Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Reflect on God's Faithfulness

Scripture: Exodus 18:8
Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how the LORD had delivered them.

Insights:  Today’s verse is a picture of Moses’ witnessing encounter with Jethro.  Notice with me what is significant about Moses’ technique.  He focused primarily on the Lord.  It is true that in our witness of Jesus to other people we ought to tell our story, but the key aspect of our story we should emphasize is the work of God in our lives.  Also, notice that Moses did not just tell all of the good things that took place.  He also expresses the hardships that they endured on their journey.  Beloved, when we tell our testimony with a lost person we must make certain they understand that life did not become perfect and pain free when we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  We as Christ-followers face just as many hardships as a lost person does.  The difference is we have a Savior who works mightily in our lives.  He has proven His faithfulness to us time and time again.  As we reflect on those past victories it helps embolden us for future challenges, because we know that He has been faithful in the past, therefore, He will be faithful in the future.  The reason we know that truth is because God is immutable.  In other words, He never changes.  He is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow and for all eternity.  God desires to “show out” and make Himself known in all the world and we ought to reflect and tell of God’s mighty faithful acts in our lives.

  1. What great things has the Lord Jesus done for you lately?
  2. In what ways have you expressed your gratitude to the Lord for His activity in your life?
Prayer: Father, thank You for working in my life.  Have never left me nor forsaken me and have continually worked for my good.  Open my eyes and help me to recognize Your blessings and express appropriate gratitude for Your work.  Amen.

We Reflect on Influential People

Scripture: Exodus 18:6-7
He sent word to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her." Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.

Insights:  Remember that this passage of Scripture is dealing with a family reunion.  Moses’ wife was mentioned.  His two sons were mentioned.  Jethro, his father-in-law was the only one the text explicitly indicates had a conversation with Moses.  Now, does that mean Moses did not speak to his wife and kids or show them affection?  Absolutely not.  The point is that Jethro was a highly influential person in Moses’ life.  In fact, later in this chapter we are going to see Jethro giving and influencing Moses in a positive way regarding leadership.  Beloved, there have been people who have influenced your life in positive ways.  It is helpful to reflect on those people and the lessons they taught you, so that, you may take those truths and instill them into other people.  We need to be intentional about our discipleship process and look for people we can invest our lives.  There are people in your church, home, work and even recreation activities that need your influence in their lives.  God desires you to step out and engage them, to help lead them into the ways of righteousness.  Beloved, serve the Lord with your influence and seek the counsel of Godly men and women regularly.

  1. Who are the people in your life that have influenced you?
  2. Who are the people you are presently influencing?
Prayer: Father, I am so grateful for the people You have placed in my life.  Let me take the lessons they have taught me and help me to instill those truths into the lives of other.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We Reflect on Key Places

Scripture: Exodus 18:5
Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God.

Insights:  Notice where Moses met his father-in-law.  It was at the mount of God, otherwise known as Mount Sinai.  This mountain is the same one in which Moses encountered God at the burning bush.  This mountain is the one where God promised Moses that he would return and worship Him on that mountain.  This mountain was a key location in the life of Moses because it was here that he felt, met and surrendered to God and His will.  There are key locations in our lives as well.  For many young people it was a specific youth camp in a specific location.  For others it was a particular geographic scenic view that captured their heart and brought them into the presence of God.  Still for others it was a particular piece of furniture in which they regular met with God in daily quiet time and prayer and regularly God spoke to them there.  The point is this: we need to cherish these key locations and remember them because of the key truths or promises God gave to us in these locations.  Just as God promised Moses that he would worship Him back on this mount of God, so He gives you promises and those promises never fail.  As you remember those key locations think back on the encounter with God.  Don’t only think about the visual majesty, but on the specific relationship you had with God Almighty.  Those reflections will help carry you through many days of hardship and pain.

  1. What are some key locations in which you have experienced the presence of God?
  2. What are some specific truths or promises God shared with you at these location?
Prayer: Father, You have created so many beautiful places and have used them so often to speak to my heart.  Thank You for the joy of Your creation.  Continue, please, meeting me at those locations of significance. Amen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We Reflect on Our Family, Part 2

Scripture: Exodus 18:3-4
and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, "I have been a sojourner in a foreign land." The other was named Eliezer, for he said, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh."

Insights:  Today’s verses are the second part of our reflection on our family.  Moses tells us some details as to the names of his two sons.  Both of these truths were true for Moses, but they also hold a prophetic word for Christ-followers as well.  For those of us who have received the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, we are also sojourners in this world.  Let me clarify what I mean by receiving Jesus’ gift of salvation.  You were once lost and dependent on yourselves for salvation and you failed miserably as every human being ever born does.  The Holy Spirit of God began to draw on your heart and you responded and received this gift Jesus purchased on the Cross of Calvary and in His resurrection.  You are born again and the Spirit of God lives within you, making you a new creation.  You are not perfect and you still sin, but God lives in you and makes you holy.  He does the entire work and as a result you get to enter heaven when you die (or when He returns for His Bride).  If these words describe you, then your citizenship is not here on earth.  Your citizenship is in heaven, your true home.  We, therefore, are sojourners just like Moses was a sojourner in a foreign land.  Moses’ second son was named because God had continually shown His help to Moses.  Thank the Lord that after we have been born again, saved from our sin; we are not called to do the work ourselves.  Jesus promises to never leave us nor forsake us.  He promises to be with us to the very end of the age.  We do not have that promise only, but we are also told that if we abide in Him we can do all things.  Our ability to do all things is not based on who we are or how strong we are, but rather on Jesus and His strength and ability.  He is our help to face whatever trail is in front of us.  That trial can be domestic relationships, business politics, health issues, economic concerns, emotional turmoil and the list could go on and on.  The point is Jesus will help us in each of these situations.

  1. Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and become a sojourner in this land?
  2. In what ways has the Lord helped you in recent days?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the salvation You purchased for me and for Your continual presence and help in my life.  May I always be grateful and mindful of Your work and obediently respond to Your love in like manner. Amen.

Monday, May 27, 2013

We Reflect on Our Family, Part 1

Scripture: Exodus 18:1-2
Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Moses' wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away,

Insights:  We are going to unpack this eighteenth chapter of Exodus over the next four weeks.  The reason for this adventure is to help prepare us at Little River Baptist Church for our upcoming Vision Workshop.  This chapter holds four important elements for a church, an individual, a corporation, or even a nation to move from where they presently are to where the Lord God would have them to be.  This week’s theme is A Time of Reflection.  We reflect not for the purpose of living in the past, but for the express purpose of encouraging us to move into the future.  God has intentionally worked in our past and proven Himself time and again, because we have such confidence we can march into the unknown of the future with certainty of God’s presence.  The first area in our lives in which we need to reflect is our family.  These two verses today are a picture of a family reunion between Moses and his wife, father-in-law and two sons.  I remember going to family reunions as a child and the parents having us kids hand crank the home-made ice cream churner in order to keep us occupied while they reminisced about the past, got brought up to speed on the present, and heard the prospective hopes of the future.  We also need to reflect on our families.  Some of us have rich godly histories with parents and grandparents that were truly sold out to the Lord Jesus and wanted their children and grandchildren to know His love.  Others of us are first generation Christ-followers and did not have that rich heritage.  Either way, there are some very positive things we learned from our family.  At the same time, both sets of parents also had negative aspects that we would like to avoid in our lives.  When we reflect it gives us a perspective by which we can help navigate our future.  We model the good we saw and purge the bad we desire to change.

  1. What are the negative characteristics that you would like to change in yourselves that you have observed from your family as you have reflected on them?
  2. What are the postive characteristics that you would like to change in yourselves that you have observed from your family as you have reflected on them?
Prayer: Father, thank You for my family.  You perfectly orchestrated events in history to have me born at such a time as this with the family I have.  They are not always what I want, but I am grateful for them when I reflect on the life I have as a result of them.  Bless my family this day, O Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Right Response

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:31
and I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

Insights:  Today’s verse is the last one in the book of Nehemiah.  Our journey of building a spiritual wall of faith with bricks of character has come to a conclusion.  This week we have looked at four areas of compromise that Israel had made in regards to sin.  Today we are going to look at the ingredients behind Nehemiah’s right response to these sins.  First, he honestly observed the situations and recognized the sin present.  Most people are able to recognize the wrong, but they never move to the second response which is to courageously act against the wickedness.  Most people just sweep it under the carpet and hope it goes away, but Nehemiah courageously acted.  This courageous action was the second right response Nehemiah took.  The motivation behind and the third right response to his actions was Nehemiah’s deep devotion to the people.  He loved them and wanted the best for them.  This final verse shows us the last thing Nehemiah did in this process and that was pray and interestingly enough that was where our journey began many weeks back.  So, here is a recap of the bricks of character we have learned need to be a part of our wall of faith: prayer, preparation, solitude, perseverance, service, stewardship, humility, discernment, selflessness, teach ability, prioritization, faithfulness, joy and the trait for this week was repentance.  The reason it was repentance was because when Nehemiah honestly observed and courageously acted against the sin of those people he was deeply devoted to, they repented.  They turned from their wicked ways and turned back to God.  When we sin, we also must quickly repent and turn back to God in order for the love relationship between the two of us to remain strong and vibrant.  The way we talk with God and verbally confess our repentance is through prayer, which again is the predominant theme throughout the entire book of Nehemiah.  Beloved, this construction project has been truly convicting on my heart and I pray it has been with you as well.  May we live stronger lives in Christ Jesus as a result of these lessons we have studied together.  Live your life in such a manner that our Lord is brought glory and honor.

  1. Are you honestly observing and courageously acting for the people you are devoted to?
  2. Is prayer a part of the equation for you helping others?
Prayer: Father, open my eyes so I am able to honestly discern situation and empower me with Your presence so I may courageously act on those situations.  May the outcome of such interaction lead to repentance. Amen.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Domestic Disobedience

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:23-25
In those days I also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but the language of his own people. So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.

Insights:  This command of God had nothing to do with genetic purity.  It had nothing to do with race or ethnic distinction.  Part of the reason we know this is because of Jesus’ own lineage.  In it you have Rahab a Canaanite woman and Ruth a Moabite woman.  What it dealt with was spiritual holiness and righteousness before God.  Israel was God’s children and He desired them to be fully His and He knew that if they intermarried with those from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab, they were more than likely going to defile their love for Him in order to please their spouses.  It was for this same reason that Paul admonishes Christians to not be unequally yoked with lost people (2 Cor. 6:14).  As a pastor I have heard so many Christians involved in a relationship with a lost person tell me God was telling them to marry the person and then lead that person to Jesus for salvation.  There are two problems with this statement I have heard.  One, God did not tell them that because He never contradicts Scripture and Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth has explicitly stated not marry such an individual.  Two, if a person is lying down and another is trying to pull them up off of the ground; the one on the ground has the advantage.  It is easier for him to pull the other person down than it is for the other one to pull him up.  The same is true in relationships.  More often than not I have watched the believer get pulled down in the relationship and soon God is not even a factor in the believer’s life.  I mentioned this passage earlier this week, but I mention it again here for the same truth applies.  “Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).”    If you are a believer and have been truly born again and you are in a relationship with an unbeliever, then I would strongly encourage you to not follow the example of the people of Nehemiah’s day.  End the relationship and ask God to bring you a godly spouse.

  1. Are you cultivating a romantic relationship with an unbeliever?
  2. Are you contemplating uniting this relationship into an unequally yoked marriage?
Prayer: Father, the heart is such a dangerous thing to us humans.  Protect Your children from themselves and give them the wisdom necessary to make holy decisions. Amen.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Secularized Sabbath

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:17-18
Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? "Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath."

Insights:  The verses today are really from verse fifteen to verse twenty-two.  The third area that Nehemiah noticed the people were sinning against God was the sabbath.  It was in fact the fourth of the Ten Commandments given to the people of God.  After the resurrection the early church moved the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, the day in which the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.  Here is the point: we often times make anything and everything come before the Lord our God.  We do not manage our time or wills very well.  People often tell me that they need to get their “ox out of the ditch”.  The reality is they could do that task after the worship service, but there are other things they want to do in the afternoon or evening, so church is the easier agenda item to skip.  I know of people asking God for a job and one is offered to them, but it causes them to work on Sundays.  A lot of times these individuals accept the job before going back to the Lord and asking Him for confirmation.  They are so desperate for the income that they do not see the danger of the job and then they tell people how God got them this job.  After watching a number of these situations over the years, it is interesting to me how far the person’s relationship with the Lord has drifted as a result of this “blessing” from God.  Now I am not saying in our present economy that the Lord does not give a person a job in which they have to work on Sundays, but what I am telling you is that if indeed God did give a job of that nature, then you need to find a church that offers Saturday night worship services or some other opportunity for you to be with the Body of Christ.  The intent behind the sabbath was to have a day separate to the Lord.  Not just a day of rest for you to go fishing, but an intentional day of rest in the Lord; a day in which your thoughts, actions and visible worship were explicitly directed to Him.  Beloved, keep a day of worship holy to the Lord.

  1. Is there anything that is preventing you from being obedient to the Lord’s sabbath?
  2. What steps are you going to take in your life to become obedient to the Lord?
Prayer: Father, there are so many pressures in this world and I desperately need You.  Help me to keep a day holy devoted to You. Amen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Financial Fiasco

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:10-11
I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field. So I reprimanded the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" Then I gathered them together and restored them to their posts.

Insights:  The verses today really go on to verse fourteen.  I encourage you to read the rest of this section on your own.  Notice the first portion of verse ten with me.  It states, “I also discovered….”  After Nehemiah returned and found the compromised companionship going on in the temple, he began to look around with intentional eyes.  He was looking for other areas of compromise.  Nehemiah did not have to look very long before he found the people had stopped giving their tithes and offerings to the Lord.  In verse eleven he goes so far as to ask the question, “Why is the house of God forsaken?”  People today stop giving their tithes and offerings for a lot of reasons.  I will mention only three, but the list could be rather extensive.  One, people get mad at the preacher or the church and they say to themselves, “Well, I’ll show them, I just won’t support the church financially.”  This idea is like the little kid that gets mad at his friends and takes his ball and goes home so that no one will be able to play with it.  Two, people who use their money for their hobbies, wants, vacation, etc.  Their attitude goes like this, “God knows I need to relax, therefore, He will understand if I spend my money on ____________.”  This particular idea has become more of a problem in recent days with our consumer driven society of “I want it now and my way” kind of thinking.  Three, people who have too many monthly bills after the paycheck has already been spent.  They say, “I just can’t afford to give to the Lord right now.”  It really does not matter what the excuse or rational is at the end of the day what a person is really saying to God is, “I don’t trust You, God.”  Trusting God with our finances is the only item in the entire Bible in which God explicitly tells us to test Him.  The passage is found in Malachi chapter three.  God commands that we give.  Beloved, do not be like these that Nehemiah found upon his return.  Rather, let us be faithful givers to the Lord and let’s watch Him do amazing things through us as a result.

  1. Are you withholding your tithes and offerings from the Lord?
  2. Have you come to realize that any excuse you give is only another way of saying, “Lord, I don’t trust you”?
Prayer: Father, everything I have belongs to You.  Help me to not be a hoarder of my finances, but rather a generous giver to You. Amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Compromised Companionship

Scripture: Nehemiah 13:4-5
Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.

Insights:  The point headings this week are not original to me.  I wish they were.  They actually come from Chuck Swindoll in his book Hand Me Another Brick.  Also this week all the verses that apply to each point will not be listed, but rather the key verse or a couple of verses.  For example today’s point really is covered in verses four through nine.  Today we see relationships that were compromised among the people of Israel.  We are told about Eliashib who is over the rooms in the temple and his families marital relationship with Tobiah.  Do not forget that Tobiah is not an Israelite.  He is a pagan and has been a thorn in Nehemiah’s side from day one.  He is the villain of this historical account of God’s redemptive work.  What specifically has taken place is Tobiah has taken up residency in the temple.  Non-Jewish people were not even to be in the temple let alone live there.  When Nehemiah returned from Susa he finds this wickedness taking place and he throws Tobiah out of the temple.  He then fumigates the place and cleanses it and makes it ready for the use of God.  Here is the point, Beloved, we must constantly guard ourselves against compromised relationships.  Our relationships do help determine our character.  In other words, we do become like the people with whom we hang out.  It is for this reason Paul made the statement, “Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).”  Now this does not mean that we just dump our lost friends because they are bad company, but it does mean we intentionally alter the relationship where they do not have the influence on us as they once did.  We need to be proactive about sharing the love of Jesus with them and pray they come into a saving relationship with Jesus.  As a result of this altered relationship, we may have to stop doing some things with them that we once did.  Cultivate relationships with people who are strong in their faith with the Lord God and you will be molded more into the image of Jesus.  Guard your relationships.

  1. What relationships do you have that are unhealthy and need to be ended?
  2. Who out there is a faith-filled individual with whom you need to start cultivating a relationship?
Prayer: Father, You care about every relationship I have and You know what is best for me.  Help me to trust You so that my life will be the healthiest it can be and bring You the most glory.  Amen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Crucial Secret

Scripture: Nehemiah 12:43
and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.

Insights:  Today we are looking once again at this forty-third verse.  I mentioned this truth yesterday regarding the four ways joy is eluded to here in this verse.  Two times the word joy is present and two times the words rejoice, which is derived out of ones joy, is present.  Many times I have mentioned the difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness is completely dependent upon what is happining to you.  Now I know I just spelled happening incorrectly.  I am attempting to make a point.  Happiness is external.  It is environmental in nature.  Joy on the other hand is internal.  The Lord God, because of His Spirit that indwells a believer, fills him/her up from the inside out.  As a result, the believer becomes the influencer of joy because they are a well spring of God’s love, joy and peace.  In light of this information, notice the last phrase in today’s verse, “…the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.”  It was not their song that was heard from a far, but their joy which came through their song.  If the lost world sees you and they witness within you a joyful spirit they don’t say, in the words of Chuck Swindoll, “Oh, you sing tenor.”  They are enamored with the joyful radiance of Christ Jesus in your life.  Beloved, when you express joy in an authentic manner, the lost world is greatly encouraged because they see a hope for their situation.  So, to conclude this week’s Thoughts by Scott our brick of character we are adding to our wall of faith we are building is JOY.  It is hard to believe that next week we will conclude our time in this wonderful book of Nehemiah.  I pray you have been encouraged along the way as you have read these devotional thoughts and are a more solid Christ-follower as a result of instilling into your life these foundational character traits found in one who is born again.  May the Lord be brought glory through your life.

  1. Are you allowing the Lord to transform you from the inside out?
  2. What in your life needs to be surrendered in order for this transformation to occur?
Prayer: Lord, You are the One who brings life changing and life sustaining joy in my life.  You are molding me into the person of God You want me to become.  Let that joy be contagious to those around me.  Amen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Children Smiled

Scripture: Nehemiah 12:43
and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.

Insights:  You may be familiar with Proverbs 17:22 which states, “A joyful heart is good medicine,” but you may not be as familiar with Proverbs 15:13 which states, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”  I state that because in this forty-third verse we are told four times they people had joy or rejoiced.  When one is full of joy in the Lord, I promise you his/her face will show it.  It reminds me of the children’s song If your happy and you know it.  In all three verses the third line states, “If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.”  You will never convince me that these women and children that rejoiced in this verse stood at attention with some stoic rock solid face with no expression of the great joy God had given them.  They were extremely exuberant in their expressions of joy.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth in his second letter, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (14-16).”  Beloved, our great joy in the Lord ought to be manifest to those around us.  It ought to be heard.  It ought to be seen.  It ought to be felt.  And it ought to point them to the One who has given us this great joy, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

  1. Are you one who easily smiles?
  2. Do others easily see the joy of the Lord in your life?
Prayer: Father, let my life be so full of Your radiance that others recognize the difference You make in my life.  I want to perpetually be a fragrance of life to those who are saved and to those who will receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Choir Sang

Scripture: Nehemiah 12:31 & 38
Then I had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall, and I appointed two great choirs, the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall toward the Refuse Gate…. The second choir proceeded to the left, while I followed them with half of the people on the wall, above the Tower of Furnaces, to the Broad Wall,

Insights:  In many respects the points surrounding these verses today were made in last week’s Thoughts by Scott.  The link is  I will add only a couple of new thoughts that will help elaborate the point better.  The first comes from a few lines from Chuck Swindoll.  He wrote about this passage, “What a blast they must have had! Hundreds of singers, all sorts of instruments, a spirit of hilarity that certainly wouldn't resemble today's average church service! It probably looked more like a bunny-hop line in the 1950s.”  The second thought is that this scene probably resembled more of a modern day college football game than it did a local church service.  Beloved, we need to get excited about the privilege we have in worshipping our Lord and Savior.  Do not hold your voice back.  Make that joyful noise to the Lord and let it bring Him glory.

  1. Do you have a song in your heart?
  2. Are you willing sing to the Lord in unashamed adoration to the love of your life?
Prayer: Father, stir my heart to sing.  Let me worship and adore You with my voice.  Let my adoration be pleasing to Your ear and may it bring You glory.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Cleansing Sought

Scripture: Nehemiah 12:30
The priests and the Levites purified themselves; they also purified the people, the gates and the wall.

Insights:  Yesterday we learned that a celebration party was taking place as a result of the revival that was occurring in the lives of the people.  The text, in verse thirty, almost does a,”But I forgot to mention this happened before the party,” kind of thing.  Here is what I mean: the dedication celebration consisted of more than just fun and games.  Before the joy of the moment could be experienced the people had to seek cleansing from their sins.  Holiness precedes joy.  We cannot live in moral carelessness and sin and still think we can have joy.  A tolerance for evil and a laughing off of the things the Lord God hates are not possible for joy to reside in one’s life.  The priests and the Levites purified themselves and then they purified the people and finally they consecrated the gates and the wall itself.  This scene in the twelfth chapter is a picture of joy, but you need to understand the second part of this joy is found in service.  You recall after the revival actually began when Ezra read the Word of God to the people that they began to take meat to those that did not have any.  The natural response to an encounter with God is to share it with other people.  I mention this because if we are going to minister to people our hearts also must be clean before God.  In other words, before we can celebrate properly and even before we can serve well we must be in a right relationship with the Lord God.  We need to ask the Lord to search our hearts and to reveal to us any wicked way.  And when the Lord does reveal sin to us we need to quickly repent and turn back to Him.  Beloved, when we do repent, we are ready to celebrate with joy and serve with gladness.

  1. Are you harboring any known sin in your life?
  2. Are you willing to repent and allow the Lord to cleanse you?
Prayer: Father, search my heart and reveal to me any wicked way.  I desire purity and holiness over my sinfulness.  As I repent of the sins You reveal to me, let me also have Your strength so I may remain in holiness.  Amen.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Celebration Service

Scripture: Nehemiah 12:27-28
Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres. So the sons of the singers were assembled from the district around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites,

Insights:  I started the sermon yester in a rather dismal and depressing way.  I verbally painted a picture of our society and many of its woes, ranging from economics and divorce to suicide and international tensions.  In the lost world there are not a lot of things in which one can place their hope.  Theologically speaking, for the lost world there is NOTHING in which they can place their hope, because we know that true hope only comes through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  After painting this picture, however, I expressed the truth of our Lord Jesus in our lives as Christ-followers.  I informed the congregation that I believed God wanted His children to be full of joy in their lives and that lead into my first point of the sermon and today’s Thought by Scott.  Remember back with me over the past few weeks.  The wall had been completed, a revival service held, a prayer of repentance followed and they concluded it with a written declaration of their faithfulness to God.  All of those things lead up to today’s verses in which we see the people of Jerusalem holding a celebration.  Notice with me that this celebration is held with gladness.  That Hebrew word literally means with gaiety, mirth, pleasure and delight.  Also notice all of the instruments used in this celebration.  There were cymbals, harps and lyres.  These people were singing hymns of thanksgiving.  Were all of their problems and struggles over?  No, they were slowly rebuilding the city and removing the rubble, but the people had a new spark of enthusiasm.  Their vision had been renewed and they were looking to the future with their God with expectant eyes.  Beloved, we need to celebrate the times in our lives in which the Lord had done great things.  We are a short-minded people and these times of celebration help us to remember the goodness of God.  The Bible does not prescribe a frequency for such celebrations, but I believe they should be often.  These celebrations among fellow Christ-followers do not have to always be a formal setting at a church building.  One could have a celebration party at their home.  The point is CELEBRATE the goodness of God.

  1. For what do you have to celebrate in your life?
  2. Is your celebration full of gaiety, mirth, pleasure and delight?
Prayer: Father, for salvation alone, I have all the reason I need to celebrate.  You, however, continue to bless me beyond imagination and for all of these I am able to celebrate.  I pray, my celebration of Your great goodness pleases You.  Amen.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Those Who Willingly Sang

Scripture: Nehemiah 11:22
Now the overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, from the sons of Asaph, who were the singers for the service of the house of God.

Insights:  Music has an amazing way of connecting the heart of the worshipper with God.  It helps stirs our passions and assists us in releasing unhindered praise to the Lord God.  The problem, however, is that we have made worship about our desires and not the desires of the Father.  We sing songs of our pleasure without consulting Him to see what His preferences are.  James MacDonald in his book Vertical Church rightly declares that God inhabits the praise of His people.  In other words, God comes down when His children are offering to Him authentic praise and adoration.  The second problem with our worship, however, is that we give worship without actual conscience thought.  What I mean by that is we are so familiar with the words of our songs that they rarely are sung with affirmative assent.  Let me illustrate it this way, how many times have you sung an entire song and never thought one time about what you were singing?  Oh, I shudder to think how many times that has happened to me.  I have sung entire songs thinking about something or someone else.  When I or you do this it is unacceptable worship to the Lord and He does not receive it.  A third problem surrounding songs of worship is some people refuse to lift their voices to the Lord.  Or if they do, they sing so softly that no one can hear them.  At that point our own pride becomes the idol because we don’t want to look or sound foolish, therefore, we offer nothing genuine to the Lord.  I believe the Lord had this problem in mind when He wrote, “make a joyful noise unto the Lord (Psalm 66:1 KJV).”  Other translations of that verse read, “Shout joyfully to God.”  When one is shouting, rarely is it a pleasant sound, but we are commanded in this Psalm to make that noise to the Lord, because it is pleasurable to Him.  Beloved, if we are to experience the revival that took place during Nehemiah’s day, then we need to do the five things these unknown heroes did.  We must volunteer to go, we must serve in the church, we must witness outside of the church, we must pray, and we must sing!

  1. Do you sing unashamedly to God on a regular basis?
  2. Has your worship in song just become routine?
Prayer: Lord God, forgive me for those times in which my singing to You is just rote and not sincere and authentic.  Stir in my heart a desire to sing loudly to You my great Master and King.  You alone are worthy of my worship.  May You be pleased when I sing to You.  Amen.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Those Who Willingly Prayed

Scripture: Nehemiah 11:17
and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren; and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun.

Insights: We have more fun unknown hero names today.  At the same time, this fourth group is in my personal opinion the most important group.  Mattaniah was a prayer warrior.  I may step on some toes here, but I don’t think Mattaniah was praying for sister Sue’s bursitis or brother Bob’s cold.  Please read me carefully here, it is not wrong or even inappropriate to pray for peoples physical healing and wellbeing.  My concern, however, is that this kind of praying is of what ninety to ninety-five percent of our church praying consists (Scott’s guess and observation).  Martin Lloyd-Jones in his book titled Revival lists three things for which Moses prayed just before God granted him the privilege of seeing more of His glory.  1.  Moses prayed for the assurance of God’s presence.  2.  Moses prayed for power from God.  3.  Moses prayed for an authentic purpose from God, in other words, he wanted to be unique and separate from the world.  He wanted holiness to characterize his life.  These three prayers of Moses have eternal ramifications.  Let me list four questions to probe if your prayers are eternally focused or earthly centered.  Are you as a Christ-follower crying out with loud voices for God’s glory to be manifestly present in your worship services?  Are you begging God to fill your pastor with His Spirit and power in his preaching?  Are you praying for boldness in your witness to a lost world?  Are you praying for long lengths of time prostrate before your Lord and asking for His will to be done?  James tells us “… You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (4:2-3).”  A little later in this letter James tells us “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (5:16).”  Here is the point, we often times don’t see miraculous things happening for the kingdom of God because we don’t ask for them to happen.  Sometimes when we do ask we are asking with wrong motives because what we desire is the personal praise for what God has done.  If, however, we are sincere, then our prayers are effective.  Pray kingdom prayers, Beloved!

  1. How much time do you spend on your knees in prayer?
  2. For what kind of things are you praying?
Prayer: Father, it is a privilege you have given Your children to pray.  Increase my faith, Lord, and let my prayers become powerful and effective.  Let my desires be Your desires and let me pray with a focus on eternity.  Hear my cries, Lord, and grant me Your favor. Amen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Those Who Willingly Worked Outside the Temple

Scripture: Nehemiah 11:15-16
Now from the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; and Shabbethai and Jozabad, from the leaders of the Levites, who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God;

Insights: Just like yesterday we have another list of fun names to pronounce.  The key phrase, however, is found in verse sixteen.  It reads, “…were in charge of the outside work of the house of God.”  Now you need to understand this phrase is not referencing to the building and grounds committee.  This phrase is not about the paint on the walls or bushes being trimmed.  Those who ministered outside of the house of God were charged to judge civil affairs and counsel and minister to the public away from the Temple.  In a modern day context for the church it would be inviting a neighbor over for dinner or mowing a widow’s lawn for free or volunteering at a ministry for low income or homeless people.  The list could go on and on, but the point is the ministry is being done outside of the church walls.  The sad reality is most church attenders do not want to work in that environment because it is messy.  It can cost you financially, emotionally, physically and even at times spiritually.  It is, however, into these highways and byways that Jesus has commissioned us to go.  In fact His actual words were, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Keep in mind that this entire week is about unknown heroes.  More often than not you are not going to receive accolades or praise on this side of eternity for work of this kind.  Your Father in heaven, however, is keeping track and He knows what you have done and He will reward you at the proper time.  Beloved, be obedient children of the Lord and show yourselves to be His disciples by ministering outside of the church walls (John 15:8).  Let our work bring glory to the Father above.

  1. What are you actively doing to minister to those outside of the church walls?
  2. Are you aware of the impact you can make in the life of a church by your obedient work outside of its walls?
Prayer: Father, You have commissioned us to go into all the nations making disciples.  That commission is more often than not outside of the church walls.  I confess that reality often frightens me, but greater are You Who resides in me than Satan who resides in the world.  Grant me boldness in this dark world to proclaim the gospel to those in need. Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Those Who Willingly Worked Inside the Temple

Scripture: Nehemiah 11:10-12
From the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the leader of the house of God, and their kinsmen who performed the work of the temple, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah,

Insights: Did you have fun reading those names today?  The important phrase in these verses is “kinsmen who performed the work of the temple.”  These 822 men felt the compulsion we spoke of yesterday to serve in the advancement and health of the worship service.  In a modern day setting, we also have those who help make worship inside the church run more smoothly and efficiently.  Just like then, we do not always use our gift mix perfectly, but we are still supposed to use it.  We have those who greet people when they arrive at church.  We have ushers that take up offerings.  We have audio and video workers who help make our projection during the worship service go smoothly.  We have teachers who volunteer their time and resources to help people grow in their knowledge of the Bible during Sunday School hour.  I could go on and on.  The point is God is the One who equips the Body with different gifts.  We are to use those gifts for the building up of the Body.  Each of us has a role to play in order to make worship a more fulfilling and God encountering moment each week.  These men in Nehemiah’s day understood the need for them to serve in whatever capacity the Lord commanded them.  Beloved, we need the same kind of attitude.  If you do not know the ways in which the Lord has equipped you, then I would encourage you to go the gift mix chapters in the Bible and read them.  As you do, ask the Lord, to reveal to you what gifts you possess and then try them.  You will quickly recognize if that gift you are trying to use is yours.  If it is, you will find great peace and satisfaction as you use it.  The passages I encourage you to read are Romans chapter twelve, First Corinthian’s chapter twelve, Ephesians chapter four and First Peter chapter four.  Beloved, use your gifts and let God bring the worship inside the church to a meaningful end.

  1. What part do you have to play in order for worship inside the church to be all that it can be?
  2. Or are you like a bump on a log and just sit there during worship?
Prayer: Father, You have equipped me for good works and commissioned me to use those gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ.  Help me to know my gift mix and make more bold in exercising my gifts. Amen.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Those Who Willingly Moved Into the City

Scripture: Nehemiah 11:1-2
Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities. And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

Insights: This week we are going to be looking at the unknown heroes of Nehemiah eleven.  If it were not for these individuals the revival that occurred during Nehemiah’s time would not have happened.  In many ways verse two from today’s Scriptures gives us the reason for this great revival.  Before we look at that verse, however, let us look at verse one.  Ten percent of the people were forced to return to the city based on a lottery.  These individuals did not want to go but “lost” the raffle and had to go, from their perspective.  There are times people are coerced to obey and their involvement is plagued with sour faces and disgruntled expressions.  These individuals are not a pleasure to be around while the work is being accomplished.  Verse two, on the other hand, states that the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.  That word volunteered literally means to impel or to incite from within.  In other words, God stirred these people up from the inside out and they wanted, oh joyfully wanted, to obey the Lord and move into the city.  People who are moved on by the Lord and whole heartedly respond in a favorable manner are blessed.  They experience the joy of the Lord in their lives.  Their faces radiate the pleasure of one who is walking with the Lord faithfully.  Their countenance is lifted up and people want to be around such a person.  As we will see throughout this week, often times these volunteer people are never known by name or even remembered.  If, however, they had not volunteered, the results of glory would have diminished.  Beloved, we need to be such men and women who give willingly to the Lord’s desires.  We need to volunteer when He calls our name.  We sang a song yesterday that said, “I’ll say yes, Lord, yes to Your will and to Your way.  I’ll say yes, Lord, yes; I will trust You and obey.  When Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree, and my answer will be yes, Lord, yes.”  Beloved, say, “Yes, Lord, yes!”

  1. Are you incited from within to be obedient to the Lord?
  2. Or are you forced into action?
Prayer: Lord and Master, I desire to have a moldable and pliable heart.  I want You to stir my heart from within so that I willingly and whole heartedly volunteer to obey You.  May my obedience bring You glory. Amen.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Remembrances about Priorities

Scripture: Romans 12:1-3
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Insights: Let me wrap this week up with three remembrances.  First, serious thought precedes any significant change.  In today’s verses we see we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  The way we think about the Triune God has major impacts on us as individuals and when we get our thinking right the passage goes on to tell us that we then may prove what God’s will is.  The second remembrance for this week helps with the first one.  Second, written plans confirm right priorities.  I strongly encourage you to keep a journal.  Write your prayers in it.  Write what God reveals to you in your quiet times with Him and His Word.  Write the things going on in your life.  A written record like this helps one confirm and maintain the proper priorities in one’s life.  In other words, a journal helps keep you focused on what matters most to you and God.  Third, a loss of distinction and conformity to the world go hand in hand.  Today’s verse tells us to stop conforming to this world.  You cannot have it both ways.  You can either conform to this world and NOT have a vibrant, dynamic and growing relationship with Jesus, or you can live a life of distinction and experience everything previously mentioned.  The choice is yours.  After the military conquest of the Promised Land was complete Joshua gave a similar choice to the people of Israel.  He said to them, “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.  Whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (24:15).”  Who will you choose?  A life characterized by proper prioritization will bring glory to God and great satisfaction to you.  Beloved, choose distinction.  Choose life in Christ Jesus.

  1. Do you keep a journal in order to help you maintain right priorities?
  2. Does your life reflect the distinction found in Jesus?
Prayer: Father, I desire for my life to reflect You and Your priorities.  I realize this could mean significant changes for me, but I want to honor and glorify You with a life of distinction. Amen.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Documenting the Priorities, Part 3

Scripture: Nehemiah 10:31 & 39
As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt….For the sons of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine and the oil to the chambers; there are the utensils of the sanctuary, the priests who are ministering, the gatekeepers and the singers. Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.

Insights: Today’s verses reveal two more of the four declarations the people signed in regards to their walk with God.  Verse thirty-one gives us the first which was the signers promised to conduct business in an obedient manner.  Whether you are a business owner yourselves or an employee your work ought to be that as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). The world system is about cheating, lying, backstabbing and the like in order to progress through the ranks, but our Lord has called us to a higher standard of living.  Is your distinction in the workplace, or at school, of such a quality that people notice?  These men who signed this declaration were stating to the world that their business would reflect God’s glory in their lives. Verse thirty-nine gives us the second declaration which was the people promised to worship in the place of the Lord.  Now it is really verses thirty-two through thirty-nine that give the full picture of this truth, but thirty-nine gives the concluding thought when it states, “Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.”  In those eight verses I just mentioned the phrases “house of the Lord” or “house of God” was mentioned nine times.  In other words these men were taking serious their need to worship the Lord in His house.  Obviously, we do not have a temple today, but we do have local church buildings.  In essence, these men were saying, “We are going to be at the temple every time those doors are open.”  Unfortunately, we live in a culture that acts as if we are doing God a favor to give Him one or two hours on a Sunday morning.  We ought to be in church every time the doors are open, whether that is physically at the church or in someone’s house for small group Bible study.  Our desire to worship and grow in the Lord ought to be ferocious and when we do attend a worship service our thoughts ought to be on the Lord and not each other.

  1. Are you conducting your daily affairs in a manner that honors the Lord?
  2. Are you faithfully worshipping the Lord on a regular basis?
Prayer: Father, I desire for all I do to bring glory to You.  May my daily affairs and my regular worship be pleasing in Your sight.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Documenting the Priorities, Part 2

Scripture: Nehemiah 10:29-30
are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God's law, which was given through Moses, God's servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.

Insights: Today’s verses reveal two of the four declarations the people signed in regards to their walk with God.  Verse twenty-nine gives us the first which was the people gave a general promise to obey all that God had declared.  The beauty of being a born again Christ-follower is that we have the Holy Spirit living within us and because of His presence we are capable of walking in obedience to the Lord.  If we were left to our own devices we would walk in continual rebellion against the Lord.  Praise the Lord that we are new creations which are holy and dearly loved by God.  Verse thirty gives us the second declaration which was the people specifically stated they were going to obey God in their homes.  They were not going to just let their daughters and sons marry into the pagan countries as they had been permitting in the past.  They were going to have their homes distinct.  How many times had I used the old argument to my parents, “…but so and so is getting to ____________ (fill in the blank—go to that movie, go to that party, purchase that game, etc.)?”  And how many times did my parents say something along the lines of, “…but so and so doesn’t live here.”  The point being in this house we are going to honor the Lord and obey Him and it does not matter what every other house is doing.  Joshua’s words come to mind at this point, “… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).”  Chuck Swindoll wrote, “When morals of a nation are under stress, the home is the first to suffer.”  And Billy Graham stated, “The immutable law of sowing and reaping has held sway. We are now the hapless possessors of moral depravity and we seek in vain for a cure. The tares of indulgence have overgrown the wheat of moral restraint. Our homes have suffered when the morals of society are upset.  The family is the first to suffer. The home is the basic unit of society and a nation is only as strong as her homes.”  Beloved, honor God in your homes.

  1. Are you obeying God in His general commands?
  2. Does your home reflect specifically that you and your family belong to the Lord?
Prayer: Father, I so desire to have my life be characterized as one of obedience, obedient to You in my home and in the general commands of Your Word.  May my obedience bring You glory. Amen.