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A Pretty Good Start

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States so our thoughts naturally focus on the question, “What are we grateful for?” I was intrigued, therefore, when I read Nehemiah 12 this morning. By this time in the story they have finished the work on the wall and they are engaged in a dedication ceremony. To honor the day, the giving of thanks was made a high priority:
• “The Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving. . .” (v. 27)
• “I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks.” (v. 31)
• Then new directors were appointed to keep it going. “For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.” (v. 46)
I love the picture of two large choirs of people singing back and forth with songs of thanksgiving. With the advent of technology, we can do the same so I want to get things started. Here is my short list of what I am thankful for. As you read the list, think about what you are grateful for and pass it on to others.
I am thankful for:
• A Savior who is both righteous and gracious.
• My wife, Pam, who loves Jesus, loves me and has a driving passion for life.
• My three sons, Brock, Zach and Caleb, who are growing spiritually and actively pursuing their purpose as they understand it.
• A daughter-in-law, Hannah, who thinks clearly, decides with wisdom, leads with skill and is always looking for the best for her family.
• My two granddaughters, Eden and Callan, who brighten my day, keep me laughing and make me feel more important than I actually am.
• My brother, Jim, who helped me find Jesus and continues to be an inspiration in my life.
• My sister, Lori, who set the pace for three young people who felt a need to be leaders.
• My brother-in-law, Bret, who is remarkable at helping me keep a clear perspective on his ambitious sister.
• Friends who pray for me, laugh with me and are genuinely interested in helping each other be our best.
• My dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator, vehicles and computer which I prefer never to have to live without.
• Grilled chicken, spaghetti with sausages, Ezekiel brand cereal, ice cream, whole wheat bread, chips and salsa.
• Sunshine, walks on the beach, running on mostly flat ground, and dirt in my yard that is not too difficult to dig in.
• Watching Caleb compete in college football.
• Watching Zachery train athletes at the University of Louisville.
• Watching Brock coach high school athletes.
• A nation to live in where I am free to worship my God, build my career, own property, vote for my leaders, drive on open roads and make daily decisions about how I live.
• Technology that has opened the entire world up to ordinary people and connected us in a way previous generations thought impossible.
Lists like this are always problematic because I have left out more than I have included but it feels like a pretty good start!

Repetition Does Not Make it True

I was walking with my granddaughter the other day to a creek near our house. Along the way, she started to talk, “We are going down to the water and there we are going to find a frog but the frog is really a prince. We are going to talk to the frog and then it will turn into the prince and he will meet a princess. Then the two of them will build an ark and they will live happily ever after.” It was cute and it was funny but it certainly wasn’t true. In her imagination, she had invented a narrative and she would have defended it aggressively if I had questioned her about the details or challenged her premise. Of course, there was no need to challenge any of her story because it was a three-year old cultivating her imagination. Besides, it was very entertaining.
It isn’t quite at amusing when it happens in real life. By Nehemiah 6, the Israelites had made significant progress on the rebuilding of the wall. “. . . 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.” (v. 1) The news was troubling to those who opposed the project from the beginning so they plotted a way to stop the work and frustrate the workers. “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king . . . “ (v. 6) None of this was true but it sounded dramatic and it was plausible. After all, other selfishly ambitious men had done similar acts. Nehemiah was not ego-driven, however, so he responded, “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (v. 8 ) There was no evidence to support the opposition’s conclusion and, in fact, Nehemiah had already proven otherwise. It sounded like it could be true, however, so they kept saying it. “Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message . . .” (v. 4-5)
I wish I could say this tactic is limited to the book of Nehemiah but it is a common method in public discourse. When a thought fits people’s agendas they will repeat it over and over until others are convinced it is true. Rather than explain the truth with its implications, leaders will replicate sound bites that capture others emotionally. Rather than search out what is true, followers will assume a thought that is repeated so many times by highly respected officials must be correct.
I want to be the kind of person who holds on to truth simply because it is true. Like Nehemiah, I want to stay the course with the unwavering belief that in the end the truth will win out. I am not naïve enough to think that truth wins every skirmish but I am convinced that ultimately the truth will prevail and those who follow what is true will stand victorious.

Love’s Generosity

Yesterday I had two experiences that reminded me about the nature of love. I read Nehemiah 5 and I heard the story of Shirley Van Epp. Shirley is the cross-country coach at Buckeye High School in Medina, Ohio. I am attending the Better Marriage Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I heard her tell the story of an intense battle with breast cancer. Despite a double mastectomy, a full hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and numerous reconstruction surgeries, she never missed a meet and only missed one practice with her teams. That is what love does. When it grips your heart, you always find a way to do what is best for the people you care about. You can only imagine the inspiration her runners gained from her presence as running seemed like a small struggle compared to cancer. In addition, she gained from being around the team she was investing in. “To be around the energy and the excitement and the vibrance of young people is just encouraging in and of itself. It’s almost like they feed me life.” That was back in 2007. More recently, she donated back her coaching stipend and engaged in aggressive fundraising to help offset the $600 per runner participation fee that each of her athletes needed to pay for the privilege of being cross-country competitors. She doesn’t look at it as a big thing because this is just what love does.
In the same way, Nehemiah couldn’t help but be generous with the people of Jerusalem. No one coerced him to do it. No one demanded that he do it. No one even expected it from him. In fact, the anticipation was that he would take from the people to support his life as a governor for 12 years. Nehemiah couldn’t do it, however. He had the means to take care of his own needs and the people he loved had legitimate needs. Check out all ways he willingly gave to those he carried on his heart:

  • “. . . neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.” (v. 14)
  • But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people . . . But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.” (v. 15-16)
  • “. . . we did not acquire any land.” (v. 17)
  • “Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations.” (v. 18)
  • “Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.” (v. 19)

The only reward Nehemiah wanted was to serve and be remembered by God. “Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.” (v. 20)
This is the operational test of true love. When you love someone, you will give. You can’t help it and it would never occur to you to do otherwise. It is not an obligation or a burden or an imposition. You consider it a privilege and you are disappointed you cannot give more. Our world is filled with people who say they love but then use the sentiment to take from others. It happens in politics, organizations, marriages, families, dating relationships and friendships. When our generosity proves that we truly love others, people can’t help but take notice because it is in sharp contrast to the majority who would rather take. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).
Lord, give me the grace to prove my love through willing generosity.

The Call Back

The most strategic people in life have a plan for getting back on track. Nehemiah had his hands full working the plan to rebuild the wall when he was alerted to a problematic situation among the people. Times had been hard so the inhabitants resorted to desperate measures. They were frantically mortgaging their homes, their fields, and their futures in order to eat and pay exorbitant taxes. As a result, they were becoming slaves to people they were related to. “Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” (Nehemiah 5:5) The issue here is that the Jewish people were commanded by God to deal with each other as family. They were brothers and sisters and they were supposed to look out for each other. The goal was to empower them as family units to risk, produce and then reset. This was the purpose of the year of Jubilee. Periodically, the land would be returned to the original family unit so the process could begin all over again.
The problem is that we are all selfish and corrupt so we get off track. We get caught up in the temporal, self-centered pursuits of life and forget about our convictions. We compromise our morals, ethics and commitments in order to feel better today. The shame is not in making mistakes, it is in stubbornly continuing after we have been confronted. When Nehemiah heard the outcry of the people he was very angry (v. 6) and he said to the people who had gotten off track, “You are charging your own people interest! . . . Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us! . . . What you are doing is not right.” (v. 7-9)
It is moments such as these that determine the condition of our hearts and energize our ability to reach the right conclusions. If you resist the call back your heart grows cold and your mind gets stubborn. If, however, you respond in repentance your heart softens and your mind clears. The Jewish leaders who were confronted by Nehemiah woke up immediately. “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” (v. 12)
I, like you, would love to think that I could do the right thing all the time and it is certainly my goal to do the right thing more and more as I mature. The reality of life, however, is that we all get off track at times and we need to be called back to the narrow path. The quicker I repent the simpler my life becomes. The longer I wait to respond the more complicated things get.
I am pretty sure that sometime in the near future I am going to get a call back to doing things with spiritual integrity and personal excellence. I am practicing my response now, “I will answer the call.”

When You Want to Make Big Changes

It is not secret that we all need to make changes in our lives. Our skills are still developing, our attitudes need to be consistently adjusted, and our thinking needs to be aligned with the new discoveries and challenges of our lives. Most of these changes are normal, daily, and fairly routine. They can be addressed with personal discipline, casual learning and interaction with friends.
Every once in a while, however, the need for a big change presents itself and that takes a different strategy. The big change may be a physical or career move. It may be a major project in which you invest yourself. It may be a personal change to overcome entrenched negative patterns. The goals are large, the task is daunting and the resistance intensifies with every move you try to make. Nehemiah 4 is an excellent case study in the practical steps that help move big change forward.
Ignore the Nonsense: You would think that people would applaud success and encourage positive steps forward but that is not the world we live in. When you try to make real change in life, others get threatened. The progress in your life makes them feel scared, inadequate, guilty or insecure. Your forward movement reminds them of their own need to change and they react against you rather than readjust their own lives. In the process they often make statements that simply do not make sense. In Jerusalem, those opposed to the rebuilding of the wall started making ridiculous statements, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”(v. 2) “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (v. 3) This is far from a sincere evaluation of the project. The Jews never had the goal of finishing in a day or having stones come to life and nobody who is building a protective wall would do such poor workmanship that a fox could tumble it simply by climbing up on it.
The temptation is to try to answer the objections with logic which seldom, if ever, works because the accusations don’t make sense to begin with. I was watching an interview with Dr. Phil in regards to the Casey Anthony murder trial. His assessment of some of her previous actions and statements was, “You can’t make sense out of nonsense.”
Work from the Heart: I have noticed that it takes a certain amount of desperation to make the big alterations in our lives. We must get to a point where it is totally unacceptable to keep living the way we are in order to break the bad habits and overcome the obstacles. Most people I meet are sincere about their need to change but much fewer are determined enough to actually do what it takes. “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (v. 6) The kind of stubborn resilience it takes comes from the heart. Your heart will call you forward even though you don’t have all the answers and may only know the next step in the process while the rest of the journey seems lost in the fog. I love this verse because I tell people regularly, “When you are half way through a big change, it will feel like you are halfway across a bridge and the fog just rolled in. You can’t see where you are going and you can’t see where you came from. The temptation is to get scared and go back. If you keep pushing forward, however, the fog will clear.”
Stand Guard: As you continue to grow people will get angry with you, tell you it can never succeed, and call you back to the way it has always been. This confuses a lot of people because we expect others to be glad that we are getting better. The reality is that your transformation puts pressure on them to live differently and they don’t like it. It is not acceptable for them to say they don’t want to improve so they try to discourage you instead.
Those who opposed the rebuilding of the wall “were very angry (v. 8),and plotted together to . . . stir up trouble against it.” (v. 9) Even well-meaning Jewish neighbors joined in, “and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” (v. 12) Rather than answer all the objections, Nehemiah refocused on the goal and set up safeguards to keep them on track, “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (v. 13-14)
May God give us extra grace for the big changes in life!

The High Energy of Ownership

I am not sure why it is but I always have at least two projects in the works. I often tell myself that I should give them up but it seems to be in my blood. My great-grandfather was an inventor. My dad was an engineer. Both my brother and I seem to have the tinkering/building gene which calls to us consistently. I have noticed, however, that not all projects are the same.
I currently have four projects on my list. I am making remarkable progress on two of them while the other two are stalled. As I read Nehemiah 3 this morning, I realized why. The two that are on the move are ones I have ownership of. I have the authority to make decisions about how it should progress and I have resources to apply that I can manage. On these projects I am highly motivated, mentally focused, and creatively able to adapt my schedule to make progress. The other two projects are currently out of my control. One of them has no budget so there are no funds available to put into it. The other is waiting for another person to make decisions. I just cannot muster up any momentum for these projects beyond putting them on a list for future dates.
What Nehemiah did that helped me realize the difference was to assign work on the wall in such a way that everyone was able to take personal interest. Rebuilding the wall was going to be strenuous and the work would be done under duress. The people were going to be ridiculed, harassed, and threatened. Most notably, Sanballat and Tobiah had already declared their opposition to the project and they were going to recruit others to discourage the Israelites. The people of Jerusalem were not going to sustain their commitment simply because a man from Persia with money told them to. They were going to need a bigger reason so Nehemiah assigned each family a project that was close to their home or closely related to their work. “Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place.” (v. 1) “The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.” (v. 3)  “The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.” (v. 13) “The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house.” (v. 22-23) And on it goes for the rest of the chapter. Everyone was given a project that was personal to them and they were free to approach the job in the way they believed was best. As a result, there was no need to fire them up or call them to commitment. They were naturally enthusiastic because they had ownership.
As I was writing The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I came across this story that illustrates what a difference personal investment makes in the way we approach projects:
“An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good Worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor.
The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career. When the carpenter finished his work, the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. ‘This is your house,’ he said, ‘my gift to you.’ The carpenter was shocked!! What a shame!! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.”[i]
May God grant us the privilege of doing work we can invest ourselves in and may He give us the grace to let others have ownership of the tasks we delegate to them.

When God Wants Something to Happen

We seem to have a lot of reasons for not setting goals to do what clearly needs to be done. Have you ever thought?

  • It is not possible to see the future so I am just going to take what today gives me.
  • I don’t think we should try to plan out our whole lives. That is God’s job.
  • I think it is presumptuous to set goals. It feels like I am telling God what to do.
  • It gives me a headache.
  • I don’t need to set goals. My wife will tell me what to do.
  • I am not a leader at work. My boss sets the goals we all pursue.
  • There are too many people against the idea.

This is was the mindset of the residents of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 2. The most obvious project that needed to be pursued was the rebuilding of the wall around the city. Without a wall, every family, every citizen, every business was in danger. The town was surrounded by legitimate enemies who could at any moment cause trouble without hindrance. It wasn’t hard to figure out but the obstacles were real. “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” (v. 10)
When God wants to move a project forward despite the impediments, He provides leadership and resources. In chapter 1, God had stirred up the heart of Nehemiah. He entertained a plan, prayed diligently and took appropriate risks to pave the way. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he did things that others had either not thought of or were unwilling to do because of fear or frustration. Sometimes it just takes fresh eyes of faith to see opportunities that are hidden behind obstacles. That is what this seasoned leader brought to the scene. In a short period of time, Nehemiah:

  • Researched the problem strategically. He went at night so he would be undisturbed and not subject to opinions of those who had grown content with “we can’t.” (v. 11-16)
  • Clearly and emotionally described the problem. “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (v. 17)
  • Gave the people a vision. “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” (v. 17)
  • Presented the people with valid reasons to trust God. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.” (v. 18)
  • Stood up to the source of discouragement. “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. . . I answered them, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.’” (v. 19-20)

Add to this kind of leadership the resources needed to complete the work and people get very motivated. Nehemiah came with “a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy.” (v. 8 ) The hardest resource to secure was the wood for the gates. There was plenty of stone around to make the walls but timbers would be in short supply in the city. To instill confidence in the workers, an abundance of lumber would be necessary. By the time Nehemiah called the people to action, everything they needed to rebuild the gates was in hand. The response was simple and straightforward, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. (v. 18)
Lord, please guide us by providing astute leadership and abundant resources for the projects you want us to be involved with. Then, give each of us the courage to be involved as leaders, suppliers or workers.

The Partnership

I had two motivating conversations yesterday from friends with big ideas. I love talking with these guys because they are always looking ahead to what can be accomplished because they entertain dreams in their hearts. They are aware of the daily needs of life and work hard to provide for their families but they live with the sense that life is a partnership with God with limitless possibilities. One of the men said to me, “I don’t know what God has in mind for this situation but there is a stirring in my spirit that won’t go away.” The other said, “This is a challenge I could get up for.” The two scenarios were very different from each other but they had one thing in common. They both required a spiritual partnership. They would only be possible with hard work on the part of people and a large dose of God’s favor.
We see such a partnership form in Nehemiah 2. Nehemiah is working as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia. His job is to ensure that meals are festive occasions for the king and his guests. He must test the food to see that it is safe but then he must set an atmosphere that encourages laughter and the building of memories. His heart, however, was heavy over the news of the depressed state of Israel to the point that he could not hide it. Normally, he was very good at leaving his personal life out of his professional activities but the burden had hit a place in his heart that went beyond his ability to conceal it.
As Nehemiah was serving the meal, the king asked him, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (v. 2) For a cupbearer this was a dangerous question because people were killed for ruining the mood of the king’s meal. It is at this point the partnership begins.
Nehemiah sensed this was the critical moment in the plan. If things went well, the dream could become a reality. Artaxerxes was the only one with the authority to release him to rebuild the wall and he had the resources to fund the project. A “yes” answer would go a long way to making Israel secure while a “no” answer would kill the project before it ever started. With appropriate hesitation, Nehemiah prayed then answered the king. In the pursuing interaction we discover the human side of the equation. Nehemiah’s job was to pray, provide answers to logistical questions and plan a course of action. Take note of the various questions laid before Nehemiah that paved the way for the venture:

  • Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill?” (v. 2)
  • “What is it you want?” (v. 4)
  • “How long will your journey take?” (v. 6)
  • “When will you get back?” (v. 6)

Because he had answers to these questions, the king’s trust in him rose. This was a big challenge to me when I read it. I have lots of ideas of how to make the world a better place. I need to learn that the ideas I am supposed to run with are the ones in which I can envision the practical steps necessary to make them work. In other words, if God is calling, He will provide the wisdom on what the next steps look like.
Then Nehemiah revealed the part of the plan that was not asked about. ““If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” (v. 7-8) It was obvious that he had done more than just dreamed about helping his homeland. He had researched the need, plotted a course, and considered necessary options. His part of the joint venture was in motion.
The only thing left was to see if God would add His favor to the partnership. “And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.” (v. 8 )
Heavenly Father, please lead us to partnerships in life that take advantage of our skills and demonstrate your hand of favor.

Responding to Damage Reports

Prayer is one of the great privileges in our lives. If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, you have a real relationship with God that is interactive and friendly. He has adopted you as a child and He has given you unlimited access to Himself. If you are like me, you tend to take this for granted and approach prayer most of the time as a casual conversation with God. I see this as a good thing because God’s grace has given us this freedom to approach Him in the same way kids approach their parents and grandkids approach their grandparents.
Our prayer lives cannot afford to be limited to this kind of informal interaction, however. There are times in life when focused, determined, intense prayers are in order. When my youngest son was lost at 6 six years old, my prayers grew very intense. When I became mature enough to be aware of the challenge and corruption that is inherent in political leadership, my prayers for our leaders became very focused. When the financial challenges of my life are greater than my resources, my prayers become a determined pursuit. And, when I become acutely aware of the spiritual battle raging in the lives of people I care about, prayer becomes a high priority in my relationship with them. At times like these, Nehemiah is an effective mentor for us.
He is living in Persia when we meet him but his heart is in Jerusalem. During a visit by one of his brothers, he inquired about the state of the Jews living in Israel and the condition of the city of Jerusalem. The news was not good. “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3) The report broke Nehemiah’s heart. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (v. 4) He was hoping for good news–a story of God’s victory and provision. Instead, he received a damage report. His response shows the essentials of intense prayer when life requires more than just checking in with our Savior:

  • Praise for who God is: “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments . . .” (v. 5)
  • Persistence: “. . . let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night .. .” (v. 6)
  • Honest Confession: “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (v. 6-7) Nehemiah did not just confess his sins but talked to God about the stubborn disobedience of others that caused the current situation for the nation.
  • Recount God’s own Promises: “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’’ (v. 8-9) Nehemiah is not looking for the obscure pledge. He is recounting one of the most common assurances given in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4 is one example). In the face of overwhelming circumstances, he needed to remind himself that God is, and always will be, true to His promises.
  • Appeal to God’s Grace: “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.” (v. 10) Nehemiah needed God’s favor for at least a couple of reasons. First, the people did not deserve what they needed. They had been selfish, self-absorbed and defiant. They honestly believed they knew better than God and had resisted His clear guidance. They actually deserved the trouble they were experiencing. Second, he was going to do something that would fail without God’s merciful action. He was going to approach the king, which could easily lead to his death if the king was not pleased.

I hope your life is going well today and that you can casually interact with your Savior as you pursue your goals and relationships. I also trust you will pray like Nehemiah when the damage report of life gets delivered.