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.


WEEK 6
JANUARY 24


CHAPTER 5:6-19

Last week, we saw that Nehemiah had to focus his attention from the mission to deal with sin in the camp. No matter how noble or righteous our mission is, we cannot allow sin to go unchecked because sin is like a cancer that will destroy a ministry and a family from within. In this case, the wealthiest of Israel were taking advantage of economic situations in order to consolidate all the wealth to an elite few. These Jewish nobles seized property and enslaved the children of their fellow countrymen in the guise of lending money. By charging interest and taking property as collateral, both forbidden by Jewish law, the wealthiest were creating a third world system much like the conditions in Egypt that led to the enslavement of the Jews.

Nehemiah recognizes his entire endeavor rests on obtaining and retaining God's blessing. God cannot bless a nation that is in rebellion. God will not bless the life of His servant that is in open rebellion either. Sin, when revealed, must be dealt with. Even as we progress in our sanctification, God reveals sins to us that we may not even be aware of. As we gain mastery over one area of our lives, God reveals other areas that must be dealt with. It is when we refuse to deal with sin that we become stagnant in our walk and it is not long before we begin to lose ground from there.

Thus the Psalmist's plea in Psalm 51:10-11 – Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a steadfast Spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me

So, as we pick up in chapter 5 we will see Nehemiah dealing directly with sin.
Someone read 1-6 to refresh from last week

I. V. 6 – When Nehemiah found out about the sin, he became angry. There is a such thing as righteous anger. This is the same anger that led Jesus to drive the money changers out of the Temple. Our response to sin can be, and sometimes should be, anger. Ephesians_4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Anger must lead us to positive change and we cannot forget the command to love one another.

  1. V. 7-9 – Nehemiah deals directly with the sin and pulls no punches. He does not sugar coat it or allow the sin to be minimized. Nehemiah plainly tells them what they are doing is wrong and it dishonors God. Not only does it dishonor God, it is a bad witness to the surrounding nations.

Sin left unchecked in our lives and in our ministries send a signal to the lost around us that we are frauds. There is a church in Memphis involved in a big scandal right now due to the sin of a minister that happened 20 years ago and was swept under the rug. A youth minister assaulted a youth group member in his care. The girl reported it to a pastor at the church and he failed to follow up. 20 years later, the girl has contacted the authorities, the pastor who sinned has been forced out by his church and the pastor who covered up the deed has been placed on leave by his church, pending an investigation. Two pastors allowed sin to fester and now 2 churches, neither of which were the church where the events of 20 years ago took place, are embroiled in scandal and more fuel is added to the fire of those who hate God and His church. This is why, we must confront sin head on.

If you are aware of sin in someone's life or in a ministry, follow the steps of that Jesus laid out for us to deal with sin – confront the individual, confront a second time with another brother or sister and after that turn it over to the church. Do not be intimidated or shamed into turning a blind eye.

  1. V. 10 – Notice that the lending is not the sin, it is the collecting of interest and holding of collateral that is the sin. Nehemiah himself is lending.

There is nothing sinful about lending, you may not be able to just give away a resource, but you could lend it. What is wrong is using someone's misfortune as an opportunity to enrich yourself


  1. V. 11-13 – Nehemiah does not just demand that this practive is ended, he demands restitution as well. It is not enough, when we have wronged or cheated someone, to simply say sorry and try to do better. Restoration is essential. True repentance requires more than an apology. Not only does Nehemiah demand restitution and restoration of property, he charges the religious leaders to enforce the decree.

Should it be the role of the church to enforce restoration among it's people? I believe a case could be made.

The people promised to do the right thing and the order was restored and the work was able to continue with God's blessing

  1. V. 14-19 – Nehemiah realizes the work is more important than his rights. Though you may have a right to something does not mean it is necessary to excercise that right. Would it have been sin for Nehemiah to demand his allowance? Probably not, but instead Nehemiah demonstrated servant leadership.

The previous governors and even the servants of the governors harmed the people and probably helped contribute to the conditions that caused the less fortunate to have to borrow in the first place.

Nehemiah trusted God for his provision and he never went without. Nehemiah did not just direct the work, he joined in the work. This is true servant leadership. In ministry, we should not just direct the work and sit back and reap the benefits. If you find yourself in a ministry leadership position, you lead by example, not by decree.

It is important to learn to delegate. We delegate not so we can take it easy, we delegate in order to focus on the work at hand.


WEEK 7
JANUARY 31


CHAPTER 6

In Chapter 5, we saw Nehemiah have to focus on some domestic issues. Just because we are doing God's work or living in God's will, does not mean we will have trouble free lives. There will be crises that come up in our families, at work, in our ministery and in our personal lives.

Having dealt successfully with the domestic crises, Nehemiah is once more faced with a threat from his old nemesis Sanaballat. The enemy will attack when we are low and when we are high. These are the two most dangerous times we face. When we are low and feeling hopeless we are open to sin because we may just not care. When we experience victory we are also susceptible to the enemy's attack because we feel pretty good and may not have our full guard up.

Our enemy, Satan will not only attack us in our weak times, but also in our high times.

    I. V.1-4 – Now that the domestic issues were dealt with and the work on the wall continued, the threat from outside returned. Sanaballat, the ruler of Samaria does not want the city fortified. Sanaballat decides to harm Nehemiah in hopes it will halt the work once and for all. Sanballat invites Nehemiah to meet knowing it will disrupt the work and give him the opportunity to harm Nehemiah. Nehemiah is wise and knows it is not safe to go meet so he declines the offer 4 times.
We must be wary when dealing with those who have already proven to be against us. Jesus told us that we needed to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. This means we cannot behave spitefully or vengelfully but we have to also beware those who do.

    II. V. 5-7 – Luring Nehemiah into danger did not work, so the next tactic is to spread very damaging lies. Were these lies to get to the king in Persia, it would mean the death of Nehemiah, especailly after the king was so gracious to him in the first place.

Essentially Sanballat is attempting to blackmail Nehemiah.

We may face times when those opposed to our way of life will spread lies or mischaracterizations about us or our beliefs. I remember when a family member accused me to others of denying the virgin birth because I debunked the doctrine of the immaculate conception.

Nehemiah shows restraint and wisdom once again in his response.

    III. V.8-9 – Nehemiah is content to deny the false accusations and appeal to God for help. Nehemiah is not pressured to go along with Sanaballat because of fear. Nehemiah is content with standing firm in the knowledge of the truth.

We must be courageous enough to stand firm in the knowledge of the truth. When others lie about us, when others impugn our character and if others try to pressure us with false accusations, we cannot forget we belong to God and He will defend us.

The Bible tells us that Satan stands before the throne of God and accuses us. If we have nothing to fear of Satan's accusations, what are the accusations of mere men?

  1. V. 10-13 – Sanaballat realizes his taunts and threats will not work on Nehemiah so he hires a false prophet to lure Nehemiah into sin and to undermine his credibility and authority.

Nehemiah recognized this was as trick and was able to withstand yet another attack on his mission. Nehemiah knew God would not call Nehemiah to sin by hiding in the Temple.

There will be those who will give us advice. They may attempt to advise us with false concern for our well being. If advice contradicts the revealed will of God, reject it and know the person advising you is not acting on behalf of God.

The thing we must remember is our enemy is not the person who has tried to lead us astray. Our enemy is Satan. Our battle blelongs to God.

  1. V. 14 – Nehemiah places those who are against him in the hands of God. Nehemiah is ready to defend against physical attack, as we have seen in earlier chapters, but he does not launch a physical attack against these men because he understands God can do a far better job of dealing with them than he.
Whe we face opposition from people, those people are not your true enemy. Do not attack, do not slander them or bad mouth them to others. Hand them over to God and leave room for His judgment.

Refraining from bad mouthing someone who has wronged you is difficult. Sometimes we feel our duty is to “warn” others about someone who has wronged us. That may be appropriate at times, but usually not. Check your motives in why you would share something about someone and be sure you are acting out of concern and love rather than revenge.

  1. V. 15-16 – finally the work on the wall is completed! Actually, it only took 52 days to rebuild the walls. That is pretty amazing considering all that was against them. No modern machinary to help them, half the available workers standing guard, the people who carried materials had only one hand for work as the other held a sword, lack of sleep for many who stood guard at night. In fact, so amazing was this feat, the enemies of Israel lost heart, realizing this had to be a work of God.

The implication is, those who were against the work were ultimately agianst God. Talk about betting on the wrong horse! Many of those opposed to the building probably believed they were on the side of the right.

We face many who oppose the work of God. Many in the entertainment world, in politics and even in sports are supporting and promoting causes and policies that directly work against God's Word. We would be tempted to write these people off as evil and beyond redemption. This allows us to hate and spew vindictive words against them. Many of those we declare evil believe they are on the side of right. Their motive is not to destroy society, but to make it better. They are acting out of ignorance and spiritual blindness.
It is up to us to serve God diligently and let others see the power of God in our lives. We are to love, we are to serve, we are to stand for truth and we are to live obediently unto the Lord.

  1. V. 17-19 - Nehemiah found out that there were alliances in his midst working against his mission. Due to alliances made through marriage, the nobles were double agents against Nehemiah. Not even enemies in the camp could stop the work of God because the work was done according to the Spirit of God.
God can overcome any obstacle man may place before us.


WEEK 8
FEBRUARY 14


Nehemiah 7

Mission accomplished! The walls are complete!! Nehemiah prayed for 4 months about at 52 day mission. This demonstrates we need to put far more effort into prayer when we set out to accomplish God's work. If the work is God's work and we know it is not by might nor by power but the Spirit of God we accomplish His work, why do we spend more time preparing in the physical than we do in the Spiritual?

Now, we see transition. I think one mistake we make in ministry is overstaying our usefulness in a particular ministry. There are seasons for everything and when a ministry dynamic changes, it may be time to transition to new or different leadership. Nehemiah does not abandon the ministry, he transitions as the focus changes.

  1. V. 1-2 – I like that Nehemiah was able to choose his successor. He was able to choose men he knew would carry the same basic vision and who he had come to trust. Notice the main criteria – “he was a mord God-fearing man than many.”

if we overstay our time in a ministry, we may lose control of who succeeds us. Many ministries have been hi-jacked and destroyed by conniving and scheming leaders who exploited weakness or sudden vacancy. The Christian Research Institute founded by Dr. Walter Martin is a prime example. Dr. Martin held on till he died and left a void that was filled by the most dominant personality, not necessarily the most worthy. CRI has been faced with many scandals and even the family of Walter Martin have disavowed the current leadership.

Just as we must be attuned to God's leading when beginning a work, we must also be attuned to God's leading to transition or even end a work. Not every ministry or mission is meant to last forever. We cannot overstay our time and make the mission a work of the flesh.

  1. V. 3-4 – The city was still vulnerable and so precautions were taken to keep the city safe. Keeping the gates closed until the sun was hot protected them from sneak attacks. Closing the gates while the guard was up served the same purpose.

When we are involved in a work of God and we see a major goal met, this is not time to let our guard down. The same holds true in our personal lives. The times we are most vulnerable is when we are feeling accomplished or discouraged. When we feel accomplished, we begin to feel invincible. This is a dangerous place as we may lose our sense of the need for God. The enemy does not take a break from attack, we cannot take a break from vigilance.

  1. V. 5-6 – Notice Nehemiah does not retire from ministry. He is open to God's lead and he transitions to a new project. Now, Nehemiah is compiling a family history in an attempt to restore land to the rightful owners. The city is still barren as far as being established with houses. Once the family histories are compiled, land can be distributed according to rightful ownership and homes can be built.

We may find something we are involved in coming to an end. This does not mean we are coming to an end, it means God has something else for us to do. As stated earlier, not everything is meant to be forever. If God closes one ministry opportunity, He will open another, if a chapter of life ends, a new one begins.

We need to be faithful to what God has given us to do until it is time to do something different and then be faithful to that.

  1. V. 7-63 is a list of the names and families that came and registered.

  1. V. 64-65 – Something worth pointing out here. There were those who sought to serve but were not qualified. These were barred from serving. Something also worth noting is that by barring those whose qualifications were questionable, a void was created as noone was qualified.

The correct response to not having a qualified person is no one does the work. Simple. How often is the wrong person placed in a position because they were available rather than qualified. I remember confronting a pastor about a personnel decision that was a direct violation of scripture. This pastor's response to me was “would you rather there be no class?” I told him that there were qualified people that could teach and I told him it would be better to have no one teach than to have someone who is unqualified by scripture. Here we see Nehemiah would not allow ministry to take place until the properly qualified person was available.

  1. V. 66-67 – there is just about 50,000 people in Jerusalem. This sounds like a lot, but, to put that in perspective, there is 186,000 people in Knoxville, and about 860,000 people in Jerusalem today. More people attended the Super Bowl this year, at 73,000. These were a small amount of people atttempting to defend against a very large area of land.
  1. V. 68-69 – of the 50,0000 that lived there, less than 10,000 had a car.

  1. - V. 70-73 – The people were generous to the work of the Lord. We do not have to be great in number or wealthy to contribute to the work of God. Not everyone gave money, some gave clothing. We can all do something for the Lord.

Chapter 8


  1. V. 1 – The people were hungry for the Word. This is the beginning of a national revival. Encouraged by God's provision and protection throughout the building of the wall, the people desire to know God's word in order to know how to please Him.

This is how we know a heart is changed when there is a desire to know God and to learn His Word. This is what we desire more than anything, hearts turned to God!


  1. V. 2-5 – notice that the Word is made available to not just the men but the women and anyone old enough to understand. God's word is not for a few select people or a specific group, it is for everyone.

WEEK 9
FEBRUARY 21


Chapter 8:6-18

After the walls are built, the geneologies are certified, the people turn to God with a hunger for His word. This is clear evidence of changed hearts, hearts that desire to please God. The only way we can know how to please God is to learn His word. All the people who able to understand gather together and stand for the reading of God's word.

    I. V. 6-8 – The people were having a national church service. Ezra read and the priests explained it to the people. Again, scripture was read and explained to everyone so all could know and understand.

The people were moved to worship and awe of God. How do we get to that place where we are in awe of God, where we are on our faces in worship before our mighty God. This is what happens when we truly recognize God in His glory and understand His holiness and power.
    II. V. 9-12 – the Word convicted the hearts of the people. However this was not a day of grief, but a day of rejoicing because the people were able to hear the Word and know what God required of them. The people were stricken as they heard the Law and realized how greatly they had sinned against God.

Notice the command though, rejoice and celebrate God. God does not want us to live in despondancy pondering our weaknesses, He wants us to rejoice in Him and His majesty and power. God wants us to rejoice in our position as children of God, to rejoice and celebrate with one another. The national church service ended in a great Pot Luck dinner where everyone ate and shared food together. While we should be convicted of sin, we can rejoice in the knowledge of God's forgiveness and love.

  1. V. 13 – This is a bit different than the general assembly that took place the day before. Here, the men who are responsible to teach their families came together to study. This is discipleship. This is what we should be doing on a much larger scale. The problem is there is a lack of interest or a lack of understanding about the role men play as head of household, responsible for spiritual growth of their families.

Society is anathema to the idea of men leading right now. Toxic masculinity has become a common term on college campuses and part of the reason is men have failed to fulfill the role God has assigned and abused the authority God has given.

Now, the backlash is to attempt to feminize men and


Men’s magazines are now filled with articles like, “What Men Know about Wearing Eyeliner.” A survey by AskMen.com found that 20 percent of men have no problem wearing makeup. (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/01/17/toxic-masculinity-dude-now-americas-universities-are-turning-men-into-women.html)

There needs to be, and I believe this starts in children's church, a healthy education of what a man and woman's role is Biblically.

  1. V. 14-15 – This is what is known as the Feast of Booths or Sukot. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the Month of Tishri and takes place in the Fall between late September and late October. It is observed for 7 days in which the Jews would build shelters out of trees and other plants and eat in them for a week. It has also been known as the feast of Tabernacles. This was to signify the living conditions of the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness after the Exodus.
Sukkot plays very significantly in the life of Christ: According to Luke, Jesus was conceived 6 months after John the the Baptist. Also according to Luke, we know Zechariah was serving in the Temple when he was told his wife would conceive. Zechariah was of the division of Abijah, which historically served in the Temple in June. 15 months after Elizabeth conceived would place Jesus' birth in September, the month of Tishri during the Feast of Booths, where he was born in a stable, not a home. A booth of sorts.

Later, during Jesus' ministry, He travels to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths. On the last night of Sukot, the Jewish priest poured water out on the altar to indicate the pouring out of God's Spirit on the nations when the Messiah came. It was on this night of Sulot that Jesus announced John 7:37-38 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"

This was a declaration of His being Messiah

  1. V. 16-17 – this was a feast commanded by God to be kept for all generations. In fact, orthodox Jews still observe this holiday, I remember seeing booths of palm fronds built in the driveways of orthodox Jews in Florida.
Notice how this feast was not observed since the days of Joshua! For hundreds of years this feast was neglected. As we saw, this feast was celebrated in the time of Jesus and is still celebrated today.

The people learned what God required and they did it! This is so simple yet so difficult as it is easy to see what God wants us to do, but to lay aside our own pursuits and comforts in order to obey seems to be very difficult for many of us.

VI. V. 18 – the last day is a solemn assembly by order of the Torah. 7 days of feasting and enjoying life. On the 8th day, the festivities end and a solemn time of worship and contemplation takes place. This was also ordered to take place by the Torah. Now, these days are referred to as Mow'edim, meaning appointed times. What is appointed, well, I believe a critical event took place on this Mow'ed. In chapter 8 of John, it clearly states, John 8:2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.
This is the 8th day , the solemn assembly. As Chapter 8 unfolds, Jesus declares He is Messiah to the religious leaders and lays out for them the evidence. This was the appointed time in which Jesus declared He
was Messiah to those who represented the nation. The nation's representatives rejected the Messiah and it is here that His message changes from the Kingdom to the cross. You can see the transition take place through Matthew but I believe it is in John 8, the eighth day, the solemn assembly, the mow'ed, the appointed time, that Jesus was rejected by Israel and His ministry shifted. This is the beginning of the nation celebrating this Mow'ed for the first time in hundreds of years, leading to the observance taking place in Israel at the time of Christ, where Jesus revealed His identity and was rejected, opening the path to the cross that prophecy might be fulfilled. Timing is everything. The completion of the wall, the genealogical division, the people craving the Word at just the right time to observe the Feast of Booths! God's sovereign hand is all over this!


WEEK 10 
FEBRUARY 28


NEHEMIAH 9:1-3

Israel observes the Feast of Booths. The nation, seemingly, inadvertently, celebrated for the first time in hundreds of years a Feast that was not only commanded to be observed yearly but to be one of 3 times per year when Hebrew men were required to come to the Temple and present a gift. God's timing is impeccable and thought it seemed the building of the walls met setbacks and delays, it all happened according to God's timetable.

Had the people finished very quickly, or had God sent Nehemiah as soon as he started praying rather than 4 months later, this celebration may not have taken place. This was not the first time the Law was read to a people who had not heard it before and a national revival broke out, but it is the first time it lead to the Feast of Booths being celebrated.

So important is this feast, it has prominence in prophecy: Zechariah 14:16-19 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Booths is obviously a big deal and as we saw last week, it was during this feast that Jesus chose to reveal Himself as Messiah to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. This Feast, as we also saw last week, is most likely the time of Christ's birth.

7 days, the people feasted and made merry, then, on the 8th day, they held a solemn assembly. This 8th day of Sukoth falls on the 22nd day of Tishri, the 7th month. Tonight's study picks up 2 days later, on the 24th day of the month of Tishri.

  1. V. 1-2 – This is a broken people. Two days after they are free to go about their business, the people are still in great remorse and under great conviction of heart. How different is this than the easy believism of the modern church?
    Not only do the people mourn because of their great sin, they seperate themselves from those who do not believe the same, in order to truly focus on what God is doing in their hearts without distraction.
This begs the question: is church gatherings for believers or unbelievers? Should we have some services that are strictly for those who are part of the body or should our gatherings be evangelistic?

How do we balance feeding the sheep with evangelizing the lost and should we attempt to do both in the same setting? FOR DISCUSSION

The Apostle Peter seems to allude to this when he states: 1Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
What would be the response of unbelievers who saw this kind of repentance taking place within the church?


  1. V. 3 – the people spent a quarter of the day listening to the Law read, and as their hearts were convicted, they spent an equal amount of time confessing and crying out to God. This is the power of the Word of God. These people did not need some fancy sermon or heart felt plea or 15 choruses of Just As I Am.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God's Word is not some dusty old part of history but a living thing that transforms lives. This is why we must read it, this is why we must memorize it, this is why we must reference it when we are teaching or explaining something among believers.

Few things frustrate me more than someone preaching and saying some off the cuff remark that has no Biblical support and building a sermon around it. I was listening to a local pastor reach on prophecy and he said Jesus was waiting for the church to transform the culture so He could come and rule over it and Christ couldn't come until the earth was ready to welcome Him.

And what text from the scripture did he use to back up his claim? NONE! This guy was banking on his audience being Biblically ignorant.

Nothing has transforming power like the Word of God!



WEEK 11
MARCH 7


NEHEMIAH 9:4-31


Now that the nation of Israel is having a national revival, confession and worship are taking place. A major part of worship is recounting God's works, and the remainder of the chapter is a recounting of God's great works.




    I. V. 4-6 – confession and worship continues as the priests call out to God and then begin to recount His greatness.

Confession and worship go hand in hand. It is during worship we contemplate the Word and during worship we reveal our hearts to God. Maybe, we have church backwards... maybe the message should be first and then as we worship, we contemplate the message and the word studied and allow God to deal with our hearts.

Part of worship is recounting the works of God, His power over all of creation. How big do our problems continue to look when we contemplate the vastness of God's creation and His intricate interaction with it.

Also stated in verse 6 is the fact that the host of heaven also worships God. We are not the only created beings called to worship. Seraphim, Cherubim, Sons of God, Watchers, Angels, the heavenly host named in scripture. These worship the majesty of the Creator. These do not allow worship to be given to them by lesser creatures, man. If our understanding of the fall of Satan is correct, it was the desire to be worshipped as God that ruined him. The same lie he told Eve in the Garden, “you will be as God”

Worship is ordained for One and One alone, God. Evidence of Christ's deity is when He allowed people to worship Him.

    II. V. 7-8 – Now, the priests will recount the origins of the people of Israel. It started a few hundred years after the flood when God called a man named Abram, a descendant of Noah's son Shem. Abram was living near where the Tower of Babel had been erected and destroyed. Abram was a contemporary of Nimrod, the builder of the Tower. Abram was not a man who worshipped God but a pagan living in a pagan land. (Joshua 24:2) God called him out of Paganism to bring a light to the whole world. In fact, Noah lived 58 years after Abram was born. Not only that, tradition tells us Shem, Noah's son, outlived Abraham by 35 years.

  1. V. 9-10 – during their 450 years in the land of Egypt, the Israelites had been enslaved and their misery was heard by God and so God performed amazing wonders against Pharoah which was to be commemorated every year at the Feast of Passover, which Christ fulfilled at the crucifixion. The passover lamb was slaughtered and it's blood was applied to the door posts of the Israelites to indicate they were God's, sparing them the plague of the death of the first born male. Today, the blood of Christ, is applied to our hearts indicating we are God's and should not suffer the second death. Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

  1. V. 11– As the Israelites were being pursued by the Egyptian army, after having been expelled from the land, they were cornered between the Egyptians and the Red Sea. God miraculously parted the sea and they didn't cross in mud, but dry ground. Interestingly, there is one part of the floor Red Sea that rises up like an underwater land bridge that connects Nuweiba Egypt to modern day Saudi Arabia. Deep sea cameras have discovered chariot wheels strewn along the bottom of the Red Sea along the sides of the land bridge.

  1. V. 12 – Leading the people with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, God perfectly guided the people not only where to go but when to go and when to camp. If God is the same today yesterday and forever, do we not have the same guidance available to us, especially being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We need to learn to hear the voice of God's leading and follow that leading.
WEEK 12
MARCH 21

I. V. 13-15 – The pillar led the Israelites to Mt. Sinai where He spoke to them the 10 commandments amidst lightning and thunder and fire. So impactful was this event the people begged God to never speak to them again. 48 days from the first Passover, the children of Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai. It was here God instructed the people on how they were to live and distinguish themselves from the people of the land they were going to conquer. It was here they were given the instructions for the Tabernacle.
They built the Tabernacle and learned what was required to worship in it. It was here the Ark of the Covenant was built and the priests were consecrated for service in the Tabernacle. The israelites spent over a year here getting the Law and preparing to take over the Promised land.

II. V. 16-20 – Not even grievous sin could stop God from loving the Israelites and providing for their needs. Was it this the Apostle had in mind when he wrote: 2Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
Yes, there were consequences and people died. Just like for us, if we sin there is earthly consequences and sometimes even loss of life, but God will never withdraw His love and salvation for us.

III. V 21 – Spies were sent into the land and all but 2 brought back a bad report causing Israel to sin and not want to go into the land. Because of this, God decreed that no adult of that generation would see the land except Caleb and Joshua, the two spies who did not give a bad report. The Israelites remained encamped in Kadesh Barnea until the last adult died. During this time, God preserved them and sustained them. Even miraculously preserving their clothes.

IV.  V. 22-25 - Once the rebellious generation died out, God fulfilled His promises, going before the Israelite army and conquering all enemies. Not only were they successful against the inhabitants of the land, they took possession of established agriculture, they took possession of established homes and cities. If we are following God's lead and timing, we can be confident that He will be with us when we face adversity. Not only does God go before us opening doors and clearing our path to His will, He provides abundantly as well. We have nothing to fear when we are in God's will.

V.  V. 26-31 – over and over, Israel took the blessings God gave them and used them to sin against God. Over and over Israel's sin got them in trouble and over and over they cried out to God and God restored them. Why, because God swore by Himself that He would fulfill His promises to Israel and God cannot disown Himself.

Just as we abuse God's grace and use the blessings He gives us to sin, He does not withdraw His love from us. God may withdraw His blessing, provision and protection for a time, but that is only to cause us to come back to Him. In our sin and in our folly, if we repent and cry out to God, He will restore us and use us according to our design. God is in the restoration business.

VI. V. 32 - The prayer of the people is that God realizes the suffering His people have endure since the time of the Assyrian kings' attacks on Israel.  Israel split into 2 kingdoms, and immediately, the northern kingdom fell into sin. Soon, the southern kingdom did the same.  God sent Assyria to destroy the northern kingdom and Assyria did a good deal of damage to the southern kingdom as well. Only the faithfulness of King Hezekiah saved the southern kingdom from the same fate as the northern kingdom.  Later, Babylon came and destroyed the southern kingdom, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.  It is from this destruction Nehemiah and the people are now rebuilding.

  It is ok for us to go to God in honesty and share our feelings. God knows what you are feeling and if our relationship with Him is based on truth, be honest with Him.  Jesus understands suffering.

VII. V. 33-38 - Here we see the people acknowledging their suffering is a result of disobedience.  They acknowledge the sin of the leadership of the nation, the priests, and the people.  They acknowledge God's righteousness and purpose in their suffering. 

True repentance must begin with acknowledging sin. Unless we acknowledge our sin against God, we cannot truly repent from it.

So moved are the people by the responsibility they share in either bringing God's blessing or judgment, they write a covenant of obedience and all the leading people of the city sign and seal this covenant of obedience to God.

WEEK 13
MARCH 21
CHAPTER 10

As the nation recounts all God's faithfulness and all the people's sin, they are compelled to make a covenant with God, promising to live according to the law they just spent days learning. So serious were they, that they wrote it on a scroll, had all the leading men in the city sign it and sealed it. The beginning of chapter 10 is 27 verses of the names of the men who signed the scroll.

Not only did all these men sign but all the people, men women and children promised to live according to the law of Moses.

  1. V. 28-29 – The language here is extremely similar similar to what we find in Deuteronomy 11:26-28 "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.

Again, after Israel comes into the land and conquers the first 2 cities, Joshua repeats the reading of the Law
Joshua 8:34-35 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

In Exodus 24:7 we read how Moses read the law to the people and they all promised to obey all that God commanded them.

The blessing was to be provided for and protected and prospered in the land. The curse was to have God's blessing withdrawn and to be conquered by their enemies.


Just as all the people swore to Moses they would obey all that God commanded and just as they swore to Joshua Joshua 1:16 And they answered Joshua, "All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.

They now swear to Ezra and Nehemiah.


Two very important things we must see here in this promise made to
obey unto blessing and disobey unto a curse. Observing the Law was the only way to receive the blessings. Jesus came and fulfilled the Law yet they saw Him as evil. By rejecting the fulfillment of the Law they, in essence, rejected the Law. Jesus was the letter and the Spirit of the Law, while the people kept the letter but created loopholes which helped them appear righteous when they were far from God. When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, Matthew 27:24-25 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!"

All the people, collectively rejected the Word become flesh and in essence called a curse on themselves and on their children, a curse that to this day they are enduring. Rome destroyed Israel and scattered the people all over the world. Everywhere they went they met and to this day meet persecution. The holocaust nearly wiped them out as a people. It is believed there were just over 17 million Jews world wide in 1939. by the end of WWII the world population of Jews was only 11 million. In 2016 worldwide Jewish population was still only 14.4 million.


The other thing is in the new covenant, there is only blessing for those who enter in. The curse of the second death is destroyed at the cross.



WEEK 14
APRIL 3
10:30-39


Last week we looked at covenants, blessings and curses.
The nation realized that they had sinned and repeat history by promising to obey God's Law. This is the first time, however, the nation actually put their end of the bargain in writing. They sign and seal a scroll promising to obey God and to never fall back into the sin that caused so much pain and destruction for the nation.

For the most part, the nation stayed good to their promise to never fall back into idolatry, from this time until the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD there was no idol worship among the Jews.


    I. V. 30-31 – Keeping the bloodline and the faith pure through abstaining from mingling with the other nations. Observing the Sabbath and giving the land rest. Part of the reason for the 70 year exile was to give the land the rest it was deprived of when the people failed to observe the sabbath year of no planting.
  1. V. 32-33 – The people commit to funding the work of the Lord, providing for the Temple and the daily functions. Part of our obligation as believers is to give to the work of the Lord, how ever that looks to you.

    III. V. 34 – The priests commit to serving according to their obligation that no one person has to do everything. God has designed His work to be spread out and not burdensome. I remember a church I served in where we were all expected to be there every time the doors opened and be the first ones there and the last ones to leave. More than half the guys dropped out because they could not make the commitment. Had we been allowed to rotate and share the work, there would have been no burn out.

    IV. V. 35-37 – the people commit the first of everything to God, acknowledging His provision and care in all things. This takes the guesswork out of giving and removes the temptation to give scraps and leftovers. When we really think about how much God has given us and how glorious He is, it almost seems laughable that we would not choose to give God our first and finest.
I was recently convicted about my quiet time as I was trying to squeeze my Bible reading time in at my lunch rather than first thing in the morning as had been my habit. I was using the morning time for other things that are good and virtuous but neglecting my time with the Lord. Inevitably, my lunch plan was interrupted more often than not and I was lucky to get half a chapter in.

I realized I was giving God scraps of my time and I was cut to the heart. God deserves our best

    V. V. 38-39 – not only do the people commit to giving properly, the ministers commit to fiscal accountability. One of the biggest problems ministries face when an abundance of money rolls in is relaxing standards of ethics. Frivolity and excess is one of the worst dangers of blessing. When there is little, every expense is scrutinized and every penny is accounted for. I watched one ministry as it grew from a storefront to a mega church where the pastor went from being bi-vocational, selling televisions , to making 500,000 per year to buying a condo on the beach he used as a love nest for cheating on his wife. What was the problem? No accountability. Few, if any, ministries can survive without accountability.

The priests and the Levites commit to using the contributions as they are intended to be used. Ken Copeland needs another airplane, Benny Hinn needs another 10 million dollar house, and Creflo Dollar needed a Rolls Royce. Were there true accountability within these multi-million dollar ministries, would not poverty be almost non-existent?

We do not need to redistribute wealth or force socialism, we need to hold ministries and non-profit organizations accountable for their excessive and frivolous spending.

WEEK 15
APRIL 11
CHAPTERS 11-12

So the leaders and the people have committed to serving God according to God's method. The people promised to obey the Law and the priests promised to handle the ministry ethically and responsibly. Sometimes, we may get caught up in the moment and get excited about the things of God and commit to things without actually realizing what we are getting ourselves into. For some, this commitment is about to get real. They are about to be moved outside of their comfort zone for the sake of God's plan.

I think we need to be honest with people when we share the Gospel, life is not going to be a smooth and easy ride and sometimes God stretches us beyond what we think is possible.

    I. V. 1-2 – The small towns surrounding Jerusalem were established and secure, bieng much smaller and safer to live in. Jerusalem, prior to this, was desolate and mostly uninhabitable because of the disrepair of the walls, making it unsafe.

Leading by example, the leaders lived in Jerusalem. The common folk lived securely in the surrounding towns. Some people volunteered to move into the city while others were selected by lot. Moving to Jerusalem was not exactly something people wanted to do. This is why they had to cast lots to see who would live there. It was kind of like a reverse lottery – if you won, you lost.

Casting lots, for Israel, was a method of trusting God for an outcome. Those who were subject to the lot did not feel a burden to move to Jerusalem or maybe were afraid to. God chose those who could handle it, even if they themselves did not believe they could do it.

Our calling is not always something we are immediately excited about. Sometimes the reluctant servant is the most successful because they recognize God's provision more readily than someone who feels adequate. When you know you are called yet are not excited about the calling, you are more apt to rely solely on God than your own strengths. Self sufficiency is one of the biggest obstacles to successful ministry.
One thing we have to keep in mind, God is not a respector of comfort zones. Once God gets you out of your comfort zone, chances are you will never want to go back!

The rest of the chapter and a third of the next one names the various people who live in Jerusalem and those who live in the surrounding towns and villages.

Once the living arrangements are established, the people are ready for one more monumental undertaking – the dedication of the walls.
  1. V.12:27-29 – Priests, levites, and singers from all over the region are brought into town for the dedication of the walls. The building of the walls was a monumental undertaking which started with one man's burden for a city he had never visited. For 4 months, Nehemiah prayed and sought God and at his point of discouragement, God opened the door and provided the resources. At the risk of reputation and life itself, Nehemiah was able to see the rebuilding of the city to completion, while at the same time, dealing with sin in the camp.

The people now gather together and celebrate God's faithfulness. They were playing instruments and banging on cymbals and having a great time. Here we see that there is a time to celebrate, the Christian life is not about being somber and contemplative all the time. Surely there is a time for somberness and contemplativeness, as we saw just a few chapters ago, but there is also a time for celebration and fun. Just because most sin is fun is no reason to decide fun is necessarily sin.


  1. V. 30 – Holiness was still important. Remember the folly of the so called religious festival that took place at the foot of Mt. Sinai as the Israelites danced and frolicked before the golden calves the made. Here, there is celebration and music and fun, yet, the peope remained committed to holiness. We can have fun without compromising our faith.

  1. V. 31-42 – here we read the different groups who worshipped and celebrated at different places along the wall. The people sread out over the whole city and made a great deal of noise.

  1. V. 43 – So loud was their celebration, the sound of it was heard far away. I cannot help but think the people who opposed the building and the work probably heard this great celebration. God was fully aware of the opposition Nehemiah faced and how fitting is would be for the enemies of God to hear this great sound of God's people worshiping Him.


  1. V. 44-47 – Very interesting here is the gatekeepers and the singers are placed in the same category. Now, the gatekeepers are guardians. They were to be alert and protect the city from sneak attack. What relationship do gatekeepers have to singers or as we would call them today, worship leaders?

In Ezekiel 28:14 we find a very curious passage. In what most Bible scholars believe is a description of Satan before he fell, God says, “you were an annointed guardian cherub, for I had appointed you.” Prior to Satan's fall, who or what was God's enemy?

As far as we know, as has been revealed to us in scripture, God had no enemy. What was the guardian cherub guarding against?

I postulate Satan's role as Guardian Cherub was to protect God's glory and ensure all praise and adoration went to God where it belonged. What was Satan's sin – Isaiah 14:13-14 tells us that Satan declared he would ascend to heaven, he would raise his throne above the stars of heaven – stars being a reference to angels, and he would make himself like the Most High. Rather than protect God's glory, he wanted to share it and for, that Isaiah 14:15 tells, us, he was thrust down.

So, the role of the worship leader is far more important than just picking songs everyone likes, the worship leader is actually tasked with protecting God's glory and ensuring it is not shared or diminished. That is why these guys were set apart and provided for like the gate keepers, they functioned spiritually the way the gatekeepers functioned physically. In God's very throne room, we see the living creatures who cry out, “Holy, holy holy, Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.” These protect God's glory and ensure all glory and honor is directed to the One seated on the throne.


WEEK 16
APRIL 18

After 12 years, Nehemiah finally goes back to the king in Persia.  Remember back in chapter 1, the king asked Nehemiah what would be the time frame he needed to accomplish the work.  Nehemiah’s answer is not recorded for us, but I would be willing to bet it was not 12 years! After an undisclosed amount of time, Nehemiah requests of the king to return to Jerusalem.  What he finds does not make him happy.

  1. V. 1-3 - that day is not referring to the day the people signed the scroll promising to obey God. That day is the day Nehemiah discovers great sin being committed and puts a stop to it. So, once again, the Law of Moses is read to the people and once again the people realize they are in sin and once again the people repent and do what pleases God.
Back when the Israelites were traveling to the promised land, the Moabites and the Ammonites, who were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot opposed Israel and tried to thwart them from entering the land.  

Abraham cared for Lot like a son and rescued Lot and his family from om being taken captive.  Later, Lot and his daughters escape from Sodom and his daughters get him drunk and get impregnated by him and those two sons were Moab and Ammon.  Because of the kinship between Abraham and Lot, Moab and Ammon should have been favorable towards Israel but instead they were inhospitable and therefore no longer welcome in the Temple.  

Now notice something here.  This is not the first time the Law is read to these people but this is the first time they are convicted of the matter of foreigners in the land.  What you get from the Bible today will be different than what you get years from now. You can never grow weary in learning the Word of God because it is applicable to life.  As life changes, you will get lessons from different parts of scripture. There will never be a point where you can say, “oh yeah, i read that.”

II. V. 4-9 - in the 20th year Nehemiah left Artaxerxes and went to Jerusalem and 12 years later he returned to the king, where he was employed as a cupbearer.  After a time, he returned to discover chaos. Tobiah, one of Nehemiah’s nemeses, has not only moved into Jerusalem, but has moved into the Temple itself. The part he has moved into was the storehouse.  Last chapter, all the people committed to bringing the contributions and all the leaders committed to the proper handling of the contributions and now, the storehouse is repurposed for an enemy of God.

We are modern day representatives of the Temple.  By the fact that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, we bear His presence as the Temple in Jerusalem once did.  We are charged with guarding this temple from evil outside influences. We must take care to block sin from taking up residence in our hearts.  Tobiah residing in the Temple represents allowing sin to enter and reside in our lives. Nehemiah expelled Tobiah and rightfully so, just as we must expel sin that has taken up residence in our lives.  

III. V. 10-11 - Sin in our lives does not simply occupy us or exist without consequence.  Sin keeps us from doing the work God designed us to do. Sin robs us of years of service and robs others of their ability to serve God because their part requires your part.  With Tobiah in the storehouse, the people no longer brought the tithes and offerings and the priests no longer had provision so they could no longer serve and had to leave to earn their living.  It is like a domino effect. We do not sin in a vacuum. What we do affects the lives of others even if we think our sin is secret and personal. The time we spend in sin could be the very time God set aside to speak to you or prepare you for something amazing.  

IV. V. 12-13 - notice God is a God of restoration.  Once the house is cleansed and the sin is expelled, service to God begins again.  Do not be discouraged if you have wasted time in sin and feel as though God has left you.  God has not moved, He is right where you left Him and His work is continuing and you have a vital part to play in that work.  Sin may wreak havoc and there may be consequences but God will restore you to His ministry

V. V. 14-22 - The people violated the Sabbath and allowed foreign traders to come into the city and trade on the Sabbath.  All of this was forbidden and sabbath violations cause great calamity to fall upon Israel in the past. Nehemiah made reforms and delegated others to enforce the reforms.

No situation is hopeless.  When you see your home in uproar because of sin, you can make reforms.  When you see your life in an uproar because of sin, you can make reforms.  And notice that others must be involved in the reform process. Nehemiah set Levites in charge of keeping traders out of the city on the Sabbath.

In our personal lives, this is the equivalent of accountability partners.  We can make reforms, but chances are, if we want
those reforms to stick, we have to have others to hold us accountable.  This means being honest and real with one another and not pretending to be perfect little christians.  

VI. V. 23-27 - Nehemiah put an end to this over 12 years ago and here is is happening again.  God set the Jews apart, they are His elect. By intermarrying with those of other religious practices, they introduced paganism into the nation and corrupted the next generation.  Some of the children could not even speak the language of Israel. The Temple service ended so the children had no way of practicing Judaism and so the children maintained the language customs and culture of their foreign parents.  

Today, the church is to remain pure by not allowing believers to marry unbelievers or practitioners of other faiths. If King Solomon, a man blessed by God and the wisest of men, was derailed by intermarriage, how much more susceptible would we be being unequally yoked? Likewise in the church, we have to maintain holiness.  We have to go into the world in order to evangelize, but we cannot allow the world into the church in the name of being relevant or modern.

VII. V. 28-31 - Good old Sanballat, the mortal enemy of Nehemiah who wanted to “help” rebuild the city and then threatened the work and the workers when he was turned away as unqualified has wormed his way into the family of the High Priest.  Once Nehemiah discovered the grandson of the High Priest was married to the daughter of Sanballat, Nehemiah chased him away, lest he one day inherit the High Priest position and pollute it with the practices and influence of Sanballat.

Nehemiah purified the priesthood and reestablished the duties of the priests and Temple workers.  Today, many ministries are polluted by the influences of ungodly men and women who offer some benefit to the ministry.  People with money or business connections are allowed positions in churches where spiritually they have no business whatsoever.  These people bring worldly and sometimes sinful influences into a church and you end up with the mess most of the mainstream denominations have found themselves.  When churches, which are businesses, allow business concerns to dictate ministry direction and leadership choices, sin will be tolerated and excused and the Gospel will be compromised and the ministry will have no real purpose beyond self perpetuation.

Nehemiah was open to the prompting of the Spirit of God.  Nehemiah called on God for direction. Nehemiah waited on God’s timing and experienced great blessing.  Nehemiah was diligent in keeping the nation pure and holy, even when it was unpopular and dangerous. Nehemiah did not compromise integrity for expediency.  We can learn alot from Nehemiah

This concludes the study in Nehemiah.  I hope it has been as much a blessing to you as it has been to me studying for and presenting.  Feel free to leave comments or questions in the comment section below.