Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nehemiah 5: Actions Speak Louder than Words

So I said, "The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?" (Neh 5:9)

Have you ever met someone that says one thing and does something else? Ever been taken advantage of? If your answers to those questions are Yes, it is really sad. But if your answer to those questions is Yes and the person we are talking about is a Christian and so are you, it is insidious, heinous, or worse!

That's what we are dealing with in Chapter 5. Some nobles and officials who are part of the community of God, Israelites, yet their actions towards their fellow brothers shows different. They are taking advantage of their fellow Jews to make a profit off of them during the wall building and a famine. It's sad really, but a reality all too often, that God's people greedily take advantage of each other instead of lovingly blessing each other monetarily.

In chapter 5 there is a great outcry from the people that threatens not only the building of the wall, but Jerusalem and the nation of Israel as well. Basically, the regular working schmoes, like me, can't feed their families because they have been volunteering to build the wall. They then start mortgaging their farms, vineyards, etc. These mortgages are from their brothers and they are charging high interest even though it is against God's law to charge interest to a brother. Then they can't pay the high tax that King Artexerxes exacts from his kingdom, so they start selling their sons and daughters to these so called nobles and officials.

Nehemiah gets ticked off (aka righteous anger) and holds a good old fashion public church discipline session. He formally charges them all of sin and then drops a bomb by publicly admitting that he too has been doing the same thing (v 10)! He repents and asks the nobles and officials to repent as well. But he doesn't stop there he also says, "Let's pay restitution not just repent!"

The officials agree to follow Nehemiah's lead and repent as well as pay restitution. Nehemiah doesn't stop there...he brings in the priests to witness the nobles and officials swearing to pay back all the interest, return all the property, and return the sons and daughters. It's a contract basically, which he further strengthens by shaking out the dust and whatever is in his pockets (aka folds of his cloak) to show that God will do the same thing to them if they don't honor the contract.

The people obviously rejoice and the situation is taken care of. Nehemiah finishes the chapter by showing how repentant he was by describing that when he became Governor of Israel he did not collect the allowances from the people (food and 40 shekels of silver a day) that normally come with the office. He feared God and loved the people too much to do so (are you listening Washington, DC? This is a great economic stimulus plan!).

Actions speak louder than words. We can say that we are Christians, but "they will know us by our love!" I'll leave you with the 3 questions I left with the KB leaders:

  1. Are you taking advantage of a brother or sister in Christ? Monetarily, emotionally, sexually, whatever?
  2. Have you been taken advantage of by a brother or sister in Christ? And have you forgiven them? Bitterness is one of the worst things this side of hell. It imprisons you in a prison cell that is almost impenetrable. Don’t let yourself be caught in it’s trap.
  3. How are you managing God’s money? That’s not a typo, it’s not your money, it’s God’s and he lets you have some of it. Depending on your answer that will actually show where your heart is at, where your faith is even. It let’s you know if you have greed in there or love!
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Poll!

So here's a question for ya...

We are changing it up this year and will have a mini-Advance in April, we're calling it Spring Training, and a full Advance in October...Lord willin' and the crik don't rise.

Spring Training will be a full Saturday of worship and teaching, sports, AND FOOD! Thus the poll to the right.

I'm looking into doing either a full Filipino Lechon Baboy (which means roast pig, the filipino version of a Luau) or all you can eat Carne Asada and/or Al Pastor soft tacos. Just to clarify the Filipino Lechon or Luau would have egg rolls (we call them lumpia) and chow mein type noodles (we call it pancit, the c is like an s) maybe some rice. The all you can eat soft tacos is just that tacos with all the fixins...I think the tortillas are hand made and completely authentic salsa etc etc.

So let me know what you think...does the thought of a pig looking at you gross you out or are you man enough to deal? Maybe you just don't like Pacific Islander/Asian food...whatever just let me know ;)


Nehemiah 4: Building AND Defending!

From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. (Neh 4:16-18)

Sorry it's been a few weeks since my last update. We did have our study with the KingdomBuilder leaders last week and we went through Chapter 4 of Nehemiah. It's one of my favorite chapters of scripture. I even asked the guys if we could change the name of Kingdombuilders to Trowel & Sword! They obviously didn't take to the idea...

It's one of my favorites because of the beautiful picture of building and defending at the same time. These men knew that they needed to defend themselves, but they also knew that they equally had to keep building. See their neighbors were surrounding them. Verse 7 tells us Sanballat (coming from the north); Tobiah and the Ammonites (from the east); the Arabs (from the south), and the Ashdodites (had just joined in from the west) were planning a surprise attack.

Nehemiah and the people caught wind of it and decided to pray AND defend themselves while they kept building. So awesome the wisdom God gave Nehemiah to lead these people. Yes he prayed and he prayed earnestly at the same time he took practical steps to continue building and defend at the same time.

Here are some gleanings from the chapter:

  • We are at war - it's easy to forget in the ever comfortable US of A that there is a roaring lion who is seeking to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). Another passage tells us that a dragon makes war against those who obey God's commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12:17). The lion and the dragon are Satan our enemy who often surrounds us as the Israelites were surrounded and is waiting to spring a surprise attack. Let's not forget, no matter how comfortable and quiet it seems...that's exactly when a lion attacks.

  • Learn the balance of prayer and planning - so far this theme runs through all the chapters we've covered in Nehemiah. He was a man of prayer, leading on his knees as one commentator put it, but he also lead with his head...in the here and now. He was a master of prayer AND planning at the same time. So often we miss one or the other...well I do. Mostly on the planning side, I'm a terrible prayER. But some just pray and don't plan for the prayer to be answered or think that God may want us to act and pray for his continued guidance and strength.

  • Learn the other balance of Building AND Defending - It's so hard to multi-task isn't it? These men were doing it, one hand on the trowel one hand on the sword. I find that I've become a specialist or too compartmentalized (not sure which). I want to either be wielding the trowel or the sword not both. But God's call is to do both! We need to be Kingdom Builders and Defenders. Evangelists and Apologists; Prayer Warriors and prone to Good Works; daily confessing and repenting of sin as well as gaining some ground on that sin.
I recently found out that Spurgeon had a newsletter or magazine (not sure what to call it) that he started in 1865, and apparently continues to this day! Guess what he named it? He named it Sword and Trowel. He announced the new magazine by saying, "We would ply the Trowel with untiring hand for the building up of Jerusalem's dilapidated walls, and wield the Sword with vigour and valour against the enemies of the Truth."


Saturday, February 09, 2008

WtS Breakfast Thoughts

I have some pictures, but I can't seem to get them off this camera. I'll post them as soon as I can.

What a great time! We kicked it off with a great breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes, and some muffins. We had the usual OJ, Coffee, and milk too. Nesper, Wise, Josh, and Christion did a great job catering. Thanks guys!

Nesper announced the three jobs we had; A Family Care Network home that needed a shed built, a single mom from the fellowship needing some paint and landscaping, as well as the Grand Location needing some odds and ends.

I announced some of the upcoming things within KingdomBuilders that you can see in the last blog. Then James gave a great message out of Proverbs 4...an exhortation from Solomon to seek/pursue wisdom and understanding for it will keep us on the path of blessing and off the path of destruction. So good!

Then we broke off into our groups, about 8 men per location (a little less for the Grand Location). I headed for the house that needed painting and landscaping. I'm REALLY good at cutting in while painting, just ask my wife! Just kidding I'm horrible, but my heart is in the right place.

We laid two coats of paint in the hallway. The guys doing landscaping did a great job on her hill, backyard, and side yard trimmings. They had three small pick-up truck loads full of clippings. Brennan Landscapes saved the single mom a bunch of money by letting us add to the burn pile at their headquarters.

We got fed homemade lasagna for lunch to round out the day. One of the guys remarked, "I'll do this once a month!" The single mom thanked us profusely and was super blessed. It was a sweet deal. I'll let Nesper post about the shed build but we heard that went really well.

Thanks to all the men that served! Praise the Lord we can worship him through getting dirty and sweaty with some other dudes. Amen?

We'll do it again March 8th with Elder Marc Amesse speaking. Hope you can be there!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

KingdomBuilders 2008 Calendar

I meant to post this a while back but I hadn't gotten the thumbs up from Rancho Alegre for the Men's Advance. Well they finally got back to me and we now have it reserved for the dates showing on the Calendar.

Let me back up...most of you know that the KingdomBuilders Leaders try to meet once a week. We are going through Nehemiah. Well one of the meetings we got to talking about KingdomBuilders and felt like God was leading us to do more in 2008. After much praying and brainstorming this Calendar came about. Lord willing we will have a lot going on...hope you can all make it!

As you can see we've tried to make everything on a Second Saturday of the month. We have a variety of things going on, mostly WtS Breakfasts, but also a Marrieds vs. Singles Breakfast where we'll eat and then compete. Last we have Spring Training, which is an all day Advance, and the regular weekend Advance.

Can't wait to see what the Lord will do...