My life to Nehemiah

By the year 445 B.C. the Persian Empire ruled the known world. This powerful nation was much more tolerant in its view of the Jews than the previous empire had been. The previous Babylonian empire had forced the Jews into exile from their promised land and into captivity within their great cities. It had destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem and the temple. Babylon fell to Persia in 539 B.C and in 535 B.C. Persian Emperor, Cyrus the Great, signed a decree allowing Jews to return home to Jerusalem. However, many Jews decided to stay put. They began to freely establish themselves in the cities their ancestors were once forced to live in. Many Jews held important positions within the Persian Empire.

In 445 B.C., in the Persian capital city of Susa, lived a Jew named Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. This position was one of danger and required loyalty and trust to the king. A cupbearer would test food and drink before the king to ensure it was safe and not poisonous. One day Nehemiah’s brother Hanani came with men from Judah to inform him on the condition of Jerusalem. They spoke of the danger their people were in back home because the walls of the city still lay in rubble. Nehemiah’s heart broke the moment he heard the news. For weeks he cried out to God in fasting and prayer and submitted himself to God’s will for the sake of his people. (Nehemiah 1:1-11) God heard Nehemiah’s prayer and provided an opportunity for Nehemiah. When the king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness he asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah told the king of Jerusalem’s troubles and the condition that its walls were in. The king, who had favor for Nehemiah, asked what Nehemiah wanted him to do about it. Nehemiah was prepared for this moment and told the king that he wished to leave with men, supplies and money to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The King granted this request and Nehemiah traveled back to the Promised Land. Once there he rallied all of the Jews there to work together for the reconstruction of the walls. This was possible because of Nehemiah’s optimistic view of the future, honest assessment of resources and positive attitude about change. Nehemiah had a specific plan of action and didn’t allow any distractions to deter it. (Hindson 2003, p. 199) Even with outside opposition, rumors and threats, all of the people worked together under Nehemiah’s leadership to rebuild the walls in just 52 days! The city was safe, the people’s hearts turned back toward God through repentance, and the people celebrated as the nation of Judah was reborn. (Hindson 2003, p. 202)

I feel as though my life parallels this story in a couple of ways. First, over the past few years I have become more aware of the destruction caused by sin. God has opened my eyes to see people more as He does. He has worked through situations in my life, such as my parent’s divorce, to help me realize our need for mercy, grace and restoration. Second, the Holy Spirit has refocused my mind to see opportunities for discipling and sharing God’s love. He has done this through His word and through people in my life, such as my discipleship pastor and friends at my local church. Nehemiah’s heart broke when he heard about the walls of Jerusalem. His heart broke at the thought of God’s people in danger. My heart breaks when I see the brokenness of the world because of the destruction of sin. My soul weeps when I think of the bondage so many people walk in until death. God has shown me freedom through His son and now I want to follow Him, completely. I want to help people see truth so that they may experience His mercy and grace and so that they may experience restoration in a relationship with their Creator. Whatever it takes, whatever His means for me to do so, I want to follow Him and make disciples as I go.

The story of Nehemiah is a motivation to me in this season of life. Nehemiah shows me that I must continue to pray for God to fulfill his work through my life. I can’t just sit back and wait for everything to fall into my lap. Like Nehemiah, I realize the vision. Now I must keep an optimistic view of the future and a positive attitude about change. Finally, like Nehemiah, I should commit to a specific plan of action. And once I do, I can’t be distracted by outside influences like the good causes that take my time away from God’s true work, or the negative influences that are only seeking to delay and discourage me.

Bibliography

The Journaling Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2006. Print.

Hindson, Edward E. Courageous Faith: Life Lessons from Old Testament Heroes. Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2003. Print.

Mark 9:9-13

Mark 9:9-13 

 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. 11And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

Mark 9:9-13 records a conversation between Jesus and three of His disciples, Peter, James and John. This event takes place immediately after the transfiguration of Jesus Christ on a mountain near Caesarea Philippi. In this passage, Jesus orders the disciples not to tell anyone about the transfiguration they had just witnessed until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. If Jesus was proclaimed Christ among the Jews before the cross and resurrection, the Jews might have tried to make Him king. Although Jesus had been teaching the disciples that He must suffer and die (e.g. Mark 8:31-38) these three disciples continued to question what Jesus meant when He spoke of “rising from the dead”. The true purpose of the Messiah was unclear to them. The three then asked Jesus about the prophecy of Elijah’s return prior to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus answered them by telling the disciples that the prophecies of Elijah’s second coming had been fulfilled. Most believe that John the Baptist fulfilled these prophecies.

In the previous passage we read about Jesus preparing His followers by informing them about His upcoming death (Mark 8:31-38). We read about the revelation of God’s Son to Peter, James and John in the transfiguration (Mark 9:1-8). The disciples witnessed Jesus transformed and speaking with Elijah and Moses.  They saw the visible presence of God surrounding the event in the form of a cloud and God the Father spoke to the disciples audibly as He commanded them, “This is my Son, whom I love, Listen to Him!”  This was a revelation that the prophets (Elijah) and the law (Moses) are fulfilled in the Son of Man (Jesus) and that the Messiah had come (Zech 14:16; Malachi 4).  Many believe this to be the fulfillment of Mark 9:1. Yet despite this glorious event we read that the disciples struggled to grasp the reality of what was to come (Mark 9:10). In the passages following Mark 9:9-13 we read of the disciples struggling to cast out a demon from a man’s son due to a lack of faith.

I believe the central message of these passages to the disciples, the Greeks and to us today is as follows:

·         Jesus Christ truly is the Messiah, the Son of God. This is evident in His fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies, wisdom, miraculous signs and ability to predict His death, burial and resurrection.

·         Our God has and will reveal Himself to His people (e.g. Mark 8:31-38)

·         Our God has and will prepare His people (e.g. Mark 8:31-38)

·         Our God has and will accomplish His purpose

 

Each of these requires faith. At times we struggle with our faith but we can rest assure that our God is great. Through our faith in His word we can know that He is in control and that we are redeemed. Listen to Him

Walk by the Spirit

Galatians 5:16-18

 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The Apostle Paul wrote the New Testament letter to the Galatians in order to counter false teaching that this early church had quickly embraced.  Judaizers were preaching a false doctrine that Gentiles must submit to Mosaic Law before they could experience salvation through Christ.  This teaching was contrary to the doctrines of grace and justification by faith alone in Christ Jesus.  In the letter we see Paul rebuking the audience (Ch. 1), reminding the audience of his apostolic credentials (Ch. 1 & 2), reemphasizing and explaining the doctrine of justification (Ch. 3 & 4) and describing how to apply this doctrine practically as believers (Ch. 5 & 6).

In Gal 5:13-15 Paul teaches the first century audience that they are free from Mosaic law but that this liberty should not be taken as freedom to fulfill the desires of their flesh.  Paul then reminds the audience that they are called to love and serve one another.  Through this love they fulfill all moral requirements of the Old Testament law.  In Gal 5:16-18 Paul tells the Galatians to walk in the Spirit so that they do not fulfill the sinful desires of their flesh.  If they are led by the Spirit they will no longer be bound by law but will fulfill the law as the Spirit would produce fruit in them.  The final two paragraphs contrast the works of the flesh with the fruits of the Spirit.  This meant that the Galatians should be mindful of the works of the flesh and instead, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit that had been given to them upon salvation.

One difference between the Galatian audience and the New Testament church today is that we do not believe we should follow Mosaic Law in order to receive salvation through Jesus.  We do not have Judaizers today and we are not being taught that adherence to the Old Testament Law is necessary.  We believe that salvation is by the grace of God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ.  We believe that salvation is not a result of our works (Ephesians 2:8).  One additional difference is that the New Testament church today does not question the position of Paul as an Apostle.

The theological principle in Gal 5:16-18 is to be led by the Holy Spirit constantly.  There is a war between our flesh and the Spirit of God in us.  We must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us.  If we do, we will walk in love and bear fruit.  Instead of being bound to living under rules and regulations ̶ the law, we fulfill the law as we walk in the freedom the Spirit gives.

Today we can find ourselves trapped in the snare of legalism and moralism.  As a result, we become prideful, judgmental and loveless.  Or we mistake the freedom from the law as a means to continue in sin.  The end result is a burdensome, false Christianity that does not result in love, but rather a ladder to holiness that can never reach the top.  Where is the freedom in that?  How do we walk in the Spirit?  We spend time praying, meditating on His word, committing it to memory and in fellowship with other believers.  If I awake in the morning full of worry, I can choose to take on the day with that worry or I can turn to God’s word in Philippians 4:6-7.  I can also write down the promises I find in His word so that I am ready to combat my flesh.  This allows the Spirit to lead in my life and it builds my faith.  If we constantly allow the Spirit to lead us, we will be full of love, bearing fruit and winning the war against the flesh, not by our actions, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why Does God Allow Evil To Continue?

This is a question that Christians need to be able to answer. You may have been asked this question before if you are obediently sharing your faith as we are commanded (Mark 16:15).

First let us remember that evil is a result of sin. All have sinned (Romans 3:23)… Sin is a result of the fall and we all inherit that sinful nature. Everyone of us is guilty of evil.

Whoa! Wait a second, I wouldn’t go that far….

Why not? Sure we see or hear about evil acts daily. The news is filled with stories of evil acts such as rapes, murder, or child abuse. But what about the evil in our own hearts? If you were to ask God to stop all evil in the world, where should we ask Him to draw the line? Should we ask that it stop with murderers? Thieves? Liars?… God would be just in stopping all evil immediately but that would encompass the entire human race.

Remember, our standard is God. God is holy, pure, just, kind, merciful, true….
Anything contrary to Him is inherently evil. God is also patient. He has allowed us to continue breathing air, tasting food, experiencing the wonders of His creation, all while we continued to sin against Him. God was kind and merciful by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth where He lived a perfect life, free of sin. He was beaten and crucified. Three days later He rose from the dead conquering death so that we can be forgiven. All who REPENT of their sins and have FAITH in Jesus as their savior become JUSTIFIED before God. His goodness is credited to us because our badness was placed on Him at the cross.

So, evil exist as a result of the fall. We all are sinners and are guilty of evil. God is patient with us and provides salvation because of His love and mercy. Remember, every other religion in the world tells us to be good and hopefully your good deeds will outweigh your bad deeds. Christianity is different. Jesus Christ came to tell us that NO ONE is good and even one sin against an infinitely holy God is deserving of Hell (Romans 6:23). That is why we need a savior. That is the Gospel and the only cure to evil in the world…Jesus Christ.

Evil will be punished. Those who don’t repent and trust Jesus will experience God’s wrath at judgment and be sent to hell. This is why we must share the good news as Jesus commanded.