Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lessons from Nehemiah

A group of the most amazing women I've ever known, and I are working hard toward a Ladies Precept Bible study retreat, which you've likely already seen the posts on here about.

Normally, I'm not a retreat girl..not unless it's by myself or with my hubby, that is.

Yet, I am COMPELLED by the vision that God has given us for this retreat!

Over and over again He is taking me to the book of Nehemiah. I just can't seem to get enough of it!

My guess is that the next 10 weeks of blogging are going to be about Nehemiah.
Hope you'll join me! :)

To start, just read the first few verses:

Neh 1:1
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, {in} the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol,
Neh 1:2
that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped {and} had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
Neh 1:3
They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire."
Neh 1:4
When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

You know what jumps out at me in this passage? Right off the bat...the remnant.
Whose remnant were they?
Why and How do you think they were able to survive the captivity?
Why was Jerusalem so important to Nehemiah that he asked his brother and the men about it?
(If you don't know, stay tuned. God is going to answer these questions for us from Scripture!)

Then, Nehemiah's brother and the men from Judah tell him the condition of the people, the remnant. They describe it in great detail...

The wall is broken down! The gates are burned with fire!
They are in great distress! They are in great reproach!

During this time, the walls around a city served to fortify it. To protect it. (Do you remember the story of the walls of Jericho?) It's where the watchmen were stationed, in order to look out for enemies approaching.

The gates were where the elders of the city sat. In the city gates were the places where monumental decisons and judgments were often made. The gates were also the first entry to the city...a type of "holding room" if you will.

Yet, here's Jerusalem...the wall is broken down. The gates are burned with fire.

No protection for her. No place for her leadership to station themselves to govern the people. No safe entry-way for strangers to come through before having free access to the city.

Makes me ask..was anyone leading? Was anyone trying to protect her?

So, the men from Judah tell Nehemiah the condition of Jerusalem...the holy city...the place where God had caused His name to dwell.

And what is Nehemiah's response?

Does he say, "Well! I'll fix that! We've got work to do! Let's get going!"

What DOES he do?

Do you see it?

Do you do this? Or, do you just jump right in before seeking the Lord?

Oooooh! I've done that so many times that I've lost count...and I've always landed flat on my face!

Better to start out on my face, before the Lord, than to fall on it of my own doing!

Do you see how Nehemiah handled this horrible news?

He heard the report and he wept and mourned for days!

He fasted and he prayed before the God of heaven!

He was a wise man...he sought the counsel of the Lord. He didn't rush in like fools do.

Why was he weeping and mourning?
Was it just because of the condition of the walls and gates of the city?
(Scripture will give you the answer as you read on in this chapter.)

How much did Nehemiah attempt to accomplish in his own power?

Do you see the time period here?

It reads as though he was weeping and mourning and fasting and praying all at the same time.

So here's the application in my own life, just for these few verses....

It is so clear to me that God is calling our team to host this Precept Ladies Retreat. Not for the purpose of having "girl time", but because we have work to do!

People in this country need to know God's Word! I put myself at the top of that list!
We need to know how to study His Word, so that we'll know how to live in a way that honors and pleases the Lord.

The walls around the church in America have been broken down. The gates have been burned. We've gotten so busy asking the lost what they what they want to see in church, in order to get them through the door, that we've quit asking the Lord what and how HE wants us to minister to the lost!

We've started preaching to "felt" needs instead of being faithful to teach people God's Word.

Is this every church? No, praise the Lord, it isn't.

Yet, when the conditions within the church mirror those without, something is drastically wrong!

Someone has taken their eyes off of the Word. Who is leading the church? Who is governing?

And..what's to be our response?

Do we sit in little circles and click our tongues while we pass judgement on all those whom we think have dropped the ball?

Is that what Nehemiah did?

I don't see that as his response.

Instead, by his example, we learn that yes, we are to mourn the sin in our land. That's a right response. We are to mourn the sin in our own lives, and that which is tolerated in our churches today...and the consequences that stem from that sin.

We are to mourn and weep over the fact that people don't know God's Word for themselves.

However, during that time of mourning, let us turn to the Author and Finisher of our faith...let us seek the Lord and fast and pray and ask Him how He desires to use US to combat the conditions in which we now find our nation.

Let us be like Isaiah, and tell the Lord, "Here am I. Send me."

I gotta tell you, this retreat seems HUGE! It's so much bigger than my talents are, and so very much bigger than anything I first thought it might be. And while I think the women on our team are absolutely the most amazing women in the world, my guess is that they would tell you the same thing I just did...that this call is so much bigger than any of us!

Yet, God uses those who are willing to be used of Him...for His glory.

He wants people to know Him personally, and in order to know Him, we must know His Word.

So, that is our goal for this retreat...that women would learn how to study God's Word, and that they would return home COMPELLED to teach others.

For those who already know how to study..and for those who are already leaders, we hope and pray that this retreat will be a time of exchanging ideas of how they have used Precept Studies to reach people with God's Word. We also pray it will be a time to bring leaders together...that they might build lifelong relationships to encourage one another to stay the stand firm in the mission of establishing people in God's Word.

Nehemiah is going to teach us so much as we prepare for this retreat...I can't wait to dig into it with you further!

I hope you'll come back's so rich, and so full of great application!

Please pray for our retreat...for each woman who will come.

Much love,


Woman in the Tent said...

Hey Jes,

I just wanted to let you know I'm praying for your retreat. I wish you all well. I know God will do great things. He is certainly outpouring His Spirit in GA.

Love, Laura

Jes said...

Thanks so much, Laura! Wish you could join know, we'd love it if you surprised us here in AZ!