How Will You Be Remembered?

neh-titleNehemiah 7 has 73 verses and is primarily a list of names. It’s like the Jerusalem phone book! Most authors skip over it or combine it with chapter 8, but there is so much there. I just couldn’t skip over it!

The first subject addressed in the chapter is leadership. As I have said throughout this series, the book of Nehemiah is a classic on leadership.

“Then it was… that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many” (Neh. 7:1-2). Nehemiah put the right people in the right places. He appointed leaders and even chose his brother. He was not afraid of the accusation of nepotism and did not give the job to his brother because of favoritism. Hanani was faithful and trusted.

Leadership cannot be left up to a popularity vote. Note the criteria for choosing leaders in verse 2. They had to be faithful. The greatest ability is dependability. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Regardless of your place of service, your greatest ability is dependability! Don’t be hit and miss, hot and cold, on and off. Be faithful.

In verse 5, Nehemiah gathered the people together. Why did they build the wall? So people could come into the city of God and find a place of safety. Why are we building a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-site church? For people. Buildings and new campuses are tools to help us reach people. 1.7 million people are not driving to one address. We want to wrap our arms around Hampton Roads and take the Gospel to them! The names in chapter 7 were there to help build the city. We are here to help build the church. We are here for those who are not yet here!

Not only did the people partner together to build and to worship, but Nehemiah partnered with Hanani and Hannaniah, faithful men of integrity who feared God. Think of other examples in Scripture: Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses to win the battle, Joshua and Caleb believing the promises of God, Ruth and Naomi committing to make the journey together, David and Jonathan committing to friendship and protecting each other, Paul and Silas praising God even in adversity, and Paul and Timothy encouraging one another. It’s important who you partner with!

The Bible talks about money. In verses 70-72, the Governor, leaders, and the people all gave. Money follows your heart. Mathew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If you love something, you give your money to it. At the end of our text, the people make a major offering, nearly $5 million. God’s work is not second-rate. He does not want our leftovers. He wants our best. God put a dream in Nehemiah’s heart and he gave it his very best!

As I conclude this post on Nehemiah 7, remember God knows your name! We know the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. We know the names of David’s mighty men. In Romans 16 we have a list of names of those who worked with Paul. In Hebrews 11 we have a list of the heroes of the faith. Today, we read a list of names in Nehemiah 7. These are people God used to accomplish His work.

God is keeping records of where we came from, who we belong to, what we give, and what we do for Him. Is your name in God’s Book – the Lamb’s book of life? How will you be remembered? What will you be remembered for?

Doing a Great Work

neh-titleWe have been going through the book of Nehemiah in these posts. Just like the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, we live in a broken world. We are surrounded by broken lives, marriages, families, relationships, countries, systems, and governments. Our only hope is Jesus! No matter what work we put our minds to, we can be assured of two things: the unending harassment of the enemy and the unfailing help of the Lord.

Up to this point in the book of Nehemiah, the enemy has used disagreements, disrespect, discouragement, disappointment, division, and distraction. In Nehemiah 6, he continues attacking. You and I are not exempt from his schemes!

Don’t dialog with the devil or the enemy. In the beginning of this chapter, Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to meet with him, but he knew they intended to do him harm (v. 2). They wanted to hurt, hinder, and harm the work of God. He would not meet with them. He did not give the enemy an open door.

Because Nehemiah would not stop the work to meet, his enemies attacked him personally. They said things that were not true. They questioned his motive. Nehemiah became the target of careless and wicked tongues. The Bible says the tongue is set on fire of hell. They accused him of building his own kingdom. Any Godly leader will be criticized and slandered. Nehemiah worked for the king, but he was sent and supported by the King.

When you are attacked, do what Nehemiah did. He did not go off in the corner and worry himself sick! He did not call or email every friend he had and waste their time or his. He prayed! Sometimes you need a holy HUSH! Pray verse 9- “…therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Lord you hear what they are saying. You know it is not true. You know that you sent me. You know they are trying to stop the work. Lord, strengthen the work.

No matter what you face, the Lord will be with you. He never fails! Go to Him in prayer, rely on Him, and He will come through!

In verses 11-13, Nehemiah was tempted to sin by going to the holy of holies. Only the priest and the Levites could go there. He knew he was not a Levite and to do so would be to disobey the word of God. James Dobson said, “If a man falls you can always trace it back to his devotional life.” How did Nehemiah know that their suggestion would be a sin? He had read his Bible. There is no situation in life to which the Word has not already spoken!

The most important statement is in verse 15 – “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” The wall was finished. That was no small work! The devil knows that his days are numbered. His time is coming to an end. He has launched an all-out attack on the church. Satan wants us out of business. Think of how many lives have been changed. Think of the influence this church has had over the past 116 years. God has raised Liberty up to be a lighthouse on the east coast. Stay focused and determined to finish building the work.

Nehemiah had decided to do the work and will of God. Even enemies could see that this was the work of God. That is what we want people to say about Liberty! We are part of a great work. The devil will try to get us down and distracted, but the Lord is our Helper!

The enemy will attack. Decide today to turn it all over to God. Decide today to trust Him. Decide today to do right. Whether I live or die, succeed or fail, I am going to obey God and live for Him. What about you?

How to Survive an Economic Crisis

neh-titleNothing puts more pressure on a marriage or a relationship like money problems. There is no pressure like financial pressure! For some couples, the more they have, the more they have to fight about. Here are six action words from Nehemiah 5 that will help when financial pressure comes:

Nehemiah and the people found themselves in a bad economy. They had lost their houses and lands, and to pay their debts, their children were sold into slavery. People were mad, hurting, and desperate.

The first step to solving a problem is to address it. Talk about it. You can’t ignore it and hope it goes away. Husbands and wives should learn to talk about everything!

Verse 7 says, “After serious thought….” Nehemiah was so angry when he heard about the situation that he had to take some time to cool off. Sometimes we need to walk in the other room. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” Tammy and I have never gone to bed mad. We have stayed up all night a few times!

The people had violated the Word of God. It was not unlawful or wrong to borrow money. It was not unlawful or wrong to charge interest; however, God told the Jews that they could not charge another Jew interest. God set them free from slavery in Egypt and Babylon, now they were enslaving each other. God does not want His people in bondage. Jesus came to set the captives free!

Verse 9 says, “Fear the Lord….” They were robbing, taking from each other, and that is bad. What is worse is to rob God! “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10)

The first thing a young couple says is “We can’t afford to tithe.” Tammy and I have been there. Don’t tell me you can’t live off love. We did it! When we married I made $150.00 a week. Both of us were in college. You can’t afford not to tithe. A blessed 90% is better than a cursed 100%.

If you take care of His business, He will take care of your business. My parents were working class people. I did not know we were poor growing up, but now as an adult, looking back on my childhood, we were poor. We did not have a lot materially, but we were rich toward God. My parents put God first. They tithed. They paid their mortgage, car payment, and we never missed a meal. Praise God my dad never wasted money on alcohol and he did not gamble it away. Husbands and wives, teach your children and the next generation to put God first. Teach them to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

It really all comes down to trust. Don’t panic. Don’t be pessimistic. Economic recession is a fact of life, part of the ebb and flow of the economy. There are times of great economic growth, times of little change, and periods of recession. Times of economic crisis do not have to be frightening, especially if you are prepared ahead of time. Stay focused, streamline, simplify, and tap into God’s supernatural economy. God can be trusted!

Overall, these financial problems diverted attention from the main objective. No current work on the wall is mentioned in this chapter. Don’t you know the enemy was thrilled to see the work stop. The devil would love to see the Lord’s work stop. The devil would love to see your marriage end. In Jesus’ name don’t let that happen!

How to Deal with Discouragement

neh-titleHave you ever been discouraged? Ever felt like giving up? This post is for you! You can live without food, money, and water, but you can’t make it without hope. There are several things we can learn from the second half of Nehemiah 4 about dealing with discouragement.

In verse 10, we read “the strength of the laborers [was] failing.” They had been working a long time and they were worn out! In the second half of that verse, the people complain, “there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Not only were they tired, but they were frustrated. All they could see was broken stones and rubbish. They had lost the vision of a completed wall. They began finding fault with one another and were afraid of their enemies.

What about you? Are you tired of burning the candle at both ends? Are you frustrated with where you are in life? The people you least expect can be critical and discourage you. Are you afraid? Fear is NOT of God. “God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Nehemiah told the people, “Remember the Lord, great and awesome…” (v. 14). Remember the Lord! Remember who He is and all that He has done for you, and worship Him.

Don’t focus on the Sanballats, focus on the Savior. Don’t focus on the Rubbish, focus on the Redeemer. Don’t focus on the Criticism, focus on Christ.

Nehemiah said, “Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (v. 14). Victory comes when we remember the Lord and rally around our loved ones. There is strength in the family unit and strength in the church family. Never quit! We have to defend what we work hard for, defend what we build.

You are going to face spiritual resistance. Satan is real and is the accuser of the brethren. He does his best to convince you that you are a failure, your past is too dark, and your situation is hopeless. Satan is a liar! Combat him with the truth, the Sword of the Lord. Make sure you are reading scripture; hang it in your home. Do daily devotions, be in a small group, spend time in prayer.

What are you building? Are you defending it? You have no way to defend yourself from the world, sin, Satan, and Hell, apart from Jesus.

The people remembered the Lord, resolved to fight, and returned to work! They were confident saying, “Our God will fight for us” (v. 20). When you are discouraged, do the same! Get back to work and trust the Lord to fight for you! Don’t let the enemy get you distracted or off course. The work must go on!

There is strength in numbers. Don’t try to fight alone. You need close friends, the right kind of friends, your family, and your church family. We need each other.

The beginning of verse 20 says, “Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.” No matter what may be discouraging you today, remember one day the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more. He will gather His workers and His people to Himself, and He will defeat the enemy once and for all. If you are in Christ, you have hope! What a day that will be!

How to Cope with Criticism

neh-titleWhen you work with people, you will be criticized. We have all been there. I remember a panel in which Adrian Rogers asked Ron Dunn, “How do you deal with criticism?” He responded, “Not too well!” Criticism is hard to take. People can be mean. Here are a few tips from Nehemiah 4 on how to deal with criticism:

If you are going to live for God and serve Him, you need to be prepared for criticism and opposition. It is inevitable. I heard Jerry Falwell say, “If you do not want people to criticize you, just say nothing, have nothing and do nothing. People will leave you alone.” If you try to make a difference and do a great work for God, expect criticism.

In the service of the Lord, there is no place for wimps and weaklings. You must be secure in who you are and in what God has called you to do. There is no greater joy than to know that you are in the will of God, doing what He has called you to do. Nehemiah was called to the work. You have to make up your mind, regardless of what comes your way, you are going to be faithful.

Why is it that a servant of God is surprised when there is opposition and criticism? Jesus said in John 15, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

When Nehemiah faced criticism, he prayed. “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity” (v. 4). This is an imprecatory prayer. He is praying the judgment of God down on his enemies. The psalmists sometimes prayed this way. The worst thing you could wish on another person is that they would get what they deserve. Nehemiah prayed that God would give them what they deserved.

Nehemiah realized that the criticism was not against him alone, but ultimately against God. He prayed in accordance to the will of God. He did not allow himself to be distracted or to reply to their words. He just talked to God about it. Nehemiah did not take the law into his own hands. He put it in God’s hands. I have prayed, “Lord, you hear what is being said, so in your balance of justice and mercy do what is right.”

Take every compliment people give you and give it to Jesus. Then, you can take every criticism people give you and give it to Jesus as well. Remember, the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19).

Nehemiah kept praying and building! You can’t answer every critic. Abraham Lincoln said if he tried to answer his critics, there would not be time to do anything else. The worst thing you can do is try to answer every critic. Every hill is not worth dying on. Some things do not deserve a response. Nehemiah didn’t give them a piece of his mind. He didn’t tell them off. He didn’t seek unanimous support. It takes two to fight. The way to stop a fight or argument is to close your mouth. Commit the criticism to God in prayer and get back to work!

In verse 6, they were at the half-way mark. It is exciting when you start and finish, but it is easy to be discouraged halfway through the project. No matter the criticism you may face, don’t stop serving the Lord! Be prepared, be prayerful, be persistent, and finish what God called you to do!

How to Work Well with Others

neh-title“Works well with others” can be found on a kindergarten report card. How adults get along with co-workers will be reflected on their performance evaluation at work. Working together will determine the success of a team or a department. Just think of the many things we can do working well together at home and at church! Here are three principles of how to work well with others:

“Next to him” is a phrase found in verses 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of chapter 3. The people chose to participate. They chose to join hearts and hands together to serve the Lord, and they became co-laborers with God.

Some went the extra mile. Verses 11, 19, 21, 24, 27, and 30 include the phrase “repaired another section.” Some worked over and beyond the call of duty. They did not say, “Well, I finished my section of the wall. I have done my part.” They finished and said, “What else can I do?” Baruch is the only one who the Bible says did his work “earnestly” (NIV zealously, v. 20). The Hebrew word means to burn or glow. Too many people do as little as they can get by with. We need to get rid of the “get-by” attitude!

Being a Christian starts at home. Verses 10, 23, 28, and 29 say “in front of his house.” They worked where they lived. It starts at home. Start in your neighborhood. Reach your neighbors. Anyone else want to be like Baruch? Are you willing to go the extra mile and burn with zeal and passion in your service? Are you tired of going through the motions? Friend, kick it up a notch! If the truth were known, most all of us could do a lot more, with a lot more passion, than what we’re doing right now.

It is one thing to participate, but it is another to cooperate. If you are going to work well with others, it takes teamwork! Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships! Not all can sing, preach, or teach. We do not have the same talents or gifts, but we can work together, cooperate, support, and encourage each other.

It was a diverse group rebuilding the wall. They came from different occupations and different towns. Some moved debris, some built, some stacked bricks, etc. The church is a diverse group, but we must move in the same direction. Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” He also said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

“Repair” is used 35 times. It means to make strong. We want to build a strong and lasting work.
We want to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. All dedicated themselves to a place of service! They all had a work station.

One day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of those things done in the flesh, whether it be good or whether it be bad. Live every day ready for the Lord to return. Live a life pleasing to God for eternal rewards. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). In verse 5, the nobles would not work. Don’t ever let it be said of you that when a great work for God was being done, “He would not help.”

As you glance over Nehemiah chapter 3 you will notice that there are 100 personal names in 32 verses. God knows your name and He does not forget faithful workers!

Build Together

neh-titleNot only does Nehemiah 2 illustrate the providence of God, but it also says a great deal about working with people. You cannot build alone. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and led the people to build back the walls of the city. Together, they did it in only 52 days! Building together takes the following:

People see leaders and think, “they have it made!” Leadership is a place of honor, but it is also a place of humility. Nehemiah did not arrive and say, “Let’s get started.” He was there three days and didn’t tell anyone where he was or what he was doing.

“It’s lonely at the top” but God can use those lonely times. When Moses was alone, God spoke through a burning bush. When Mary was alone, an angel told her of things to come. When John was alone, he authored Revelation. Character is what you are when no one else is looking, and what you are willing to stand for when everyone is looking. Successful leaders know not only how to handle themselves in public, but in private. A leader cannot be effective in public until he has prepared himself in private. Moses spent 40 years preparing on the back side of the desert. Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert.

After Nehemiah’s time alone, he took a few men with him and they began to inspect the condition of the wall. The Hebrew word means to look carefully at the extent of the damage. Do your due diligence. Before you start, do your homework! Answer the questions of why, what, when, and how. Before you can lead, you have to know where you are going! The old Chinese proverb is still true. He who thinks he is leading when no one is following is really just out for a walk! Inspection is so important at the beginning, and all throughout, the project. People tend to do what you inspect not what you expect.

Nehemiah identified himself with the problem. He was not born there and could have said, “I’m new here and you need to go to work. Y’all have made a big mess!” When he was finally ready to present the need to the people and discuss it, he chose his words carefully. He says, “you see the distress we are in… let us build the wall…” (v. 17). We must all do our part. We must all build together!

There are no lone rangers in ministry. Nehemiah could not build the wall by himself, nor could he do it with a few leaders. He had to appeal for everyone’s help. He gave the invitation, “Let us rise up and build…” (v. 18). Too many churches, businesses, marriages, and parents are not pulling together. BUILD TOGETHER! God can use anyone who does not care who gets the credit.

People will try to discourage you. People began to mock, but Nehemiah did not back down or pull out. He confidently said, “The God of heaven will prosper us” (v. 20). Every leader must be able to handle criticism. Every time God is at work, the devil will oppose it. Just remember that Jesus, too, was despised and rejected. There are not enough demons in Hell to stop the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The devil may be the prince of this world but Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! The King is higher than the prince! When God calls you to lead a project and bring people together, remember Nehemiah. God was faithful to him, and when you rely on Him, He will be faithful to you!

Good Hands

neh-titleToday’s theme is found in Nehemiah 2:8 – “the good hand of my God upon me.” Providence is the unseen hand of God guiding human destiny. It is illustrated clearly in Nehemiah 2. Know that God is working now, even if you can’t see it!

God is arranging opportunities for you. Nehemiah prayed and he waited. Between chapter 1 and chapter 2 there are four months. What was Nehemiah doing for four months? Praying! Nehemiah 2:4 says, “Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” His prayer was not a long prayer. Nehemiah was caught up! He quickly asks God to give him the words and wisdom, and He did. God puts a premium on prayer and patience!

One day Nehemiah could hide his sorrow no longer. Why that day? God had been preparing the king’s heart. God is the God of the open door! He opens doors that no man can shut, and he shuts doors that no man can open. Nehemiah could only build when God gave him the opportunity. In Ephesians 5:16 Paul said, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” You cannot run ahead of God and neither can you lag behind. Be prayed up so that when God gives you the opportunity, you are ready!

God had prepared the king’s heart and he granted Nehemiah’s request! God was in control. Where God guides, He provides. Where God directs, He protects. The king said in essence, “If you mess with Nehemiah, you are messing with me.” Nehemiah had God’s protection and God’s provision.

Every child of God has been sent by God. There is a purpose, a work for you to do for King Jesus. Nehemiah knew that he had been sent by the king and he had a plan. For four months he was not only praying, but he was planning. He knew the time he needed, he knew the letters needed to pass through lands, and he knew he needed a request for timber. He had thought it through!

If we fail to plan, we are planning to fail. Good leaders plan ahead. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). God honors good organization and planning. Look around at creation. God is a God of order.

Can you believe it? God sent Nehemiah to build the walls and the city, but there were people who were not for it! They were “deeply disturbed” over what Nehemiah wanted to do (v. 10). Paul said that opportunity and opposition go hand in hand together. “Because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me…” (1 Corinthians 16:9). There were those who did not like the apostle Paul. There were those who did not like Jesus. That makes me feel better!

Don’t ever think that everyone is going to like you. Anytime God is doing a great work, GET READY for Satan’s attack. Opposition will come from both the outside and inside. There will always be those who minimize and criticize you if you are trying to do something for God. The Chairman of Deacons at my first church was an older man. One day he encouraged me with these words, “Grant, anything that moves ahead will face friction!”

Nehemiah was a man of vision and vocation. He was prayed up and He trusted the providence of God through his opportunities, in his planning, and as he faced opposition. Rest assured, God is working and you are in good hands with Jesus!

Building Blocks in Leadership

neh-titleOver the past 32 years of ministry, I have preached through the book of Nehemiah at least twice, if not three times. Just this week I started reading through Nehemiah again in my One-Year Bible. I absolutely love this book because it is a classic on leadership. Here are some of my thoughts on leadership from Nehemiah 1 that I think apply to all – whether you are a pastor, staff member, or church member. Everything rises and falls on leadership!

When God gets ready to get a job done, He raises up a leader. Nehemiah was a cupbearer. It may sound insignificant, but it was a much needed position. One of the essential qualities of a cupbearer is trust. Christians need to be known for their trustworthiness, honesty, and loyalty!

You never know what a day may bring. It was just a routine day when Moses saw a burning bush. It was just a routine day when David was called home from the shepherd’s field. Be faithful where God has placed you in the daily grind. God makes Kings out of shepherds and Governors out of cupbearers.

Nehemiah found the Jewish people “in great distress and reproach,” the wall of Jerusalem broken down, and its gates burned with fire (Neh. 1:3). Every problem is an opportunity to see God work. Never waste a crisis! Nehemiah did not ignore the situation. Living in the palace, eating fine dining, did not cause him to be blind to the needs of others. Our position must not cause us to be blind to the real world of hurting people. Find a need and meet it. Look around to see and ask, “What can I do to help?”

Another great question to ask is, “How are things in my homeland?” Our position should also never cause us to be blind to the needs in our own homes. Nehemiah had never seen Jerusalem. He was born in Babylon. How are things in your home? How are things in your personal and private life? Are the walls broken down? What are you going to do about it today?

How do you handle bad news? Eleven times Nehemiah got alone with God. We read, “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4).

His prayer included confession- “Both my father’s house and I have sinned” (Neh. 1:6). In the Bible, we read that God uses messed up, wacked up, broken people to accomplish His work. The job was too big for Nehemiah. The job is too big for any one of us, but the job is not too big for God. Good leaders recognize this and spend quality time alone with God in prayer.

Nehemiah ends his prayer saying, “Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (Neh. 1:10-11). Nehemiah knew his strength and power came from the Lord. There is no place for half-hearted, lazy mediocrity in ministry or leadership. The Lord is our source!

God used Nehemiah to build a wall, but God used a wall to build Nehemiah. God is using you to build a ministry, but God is using that ministry to build you. As you interact with people and encounter problems, go to God in prayer, seek His power, and there is no limit to what you can accomplish!

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