Defrosting John 14:12

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father–John 14:12

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The carnal mind reads this passage and naturally thinks about jaw-dropping displays of great power and miracles. Viewing this verse in that manner has caused many believers to chase after signs and miracles instead of allowing them to follow us. For others, this verse has been a great obstacle.

This passage is often misunderstood by believers and unbelievers alike. Skeptics read this and call Jesus a liar because Christians aren’t walking on water across the English Channel. Many Theologians refer to this as a “difficult” verse, and struggle to explain it.

The problem is that we read this verse from our point of view, and we don’t stop to think about the viewpoint of the One who said it. To easily understand what Jesus was saying to us, we have to get out of our heads and look into the mind of Jesus to see what He was thinking.

Was Jesus primarily motivated by POWER, or was He primarily motivated by COMPASSION?

…If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.–1 Cor. 13:2

In the mind of Jesus, what did GREATER look like?

On the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”–Mark 9:34-35

What kind of WORKS did Jesus think He was doing? Based on Christ’s motives, did He PRIMARILY see them as works of great POWER ? Or did He PRIMARILY see them as works of COMPASSION by a humble servant meeting a need?

When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.–Matthew 14:14

Jesus did miracles, but they were motivated by compassion and a need to teach and edify others. They were works of compassion. That is the key to understanding John 14:12. Jesus saw His own works as works of humble compassionate service. Power was just the method, but not the basis. Jesus is not impressed by power. He is impressed by love and “faith which works by love”. He was greatly impressed by the lady who lovingly poured her perfume on Him and called that a “beautiful work”(Mark 14:6).

What does Jesus have to say about those who spend their life pursuing a lust for power and believing that “Greater Works” are necessarily works of power?

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’–Matt. 7:22-23

What does Jesus have to say about those who spend their life pursuing Him in humble compassion?

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’–Matt. 25:34-40

Jesus said, “they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”. How are we doing greater works?

Jesus held children, but many of you, by His grace, have gone further and adopted children.

Jesus did not get to see his cousin, John the Baptist, while he was in prison. But many of you have answered His call, and you gone further by visiting prisoners and sending support to others who do the same.

Jesus only had the clothes on his back and had no home to take anyone in. Many of you have gone further and given clothes, shoeboxes. You have opened your home and let folks sleep on your couch and eat your food.

I’ve been personally involved in praying and watching my friend see again after decades of blindness. My wife and I have witnessed another friend have her hearing fully restored in an instant. I believe in signs and wonders. They do happen and they FOLLOW them that believe. But we should never be deceived into lustfully pursuing them. We are called to pursue Christ and serve in love. There is nothing wrong in asking for God to work in power…Just don’t be deceived and go lusting after it. Be motivated by the things that motivated Christ.

 

 

Posted in Theology

How Could John The Baptist Be Filled With The Spirit From Birth?

Many world religions believe we are born “good”. They do not believe that we are born with a sinful nature. They do not believe we are born in depravity, separated from God.

Most of my fellow believers say they believe along with me in the biblical doctrine of original sin, they say they believe that we are all born as sinners. Yet, our hearts unconsciously struggle with this belief. How do we know this? Just listen to what comes out of our mouths when we behold a newborn baby. We sometimes call them “innocent little angels”. Our hearts are drawn to view them as unstained (“There is a way that seems right unto a man…”). While it is true that they haven’t committed any overt evil actions, we inwardly have trouble viewing newborns as anything but precious and pure. I don’t hear many people saying to a newborn, “Goochie-goo you wretched little sinner”. LOL. Our hearts are revealed by the words coming out of our mouths “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”–Luke 6:45. Our words don’t always match what we believe in our minds.

Cults and other religions prey upon this weakness of ours. The cults, the skeptics, and other world religions will refer us to our own scriptures and point to the example of John the Baptist and say, “See, he was not separated from God, but was filled with divinity from birth.”

For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.–Luke 1:15

There it is. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Since the Holy Spirit is divine, you could make the argument that John the Baptist was filled with Divinity from birth. Regardless, John was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

How many of my fellow believers were filled with the the Holy Spirit before knowing and calling on the name of the Lord?

How many of you were permanently filled with the Holy Spirit before repenting or asking Christ to forgive you of your sins?

How many of you sinners were “filled with the Spirit from birth”?

I suspect the answer is none. Why is this? Because the scriptures teach us that ALL mankind is sinful and we are born separated from God because of our iniquity. Because of our human weakness it is important that we continue to fellowship with one another and be reminded of these scriptures:

The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.–Psalms 14:2,3. Also Psalm 53:2,3 repeats this word-for-word

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God–Romans 3:23

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon ALL men, for that all have sinned: –Rom 5:12

The scriptures go further and stress that our sinfulness begins in the womb, before we are born:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. –Psalms 51:5

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.–Psalm 58:3

Now carefully read this clear scripture to see what the direct result is for those who are born in iniquity:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God–Isaiah 59:2

So how do sinners, who are born in iniquity, separated from God, ever receive the Holy Spirit?

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.–Acts 2:38

SO HERE AGAIN IS THE CRUX. We are all born with a sinful nature, separated from God, yet John the Baptist was “filled with the Spirit from birth”.

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.–Luke 1:15

…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.–NIV

How? In light of all the scriptures we have just read, how can this be? How can you be filled with the Spirit without having a “Repent and be born-again salvation” experience? As a fetus in the womb, John could never have the understanding to exercise faith, yet he gets filled with the Spirit. How is it possible for John to be “filled from birth”?

We will attempt to answer these questions broadly by looking at a different subject and asking another set of questions. Let’s look at death.

God told Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it YOU WILL CERTAINLY DIE”.–Genesis 2:17. God didn’t just say that you will die, He said that it is a certainty that you will die. The result of disobedience would be a sure death sentence.

But it wasn’t just a death sentence for Adam. It affected Eve and ALL of mankind. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to ALL people–Romans 5:12. How many is all?

For the living know that they will die–Ecclesiastes 9:5

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,–Hebrews 9:27

The NAS describes it as an appointment for mankind. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,

The scriptures are very clear that “death came to ALL people”. God declared death upon all mankind in the book of Genesis, and the book of Romans confirms without denial that it is death to ALL people. King Solomon confirmed this all-encompassing truth in his writings. The New Testament writer of Hebrews takes the spoken sentence of God upon man and declares it to be an appointment, a destiny for all men.

These scriptures and laws of God concerning death sound very absolute. The word absolute means to have no exceptions. We read Romans 5 and believe that the word ALL was written to mean absolutely ALL. We read Genesis and see the word SURELY or CERTAINLY. We read Hebrews and see words like APPOINTED or DESTINED in regards to death. But just because these scriptures sound absolute, does that mean there were no exceptions?

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death:–Hebrews 11:5

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.–2Kings 2:11

In spite of all the absolute-sounding language, God made exceptions to His word by allowing Enoch and Elijah to bypass death. The bible tells us that “scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), YET we clearly see that God is sovereign and can make exceptions to His word. God does not break His word, God does not lie. But, like a potter, He can shape things from their usual form to bend to His will.

Many believers struggle with the the truth that God is clearly sovereign and can make exceptions to perform His will. Yet, God has never hidden this truth from us. God does not hide from us the fact that He makes exceptions, even when His book says “all”. It’s in plain sight. So why does the scripture say things like “all” when there are actual exceptions? Because without the exception of God’s power, these laws are for all. This is why we need to read the whole volume, and we need the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read the scriptures! We need His wisdom as we study the scriptures! God demonstrates our desperate need for the Spirit’s wisdom by giving us this conundrum:

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. 5Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”–Proverbs 26:4-5

There is the Word of the Lord, for thus it is written! The problem is this: Which WRITTEN TRUTH do you obey? Both verses are commands! Do you obey the command of verse 4 or the command of verse 5? The old adage, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” doesn’t work in this passage. Skeptics look at these verses and say, “Aha! The scriptures contradict themselves by commanding you ‘not to answer a fool’ in one verse, and then commanding you in another verse to ‘answer a fool’. How can you follow it?” A faithful person will look at this verse and realize that the TRUTH is a person and that you need Him to guide you into which truth you should obey in your current circumstance.

God is Sovereign and has control over all laws and can make exceptions…He can walk on water.

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.–Psalms 135:5

For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?–Romans 9:19-21

Does this make the Bible unreliable? Not at all! But this does show that you can’t always read the letters with human understanding alone, or it can kill your faith . You must pray and rely on the Spirit for discernment when reading scripture (“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”–2Cor. 3:5). If anything this demonstrates that our God is a living, breathing, moving Spirit, and is not a dead formula or a bound set of static steps. He is a person and not a book. The book reveals Him, but the Bible is not God. God is God, and the Bible is His chosen special book that relates His story with us.

Concerning John the Baptist, our answer is that God is a sovereign Potter, and He formed John the Baptist to be “filled with the Holy Ghost from birth”. It doesn’t happen that way for other men. But in this instance, as in other ways, God made an exception from the standard. This doesn’t make God a liar; it simply shows that He is Sovereign. Understand this about the way John was made: God made John the Baptist to be a forerunner, a physical example, a physical type and shadow of what we can be spiritually. When we experience the “new birth” in Christ (1 Peter 1:3, John 3:6-7, John 1:13), we too can be “filled with the Spirit from birth”. Now do you understand?

These examples help us to understand the Sovereign nature of God and the nature of Truth. Truth in its most supreme form is a person. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me”. Jesus Christ is the Truth, and in this Truth, there is no exception. The written word is also truth. “Thy word is truth”–John 17:17. However, the written word contains both absolute truth and truth with exceptions, which in turn perfectly reflects the nature of a Sovereign God.

One more thing about John’s example to us: John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit from birth”. It was permanent and not temporary. This was a new thing! What was the initial evidence of this infilling? What expression does the New Testament choose to show as the prime sign that John had this infilling? Did the baby “speak in tongues”??? Nope. The prime sign was JOY. “The baby in my womb leaped for joy”. The first evidence in the NT for a permanent infilling of the Holy Spirit was joy.

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Posted in Bible, charismatic, Church, discipleship, Divinity of Christ, Faith, Holy Spirit, Theology | Tagged , , ,

Nehemiah: Baruch The Zealous Builder

Have you ever gone into a high school and read the plaques on the wall that gave the names of the graduating class of the year 19-so-and-so? Unless you know the people, it can get tedious and mundane to read through the whole list. If something about that list doesn’t grab your attention, you can lose interest real fast.

Reading chapter 3 of the book of Nehemiah can feel like that at first glance. The whole chapter is a who’s who list of named individuals and groups of people that went to work on the Wall of Jerusalem. If you’re not careful, you can miss some small but important details.

One of the names on that list stood out to me…

Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai ZEALOUSLY repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest.–Nehemiah 3:20

This guy Baruch stands out because he is the only one in the whole book with the distinction of “zealously” repairing the Wall at Jerusalem. The fact that he stands out in such a peculiar and unmistakable fashion causes me to want to investigate this conspicuous person.

He repaired “zealously”. Does this mean he worked faster and harder? Does it mean he worked better? Does it mean that he “whistled while he worked”? Did he work long hours? What does zealous mean in this setting?

The Hebrew word for zealously in this instance is charah, and it means that “he burned”. Did he forget to wear sunscreen? Nah. This word is used 90 times in the Old Testament, and much to my amazement it is ALWAYS used in relation to ANGER!

I couldn’t believe it! Here are a couple examples of this type of “zeal”.

Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.–God speaking to Moses in Exodus 32:10

But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry!–Genesis 4:5. This zeal led to the first murder.

So what about the zeal of Baruch? Did he bust his thumb and holler out in anger a lot? Was he cussing out his fellow workers? Did he get mad and throw his tools around like they were golf clubs into the lake? I just don’t think so.

Nehemiah writes about Baruch in such a way as to give him notoriety and honor. In contrast, Nehemiah was not at all hesitant in pointing out negative behavior. Look at what he said about the nobles of Tekoa:

The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors–Neh. 3:5.

Those proud, lazy rascals! Maybe their laziness got Baruch all “fired up”. Nehemiah’s account shows he observed that Baruch’s work ethic was in stark contrast to the nobles of Tekoa. Nehemiah was pointing that out and putting it down on the record. I see nothing negative in what Nehemiah wrote about Baruch.

I’m gonna say that Nehemiah called Baruch “zealous” because he saw how he worked with much energized focus and great vigor. I believe Baruch attacked the work with the fire and energy of someone who looked angry. In other words he pounded, sawed, and laid stones with the fury of a madman. He poured himself into the work, and gave it everything he had.

The John Trapp Bible Commentary theorizes about Baruch’s zeal saying, “A ready heart makes riddance of God’s work. He burst out in a heat (so the Heb.), being angry both at himself and others that had done no more (Neh.3:5); and, in a holy fume, finished quickly, kindling himself from other men’s coldness, and quickening himself from their slothfulness”

Okay, so Nehemiah sees a guy working on this wall and says he’s zealous. So why are we making a big deal out of this? It’s just one verse! What’s the point? Just in case I’m not getting the point across, let’s look at this from one more angle.

We have to step back and take a look at the big picture to understand the magnitude of this assessment. In his day, Nehemiah worked for the most powerful ruler in the world. Nehemiah worked among the best of the best. Nehemiah was at the top of his game as well. There were no slouches in the court of the Emperor. Whether it was entertainers, artists, builders, decorators, architects, horseman, or goldsmiths, Nehemiah witnessed the work of the cream of the crop. Nehemiah knew what the very best looked like. He knew quality, he knew effort, and he knew great craftsmen. As a result, Nehemiah was not a man to go around throwing out frivolous compliments concerning the workmanship or the work ethic of a person. He is not easily impressed. This wasn’t just any wall, this wall was the largest construction project ever accomplished by any biblical author. Nehemiah was no ordinary man. He was a blunt man of excellence who got straight to the point. The fact that Nehemiah gave this exiled man a compliment is truly amazing. But that is only part of the story.

Now, everyone that actually worked on the wall worked very hard:

So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

This was a dedicated corps of people. Yet, among this hard-working group of people, Baruch was the ONLY individual to ever receive a compliment from the great Nehemiah for his work on the wall. Now Nehemiah eventually complimented two other men for their character, but Nehemiah never compliments another man for his labor. Baruch stands alone in the eyes of a man who has been among the very best. That is an outstanding achievement.

The question now becomes this: What can we learn from Baruch and apply to our lives? What factors motivated Baruch to have more zeal than others? I do not believe that God is in the habit of giving us a challenge without providing a path of discovery. Let’s investigate! Continue reading

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Nehemiah Blows The Lid Off Faith!

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. –James 1:6-7

Nehemiah was a man of faith. However, his story blows the lid off what many believe about faith. In light of the verse above, how does a depressed, sad, droopy-faced, negative-confessing, fearful man receive such bountiful favor from the Lord???

When Nehemiah got the news about the ruinous condition of Jerusalem, he was initially devastated. But it didn’t stop there. Nehemiah went on to say that For some days I mourned.

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How long did he mourn ? His great sorrow began in the month of Kislev and continued through the month of Nisan. After four intense months of effectual fervent prayer, how was this man of unrelenting faith behaving? What did this history-changer look like right before his prayers were answered? He was looking and behaving just like he did four months earlier. He was a very heartsick, droopy-faced man…

The king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”I was very much afraid.” Another version says, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but depression. I was overwhelmed with fear.” Nehemiah confesses his lengthy sorrow and says, Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

In his 1880 Homiletical Commentary On The Book Of Nehemiah, W.H. Booth said that during the four month period from Kislev to Nisan, Nehemiah’s “sorrow increased rather than diminished”.

Some of you may be alarmed and thinking, “But Brother Dan, Nehemiah is not matching up with THE WAY WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT of how a “man of faith” should behave and look!

  1. Brother Dan, Nehemiah’s emotions are not lining up with faith. If he really had faith that God would come through for him, then why is he still so depressed? Wouldn’t this be a sign of a double-minded man? Aren’t fear and prevailing sadness signs of doubt?
  2. Brother Dan, Nehemiah’s behavior was not lining up with faith. He wasn’t practicing the “faith walk” with his head held high, a song on his lips, and a smile of victorious faith. We’ve been taught that real faith will show up on your face! As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he! Brother Dan, he must have had what faith teachers call “stinking thinking” because Nehemiah was looking down in the dumps!. Didn’t he know that all things work together for the good?
  3. Brother Dan, Nehemiah’s speech was not lining up with faith. He wasn’t “speaking faith” by calling those things which are not as though they were. Nehemiah didn’t confess victory but confessed his own despair. He also seemed focused on how bad Jerusalem was, instead of declaring what it could be. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Brother Dan, death and life are in the power of the tongue. Nehemiah is feeling bad because he obviously hasn’t been confessing victorious faith and his face shows it.
  4. Brother Dan, Nehemiah’s reflection was not lining up with faith. If he had real faith, he would have reflected perfect peace for those whose mind is stayed on the Lord, because they trust in you instead of looking so pitiful.
  5. Brother Dan, Nehemiah’s confession of fear does not line up with faith. If he had such great faith, then why is he so afraid? We’re taught that you can’t possibly have faith and have fear!
  6. Brother Dan, Nehemiah’s hopeless despondence does not line up with faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Nehemiah’s heart was filled with sadness, not hope!

He was looking downcast, afraid, having a heart filled with sadness, confessing sorrow, and still thinking about the ruins. Nehemiah just doesn’t fit the mold of many current faith teachings. Yet, God answered his prayers and granted his requests with much favor. Why? Because during those four long months, Nehemiah operated in sound, biblical faith and never lost it. By faith, Nehemiah built the largest structure by a biblical author.By faith, Nehemiah helped lead a national revival. He was a man of faith.

Nehemiah has blown the lid off of many of our hardcore beliefs about what faith is supposed to look like. So let’s allow Nehemiah to show us how he defined and operated in biblical faith. Continue reading

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Nehemiah Suffers With Delayed Prayer

After hearing about the condition of Jerusalem, how bad did Nehemiah feel?

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

I personally believe that scriptures like this are just not meant to be read and glossed over! They were written in such a way to challenge you to think, unpack,  and find a way to emotionally relate to the whole picture. Nehemiah’s packing a LOT into one sentence.

The scriptures say that he sat down and wept. What is that telling you and me? He didn’t simply dust off a chair, straighten out his robes, sit erect in a chair, and hold a hanky to dab his tears. No! Brother Nehemiah didn’t have the will to stand anymore. I believe he just sank down and wept hard. The language suggests that he rarely got up during those days. Can you see it in your mind? Can you relate to it?

I remember the morning my niece walked into the room after hearing that her 16-yr. old brother had been killed by a car. She faced me and collapsed forward into my arms and slinked down to the ground. She just sat there and wept. It was heartbreaking. That’s what I see Nehemiah doing. This sinking of his soul went on for days.

He was in deep mourning. He didn’t even eat. He fasted and prayed. When we read his prayer, we see his heart was broken, contrite and overwhelmed with an awareness of his own guilt and sin. He was also struck with the guilt of  his family. His heart was suffering with a heavy weight. He cried out to God.

Out of this grief came an outstanding prayer that moved heaven and changed history. This prayer was answered in every way except for ONE very obvious exception. What was it?

Give your servant SUCCESS TODAY by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.–Neheniah 1:11b

Nehemiah prayed for success to be fulfilled TODAY! Again, the key phrase is SUCCESS TODAY. When Nehemiah asked God to do it today, he wasn’t asking for a process to begin. He was asking for  INSTANT SUCCESS and instant favor to PROSPER NOW. The Hebrew Bible specifies hay-yō-wm meaning “this day”. Again, Nehemiah was looking for a miracle RIGHT THEN.

Maybe Nehemiah was hoping the king would come running right in, and begin exclaiming how he had experienced a vivid dream telling him to send Nehemiah back to Jerusalem with all the supplies he needed to build a wall! But it didn’t happen that way. The clock struck, the sun came and went, and the king never showed up. Nehemiah did not experience success today, the next day, the next week, or the next month. That part of his prayer didn’t happen. Not only did he not experience “success today”, the scriptures show that after he prayed, the burden of sorrow was not lifted from him. Wow. He had to wait and wonder if his prayer was heard at all.

What does the very next verse say? In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes. Paraphrased that says, “four months later”. In other words, the two verses put together tell us that Nehemiah prayed that success would happen today, but it didn’t occur until four months later.

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Why did God delay Nehemiah’s prayer? Peter Osagie in his book The Way To Glory Land says that Nehemiah “asked God to grant his request immediately. It is not clear why God did not answer him immediately. Four months later, God answered his prayer.” According to the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, “The reasons for so long a delay cannot be ascertained”. Frankly, I believe that there is a reason and it is staring us in the face as we read Nehemiah. Nehemiah provides the clues and we just have to connect the dots. What I will say is that something needed to be completed first. We will do that in a later post on Nehemiah’s Faith. Like Nehemiah’s prayer, you’ll just have to wait.

Nehemiah suffered the effects of delayed prayer. You don’t think he did??? AFTER FOUR MONTHS OF WAITING, Nehemiah confesses to us that he was still sad. After having prayed, it was taxing to still be burdened with something you can do nothing about. The burden never lifted and it wore on Nehemiah. His sadness is showing to the point that the king says, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart. What do the scriptures say about this emotional condition? Proverbs 13:12 tells us that Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Another translation says, Delayed hope makes the heart sick”. This great saint of faith suffered from delayed hope. Some well-meaning preachers will tell us that we haven’t prayed enough because we are still carrying the burden. They’ll say  that you’ve got to give it to the Lord and let it go. Maybe that’s true in some cases, but try telling that to Nehemiah.

Is it possible that we have some unbalanced teaching concerning faith? Some teach that people of faith should just get up, start smiling, and start acting like they’ve got the victory. Some preachers will tell you that “real faith” will show up on your face and will change your feelings. You’ve been taught by certain preachers that this is what faith looks like. Did Nehemiah lack faith? NO. Continue reading

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Nehemiah’s Favorite Name For God

Jesus was asked to give instructions on how we should pray. What is the first instruction on the list? The first instruction He wanted to emblazon in our heads and hearts was this: Pray by saying, “Our Father”. But, He didn’t stop there. The next words were “who is in heaven”.

One of the disciples of Jesus said to Him, “Teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven“–Luke 11:1-2

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Matt 6:9

I used to think that the phrase “who is in heaven” wasn’t really pertinent or important, but was simply added by Jesus as a description of God used to differentiate Him from an earthly father or another god. After all, the modern NIV and NAS versions of Luke don’t include “which is in heaven”. But since I have studied Nehemiah, I am wondering if Jesus was revealing a vital component to prayer.

Could it be that Jesus was telling us to make a conscious and deliberate effort to link God with heaven when we pray? Is he seriously asking us to recognize heaven along with God, or is it just flowery descriptive language used to adorn God? Why would it be  important that we make a conscious effort to link God with heaven in our prayers? If you are going to pin God to a location, why not go along with the majority of the Old Testament and say “God of Israel” (197 times), or ” God who dwells in Zion” (Joel 3:17 and so many more)? Why did Jesus change the emphasis away from Israel, Zion, the holy hill, Jerusalem, and begin to specify heaven? Could it be valuable for us to call upon God in the context of heaven instead of Zion? Why the big deal about God’s location when you pray? Does this change in location affect our faith? Is there additional power that comes when we consciously recognize the locale of heaven when we pray? Does scripture give us a clue?

Let’s ask Nehemiah. He holds the key. If you will continue to read, Nehemiah will challenge you to consider this in ways that no else will. He holds a place in scripture that belongs to no one else. I guarantee it. Continue reading

Posted in Angels, Bible, Nehemiah, prayer, Theology | Tagged , , , , , ,

Nehemiah’s Tiny Prayer

Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”–Nehemiah 2:4-5

“So I prayed to the God of heaven”. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “This was a prayer of a remarkable kind. I know it was so because Nehemiah never forgot that he did pray it!”

This had to be a small under-the-breath type of prayer. It may have been a split-second prayer. It occurred between the time that the king asked a question and Nehemiah delivered his answer. You don’t want to keep the king waiting! Some folks call this an “arrow” prayer. You only have enough time to shoot up one arrow.

Why was this tiny prayer included in this story?

  1. To encourage us to always pray, even in short spurts! I love this statement because it gives me great confidence! God values tiny prayers. This passage looks like me. Everytime the phone rings, I deliberately glance upwards. This is my way of asking God to help me with whatever potential situation (good or bad) I’m about to confront. I also say, “Lord have mercy” several times during the day. People may think I’m being funny, but I’m actually praying outloud. It’s not a vain mumble, but a quick burst from the heart.
  2. This type of prayer is a part of that whole “pray without ceasing” command. This is how you do it. Nehemiah is continually keeping an open line of communication with God.
  3. It shows clearly that although Nehemiah was about to receive provision from the King, Nehemiah knows that his provision is ultimately from God. This is why he talks to God first before answering the King. Nehemiah shows what is in his heart by his actions. It may have been a whisper like, “God help me” or “Thank you Lord”.
  4. The walls of Jerusalem were restored one stone at a time, both big and small. BUT, in the spiritual realm, the people of God were restored one prayer at a time, both big and small. Small prayers count! Facebook prayers matter.

What was the result of all of Nehemiah’s prayers?

And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.–Nehemiah 2:8

What can happen when we don’t recognize God in the things provided to us?

And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.–2 Chronicles 16:12-13

So whether your prayers are big or small, God is there to hear them all.

 

Posted in Bible, Theology | Tagged , ,