I Almost Got Away with It

I called my daughter Christine this morning to ask her had she ever seen the TV show “I Almost Got Away with It.” She said yes and explained the basic concept of individuals who thought they had gotten away with the “perfect crime,” only to find out they were eventually caught due to some type of oversight. No, I have not committed a crime, but I almost got away with ignoring chapter 3 in our study of Nehemiah. You see, I usually ignore chapters listing genealogies–boring, boring, boring. But this time I got caught–caught by the Holy Spirit.  So today I’m delaying our scheduled assignment and backtracking to take a closer look at chapter 3. I was amazed at the treasures I found in a list of people.

You’ve heard the expression “It Takes a Village.” Our friend Nehemiah was on a “mission impossible,” or so it seemed. God had given him the vision to see the walls of the city of Jerusalem, his hometown, restored. God had supplied the necessary resources and sent Nehemiah on his way. After arriving at his destination, Nehemiah checked out the ruins. His goal? To rally the Jews, the priests, the nobles, officials and their families. He shared the vision and told them God was with them. He said, “Let us rise up and build.” Nehemiah organized the workers, assigning leaders and their families to repair sections of the wall in front of their homes. Brilliant!

Those families were listed by names. God remembered the specific gates they repaired and honored their willingness to use their gifts and talents to get the job done. No job was too small and no person was too important to serve. What teamwork! What a strong sense of community! And I almost missed it!

What has God been saying to you? Know that He honors your sacrifice, your willingness to do anything to get the job done. While we do not seek the accolades of men, know that our actions motivate others to serve faithfully. Let us look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who inspired unity through humility. 

Memory Verse: “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, have the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philipians 2:1-2, NKJV).

I’m glad the Holy Spirit didn’t let me get away with ignoring the long list of names and tasks in chapter 3 of Nehemiah. Now we can go back and review WEEK SIX assignment: Chapter 4: 1- 9. Continue to use the GROW METHOD in your study and go deeper through additional tools.

G- God first. Pray for understanding.

R- Read the assigned passage.

O- Observe key words and phrases.

W- Write 3-5 sentences summarizing your thoughts.

Happy studying!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

 

Are You on the Wall?

 

Has anyone ever stolen anything from you? What do you value more than anything? Your house, your car, your money, your reputation? Yesterday, while having lunch with some of my family, I looked over at my grandsons, Nicholas and Christian, and noticed a fight about to take place. You see, the server brought out Christian’s food first, the most important being a good helping of French fries. Nicholas, seeing the mound of fries, reached over and attempted to grab a handful. Christian was not having it. He stuck out his elbow and did a series of movements to block Nicholas. It was on! Fortunately, my daughter Christine came to Christian’s defense and stopped the potential thief. To keep peace, however, she gave Nicholas one fry. A few seconds later, the server brought Nicholas’s plate and all was well.

Last week we learned that Nehemiah, a servant of the king of Persia, asked for permission to return to his homeland to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Along the way, Nehemiah encountered some enemies, Sanballat and Tobiah, who mocked the plans in front of others to rally support to discourage God’s people.

Nevertheless, Nehemiah prayed to God and asked God for help.  Nehemiah reminded God that, in reality, the enemy had the audacity to come against God. Nehemiah turned his need over to God.

Nehemiah rallied God’s people by staying focused on the work, not on his enemies and the wall was rebuilt, at that time, up to half its height. The fight was not over. Their enemies increased. Nehemiah directed the people to set a watch against the enemy day and night. Prayer is our watch! God is calling us to stand in the gap against the enemy! When you awaken at night or feel that urge during the day to come aside and pray, the tendency will be to ignore the prompting. That’s what the enemy wants, but we have to resist the desire for comfort and obey the Holy Spirit. That’s when we truly say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!”

What is God calling you to do? Are you willing to fight for it? Know that the battle is won on your knees, in prayer.

MEMORY VERSE: “NOT BY MIGHT NOR POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRIT SAYS THE LORD! (ZECH.4:6, NKJV)

WEEK SIX ASSIGNMENT: USE THE GROW METHOD (ASK GOD, READ , OBSERVE DETAILS, WRITE RESPONSE). ANSWER:

1. What was the problem this time?

2. How did Nehemiah respond?

3. What principle (rule) do you see?

Be blessed as your grow!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

 

I’ve Got a Secret!

I pulled a friend aside at church last week and told her I had a secret to tell her. God had shown me something and I was about to explode with the news, or so I thought. When I got home I realized that out of my excitement I had shared the information prematurely. Have you ever opened your mouth too soon and wished you hadn’t? Fortunately for me, my friend is a woman of integrity. The lesson was not about her; it was for me. When I later read Nehemiah, I began to understand the importance of timing and keeping my mouth shut.

Last week we learned Nehemiah had asked the king of Persia for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. In chapter 2:11-20, we discover his PLAN OF ACTION once he arrived at Jerusalem:

1. He waited three days before he did anything. We need to be still and allow God to speak to us.

2. He got up at night. He acted when God showed him to move, not when it was convenient and not when others could see you. 

3. He only took a few “good” men with him. Some people can’t go where God is taking you. They’re just not ready.

4. He checked out the Valley Gate, the Serpent Well, the Refuse Gate and the Walls of Jerusalem. He also examined the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. In our own lives, we’ll have some valleys, we’ll get bitten by events, we’ll need to let go of some trash and our walls will seem broken down from time to time. But “there is a Fountain, filled with blood, born from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains!” Hallelujah! We can wash in the King’s Pool!

5. The officials–Jews, priests, nobles, officials, or others–did not know where he had gone or what he had done. Are you a secret agent, C.I.A? Are you CALLED IN ANONYMITY? Or do you want to be seen?

6. He finally went to his people, gave a report and invited them to join the cause.  A passionate leader imparts vision after assessing the situation.

7. He faced opposition from three enemies: Tobiah, Sanballat, and Geshem and answered them with confidence in God. WHEN THE ENEMY COMES IN LIKE A FLOOD, GOD IS OUR DEFENSE!

Memory Verse: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer. 29:11, NIV).”

WEEK FIVE ASSIGNMENT: Read Neh. 4:1-9 and answer:

1. What were the enemy’s tactics?

2. What was Nehemiah’s prayer?

3. What was the result?

Until next week, stay on the wall and GROW!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

AWAKE!

A loud knock startled me from my sleep this morning. What in the world was that? Eyes wide open, I lay in bed a few more minutes, thinking that someone was trying to get my attention. I never went to the door, but I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me to prayer. With so many crises in the world–disease, famine, hurricanes–God is calling His people to get up and listen to His instructions for the day. He is praying for us and we, in turn, are to take our assigned place on the prayer wall. I desperately wanted to go back to sleep but wondered what would happen if I didn’t heed the call. No doubt, Nehemiah felt the urgency of his hour.

In Chapter One of Nehemiah, we find him faithfully fulfilling his job as cupbearer for the king of Persia. While there, he got word that his hometown, Jerusalem, was in shambles–walls broken down, gates burned, survivors hopeless. As Chapter Two opens, Nehemiah decides to approach the king and ask permission to go back home and do something about the problem. The king was not a “happy camper” when Nehemiah approached him with a sad face. But he went afraid. IS GOD ASKING YOU TO DO SOMETHING AND ARE YOU AFRAID? THEN WELCOME TO NEHEMIAH’S WORLD! AND MINE. WE can not let fear stop us from fulfilling the call on our lives. Have I done that before? You bet! More than once. But thank God for second, third, and fourth chances. IS GOD CALLING YOU TO LAUNCH OUT?  The very person Nehemiah feared was the person who provided the resources he needed to get the job done.

The king gave Nehemiah letters for safe passage through enemy territory, strong men to accompany him and a “coupon” to get enough wood to repair the gates, the city wall, and BUILD A HOUSE FOR HIMSELF. GO figure! The dude promised the king he’d be back and planned to build a house there. That brother had FAVOR!!!!!!!!

Whatever your assignment, know that God has prepared the way and the resources. Go forth and stake your claim! It’s already done!

Memory Verse: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory through CHRIST JESUS (Phil. 4:19).”

As you read the next assignment, remember to use the GROW METHOD:

G- GOD. ASK HIM TO OPEN YOUR EYES.

R- READ.

O- OBSERVE KEY NAMES, PLACES, AND REPEATING WORDS.

W-  WRITE 3 – 5 SENTENCES WHICH SUMMARIZE WHAT YOU READ AND HOW IT APPLIES TO YOU.

WEEK FOUR ASSIGNMENT: Read NEH1:11-20 and answer these three questions:

1. What was Nehemiah’s strategy when he got to Jerusalem?

2. How did he motivate the people?

3. Explain how he faced opposition.

Until next week, happy reading!

As always,

Patricia

 

 

Take Me to the King!

What do you do when somebody sends you a text or calls with bad news? A few months ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband Willie when a text came from my sister: “I’ve got bad news. Call me when you get the chance.” Right away I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and my mind began to take different routes trying to figure out what the news might be. Had somebody been in an accident? Had somebody died? Was it a friend or relative? How was I going to handle it? Right away, I made a conscious decision to do something “highly spiritual.” I texted her back with this plan of action: “I’m at dinner. I’ll call you when I finish eating.”

Now I consider myself to be a woman of prayer, but my default mode was “have something to eat.” Last week we looked at a person named Nehemiah, a “cupbearer” for the king of Persia. His job was to taste everything to test for possible poisonous drinks or food. As you remember, he was a stranger in a foreign land.  One day some friends came with bad news about his hometown: “The survivors who are left from the captivity…are in great distress, the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned.” How do you think Nehemiah felt about his kinsfolk and home? Right, devastated! He, no doubt, remembered the good times when all was well. 

  Chapter One, verses 4 – 11 sum up the steps Nehemiah took when he heard bad news:

1. He cried and mourned for many days, fasting and praying before God. His crying had purpose.

2. He reminded God that He was a Covenant Keeper.

3. He asked God to listen and keep His eyes open.

4. He confessed his own sins and the sins of his people.

5. He reminded God about the importance of repentance and God’s response.

6. He asked for success and mercy from his captor.

What about us? I believe God establishes patterns that can bring about powerful answers to prayer. As we follow Nehemiah’s journey, remember to use the GROW Method of study.

G- God-Ask Him to open your eyes.

R- Read the assigned passage.

O- Observe key words (Names, Places, Repeating Words)

W- Write 3- 5 sentences to sum up what you read, the principle or rule, and your application.

WEEK THREE ASSIGNMENT: Read Nehemiah 2: 1 – 10 and answer these three questions.

1. Explain how Nehemiah approached the king?

2. What specific things did Nehemiah request?

3. What do you learn about approaching God?

MEMORY VERSE: Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus .”(NKJV)

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your faithfulness in teaching me to seek you before I take action. Help me to release all my cares to you, knowing that you hold the world in your hands. I trust myself to your care. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Happy reading! As always,

Patricia

P.S.  A change: I’ll be posting on Mondays.

 

 

 

What’s in Your Cup Today?

Do you find yourself in a strange place with a strange group of people at a strange time? Are you spending your time begging God to change your circumstances rather than asking Him to show you why you are there? Have you considered the probability that you’ve been anointed and appointed for a specific assignment at this particular time in your specific place with your specific gifts and talents? Nehemiah, a character in the Old Testament, found himself in that exact situation. Who was Nehemiah? He was God’s chosen man in a specific place for a specific purpose.

Let’s take a closer look at this person. Like you and me, he was a real person with real emotions. No doubt, he had some “good days” and some “bad days.” Bad days? Yes, you know those times when you can’t make any sense out of what’s happening around you. Everything within you wants to sulk, to find a corner, sit down and stick your thumb in your mouth.

The truth of the matter is it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. I know. I’ve had many pity parties since I’ve been saved. Oh, I’m sorry if I forgot to invite you. Then again, you’ve probably had a few of your own. Nehemiah was a stranger in a foreign land and his hometown had been destroyed by a fierce enemy. Ever felt like you’ve been hijacked or “jacked up”? Then I invite you to go on a journey to discover how to stay focused when you know you have an assignment and all hell is breaking loose around you.

 WHAT DO WE KNOW FROM THE INTRODUCTION AND NEHEMIAH 1:1-3?

#1. He was the son of Hacaliah, whose name “means “the Lord afflicts; wait confidently.”

#2. He was in Shushan, the citadel, in the month of Chislev. Hmm…certainly wasn’t in his hometown, Jerusalem, but in  the Persian capital. We call that country Iran today.  Now that brother was in a strange land( and not by choice) in December, according to our calendar today. Brrr!

#3. He was the “cupbearer to the king.” Imagine that! He held the king’s cup. Poor thing? No, he held a high position. Then again, I can imagine him praying every day: “Lord, please don’t let there be any poison in this cup today.” If Nehemiah tasted the contents and died, at least the king would not be stupid enough to take a swallow.

# 4. He was a Jew. Guess I should have said this earlier, but he was one of God’s chosen people.

What about you and me? Sometimes we feel like we’re in a strange land, like God has forgotten us. But He hasn’t. Remember, He knows who we are, what He’s put in us and our assignment(s).

DID YOU MAKE ANY OTHER DISCOVERIES ABOUT THE MAN NEHEMIAH? SHARE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.

Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

WEEK TWO ASSIGNMENT: READ NEHEMIAH 1: 1 -11 and write 3 – 5  sentences in your journal or notebook which explain the problem Nehemiah discovered and his immediate actions.

As always,

Patricia

Have you answered the two most important questions in life?

It’s been frequently said that every human being has a deep desire to have two questions answered: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Once those questions are answered, you develop a personal GPS which helps you in making decisions about the future. Many people struggle to know God’s will for their lives. Some feel like they’ve spent their entire lifetime in some dead-end job or that they’ve chosen the wrong major in college because they swallowed the American dream of acquiring the big house and the fancy car. What if you could know you were doing exactly what God intended for you? What if your circumstances didn’t meet your expectations but you discovered that you were chosen for a particular task because God, Our Creator, gave you everything you needed to get the job done?

Tough questions, right? Leaves a lot to think about. I’ve begun following an interesting character in the Bible, Nehemiah, to see how God chooses a specific person to fulfill a specific task during specific circumstances. I’ve asked God to help me become more disciplined in my thought life. If anybody had a big job to do, Nehemiah certainly fit the bill. I figured if an entire book was named after him, God must have had a tremendous assignment for him. And above all else, Nehemiah needed the ability to FOCUS. I understand that the same God who helped Nehemiah is the same God who helps me. Are you ready to join me on the journey?

I want to get inside Nehemiah’s head and understand what he faced as a man of God. I believe there are valuable lessons for WOMEN AND MEN to learn here. We’ll search for answers to FIVE BASIC QUESTIONS over the next few weeks :

1. Who was Nehemiah?

2. What was his assignment?

3. What challenges did he face?

4. How did he handle his challenges?

We’ll use a method I call GROW:

GOD FIRST- ASK FOR UNDERSTANDING

READ THE ASSIGNED VERSES

OBSERVE KEY WORDS -NAMES, PLACES, ANYTHING REPEATED OR THAT STANDS OUT

WRITE WHAT YOU LEARNED IN THREE TO FIVE SENTENCES (In a journal or notebook)

 

WEEK ONE ASSIGNMENT:  Read your Bible’s introduction to Nehemiah and  Chapter 1: 1 – 4. Follow the GROW METHOD.

DIGGING DEEPER (For those who desire a richer study): Do an online search of the name Nehemiah and add notes.

NEXT WEEK:  I’ll meet you back here and we’ll talk about our findings. I’ll tell you what I found and I hope each of you shares a point of interest in the comment section also.

As Always!

Patricia

 

 

 

 

 

Four Ways to Handle Stress

Is your house a mess? Do you get overwhelmed with the thought of getting it in order? Or do you simply pretend it really doesn’t matter since nobody’s going to see it but you, your spouse (if you’re married) and your kids? If you’re like me, you let everything build up until you look around one day and decide to do something about it. You get tired of the clothes lying around in the bedroom, the laundry piling up in the clothes baskets, layers of dust on your furniture, dishes piled up in the sink, or tripping over shoes and toys around the house. Sounds familiar? Now I must say my physical house may not be quite that bad, but I have to admit I’ve had to take a spiritual check-up recently and discovered I’ve let some weeds overtake my thought life. In other words, I realized I’ve been distracted or stressed. So what do you do then? I asked God to help me discipline my thought life. And how do you do that? I’ll share my process.

1. First I prayed and asked God to show me how to get started. For me, the book of Nehemiah has been my starting point. Nehemiah was a leader in a foreign land, a man with a vision to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. He heard about the condition of his homeland and wept. But he did not stop there, he came up with a plan. The first thing he did was seek God’s wisdom.

2. Secondly, I decided to establish a personal plan of action. I would find out everything I could about Nehemiah: Who he was, Where he lived, His situation, His purpose or plan.

  3. Then I decided to go on the journey with Nehemiah, a slow walk. I would follow him and make his story mine. I determined to find principles in his life which I could apply to my plan to rebuild my walls. I believe in the power of journaling, so I’m writing a verse or two daily in my own words, writing the principle (rule or truth) in the passage and then the application (how it applies to me). I follow with a prayer for God’s help, realizing that any progress is success. This morning I spent time listing things I am thankful for.

  4. Finally I practice memorizing a key phrase from the verses to stamp them on my spirit. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my journey.

I challenge you to join me on my journey or ask God to point out areas in your life which need attention. Then ask Him to help you with a plan of action.

Father, thank you for showing me what I need to work on and then giving me the resource, your Word, to help me discipline my thoughts. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Are Your Stakes Being Removed?

I recently picked up a copy of HGTV magazine and read a column entitled “How Bad Is It?” For those unfamiliar with this magazine, the letters stand for Home and Garden Television magazine. A reader asked if it was bad to put stakes around a newly planted tree. The expert, Felicia Feaster, gave an immediate response: “Don’t spring for the extra support. Trees grow best when they can move naturally against the wind.” The bottom line was that a “tethered” or supported tree doesn’t allow the tree to develop a strong root system. The expert further suggested that, if used, stakes should be flexible and short-term, not used “more than a few months.”

I thought about that article and had to admit I don’t like it when God removes my stakes. It’s often uncomfortable, painful and frightening. Some of those stakes might include jobs, health, family, friends, church, reputation, and the like. Nobody wants to admit he or she is depending upon those things like a comfort blanket. Not until we find ourselves hanging by our fingertips do we realize just how much we’ve been holding onto these stakes when we should be holding onto God. While we’re busy pointing out the defects in our sisters’ and brothers’ trunks, branches and leaves, we forget God is pruning us as well.

Have you been experiencing the discomfort of pruning or having your stakes removed, remember God is preparing us for our next season. We can’t go to our next carrying excess baggage. He loves us too much for that. A friend recently told that airport personnel had told informed her that her luggage was five pounds over the maximum fifty pounds. She would have to pay $100.00 for the extra five pounds. She immediately pulled out enough to meet the requirement. God does not want us to suffer the consequences of being over our weight limit. The cost may be more than we’re willing to bear.

John 15:8 declares, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Pray with me: Father, help us to live with our hands open, trusting that you know what’s best because you are all-knowing, merciful and loving. We submit to your pruning and trust ourselves to your process of removing the stakes so that we can be strong and fruitful in our next season. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.

     Have you recently experienced any stakes being removed? How has God supported you in the process? Your example may be an encouragement to others. I would love to hear from some of you who regularly read my blog or those who may have “stumbled upon” this entry for the first time.

 

At My Father’s Feet

Have you ever felt like you were caught up in a whirlwind? Do you long for a place where you can go to throw away all your cares? Do you hunger for a time when you can just be you? If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then join me at my Father’s feet. It’s a place where you can come just as you are–weary, worn and empty. It’s a place where you can lay your head on Father’s chest and hear him whisper words of hope, words of peace, words of affirmation. Hear Him say, “You are mine. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I accept you just as you are. There’s room for you. No one can take your place. I have a special place reserved for you. Lay your head on my shoulder. Hear my heart beat for you. Come into my presence. Lay aside everything you’ve heard about me and let me show you who I am. I see the longing of your heart. I know your insecurities. They do not intimidate me. I love you. I miss my time with you. Those special moments. I’m still here. Waiting. Longing. Loving. Accepting. Renewing.”

Remember the simple song you used to sing when you were a little girl or little boy: “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, for the bible tells me so.” Come as a little child, with wonder, with expectation, with eyes wide open. Offer a kiss to Father, come as you are. There’s a special place for you. You are the apple of His eye.

Sometimes I find myself seeing Him through the eyes of others and I sink under the weight of false expectations. Then I stop and say, “I’m my beloved’s and He is mine. His banner over me is love.” If you’ve been going through a time of struggle, know that you’re coming out stronger, wiser, flying, soaring to new heights. Your time in the cocoon is preparation for your next place. While you’re there, sit at Father’s feet. There He tells you and me who we are in Him. He covers us with His feathers and heals us with His love. His grace is sufficient. Come, find rest at the Father’s feet.