Thursday, January 11, 2018

SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP - JESUS STYLE!

John 13:4-5  rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

     For me, this is the picture of true leadership!

   Jesus, the King of kings, wore the mantle of leadership, yet, instead of wearing it as a robe of nobility He wore it around His waist, taking on the role of the lowest of servants. 

    In Christ's time, foot washing was common, everyone wore sandals and everyone walked everywhere.  Feet got filthy, so, a common custom was to wash the feet of dinner guests.  What was not common, what was actually unheard of, was the dinner host washing his guests feet.  Foot washing was the job of a slave. In fact, not just any slave could perform this chore, only a non-Jewish slave was assigned this task.  Non-Jews, Gentiles, were already regarded as dogs, so a Gentile slave was considered lower than a dog.  

     Jesus, just hours before being arrested, tried and beaten, lowered Himself to the point of the lowliest servant in the culture.  Jesus did this to demonstrate true spiritual leadership.    

      Webster's defines mantle as: A figurative cloak symbolizing authority.  Jesus shows us how to exercise that authority.  

     Not everyone is a leader in the typical sense of the word, yet everyone of us has a role in the Body of Christ.  Everyone of us is entrusted with a specific role and gifted, supernaturally, to fulfill that role. God has granted each of us a mantle of authority over something.  Many never take on that mantle and many others misuse the mantle of authority to benefit themselves.  True leadership authority recognizes others as the secondary motivation, secondary only to bringing glory to God.  

    "This (Ministry) would be great if it weren't for the people!"  These were the saddest words I have ever heard uttered from a pastor.  No ministry is so important that the people are not a primary focus.  If people are getting in the way of achieving your vision, you probably have the wrong vision.  Spiritual leadership serves people.  Spiritual leadership is wearing the mantle of authority around your waist and daring to stoop to the lowest position in order to lead others by example.  

      If you are part of a ministry or if you are serving with someone who views others as his servant and behaves like a king rather than a servant, run, don't walk, away from that ministry!  The very word minister comes to us from Latin and literally means less servant. Imagine that!  Today, the word minister carries an air of elevated authority.  Can this be because the office of minister has been misused by many for personal benefit?  


      Servant leadership, true spiritual leadership, is recognizing our role as ministers is to serve others, not be served.  Philippians 2:3 -   Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 

       Imagine if many of the peacocks we see in pulpits today were held to this standard!  This is not a new phenomenon, the religious leaders in Christ's time were just as bad, and He called them out on it.  Be a spiritual leader by serving others and watch God change the world around you!  

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!
     

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

BUT...THAT'S HOW I'VE ALWAYS DONE IT!


Here we are, just a few days into the new year and already you can hear the shattering sound of broken New Years Resolutions.  Not you or me though, we're different, this year we are going to make some changes!  We will be thinner, healthier, make more money, spend more time in spiritual pursuits and read more books.  What's the plan you ask?  We don't need no stinking plan!  We're just going to do it!!  Yeah... that's what happened.
   

      It often amazes me how often people express dissatisfaction with the status quo yet are unwilling to do anything differently to make even simple changes.  We are caught up in traditions and methods because, well we may not even know why.  

Scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage with a staircase and a banana hanging on a string above the staircase.  Every time a monkey went up the stairs to get the banana, the other 4 were sprayed down with icy water. The monkeys did not like being sprayed down with icy water.  It did not take long for the monkeys to realize the cause of the icy water was someone going up the stairs.  Once the monkeys realized this, they would attack any monkey who went up the stairs. Soon the monkeys avoided the stairs and everyone got along.  After a few days, one monkey was replaced.  When the new monkey went up the stairs, the 4 veteran monkeys attacked him and prevented him from going up, even though the scientists did not spray the monkeys with water.  One by one the monkeys were replaced over the course of days and weeks.  Eventually 5 monkeys who had never been sprayed with water guarded the stairs, never allowing any other monkey to go up. 

 5 monkeys who will never go up a staircase to get a banana nor will they ever allow another monkey to go up a staircase to get a banana because that's just the way it's always been.  Are we any better than those monkeys when it comes to making changes in our lives?  Are we caught in useless traditions and methods that may have had a purpose at some time in the distant past because, "that's how I've always done it"?  Are we failing to reach goals because we are failing to plan, to take chances, to step outside of "normal"?

    I am not talking about Biblical truth, that never changes and this is not a call to conform Biblical standards to cultural norms.  What I am saying is we need to look at our methodology.  If we do not make changes, nothing can change. 

     If you are a goal setter or a resolution maker, how many of last years goals or resolutions did you actually accomplish in the past year?  What did you do differently to achieve those goals?  Our approach to frustration with the status quo cannot be doing everything the way we have always done it.  

    This also translates to the church. If the church is called to affect the culture, yet the culture seems to have infected the church, what are we willing to do differently in practice?  We have to be able to calibrate our methods without compromising holiness.  

I know why I am not losing weight, I know why I am not healthier this year than I was last year, I know why I failed to meet my reading goal from last year and I know why I am dissatisfied with my spiritual life.  It is because I did not make the necessary changes, take the necessary risks or get over my, "but... that's how I've always done it attitude."  I also know that the church will continue to descend into irrelevancy in our culture if we do not make some changes and take some risks.  

    Don't be like a monkey who protects a staircase because that is how it's always been done.  Learn why we do things, evaluate what we do on it's merits and make the necessary changes to see the necessary changes.  Do not continue to punch yourself in the head and wonder why you have an headache.  Pursue God, get His plan and change your world!

Now, go live as Christ.... and give the devil hell!

Friday, December 29, 2017

DON'T JUST GO TO CHURCH - BE THE CHURCH!

   Acts 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 

    We have all heard the tired joke about what kind of car Jesus drove based on the verse above.  There is wisdom in never repeating a joke that is not funny, so, I spare you.  What I would like to point out however, is why the above passage is as important as ever to a church that has divided itself up by denominational, racial and economic lines.  

     Would it surprise you to learn 87% of American churches are completely segregated by race?   Denominationalism goes without saying as the Baptists would never deign to worship with the Methodists.  Catholics and Protestants still distrust one another over 500 years later. Yes, doctrinal differences come into play, but if we are all reading from the same Bible and are all indwelt by the same Spirit, should we not be able to sit down and come to doctrinal truth.  (Oh yeah, I forgot, it's more important for many of us to be right than correct...) And let's not forget the economic divide of the church: wealthy people have their congregations, the poor have theirs and the middle class have theirs.  

     Every bit of this is condemned by scripture!  Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

1Corinthians 3:4-7  For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?  What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 



Acts 4:32  Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 

According to scripture we are no to have a distinction based on heritage, we are not to divide up into denominations and we are not to have an imbalance of wealth.  

According to scripture, the American church is a fundamental failure.  No wonder we lost the culture war!  Today's church is far more influenced by the world than any influence the church thinks it may have.  The Biblical mandate: "Be ye in the world but not of the world" seems to not apply to the modern church.  

What can we do?  REPENT REPENT REPENT!! Unless we recognize our sin, unless we get rid of false prophets and ear tickling preachers, unless we expel from leadership all those who are there to benefit themselves we will never see the church fulfill it's scriptural mandate of being salt and light.  

There are some individuals and congregations doing this the right way, unfortunately, these are few and far between.  So many congregations have become exclusive clubs concerned with status quo and growth from those leaving other ministries rather than growth through evangelism. If you are part of a congregation, when was the last time an unchurched person was baptized or even welcomed into the fold?  When was the last time a new member had never been a member somewhere else?

Ministry has become business and business stinks!  Until we are ready to be the church rather than go to church, revival will elude us.  Examine your heart and see if you are actively pursuing God's will for your life or are you merely going to church and indulging in the culture with little or no conflict. 

Revival begins with individuals who are ready to submit wholly to God and not be dictated to by traditions or culture.  The early church was united under the cause of Christ and Him crucified.  The early church members saw the Great Commission as a mandate from God and took it seriously.  Nothing we have and nothing we indulge is worth someone going to hell.  Do not merely go to church, be the church!

Now, go live as Christ.... and give the devil hell!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

GOD'S LOVE GIVES US VALUE

   
 
What does it mean to love God's way?  Understanding love is not that difficult... or is it?  Children understand love to the degree they respond positively to love and express love to others.  If children understand love, how hard could it be, right?  Unfortunately, many of us have a warped sense of love.  Selfishly, we want, even demand, love be reciprocated.  In order to gain love from others, many place themselves in dangerous or degrading situations.  Often we love those who give us some value in return.


     As God is the author of love, He should be the one to define it.  Loving others as God intended requires nothing in return.  Loving others as God intended transcends circumstances and reciprocation.  Loving others as God intended means imparting value to the object of His love, not expecting some value in return.  

     It is easy for me to love someone whom I believe adds value to my life.  What happens, though, when that value is diminished?  What happens when my emotional investment is not returned?  What happens when love feels more like work than fun?   

   Marriages, personal relationships, and ministries collapse because we do not fully understand the true sacrificial nature of love.  Remember the Greatest Commandment - love God, love others. There is no addendum added stating: "as long as everything is cool." 

      The book of 1 John is a crash course true love.  It is in 1 John we learn love is way beyond feeling and conditions.  True love must be unconditional and selfless.  Once we place a condition on love, it becomes self serving and is no longer true love.  

    Unconditional love is truly liberating as we can begin to love those whom we deem difficult and unlovely.  This goes back to the whole loving only those who bring value thing.  God loves me yet I bring Him no value.  I have nothing to offer, I have nothing God needs, yet His love for me gives me value.

   There are so many broken people who lack self value, who have been written off as worthless, yet God loves them and His love brings them value.  How will someone know God loves them?  When one of His representatives (you and me!) show love.  

      I can tell you about a beautiful painting all day long, but unless I actually show you the painting, you can not fully grasp the beauty.  That is how love works, we cannot merely tell people God loves them, it is imperative we show them.   

    Loving others God's way imparts value to the object of His love.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

     Jesus said, "By this, they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."  So lets get busy doing what Jesus told us to do.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

MY "I CANT" IS GOD'S "I WILL" - A LESSON FROM THE BEATUTUDES


The men's Sunday School group I attend has been studying through the Beatitudes, also known as Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapters 5-7.   We have studied about a third of the way through and have come to the realization: NO ONE COULD ACTUALLY DO ALL THIS!  So, why would Jesus tell us all this stuff to do and not to do, when He knew we could never do it?         


     Actually, Scripture is filled with commands and rules that God gave us knowing we could never obey completely.  Now, I know that many are reading this and thinking about some of the Beatitudinal sayings you have memorized and some may actually be thinking: "I do a pretty good job living by the teachings of Jesus."  Well before you get too excited, allow me to draw your attention to: Matthew 5:48  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Ok, now that we are on the same page, lets see why Jesus would give out a sermon filled with commands that could not be kept?
   
     If you study Matthew, you see 3 major sections:

 1. Jesus offers the Kingdom

 2. The leaders of Israel reject the Kingdom on behalf of the people
      For more on Representative Theocracy CLICK HERE 

 3. Jesus begins to speak of His death and His other sheep                     (Gentiles)
                                         

      I submit to you that Jesus offered the Kingdom in good faith knowing it would be rejected so He could go to the cross, which was always the Plan. I also submit to you that Jesus revealed to us God's impossibly high standards of living in the Kingdom so we would realize our need for His grace.

This give us hope today, when we face difficult or even impossible circumstances.  We do not have the resources, the power, or the wisdom required to do all God allows in our lives, He does, however.  The Beatitudes then serve as a reminder to us of what Jesus once told His disciples: "What is impossible with man is possible with God."

      So, if it is impossible for me to be perfect as God is perfect, I must rely on Jesus' perfection to give me good standing with God.  Likewise, when I face other impossible situation, I must rely on Jesus' promises and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me.  This does not mean everything will always go my way because I am still human and my ways are not always God's ways, but it does mean I will always have all the resources I need to get through every situation in a way that will bring Glory to God, so long as I trust Him. My "I Can't" is God's "I will." 

     Knowing God is able to overcome our impossibles, what can we not face standing with God?  In light of this, go in faith, trust God for the impossible, rely on Him for provision and stand firm in His promises.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

TRUMP CALLS JERUSALEM CAPITAL OF ISRAEL

  This week, President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capitol or Israel and vowed to move the embassy there in.... 4 years.  While this "bombshell" news story is taking the world by storm, not much, if anything has really changed.  In 1995, the U.S. Congress voted to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.  For the past 22 years, every president has voted to defer the moving of the Embassy for the sake of stability in the Mid-East peace process.  
 

     Trump did not change U.S. policy and made a promise he probably intends never to keep.  This declaration was a pep rally for President Trump's base and nothing more.  In four years, Trump is likely to have been out of office for a year already and his successor will almost certainly be a democrat.  If the Embassy is not in Jerusalem before Trump leaves office, it will never get there.  

     What should be of note is the reaction to President Trump's decree.   Obviously, the Muslim Arab world is in a fervor. Already Muslims leaders are declaring "days of rage" and other such hatred against the United States.  Many will criticize Trump for stirring up hatred among the Muslims but they already hate America and everything we stand for, lest we forget the celebrations and dancing in the streets after 9/11.  Again, little to nothing changes by the Commander in Chief's announcement.  

     Of particular note is the response from Pope Francis.  This blog has been very critical of Pope Francis.  Francis may not be the False Prophet of Revelation, but he sure seems to working hard for the title.  For more on this CLICK HERE
Pope Francis condemned President Trump's announcement and called for the status quo of the city of Jerusalem to remain.  Odd that the self declared Vicar of Christ would be content with a shrine to Satan standing on the Temple mount. Francis pays homage to Satan(Allah) CLICK HERE   

      Yes, declaring Jerusalem the capitol of Israel will gain Trump lots of press and divert some attention from the Russia probe, however it will most likely amount to nothing.  

As believers, we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we continue to recognize Jerusalem to be the eternal capitol of Israel, the birthright of the Jews and  the future Kingdom of our risen Lord.  I hope and pray that one day the U.S. embassy is in Jerusalem, but I am not holding my breath.  

     Pray for Trump, pray for America, pray for the peace of Jerusalem and now - Go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

AM I WORTHY OF GOD'S BLESSING? NOPE... AND NEITHER ARE YOU!


 What does God owe me?  The obvious answer is nothing.  I know this, you know this, yet I live as if God somehow owes me a smooth trouble free life!  I sometimes pray for things with the expectation that somehow I have merited God's favor and He is now obligated to give me what I ask for.  Isn't that silly?  I bet you do the same thing, though.  



     As we study scripture, we see passages that deal with blessing and obedience and then infer God owes us something for behaving.  Obedience is the key to blessing, but God's definition of blessing may be quite different than ours.  When I think of blessings, I tend to think of material things and life going my way.  When life gets tough or I do not get what I want, I wonder what I must have done wrong.  God sees blessing as equipping us to serve Him.

One of the most dangerous places for me, spiritually speaking, is when I think I have been doing a pretty good job seeking God.  If I have a couple of good days where I am able to see growth or maybe get to serve in some amazing fruit bearing way and suddenly I do not get my requests granted or I get inconvenienced, my first thought is, "what else do you want from me God?"  Shame on me!

     God is not my personal Geni in a bottle who is beholden to my whims because I have met some arbitrary standard of holiness.  God gave me salvation when I deserve hell.  God gave me purpose and meaning even though I spent many years pursuing folly.  

     This places my pursuit of obedience into a whole new light.  I, and you, must pursue holiness because we have been blessed, not so we can be blessed.  When we pray for things, we must not pray expecting something because we think we have been good but because God is good.  God does not bless our goodness, He blesses out of His own goodness.  This in itself is a blessing, after all, how good would be good enough to merit God's blessing if we were blessed according to our goodness?  

 Psalm 25:7  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! 

    No, we are not worthy of God's blessing on our own merit. Thankfully we are credited with righteousness due to the merit of Christ and on His merit we are able to receive blessings.  

Now take those blessings and go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

NEHEMIAH - BEREAN BIBLE CHURCH MID-WEEK STUDY

What follows is a study in the book of Nehemiah I will be teaching beginning  11/29/17 at Berean Bible Church in Knoxville TN.  If you are in the area, drop by and join us!  If you cannot join us, please feel free to ask questions or leave comments in the comment section.  I will try to answer any and all questions.  This study will be updated each week as we progress.  Hope this is a blessing!

you can check out other, completed studies by clicking the following links: 
                                                           NEHEMIAH

As we begin this study in the book of Nehemiah, we will look at at man who was not born into high standing, nor was he especially skilled. Nehemiah, whose name means consolation of God was a regular man whose heart was burdend. This regular man sought God's leading and followed it. Not only did this man accomplish an amazing constuction feat, God used him to change the culture.

The book of Nehemiah reveals the proper way to handle the burdens of our heart, the power of God at work when we face adversity and how one man's obedience was able to influence an entire culture.

Written around 430 BC about events that began around 445 BC, Nehemiah's account takes place chronologicaly after the events recorded in the book of Ezra and most likely after the events of the book of Esther. Because there is little extrabiblical evidence of the existance of Queed Esther, there is much debate as to whether she was the queen of the King Artaxerxes. I believe there is sufficient evidence to say Queen Esther was a contemporary of Nehemiah and is even referenced in chapter 2.

The book is a first hand account of Nehemiah's exploits in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and then purging the land of the very things that caused the walls to be knocked down in the first place.

Ezra begins in 539 BC when Cyrus decrees the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the direction of Zerubabel and Yeshua the high priest. Ezra goes from Babylon to Jerusalem in 457 and leads the nation in revival. During this time, Esther becomes Queen and rescues the Jews from destruction. Esther is probably still queen during the reign of her step son Artaxerxes. In 445 Nehemiah is made aware that the walls of Jerusalem are in ruins and this is where we pick up the story.

  1. V. 1-2 – judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, had been conquered by Babylon due to excessive sin and idolatry. The majority of the Judahites were carried into exile by King Nebuchadnezzer. In the midst of Judah's captivity, Persia conquered Babylon. 94 years after Persia conquered Babylon and 20 years into the reign of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah receives visitors from Jerusalem. Many, but not most, of the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem. Second and third generation Jewish exiles chose to remain in the comfort and familiarity of exile. Nehemiah, as we will see, was one who had chosen to remain in Susa, the capitol and serve as the king's cup bearer.

Nehemiah's brother Hanani and others arrived in Susa and Nehemiah asks about the state of Jerusalem and those who are inhabiting it.

  1. V. 3 – Nehemiah learns that the people living in Jerusalem are living in shame and danger because the city's walls are in ruin. The city is vulnerable to attack and the people are shamed because they are living in ruin.
  1. V. 4 – the city was in the same state for over 100 years, but Nehemiah is apparently hearing for the first time what kind of shape the city is in. Nehemiah is heartbroken and moved in his spirit.
This is where we see the correct response to vexation of the soul, going to God. We fuss, we worry, we spin out of control and when all else fails, we pray... Why do we not go to God first? Think of all the worry and anxiety we could avoid if we followed Nehemiah's example.

Nehemiah went before God, not just a simple “hey God can you help” prayer, but a heart wrenching fasting prayer. Nehemiah is serious and he prays seriously.

  1. lets examine Nehemiah's prayer
A. V. 6 – first we see and element of worship. Nehemiah recounts the greatness of God. This is not the prayer of a Sunday only Christian, Nehemiah demonstrates a knowledge of God. How can we truly worship someone we do not know. Nehemiah's prayer demonstrates that he knows God.

B. V. 7 – Nehemiah's prayer is consistent. Nehemiah does not just shoot up a little prayer, as stated earlier, he is pryaing day and night. Also, we see his prayer is repentant. This shows that Nehemiah also understands who he is in God's economy.

First Nehemiah worships showing he knows God's greatness and now he repents showing he knows his own brokenness. When we pray, we must remember our position. We come offering nothing but our faith. We cannot come arrogantly or thinking God somehow owes us. God has already given us life, our devotion and love should be in response to what He has given.

    1. V. 8-10 – Nehemiah recounts God's promises in his prayer. Does God need to be reminded of His promises? No, we do. When we pray according to God's promises, we are able to pray in faith. James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. When we recount the promises of God in prayer we are reminding ourselves of His faithfulness that we may pray with confidence.
When we pray, we can pray from a position of faith rooted in the very word of God. This is what praying according to His will means.

    1. V. 11 – finally Nehemiah prays specifically. Worshiping, confessing, contniual prayer built on the promises of God and specific requests. This is not some magic formula or blueprint that forces God's hand, it is just good practice. This kind of prayer places us in a proper state of mind to hear from God. This allows us to perceive things from God's perspective.

Nehemiah is going to ask the king to allow him to do something about the problem of which he is concerned. Nehemiah has a plan of some sort and he is asking God to open a door of grace and mercy to him that he might have favor from the king.


What a beautiful picture of prayer we see here form Nehemiah. An example we would do very well to follow. Next time we will see the results of Nehemiah's prayer. 

WEEK 2
DECEMBER 6


CHAPTER 2

When we last left Nehemiah, he was praying and fasting about a serious issue that was burdening his heart. I believe this is a great picture of praying according to God's word. As we will see, it is unlikely that Nehemiah would be so burdened about Jerusalem on his own. Nehemiah had a pretty good job and was prospering in the only home he ever knew. This is well over 100 years since the Jews were removed from the land and so it is safe to say Nehemiah is at least a second generation, if not third generation Jew living in exile.

Nehemiah's brother came, after having visited Jerusalem and gave Nehemiah a bad report concerning the condition of the city. Nehemiah's response is most likely due to God's prompting. As Nehemiah is burdened for the a city he never visited, he begins to pray for God's direction. So burdened, Nehemiah fasts and prays, day and night, seeking God's favor and direction.

This is a lesson to us, that we need to take things that burden our hearts to God in prayer. How much prayer do we really put into matters that burden our hearts? Do we just accept defeat? Do we just assume God doesn't care? God does care, He wants to hear from us and He wants us to beseech Him in prayer. Nehemiah is beseeching God. Beseeching is not just prayer but heartfelt pleading that takes more than just a quick minute. When was the last time you beseeched God for something?

Tonight, we pick up where Nehemiah begins to see his prayers answered.

  1. V. 1 – Last week we noted in our discussion that Nehemiah got the news about Jerusalem in the month of Kislev. Now, it is the month of Nissan, 4 months later! Nehemiah did not just pray for a day or two and get an answer, nor did he quickly give up praying. Nehemiah diligently sought the Lord for 4 months without any clue as to how or when God would answer.
This means we must be diligent in prayer. We cannot quickly give up or get frustrated. God has a timetable and often His timetable does not match our desires. We must trust and wait. We get the idea that Nehemiah began praying with all optimism and went about his daily life trusting God would answer him. After 4 months of heartfelt continual prayer, apparently Nehemiah began to fee discouraged. God knows our limits and He knows we are made of dust. For the first time, Nehemiah's countenance betrayed the burden of his heart in the presence of his boss, the king.

  1. V. 2-3 – As the king notices Nehemiah's despair, he is moved to inquire as to the reason Nehemiah looks sad. I believe God used Nehemiah's discouragement to soften the kings heart. While Nehemiah began to get discouraged thinking God was not going to move on his behalf, God used that very discouragement to facilitate the conversation with the king that would lead to the answer of Nehemiah's prayer.

  1. V. 4-5 – As Nehemiah shares the burden of his heart, the king asks him what he wants to do about the situation. Nehemiah asks permission to go and rebuild the city himself. This is a pretty big request if you think about it.
    Here is a guy that is a cup bearer in the kings court. What building skills does he have? What does he know about the geography or layout of the city. Nothing! His heart is burdened to take on a seemingly impossible task for which he has not formal training or background.
    Jesus said, “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” What can we not do if we are called by God. How unlikely a man to rebuild the city, yet the man God chose and called.                                  
  2. V. 6 – Notice the reference to the Queen sitting there. This is most likely Queen Esther and she probably influenced the kings decision. Once Nehemiah tells the king his plan, he is granted permission. This tells us that not only did God give him a burden but a plan. Nehemiah not only knew what he wanted to do, he knew how long it would take.
    When God calls us to action, He equips us in every way. This does not mean that the act of going was not a leap of faith. Everything about this endeavor was an act of faith, but when Nehemiah needed something, it was there, in this case a time frame to give the king. God is even active in the smallest details!                                 
  3. V. 7-8 – Emboldened by the kings favor, Nehemiah also asks for letters of safe passage and the supplies he will need to do all the work, and the supplies to build a house for himself. God does not send us off unsupplied. God will give us what we need for His mission. We may be tempted to compare this to the disciples who were sent out with no provision to preach during the time of Christ. The tools they needed to do the work were given them, the power to heal, cast our demons, raise the dead and to cleanse lepers.
    The disciples were sent on a spiritual mission and were given the spiritual tools required, Nehemiah is sent on a construction mission so the supplies he needed to accomplish the work is provided to him.

  1. V. 9 – not only did the king grant him safe passage and all provisions, he also gave him a police escort to Jerusalem                              
  2. V. 10 – So who is this Sanballat and why does what he think matter? Sanballat was the Samaritan leader. Samaria was what was left of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and was made up of people descended from the Israelites and other nations placed in the land by the Assyrians. The Samaritans were not accepted as Israel even though they incorporated the worship of God into their religious practice.

It is believed that Sanballat was the builder of a replica of the Jewish Temple on Mt. Gerizim. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, she mentioned worshiping at Mt. Gerizim. This is because Mt. Gerizim was where the Samaritan temple stood. Sanballat was no lightweight and probably had designs on annexing Judah into Samaria in order to increase his influence and power.

  1. V. 11-16 – Nehemiah does not show up and take charge, although we see here that it was indeed God who put this whole thing into his heart. Nehemiah takes some time to get the lay of the land. Nehemiah inspects the work that needs to be done and he assess the extent of the damage. Remember, this is Nehemiah's first visit to Jerusalem. Nehemiah had no idea what the condition of the city was until his brother reported to hm 4 months earlier.

Just because we are called by God to do something does not mean we have to barge into a situation without first getting a feel for things and an idea of what the work is going to actually be. Nehemiah came to town with a broad plan to rebuild, now the plan was getting specific as he learned what the specific needs were.

WEEK 3 
DECEMBER 12

Chapter 2:17-3:32

Last week, we looked at Nehemiah's prayers begin to be answered. The answer took 4 months, but when it came, it came like a flood! Nehemiah fasted and prayed for 4 months and God faithfully answered Nehemiah, even in his moment of discouragement. The King granted Nehemiah everything he asked for and more. This is how God works in our lives, He places a burden on our hear, which is our ministry calling. When we are burdened we are often at a loss to act so we pray. As we pray, God prepares us and He prepares our path and He prepares those with whom we will partner. When the time is right, and we have waited on God's direction, we see the work happen. Nehemiah was burdened for the destroyed city of Jerusalem, he prayed, God answered that prayer and now Nehemiah has arrived in Jerusalem to rebuild the walls with all the provision given him by God through the king. Nehemiah has assessed the work and is now ready to reveal the plan to others

     I. V. 17-18 – Nehemiah now recruits helpers. Nehemiah recruited by first showing a need for action and second showing the hand of God in the action. This is a pretty fundamental method of putting together a ministry team. Having a vision and having evidence of God's hand in the vision. This will bring people who have either had the same vision or people who, once made aware of the need, will catch the vision.

  1. As I am involved in homeless ministry, I am continually amazed at God's evident hand in what we are doing. Even when the rest of my life is in chaos, the homeless ministry is blessed and provided for and well manned. I take no credit because I did nothing but go where God led me.

      II. V. 19-20 – Nehemiah now meets with his first opposition, just prior to his beginning the work. Nehemiah's response is perfect, he defers to God. God's hand is so evident up to this point Nehemiah does not allow the criticism and opposition of those who are not part of God's plan to deter God's plan.

    We will come in contact with those who will attack, criticize and mock what we are called to do. We will find this from unbelievers and, unfortunately, inside the church. The thing we must remember is those who are coming against us have no part in what we are doing. They have no part in the work and they have no part in discouraging or stopping the work. There will be opposition and difficulties encountered in almost everything we do for the Lord. This is evidence of the existence of Satan. We must remain focused on God and not the circumstances that seem to be working against us. We cannot be like Peter who stepped out of the boat and then began to sink because of fear of the circumstances.

    When we see the clear hand of God in our endeavors, we cannot allow opposition from those who have no part in the mission to deter us from the mission.

    1. C. 3 V. 1 – Notice that the narrative begins with the High Priest, Eliashib, building the Sheep Gate. This is significant for a number of reasons

    A. Eliashib means God Will Restore.
    B. The Sheep Gate is significant because it is the gate through
    which the sacrificial lamb was brought into the city
    C. This is most likely the gate Jesus used to enter the city
    on Palm Sunday

    Names in scripture matter. The High Priest who entered the city with Zerubabel in the book of Ezra was named Yashua. That name should sound familiar as it is what Mary and Joseph really named their son, not Jesus. Yashua is Hebrew for God's Salvation. God's Salvation built the temple and God's Restoration rebuilt the sheep gate, the very Gate the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world would enter!

    On the 10th day of Nissan, the Passover Lamb was chosen and kept 4 days until it was sacrificed on the 14th day and eaten after sundown, which was really the 15th and the beginning of the Sabbath. We know that Jesus came into Jerusalem on a Sunday and we know the people were lined up waiting. Why, because the Passover Lamb procession through the Sheep Gate would take place on the same path Jesus would take into Jerusalem. 4 days later, on Thursday, the Passover lamb was sacrificed and 4 day later, Jesus was sacrificed. At sundown, the Passover Sabbath began. So from Thursday night to Friday evening was the Passover Sabbath. From Friday evening to Saturday evening was the regular Sabbath. Sunday morning would have been the third morning after the third night that Jesus was in the tomb fulfilling His words to the Pharisees concerning the sign of Jonah – three days and three nights in the belly of the earth.


    1. V. 2-3 – between the Sheep Gate and the Fish Gate, men built up the wall. Could the significance of the Fish Gate being next after the Sheep Gate be that once we are redeemed by the blood of the lamb we are called to be fishers of men?

    Remember when Jesus called Peter, He told Peter He would make him a fisher of men, meaning he would lead others to salvation

    1. V. 4-5 – the next section of wall is repaired but notice some of the wealthier citizens refused to do any of the work. Have you ever known people who felt too good to get involved. Do not be like that, God is not a respecter of persons. God calls the rich and the poor into His service. In fact, as I read through the book of Acts, I am led to believe God does not expect there to be any rich as long as there are poor in the church.

    1. V. 6 – The Old Gate or the Yeshana Gate is believed to be one of the original gates into the city built by the Jebusites when the city was still named Jebus

    1. V. 7-12 – Here we see many prominent members of society working hard on the project. Many had titles and crafts yet they took time to do the work God called them to. We cannot become so defined by our career or station in life that we lose sight of the fact that we are to glorify God and serve Him according to our calling.

    1. V. 13-14 – The Valley Gate opened up to the Central Valley and the Dung Gate opened to the Hinnom Valley which was a giant burning garbage pit. This valley was used by Jesus as an object lesson on hell due to it's perpetual burning and being a place of discarded refuse.

    1. V. 15 – The Fountain Gate opened to the Pool of Shiloam where Jesus performed a miracle, healing a crippled man.

    1. V. 16-25 – Again, we see many varied people working to repair the wall. Notice how many are working portions of the wall that are adjacent to their own homes. Sometimes it takes a personal stake in order for people to become involved in the Lord's work.

    1. V. 26-27 – The Water Gate protected the Gihon Spring which provided water to the city.

    1. V. 28-32 – The work reaches around back to the Sheep Gate where it all began. The Horse Gate, located near the stables, was used to ride horses out to war.

    The East Gate is very significant – This is the gate Jesus will enter Jerusalem from when He returns to rule and reign as King: Ezekiel 44:1-3 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. And the LORD said to me, "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way."

    In 1540, Suleiman, a Muslim Sultan, sealed the gate to prevent the return of the Messiah. The gate remains sealed to this day. When Christ returns, there will be an earthquake that, it is believed, will break the East Gate open and allow Jesus to walk into the city directly onto the Temple Mount

    The Muster Gate or the Inspection Gate is where the troops gathered for war and where people gathered for census. It is a place of inspection and reminds us of the Sheep and Goats judgment in Matthew 25. The work of the Lord takes many people from all backgrounds and positions. There is no one exempt from serving God.

     WEEK 4
  2. DECEMBER 20

Chapter 4

In the first 3 chapters, we see everything going Nehemiah's way. He prays for guidance, his prayers are answered at his moment of discouragement and answered beyond his hopes. Every door swings open and every provision is made. The people are behind him and work begins. Now, opposition pops up. We will always face opposition and adversity. How we respond to this opposition is what defines us. Meeting opposition does not mean we are outside God's will, usually the opposite is true. We meet opposition because we are serving and the enemy wants to derail us. As we look at this chapter, we will see a balance of trusting God and taking action.

  1. V. 1-3 – Remeber Sanaballat, the leader of the Samaritans. Sanaballat does not want Jerusalem to be rebuilt. Sanaballat begins to mock and deride the Jews, hoping to discourage them.

When we set out to do the Lord's work, we will face naysayers. There will be people who will pronounce failure over us. There are people who will mock us for following God. If you know that God has clearly guided you on a certain path, nothing anyone says against it should have any bearing. The response of Nehemiah is fititng and educational.

  1. V. 4-6 – Nehemiah turns Sanaballat and his cohorts over to God and the work continues. Nehemiah does not waste his time debating with Sanaballat. Nehemiah turns it over to God and stays focused on the task at hand.
Nehemiah continues on with the work, making great progress. The wall is now halfway built
We cannot allow the words of others to deter us. Words are cheap.

But what do we do if opposition goes beyond just words and we are physically threatened?

  1. V. 7-8 – When Sanaballat saw that the work was progressing and that words of discouragement and mockery were not enough to deter the workers, he became enraged. So determined was Sanaballat to stop the work, he plotted an attack on the city.
    Remember, the true opposition is spiritual. Sanaballat posed a phyiscal threat to the people of Jerusalem but the real power behind his threat came from dark spiritual forces.

Nehemiah recognized this attack was both physical and spiritual so he responded in the spiritual and the physical.

  1. V. 9 – Prayer and action. When we face a threat we cannot neglect either of these elements. A threat does not necessarily mean we are facing an army. A threat could be a health issue, it could be a financial crises, it could be a rift in relationships that threaten to derail a ministry or wreck a family.

Everything we face has a spiritual element which we must address. If we neglect seeking God, we will miss His wisdom, guidance and provision. When we attempt to go it alone, we will operate under our own power.

The other side of the coin is, after haing sought the Lord, we must take action. If your house is burning, you will not sit in the living room praying, you will try to put the fire out or evacuate to save your life. If your have a life threatening health condition, you cannot just pray and forget about it, you have to seek medical treatment.

The lyrics to the song If Pigs Could Fly state it very well: Your ship has crashed no sign of shore - to sit in your lifeboat-you can do no more
5 days at sea starved to the core - lifeboat is leaking-a rip in the floor
But wait, on the horizon - land, land hoe!
Will you sit there and pray-or will you get up and row?

When we face a threat, we seek God and then we take appropriate action. Part of taking appropriate action is seeking God's guidance.

  1. V. 10 – Now discouragement sets in as the people begin to look at the circumstances rather than the Lord. For the first time, the people are overwhelmed by the scope of the project. The rubble and the ruin has not increased since they began building. If anything, the rubble and ruin has decreased as they work.
    What changed? The perspective of the people. When the work began there was excitement and the people saw God's hand in the work. Now, as they begin to face opposition, they have taken their eyes off God. When our eyes are on God, we can see all the possibilities of an omnipotent God. When we take our eyes off God, we only see out situation as it relates to our own abilities.

Peter walked on water until he took his eyes off Jesus. Without his eyes on Jesus, Peter saw his circumstances according to his own power and he began to sink.

God does not set us on a course to fail. Philippians 1:6 - And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Just because we face opposition or everything is not going exactly as we would have them go does not mean God has withdrawn from us. We cannot allow our circumstances to overshadow our perception of God's power and ability.


  1. V. 11-12 – The enemies of God are preparing to attack and kill the workers who have become discouraged and if that is not enough, the Jews who lived outside the city came and tried to call the workers off.

I am sure the Jews who came to “advise” Nehemiah seemed genuinely concerned and maybe even seemed reasonable. As we face threats and opposition in life, there will be no shortage of people who have our best interest in mind and are willing to offer their advice.

This is when we cannot allow people who are not part of our calling to affect our calling. If you have a clear directive from the Lord, do not allow others, no matter how well meaning or persuasive they are, to deter you from His course.

In 1 Kings, we read about a prophet who was given clear direction from God to not stay and eat in a certain city. Another prophet came and lied to the first prophet, telling him to come home to his home and eat. The first prophet listened to the second prophet and was killed by a lion because he disobeyed God.

We cannot allow the counsel of others deter us from God's path.  


WEEK 5
JANUARY 10

Chapter 4:13-23

As the people are building the wall, opposition and discouragement has set in. The enemies of Israel do not want this work to continue. So bad is the opposition, well meaning Jews, not part of the work have come to give bad advice. These well meaning Jews tell the workers to leave the work and come to where it is safe. As we looked at the first 4 and a half chapters, we saw a man who has a great passion for the work of the Lord. Nehemiah was burdened with rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, a city he has never visited. Nehemiah seeks after God and prays for 4 months, to the point of discouragement. The Lord answers his prayers and then blesses the work with provision and workers. Opposition came in the form of Sanballat the leader of Samaria. Sanballat is opposed to the work and wants to stop it. The people are not moved by Sanballat who now devised a plan to end the work through bloodshed. It is here that the Jews not living in Jerusalem and not part of the work come and try to warn the workers to abandon the work for their own good.

As we pick up the story, we will see that threats of blood shed will not thwart the work of God.


  1. V. 13-15 – Nehemiah stations armed men for protection and then encourages the people to continue the work by appealing to their understanding that God is able to protect them and the work. The steadfastness of Nehemiah was even a testimony to Sanballat and company, letting them know that God was on their side.

When God calls us to a work and we meet opposition, that is an opportunity for God to be acknowldged even by His enemies. Notice the opposition realized it was God who frustrated their plans.


  1. V. 16-18 – Guards were placed around the workers, those that carried kept a sword in hand at all times and those who did the work on the wall had swords so they could draw and fight at a moment's notice. The men knew what the threat was and prepared for it.

In ministry and in our personal lives, we must be able to not only identify the threat, but take action to protect from it. The action was that guards were set and workers were equipped. This is what must be done in our ministries and our lives

The enemy wants to destroy us. Satan is not omniscient but he will keep up his attacks until he finds a successful strategy. You know your weaknesses. You know what you are susceptible to. It is imperative that you first set up safeguards. This is the first line of defense. We each need brothers and sisters who are praying for us and surrounding us with support.

Next, even in the midst of the work, the workers were ready to do battle. We too must be ready for the battle. Rarely does an enemy give a warning of an imminent attack. We must be ready at all times to ward off the attacks of the enemy. We must be equipped with the knowledge of the scriptures. That is our main weapon against the enemy.

If there are areas in our lives that cause us to stumble, remove the obvious pathways to sin. Safeguards are a way to protect us from the initial temptation. Also, be in community with other believers. People to whom you can be accountable, people who know your vulnerabilities and are willing to stand beside you and do battle.

  1. V. 19-20 – Not only does he have safeguards in place, he has a plan to rally people to one another if needed. If the trumpet call sounded, the people knew help would be on the way. Likewise, each person knew if the trumpet sounded, it meant they were called to action, to protect the vulnerable.

For us, this is also practical advise, as it is important we have a plan to rally others if necessary. We have to be willing to call for help and we have to be willing to answer the call for help when we hear it.

We must be careful to not allow matters of privacy or decorum interfere with our helping others in their time of need. No one wants to admit to weakness and many are destroyed by pride because they did not want others to think they were in need. We need each other, we were designed for community and the early church pooled all it's reaources in order to fulfill it's mission.

Most importantly, we must recognize it is God who gives us victory. In our planning and in our implementing our plan, no matter how impossible or hopeless a situation may appear, God is behind us and it is ultimately Him who does battle on our behalf

  1. V. 21-23 – the people knew the threat, the people knew the plan and the people implemented the plan. They were ready. Paul told young Timothy to be ready in season and out of season to preach the Gospel. We are told to be ready to give every man an answer for the hope we have in Christ.
    And finally - Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The workers did things outside the ordinary in order to accomplish the extraordinary. It is not normal to carry a supplies with one hand and a sword in another. It is not normal to build a wall with a sword strapped to your side and it is not normal to sleep in your clothes.

Nehemiah ordered these things because of the extreme circumstances. When we face extreme circumstances, we too must be ready to think and act outside what is considered normal. We cannot see change take place by doing the same things. We have to come out of our comfort zones in order to be used by God. We see no scriptural evidence of anyone accomplishing great things by sitting in a comfortable place and enjoying a smooth life.

It is those who endure through adversity, those who give up comforts and status, those who lay aside personal preferences, these are the ones who accomplish great things in the name of the Lord. These are the those we should emulate!


Chapter 5:1-

Now Nehemiah has his mission up and running, he has taken his precautions and the work is moving on. Everything should be great, right? Well, here come the domestic issues. Just because we are in ministry does not mean we are immune from life happening around us. We cannot get so focused on the ministry that we neglect domestic issues or forget that what we are doing is actually for others. If we neglect the needs of those we are serving because it is inconvenient to our “ministry” we have lost sight of who we are and what our purpose is.

In the midst of building, Nehemiah must deal with some very important issues that have come to light. Like most things in life, these things did not just happen overnight, they have been on going and have reached a point of intolerance and become a crisis. People who knew better behaved poorly. The rich took advantage of the poor to become richer, in ways God striclty forbade. So, instead of focusing on the mission, Nehemiah must divert his attention and energy to dealing with sin in the camp and putting out a fire that should never have started in the first place.

  1. V. 1-5 – For various reasons, many in Jerusalem and the surrounding area found themselves in need of borrowing in order to survive. The lenders, fellow Jews of means, were more than happy to lend provided they could exact interest and take property in collateral. When there was no interest or collateral, children were turned over as slaves.

All of this was stricly forbidden by the Torah. Money was to be leant without interest, collateral was to be returned or not taken at all and nowhere do we find provision for a person to sell his child into slavery. Slavery was to be a voluntary state in order to work off a debt and was to be no more than 7 years.

Here, interest and collateral enabled the wealthy to take ownership of land, depriving people of the ability to pay, forcing childeren into slavery. The children would work the family farm but all the proceeds would go to the lender, driving the family deeper into poverty.

This was the same situation that led to the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt. All property became property of the state and every land owner was nothing more than a servant to the state. When you cannot own property, you cannot progress beyond a life of servitude. This was the same situation that led to the dark ages of Europe, and the same situation that led to misery and death on a grand scale in the former Soviet Union. Consolidation of property never ends well, except for the few at the top.