sign a petition! All of them sign, everyone that can understand.
But none of this will be easy. Following God's laws have been very difficult, impossible really, to follow completely. (That is why Christ came as a New Covenant) but following the Law of God would be even harder for them now because they are STILL SLAVES! They still must work and pay the foreign Kings that own them. 
And yet they are so repentant that they are willing to try.
There are 5 things that I have noticed here in these scriptures.
Their regain their faith.
They are reminded of Who God is and what He has done for them in the past. And their faith in God is renewed.
They are repentant. 
They are very sorry for turning away from God. They recognize His graciousness and His love and His mercy and His compassion and KNOW that it is their own fault that they are outside of God's grace.
They recognize God.
They give God the glory for being faithful to them even in their wickedness.
They DECIDE to change.
They understand that to be where God wants them to be and where they, themselves, desire to be, that changes must be made. Repentance is not true and real without a change in behavior. You can be all the sorry you want but if you do not change, it is not repentance!
They asked to be cleansed of sin.
They commit to obedience.
They are so determined that they go so far as to have their commitment written up and they sign it. Wow!!! No handshake agreement, no head nod agreement, no, "I do" agreement. They write their signatures, everyone does. Everyone one of them that can understand.
Do you notice how their steps correspond with the New Testament Examples of conversion where there is:
Steadfast obedience
It is no coincidence.
Neh. 11:1-12:26
In these verses the city is being re inhabited. After all the hard work and effort you would think that they would be crawling over each other for their place in the city, but that was not the case. They actually cast lots. And the ones that Drew the "short straw" had to go live there.
The issues were, though the walls were built, the city was still in ruins. The Israelite people were hated by most everyone else and so they could expect trouble. 
But there were some volunteers and they were highly praised.
I imagine there are many people living today that might have that same struggle. For example, the families of the preacher. He dedicated his life and service for The Lord, they just got volunteered. And who, very often, are the most criticized in the church? Yep, the preachers wife and family.
Or maybe there are others. There are those that show up for the scripture reading and the praise and worship, but now "I'm going home. See ya next week. I can't possibly live like this." Yep, there are those.
Maybe there are some that are afraid of what their neighbors might think. "I can't live inside the walls my neighbors will think I'm a religious nut. No, thanks, I'll just come in one day a week."
Thank goodness we have those that are committed. I am very thankful for those that are so grateful to God that they will sacrifice their own desires to see His Kingdom succeed. 
These precious volunteers need our love, prayers and support.
Lord, I pray that I am willing to make sacrifices to build up Your Kingdom. I am no one without You. My life is a mess when I try to run it without you. I know that you paid a tremendous price for me. I want to show my gratitude by being willing to go live inside the walls in service for You. Help me to surrender whatever I think is more important than having Your grace and mercy.
 Neh. 12:27-47
Well, the walls are finished, the gates are hung, people are chosen to occupy the city. Priests, and leaders are designated and now comes The a Grand Celebration.
Their thankful celebration goes beyond a hearty, "Thank you, Lord." They are actually making this a big to-do. They chose the musicians, the priests, the leaders.  They go about the business of purifying themselves. (That alone, is a really big deal with a lot of perpetration.) they have not one, but two, choirs. And they have Nehemiah overseeing and directing. 
The people are truly grateful and want to honor The Lord for His blessing. 
Isn't that why we celebrate Thanksgiving? How much perpetration and planning do we put into Thanksgiving? 
Thanksgiving is coming. Let's do it up right. Let's honor God for His blessings. Let make this celebration ALL about how wonderful He is. Let's plan and prep and get all dressed up.
But today, too. Let's honor God today for today's blessings.
 Neh. 13
The walls are rebuilt. The city is re populated. Nehemiah is back in his position of cupbearer to the King and everything is grand. 
But wait. No, it's not.
The people have already forgotten their dedicated work. They have already forgotten the singing choirs. They have lost their commitments to following God's laws, the very ones that they signed their names to.
This last chapter of the book of Nehemiah ends on a bad note. 
The entire book told of inspiration, dedication, hard work, commitment, courage, and renewal. And now it is all gone and once again the Israelites are faltering in their faith and obedience. Why? Why do they do that? What is wrong with them?
Let's ask ourselves that question. Remember church camp? Remember that last revival meeting? Remember that awesome sermon from last week? Remember how inspired, dedicated, committed, full of courage and renewal that you were? Are you still?
Often, sadly, we are so very much like those Israelites. 
This is why God gives us community. This is why we need encourager sand we need to encourage others. Life is real. It is hard. Satan does not want us focused on God so he battles hard with us. All he has to do is keep us busy enough that we take our eyes off our savior and we let him.
I need your help. I need constant encouragement. I always need reminded of how wonderful God is. 
I thank Him so much for all of you. You will never know how important that all of you are to me.

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