Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 27 July 18:
1. Nehemiah 3:1-32 — Nehemiah had the work carefully managed so each person knew his or her responsibility. A common commitment to God’s task unified a people who otherwise tended to be separated by religious, cultural, family, historical, and professional differences. The Bible gives by-name credit for the work that everyone did.
2. Nehemiah 3:9, 12, 14-19 — The officials joined in with everyone else to do the backbreaking labor.
3. Nehemiah 4:1 – “Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews.” Opponents to God’s work reacted in anger because they feared they would lose their power and authority. Some people will feel threatened by your accomplishments and ridicule or resist you. Don’t chase the poisonous snakes that bite you. Or, as the old country saying goes, “Don’t wrestle with a pig in the mud because you both get dirty and the pig likes it.” Stay focused on what God has called you to do, and move around the obstacles.
4. Nehemiah 4:1-3 – “…and he jeered at the Jews.” Mocking and sarcasm are ways people express their fear and insecurity.
5. Nehemiah 4:4-5 – “Hear, O our God, for we are despised….” Do not rail back at enemies but rather turn it over to God in prayer for Him to handle.
6. Nehemiah 4:4-23 — Dedication to God and hard work, empowered by the Holy Spirit, brings amazing results.
7. Nehemiah 4:5 – “Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.” Enemies arouse God’s anger. If you are committed to serving God and fulfilling His will, then your enemies are, in fact, God’s enemies. No one can thwart God’s will. You have nothing to worry about if you are doing what God has told you to do.
8. Nehemiah 4:6 — “The people had a mind to work.” My father often said, “People do what they really want to do.” Most of the time, when we say, “I can’t,” what we really mean is “I don’t really want to.” We have all heard the saying, “Where there is the will there is the way,” but how much more true is this saying when your will is aligned with God’s will? In Nehemiah we see the Jews accomplish the seemingly impossible despite being mocked, threatened, and severely resource constrained. They let nothing stand in their way and worked tirelessly day and night to accomplish their task – no excuses. Conversely, in Proverbs we read about the sluggard who is nothing but excuses — “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets (Proverbs 26:13)!’” It is vital for the Christian to have a “mind to work,” but it foremost essential that we have “the mind of Christ” and that we endeavor only where God would have us (1 Corinthians 2:16). Jesus said that He did “nothing” apart from the Father’s leading (John 5:19). Apart for God’s leading, our best efforts will be misplaced and counterproductive – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, 9).” Interestingly, if you do a word search for the word “diligent” in the Bible, the word is mostly applied to “inquiring” of the Lord, “listening to the voice” of the Lord, “searching God’s word, and then obeying His commands. Our diligence must be in growing closer to Christ each day. In our readings today, we see a great example given by Jesus: He was swarmed by crowds on needy people (Lepers, paralytics, etc) who were desperately seeking His ministry. What would we do in that situation? I know that I would be very tempted to wear myself out attempting to minister to everyone’s needs, relying on my own talents, intellect, and skills – “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5:16).” Far more important than doing things right is doing the right things, and only God knows what is right. “Diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes (Exodus 15:26).”
9. Nehemiah 4:6-8, 11-12, 15 — Success among God’s people only brings the world’s increased anger.
10. Nehemiah 4:10-12 – “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing….” Barriers to work, threats from enemies, and the doubts of others can bring us to doubt. However, focus on God relieves fear. (Neh 4:14)
11. Nehemiah 4:20 – “In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” God is on your side when you are on God’s side. Anything you do outside of God’s will is ultimately meaningless. When you are serving God, you are fulfilling your life’s purpose and will experience great joy. If you are not experiencing great joy, check yourself and evaluate whether or not you are doing what you should be doing.
12. Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Make the most of each day, one day at a time. Success being faithful with each day. We cannot do anything about the past and cannot control the future. Today is where we make a difference.
13. Proverbs 27:5 – “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Love sometimes demands uncomfortable rebukes. To remain silent in the face of sin in order to avoid needed conflict is unloving.
14. Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Friends tell you the painful truth. True love speaks the truth in love.
15. Proverbs 27:7 – “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” People compromise when they are not satisfied with what they already have. God may keep you a bit hungry so you don’t take what you have for granted and grow complacent. I have seen that an easy life can ruin a person.
16. Proverbs 27:8 – “Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.” Compromise as a result of discontentment is destructive.
17. Proverbs 27:13 – “Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.” Love often involves protecting someone from themselves. Where people lack self-control and discipline, they need protection from others who are stronger. Leaders have the strength to lead self so they can then lead others.
18. Proverbs 27:14 – “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” All messages must be communicated with consideration and timing. We are not just responsible for what we say, we are also responsible for how, when, and why we say it.
19. Proverbs 27:17 – “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Friends should strengthen one another and support one another in pursuit of godliness.
20. Proverbs 27:18 – “Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored.” You should seek to improve your boss and protect him/her from their own bad decisions.
21. Proverbs 27:19 – “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” What is in your heart is who you really are, not what others say about you or even what you say about yourself.
22. Proverbs 27:23-27 – “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats’ milk for your food,
for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.” Churches do not spend enough time providing discipling in the Biblical principles of economics. These are very important verses that teach the importance of creating industry rather than simply making money, raising geese that lay golden eggs rather than simply trying to collect golden eggs. Invest in the ability to produce wealth for the long-term rather than just acquiring wealth in the near-term. Have a plan for the future and build upon it daily. The Biblical retirement plan is not storing up riches in barns (which Jesus condemned) but rather creating production capacity that will continue to produce after your primary working years.
23. Luke 5:4-7 – “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” When you are seeking to walk in obedience to God, obeying His word though it may seem to make no sense, He will reveal Himself to you by doing what you couldn’t. Putting down the nets was hard work, but God used that commitment to provide miraculous results. God honors obedience with god-sized results, but the hard work isn’t the cause of the results, God is. We show our commitment, and God shows His power. Ultimately, God is not merely trying to provide for our earthly needs, He is seeking to draw us closer to Him.
24. Luke 5:8 – “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” Experiencing the presence of God causes us to repent and to fear the LORD.
25. Luke 5:15 – “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Jesus did not seek the crowds; they sought Him. Jesus didn’t beg for followers; He merely revealed the truth and let those who would accept the truth follow.
26. Luke 5:20 – “And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’” Jesus brings healing and forgiveness to those who pursue Him.
27. Luke 5:17-24 — Doubters do not seek forgiveness.
28. Luke 5:28 – “And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.” Following Jesus involves surrendering all to Him.
29. Luke 5:33-6:9 — Religion, with its rites and rules, is easier to follow than following Jesus.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 27 July 18: Today, have a plan and work hard for God’s glory. Don’t let anything distract you from your God-centered plan. Do the very best you can and watch God reveal Himself to you and to others by doing what you can’t. (See today’s readings)