Learning your Father’s Voice

#Familyroadtrip is upon us! Throughout the month of August we will be doing church a little differently. We will be emphasizing families and the everyday nature of our relationship with God. This past Sunday we discovered God’s desire to be heard and communicated with. I love the way the message phrases Proverbs 3:6 “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” God desires to speak to us today. He is our heavenly father and wants to have a relationship with you.


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Instruments of Praise

“In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”
~Nehemiah 9:38
 

As we’ve journeyed through the book of Nehemiah together, we’ve experienced victory and achievement. We’ve celebrated with the Israelites as they completed the wall, experienced the conflict as they confronted their enemies, and witnessed their confession of sins and of the faithfulness of God. Now we turn to their covenant. A decision which would turn their lives into instruments of praise. I’ve always been fascinated by music, especially watching experienced musicians play with such ease. One common theme among those I’ve heard is that they always tune their instrument to the correct note. In other words, they adjust their instrument to make a pure sound. I have even witnessed them tuning their instrument in the middle of a performance because the purity of their note slipped. Often when we think of the covenants of the Bible and living a lifestyle of holiness, we think of rules and regulations. What if we began to think of a covenant as a way of tuning our lifestyles of praise?


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Responding to Victory

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. 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.”

~Nehemiah 8:9-10

We’ve all met the people whose victory becomes their own defeat. They fail to respond to the victory they have achieved and in a short time find themselves failing. How we respond to our victories and successes in the present help to determine our future outcome. Think about all of the professional sports teams that we marvel at their ongoing success: The Golden State Warriors, The New England Patriots or individual achievements like Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal. We see their victories and are astounded by their consistency. They have developed the skills to go beyond a single victory and enter the realm of continuous victory. Nehemiah and the Israelites now find themselves in the midst of a glorious victory. They have done the impossible and built a wall in fifty-two days in the face of opposition, but that’s only half the book! There is more to be accomplished, and Nehemiah sees this. He calls on Ezra the priest to step forward and begin to take them to the next level. We must learn to respond as well in victory as we do in defeat.


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It’s Personal!

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.”

~Nehemiah 6:9

Last week we talked of how “it begins with me” and the need for us to develop a personal change. When the enemy could not bring Nehemiah down with critique of his workers, physical intimidation (Neh 4) or with division among his leaders (Neh 5), he turned to attack Nehemiah’s integrity. The enemy realized that he must bring down Nehemiah if he was to destroy his destiny. The enemy of our souls still knows this is true today. He strives to bring down our example in our communities. In fact Brennan Manning says, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him in their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Is serving God personal to you? It should be. It should be a matter of utmost importance that we learn to glorify God in all that we do and all that we are. Notice that Nehemiah prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” When situations arise that would serve to distract you from God’s calling will you join Nehemiah in this dependence on God?

The statement “now strengthen my hands” is even more powerful when you consider where the enemy had desired to meet Nehemiah. He asked to meet him in the Valley of Ono (Otto) meaning strength. In a way of speaking, he wanted Nehemiah to meet him with his own strength. Nehemiah realized that his personal strength came from the Lord. The Lord is the one who had given the task, defended the task and empowered the task to this point. Nehemiah knew that despite the accusations raised against him, God would continue to be his fortress. God’s power was personal to Nehemiah. He would not be enticed to simply use his own means to overcome an enemy of God. He would trust in the power of his God. Today, you may be tempted to use your own business prowess to land you the account, you may be enticed to use your own wisdom to restore your family, but will you ask and wait on the Lord for his wisdom and discernment? God longs to direct your path in every matter of your life. Its time to declare that serving God is personal to you!

If it’s personal, it will show in your lifestyle. It will show in the way that you handle your business. It will show in your the way that you lead your family. Will you join with Nehemiah today and pray, “Now strengthen my hands”?


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It starts with me!

Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
Nehemiah 5:16

Have you ever been bothered by the negativity of your work culture, circle of friends or family? As we continue our journey through the book of Nehemiah, we come to chapter five and discover that Nehemiah is not struggling against an external enemy, but his fellow citizens of Jerusalem. A scandal is brought to light that stopped him in his tracks and forced him to rebuke his fellow leaders. The citizens have lodged a complaint. The local rulers and nobles are taking advantage of the famine and work on the wall by charging exorbitant interest on loans, foreclosing on property and selling people who cannot repay into slavery. The very slavery that Nehemiah and others are working so hard to get them out of. Nehemiah’s redevelopment program in Jerusalem was to rebuild lives, restore families and reignite passion, yet it doesn’t seem to be taking root. Why?


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When Opposition Comes-PRAY!

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” ~Nehemiah 4:14

God calls each of us to do the impossible. An Adidas ad from the early 2000’s ran the following quote, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”


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Love: Experience the Pudding

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
~ 1 John 4:9

I love pudding, especially banana pudding (although chocolate comes in as a close second). Who doesn’t love pudding? Maybe its the weird word or the way it makes your face look when saying it. Or that awkward moment when someone calls you pudding when your twelve and you think you’re grownup. How many of you have ever sang that Christmas song “We wish you a merry Christmas” and got to the line about bring us some figgy pudding and asked “what is that about”? I did some digging and realized that it is a a variation of a sixteenth century English tradition. While I won’t get into all the details of a weird figgy pudding. I got to thinking about the old saying “The proof is in the eating of the pudding”. This phrase means essentially that until you’ve tasted or experienced the pudding you don’t know how good it is, or what’s in it for that matter. To make a long story short. This got me to thinking about love.


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Borrowed Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13

Excuse me, I seem to have lost my hope. May I borrow yours? I’ve been asked for a lot things over the years, even the proverbial cup of sugar. I never recall being asked for a cup of hope. Or perhaps they were asking the question another way and I just didn’t realize it? The reality is hope seems in short supply these days. In recent months, our nation has been inundated and rocked with news of international and political division as well as racial and sexual misconduct. Dialogue has reverted to 140 character jabs at one another. Yet, we do not need to be hopeless. A great light is shining among us.


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A Question of Opportunity

David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
~ 2 Samuel 9:1
 

Have you ever read a familiar passage and suddenly had new insight? The passage may be simple, but then God begins to show how incredible it is. That is what happened to me this week as I read this question. At first glance, David’s question seems so simple to understand. In fact, it is simple. However this question reveals many important ideas. It is just full of meaning. I want to point out two revelations that have stuck with me this week from David’s question of opportunity. David intentionally sought out opportunities to demonstrate his love for others in concrete, tangible ways. Let’s break this thought down.


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What Ifs?

What ifs seem to plague our society today. As I was driving back and forth from Stockbridge to Garden City during the transition to being pastor, I began to wonder: What if the people don’t accept me? What if I don’t measure up? What if the house in Garden City doesn’t sell? What if I get stuck behind a slow moving truck and don’t make it on time? What if…? Maybe you can relate. Thinking on these what ifs can really weigh you down and become a burden. Then I remembered that I don’t have to carry that alone. We have someone who will come alongside us and not only help us with our burden but will give us guidance when we are in need. His name is Holy Spirit.


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