Archive for May, 2011

CHRONICLES OF NEHEMIAH(Pt. 4)

“But while all of this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem…Sometime later I…came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the House of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the House of God”(Nehemiah 13:6a,79a NIV).

GUARD THE TREASURE

Some years had passed since through Nehemiah’s leadership that Israel had recovered a sense of security and dignity by rebuilding the wall of the City of Jerusalem. Through the help of the leadership of Ezra the Teaching priest the Word of God was also restored to the life of the people. But over time another problem arose… Tobiah the enemy of God and His people had gained access to the very House of God. He moved right in and set up residence there. No one seemed to notice or for that matter be concerned…until Nehemiah’s return.

As we have considered, previously, Nehemiah whose name means “JAH-Comforts” represents the person of the Holy Spirit in the midst of God’s people. As a result of Nehemiah having gone away from the City, there developed a lack of spiritual discernment of the tactics of the enemy, Tobiah. This is a lesson for us today regarding the nature of spiritual warfare. The apostle Paul declared “We are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices”(2 Co 2:11b). Once we have gained (or regained) the high ground against the enemy of our soul we must maintain what has been gained in conflict.

Those who would be victorious over all the schemes of the enemy must be vigilant. Even our Lord Jesus was aware that Satan will seek repeated opportunities to prevent the Kingdom of God’s advance. Jesus warned Simon Peter of “Satan asking permission to sift him like wheat”. One of the reasons that many people falter in time of conflict is their lack of alertness; they grow spiritually slack. The prophet Amos warned, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion”(Amos 6:1).   The writer to the Hebrew Christian warns, “We must pay more careful attention… to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away”(Hebrews 2:1). The imagery is that of a boat that is not properly secured to harbor, resulting in the gentle tide or current slowly but surely causes the vessel to drift away, out to sea.  Again, if only Peter had been alert as Jesus warned him of Satan’s plans to seduce him away from his close fellowship with his Lord, he would not have suffered the heartache of denying him. Further, when the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsamane, they awoke to the reality that they had betrayed their Lord into the hands of his enemies. Let us not be deceived in this dark hour. We are all capable of betraying our Lord. Self-deception is the worst kind of deception. We can believe others are prone to fail Jesus but “Never us”…”It will happen to thee and thee but not to me” someone observed. We must watch and pray that we enter not into temptation.

GET RID OF TOBIAH’S JUNK

The only sure way that the enemy can’t defeat us is to give him no place in our life. Our Lord Jesus in the most critical hour of his temptation could declare, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me”(Jn. 14:30 NIV). The sense given by this expression “no hold on me” is that there is no ledge or even a place for him to stand in me. There was no legal ground that the enemy could hold over our Lord. Although Jesus faced many temptations…He did not yield to sin.”Tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin”(Heb. 4:15).

There is a time for righteous anger. Like Nehemiah, when we discern where the enemy has gained a place in our life we must rise up and get rid of his junk that he has placed there. Make no place or occasion for his ownership over your life. The apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple”(1 Co 3:16-17 NIV).

A PLACE FOR GOD’S TREASURE

Nehemiah understood that is was not enough that Tobiah and his stuff be removed from the House of God. He must cleanse it and replace those things with the true things of God.  God desires holy vessels in this hour; those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and consecrated by the Holy Spirit for His service and use. As a temple of the Holy Spirit we are to be filled with all the hidden treasure of God. This is what God has purposed from the beginning.  When He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world he placed all the treasure of heaven in Him. Paul wrote of this glorious mystery, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” and he further declares of you and I the believers, “and you have been given fullness in Christ”(Colossians 2:9-10a NIV). In the words of the apostle Paul we recognize, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”(2 Co 4:7 NIV). We must pray to that “The eyes our understanding being enlightened; that we may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints”(Eph. 1:18).  Let us guard the treasure entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit.

Copyright © Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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CHRONICLES OF NEHEMIAH(Pt.3)

If you intend to build anything in participation with God be assured you will face opposition. When Nehemiah had inspired and stationed people back on the wall of the city, those who opposed the work showed up. They had no interest in building…only blasting. We note that God knows and names the troublers of His work: Sanballat, Tobiah and Gershom. These had no interest in supporting God’s people in their effort to build and make the city secure.

Let us not be ignorant of the ways of the enemy of our soul. Jesus warned that “The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy”(Jn 10:10a). The assignment of the enemy is to get you off the wall so that the work of God will cease in your life.  He comes “to steal” your joy. For he knows that joy is a by-product of the Spirit’s indwelling work in your life. He knows that the joy of the LORD is your strength. No joy, no strength to serve the Lord. When he has stolen your joy then he will seek “to kill” your witness for the Lord Jesus. A believer who has no witness for Christ in their life is no threat to the kingdom of darkness. It is only when you are bold in your faith, unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he gets nervous. He knows that when a believer stands, speaks, and shows forth Christ in his or her life that his plans are overthrown. Also, Other people are set free from the devil’s schemes and emboldened to live for Jesus Christ no matter the cost. The enemy’s ultimate design is “to destroy” the people of God. His hatred for the things and people of God is as perfect as God’s love for His people.  Every loving and obedient child of God poses a direct threat against Satan’s kingdom. Let us learn that the devil will never change his plans, he is not satisfied until he destroys what God has built. But also let us take courage because “Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world”(1 Jn. 4:4).  “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world:  and this is the victory that overcomes the world [even] our faith”(1 Jn. 5:4).

SCHEMES OF THE ENEMY

Nehemiah mentions three basic schemes or tactics that the enemy employed to try and get people to stop building on the wall:

Accusation.  Sanballat, who was a Moabite, took a personal and direct approach, seeking to demoralize and put down those working on the wall. Let us not be surprised if Satan, who is called the Accuser of the brethren, does not whisper in our ear that we are less than God’s child. While he may come to remind us of our past sins, failures, mistakes, etc…We can remind him of his future! One day he will be cast in the Lake of fire along all of those who are God’s enemies( Read Rev. 19:20; 20:10).

Intimidation.  Tobiah, who was an Ammonite, sought through legal actions to cause the work to come to a grinding halt. He tried to use the legal court system to give a “cease and desist order”. This did not work because Nehemiah was assured that they were doing the LORD’s will and work. Like Peter and John, who were brought before the Religious legal council and threatened to stop preaching in the Name of Jesus Christ, they refused to obey. They not only knew it was an unjust request, they also knew they must “obey God rather than man”.

Discouragement.  Gershem the Arab opposed the work of God  seeking to discourage the people by “weakening their hands” in their resolve to finish the work they were doing. But it did not work. God’s people understood that the Lord had called them to the work and He would see them through to its completion. Paul declared from a prison cell that the work of God cannot be ultimately stopped. He wrote, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it even to the day of Jesus Christ”(Phil. 1:6).

ARMED AND READY

Nehemiah knew what it would take to finish the wall. He knew what was required to stay focused. He equipped the people with a trowel, a tool to build. He also gave them a sword to fight with. And finally, he armed them with the most important weapon against the schemes of the enemy…prayer. We are truly armed and ready for spiritual combat when we recognize that our weapons are not carnal or fleshly, but spiritual. We need to be equipped with the gifts from the Holy Spirit, our confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ’s work in us. And we need to be bold in our praying, knowing that our heavenly Father bends His ear to hear the cry of His children in the earth. Let us use the means of grace we have been given to overthrow the schemes of the enemy. Don’t come down from the wall; arm yourself with prayer. “Be anxious for nothing, but pray about everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving; present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”(Phil. 4:6-7).

Copyright © Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

CHRONICLES OF NEHEMIAH(Pt. 2)

“So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its[height], for the people had a mind to work”(Nehemiah 4:6).

Repairing the Wall

When I was in High School there was one particular class I remember with great fondness. It was called Social Problems. Not that class solved any of our “burning issues” of the day but we did have great discussions.  What really made the class enjoyable was our teacher, Rev. Ward. He was a wise old minister with the biggest, toothy smile; appreciated by all his students. Many of his statements were impacting but the one that stands out to me to this day is… “Your rights end where my nose begins.” He was speaking about boundaries and dignity. This is what Nehemiah reminds us of through his leadership in the repairing of the gates and wall of the city.

If you are going to regain “the wheel” and direction of your life you must establish proper boundaries. Israel had lost their sense of hope and purpose because their enemies had made sure that the walls of the city were never rebuilt. And without gates in place the enemy always had access to their lives, coming and going at will. Nehemiah knew that he had to deal with “first things first” by providing security for his people by getting the gates repaired. 

TEN GATES

It is interesting that there were ten gates which needed repairing. The Biblical number ten represents “completion or perfection of divine order”. There are two other numbers that speak of a complete or perfect number but ten has the unique distinction of requiring human participation. For example, there are the Ten Commandments (Dealing with our responsibility towards God and towards our neighbor). Again, we have ten fingers and ten toes (Speaking of the work of our hands and our walk).

The order and naming of the gates is significant. Each of these gates speak of the spiritual journey we each take with the Lord. Nehemiah chapter three lists the gates:

(1) Sheep Gate (v1 ) The Sheep Gate is the place of salvation. Jesus said “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved”(Jn.10:9)  If we would repair our lives as they were created to be we must begin as those who like sheep  have gone astray and return to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

(2) Fish Gate (v3) The Fish Gate was of the place the Marketplace. Among other commodities, fresh fish were brought into the City.  I am reminded that the Lord Jesus words to Simon Peter, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”(Matt. 4:19). This of course was after Peter had caught the net-breaking, boat-sinking catch of fish. He pulled in this great haul of fish in obedience to Jesus’ words as to where to cast his nets.  We each are called to be witnesses for Christ;looking for opportunities to bear witness to His reality in our life. He will help us, causing others to desire to know Him who is Life indeed.

(3) Old Gate (v6). The Old Gate speaks to me of the place of transition from the old ways and habits to the conformity of the new ways and habits in the Lord. Paul wrote, “If any man is in Christ old things have passed away, behold all things have become new”(1 Cor. 5:17).  The fruit of a changed lifestyle are the evidence of a spiritually changed heart and mind.

(4) Valley Gate (Neh. 3: ). The Valley Gate is suggestive of the trials and troubles that we face as we are pilgrims in this world order. No one escapes this life without wounds. Although we cannot escape the trials and troubles of life we have the assurance that we do not face them alone. “Though I walk through the valley…Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me”(Ps. 23:4). 

(5) Dung Gate (v14). The Dung Gate is rightly situated after the place of trials. It is also called the “Refuse Gate”. It is the place where the trash or rubbish is taken out of the City. Paul helps us as he wrote, “The things that were gain to me I count them as loss…as rubbish”(Phil. 3:8). It is the place of letting go of those things that are not profitable for our journey in Christ. “He is no fool who loses what he cannot gain to gain what he cannot lose”, wrote Jim Elliot.

(6) Fountain Gate (v15). The Fountain Gate was situated near “the Pool of the mighty”, associated with David’s mighty warriors. After we have released those things that are longer profitable, there is a new place of spiritual experience and refreshing. We hunger and thirst for new things in God. Our Lord bids us come and be refreshed, allowing the fountain of the Holy Spirit to reside in us and flow out from us (Jn.7:37-38).

(7) Water Gate (v26). It is interesting that Ezra the teaching priest gathered the people of Israel with their women and children at the Water Gate. There they heard the Word of God read and explained. The Water Gate speaks to us of sanctification and cleansing. Jesus prayed that we would be “sanctified by truth”(Jn. 17:17). Jesus is preparing His Bride by “the washing of the water of the Word”(Eph. 5:26).

(8) Horse Gate (v28). The horse is a symbol of conquest. This is the place of the overcomer. In the book of the Revelation, John gives 8 promises for the overcomer. John sees a rider on a White horse with many riding on white horses with Him. They are those who had gained the victory over all the power of the enemy (Rev 19:11-16).

(9) East Gate (v29) The East Gate is designated for the king’s entrance. This is the hope of all the godly, the appearing of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Christ appeared once to take away our sins.  He shall appear a second time bringing salvation with him”(Hebrews 9:27). We may not know the day or the hour but we believe the King is at the door. Let us stay watchful and alert. “Lift up your heads O Ye gates and be lifted up Ye ancient doors that the king of glory might come in”(Ps. 24:7).

(10) Inspection Gate (v31) How fitting that the last gate mentioned should be the Inspection Gate. We will all one day stand before the King of kings and the Judge of judges. We each will stand to give account for ourselves for those deeds done while we were here on earth. At that time we will receive reward or lose according to the motive by which we have served and loved the Lord Jesus (Ro. 14:10b-12). May we be ready for that great day of Judgement. 

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

CHRONICLES OF NEHEMIAH(Pt. 1)

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem”(Nehemiah 1:1-2)

THE COMFORTER

Are you, like me, more conscious of the intensity of events shaping and changing the priorities of our focus?  For example, you cannot help but be aware through the media of the many challenges that the recent storms have brought to people worldwide. The concern is not merely for big governmental concerns (Nation to nation), but local and personal concerns (Economy, Education, Food & Shelter).  The importance of these concerns are basic to our daily life and existence.  On top of these I was personally confronted with the concern for those burdened and suffering from personal loss of health, loss of loved ones, and loss of business and income.  Apart from human sympathy and help, where are people to turn for help?  My thoughts turned to the words of the psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”(Ps. 46:1 NIV). Turning to God for answers is our wisdom and safety in this hour. He is both our help and our source of strength. I believe Nehemiah is a beautiful reminder of this.

In the book of Nehemiah we have a rare chronicle in the Biblical record. Nehemiah apparently kept a running diary and shares the important events that shaped and challenged the people of God in his time. His name gives us a hint into the very nature and character of his life mission.  Nehemiah’s name means “Jehovah Comforts”. What a beautiful reminder of the One sent by God to His people. The words of promise of our Lord Jesus, “It is necessary that I go away. If I go away I will send the Comforter unto you”(Jn. 16:7). The Holy Spirit was sent of the Father through Christ Jesus as a Comforter to God’s people. We are not alone in this world full of trials and trouble…Our God is with us.

His Inquiry. Nehemiah asked of the condition of the remnant of those left from the Babylon captivity. His people had been taken captive by the enemy due to their repeated failure to obey God’s Law. They had refused to listen to the prophets’ warnings. But after seventy years of captivity they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. But alas, those who returned were only a remnant compared to those who went into captivity. Why was this the case? Some had died during the period of captivity. Others had learned the ways of Babylon, becoming comfortable with its lifestyle, and refused to leave and return to their God-given inheritance. Nehemiah’s inquiry further revealed the condition of those who survived … They “are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and it’s gates have been burned with fire”(Neh. 1:3). They were in trouble, disgraced by their present condition, and were further exposed to their enemies round about.

His Agony. If Nehemiah is going to be of any comfort to his people he must first identify with their situation. He begins where all true restoration and revival must begin…with intercession. “When I heard these things, I sat down and I wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”(Neh. 1:4).  He who would bring comfort to others must as it were “walk in their shoes”. Intercession is more than a passing prayer for a need; it so identifies with the need that it creates an agony of concern. Intercessors understand that only those who truly mourn over sin and its effects will receive comfort.

His Encouragement. Nehemiah receives more than an answer to his prayers. He discovers that he IS the answer to his prayers. He receives favor from the king to return to Jerusalem to help his people rebuild. In Nehemiah chapter 2, after a secret survey by night of condition of the wall of the city, he gathers the leaders and shares a vision of hope. He tells them of the favor he has received from the king and inspires them to rise up and rebuild what the enemy had destroyed.  It is the business of the Holy Spirit to bring hope to God’s people. Without hope for a preferred future, people do not move in faith to attain it.  But equally true is the fact that, like Nehemiah, the Holy Spirit has been sent into the world as our “Helper”, meaning that He needs our participation in God’s plan in rebuilding.  “Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace”…”They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding’. So they began the good work”(Nehemiah 2:17b,18b).  We must never forget that God in His sovereignty has given mankind human responsibility. We are Co-Laborers with Him.

His Leadership. Nehemiah steps into a new place of leadership without any sense of false modesty. Although he had served faithfully as Cupbearer to the king, he was destined to be Governor of Jerusalem. We should never underestimate our value in the sight of God. Nor should we despise the day of small beginnings. We shall see through Nehemiah’s bold faith and leadership that God did, through the cooperation of his people, what had not been done in 70 years!   The Wall of the City was rebuilt in record time.  May you find out where God is building and join Him there…”You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings”(Isaiah 58:12b NIV).

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com