Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Franciscan Christmas Blessing

I think this is a wonderful Christmas blessing

May God bless you with discomfort...
at easy answers, hard hearts,
half-truths, and superficial relationships.
May God bless you so that you may live
from deep within your heart
where God's Spirit dwells.

May God bless you with anger...
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people.
May God bless you so that you may
work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears...
to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
May God bless you so that you
may reach out your hand
to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with
enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference
in this world, in your neighborhood,
so that you will courageously try
what you don't think you can do, but,
in Jesus Christ you'll have all the strength necessary.

May God bless you to fearlessly
speak out about injustice,
unjust laws, corrupt politicians,
unjust and cruel treatment of prisoners,
and senseless wars,
genocides, starvations, and poverty that is so pervasive.

May God bless you that you remember
we are all called
to continue God's redemptive work
of love and healing
in God's place, in and through God's name,
in God's Spirit, continually creating
and breathing new life and grace
into everything and everyone we touch.

Source: "Troubadour: A Missionary Magazine," published by the Franciscan Missionary Society, Liverpool, UK: Spring 2005.  Posted on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website.  Visit that site for other good Advent and Christmas worship resources.  

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Greatest Gift

I remember waiting for Father Christmas to arrive when I was little, listening so hard I could hear the sleigh bells. How vivid are your Christmas memories? The sense of expectation and excitement lessened as I lost the wonder of innocent simplicity and belief in Santa. I remember my sister telling me there was no such person and I refused to believe her, knowing I would have to ‘grow-up’!

But regret for lost memories made me think.

I am a child of God. The real Christmas story is no made-up fable.  Jesus came; born into the world to take the weight of my sin upon Himself on the Cross and so restore my relationship with God our Father. How amazing is that!

The wonder and excitement of childhood Christmas’s can only be a pale imitation of the real joy of walking with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The thrill of those lumpy parcels under the Christmas tree can’t be compared to the Gift that my Father has given me in Jesus, my Companion, Best Friend, Saviour and Lord.

Instead of sadly looking back at lost childhood Christmas’s, I can look forward with confidence, knowing that whatever the future holds, I am loved unconditionally by One who longs for us to trust Him and give our lives into His safekeeping.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. John 3 v 16

The greatest Gift of all is waiting for each of us this Christmas – Jesus. Will you join me here at St Martin’s in discovering Him, in the year ahead?

Happy CHRISTmas,
Love Jane W

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Going Hungry This Christmas

Christmas for many is a time of excess, for example did you know that most people gain around 5lbs over Christmas, having consumed 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone? But whilst many will be gorging themselves on food and drink, there will be many in our community who will be going hungry this Christmas.

The Archbishop of Canterbury revealed this week how he was left more shocked by the plight of Britain’s hunger-striken poor than by suffering in African refugee camps, not because the suffering is worse, but because it was so unexpected. Britain is one of the world’s wealthiest countries in the world, yet 4.7 million people are facing food poverty. Here in Walsall there are at least five food banks, and according to The Trussell Trust three new food banks are opening every week across the country.

Redundancy, illness, low income, benefit delay, domestic violence, debt, family breakdown, financial pressures caused by rising food and fuel prices are just some of the many reasons why people are having to rely on food banks. People are going to food banks not out of choice, but out of need. Of the 913,138 people who were given emergency food and support between 2013-14, 333,205 were children. Tragically the need is only going to increase, as the financial challenges facing the country deepen.

At Christmas we recall how Jesus was born in poor and humble circumstances, and how Mary and Joseph were dependent upon the support that others gave them. We have a moral duty to support the hunger striken-poor.

There are a number of practical things you can do. You can donate food to one of the food banks here in Walsall – for details about your nearest food bank visit www.blackcountryfoodbank.org.uk or phone 01384 671250, or alternatively bring donations of food to the church for The Glebe Centre, which supports the homeless in Walsall. You can also support the work of The Big Feed, held at Midland Road Baptist Church in Walsall, which feeds up to 100 people every Sunday. They require donations of food, people to help cook meals at home (which are then frozen & collected during the week), or volunteering to go down to Midland Road Church to talk to the guests (contact Mandi on 01922 643946 for more information).

Despite the huge number of people facing food poverty, we can do something about it, and in serving others, we serve Christ.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:35-36, 40               

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Christmas Truce December 24 1914 & the coming of Jesus

During 2014, there have been a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

One of the most moving and powerful memorials was the Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red installation at the Tower of London, where 888,246 poppies filled the moat, representing every single British and Colonial military fatality during the war.

On the 12th December Prince William unveiled another memorial to the First World War, this time a permanent one at the National Memorial Arboretum, to commemorate one of the most extraordinary events of the First World War, an event which took place on Christmas Eve 1914.  The war had been raging for 5 months, and had already claimed 1 million lives, but on Christmas Eve 1914 something extraordinary happened. 

Soldiers wrote letters home, describing what happening during that Christmas truce. 
On the 31st December 1914, the Evening Mail in Newcastle printed this letter. 

'On Christmas Day one of the Germans came out of the trenches and held his hands up.  Our fellows immediately got out of theirs, and we met in the middle, and for the rest of the day we fraternised, exchanging food, cigarettes and souvenirs.  The Germans gave us some of their sausages, and we gave them some of our stuff.  The Scotsmen started the bagpipes and we had a rate old jollification, which included football in which the Germans took part.  The Germans expressed themselves as being tired of the war and wished it was over.  They greatly admired our equipment and wanted to exchange jack knives and other articles.  Next day we got an order that all communication and friendly intercourse with the enemy must cease but we did not fire all that day, and the Germans did not fire at us.’
Where the truce took place, it lasted on average two or three days, with some parts of the front seeing the truce extended to New Year’s Day.  There is even some evidence to suggest that a truce of sorts existed until March.

Not everyone experienced the truce.  It wasn’t universal, fighting continued along parts of the Western Front, but for those who did witness it, it must have been an extraordinary and unforgettable experience.  The Christmas truce was a breakthrough of peace.  For a short while there was a glimmer of hope that the fighting could end.

The birth of Jesus is also a story about how peace managed to breakthrough into the world. 
Jesus was of course no ordinary baby, he is Immanuel, God with Us.  The prophet Isaiah foretelling of the birth of Jesus said that “he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6).  And when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds they sang peace on earth.” (Lk 2:14) 

The message of Christmas is that true peace can only be found in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  The peace that Jesus brings is not just for a moment, not even for a day, it is for a lifetime. 

The baby born on that silent night, in Bethlehem so long ago, went on to model a life of love and forgiveness, through his actions and his teachings, and through his death and resurrection he reconciled us to God. 

Through Jesus we can experience:
  • Peace with God (spiritual)"Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" ’ (Romans 5:1) 
  • The peace of God (emotional) "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
  • Peace with each other (relational) "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9 KJV).

This peace Jesus offers us comes with the knowledge and understanding that
  • we’re loved unconditionally
  • we’re forgiven
  • that Jesus is with us, no matter what difficulties or challenges we may face in life
  • that our eternal future is secure, when we give our lives to Jesus

The peace brought by the 1914 Christmas truce did not last, but the peace that God sent to us in Jesus endures.

The same Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, and who walked on earth two thousand years ago wants to walk with us into every situation, bringing peace, love and hope for the future.

All we need to do to receive this peace, is to open our lives to Jesus, to say to Jesus, “I want you to be Lord of my life”.  In the Bible it says, "It makes no difference who you are or where you're from - if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open"  (Acts 10:35 MSG)

‘Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation.’ (2 Thess 3:16) Amen.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Nehemiah 8 - God Wants FAT Christians


  • Are you a FAT Christian?
  • God wants FAT Christians


  • Final sermon on Nehemiah in this series, although still 6 more chapters left in book
  • Nehemiah 8 – key point in the whole story
  • If you thought Nehemiah was just a story about rebuilding some walls, you are wrong.  Nehemiah is about
    • Vision
    • Faithfulness
    • Prayer
    • Courage in the face of opposition
    • Leadership
    • Unity
    • Spiritual renewal
  • Nehemiah not just concerned about repairing some walls, the vision all along was to see the spiritual renewal of not just Jerusalem, but the whole of Judea. 
  • Although God had enabled them to build the wall, the work wasn’t complete until the people had rebuilt their lives spiritually.


  • In the first sermon in this series, we compared the challenge facing Nehemiah with the challenge facing the church today.
    • Aging congregations
    • Declining church attendance
    • Fewer clergy
    • Change in family life
    • Sunday – day for shopping, visiting relatives, sporting activities
    • Christianity loosing it’s place in life of nation


  • If there is to be a church in a generation’s time how do we meet these challenges?  It’s important we have
    • Good welcome
    • Radical inclusivity – Gospel is for everyone
    • Lively worship
    • Relevant teaching
    • Authentic relationships, where love is genuine & forgiveness shown
    • Faithful
    • Available
    • Teachable
  • What is the point about being concerned that the world isn’t more Christian, if we are  untroubled that we aren’t more Christlike?
  • Are you a FAT Christian?
  • What will help the church grow, are people who are passionate about their faith & committed to being followers of Jesus.


  • How often is the word Christian used in the Bible?
    • 3 times Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16
  • How often is the word Disciple used? - 250 times
  • We need disciples not church goers
  • A disciple is a pupil, leaner, apprentice. 
  • A disciple is a FAT Christian, someone who is Faithful, Available & Teachable
  • David Watson: “Christians in the West have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The vast majority of western Christians are church-members, pew fillers, hymn singers, sermon tasters, Bible readers, even born again believers or Spirit filled charismatics, but not true disciples of Jesus… If we were willing to learn the meaning of discipleship and actually to become disciples, the church in the West would be transformed, and the resultant impact on society would be staggering.  This is no idle claim.  It happened in the first century.”
  • In Nehemiah 8 we see how people were Faithful, Available & Teachable. 
  • This event took place only a few days after the building project was completed, and on the first day of the 7th month – the Jewish New Year.  Significance of a fresh start, new beginning.
  • The people were enthusiastic.  The demand to hear the Scriptures read came from the people, rather than the leaders.  ‘They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses.’ 
  • All the people came together as one & Ezra read from the book of the Law from day break to noon. 
  • They craved for God’s word, as hungry people long for food.  And they were attentive to it.   They expected God to speak directly through the Scriptures.  There was a vitality and urgency about their listening.
  • How does this compare to us?  Are we hungry for God’s word? Do we listen attentively to it?
  • Bible reading survey of church last year showed that 8% admitted to never reading the Bible. 60% only read the Bible several times a month. 12% several times a week & 20% daily.
  • Not only must we listen to God’s word, we need to apply it to our lives.
  • Chick Yuill when we read Scripture we need to ask 4 questions:
    • What’s God doing here?
    • What does it tell me about Jesus?
    • What does it say to me as a disciple?
    • What difference will this make to me tomorrow?
  • We need to be Faithful, Available & Teachable.
  • Like the people in Nehemiah when they heard the word of the Law read to them.  They responded to it, in worship, in praise, and in penitence.  ‘They bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.’
  • We will only impact the world, if we take seriously our faith.  If we take the call to discipleship seriously.  If we’re not passionate about our faith, then why should others be?

  • This means serving God on our frontlines.
  • If all our mission & strategies are focused solely on what we do in the church – services, meetings, home groups, etc., then we will make very little impact on the world.  (Show slide of dots in corner)
  • Graham Cray – “There is no way to re-evangelise this nation apart from the impact of the daily lives of ordinary, everyday Christians.” 
  • If ASA is 80 adults, and each person meets on average 30 people a week (very conservative) – that would be 1600 a week. 
  • What difference would it make if we were all committed to living our Christian lives as disciples of Jesus on our frontlines? 
  • 168 hours per week - sleep for 48 – leaves 120
  • Unless employed by church maximum amount people can give to gathered church activities (worship, fellowship & outreach) is 10 hours per week
  • This leaves 110 hours – life at home, life at work, life with friends, life of leisure. 
  • How can we make the biggest impact for God? In the 10 hours of church based activities, or the 110 hours amongst our family, friends, at work, & leisure?   

  • What do you think matters most to God? The church based activities we do, or what we do with the 110 hours per week.
    • Bishop of Ripon, speaking to man who introduced himself as church warden. After conversation Bishop was told this man was town planner for the largest urban area in the diocese.  What job was more important? 
    • Where are they likely to have biggest impact, as Sunday school teacher 1 hour per week, or teaching in school?
  • God doesn’t want church goers, he wants FAT Christians.  People who are Faithful, Available and Teachable.  People serious about being followers of Jesus & making a difference for him on our frontlines.
  • If we are really committed to being disciples of Jesus, it will not only transform the church, but transform our world.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Nehemiah 6: Stand Firm, Do Not Fear & Trust

This is a sketch of a sermon I preached on Nehemiah chapter 6.  After praying about what to preach on, I felt very strongly that there were three things Jesus wanted me to talk about for people in the church who are going through a tough time - that is to Standing Firm, Do Not Fear and Trust.  Whilst I followed the general structure of this sermon, I preached unscripted and used a lot more personal stories and illustrations than appear below, however I hope that what is written below may be of use to some people. 


Life can be difficult & challenging. 
  • Health problems
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial concerns
  • Worries about work
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Isolation

Being a Christian, does not mean we’re immune to these problems. 

Billy Graham – “The Christian life is not a constant high.  I have my moments of deep discouragement.  I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say ‘O God, forgive me, or help me.”

When you are going through a tough time, just getting through the day can be a struggle.

If you are going through a hard time at present, there are three things I believe Jesus wants to say to you –STAND FIRM, DO NOT FEAR and TRUST.
  • We can stand firm, because Jesus is with us
  • We do not need to fear, because Jesus is with us
  • We can trust, because Jesus is with us

In the book of Joshua (1:9) it says Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 
And Jesus said ‘Remember I am with you always.’ (Matthew 28:20)
Nehemiah knew all about what it was like to face opposition and challenges, but he was someone who STOOD FIRM, REFUSED TO GIVE IN TO FEAR, and who TRUSTED in God.

The Story So Far

  • 586BC Jerusalem razed by the ground by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jews taken into captivity - Babylonian Exile or Captivity. Tiny remnant remain in Jerusalem.
  • 538BC first wave of Jews return to Jerusalem following decree by Cyrus II of Persia, work begins to Temple in led by Zerubbabel.
  • 516BC 2nd Temple rebuilt
  • 455BC 2nd wave of returnees led by Prophet Ezra
  • 444BC Nehemiah returns (94 years after first Jews returned)
  • City in ruins
  • Nehemiah leads rebuilding of city walls. Nehemiah Tackles problems of injustice, Jewish nobles oppressing the poor – order cancellation of all debt & mortages
  • Chapter 6 – walls rebuilt, only doors needed to be reset in the gates. 

Opposition to Nehemiah

Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab, see rebuilding of Jerusalem as threat to their own power in region.  Do all they can to disrupt rebuilding of the walls.


Nehemiah faced three plots
  • Intrigue (6:2-4)
  • Innuendo (6:5-9)
  • Intimidation (6:10-14)

Intrigue (Nehemiah 6:2-4) – STANDING FIRM

  • Seemingly innocent invitation sent 4 times.  Would take Nehemiah away from Jerusalem where he’d be vulnerable to attack
  • But Nehemiah STOOD FIRM.
  • He was a man of prayer & discernment, and he knew that they wished to harm him.  He would not allow anything to distract him from the task God had given him. 
  • “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (6:3)
  • Nehemiah would not allow anything to distract him from the task God had given him to complete. 
  • When we are facing tough times, we need to stand firm, and not allow ourselves to be distracted, from what God has called us to. 
  • Even seemingly good things, can if we’re not careful distract us. 
  • There was a missionary in China whose abilities were so outstanding that an American company tried to hire him. They offered him an attractive job with a salary to match, but he turned it down. He told them that God had sent him to China as a missionary. He thought that would end the matter, but instead they came back with a better offer and an increase in salary. He turned that down too, but again they came back, doubling the financial package. Finally he said to them, “It’s not your salary that’s too little. It’s the job that’s too small!”  He stood firm. 
  • God has called each of us to a great task. This is true of every believer in Christ. To be his witnesses in the world.  To serve Him on our frontlines.  That is our calling.  This means STANDING FIRM when times are tough. 

Innuendo (Nehemiah 6:5-9) – DO NOT FEAR

  • After failure to get Nehemiah to leave Jerusalem, they try to slander him.
  • Open letter sent – claiming Nehemiah planning to revolt and declare himself king
  • Power of rumours – ‘It is reported among the nations..’ – i.e. “Everyone is talking about it”, “Lots of people say…”  This is why gossip and rumours can be so damaging. 
  • When criticised, especially when it’s unfair, it’s easy to get distracted, want to defend myself and lick my wounds, even quit. But Nehemiah didn't allow himself to be distracted by the criticism.
  • Nehemiah’s he refuses to get drawn into pointless argument, which would have distracted him from his main task.  Nehemiah instead simply dismisses the claim “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (6:8)
  • Gossip and rumours can be very damaging.  Which is why before we say or write something we should always THINK:
    • T--Is it true?
    • H--Is it helpful?
    • I--Is it inspiring?
    • N--Is it necessary?
    • K--Is it kind?
  • Nehemiah realised there strategy was to make him afraid.  But he refused to give into fear
  • Many people live paralyzed by fear. Fear of what others are saying about them, or what they might say about them.  Or fear about the future. 
  • Nehemiah refused to allow his actions to be dictated by fear of what others thought or said. 
  • Nehemiah knew that God was in charge of the situation, so why give in to fear.  Instead his response was to turn to God in prayer, asking God to “Strengthen my hands”. 
  • If you are facing a difficult situation, and feeling fearful and anxious, it is worth remembering these words from Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
  • Phrase ‘Do Not Fear’ is repeated 365 times in the Bible – one for each day of the year.
  • The reason we do not need to worry is because God is faithful and just. 
Intimidation (Nehemiah 6:10-14) - TRUST
  • Nehemiah went to house of Shemaiah – who warned Nehemiah that men were coming to kill Nehemiah, and to hide in the Temple.
  • Sounds reasonable, but Nehemiah sees through plot. 
  • To run into the Temple would have not only undermined his authority as a leader, but it would have been in violation of God's Law – only priests allowed in temple. Although Shemaiah uses religious talk, Nehemiah sees through it.  Shemaiah is a false prophet, on Sanballat’s payroll. 
  • Nehemiah’s response was to say “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” Despite the threats, and intimidation Nehemiah chose to TRUST God, and turned the situation over to God in prayer. 
  • Trusting God can transform our lives.  But what does it mean to Trust God?
  • Trusting God is simply believing that He loves you, He’s good, He has the power to help you, He wants to help you, and He will help you.
  • Proverbs 3:5,6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths
Nehemiah faced a lot of opposition, but he STOOD FIRM, DID NOT GIVE INTO FEAR, and TRUSTED in God. 
The reason he did this is because it was rooted in his relationship with God.  His character, how he responded to the challenges he faced, was shaped by the God he worshipped and followed. 
It is only if we spend time in the company of Jesus, that we will be able to develop the character of Jesus, so that when tough times come our way, we can STAND FIRM, NOT GIVE INTO FEAR, AND TRUST GOD, like Nehemiah did, and more importantly like Jesus did.
Because Nehemiah stood firm, did not give into fear, and trusted God, the walls were completed in record time.  Nehemiah did in 52 days, what no one had managed in 94 years, to rebuild the walls.  Even his enemies recognised that this work had been done with the help of God.
If God can use Nehemiah to set right a 94 year old problem in less than 2 months, then what can God do through you and me?
As God’s people we can stand firm, because Jesus is with us
We do not need to fear, because Jesus is with us

We can trust, because Jesus is with us – not matter the challenges we may face.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Sermon on Nehemiah 2

Sermon preached by Margaret Carter

When l looked at the bible verses l felt unsure what to write about. There didn’t seem very much to Nehemiah 2, basically Nehemiah feels sad, speaks to the king, he goes off and the wall is built, end of.

But in thinking and praying about it over the weeks l think it’s fundamentally about four main characters, Nehemiah, Ezra, the King and God and their relationship to each other.

Firstly the relationship between Nehemiah and God
1.    So the relationship between Nehemiah and God:
Nehemiah was a layman, not a priest like Ezra nor a prophet like Malachi. Before he did anything he prayed. He is a man who talked to God naturally about anything and everything. Nehemiah always begins his prayers by praising God. He praises Him for his faithfulness in keeping his covenant of love that he had made with his people of Israel.
2.    Nehemiah and Ezra
Both men were in Jerusalem during the reign of Art-er-serk-seas. They probably knew each other but the bible doesn’t specifically state this as fact. Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries and very different to one another. There are many unique characteristics about Nehemiah and we often feel we know him. He is much more candid about his feelings than Ezra. They are often compared but Ezra always comes off worst. Both are described as being prayerful and faithful. However Nehemiah is said to be the people person, more readily liked than Ezra. Nehemiah was sociable, emotional, practical and a brilliant organiser. It wasn’t hard to like Nehemiah. Ezra was quiet and retiring devoting much time to prayer, study and teaching. Nehemiah was a man of action, a forceful leader who mobilised people to accomplish great things. Indeed he is one of the OT greatest models of godly leadership.
3.    Nehemiah and the King.
Nehemiah was a trusted servant of Art-er-zerk-seas, king of Persia. He was his cupbearer. This meant he had to taste the wine before the King tasted it. It couldn’t have been a pleasant job, to taste the wine, literally wondering if your next drink was going to be your last, but it was a very responsible job. It automatically made him a confidant of the King, and he would share things in the relaxed atmosphere of that relationship.

And so in Nehemiah chapter 2, when Nehemiah heard that the rebuilt temple walls had been pulled down again and that the people around Jerusalem were unhappy about the rebuilding of the city, he looked so miserable that the King asked him what was the matter.
In those days the King's servants were expected to keep their feelings hidden and to try to display a cheerful countenance.

Four months passed before Nehemiah found the right opportunity to speak to King Art-er-zerk-seas about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. During this time he prayed and prayed about his conversation with the king. He had four months of praying and fasting to prepare his heart before the Lord.

He knew the whim of an absolute ruler could mean life or death. He was also afraid because he knew that it was the king himself who had stopped the rebuilding earlier in his reign. When the king asked about Nehemiah’s sad expression, Nehemiah first offered a short arrow prayer to God. Then notice that Nehemiah answers the King with a question(v3), like Jewish Rabbis. Nehemiah followed that example. Instead of telling the king what he planned to do, he arouses the King’s sympathy and interest.

Then he told the king that he was sad because the city where his fathers were buried lay in ruins. The king was sympathetic and was pleased to send Nehemiah and only wanted to know how long he would be gone. (He was gone for 12yrs) So Nehemiah went with the King’s blessing and he began his work by inspecting the walls. He walked the walls at night, so as to not attract attention. Now the Jews, who were building the walls had become apathetic and had given up caring about the state of the city. The workers needed mobilising. Nehemiah did this by encouraging, not ordering, using inclusive language like...Come let us rebuild the wall.... Nehemiah’s appeal to the people who were with him was positive, he focussed on the greatness and glory of God. He spoke of we and us not you and them. Nehemiah worked no miracles but he gave the people a new vision of how things could be and God’s sufficiency that caused them to rise up and be motivated to rebuild the wall.

However whenever a work of God begins, there will be opposition, and opposition to Nehemiah came in the form of Sanballat and Tobiah and also an Arab called Gesham, who was an influential leader in Arabia and southern Palestine.

But Nehemiah was not to be deterred. The God of Heaven will give us success, he said. It seems that Nehemiah’s resolve became stronger as he confronted these men. It is often God’s way that; though Nehemiah had many natural strengths, they would soon be tested and refined. We never know what we are capable of until we are tested. If we are truly doing God’s work in God’s way, God will use the opportunity we face, to make us, not break us. Nehemiah was not only able to challenge his own people, he was also able to stand against the enemy and effectively deal with their opposition.

He got on with people and was brilliant at personnel management. He could draw alongside people and encourage them. He shared his own experience of God and how He had helped him to encourage the workers. He could boost morale and help them to be re-energised when they flagged. When inspecting the walls he gave credit to everyone and they completed it in 52 days. There is such a balance in his character...prayerful and practical. Joyful and sorrowful, tough and tender, sensitive to God and to people. An example we could emulate.

Nehemiah always begins his prayers by praising God. He praises Him for His faithfulness in keeping His covenant of love that he had made with his people of Israel. How do we pray? Do we thank God, praise God before asking for what we want?
How do we apply this?
The book of Nehemiah shows us the kind of significant impact one individual can have on a nation. Nehemiah served in secular offices, using his position to bring back to the Jews, order, stability, and proper focus on God.
God uses all manner of people in all manner of places doing all manner of work.
Just for a moment think about the people we have mentioned today:
Nehemiah: Prayerful, successful, sociable, practical.
Ezra: Isn’t a people person. Prayerful, quiet, studious.
King Art-er-zerk-seas: Strong, powerful, Listened, changed his mind, allowed Nehemiah to go.

Which character trait do you identify with, maybe none of them, maybe you’ve never looked at yourself and thought about your own strengths and weaknesses.

Do you feel you must be “in ministry” in order to serve God? Be encouraged; He is not limited by your vocation. In fact, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Think about the verse from John: Whoever wants to serve me, must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where l am. And my Father will honour anyone who serves me. Jesus doesn’t say whoever wants to serve me must have these strengths or those, all he says is serve me and follow me.

In Nehemiah Ch 2: 1-20 we see a message of faithfulness and perseverance.
Nehemiah lived far from his home and yet never gave up hope that someday he would return. He spent most of his life in exile in a pagan land, yet he never wavered in his faith and trust in God. We can learn from the life of Nehemiah valuable lessons in restoring and maintaining our relationship with God.

So for us, our lives scarred by sin and rebellion, there is great hope that God is a God of forgiveness – a God who will not turn his back on us when we look for him in repentance and brokenness. No matter how long we have been away, He is ready to forgive us and receive us back into His family. He will show us how to rebuild our lives and resurrect our hearts. Just praise Him, thank Him and then ask Him.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
We praise you and give you glory:
We bless you for calling us to be your holy people.

We thank you for calling us,
And for choosing us to give you glory.
In a special way we thank you for...

I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. I ask your forgiveness and now turn from everything which I know is wrong, especially....

Dear lord we ask for prayers for the needs of my love ones,
my financial needs, for my children,
for ...
Please come into my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit and be with me forever. Amen

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
We praise you and give you glory:
We bless you for calling us to be your holy people.

We thank you for calling us,
And for choosing us to give you glory.
In a special way we thank you for...

I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. I ask your forgiveness and now turn from everything which I know is wrong, especially....

Dear lord we ask for prayers for the needs of my love ones,
my financial needs, for my children,
for ...
Please come into my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit and be with me forever. Amen