Dedication Day

neh-titleIf you have been reading the blog lately, you know we’ve been in a series on Nehemiah. Nehemiah 12 is another list of names, just as we’ve seen several times already. This chapter is also Dedication Day! What an exciting moment for all who had taken part in rebuilding. There are four specific things that we learn about this day:

IT WAS A DAY OF SMILING
Verse 27 says, “Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness.…” As Christians we should be a happy people! Christians ought to have more fun going to Heaven than the world does going to Hell. Our sins have been forgiven! There is now no condemnation. Nothing can rob us of our joy! The world did not give it and the world can’t take it away. How could there possibly be a sad face or frown on Dedication Day?

People are so depressed. Why? They are dedicated to things they think will make them happy. Those things aren’t all wrong, but whatever you do, do all for the glory of God. Sin will not bring you satisfaction. It only brings sorrow and sadness. The people had been giving themselves to the work of the Lord, and they had joy!

IT WAS A DAY OF SINGING
The second half of verse 27 says, “… both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps.” It was not a dirge or funeral song. It was not meditative music. They are happy. The Christian life is a party, not a funeral.

In verse 31 we read that Nehemiah appointed two large thanksgiving choirs. Choirs are biblical. In Nehemiah 7:67 we read about a 245-voice choir. Look back at the text. Worship is not a spectator sport. You do not come to church to be a spectator but a participator. This is not a concert! Sit and listen to the professionals? NO! Everyone got on the wall. There were two groups in harmony that lifted up their voices. Do you have talent you need to be contributing?

IT WAS A DAY OF SANCTIFYING
Holiness always precedes happiness. What good are dedicated walls without dedicated people? Verse 30 says, “Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, the gates, and the wall.” Unconfessed sin will make you miserable. The most miserable person in the world is not a lost person headed to hell, but a saved person living in sin. Nehemiah 12 is a huge worship event. Worship includes singing… but it involves lifestyle. Worship should be a way of life. Who are you living for? Who are you most dedicated to?

IT WAS A DAY OF SACRIFICING
This also was a day of sacrificing. Verse 43 says, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy….” They like what was going on so much that they sacrificed and gave to support it. People are dedicated to teams, sports, political parties, the environment, sex, pleasure, pets, hobbies, etc., and they all cost lots of money. Just think about pets alone! It is crazy how much we can love a little dog, pay in vet bills, and let them rule our lives. What you are dedicated to, you make sacrifices for. You only have so much time, energy, money, and passion. What are you spending it on?

God used a number of people leading up to this day of smiling, singing, sanctifying, and singing. He uses people like you and me. Are you giving your best to Him? Who has he used in your life that you need to list and thank?

Willing Workers

neh-titleThere is no greater cause to give your life for than the cause of Christ! There is no cause more urgent than the cause of Christ. In Nehemiah 11, we read of people who were willing to work for Christ, no matter the cost. They knew what was at stake!

THE PLACE OF GOD
Willing workers focus on the place of God. “Jerusalem” is mentioned almost 40 times in the book of Nehemiah. Jerusalem is the city of David, the city of God. God chose to put His name there. The House of God was there. The problem with the city is found in Nehemiah 7:4- “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.” By Nehemiah 11, we read that for every ten people, one was committing to go live in Jerusalem.

The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. More than half of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. By 2030 this number will swell to almost 5 billion. How can we best reach and minister to people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? When you read the book of Acts, and study the missionary journeys of Paul, you discover that cities are strategic for God’s plan for the world. They are places of density and diversity.

Liberty is surrounded by cities! God has called us to penetrate lostness and reach the cities of Hampton Roads with the Gospel!

THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Willing workers also serve the people of God. The people in the book of Nehemiah are people just like you and me. They had a heart for their city and community.

There are 822 serving in the Temple. Some served outside the Temple. There were those who prayed and those who sang. We are the body of Christ. We were saved to serve. God did not save you to sit. He saved you to serve. Some have the attitude, “large churches don’t need me.” The larger the church, the more workers are needed. Give yourself to the Lord Jesus and His mission. Pray for the people not yet here. Pray about what God would have you to do.

THE PRIORITY OF GOD
Nehemiah 11:2 says they “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” It is tough to pull up stakes, uproot families, and start over again. Every time a staff member is called to Liberty, that is what they do. Every time a person is called to missions, that is exactly what they are called to do.


What motivated them? God moved their heart. Instead of kicking and screaming every step of the way, they took the lot as the will of God for their lives, and submitted themselves to it. Willing workers do whatever it takes to advance the Gospel. Their priorities are God’s priorities. Local loyalties are good, but the work of God is larger. Your loyalty to Christ supersedes your allegiance to anyone or anything else. The priority of the church comes before school, work, sports, etc. Patriotism can never hinder the work of the Lord to the nations. I am a Christian first and an American second. We must sacrifice and serve to see others saved.

Willingly offer yourself to Him today. The best this world has to offer does not compare to the least of things in Heaven! Winston Churchill stated, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” There are almost 6.9 billion people in the world. It is estimated that 758 million are believers, 2.6 billion are non-believers, and 3.4 billion have never heard the name of Jesus. Be a willing worker for Jesus!

Public Decisions

neh-titleThe Christian life is a series of new beginnings. There are strategic times in our lives when we need to repent of sin and reaffirm our commitments. There are times when we need to rededicate our lives or repeat our vows. Nehemiah 10 gives us four indications for making genuine decisions.

YOUR SIGNATURE
When the Bible was first written it did not have chapters and verses. These were later added to help us locate passages. So, our text really begins in 9:38 – “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it….” A signature shows the intention of the individual. In this case, they wanted God and others to know that they meant business. People tend to do what they put their name to. If you buy a car or a house, you sign the dotted line! Should we not take spiritual things as seriously?

You may ask, “What is the big deal with me making my decision public? Can’t it just be between me and God?” No. Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

YOUR SURRENDER
Nehemiah 10:29 says, “these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law… and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes….” The people joined together with their “brethren” and made a decision to surrender to God. We do ministry and life together! We help each other out! The real test of revival is not how many decisions were made, but how many had a change of heart, attitude, and direction. If you walk down the aisle, pray a prayer, and go out unchanged, your decision was not real.

People come to church, hear the Word of God preached, and leave with the attitude, “I will live that way if I want to, and if I don’t want to, I don’t have to.” The Word of God is the final authority for faith and practice. You cannot read the Bible cafeteria style, just picking and choosing the parts you like best.

YOUR SEPARATION
In verses 30-31, the people decide they will be set apart despite what everyone else was doing. They were surrounded by pagan people who did not know God, however, Nehemiah and the people said they were going to march to a different drumbeat.

The two specific areas mentioned in these verses are relationships and business. They declared they would not marry unbelievers and that they would not work on the Sabbath. These are great guidelines for us today! If you are single, don’t date unbelievers. Only date the kind of person you would marry. Also, don’t work on God’s day. Find a job that permits you to go to church and worship. Life revolves around worship not work. Make God your priority!

YOUR SUPPORT
Nine times this passage refers to “the house of God.” How we take care of His house indicates what we think of God. Verses 32-33 declare they would give financially to support and maintain the work of the ministry. In verse 34, they brought a wood offering, and in verses 35-37 they brought their “firstfruits.” They gave their best to God, not their leftovers! Every time God puts something in your hand, put it back in His and ask what He would have you do with it. Let us declare, just like those in the passage, “we will not neglect the house of our God” (v. 39).

Nehemiah and the people had a great revival. It was a real move of God! They made a public, fresh, genuine commitment. What do you need to make a new commitment to?

How to Improve Your Prayer Life

neh-titleNehemiah 9 contains the longest prayer in the Old Testament. Prayer takes time! We can learn several things from this chapter on how to improve our prayer lives.

PRAYER ACKNOWLEDGES GOD
They came together publicly to recognize the greatness of God. Prayer focuses on God. They are recounting all the Lord has done in these verses, starting with creation and continuing to the present.

One key to improve your prayer life is to pray Scripture. God speaks to us through Scripture. We talk to God through prayer. You will never run out of something to pray about this way. You know you are praying the will of God when you pray the Word of God.

The key to any relationship is communication. Christianity is all about a relationship with God. As you read your Bible, talk to God. It is not just information, but transformation. Prayer is God-centered. Most of the world has no idea who God is. Who you pray to matters. You learn who God is through the Bible. God is love. He’s holy and good. He will never leave you. He is Creator, Savior, and our Provider. He is merciful and is our hope.

PRAYER ADMITS GUILT
They came together to confess the sinfulness of man. Look at verses 16-17 and 26-29. “You” refers to God and “they” refers to sinful man. Man is sinful. Israel’s past was like a roller-coaster. God is a giving God, but the more He gave them, the less they gave Him. They were not thankful. They turned away from God. People today are just as quick to turn away!

You can be honest with God. If you are mad at God, you might as well tell Him. If you’ve messed up, tell Him that too. I’ll let you in on a secret… He already knows it. We don’t like to talk about our own sin. We rename and redefine sin as “just a mistake.” We blame others. Be honest about yourself. Prayer leads to repentance. It is more than confession. It is change. Worldly sorrow is not repentance. Feeling really bad for what you did is not repentance. Being sorry you got caught is not repentance. Stop excusing your sin! Sin is against people, but it is also against God. Take time to repent every day. Confess your sins the way you commit them- one by one. Admit your sin and abandon it.

PRAYER ACCEPTS GRACE
They came to receive the mercy of God. Look at some of the phrases we read in their prayer:

– “You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.” (v. 17)
– “In Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them…” (v. 19)
– “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold…” (v. 20)
– “You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing…” (v.21)
– “You gave them kingdoms and nations…” (v. 22)
– “You also multiplied their children…” (v. 23)
– “For many years You had patience with them…” (v. 30)
– “In Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful.” (v. 31)

As part of the conclusion, we read, “For You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly” (v. 33). God was long-suffering and merciful. He spared them. God did not give them what they deserved – He showed mercy. God did give them what they did not deserve – He showed grace. The cross says sin is serious. Sin will kill your joy, marriage, family, business, career, church, etc. The only hope is the death of Jesus.

God is close and will hear you if you call on Him. Go to Him in prayer. Acknowledge Him. Admit your guilt. Accept His grace.

The Results of Revival

neh-titleThanks for visiting the blog today! We are currently going through a series on the book of Nehemiah. Today’s post picks up about halfway through Nehemiah 8. There is a revival in the city of Jerusalem. It was the Billy Graham Crusade of the Old Testament! Here are three results of revival that we see in this chapter:

LOVE THE TRUTH
Verse 13 says, “Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.” They loved the Word so much that they came back a second day! Many people today who claim to be Christians are spiritually anemic. They get all they want at Christmas and Easter. In other countries, time means nothing. People have a hunger for the Word! I preached in India and Nepal and some traveled by bus, bike, train, or on foot for days to get to the service! They did not say, “Preach only 25 minutes.”

“Second” is used a number of times in Scripture. God spoke to Abraham out of Heaven a second time. God gave Jacob a second son. In the story of Joseph there was the second dream. The Bible says the first Adam got us in this mess, but the second Adam came to regain what the first Adam lost. Aren’t you glad Jesus came the first time? I have good news for you today… He is coming a second time! Are you ready for the second coming of Jesus? The people in Nehemiah came back a “second” day. Aren’t you glad God is the God of a “second” chance?

Do you love the truth? Do you want more of it? If not, pray for a revival in your own heart today!

LEARN THE TRUTH
Verse 14 begins by saying, “And they found written in the Law….” They were reading the Old Testament.
They realized they were to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, which had not been kept in decades. Doctrinal truth can be lost in just one generation, yet through Bible study, a new generation can learn the truth. Revival can come in the last days. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32).

The mind grows by taking in. The heart grows by giving out. There must be a balance of both. That is why we must not only learn the truth, but…

LIVE THE TRUTH
The people obeyed what they read. In this case, they made the booths and kept the Feast. For centuries it had not been done, yet they welcomed the change. Can you imagine what Sanballat and Tobiah must have thought? If you live for God the world is going to think you are crazy. Your own family may not understand. The experts tell us the church needs to be seeker friendly. The Bible tells us to be Scripture friendly, Spirit friendly, sermon friendly, soul friendly, and Savior friendly.

In this text, obeying was not convenient. The people left their comfort zones. They moved into inconvenient, uncomfortable booths with gladness. James says to be a doer of the word. Your view of God will determine whether or not you are going to obey Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The goodness of God leads to repentance. Throughout history God has burdened His people to pray, search the Scriptures, and confess sin. Revival came in Nehemiah’s day and it can come in our day. May we love, learn, and live the Truth!