jtrhart

Posts Tagged ‘Nehemiah series’

Nehemiah: Down To The Smallest Detail

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2010 at 6:57 am

It would be easy to skip over Nehemiah 7. It’s just a list of names. Why bother reading over names that you’ll never need to know? Here is a verse that might help put that thought into perspective:

7:5 “Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy.”

The verses that follow are the list of names that God put it into the heart of Nehemiah to compile.

God Cares About Everything

Don’t miss out on this, it’s fantastic. God made sure, by putting the desire in Nehemiah, that all of the names of the people were recorded. No one was left out. What a detailed God we have! When I stop and think about the size of God’s creation and how many people have lived on this planet I am in awe of how God can keep track of it all. Then to think that each individual human is important to him reminds me that God does not forget me.

My wife and I love to tell the story of our meeting, engagement, and wedding planning. It’s a great story because you can see the details of how God providentially worked all of the details out. As we talk through it we are again reminded of all of the different ways God works in His creation. Then, after we’re finished telling the story, I seem to be more mindful of God’s sovereignty and I can’t help but see it in every detail afterwards.

Look back at Nehemiah. Israel now has a recorded history of all of the people who came out of exile and helped rebuild the wall. They can tell this story to anyone who asks. They can tell this story to their children. They can tell this story to us who read it. All of the details are there, kept forever in the book. Whenever they question God’s control, as we all do in difficult circumstances, they can go back to this story and recount all of the wonderful things God has done.

Here is a great exercise: take one situation in your life that has brought you joy, start at the ending point, then work your way backwards. Try to remember all of the details in how that outcome came about. That’s it. Just that alone will get you thinking about the greatness of God.

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Do One Thing, Well

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2010 at 6:19 am

Thinking more about my embarrassingly long list of unfinished projects makes me appreciate Nehemiah’s simplicity all the more. He did one thing and he did it well. Nehemiah was not a multitasker, if such a thing even exists. He didn’t try to refocus the people’s attention to the temple (chapters 7-9) while he was working to build the wall (chapters 1-6). He separated the two projects and waited until one was completed before beginning the other. He did one thing at a time and he did it to completion.

The tendency to begin one project before another is complete must be resisted. It takes a lot of energy to do a job with excellence. Spreading your energy over more than one thing will lead to poor performance in all things unless you know something about physics that the rest of the world doesn’t.

Do you have a list of uncompleted projects right now? Try this: only add another project if you can cross off three others and begin to bring that list under control.

Nehemiah: Finishing Well

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2010 at 7:20 am

checkboxDone.

Check.

Cross it off your list.

Finished.

The bigger the project the more satisfying it is to complete it. Nehemiah completed building the wall (6:15) but his project was not quite finished. He had to set things up so that the people could sustain themselves. He set up doors, gatekeepers and guard posts, reinstated the priests, and installed a governor over Jerusalem. In his mind, if this wasn’t done then the project was a failure.

It’s tempting to say you are finished when the majority of the work is done. You pushed hard to complete 95% and that feels “good enough” but that 5% will not complete itself, it needs the same effort. This is one of the differences between work done and work done well. It’s easily overcome with good planning done upfront. Have a clear definition of what will make your project successful and work towards that.

As I write this I’m thinking about all of the projects I have outstanding. It’s a long, embarrassing list. I will write about overcoming this tomorrow.

Questioning Distractions

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 7:44 am

Three questions to consider when something unexpected happens (distraction) while you are diligently working away:

  1. Is this immoral? (Nehemiah 6:12)
  2. Will this move me in the opposite direction of my goal? (Nehemiah 2:20)
  3. Will this hinder someone else from accomplishing their desire? (Nehemiah 5:9)

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions then I suggest putting the word “no” to good use.

See the Nehemiah series on distractions for more information.

Nehemiah: Distractions, Part 4

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2010 at 7:37 am

Final post on how Nehemiah dealt with distractions.

Nehemiah 6 describes a similar distraction that was shown in chapter 2, the verbal kind. Nehemiah’s enemies attempted to pull him away from his work by dragging him into endless political discussions. They repeatedly sent him messages asking him to meet with them. Each time Nehemiah basically ignores them. He tells them he has no time to meet and talk. He has a goal (get the wall built) and he can’t stop and deliberate.

Discernment

The last attempt to get Nehemiah away from his project (if you distract the leader you distract everyone else) was different. One of his own people told him that his life is in danger and that he should go into the inner part of the temple sanctuary and hide. Nehemiah took this one seriously because of the source. As he thought about it he came to see that it too was a distraction. This time he had to be discerning in his thinking.

He found an error in the request that exposed the message for what it really was. Nehemiah was not a priest and only the priests were allowed to enter into the inner part of the temple. If this message had been from God as a warning then he knew that God would not ask him to sin by doing something against God’s Law. Nehemiah did not allow the fear for his life to overshadow his good judgement in knowing right and wrong.

A moral distraction is probably a little more rare for us. We aren’t tempted daily to break the law while remodeling a bathroom or completing a report for your boss. Unfortunately this makes us less aware of the danger when it does come up because we get blindsided quickly. Are you prepared for this kind of distraction when it knocks at your door just before quitting-time Friday afternoon?

Nehemiah: Distractions, Part 3

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2010 at 8:03 am

There are two more discussions on distractions that Nehemiah faced. Both distractions we have already looked at were external to the project. Now Nehemiah was facing a distraction caused by those on his own team. Morale was being threatened because the workers and their families were starving, losing their homes and their land, and being sold into slavery, all by their own people! This was indirectly affecting his work towards the goal (get the wall built) so Nehemiah confronted it.

Confrontation

It is going to happen at some point in your project. Someone is going to need to be confronted for something he is or isn’t doing. Letting it pass by will only cause bigger problems in the end. When Nehemiah learned of the unjust way the rich were treating the poor he didn’t hold back anything, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” The people admitted to the wrong they were doing and pledged to stop it and make amends.

Nehemiah did not have to convince people, there was no argument. Sometimes confrontation just needs to happen. The issue on everyone’s minds just needs to be aired and immediately the mood changes. Sometimes it just takes a few words, rightly spoken, to make folks realize they need to change what they are doing.

What I also love about this story is that no one could accuse Nehemiah of acting in a similar way. In verses 5:14-19 it describes Nehemiah’s lifestyle while he was governor. He refused to take the governor’s food allowance, which was considerably large. He refused the free land offered to him but made his household work for their food. Best of all, he cut taxes. Confrontation goes a long way when the confronter isn’t a hypocrite.

Can you think of any areas where you are shrinking back from confrontation at the expense of your goals?

Nehemiah: Leading By Encouragement

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Facing down an army of people who want you dead is never easy. I say this not from experience but simply from being human; no one wants to be killed. When Nehemiah set up his plan for defending his followers he looked out over the people and said:

Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. 4:14

I think Nehemiah saw fear in the people and sought out a way to encourage them to fight. We don’t know if he gave a longer speech than this single recorded verse. My guess is that he didn’t since they were not all gathered in the same place but were spread out in various locations in the city. I think he probably traveled from place to place repeating his encouragement. If you were going to war what more would you want to hear than:

  • Remember the Lord – remember his promise to you and remember his power to fulfill it
  • The Lord is great and awesome – he is for you and not against you
  • Fight for your brothers, sons, daughters, wives – we are most motivated when we know our cause is bigger than ourselves
  • Fight for your homes – this is your land, your very life, fight for it!

I think this is a great way of encouraging the people who are following you. Leaders should always point their people back to God and appeal to the selflessness of doing something for the ones you love. Nehemiah gave them a plan and the tools they needed and now they are encouraged to carry it out.

Is your plan struggling to gain momentum? Could be that your people are discouraged or fearful of the possible outcomes. How can you encourage them in what they are doing?

Nehemiah: Distractions, Part 2

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Most distractions can be ignored (see part 1); others must be dealt with.

Know When To Fight

The first distraction was simply verbal so Nehemiah reaffirmed and restated his goal (get the wall built) and moved on. The second directly threatened the goal. An army was assembled to fight against the workers. This one had to be dealt with or else work would have stopped.

Nehemiah did not change his goal though, he did not direct all of his energy towards fighting off an army. He kept the work going but reduced the load. The workers carried less so that they could carry a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. By the way, this is where C. H. Spurgeon got the idea for his publication. Nehemiah also set up guards to keep watch, this took the pressure off the workers and also let the opposition know he was well defended. Finally, trumpeters were placed at each work location so that if they were attacked they could call for help.

There is something in common with all three of Nehemiah’s defenses: they focus on the work and not the problem. The workers were given weapons so they could fight if necessary but they didn’t have to concern themselves with it, they could focus on their job. Guards were set up so that the workers weren’t worried all the time about a surprise attack. Communication was put in place so that everyone would know that they were supported and not left on their own.

You can count on distractions coming up in your projects. Knowing which ones will keep you from completing your goal and which ones won’t is a very good skill to have. To really refine that skill you need to add the ability to deal with true distractions in a way that keeps the emphasis on the goal and the people working towards that goal.

Nehemiah: Prayer and God’s Sovereignty

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Nehemiah just found out that an army had formed and was on its way to kill anyone working towards the goal (get the wall built) and we read this:

4:9 – But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.

Earlier in the book though Nehemiah says:

2:20 – The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build

I find it so interesting that even though Nehemiah is absolutely convinced that the wall will be rebuilt, he still prays. Certainly if all of the labor is wiped out by this army the wall would not be rebuilt, so Nehemiah could safely assume that he is not in danger here. Why pray then? Some would say that this is a waste of time, if God has already planned out your success then keep moving ahead. No time to waste. All throughout Scripture though we see people praying for God to do what he has promised and it crescendos at the cross where we find Jesus praying for God’s will to be done.

God loves it when we pray back to him his own promises. It is found in the majority of prayers mentioned in the Bible. If you struggle with maintaining a consistent prayer life, give this a try: simply pray back to God his promises and recount the wonderful things he has done. It express our dependence on God which is ultimately what prayer really is.

Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And that’s a promise.

Nehemiah: Recognize People’s Efforts

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Nehemiah 3 chronicles all of the people who helped reach the goal: get the wall built. Why bother to write down and publish a list of all of the names of the people and families that worked on the wall though? Because that is relational managing. It lets people know that they are a part of something. That they are accomplishing a great work.

By keeping a record of who is doing what you are acknowledging people’s efforts and making them feel human. We want relational work, not cheap efforts. We want work that grows people, not just products. It reminds me of a great post on Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership from Michael Hyatt. Michael says one way MLK Jr. lead well was by acknowledging the sacrifice of his followers.

There are plenty of ways to do this other than writing their name down in a book. Most of them only take a few minutes to do but the effects will be dramatic. Make sure it is public and includes details. Think of a few right now and make it a point to act on them soon.