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?


Well, today is National Heroes Day here in the Bahamas. It is the day we look back and honor those men and women who have made significant contributions to our nation. It could be in education, defense, politics, government, innovation or business. Generally, such honorees have been focused, committed to the cause they pursued, and succeeded against the odds.
Nehemiah was also a man committed to a cause and with a single focus – building the wall of Jerusalem. Nothing would deter him from the task. In fact, the closer he got to completing what God called him to do, the harder the enemy fought to stop him. They sought to discourage, distract and discredit him.
Here is what Nehemiah said:

When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it — though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates. Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono…” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”

The enemy’s strategy was to distract him from his mission and harm him. But, Nehemiah stayed focused on the”great project” and refused  to give in and be distracted.
When you attempt to do what God wants, there will be detractors and distractions which will seek get you off course. Sometimes the distractions  will be obvious – too much time checking email, watching too much television, or playing games on our phone.  Other times they will be more subtle and detrimental.   Sometimes even good things can distract you from your mission, if you’re not careful.
So when you’re on the wall doing what God has called you to do and distractions come,(big or small) respond like Nehemiah: “I’m NOT coming down”!

Freedom Bearer

Have you ever felt like you were trapped with no way out? Maybe it is an unhealthy, marital relationship. Maybe it is an addiction to pornography or drug or alcohol. May be you are drowning in financial death. May be you are simply trapped in a meaningless routine life?  Well, you are not the first to feel overwhelmed.
As we read the fifth chapter of Nehemiah, we discover that the Jewish families in Jerusalem are deep in debt. Some have borrowed to the point that their children are taken into slavery. Can you imagine being so pressured by your financial situation that you put your own children’s freedom in jeopardy? Well, that is exactly what is happening.   Nehemiah could have ignored the situation. He could have taken a “that’s – not – my- problem” attitude but he did not.  Nehemiah took action to address greed and financial oppression by the local leaders. He was a champion for the people of God. He was not only a builder of the wall, he was a freedom bearer to the people he loved.
Jesus also calls and empowers us who have been made free to liberate others. Are you a bearer of freedom to others?  Do you confront injustice when it raises its ugly head in your community?

Integrity Matters

There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about integrity especially as it relates to Judge Kavanaugh’s  and his nomination to the US Supreme Court. Many have questioned his integrity in the light of several allegations involving sexual misconduct.
In the Old Testament Nehemiah faced a difficult choice which involved integrity.. The people’s vineyards, lands, and houses were at risk because of outrageous taxes imposed by the king. Now, the people suffered doubly as their own Jewish leaders extended loans with enormous interest rates. Their leaders behaved like loan sharks! Nehemiah could’ve taken the easy way out and kept quiet. Instead, he chose integrity. Read more…