Calling Home

Key Scripture: Nehemiah 6:15-7:73

God’s priorities are clear. Jesus came to reach out to the least, the last, and the lost and bring them to a place where they can experience His peace and protection. He is the Good Shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep already in the fold in order to bring back just one who has wandered away. And once he returns, there’s a party! Do we as the Church have that same heart? It’s easy to get caught up in all of our Christian activities and duties, forgetting that countless people in this world are struggling with no help, no hope and no home. They live every day in fear, feeling like they don’t belong. At one point, they might even think about visiting church, but the fear of judgment and rejection is just one of many overwhelming reasons to remain where they are. We have the great opportunity and responsibility to bring these people the Good News of forgiveness and belonging in Christ. To do this, we must be a safe place for the exile – a place of Grace who loves people as they are. Do you know someone who needs this Good News today? Call them Home!

Other Scripture References: Nehemiah 6:15-19, Genesis 4:5-7, 1 Corinthians 4:20, Nehemiah 7:1-7, Luke 15:3-7

Seize the Moment

Sexual Assault. False Accusations. These two issues have dominated the headlines and infiltrated mainstream contemporary cultural conversation. Sadly, these two problems are not new to our world, but have been occurring in one form or another for most of human history. When our country and society is unraveling and being torn apart, how do we respond as God’s people? The Church has been the most influential, world-shaping and world-changing organization in the history of our world. It’s time to reclaim that identity as the people of God. In times of unrest, division and instability, we are called to make things right by making Peace. In doing so, we will help preserve our corrupted and corruptible society and be known as children of God. We can’t just hide behind the walls of the Church. We must lead the way in our country and culture – loving and helping others at our own expense in a way that doesn’t make sense to most people around us. We must show this world who Jesus is.

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 5 and 6

Other Scripture References: Matthew 15:19-20, James 4:17, Matthew 5:9, James 3:18, Matthew 5:13, Matthew 6:19-21

Make a Difference

When we see something that needs to be different, how can we begin making a difference? Many of us feel the weight of a God-given burden at some point in our lives, but we don’t know what to do with it. How do we take what could and should be and make it what is? Living out God’s call on your life begins with passion. According to a recent Gallup poll, a mere 30% of the U.S. workforce is passionate about what they do for a living. This means 7 out of 10 employees are either miserable at work, or at best merely going through the motions. A change of position does not guarantee an increase in passion. Instead, significance can be found in any and every career by living out God’s call on our lives. Many people abandon their God-given burdens because they’re unwilling to risk their stable and comfortable routine. Others miss out due to a lack of planning or reluctance to work hard. While God’s call is never easy, He doesn’t ask us to do it alone. He has given us others to work alongside us as He works through us. Are you ready to make a difference?

Scripture References

Key Scripture:  Nehemiah 2 & 3

Nehemiah 2:1-8

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Hebrews 11:32-38

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Philippians 3:7-8

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Teddy Roosevelt

Nehemiah 2:9-16

Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

Nehemiah 2:17-20

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:16

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Genesis 2:15

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered. – Jim Collins

Nehemiah 3:1-2

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

Think about this for a moment. What would happen if you were to begin speaking to people’s potential rather than their performance? What if you made it a habit to dispense the same type of grace to others as has been poured out on you? What would happen if you intentionally laced your conversations with notions of what could be true of the people around you? – Andy Stanley

Called to Greatness

Everyone wants their life to matter, but few people feel it actually does. Every day we’re surrounded by need, yet we often miss the opportunities for significance God has put right in front of us. Why? Because we’re too self-focused to allow the tragedy of that need affect us. God wants to use each one of us in a unique way. His calling on our lives exceeds what we can do on our own and will take us beyond our safe, puny, bubble-wrapped lives of self-service and pseudo-sacrifice. A life of eternal significance requires everything we have and many things we don’t. It means daily pursuing His promises before our own plans. Are you ready to start living a life that matters? Are you ready to answer His call to greatness?

Scripture References:

Key Scripture: Nehemiah 1:1-11

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.

Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah's Prayer

4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

Now I was cupbearer to the king.

Exodus 3:1-4

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Isaiah 58:3

3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,[a]
and oppress all your workers.

Isaiah 58:6-7

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Acts 9:15

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Acts 1:4-5

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Training Grace

Grace – the undeserved favor of God – is necessary to any healthy church community. God uses us as imperfect living stones to build His Church, and grace is the mortar that holds it all together. We don’t get to pick and choose who should and who shouldn’t receive the favor that God freely offers to everyone. We must forgive and love others as we have been forgiven and loved by Him. Grace not only saves us but trains us to live godly lives. Only grace can truly change a person’s heart and make him more like Jesus. The church isn’t a place for perfect people, but a place for people to be perfected in Christ. We must be a spiritual family where people are given the time and grace necessary to change and grow. Are you giving others that opportunity?

Key Scripture:  Titus 2:11-15
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it! A ‘perfect’ person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection. – Richard Rohr

1 Timothy 4:8
8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Philippians 1:6
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Worth Following

The need for leadership is as great as ever. In a world of followers – whether on Instagram, Twitter or in real life – nobody seems to be asking: Where should we actually be going? Charisma and competence is celebrated in our culture much more than integrity of character. The Church is called to make followers of Jesus Christ. To do this, we must learn to lead well. We must cultivate a culture where Christian leaders are listened to only as they listen to Christ; where leaders lead themselves and their families well before they’re ever asked to lead the church. We need leaders who have heard the Voice and seen the Face of God; those who are able to say along with the Apostle Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Are you a leader worth following?

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Key Scripture - Titus 1:5-9

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Corinthians 1:27
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

1 Samuel 16:7
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Titus 1:10-16
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Acts 17:11
11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

No man has any right to offer advice who has not first heard God speak. No man has any right to counsel others who is not ready to hear and follow the counsel of the Lord. True moral wisdom must always be an echo of God's voice…God has His chosen men still, and they are without exception good listeners. They can hear when the Lord speaks. We may safely listen to such men, but to no others. Listen to no man who fails to listen to God. – A.W. Tozer

John 5:19
19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[a]does, that the Son does likewise.

Isaiah 66:2
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Why Would God Send People to Hell?

Key Scripture: Revelation 21:1-8

If God is love, then why would He send people to hell? Most people have a very disturbing picture of hell as God’s underground torture chamber where well-intentioned people are forever punished for making some mistakes. It’s seen as the final destination for those who don’t “pass God’s test” of goodness during their time on earth. While this way of thinking is common, it’s just not true. Hell is real, and is God’s ultimate means of righting all that is wrong in our world. It is God’s final condemnation of sin and the evil that corrodes and corrupts His creation. Hell serves a very specific purpose in God’s greater plan of redeeming and reconciling earth and heaven to Himself. It is a place where evil is purged once and for all, so His people can live in His peace forever.

Other Scripture References: 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Revelation 20:11-15; Psalm 115:16; Revelation 21:1-4; Colossians 1:19-20; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 20:10; Matthew 13:41-43; Jeremiah 19:1-6; Revelation 22:14-15

Why Can’t People Love Who They Want?

Key Scripture: Jude 1:1-16

If God is love, then shouldn’t people be free to love who they want? Public opinion in our country is rapidly shifting toward answering this question in the affirmative. From Hollywood to mainstream media to government legislation to the church - homosexuality and same-sex marriage are being supported as the “civil rights” issue of our day. Our world tells us that all love is from God, because God is love. However, do we really even understand what love is? The greatest love any human being can experience does not come from another person; it comes from our Creator who has defined love for us and demonstrated it on the Cross. As the Church, we must help others know His love and His plan for them.

Other Scripture References: Romans 1:24-32; Ephesians 5:1-7

Why are People Sexually Assaulted?

Key Scripture: 2 Samuel 13:1-19

If God is love, then why doesn’t He do something about sexual assault? The recent #MeToo movement brought to the forefront of cultural conversation a problem that extends far beyond Hollywood. For many, sexual assault isn’t just a public nuisance but a very real source of personal hurt and shame. While raising awareness is important and strict laws are essential, do these really remedy a problem that is so destructive? The root of sexual assault is a perverted understanding of God’s pure and perfect plan for sex. Our world sees sex as an exchange of physical pleasure requiring real consent. However, God says sex is an expression of spiritual oneness requiring relational Covenant. As the Church, we must relearn and live out God’s divine design for sex. Only then can He use us to help others experience freedom and healing from sexual assault and sin. Only then can we be free ourselves.

Other Scripture References: Leviticus 18:9; 1 Peter 5:8; Matthew 6:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; Genesis 2:23-24; Deuteronomy 22:28-29; Ephesians 5:11

Why is There War?

Key Scripture: Romans 12:14-21

If God is love, then why is there war? Pride, greed, jealousy and ambition have produced a world history saturated with war and strife. Even countries not currently “at war” suffer from wars of race, politics and more. The many evils of the heart have produced untold amounts of pain and suffering, and it will certainly get worse before it gets better. Jesus told us that the closer we get to the Day of God’s ultimate wrath against evil, wars and rumors of war will increase. Only when that Day comes will war be no more. Until then, we as the Church are called to resist the advancement of evil in our world and protect the sanctity of life. We are also called to make peace and to pursue understanding with all men. We’re called to set aside the prideful roots of contention and to set aside our own interests for the interests of God and others. With whom do you need to make peace today?

Other Scripture References: Isaiah 2:3-4; Matthew 5:9; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 10:4; James 1:19; James 4:1-2; Matthew 24:6-8; James 3:16-18; Romans 12:17-21