Day 5: Integrity Makes A Difference

Read: Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah faced a difficult choice. The people’s vineyards, lands, and houses were at risk because of outrageous taxes imposed by the king. Now, the people suffered doubly as their own Jewish leaders extended loans with enormous interest rates. Their leaders behaved like loan sharks! Nehemiah could’ve taken the easy way out and kept quiet. Instead, he chose integrity.

When we face a difficult decision, remember Nehemiah’s example. Nehemiah didn’t make assumptions based on one person’s story. He heard several people’s accounts and saw their sufferings (Nehemiah 5:1-5). Nehemiah heard the people’s outcry and pondered them in his mind (Nehemiah 5:7). He didn’t say the first thing that came to mind. He thought carefully about what he was hearing and how to respond. Then, Nehemiah confronted those in authority. His integrity and obedience blessed the people of Israel.

In light of all Jesus has done, how can we respond with integrity and obedience? It’s not that we behave or perform to attain some kind of acceptance with God or others. If you want to know if you’re living with integrity, ask yourself:

  • Do I behave differently based on who is watching?
  • Am I striving to achieve some level of acceptance?

Our integrity matters. We do not have to cave to peer pressure. We can devote ourselves fully to the work God has placed before us. We make a difference with integrity because Jesus already made a difference in us.

Consider This:

When was the last time you were forced to choose between easy and integrity?

Pray:

Help me obey even when it’s tough. Help me to do what’s right even when my reputation is on the line.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 6: The Critics Are Coming

Read: Nehemiah 6

Anytime you want to make a difference, there will be critics. Every difference maker faces opposition. Nehemiah experienced resistance first hand. The critics showed up in Nehemiah 4 as the wall started going up. They continued taunting Nehemiah and his crew throughout the process.

To the critic, rebuilding the wall seemed impossible. They rooted for the Jews to fail. Anytime we take a next step, we experience criticism just as Nehemiah did.

When a friend or relative suddenly becomes our biggest critic, it’s often because the change we are experiencing challenges and convicts them of their own lack of action. For a critic, our success draws attention to their personal failures.

The critics are going to come. We can follow Nehemiah’s example and focus on what God is calling us to do. Or, we can be distracted by the critics who are rooting for us to fail. But, we can’t do both.

Overcoming opposition is about realizing who we are and what we’ve been called by God to do. When we seek God’s voice above all others, we’ll find the confidence to do the work. Just as Nehemiah refused to come off the wall, we must not be distracted from the work God has called us to do.

Consider This:

What’s one step you can take this week to prepare your heart for the criticism that’s sure to come?

Pray:

Jesus, help me stay on course regardless of the criticism I face.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 13: Obeying When It’s Hard

Read: Nehemiah 13

After celebrating the completion of Jerusalem’s wall, Nehemiah finds and excludes all people who are of foreign descent. What is going on here? Why did they do this? Why does the book end this way?

Nehemiah’s decision was not about preserving Israel’s racial heritage. It was about obedience to God. Foreign spouses brought false gods with them and turned the hearts of the people. Nehemiah explains in verses 26-27: “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations, there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”

This exclusion, though drastic, was a way of saying, “Sin led us to captivity. We can’t go back into captivity again. We can’t ever experience the consequences of disobedience again.”

Sin keeps us from experiencing God’s best in our lives. Only through Jesus can we overcome sin and live in freedom. When we live in freedom, we can point others to the freedom Jesus brings. Jesus made a difference in us so we can make a difference to others.

Consider This:

Is there anything holding you back that needs to be excluded from your life?

Pray:

Jesus, help me do whatever it takes to walk closer to you.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Heather’s Prayer for Her Daughter

Pastor Heather Semple, from Red Cedar Community Church in Wisconsin and a friend of Pastor Kevin, shares her story of a very personal affirmation from God through an unexpected prayer request for her daughter. In the midst of what she believed to be a big spiritual risk for her congregation, her obedience and this “surprise” prayer moment left Pastor Heather feeling closer to God than ever.

Today, she believes the more she lives like God’s daughter, the more she experiences His power in her parenting and in her pastoring.

The Risk of Not Praying

Prayer moves things in heaven to move things on earth. When you don’t pray, you risk missing out on the fullness of all God wants to do.  That’s because you can’t have the full engagement of God unless you’re fully engaged in prayer.

If you’re struggling to pray, ask yourself where else you’re struggling in your faith. Is your belief or your obedience faltering?

Phillip Was a Part of a Bigger Story

In the book of Acts, Phillip was obedient to God when He sent him to Gaza. On his way, he met an Ethiopian eunuch and shared the gospel, including the fact that through Jesus non-Jews could now be brought into God’s Kingdom. The eunuch went on to share this in his native land. Phillip never realized the size of the story in which he was playing a part. Today, there are 60 million Christians in Ethiopia!

 

Rich’s Story of Holy Obedience

Rich Schoeck stood at the gas pump, staring at the beat-up car next to his, shaking his head. With $100 in his pocket and a clear prompt from God, there was only one thing Rich could say.

“God, there’s no way this is what you want.”

Saying Yes

Rich’s journey to that gas pump began a long time ago, during a childhood where faith was ritual and a relationship with Jesus was unheard of. But God, in His gracious way, kept coming back to Rich, drawing him through life experience after life experience, steadily calling Rich into a relationship through Christ.

One day, Rich finally said yes.

From that moment, Rich began seeking to develop his relationship with Jesus. A voracious reader, he began studying the Bible and other books about faith and Christianity. Soon, he set aside times for “relationship development” with Jesus – times of prayer and listening for God’s voice to speak, times to break down the walls around his heart.

It was during one of his most recent “relationship development” times that God spoke in a very clear voice.

“I had gone to the bank to get money for my daughter and son-in-law’s birthday,” he says, “and I hear, clear as day, Rich, I need you to get an extra $100 out. That’s an easy one, so I did it. I folded the bills up and went to put them in my wallet, and I hear, No. I want you to put that in your pocket. Another easy one.”

Rich walked out of the bank, got in his car, and heard God again.

I want you to turn down this street.

Is this just in my head?

Rich obeyed, expecting to run into someone to whom he could give the money. Instead, he found no one. He drove around looking for someone – anyone – to bless, desperate to fulfill the God prompt over the cash in his pocket. But he struck out. Dejected, he turned his car around, wondering if he had made a mistake, wondering if he had really heard God or was all this just in his head. He looked down and noticed that his car was almost on empty.

And that’s how he found himself at that gas pump, money in his hand, heart in his throat, scared out of his mind.

“I’m standing there at the pump, and in pulls this beat-up car. The driver is a young mother. She has a teenage daughter sitting in the front seat, and the cutest little boy sitting in a car seat in the back. They pull up, and I hear in my head, I want you to give that $100 to her.

“And my immediate response was simple: ‘That ain’t happening. That’s crazy – and creepy!’

“But God continued to press on me, and I continued to argue, until I finally just said, ‘Okay – if you want me to give this money to her, have her do something outrageous, something like buying on $5 worth of gas.”

Rich watched as the numbers on the young mother’s pump spun and spun until – plunk! – it stopped. And, to the penny, the pump reads $5.00.

“The woman gets back in the car, and her daughter walks up to the register to get something. And I’m still standing there saying, ‘I’m not doing this Lord. It’s just creepy.’ But as the daughter makes her way back towards the car, I hear God one more time, Give the money to her. And in my head I say, ‘Okay – but you’d better protect me.’”

He stopped the daughter and said, “Excuse me, this is gonna sound weird, but Christ just told me to give your mom this money. It’s $100.”

He handed her the money. The young girl stared at him.

“Who are you?” she asked.

Rich started backing away, apologetic. “I’m just a follower of Christ, and He said to give you that money.”

“Are you Him? Are you Jesus?” she asked.

Rich shook his head. “No.”

Tears began falling from the girl’s eyes.

“You won’t believe this,” she said, “but we just left the doctor’s office, and my mom told me the doctor’s bill for my surgery was more than she could pay for. We don’t have the money to do it.”

The girl looked at Rich. “Mom said, ‘I don’t even have enough money to get gas.’”

Rich smiled at her.

“All I was told was to give you the money.”

She grabbed him in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you!”

When she let Rich go, she ran back to her mother’s car – and Rich jumped in his and drove away, overwhelmed by the moment. And he had a thought.

“God, if she needed more money, I would have given it to her.”

And God said, This wasn’t for your glory. It was for mine. She will go and tell other people this story – about a follower of Jesus who gave her money when she was in need – and those people will say, ‘Well, how much do you need?’ 

And I will open the floodgates for her.

The Real Lesson

A few days later, the greater lesson from Rich’s moment of holy obedience became clear.

“I was in Kroger,” Rich says, “and there was this woman at the check-out line. She had her little boy with her, and she was talking on the phone, waving her hands in the air. I felt a prompt to walk over to her and ask her what was wrong.

“She said, ‘I’m trying to pay for my groceries, but my credit card doesn’t work.’

“So I said, ‘I’ll pay for your groceries.’ I pulled out my card and swiped it, and she grabbed her groceries and went on her way. She didn’t say thank you, I didn’t say anything about Jesus or being a follower of Jesus, but I just knew it was what I needed to do.

“And what I remember the most from this moment is the cashier, who saw this whole thing happen. He’s in his late 50s, staring at me, as if he disapproved of the woman leaving without saying ‘Thank you.’

“I looked at him, and I said, ‘It’s all cool.’

“And it was.”

Holy Obedience: Where to Begin

Spiritual Intimacy Comes First

Some people believe Christians blindly follow the rules of an invisible, untouchable God – so it makes sense they wouldn’t want to obey His commands. That’s why spiritual intimacy always comes first. It sets the foundation for holy obedience. If you don’t have that important, loving relationship on which to build, go back and start with Spiritual Intimacy.

Biblical Knowledge Is Key

The same goes for Biblical knowledge. Without reading and understanding God’s word, you won’t know exactly what Christians believe and why they seek to please God. Once you’ve deepened your spiritual intimacy, make sure you’ve broadened your Biblical Knowledge.

Now you’re ready!
Spiritual intimacy and Biblical knowledge have equipped you for holy obedience, but what does that mean? It means every time you’re presented with a decision you look through the lens of God’s truth and choose your next step wisely. You follow God’s instructions for living – even when it’s hard.

Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Is this true – what does the Bible say about this issue?
  2. Am I feeding my own desires or living the life God desires for me?
  3. Is this a decision or behavior that God can bless?

Listen for God prompts and act.

  1. Do you sense God asking you to help someone? Do it and pray with them.
  2. Does it feel like God has stirred an idea within you to serve His kingdom? Make it happen.
  3. Has God shown you a next step you should take in your faith – being baptized, volunteering, stepping up spiritually at home, going on a mission trip? Take the step! 

Holy obedience is anything but boring.
Obedience can be a wild ride! Sometimes through obedience, we step out into bold, new territories where the stakes are high. But remember: When you listen to God and follow His commands, you’ve opened the gates of heaven for God to pour out His favor. It’s a beautiful and rich cycle – the more you obey, the closer your relationship becomes, and the more you seek Him.

But, what if I fail?
Romans 3:23-24 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t require your perfection. He longs for your persistence, but His love is unconditional. When you sin, confess it quickly and recommit to holy obedience.

“If you love me, keep my commands.”

John 14:15

The Key Move is the Next Move

After you’ve won the inner battle of deepening your intimacy and dependence on God, it’s time to consider your next move. What new opportunity do you need to seize? Start with a plan to get you where you long to be in your family, career, or community. With God on your side, you have the power to achieve the better life He has for you.

King Uzziah: 4 Leadership Principles

Four Leadership Principles:

  1. God moves through leaders.
  2. God moves when a leader moves.
  3. The first move is an inside move.
  4. The key move is the next move.

Questions for Reflection:

  • When was the last time you confessed to God that you need Him…that left to your own you are in over your head? What might that do for you?
  • How can you more fully embrace your spiritual identity as a leader? What would that look like?
  • What is the next move that God might want you to make?