"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 28, 2009
This week I am continuing with the story of Nehemiah.
Those individuals working on the wall and gates of Jerusalem had diligently been working, despite the threats being made by their enemies. Their enemies had threatened them by saying, "Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to their work."
Nehemiah stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. Then he stood up and said, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."
Their enemies heard that they were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it. Nehemiah and all the workers returned to their own work assigned to them. From that day on, half of the men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows, and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried material did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. The trumpeters stood by Nehemiah.
Nehemiah had told the people, "The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!"
They literally knew what it was to watch, work and pray; all at the same time. Even though our circumstances are totally different, we are to continually be spiritually on guard and always alert.
One of the areas in which we are cautioned to always be watchful, is for the second coming of Jesus. We can't afford let our guard down, and not be ready when this takes place. No one knows when this will occur, and we are to take heed to Jesus' warning to be ever alert and watchful.
Mark 13:32-37 says, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It's like a man going away; He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back -- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"
Another warning we are to heed, is to be continuously on guard for the attacks of our greatest enemy, Satan.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us to, "Be self-controlled (of sober spirit or sober-minded) and alert (vigilant). Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
Just as the Jews in Jerusalem had to always be alert and on the lookout for an attack of their enemies, with weapon in hand; we are to always be on guard and on the lookout for an attack from Satan. Ephesians 6:11 tells us to, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." You can read in the following verses exactly what that armor consists of. We are to be prepared and alert at all times; properly armored for attack.
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the rest of their enemies that Nehemiah had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it -- with the exception of setting the doors in the gates -- Sanballat and Geshem sent him a message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono."
But they were scheming to harm Nehemiah, so he sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?"
Four times they sent Nehemiah the same message, and each time he gave the same answer.
The fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide with the same message, and he also had an unsealed letter. The letter said that it was reported among the nations that Nehemiah and the Jews were plotting to revolt, which was their reason for building the wall. Moreover, that Nehemiah was about to become their king and had even appointed prophets to make the proclamation about him in Jerusalem. So they wanted Nehemiah to come to them so that they could take counsel together.
It's amazing what lengths individuals will go to in order to cause trouble. At times, I think it's because they're fearful and feel threatened, so react out of those emotions. At other times, they just want to be a participant in, or leader of, a "cause"; which somehow makes them feel useful or important. If they don't have a personal cause to be involved in, they'll join in with others; often not even knowing what they're really fighting for. But they'll persistently keep in the middle of things. And if things aren't going as planned, they'll become angry and try to manipulate things in order to get their way -- or get attention.
Sanballat was determined to eliminate Nehemiah; very likely thinking that if he could get rid of him, then he would be able to take over Jerusalem and weaken the Jews there, and frighten them into submission to him and the surrounding nations.
Nehemiah replied to Sanballat's letter by saying, "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are inventing them in your own mind."
At times we can allow fear to cause us to react negatively. Even though we know the right thing to do, we begin to think, "But what if I don't give in......" or "I know that God can take care of me, but...." Fear ofttimes trumps common sense and doing what we know is right and good. We trust God but.... We believe that God can protect us but.... Perhaps we need to eliminate the "buts" from our life! We tend to over-think and over-analyze things. Just leave it at "I know that God can take care of me" and "I do trust God" and "I do believe that God can protect me" - and leave it at that.
That's the faith and trust that Nehemiah had in God. He knew that he was doing what was right and he knew the truth of the situation. Therefore, he didn't feel the need to give in to the pressure of the enemy, and allow their lies and attempts to destroy him to cause him to sin by giving into fear.
For some reason, we seem to always feel the need to explain ourselves or defend our actions. Sometimes it's best to say nothing and let truth speak for itself and be revealed. Nehemiah knew the truth, and didn't feel it necessary to confront his enemies and defend himself. What they thought of him really didn't matter.
One day Nehemiah went to the house of Shemaiah. This man said, "Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night."
But Nehemiah answered, "Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!" He realized that God had not sent Shemaiah to protect his life, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. It was a trap to try and intimidate Nehemiah so that he would become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report, and then they would give him a bad name and discredit him.
Instead of reacting in fear, Nehemiah prayed that God would remember what these men had done. Like he had once before, he was leaving revenge and retribution in God's hands, instead of trying to handle it on his own.
The wall was finally completed, taking only fifty-two days to rebuild. What a tremendous accomplishment!
Nehemiah 6:16 says, "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."
1 Corinthians 1:25 says, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." Verses 27-29 continues, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify (bring to nothing) the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him."
Remember earlier in the story, the enemies of Nehemiah and the Jewish people showed despise for them and hurled insults upon them. Sanballat and Tobiah told them that they were feeble and mocked their efforts to rebuild the wall and gates. They had said that even if they were able to rebuild, should a fox climbed upon the wall, he would break down their wall of stones. They had even tried to get the neighboring nations to come against and fight the Jews.
But in less than two months, Nehemiah and the Jewish people had completed the work. The project had looked overwhelming and difficult in the beginning, but with God's help, it was finished. Who would have thought that this group of people, who had been living in exile for 70 years, would have been able to complete such a huge undertaking? When they were mocked and threatened, they didn't give up and quit. They didn't allow the threats of the enemy to discourage and cause them to hide in fear. They armed themselves, set up guards, and kept working.
When the work was completed, the other nations were the ones who became afraid and lost their boldness and self-confidence. Why? "Because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God!" They realized that this group of Jews had something that they didn't: God's help.
God doesn't always choose the strongest or the wisest individuals to accomplish His plan. He doesn't look at how good-looking or smart we are; nor does He care how much money we have or our "connections" or how well known we are. Who He chooses doesn't always make sense to us; nor the way in which He often answers prayer or works. But we can be assured that the foolishness of God is always wiser than man's wisdom. He knows what He's doing! And it doesn't matter how strong (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.) a man is; God is stronger. We will never be able to figure out the "hows" and "whys" of God. But we can trust Him, and accept what He does as being the best.
The world may look upon true Christians -- not those who say they believe in God, but their lifestyle and actions do not back that up; but those who have truly accepted Christ into their heart and are true followers of Jesus -- and think they are just a bunch of feeble, weak individuals. In our society, those who have strong morals and stand up for their beliefs are often mocked and put down. Many times, Christians are made out to be stupid, closed-minded individuals who are a bunch of wimpy, weak-minded people. True followers of God are often despised and ridiculed.
But if we will react as Nehemiah and the Jewish people in Jerusalem did, by praying that God will remember these people and bring retribution upon them for their words and actions, then we can carry on with the things that God has called us to do with no fear. We must remain strong in our faith, not giving in and hiding when the enemy throws taunts and insults at us and makes threats.
For the day will come when truth will be revealed, and those who speak out against God and His followers will be held accountable for their actions. We may feel outnumbered and overpowered at times, but in the end, God will reign victorious.
But until that day comes, we need to consistently be alert and on guard. Our greatest weapon is the Word of God, and we need to read and study it so that we know what it says, and be able to stand upon the promises that God gave to all believers. Satan is our greatest enemy, and will try to discourage and entrap us. He is constantly looking for those whom he can destroy and devour.
With the help of God, we can be more than conquerors, we can be victorious, and we can stand strong in our faith in God. In the end, mankind will be astounded at what God can do. It may not make sense to them, and seem impossible; but when it occurs, they will be unable to deny that it was God Almighty who brought it to pass.
The day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Men and women can try to deny the power and sovereignty of God. They may try to destroy the Christians and make them look foolish. They may even have total disregard for God and denounce Him completely. But the Bible promises that the time will come when God will reveal Himself to the world, and every single individual will bow before Him, confessing Jesus as Lord. (Romans 14:11)
I would much rather confess Jesus as my Lord today, and have Him in my life on a daily basis; instead of waiting until it's too late to repent. "Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house (me and Jon), we WILL serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:15)
Revelations refers to "the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan." (Revelation 12:9) Satan has been around for a few thousand years, and has learned a few tricks in that time. Doubt and taunting are just a couple of the more effective ones. Another trick he's used is to convince people that taunting doesn't have any effect on adults, especially men. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone taunt someone, then say, "What's his problem? I was just kidding." as if taunting and insults are okay because the recipient should be able to take it. But I think Satan loves doubt most because doubt is the opposite of faith.
The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup Ever
(Recipe from Nicole, my nephew's wife)
2 cups chopped carrots, onions and celery
2 bags frozen broccoli
1 Tbsp. Chicken bouillon (recipe suggests using the paste)
Cover with water and cook until tender.
Add 2 cups milk
Make your own rue (1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup flour)
Add rue to soup along with 1 quart of half-n- half
Add 1/2 of the 3 lb. Box of Velveeta and stir constantly so it melts but doesn't stick.
Sprinkle with white pepper.
When Jon was born, he shared a room with his big brother until he was around five or so; which was probably about the time Jon became very talkative and inquisitive, asking lots of questions. Apparently, he was a really heavy sleeper and very little bothered him. One particular day, their dad was in the room talking to Jon's brother, who picked up his trumpet and started playing. Jon lay there and slept through the whole thing.
He's still a pretty heavy sleeper, but thankfully not quite that bad. I don't think he would sleep through a trumpet playing in the room with him anymore. His snoring is almost loud as a trumpet some nights, and he seems to have no problem sleeping through that! But I can at least nudge him awake enough to get him to turn over and stop (at least briefly).
"What other people think of you is none of your business." - unknown
The past couple of days we have been experiencing cold weather and ice. Yuck! We pray that those of you who are also dealing with these problems are safe and warm. I'm personally ready for some 70 degree weather and sunshine.
Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon