Friday, August 21, 2009

Nehemiah Chap 11-12

In Chapters 11 and 12, Nehemiah records the repopulation of the city of Jerusalem. One tenth of the populations from each of the tribes was to live in Jerusalem while the rest remained in their own towns caring for their ancestral property. Nehemiah records not only names but positions that were held. Each man passing on a legacy to future generations. It is easy to say that by the time you die that you would like to accomplish certain things…to talk of achievements as being in the distant future, but we don’t know how long we will live and we never know if today might be the day our name goes into the newspaper headlines. Each and every day we are faced with choices and those choices have long lasting consequences.

Occasionally, men get to have a legacy by virtue of some serendipitous event, but more often than not, our legacy is a function of our character which is built day after day as we choose to follow the Lord in the mundane. Today we are building our legacy that will be remembered into the future. God graciously allows us to choose for ourselves what kind of legacy we will leave. Will it be for good or evil? Will we depend on our own efforts or will we glorify God and draw on his strength to meet the challenges of the day?

We have only one life to live and we can live for ourselves, for someone else or for the Lord. In the end our daily choices will evidence our hearts passion. What will those choices say about you? From this passage we learn that God honors our acts done according to his instruction.

Nehemiah Chap 10

Imagine having your name written down for all of prosperity to read that you have affixed your seal to a binding agreement with God. Would you rejoice to be counted? Nehemiah carefully recorded the names of the men who had covenanted with God so everyone would know. I think that if it were me, the recording of my name would make me be very careful about my conduct so that I would not dishonor the covenant I made. But when you think about it, isn’t it true of all Christians? Our name has been written in the book of Life forever, we bear the name of Christ. That should make us more conscious of our conduct. In this chapter, we learn that God’s people must be holy because they bear his name.
Like the Israelites we are called to a Holy standard of conduct. We are not supposed to live like everyone else in the world who doesn’t know the Lord. Our choices should be honoring to God; we don’t live as if there is no accountability, but we live a life pleasing to the Lord knowing that we will one day give an account to Him. What would holy living look like in your home?
God commanded the Israelites to be a separate nation and to not mix with the surrounding countries. He did this not because the surrounding countries were less deserving of God’s love. The Israelites showed over and over again that they didn’t deserve the grace that God bestowed on them. It was to keep their focus on serving the Lord and living holy lives. This was foreign to the other nations and these surrounding nations would not be good influences on them.
The standard of living for the Lord is something that we don’t often see even solid Christian communities. God wanted his people to be completely loyal to him and to serve him alone. He had a standard of giving so that those in full time ministry would not lack. So often we bring God our leftovers. We pray as we drift into sleep at the end of a day, we put off Bible Study because we have a full and busy schedule. We excuse our raw words or selfishness as understandable given our conditions, but God has a much higher standard for us than we often have for ourselves.
God called the Israelites to consecrate to the Lord, their first and their best as an indication of their loyalty and commitment to service. We see the Israelites having confessed their sins rededicating themselves to the Lord. Thank God for his grace and mercy in our lives and his long suffering toward us as we sin, confess and rededicate ourselves over and over. What would I be willing to sacrifice as a token of my loyalty? Have I ever truly sacrificed at all? As I grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I find that I learn more about how to live holy and what sacrifice really means. It makes me all the more grateful to be adopted by him and to want to live a holy life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nehemiah 9

When I first completed my study of Nehemiah a few months ago, I was struck by chapter 9 and how much it seemed relevant to today. I wrote in my other blog about it. You can check it out here: It seemed to me that so many of our economic stimulus efforts were ineffective and not long sighted.

In chapter 9 we find the people of Israel humbled by their sins and wanting to confess before God and restore fellowship with him. They pray acknowledging the faithfulness of God to his people and how unfaithful they themselves have been in the relationship. We need to have the same attitude when we come before the Lord in prayer. God has been faithful and has extended grace after grace in our lives, but so often we live without regard for him.

Israel acknowledges that this was the pattern of their lives as well and confessed their sin to God. They were so serious about their commitment to change that they made a binding agreement before God. Are we so serious about abandoning our sin that we would write our confession and make a binding pledge before God to change our ways? What would you write in your agreement?

As we see in this chapter, sin must be addressed in our lives to maintain fellowship with God. I pray we will all choose to see our sinful choices the same way God does and abandon them.

Nehmiah 8

Have you ever been humbled by your time in the word? You come to praise and worship God and open your Bible to drink in a word of encouragement or remembrance of God's faithfulness to his people and find yourself moved and convicted by the words you read? It is hard to keep an attitude of joy when you have tears streaming down your face. You want to kneel before the Lord and relieve yourself of the pain you feel in knowing you have dishonored God.

The people of Israel found themselves in exactly that position as they heard Ezra reading the law before the people after the census was taken. As the Priests and Levites explained the reading to the people, people were struck by how far their lifestyles had strayed from the standard God set for his people. Even though the people were mourning for their sins, Nehemiah tells them this is not the right time. There will be an opportunity for you to deal with the sins you have committed, but right now they are in the midst of celebrating the faithfulness of God and it is important that the people take their focus off themselves and really worship God.

Our relationship with God is multifaceted and we must not neglect it. First and foremost, we need to give God recognition for his wonderful power he has displayed. We have many records through scripture of how God intervened in creation to provide for mankind. He created the moon, the stars, and our earth. He provides us rain and sun; desire and provision. We must take time to see the hand of God and thank him for his wonderful power, grace and love he has displayed. Even beyond the records within the Bible, we know of God's faithfulness in our own lives as well. If we think about it we can see God's hand at work providing for our circumstances, and our provision. It is only right that we give God the high place he deserves.

Only after we recognize God's authority and greatness can we then confess our sins and recognize how far short we fall. There is a place for us to confess sins and we should do it often keeping a short list, but only after He receives our worship.

There is also a place for us to thank him for all he has done. Thankful hearts are humble hearts and they do not become bitter for things they do not have but are grateful for what they do. As a financial planner, I believe that our lack of gratitude to God for our provision is the greatest hindrance to our planning for the future. We seek what we don't have today and sacrifice our future in order to have something that God did not see fit to give us.

Finally, there is a place for us to bring our needs to God. He wants us to ask for his continued provision and to share our concerns before him. In bringing supplications, we acknowledge him again as our provider and we look to him to supply our every need. From this passage we see that God's word is able to pierce hearts and restore fellowship with him. Have you read his word for you today?

Nehemiah 7

If your story could be recorded for generations to read down through the ages, what would it say? How has God specifically gifted you for service and what have you done with the gifts he has provided? Nehemiah was a detailed record keeper. Thank God that he placed this on Nehemiah's heart to record the hard work that was done and the scope of work that had been accomplished.

Now that the work was done, it is important to make appointments to positions so that the work can be maintained into the future and history need not repeat itself. Nehemiah appoints persons of strong character to serve in places of leadership in Jerusalem. If God was looking down from Heaven today where would he find those people of strong character who will serve him?

Nehemiah had rebuilt the city, but now that the work was complete, it was time to bring back the residents, so he calls a census to be take. He records the numbers that had returned from exile back to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. Not only does he record the 42,360 people returning, but also their servants and their animals. He records the wealth that was given to the work of the priests.

Nehemiah makes it clear that there was a response to the work that had been done and a desire among the people to re-establish God's holy work in the land where they have returned. I wonder, when our story is written, will such a record be recorded for our lives? Will generations see us as having a desire to serve God or will he see us living among the residents here content with worldly living?

We leave a legacy for good or bad. Today may be the day that people remember for generations, what will it say about you?