Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Chapter 3 at first glance can seem a bit boring. I think the most often used words in this chapter are, "Next to him/them." After all, all it seems to be is a list of who built what. Since we are now a couple millenium away from this activity, it sort of feels like it doesn't have much to do with our day to day lives.

There are other passages in the Bible where I think, "hmm, I wonder why in the world God included this in the finished Bible - what is the relevance to today?" The book of Leviticus comes to mind - does anyone else struggle with getting through that book of the Bible besides me? But God DID include it so there has to be a reason, right?

As I look at this chapter, I can see facts - certain portions of the wall were built simultaneously by different people. It lists who built each section. I suppose if I was a heavy duty Bible scholar, I could look up the family names and see what they built and how that part of the wall was used, etc. back in the glory days of Israel. But, the truth is, I'm NOT a Bible scholar. However, I DO believe that even in what appears to be a boring list of work orders, God has something for me to learn.

The first thing I can take away from this is that a large job divided among willing workers makes the work go a whole lot faster. Either a few people doing the entire job or ALL the people doing one tiny section wouldn't have worked very well. If there were a lot of willing workers, if they all concentrated on one section of the wall there would have been chaos - people tripping over other people; stuff dropping where it shouldn't; bumping into things, etc. If only a few groups tried to build the entire wall by themselves, it would have been very slow going and probably discouraging as they would see very little progress for the sweat equity going into the project.

I can take this and apply it to the church body. Have you ever heard the saying that 20% of the people do 80% of the work? If you look closer you'll find that often is true in churches today. On the other side of the coin, the many needs that cry out to be met by God seem overwhelming. Sometimes, it feels like we are being pulled all over because of the many areas that need workers.

Instead of trying to have a few people do it all or a bunch of people do a small portion, Nehemiah set each group over a certain section of the wall. Because the workers could concentrate in their area, they were able to do the job well, do it efficiently and see to all the details. The workers also saw progress and weren't overwhelmed by the huge amount of work that restoring the entire wall entailed.

God has given the church, as a body, a big job - go out into all the world and preach the Gospel; take care of the poor and the widows and fatherless; love one another; etc. Fortunately, He doesn't expect one person or group to accomplish everything all at once. He give each person a calling or area to work in. We are individually responsible for what God calls US to do, not what He calls our neighbor to do. We must work heartily and wholeheartedly where we are at - at our part of the wall.

I know two different women - both of whom love God and want to serve Him. One works in an office and one works in a restaurant. On the outside, those jobs don't seem very "spiritual" or ministry-orientated. But I believe God has them in ministry right where they are at. Both share Christ's love and the hope that is in Him with their co-workers - meeting needs right where they are at. Both are Jesus with skin on to people who might never ever darken a church door without some kind of relationship first. They would tell you that they aren't in ministry, but I will tell you that they are faithfully working at their part on the wall.

We live in a somewhat "interesting" neighborhood. It's not unusual to see gang symbols spray painted on signs or along the sidewalks. I've prayed many times about leaving here but each time God has told me to stay put. I see that God is working here through our family though. My boys have some friends that they play ball with in our side yard. Two days ago, my oldest son led one of these friends to God. He said, "Mom, I was praying you wouldn't call us in to supper before D got saved." This neighborhood is my family's portion of the wall and we are called to be faithful right here. Yes, there are needs around the world, but I can't meet all those needs. I can send supplies to other parts of the wall, but God has called me to work on THIS part - to see this part completed, to see the details accomplished.

"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

One brick at a time, we can all finish our part of the wall.
~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, September 24, 2010


First - a disclaimer: My computer is very old and is in the process of slowly dying. In my last post, I was unable to go back to edit anything and my computer kept freezing up, so that is why there were so many spelling, grammar and other errors. Please excuse them. :)

Okay, my disclaimer is over and it is time to look at Chapter 2 of Nehemiah. Once again, we start with the time. We see it is still the 20th year and this time it is clear that this refers to the 20th year in the reign of King Artaxerxes. In the previous chapter it was the month of Chislev. Being unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar, I decided to look this up. Apparently it was around November/December of our calendar and the time of year that Hannukah was celebrated. Now we see it is the month of Nisan. This corresponds with March/April on our calendars, so a few months have passed.

The most interesting thing I found when I looked all of this up, is that the month of Nisan is also known as the month of redemption. It is the same month that Israel was freed from Egyptian captivity. Considering the events of this chapter, I found this to be very interesting. I hope you will as well. :)

So, in verse 2, Nehemiah sets the scene. He is with the king and has just given him his wine. This means, Nehemiah had already tasted it and since he hadn't keeled over, the king knew that the wine was safe to drink. I thought it was interesting what you read at the end of verse 2: "Now I had not been sad in his presence." It's like Nehemiah wants you to know he has been doing his job well even after you read the King's next words which were, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart." Apparently, "put a smile on your face or else" was the way of the palace because Nehemiah next mentions that the king saying this made him "very much afraid." I guess moping around in the king's presence was a big no-no.

Even though Nehemiah was afraid, he told the king the truth - the city of his fathers was in ruins. The king, who apparently had a good relationship with Nehemiah, asked what Nehemiah wanted to request. I love Nehemiah's response - "So I prayed to the God of heaven." Before he said a word, he prayed. How many times, when I am in a high pressure situation, do I just open my mouth and talk and talk and talk? Embarrassingly, far more than I respond the way Nehemiah did! Nehemiah was different - he took a moment to pray.

In the next few verses, Nehemiah gives the king not just a general, vague idea of what he is requesting, but where he wants to go (Judah), what he wants to do (rebuild the city), a time frame and what he will need to get the job done. This is all in verses 4-8. Verse 8 ends with Nehemiah's take on why he was granted favor - "Adnd the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me." If you read Ezra, the book before Nehemiah, you will see that phrase many times.

Nehemiah wasn't one to let grass grown under his feet - in the very next verse we find him giving the governors the king's letters. We also see that the king not only did what Nehemiah asked but he also gave him officers and horsemen. This reinforces that God's hand was indeed upon Nehemiah.

In verse 10, we are introduced to the villains in the story - Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Nehemiah clearly states that these two men wanted nothing good to happen for the Israelites. It doesn't say why. If you look back in some of historical books, even as far back as Exodus, the Ammonites were enemies of Israel. So, this may have been a sort of racist hatred going on. Maybe it was as simple as these men had some power over the downtrodden Jews and didn't want to see them raised from their humble position in that society. Whatever the reason, they established themselves early on as enemies of Israel and specifically enemies of Nehemiah and his goal.

It is interesting to me that many times when God places a burden on my heart, and I set about trying to do what He wants me to do, obstacles seem to crop up out of nowhere. Many times, those obstacles are in the form of people. It is just a given, that if you are doing what God wants you to do, you will have enemies. You may as well prepare yourself for that fact of life.

When Nehemiah arrived, he was in Jeruselum three days and he didn't tell anyone what his plans were. After three days, Nehemiah felt God telling him to take a look around. He did this in the middle of the night with only a few men. Nehemiah's description of his ride gives us an idea of how badly the walls had been ruined. In some places, it says he couldn't even ride his mount through. He came back and although it doesn't say anything, you can almost feel the heaviness of Nehemiah's heart after seeing this destruction up close and personal. Nehemiah wanted a clear picture of what was wrong and what needed to be done without a lot of voices to distract him. A true leader, takes in the facts before he starts including a lot of other people.

In verse 17, he finally reveals why he is there and sort of rallies the troops. He calls them to, "Come, let us rebuild the walls of Jeruselum so that we will no longer be a reproach." He encourages them with the fact that God's hand was upon him and how he had gotten there. The people were all for it and responded with, "Let us arise and build!" They didn't just say either - they got right to work.

Of course, as soon as they started doing something, Sanballat and Tobiah are on the scene. They mocked and despised them and even offered a veiled threat - "What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?" In other words, if you continue doing this - rebuilding the walls- the king is going to think you are rebelling. If a people in the situation of Israel were seen as rebels, they would be crushed pretty quickly. The Jews that were there would have understood what was being said between the lines.

Fortunately, Nehemiah had all of his ducks in a row. He was confident, not only in what God had for him to do, but he also had gotten through all the red tape and had not tried to do this behind anyone's back. This reminds me of the story of the Christian organization that went to Haiti and tried to bring back some of the orphans, but because they had not gone through the right protocol, they got in big trouble. It isn't enough to have good intentions. We must follow through, and as much as we are able and as long as it doesn't go against God's Word, we should be in compliance with laws and procedures - even if we think it is just a lot of red tape!

Because he had done the right thing before his king, Nehemiah was able to answer his enemies with confidence. The final verse is his reply to Sanballat and Tobiah's mocking and threats: "The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem."

I am learning so much from Nehemiah - to be honest in what I need; to do my jobs well so my employer knows I am someone to trust; to pray before speaking; to be specific in my requests; to be clear on all the facts before I proceed - even if I think this is what God wants me to do; to follow the rules so there can be no reproach. Who knew all that was in Nehemiah?
~ Blessings, Bronte

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I started reading in Nehemiah and have found so many applicable truths for my life today, that I decided maybe a study, chapter by chapter may be in order. I hope you will join in and offer your insights and comments. :)

First, I want to give a little background about Nehemiah and the times he lived in. I wish I knew how to import a chart onto this blog but since I don't, you'll have to bear with me. Judah had been taken into captivity by Babylon at the end of II Chronicles (this was after repeated attempts by God to get them to repent and turn back to Him). The last few verses talk about how God stirred up King Cyrus, the King of Persia, to allow Ezra (book before Nehemiah) to go back to Jeruselum to rebuild the temple. Basically, Babylon took Judah captive and after 70 years, Persia overthrew the Babylonian empire. So now Judah was under the Persian empire. Daniel (who was taken in the Babylonian capture and served during the 70 yr. captivity and into served in the beginning of Persia's reign too), Ezra, Esther and Nehemiah all lived in roughly the same time period. Ezra dealt with the Persian kings Cyrus, Darius I, Ahasuerus (who was also Esther's husband) and Artaxerxes I (who was king during the events of Nehemiah). So Ezra returning to rebuild the temple, Esther becoming the Queen and saving the Jews from destruction, and the event in Nehemiah basically take place in about a 77 year span of time.

If you want an even deeper picture of what was going on, Zechariah and Haggai were prophets during the time of Ezra and Malachi was the prophet during Nehemiah's time. I personally find it fascinating how the Bible all works together. :)

Anyway, now that you have a bit of historical background, let's look at chapter one. The book starts out by telling us in verse one that it is written in the words of Nehemiah. At this point, the only thing we know about Nehemiah is that he is the son of Hacaliah (and frankly, that doesn't help me all that much!). Next we are told the time and place where the whole thing got started: it was the month of Chislev, in the 20th year (of what I'm not sure - maybe Persia's reign???) and he was in the city of Susa. If you have studied Esther at all, the city of Susa should sound familiar. Nehemiah's brother and some other men from Judah (remember that in Ezra a remnant of Jews had returned to Jeruselum to rebuild the temple and there were also some Jews who had escaped the original captivity and apparently were living in the area). So Nehemiah asked after the Jews.

The news he got was not good - yes, the temple was rebuilt BUT the walls were still all broken down and the gates were non-existent. Nehemiah's response to this news is immediate. In the very next verse it says, "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."

Why was Nehemiah so upset about some broken down wall? Well, in our society the importance of walls is not that big of a deal, but in ancient times walls were extremely important. They served not only served as practical protection for a city, but they were also a symbol to the neighboring cities and villages of salvation, security, protection and power. The following link has some intereseting facts about ancient walls but keep in mind the person writing it is not a Christian : http://www.suite101.com/content/walls-of-the-ancient-world-a139354

In verses 5-11, we see Nehemiah's prayer. In verse 5, Nehemiah praises God for who He is and throws in the reminder that God is a covenant keeping God. Then Nehemiah asks that God listen to Him as he confesses. Nehemiah doesn't just confess his own sin but the sin of his people. He makes it personal. This is no case of pointing fingers - Nehemiah completely humbled himself before God and threw himself and his people at God's mercy. Next, we see him remind God of God's promises to His people, of His covenant. He gives all the credit for any good things to God. Then, finally, he asks God to go before him and make him successful when he is before this "man."

Up until now, we don't really know who Nehemiah is or what he does, and now we are given the man. The next words tell us who this man is: "Now I was the cupbearer of the king." Does that give you chills like it did me?

Nehemiah happens to be in Susa; he happens to run into this group of people from Judah; they happen to tell him about the broken down walls; Nehemiah is completely broken because of it - he has a heart for his people; and he just happens to have the ear of the king. Now what do you suppose the chances are that the one man who has the ear of the king would hear about the need for a new wall and not just feel sad about it but want to do something about it? Not very likely. The cupbearer had a special relationship with the king. He tasted the king's wine/beverages to check for poison so the king trusted and relied on him, and because he was in the king's presence so much, the cupbearer was often a confidante of the king. Nehemiah was in a place of influence with the king, not by accident, but so God could accomplish His plans both for His people and for Nehemiah in particular.

This brings me to some application. You aren't where you are by accident. You have a unique realm of influence and can reach people that nobody else can. Even the most humble of jobs has a sphere of influence. Look at Exodus 1 and you can read the stories of two midwives who feared God so much they defied the Egyptian king. Without their courage Moses would never have lived to adulthood to lead the children of Isreal. Don't doubt God's plan and purpose for you. God can use anyone with a willing and humble heart who is willing to follow God. It says God is actively looking for those who will serve Him with their whole hearts.
~Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This past Sunday, our Sunday school class was listening to a tape of John Piper. It was entitled "Is God An Egomaniac?" I know, I sort of blinked a couple times, too. My first thought was "Of coure not!"

As I listened to him, he dug deep into the Scriptures and came out with nuggets of truth that really resonated with me. First of all, he quoted several famous people (well, apparently they are well-known but I hadn't heard of most of them from under the rock where I live - except Oprah). He quoted them as saying that all the verses in the Bible about God's glory and how everything is FOR God's glory turned them off. I think C.S. Lewis (who didn't come to Christ until he was almost 30 years old) was the one who said it sounded like an old woman asking for compliments. Ouch!

The truth is that God is the most God-centered being in the entire universe, and ultimately everything is for HIS GLORY. That is the bottom line purpose. It's also the reason we were created - to worship HIM. As I heard that something in me went "Wait! What about me? Don't you have a purpose and plan for ME? Don't you take delight in ME? Don't you love ME? Didn't you die on the cross for ME? What about MY joy?" You see the theme right? Here's a hint - all the pronouns are personal.

I started to wonder about the image the Bible gives us of God as our Father and how in the world did THAT play into God's glory being the bottom line for everything. I mean, how many parents are all about their own glory and worship? (okay - don't answer that!)Then God nudged me to think about the child who is made the center of the universe. You've met him or her right - the little prince or princess who rules the small kingdom of their home with a tiny, iron fist. Is that child truly happy? The answer is no, not really. They may want to be the center of everything but it doesn't bring happiness - it usually just brings tears and tantrums.

Have you ever had someone tell you that YOU are their reason for living? That you are their whole world? Personally, I don't want that kind of responsibility. It's too big of a burden to carry and it isn't something that God wants us to carry. We weren't created to be IT. It is a strange fact, that with God things often seem the opposite of what our human natures want or crave. To be first, you have to last. To be a leader, you must serve. To keep your life, you have to lose it. It all seems backwards, but in my own times of worship and prayer I have found a curious thing. When I am humbled and broken and bowed low, that is when God raises me up. I have never had greater joy than at those moments of greatest humility and worship when I really see God's magnifigance and how big He truly is.

Lately, I have found Christianity, as a whole, to be very self-focused. It seems to be all about individual growth or issues; about what brings individual Christians fulfillment. Now I am all for spiritual growth, and I think it is very healthy to deal with our baggage and issues. I believe God wants us to be free but the purpose is to serve and glorify Him - not continue to stare at our navals. We were created to find joy in our insignifigance. Think of the last time you saw something truly breathtaking in nature - maybe it was the Grand Canyon or a sky full of stars. Did you think all about yourself and how awesome you were? Nope. It was this feeling of something or Someone so much bigger than you that brings a breathtaking joy. John Piper ended by saying how our great joy intersects with worship and glorifying God. I couldn't agree more.

I love the song by Chris Tomlin called "I Will Rise." One line goes "before my God/fall on my knees and rise." And that is how it is - to rise, we must bow low.

"I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be in my mouth. The humble shall hear it and rejoice." Psalm 34:1,2

Rejoice with me and worship our great big, awesome, spectacular God! You just might find it's the happiest you've ever been!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, September 10, 2010


Sometimes, I take for granted that I was born in America, that I can choose where I want to live, what I want to do and Who I want to worship. I don't go to bed at night fearing that someone will storm into my house, drag me and my family out of bed and kill us execution-style. If I lived in the Middle East and was a Christian, that would be a part of my reality. I'd not only fear for my life and that of my husband and children, but my home and possessions, my livelihood could be wiped out, and nobody would care. I would not get justice, probably ever.

In recent news, the pastor who is planning to burn the Koran has taken over internet headlines. Talk radio show hosts and news anchors are weighing in on the controversy. There are all kinds of reasons given why this is a bad idea from simple political correctness (mustn't ever offend anyone) to actual safety issues for our military, Americans and Christians in the Middle East.

I posted about this on a moms online board and was sort of surprised at the response I got - everything from "I can't believe you feel sorry for those people" to "we have the right as an American to do that" to "in the Old Testament the idols, etc. were torn down and burned - how is this different." For a moment, I felt like a flaming liberal or something! lol It's been bothering me though. I wondered if I had fallen into the trap of political correctness or maybe was sliding into the idea of appeasement - as in let's not make Islamic extremists angry so they won't do anything. And let's face it, if you look at what happened with Europe and Hitler, appeasement just doesn't cut it when it comes to international relations. And really with tomorrow being September 11th, was it really so wrong to thumb our noses at the people who took down the Twin Towers?

At first, I thought my main concern over this was the fact that once again, Christians would look petty and mean and hateful. That the media would show them as intolerant bigots. And I do think that what we claim to do in Christ's name should be carefully scrutinized. After all, have the nut jobs that have killed abortion doctors really helped the right to life cause?

But the more I thought about this and prayed about why it bothered me so much the more I realized that it came down to hate. Extremist Islamists are known for their hatred of those who are not, particularly Americans. However, if I take myself out of America and my reality for a minute and put myself into the shoes of a young woman born into a Muslim family who has been taught all her life the Koran, and has also been taught to hate and fear Christians how would I view this current event? I would see Christians as hating me back and all my fears would be justified.

Someone also posted that they wouldn't keep a Koran in their home, but would throw it out. Neither would I as I don't believe it is truth. But there is a world of difference between throwing something away and burning it. If I gathered together a bunch of people and had all of them bring, say, any Britney Spears albums, cds, etc. would you think I just didn't want that kind of music in my house or would you think I really, really did not like Britney Spears herself? I think you would probably conclued that I pretty much hated Britney Spears (I don't btw before I get hate mail about that - just an example!) When you take the most important book of a particular religion and burn it in such a public manner the message is NOT that you disagree with that religion. Rather it is that you hate that group of people. I don't want to put words in this pastor's mouth. They may not be his intent at all, but that is how it will be perceived.

And is hate really something Christians want to be known for? Now think back to that young Muslim woman. She may be unhappy in her current situation (not that she would have a lot of choice) She may even want something more than her current religion, but obviously the Christians hate her so maybe the Koran is right after all. Hate never drew anyone to Jesus. That's why Jesus calls us to love our enemies and bless those that curse us - because that is the totally opposite response of human nature.

So I guess that is the bottom line for me. I don't want to be known by hate. I don't want Muslims to think Christians hate them. Yes, I believe their religion is false and hate what it seems to inspire people to do in the name of it. That is why this Koran burning bothers me so much.

"Now therefore there is no condemnation in Christ."
~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I finally finished II Chronicles. It started with the glory of King Solomon's rule -the height of Israel's glory days. By chapter 36, the outlook is very different. The mighty nation of Israel has been split into two warring factions - Israel and Judah which included the tribe of Judah and Benjiman; the temple has been destroyed; the walls of Jeruselum (the walls being a sign of a nation's strength and power) had been reduced to rubble; and both divisions of the once united Israel were in captivity. It's a sad story of a people who had had God's blessing but still went looking to idols; of leaders who let their power and authority corrupt them. Throughout the history, there ARE glimpses of redemption and blessing where God rewarded those who followed Him.

As I looked back over this book, three things stood out to me in bold relief. Once again, as it did in I & II Kings, the importance of wholeheartedness jumped out at me. There were several kings that did right but the Bible notes that they were not wholehearted in their devotion to God. What was the difference between those that just did right and those that were wholehearted? Those that were wholeheartedly devoted to God took action. They sought out the high places and the alters that previous kings and the people built and tore them down. They got rid of the priests that tended these false gods. They rooted out what was such an anthema to God.

The truth is, leadership - particularly when it is spiritual - is something to be taken very seriously. What leaders do or don't do trickles down to those underneath them. I'm sure, even under wicked kings, there were people that still did right, but they were in the vast minority. But when a king did what was right and was wholeheartedly devoted to God, there was often a huge revival in the land. Most of the people jumped on board. I am not any kind of formal spiritual leader but I am a mother. My kids will notice if I am wholeheartedly devoted to God or if it is just lip service. They will note if I allow idols to remain even in the background. I think this is why so many Christian young people turn away as they leave home - they saw only a partial devotion to God in their homes and it struck them as false. As a parent, I can't be perfect, but I can be wholehearted in following God.

The second thing I saw was how many times a king started out following God and doing what was right, even doing it wholeheartedly, when God had made them strong and given them peace, they often started doing things in their own strength and even worshipping false idols. The one that floored me the most was Amaziah. God told him he'd have victory in battle and he did! But no sooner was he back home than he was burning incense to the gods of the people God had just defeated for him. I guess that is why so many times in the Bible we are told to be thankful, to remember where our blessings, strength and success really come from.

Finally, the thing I saw was God's abundant mercy, grace and patience with His wayward people. The Old Testament is often looked at as showing God's justice side and not much mercy, but when I began reading it, that really wasn't true. Over and over again, God gave even the wickedest kings the opportunity to repent. Some took Him up on it, but most didn't. In the final chapter of II Chronicles in verse 15 we see the evidence of God's mercy, "The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messangers because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place."

The chapter ends seventy years into their captivity and once again God gives new hope and mercy to His people. It ends with an invitation from the most unlikely of sources - the king of Persia, Cyrus. "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jeruselum, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be wtih him, and let him go up!"

What a comfort to know that no matter how far off the path we get, no matter how deep into captivity we fall, God grants us His forgiveness, His mercy and His grace when we truly repent and seek Him.
~ Blessings, Bronte