Thursday, October 28, 2010


What a difference a few days make! From the joyful celebration in chapter 8, chapter 9 opens up with "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them."

The next verse talks about the Israelites separating themselves from all the foreigners that were with them. They then stood and confessed their sin and "the iniquities of their fathers." I find that interesting - that they would confess not only their own sins but the sins of their fathers.

This is something I have seen in Scripture over and over again. A person or a group of people seek God's face. They confess not only individually but corporately as well. On the flip side of this we see that worship is also corporate and not just an individual thing.

The rest of the chapter is basically a song that recited teh goodness of God, the sin of their fathers and God's graciousness and faithfulness despite this. From this song, it is fairly obvious that the Israelites clearly see that God treated their people with a lot more grace than they deserved. Several times throughout this chapter God is described as gracious and compassionate. Again and again, they say that their recent troubles in captivity were a result of sin.

The chapter ends with the people getting ready to make an agreement with God, with the leaders, Levites and priests actually signing this agreement that the people would follow God's commands.

I guess this chapter drives home to me the importance of the body of Christ, the fact that we are not just individual believers floating around in some kind of spiritual vacuum. These Israelites truly worshipped God. They saw Yahweh for who He really was and that gave them an accurate picture of themselves and their circumstances.

So many times, I think the current church (as a whole, not one actual church in particular) moans and complains about the state of the world and what is going on around us, but we fail to look at ourselves. We are called to be holy, to be OF the world but not IN it. We are called into dynamic relationship with God on an individual basis but when was the last time you heard God speaking to you? We (speaking to myself here) want to point our fingers at all the issues and problems facing us, but without the sackcloth and ashes of true repentence on our own part.

May God never let me forget His awesome glory and majesty so I can have a clear picture of who I am and the path He has called me to walk!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I always thought the Biblical phrase, "The joy of the Lord is your strength," must come from somewhere in Psalms or maybe Proverbs. It wasn't until a few years ago that I found it in Nehemiah, of all places.

It's interesting that it is in the middle of Nehemiah. Under the circumstances - rebuilding a wall in hostile territory- you'd think other things would be considered their strength. Things like faith or perserverence or fighting come to mind as key ways to stay strong in the Lord, but nope - it lists the JOY of the Lord as their strength.

As you look closer at that statement, it starts to make sense though. It doesn't say joy in your circumstances or joy in your feelings, but joy IN THE LORD. What does that mean?

I think we can see several things that bring us joy in the Lord. In verse one, it states the very first one - unity. It says, "And all the people gathered as one man..." It is hard to have joy in the Lord when you are experiencing strife with other Christians. It sort of just sucks the joy right out of you to carry around anger and bitterness, doesn't it?

The second thing we can see is the people's desire for Truth. They requested the Scriptures. They stood out of respect when Ezra opened up the book of the law and started to read it to them. They listened for HOURS. They listened not only to the law, but teaching that explained what it all meant for them. They sincerely desired that truth - not just to hear it but to really understand it.

This led them to the third thing - true worship. When they heard the truth, they bowed low and worshipped God. True worship of God leads to great joy in simply who He is! We can't experience the joy of the Lord without seeing who God truly is and falling down in awed worship.

The fourth thing we see is their true repentence. They heard the truth; they worshipped God for who He was; a true picture of God gave them a true picture of themselves; this true picture caused a sincere repentence. But their tears didn't last long - Ezra told them to rejoice in God and all that He had done.

The fifth thing we see is their obedience. After sincere repentence, they went and celebrated the Feast of Booths which it says the people had not celebrated since the time of Joshua (which was many generations removed from these particular Jews). The act of obedience brought even more joy.

The chapter ends the way it started - with reading God's law daily. I find in my own life, if I let my time with God go because I am busy or lazy or whatever, my joy seems to slip too. I can't find my joy in the Lord if I don't daily spend time in His presence.

I hope that you can follow the path of truth - true worship - true repentence - obedience - and find that your joy in the Lord truly gives you strength!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, October 22, 2010


There is a miracle waiting to happen. I was feeling a bit down again last night, but I was reminded of what God taught me in my Sunday school class. All the verses He's given me over the past couple months tied in so neatly with the study I'm doing about the Israelites and how only one in a million, out of the two million that left Egypt, ever stepped into the Promised Land.

As I listened to the video of Priscilla Sherer, she was reading in Exodus how God PURPOSELY led the Israelites toward the Red Sea, even though there was an easier/closer route. God has led dh and I to this place ON PURPOSE.

One of the reasons God led them there was so that HIS GLORY could be seen. The poor Israelites looked in front of them and saw the Red Sea. They looked behind them and saw Pharoah's army thundering down on them. They were scared to death that God had led them into a death trap but what they should have been was looking for the miracle.

That reminded me of the verse God kept bringing in my path - Isaiah 43:18, 19, Do not call to mind the former things or ponder the things of the past, for behold, I am going to do a new thing. It will spring forth. Will you miss it? For I will make a road even in the wilderness and streams even in the desert."

I can choose to dwell in the past and ponder it all, but I will miss the new thing God is doing because I'm too busy staring behind me.

Then Moses tells them to 1) not be afraid, 2) stand still, 3) watch and 4) be quiet. Again, the verses about being silent while God fights for you, have come up for me again and again. My natural tendency is to want to explain and defend and fix it. But God says, Be quiet - I got it!

There is no doubt that I need some kind of job. There is no doubt that what happened this spring was unfair. BUT, God led us here, to this place, ON PURPOSE. He has already done some very cool things. I am excited to see what new thing is going to spring forth - how GOD is going to get glory from this whole situation. When I just look at the circumstances, it can seem a bit bleak, but when I look up at God, I get excited about what He is going to do.

I'm ready and waiting for the "go" sign to step out onto the dry sea bed and see the Promised Land!
~ Blessings, Bronte

p.s. back to Nehemiah tomorrow :)

Monday, October 18, 2010


Hey, we are halfway done with reading through Nehemiah. I hope you are learning as much as I am! It is amazing to me that every time I revisit a familiar passage, God shows me something else that is applicable to my life. But then, God is cool like that! :)

At first glance, this is another chapter that has long lists of names. You may be shocked to hear this, but I tend to skim over these chapters. I am not the most patient person in the world, and I have a hard time wanting to read through a bunch of names, but by skimming this chapter, I am missing some key insights that are scattered throughout these verses.

The very first thing I see in verse one is that a wall was not enough. There needed to be gates in place to keep those inside safe and not allow those in that were not safe.

I think the mention of the gates throughout Nehemiah is rather interesting. While a wall was the sign of a city's strength, the wall would have become a bad thing if there was no way to get in and out of the city. In our lives, I think it is Biblical to have boundaries in our lives. We see Jesus had them - He would often go off on His own to get renewed. He never let anyone guilt Him into performing miracles just for the sake of miracles.

But at the same time, Jesus was the ultimate example of healthy relationships. He was open and warm. We see several verses about how children loved Him and came to Him, unafraid.

It seems, as Christians, we tend to be one way or the other - either our walls are so high that nobody can get close OR we are so open that we leave ourselves vulnerable to the enemy's attacks. The answer seems to be well-built and well-guarded gates.

Nehemiah's next move was to put two men in charge of Jeruselum: Hanani and Hananiah (I bet that was confusing! lol) Now the first man was Nehemiah's brother, but his appointment was not an early case of nepotism. It says in verse 2 that the men were "faithful and fear God more than many."

It's so important that the people that are placed in positions of authority are God-fearing men and women. It always comes as a sort of shock to me when I discover a "spiritual leader" isn't all that spiritual or even very interested in what God wants. Nehemiah had the wisdom to know that success depended on godly men being in charge.

In verse 3, we see that Nehemiah was very specific about the gates again. They were to be only opened at certain times and carefully guarded. Not only that, but each guard was to stand alert in front of his own house.

As we get down to verse 5, Nehemiah once again shows himself to be sensitive to God's leading. It says, "Then my God put it on my heart to assmeble the nobles, the officials nad the people to be enrolled by genealogies."

He explains in verse 6,7 where and how people had gotten to Jeruselum. Then from verses 8 through 60 we get the infamous listing of names.

In verse 61, it lists a few folks who did not have any proof of who they were. Even though they claimed to be Levites, because they couldn't prove their genealogy, they were not allowed to serve in the priesthood.

If I wanted to stretch an analogy, I could say this is a sort of picture of the fact that we need to make sure we have solid proof that we are indeed children of God. Without God as our Father, we are excluded from the priesthood too.

Finally, in verse 70 through 73, it gives a list of people who gave to the work of God and what they gave.

The chapter ends with, "And when the seventh month came, the sons of Israel were in their cities." It has a satisfying feeling of "all is right in the world."

What I got most out of this chapter is the need to have boundaries without keeping everyone at arm's length. Ministry and loving others can be painful sometimes. While we need boundaries and we need to be wise about who we let into the gates, I don't believe God ever intended for anyone to just build a wall and not allow anyone inside.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Several years ago, I read an interesting book called The Gift of Fear. In it, the author (I can't remember his name at the moment) stated that we all have an inner alert system to danger that we often ignore. This alert system is the gift of fear.

Now some of us have more highly honed alert systems, some of us appear to have put our systems in sleep mode and others of us have such sensitive systems that they go off at any little thing, like those annoying car alarms.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, if you are a Christian, you have a little bit of an edge that others don't. It's called the Holy Spirit and He gives us discernment that often times we don't hear because we aren't paying attention or we ignore because we think it doesn't sound "Christian" enough.

Now don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean that God wants us walking around in fear. He says the words "fear not" over 300 times between Genesis and Revelation. So obviously, fear is not something we are to be wallowing in; however, that doesn't mean we are supposed to ignore our inner alert system that tells us something or someone is dangerous either.

One of the most fascinating things I found in this book were some of the statistics. I was sort of disconcerted to find, that according to the stats, I had a 1 in 4 chance of being physically assaulted in my life time. Yikes! Good thing I know God is my shield and fortress. But what really struck me is that the vast majority of these assaults could have been avoided, something close to 90%, but the woman had been afraid of appearing impolite or not nice. Interesting.

How many times has the Holy Spirit whispered a warning in your ear and you pretended to be deaf because you didn't want to be perceived as "not nice"? I know I have been guilty of that. Usually it is about something other than a life and death situation. But so many times, we get ourselves into trouble because we don't heed the Holy Spirit's still, small voice.

In Nehemiah 6, we see Nehemiah using that discernment from God to protect himself from Sanballat. First, Sanballat sends a friendly letter, asking Nehemiah to meet so they can "counsel together." On the surface, this seems like a good development, but Nehemiah knows that it is highly unlikely that a man who hates him in particular and Jews in general would suddenly have a change of heart. He knows the real reason behind this letter - to get him alone so Sanballat can dispose of him.

Nehemiah sends a refusal and goes on with his work. There is no excuse or apology - just "no." Sanballat doesn't give up right away. He sends several letters. All are met with a simple no.

Finally, realizing Nehemiah is aware of his schemes, Sanballat removes the mask. He sends a letter that says he will tell the king that Nehemiah is trying to promote himself to king in this area. That might not seem as big of a deal to us, but back then any type of activty that threatened the king's authority was considered treason and was a one way ticket to an execution- yours! Nehemiah recognized the threat in this letter.

I love Nehemiah's response. He doesn't beat around the bush but in verse 8 says, "Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind."

Nehemiah also knows WHY Sanballat is doing this - he wants to frighten Nehemiah to discourage the workers. Nehemiah, as a wise leader, knows that a frightened, scared leader leads to demoralized followers, so he stands firm.

Then Sanballat sinks to a new low - he uses a false prophet to try to lure Nehemiah into a bad situation. Nehemiah enters the house of Shemaiah in verse 10. Shemaiah was the son of a priest who was an intimate friend of Nehemiah's. He had no reason not to trust this man's friendship or his words.

Shemaiah says to Nehemiah, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night."

At first glance, this doesn't seem like a bad idea - find refuge in the temple, but what Shemaiah is really suggesting is that Nehemaiah go into the Holy Place in the temple which was forbidden to anyone who was not a priest, and Nehemiah was NOT a priest.

In verse 12 and 13, Nehemiah says, "Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they coudl reproach me."

Nehemiah knew that if he went into the temple, into the Holy Place, it would be a sin. That would give his enemies ammunition to use against him. It would cause the people to doubt his reverence for God and to doubt his courage. As a leader, he knew that his reputation had to be above reproach and his courage couldn't be questioned because then the people would question if God really told him to build the wall or not.

Nehemiah knew that God would not have had one His prophets tell him to sin. Nehemiah recognized the fear tactic. Throughout chapter 6, we see the enemy trying to use fear to intimidate Nehemiah but he doesn't allow it to happen.

As the chapter closes, we see that Tobiah who had ties to the nobles through marriage continues his campaign to make himself look good and Nehemiah look bad. But most of the enemies simply drift away as they see the wall completed. Even they knew that only God could have brought this about and had no desire to tangle with Yahweh.

Chapter 6 gives us a good look at true leadership - Nehemiah is confident in the work God has called him to. He is not taken in by false offers of friendship or false prophets. He continues to conduct himself with courage and with behavior that is above reproach.

Oh that I might be able to be so bold in following God's call on my life!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Jesus told the disciples that people would know they were Christians by the love they had for each other. I suppose, since this is a big deal it is no wonder that Satan attacks this area so much. How many Christians do you personally know who are known for their love and care for other believers?

Yeah, I don't know that many either. In fact, it has been my personal experience that Christians often treat each other worse than non-believers. It's sad but true. I remember reading somewhere that only about 2% of churches split over actual theological issues, and that usually, the issue is something minor - like the color of the carpet or the location of a new building. If we are to love each other more than ourselves and think of other people's needs before our own - how does this happen? Why is it that in polls and surveys, most non-believers see Christians as petty, mean and bigoted?

Some of that is caused by mainstream media that always seems to portray believers as petty and narrow minded and nasty, but it also has a seed of truth in it. Take for instance the Westboro Church that goes around protesting at military funerals. I can see how that activity says Jesus loves you. (I'm rolling my eyes here) The truth is we, as a church body, have become so me-focused, we don't even see the needs of others.

In Nehemiah chapter 5, the Jews had turned on each other. They had overcome the nastiness of Sanballat and Tobiah. They were carrying their weapons while they did their portion of the wall, but now fellow Jews were taxing other Jews to the point of having to put their children into slavery and losing their lands, possessions and money. Now that sounds loving doesn't it?

Nehemiah stepped in immediately. He did not tolerate the way the people were treating each other. In verses 7 and 8, he throws their actions right in their faces. It says at the end of verse 8, "Then they were silent and could not find a word to say." There was no excuse for what they were doing and they knew it.

Nehemiah didn't just call them on their actions, he made them make restitution for their actions by giving back the lands, produce and money they had taken. He cautioned them strongly about going back to their old ways, shaking his cloak as a visual of what God would do to them if they went back to usury.

Then Nehemiah set a good example. Instead of taking a tax from the people (which was his right as a governor) to feed himself and his staff, Nehemiah refused to take a penny of it. He also showed the people that God provided for he and his household's needs in abundance. Instead of taking advantage of his leadership position, Nehemiah did what good leaders are supposed to do - he protected those who couldn't protect themselves; he demanded justice and he set a good example himself.

You just gotta love Nehemiah!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I hope you have been keeping up with the reading. Sorry for the delay, but we'll get to several chapters this week. In the last chapter, we see that the people are each working on their portion of the wall. They are getting the work done that was specifically assigned to them.

However, in chapter 4, we run into Sanballat and Tobias again. In the very first verse, we read, "Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews." He not only mocked the Jews, but he mocked them in front of others. He tells them how useless their efforts will be, how impossible the task. Tobias, hearing him, joins in and makes fun of the work itself, saying it is so feeble, if a fox walked on it (known for being light on their feet) the whole thing would fall down.

Have you ever been doing what you feel God has called you to do, only to have someone or several someones start making fun of you? If you are doing what God has called you to do, you can expect opposition. There is a theory floating around in Christian circles that if you are just doing God's will everything will be wonderful. Personally, I think people have been watching too much Disney.

Several years ago, I was heavily involved in women's ministries at my church. For some reason, I could never figure out, there were a couple women that absolutely despised me. I went to them numerous times trying to make things right, and things would be okay for a few weeks. But then there would be another meeting, and I would find myself under attack again. I'd leave those meetings feeling like if words were arrows, I'd be bleeding all over the floor.

It seemed the more I pushed to do what I felt God calling me to do, the more opposition I got. I'd like to say I pushed through but I was under the mistaken impression that if I was doing what God wanted me to do it would be easy and I wouldn't meet opposition and I certainly wouldn't have other Christian women at my throat. I quit. I had a convenient excuse so I just quit the field rather than fight. After all, that seemed the more "Christian" thing to do.

When you look at what happens to the workers in Nehemiah, you can see a progression in their attacks. At first it is verbal - they try to discourage the people working, convince them that what they are doing is useless and then making them doubt their competency as builders. When the people continue working, they gather others to them and attack them physically. After prayer, Nehemiah sets up a system of one worker with one defender. People were laying bricks with their sword in their hand.

Nehemiah didn't quit the fight. He didn't tell all the wall builders, "Now let's be nice or send the enemy some muffins." He called them on it. He prayed that God would not even forgive them for demoralizing the workers like they were doing.

I think so many times, in Christian circles, we want to do the loving thing because Jesus is love, right? But the problem is our view of the loving thing is warped. We want to be "nice" instead of loving. Loving means caring enough about someone to step outside our comfort zone to have tough conversations.

If I had the courage of my convictions, instead of continually apologizing to those women, I would have confronted them on their behavior. I would have followed the Matthew 13 protocol of going to them one on one and then bringing in someone else if things didn't change. I would have loved them enough to tell them the truth.

In Scripture it says "the truth will set you free" and true love gets rid of fear. Don't get me wrong - we are called to forgive and to pray for those who hate us and bless those that curse us. I just think that if you look at Jesus' example, love isn't always warm and fuzzy. Sometimes, it's blunt and confrontational.

The other thing we need to remember is that it's okay to work with your sword in your hand. Obviously, in our day and age, we aren't going to be walking around with a real sword, BUT in the New Testament, we are told about a sword - God's Word. When we know truth, we can have the confidence to speak truth in love.

It's really no wonder that church pews have so few men in them. We have made Christianity into something sort of wimpy and watered down. We've forgotten that the battle truly is the Lord's and we are called to be His warriors.

~ Blessings, Bronte