Overcomer! Don’t give up! Don’t give in!

Ever had obstacles get in the way of what you are trying to get done? Ever found yourself in a position where you need to get around, get over, or get through something? Ever been faced with a struggle or conflict? Ever been faced with difficulties in your life?

Well this morning’s reading starts out on the topic of being an overcomer!

Ever heard Mandisa’s song?

The devil is going to try and block you from being or becoming all that God has planned for you. He will try to get your mind racing so that you can’t focus on anything but his lies. So cry out to God and ask Him for help for when we put our focus on God rather than the problem, the problem seems so much smaller and we can overcome it. God’s made promises and so grab a hold of that even if you hit rock bottom. Look up to Him! Start the journey back up, get up and get started! He is hope for the hopeless. He is air for the breathless. Nothing is impossible with or for God!

Let’s be overcomers just like we read about Nehemiah this morning.

Nehemiah Overcomes Opposition to His Work

1When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to ridicule us. 2In front of his companions and the Samaritan troops he said, “What do these miserable Jews think they’re doing? Do they intend to rebuild the city? Do they think that by offering sacrifices they can finish the work in one day? Can they make building stones out of heaps of burnt rubble?” 3Tobiah was standing there beside him, and he added, “What kind of wall could they ever build? Even a fox could knock it down!” 4I prayed, “Hear how they make fun of us, O God! Let their ridicule fall on their own heads. Let them be robbed of everything they have, and let them be taken as prisoners to a foreign land. 5Don’t forgive the evil they do and don’t forget their sins, for they have insulted us who are building.” 6So we went on rebuilding the wall, and soon it was half its full height, because the people were eager to work. 7Sanballat, Tobiah, and the people of Arabia, Ammon, and Ashdod heard that we were making progress in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and that the gaps in the wall were being closed, and they became very angry. 8So they all plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion, 9but we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night. 10The people of Judah had a song they sang: “We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?”
11Our enemies thought we would not see them or know what was happening until they were already upon us, killing us and putting an end to our work. 12But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us. 13So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished. 14I saw that the people were worried, so I said to them and to their leaders and officials, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember how great and terrifying the Lord is, and fight for your relatives, your children, your wives, and your homes.” 15Our enemies heard that we had found out what they were plotting, and they realized that God had defeated their plans. Then all of us went back to rebuilding the wall. 16From then on half of my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armor and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people 17who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other, 18and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to their waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me. 19I told the people and their officials and leaders, “The work is spread out over such a distance that we are widely separated from one another on the wall. 20If you hear the bugle, gather around me. Our God will fight for us.” 21So every day, from dawn until the stars came out at night, half of us worked on the wall, while the other half stood guard with spears. 22During this time I told the men in charge that they and all their helpers had to stay in Jerusalem at night, so that we could guard the city at night as well as work in the daytime. 23I didn’t take off my clothes even at night, neither did any of my companions nor my servants nor my bodyguards. And we all kept our weapons at hand. – from Nehemiah 4

Sometimes we need to overcome those closest to us who are holding us back too. It isn’t always just the enemy that is clear to us, but it can be people closer to us who need to come into alignment in order to stop holding us back. We can overcome! All things are possible for those who believe! We can do something about it! We can lead change! Let’s be bold and courageous!

Oppression of the Poor

1Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against the other Jews. 2Some said, “We have large families, we need grain to keep us alive.” 3Others said, “We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough grain to keep us from starving.” 4Still others said, “We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. 5We are of the same race as the other Jews. Aren’t our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us.” 6When I heard their complaints, I grew angry 7and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, “You are oppressing your own relatives!”I called a public assembly to deal with the problem 8and said, “As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!” The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say. 9Then I said, “What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what’s right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us. 10I have let the people borrow money and grain from me, and so have my companions and those who work for me. Now let’s give up all our claims to repayment. 11Cancel all the debts they owe you—money or grain or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses right now!” 12The leaders replied, “We’ll do as you say. We’ll give the property back and not try to collect the debts.”I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made. 13Then I took off the sash I was wearing around my waist and shook it out. “This is how God will shake any of you who don’t keep your promise,” I said. “God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing.”Everyone who was present said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord. And the leaders kept their promise.

Nehemiah’s Unselfishness

14During all the twelve years that I was governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor until his thirty-second year, neither my relatives nor I ate the food I was entitled to have as governor. 15Every governor who had been in office before me had been a burden to the people and had demanded forty silver coins a day for food and wine. Even their servants had oppressed the people. But I acted differently, because I honored God. 16I put all my energy into rebuilding the wall and did not acquire any property. Everyone who worked for me joined in the rebuilding. 17I regularly fed at my table a hundred and fifty of the Jewish people and their leaders, besides all the people who came to me from the surrounding nations. 18Every day I served one beef, six of the best sheep, and many chickens, and every ten days I provided a fresh supply of wine. But I knew what heavy burdens the people had to bear, and so I did not claim the allowance that the governor is entitled to. 19I pray you, O God, remember to my credit everything that I have done for this people. –from Nehemiah 5

When we are being attacked, we need to turn to God and ask Him for the strength and the courage to be able to know what to do and to do it! We put our hope and trust in God so that no matter what comes our way, we can be overcomers! We must complete the work God has given us to do!

Plots against Nehemiah

1Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of our enemies heard that we had finished building the wall and that there were no gaps left in it, although we still had not set up the gates in the gateways. 2So Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message, suggesting that I meet with them in one of the villages in the Plain of Ono. This was a trick of theirs to try to harm me. 3I sent messengers to say to them, “I am doing important work and can’t go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you.” 4They sent me the same message four times, and each time I sent them the same reply. 5Then Sanballat sent one of his servants to me with a fifth message, this one in the form of an unsealed letter. 6It read: “Geshem tells me that a rumor is going around among the neighboring peoples that you and the Jewish people intend to revolt and that this is why you are rebuilding the wall. He also says you plan to make yourself king 7and that you have arranged for some prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem that you are the king of Judah. His Majesty is certain to hear about this, so I suggest that you and I meet to talk the situation over.”
8I sent a reply to him: “Nothing of what you are saying is true. You have made it all up yourself.” 9They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!” 10About this time I went to visit Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was unable to leave his house. He said to me, “You and I must go and hide together in the Holy Place of the Temple and lock the doors, because they are coming to kill you. Any night now they will come to kill you.” 11I answered, “I’m not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won’t do it.” 12When I thought it over, I realized that God had not spoken to Shemaiah, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to give me this warning. 13They hired him to frighten me into sinning, so that they could ruin my reputation and humiliate me. 14I prayed, “God, remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done and punish them. Remember that woman Noadiah and all the other prophets who tried to frighten me.”

The Conclusion of the Work

15After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul. 16When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help. 17During all this time the Jewish leaders had been in correspondence with Tobiah. 18Many people in Judah were on his side because of his Jewish father-in-law, Shecaniah son of Arah. In addition, his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. 19People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me. –from Nehemiah 6

Don’t give up on God! God hasn’t given up on you! He continues to provide a second chance! He has made a way when we couldn’t and can’t do it in our own strength!

1And now the wall had been rebuilt, the gates had all been put in place, and the Temple guards, the members of the sacred choir, and the other Levites had been assigned their work. 2I put two men in charge of governing the city of Jerusalem: my brother Hanani and Hananiah, commanding officer of the fortress. Hananiah was a reliable and God-fearing man without equal. 3I told them not to have the gates of Jerusalem opened in the morning until well after sunrise and to have them closed and barred before the guards went off duty at sunset. I also told them to appoint guards from among the people who lived in Jerusalem and to assign some of them to specific posts and others to patrol the area around their own houses.

The List of Those Who Returned from Exile

(Ezra 2.1-70)
4Jerusalem was a large city, but not many people were living in it, and not many houses had been built yet. 5God inspired me to assemble the people and their leaders and officials and to check their family records. I located the records of those who had first returned from captivity, and this is the information I found: 6Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own hometown. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. 7Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah. 8-25This is the list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned from exile:
Parosh – 2,172
Shephatiah – 372
Arah – 652
Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) – 2,818
Elam – 1,254
Zattu – 845
Zaccai – 760
Binnui – 648
Bebai – 628
Azgad – 2,322
Adonikam – 667
Bigvai – 2,067
Adin – 655
Ater (also called Hezekiah) – 98
Hashum – 328
Bezai – 324
Hariph – 112
Gibeon – 95

26-38People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:
Bethlehem and Netophah – 188
Anathoth – 128
Beth Azmaveth – 42
Kiriath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth – 743
Ramah and Geba – 621
Michmash – 122
Bethel and Ai – 123
The other Nebo – 52
The other Elam – 1,254
Harim – 320
Jericho – 345
Lod, Hadid, and Ono – 721
Senaah – 3,930

39-42This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:
Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua) – 973
Immer – 1,052
Pashhur – 1,247
Harim – 1,017

43-45Clans of Levites who returned from exile:
Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) – 74
Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) – 148
Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) – 138

46-56Clans of Temple workers who returned from exile:
Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
Keros, Sia, Padon,
Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,
Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,
Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
Besai, Meunim, Nephushesim,
Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
Bazlith, Mehida, Harsha,
Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
Neziah, and Hatipha.

57-59Clans of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile:
Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,
Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth Hazzebaim, and Amon.

60The total number of descendants of the Temple workers and of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile was 392. 61-62There were 642 belonging to the clans of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer; but they could not prove that they were descendants of Israelites. 63-64The following priestly clans could find no record to prove their ancestry: Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. (The ancestor of the priestly clan of Barzillai had married a woman from the clan of Barzillai of Gilead and taken the name of his father-in-law’s clan.) Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not accepted as priests. 65The Jewish governor told them that they could not eat the food offered to God until there was a priest who could use the Urim and Thummim.

66-69Total number of exiles who returned – 42,360.
Their male and female servants – 7,337
Male and female musicians – 245
Horses – 736
Mules – 245
Camels – 435
Donkeys – 6,720

70-72Many of the people contributed to help pay the cost of restoring the Temple:
The governor 270 ounces of gold
50 ceremonial bowls
530 robes for priests
Heads of clans 337 pounds of gold
3,215 pounds of silver
The rest of the people 337 pounds of gold
2,923 pounds of silver
67 robes for priests

73The priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the Temple workers—all the people of Israel—settled in the towns and cities of Judah.
–from Nehemiah 7

The truth will set you free! There are many people who may have heard about it, but never actually heard it! Might there be a way to get it shared so that others can come to know the truth and be set free?

Ezra Reads the Law to the People

1By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the Lord had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. 2So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered—men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively. 4Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. The following men stood at his right: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and the following stood at his left: Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. 6Ezra said, “Praise the Lord, the great God!”All the people raised their arms in the air and answered, “Amen! Amen!” They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground. 7Then they rose and stood in their places, and the following Levites explained the Law to them: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. 8They gave an oral translation of God’s Law and explained it so that the people could understand it. 9When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don’t have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don’t be sad. The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.” 11The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.

The Festival of Shelters

13The next day the heads of the clans, together with the priests and the Levites, went to Ezra to study the teachings of the Law. 14They discovered that the Law, which the Lord gave through Moses, ordered the people of Israel to live in temporary shelters during the Festival of Shelters. 15So they gave the following instructions and sent them all through Jerusalem and the other cities and towns: “Go out to the hills and get branches from pines, olives, myrtles, palms, and other trees to make shelters according to the instructions written in the Law.” 16So the people got branches and built shelters on the flat roofs of their houses, in their yards, in the Temple courtyard, and in the public squares by the Water Gate and by the Ephraim Gate. 17All the people who had come back from captivity built shelters and lived in them. This was the first time it had been done since the days of Joshua son of Nun, and everybody was excited and happy. 18From the first day of the festival to the last they read a part of God’s Law every day. They celebrated for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a closing ceremony, as required in the Law. –from Nehemiah 8

When people get to hear the truth, they will turn back from their ways and start to walk in alignment with God’s will and God’s plan for their lives! Let’s not only be overcomers, but let’s be people who help other people become overcomers too! How strong are you behind this idea and move of God?

The People Confess Their Sins

1-2On the twenty-fourth day of the same month the people of Israel gathered to fast in order to show sorrow for their sins. They had already separated themselves from all foreigners. They wore sackcloth and put dust on their heads as signs of grief. Then they stood and began to confess the sins that they and their ancestors had committed. 3For about three hours the Law of the Lord their God was read to them, and for the next three hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God. 4There was a platform for the Levites, and on it stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani. They prayed aloud to the Lord their God. 5The following Levites gave a call to worship: Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah. They said:
“Stand up and praise the Lord your God; praise him forever and ever! Let everyone praise his glorious name, although no human praise is great  enough.”

The Prayer of Confession

6And then the people of Israel prayed this prayer:
“You, Lord, you alone are Lord; you made the heavens and the stars of the sky. You made land and sea and everything in them; you gave life to all. The heavenly powers bow down and worship you. 7You, Lord God, chose Abram and led him out of Ur in Babylonia; you changed his name to Abraham. 8You found that he was faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him. You promised to give him the land of the Canaanites, the land of the Hittites and the Amorites, the land of the Perizzites, the busites, the Girgashites, to be a land where his descendants would live. You kept your promise, because you are faithful. 9“You saw how our ancestors suffered in Egypt; you heard their call for help at the Red Sea. 10You worked amazing miracles against the king, against his officials and the people of his land, because you knew how they oppressed your people. You won then the fame you still have today. 11Through the sea you made a path for your people and led them through on dry ground. Those who pursued them drowned in deep water, as a stone sinks in the raging sea. 12With a cloud you led them in daytime, and at night you lighted their way with fire. 13At Mount Sinai you came down from heaven; you spoke to your people and gave them good laws and sound teachings. 14You taught them to keep your Sabbaths holy, and through your servant Moses you gave them your laws. 15“When they were hungry, you gave them bread from heaven, and water from a rock when they were thirsty. You told them to take control of the land which you had promised to give them. 16But our ancestors grew proud and stubborn and refused to obey your commands. 17They refused to obey; they forgot all you did; they forgot the miracles you had performed. In their pride they chose a leader to take them back to slavery in Egypt. But you are a God who forgives; you are gracious and loving, slow to be angry. Your mercy is great; you did not forsake them. 18They made an idol in the shape of a bull-calf and said it was the god who led them from Egypt! How much they insulted you, Lord! 19But you did not abandon them there in the desert, for your mercy is great. You did not take away the cloud or the fire that showed them the path by day and night. 20In your goodness you told them what they should do; you fed them manna and gave them water to drink. 21Through forty years in the desert you provided all that they needed; their clothing never wore out, and their feet were not swollen with pain. 22“You let them conquer nations and kingdoms, lands that bordered their own. They conquered the land of Heshbon, where Sihon ruled, and the land of Bashan, where Og was king. 23You gave them as many children as there are stars in the sky, and let them conquer and live in the land that you had promised their ancestors to give them. 24They conquered the land of Canaan; you overcame the people living there. You gave your people the power to do as they pleased with the people and kings of Canaan. 25Your people captured fortified cities, fertile land, houses full of wealth, cisterns already dug, olive trees, fruit trees, and vineyards. They ate all they wanted and grew fat; they enjoyed all the good things you gave them. 26“But your people rebelled and disobeyed you; they turned their backs on your Law. They killed the prophets who warned them, who told them to turn back to you. They insulted you time after time, 27so you let their enemies conquer and rule them. In their trouble they called to you for help, and you answered them from heaven. In your great mercy you sent them leaders who rescued them from their foes. 28When peace returned, they sinned again, and again you let their enemies conquer them. Yet when they repented and asked you to save them, in heaven you heard, and time after time you rescued them in your great mercy. 29You warned them to obey your teachings, but in pride they rejected your laws, although keeping your Law is the way to life. Hard-headed and stubborn, they refused to obey. 30Year after year you patiently warned them. You inspired your prophets to speak, but your people were deaf, so you let them be conquered by other nations. 31And yet, because your mercy is great, you did not forsake or destroy them. You are a gracious and merciful God! 32“O God, our God, how great you are! How terrifying, how powerful! You faithfully keep your covenant promises. From the time when Assyrian kings oppressed us, even till now, how much we have suffered! Our kings, our leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors, and all our people have suffered. Remember how much we have suffered! 33You have done right to punish us; you have been faithful, even though we have sinned. 34Our ancestors, our kings, leaders, and priests have not kept your Law. They did not listen to your commands and warnings. 35With your blessing, kings ruled your people when they lived in the broad, fertile land you gave them; but they failed to turn from sin and serve you. 36And now we are slaves in the land that you gave us, this fertile land which gives us food. 37What the land produces goes to the kings that you put over us because we sinned. They do as they please with us and our livestock, and we are in deep distress!”

The People Sign an Agreement

38Because of all that has happened, we, the people of Israel, hereby make a solemn written agreement, and our leaders, our Levites, and our priests put their seals to it.
–from Nehemiah 9

Will you be an overcomer? Will you help others to become over comers? Will you point people to the source of becoming an overcomer?

It’s amazing what can happen and what can be overcome when people come together in unity!

1The first to sign was the governor, Nehemiah son of Hacaliah, and then Zedekiah signed. The following also signed: 2-8Priests: Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaia. 9-13Levites: Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the clan of Henadad, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, Zaccur, Sherebiah,  Shebaniah, Hodiah, Bani, and Beninu. 14-27Leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.

The Agreement

28We, the people of Israel, the priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the Temple musicians, the Temple workers, and all others who in obedience to God’s Law have separated themselves from the foreigners living in our land, we, together with our wives and all our children old enough to understand, 29do hereby join with our leaders in an oath, under penalty of a curse if we break it, that we will live according to God’s Law, which God gave through his servant Moses; that we will obey all that the Lord, our Lord, commands us; and that we will keep all his laws and requirements. 30We will not intermarry with the foreigners living in our land. 31If foreigners bring grain or anything else to sell to us on the Sabbath or on any other holy day, we will not buy from them. Every seventh year we will not farm the land, and we will cancel all debts. 32Every year we will each contribute one-eighth of an ounce of silver to help pay the expenses of the Temple. 33We will provide for the Temple worship the following: the sacred bread, the daily grain offering, the animals to be burned each day as sacrifices, the sacred offerings for Sabbaths, New Moon Festivals, and other festivals, the other sacred offerings, the offerings to take away the sins of Israel, and anything else needed for the Temple. 34We, the people, priests, and Levites, will draw lots each year to determine which clans are to provide wood to burn the sacrifices offered to the Lord our God, according to the requirements of the Law. 35We will take to the Temple each year an offering of the first grain we harvest and of the first fruit that ripens on our trees. 36The first son born to each of us we will take to the priests in the Temple and there, as required by the Law, dedicate him to God. We will also dedicate the first calf born to each of our cows, and the first lamb or kid born to each of our sheep or goats. 37We will take to the priests in the Temple the dough made from the first grain harvested each year and our other offerings of wine, olive oil, and all kinds of fruit. We will take to the Levites, who collect tithes in our farming villages, the tithes from the crops that grow on our land. 38Priests who are descended from Aaron are to be with the Levites when tithes are collected, and for use in the Temple the Levites are to take to the Temple storerooms one-tenth of all the tithes they collect. 39The people of Israel and the Levites are to take the contributions of grain, wine, and olive oil to the storerooms where the utensils for the Temple are kept and where the priests who are on duty, the Temple guards, and the members of the Temple choir have their quarters. We will not neglect the house of our God. –from Nehemiah 10

Do you think you are too good for that?

Do you think you are better than them? Do you think wrongly about others? Do you judge others without really knowing their heart? Do you think you are mightier than though? Do you think you are too good for that?

Remember we are to be humble servants! Remember we are to be servant leaders!

We all have a calling! We all have been created on purpose for a purpose! Don’t look down on others, give a hand up to others! Silver and gold I don’t have, but with what I do have, I say get up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ!

Let’s take a look and see how today’s reading starts out from the words of Jesus…

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

9Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. 10“Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.”

Jesus Blesses Little Children

(Matthew 19.13-15; Mark 10.13-16)
15Some people brought their babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. The disciples saw them and scolded them for doing so, 16but Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17Remember this! Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

–from Luke 18

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that is why we need a savior. That is why Jesus came and gave up so much to obedience of death on a cross. He came to bridge the gap and reconcile / provide a way for us to be reconciled back to God! He took upon Himself that we could have the opportunity, the option, the ability to be reconciled back to since we couldn’t do it in our own strength or power. So don’t walk around with that “mightier than thou” type of attitude. We need to be more like kids. We need to receive the message of hope, of joy, of love, of life about the Kingdom of God like children!

In this world we will have troubles, so don’t lose hope! In this world there will be challenges, but we know the winner. In this world we will be persecuted, but there is nothing to fear, for we know the savior and redeemer, the one who will save our souls and reunite us with the Father in Heaven. In this world we need to walk believing and trusting in Jesus! In this world, we need not fear, for our hope is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ! They might be able to hurt our bodies, but our soul belongs to God! Our lives belong to God when we have give our lives over to Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

Let’s consider what the message sent to Timothy says…

Last Instructions

10But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11my persecutions, and my sufferings. You know all that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the terrible persecutions I endured! But the Lord rescued me from them all. 12Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted; 13and evil persons and impostors will keep on going from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.
–2 Timothy 3

Did you catch all of that? Let’s continue in the truths of God! Let’s continue to press into the Word of God! Let’s seek wisdom there and put all of our trust and hope in Jesus Christ who is our savior! All Scripture is God breathed, inspired by God and delivered through men. All scripture is powerful and purposeful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and instructing! So let’s press in so that we may be fully qualified and equipped to every good deed God has for us to do!

My reading for today will conclude with this wisdom from the book of Proverbs…

1Wise children pay attention when their parents correct them, but arrogant people never admit they are wrong. 2Good people will be rewarded for what they say, but those who are deceitful are hungry for violence. 3Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself. 4No matter how much a lazy person may want something, he will never get it. A hard worker will get everything he wants. 5Honest people hate lies, but the words of wicked people are shameful and disgraceful. 6Righteousness protects the innocent; wickedness is the downfall of sinners. 7Some people pretend to be rich, but have nothing. Others pretend to be poor, but own a fortune. 8The rich have to use their money to save their lives, but no one threatens the poor. 9The righteous are like a light shining brightly; the wicked are like a lamp flickering out. 10Arrogance causes nothing but trouble. It is wiser to ask for advice. 11The more easily you get your wealth, the sooner you will lose it. The harder it is to earn, the more you will have. 12When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed, but a wish come true fills you with joy. –from Proverbs 13

So don’t forget, but remember where you can turn. Pay attention to the correction you receive! Be humble and confess when you are wrong. When you speak, make it and let it count! Sometimes the smartest person in the room is the one who said nothing! Protect the innocent! Don’t be pretenders, be believers! Let’s be the salt and the light that this world needs! Let’s breath hope into the lives of those around us! Let’s share the joy of the Lord which is our strength with those around us! Let’s testify to the hope that is within us!

Always vs. Never…

Do you know what you should always do? Do you know what you should never do?

Always Pray! Never become discouraged!

We are to be in a close relationship with God right? Hence we are to pray without ceasing! That’s right all the time!

We are to put our hope and trust in God right? Hence fear not, just believe! Hence we are to never give up or lose heart because of the hope that is within us thanks to Jesus!

Today’s reading comes on this very specific topic. We read these words from Jesus…

The Parable of the Widow and the Judge

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they should always pray and never become discouraged. 2“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. 3And there was a widow in that same town who kept coming to him and pleading for her rights, saying, ‘Help me against my opponent!’ 4For a long time the judge refused to act, but at last he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect people, 5yet because of all the trouble this widow is giving me, I will see to it that she gets her rights. If I don’t, she will keep on coming and finally wear me out!’” 6And the Lord continued, “Listen to what that corrupt judge said. 7Now, will God not judge in favor of his own people who cry to him day and night for help? Will he be slow to help them? 8I tell you, he will judge in their favor and do it quickly. But will the Son of Man find faith on earth when he comes?” – from Luke 8

Need help? Call out to God! Need wisdom? Cry out to God! Never give up! Press forward and continue to do the good work God has given you to do! Persist! Persevere!

In this world there will be troubles, we will face challenges and tests. But we can take hope because not only did Jesus come to the world, He overcame it! So don’t lose hope! Don’t give up! Finish Strong! Take a look around you, are you seeing everyone acting in a way that is encouraging, uplifting, and pointing people to God? Are you seeing people around you who are being selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited? Are you seeing people around you who are insulting, disobedient, ungrateful, unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, fierce? Are you seeing people around you who seem to hate the good? Are you seeing people around you who use their time, their words, and their energy to build up, encourage, loving, hopeful, helpful? Are you seeing people around you who are honest, trustworthy, and with integrity?

God’s Word speaks to these questions as we continue in today’s reading…

The Last Days

1Remember that there will be difficult times in the last days. 2People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; 3they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; 4they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; 5they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people. 6Some of them go into people’s houses and gain control over weak women who are burdened by the guilt of their sins and driven by all kinds of desires, 7women who are always trying to learn but who can never come to know the truth. 8As Jannes and Jambres were opposed to Moses, so also these people are opposed to the truth—people whose minds do not function and who are failures in the faith. 9But they will not get very far, because everyone will see how stupid they are. That is just what happened to Jannes and Jambres. – from 2 Timothy 3

It’s a matter of the heart. It’s not about what is going on outside of you, but inside of you. Be lead by the Holy Spirit and follow what He says as He leads you in alignment with Jesus’ will for your life! Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, instruct you, and help you to walk in alignment with God’s will. Don’t let the arrogant people sway you or pressure you into doing the wrong thing. Don’t allow the bullies to have their way! Put your hope and trust in God and take time to spend with Him and with other believers who will speak hope and life into your life. Take time to be a part of a Bible believing, Bible preaching church where God’s Word is being shared. Take time to join a small group of believers where you can come together and pray for one another through the good and the tough times. Don’t try to go it alone! We were made to live with one another! The devil’s plan is to draw you away and to get you alone so that he can try to get you to believe things  you would otherwise not believe or fall for. Alone when he has you weakened he will try to get you to believe his lies. Don’t go it alone! It’s not God’s plan! That’s why He gave us one another! Need wisdom? Turn to God who will give it generously without finding fault!

Today’s reading finishes in the book of Proverbs…

15Stupid people always think they are right. Wise people listen to advice. 16When a fool is annoyed, he quickly lets it be known. Smart people will ignore an insult. 17When you tell the truth, justice is done, but lies lead to injustice. 18Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal. 19A lie has a short life, but truth lives on forever. 20Those who plan evil are in for a rude surprise, but those who work for good will find happiness. 21Nothing bad happens to righteous people, but the wicked have nothing but trouble. 22The Lord hates liars, but is pleased with those who keep their word. 23Smart people keep quiet about what they know, but stupid people advertise their ignorance. 24Hard work will give you power; being lazy will make you a slave. 25Worry can rob you of happiness, but kind words will cheer you up. 26The righteous person is a guide to his friend, but the path of the wicked leads them astray. 27If you are lazy, you will never get what you are after, but if you work hard, you will get a fortune. 28Righteousness is the road to life; wickedness is the road to death. – from Proverbs 12

Are you focusing on the inside or the outside?

What really matters to you what it looks like on the outside or what is taking place on the inside? What is most important that it looks good on the outside or that it is good on the inside? Does it really matter if the shell looks good but the insides are festering or coming apart? Where do you put your time and energy? Are you more interested in make sure you keep the outside looking good to create the right perception? Are you more interested in making sure that the inside is good and healthy? From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks! So we need to make sure we are filling it up with the right stuff! We need the inside to be the focus and then the outside will and should just be a revelation of what is really going on inside.

God’s not interested in the outside, He is more interested in our hearts! He doesn’t want our money, He wants our hearts! He doesn’t want us to do stuff out of fear, but out of love! He gave us freewill so that we can freely choose to listen, follow, obey His plans and His will for our lives out of love! He didn’t want robots, He wants relationship with us.

Let’s be focused on what’s on the inside! It’s what’s on the inside that counts!

Today’s reading speaks to this as we see Jesus say “because the Kingdom of God is within you“, so let’s take a look at the reading for today…

The Coming of the Kingdom

(Matthew 24.23-28, 37-41)
20Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. 21No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.” 22Then he said to the disciples, “The time will come when you will wish you could see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, over there!’ or, ‘Look, over here!’ But don’t go out looking for it. 24As the lightning flashes across the sky and lights it up from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25But first he must suffer much and be rejected by the people of this day. 26As it was in the time of Noah so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27Everybody kept on eating and drinking, and men and women married, up to the very day Noah went into the boat and the flood came and killed them all. 28It will be as it was in the time of Lot. Everybody kept on eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29On the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and killed them all. 30That is how it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31“On that day someone who is on the roof of a house must not go down into the house to get any belongings; in the same way anyone who is out in the field must not go back to the house. 32Remember Lot’s wife! 33Those who try to save their own life will lose it; those who lose their life will save it. 34On that night, I tell you, there will be two people sleeping in the same bed: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind. 35Two women will be grinding meal together: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind.” 37The disciples asked him, “Where, Lord?”Jesus answered, “Wherever there is a dead body, the vultures will gather.” –from Luke 17

So we need to make sure we have our focus on the right thing! We need to be more interested in the relationship with Jesus than just going through the motions or obeying rules. Ever notice how important David was to God? Ever noticed that it wasn’t that David was perfect or sinless, it was that God was his first choice. When he tripped up what did he do? He turned back to God! When he messed up, what did he do? He apologized and seeked God’s forgiveness. His heart was in the right place! It’s a matter of the heart! So let’s get things right on the inside and then allow God to flow out of us because of that!

Don’t be left behind!

As we get closer to Easter and the celebration of what God did for us we need to realize when Jesus spoke these words, the people didn’t realize that Jesus was going to have to go through so much pain and suffering. Jesus chose to allow it so that we could be reconciled back to God! It took things into His own hands since we weren’t going to be able to do it ourselves. As we experience Good Friday and remember the crucifixion. As we experience Easter Sunday and remember the resurrection. Let’s celebrate and run into Jesus’ arms starting, continuing, building up our relationship with Jesus! Let’s allow Him to be a part of each and every day! Let’s allow Him to be the wisdom to guide our every word, thought, and action. Let’s allow Him to come into our hearts and help get our lives cleaned up! Let’s ask His Spirit to grant us wisdom for every decision we need to make. Let’s live lives that are the overflow of our hearts that will glorify God each and every day! Let’s be set apart! Let’s be setup for special use!

Today’s reading continues in this flow with …

An Approved Worker

14Remind your people of this, and give them a solemn warning in God’s presence not to fight over words. It does no good, but only ruins the people who listen. 15Do your best to win full approval in God’s sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God’s truth. 16Keep away from profane and foolish discussions, which only drive people farther away from God. 17Such teaching is like an open sore that eats away the flesh. Two men who have taught such things are Hymenaeus and Philetus. 18They have left the way of truth and are upsetting the faith of some believers by saying that our resurrection has already taken place. 19But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: “The Lord knows those who are his” and “Those who say that they belong to the Lord must turn away from wrongdoing.” 20In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. 21Those who make themselves clean from all those evil things, will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed. 22Avoid the passions of youth, and strive for righteousness, faith, love, and peace, together with those who with a pure heart call out to the Lord for help. 23But keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. 24As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. – from 2 Timothy 2

So let’s not only get ourselves cleaned up on the inside so that we can escape the trap of the Devil, let’s also start to live on the outside shining our hope and love so that others can come to the truth and realization of Jesus and be saved! Not sure where to start? Not sure what to do? Do you know Jesus? If not consider reading the Roman road… (If you scroll down on my homepage, you will find the verses) and consider how much Jesus loves You! Ask Him into your heart! Tell Him how much you want to know Him, how you believe in Him and that you want Him to come into your heart and help you become everything He created you to be. Ask Him to forgive you and to help you to be the person He created you to become.

God’s Word is more than a bunch of stories. It is alive and will speak to you. Ask, seek, knock and you will hear answers, find what you are looking for, and see doors open .

Today’s reading continues into the book of Proverbs to tell us…

1Any who love knowledge want to be told when they are wrong. It is stupid to hate being corrected. 2The Lord is pleased with good people, but condemns those who plan evil. 3Wickedness does not give security, but righteous people stand firm. 4A good wife is her husband’s pride and joy; but a wife who brings shame on her husband is like a cancer in his bones. 5Honest people will treat you fairly; the wicked only want to deceive you. 6The words of the wicked are murderous, but the words of the righteous rescue those who are threatened. 7The wicked meet their downfall and leave no descendants, but the families of the righteous live on. 8If you are intelligent, you will be praised; if you are stupid, people will look down on you. 9It is better to be an ordinary person working for a living than to play the part of someone great but go hungry. 10Good people take care of their animals, but wicked people are cruel to theirs. 11A hard-working farmer has plenty to eat, but it is stupid to waste time on useless projects. 12All that wicked people want is to find evil things to do, but the righteous stand firm. 13The wicked are trapped by their own words, but honest people get themselves out of trouble. 14Your reward depends on what you say and what you do; you will get what you deserve. – from Proverbs 12

Don’t forget to give thanks!

Ever received an incredible gift? Ever been given something so priceless? Ever asked for something and then received it?

Did you say thank you? Did you give thanks to the one who gave it to you? Did you receive it and just move on?

Today’s reading start on just such a topic…So

Make sure you don’t forget to give thanks!

Jesus Heals Ten Men

11As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, he went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12He was going into a village when he was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin disease. They stood at a distance 13and shouted, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!” 14Jesus saw them and said to them, “Go and let the priests examine you.”On the way they were made clean. 15When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. 17Jesus spoke up, “There were ten who were healed; where are the other nine? 18Why is this foreigner the only one who came back to give thanks to God?” 19And Jesus said to him, “Get up and go; your faith has made you well.” –from Luke 17

Consider what you have received. Are you sharing it? Are you mentoring others in the way? Are you delegating responsibility to others who can spread the good news that you have received? Are you running to win? Are you fighting like everyone’s lives depends on it? Are you being obedient? Are you following the rules? Are you staying on track? Are you acknowledging Him?  Today’s reading continues with…

A Loyal Soldier of Christ Jesus

1As for you, my son, be strong through the grace that is ours in union with Christ Jesus. 2Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. 3Take your part in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus. 4A soldier on active duty wants to please his commanding officer and so does not get mixed up in the affairs of civilian life. 5An athlete who runs in a race cannot win the prize unless he obeys the rules. 6The farmer who has done the hard work should have the first share of the harvest. 7Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all. 8Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from death, who was a descendant of David, as is taught in the Good News I preach. 9Because I preach the Good News, I suffer and I am even chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not in chains, 10and so I endure everything for the sake of God’s chosen people, in order that they too may obtain the salvation that comes through Christ Jesus and brings eternal glory. 11This is a true saying:
“If we have died with him, we shall also live with him. 12If we continue to endure, we shall also rule with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. 13If we are not faithful, he remains faithful, because he cannot be false to himself.” –from 2 Timothy 2

So let’s acknowledge Him in all our ways and allow Him to make our path straight!

Will you celebrate and give thanks for what you have been given? Will you risk losing what you have? Make sure your heart is right! Make sure you are walking in alignment with God’s will for your life! Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness! When we put first things first, then everything else can fall into place.

16A gracious woman is respected, but a woman without virtue is a disgrace. Lazy people will never have money, but aggressive people will get rich. 17You do yourself a favor when you are kind. If you are cruel, you only hurt yourself. 18Wicked people do not really gain anything, but if you do what is right, you are certain to be rewarded. 19Anyone who is determined to do right will live, but anyone who insists on doing wrong will die. 20The Lord hates evil-minded people, but loves those who do right. 21You can be sure that evil people will be punished, but the righteous will escape. 22Beauty in a woman without good judgment is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout. 23What good people want always results in good; when the wicked get what they want, everyone is angry. 24Some people spend their money freely and still grow richer. Others are cautious, and yet grow poorer. 25Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped. 26People curse someone who hoards grain, waiting for a higher price, but they praise the one who puts it up for sale. 27If your goals are good, you will be respected, but if you are looking for trouble, that is what you will get. 28Those who depend on their wealth will fall like the leaves of autumn, but the righteous will prosper like the leaves of summer. 29Those who bring trouble on their families will have nothing at the end. Foolish people will always be servants to the wise. 30Righteousness gives life, but violence takes it away. 31Those who are good are rewarded here on earth, so you can be sure that wicked and sinful people will be punished.  –from Proverbs 11