YEAR 2, WEEK 8, Day 5, Friday, 24 February 2023

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=nehemiah+7%3B+acts+12

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 24 February 2023:

Nehemiah 7:2 – I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.

The first prerequisite for choosing a leader should be fidelity to God.

Nehemiah 7:1-4 – …I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem…. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem….” the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

For any organization or program to be successful, it must have a clear plan to develop D.O.T.M.L.P.F: Doctrine (the beliefs, and rules which guide the organization); organization (how the organization will structured to accomplish the mission); training (how the organization will prepare everyone for the mission); materiel (what resources the organization will require to do the mission); leadership (who will be appointed to guide the organization); people (who will run the organization and participate); facilities (what infrastructure does the organization require). Leave any of these elements out of the plan or fail to develop any of these elements equally, and the organization will fail to do what God intended, whether it be a church, a business, or a family. According to God’s will, Nehemiah accounted for all of these elements.

Nehemiah 7:7-60 – The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of…. 2,172…. 372…. 652…. [etc].

Accountability of every single person is critical to God’s plan and way of doing things. Every single person is important to God and plays an essential role within the body of believers. God expects His people to know everyone within the family of believers and disciple everyone intentionally. Note also in today’s verses that God organized His people by families. The family is the most important institution on earth; the family is the school house for character development and is the building block of society. Godly community is a collection of godly people that were raised in godly families. The most important leadership roles in the church are father, mother, brother, and sister. Does your church account for every person within the church? If you didn’t show up for church today, would someone call you or, better yet, come see you to check on you? Does your church prioritize development of the family? Do you account for everyone in your personal extended family? Will you pray for everyone in your family today?

Nehemiah 7:64 – These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.

We live in a very entitled generation. Everyone thinks they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. However, the authority to appoint people to positions, roles, and responsibilities rests with God. If God did not assign the person to the position, then that person is and illegitimate leader. God places restrictions on leadership. For example, God’s word says that a deacon cannot be divorced. That restriction doesn’t mean that person is any less loved by God or that there isn’t another place in the church for that person to serve; he just can’t be a deacon. Still, in our all-accepting culture, many churches reject this instruction and appoint divorced deacons anyway; God will not honor that disobedience.

Acts 12:1-3 — Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.

Today’s readings in Acts instruct us on the relationship between prayer and God’s will. Herod arrested both James and Peter. James was executed while Peter was miraculously freed. Surely the disciples were praying fervently for both James and Peter, but still James was executed. Was God somehow powerless to save James or somehow indifferent as to his fate? Of course not! Did God love Peter more than James? Of course not! James had been very close to Jesus. God commands us not to worry about anything but rather to pray about everything, and when we pray in God’s will He will always answer (Philippians 4:6; Jeremiah 33:3). However, sometimes His answer is “no” for reasons we cannot understand but for reasons that are for a greater good than we could not possibly imagine. The challenge for us, from our limited perspective, is to trust in God’s perfect love and faithfulness and to have faith in God’s Sovereignty regardless of apparent circumstances. This is hard. It was hard for John the Baptist when he was in prison. He undoubtedly questioned why Jesus didn’t miraculously free him from prison. After all, Jesus said that John was the greatest man he knew. Nonetheless, John was beheaded. Why? God did not say. Key is to pray with the understanding that, though you may not perceive it, your prayers are always answered by your perfectly loving Father – don’t doubt. After the death of Stephen, and now James, the disciples, though praying fervently, could not really believe that Peter, chained and heavily guarded, would be freed from prison. When Rhoda reported that Peter was at the door knocking, the disciples said, “You’re out of your mind.” Why were they “astonished” when they saw Peter? Hadn’t they been praying to the Sovereign Father? Why, in this case, did they assume the answer to their prayer would be “no”? It is possible to be a “person of prayer” and yet not have faith. This robs you of joy and confidence. How would your life be different if you completely trusted God with your prayers? Pray that God will increase your faith to pray more fervently and to trust unconditionally. “He killed James the brother of John with the sword.” God did not prevent the murder of James yet expected the disciples to remain confident in their faith.

“Can you accept God’s will when His answer is no? If you are praying in God’s will, He will always answer you when you pray (Jer. 33:3). However, sometimes His answer will be no…. There are times when God wants us to persist in our praying until He has completed His work in us (Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-6). However, when God’s answer is no, it is futile to continue pleading for a yes. Some refuse to take no for an answer, insisting that if you pray long enough and hard enough, God will ultimately grant any request you make. It is an affront to your Lord to continue pleading with Him when He has clearly said no. The purpose of prayer is not to conform God to our will but to adjust our will to God. We must learn to trust God so that if He says no, we accept that His will is best.” (Henry T. Blackaby)

Acts 12:5 — So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church….

Do you pray expectantly, anticipating God to respond in miraculous ways? Or have past disappointments hindered your prayer life? “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14, 15) We don’t always know God’s will in a matter, but the Bible calls us to pray in faith and to wait expectantly. Anticipate, “Yes,” and have no doubt that “No,” means something far more wonderful than you ever imagined.

Acts 12:14-15 – Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”

“You are out of your mind.” The disciples prayed for miracles but did not really believe that God would answer their prayers in a miraculous way. How do you suppose the death of James affected the disciples’ hope? Is your faith so weak that you are surprised when your prayers are answered as you requested?

“You can say prayers in your mind but doubt in your heart. At times God will answer such prayers as He did when Peter was in prison, scheduled for execution. The believers in Jerusalem were powerless to free him, so they prayed. When God released Peter, their reaction revealed the doubt in their hearts. They argued that Peter could not possibly be free, even as he stood outside knocking on the door!

Is it possible to be a “person of prayer” and yet not have faith? Is it possible to fool yourself into believing that because you ask God for help, you have faith in His ability to meet your needs? Is your faith so weak that you are surprised when God answers your prayer? As a child of God, you ought to expect God to answer your prayers. Do you ask God to do something without adjusting your life to what you are praying? If you are praying for revival, how are you preparing for its coming? If you are praying for forgiveness, are you still living with guilt? If you have asked God to provide for your needs, do you remain worried and anxious?

Ask God to increase your faith and then begin living a life that reflects absolute trust in Him. Out of His grace, God may choose to respond to your requests despite your lack of faith, but you will miss the joy of praying in faith.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 February 2023: Today, pray in confidence, expecting God to do God-sized things in your life. Rejoice in knowing that God hears all of your prayers and lovingly answers them in accordance with His perfect will for your life. Walk boldly in that confidence and glorify Him with your joy and peace.

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