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Archive for the ‘Nehemiah’ Category

So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Nehemiah 4:6 (NKJV)

Today we finish the list of 25 responses compiled by Jenna Goudreau in response to the question “What would you do to be a little smarter every single day?” for Business Inside.[i]

  1. Play “smart” games. Some games, like chess and Scrabble, expand your mind. There are good brain games online or as apps for cell phones such as Lumosity, Elevate, or Fit Brains are free and help to exercise different parts of the brain.
  2. Set aside some time to do nothing. Oftentimes, sitting in silence can help you get inspiration and reflect on your day. While we want to exercise the brain, we also need to take time to let it rest.
  3. Adopt a productive hobby. Try something you can work on every day, from knitting to collecting to gardening, you can actively learn more just from doing. The Sabbath provides us with a weekly opportunity to rest both physically and mentally. In addition, we need to give the brain a daily respite from the taxation of work and study.
  4. Apply what you learn. Whatever new skill you have learned, make sure you are using that skill in your life as often as possible. Learning by doing is one of the most effective ways to become smarter.
  5. Exercise and eat a healthy diet. Choose brain foods to fuel your thinking, and avoid heavy meals that will make you sluggish. When your energy is low, take a walk. Light exercise, such as a leisurely walk, helps the blood flow to your brain thus giving you better performance.

Here’s a very interesting thought for these days:  “Those who labor with their hands, and those who labor in word and doctrine, must have a care to sustain their physical powers. . . When they can, they should take rest both in body and mind, and should eat of nourishing food; for they will be obliged to use all the power they have.”[ii]

Father God, help me to keep my brain sharp and healthy so I may battle against everything that comes my way every day.

[i] http://www.businessinsider.com/daily-habits-to-be-smarter-2015-5

[ii] White, E.G.  Christian Temperance and Bible Hygene.  Pg. 152

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And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. Nehemiah 5:6 (NKJV)

When you’re angry, you might feel anywhere between a mild irritation to rage.  If it progresses and you start to feel angry, try deep breathing, positive self-talk, or stopping your angry thoughts. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax” or “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply until the anger subsides.

Although expressing anger is better than keeping it in, there’s a right way to do it. Try to express yourself clearly and calmly. The very angry outbursts are stressful to your nervous and cardiovascular systems, can increase the anger, and can make health problems worse.

There is great value in strenuous physical activity like regular exercise as a way to both improve your mood but also to release tension and anger.

Get support from others like a friend, a counselor, or a pastor. Talk through your feelings and try to work on changing your behaviors.

Sometimes we have trouble realizing when we are having angry thoughts.  Others can see it in us but we don’t seem able to see them in our life.  Consider keeping a written log of when you feel angry.

If we get angry at people, try to put yourself in their place in order to gain a different perspective.

A good sense of humor can be your salvation.  Learn how to laugh at yourself and see humor in situations.

A lot of angry outbursts result from miscommunication.  Practice good listening skills. Listening can help improve communication and can build trusting feelings between people. This trust can help you deal with potentially hostile emotions.

Learn to be more assertive by expressing your thoughts and feelings calmly and directly without becoming defensive, hostile, or emotionally charged.

Uncontrolled anger ends up hurting us and those around us.  Learning to control it will help us live better, healthier lives and have more positive relationships.

Father God, help me to control my anger before it destroys anyone.

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The Joy of the Lord

Scripture: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b

Observation: Those returning from the Babylonian exile are sad as they see the condition of the city of Jerusalem, the protective walls are down, the temple in ruins, the city in shambles. These people, who had been away for at least seventy years, face the challenge of rebuilding the city and, more importantly, begin to practice again their faith in freedom and in their own land.
Ezra and Nehemiah lead in these two pursuits. In chapter eight, Nehemiah tells us that Ezra read the law of God, at the request of those gathered by the Water Gate. Ezra the priest read it “in the presence of men and women” (Neh. 8:2). Both Ezra and Nehemiah emphasized the importance of this day as a “Holy Day” and that it should not be a day or mourning (8:9). When the law was read to them, the people wept. Nehemiah told them to eat and drink and to share their food with those who had none, and then closed with the words of our text for today: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Application: As I write these words this morning, two bits of news from this week are very vivid in my mind and heart. My best friend’s mother passed away after a relatively short fight with cancer. She was advanced in years, and was experiencing serious health challenges due to her terminal disease, and one can feel a certain amount of relief that she is not suffering anymore, to her children her death still leaves a void, and the grief associated with her death is still very real and very painful to them.
The second bit of news, received the same day my friend’s mother died, is that my own brother, eight years my senior, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and began intensive chemotherapy treatments immediately.
I can’t deny that my heart is heavy as I think of both my friend and her family and my brother and our family. Today, the words of Nehemiah speaks to me and to all of us who sorrow, who worry, who care: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Paul would add that we should not sorrow as those that have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). Our outlook as God’s children, and as families, is different than those who don’t know Him, because the joy of the Lord is our strength. This is not living in denial, or pretend that we don’t hurt when inside our heart is bursting. What this means is that through the pain and sorrow of life we have a joy that surpasses earthly understanding and which takes “through the shadow of the valley of death.” As people, we will have to part with loved ones at some point in our lives until our own live is no more. But we are not hopeless; the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Prayer: Our Lord and father, I pray for all those who have lost a dear loved one and who grieve their loss and feel the void left by their departure. I pray that your presence, your loving arms, may surround them during these painful, difficult days, and that you will return to them the joy that comes from knowing death is not forever. And I also pray for those battling serious diseases, that they may also see You as the great Physician and trust their life completely into Your hands so that instead of worry the joy of the Lord may be their strength.

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Scripture: (Jer 13:19 NKJV)  The cities of the South shall be shut up, And no one shall open them; Judah shall be carried away captive, all of it; It shall be wholly carried away captive.

Observation: The walls, the city, and the temple had been rebuilt, and the Law of Moses (the Torah) had been read and explained to the people who had made a new dedication of themselves to the worship of God.  Now Nehemiah faced a new challenge as venders were coming to Jerusalem to sell their wares on Sabbath.  Even though he had warned them before, they had continued to do so, so this time he ordered that the gates of the city be shut during the hours of the Sabbath and threaten to have them beaten if they continued to come to tempt the people by trying to sell their stuff.

Application: We have heard of “guarding the edges of the Sabbath.”  Some of the most quoted words from the pen of Ellen White are: “We should jealously guard the edges of the Sabbath. Remember that every moment is consecrated, holy time.” (The Faith I live By, pg. 34) By the edges of the Sabbath we mean the beginning and the end of this special day, sundown on Friday evening  to sundown on Saturday afternoon.  I would not suggest we threaten our family, or anyone else, with bodily harm if they come to our house to sell something on the Sabbath or if our children are doing something that is not conducive to good Sabbath rest and fellowship.  However, as parents we do have the responsibility to  do all in our power to ensure that the sacred hours of the Sabbath remain untainted by outside influences.
As our girls were growing up, we switched to “Sabbath toys,” and “Sabbath music,” and “Sabbath  activities,” and we enjoyed a good time of worship to “welcome the Sabbath.”  We incorporated a few traditions like the lighting of the Sabbath candles (a Jewish tradition), had Mexican tostadas, and for dessert we had donuts (you know, the commandment says to keep the Sabbath “wholey”).  In the more conservative Jewish households the observance of Sabbath begins about an hour before sundown as they try to protect themselves for entering carelessly into those sacred hours.
The other edge of the Sabbath, the sundown that marks its end, should also be marked with worship,  and with a good time of family fellowship and prayer.  There’s no need to rush “out” of the Sabbath.  Again, Jewish tradition teaches that the Sabbath is finally over when at least three stars are visible in the sky.  What that means is that there should be no rush to end this day but rather linger in its blessings as long as possible.  In fact, there’s a certain sense of sadness to see the Sabbath come to an end as the new week begins.
The point is not to make of the Sabbath a day of rules, regulations, and prohibitions which turns it into the longest, most boring, 24 hours of the week.  Maybe we could think of the gates not as something to keep negative influences out of your life but as something that helps keep the blessings in and when we keep them open the blessings of this day flow out, away from us, even as we need them so desperately after a week of battling the world and its influences.  Guarding the edges of the Sabbath is like closing doors and windows in the winter months in order to keep the warmth of the home inside and the bitter cold of winter outside.  I love the feeling, during the cold winter months (specially here in Minnesota), of coming home and walking in from the cold garage into the warmth of the foyer.  The warmth of my house greets me as I open the door and embraces me until the next time I have to go out.  And that’s how I picture the Sabbath, its warmth embracing me and protecting me from the bitter cold of the rest of the week.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the warmth and the rest of the Sabbath.

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They Made It Clear

Scripture: (Neh 8:8 NKJV)  So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

Observation: As the building of the city of Jerusalem and of the temple were finished, Nehemiah and the leaders recognized the need for a consecration of the people to God.  Ezra, the scribe, stood before everyone gathered and read to them the words of the Book of the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, or the Torah.  As the people heard the stories and the regulations found in those books, they were moved in their hearts.  But it wasn’t enough to just read the Law, the Levites helped the people to understand it by explaining its content and meaning.

Application: I encourage daily, regular reading of the Bible personally and at home.  Personally, I encourage everyone to read through their Bibles every year.  I have followed that practice for many years and have read through the entire Bible, in many different versions and translations, in two languages, every day of the year (with just a few exceptions), and doing so has enriched my life and opened windows of information, knowledge, and faith I might not otherwise have.
Beyond a reading of the Bible, though, there must be thoughtful study of selected passages, stories, sections of the Scriptures for deeper understanding.  Also, for daily family worship, at least a portion of the Scriptures should be read and discussed.  It doesn’t have to be a long theological dissertation and exegetical study of a passage, but at least a simple conversation of its meaning.  Dennis Raney, Christian counselor and writer says concerning our verse for today:

It occurred to me that when we read the Bible to our families, we need to do so in a way so that we understand what we have just read, and that our children also grasp the meaning.
It’s easy to stick to the text of the Scripture and read it word for word, flying by words like reproach and exhortation – lofty words that may (or may not) be clear to us, but which leave our kids with blank looks on their faces.
When we read the Bible to your children, take the time to stop and explain the words and ideas they may have difficulty grasping.  If needed, try paraphrasing the text to give them a down-home explanation of what it’s saying.  Give them the freedom o stop you and ask what something means if they feel confused or stuck.
Reading and studying the Bible as a family can be a source of great blessing.  But we need to make sure we aren’t just reading through it as quickly as possible, without helping everyone to understand what’s being read. (From the Family Life Marriage Bible).

Prayer: Father, help us to spend time daily with Your word, to understand it, to meditate upon it, and to spend the time teaching others what we have learned from it, and from You.

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Repentance to All

Scripture: (Neh 1:5-11 NKJV)  And I said: “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, {6} “please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. {7} “We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. {8} “Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; {9} ‘but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ {10} “Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. {11} “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Observation: Nehemiah was saddened to know the ruined condition of Jerusalem and Judah, and he recognized that it was the result of the people’s rebelliousness against God.  So he prays the prayer in our text for today.

Application:
Nehemiah could have prayed for deliverance for himself and his family, but instead, he recognized all of them needed to repent.  At the same time, he could have prayed for forgiveness only for the people, but he was humble enough to pray for the people but also for himself.
It is interesting how at times we pray for our loved ones, which we should do, and ask God to lead them closer to Him, and to bring them to repentance and to the place where they will be ready for His soon return.  But somehow we don’t always come humbly before the Lord in recognition of our own need for repentance, knowledge of God, and preparation for His return.  Nehemiah prayed for his people, but humbly also prayed and confessed his own sin.  And the wonderful thing is that God heard his plea and granted his prayer and Nehemiah was able to go back and lead in the rebuilding of the city and the reestablishment of the worship of God.  Maybe our prayers will be the catalyst for a complete revival in our lives and in our homes, maybe even beyond to our churches and to the area where we live. . . and it all begins with being humble enough to recognize our own need for repentance and forgiveness.

Prayer: Father, we too have sinned and have turned our backs to you.  Forgive our sin, cleanse us and make us new, and may the experience of conversion be ours and that of our loved ones.

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