Monday, August 21, 2017

Back to the Old Paths

O. T. #1046  "Back to the Old Paths"
August 21, 2017
Nehemiah 3-Part 3


LET IT GLOW

I find my older self backing out of activities, using my age and lack of energy as an excuse. Maybe I can still contribute stability and guidance on the right path, whether it is old or new. We need to keep our focus on serving and witnessing for Jesus. Perhaps getting back to the old paths is a good thing-prayer and Scripture.

So far we have read bout the Sheep Gate ad the Fish Gate. Today we will look at the Old Gate. It was located in the northwest section of the wall around the Temple in Jerusalem. The men laid the beams, set up the doors, and put on the locks and bars.

Gibeonites who helped were not under the authority of the Jerusalem governor. They were responsible to the governor on his side of the Euphrates River.  Nevertheless, they assisted in the work. (Falwell)

This Old Gate must have been there from the beginning, perhaps Solomon's day. Jeremiah warned Judah  the results of their idolatry was coming-captivity. (Israel had been captured by Assyria some 100 years earlier.)

Jeremiah gives the image of  travelers who are lost, stopping to inquire about the right way they once knew before they wandered so far away from it. (MacArthur)

He instructed them in Jeremiah 6:16, Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.

Rest for the soul. Who couldn't use some of that? The thing is, some people spend their time working and accumulating the newest and latest gadgets, fashion, house, automobile. Then  time is spent caring for these. Aren't they leading us down the path to a dead end street with no purpose in life. Jeremiah tells us to ask for the "old paths" since on them we will find rest for our soul.
In Christ we find rest (Matt. 11:28-30).
Don't we need something greater than the mechanical, electronic push-button age has to offer? We need to get back to the old paths.

LET IT GROW

Who helped work on the Old Gate?
  • Two men joined in the repairing the Old Gate. They were co-founder, and shared the honor of it between them. Are we thankful for our partners in work, in our projects, in our service?
  • Several good and honest tradesmen/businessmen helped, as well as priests and rulers-goldsmiths, apothecaries (perfumers), merchants. They did not consider their time a loss in their business, but knew God would bless them.
  • Rephaiah had been a ruler responsible for half of Jerusalem. 
  • The ruler of the other half was Shallum. He and his daughters contributed money for buying materials and paying workmen.
  • There was a long section in the wall between the Old Gate and the Valley Gate, so the Tower of Furnaces served as a defense for that section.
Do we detect a spirit of unity and cooperation among the people? Did you notice that workers from neighboring communities worked on stretches of the wall away from the homes of Jerusalem builders?

We may no like the methods used in a project, but the outcome can be for greater good. We can support it with our resources.

LET IT GO

Get back to living on the old paths and the old ways.

Love God and love others.

*We would appreciate your prayers as we finally get a vacation this year. Going to visit the beautiful state of Oregon. My husband is giving me a tour, since I have never been there and he has. Can hardly wait to see God's wondrous creation.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Goin' Fishin"

O. T. #1045  "Goin' Fishin' "
August 18, 2017
Nehemiah 3-Part 2

LET IT GLOW

The Sheep Gate was completed so the priests could make the sacrifices in the Temple as the sheep were brought in for the slaughter. We talked about Jesus Christ being our Lamb of God that takes away our sins. He entered through this gate a He went into the Temple.

Fish Gate
One of the main roads into Jerusalem entered through the Fish Gate (2 Chron.33:14). since the fish market was near this gate, merchants from the Sea of Galilee, Mediterranean Sea, and the Jordan River. One probably did not have any problem locating this gate. Your nose would lead you right to it.

What does the Fish Gate symbolize? The Lord Jesus told his disciples to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men (Mark 4). Believers fish for people in various ways and places. It does not require a fishing pole and gear. We are taking God's Word into all sorts of places during our day-grocery store, shops, schools, work place.  We throw out the line with the bait on it, enticing a person to come to Jesus. This is done to the hurting, broken hearted, the sick, those in need. Jesus wants to be their hope. So get your stuff together. Read the Scriptures, ask for the leading of the Holy Spirit, surrender to God's will, and get fishing.


LET IT GROW

The Tekoites' nobles were lazy and would not lift a finger to help in the repairs of the Fish Gate. (verse 5)
There are always some who think that the work is beneath them; to wise or too important to participate. Every church has them. So we ignore them and continue the work without their help. (Non-fishermen enjoy eating the fish caught, though.) Does their inactivity seem to be remembered by the workers?

What joyful it is to lead someone to faith in Jesus. Often times it takes several witnesses using various types of bait before the fish is caught. So keep on fishin' friends.

LET IT GO

Share the love of Jesus and His Word today.

Look where the fish are biting, people in need.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Repairing Gates

O. T. #1044  "Repairing Gates"
August 17, 2017
Nehemiah 3


LET IT GLOW

Get out of my way. We are going to work.  God's with us in this.  By the way, you will have no part in it. Don't even try it. Nehemiah was bold, wasn't he? He had to keep those men who ridiculed the rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and the gates from discouraging the workers. In this chapter, 75 names of people are mentioned and at least 15 groups who were workers. Nehemiah knew their names and where they worked as he recorded this.

The ten gates tell us  story of the gospel, according to J. Vernon McGee. They are:
  1. Sheep Gate
  2. Fish Gate
  3. Old Gate
  4. Valley Gate
  5. Dung Gate
  6. Goat of the Fountain
  7. Water Gate
  8. Horse Gate
  9. East Gate
  10. Gate Miphkad
These obscure names and unknown places meant something to the people of that time. Their accomplishments were honored as their names were recorded in this chapter. It only took 52 days for the gates and wall to be rebuilt, so the workers got right to work. Keep in mind, the wall around Jerusalem was separated form the one around the Temple area. That inner one is where the gates were rebuilt.

Do we have any gates in our spiritual life that need repaired? How about our relationships, worship, faith, obedience, faithfulness, love?


LET IT GROW

How do those gates illustrate God's plan of salvation?

Sheep Gate
  • The priests built the sheep gate. (Eliashib was the grandson of Jeshua the high priest in Zerubbabel's era.)
  • They sanctified it unto God.
  • Doors were set up on it.
  • They dedicated the Tower of the Hundred and Tower of Hananel. (Its location was found by moving counterclockwise on the map. The area opened up to the Benjamin plateau where the enemies could easily attack.)
  • Men of Jericho built next to the Jews.
This gate as located on the north side of the Temple. There were no barriers, such as a hill or lookout towers. That is why they built the two towers. Now we can see the importance of this are being repaired first.
It was through the Sheep Gate that the animals for sacrifice were brought to the Temple. Obviously, that is how it got its name. Jesus would have entered the Temple area through he Sheep Gate, illustrating  Him being the sacrificial lamb of which John 1:29 speaks. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.

The Sheep Gate symbolizes the Cross of Christ. It is at the cross where we begin our relationship with God. He was the perfect sacrificial Lamb who took our place in paying for our sins. What will we do with Jesus? Will we believe He is the Son of God and Risen Savior? Will we ask Him to forgive us of our sins and be our Savior? Or will we reject Him?

McGee talked about this after his visit, "If you came around the Mount of Olives on the road to Jericho, you would be at the place where these men worked. The pinnacle of the Temple and the Temple area is at that spot."

Are we using our gifts, abilities, and resources to build up the people of God? To further the Kingdom of God?

LET IT GO

Thank You Jesus for being my Sacrificial Lamb.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Scorned, Despised, and Mocked

O. T. #1043  "Scorned, Despised, and Mocked"
August 16, 2017
Nehemiah 2-Part 6
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised). And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.  Hebrews 10:23

LET IT GLOW

No one likes to be laughed at, made fun of, or ridiculed, especially when we were growing up. Right? It isn't a new thing. The Jews faced it, too. Although those three words in our title are strong, those techniques were used against the Jews by their enemies.

No one knew what Nehemiah intended to do in Jerusalem until this point. After making his plans, how did he reveal his purpose? We find the answer in verses 17 and 18:
  • He assembled and motivated the people. Jews in the area came-farmers, business owners, religious and political leaders. 
  • He presented their problem-walls were broken and gates were burnt around the city of Jerusalem, where the Temple was located. Nehemiah included himself, identifying with them.
  • He challenged the people to action,  joining him in rebuilding.
  • He gave his personal testimony as to how God's hand was upon him to obtain support of the king.
  • He challenged them to rise up and build.
The people were enthused about the building project. God must have been working in their hearts. All right then, let's get to work guys.
How do we respond to we respond when leaders challenge us?

LET IT GROW

The task wasn't going to be easy. Look what happened next. In verse 19, opposition raise its ugly head and tried to discourage the people. Three men named here:
  • laughed the people to scorn; (Scorn, according to Webster's Dictionary, means open dislike and disrespect. and derision often mixed with indignation, contempt.)
  • despised the people; (In other words, they looked down on them as worthless.)
  • mocked the project as foolish;
  • accused the Jews of rebelling against the king.
Their opposition is detailed in chapters 4-7. At this time their destructive path of ridicule, mockery, and false accusations began.

Any one laughing at you? Have you been ridiculed lately? Have people mocked you and your work? Have they even made false accusations against you?
Being a Christian and one that is doing the will of the Lord Jesus, is often not easy. Especially whenever we stand up for what the Bible says and it is against the world's ways.

We can't leave the story at this point.
How did bold Nehemiah reply?
  • The God of heaven will prosper us.
  • Therefore, we His servants will arise and build.
  • Ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem. 
Now that is what I'm talking about. Nehemiah was going to fulfill his God-given task. And when he was done, those three men would not be allowed to participate in anything within Jerusalem. Their authority over its citizens was gone and their claims on Jerusalem vanished. Nehemiah had been appointed governor of Jerusalem by King Artaxerxes and that was that! Way to go Nehemiah!


LET IT GO

Take my discouragement to God.

Trust Him to work in hearts.

Stand for His Word.

Encourage others in their kingdom work.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Planning Our Way

O. T. #1041  "Planning Our Way"
August 14, 2017
Nehemiah 2-Part 3

LET IT GLOW


Planning for our future is good. We plan our education, job, family, community, retirement. But, do we get so busy planning our way that we leave behind God's way? Without His power and blessings, we will fail.

Nehemiah had done more than pray in his closet for 4 months. He had been planning, which as an exercise of faith. He was so sure God would let him go to Jerusalem that Nehemiah drew up an agenda in case the king asked him how much leave of absence he would need. The presence of faith does not mean the absence of organization.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us,  The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

So it pleased the king to send me. (verse 6)

Nehemiah made preparations for the long journey to Jerusalem.  When the king asked how he could help, Nehemiah requested letters. These were necessary in order for him to safely pass through the territory of the Persian governors west of the Euphrates River. He would need a large military escort which did not pose a threat to the local governors. Also, he need to secure materials from the king's forest.

God stirred the heart of the king and such requests were granted. This cupbearer was on his way to being a chief bricklayer and a governor.

In Swindoll's book,Hand Me another Brick, he gives us 4 principles for getting started God's way:
  1. Changing a heart is God's specialty. Don't try to manipulate people, play games, plan schemes, trick, or deceive them. Instead, tell God on them!
  2. Praying and waiting go hand in hand. Learn to pray and wait, letting God take charge.
  3. Faith is not a synonym for disorder o a substitute for careful planning. Organize a plan of action while waiting on God to work.
  4. Opposition is o be expected when God's will is carried out. Following God's will usually involves at least one person in opposition. Press on and execute God's plan His way.

LET IT GROW

Scripture does not record anything about Nehemiah's journey to Jerusalem. From the capital of Susa, it could have taken 2-3 months. Obviously he had success in the territories through which he traveled. Once he arrived in Jerusalem, events began to happen rather quickly. Opposition was about to greet him. Of course, this had been going on 90 years as the building of Jerusalem was opposed by those who settled there while the Jews were in captivity.

Two officials, Sanballat and Tobiah, heard what was doing on in their region. They were very angry at the new governor, Nehemiah, being appointed in Jerusalem. (verse 10) What a welcome wagon.

A discovered ancient letter said that Sanballat was governor of that district, which he was from, Beth Horan, located some 12-18 miles from Jerusalem.
Now, Tobiah was either a governor of Ammon or else a high official who served under Sanballat.  Tobiah was married to the daughter of Shecaniah, one of Nehemiah's workers. His son was married to one of the daughters of Nehemiah's supervisors, Meshullam.  Also, Tobiah was closely related to the High Priest Eliashib. Both of these officials served under the authority of King Artaxerxes.
(The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible)

Obviously Nehemiah was a political threat to those two men. They feared loosing their power, authority, and influence over the people. Unfortunately, I have found this to be true in churches. When new people come in, those in control fear loosing their power. The shifting is not pleasant.

Are we serving God or our self? If we oppose God's work, there is a heart problem. Unity is important as we work together spreading the gospel of Jesus and teach His Word.

LET IT GO
                     ... of my plans and ask God what His plans for my life are.
                                ... and ask God to direct my plans and steps.
                                ... and realize opposition will be waiting.
                                ... submitting to God's will, giving Him glory.
                              

Why Are You Here/There?

O. T. #1042 "Why Are You Here/There?"
August 15, 2017
Nehemiah 2-Part 4


LET IT GLOW

Do you know the  purpose God has for your life? Why are you living here? Why are you working at your job? Why are you attending church where you are? Are we spending time alone with God to ask Him for the answers, listening for answers, and ready to follow Him? Join me as we see how Nehemiah found his answers.

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Not only did Nehemiah risk his life being a sad cupbearer, but when he made requests of King Artaxerxes also. After 4 months of prayer and planning, he found himself leaving a good job with the king of this empire to travel 800 miles to lay bricks. He lead a military escort through enemy territory. The only thing that kept him safe were the letters from he king.What a leader! What a man of faith and obedience.

Nehemiah should have had affirmation that he was doing God's will when he was met by opposition of those who despised the things of God as the welcoming committee. When he entered the city of Jerusalem there was no parade downtown, guided tours fireworks, luncheons with officials or press conferences.

A rebuilt Jerusalem  posed a threat to the authority of the Samaritan officials who had been running things since the Jews were taken captive. They didn't want any more Jews in their city threatening their positions.

Are we faithful, obedient servants when God leads us to trust Him as we walk by faith into an unknown situation? Nehemiah was.

LET IT GROW

How did Nehemiah spend the first three days in Jerusalem? He rested. What he did next was a surprise. I can tell you he wasn't at a country club getting acquainted with the local officials or dining with the Jewish leaders. No, his first order of business was to seek silence and solitude for the purpose of undisturbed reflection. He paused to learn and gather information or the task at hand.

Paul spent 3 years in reparation and transformation for the service of Christ. Jesus spent times in solitude away from crowds in fellowship with God. Are their examples tell us something?

It was at night when Nehemiah took a tour with God to survey the walls of Jerusalem-a secret survey. We read of the details of his findings in verses 13-15. It was a secret investigation. His findings and plans were unknown until the right time.
The rulers didn't know where he went or what he did. He didn't even tell the Jews or priests. He formulated the details of his plans. So no one knew why Nehemiah was there.

Why are you here? Why are you living there? Are you on mission for God?
Do we run off half organized with a plan when we get excited about God's plan for us? There is a time to rest, pray, and fast, then a time to act.

LET IT GO

Spend time in prayer, fasting, and in God's Word seeking answers to my questions.

Listen to God.

Be ready to obey.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Making Requests

O. T. #1040  "Making Requests"
August 11, 2017
Nehemiah 2-Part 2
Then the king said unto me, For what doest thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.  Nehemiah 2:4

LET  IT GLOW

We never know until we ask. We may be hesitant to ask something of our boss, spouse, or friend. Instead of thinking they may refuse our request, ask and see how they answer. It just might be affirmative. Nehemiah was at such a crossroad in his life.

Four months had passed since Nehemiah had heard the sad news of Jerusalem's broken walls and burnt gates. He knew that meant his  Jewish family was susceptible to enemy attacks in that condition. So Nehemiah prayed and prayed. The things changed-the king asked him why Nehemiah was sad. After Nehemiah explained, the king asked how he could help. King Artaxerxes, who ruled over the Medeo-Persian Empire, offered help to the Jews? Now that was an answer to prayer!

Nehemiah was afraid, so he quickly said a prayer. He boldly laid his request before the king: Would you send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried? This would mean the king would loose his trusted official's service. Did such a request shock the king? Would he give permission to leave?

In Proverbs 21, we read  that the king's heart is like channels of water in the  Lord's hand. He turns it wherever He wishes. Like irrigation channels carrying water, God causes the king's heart to bend and incline in whatever direction He pleases. (Swindoll)


Folks, will you join together in praying for our President today as he deals with the threats on America?
We can boldly approach God through Jesus Christ in our time of need like Nehemiah did. We can ask King Jesus for His guidance, protection, and deliverance. Almighty God is the only king victorious and sovereign forever. Let us praise Him.

LET IT GROW

What a timely lesson!
The king asked Nehemiah how long his journey would be and when he would return. Nehemiah gave the king an answer. Scripture does not tell us his answer. (He ended up staying 12 years.)

Another request was made for letter granting permission to travel throughout the land on his way to Judah. Also, letters giving Nehemiah timber for the walls and gates and his house. It was all granted.

God gives us power to be strong, courageous, and fearless as we face difficult or trying situations. He did it for Moses and Joshua. He can do it for us.

Do we hesitate to ask others for help? God's answers to our prayers may come in that form.
Are we hesitant to ask God for something on our heart, a burden? Do we have faith the size of a mustard seed? He just might grant it, as the king did for Nehemiah.


LET IT GO

Ask, pray, seek God's will.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Door of Opportunity

O. T. #1039  "The Door of Opportunity"
August 10, 2017
Nehemiah 2
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.  Romans 4:20-21 

LET IT GLOW

Are we waiting for the door of opportunity to open for us? How long are we willing to wait and pray? Do we know what God has planned for us, but it isn't time yet? Do we get weary waiting? God doesn't leave us. Look at the key verse. Abraham walked by faith. He was assured that God would do what He said He would do. Yes, God gave him a son an  Promised Land in which his family lived.  God is with us every step and so He was with Nehemiah during his waiting period.

Four months passed and nothing happened, except Nehemiah had prayed and fasted seeking God's guidance after hearing about Jerusalem's walls broken and gates burnt. Such news devastated him. He kept waiting, trusting, and counting on God to move heart of his superior.

 Well, Nehemiah continued his duties serving the king his wine. Nehemiah had never before appeared sad in his presence. To be in the presence of a monarch with an attitude other than positive and uplifting would be dangerous. The king could suspect a plot of assassination, so Nehemiah was risking his life appearing unhappy before the king. Negative emotions could result in the king's wrath.

Then the king noticed something different about Nehemiah, sympathy arose in him. (Hadn't they been together for years? Wasn't Nehemiah a faithful servant, even in a foreign land?)

The king asked, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? You must be deeply troubled.

Although Nehemiah was terrified, he told King Artaxerxes the truth. He shared what was on his heart. "How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire," Nehemiah relied.

The king asked how he could help Nehemiah. What did Nehemiah want to do to remedy this situation? He had waited and prayed for God's direction. Nehemiah was available to meet the need himself. The door of opportunity came open. Will Nehemiah be overcome with fear or will he overcome fear with faith?


LET IT GROW

What was the first thing Nehemiah did when the door of opportunity was opened? He prayed to the God of heaven. No time for long prayers now. A quick, spontaneous prayer was all he could  muster up. Eight times in this book we read of Nehemiah praying spontaneously. He knew God always heard and answered prayers. Emergency prayers must be preceded by in-depth prayers as we cultivate a strong relationship with God.
This cupbearer had a heart for God, even while living in Susa, the capital of the Media-Persian empire.

Are you ready, friend, to be a part of a solution, to walk through the door of opportunity when it open up for you? Are you prayed up? Do you have a plan when it is time? Will you walk by faith as God directs?

LET IT GO

Pour out my heart before a compassionate God.

Listen for His will and instructions.

Be ready o walk by faith through it when the door of opportunity opens.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Impossible

O. T. #1,038  "The Impossible"
August 9, 2017
Nehemiah 1

LET IT GLOW

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?
God specializes in things though impossible,
He does the things others cannot do.

[Got Any Rivers by Alfred B. Smith]

Does our situation look impossible? Does it look like there is no way through it? What can God do for us?
Luke 1:37 says, For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Was it possible for Nehemiah to take a leave of absence and return to Jerusalem to help his fellow Jews? What a mess they were in-walls down and gates burnt. They had no protection from the enemies out there. They were in need of help.

When Nehemiah heard about the bad condition of the Israelites in Jerusalem, it brought him to his knees. Of the 12 prayers recorded in this book, 9 are offered up by Nehemiah. Therefore, I think it would be right in describing him as a praying man.

What were Nehemiah's attitudes and actions prior to this prayer?
We can conclude that he:
  • had a heart of deep concern; (We don't know how long the grieving continued, but it was about 4 months before he acted upon the news he received. 2:1)
  • made prayer a priority over other needs; (His fasting showed God that he was willing to spend time talking to Him in place of meeting his physical needs.)
  • prayed persistently, day after day;
  • was specific in his prayers. (Only one person could help his fellow Jews-King Artaxerxes.)
[Resource: Hope Under Construction by Gene Getz]

Do we pray like Nehemiah? Are our prayers a priority, out of our deep concern, persistent, and specific?

Philippians 4:6 tells us, Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God.

Nothing I too small or too big to be important to God.

LET IT GROW

 Nehemiah's prayer illustrated Christ's intercession for us, His children. The Father hears the plea of Christ on our behalf.
What were the parts of Nehemiah's prayer?
  1. He acknowledged God's supremacy, power and majesty, and faithfulness.
  2. He confessed their sin, including himself, having lived appalling lives, disobeying His Word.
  3. He pled for God's help, hearing his prayer, remembering His covenant, and for success before the king.
Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

In his book, Hand Me Another Brick, Swindoll gives us 4 reasons for praying:
It makes us wait, clears our vision, quiets our heart, and activates our faith. The Lord is the Specialist we need for those uncrossable and impossible experiences. He delights in accomplishing what we cannot pull off. He listens for our request. Nehemiah's favorite position when faced with problems was the kneeling position. How about you?

LET IT GO

Pray acknowledging who God is and what He has done.

Confess my sins and the sins of others for whom I pray.

Plead for God's help.

Believe He can do the impossible.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Compassionate Cupbearer

O. T. 1,037 "Compassionate Cupbearer" 
August 8, 2017
Nehemiah 1

LET IT GLOW

It was an ordinary day in the life of Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer, when his brother Hannani stopped in for an unexpected visit. A cupbearer was required to taste drinks and food before the Persian King Artaxerxes did in order to make sure it was not poisoned. The two men would have spent much time together and became close. A cupbearer held a prominent, honorable, responsible, and influential position in the kingdom. Nehemiah  risked his life all the day long. What a job!

It was good to have family with whom he could share. But a smile  quickly turned into a frown when Nehemiah asked about home-Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that survived the exile. They were in great affliction and reproach for the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates were burned. (They had remained in this condition since Nebuchadnezzar caused it some 150 years earlier.)

How did Nehemiah react when he heard such distressing news?
He sat down and wept. In fact, for days he mourned, fasted, and prayed to God. His reaction of remorse was similar to that of Ezra whenever he found out he spiritual condition of the remnant in chapter 9.

When we hear bad news, especially about our family, it often takes away our breath. Our compassion and sympathy arises. We want to help those in need.

Are we aware of needy people in our neighborhoods and churches? Are we tenderhearted like Nehemiah?

LET IT GROW

The Jews in Jerusalem were in deep trouble and severe distress and bearing terrible afflictions. They were being reproached and disgraced by the surrounding people and nations. They hardships were described as:
  • economic depression due to famine (5:1-3);
  • oppression due to the greed of certain wealthy farmers and businessmen (5:4-5);
  • persecution as harassment and ridicule from their neighbors (4:1-24);
  • defenseless against enemy attacks since the wall was down and gates were burnt (verse 3).
[Resource: The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible]

Do we feel empathy, identifying with those in need around us? Are our eyes and ears open to others?

Psalm 111:4 and 145:8 describe God as being full of compassion and gracious.

1 Peter 3:8 NLT says, Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

What an example for us.

LET IT GO

Seek the Lord as to how to show compassion, love, and grace toward my brothers and sisters.

Be aware of the needy around me and help them in whatever their situation.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Lizards and Lives

O. T. #1,036  "Lizards and Lives"
August 7, 2017
Introduction to Nehemiah
The survivors in the province, who returned from the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem's wall has been broken down, and is gates have been burned down.  Nehemiah 1:3

LET IT GLOW

As I wrote this, I happened to look down on the floor and saw a tiny lizard staring at me. What in the world are you doing here? How did you get into my house? Your place is outside. Guess I shouldn't leave the door open while I pet and feed my cats on the porch in the morning. Okay, there is a little space under the glass outside door, in which it scooted under. If I had not left the wooden door open, it would not have come in. I tried scooping it up with a magazine, but no it wasn't that simple of a solution. The unusual visitor got scared and went under the furniture. I could see its tail, so I went back to typing, patiently waiting for its showing itself. It did. Quietly I left the room to tell my husband about our uninvited guest. He got gloves on and the hunt was on, but to no avail. Later, the lizard was seen in the restroom, scampering to hide. Guess it will either find its way out or it will surprise me some night, causing me to scream.

What does this visiting lizard have to do with today's lesson? Well, if we open the door of our heart a little to impure thought, immorality and sin, our life becomes shambles, eventually. The Jews had done this. The walls around Jerusalem were broken, allowing the enemies to enter. But God was still on His throne and had a solution. Let's prepare to learn from this man.


After 70 years in Babylonian captivity had passed, the first group of Jews returned home to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem under Zerubbabel's leadership. They had to rebuild everything, from a worship center, houses, businesses, to government. With opposition strong, it took them 20 years to complete the task of rebuilding the Temple of God.

Then after 75 years, Ezra lead the second group of Jews back to Jerusalem. His purpose was to establish a religious education. Ezra found the Jews deep in sin. They had intermarried with the pagans, forsook the worship of God, turned to worshiping idols, and deep in immorality. Through his preaching and praying, repentance and revival came to the Jews.

Now some 12 years later, Nehemiah hears about his Jewish family's fear of their enemies and discouragement in Jerusalem. This came because the walls around the city of Jerusalem had not been repaired. (They had been broken for some 150 years.) Unrepaired walls would allow the enemy easy access into the city. Such a condition left the people defenseless and vulnerable.They needed hope and faith in God renewed and evident. Jerusalem needed a strong city wall.

Our lives are like walls. They are continually before God. (Isaiah 49:15,16) He inscribed our life on His hands. What the walls were to Jerusalem, our lives are before God. When we neglect our spiritual life, we head toward ruin, like Jerusalem's walls.

Anyone in need of hope? Do you know of folks who have broken lives? Continue reading to find out how the Jews obtained it and how we can too.

LET IT GROW

Gene Getz, in his book, Hope Under Construction, explains:
Nehemiah faced an impossible task on an impossible deadline...opposition, false accusations and ridicule from his enemies...betrayal...person and team discouragement... and even conflict and sinful rebellion among his own people. Nehemiah's balance been wholeheartedly trusting God and fiercely exerting his own initiative provides us all with a model of how to demolish discouragement and emerge victorious no matter what we're facing! There are some individuals who have special place in God's scheme of things-people Go chooses to use in unique ways to achieve His purposes. Nehemiah is one of those special people.

With God's help, our efforts honoring Him and done in unity, can accomplish impossible tasks. He gives us purpose, faith, and encouragement we need. Are you one of those special people? Does God want you to be an inspirational leader?

LET IT GO

Watch out for compromises, immorality, procrastination, no time for God, lack of disciple.

Repair the cracks in  faith before it becomes a large hole.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Three R's

O. T. #1,035  "The Three R's"
August 4, 2017
Summary of Ezra
I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God. Ezra 9:5

LET IT GLOW

Do you recall the R's in school-readin', ritin', and 'rithmetic?(Sung to the tune of the hickory stick.) They were the essentials of a well rounded education. Well, today as we review this book, we find the 3 R's in a well rounded spiritual life-repentance, revival, and reformation.

Ezra, a Jewish scribe and priest, wrote this book to teach is people of their history and to learn from their ways (mistakes included). The southern kingdom of Judah had been taken captive by Babylon, and remained there 70 years during the Mede and Persian Empires. When it was in God's timing for them to return to Jerusalem, Cyrus sent the first of group of returnee Jews (about 5,000), who were led by Zerubbabel. Their purpose was to rebuild the Temple of God and the city. They were challenged by local enemies, who caused the reconstruction to take 20 years to complete.

Some 57years later, Ezra led the second group of returnees (about 2,000) with the purpose of  evaluating the situation for King Artaxerxes and reporting to him, as well as establishing a religious education system. While there, he led repentance and revival of the Jews who had intermarried pagans. Included in that group were priests and Levites. Separation from the heathens was demanded by God for His chosen nation. As the disobedient Jews repented, their nation was restored back to God.

Then, some 12 years later, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem, leading the third group of returnees. Their purpose was to rebuild the wall around  the city and support Ezra's reformation. We will study about this in the next book They had their challenges, also.

Are we discouraged by what is happening in our nation, in our community, in our church, in our family? We could be the leader that God wants to raise up to lead them to the 3 R's. It begins with prayer, as Ezra demonstrated for us. As we trust God, He will work it all out for His glory and our good.
As Ezra prayed, in 9:8-15 for a little space grace, to be nailed to the wall, for God to extend His mercy, to repair the desolations and wall. In addition, he confessed they had forsaken God's commandments, for they could not stand before God. As His Word was read, repentance came.
Folks, let us pray for our leaders as we are in  spiritual warfare.

LET IT GO

Pray, pray, pray.

Repent, beg God for revival, and reformation in our nation.

Hold up His Holy Word.


 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What is Acceptable?

O. T. #1034  "What is Acceptable?"
August 3, 2017
Ezra 10-Part 3


LET IT GLOW

What is acceptable-divorce or not? Divorce is such a controversial topic. Each situation is different. It is not my intent to cause confusion, but to look in the Word of God.

Ezra found the first group of returnee Jews were living in sin. They had forsaken God's Laws and His worship. They married pagans who worshiped pagan idols. (Included were the priests and Levites.) Thus immorality was ramped.

Ezra knew:
  • marriage was instituted by God and considered a permanent, exclusive relationship (Gen. 2:24 quoted in Matt. 19:5, Eph. 5:31);
  • the LORD said He hated divorce in Malachi 2:16;
  • God uses marriage to illustrate His own relationship to His people (Hosea 1-3).
Can we see why Ezra spent much time in prayer and fasting, seeking God's direction in this situation?
Jesus plainly taught that divorce is not God's will, in Matthew 19:6.

LET IT GROW

Yet, the family and convictions of the whole religious community were at stake. The purity of the Jewish community must be maintained, superseding marital relationships. Divorce was permissible according to Deuteronomy 24. These marriages were wrong from the outset. The priests and Levites were to be the spiritual leaders, but they strayed away because of their marriages to pagan women.
What a mess the Jews had gotten themselves into.

Ezra was a mighty spiritual leader that God used. Remember, the Jews had confessed and repented of their sins, agreeing with God. They wanted to do what was right, separating themselves from sin. Local family judges heard each case. It took them 3 months to go through the process of divorce, involving 17 priests, 10 Levites, and 87 other men. These were deliberately disobeying God, although they were forgiven, so they made it right.

Paul exhorts the believer with an unbelieving partner not to divorce in 1Corinthians 7:12-16. If the unbelieving spouse leaves, then they are not bound in such a marriage.

No one is so far from God that they can't be reformed. However, when a marriage partner will not reform, continues to be unfaithful or abusive, divorce may be acceptable. Keep praying, friends.

LET IT GO

Repent, renew relationships, separate from unbelievers when they pull me into their sin.

Seek the Lord's will.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When Reality Hits Us Smack in the Face

O. T. #1,033  "When Reality Hits Us Smack in the Face"
August 2, 2017
Ezra 10-Part 2
But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  James 1:22

LET IT GLOW

How do we react when reality hits us smack in the face? It may be something we do not want to hear. It might reveal our failures, our successes, or changes we need to make. It may be that  bad news from the doctor. Will we take the time to look within our self, see what God sees in our heart and life? Is it pleasing to Him?
The first group of Jews who returned to Jerusalem was hit with reality. Shall we find out how they reacted?

There was a crisis threatening the small community of exiles in Judah. It was a terrible sin that had seeped into their lives. Since they had rebuilt and dedicated the new Temple, some 75 years passed. Those Jews became caught up in the possessions and pleasures of the world and in its corrupt, immoral, and wicked behavior.
Then Ezra and the second group of returnees arrived in Jerusalem. Ezra was confronted with a crisis. The spiritual condition of the Jews so burdened him that he prayed confessing their sins to God, as well as weeping bitterly, and fasting.

One of their men were touched by his and he stepped up, challenging the Jews to respond by confessing their sins in repentance. Ezra sought the Lord's direction as he retreated to a room for prayer and fasting. Afterwards, he sent out a proclamation throughout the land of Judah and Benjamin:
  • All of the returned exiles were to assemble in Jerusalem within 3 days.
  • Those who failed to do so would forfeit all their property and be expelled from the assembly of the exiles if the leaders and elders so decided.
  • Then everyone complied with his requirement and assembled in the square before the Temple of God.
  • People were trembling because of the seriousness of the matter and because of the heavy rainfall. (It was the cold and rainy season there.)
  • Ezra spoke to the crowd, saying they had committed a terrible sin, had married pagan women, had increased Israel's guilt. He told them to confess their sin to the LORD, and do what He demands. They were to separate from the people of the land and from the pagan women. (This included divorcing their pagan spouse.)  (verses 7-11)
In other words, don't just be a hearer of the Word of God, but be a doer of the Word also. Do we have sins that have not been confessed? God is a great hearer, but are we? Do we get angry when the preacher touches on something in our lifestyle that is not pleasing to God? Or do we admit it and surrender? Repenting or rebelling?

LET IT GROW

How did the people react?
  • The whole assembly raising their voices and admitted Ezra was right, and they must do what he said.
  • They said it was not a thing to be done in a day or two, for many were involved in this extremely sinful affair.
  • Sin it was the rainy season, they could not stay out there much longer.
  • Let our leaders act on behalf of us all.
  • Let everyone who had a pagan wife come at a scheduled time accompanied by the leaders and judges of his city, so that the fierce anger of our God concerning this affair may be turned away from us. (A divorce process)
Folks, did you sense the humility of the people? They had forsaken the worship of God for idols, lived in immorality as pagans, even married those unbelievers in God and raise children in it. Those Jews were no different from their neighbors.  They had broken God's Laws. (Reality hit them smack in the face with truth. Such sins had resulted in their being taken into captivity earlier and remaining the 70 years. God could do the same thing again.)

There were only 4 men who opposed such a plan. Tomorrow, we will find out whose plans were carried out in the Jewish community.

LET IT GO

When forced to face reality of my sins, confess them to God.

Admit my wrongs, mistakes, sins that displease God.

Do what needs to be done to correct it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Setting Things Straight

O. T. #1032  "Setting Things Straight"
August 1, 2017
Ezra 10

LET IT GLOW

There have been times that I felt convicted that I needed to apologize to someone for the things I said or did that hurt them. What a humbling experience. But God blesses our effort to set things right with others, set things straight. Relationships can be mended, but it may take some time. So be patient while the process of mending takes place. The Jews were in that process in setting things straight with God. Shall we see what happened?

After about five months, Ezra was confronted with a crisis which threatened the very life of the small community of exiles who had returned to Jerusalem. This crisis involved terrible sin that had seeped into the lives of the returned exiles. Many were involved in evil behavior of their unbelieving neighbors. There was a need for revival in Judah/Israel. Ezra was so deeply burdened and prayed to God confessing their sins. Now in the last chapter of this book, we read of the people confessing their sins and repenting, resulting in  revival and restoration.

The Jews were not living lives of spiritual separation as commanded by God in Exodus 34:14-16. They were to worship no other god but the LORD God, for He is a jealous God. Also, the Jews were instructed to not take daughters or sons in marriage. Some men had even divorced their wives to marry unbelievers.

Malachi 2 describes the wife of thy youth as being a companion, a wife of thy covenant. God hates the putting away. We all have it in our families, whether immediate or extended. It is such a deeply hurtful thing. God's law did allow Jews to marry foreigners who turned away from their false worship and wicked lifestyles and turn to the Lord. Ruth was an example of this, and she was the great grandmother of King David.

We read of Ezra's confessing prayer, their past and present sins, their unworthiness of God's goodness.
In verse 1, we read what happened after this great prayer meeting:
  • A very large crowd of Israelis gathered and wept bitterly with Ezra. 
  • Then a man named Shecanaih, a motivated leader, made a significant stand.
  • He admitted they had been unfaithful to God, had married pagan women.
  • But in spite of this there was hope in Israel, the man proclaimed.
  • He challenged the people to make a covenant with their God to divorce their pagan wives and send them away with their children.
  • He called the Jews to follow Ezra's advice.
  • Let it be done according to the Law of God. (Deut. 7:3-4)
  • He told Ezra to get up and tell them how to proceed in setting things straight, for it was his duty.
  • He said they were behind Ezra, so he should be strong and take action.
Will we take a stand against sin and follow God's Word in setting things straight? We can never predict who will follow or benefit from our example. (I'm not advocating that we do such a drastic thing as divorce, for the believing wife can win her husband to Christianity by her manner of life.)
Let us guard our children and grandchildren from heartache as we warn them to not get involved with unbelievers.

LET IT GROW

Ezra stood up and demanded tat the leaders of the priests and the Levites and all the people of Israel swear that they would do as Shecaniah had said. They swore a solemn oath. Then Ezra left the front of the Temple and spent the night in a room where he fasted and continued to mourn because of the unfaithfulness of the returned exiles.
Well, there was only 113 families out of about 29,000 families who committed to following God's Laws.
There is hope in the forgiveness and kindness of God. Before revival comes, confess of sins must occur. As God cleanses our heart, then our attitudes and actions will change.

LET IT GO

Set things straight with God and with others whenever I sin against them.

Stand against sin.

Intercede for others in prayer.