What Do You Think of God?

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

A.W. Tozer

Is He an angry, old man upstairs peering down on you, ready to judge your every move? Is he some master architect or just some impersonal higher power? Maybe as Craig Groeschel suggests, you see Him as (1) An On Demand God who gives you whatever you want when demanded. (2) The Killjoy God who squeezes all the joy and fun out of life.(3) The Goosebumps God who must cater to the whims of your feelings. (4) The Heartless God who shows no love by allowing so many tragedies in the world.

That’s a different god than the God Nehemiah describes. The God of the Bible is a personal, powerful, and lovingly engaged Being. He delivered the Israelites from slavery by parting the Red Sea and leading them to the Promised Land. When they were hungry, God rained down bread from heaven. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. God provided their every need.. Their clothes never wore out!

You would think Israel would be forever grateful. But instead, Nehemiah describes them as entitled, arrogant “stiff-necked” and rebellious. They failed to obey commands and forgot the miracles God performed among them.

God had every right to punish Israel, but instead, He showed them grace. Though there were consequences for their sin, God never abandoned them. He relentlessly pursued them with compassion, love, and protection. That’s the kind of father God is.

Israel’s story is our story. Even when we are sinful, God relentlessly pursues us, acting justly and faithfully. God is not scared of our mess. He meets us right in the middle of it. (He even changed my life.)

Hundreds of years after Nehemiah, God sends the greatest difference maker of all in Jesus. God chose these same Jewish people with their messy past to introduce the Savior of the world to the world. He truly is a gracious God! In light of all God has done, the only appropriate response is gratitude, worship and celebration!

Thomas Chisholm describes Nehemiah’s and my God most accurately:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou has been Thou forever will be.”


Romans 5:6 – 8

Time to Move On

Why do we hold on to the past – experiences that have caused us great pain and suffering? Know this, the past may have shaped you, but it doesn’t define you. You can learn to let go of the past and move forward into the future God has planned for you. That’s the message Nehemiah and Ezra communicated to the people of Israel after they completed the wall and heard the reading of the Scriptures.

The people wept over how far they had walked away from God. Yes, the Word brings conviction.  Ezra, a teacher of the law, and Nehemiah, the governor, told them to move past their guilt and shame and accept the forgiveness of God. They weren’t giving the people permission to sin. Instead, they were redirecting the people’s attention: Stop focusing on how bad we are, and start focusing now on how great God is. Nothing could erase the past; but with repentant hearts, it was time to move on.
We are all broken. Like the Jewish people, we have fallen short of God’s standard and rebelled against Him. The good news for every believer is that Jesus made it possible to move past our guilt, shame and grief. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
We may not feel forgiven immediately, but we are. When Jesus forgives us, we are truly forgiven. Once we’ve confessed our sin to Jesus and repented, it’s time to stop grieving, embrace His love and move forward in His purpose for us. When

General feelings of worthlessness and shame are not the same as conviction, and these feelings are not from God. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When we trust that Jesus’ payment was enough, we receive abundant and everlasting grace.

Jesus really does love and forgive us. To be a difference maker, we must operate in Jesus’ strength, choosing His grace over our shame.
What shame and guilt are you carrying today? Surrender to Jesus, confess your sin,accept forgiveness and embrace His joy and move on. Remember: :The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

More Than a Number

Why do you suppose Nehemiah records so many names in his account of those returning to settle in Jerusalem? The names serve to focus our attention on the promises God made to His people. They remind the workers they are part of one special family of purpose. Perhaps most importantly, the names remind us that these were real people with real stories who made a real difference.
There is no doubt the Bible is full of numbers. In fact there’s a whole book called Numbers! God is not scared of numbers and neither should we be. Through the Gospels and Acts we read about the numbers involved in Jesus’s ministry, discipleship team, and the expansion of the early Church. 
Jesus reminds us of the importance of keeping record  when he  said in Matthew 18:12, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the 99 others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” This passage suggests that we are to care for His sheep. That means knowing the health and state of the flock.  How many are in the pasture? Is anyone missing? Does anyone need extra attention?
We should count people, because people count. If each one is precious to God, then each one should be precious to us. We all need to understand that  every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God. He really does care about people and so should we – those in the family of God as well as those far from home 

Dividing Line

As we journey through the book of Nehemiah, we come to a dividing line at chapter 7.  There is a dramatic shift. Chapter 1-6 focuses on the construction of the wall under the extraordinary leadership of Nehemiah. Chapters 7 – 13 direct our attention to the consolidation of the city. The phases are distinctly different, but entirely necessary. Hence, Nehemiah has to change hats and shift his focus and role.

In the initial phase, the construction phase, Nehemiah gets the vision and serves at the catalyst to get the project going. He secures the materials, surveys the site, lays out the plans, builds a team and ensures the project stayed on schedule, despite stiff opposition, to the “ribbon-cutting.”  He serves as the designer, the motivator, manager and the entrepreneur. He got the job done in fifty-two days!

Now in the consolidation phase, Nehemiah becomes governor and must ensure that the city and its people not only survives but thrives. He now selects and appoints spiritual leaders of integrity and faithfulness to oversee the local affairs of the city. He addresses poverty, injustices, population, security, and spiritual worship.

As Jerusalem needed a leader of character to guide them through both phases, we also need leaders who will fulfill both roles in our families, churches, communities and our government. We need the visionaries, the builders, and the consolidators who will address the broken down walls of our society and point us to the worship of the “great and awesome God.”
Who are you leading to worship the awesome God?
Are you a builder or consolidator?


Read Nehemiah 7


I’m Not Qualified

Have you ever felt like God wants to use you to do something significant and you hesitated? You asked “Why would God use me”?  Then you started to make excuses: “I don’t know enough Bible. I don’t have great talent. I still lose my temper every now and then. Believe me I occasionally have my doubts. Furthermore, I’m  no spiritual giant.”  But God doesn’t always use the strong, educated, influential or accomplished people to do His work.
When Nehemiah set off to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he did so with a burdened heart. He was not a builder, a carpenter or mason. He had been the king’s cupbearer. The people of the city were broken and disorganized, in need of a leader who could show them what to do. During the reconstruction, Nehemiah became the leader who brought out their strengths. He organized the people, protected them, and pooled their resources so they could see each others’ strengths.
Once the walls had been rebuilt, Jerusalem needed new leaders—proper, permanent, capable leaders. And given what the Jewish people had gone through, their new leaders had to be strong. You would think Jerusalem’s next leader would be someone with a lengthy resume and accolades of all kinds. But instead, Nehemiah gave responsibility for the city to Hanani and Hananiah.
These men had no special qualifications for leadership, but they were perfect for the job. Hanani and Hananiah were virtuous, faithful, God-fearing men who could be trusted to carry out God’s work. Their agenda was God’s will, and that’s what it takes to be a difference maker. Leadership techniques change, and popularity can diminish, but integrity and reverence never go out of style.

“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!”


Read: Nehemiah 7  

          1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Teamwork on Display

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ken Blanchard said,” None of us is as smart as all of us.” How true!  Successful leaders know that no one can be the best at everything. But when we all combine our talents and skills, we can be the best at virtually anything. It was teamwork that got us to the moon.
As we read through the book of Nehemiah we can see the display and impact of teamwork. Chapter 3 puts teamwork on display in style. Forty-two teams of workers—thirty-eight named individuals and hundreds more unnamed—worked together to rebuild Jerusalem’s broken walls. The high priest and fellow priests did not consider manual labor beneath them. They pitched in, took the lead, and set the example for the people (vv. 1, 28).
The rulers, nobles, and city officials who could have ordered their servants to do the manual work, rolled up their sleeves and labored alongside the common people (vv. 9, 12, 17, 19). Craftsmen—goldsmiths and perfume makers who normally did artisan work—roughed it out under the hot sun (vv. 8, 31–32). Men and women worked side by side to accomplish their work (v. 12).
The word next (used twenty-six times in Nehemiah 3) gives us a picture of commitment, cooperation, harmony, and unity. Each group of workers knew where to work, understood their tasks, and expeditiously completed them. They understood the saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”  Nehemiah and his people demonstrated that when you have a common vision, connected with individual accomplishment, common people can achieve uncommon results.
The Bible urges us to pursue teamwork as a model of living out our faith in Jesus. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25). We  are called to  meet together, work together, run together to finish the race set before us in winning style.
So, are you a team player in helping to build the Kingdom? What step can you take today to further the cause?
Read:  Nehemiah  3
            Hebrews 10:24-25
            Hebrews 12:1-3

Compelling Purpose

In his bestselling book Rick Warren’s  repeatedly asks, “What on earth are you here for?” He challenges individuals to determine their unique calling that best utilizing their strengths and impacts the world around them. That’s probably the question Nehemiah asked himself when his enemies sought to distract him from building the wall of Jerusalem.
Great lives are produced by a commitment to a great cause.  Great people are usually just ordinary people who have made a great commitment to a great cause.  That cause draws them out of themselves and makes them more than they could be on their own.  Isn’t it true that  all successful teams form around purpose, and they bond by pursuing that purpose together?
 Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird in Outreach Magazine suggests that successful teams thrive on the 5Cs of a compelling purpose: clear, compelling, challenging,calling-oriented and consistently held. There is no doubt that Nehemiah has a compelling purpose. Notice his reply to his critics: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”
What motivates you to get out of bed every day? What motivates you to live the rest of your life?  What motivates you to keep on going? Until you have a compelling purpose for your life, you’re just existing.  I suggest that the most compelling purpose in life, that you can give your life for is the kingdom of God.  There’s no greater investment that will pay you dividend into eternity.

Criticism a Gift?

Anytime you want to make a difference, there will be critics. Every difference maker faces opposition. Nehemiah experienced resistance first hand. The critics showed up as the wall started going up. They continued taunting Nehemiah and his crew throughout the process. To the critic, rebuilding the wall seemed impossible. They rooted for the Jews to fail. Anytime we take a next step, we experience criticism just as Nehemiah did.
Criticism will surely come when we take a stand for Jesus. It’s often because the change we are experiencing challenges and convicts them of their own lack of action.  Our success draws attention to their personal failures. So when the critics come, we can follow Nehemiah’s example and focus on what God is calling us to do. Or, we can be distracted by the critics who are rooting for us to fail. But, we can’t do both.
Criticism is really a gift if we seize it as an opportunity to strengthen our faith in the Lord, who is strong and mighty. Jesus never ran away from criticism. He embraced it as a gift that can be used to become courageous in the midst of fear. We may not seek out criticism, but it may be a gift we really need.
Overcoming opposition and criticism is about realizing who we are and what we’ve been called by God to do. When we seek God’s voice above all others, we’ll find the confidence to do the work. Just as Nehemiah refused to come off the wall, we must not be distracted from the mission God gave us.
How can you prepare your heart for the criticism that’s sure to come today?

Integrity Amidst Rumors & Opposition

When the enemy can’t discourage us or distract us from the vision God has given us, he will seek to discredit us. That’s what Nehemiah’s enemies did. They sought to discredit him by spreading rumors about his motives and tempting him to compromise.  They were relentless in their attempts to discredit Nehemiah.
After five attempts to get Nehemiah to stop building the wall, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem conspired to circulate a report accusing him of leading a revolt against the king. They assured him that a report of his scheme will not be favorable to the king. This was an intimidation attempt to discredit him.  Nehemiah’s response: He denied the charge, prayed, and continued working on the wall.
You can be sure that when you seek to do something to please God, people will gossip about you, misinterpret your motives and misunderstand what you are doing. The more you are focused, the more likely the enemies will bad-mouth you and seek to discredit you.
When intimidation and rumors failed, the enemies tried to get Nehemiah to compromise. They tried to lure him to the temple through a false prophet for personal protection.  They wanted to compromise his integrity, sin and discredit himself in the process. In addition, they planned to assassinate him. How cunning!
Nehemiah’s response: “Should a man like me
run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!”
In other words, Nehemiah determined to maintain his integrity at all cost.  It was important to him, especially as a leader. Is integrity important to you in your family, your marriage, your work, and your business?

Our New Sermon Series

Every new day, we make decisions about who we want to be. We make resolutions; we set goals. Often, these goals are focused on ourselves. Losing weight, saving money ;even the best goals are often inherently self-centered. Christ did not call us to live that way. To live the life God has for us, we must be willing to reject our own comfort for the good of others.
It’s not easy, and it sure isn’t comfortable. But when you deny yourself,God can do so much more.
When you serve more, you take less.
When you give more, you need less.
When you thank more, you want less.
When there’s more of God, you’re Selfless
Let’s discover how we can change our world during our New Series: Selfless  starting this weekend, Sunday, October 14.

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