How a day should end

I liked today’s study – it had a good ending! Another point I thought was good, was that the people, as a community (for a short while at least) were united as one. I think that the divisions we see within the Christian community are extremely sad. A lot of energy is lost because of different divisions arguing over who has the better set of rules and traditions.

The following, from today’s study, is a well worth a second glance: “Nehemiah was a realist and did not leave anything to chance. He asks the leaders for a formal commitment, and when they agree to take an oath he validates their promise by a symbolic act. He shakes out the folds of his robe as a sign that God will reject the people if they fail to keep their promise.

As this is done the whole assembly responds with a loud ‘Amen’. In Deuteronomy 27:15-26 we read that when a spiritual commitment is made, the people who agree to it should respond by saying ‘Amen’ (so, be it). However, in this instance not only did the people say ‘Amen’ but they broke out in a spontaneous act of worship and praise.”

 I think that Nehemiah’s symbolic act of shaking out the folds of his robe was formed during hours of prayer with God – ‘signs’ that God uses, comes from His Spirit – it’s not something born out of human imagination – do you agree? The whole episode gives you the feeling that God was there standing amongst His people – His presence always results in spontaneous acts of worship and praise. Perhaps that’s why we don’t see a lot of spontaneous acts of worship these days? What do you think?

Doing what is right

Selwyn talks about the need to confront those who profess to follow God’s ways but their actions don’t match what God requires. In Chapter 5, we read that Nehemiah courageously confronts those in the wrong (Nehemiah 5:9): “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God …  ?”

I think  Selwyn conclusion could have been a little clearer. He writes: ” … we need courage also to confront those with whom we strongly disagree. Many of us, whenever we know we are right about an issue (at least in our own eyes), are content to settle for being right. Only under extreme provocation do we discuss the cause of our anger or concern with the offending party.” I feel that he should have added that these issues are only to do with those cases where Christians are obviously going against what Jesus has commanded us to do; and would normally be centred on the two great commandments; to  love God and to love our neighbour.

Many people misunderstand Matthew 7:1-5, which starts with Jesus saying “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. … ” These words have more to do with judging others in a condemning way, which often leads to a sense of spiritual superiority because of pride – this type of judgment is wrong. However, there are many verses which DO SAY that we should judge which actions are right and what actions are wrong. In the same chapter of Matthew (7:15-20), we have Jesus advising us to; “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. … ” Clearly, Jesus is talking about judging the fruitfulness of those amongst us, who call themselves prophets, to discern if they are false prophets. It’s implied that if we should do something to protect our community from ferocious wolves – it would be wrong to do nothing. Do you agree?

Therefore, I like the prayer for today (with a minor point of clarification): “My Father and my God, help me not to be complacent about issues that need to be confronted. And strengthen my resolve to deal with things that need dealing with, not merely because I am provoked (as I know these things break your laws and your heart), but because it is the right to do so. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

When very angry

Selwyn looks at how Nehemiah handled his anger when he heard about the harsh treatment of the poor.

He makes a number of good points: ” … people handle anger in several different ways. Some get angry but convince themselves they are not. These people live in (unhealthy) denial. … Others feel anger and proceed to deal with it by dumping it on everyone around them . Then there are some who experience anger but suppress it for awhile and later take their feelings out on those they know are afraid of them.” And, if there is no other person around they might ‘kick a dog’, that is, they take their anger out on someone or something.

Selwyn then gives us guidelines on how we may handle our anger. “First, it is important to acknowledge the anger. Second, we must choose not to allow it to get out of control. Third, we should carefully and prayerfully think through the best way of dealing with the situation which aroused the anger in the first place.”

I have found that the best way for me to handle my anger is to pray about the issue, seeking God’s help to take the acute sting of the problem away and to ensure that I don’t do anything about it, until the following day – it has often amazed me that what seemed impossible in the heat of battle, becomes possible to resolve, after a night’s rest. It’s giving God’s love time to heal the emotional wounds; and time to formulate a peaceful solution with the Holy Spirit’s help.

How do you handle your anger?

Rich man – poor man

Today, we hear that Nehemiah, as well as dealing with threats from neighbouring areas (Samaria), now has to deal with internal dissension. The cause of the trouble was a famine, made harder by the practice of the rich to charge interest when they lent money to the poor.  This was against Jewish law, established by God (Deuteronomy 15: 7-11);  which specified that the rich should make provision for the poor and they should not charge interest if they lent the poor any money. I like to mention the point that Satan rarely attacks, just on one front, he often tries to encircle us with problems.

The principle behind the Old Testament law, of not charging interest when lending to the poor, is still valid today – there is nothing wrong with money, in itself, as long as those who have a lot are willing to share what they have with those in need. The bottom line is that we should not depend on our wealth for a secure future but depend on Jesus for our eternal future. It’s important to remember that whatever help you provide to the poor, is the same amount of help you would be willing to give to Jesus! Do you agree?

Don’t get in a rut!

I don’t have much to say about this area.

I though his conclusion was thought provoking: “The willingness to reorder our priorities, whenever necessary is something we all ought to be open to, whether or not we are leaders. Those who are not prepared to do this get stuck in a rut. And if you find you’re in a rut be careful for it has been said, ‘The only difference between a rut and a grave is its depth.’ [I must remember this saying, might be useful one day 🙂 ]

It really comes down to the reasons behind the call to reorder our priorities.  If, it is the result of long and persistent prayer, then the new plan and priorities should fall into place. If it is due to our impatience because we are unable to see the fruits of our current plan  – then a change in priorities may give rise to further delays. What do you think?

Armed for warfare

I like what Selwyn has to say in today’s study – that there needs to be a balanced approach in our daily journey with our Lord.  He says: “As we seek to rebuild the walls that have been broken down either by neglect or by Satan and his forces, let us not forget that we are engaged in a battle as well as a building program. … We must go about our task with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. … The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.”

I think it is essential that we set aside some part of the day – no matter how small a time slot – for reading God’s Word – the Bible. The more we soak up God’s Word, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the greater our progress will be – in rebuilding walls. Do you agree?

Faith versus fear

Today, we hear that because of Nehemiah’s success in getting the people of Jerusalem to repair the city’s walls – the enemies of Judah decide to wage war. As Selwyn says: “(Nehemiah) turns once more to prayer (when he hears the disturbing news); ‘We prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.’ I think that prayer came first and that the action to post guards, followed – Nehemiah reminded the people that their Lord was ‘great and awesome’. He renewed their faith in God  and encouraged them to believe that they could defend their city – with God’s help.

 “Fear can only be overcome with faith; not faith in oneself but faith in God.”

When reading this I was reminded of 1 John 4:15-18: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears in not perfect in love.”

Even if an enemy attacks and takes our earthly life; we know that when we acknowledge that Jesus is God and that He sacrificed Himself to pay the penality for our sins – we, full of His love – can drive out all fear so that we can be assured that we will share eternity with Him in heaven – that is, there will be no fear in meeting God when we die.  So what’s stopping you from rebuilding your spiritual walls?