Friday, February 22, 2013

What Do These Financial Truths Mean for Us Today?

Scripture: Nehemiah 5:10-13
"And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury. "Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them." Then they said, "We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say." So I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. I also shook out the front of my garment and said, "Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said, "Amen!" And they praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.

Insights: There are four basic “take-aways” from this week’s study.  First, God is pleased when we handle money wisely.  In all reality these thirteen verses we have looked at this week all revolve around this singular subject.  We need to be wise stewards of God’s money.  We are not the owners of those resources and we need to stop living life as if we were.  If we are withholding our tithes, we are robbing God.  If we are not increasing our financial giving to the things God would call us to support because we have reached a pharisaical percentage, then we are sinning against God’s authority.  The point is our money fits into an arena of life that can quickly become sin.  More importantly, however, it also is the area that often reflects the true nature of our heart.  Second, prolonged personal sin takes a heavy toll on God’s work in your life.  There was no mention of the wall being built in this week’s verses because of the sin that had gone on for so long.  The longer we live in sin the harder it is to be delivered from it.  Deliverance is still possible, but the price one pays for his sin is far greater than God ever desired for man.  Third, correct any sin problem by facing it head-on.  There is not gradual breaking of sin.  We must deal with it right now.  God has the power to work miraculously in your life.  Finally, correction is carried out most effectively when we make a public promise.  In other words, get an accountability partner to walk this journey with you.

  1. How are you using God’s money?
  2. Are you correcting your sin problems head-on?
Prayer: Father, I am so grateful You are a merciful God.  I also know You are a holy God who takes sin seriously and deals with it judiciously.  Work in my heart an make me pure before You by the blood of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Implementation of Those Financial Practices, Part 2

Scripture: Nehemiah 5:10-13
"And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury. "Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them." Then they said, "We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say." So I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. I also shook out the front of my garment and said, "Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said, "Amen!" And they praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.

Insights: It was not enough for Nehemiah to just make accusations against the leaders regarding their sin.  He also needed to confront them about it and that is what we see in today’s verses.  Nehemiah listed four things they need to do to stop this sin and make things right before God and man.  First, they needed to stop sinning.  He tells them in verse ten to stop charging interest to their fellow Jewish brothers because this was sin in violation to the Mosaic Law.  Beloved, you cannot gradually stop sinning.  You must determine right now to stop the sin.  Second, however, stopping the sin is not enough.  You must also make specific plans to correct the situation.  The sin is filling, wrongly I might add, a void in your life.  God was the only One designed to fill that void and so you must make plans to intentionally have the Lord fill that space.  Otherwise, you will just return back to your sin.  In verse eleven Nehemiah tells them the steps to get right with their brothers in regards to their sin as it pertained to finances.  Third, declare you plan as a promise to God.  The people make a vow before the priests to stop this financial sinning against their brothers.  There is strength in publically telling an accountability partner the sin you have been committing and asking him or her to hold you accountable to the Lord in order to stop this sin.  Finally, Nehemiah shook his garments to visually show the people how serious God takes a promise.  Don’t forsake your vow to the Lord.

  1. What sin has trapped you and become a stronghold in your life?
  2. Are you willing to stop this sin and start filling the void with Christ Jesus?
Prayer: Father, forgive me of my sin and cleanse me from my unrighteousness.  Show me the ways in which I need to replace my sin with Your presence and give me the courage to act accordingly. Amen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Implementation of Those Financial Practices, Part 1

Scripture: Nehemiah 5:7-9
I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, "You are exacting usury, each from his brother!" Therefore, I held a great assembly against them. I said to them, "We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?" Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. Again I said, "The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?

Insights: I am so grateful verse seven is found in this passage.  In verse six we were told that Nehemiah got very angry, but now in verse seven we are told that he consulted with himself.  Nehemiah got alone with God and the Lord calmed his angry heart down.  The Lord made it possible for the rest of today’s verses to take place.  Nehemiah confronted these nobles and rulers with their sin.  Beloved, we need people in our lives that are willing to say the hard words of truth to us and confront us when we are in sin.  Nehemiah was such a person.  Verse seven tells us he confronted them about the interest they were charging their fellow Jews.  Verse eight is a confrontation regarding their practice of slavery against their fellow Jews.  This sin was also wrong and ought to have never started.  Finally in verse nine Nehemiah confronted them about their loss of distinction in the eyes of the surrounding nations.  This final sin is not only wrong it is tragic.  As we learned yesterday, God had chosen the people of Israel to be His special possession.  Their lives were supposed to be so different that the surrounding nations would recognize their distinctions and desire to know the God of the Israelites.  Unfortunately the very opposite thing occurred.  The Israelites began taking on the practices of the pagan nations and as a result did not look different at all.  This history is horrific.  Beloved, I wonder, however, if we, as the “church of America,” are any different than these Jews in today’s verses.  Has our “church life” become so infiltrated by the world system that a lost person is incapable of distinguishing the difference between us and the local lions club?  Our worship services ought to be so full of God’s manifest glory that a watching world recognizes the distinctions.  God forgive us for losing our distinction.

  1. Do you take time to calm down before you go and confront someone?
  2. Are you willing to acknowledge the sin in your life?
Prayer: Father, let me first seek You and Your council before I confront another with their sin.  Let my life truly be free from the strongholds of sin in my life.  I know this can only happen by Your grace. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Biblical Instructions Regarding Finances

Scripture: Deuteronomy 23:19-20
"You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. "You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

Insights: Yesterday we left Nehemiah angry at the people.  Why was he angry?  It was because they had violated the Mosaic Law.  Let me clarify something about today’s verses.  They were written to the Israelite nation and these specific laws do not necessarily relate to us Christ-followers in the same way they did to the Jewish people.  The principles, however, are very much applicable to our lives and our finances.  As a brief review from yesterday, the people were facing financial crises from high interest rates that lead to slavery.  In today’s verses we are informed that a Jewish person was not to charge his fellow Jewish neighbor interest, but that it was okay to charge a non-Jew interest.  Now the next part of this equation is not found in today’s verse, but it is found in Leviticus twenty-five, the Jews were also not to enslave another Jew.  In Nehemiah’s situation, both of those mandates were being violated.  It was for this sin against the Law that Nehemiah got so angry.  The last part of verse twenty in today’s verses is part of the clue as to what is at stake for the children of Israel in the Nehemiah passage for this week.  They were breaking the Law; and because they were breaking the Law, God was not blessing them.  The end of verse twenty tells us the Lord wanted to bless them when they took possession of the Promised Land, but obedience was required.  The reason God wanted to bless them was to prove to the other nations that the children of Israel were different from any other nation.  They were God’s children and He wanted to show off His children to the watching world.  So, God set up rules to live by that would distinguish them from everyone else and He would bless them because of their distinction.  There was to be a very visible difference between the way they lived their lives and the lost world lived their lives.  This distinction was to point the nations back to God.  They did not live that way, and God did not bless them, and Nehemiah got angry.  Our lives are to look differently because of our relationship with God.

  1. Does your life show a distinction between you, because of your relationship with Jesus, and the rest of the lost world?
  2. Are you following God’s principles as it relates to your finances?
Prayer: Father, let my life show a distinction because of being Your child.  Guide me to the truths of Your Word and let It guide me into obedience with You. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Crises the People Faced and the Reasons Behind Them

Scripture: Nehemiah 5:1-6             
Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, "We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live." There were others who said, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine." Also there were those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. "Now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others." Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words.

Insights: In today’s verses we see three financial crises the people of Judah faced as well as the reasons those crises existed.  The first crisis was not enough food to go around.  The second crisis was the people were mortgaging their homes because of the spiraling inflation problem.  The third crisis was the people being heavily in debt and unable to pay back their loans.  The causes for these crises were also threefold.  One, there was a severe famine.  This famine caused the lack of food necessary to feed the people.  Two, there were too many taxes and just like in the time of Jesus, the tax collectors were able to exact huge taxes in order to line their pocket books.  Three, there were high interest rates and these rates make our present day economy seem like a picnic.  The rates during Nehemiah’s day were so bad the parents were being forced to sell their kids off to slavery.  These reports coming out of the Jerusalem Times in Nehemiah’s day could easily be the headlines from The Wall Street Journal or New York Times.  The point is the Bible is not some outdated irrelevant book.  The issues the people of Judah were facing are no different from people today.  Because of these financial crises the people of Judah went on strike and refused to work.  In the thirteen verses we are going to explore this week there is no mention of the wall.  This reality is a first for Nehemiah and the people of Judah.  Up to this point, the wall maintained progress, but no longer.  Notice with me how Nehemiah responded when he saw the strike lines being formed and heard of the suffering of the people—he was very angry.  Today’s verses lay the foundation for everything else we will look at this week.

  1. Are you facing a financial crisis of any kind presently?
  2. What are the reasons for your financial crisis?
Prayer: Father, help me to become a better steward of my finances.  When I am facing crises in my finances, Lord, let me run to You quickly and receive Your guidance. Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Cures for Discouragement, Part 3

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:18-23         
As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. "At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us." So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. At that time I also said to the people, "Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day." So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.

Insights: Today we will conclude with the last two cures for discouragement.  The first cure is: serving at a rallying point.  We see this point expressed in verses eighteen through twenty in today’s verses.  When the enemy attacked they were to blow trumpets to indicate where the battle was to be fought and everyone would run to that rallying point and fight.  In these verses there was a literal point in which the people were to rally, but there is also a principle at work here.  The principle is: don’t do ministry alone.  The people gathered together.  When we try and serve the Lord in isolation, we get tired and burned out, but when we serve with someone we get rejuvenated and strengthened to serve even more courageously for the Lord.  The second cure is: serve, PERIOD!  Notice in verses twenty-one through twenty-three how hard the people served.  They were not even able to change their clothes the work was so intense.  They were so focused on the serving that they did not have time to think about anything else, including a bath and new clothes.  They understood the importance of this assignment and now that they were no longer discouraged because of their service.  Beloved, we need to remember these very important lessons we have learned this week out the life of Nehemiah.  As you serve, may the joy of your salvation return to you because your eyes are on the Lord.  Bring glory to our Father by serving and obeying Him today.

  1. Are you trying to do ministry alone?
  2. In what ways are you serving the Lord in order to cure the discouragement in your life?
Prayer: Father, may my life bring glory to You as I serve You.  May I enjoy years of fruitful labor with my fellow brothers and sisters under Your grace. Amen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Cures for Discouragement, Part 2

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:15-17         
When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon.

Insights: Today we will be looking at the third cure for discouragement.  It is serving with a balance between thoughts and actions.  Notice how the Lord God placed a thought on the heart of Nehemiah regarding the best course of action to take in order for the productivity of the wall to resume.  Today’s verses give you that balance between Nehemiah’s thoughts and the action of implementation.  Even within his plan we see the balance of thought and action.  You have those with the swords standing guard and thinking as to what an enemy is really and what a shadow next to a tree is.  At the same time you have the workers actually doing the work of rebuilding the wall while they are being watched over.  In so many ways this balanced life was what Paul and James were writing about when it came to the subject of faith.  Paul was writing to an audience of people that were so overly zealous for action that they were trying to earn their salvation through their extensive works.  Paul writes to them, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”  James on the other hand had this intellectual crowd who did not want to do anything but think about their faith.  James writes to them, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself (James 2:17).”  There must be a balance between thinking and doing in our Christian service.  John Wycliffe is a great example of such a balance.  He was a great thinker and knew languages, but he knew it was not enough to just think about those words.  He knew he had to put action to his knowledge and translate an English Bible.  His reward was they burned him at the stake, but he had a proper balance between thoughts and action in his service to the Lord.

  1. Are you more of a thinker or a doer?
  2. What disciplines do you need to acquire in order to be more balanced?
Prayer: Father, help me to not be so rash that I jump in to the fray without thinking; and at the same time, give me the courage to act once I have finished thinking and know the direction to take. Amen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Cures for Discouragement, Part 1

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:13-14         
then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows. When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: "Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses."

Insights: So far this week we have looked at the cradle of discouragement and the causes of discouragement.  The rest of the week we will look at the cures for discouragement.  We will look at two of them today.  First, serve together for a goal.  Look at verse thirteen.  You may recall back in chapter three Nehemiah dispersed the people all over Jerusalem to work on the wall.  Well, now that discouragement and rumors of attack have waylaid the work, he had to come up with a different approach.  So, Nehemiah groups them up in family units and has them work on the section of the wall in front of their own home.  Think about this for a moment.  If they are working in front of their own home on the wall, which they need for their preservation (the goal by the way), then what kind of work do you think they will do?  The best work possible because they don’t want the wall to falter in front of their house.  So, they have a goal with which to serve the Lord.  Second, serve with your attention on the Lord.  Look at verse fourteen.  Nehemiah tells them to remember the Lord who is great and awesome.  Remember yesterday we mentioned their eyes were on the rubbish all around them.  In other words, their eyes were down.  Nehemiah is now attempting to get their eyes off of themselves and the potential dangers and back up on the Lord who is great and awesome.  There are two really good ways to get our attention back on the Lord while we are serving Him.  One, recall the blessings God has given you.  We often sing a song titled Count Your Blessings.  That is very good advice.  Two, recall the promises God has given you.  Promises like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).”  So, Beloved, go out there and serve the Lord together for a goal He has given you and keep your eyes focused on Him.  Let your service bring Him glory!

  1. On what spiritual goal are you working?
  2. Where is your attention focused?
Prayer: Father, open my eyes to You and the goal on which You would have me to work.  The provide me with the courage and boldness to accomplish the goal You have given to me.  And please, Lord, reassure my heart that You are with me as I strive to reach the goal. Amen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Causes of Discouragement

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:10-11         
Thus in Judah it was said, "The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish; And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall." Our enemies said, "They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work."

Insights: Yesterday we looked at the source of this discouragement.  Today we are going to see what happens as a result of discouraging words.  There are four things we can see from these two verses.  First, discouragement causes a loss of strength.  They were halfway through the building of the wall and the newness had worn off.  Now the people started to feel the weight of the project and then these discouraging words were spoken and the people began to feel weak. Second, discouragement causes a loss of sight.  Notice where the people were looking: their focus had turned to all the rubbish on the ground.  If you think back to all the previous verses when external opposition arose, the people turned their focus to the Lord.  Now, however, they are acting like Peter when he was walking on the water and got his vision off of Jesus.  Their sight is down.  Third, discouragement causes a loss of surety.  They said they were unable to rebuild the wall.  Their confidence or sureness in their abilities was shattered by these discouraging words.  Interestingly, back in verse six, the Scriptures told us they people had a mind to work.  The Hebrew for mind in that verse literally meant heart.  The people had a heart to work is the way the Hebrew actually was written.  When all of this discouragement came on them, they lost their heart and in losing their heart they lost their confidence.  Finally, discouragement causes a loss of security.  They literally thought they were going to be killed any moment.  Their security had been taken off of the Lord and on their own abilities to defend themselves from physical altercations.  They, after all, had no security in their ability to defend themselves.  Discouragement is a debilitating thing.  We need to be very careful with whom we hang around and to whom we allow influence on our thoughts.  Once we begin to fall prey to such words and actions it is very hard to defend against it.  The wall obviously was stopped in its building program for a short time because Nehemiah had to deal with this situation.  It is better to preemptively deal with discouraging words before they lead to a loss of strength, sight, surety and security.

  1. Have you ever experienced one of the four causes of discouragement?
  2. Did you see those times as possible preparation for future growth in the Lord?
Prayer: Father, how many times in this life have I been discouraged?  I am so grateful You are able to use those times as maturing opportunities in my life.  Help me to be sensitive to Your guiding hand. Amen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Cradle of Discouragement

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:10-12         
Thus in Judah it was said, "The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish; And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall." Our enemies said, "They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work." When the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times, "They will come up against us from every place where you may turn,"

Insights: Over the past few weeks we have observed many outward attacks against Judah and the people of Jerusalem who are rebuilding the wall.  Each time they were faced with sarcasm, mockery, opposition, criticism or conspiracy the children of God turned to Him.  In today’s verses we see them finally collapse and become discouraged.  It is interesting to note who possessed enough influence to cause this breakdown.  It was not Sanballat or Tobiah, but rather the tribe of Judah.  Judah was the leader among the people of Israel.  They were the kingly line through which Jesus, the Messiah, came (Genesis 49:8-10).  Here, however, we see them poisoning the hearts of the children of God.  Another source of discouragement also came from fellow Jews who had been living too close to the enemy camps.  Ten times these individuals came back into town with discouraging words.  You cannot constantly be bombarded with negativism without having some of it land on you.  So, if you are one who is bent toward discouragement anyway, then you need to avoid speaking with people known for their negativity.  Beloved, these verses are very real for the modern church.  The assaults the American church is receiving from outside of its walls are more intense now than they have ever been.  Yet the church continues to press on with their proclamation of the gospel.  At the same time, 6,000 churches close their doors every year and in the vast majority of those cases it was because of internal issues that finally brought the church to its knees.  Starting tomorrow we are going to look at some of the consequences for falling prey to negativism and discouragement.  Until then, let us strive to live with our eyes centered on Jesus and let His light shine through us and allow us to be a source of encouragement to those around us.  Guard your heart, Beloved, and stay transfixed on Jesus.

  1. Have those who ought to have known better ever discouraged you?
  2. How did you feel after this discouragement?
Prayer: Father, protect me from myself.  How many times have I been the source of discouragement for someone else?  Let my life be one of encouragement.  Let Your Son shine in me.  Amen.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Orison is Simultaneously Linked with Opportunity, Part 2

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:6-9
So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it. But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.

Insights: Notice with me verse nine in light of yesterday’s Thoughts by Scott.  Opposition intensified and an equally intense response was needed.  So, what did Nehemiah do?  He went back to his faith arsenal and us his favorite weapon: PRAYER!  He prayed to the Lord and God gave him a practical response to the problem, set up a guard.  God is the God of miracles, but often times He is the God of practicality as well.  He did not tell Nehemiah to do a grand thing for Him.  He told him to set up a guard.  So often we want God to swoop in and rescue us and are not willing to do the simple things He asks of us.  This truth reminds me of the story of Naaman and Elisha in 2 Kings chapter 5.  I would encourage you to read the story.  Naaman was willing to do the great thing, but not just bath in the river; fortunately, he was convinced to do so.  Let me close this week with a quote from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt which he gave to the Hamilton Club in Chicago on April 10, 1899.  Every time I think of persistence, I think of this speech.  It went like this: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the   worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.  Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

  1. What practical action is God calling you to make concerning your present opposition?
  2. Are you ultimately trusting in God or yourselves regarding your situation?
Prayer: Father, let me enter the arena and dare great things for You.  I want my life to be a testimony to You.  Amen.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Orison is Simultaneously Linked with Opportunity, Part 1

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:6-9
So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it. But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.

Insights: In Henry Blackaby’s material Experiencing God, he writes about the crises of belief.  This crisis of belief is not so much about the external things of crises, but rather the internal struggle a person goes through in regards to their belief or trust in God.  Let me clarify this sentence.  God gives us an assignment, and provisionally speaking, if He is the One who has given us the assignment, then we know He will bring the project to a completed course.  As we learned earlier this week, however, when we begin to walk by faith, then it is precisely at that moment that opposition arises.  At this moment, we face this crisis of belief.  Do we actually believe God and what He told us about the assignment or do we not trust Him and run with our tails between our legs?  We now have an opportunity to exercise our faith to an even greater level at this point.  Now that the introduction is over, let’s look at verse six of today’s verses.  “The people had a mind to work.”  Amen!  The people responded to their opportunity with “keep mixing the mortar and hand me a brick, we are going to finish this wall.”  Beloved, it is important for us to understand that nothing excites Satan and those who cause opposition in our lives than when we succumb to their attacks and stop our pursuit after God.  Nothing infuriates them more than when we say, “bring it on, I am going to follow hard after the Lord.”  When we positively pass our crises of belief and say, “I do trust and believe God,” the opposition will often times intensify.  That scenario is exactly what happened to Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem.  In verses seven and eight we see Arabs, Ammonites and Ashdodites joining Sanballat and Tobiah in their assault on the hearts of the people of God.  We need to be aware that walking this journey with Jesus is dangerous and costly, but it is worth every price we pay and event through which we suffer.

  1. Are you a person of persistent faith?
  2. Have you begun to experience the intensified heat of opposition?
Prayer: Father, I am so grateful You never leave me nor forsake me.  Give me the courage to face these challenging days before me and let me life bring You glory.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Opposition is Stopped by Orison

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:4-5
Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.

Insights: Today’s title of Thoughts by Scott used the word orison.  I readily acknowledge I have an alliteration problem.  I was using the letter “O” to start my words and needed one for the word prayer.  So, I went to to use their thesaurus and found orison meant prayer.  Having clarified the funny word let me explain the title of today’s Thoughts a little bit more.  When I say opposition is stopped by prayer I do not mean that those creating the opposition actually stop.  What I mean is that the effect their opposition has on you is stopped.  In other words, you are able to press on with the assignment God has given you and you are no longer personally hindered by their words and actions.  Notice with me the prayer Nehemiah prayed.  Have you ever prayed a prayer like this one?  What happened to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you?  The points I want you to walk away with regarding Nehemiah’s prayer are: first, our prayers can be brutally honest before God.  He is able to handle anything you bring to Him and He is not surprised by the violent and even hateful things on our heart.  The second point is this: before Nehemiah spoke to those in opposition to the wall being rebuilt, he sought the Lord.  Even though Nehemiah was frustrated and even angry based on his prayer, he knew he had to go to God before he went and dealt with the opposition.  Prayer has a way of changing us, the maker the prayer petition, before it changes those around us.  So, Beloved, whatever you are facing presently, take it to the Lord and ask Him to do a work in your life.  You will be amazed at what the Father does for you.  Amen!

  1. Are you taking your problems to the Lord in prayer?
  2. Are you allowing God’s grace to change the way opposition affects you?
Prayer: Father, thank You that I can be completely and utterly honest with You in prayer.  I also thank You because through prayer You change me and mold me into the image of Your Son, Jesus.  Protect me from the attacks from those who oppose my walking by faith and be glorified in my journey with You.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Obedience is Synonymous with Opposition

Scripture: Nehemiah 4:1-3
Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews. He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?" Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, "Even what they are building-- if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!"

Insights: Opposition is inevitable for a person of faith.  It is absolutely vital to understand that Christ-followers have an enemy and his name is Satan.  He will use people, circumstances or whatever device he has to trip up a believer, especially a believer walking by faith.  I want you to notice God did not allow Nehemiah to be built without opposition.  What incited Sanballat’s anger was the change taking place in Jerusalem.  Critics don’t like change of any kind and they let the world know of their dissatisfaction when change does come.  It is also interesting to note in today’s passage that critics are never alone.  They run in packs with other critics.  They are like garbage dumps that attract more garbage to join their stink.  Let me interject here that not all criticism is bad.  As Christ-followers we need to recognize Godly criticism that needs to be headed to and criticism like Sanballat’s that just needs to be ignored.  Another thing I want you to notice is criticism quickly escalates to sarcasms.  Look at Tobiah’s comment about foxes knocking down the wall if they jumped on it.  The only goal Tobiah has in this ugly affair is to discourage the people of Jerusalem.  Something I want you to understand in the midst of all this criticism and opposition is Nehemiah is not the one how originated this building program.  Nehemiah is just the tool God is using to bring about His will.  Chuck Swindoll wrote about these verses, “Critics constantly look at situations from a human point of view—their walls, their plans, their procedure, their arrangement. They don't stop to think that they may be criticizing Gods project.”  Why Swindoll’s words are true is because critical people have a hard time taking giant steps of faith.  What we need to keep in mind is progress for God ought not to be stopped because of a few people who oppose His plan.

  1. As you are living a life of faith, what opposition are you facing?
  2. Are you a critical person opposing people of faith?
Prayer: Father, if I have become trapped by faithless pursuits and become critical and opposing to those walking by faith, forgive me and change my heart.  Let my life be known as one of faith and give me the courage to believe You.  Amen.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What to do When Your Back is Against the Wall

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Insights: Before we look at our passage from Nehemiah this week, we need to look at a promise from the New Testament.  It is especially important for Christ-followers to understand they are not the treasure, but rather the clay pot which holds the treasure.  The treasure is Christ Jesus who we ALWAYS carry with us.  The point of carrying Jesus with us is so we can share Him with others.  We call this proclaiming the gospel or witnessing.  We are witnesses to the life changing power of the gospel because Jesus manifests Himself in our bodies.  It is because of this life change that the promise found in this passage is so crucial to the Christian walk.  Notice with me how Paul described what the life of a pot was like.  The life of a Believer is afflicted in every way, but the promise is we are not crushed by such affliction.  Believers are perplexed at the world’s response to the gospel, but the promise is we are not despairing.  Christ-followers are persecuted, but the promise is we are not forsaken.  Jesus’ lasts words on earth were that He would never leave us or forsake us.  Pilgrims of the faith are struck down, but the promise is we are not destroyed.  These promises are vital for one pursuing a love relationship with Jesus.  Life is going to happen.  Our backs are going to be up against the wall.  In spite of all that happens, Jesus is ALWAYS with us.  We carrying Him around everywhere we go if we are born again.  Jesus does not promise to rescue us from the affliction, the perplexities of life, the persecution, or from being struck down, but He does promise to be with us giving us His surpassing greatness and power so that we may endure through the days of difficulty.  Your back may be against the wall do to health issues, or decisions you need to make, or it might actually be physical people causing disturbances.  Whatever it is, Jesus is with you, if you are born again!

  1. Are you sharing the treasure of the gospel to those around you?
  2. Are you allowing God to display His surpassing greatness in your life as you face obstacles?
Prayer: Father, let my life be a light in this dark world for You.  Let Christ in me, the hope of glory, work through me to magnify Your surpassing greatness.  Grant me the courage to face the obstacles in life and still point others to Your love and grace.  Amen.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Strength is Quite Important for One being Led by God

Scripture: Nehemiah 2:19-20
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, "What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?" So I answered them and said to them, "The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem."

Insights: There is this unwritten rule that holds true most of the time that states, as soon as you start living by faith, opposition comes.  The people of Jerusalem had just declared, “Let us arise and build,” and the vile Sanballat and Tobiah, along with Geshem, showed up and started their task of attempting to thwart this building program.  The Hebrew word for mock in this verse literally means, “to stammer, to stutter, to utter repeatedly words of derision.”  In other words, this attempt by these fiends was perpetual.  Notice, however, the way Nehemiah responded, “The God of heaven will give us success.”  He could have gathered up the troops king Artaxerxes had given to him and bullied Sanballat and Tobiah off of the grounds.  He could have tried reasoning with them.  He could have just gritted his teeth and pressed on with the task.  He could have done a lot of things in his own strength and power, but in the end he would have been frustrated, exhausted and living in despair at the job before him.  That scenario, thank the Lord, was not what happened.  Nehemiah, went to the Lord for strength and then under His power and provision declared this very truth to our scoundrels of our story.  Nehemiah had spent time alone with God in solitude.  As a result he surrendered to the will of God.  Now he was relying totally on the Lord to provide him the strength necessary to carry out the assignment.  It all went back to original focus.  Nehemiah’s eyes were on the Lord.  It is so amazing to me how so many “christians” can have their eyes all over the place.  They put their eyes on other people and become disappointed or disillusioned because all people fail.  They put their eyes on their own situations and become absorbed in self-pity.  They put their eyes on themselves and become puffed up with pride or demoralized by insecurity.  The reason is because when we put our eyes on anything other than the Lord we enter the comparing game.  It won’t work.  Beloved, keep your eyes on Jesus.  He is the only way to survive the attacks which come from obeying Him.

  1. Are you attempting to live life in your strength and power?
  2. Have you exhausted yourself enough to turn and begin relying on Christ’s power in your life?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for all the times I attempt to carry the weight of my load.  It is childish and foolish, but how often I fall prey to this allusion of self-sufficiency.  Let me trust in Your strength and presence.  Amen.