Book Review- Deceptions and Myths of the Bible

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I was looking through the bargin section of my favorite bookstore several years ago and came across a copy of Lloyd M. Graham’s Deceptions and Myths of the Bible. The book was only a few dollars, so I bought it on a lark because it sounded interesting. However, ended up neglected on the bookshelf until I finished reading it this week.

The book jacket states this of the author: “Lloyd M. Graham is a psuedonym. Because of his controversial writings, he does not want his identity revealed. He is a biblical scholar and student of mythology.”

Deceptions and Myths of the Bible is supposed to be an in-depth look at the origins of the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity, yet the “biblical scholar” does not list a bibliography of his sources,which puts his credibility in doubt at the start.

Graham’s basic premise is that the power hungry priestly classes cobbled together the Bible from the mythologies of ancient cultures, including India, Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome and passed off this mythological stew to the widely ignorant masses as “the word of God.” In his criticsim, Graham also incorporates New Age terminology, occult symbology, misapplies the meaning of evolution and the term “involution.” What is supposed to be serious scholarship is thinly disguised venemous and vitrolic speech aimed at the Jews, the Catholic church, and religion in general.

If you have studied any type of biblical literary criticism or read the arguments that the Bible was stolen from pagan sources, you will recognize many of Graham’s arguments. For example, he points out that the story of Jesus has parallels to Osiris, Krishna, Mithra, and others. The same goes for Noah and the flood, Moses, Adam and Eve, and so on and so forth. If this is a topic that interest you, then there are much better scholars out there to explore.

Overall I did not find Graham’s case compelling. Though he does quote some people in the book, the lack of a bibliography as I said, hinders Graham’s credibility. Why did Graham not fully list his sources? Is he trying to hide something while trying to uncover something else? I believe it is healthy to examine what we believe and why we believe it, but Deceptions and Myths of the Bible would not be the place I would start.

Do Not Dwell on the Former Things

Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. While we can look back fondly on childhood memories and the “good ol’ days” in general, nostalgia often clouds our judgment of past events and can be exploited by others. In the United States, politicians and political movements rise because of nostalgia. In a world of increasing technological, social, and political change, these politicians play upon the fears of people, speaking in general terms of how if elected, the country will go back to a simpler time, before all of these changes happened. In essence, they will turn back the clock twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years.

Nostalgia is also big business. One of the constant complaints about Hollywood is “They’ve run out of ideas. It’s all sequels, reboots, and comic book movies.” Of course, not every film will be financially successful, but marketers know that if there is a built-in audience for a movie, that audience will go see it and maybe bring along the next generation. It becomes a vicious circle when audiences reject movies with new and different themes or stories, so Hollywood then has to go back to what makes money. For me personally I too am film nostalgic, as I grew up in the late 1970s/1980s and watched the original Star Wars trilogy over and over. To this day, I can almost quote the movies word for word and I look forward to the new movies in the upcoming years.

If we are not careful, we can fall victim to a “spiritual nostalgia,” where we long for our days before Christ. I know in my personal life the circumstances that brought me to Christ seem less daunting today than what I have gone through with Christ. I do not long to go back to a time when Christ was not in my life. If you are honest with yourself, was high school really that great? Do you really want to go back to the days of brokenness, pain, addiction, hopelessness, and frustration? Probably not. In your “BC” days, you were comfortable in your slavery to sin. Satan had you where he wanted you.

The Israelites complained about how they had it better in Egypt, they had food and water, and how Moses led them out to the desert to die. While the Israelites complained about their current situation, their nostalgia glossed over the fact they were slaves back in Egypt. For over 400 years, the Israelites and their ancestors broke their bodies building monuments of Egypt’s power and glory. Everyday served as a reminder of “We’re great, you’re slaves.” Why would they want to go back to that? Keep in mind that these are the same people who crossed the Red Sea. We must not allow nostalgia for the past to override the present moment. Even in your days before Christ, God’s prevenient grace allowed you to get through the hard times and you will get through this. Once we have crossed our Red Sea, there is no going back to Egypt.

The Apostle Peter fell prey to spiritual nostalgia. John 21 tells the story about how Peter decided to go fishing. Some of the other disciples joined Peter. Keep in mind that this event occurs after Jesus’ resurrection and previous appearances to the disciples. The Bible does not give us details about Peter’s inner dialogue, but maybe it went something like this:

This whole thing with Jesus was nice while it lasted. I left my livelihood and gave up three years of my life to follow Him. What am I supposed to do now? I failed. I failed miserably. I denied Him just like He said I would. One time He even told me ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Maybe I’m not cut out for this whole ministry thing. I’ll go back to being a fisherman. If nothing else, I know how to fish.

However, Peter had an encounter with Jesus and his life and the world has not been the same since. Just weeks after seemingly giving up, the Holy Spirit empowered Peter to preach a sermon that led to 3,000 people to Christ. Peter was also the first apostle to share the Gospel with the Gentiles.

As Christians and as the Church, we must understand that while God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He also does not want to get caught up in the religious bondage of man’s past traditions. We must be spiritually attuned to God’s voice and what He wants to do today. God’s methods may change, just as Jesus did not always heal people or raise people from the dead the same way every time.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

As we go forward with God, let us not long for the past nor fear the future at the expense of the current moment. Let us be mindful and present as to what God is saying to us now. God bless you all.

Finding Comfort in our Repentance

It is a natural human desire to seek comfort in the midst of tragic or difficult circumstances. When we know of someone who has suffered a devastating event such as the loss of a loved one or is dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, we pray that God would comfort their hearts, souls, and minds. Comfort can bring us a peace that transcends understanding. We can also pursue comfort by seeking a certain financial and/or material standard of living.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 4th edition defines Comfort as “1. (V) To soothe in time of affliction or distress. 2. (V) To ease physically, relieve. 3. (N). A condition of feeling or pleasurable ease, well-being, or contentment.” The Bible, of course, has much to say concerning comfort in the sense of consolation and providing solace and support, but we will examine comfort in the sense of strength and repentance. For this post, I will be conducting this word study using the King James Version.

The Hebrew word most often used for comfort is the word, Nacham (Strong’s #5162), which means “to repent, comfort.” More specifically, Nacham means “to make a strong turning to a new course of action.” Repentance simply means going in a different direction. For instance, if you repent of a sin, you go in a different direction by not committing that sin. Comfort is derived from the words Com (with) and Fort (strength). Strong’s Concordance goes on to explain: “When one repents, he exerts strength to change, re-grasp the situation, and exert effort for the situation to take a different course of action.” Thus, repentance and comfort in this particular instance does not place the emphasis on God’s grace, but on our responses and the actions we take concerning our circumstances.

Before we go further, let me state that there are times when God allows difficult circumstances in our lives and what we go through is not always a direct result of our sin. Hence, I am not condemning anyone. We will examine biblical people who brought comfort by turning the situation around, examples of personal strength, and how God brought comfort to wayward ancient Israel.

Noah

From Adam to Noah, humanity grew excessively wicked and God sought to cleanse the world with the Flood. God chose Noah to bring repentance to humanity.

“And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying ‘This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29, KJV, emphasis mine). Here is the first instance of the link between repentance and comfort.

Joseph

If anyone had a right to carry a chip on their shoulder, it would be Joseph. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, falsely accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife and subsequently falsely imprisoned.  Joseph was forgotten about in prison and stayed there longer than he should have been. However, God brought Joseph to prominence and placed him in a position of authority to save countless people during a famine. This famine was used to unite Joseph with his brothers and his father, Jacob. After Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared for their lives, that Joseph was biding his time and would take his revenge after their father died. Joseph’s brothers repented before him, pleading for mercy. Joseph, showed strength and comforted his brothers and explained to them the greater good of what happened:

“And Joseph said unto them, ‘Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spake kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort and Repentance in the Psalms

The Psalms, for me, have always been a source of hope and inspiration. Though some of the Psalms deal with Israel as a nation, the vast majority of the Psalms are personal reflections of people as they dealt with the harshness and trials of life. The writers of the Psalms gave an honest acknowledgement of their sins and the comfort brought on by repentance.

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:3-4, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” (Psalm 71:20-21, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalm 119:49-50, KJV, emphasis mine).

“I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” (Psalm 119:75-76, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort and God’s Judgment of Israel

From the Book of Judges on, a pattern is established in the Old Testament where Israel would fall into sin and idolatry, then God would raise up a prophet, judge, or king to urge Israel to repent of their sins and avoid God’s judgments. There were times when Israel refused to repent and God’s judgments came in the forms of invading armies such as the Assyrians or Babylonians. In the words of the Prophets, you can hear the heart of God, pleading to bring comfort to his suffering children. God would bring comfort when his people repented of their sins, thus, placing the onus on Israel and Judah to change their ways.

“And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:1-2, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1, KJV, emphasis mine).

“What thing shall I take to witness for thee? What thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? For thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?” (Lamentations 2:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

In these words, we have covered only one aspect of comfort, with the emphasis on repentance. There are numerous examples of Nacham being used in the traditional sense of comfort, which I will cover later, Lord willing. If you are going through a painful season, please keep in mind that God has given you all of the tools and opportunities to start anew. Although it cannot change what happened, we do not have to stay where we are at and we can go forward with grace and strength. God bless you all.

Is this the start of Gog and Magog?

As of this writing, tensions have been high between Russia, Turkey, and Turkey’s NATO allies after Turkey earlier this week shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian-Turkey border. Turkey’s government claimed that the Russian jet violated their air space and Russia claimed the plane was in Syria. This incident comes on the heels of a Russian commercial airliner being blown up over Egypt, with ISIS being suspected in the attack. Russia has also stepped up its involvement in battling ISIS in Syria. As I have watched various news reports on these incidents, the thought crossed my mind: Is the stage being set for the Battle of Gog and Magog as prophesied in Ezekiel chapters 38-39?

Before we proceed further, let me state that I am neither a biblical scholar nor an expert on Bible prophecy, I am simply trying to study current events and where they may fit into the Biblical narrative.

All of the nations listed in Ezekiel 38-39- Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, Togarmah, Sheba, Dedan. Tarshish, and Israel- are all 21st Century nations, but many go by different names, which will be explained shortly.  To understand the names in the biblical context of Ezekiel 38-39, we must go back to “The Table of Nations” listed in Genesis chapter 10. After the Flood, Noah’s three sons- Shem. Ham, and Japheth and their descendants repopulated the earth. The following is a listing of the descendants, the nations they started and the modern day names of these nations.

“The sons of Japheth: Gomer (modern day Ukraine), and Magog (modern day Russia), and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, (modern day Turkey), and Meshech (modern day Turkey), and Tiras.” (Genesis 10:2, KJV, emphasis and parenthesis mine).

“And the sons of Gomer: Askenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah (modern day Turkey).” (Genesis 10:3, KJV, emphasis and parenthesis mine).

“And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish (modern day Tunisia), Kittim, and Dodanim.” (Genesis 10:4, KJV, emphasis and parenthesis mine).

“And the sons of Ham: Cush (the biblical name of Ethipoia, which could include an alliance of modern day Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia), and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan. And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah: Sheba (modern day Saudi Arabia), and Dedan (modern day Saudi Arabia).” (Genesis 10:6-7, KJV, emphasis and parenthesis mine).

Of course Iran is the modern name for Persia. Lybia and Israel are also involved in this war. Ezekiel’s prophecy is directed against Gog, the leader of Magog:

“Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say ‘Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armor, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.’” (Ezekiel 38:2-6, KJV).

Keep in mind that Ezekiel prophesied during the time of the Babylonian invasion and subsequent exile of Israel in the 6th Century BC and immediate proceeds Ezekiel’s prophecy about the dry bones and the restoration of Israel in chapter 37. Thus, this battle did not take place during the time our Bible was being written, nor is it about the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, but the Bible states specifically that this will be a war in the Last Days, after the restoration of Israel as a nation, which took place in 1948.

“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.” (Ezekiel 38:8, KJV).

Ezekiel goes on to describe the vastness of the army as “coming in like a storm” and covering the “land like a cloud” (Ezekiel 38:9). Modern day Russia and an alliance of these Arab nations certainly have the resources to amass such a great army.

The battle of Gog and Magog is also mentioned in Revelation 20:8, after Satan is loosed from his thousand year imprisonment, “And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” (KJV).

It is clear from the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin that he has ambitions to increase Russia’s influence in the Middle East, having a long standing alliance with Iran and taking on ISIS in Syria. Also, remember Russia annexed Ukraine in 2014. Russia supplies the vast majority of oil to Europe, if it gains influence and military strength in the Middle East, could it also seize Saudi Arabia’s oil supply? Going back to 2011, governments of Tunisia and Libya were overthrown as Islamic extremist seized power. Going back as far as the early to mid-1990s, there have been tremendous atrocities committed against the people of Somalia and Sudan, and humanitarian crises in Ethiopia, which form the biblical land of Cush. Will all of these nations be invaded and defeated by Russia or will these nations willingly fight with Russia as they plan to invade Israel?

Ezekiel 38-39 states that God will defeat Gog and his military alliance as they try to Invade Israel. With the sheer scope of bloodshed and weaponry listed, only our modern devices of war could achieve such a horrendous scene as described in the Bible. I encourage you to read Ezekiel 37-39 for yourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. Please search out the Scriptures for yourselves and never rely on someone else’s interpretation of the Bible. Please be aware of the times and seasons and watch for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to all of you.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah- Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series on Leadership Principles from Nehemiah. To read part 1, click here https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/leadership-lessons-from-nehemiah-part-1/ or go to the “October 2015 archives.”

Leadership Principle #5- Expect to have critics

Whether it is in our personal lives, our jobs, inside the church, we will run into people who seem to criticize our every move, try to make us second guess our work and to discourage us. Though Nehemiah had obtained favor with the king to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, he encountered opposition from two men, Sanballat and Tobiah, who opposed Nehemiah at every turn.

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, [rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls] they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” (Nehemiah 2:10, NIV). Brackets mine.

“But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?’” (Nehemiah 2:19, NIV).

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall” Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble- burned as they are?’ Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, ‘What are they building- even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!’” (Nehemiah 4:1-3, NIV).

Leadership Principle #6- Don’t argue with critics- stay focused on the Lord and the work

Nehemiah and those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem faced constant opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah, yet Nehemiah did not waste time getting into useless debates and arguments with his critics, instead he spoke the Word of God over the situation, focused on the work at hand and prayed for those who were ridiculed him.

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Nehemiah 2:20, NIV).

“’Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.’ So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (Nehemiah 4:4-6, NIV).

Leadership Principle #7- Deal with problems decisively

Besides the opposition he faced in rebuilding the walls, Nehemiah also had to deal with rumors of armies trying to invade and plots to kill him. In these cases, Nehemiah acted quickly to arm the people working on the wall and discerned when people wanted to harm him. Nehemiah also acted decisively when he found out when Israelites were charging interest to their fellow Jews- which was forbidden in the Law. Because of the interest charged, people had to mortgage their homes, fields, and vineyards just to buy the necessities and to pay the required taxes, which placed hardships on people and their families.

“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are charging your own people interest!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: ‘As far as possible, we have brought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet because they had nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?’” (Nehemiah 4:6-9, NIV).

Nehemiah held demanded that they stop charging interest and made the nobles and priests swear an oath to God. The nobles declared they would give back the money, which they did. Leaders must make difficult decisions daily and must take action when a problem arises because it can create larger problems down the road.

Leadership Principle #8- Don’t demand of your position, be a servant

Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judah and was entitled to an allotment of food. However, Nehemiah new that his allotment of food would cause a hardship on the people to provide, so Nehemiah refused his allotment of food as governor (Nehemiah 5:18). Here, Nehemiah demonstrates the principle of servant leadership in that one should never demand from their position of leadership. Just as Jesus stated that He came to serve and not to be served. As Christians and as leaders, we must live out our leadership responsibilities as servants of Christ.

The Bible tells us that Nehemiah and his people completed rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in fifty-two days. Nehemiah did not allow opposition and obstacles to stand in his way of completing the task the Lord called him to complete. We must remember that God will be with us and guide us during the rebuilding times of our lives as He did with Nehemiah.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah- Part 1

The term “rebuilding” is often associated with professional sports, when a formerly great team has to go through losing seasons with younger players due to star players retiring or moving on to different teams. In ancient times, cities were rebuilt upon the foundations of previous civilizations. In modern times, one building is demolished to make way for a new, usually bigger building. However, rebuilding is not exclusive to the worlds of professional sports or architecture. All of us at one point or another may find ourselves in a state of rebuilding- whether it be from the death of a loved one, a divorce, a financial bankruptcy, illness, addiction, job loss, or anything else that may come our way. Surviving those times will require faith and strength along with God’s grace. In addition to faith, strength, and grace, there are biblical leadership skills we can apply to our situations.

The Old Testament Book of Nehemiah is a prime example of leadership in action during a time of rebuilding. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, which included the destruction of the first Temple and the city walls being destroyed. Eventually, the Medo-Persian Empire supplanted the Babylonians as the dominant world power and the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree for the exiled Jews to return to Israel. Nehemiah served as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes and received devastating news about Jerusalem.

“In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:1-3, NIV).

Leadership Principle #1- A problem is a perfect time for prayer

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV).

 Nehemiah goes on to intercede for the nation of Israel, asking God to forgive them of their sins. Throughout Nehemiah, Nehemiah’s first response to a crisis is prayer. When we are faced with a crisis, we must not cower in fear, but we should come boldly to God’s throne of grace. It is through prayer and fasting, that God will give us the direction we need in a situation.

Leadership Principle #2- God will give us the resources we need

Nehemiah was still very distraught over the state of Jerusalem when he went before the king. The king sensed Nehemiah’s distress and asked him what was wrong. (Keep in mind that anyone who was sad in front of the king could be executed).

 “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’” The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so I can rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:2b-5, NIV).

I believe the Lord placed Nehemiah in such a position of trust and prominence to the king for the sole purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Nehemiah chapter two goes on to state that the king granted Nehemiah’s request and gave him letters to grant him safe passage, all of the timber he needed, and also sent a military escort to accompany him.

 It is important to remember that we cannot overlook the way in which God provides for our needs. For example, say someone wants to go to college and they do not have the personal means to do so. Someone may get discouraged if they do not receive a miracle check in the mail, but they overlook financial aid, scholarships, grants, and other ways to raise money. If the Lord has placed a task on your heart, He will provide you with everything you need to complete it.

Leadership Principle #3- Give God the glory

If we are not careful, pride can sneak in our hearts and we will believe that our abilities accomplished the task. Just as Nehemiah gave the glory to God, so must we give Him the all of the glory.

“And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my request.” (Nehemiah 2:8b, NIV).

  “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:16, NIV).

Leadership Principle #4- Be an encourager

When the Lord calls us to complete a task, He does not call us to go at it alone, but will send people around us. Just as Jesus had his disciples and Paul mentored Timothy, so too did the Lord call people around Nehemiah to help him rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Though leadership of any kind can be a difficult task, the best leaders will try their best to encourage those around them. As a leader encouragement involves others “buying into” the vision God has laid out before you.

 “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began the good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17-18, NIV).

  “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember, the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’” (Nehemiah 4:14, NIV).

            The remaining principles will be shared in the next post.

When Your Dream has been delayed

Dreams can motivate and inspire us. When coupled with the grace of God, dreams can give us the hope to rise above our circumstances. Dreams can inspire others. However, in our fallen world, our dreams can be delayed or denied. The opening of a new business fails because of a downturn in the economy. A promising athletic career is sidelined because of injury. A retirement nest egg is depleted due to a catastrophic illness. A couple wanting to start a family finds themselves in the pains of infertility. All of us, in one form or another, have faced setbacks that have delayed our dreams or stopped them dead in their tracks.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (NIV).

Two such men who faced a delayed dream were Zerubbabel and Joshua in the Old Testament. Ezra chapter one tells of a decree issued by the Persian King Cyrus that allowed the exiled Jews to return to Israel. The return of the Jews brought an end to the seventy years of Babylonian captivity and fulfilled Bible prophecy. Ezra chapter three describes how Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea and Joshua, the high priest, led the people in the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel and Joshua begin by rebuilt the altar, restored worship and burnt offerings

Our Dreams can bring God Praise

“In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priest and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work…When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priest in their vestments and with their trumpets, and the Levites ( the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel, With praise  and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; His love toward Israel endures forever. And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” (Ezra 3:8a, 10-11, NIV).

Our Dreams will face opposition from Satan and from other people

Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the returning exiles were off to a great start. The altar was built, worship and the sacrifices were restored and the foundation of the second temple was laid. However, the return of the exiles was not good news for the hostile neighboring enemies of Israel. After a failed attempt to physically infiltrate and stop the work on the temple, Israel’s opponents set about discouraging the people and wrote letters of opposition to the Persian kings Xerxes and Artaxerxes, the latter of whom commanded the work on the temple to cease.

A Dream delayed can be a Dream restored

The work on the second temple was halted for fifteen years, until the reign of the Persian king Darius, who discovered the previous decree of King Cyrus and issued his own decree in the process allowing the rebuilding of the temple. Those fifteen years must have devastating to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of the people. However, God encouraged Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.

“But now be strong, Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord and work. For I am with you declares the Lord Almighty. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” (Haggai 2:4-5, NIV).

“The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.’” (Zechariah 3:6-7, NIV)

“So He said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty. What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to the shouts of God bless it! God bless it! Then the word of the Lord came to me: The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hand will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.’” (Zechariah 4:6-9, NIV)

Ezra chapter six describes how the temple was restored and dedicated and Passover was celebrated.

Brothers and sisters, how long have your dreams been sitting on the shelf gathering dust? Have you given up hope that your dream will ever come to pass? Have you allowed the voice of the enemy or negative people in your life to deter you? As long as the Lord gives you breath in your body, you have a reason to hope. You can still dream. You can still seek the Lord and find encouragement in His Word. As it says in Zechariah 4:10, “do not despise the day of small things.” (NIV). Start where you are at with the Lord. Maybe one dream has past, but God wants to give you a new dream, He wants to do a new thing in your life. Do not dwell on what could have been, dwell on the Lord and His goodness.