Yep, I’m the One Who Repaired the Dung Gate

A brother in Christ, Geoff, sent me the following observation:


Hi Aaron!

I just re-read Nehemiah 3 last night and remembered another point that hit me from verse 14:

14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.

Not all the work is glamorous.  How would you like to be Malkijah bragging,  “Yep, I’m the one who built the poop gate!”?  And he was a ruler!  Nobody thinks about the dung gate until you don’t have one.  It may not be high profile, but it is needed and somebody needs to do the dirty work.

What about me?  Am I willing to get my hands dirty for God and build the Dung Gate?


Thanks Geoff…excellent point!

The dung gate, according to Albert Barnes was “the gate by which offal and excrements were conveyed out of the city.” The Pulpit commentary says that it is “the gate outside of which lay the piles of the sweepings and offscourings of the streets.”

This point our brother shared with us reminded me (Aaron) of the time at our previous house when we were having a problem with our septic tank, and our neighbor came over to help us with it. He had his whole arm down in OUR septic tank reaching the filter to get it to clean it out. You really have to be a special neighbor to get your arm down in somebody else’s septic tank.

The apostle Paul was that kind of man, and in the following passage this is illustrated along with the exhortation to imitate him.

“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me (1 Corinthians 4:9-16).

Entangled

Here’s a lesson on getting entangled.

Earlier this spring/summer, we took down all our old fencing around the property. It was in really bad shape. Most of it was collected by a metal recycling company and taken away. But one small section was forgotten. This woven wire fencing section was rolled up, smashed and laid on the ground, and we forgot about it. Just the other day Anna noticed it and asked me to pick it up and get rid of it so that the goats wouldn’t get injured on it.

No problem, just a small section of fence, right? Wrong. Weeks and weeks worth of grass and weeds grew up in between all of that fencing, and now a simple job that should have taken 30 seconds took us over an hour. Lindsay (my daughter) and I had to pull, cut, tear, yank, etc. because the fencing was completely intertwined with the grass and weeds.

So, I felt a sermon illustration coming on…

I said, “This is what happens, Lindsay, in life. When you get so interwoven with the things of this world, pulling away from it is no simple task. What would have been a simple, ‘No,’ at the beginning is not so easy after you’re entangled.”

It was a simple but effective illustration of the parable of the Sower and how the seed (the Word of God) fell among the weeds/thorns and got entangled and choked which led to being unfruitful in God’s kingdom (Matthew 13).

Lindsay later followed up with another point. She said, like the fence, when you try to pull away after having been so entangled, you still have remnants of the world in you. All that torn grass and weeds were still woven throughout the fencing.

So, be warned about getting so interwoven with the world. It’s a bear to break away afterwards!

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
(2 Peter 2:20)

Choices Have Consequences

Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, introduces the concept of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern is the area that we have no control over. For this discussion, I adapted this concept and changed “Influence” to “Consequences” and “Concern” to “Choice”.

Throughout the Bible we see the concept of the “Law of the Harvest” or the “Law of Sowing and Reaping”. The idea is that in order for us to receive a return we must first take action and put in the work. To build upon this further, we “choose” to work and have control over this aspect of the equation. The “consequence” of those choices is a result and therefore not something we directly control and/or avoid past the choices we make.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  This is a cause and effect relationship…there is a reaction to every action…we are free to choose but slave to the consequence. So what? How does it fit with God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and hope? In what ways will it impact how we live and our relationships with those in our lives?

We should not be of the mind that because God has forgiven us (or others) that all of the negative consequences of our (or others) sins will be washed away. That isn’t how it works. Conversely, if we have negative things happen in our lives, we shouldn’t think that God really hasn’t forgiven us or that He doesn’t really love us because we are suffering.

Forgiveness and consequences are not opposite ends of a spectrum. Together, they establish an essential part of the Lord’s plan for believers. Forgiveness is relational. The Father sent Jesus to make a sacrifice on our behalf, and by so doing reconciled us to Himself. By His mercy alone, we can have communion with the Lord. On the other hand, consequences are circumstantial.  Consider an illustration of this from the cross itself. Christ made it clear that the thief dying with him was completely forgiven (Luke 23:39-43). Yet moments later, the man died an excruciating death. The thief’s sins had been erased in God’s sight because he chose to believe in Jesus, but he suffered the punishment for his crime…the consequence of his previous bad choices.

Consequences from sin are not an indication that a person isn’t saved or that God is angry with the individual. The Lord frequently allows some painful situations to continue so He can teach lessons we would otherwise never learn. Very few things motivate us to give Him our undivided attention like being faced with the cost of our wrong choices. When we draw near to the Lord, He reveals how to respond correctly to painful circumstances. Unprecedented spiritual growth will often result.

We all have scars. Their purpose is not to cause us grief as a daily reminder of our sin, but rather to remind us of how gracious and merciful the Lord is.  He loves us and chooses to work though us despite our past mistakes and wrong choices. Further, as we bear scars from past sins we often become the most effective at leading unbelievers to know Jesus as their Savior.

Our attitude toward negative consequences affects how we relate to our heavenly Father and to others. A negative approach could lead us to become bitter, whereas a positive attitude could bring us to a point of understanding and gratitude for the daily reminders of divine mercy…and how we can have grace with those in our lives. We can view our scars as monuments to God’s grace, or as ongoing punishment.  I encourage you to see them as proof of your spiritual healing and if you do, you will change even when circumstances stay the same.

Rest assured, sinful choices have consequences, if not in this life, then in the next. We are blessed, though, because the principle of reaping and sowing works in a positive way as well: “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8). We can sow good seeds that will turn negative situations into positive ones.

Don’t spend the bulk of your time trying to convince God to remove painful consequences. Try praising Him instead. Receive His blessings, be at peace, sow love, and allow that to change your life and the lives of those you love.

NOTE: Some thoughts taken directly from "Charles Stanley's Handbook for Christian Living" (1996).

In the World, But Not of the World

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
(John 17:9-19)

Today, please take time to meditate upon this section of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples. Specifically note the word “world” in this prayer.

The word “world” is used around 80 times in the book of John. This is also a good study to look at how Jesus used this term and what we learn from His teaching about “the world.”

Jesus, the night before being slaughtered for our sins, prayed for His disciples that they would be kept from the world. In Jesus’ mind, He was “no longer” in the world, because His eyes were fixed on the hope of glory (Hebrews 12:2). But for His disciples, He knew they would be left “in the world.” This clearly was a huge concern for Jesus.

His prayer to the Father was that they would be in the world, but not of the world, which is really what it means to be “sanctified” or “set apart.” Jesus prayed for them to be set apart from the world while still living in it.

How was that to happen, according to Jesus? Truth. There is such a thing. In this “world” many claim there is no such thing as truth. Jesus said there is truth and it is only found in the Word of God. In order to be in the world, and yet not of the world, we have to commit our hearts to the truth found within the pages of Scripture. Men’s philosophy and our own feelings are not truth.

As we are in the world, we set ourselves apart from the world by our relationship to the Word. The fruit will bear itself out in our lives, in our words, in our behavior, and in our choices.

Be in the world, but don’t be of the world.

Strong Foundation

I hope you enjoy these thoughts as we start the week.  I received this from Jason Cicero, one of my best friends and most importantly a brother in Christ.  Consider your foundation this morning and take some time in meditation and prayer about how much God has loved you and how willingly and freely He blesses you so that you might be filled up with His blessings and be a blessing to others in whatever role or situation you find yourself in.  Have a great week!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

A foundation is a strong, stable base on which a life is built.  A blessing is a gift from God.  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17; NKJV).  In Christ there are “showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26; NKJV).  Of all the blessings God has given us it seems to me that there are five that we can fall back on as we make our journey from Earth to Heaven.

Five Foundational Blessings.  Grace is God’s kindness to the guilty and undeserving.  Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve.  Mercy is God withholding from us what we do deserve.  Love is God’s active good will toward us.  Forgiveness of sins is the release from the debt, guilt, and punishment for our transgressions.  Hope is the confident expectation He fills us after we receive forgiveness.

Why I don’t deserve them.  I do not deserve these five foundational blessings because I have sinned.  By definition I do not deserve grace.  I am guilty and undeserving.  He is well within His holy nature to give me what I deserve.  He loves me despite my sins.  He longs to forgive me.  He fills me with a living hope even though I have let Him down again and again.  

Why I’ve been given them.  I have been given these five foundational blessings to the praise of His glory!  We have been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” for the purpose of glorifying His name (Ephesians 1:3).  He gives me grace, mercy, love, forgiveness of my sins, and hope that I would praise His name!  Receive these blessings “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; 2:7; 3:20-21).

My response to them.  Because of these five foundational blessings I will rejoice always!  I will pray without ceasing!  I will give thanks in everything!  Because of these five foundational blessings I have a relationship to God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that will sustain me no matter what happens.  Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39; NKJV).  In this I rejoice and praise His name!

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
(Psalms 92:14)

Dear friends, Stephen and Samantha, shared this video with me about a wonderful 92 year old woman, Dr. Audrey Evans. Please take 10 minutes to watch this video. Think about how this Dr. knows her purpose and lives it.

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

God is Faithful

Let’s look today at several passages in Scripture that speak of God’s faithfulness. Our God is faithful at all times, even when we are not.

Before we sin, while we are being tempted

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

While we are sinning

2 Timothy 2:11-13 – This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

While we are seeking to come back

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 2:17 – Jesus is a merciful and faithful High Priest

Even when we are standing in the wake of the consequences

Lamentations 3:18-24 – And I said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Until Jesus comes again

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

God Does Not Change

Malachi 3:6 – I am the Lord I do not change

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

I Dwell Among My Own People

And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’ ” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” (2 Kings 4:13)

Today’s thought comes from a statement made by the Shunammite woman. We are studying 2 Kings 4-5 in our Bible class, and yesterday we considered the example of this wonderful woman and how she served God. This woman was a “notable” woman (2 Kings 4:8) who took the initiative to provide food for Elisha whenever he passed by that way. She took it a step further and worked with her husband to make an addition to their house to provide a furnished apartment for Elisha whenever he traveled through the area (2 Kings 4:9-10). What a wonderful example of godly people using their resources and energy to serve God and His people!

What is even more remarkable than that to me is how she responded when Elisha asked her what he could do for her. How did the Shunammite woman respond?

I dwell among my own people,” she replied.

That is a statement of contentment. It is a sentence that comes from a person who is at peace with God and others. She, like any other person, had desires and wishes; you can see later in chapter 4 that one big one was that she wanted a baby. But she did not serve God and do things for Elisha so that she could have something in return. She served because she truly was grateful for her blessings and position in life, and she wanted to share that with someone. She didn’t want praise and attention for it. There was not clamoring for kickback and rewards. The Shunammite woman just served.

Do you and I “dwell among our own people”? Are we serving God and others with the same heart and motives as this lovely Shunammite lady?

Something to think about today.

Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?

Today, please read this section from Judges 6. God called Gideon to deliver the oppressed Israelites from the mighty and powerful Midianites. Gideon was a man of great faith, but he also needed to have reassurance from God on multiple occasions. He also showed great courage, but at the same time he was very afraid. Is that possible – to be afraid and courageous at the same time?

Gideon showed us by his example that he had fear, but his courage and faith carried him past that fear. God called Gideon to destroy his father’s idols…think about that. You are going after a man’s religion, and not just any man, you are directly confronting the idols of your father. This was necessary for Gideon to do if he was going to lead the people of Israel against the Midianites.

Read the following excerpt from Judges 6:

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

Men, please meditate upon this today. We have all kinds of fears, but that does not mean we lack faith or courage. It is what we do in the face of our fears that shows our faith and courage. Take a page today out of the life of Gideon. Face the fears; confront them in faith. Remember God is with you supporting you just like He was with Gideon.