May 27, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 8:13-18

When was the last time that you took a period of time to simply remember what God has done in your life and give him praise for that? If we are honest, most of us probably neglect to do that. We get very caught up in praying for our personal needs and desires. It is absolutely good and okay for us to do that. But what we see in this passage is a large group of people coming together to celebrate and praise God for what He has done in their lives.

The Feast of Booths was a celebration where the Israelites spend a period of time living in temporary “homes” made out of sticks in remembrance of the time spent in the wilderness. They went to extreme lengths to highlight the fact that God protected them and brought them out of the wilderness.

When I read this passage, I can’t help but be convicted about how often I spend time just praising God and recognizing Him and all of the things He has done in my life. Every person who follows Jesus has an unbelievable amount of reasons to simply praise Him.

So what has God done in your life that He deserves praise for? We would love to hear what God is doing in your life. Please comment below and we will thank God with you.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

May 26, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 8:1-12

I hope you’ve been enjoying our time through Nehemiah. We have an amazing passage to look at today! We see a beautiful glimpse of what it looks like to be a people who love and desire God’s Word in their lives. My encouragement to us today is to understand that, in a way, this is how God desires for us to respond to His Word. The Bible is the primary way that God has revealed Himself to us, and when we realize that God is our ultimate need, the Bible becomes our primary way to meet that need. I pray that God would use His Spirit to make these things true of us today:

  1. The people were attentive to the Word. (v. 3) As soon as Ezra opened the book, the people gave their full attention to it. They knew that the Bible was how they met with God. How would you measure your attentiveness when reading the Bible? What does this say about your desire for God?
  2. The people revered the Word. (v. 5) The people standing was a sign of honor. They loved, respected, and feared the Word, which stirred up reverence in their hearts. Does your reverence for God’s Word lead you to desire to honoring it with your life by obeying it?
  3. The people worshipped because of the Word. (v. 6a) Often we think of singing as the sole mode of worship on a Sunday morning, but the preaching and receiving of the Word (along with giving, serving, etc.) is also worship! Hearing the Word led the people to lift up their hands and bow their heads in response. Is your reading of God’s Word more worshipful or mechanic? Do you respond to it in worship or do you just cross it off your list?
  4. The people were humbled by the Word. (v. 6b) The people bowed their heads, and in a few verses (v. 9-12) we will see that seeing themselves in light of who God is made them weep. When you read the Bible, are you regularly being convicted of your sin?
  5. The people desired to understand the Word. (v. 7-8) The leaders and teachers had a desire to explain the Word clearly, but it also seems that the people really desired to understand it for themselves. Their hunger to know God led them to desire to understand it fully. Can this be said of you?
  6. The people received joy from the Word. (v. 9-12) In response to the Word, they were exposed to their need for God and wept. But the good news for them and us is that with the conviction of sin comes the hope of forgiveness. Throughout the Bible we are pointed to Christ who gives ultimate hope that leads us to have ultimate joy.

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (v. 10b)

This passage can be applied to listening to sermons on Sunday morning (or any other time through the week), personal Bible study, and small groups as well. Another thing: one of the best things you can do with your summer is join a Summer Bible Study where you can apply this as well! You can find out more information here.

In the comments, respond with something that God brought to your attention through our passage.

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

May 25, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 7

What do you want to have inscribed on your gravestone? Here are some good epitaphs I found online (all real!):

“I told you I was sick!”
In a Georgia cemetery

“The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna,
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.”
In a Ribbesford, England cemetery

“Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.”
Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery

“Here lays Butch,
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.”
In a Silver City, Nevada cemetery

“I was somebody.
Who, is no business
Of yours.”
Someone determined to be anonymous in Stowe, Vermont

“Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.”
Anna Hopewell’s grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont

“Sir John Strange.
Here lies an honest man.
And that is Strange.”
A lawyer’s tombstone in England

“Here lies
Johnny Yeast
Pardon me
For not rising.”
In Ruidoso, New Mexico

“Here lies Ann Mann,
Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.”
Dec. 8, 1767

“Reader if cash thou art
In want of any
Dig 4 feet deep
And thou wilt find a Penny.”
John Penny’s epitaph in the Wimborne, England cemetery

“Gone away Owin’ more
Than he could pay.”
Owen Moore in Battersea, London, England

So, what do you want on your gravestone? What do you want to be said of you when you leave this earth to go to be with Jesus? Write it down right now.

Good.

Whatever you just said is what COULD be. What’s the reality? What kind of epitaph would be written about you today if – God forbid – you were to pass away? I pray that it would be similar to what is said about Hanani and Hananiah in Nehemiah 7.

Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. (Nehemiah 7:1-2, ESV)

These men were known for their trust in the Lord. Their reputation: God-fearing and faithful. We may not know much else about them, but the simplicity of this statement about the dash between the years of their lives is enough, isn’t it? Here’s a question for application and reflection:

How do I close the gap between what would be said of me today and what I hope will be said of me in the end?

I’ll give you my simple answer: walk closely with Jesus. Live for Him more every day than the day before.

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

May 24, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 6:1-19

Opposition

Nehemiah obeyed God, against all obstacles. He traveled to Jerusalem to begin to rebuild the walls and refortify the city. He surveyed the damage, rallied the people, and the work began.  It was going fabulously… until the opposition started.

Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem – the enemies of the work of God – found out and boy were they mad!  They threatened Nehemiah.  They started a smear campaign against him (v. 5-7). They did everything they could to hinder his efforts for God.  But Nehemiah had determination.  He could not be stopped.

They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work.  So I continued the work with even greater determination. (v. 9)

Finally, Nehemiah prayed for God’s judgement on them (v. 14). So, on October 2nd – they finished the wall!  Just 52 days after they had started.

What does Satan use to oppose you?  How does he try and stop you from doing the things God wants you to do?

Fear?  Failure?  Discouragement?   Distraction?

How can you defeat him and obey the work God’s called you to? Crystal McDowell makes the following suggestions.

1) Put aside all sinful behaviors.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1)

2) Trust in God for strength and wisdom to deal with the obstacles.

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2)

3) Deal with the strongholds in our mind.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)

4) Know that nothing is too hard for God.

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

5) Recognize that God uses obstacles for His purposes.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20)

Obstacles come with the territory – they’re a part of the journey.  Ask God today to give you the power to rise above them like Nehemiah did.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor