“I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4) In the weeks ahead, we may look back and wonder how Paul could have been thankful for this group. For 16 chapters in 1 Corinthians and 12 more in 2 Corinthians he struggles with these folks on many theological and moral issues. They are arguing among themselves. They condone immorality and misuse spiritual gifts. This church is a mess! But they are also people in whom Paul sees the grace of God at work and he is thankful. It is a good reminder to me. No wrong or weakness should take away my gratitude for people in God’s family. We are all flawed. Rather than reject others for their imperfections, I am to be thankful and vested in their growth. If God has given me grace, and He has, then I should return the favor by giving it to others. More as the week continues. My love to you, dear friends. Don
Nehemiah was angry. He was also wise enough to “consult with himself” (vs 5:7) before he said something he would regret. Nevertheless, he was very angry that some of the leaders of Jerusalem were “not playing on the team”, not working toward agreed-on purposes. He was seeking the welfare of the city, they were seeking personal gain. They were “selling” their brothers (vs 8) at the very moment that he was “paying the price” (both personal and financial) for them to be free. They were pulling. He was pushing. Do we ever find a similar situation in modern churches? families? nations? As we come to worship this morning, please look around and consider, “Are all of these people here for the same purpose?” “Are we working together?” “Are we on the same team and, if not, what must be done to learn and experience the unity of the Spirit?” I am looking forward to seeing you in a few hours. We have much to talk about together. My love to you dear friends, Don
I am glad to finally learn the lesson. The KINGDOM comes with a certain amount of CONFLICT. If everyone is happy, something is usually not right. I learned it by watching the Lord deal with the Pharisees. A serious collision! I saw it again watching Paul confront Peter regarding his attitude and behavior toward Gentiles. I saw it, this week, in Nehemiah. When things were unfair and SELF-centered, when people claimed the Kingdom but acted the world, he confronted it. One of the things that gives me hope for FBC these days is a growing willingness to confront issues that in the past have been too volatile. No ugliness, just courage. It makes me excited for the future! It makes me know that we are part of the Kingdom of God. I believe Jesus understands and approves. I think Nehemiah does too. I will see you tomorrow in worship. My great love to you all, Don
It will be a good sign when we can weep again. It will be a sign of spiritual awakening, an indication that the Spirit of God is helping us “hear” and at sufficient depth of soul that we understand our desperate condition. On that day, tears will indicate our hunger for light and life–not just for ourselves, but for others as well. Nehemiah wept. I hope you will read chapter 1 of his story. When he heard the condition of Jerusalem he fasted and prayed and confessed his sins. He was not emotionally numb. Are we? It reminds me of the Gospel of Mark. (new Wednesday night study, first lecture was this past week) When John the Baptist came, he brought a national spiritual awakening and, with it, an intense awareness of sin. “they were being baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5) They were upset and highly motivated. It was a good sign, a sign of God’s grace. I’m convinced it will be for us as well.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) It is a miracle whenever it happens–unity among brothers. Our sinful tendencies are in the opposite direction. Churches split (and families). Nations divide up into “special interest groups” and create a climate of harsh criticism and non-cooperation. Dangerous! “Brothers, we will either hang together or we will hang separately” Ben Franklin reportedly told the members of the Continental Congress. Nehemiah is, therefore, that much more inspiring. He has the courage to face issues honestly and require them to be addressed publically. He is selfless and sacrificial and courageous. As you read Nehemiah 2 and 5, as you prepare for Sunday worship and study, what steps could you take, to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”? (Ephesians 4:3) As the Lord guides you to act with courage and humility for the purpose of unity, will you?
I learn leadership by reading Nehemiah. He reminds me of the priority of unity. To acheive the purposes of God, people must work together. Paul understood the same principle. “Only conduct yourselves in a mannner worthy of the gospel of Christ. . .standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27) When the inner unity of a church or a family or a Bible class breaks down, it has to be confronted. Observe Nehemiah in chapter 5 of this week’s Re Verse reading. He knows that disagreements must be honestly faced before God’s people can “get back to work” (the wall, remember?) Confrontation is not a job I like. It requires courage and prayer. It is, however, a job that “comes with the territory” of seeking the purposes of God. Remember Christ cleansing the temple? Confronting Peter? May God give us courage to face issues honestly. It is a necessary step toward peace.
Nehemiah was a good man and a great leader. (Re Verse assignment for this week is Nehemiah 2 and 5) Part of his effectiveness was his passion. He reminds me of King David–highs and lows, emotionally honest always. In chapter 1 Nehemiah is SAD. In chapter 5 he is ANGRY. Rather than “stuffing” or denying these emotions, He presents himself to the Lord in prayer. Prayer is his way to process emotions and focus them into obedience. He becomes a guided missile. One of the best leaders I ever knew had strong emotions. He could be angry, he could be kind. What made him remarkable was his steady commitment to harnass his emotions before the Lord, to give Christ control of all feelings. I wonder, today, whether I hide my emotions rather than admit them to Christ and submit them to Christ. More to follow this week. What I know today is that Nehemiah was a passionate and effective man.
The Bible has a bias towards builders. Noah builds a boat. Solomon builds a temple. The Lord, Himself, was a carpenter. No suprise that we conclude our study of the Old Testament with a focus on Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2 and 5) Years later he is still “at it”, rebuilding a just Jewish society. Are we builders? I know it is easier to complain, but is sideline-criticism a godly choice? Are we committed to building a church? A sunday school class? A family? A business? Isaiah prophesied the coming of a group of people who, by the power of the Spirit, would rebuild. “And the Lord will continually guide you. . .And you will be like a watered garden. . .And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins. . . . you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell” (Isaiah 58:11-12) Are we builders? I am praying for you as you read and reflect this week. Don
“Speaking the truth in love, let us grow up into Him who is the head” (Ephesians 4:15 ) Have you seen the movie “The Help”? Holly and I went on Friday. It is an inspiring story of black maids in the 1960’s South who were willing to speak about their experiences despite the negative reaction that was sure to come from such honesty. Abelene, the main character, finally found courage to do what was right as she listened to a sermon. (Lord, make me such a preacher!) She reminded me of Esther–moving forward on moral certainty alone, having no other hope than the help of God. Have you reached the point where you are willing to do the same? As you enter the presence of the King, are you prepared to speak the truth and ask for the highest good, without fear of what others will do or say? Father, make us like Abelene. Like Esther. Like Jesus. I will see you in a few hours at worship. My love to you, dear friend. Don
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. . .I do not know which to choose.” (Phil. 1:21-22) The Apostle Paul and Queen Esther had arrived at the same place– a calm heart in the face of death. “If I perish, I perish” were her words. It was a possibility that she could not control and would not worry about. She would concentrate on doing what was right and leave the outcome to God. Most of us would greatly benefit from a similar release. The Bible speaks of people who “through fear of death are subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:15) It is tragic, being so afraid of death that we are afraid to live. Friend, as you pray today, will you surrender to the Lord the length of life? Will you leave the decision in His hands and find the strength that comes as “daily bread”? Never finding life is far worse than dying. Ask Esther.