Text: 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8, NIV)
Teach: The major lesson of this chapter has been: people are important to God. Not just groups of people, but individuals. I think of the encounter Jesus had with the woman at the well. John makes the point in his account that Jesus had to go that way. Not because the map said so, but because he had an appointment to keep.
Take: We are not in this journey alone. God fixed that in the beginning. Eve was created because it was not good for man to be alone. We were created to be in relationship with and for each other. We may not always get along, but we really do need each other.
Task: Ponder this quote by James Robison: God created us in His image. We were made for relationship, fellowship, stewardship and productive fruitfulness. The first relationship which profoundly affects all other relationships begins with our commitment to faith in and fellowship with Father God. It is on this meaningful relationship all others are to be built. We are to love God first and foremost and love our neighbors with the same legitimate concern we have for our own well-being.
Text: 73 The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns.
Teach: Home. Safety. Normalcy. These are things we crave. The people had worked hard and now they were going to reap some of the fruits of their labor. But this was about so much more than building a wall. Consider the things the people learned during the process: the value of hard work, the treasure of friends and family, the love and provision of God, the importance of prayerful leadership.
Take: Dorothy declares in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” Before she journey’s back she’s asked what she learned and she replies, “Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it’s that — if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?”
Task: What blessings do you find in your home, with your family? Take some time today to count those blessings and thank God for them. And if your home doesn’t automatically bring you joy, what provisions and people has God placed there for you?
Text: Nehemiah 7:4-69 or Ezra 2:1-64
Teach: Oh, no. Another list. Why? What is so important about who was there? God loved them, each and every one. Wiersbe likens this list to the list of names in Hebrews 11. These are the people who made things happen.
Take: Not long ago one of my cousins posted some picks and historical/genealogical facts about our grandfather’s family. It was fascinating. I remembered when I was in grade school and I saw my grandmother’s family tree. It went back all the way to William Bradford who came over on the Mayflower. The entertainment industry has got the genealogy fever and now we can watch celebrities uncover their pasts. We seem to crave connection and the anchor it provides.
Task: Not everything we uncover in our pasts is something to brag about. Consider Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. But the truth is, God can even use those “unsavory” characters in his plan for us. And if that’s truth, imagine what he can do with us!
Text: 70 Some of the heads of the families contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics[b] of gold, 50 bowls and 530 garments for priests. 71 Some of the heads of the families gave to the treasury for the work 20,000 darics[c] of gold and 2,200 minas[d] of silver. 72 The total given by the rest of the people was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas[e] of silver and 67 garments for priests.
Teach: This chapter not only teaches us who was important to God, but so is their giving. What would happen if your giving was posted for all to see?
Take: When Jacob realized God’s protection and provision, he made an oath to return to God a tenth of all he had (see Genesis 28). In Malachi 3:10 we read: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (NIV). Have you ever tried to outgive God?
Task: Friday is typically considered “payday.” Take time to consider your pay and your blessings and have a conversation with God about what and how he would have you give to his work.
Text: 3 I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.”
Teach: Nehemiah called for two kinds of guards, those who kept the gates and those who performed as kind of neighborhood watch. Everyone was to keep watch and warn of the enemy’s presence or attack.
Take: The days of Sheriff Andy and Mayberry are gone. Doors and windows stay locked and many homes have security systems to protect them. We live by the mantra: you can’t be too careful. But are we as cautious to protect our spiritual life? We’re told to guard our heart in Proverbs. Jesus makes several references to guarding our treasure, our relationship with God.
Task: What safeguards do you take to guard your heart?
Text: 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.
Teach: People with integrity do the right thing even when no one is looking. When a building has integrity it is a solidly built structure that will withstand the storms and elements. Nehemiah chose leaders who weren’t afraid to stand strong in front of the people and before God.
Take: I pass a building in progress on my way to and from picking up my grandson from school. The last couple days the workers have been putting up the back wall. It’s an interesting process. I imagine this isn’t the first building they’ve put up. Time and experience have informed their decisions. I doubt they would listen to the ideas of everyone who passed by. They followed the blueprints and the boss’ instructions. That way they would have integrity as workers and as a company.
Task: How’s your IQ, your integrity quotient? Are living what you believe before a watching critical world? It’s not always easy, but it is what God expects.
Text: After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.
Teach: Nehemiah is a very wise leader. He knew he couldn’t do the work alone, so he appointed assistants. It was a lesson Moses’ father in law taught him and even Jesus employed.
Take: There is so much work to be done for the kingdom. Some of it is upfront, while other work happens behind the scenes by people who rarely get or want credit. Where you work is not as important as if and when.
Task: Have you been gifted for a special service in the church or community? Take time to assess your gifts and your readiness to work. There is always something to be done, and something special just for you.