Fear of God vs. Fear of Man

Re:Verse reading–Nehemiah 6:1-16 (day four)

It was the social media of the day.  Sanballat and Tobiah were not having any success with deterring Nehemiah from his task.  They sent an open letter to try to get public opinion against him so he would relent in fear.  Nehemiah maintained his focus on God’s directions rather than political correctness.

Have you ever allowed the ‘fear of man’ to keep you from doing what you know God has instructed you to do?  Nehemiah had obviously spent time alone with God.  He recognized His voice and he maintained his obedience.  The world will offer options that appear to be the judicious choice, but fail to be exactly what God has prescribed. Verse 12 says, “Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him…”  The servant leader must allow Scripture to interpret circumstances, not circumstances to determine Scripture! Know the voice of the One who calls you…and follow Him.  After all, whose opinion has eternal significance?

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Creep

Re:Verse reading–Nehemiah 6:1-16 (day three)

“Each time I gave them the same answer.” Nehemiah kept guarding himself against mission creep.  He understood the alternative.  Pretty soon, you’re building a wall—and crafting diplomacy toward unfriendly nations.  And strengthening alliances with friendly nations to stand with you against unfriendly nations.  And sharing military strategy and resources and personnel with those allies as the initiative to build a front against unfriendly nations progresses.  On it goes.  The Bible reveals that when all things occupy equal importance, your energies become diluted.  Those who need serving don’t get served well.  Those who need leading don’t get led well.  And eventually, you can’t tell a good idea from a bad one because you’ve set them all on equal footing from the start.  Nehemiah said, “Now strengthen my hands.”  That prayer says, “Help me do this task well.  Not that thing.  This thing.”

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Distractions and Detractors

Re:Verse reading–Nehemiah 6:1-16 (day two)  So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” vs. 4

You have your assignment. It feels good to know that you are where God wants you to be. You have a purpose and a plan, and then…kids, sickness, distractions, and detractors. Is it supposed to be like this? Don’t we all assume that when we find ourselves in the pocket of God’s plan that it should go off without a hitch? Sounds reasonable, but we were never promised a distraction-free work environment. Moses had a clear assignment, but the Pharaoh didn’t exactly cooperate. Even Jesus had to deal with stubborn, sleepy disciples.

This, however, does not change our assignment. They are distractions, but not derailment. Stay the course. God chose you.

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Who He made me to be

Re:Verse reading–Nehemiah 6:1-16 (day one) 

“Should a man like me run away?. . .I will not go!” v 11.

It is powerful moral logic.  It can sound prideful, but isn’t necessarily.  Who did God make me to be?  What is my identity in Christ, and how should it be expressed in daily choice and action?

Nehemiah employs this logic as he responds to the daily attacks of Tobiah and Sanballat. Using intimidation and distraction, they are opposing the “wall project”.  Nehemiah finds his direction by asking Himself, “how should a man like me (i. e.  a person who knows God, with a commission from God) respond?”

“I, therefore. . .entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”–Ephesians 4:1.  “As children of light. . .do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness.”–Ephesians 5:8-9

Who is a larger question than how.  HOW I respond to life should come from WHO He made me to be.

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Needs

Re:Verse reading–2 Kings 4:8-37 (day seven)

It poses an interesting question. What does one really need?  What are the essential things, all others being luxuries and privileges?

Elisha’s story illustrates.  We need food.  “she urged him to stay for a meal, whenever he came by.”  We need a place to rest and pray.  Without quiet time with the Lord, we miss the Spirit’s path and plan.  “In quietness and confidence you will find strength”–Isaiah 30:15.  We need friends who care for and encourage us.  The Shunnamite woman was a gift from God to Elisha.  We should thank God for those who encourage /care for us.

It is a short list.  Much shorter than is sometimes imagined.  ” ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be.”–Old Quaker song.

God be praised!  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”–2 Peter 1:3.

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Breathe

Re:Verse reading–2 Kings 4:8-37 (day six)

Much like the Good Samaritan Elisha turns aside from his journey to meet a desperate need. There was nothing convenient about it; the diversion took time, energy, and resources. Elisha didn’t do it because it was convenient or easy, but because it’s what prophets do; it’s what servant leaders do. Servant leaders go out of their way to breathe life into others. It’s there in those moments when the miraculous can happen, the dead come to life. It is also there that you discover it wasn’t a diversion, it was the intended destination after all.

So, don’t be so quick to NOT turn aside, take the diversion into someone’s need and breathe. God might just use you to bring them back to life.

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Friendships

Re:Verse reading–2 Kings 4:8-37 (day five) 

In the weeks of June around our church, Children/Youth gather for V.B.S. and Youth Camp. They play, sing, worship, and study the Scripture together. Conversations and community begin to take shape. Children and teens not only talk to each other, but they listen to each other. They hear and sense the “hearts” of these new friends. The eternal moments will come from those “heart and faith conversations”. Friendships that allow asking deep questions and building strong convictions are formed. From these friendships come the confidence and courage to share with all of those around them- children and teens “salting” schools, homes, little leagues, and communities.

As adults, do we still look for the palpable presence and power of God in our day-to-day lives? Do we look to find new friends? Are we eager to share and encourage others from the peace and strength the Lord provides? Are we burdened and willing to share this good news and great truth with all those who share life with us? It’s never too soon and never too late to begin!!

 

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Hall of Faith

Re:Verse reading–2 Kings 4:8-37 (day four)

Why do bad things happen to good people?  You’ve heard the question before.  First, they want to know why it happened and then they want to know why God did not fix the situation…or heal their loved one…or why someone else received healing and they didn’t.  The focus is on the temporal…not the eternal.

In Hebrews 11, the Bible’s Hall of Faith, the faith of the Shunammite woman is identified. (v. 35) So did she have more faith?  If we read the next verses in Hebrews 11, we see others who had great faith and they were tortured, chained, imprisoned…they were stoned and sawn in two, and put to death with a sword.  We cannot speak for God…our thoughts are not His thoughts, our ways are not His ways…but we can trust our Almighty, all-knowing, all-loving God.  (Isaiah 55:8-9)  The Shunammite woman received back her son, but the greatest gift she received was her justification by faith!

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Seek

Re:Verse reading–2 Kings 4:8-37 (day three) 

“Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?”  The Silver Rule says, “Do not do anything to others that you would not want done to you.”  Better that than the alternative, for sure.  But this passage, and later Jesus himself, teaches us to go further—not only to refrain from harm, but to seek the good.  Love, we learn, is not passive, but active.  And it’s not just frenetic activity.  It’s not merely what you think passes for a good idea.  We have probably all helped fill others’ closets with dust-gathering Christmas gifts that we thought would get the job of generosity done.  But to love and to serve is to seek the good.  That requires patience, attention, observation, and effort.  Love is less “random act” and more thoughtful doing.

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Joy in the Halls

Re:Verse reading–2 Kings 4:8-37 (day two) 

Whenever I describe my time at the University of Texas to people who have never been to Austin, I often talk about how the campus pulses with energy. The downtown campus mixed with the tens of thousands of students is a recipe for energy. It is palpable. Not for everyone, I grant you, but it is undeniable.

Walking through the Sanctuary and the halls of the church the last two days has had that same kind of energy. Hundreds of kids mixed with volunteers, videos, music, and joy. It is palpable. Mixed in with all of that is the gospel. It is with deep gratitude and gravity that I pray for all those who are teaching and attending. May the Word fall on fertile soil, and may the Lord be pleased. Will you pray for Vacation Bible School?

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