Trouble in the Rubble

Micro Devotionals for busy people –  reading through the Bible at savouring pace.

Nehemiah 2:11-18 NIV

THE PEOPLE BACK IN JERUSALEM ACCEPTED THE STATUS QUO – they lived in the rubble of the ruined city wall and temple for the last 70 years.

  • Many grew up around the ruins –  their houses are built up against it.
  • They just got used to it.

NEHEMIAH IS IN JERUSALEM AND  INSPECTS THE WALLS AND GATES AT NIGHT.

 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 

They needed prodding. Maybe Nehemiah sees on their faces, “there is no way we can do this work”.

I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

NEHEMIAH GIVES HIS TESTIMONY

  •  “You will never believe the conversation I had with king Artaxerxis!”
  • “He even authorised the rebuilding and  funded the whole project.”
  • “Yes God’s good hand was on me – we can do this good work!”

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IF WE LIVE IN THE RUBBLE LONG ENOUGH IT CAN BECOME “OUR NEW NORMAL.”  Do we see the trouble we are in and what is at stake?

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  • This is just me, my white lies and my personality.

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  • This is our marriage, the slow drift apart, the communication breakdown – that is just how things are with us now.

HAVE WE MADE PEACE WITH THE RUINS?

  • Have we got used to the tragedy that our family and friends live with their backs to God?
  • Are we still broken over their quiet or defiant opposition to Jesus who came to save  and are we ready to share Jesus’ love with them?
  • Is it old hat for us that millions of babies are aborted, unmarried couples live together, divorce is easy, that the unreached have not heard the Name of Jesus?

CAN WE SEE THE TROUBLE IN THE RUBBLE – OR HAVE WE BECOME TOO FAMILIAR WITH IT?

  • Do we still want to fight the good fight of raising godly children, forgive and enemy, show Jesus to the lost, bring justice to the vulnerable, plant a church?
  • Will we look to God to have His good hand on us, to strengthen our hands and to rise up and build?
  • Today!

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Meet Fear with Faith and Preparation

Micro Devotionals for busy people –  reading through the Bible at savouring pace.

Nehemiah 2:1-9 CEV

NEHEMIAH CONFRONTS HIS FEAR WITH PREPARATION.

  • He wasted no time in waiting.
  • He has been praying and fasting for four months.
  • He knows from the Old Testament what God’s plans are for His people.

Wonderful things can happen in the season of waiting. 

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NEHEMIAH GETS CLARITY IN WHAT GOD WOULD HAVE HIM DO IN HIS TIME OF WAITING.

  • When the king asks Nehemiah, what he needs and how long it is going to take, he immediately has an answer.
  • The king asks how long is it going to take? Nehemiah can give him a time. New tells him I need lumber, a letter to the keeper of the forest, the letter to a governor, an army to get there, personal finances to build my own home.
  • Nehemiah has all in place.

In his waiting Nehemiah planned, learned and grew.  

  • If we are going to face our fears, we are going to have to add to our prayers, planning.
  • Nehemiah can move forward with confidence because he has already prayed, knows God’s plans for His people and started to strategise.

APPLICATION. Some of us are afraid to share our faith with our children, family, community because we don’t know how to share it.

  • We may never have thought any of this through or maybe we’re not familiar enough with the gospel.
  • Let’s get to know the good news of Jesus, read a book on apologetics, learn to articulate on issues in our own style.
MEET FEAR WITH FAITH AND PREPARATION

 

Terrifying Fear and Bold Faith

Micro Devotionals for busy people at savouring pace.

Please feel free to hop on the bus and join the 3 year plan at any point, or just read along.

A brief summary of part of JR Vassar’s sermon.

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IT ALL BEGAN 4 months before, when Nehemiah heard the distressing news that the Jerusalem city walls and gates were in ruins.

  • Jerusalem….where God promised to place His Name!
  • God’s glory and reputation were at stake and His people vulnerable.

Nehemiah wept, prayed, fasted, meditated on God’s Word and reminded Him of His instruction.

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IN GOD’S STUNNING GRACE HE IS A GOD OF RENEWAL, SALVATION AND GATHERING. 

  • He will lift up what sin has levelled.
  • He is going to raise up what the enemies knocked down.
  • He takes what is ruined and broken, renews and restores and makes beautiful in His time.

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NEHEMIAH TEACHES US TO SEE THE WORLD AS IT IS AND TO WEEP AND PRAY – to be broken over what God is broken over.

  • Are we perhaps detached?
  • Do we slow down, check out the brokenness, only to accelerate and speed right past the rubble and brokenness?

GOD PUTS A VISION IN NEHEMIAH’S HEART –  so compelling he has to pursue it!

  • He moves from prayer to prayerful action, stepping right into the vision God has for him.
  • Immediately he’s confronted with overwhelming fear.

NEHEMIAH IS AT A ROYAL BANQUET in the company of the king and queen of Persia, the super power of the day.  Nehemiah has a highly responsible job to serve the king with wine and a smiley face.

THE KING NOTICES NEHEMIAH’S DEPRESSED EXPRESSION AND CONFRONTS HIM.

  • He is terrified because he could actually get killed for showing a sad face in the king’s presence!
  • Imagine that kind of power: someone’s not smiling around you and you can order his execution.

Nehemiah faces his overwhelming fear with bold faith in His God of heaven who is great and awesome.  

IN THIS TERRIFYING MOMENT HE GOES RIGHT AHEAD AND ASKS A HUGE REQUEST OF THE KING. Would the king let him return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall.

  • Several years earlier this same king Artaxerxes received a letter from the enemies of the Jerusalem Jews, saying they plan to build the wall and this would have negative consequences for the Persian kingdom.
  • Artaxerxes shut the building project down.

Now here is Nehemiah is asking for nothing less than that same project to start back up again.

Nehemiah 2:4-8 NIV  Nehemiah 2:4-8 CEV    BOLD FAITH IN THE FACE OF TERRIFYING FEAR KNOWING THE SCRIPTURES, KNOWING GOD.

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If we want to share the gospel, or stand for justice or plant a church or go to the nations, fear is always going to raise its objections and try to stop and paralyse us.

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Summer is disappearing, School is starting again.

To Our Kids On the First Day of School August 2017

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Kids,
Here we go – another summer behind you, another school year ahead. Some of you are excited and can’t wait to get back to the classroom. Others of you … not so much. Either way, here are five things your mom and I want you to remember:

Take Advantage

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  • You are in a position that many kids around the world can only dream about.
  • You get to go to a school where teachers care about you, where you don’t have to be afraid, where you you can learn about anything that interests you (and a few things that don’t interest you but you need to know anyway).

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You don’t realize it because you have never known anything else, but you have every advantage, so take advantage.

  • Work hard. Do your best.
  • Use the talents God has given you. Respect your teachers.
  • When you’re tempted to take shortcuts or skip work because fun is waiting, don’t.
  • The four walls of your classroom may seem confining, but they will take you farther than you know.
  • Do the work, and you’ll be rewarded.

It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable 600 Emotions Concepts 6October2016-24

  • You know that funny little feeling you get when your teacher starts to talk about a new topic or a new skill and you don’t know how to do it and you’re worried you won’t do it right and you’re not really sure what to do next?
  • Feeling that way usually means you’re about to become a better person.
  • You’re going to learn something new that will improve your game, build your skills and move you forward.
  • If everything is always exactly the way you like it, you will never grow or change.

(Here’s a secret – we get that feeling pretty much every day as a parent.)

Focus on others

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  • Most kids think only about what they want, what’s good for them and how they can get it before anyone else.
  • We want you to think of others as more important than yourself.
  • Let someone else go first. Save the best birthday cupcake for your friend.
  • Ask other kids questions about themselves instead of talking endlessly about yourself.

Some of you have lots of really good friends, and some are starting with a new class.

  • Either way, be aware of everyone else around you.

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  • Find the kid who’s playing by himself at recess and ask if you can play too.
  • Make sure the new girl who’s shy has someone to talk to.

By the way, this starts at home with your siblings. I know, I know. Just do it anyway.

Build Character

  • Learn to do what’s right now, when you’re small and the consequences are small.
  • Build the habits that will stick with you through the rest of your life.

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  • Then when the consequences are big, you won’t even have to think about it – you’ll automatically do the right thing.

Don’t wait – even kids are known by their actions, and we want you to build a reputation now for being honorable, having integrity and doing what’s right.

  • Tell the truth, even when it might get you in trouble.
  • When things go wrong – and they will – don’t be bitter.
  • Keep your head up, your eyes clear and your heart full of God’s love.

There’s More Than You Can See

  • You head off to school today in a world full of good and evil. Your sense of that world is small.
  • You don’t know what’s out there yet – what experiences wait for you, what you like, what you don’t like, what you will be and do.
  • You will learn so much this year about how everything in that world works, from science to language to the history that brought us to this point.
  • And learn where true peace can be found/

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As you begin to explore, remember there is more to this life than you can see.

  • Put your faith not just in objects you can touch, but in things unseen.
  • Remember that our heavenly Father and Lord keeps it all going.
  • Remember that He has plans for you  and you won’t feel quite right until you fill His purposes for you.

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And remember that your mom and I love you.

  • We can’t wait to see what you accomplish this year.

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  • Now go get ’em – not wise in your own eyes but depending on God’s wisdom.

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Mom and Dad

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How to Know How to Pray.

Micro Devotionals for busy people –  reading through the Bible at savouring pace.

Nehemiah 1 – a summary from Jim Hamilton’s commentary.

(Please feel free to hop on the bus and join the 3 year plan at any point, or just read along)

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JERUSALEM’S FUTURE IS BLEAK AND NEHEMIAH IS DISTRAUGHT – on whom will he call? On whom will we call in our hour of need?

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NEHEMIAH KNEW HIS GOD FROM THE SCRIPTURE AND HISTORY AND THAT HE COULD RELY ON THE LORD OF HEAVEN.

Nehemiah knew, from the Scriptures what God promised he would do.

JERUSALEM’S WALLS ARE BROKEN AND THE GATES ARE BURNED DOWN. 

  • It’s November/December 20 years after Artexexus started his reign.
  • Nehemiah is in the persian king’s winter palace and employment.

WHEN NEHEMIAH HEARD THIS DISTRESSING NEWS FROM HIS BROTHER, HE WEPT.

  • Passionate Nehemiah – passionate for God’s kingdom, emotional about Jerusalem.
  • In mourning and deep sorrow he intercedes with fasting and prayer.

NEHEMIAH KNOWS THINGS ABOUT GOD FROM THE SPIRIT INSPIRED SCRIPTURES:

“Oh Yahweh Lord God of heaven, the great and fearsome God who keeps the covenant and steadfast love with those who fear Him and keep HIs commandments.

God is the covenant-keeping God and Nehemiah asks God to do what God has so graciously committed Himself to doing.

HOW DID NEHEMIAH KNOW THAT HE CAN PRAY LIKE THIS? How did he know that God doesn’t abandon His steadfast love for those who fear and love to do His will?

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Nehemiah based his prayer on Deuteronomy 4:25-31.  (It may be easier to read Deuteronomy 4:25-31 here.)

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  • Leviticus 26:40-42 also predicts exile for disobedience and promising restoration from exile.

NEHEMIAH HAS READ THE SCRIPTURES AND MEDITATED ON GOD’S JUSTICE, COMPASSION AND MERCY FOR HIS PEOPLE.

He has read that if they will humble themselves and confess their sin of compromise and unfaithfulness to God – then God will remember His people and His covenant with them.

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There’s Joy, There’s Hope!

Micro Devotionals for busy people –  reading through the Bible at savouring pace.

Please feel free to hop on the bus and join the 3 year plan at any point, or just read along.

Ezra 6:13-22 CEV

THE TEMPLE IS COMPLETED AND THE PASSOVER IS CELEBRATED! 

God prospered His people through all the difficulties – what a testimony for those who are now struggling to build the city and walls through difficulties and what an encouragement for us today.

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God accomplishes his decrees through the decrees of kings and through prophets and men like Ezra spurring on the people through God’s Word.

God is for Ezra’s generation just as he was for those who rebuilt the temple in the first generation and He is also for us His children and His church.

THE TEMPLE CONSTRUCTION  IS COMPLETED!

  • God gave the temple to his people to make a way to be cleansed of sin and be in relationship with a holy God who lives in the temple.
  • We no longer offer sacrifices. Jesus died to make a complete and full atonement for our sin, realising that a holy God is against our sin.

This testimony stokes the fires of hope that God will prosper the city-builders too and those who see His kingdom today too.

THERE IS JOY!

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HOLINESS AND SEEKING THE LORD.

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IN THE REST OF THE BOOK OF EZRA we see how God raised up Ezra and used him to bring a revival of understanding of the Word of God at this new exodus from Babylon to Jerusalem.  Exciting!

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There is no Setback God cannot Bless.

 

Micro Devotionals for busy people –  reading through the Bible at savouring pace.

Please feel free to hop on the bus and join the 3 year plan at any point or just read along.

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Ezra 5:1-12 NIV no in the CEV

ENCOURAGED BY  THE THE PROPHETS HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH, THE RETURNEES FROM BABYLON’S SLEEVES ARE ROLLED UP AND THEY ARE BUILDING THE TEMPLE.

  • The enemies Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai ask the Persian king Darius to search the archives to verify the returnees’ claim that the Persian king Cyrus decreed the rebuild.
  • And that’s exactly what happened – King Cyrus’ royal decree, which authorised the Jews to build together and fund the project – is found!

Ezra 6:1-12 CEV

GOD TURNS SATAN’S EFFORTS AGAINST GOD’S PEOPLE INTO BLESSINGS FOR THEM. 

  • Satan succeeds in having Jesus the Messiah crucified, fulfilling God’s plan of love and eternal life to save those who believe.
  • God will do this in our lives too. He will.

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There is no setback, failure, tragedy, disappointment or defeat that God can’t use to bless us.

THE PERSIAN KING DARIUS’S DETAILED RESPONSE TO THE JEWS’ ENEMIES  – Ezra 6:6-12 CEV

  1. He tells the enemies to stay away from the place where the temple is getting built – to clear out and to stop intimidating them, to stay away.
  2. King Darius goes a step further and makes them to pay and contribute towards the temple.
  3. Ezra 6:8-9See King Darius threats to God’s people’s enemies.  Ezra 6:11-12 Imagined being stabbed by a sharpened wooden beam.

IF WE WERE INVOLVED IN THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE AND BEING THREATENED HOW WOULD WE RESPOND?

  1. Would we be calling on God’s Name and would we have stood firm?
  2. Or would we respond with pessimism and despair as though we don’t know God?

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LET US BE ENCOURAGED WHEN WE ARE TEMPTED TO DESPAIR. 

  • God uses even opposition to bless His people. God ieven gets the pagan kings to fund God’s work.
  • We see here that we can trust God’s Word and plans and He will prosper us in making disciples.

GOD LOVES US HIS PEOPLE AND ALWAYS DOES WHAT IS RIGHT. Those who trust the Lord their God and believe what His promises, are blessed in all they do.

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