Thursday, September 24

upon the ruins of Jerusalem's walls...discouragement is not of God's people

Before I begin my blog today, I just wanted to post a call to prayer from George from Worthy News Ministries that he put on the bottom of his devotional today: In times such as these, we need to focus more and more on Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) and call upon our Father’s mercy and grace in the days ahead………

Friends, this is a warning to all of us -- it is time to PRAY!!!

We have entered into the time period on the Hebraic calendar between Rosh HaShana (Head of the Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), which is known as the Days of Awe. It dawned on me this morning that perhaps this year will give new meaning to the term. I'm not sure if you realize it but this week's events have the potential of changing the course of history as we know it. As believers, we need to be united in prayer more than ever before.

Thursday: Obama will become the first American president to chair its 15-member Security Council. He is expected to push a UN nonproliferation resolution which is designed to bring all nations into a binding agreement. In the resolution it calls for the right of all states to pursue peaceful nuclear energy -- including Iran. It also calls for all states to sign Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) agreement. This is key because Israel is one of four nations that still has not signed the agreement and understandably so, since the UN is so biased against the Jewish state. (Personal note: it is interesting that Obama would push this stance with the speeches given by Iran’s and Libya’s leaders that accuse the world’s nations of handling them as second-rate nations. Iran still continues to claim a non-military use for the military grade uranium that it is making….)

Friday: A G-20 economic summit representing 85% of the world's economy will be led by President Obama in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. Muslims will be gathering for their first ever "prayer meeting" where there are expected to be up to 50,000 to be in attendance.
Please keep these points in prayer this week and don't forget to keep us in your prayers here in Israel as well.
Your family in the Lord with much agape love,

George, Rivka, Elianna & Obadiah
Currently in the Negev Desert, Israel

Last night I had a prompting of the Spirit to go to church….a surprising development given my recent church history and the struggle I am having with risking myself in another fellowship, though I have met and worshipped with a range of styles since moving back to Canton from Holly. From the comfortable to the new……each has its own disappointments and encouragements, style and worship but each has a biblically sound teaching platform.

A friend on Facebook, the pastor of Thrive Church in Texas, mentioned that in conversations with other families in similar stages of searching for a home church that one phrase kept cropping up….and it perfectly describes my heartfelt desire for the next home God leads us to in this season of the journey: Life-giving.

Neither Mosaic A2 (the new church plant in Ann Arbor) or Life Church in Canton had Wednesday night programs when I checked their websites; Life was going to the North Pointe church, my friend Chris Birtles’ church that I will attend on Saturday (I have experience with NP, and the River of Faith was under the campus leadership of one of NP’s brothers), on some ‘ultra-church’ field trip for some of the youth, but there was nothing else.

Only Berean Bible Church, my friend Tim’s church, had Wednesday night programs: Awana for the two fifth graders and a middle school program called Thrive for the other two…..and a bible study for the men.

With the kids settled into their respective programs, I was directed to the men’s bible study group….They were doing a study on a book written by Dr. David Jeremiah on the book of Nehemiah. The topic for last week was fear……this week, it was discouragement.

God, indeed, in His wisdom and provision knew exactly what I needed to be reminded of and how to send me in the direction of where it would be spoken.

Nehemiah is told by Hanani, one of his brothers, who came from Judah that “those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
Nehemiah was distressed about the condition of his people and his capital city…..and fasted praying to God about this burdening sorrow:

“"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king.” Nehemiah 1:5-11 (NIV)

Nehemiah was an employee of King Artaxerxes, and was held in good regard apparently as we can tell by the King’s reaction when Nehemiah sees him after this tragic news; a) that he would notice his servant’s unhappiness and sorrow, b) He would ask why instead of exercising the option to kill him because he was unhappy near the King and c) He would not only give permission but provision and equip Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. As Nehemiah departed, he recognized God’s hand in even a pagan’s heart to affect the work that He had burdened His servant for.

God has shown me time and time again that He will provision in amazing and logic-defying ways His servants for the work He’s enticed them to join with Him in.

Nehemiah organizes and sets forth to undertake the rebuilding of the capital city’s walls……He gives an accounting of who did what in Chapter 3. Such work wasn’t embraced by all of the pagan people in the area….most ridiculed the Jewish people…..Sanballat the Horonite, in front of his associates and the army of Samaria, was incensed and angry saying…”What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?" Tobiah the Ammonite joked even more, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!"

And even as the work progressed, nearing completion, it raised even more dissention among the pagan enemies of Israel…..Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod began plotting against Jerusalem and its people.

God has brought it about as I progress under the teaching and instruction of the Holy Spirit opposition and ridicule from those opposed or not in sync with God’s word or purpose and have come against me as I push against the ‘corporate mentality’ of the postmodern church………..

Dr. Jeremiah points out four temptations that are usually the precursor to the sin of discouragement……

1) Fatigue, mental and/or physical.

2) Frustration.

Nehemiah 4:10-11 The people of Judah…faced with opposition from the pagan nations surrounding them as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem cry out, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall. Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”

These first two can usually go hand-in-hand, one on top of the other….as you get frustrated, you get tired or as you get tired, you get frustrated. The builders were facing the ridicule of enemy nations and turned to the pile of rubble before them, lamenting that no apparent progress had been made….and time was running out in their opinion before an enemy would attack them.

3) Failure (fear or attitude of failure)

Also in v10 above, the Israelites show the fear of failure, that they aren’t going to be able to build fast enough to thwart the enemy………

4) Fear

Nehemiah 4:11-12. “Also our enemies said, "Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work." Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, "Wherever you turn, they will attack us."”

They didn’t know when the enemy would attack and knew that when it came, they would be overwhelmed with no protective walls…..

Discouragement is the antithesis of what God built us to be and what the rebirth of salvation delivers into our hearts as we continue the journey towards the gates of the New Jerusalem……and the battle grows more intense, the enemy seems to have superior forces arrayed against the children of God.

We elect politicians who mouth godly intentions while their actions draw us further and further away from God’s plan…..we speak the truth, that Christ is the only way to salvation and are twisted into a corner with the new definition of tolerance…..more and more faithful are falling to false doctrines, couched with enough gospel verses to sway the shallow believer and beset the more mature, we label them good under the banner of ‘love’ and condemn those who are led astray……more and more third world countries are under the battle of fatigue, hungry and persecution with more and more believers imprisoned, tortured and killed for the refusal to turn from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…….future generations will never breath air because of the increased support of the secular world of abortion and the legislative laws bring us to a ‘master race’ mentality of who is allowed to breath air and who must die, be controlled and prevented from giving birth and more discriminatory, punishing legislation being passed to restrict Christianity……the economy is floundering and the governmental answer is to indebt the future generations…..

We are in discouraging times and the division between the pilgrims of this world and its permanent inhabitants grows daily in ways that years ago we would have scoffed at the possibilities……as we look at the rubble of what was once our protection in the secular world…once so bold and strong in the lives of the people…now lying tumbled and burn upon the ground, we are turning more and more away from the God of our faith and depending upon the workings of man and the ‘religious’ leadership that proclaims a stunted gospel….love everyone and we’ll all get to heaven in our own ways, don’t be offensive and above all, don’t speak absolute truth….define what truth is for you and allow that to be your guide.

Is it any wonder why more and more Christians are falling into apostasy? We believe in strength in numbers and gather ourselves into mega-churches we run like businesses…afraid of not making our ‘budgets’ and looking for spectacular and inviting ways to draw more ‘tithe’ givers of financial strength into our pews. We look less and less to healing those who are wounded, discipling those who are looking, and empowering those who have become apostles into commissioning others into the faith.

And we say, “Look, it’s obviously working…..the money is fine and the service is drawing more and more into our doors! We had to add “ADDITIONAL” services!!!!!”

The remnant is becoming disillusioned by the remaining rubble that lies around the modern church and is giving in to discouragement as the enemies of God’s plan threaten persecution and destruction…….there is just too much to do, there’s just too few to do it, and the enemy is making progress despite our best efforts!!

We all need to step into the story of Nehemiah and look to his example of how ‘sold-out-to-God’ people fight against discouragement. As Dr. Jeremiah points out, there are five God-given weapons to combat the enemy’s plan against the plan God has burdened His people with:

1) Cry out to God.
2) Continue to do the work God has called us to do.
3) Concentrate on the ‘big picture.’
4) Claim the encouragement provided in the promises God has given.
5) Carry the burdens of others as they carry your burdens….don’t carry your own.

”Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” Nehemiah 4:4-5 (NIV). Nehemiah doesn’t complain about the insults against him or the people but against God’s plan….giving it to God to handle in His way.

Even as the enemies grumbled and threatened, Nehemiah and his countrymen continued to follow God’s plan full-heartedly, building 25,000 yards (25 football fields) worth of wall half of its original height. Nehemiah 4:6.

He expected and prepared his people for the attacks against the people, rallying them with the encouragements that God had promised His children and walked as he talked, giving all he had in dedication to the call God had placed upon him….

“"Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!" So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, "Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day." Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.” Nehemiah 4:14b-23 (NIV)

When he would be discouraged, when he would be burdened by the task, Nehemiah did not isolate himself and take his portion..wishing for more. He bore the burdens of his people, making their burdened problems and situations his own. He led, again, as he spoke…giving his full focus and effort to the purpose God had set him to. He reinforces the vision with his dedication…inspiring the people through carrying their burdens and affecting change as he was given the authority to do. But he went further, sacrificing his own for the sake of his people:

“Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. Some were saying, "We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain." Others were saying, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine." Still others were saying, "We have had to borrow money to pay the king's tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others." When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, "You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!" So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: "As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!" They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, "What you are doing is not right. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil." "We will give it back," they said. "And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say." Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, "In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!" At this the whole assembly said, "Amen," and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised. Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 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. Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.” Nehemiah 5:1-18 (NIV)

As Nehemiah progressed in the purpose to which God had set his heart to, he was more and more wary of the attack of the enemy…..Shemaiah tried to make Nehemiah give up because of intimidation….telling Nehemiah “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you----by night they are coming to kill you.” (Nehemiah 6:5 NIV). Shemaiah had been hired by Tobiah and Sanballat to create a bad name for Nehemiah and discredit his words of encouragement…..

How often do we, in the body, do the same thing…..we follow those leaders who whisper that we are being intolerant, unloving, and offensive by speaking the truth….the rhetoric is toned down, hell isn’t mention and the wages of sin…well, let’s just talk about the loving side of God rather than His wrath. We must water down the truth so that we can get the people in the doors…..we must not vote our faith but vote our hopes…..we cannot oppose the government in the democratic way but must accept what they deem is best for us……we run to our 'temple' and close the doors, creating the very reputation we've spoken against in times past and creating the image that our encouragement is not to be heeded......

We need to be like Nehemiah....

Nehemiah saw through the deception and uttered words we should be crying out against the opposition to the Truth, even those in the body who have become fearful and discouraged in the face of the massive rubble of this world:

“"Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!"” Nehemiah 5:11a (NIV).

And in fifty-two days, the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt…..

What could God do with a body that is not discouraged despite the pile of rubble that has been created from the once-strong walls of the church, dedicated to rebuilding those walls under the threats, insults and intimidations of the enemy and glorifying God by that work He has purposed us all to do.

We can only do it now as the Israelites did in Nehemiah’s time.......Gather together, fasting and wearing sackcloth….confessing our sins and the wickedness of our forefathers in the body…reading from the Word of God and worshipping His mercy, grace and authority in our lives and the work of the church and recalling the promises and provisions of our God to His people, if we will only follow Him:

“"You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous. You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take. You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them. But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, 'This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,' or when they committed awful blasphemies. Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen. You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess. Their sons went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you handed the Canaanites over to them, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness. But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time. You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong.” Nehemiah 7 (NIV)

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