Spiritual Leadership Loneliness

Being a spiritual leader can be a very lonely place and in that loneliness, the devil sees a great deal of opportunity.  Let me fill you in on my current situation so you have some background and context.

Towards the end of September I accepted a promotion at work that is truly a great opportunity for my family.  Not only do I get to build and lead a sales force but it also provides us the opportunity to move back home and be closer to family.  In many ways it is an answer to prayers.  But my oh my did I understand the workload!

Since accepting the position in September, I have not been home for more than two days in a row until last week.  In addition to the travel all of my time has been taken up with the intense process of hiring a team, strategic planning, and meeting preparation.  Additionally, I’ve been exposed to a higher level of corporate politics than I expected which has added a great deal of stress.  In my “down” time I have to take care of my current position and lead my current sales team which basically means I’ve been working late into the nights.  Even when I’m home, I’m not really home.

So we take the additional workload, the higher level of responsibility and visibility, mix in a healthy dose of stress and we end up with a potentially toxic situation.  Many of the regular readers of these articles are somewhat familiar with my “troubled” past but let’s just say I’ve spent a great deal of time in the “far country” (Luke 15:13).  I always seem to be blindsided by how quickly, and how powerfully, old temptations come back to knock me for a loop.  You’d think I’d start to expect it by now.  Needless to say the last couple of months have been a struggle in a number of ways.

So let’s get back to the lonely place.  What should I do?  The scripture is very clear about where I should seek encouragement and support.  The Church was designed so that I would have a network of strong brothers to lean on.  Brothers that would listen to my struggles, show me empathy and compassion, and help me through difficult situations.  Not to mention this is the very reason God gave us marriage.  I know this, I’ve preached on this, delivered workshops on this, but I fail to take advantage of the resources God has provided.  Why?

I’m a spiritual leader, that’s why.  Will you allow me a little foolishness?  In my family, among my friends, and in the local body I’m the one with the vision.  I’m the strong man of faith that encourages and lifts others up.  I’m the one that struggling Christians turn to for advice, for prayer, for comfort.  In this position, to open up, to be authentic and admit that I can’t handle the situation would feel like I’m letting others down.  It would almost be a form of betrayal to all those people who have relied on me in the past.  How could I let that happen?  I can’t let that happen!  As a result, I isolate myself, put on a happy face, provide token responses to people genuinely concerned and…give the devil an opportunity.

All of this hit me a couple of weeks ago when I was in Michigan conducting a men’s workshop that was completely focused on the power that others play in our Christian walk (ironic).  The night before I left I was standing in the kitchen with two of my dearest friends on this earth.  We had been talking about my work and the stress it was putting on Kristine and how she was handling it.  During a pause in the conversation, Anna asked me, “And how are you doing?”  I’m sure I provided a few sentences but my response amounted to, “I’m ok”.  What I should have said is, “I’m failing!  I’m drowning!  I’m suffocating!  I feel like I’m juggling chainsaws and torches while one arm is broken and the other is tied behind my back!”  But I didn’t.  Why not?

This might be one of the most irritating articles you read all month because I don’t really have the answers.  I’m sure it has to do with fear and pride and shame and all sorts of other things I need to work on with a therapist but, in reality, I’m sure I’m not alone.  I believe there are a lot of “spiritual leaders” out there that feel the same kind of pressure I do.  Leaders that feel the weight of the world crushing them and feel somewhat helpless when it comes to opening up and taking advantage of the help God has provided through His people.

I have come to realize one thing that has helped, one thing that has given me the strength to at least write this article.  I am strong…and I am weak.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  I am the man of faith that encourages others and lifts them up and I am also the man that struggles and fails.  I am the leader that inspires and motivates and I’m the leader that gets discouraged and deflated.  Both are true.  That is why the only reliable source of strength, strength that never fails, resides in the nature and character of our God.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-31

Slow to Anger, Great in Power

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
(Nahum 1:1-9)

We were studying the book of Nahum last night in our Bible class. Nahum was sent to pronounce the final judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria. Jonah had been sent around 100 years prior to this, and the people of Nineveh repented. However, they have gone back into their violent and wicked ways. God was slow to anger, but now there is no remedy. He will come at them with an overwhelming flood of judgment and punishment.

The phrase I want to focus on for just a moment is that God is “slow to anger but great in power.” A question that was posed last night in class was, “What if God was fast to anger and great in power?” We all agreed that there wouldn’t be much left of us and it wouldn’t take long for God to do it. He would snuff us out in a hurry.

Look at the passage above. Nahum asks, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the heat of His anger?” When God is full of wrath, there is no place to hide nor any shelter strong enough to withstand the blast (except the shelter of the blood of Jesus, of course). “His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken in pieces by Him,” Nahum added.

Are you great in power? What I mean is, are you in authority over people? At work? At home? In organizations? How about in the church? What do you do with that authority and power? Do you run rough shod over people? Are you quick to anger, or are you slow to anger like God is? Is your wrath poured out quickly and instantly known by others (Proverbs 12:!6)? Are people around you intimidated and scared to set you off? Do others walk on egg shells around you because of your hair-trigger temper?

God is great in power, but slow to anger. He has the power to do whatever he wants to you and me, but His lovingkindness governs His power. Have you ever driven a truck that had a governor set where you couldn’t go over a certain speed? I think we need something like that with our anger and all our passions and emotions. What regulates my power and strength? Does God’s love, mercy and kindness rule my authority so that I do not take advantage of those who are accountable to me?

The people under your authority may not be able to escape. They have to endure that anger and face those blasts of wrath because they have to keep coming to work everyday or they have to live with you everyday. When you go off on a rant, they may have to just stay there and take it. But that isn’t fair to them is it? Should they have to endure that kind of abuse because you can’t control your temper?

If you are that person who has that kind of anger issue, please work with God to get to the root of the problem. Sit down with wise, godly people who can help you work through your anger and give you the tools to control that anger and put it in its proper place. It will take humility to admit you have a problem, and even more humility to seek out help to work through it.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:19-22)

Holy Ground – My Influence

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view our relationship to the world.

The Israelites were delivered by God out of Egyptian slavery and were on their way to the Promised Land of Canaan. In both places, Egypt and Canaan, wickedness and idolatry filled the land. Read the following passage from Leviticus 18.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 18:1-5)

Look at the “you shall” and “you shall not’s” in this passage. Pretty simple: don’t do what they do, don’t walk in their ways, instead, walk in my rules and my ways. If you do this, you will live.

When God prepared Joshua for leading the people into Canaan, his instructions were the same.

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel…Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:1-9)

Don’t turn from God’s law, to the left or to the right. Meditate on it day and night, in doing so we will be careful to do all that is written in it. This will take a great deal of courage, but remember that God is with us wherever we go. He will never leave us or forsake us. So, don’t be afraid.

God places us in this world today, and His encouragement is the same. Even though the temptation may be great to look around the world, try to fit in with the world, and follow the world, we must turn our eyes to Jesus and His ways. When at work, school or in our communities, do not turn from God’s word, to the left or to the right. Do not be afraid of the world, don’t be so enamored with all they have to offer. It may even be intimidating at times when you feel outnumbered and alone. Sometimes the threats are real, and you may want to cave in and forsake God’s rules. But remember to turn your eyes back to Jesus. He is there. Remember His promise: He will be with you always (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6).

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Phillipians 2:14-16)

Standing Like King Hezekiah

We are currently studying the life of King Hezekiah in our adult Bible class at the church building. Last night, we were impressed with King Hezekiah’s leadership, his full-blown commitment to following God, and his trust in God.

Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.
(2 Chronicles 29:1-8)

Here are a few quick observations that we made last night:

  1. Hezekiah chose a different direction than his father. Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, was the wicked king who defiled and defaced the temple, and he closed its doors. Hezekiah watched his father do great wickedness, but he chose to listen to God and His word. You do not have to follow in your family’s footsteps, if they are not walking with God. You can choose your own direction like Hezekiah did.
  2. Hezekiah was prepared to serve when the time came. When Hezekiah became king at 25, he hit the ground running. The first month of the first year, he started making changes. That tells us that before this time, he was preparing his heart to listen to and serve God. It’s not like he didn’t know what to do when he became king; he was already prepared in heart and mind to make the changes God required. He was ready because he was informed, and he was informed because his heart had been searching out the word of God.
  3. Hezekiah did not waste time cleansing the temple and restoring the worship back to God’s way. Again, it was the first year and the first month. It’s like Hezekiah was watching all of this wickedness happen, and the moment he had the reins of power, he starting taking care of business. “This changes today, now!” He had a sense of urgency about getting things right with God.
  4. Hezekiah was young, but made no excuses for it. I’m sure that there were several of his father’s advisers around, and plenty of older men and women around him that were fine keeping things the way they used to be, but that did not deter Hezekiah. Even as a young 25-year old, he stood for God and led a whole nation in restoration. Just like Timothy, Josiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and David, young men can do incredible things for God. There is no defined age for leadership.
  5. Hezekiah made changes that no leader before him made. The Bible said there was no king like him, before or after (2 Kings 18:1-6). 2 Kings 18 tells us that he destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses made because the people were worshiping it. Think about that – it had been 700 years, and no leader between Moses and Hezekiah had destroyed it. Hezekiah went all the way when it came to obedience to God. It didn’t matter how long people had been practicing something, or how deeply entrenched the people were in a religious practice, his commitment was to completely following God’s word.

He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered… (2 Kings 18:5-7).

The GOD of the Towel

By the time you get to reading this, the week will be already started and the pressures of time and responsibility will have started to push against you.  Thank you for taking time to consider these thoughts as we work in “Drawing Closer to God”.  To do so, I am thinking back to a sermon I have heard Brother Cicero deliver both to the general assembly and as part of a the first men’s leadership study I ever attended.  The sermon and lesson is titled “The GOD of the Towel” and provides great thoughts for us to consider as we reflect on our God, on ourselves and how we need to and can draw closer to Him through His Son Jesus.  The word to keep in mind as we do so and throughout our discussions this week is “humility”.  We are called to be servant leaders in our spiritual lives, in our homes, in the Body, at work, and as we interact with those in the world.  There is no greater example of a servant leader than that of Jesus and we read about it very clearly in John 13: 1-17.  I encourage you to take some time and look over these verses and I will reference them as I go.

In this passage of scripture, we have Jesus humbling Himself and washing the feet of the apostles as they are gathered together in the upper room, leaning around a U-shaped table and preparing for the feast.  What is an interesting amplification of the significance of what Jesus is about to do is what is on the minds of the 12.  Jesus, God in the Flesh, is about to wash their feet and the 12 are thinking about who will get to sit in the chief seats…further one of them, Judas, is thinking of betrayal.  Take a minute and apply that to your life.  As God works mightily in your life…do you find yourself self-centered or faced with the strong luring of a specific sin?  We all struggle and are not much different than the apostles in this situation from time to time…and it is no secret to God.  With the apostles (as with us)…Jesus knows all this, but still He proceeds and in what He accomplishes is the beginnings of the much need explanation of the bigger picture…of who Jesus IS and why Jesus is HERE.

So take time today and read these verses over and meditate on them with this thought in mind…Our God is a servant and He is working and preparing our hearts for service.  Reflect on your life and consider how He is accomplishing this.  Conider whether or not you are opening your heart to this transformation.  If you aren’t or are struggling, what is getting in the way?  Finally, consider how you might be a servant leader in all aspects of your life, with the responsibilities God has given you and the talents/abilities He has blessed you with.  Think on these things and let’s use this lens tomorrow and consider the women in our lives.  Lead on brother…and serve!

 John 13:1-17; NKJV

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”  10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”  12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Fathers Teach not Provoke

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

This verse comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching to children to obey their parents in everything. The standard is clearly set for children in our homes just as the standard is clearly set for each of in the family of God…obey! Guess what…just like us…our children don’t always get it right and disobey and sin. The result…grief. With this in mind, what is Paul teaching us fathers?

Notice first that “fathers” are directed in this command. Paul knows how to say parents because he did so in verse 1. Why are fathers singled out? Ephesians 5:23 tells us that husbands are declared by God to be the head of the family and therefore responsible and accountable for what happens in the family. Fathers are to have an active role in the family, particularly in raising the children. Additionally, fathers are going to be challenged to not act in anger toward the children. There is a reason God says this to the men. The intention seems clear that this is an issue that we must be aware of. Fathers are going to have the temptation to provoke the children to anger.

Children test our patience, our will, and our authority as fathers. They grieve us, however, the command rules out excessively severe discipline/consequences, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, being unfair, nagging, being humiliating, etc. Children are persons in their own right and are not be manipulated, exploited, or crushed. Our Father is loving, graceful, merciful and long suffering…we must be the same with our children. With that said, this does not mean we allow our children to run the household. Children are not the head of the family.

The answer to the challenge of parenting…to fathering…is not to let the children do what they want. Verse 4 tells us fathers to raise our children and to not provoke them…both are required. So how might we do this? We might start with saying “no” with a reason. It is easy to just say “no”. But think about the frustration, confusion, and disappointment our child might experience if we do not explain the reason or make the “no” inconsistent with how we live. This is especially important with our children who are old enough to reason with and to make every effort with each “teachable” moment. Our Father teaches us with “no” and His consistent and Holy will gives us confidence “no” is right and best.

Please don’t misunderstand me…there are times as Godly fathers when our rule or word must simply be enforced. What I emphasizing here is we cannot let our attitude always be “my way or the highway”. The word “discipline” speaks to the activity of the education. Some translations rightly read, “training.” This is active and it is a partnership with our children. “Our way or the highway” all the time is not “parenting” or “teaching” or “leading”…that is simply “bossing”…and our God does not love us or raise us that way.

I know we all want our children to safe and in the loving care of our Heavenly Father because that is what they choose to be. I know we want our children to have the life skills to be independent of us when they leave our home. Fathers, we have a job to raise our children so that when they turn 18 they can live life independent of us but are especially dependent on our Heavenly Father! We must show them that we desire God and find our joy in God. What we are doing is not an activity as if God is something to do. We desire these things because this is the whole life and joy.

(NOTE: These thoughts were amplified by a sermon by Brent Kercheville from West Palm Beach CoC; 2014.)

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).

Nehemiah 3

Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a monumental task. The fact that they did it in 52 days just blows the mind. Considering all the obstacles they had to overcome takes it to a level that clearly demonstrates God’s hand was in this good work.

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
(Nehemiah 2:18)

I encourage you today to read Nehemiah chapter 3. Sometimes chapters like this can be skimmed through because at first or second glance it seems like just a factual list of the workers, what they did, and where they worked.  But that very list is what is so amazing.

But read the chapter carefully and think about a few things:

  1. The high priest rose up, with his brothers – The first verse shows that the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem took the lead. They were priests, but their hands were dirty and their knuckles got scraped and bloody. If you want to be a leader in God’s good work, you have to lead by example and get your hands dirty, too.
  2. Next to him, next to them, after him – Phrases like these are repeated often in Nehemiah 3. The work on the wall was divided into 42 sections. But each group worked on their section as part of the greater purpose/project. They were not working independently. Also notice that they did not finish one section before moving on to another. Each section was being worked on simultaneously (Nehemiah 4:6), thus closing the gaps.
  3. But their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord (vs. 5). Not everyone put their hands to this good work. Don’t expect 100% participation.
  4. Opposite their house, beside their house – Nehemiah stationed people in areas where there would be the highest motivation to do the best work. Folks were building / repairing the walls and gates nearest their houses (vs. 10,23,29-30). If you know this section of wall is directly connected to the survival and safety of your own family you are going to give it your all!
  5. Rulers, priests, perfumers, merchants, goldsmiths – Another point to make here is that the people working on this were not experienced wall building contractors. I’m sure some of these men had hands that were meant for inside work, and they initially had a lot of blisters and used muscles they never even knew they had! But they all put their shoulders to the work on the wall, whether they were a noble or a servant, male or female, merchant, goldsmith or perfumer. This is a clear picture of the church, guys (Ephesians 4:15-16)!
  6. With his daughters – This was a family project. Shallum was there working with his daughters (vs. 12).
  7. People from outside the city, like from Jericho (Neh. 3:2), and from Gibeon and Mizpah (vs. 5,7) and Tekoa (11 miles from Jerusalem, vs. 5,27) worked on the wall. Think of the influence God’s good work has on those around us.
  8. Repair, rebuild – The word “built” is used 6 times in chapter 3 and means “rebuilt.” The word “repair” is used 35 times and means to “make strong and firm” (compare Ezekiel 13:1-16; 22:28). They were sorting through the rubble and using the stones around them to help repair and rebuild.
  9. Tekoites – In verse 5 we find the men of Tekoa working on one section, and in verse 27 they worked on “another section.” Think about it…when they finished with “their” section, they did not walk away, they moved on to “another section.” Great principle for us to remember. Keep working in God’s work, you are never finished, just re-positioned.
  10. Zealously, carefully – Verse 20 in the NASB says Baruch “zealously” repaired the wall, while the NKJV says he “carefully” did it. Either way, you can see the spirit of the men and women working on the wall. They cared. This was not just a job, this was God’s work, and it directly affected their family, their city, their Jewish brethren. And most of all it was done for God’s glory.

I will finish with a quote from D.L. Moody:

“A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest in…to get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy, is all they want.  The idea of work for them—actual work in the church—never enters their minds.”

How Long Nehemiah Prayed

I’m listening to some sermons on Nehemiah and this fellow made a wonderful observation that I want to share with you today.

When Nehemiah, cup-bearer for the king of Persia, heard that his ancestral city of Jerusalem was lying in rubble and his fellow Jews were in distress, he prayed fervently. Between chapters 1 and 2 there is a period of 3-4 months. Nehemiah prayed for 90-120 days before God gave him the first opportunity to petition his boss, Artaxerxes the King of Persia, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild.

When the people of Israel began to rebuild the walls under his leadership, it took the Jews 52 days to build the wall (Nehemiah 6:15).

Do the math. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took them to build the wall.

Don’t we have this reversed sometimes? We work twice as long, beating our heads against the wall, because we did not spend enough time inviting God into our lives and our planning. Not enough time was spent seeking God’s advice, God’s will, His wisdom and His plans, and as a result we make our lives and work all the more difficult.

It’s something to think about. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took him to actually do the project.

 

For Ezra Had Prepared

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10).

Ezra was born and raised in captivity away from the Jewish homeland of Israel. I’m sure it could have been extremely easy for Ezra to just fit it with the Babylonian and Persian culture. He could have decided to forsake his heritage and take part in the ways of the people around him.

What was Ezra doing while he grew up?

He prepared. Preparation implies that he knew he had a purpose. He was going to teach God’s law in Israel one day. But Ezra knew that in order to teach God’s word in Israel there was work to be done first.

Ezra prepared his heart. In order to teach, he must first be doing what he was going to teach. And in order to practice what he preached, he needed to seek God’s law to know what to practice.

For Ezra Had Prepared

This required a firm decision, an unwavering commitment to follow this path. Ezra prepared his mind and heart first. Long before he arrived in Jerusalem leading a group of returning exiles, he made a commitment in concrete to seek God’s law. Years before he led the people in repentance (Ezra 9-10), he was preparing his heart and mind to seek, learn and obey God’s Law. Decades prior to him being used by Nehemiah to lead the people in spiritual revival (Nehemiah 8), he was setting his heart firmly to follow God’s word.

The long and short of it is that if we want to be used by the Lord in His church, we need to like Ezra set our minds in concrete to follow God’s word and to live God’s way. Ezra’s steadfast determination to seek God’s law and do it prepared him to be in a position later to teach God’s law. This is the same for us, men.

Wear the seat of your pants out learning the word of God. Read it. Listen to it. Study it. Meditate upon it. Saturate yourselves in it. Put your heart in concrete to do what God tells you. That will prepare you just like Ezra to be a leader one day in God’s church.

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:15-16)