You got this

I’m not a huge risk taker. I have never been prone to accept dares. Well there was that one time that I ate some strange mixture of who knows what. I was a teenager and I did it to get out of a job. I remember the flavor was sweet… and sour… and spicy… and well, just gross in general. That was just that one time. My preferred comfort level with dares is to be the guy standing several feet away shouting, “you got this!” You feel me?

I’ll be the first to high-five a successful dare-taker, though. I will be thoroughly impressed with their stupidity bravery. Such was the case with some Israelites way back in the day. They got a high five for their own risk-taking efforts. They had a crowd shouting “you got this!” So, what was the risk?

Nehemiah 11:2 The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

I know, I know. It doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal. But it was. Jerusalem was pretty much an abandoned city at this point. It didn’t have a bustling marketplace. The farmlands weren’t established. There wasn’t much protection and certainly no army. The only sure thing was that there were enemies who didn’t like the place. Let’s just say that the real estate agent had to get creative on the listing. “A charming little town that needs love.” Honestly, I’m not sure if anyone actually wanted to be uprooted to live there.

However, there were people who volunteered to do so. Apparently, the brave souls decided that a good place to reside was in the city of God. It was an uncertain future, but it was the place that God had ordained. I believe that those who volunteered to live there were not only commended, but blessed. See, when you choose to live in the place God has ordained, you will certainly find His blessing in that place. 

So I encourage to live boldly in the place that God has ordained in your life. What season has He called you to? Live in it. Who has He called you to be life to? Live in that. Where are the places of ministry that He is asking you to step into. Live there! You got this. You can take the risk. You will be commended and blessed!

Neglect isn’t always obvious… at first

Neglect isn’t always obvious. Well, at least it isn’t obvious at first. I’ll give you an example. Let’s pretend that I go several years without a daily exercise routine in my life. I’ll be okay at first, relying on my young age and past work. But what happens in the long run? I get old. I get out of shape. My body gets sore, not from lifting weights, but from lifting myself out of bed in the morning. Hey now, wipe that smile off your face; this is purely hypothetical!

The truth is, there are places in my life that I can easily neglect. Places that don’t have instant results. Places that seem intangible because I can’t see the good they do with my eyes. I don’t neglect the obvious stuff. I go to work and pay my bills. I stay on my side of the road and pay attention when I drive. I parent my children and make sure their needs are met. Of course I do the obvious stuff, because when I don’t the consequences are obvious.

The things I neglect tend to be the not-so-obvious ones. Which is why the results of that neglect isn’t always obvious. Well, at least it isn’t at first. The result of neglect exists even when we can’t see it. Neglect your wife and it will erode your marriage. Neglect your body and discover the aches and pains of old age. Neglect your walk with God and discover the erosion of your soul.

house-falling-apart

Nehemiah 10:39b “We will not neglect the house of our God.” 

The commitment made by God’s people here is simply this: we will not neglect his house. Now in this context, they were literally talking about the temple of God. They were talking about the place of church. They had committed to be faithful in their giving and in their service. Because when you neglect the house of God, you neglect the kingdom work that God has called us to.

But wait, there’s more! For us New Testament Christians, the application goes a step further. Not only is the house of God the gathering place of the church. The house of God is the dwelling place of God…in us! We are called His house. We are His temple. Caring for that temple is up to us. When we neglect our spiritual house, we neglect the work of God in us.

The neglect isn’t always obvious… at first. But over time, our heart begins to erode. Our passion for our Savior begins to wane. Our love begins to fade. Our mission and our vision seem to have left the building. We cannot neglect the house! We must return to self-discipline, discipleship, the Word, and prayer. Because if we don’t we will eventually dry up, burn out, and find ourselves empty.

Neglect not the house of our God. Do the work today. If you do, you will find living water returning to your soul and filling those dry places. You will rediscover hope and vision. You will remember where left your peace. Don’t neglect becoming a house for God to dwell.

You still have those bell-bottoms?

There are some people out there who hang on to their clothes forever. Now it’s possible that when they bought those clothes, they were in style. But when you wear that same thing for 10+ years, you are behind the curve. Yes, I’m talking to you, lady who saved those bell-bottoms because they fit well. You too, husband who is still wearing the same shirt from 20 years ago. My goodness, how in the world has that shirt not worn out? Oh, you’re wife says that it has worn out, but somehow you’ve managed to prevent her from throwing it out. Impressive.

bell-bottom-flared-70s-jeans

You know those people. You may even be one of those people. It’s not all bad, though. If you hang on to it long enough, it might be back in style when your kids are teenagers. After all, doesn’t fashion just recycle every 30 years or so? I swear a few years back I saw a ton of 80’s fashion again. Please no. I mean… just… no. We don’t need another era of neons and acid washed jeans. We don’t need more huge hair and certainly not more perms. Now I can respect a girl who rocks her natural curls. But perms need not apply.

*I’m really tempted to post a picture of my once teenager sister with her braces, perm, white tattered jeans, and jean jacket. But I’ll be nice. After all, she might come back at me and post a picture of me in my pink shirt, black leather skinny tie, and side-spike haircut. Oh, and penny-loafers complete with pennies. Truce? 

I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, the fashion merry-go-round. As I as saying, if you hang on to old clothes long enough (not recommended), they will eventually come back into style again. Which is why I believe that the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years were all pretty fashionable at one point or another. I’m pretty sure they were at the beginning and the end, because the fashion merry-go-round would have come around by then. Let’s take a look.

Nehemiah 9:21  For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

Hello? Their clothes did not wear out! The old husbands still had their college T-shirts that just wouldn’t wear thin. The wives were in disbelief at the quality of that tired old shirt. Well, not exactly. But seriously, their clothes did not wear out. How in the world did that happen. How is it that 40 years later, they were still rockin’ the same bell-bottoms?

I’ll tell ya how: God is an incredible provider! Even in the midst of Israel’s disobedience, rebellion, doubt, whining, and complaining, God took care of them. He took really good care of them. He supernaturally provided food for them. Shoot, water came out of a rock for goodness sake. And their clothes. Their clothes did not wear out for 40 years! They lacked nothing. zip, zilch, nada, NOTHING!

When God leads us on our own journeys, He is faithful in the same way. He is a good provider. He makes bell-bottoms last (although He can’t guarantee they will be in style). I have found in my own life that as I pursue His ways and His calling, He takes care of my needs. Cars seem to run longer. Food is always on the table. Clothes last, bills are paid, kids are provided for. That is the God that we serve. He cares for us. He is the PROVIDER!

We, too, can find the same level of provision that the Israelites found in the wilderness. It all starts with trust. Place your trust in Him today and find that He is the God of the everlasting bell-bottom.

 

Bad news that is actually good news

Have you ever received what you thought was bad news that turned out to be good news? Recently we had a tire blow out on one of our vehicles. Bad news. When I took it to the place I bought it, I was bracing myself for the cost of a new tire, maybe two. The bad news was that the tire needed to be replaced like I thought. The good news is that it wasn’t going to cost me anything. A blowout turned into a free new tire. Good news!

flat-tire

As I was reading in Nehemiah 8 today, I saw this contrast between good news and bad news. The priest Ezra was reading the Law and the Levites were teaching it to the people as he read it. What they discovered in that moment was that their lives didn’t line up with God’s standard – bad news!

Nehemiah 8:9-12 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” 12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

When confronted with the way of God, the people had a similar reaction to those listened to Peter preach in Acts 2 – they were cut to the heart. They realized that their lives weren’t lining up with the law of God. Tears began to flow and fear likely began to grip their hearts. “Wait just a minute! Everybody stop!” declared Nehemiah. “This isn’t a time for crying. Now we know what God expects of us. Now we can actually live for Him. It’s time to celebrate!” Their mourning was turned to joy in that moment of revelation.

The gospel of Jesus Christ often hits us the same way. When we are confronted with our sin and our shame, it often brings us to our knees. We cry out to God in desperation and humility because there’s no way we can measure up to a Holy God. But while the gospel brings us to our knees, it also brings us to our feet. It causes us to stand. It gives strength, peace, and joy. You see, the gospel of Jesus may show us our sin, but it also ushers us to a place of freedom from that sin. The work of Christ on the cross paid for those places that make me want to cry.

Don’t hang your head in sorrow and shame any longer. Receive His truth. Course correct. Then live in the freedom that He brings!

 

 

Get some professional help

I’m not afraid to get some professional help when I’m in over my head. When my wife and I bought our home, it needed some work. One of the things we wanted to do was put in new floors. Laminate seemed like the right choice because you could “do it yourself.” I was confident, yet inexperienced. Not too confident, though. I saw all the corners and cuts I would have to navigate through and knew I needed help. I knew just who to ask: my father-in-law. He is a construction superintendent and his specialty is carpentry. Fortunately for me, he offered to help.

laminate-flooring

When people come to our house and see our flooring, I’m proud to be able to say that we did it ourselves. But the truth is, I didn’t do it myself. I had help. Full disclosure: my father-in-law had help. He was the true brains to the operation. I helped him; I can’t really take the credit. Nehemiah makes a similar statement about his massive wall rebuilding project.

Nehemiah 6:16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. 

This wall project was no joke! Nehemiah and his crew faced threats all the way through. And by threats, I don’t mean budget shortages. They were more like death threats. The wall was something that Nehemiah was charged to do by God, but he had some enemies. There were some yahoos who felt like they could stop the work of God’s people. And when it was all said in done, those enemies came to a startling realization: Nehemiah didn’t do this alone. They realized that God Himself had helped!

When people realize that they are picking a fight with God and not a man, they tend to “un-pick” the fight. That’s exactly what happened in Nehemiah’s case. His enemies lost confidence and got scared. “We surely can’t fight God successfully!” That is the beauty of this whole rebuilding project. Nehemiah got some professional help. Even though a king put HIM in charge, Nehemiah knew that GOD was really the one in charge. 

How are you doing at life? How are you doing as a spouse? As a parent? As a boss or employee? Are you trying to manage life by yourself? So many of us try to do it all in our own wisdom and our own strength. C’mon now people… get some professional help! God knows so much better than we do. He is a better provider and protector than we’ll ever be. And when you do get that help from Him, people will notice.

Falling for the bluff

talent-lessons-from-world-series-of-poker

There you are sitting at the poker table with a pair of Jacks and a pair of 7s. You are feeling pretty good about your two pair until the player 2 seats to your right begins betting as if he has a royal flush. You are getting nervous but you still pretty confident about your hand. The betting goes around the table a few times and each time he raises. This guy must really have something, you think to yourself. At this point you are starting to crack, unsure if two pair is really going to cut it. Do you get out now or keep going? That’s when mister big stuff goes “all in.” You just can’t take it anymore so you fold. Someone else at the table calls him and it turns out he has a pair of 3s. Are you kidding me? You folded for a pair of 3s! Classic bluff. And you fell for it. The guy who didn’t fall for it, however, collected all the cash.

In Nehemiah chapter 6, Nehemiah found himself at the figurative poker table with a guy named Sanballat. This guy was trying to intimidate him and stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In this particular chapter, Sanballat concocts a heinous story that he says is being rumored all around the land. Nehemiah didn’t fall for it, however. He called him on his bluff.

Nehemiah 6:8-9  I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

I can just see Sanballat staring across the table, peering into Nehemiah’s eyes: “I’m all in.” But Nehemiah won’t be intimidated. He sees through the charades and fanciful technique. “I call,” he declares. In that moment he exposes the truth. He finds that his opponent, no… his enemy, is bluffing!

Some of you are in the same situation that Nehemiah is in: you are dealing with a bluffing enemy. It may be a real person who is trying to intimidate you. Or it may be the devil trying to tempt you, discourage you, and weaken your resolve and your faith. I say to you today: “don’t fall for the bluff!” Listen again to Nehemiah’s reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” Or more elegantly stated, “liar liar pants of fire!”

Friends, don’t fall for the bluff! Call it out and then ask God to strengthen you. Ask Him to strengthen your hands for the work set before you. Ask Him to give you wisdom and discernment to see through the lies. God has placed before you a calling, an assignment. Don’t let a bluff take that from you!

Why outward appearances matter

appearance

When it comes to caring about outward appearances, it seems like there are two main camps. 1. I care way too much about what everyone else thinks of me. 2. I don’t care at all about what others think of me. This causes some interesting conflicts in homes, such as “you can’t seriously be planning on leaving the house wearing THAT,” and “for the hundredth time – you look great! Let’s go.

Now I get that some people overthink it in the looks department, but what about when it comes to actions? Do we put any thought into how our actions might be perceived by others? Nehemiah thought we should.

Nehemiah 5:9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?

Here’s what was going on in this situation: The Jewish people were treating each other poorly. They were enslaving each other both physically and financially. Their actions toward one another did not reflect the heart of God. So Nehemiah stepped in and brought correction. And to drive his point home, he said this: “This isn’t right! My goodness, people who don’t believe in God are watching. Let’s have some respect for God and get this right.”

As Christians we do the same thing that the Jews in the book of Nehemiah were doing. We act in a way that isn’t a very good representation of the heart of God. Oh, but we excuse our very ungodly actions by quoting scriptures like “but the Lord looks at the heart!” Okay, I can agree that the Lord looks at the heart. But your coworker can’t see your heart; he can only see your actions. 

So shape up Christians. Ask the Lord who sees your heart to change it so that godliness can make it all the way to your skin. Ask Him to change your thoughts so that godliness will make it to your tongue. Those who don’t know Him are watching and listening. We have the opportunity to show them who He is through our actions.