Tag Archives: Nehemiah

Watch Out for Distrac…. SQUIRREL!

It it just one word. It carries with it a powerful way of life. The line from the movie Up is iconic, and it defines my brain on so many levels.

The word is … Squirrel.

I am such a ‘Dug’

I grew up way before ADHD was a thing. Maybe I would have been diagnosed, probably, okay, pretty sure. I get distracted real easy. When I’m working, one can easily view passing trains from the big windows. I have to really focus not to get distracted. In the middle of a sentence … My brain is yelling, “Train!”

We get distracted … social media, marketing ploys, secondary issues, fears, laziness, image, critics, politics, flashing lights, trending TikTok, latest news alerts like there is an asteroid headed our way, leaks about the upcoming iPhone, or pictures of cute puppies.

Did you see the one where 10 puppies listened to a stuffed dragon read Hansel & Gretel? Oh wait … that was a squirrel moment.

Distractions can come from many sources. In Nehemiah 6, this is more than just a narrative about building a wall. It is is about leadership, vision, courage, and in this chapter, avoiding distractions. His enemies tried to distract him, tried to destroy him (assassination plots), and tried to shame him. Yet he stayed focused. He persevered.

He continuously refused to be sidetracked. At one pint he said he couldn’t come down (leave his work) for he was doing a great work. A great work. When you know you are doing God’s work, it is a great work.

This is tough for me. Things keep pulling at me … often very good things. But I desire to stay focused on the great work … that which God has purposed for me. It takes wisdom, it takes focus, it takes discipline. I need to make sure the tyranny of the urgent doesn’t overcome my passion for the great.

There are many sites to give 5 easy steps, 12 ways to stay focused, 632 easy procedures to follow for staying on course. If I knew how to do it easily, I would not still struggle with it at times. Plus, I’d write a book and get rich.

But what I do know from Nehemiah is a challenge for us to remember we are doing God’s work and we need God’s strength. The great work are things that God wants us to do … love our husband/wife (great work), raise our kids (great work), love the Lord (great work), love others (great work), serve in His name no matter we are (great work), make disciples (great work), and tell others about Jesus (great work). These are just some general works. Each of us may have specific works.

So don’t stop doing the great work. Don’t get distracted. Stay the course. Learn from Dug and don’t go looking for squirrels.

All for One … Part 5 of 6

I hated group projects in college. Being the grade conscious control freak I sometimes was, I often ended up doing extra work outside of my assigned area to cover for that one guy who just sluffed it off. It was like they just didn’t care about the grades. And just like that, my inner Hermione Granger comes to the surface.

I think the group projects were learning experiences about group dynamics and less about the topic. I should’ve learned leadership skills better and maybe not have been so grade freakish. Because, I have discovered these type of people can be found in the workplace, in church ministries, in society, well, in all areas of our life – there will be people who just don’t desire to help share the load.

So far in Nehemiah 3, we have looked at 4 types of people found in this important endeavor of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem …

  • Leadership is setting the example
  • Some people worked in areas outside their area of skills
  • Some people are willing to work in unappealing areas (the dirty jobs)
  • Some people are willing to work harder than others

But we also see another type of people in this group projects …

Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.

Neh 3.5

This is not a rant about freeloaders or those who feel entitled, I’ll let others go down that rabbit hole. This is simply a reminder that there will almost always be people who don’t support our endeavors, who don’t buy into the vision, who share no interest in helping, or who might even fight what we are trying to do.

Group #5 … there will almost always be some people who don’t support our endeavors

Me

We are not told why the nobles didn’t get on board. Was it about power (we don’t want others to gain independence), influence (who does he think he is coming here, starting new projects, taking away from our past work), economic issues, indifference (I just don’t care about others), or what? Did Nehemiah blow it when he shared his vision? Could he have used better leadership skills to get the nobles on board?

Since the text doesn’t tell us why, let me share a key component on how we can attract others to our vision. John Maxwell shares some various strategies, but only one is the proper place to start.

Some start with communicating the vision. They give details, lay it out, almost class room style. This sharing the information is vital, and some want all the details up front. But still, this isn’t the most effective starting place. Some attempt to convince through emotional appeal. They use motivational techniques to rally the troops. The problem here is the emotional level often needs to be progressively growing to keep their interest. It just isn’t sustainable.

The key strategy … connect with them personally. Maxwell quotes Abe Lincoln saying, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” People stick with the vision when they buy into the leader.

So, back to the college study groups and group projects … maybe if I spent more time connecting personally, I wouldn’t have to have spent so much time covering for others. It’s not too late, I can do this today too!

All for One, One for All

Listen for the Trumpet

“The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

Too many people get excited about Jesus coming back (which is exciting, don’t get me wrong), that they lose the joy of serving now. They are listening for that trumpet call to call us home. But maybe we should be alert for the trumpet call to rally around each other.

Nehemiah is written about an exciting time seeing God at work, seeing all the people of God serving in building the wall, and watching God frustrate efforts of those who go against His people and their work. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t problems. Opposition, exhaustion, discouragement, distractions, and more. Kind of like today – little has changed.

Yet one thing that had to be comforting back then was knowing people were listening for the sound of the trumpet – the call to rally together and help each other was real. And when that trumpet sounded, swords were grabbed, legs were moving, hearts were pumping, and the peeps came to have each others backs.

Last night our church had a business meeting. Normally these are joked about and avoided.

But that’s not what happens here. People showed, people cared, and people had each others back . At one point, we voted to move a short list of names to inactive membership. This was a mere record keeping but we didn’t just vote. We stopped the meeting and prayed for them. I challenged each person to reach out them if they could. To rally around them and let these on the list know they are not alone.

The vote was a trumpet call to rally – not a final notice.

Maybe the trumpet calls are health crisis, family turmoil, job loss, anything. People need each other. One day you may need them to rally to you as well.

Listen for the trumpet – let us rally in support of each other. Don’t let listening for that final trumpet distract listening for the rally trumpet.

All for One … Part 4 of 6

You know the type. You may even be the type. They’re always happy. They smile, they’re cheery, they’re always ready with a kind and uplifting word. They have a glow about them.

Now you may hate these types. They make you wander what kind of drugs they’re taking. And instead of cheering you up, they just remind you that you’re not happy. You look at them the way a non-morning person looks at morning people. If you think this way, it probably says more about you than them.

Which are you?

Or, you may love these type of people. You desire to be around them for they lift your spirits and they encourage you. They make you want to be a better person, to work harder, and yes, even smile.

In school, I loved math. And, I was pretty good at it – not Sheldon Cooper good, but pretty good. I loved math class. I enjoyed having math homework. Cheered at the occasional pop quiz. I found delight in doing work on the board. But I didn’t really think how my zeal impacted others. Instead of encouraging them to join me in my love for calculus, I was more a show off and thus … well, let’s just say that not a lot of friends were made in math class.

Simple math humor!

In Nehemiah 3, we’re seeing some principles on working together on a project. We saw leaders set the example, that some worked outside of their skill sets, and some were willing to do the more undesirable jobs. In verse 20, we see today’s lesson from the example of a Baruch …

Some people are willing to work harder than others.

After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest.

Neh 3.20

Do you see that one word, that adverbial addition that sets Baruch apart from every other name in this chapter? For only Baruch is said to be working zealously. Some ancient manuscripts even leave the word out, as if it seemed out of place. I mean, it is only mentioned here, not with anyone else. But I think it is meant to be there. It’s meant to show us an example of a worker that goes above and beyond the norm for his city, his friends, his God.

The word itself comes from a word that means ‘to burn or glow.’ Baruch shows up smiling, cheerful, and puts his all into it. No just skating by. No doing the bare minimum. He glows and in doing so encourages others around him.

At our church, we’ve got several of these wonderful ‘glowing’ peeps. One is a Robert P. This Boomer age volunteer works with toddlers. He gets down on their level and plays and teaches simple truths to these 2&3 year olds. If it wasn’t for being in an culture of mask wearing, you would see he is always smiling.

He is zealously serving the church, the kids, and his Lord. And seeing this makes me want to be better, serve harder, and smile while doing it.

We need more people like Robert. I need to be more like him. I need to be more like Baruch.

May one day someone say, after him Todd son of Robert zealously served in his part of Kingdom work, from the commonwealth of the Old Dominion to the Lone Star state.

All for One, One for All … Part 3 of 6

IT’S A DIRTY JOB — BUT SOMEONE HAS GOT TO DO IT. The lesson, some people are willing to serve … even in areas unappealing.

Many yucky pics could’ve been shown. This was mild.

There is a TV show on the Discovery Channel called Dirty Jobs. In it, Mike Rowe explores those nasty, disgusting, dangerous, often avoided jobs that someone’s got to do in our world. Did they pick the short straw? Are they being punished? We often cry “Why would you willingly do that?” I mean, raccoon skinning, yak farming cleanup, munitions assembly, and more.

But these, and even minor domestic unappealing work endeavors, need to get done. Cleaning bathrooms, weeding the flower bed, changing diapers … are normal yet unappealing jobs. Often, and unfortunately sexist, many of these end up as the mom’s responsibility. Thank your mother today people, or you may never have had your stanky diaper changed.

At work – it’s toner changing, microwave cleaning, late shift covering, bio-hazard removal duties. Or at school – detention supervision or always getting the rowdy ones assigned to your class (I now publicly apologize to my 3rd Grade Teacher for me having been that kid, and the 4th grade one too, and maybe … never mind, all of you who taught me, I’m sorry.)

In the Nehemiah 3 chapter, were the wall is being restored and the gates are being replaced/rehung … there is an unsung hero, Malchijah. His name means ‘YHWH is king.’ And he lived out his life showing this reality.

Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

Nehemiah 3.14

So get the full picture here … this man, whose name shows YHWH (or Jehovah) is king, who himself is ruler (or son of a ruler) of an area whose city’s name means ‘house of the vineyard’ … fixes … the dung gate. One word … Ewww. Again … Ewww.

The Jerusalem Dung Gate during the Ottoman period.

So this Napa Valley like rich dude is working on the gate where all the refuge, garbage, and poopy is taken out. And I think his name shows why.

Malchijah – Jehovah is his king.

Jehovah is our king. No job too small. No job too unappealing. We serve at His pleasure. And I do it willingly, completely, and joyfully. Not just knowing who God is, but also mindful of what He’s done for me, for you, leads me to serve.

And I will serve … no matter where, no matter when, no matter what.

Will you join me in the effort? Even if it means dung gate duty?

All for One, One for All … Part 2 of 6

The work has begun. The wall and it’s gates are now beginning to be restored and rebuilt. What was in shambles begins to take form, again. And in chapter 3, the workers are listed. There are about 50 names given – with those types of names that prove difficult to pronounce. It is like a list of pharmaceuticals that no one ever gets right. And most of these 50 never get mentioned ever again.

So why? Couldn’t the author just list the sections of the walls and the gates? Couldn’t it have been a simple verse that said the work had begun? He could have, but then God gave us the whole chapter for a reason.

We saw last time that leaders set the example. The high priest even got involved.

Verses 8-9 give us another lesson, that some people worked in areas outside their area of skill. There were jewelers and makers of perfume – and a politician (do they know how to work?)

Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. And next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs …

Verses 8-9

Sometimes in life, we know things need to get done and ministries need to happen – but we feel so ill equipped, so unqualified, and so helpless. But that shouldn’t stop us. The person who said he should not get involved for he doesn’t know how should look at the perfume maker who is hauling rock and slinging a hammer.

God can do amazing things – not based on our skills but on His power. He is looking for willingness. He looks at our heart.

What does He see when He looks at your heart? Does He see willingness?

All for One, One for All … Part 1 of 6

The Three Musketeers. A novel filled with love, intrigue, betrayal, sword fights, espionage, and great ambitions. What more could one all for. And we thought our current politics was brutal. It’s been awhile since politicians settled conflict by duel (think Hamilton, people.)

There is a scene in one of the theatrical versions where they are riding through the countryside to gather the Musketeer forces to assemble. A plot is afoot to kill the King and they must assemble to save him. The simple call is issued by a hand written note that is shot into the villages by arrow – “All for one and one for all.”

This call to arms brings out scores of Musketeers – all working with one mind – serve the king, save the king, stand together as one.

For the next few days, I want you to keep that thought in mind – but not for serving the king of France or any government, but in serving the King of Kings – Jesus and His church.

In Nehemiah 3, the call has been issued. A vision was shared of bringing glory back to the city, of making Jerusalem a place of honor again, and reviving the people of God to be a people that bless others and point them to God. And though this call was for the people to rise and build a wall, the call still rings out to us …

We are to be a people that God uses to bless others and point them to Christ. We serve the King and we serve together!

This chapter in Nehemiah is about people working together, about us rising together to build, about serving side by side with one mind for a good work.

We are going to see at least ten lessons, ten principles gleaned from those involved in this work, a work which they set their mind to.

The first lesson, from the first verse, is that leadership sets the example.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel.

No one is above the work. Here he is, the high priest … respected, trained for the position, a sacred position … but not above taking up a shovel and hammer to get the work done.

I used to joke that as a pastor, God didn’t call me to blue color work. I’d much rather read, study, teach, preach. But I learned better. True, I am mechanically challenged, but I know I’m not too good to roll up my sleeves and set the example.

You also need to know you can set the example wherever you are. Parent? Set the example to your kids. Office work? Set the example to those around you. You may not be the leader on paper, but you can lead by example.

So all for one and one for all … from the top on down, we all build this wall.

Will you set the example and show others … we all can and should be doing the work of serving Jesus, together?


I want to thank Steve Davey and his work that challenges us to how we see Nehemiah 3, Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man.

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Most my life, I have hated long phone calls. I may give attention to my beloved wife and child, but with most people, if you haven’t finished the point in about 45 seconds, my mind has drifted elsewhere. So believe me when I say, todays’s quote hits me pretty hard.

Me after 30 seconds

Our prayers are not to be 30 second phone conversations with a few texts sprinkled in. (Thought I do believe there is time for prayers of brevity). For the most part, He desires time with us. So …

If you want maximum attention FROM God, you need to give maximum attention TO God.

Do you agree with that statement? I don’t think God is a bargainer – in the sense of what he gives has to be relative to what he gets – he is a big God and we could never equal that which he gives. That’s the whole concept of grace. But there of something to this concept.

As James said, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” It’s the righteous man, the one living for Him. Some translations (and the following verse) connect this to fervent praying. Fervently … enthusiastically and passionate.

Does this define your prayer life? Then maybe this also could be connected to the answers you are receiving? Hum, maybe there is something to …

If you want maximum attention FROM God, you need to give maximum attention TO God.

– a fervent pray-er

So to wrap up, let me share another author’s articles on how to stay focused and fervent in our prayers.:

So spend a little time giving attention to the One who made you! And do it with passion!

Prayers of the Broken Hearted

Before Nehemiah prayed about rebuilding the broken walls, he first prayed for a healing of the broken people – including himself.

Are you more concerned about the “nation” or about the people? About events or about lives?

Is the burden in your prayers more about the church building and numbers or about the individuals and families?

Is your prayer list filled with things or names?

May our hearts break for people and for the healing of our relationship with the Lord. Looking at his first prayer, this is what broke Nehemiah’s heart.