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.

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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

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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

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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.

This job stinks!

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Not every job is glorious. There are some jobs that are just downright crappy. Necessary, but they kind of stink. Mike Rowe stars in the Discovery show, “Dirty Jobs.” In the show he find the filthiest jobs in America and then does them. He discovers that there are necessary jobs out there that few people want to do. There’s a guy in the book of Nehemiah who had one of those jobs.

Nehemiah 3:14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. 

It was called the Dung Gate. What do you think was somewhere nearby? That’s right: something that stunk. This couldn’t have been the most desired job in the rebuilding process. There were many places on the wall and gates to rebuild. Yet someone needed to rebuild the Dung Gate. Malkijah was that guy. This job stinks!

When I was reading Nehemiah 3 today, I found the details of this situation amusing. Prior to verse 14 is a listing of all the other gates that were rebuilt and who built them. In the case of the other gates, they were rebuilt by a team of people. The smallest team was 2 people, but most of the work on the other gates and areas of the wall was done by a group of people. Not the Dung Gate. Apparently, no one signed up for that one. Poor Malkijah got the job; maybe he had the least seniority. And so he worked, alone, with the “help wanted” sign still hanging from the wall.

There’s something I appreciate about Malkijah that he probably doesn’t get credit for. He did the crappiest job on this whole project. It wasn’t beneath him. He just did it. Sometimes we tend to think that we are “above” some things. We leave the little stuff, the stinky stuff, to the little people. Yet Jesus calls us all to become little people. THAT is the path to greatness. 

In the words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Where can you serve today?

Responding to bad news

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you; what do you want to hear first?” Okay, what kind of question is that? I mean, really. Most of the time the good news is just some reassuring garbage to make us feel a little better about the bad news. Right? When someone makes that statement to me, I know that they really just have bad news. “The bad news is that your hot water heater is not fixable. The good news is that I can replace it for a price that is higher than you can afford.” Someone tell me what the good news was again?

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To be honest, I don’t really respond to bad news all that well. “We messed up your reservation, your warranty expired last week, we’re leaving your church, it didn’t work out, etc, etc.” These things honestly just bum me out. And I think that’s an okay response, as long as it isn’t our only response. Let’s turn our attention to Nehemiah and his bad news.

He found out that the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down and the gates had been burned. The city of the Lord that he loved so much had been destroyed. Nehemiah 1:4a When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. 

See, Nehemiah was bummed out too. Here’s the thing: bummed out as he was, that wasn’t his only response. Let’s continue to Nehemiah 1:4b-6a For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. 

THEN I SAID… The bummed out feeling isn’t what ruled this situation. His first response may have been crying, but his next one was crying out… TO GOD! Lord, we need you. We need your forgiveness and we need your rescue. We need your courage and we need your strength. We need your blessing and we need your favor.

This is the truly great response to bad news. This is how Nehemiah changed the course of his nation. He cried out to God. He hit his knees and made his request known. Friends, this is how you respond to bad news.

So if you find yourself discouraged today, cry out to God. If you find yourself bummed out, hopeless, or depressed, cry out to God. If you just got some really bad news, turn to the God who is greater! Trust him, lean on him, take refuge in him if you need to. He is the God who turns our mourning into dancing, and our sorrows into great joy! Nehemiah would rebuilt those walls and you can rebuild yours, too.