Recently, I did a speaking engagement in which I spoke on the Christian walk. Please hear me, it was meant for all –both you and I. The main premise of the discussion was what occurs on the Christian walk (e.g., family tragedy, job loss, financial problems, addictions) can sometimes have folks wondering, “Does Christianity really work?” Within the topic introduction, I attempted to lay out the crossroads that Christians will reach –resist and turn back or continue on with Jesus.
Here is a little excerpt from that speech:
… let me state the first truth about Christians in general. No matter how long you have been a Christian, you can remain in the very early stages of your faith for a long time, can you not? What I mean by that is we initially have high expectations for dramatic life change. We have mustered up enough courage to let go of our past sins and have experienced the taste of freedom that comes from being saved. But then we realize, we have no earthly idea what we just walked into or what exactly to do next.
The second truth –At that point, one of two things will happen to a majority of us:
1. Some of us will blossom for a while. We’ll dig into our church and our faith, and life is relatively good. We’ll say to ourselves: “This Jesus thing isn’t so hard. I’ve got this.” Then life turns on us, and we stand shell-shocked that our new-found fortune has come to a screeching halt.
Our church recently began a prayer and fasting event. For 21 days prior to Easter, our participating church members are committed to praying as well as fasting from something in our lives (e.g., social media, spending, food). Whatever we give up is not so much the point as that we give that thing up in order to seek God and hear more clearly from Him.
I have given up TV after 8. Why after 8? Because this is the time of night when mindless, pointless shows distract me the most and consume the time I could be spending with God. As good as some of the story lines are, I am not really missing anything important. However, if I spend time away from God, I will most likely miss something HUGE! That is simply not worth the trade-off.
More importantly, I want to rekindle my prayer life. How easy it is to start skipping a night here and there and then realize you have skipped a whole week, then a couple. Conversation with God is easy to achieve. I talk at Him all the time, but the problem is I rarely slow down to hear Him.
Have you ever accepted the challenge of crossing a line drawn in the sand? Or maybe just an imaginary line which separates you from the challenge ahead? What does that line represent to you? Is it an end or a beginning?
God has drawn a line in the sand for us – accept Jesus Christ and gain eternal life. The Bible is very clear on God’s offer. There are no two ways about it – redemption comes ONLY though Jesus.
“For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” John 3:34-36
Jesus spent a lot of time by the seashore. On multiple occasions, we find Him there. When He started looking for His disciples, that’s where He began.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. Matthew 4:18-22
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
So the past few weeks have been incredibly busy, stressful, and just plan overwhelming! I know we all have days like that, but when they pile on all at once, it is crazy! You can just get defeated!
This past week, I decided to get some help! I needed intercession, and I went for it! I am blessed to have some awesome friends who were willing to pray with me this past week. Praying to God can take the weight off your shoulders, but praying to God with friends can lift you off the ground.
Last Friday I renewed my nurse practitioner certification by exam. Certification last five years, and so, it had been a while since I had to take it. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. Renewing that certification reminded me how we should all renew our commitment to a life with Christ –daily.
You may say renewing your life daily seems excessive, but in light of the fact that we sin almost hourly, a daily renewal seems appropriate, don’t you think? The Bible states in Romans:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV
And in Proverbs:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 NIV
I don’t know about you, but my mind and my heart can certainly wander from moment to moment. So keeping them in check is a full-time job. And because we all struggle in these areas, God is prepared:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT
This week we will wrap up the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. You will want to refer to chapters 6-13. During the past few weeks, as we have walked through the book of Nehemiah, we have watched one person who deeply loves the Lord make a huge difference. He has reached out to the Israelites in love and rekindled their hope and belief in God. Now, he is moments away from finishing an incredible feat –the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. Through it all, he has met tremendous opposition time and time again, all the while managing to rise to the occasion.
As we start chapter 6, Nehemiah, having settled an internal issue among the Jewish people, now faces a reemerging issue from his enemies:
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Nehemiah 6:1-3
For the last three weeks, we have been following the story of Nehemiah and his desire to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in order to bring comfort and safety back to the Jewish people. This week Nehemiah’s story takes a slight turn away from the actual building of the wall to a side issue among the Israelites. Greed, rearing its ugly head, threatens to tear the nation apart from the inside out. Turn with me to chapter 5, and let’s see how Nehemiah deals with turning greed into generosity.
As chapter 5 opens, we have the oppressed voicing their complaints:
About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. They were saying, “We have such large families. We need more food to survive.” Others said, “We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.” And others said, “We have had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others.” (verses 1-5)
This is part 3 of a multi-message series on the story of Nehemiah and his love for God and country. Last week we saw Nehemiah’s prayer answered, we traveled with him to Jerusalem to check the state of the wall, and we watched the people of Israel come together. We also found out that the Samaritan army was close by, watching and commenting on the Israelites’ plans. This week, let’s explore chapters 3 and 4. These two chapters are crucial in the story –will the Israelites succeed or will they give up on their hopes and dreams of seeing the city restored?
As we start, I love the picture Nehemiah gives of the wall being rebuilt. Chapter 3 identifies each section of the wall that is repaired and the Israelite family who stepped up to do the repairs. What unfolds is how the entire Jewish community comes together in a consolidated and continuous effort, and the wall begins to go up – brick by brick. In our modern age, with our construction equipment, we can’t imagine the physical exertion that occurred to repair the wall. Days would be long, breaks short, and the activity ongoing in order to accomplish what they accomplished.
Last week, we began to look at the life of Nehemiah and gain some insight into his character and love for God. We took apart his prayer and saw how we could improve the way we pray. This week, let’s see where that prayer ended up taking him! Read Nehemiah 2: 1-20.
So where does Nehemiah’s prayer led him – right where he needs to be! However, if you go back, you will see Nehemiah’s prayer was not answered immediately. In fact, it was months later. Nehemiah’s story starts “in late autumn” and we now find him “early the following spring.” And his prayer is about to be answered!
Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” … (verses 1-2)
The fact that the king notices Nehemiah’s countenance says something about their relationship. Servants were not necessarily ‘noticed,’ they were tolerated. Cupbearers, however, held special significance. Not only did they serve the king his cup, but they became confidants to the king. And yet, as close as Nehemiah was to the king, he had a healthy respect for his position and the king’s authority because the Scriptures state at that moment he was “terrified” (verse 2).