This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  – Psalm 118:24

I took the month of August off from leading Bible study so I could take a breather before school starts and focus on some other tasks. However, unexpected things keep coming up, instead!  I haven’t had a breather and I have not gotten to do one thing I planned, but you know what?  I’m not frustrated.  I’m thankful!   Because of the break, I’ve been available for the other things that came up – the things that God intended for me to do.  That makes me happier than fulfilling my own plans.

This is the day the Lord has made, for sure, and as my dear friend Kendra quotes from her Mom:

This is the day the Lord has made, so don’t mess it up!           LOL.

Praise be to God for each day, especially the ones that go His way instead of mine! Amen.  :) 

Just when it seemed like the world was all doom and gloom from politics, violence, and other troubling stories in the news, I spent a couple of hours at school and got to entertain a happy, healthy, playful sweet 17-month old boy (so cute, loved him!), and witnessed an entire football team and many other students enthusiastically take time to sign a card for a classmate battling cancer.  Many of them took a few minutes to say hi to me and ask how their friend is doing.  All were happy, friendly, respectful, polite, and full of positive energy.  Playing with my new little toddler friend and watching teens pursue their interests and dreams at pre-season workouts helped me see God’s goodness in them.  God is raising up new generations of kids and young people whom He has created with His plans and purposes (Jeremiah & Psalm 139), people who can be the leaders, thinkers, innovators, and inspirations for our future!  God hasn’t lost hope in us yet, so we shouldn’t lose hope either!

Instead, let’s invest ourselves in children and young people to help them bring about more of God’s goodness in our world.

Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me,”…And he took them up in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.  – Mark 10:14-16 (paraphrased) 

To learn more of what the Bible says about children, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com    Use keyword “children”.

Did you know studies show that families who eat meals together regularly have children who are better students who are more likely to be engaged in school activities, and less likely to get into trouble, smoke, drink or do drugs?  I was recently told by a retired educator that a study revealed regular family meals were found to be important to the success of National Merit Scholarship winners.  These findings are true, especially if dad is at the table, too!

The majority of men in prisons grew up without a father.

Studies also show that fatherless children are more likely to be violent, abusive, and have criminal tendencies.

Children with a father who commits violence, abuse and crimes are more likely to commit criminal acts, too.

The impact of the father is especially important when it comes to raising men of faith.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  – Ephesians 6:4

A study in Switzerland showed that if the father attends church regularly, 2/3-3/4 of the children are likely attend regularly as adults, regardless of the involvement of the mother.

If the father attends church irregularly, or occasionally, 1/2-2/3 of the children can be expected to also attend occasionally, regardless of the devotion of the mother.

If the mother is a faithful woman who attends church regularly and is active in church, but the father does not go to church, only one child in 50 is expected to become a regular churchgoer in his/her adult years.

If neither parent goes to church, there is only a 4% chance that the children will someday go to church, meaning 96 out of 100 will most likely never go to church.

According to a Barna study, of those surveyed, the majority of American moms raising children ages 0-18 years said that family is their top priority and faith is an important part of parenting.  Majority of dads also said family was top priority, but not many felt faith was important part of parenting.  With fathers having the greatest impact on the future of our children’s faith, that is a disparaging revelation.

Of moms 42+ raising children 0-18 years of age, the majority are married.

Of moms ages 23-41, about half are married.

Only 1 in 4 of moms ages 18-22 are married, which means 3 0f 4 children are growing up with a single mom, most of whom do not have the children’s fathers in their lives.  These children are off to a rough start with statistics indicating that they will likely be violent, abusive, and commit crimes if a father or father-figure does not come into their lives  Their chances of becoming men and women of faith are next to nothing.

Women, do not be discouraged.  Moms are still seen as being the primary caregivers and nurturers, and I know many awesome mothers who defy these statistics by intentionally raising their children in a Christian environment, active in church. They are raising impressive kids who are good students, fine people, and loving children of faith. Women who have faithful husbands need to support and encourage them!

My father, grandfathers, and close uncles were faithful men, for which I am grateful!  However, it was my grandmothers who had significant impact on my faith and beliefs, so women, please don’t feel your influence doesn’t also matter, because it does. 🙂

Nevertheless, multiple studies about families, parenting, and the futures of our children indicate the choices the father makes has a much greater impact on children than those of the mother.  Statistics improved when dad’s favorable decisions were supported by the mother, and when Mom and Dad showed love and respect for each other.

The Bible says to take care of widows and orphans, the fatherless among us.  As the church we need to find ways to support fatherless children and those raising them, and encourage young people to be responsible in their relationships, and help them see the importance of 2-parent families.  We also need to help couples respect the sanctity of marriage and Biblically help them work through their problems when marital issues arise.

Most importantly, we need to remember and share the examples set by our Heavenly Father.  He taught us that He is loving, merciful, gracious, and slow to anger.  He is a Father who says what He means, and means what He says.  He keeps His word.  When necessary, the Father convicts and disciplines, but is just in His ways, not overbearing.  Through Jesus, the Father taught us what true Love is, being a Father who made sacrifices for the wellbeing of His children, and instructed us to hate evil – not people; remembering that His goodness and grace are not something any of us can earn, for we have all sinned, but that He makes available to ALL His children who live by faith and obey His commands.

The more we try to live as godly men and women who find ways to share the love and saving grace of Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and Lord; the more God can work through us to make a difference in the lives of those around us, especially when it comes to parenting and raising the next generation of Christian boys and girls.

Fathers, remember, the choices you make and the way you live your lives have a tremendous impact on the little ones watching you.  Mothers, we are important, too!  We need to live faithful lives, support husbands of faith, and encourage younger generations to join us in our walk of faith.

What are we doing today?  How will our choices and actions impact the children of tomorrow?

To learn more about God as our Father, and teachings of Jesus, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com

SOURCES:

The Barna Group

Justin Taylor A Father’s Role in His Children Going to Church When They are Adults – referencing Robbie Lowe (vicar of St. Peter’s, Bushey Heath, a parish in the Church of England) and the 1994 Swiss study about the impact parents have on the future faith of their children (Touchstone, June 2003)

http://www.TheFatherlessGeneration.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Do you know the plan?  “What plan?” you might ask.  My reply, “Whatever comes to mind when you hear the question.”  For some the plan might be for their job, relationships, children, or financial goals.  For Jeremiah, the plans were for the future and the well being of God’s people.

Jeremiah was a prophet and priest.  A prophet is someone chosen by God to give God’s messages to His people.  Jeremiah was young when he was called to be a prophet, which is interesting, because the reigning king in Jerusalem also started young – at age 8!  That king was Josiah.  He was the last godly king of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem and capture by Babylon.  Jeremiah lived in a small town outside of Jerusalem.  He knew the business, activities and ways of worship within the walls of Jerusalem, but was able to live outside the fray of the city.  After Josiah died, Jerusalem became a city of turmoil – politically, socially, and morally.   Can you relate today?

It was Jeremiah’s job to give God’s messages of warning to the people of Jerusalem, informing them of their sinful ways, calling for them to repent and turn their hearts back to God, and warning  them that God would allow them to be taken by their enemies if they did not.  Jeremiah was grieved, literally to tears, for the people of Jerusalem, for they would not turn from sinful ways and turn their hearts back to God.  Eventually God’s punishment happened.  Jeremiah watched as people from Jerusalem were taken by King Nebuchadnezzar and exiled to Babylon.

After the exile, Jerusalem fell to ruin and the temple was destroyed.  This was very distressing for Jeremiah and the people of Jerusalem because the temple was more than a place of worship. It was the place where God’s physical presence resided among them.

Exiled to Babylon, the people of Judah felt like they’d been sent away from God’s presence.  Then, when they heard the temple had been destroyed, they feared God would be gone from their lives forever.  Once they thrived in Jerusalem, and now they were living as captives in a new place, under the rule of another king, away from the presence of God, and fearing He would never be with them or their children again.

God knew their despair; and even though He had sent them to Babylon as punishment for turning away from Him, God did not turn His back on them.  He called on Jeremiah to prepare a letter for the exiled people of Jerusalem, addressing their fear for the future and their feelings that God had abandoned them.  Following are the words of consolation that God gave Jeremiah to share:

Jeremiah 29:1-14   (ESV)      Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles    

29 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to… all the people… taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon… The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah… to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,[a] for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”       

(Text copied from http://www.BibleGateway.com)

God was telling the people of Jerusalem that even though they were in exile, He wanted them to seek “welfare”, meaning “well being.”  Some Bible versions say “to prosper”, which in Greek and Aramaic, means to “have means and ability,” “thrive,” “have gain.”   When God said “expected end,” He meant that He had plans for them to have a future of well being and hope, not harm or evil.  God promised that, in time, He would bring them back to where they belonged.  Most importantly, God was assuring the exiled people of Jerusalem that He had not abandoned them, and despite their sinful past, He had plans for them, and the plans for were for their good!

There’s an adage today that says:  The best way to make God laugh is to have plans.

It’s good to have plans and goals, but ultimately, we need seek God’s plans for us, making our plans accordingly.  However, even then, things can go wrong, and we can find ourselves in bad situations and tough places.

Have you ever found yourself in an uncertain place in your life, or a place you didn’t want to be?  Maybe you were in a tough place because of your own actions, or maybe life happened in a bad way, leaving you to survive the consequences.  Tough times might make us feel like the people of Judah – having to survive in a new way, feeling fear of the unknown, wondering if we still have a future. maybe even feeling hopeless.  At times we might also feel as if we’ve been abandoned by God, or that we are undeserving of His love and help.  Maybe you’re in that place right now.  If so, please find comfort in God’s words!

The words above were given to Jeremiah to be shared with the suffering people of Jerusalem to give them comfort and hope, and those words of God still speak to us today!

In Jeremiah 29:1-14, God is saying:    Live your life, and trust in Me.  I know your situation.  Don’t give up!  I have plans for you!  My plans are for your wellbeing, that you thrive and survive.  At the right time, I will gather you to myself and restore your life.  You will seek Me and find Me by your side.  You will pray to Me, and I will hear.  Let these promises give you hope for your future!   (my paraphrased summary of 29:1-14)

What about you?  Do you know the plan?

The truth is that we don’t know the plan, but we know the God who does!  Praise be to God!

To read the Book of Jeremiah or learn more through commentaries, go to http://www.Biblegateway.com

Blessings to all,

Renee Myers

 

 

Jesus told the disciples: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

That verse was the answer to my friend’s question.  We were in Bible study and had just watched one of the videos from “The Easter Experience.”  The video focused on the criminal who was crucified beside Jesus.  In their final moments together, the criminal recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and asks for mercy for his sins.  Jesus had mercy on the criminal and told him that on that very day, the criminal would be with Him in Paradise. (Luke 23:39-43)

The discussion that followed the video was to remind us that we need the same saving grace of Jesus every day, and to be assured that Jesus forgives and accepts all believers who confess their sins to Him and claim Him as their Savior and Lord.

To better appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we talked about sin.  The Bible says that sin is not just our actions, but also our thoughts.  For instance, Matthew 5:27-28 tells us that it’s not just a sin to commit adultery.  It is also a sin to lust after another man’s wife.  Matthew 5:21-22 says it’s not just people who murder who will be subject to judgment, but also those with anger in their hearts.  This means that we might not physically commit a sin, but we could still be guilty of sinful thoughts.  Yikes!

I shared with our group that I remembered the first time I read those scriptures.  “It’s not fair!” I thought. How can I help what my mind thinks?” 

We talked about how sinful thoughts can lead to sinful actions and words, and wondered how we are supposed to keep our minds from having sinful thoughts.

Then we considered the sins we commit on a regular basis, like the daily things we can’t seem to keep ourselves from doing – yielding to temptations, things we fail to do, the way we talk to others, how we treat others, etc.

Realizing how easily and how frequently we are prone to sin, one of the group members, who is usually quiet and reserved, spoke up with frustration and asked, “Then what are we supposed to do?”

The answer to her question was given to us by Jesus when He spoke to the disciples.  Knowing that He would soon be leaving them alone to face the trials and temptations of the world, Jesus instructed the disciples to stay awake and pray so they wouldn’t yield to temptation.  Jesus acknowledged that our spirits are willing to be good, but our flesh is weak.  (Matthew 26:41)   By staying alert and aware of our temptations and weaknesses, we can pray so that we stay strong against the sins we’re prone to commit.

I tried this proactive prayer  approach this week and it worked!  I prayed for God’s help when I’m in situations that anger or frustrate me, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my words or keep me silent if I shouldn’t speak .  The very next day a situation arose that tested my patience.  Angry thoughts started swirling in my head, and then angry words started coming out of my mouth.  I took a few seconds to mentally claim the help I had been proactively seeking in prayer .  In that moment of pause, the Voice I heard in my head said, “Just listen.  Don’t say anything.”  I did just that.  I stopped trying to speak and just listened.  It was hard at times, but not as hard as I thought it would be.  When tempted to say something, I remembered the words, “Don’t say anything.” 

The result?  In the moment, it reduced the tension of the conversation and prevented a combative, possibly hurtful discussion.  In the hours that followed, I was able to reflect on what the other person shared without being angry or too proud to consider their thoughts, and it made me feel good that the conversation hadn’t escalated into an argument.  Praise for that!

Were those prayers a “one and done” kind of thing?  No.  Like Jesus said, we have to stay watchful and prayerful, remaining diligent in our preparation for the trials and temptations around us.  Then, when we find ourselves in battle, we will have the strength to fight against temptation.

I’m thankful my friend asked what we’re supposed to do to help us resist the temptations to sin, for her question led me to Jesus’ instructions and made a difference for me.  I hope and pray the words of Jesus will help you, too.

Added note:  Knowing that it’s often my words that get me in trouble,  I keep the following verse posted at my desk:

Be quick to listen and slow to speak. – James 1:9      It’s been there for a long time. 🙂

To read more from the passages above or the teachings of Jesus, check out the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John at http://www.BibleGateway.com

God bless you.

Renee

How did you sleep last night?  I feel guilty admitting that I had a good night’s sleep.  Why do I feel guilty about that?  Because Jesus did not sleep last night.

Jesus was falsely arrested and taken away, where he was stood before a mock trial among town leaders who plotted to kill Him, and took Him to crucify as a criminal.

It all began in the Garden of Gethsemane.  After their Feast of Unleavened Bread (The Last Supper), Jesus led the disciples to the garden.  He asked the disciples to stay awake – to keep watch and pray so they wouldn’t yield to temptation.  Jesus went a little farther, knelt and prayed to the Father, Abba.  The Gospels say He prayed fervently, knowing the fate that awaited Him.  Jesus asked the Father to take the cup of suffering away, asking if there be any other way to save those who belonged to Him.  Then Jesus submitted Himself to His Father, saying Your will be done.  Accepting the will of His Father, Jesus prayed with such agony that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” When Jesus finished praying, He found the disciples asleep.  He awakened them, again telling them to pray (stay strong) so they wouldn’t give in to temptation. (Luke 22:39-46)

It was then that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, appeared in the dark of the garden with troops, chief priests and officers to seize and arrest Jesus.  The disciples, now awake, jumped to their feet.  At first they attempted to fight against Jesus’ captors, but Jesus commanded them to put away their swords.  The disciples then fled as Jesus was taken by the captors.

Jesus was then led to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where Jesus was questioned before a rigged trial and sentenced to death on a cross.  In the hours that followed, while we, and the rest of Jerusalem slept through the night,  Jesus was mocked, tortured, beaten and bloodied.

Again, I ask, how did you sleep last night?

As I write, in the mid-morning hour, Jesus’ journey to the cross continues.

Jesus had been taken secretly in the dark of night, so as to not start a riot among those who followed and supported Jesus, for His captors knew Jesus was an innocent man.  However, now in the light of day, the priests and officials needed to pass the responsibility of Jesus’ fate onto someone else, so Jesus was led to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor.  He, too, feared having the blood of Jesus on his hands, so he presented the case to mob of a crowd that had formed as Jesus and two criminals were led to crucifixion were led through town to the cross.

Can you imagine what Jerusalem must have been like?  It was the day of preparation for the Passover, the day before the Sabbath, so there would be much activity in Jerusalem, as people prepared for the Sabbath, gathering food from the markets and taking their lambs for proper sacrifice.  Oh, the irony, that during this most holy of times, Jesus was presented to the crowds who yelled, “Crucify him!”

Jesus’ journey to cross continues. Jesus has endured hours of torture and beatings and is now being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem like a criminal, bearing the heavy weight of His wooden cross upon his back.  Flesh has been torn from His body.  He is covered with open wounds and now wears a crown of thorns to mock Him as the King of the Jews, causing blood to run down his face. Physically unable to continue, a man named Cyrus is pulled from the crowd to help Jesus. The journey ends at the top of the hill where the crosses lie waiting.  Eventually  Jesus is laid upon a cross.  The smacks of the mallet ring out among the crowd as nails are hammered into each hand and foot.  Then the cross is raised, and Jesus is hung to die.

As physically painful as this must be, surely the sins of the world weighed greatest upon him.  While Jews sacrificed their lambs in the temple, Jesus gave Himself as the sacrifice for each of us and all of our sins.  By this time darkness covered the whole land.

A criminal, hanging on a cross beside Him, acknowledged Jesus as an innocent man.  In an amazing act of grace, while being hung by the very people He came to save, Jesus promised that criminal that on that very day, he would be with Jesus in Paradise.

In pain Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46. Mark 15:34)

Then, in the ninth hour, as Jesus cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit,” he breathed his last breath.  At that time, in total darkness, the earth quaked (Matthew 27:51)  and the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom.  When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” (Luke 23:44-47)

“And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.  But all his acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”  (Luke 23:48-49)

I began by asking how you slept last night, while all these events began to unfold.  Now I ask, where were you today?  Were you busy with your daily tasks?  If so, were you aware or unaware of the crowds gathering in Jerusalem and the crucifixions taking place?  Did you want to stop the crowds from yelling, “Crucify him!”, or were you too scared to speak up?  If you went with the crowds to witness the crucifixion, did you know what was happening?  Had you heard from witnesses the night before that Jesus had been sentenced to death?  Did you watch or turn away?

Regardless of where you were or who you might have been in the city of Jerusalem that day, are you now able to be like the centurion, and say, “Certainly, this was a righteous man”?  I hope so.  I hope you not only recognize the righteousness of Jesus, but also claim Him as your Savior and Lord, the Man who took all the sins of the world, for you and me, to die as the perfect sacrifice, like the lambs being slaughtered in the Temple, so that we can be forgiven of our sins and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, that was shed on our behalf.

Praise be to God, our Father; and thank You, Jesus, for the ultimate sacrifice you paid on our behalf.  In Your precious and Holy name we pray.  Amen.

To read about the “Easter” story in the Bible, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com, beginning with Matthew chapter 26, Mark chapter 14, Luke chapter 22, or John chapter 13.

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re not Irish today, don’t feel badly about it.  St. Patrick wasn’t Irish either, but he was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was just 16!

Here is his interesting story, written for today’s devotion by Elizabeth Sherrill for Daily Guideposts 2016.  It’s an interesting story!

Living in the days of the early churches (387-461 AD), Patrick was a “cultured Latin-speaking Briton child , and son of a government official in Roman Britain”.  He was kidnapped at age 16, in 405 AD, by a “gang of Irish raiders who attacked his coastal village, dragged him to their boat, crossed to Ireland, and sold him as a slave.  Tending his master’s sheep on a rocky mountainside, all by naked through the long winters, always hungry, what sustained him was a single thought: Escape!

It was six years until his master’s absence gave him the chance.  Running by night, hiding by day, he finally made his way to the coast and across the sea to Britain where, in gratitude for his deliverance, he decided to devote his life to God.

It was at the seminary in France  where he was studying for the priesthood that the strange dreams began.  He heard Irish voices begging him to come back and bring the Gospel.  And, of course, Patrick did go back.  For thirty years he traveled ceaselessly throughout the island, teaching, baptizing, planting churches, and bringing learning and peace to the land where he received only cruelty.”

But I say unto you, Love your enemies…    – Matthew 5:44 (KJV)

Father, You gave Patrick grace not only to forgive, but also to turn wrong into blessing.  Teach me, too, to forgive and bless.  – Elizabeth Sherrill

 

 

I had an amazing experience this morning as God worked miracles before my eyes.

It happened in Bible study.  An aged man with a debilitating disease, wheelchair bound and with speech difficulties, shared a God-led, inspiring testimony.  Because of his illness, his speech is often hard to understand, and he cannot project well.  However, today God enabled him to speak so that all could hear and understand.  It truly was miraculous.

His message touched all of us.

One lady, with hearing problems, sat beside him so she could hear better.  Throughout the testimony, she maintained eye contact with the speaker, listened intently, nodded and responded with facial expressions as he spoke.  At one point she was moved to tears.  Not only was God enabling the man to speak, He was enabling her to hear!  Afterward, she put her hand on his arm and thanked him for sharing such a special message.  He apologized if she couldn’t hear him well.  She smiled, looked into his eyes, and with tears in her own eyes, sweetly replied, “I didn’t hear a word you said.  I heard your heart.”

Perhaps she heard his message the best.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the morning we had in Bible study; and for the amazing way you enabled our friend to share testimony, and the rest of us to hear.  Thank you for our sweet friend who could not hear his words, but was gifted to hear his heart.  Please, Lord, so that I might better know, understand, and love others, help me learn to hear others’ hearts, too.    In Jesus’ name I pray.   Amen.

 

 

Christian Unity: Putting aside denominational differences and varying theologies to come together as one body in Christ; celebrating the foundational beliefs we share as Christians.

Yesterday was Ecumenical (Unity) Sunday.  It’s a day on the Christian calendar when Christians worldwide are reminded of the beliefs we share, to honor the oneness we have in Christ, and to celebrate the good we can do when we put differences aside and work together.

Nehemiah recognized the importance of unity of faith, oneness in God.

Nehemiah was an Israelite/Jew who had been exiled to Babylonia in the fall of Jerusalem.  He must have had outstanding character because, while in Babylonia, he gained favor of the king and served as the king’s cupbearer.  He, a Jew, held the most trustworthy job in the palace, for Nehemiah not only served the king, he tasted the king’s food and drink before serving to make sure it was safe for the king.

While working one day, Nehemiah met men who had traveled from the land of Judah.  He inquired about his hometown of Jerusalem and was grieved to learn that Jerusalem had fallen into a terrible state of destruction.  What had once been the thriving city of God’s people, where God’s presence had dwelt within the temple, was now largely in ruins. The city wall that once fortified the city, no longer stood strong.

Nehemiah fell before the Lord in mourning for God’s city and His people.  He poured out his heart in prayer, confessing the sins of the Israelites that caused God to hand them over to their enemies, and sought God’s mercy for the chance to repent and serve God again.

God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to leave his fine job at the palace so he could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.  God moved the king’s heart to support Nehemiah in this mission.  The king sent some of his own people to travel with Nehemiah, along with official documents requesting that kings of other lands allow safe passage for Nehemiah.

Nehemiah accepted this mission totally trusting in God’s favor and provision.  Allowing God to work through him, Nehemiah was able to acquire resources and supplies and rallied the help and support of everyone from the lower class workers of Jerusalem, to the High Priest and local priests, nobles from lands outside of Jerusalem, as well as skilled workers and tradesmen.

The citizens of Jerusalem were varied people, too.  Other people moved into the city while Israelites were in exile.  They brought with them pagan religions, and some people served no god at all.

There were struggles from within while rebuilding the wall, and opposition from the outside, but with God’s help and blessings, the wall was rebuilt, repaired and fortified in just 52 days!

God’s city was restored!  Knowing the accomplishment was God’s doing, and not his own, Nehemiah gathered all the people together, men, women, and all who could understand, for an assembly.   It was time to unite the people in the  hearing of God’s word.

Nehemiah 8:1-10    English Standard Version (ESV) (text copied from http://www.BibleGateway.com)

Ezra Reads the Law

8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,[a] helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly,[b] and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

This Day Is Holy

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah recognized the importance of uniting the people in the Word of God, uniting them in their beliefs, and educating those who had never heard the Word of God.

Today, as Christians, we are called to be the head, heart, hands and feet of Jesus here on earth.  This means functioning in unity, based on our core Christian beliefs, as one body.  We are called to do good in Jesus’ name, and in so doing, to make Him known to others.  Sometimes we are called to show the love of Jesus.  Other times we are called to share His story and offer His love, saving grace, and eternal salvation to others.

Sadly, though, we get so caught up in the busyness of religion, sorting out denominations, and focusing on differences of theologies, that we forget about the true meaning and calling of our Christian faith.

It’s time for Christian unity.  Following Nehemiah’s example, let’s begin by being reminded of our core Christian beliefs, the foundation of our faith with The Apostles’ Creed.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilot,

was crucified, dead and buried; *

the third day he rose from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,

and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,    the holy catholic church, **

the communion of saints,   the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,   and the live everlasting. Amen

* traditional use includes, “He descended into hell.”      ** the church universal

Being reminded of the beliefs that unify us, and who we are called to be as the Christians serving as the body of Christ, let us prayerfully go before God to offer ourselves to Him, for the good He might have us to do for others.  For some service will be through missions and ministries; for others service might be through simple acts of kindness, love, grace, compassion and forgiveness that make a difference in someone’s day.

Not only can we make a difference for others around us, we can also make a difference in this world, through Christian Unity, working together to share the love and saving grace of Jesus the Christ.

The Book of Nehemiah is a great story to read.  Shared above is a summary from Nehemiah chapters 1-8, but his story continues in an awesome with many inspiring lessons!  To read more from the scriptures and learn from commentaries, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com

God bless you. 🙂

 

It seems to me that those who feel most blessed are those who recognize their blessings.

God blesses us every day in many ways. Blessings are not always as we ask or hope for. Sometimes God blesses us most by not giving us what we ask for. Often His blessings are in the simple, small things of life.

Many times God blesses me through the words and actions of others, as well as the way I see Him work in their lives.

Every day I am blessed by the good I see in others and the world around me.

I don’t need a mega million lottery ticket for the blessings that matter most.

“May the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”        – Numbers 6:24-26

Renee     💟✝

 

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