Finding Joy

If one word characterized the Christian life it would be joy. Joy should be the testimony of every Christian and every church. The Gospel is not bad news, it is Good News. Joy to the World the Lord has come! Has this joy come to you? Here are three ways, found in Nehemiah 8, that we can find joy:

“Now all the people gathered together… and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses…. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding… Then he read from it … from morning until midday… and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Neh. 8:1-3). People want to experience God. You cannot experience God apart from His word. You have to get in the book and the book has to get in you!

How many came? “All.” Church attendance is not optional for the Christian. They read from morning to midday! It was a 6-hour sermon! All the people. Standing. Hot. Sweating. Outside for 6 hours. Most today can’t take 30 minutes to 1 hour. They stood for the whole time!

Nehemiah preached the Word, not opinion polls. What they read brought joy! What some of you read brings lust and fear. If you will read the Bible, it will bring joy.

Verse 6 says, “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” What is real worship? Worship attracts God. God attracts people. People leave not talking about a great preacher, but a great God. Worship gives God what He likes.

In this chapter, their worship was verbal and visible. People got excited! Is God dull, boring, cold, indifferent, or dead? Then why should church ever be that way? It may not be your way of worshipping, but it is biblical. Don’t ever look down your nose at someone who expresses themselves this way. It is not Baptist… it is Bible! They lifted up their hands. Many have never done it before. Maybe you wanted to, but you were self-conscience. 50,000 people did it here! Try it. It is painless!

Hands with palms up show all sin is confessed and you have nothing to hide. The Bible talks about lifting up HOLY hands. Hands raised show you are expecting an answer. Fill my cup, Lord. I have nothing of my own. I come empty handed. Worship is biblical, sacred, and expressive. We also read in this passage about submission – they bowed down. Picture 50,000 people doing this all at the same time. There is coming a day when every knee shall BOW and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Worship means worth-ship. Consider Him worthy. Whether or not you say “Amen,” you lift your hands, or you bow, it all depends on what Jesus is worth to you.

Verse 10 says, “…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Verse 12 says, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” A new job, man, woman, house, car, or clothes will not, and cannot, bring you joy. They found joy in doing the will of God. What is the will of God for your life?

Joy is found in the Word of God, the worship of God, and the will of God. Joy is found in Jesus!

How Will You Be Remembered?

Nehemiah 7 has 73 verses and is primarily a list of names. It’s like the Jerusalem phone book! Most authors skip over it or combine it with chapter 8, but there is so much there. I just couldn’t skip over it!

The first subject addressed in the chapter is leadership. As I have said throughout this series, the book of Nehemiah is a classic on leadership.

“Then it was… that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many” (Neh. 7:1-2). Nehemiah put the right people in the right places. He appointed leaders and even chose his brother. He was not afraid of the accusation of nepotism and did not give the job to his brother because of favoritism. Hanani was faithful and trusted.

Leadership cannot be left up to a popularity vote. Note the criteria for choosing leaders in verse 2. They had to be faithful. The greatest ability is dependability. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Regardless of your place of service, your greatest ability is dependability! Don’t be hit and miss, hot and cold, on and off. Be faithful.

In verse 5, Nehemiah gathered the people together. Why did they build the wall? So people could come into the city of God and find a place of safety. Why are we building a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-site church? For people. Buildings and new campuses are tools to help us reach people. 1.7 million people are not driving to one address. We want to wrap our arms around Hampton Roads and take the Gospel to them! The names in chapter 7 were there to help build the city. We are here to help build the church. We are here for those who are not yet here!

Not only did the people partner together to build and to worship, but Nehemiah partnered with Hanani and Hannaniah, faithful men of integrity who feared God. Think of other examples in Scripture: Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses to win the battle, Joshua and Caleb believing the promises of God, Ruth and Naomi committing to make the journey together, David and Jonathan committing to friendship and protecting each other, Paul and Silas praising God even in adversity, and Paul and Timothy encouraging one another. It’s important who you partner with!

The Bible talks about money. In verses 70-72, the Governor, leaders, and the people all gave. Money follows your heart. Mathew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If you love something, you give your money to it. At the end of our text, the people make a major offering, nearly $5 million. God’s work is not second-rate. He does not want our leftovers. He wants our best. God put a dream in Nehemiah’s heart and he gave it his very best!

As I conclude this post on Nehemiah 7, remember God knows your name! We know the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. We know the names of David’s mighty men. In Romans 16 we have a list of names of those who worked with Paul. In Hebrews 11 we have a list of the heroes of the faith. Today, we read a list of names in Nehemiah 7. These are people God used to accomplish His work.

God is keeping records of where we came from, who we belong to, what we give, and what we do for Him. Is your name in God’s Book – the Lamb’s book of life? How will you be remembered? What will you be remembered for?

Doing a Great Work

We have been going through the book of Nehemiah in these posts. Just like the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, we live in a broken world. We are surrounded by broken lives, marriages, families, relationships, countries, systems, and governments. Our only hope is Jesus! No matter what work we put our minds to, we can be assured of two things: the unending harassment of the enemy and the unfailing help of the Lord.

Up to this point in the book of Nehemiah, the enemy has used disagreements, disrespect, discouragement, disappointment, division, and distraction. In Nehemiah 6, he continues attacking. You and I are not exempt from his schemes!

Don’t dialog with the devil or the enemy. In the beginning of this chapter, Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to meet with him, but he knew they intended to do him harm (v. 2). They wanted to hurt, hinder, and harm the work of God. He would not meet with them. He did not give the enemy an open door.

Because Nehemiah would not stop the work to meet, his enemies attacked him personally. They said things that were not true. They questioned his motive. Nehemiah became the target of careless and wicked tongues. The Bible says the tongue is set on fire of hell. They accused him of building his own kingdom. Any Godly leader will be criticized and slandered. Nehemiah worked for the king, but he was sent and supported by the King.

When you are attacked, do what Nehemiah did. He did not go off in the corner and worry himself sick! He did not call or email every friend he had and waste their time or his. He prayed! Sometimes you need a holy HUSH! Pray verse 9- “…therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Lord you hear what they are saying. You know it is not true. You know that you sent me. You know they are trying to stop the work. Lord, strengthen the work.

No matter what you face, the Lord will be with you. He never fails! Go to Him in prayer, rely on Him, and He will come through!

In verses 11-13, Nehemiah was tempted to sin by going to the holy of holies. Only the priest and the Levites could go there. He knew he was not a Levite and to do so would be to disobey the word of God. James Dobson said, “If a man falls you can always trace it back to his devotional life.” How did Nehemiah know that their suggestion would be a sin? He had read his Bible. There is no situation in life to which the Word has not already spoken!

The most important statement is in verse 15 – “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” The wall was finished. That was no small work! The devil knows that his days are numbered. His time is coming to an end. He has launched an all-out attack on the church. Satan wants us out of business. Think of how many lives have been changed. Think of the influence this church has had over the past 116 years. God has raised Liberty up to be a lighthouse on the east coast. Stay focused and determined to finish building the work.

Nehemiah had decided to do the work and will of God. Even enemies could see that this was the work of God. That is what we want people to say about Liberty! We are part of a great work. The devil will try to get us down and distracted, but the Lord is our Helper!

The enemy will attack. Decide today to turn it all over to God. Decide today to trust Him. Decide today to do right. Whether I live or die, succeed or fail, I am going to obey God and live for Him. What about you?

How to Survive an Economic Crisis

Nothing puts more pressure on a marriage or a relationship like money problems. There is no pressure like financial pressure! For some couples, the more they have, the more they have to fight about. Here are six action words from Nehemiah 5 that will help when financial pressure comes:

Nehemiah and the people found themselves in a bad economy. They had lost their houses and lands, and to pay their debts, their children were sold into slavery. People were mad, hurting, and desperate.

The first step to solving a problem is to address it. Talk about it. You can’t ignore it and hope it goes away. Husbands and wives should learn to talk about everything!

Verse 7 says, “After serious thought….” Nehemiah was so angry when he heard about the situation that he had to take some time to cool off. Sometimes we need to walk in the other room. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” Tammy and I have never gone to bed mad. We have stayed up all night a few times!

The people had violated the Word of God. It was not unlawful or wrong to borrow money. It was not unlawful or wrong to charge interest; however, God told the Jews that they could not charge another Jew interest. God set them free from slavery in Egypt and Babylon, now they were enslaving each other. God does not want His people in bondage. Jesus came to set the captives free!

Verse 9 says, “Fear the Lord….” They were robbing, taking from each other, and that is bad. What is worse is to rob God! “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10)

The first thing a young couple says is “We can’t afford to tithe.” Tammy and I have been there. Don’t tell me you can’t live off love. We did it! When we married I made $150.00 a week. Both of us were in college. You can’t afford not to tithe. A blessed 90% is better than a cursed 100%.

If you take care of His business, He will take care of your business. My parents were working class people. I did not know we were poor growing up, but now as an adult, looking back on my childhood, we were poor. We did not have a lot materially, but we were rich toward God. My parents put God first. They tithed. They paid their mortgage, car payment, and we never missed a meal. Praise God my dad never wasted money on alcohol and he did not gamble it away. Husbands and wives, teach your children and the next generation to put God first. Teach them to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

It really all comes down to trust. Don’t panic. Don’t be pessimistic. Economic recession is a fact of life, part of the ebb and flow of the economy. There are times of great economic growth, times of little change, and periods of recession. Times of economic crisis do not have to be frightening, especially if you are prepared ahead of time. Stay focused, streamline, simplify, and tap into God’s supernatural economy. God can be trusted!

Overall, these financial problems diverted attention from the main objective. No current work on the wall is mentioned in this chapter. Don’t you know the enemy was thrilled to see the work stop. The devil would love to see the Lord’s work stop. The devil would love to see your marriage end. In Jesus’ name don’t let that happen!