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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mine! Not Yours!

The first chapter of Nehemiah plunges us right into the story of God's people about 100 years after some of the people had returned to Jerusalem. Even after so many years, Jerusalem was exposed and vulnerable to attack because the wall had not been rebuilt. We are immediately introduced to Nehemiah, the one God will use to change Jerusalem's condition.

When Nehemiah heard there was trouble with the people of God, that is, the wall had still not been rebuilt, he first went to God. He stopped what he was doing, wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. God's people were in "great trouble and disgrace" (1:3, HCSB) because the wall was in disrepair. There was no protection there.

Nehemiah had genuine concern for God's people and this led to an impassioned prayer to God. He began his prayer by acknowledging God's greatness and His love for His people - No one loves God's people more than God does. Nehemiah asks God to hear his constant prayer on behalf of God's people. Next, he begins to confess the sins of the people including himself in that group. Accompanying the confessions is a request for forgiveness, specifically, for God to remember His gracious words to Moses.

Nehemiah then comes to the truth about God's people: "They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand." Again, Nehemiah's concern does not and cannot outweigh God's love and concern for His own people. Nehemiah finished his prayer with another request to be heard and that his plan will be successful.

This chapter teaches me several lessons. First, it teaches me that those who God calls to shepherd His people must have a genuine concern for them. Nehemiah shows a real investment in God's people by asking about their condition, being emotionally and spiritually moved by the report, and then acting to help their condition (note that he saw the best thing he could was to take this burden to God).

Second, Nehemiah 1 teaches me that shepherd should passionately pray for God's people. Understanding that the pastor is in the same boat spiritually, so to speak, as the rest of God's people, the he is to carry the burdens of the people to God, who is the only one who can do anything about their situation.

Finally, I see that the shepherd must keep in mind that no matter how much he begins to love the people of God, God loves them infinitely more. They are HIS people who are to serve HIS desires. HE redeemed them by HIS great power and HIS strong hand. In the Old Testament, this is referring to God freeing His people from slavery from the Egyptians through Moses and from slavery from the Babylonians/Persians, which is the current context. In the New Testament, this is referring to God freeing us from the slavery of sin through His Son, Jesus. God has given His people the True Shepherd in the person of Jesus Christ (John 10:1-18). While He has given pastors the job of watching over His flock, and they are to care for His people (1 Peter 5:1-4), none of them can come close to the love God has for His people.

In this passage, I hear God reminding us through Nehemiah that His people are His. I hear Him reminding pastors "They are Mine; Not yours. Treat them as such." This is a good lesson to remember.

Verse to Remember: Nehemiah 1:10 - "They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Keys to Remember Nehemiah

I have been spending a lot of time in Nehemiah in my personal time with God and I have truly been growing through this great book. One of the tools I have been attempting to utilize is identifying a key verse for each chapter so it would be easier for me to remember the flow of the book. I want to post these verses first, for me so I can see them laid out in order to see if they indeed work as mnemonic devices. Secondly, I would like to have any feedback you may have about them.

I will be the first to admit that I am sure many scholars would disagree that each of these are the key verses found in Nehemiah. My goal was not to necessarily find the theological key verse or the structural key verse but instead find the verse in each chapter that I could easily memorize, that would help me remember what that chapter was about, and that I could use in my Christian walk. With that said, here are the 13 verses I think summarize Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 1:10 - "They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand."

Nehemiah 2:18 - "I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us arise and build." So they put their hands to the good work."

Nehemiah 3:20 - "After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest."

Nehemiah 4:17 - "Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon."

Nehemiah 5:8 - "I said to them, 'We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?' Then they were silent and could not find a word to say."

Nehemiah 6:9"For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, 'They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.' But now, O God, strengthen my hands."

Nehemiah 7:2"then I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many."

Nehemiah 8:8 - "They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading."

Nehemiah 9:17"They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them."

Nehemiah 10:39b - "... Thus we will not neglect the house of our God."

Nehemiah 11:2 - "And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem."

Nehemiah 12:43 - "and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar."

Nehemiah 13:14 - "Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds which I have performed for the house of my God and its services."

I will post more about each chapter and why I chose these verses but for now I would simply ask the question, "If you have read the book of Nehemiah a couple of times and then memorized these 13 verses, do you think you would be able to remember the book in general in the order in which it was written?" I am attempting to memorize these 13 verses and thus have a better understanding of this important book.

In the upcoming days, I will be posting a brief summary of each chapter and lessons we can take away from the chapter.

Let me know what you think of these verses, or, if you have a different verse from a particular chapter, let me know why you would choose a different verse.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Deal of the Day

One of my favorite places to get books is the Nazarene Bible College's Library. This is for two reasons. First, when the library has books for sale, hardback books are 50 cents and paper backs are 25 cents. It is hard to pass up a 50 cent book. The second reason is that because it is a Nazarene school there are always a bunch of Baptist books that they are clearing out (I really don't know if this is why there are always Baptist books for sale but it seems strange that the majority in their store seem to be Baptist authors). But Baptist or not, they usually have some interesting finds that one could not find anywhere else. 
However, today they had just finished their book sale (I was pretty sad I missed that but it was probably better that I missed it. I would have need a U-Haul to get all the books home). During the book sale, they were selling the books $1 per bag! They were gracious enough to extend that price to me. So the picture is the of the books I got for $1 - total! So, the picture today was my deal of the day(Click image for larger picture).

Granted, they are mostly old but feel that old commentaries don't go out of style. After all, if what the author had to say was truly clarifying to the biblical text, then it should be helpful no matter how old it is. Additionally, a person can track an interpretation of a passage over time.

I have written about my thoughts about commentaries and books here, here, and here so I won't repeat my thoughts.

In short, I was excited to get a bag of brief commentaries for $1. I am sure they will be useful when I preach through the respective books.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Best. Mascot. Ever!

Ah...Texas. Home of seriously scary obsession of High School football and great High School mascots. I saw the BEST mascot EVER yesterday in New Braunfels, Texas. I am not sure you can make out the picture on the left so in case you can't, here is another pictures which is a clearer indication of their mascot.

Now, before too many crazed Texans send me hate mail or something, let me assure I am not making fun of this mascot. Instead, I truly think it is a great mascot. There are so many mascots that are over used across the country. My high school mascot was a mustang. My daughter was first a lion, then was a tiger, and if she went to University of Northern Colorado she would have been a bear (oh my). She actually is now a pioneer (which is another more unique mascot). I know of schools that are bulldogs, wildcats, eagles, wolves, and on and on.

I really like unique mascots and Colorado has many unique teams as well. I try to find shirts with these mascots on them and wear them and support them in that manner. I am not making fun; I applaud them for their unique take on the High School mascot. So, I like the Brush Beetdiggers, the Rocky Ford Meloneers, the Clear Creek Golddiggers, AND the New Braunsfels Unicorns!

If you know of a unique High School or College mascot, please post it. I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

How I Spent My Day - 9.5.2013

Here is how I spent my day...well, part of my day. I needed a piece of trim to get a color match at the store for some touch up but I could not find an inconspicuous piece to take off the wall. Then I found this small piece behind a door. By the time I got it off, it was in three pieces. So, now, not only do I have put on the trim in some places that don't have it, I have to fix this little area. Something about two steps forward and one step back comes to mind.

Anyway, this is the just the latest in the house maintenance I am doing. I will show the completed work when done. Hopefully by the beginning of next week.

This post not only shows my recent house demolition maintenance, but it also starts a new subject of posts of "How I Spent My Day." Recently, I have been taking a picture of some beautiful place I have been and then texting that to some friends who are working and rubbing it in that I am there and they are not (aren't I a great friend? Here is an example of what I am talking about). That made me think I should do that for the blog. We will see how it goes.