May 23, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 5:1-19

I find it important in life to judge things according to God’s grading scale—things are either good, very good, or not good. Nehemiah realized, possibly too late, speaking to the nobles and officials, “The thing that you are doing is not good” (5:9). So according to God’s grading scale, these people have been flunking.

Thankfully, God is gracious and often gives opportunities for repentance. Israel struggled with many things, but one of the big repeated offenses was greed and taking advantage of the oppressed. The prophet Ezekiel, who lived many years before Nehemiah, gave this warning, “See here—this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease, but they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49) We often associate Sodom with sexual sin (i.e. sodomy), but this passage should cause us to look in the mirror. God judged and destroyed Sodom for many reasons (Genesis 18-19), but its failure to care for the oppressed was a big one. Likewise, Israel did not hear Ezekiel’s plea and suffered the Babylonian Exile. Now they’re back at it!

After the stern condemnation from Nehemiah, he continues by strongly illustrating the depth of their wicked actions. As he continued speaking to the rich men he said, “Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” This statement was as chilling as a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads. Nehemiah made two bold statements; basically, that they are acting outside the Law (“fear of our God) and that even the Gentiles revile them for their behavior. This is like having the biggest trouble-maker you know look at you and say, “Dude, you crossed the line.”

Nehemiah not only encouraged these men to act generously to the poor, but he was an example for them. Nehemiah’s governorship allowed him to receive a “tax” from the people, but instead of adding any burden to them he required no such thing. Just because he could, doesn’t mean he should.

This passage is quite timely as we in Lexington are in the midst of trying to figure out how to respond to panhandlers. I offer no suggestions or criticisms either way, but I can say with confidence, God cares how Christians treat the poor and oppressed. Likewise, it is important that we not be confused in word or deed with non-believers when it comes to this issue—much less give them a reason to criticize our Savior. I’m not saying give money every time you see a panhandler—on the contrary, everything I have heard from experts says don’t give money. What I am saying is that your heart in dealing with the poor and oppressed should align with God’s heart, to love all people well, especially those who cannot help themselves.   

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

May 22, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 4:1-23

As Nehemiah starts to build the wall (please no Trump jokes/comments below, as tempting as it is) we see that opposition against the wall gains momentum and Nehemiah reminds them that they may have to fight for what God is calling them to do and he reminds them whom they are fighting for.

And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (4:14)

They’re fighting for the protection and future of their families, one of the most honorable and noble relationships one has been entrusted with. However the people couldn’t just stop the construction of the wall to be ready to fight potential enemies. This is why verses 15-23 say that they held a sword for fighting in one hand and a trowel for building in the other hand. This is probably one of the most influential passages of Scripture to me in the book of Nehemiah. The importance of balancing the God given responsibilities we’ve been given to protect/fight for certain things in our life while building other things. C.H. Spurgeon entitled his newspaper “The Sword & The Trowel” for this exact reason. He would write on certain subjects where he would fight for the inerrancy of God’s Word and Orthodox doctrine, while building on and edifying the church as a whole.

We have the same responsibility to do the same for what God has entrusted us with. We have a lot of trowel work as we build on Christ’s foundation in our lives and the marriages, families, jobs, education and ministry opportunities God gives us. A lot of life’s responsibilities is this trowel work and it’s hard. Working our jobs, paying the bills, loving our spouses, raising and disciplining our kids, being a missionary and serving the church. It’s hard work that we need to continue to build on and as we build, Satan is going to everything he can to take it away. To oppose it like Sanballat opposed Nehemiah and the wall they were building. That’s why we must do everything we can to protect what we build and fight for these things as well. We must look for the potential dangers and weaknesses in what we’re building and we must fight against it.

  • What is God currently asking you to build in your life right now?
  • What is God currently asking you to fight for/protect in your life right now?

We’d love to hear some of your answers in the comments below.

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

May 20, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 3:1-32

Nehemiah is a great example of how relevant the Old Testament is to us today. It shows us the faithfulness of God along with an example of a godly leader whom God used greatly. Our chapter today is a difficult one to glean fruit from, but there is some there! Here is what the ESV Study Bible says on this chapter:

The building work is described, and the workers are named, section by section. The point of this account is to show that the people as a whole responded to Nehemiah’s challenge and believed that God would give them success. The description of the work demonstrates the concerted effort of the people.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the names and responsibilities of the people. But see that the point of this is to point us to God’s faithfulness in the midst of their given task. This is a great reminder to us to look for the faithfulness of God on a regular basis even in the details.

Do you have a habit of acknowledging the faithfulness of God in every circumstance?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

May 19, 2017

Today you should read: Nehemiah 2:11-20

How’s your faith today? Would you describe it as bold? Maybe a little more on the feeble side? Or somewhere in between? Whatever adjective you would choose, I believe the Lord will use today’s reading to inspire your faith. We find Nehemiah following through with what God put on his heart, to rebuild the walls.

But first, a little legwork.

Nehemiah snuck out with his team for a dangerous reconnaissance mission; the wall had to be inspected. When he returned, he clued everyone in to what things really looked like, and then the commission was clear. Something had to be done. Their precious city — the city of the Lord — had to be restored.

What Nehemiah said at the very end of the chapter is what really struck a chord with my heart: “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.” How would you have responded to opposition? Oh, to be a Nehemiah in this day and age!

Back to my original question… and I’d love some transparency so I can pray for you. How is your faith today? Comment below and let’s ask God to move in each of our hearts to have the kind of bold faith exhibited by Nehemiah.

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor