Well, I’m 4 Weeks into my ministry break. God’s been good and teaching me a LOT!!! I hadn’t planned on taking 4 weeks off (good thing I’m only a lay worker or else I’d be fired….well, I may have been and nobody’s bothered to tell me lol) This past weekend I guess you could say I had a breakthrough spiritually. It was like God knew exactly what I needed to hear and experience. On Saturday, I went down to my old hometown in Lynchburg, Va and hung with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Saturday was a movie with my oldest and best friend Sheila, we saw Hercules and then went to Barnes and Noble and spent about 2-3 hours of catching up and speaking into each others lives about stuff we were dealing with and struggling with. It was awesome, I hadn’t really spoken with Sheila in about a year, but it was like old times. She listened about stuff that I’m dealing with like failure, and a host of other crap, and alternately encourage me and kicked me in the butt with plain simple truth. It wasn’t just one way however, she shared and I was able to speak some truth to her as well. I’ve missed those conversations, I’ll have to do it more than just once a year Sunday was amazing, Went to Thomas Road Baptist, kind of by accident. I had planned on going to another church, but when I got there it looked like I had missed it, so I left (they’re a mobile church and meet in a local high school, turns out they were meeting in a different part of the school and I didn’t know it). I went to TRoad, and man, God blessed me with a message I needed to hear. Had lunch with Sheila and Rianna, and that was awesome as usual, a lot of laughing and just plain listening. Then I hung out with a couple very dear to me who are going through an unimaginable struggle right now. The details are irrelevant, but they were the reason I went down, and it was good just to hang out with them and their two boys for a little. Sunday night was incredible. Hung out with Brentwood Church’s Collide Youth Group. Eric Rasberry is the youth pastor and it’s amazing because I was one of his youth leaders when he was coming through middle and High school. So cool to see people I worked with doing great things for the LORD. His message that night was incredible and hit me right where I needed to be hit, and just experiencing worship (the worship leader was also the younger brother of a girl that came through my drama team all four years and I remember him as a chubby little blonde haired kid) with these kids and seeing brokenness at the end and kids sincerely worshipping put a fire in my heart and made me realize what I loved about youth ministry. Monday was travel home day and was just laid back and then went to work, but Tuesday was awesome!! I had a signed up for a Dare2Share leaders luncheon and training and it was incredible. Greg Steir of Dare2Share spent the first 20-30 minutes on just “soul care” and spoke to us about stuff we needed to hear and it was an amazing blessing. I spoke to him for a little bit afterwards about my struggle and choked up a little, which means I’m still a little raw about it. I had planned on being back on Nov 2, but I was in Lynchburg. There’s no set date as for when I will be back, this is all self imposed so I could get my head out of my fourth point of contact (what you sit on for those wondering). I guess the direction I’m taking now is more of the “is this where I’m supposed to be and who I’m supposed to be working with. I’m about 85-90% certain that the answer is yes, but I want no doubt in my mind or anyone’s mind to be honest. So, unless God moves differently, I’m taking another week to step back and seek God. I’m all for God surprising me and moving in a way I don’t expect, I’m looking for God to ambush me (hopefully in a good way) and give me appointments that completely amaze me. He did it Sunday and Tuesday, so let’s see how God works and moves. Now, I’ve rambled enough about my crap, let see what Nehemiah 7 has.
Chapter 7 is a genealogical record of those that returned to Jerusalem from captivity. There are a few notable verses that I want to look at, specifically verses 1-3 in chapter 7:
After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do. 3 I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.”
What’s so notable about these three verses? After the wall was built and the staffing for the guard force and the priests completed, Nehemiah had to find the right men to place in charge of the Gate, and the men guarding the gate. This is a very important job, the man in charge controls access to the city and is basically the first line of defense, the gateway is both the strong point and the weakest link at the same time, so whoever is in charge must be trustworthy. He chose two men. His brother (possibly because he knew he could trust him, and maybe there was a bit of nepotism, but I would like to believe he knew his brother was trustworthy), but the second man, Hananaiah, was noteworthy for what was said about him. Verse 2 says that: “he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do” Man, to have history have that said about you!! To be considered a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do is something I could dream about others saying about me. I think people would say I’m a good guy that loves God, but to be called that and then recorded in the BIBLE of all places. What makes a man of integrity and faith? That’s a good question, one that I’m seeking to answer in my own life. I think its humility, belief in your own abilities and most of all belief in GOD. The belief that even if you make a wrong decision, you made a decision and God is going to walk with you through that decision, and the ability to analyze your choices and keep the lesson and continue to move forward and not get stuck on regret or self-deception. A man of integrity is more than just honest, he speaks truth and doesn’t back down, but he does it in love and knows discretion. However, most of all, it’s the last component of that statement, a man of integrity fears GOD more than most people do. He is a man of faith and not content with being just a “Christian”. He (or she) lives out Phil 3:7-10 and the part about “Knowing Christ”, if you haven’t read it, read it. It’s a powerful verse.
The last notable thing about chapter 7 is found at the end of the genealogical record in verses 61-65:
61 The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel
64 These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 65 The governor, therefore, ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there should be a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.
There were a number of people who could not prove that their families were born from Israel, and especially among the Levites (who were the Israelite Priests) there were some that couldn’t find the documentation. Because of this, Nehemiah made the decision that if you couldn’t provide the proof, then there was no way you could be a priest or even worship without the presence of a priest. I’m sure this wasn’t a popular decision, but it was decision that had to be made so as not to compromise. It would be easy to say, “oh, you can be a priest since you have the ability”, but the Law gave strict requirements for the priests and to compromise would show disregard to the Law of Moses. Nehemiah was right to stand on the WORD. There will be times when a leader has to stand for what’s right, especially when it comes to the Bible. It’s easy to compromise and say, “oh, that was meant specifically for that time” or, “Well, times have changed”. Time may have changed, but God doesn’t. What HE calls sin, is still sin. We are called to love others, but also point people to GOD and do our best to live the standard that HE has set for us. Will we fail? Most definitely, but when we fail, we must confess and then move forward. Don’t get stuck in the sin and wallow and allow Satan the space to make you irrelevant to others. God is continually after us, not to hound us, but to love us and make us stronger. That’s the point of the BIBLE, to show us how much GOD loves us and treasures us.
Well, I’ll end it here. I actually got more out of it than I thought. I was going to include Chapter 8, but I’ll save it for its own separate study. Hope you enjoyed this and a little bit of a peek into my own life. Give me feedback about what you think of Nehemiah 7.