Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 6, Day 6

Saturday:

Text: 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. (Nehemiah 6:13, NIV)

WP Neh dev 6-6 intimidation

Teach: Intimidation is the technique used by a person who perceives themselves to be more powerful than another, whereby they attempt to frighten the “weaker” person into doing what they want. Over and over we read of Nehemiah’s enemies seeking to employ this tactic. The problem is they thought Nehemiah was weaker. They failed to understand the strength of his character, and his God.

WP Neh dev 6-6 greater is He

Take: Numerous times we find the reminder in the Old Testament journey of God’s people that the battle belongs to the Lord. Paul reassured the Romans that in spite of what they faced they were “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37) John encouraged his epistles that greater is he (God) who is in us, than he (Satan) who is in the world (see 1 John 4:4).

Task: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That quote is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. We will face many folks who will seek discredit us and make us feel inferior. We don’t have to give them consent. They may think weak and easily intimidated, but we can stand strong in the One who is greater and be more than a conqueror!

Nehemiah Devotions Chapter 3, Day 5

Friday Rebuild (all materials present in the rubble for the task)

Text: The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. (Nehemiah 3:1, NLT)

According to Warren Wiersbe’s study on Nehemiah, “Be Determined,” the word built is used six times in Nehemiah 3 and it means rebuilt. For this rebuilding no new material was needed. Instead the workers found the material in the rubble around them (Be Determined, p. 39).

How often do we put off doing the work while we wait for what we think we need: supplies, programs, people, funds?

Perhaps we could begin to see progress if we would use what is at our hand.

WP Neh 3-5 what's in your hand

When God wanted to use Moses, the reluctant servant came up with all kinds of excuses. God asked him what was in his hand. It was his staff, until he threw it on the ground, and then it became a serpent.

David defeated Goliath with the smooth stones he had in his pocket.

Jesus fed the multitude with the lunch of a child, five small rolls and two sardines.

What has he given you to use? What’s in your hand?

WP Neh 3-5 use what God has given

Sermon Seeds: Faith and Foundation

SP faith blocks

I’ve been meditating all week on Bible verses about faith. Here are a few:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Heb. 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Heb. 11:6

So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. Ro. 10:17

SP faith roots

And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:22-24

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Lk 17:5

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim. 4:7

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17 NLT

What I’m about to tell you is true. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, it is enough. Matthew 17:20

So, how is your faith today? Growing? Fading? Active? Passive?

Today as I was reflecting and preparing for Sunday’s message, I realized I’ve been pretty comfortable with where my faith has been. You can translate that as stagnant. I don’t feel good about either of those words. I went to front of our sanctuary and knelt in prayer. And wept.

I talk about the great things God wants to do in this church, in the lives of this body of believers, in this community…in me. But am I willing to step into that growth, willing to take on the changes for me? That’s scarey…and it’s all good. God’s promise and plan shouldn’t be a fearful thing.

So this revelation is going to cost me. Bonhoeffer wrote that there is no cheap grace…the same is true of faith.

This thing we call faith is the foundation for everything we build your spiritual life upon. We need to make sure it’s rock steady.

WP faith foundation

Jesus Wept

WP tears in a bottle

Not long before his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Books have been written on this one event. People have dissected the miracle, both to prove and disprove what happened.

I’m not interested in the arguments right now. I want to take a moment to look at Jesus, and the shortest sentence in the Bible.

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

This morning I had a huge disappointment. My heart hurt and the tears flowed. The conversation happened right in the middle of writing this post.

I sat here in my chair wondering how I could say anything profound or encouraging…when the presence of Jesus and the remembrance of his tears for his friends who were hurting brought comfort to my spirit.

The old gospel song asks the question: Does Jesus care? And refrain answers back: Oh yes he cares, I know he cares. His heart is touched with my grief.

It’s all I’ve got today. I hope it’s enough for you, because it’s more than enough for me.

PRAYER: Jesus, you were there to comfort Mary and Martha in the time of grief. You wept with them…you hurt with them. Thank you for feeling my hurt to and coming alongside me. You see each tear that falls. Thank you for the comfort of your presence. Amen.

WP He knows my name

Happy Thanksgiving

The very first scripture that I learned was Psalm 100:

If I close my eyes I can still see myself as a third grader holding my red hard bound RSV version of the Bible reading the psalm with the other children n my class.

To this day those words shape who I am.

And who I am is about giving thanks today.

Blessings to you!

Book Review: Unstuck

Unstuck
Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change.
Arnie Cole + Michael Ross
Bethany House Publishers, 2012, 265 pages

I was looking forward to getting this book to read. Then I got it. My first impression was not good. The authors stated that their approach to getting unstuck was not found in a quick fix or formula, but they proceeded to describe steps for the process. The steps initially felt like a veiled formula. I decided to keep reading, and I’m glad I did. It became very clear that the authors were emphasizing process and relationship. I was also reminded that most of us don’t get stuck overnight, so we should realize that getting unstuck will indeed take time.

Each section of the book began with a list of concise goals that the authors intended to accomplish. I found this very helpful. The good news is that they did a good job of meeting their goals. Perhaps this is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but I have always disliked going to a workshop and having the leader identify goals, but never come close to meeting them. To the authors’ credit they demonstrated integrity in this issue.

One of my concerns at the outset was that the book, because of its foundation being based in a survey that was taken by the authors, was going be too statistically focused for my liking. What I found to the contrary was a nice balance between head oriented material referring to the study, and personal stories. This balance is such that it would result in the book appealing to either mindset. There is also a nice assortment of quotes to support their findings and their stories. Many of the names are recognizable, lending a sense of credibility and connection both to and beyond the material.

Another strength that I found in this book was that it was plainly written, without a lot of Christianeze or assumed common religious language. While this would be appealing to either unchurched folks, unbelievers, or those new to faith, there wasn’t a sense that the material was dumbed down, so it would still make sense and get the point across to believers who found themselves stuck in one way or another. With that in mind this book would be good for the new believer just starting their faith journey and wanting to understand the Word. It would be great from the perspective of preventative material so that they might be sparred some of the frustration of being potentially stuck in the future. There is still enough impact of the material for the stuck, static, and status quo believer.

The third part of the book puts the ball in the reader’s hand. It invites the reader to plot his/her own course toward a spiritual breakthrough. While the steps described sound like a formula, it is presented in such a personal way that the relational component came through very clearly. By including pages that resemble a workbook, the authors’ remove some of the natural tendency to put off doing the suggested work and reflection and instead create the opportunity for the reader to get right to work. It should probably also be noted that the book is formatted to be read (and digested) on a daily basis (each chapter gives a daily scripture reading and question). The chapters also close with a statement about what their research revealed and an encouraging nudge.

I think the thing that really sold me on the book was the way they seemed to tie everything up at the end. They have been emphasizing the importance of improving one’s relationship with God, especially as it is related to the Word. They share at the minimum we need to be reading and engaging the Word at least four times a week as the foundational component of getting and staying unstuck. They finish by describing the four critical elements of spiritual growth: knowledge; prayer, faith and action. I believe that these parallel the things that God himself requires of us, loving Him with all our heart (faith), soul (prayer), mind (knowledge) and strength (action) (see Deuteronomy 6:5). Anything that helps us understand and move deeper into relationship with Him is a good thing. This book does that in a very clear manner. I’m really glad I kept reading.

I recommend this book. Read it. Share it.

(I received a free copy of this book to review from Bethany House Publishers.)