Acts 3:19, 20 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
Through grace we acknowledge that sin has been wiped out, the sin of yesterday, today and tomorrow. To be refreshed is to be revived; to be replenished; or renewed by stimulation. While sin is wiped away, we often retain beliefs and perspectives that are not grounded in grace. This leads to seasons of frustration lacking the progress ordained by the Lord. There are also seasons of seemingly endless challenges of ministry. This causes us to grow weary at heart.
Too often we want God to swoop in and sovereignly refresh us, when our own soul has erected a wall between us and refreshing. But, praise God, every wall has a way around it or a way through it to get to the other side! There is a doorway through that wall that leads to refreshing. A season is coming when YOU are replenished, revived, and stimulated to passionately continue the work of the ministry….whatever that may be. I believe many of you stand at this wall seeking that small doorway, the narrow threshold beyond which lies a season of refreshing.
Repent from wrong perspectives and push through the challenges. You will pass through the threshold into a season of refreshing at a pivot point…the point of ‘turning to God’; the point of worshipping Him. Turn from the circumstances of life to the author of life. Change from self focus to Kingdom focus. Now your mindset and perspectives begin to align with God’s. You pass through the threshold freed from toxic self-absorption and flowing in refreshing! We praise God for His encouragement before refreshing and thank Him for reviving us after refreshing!!!
Heb. 6:19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hope is a powerful emotional and intellectual asset that under-girds our daily outlook on life. To Hope is to look forward with confident expectation toward fulfillment of a desire, dream, or promise. Hope is a key component of faith according to Heb. 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. As hope wanes so does faith! As hope wanes we begin to feel insecure, wavering, and tentative in our soul. We don’t feel anchored, firmly established in that to which God has called us, in the vision He has given us, or in the direction He is leading us.
We can hope for many things, but those things grounded in the Truth of His Word and the impartation of His Spirit must continue to be an anchor for OUR soul. As leaders in business, government and ministry we all go through seasons of waning hope in some aspect of our lives. At times our soul reflects the essence of Prov. 13:12a, Hope deferred makes a heart sick. We may be weary of hoping and tired of doing good when outward evidence is contrary. But the Lord encourages us to stay hopeful!
Be encouraged you saints of God! God is faithful! His Word is True! His promises are ‘yes’ in Christ! Be encouraged as Joshua was encouraged before crossing the Jordan. Be encouraged as Paul and Silas were encouraged in the jail cell. Be encouraged as the 120 prayed hoping for the promised Holy Spirit; encouraged by the promise of their Savior who said ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised’. (Acts 1:4) All continued to hope when outward signs appeared hopeless.
Suddenly it all changed! Hope is fulfilled suddenly! Promises are fulfilled suddenly! Joshua crossed the Jordan and took the Promised Land. Paul and Silas walked through the open doors of the jail cell into freedom. The 120 experienced the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit. Hell could not hold back fulfillment of the promises! Praise the Lord! Hope was transformed into reality…suddenly! Suddenly people experienced Prov. 13:12b ‘a longing fulfilled is a tree of life’. Praise His Name! Keep on hoping my friends! Keep on praying my friends! Keep on worshiping mighty men and women of God! You stand on the threshold of fulfillment! You stand before an open door of the promise! Do not lose hope…stay strong, anchored in that which He has spoken by His Word and imparted by His Spirit!
The Holy Spirit and the bride (the church, true Christians) say ‘come!’ And let everyone come who is thirsty( who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened) and whoever earnestly desires to do it, let him come and take and appropriate (drink) the water of life without cost. (Rev. 22:17 Amplified)
This scripture and Jesus’ corollary parable in Luke 14:15-23 reveal the Father beckoning us to come to His dining table where food and water of His kingdom refresh, support and strengthen. Grace positions us as favored ones for His dining table. Jesus’ death and resurrection seated us, by faith, at the table of blessing for refreshment, support and strength. The food and drink is FREE!!! Jesus already paid for it!!!
But we still must choose it and consume it. We choose to move from just a seat at the table to consuming what is on the table. The scripture calls us to take and appropriate. That means to move from the position of grace to consumption and digestion of grace. Yes, we actively consume and digest the spiritual nutrition of His Word, His presence, His love, and His approval. I recall someone who occasionally attended our church. I personally spoke into his life on several occasions. He showed up for the Word but would not eat of it. He listened to truth but resisted its power. He accepted the concept of God’s love but refused its deliverance. He talked of God’s kingdom but did not walk in it. To this day that person continues to languish in his spiritual walk falling far short of the Father’s call on his life.
When we consume and digest from the Father’s table we transform our thoughts to truth, our soul to stability, and our leadership to our legacy. This is the transition to transformation; moving from knowledge of the Kingdom to living in the Kingdom; moving from observing to occupying.
It is critical for all believers, but especially leaders, to come, eat and drink from the Father’s table. As you digest all that He freely provides, you live in His Kingdom and occupy earth on behalf of His Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit and the bride (the church, true Christians) say ‘come!’ And let everyone come who is thirsty( who is painfully conscious of his need of those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, and strengthened) and whoever earnestly desires to do it, let him come and take and appropriate (drink) the water of life without cost. (Amplified) Rev. 22:17. This powerful scripture from the Apostle John brings a deeper understanding to the need for believers to eat and drink of the Word of God. Whether it is the written Word, spoken Word, or prophetic Word, we must show-up at the table to consume it!
A big part of life is simply ‘showing up’. We must show up and be seated at His table if we are going to eat and drink from Him. Note in this amplified translation the scripture says whoever ‘earnestly desires to do it, let him come.’ I have found over many years of ministry that there are many who say they desire to do something; however it is really only a few who earnestly desire to do it and then come to partake. The scripture also says it is those who are ‘painfully conscious of the need’ that will choose to come to the water. Herein lies a demarcation between a life of lack and a life of abundance; a life of defeat and a life of victory; a life of His will done only in heaven versus a life where His will is also done on earth. It is the earnest ones, the painfully conscious ones, the seriously committed ones that come to eat of His word and drink of the water of life. We see a similar scenario in Jesus’ parable of the great banquet. (Luke 14:15-24) Many were invited but excuses are made for not showing up to eat.
Many of you who lead ministries and pastor churches have wondered why some to whom you minister don’t value that which is offered at the dining table. They talk but don’t walk. They make an occasional stop but never really take a seat at the table. They don’t make the effort to show up, eat and drink. Others show up, taste the food but are not hungry or thirsty enough to actually be filled and be nourished by it. Others want home delivery. They want a more convenient dining experience. Convenience is valued over the content.
I am reminded of an experience ministering in a small church in Nepal. Deborah and I were teaching in a village where this church was the only Christian church in the dominant Hindu culture. An elderly lady in her 80’s was in the group of 50 people that day. Her attention hung on every spoken word from Deborah and I. She consumed everything we brought to the table that day. She drank the water of the Spirit. Her smile revealed an earnest desire, and a painfully conscious need for the living water and word. As she ate, her toothless smile revealed an inner joy of being satisfied and quenched. The pastor told us later that she was a new believer. She walked 13 kilometers one way each Sunday to take a seat on the floor of that ‘dining table’. Yes, she walked at the age of over 80 to take a seat at the table.
Lord, I pray that every reader of this message is stirred to hunger and thirst so earnestly that they overcome every excuse and every convenience to come, eat and drink of what these leaders bring to the table. Let every leader be encouraged that those who do eat and drink will walk in abundance and victory bringing your will from heaven to earth. Amen and amen!
The prophet Ezra wrote this a few years before Nehemiah began repairing the walls of Jerusalem. But now for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in His sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage( Ezra 9:8). While the concept of a ‘remnant’ is primarily used in regard to Jews returning from exile, there is a thread of the remnant throughout scripture. The ‘remnant’ is defined as that which remains after the last cutting, such as a patch of cloth left after most has been cut away. In scripture it is a people in the world but not of the world. It is a people dedicated to advance God’s kingdom in the face of formidable odds. It is a people who only live and move from a firm foundation that is unshakable because the world is shaking. It is a people who have embraced a ‘firm place’ in the spirit realm that makes them immovable within the Kingdom.
The prophet Ezra knew that it was the grace of God that gave them a firm place to restore and occupy their land.
The firm place under the new covenant is the place of grace; the place with Jesus as the cornerstone and the prophets and apostles completing the foundation. Grace, understood and lived at a deeper level, is pre-requisite to the remnant living fully and occupying completely the land. They live expectantly and actively for the Kingdom. They prefer heaven to earth, but know they occupy earth to advance the Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul spoke of a remnant saying ‘so too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works.’ (Romans 11:5, 6) Those of the remnant are not of the remnant because of their great works. They embrace God’s great grace to which they have submitted and by which they are being transformed. They have a firm sense of purpose, passion and perspective focused on the Kingdom of God.
Ezra recognized the remnant as different among his people. He said the remnant were ‘everyone whose heart God had moved’ (Ezra 1:5). Today the remnant differ from the mainstream of culture and from the mainstream of the church. The have moved from the mainstream to the river whose streams make glad the city of God (Ps. 46:4). You are DIFFERENT! WE are DIFFERENT! The stream in which we live is different. To be different and advance the Kingdom of God requires a stream of great grace to endure; great grace to extend to those who see you as ‘different’. Embrace this firm place; a stream and a foundation. One that continually flows from city of God; the other that is firmly fixed as the foundation of that city. Live there and you will advance His kingdom!!!
Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (2 Kings 19:30, 31) The prophet Isaiah spoke these words of encouragement to King Hezekiah. Just as Nehemiah was an apostolic forerunner leading a remnant to restore the nation, so was Hezekiah.
Nehemiah and Hezekiah give the church today a picture of leading the remnant. There is a remnant within the church that has deep roots in the Kingdom of God. There is a remnant that is bearing fruit for the Kingdom. These are ‘a band of survivors’ that reflect the strength of the Father, the love of the Savior, and the fruit of the Spirit to advance the Kingdom of God. They are the remnant with the ‘good and noble heart’; a heart of rich fertile spiritual soil. Their hearts receive the Word of God, allow it to become deeply rooted, endure hardship and bring forth great fruit (Mk. 4:20; Lk.8:15). The remnant is a deeply rooted band of believers.
Perhaps it’s the teacher in the public school system that quietly brings the Kingdom of God into the classroom every day. It may be the business person who consistently gives generously into Kingdom work. It could be the legislator who consistently stands alone to reflect Christian values. Perhaps the remnant is seen in the parent who refuses to allow the infusion of occult books and media into his or her child’s mind in spite of peers who say ‘it’s harmless’. It may be the lone church standing for Truth while others are awash in the sea political or cultural sensitivity. Those in remnant feel like they don’t ‘fit’ in the culture. They feel like they and they alone are left in world of chaos. And….they don’t fit within that world. However, they choose to occupy it! They refuse to be pureed into the slurry of blended beliefs. Through the Holy Spirit they are knitted into the larger fabric of spiritual material that takes root below and bears fruit above.
Do you feel alone because of YOUR beliefs, Your stand, Your endurance against the pressure of peers? You may be among the remnant. Be encouraged! You are not alone! Stay rooted! When all else is done…..stand. The zeal of the Lord is bearing fruit through YOU for His glory and goodness.
Nehemiah was a man who learned to discern. Discernment is to see behind the façade; to detect that which is disguised. Nehemiah had key perceptions and responses that revealed his discerning heart, discerning evil influence from good influence. A neighboring governor, Sanballat, used nice sounding words requesting a meeting on the plain of Ono. This was a place out in the open away from Jerusalem. Nehemiah discerned his nice sounding words as a scheme for harm saying ‘But they were scheming against me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply……’I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down’. (Neh. 6:1-4) Nice sounding words do not equate to Spirit-sourced motives. He discerned the motives and responded in wisdom.
Nehemiah also discerned the motives of Shemaiah, one of the prophetic leaders, as those of a false prophet. Shemaiah told Nehemiah to hide inside the temple to protect himself from the enemy. But Nehemiah said ‘he had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.’(Neh. 6:13) The sin Nehemiah speaks of was two-fold: retreating into the inner sanctum of the temple where only priests were allowed though he was not a priest; and hiding as a coward when he was supposed to be a leader. Nehemiah discerned that Shemaiah’s motives had nothing to do with Nehemiah’s safety. They had everything to do with Shemaiah’s relationship with the enemy. Shemaiah was hiding something!!
There is a special spiritual gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10), but there is also a general discernment within anyone who is filled with the Holy Spirit. You can yield to the Holy Spirit’s voice and His impressions to detect that which is disguised. I have found in secular and church leadership that discernment can prevent bad decisions. I learned to consider not only the visible evidence of what is going on but to detect evil disguised as good. For example, an employee with addictions will begin to twist truth and protect anything that serves the addiction. At first this may not be mission-critical, but over time becomes more and more problematic leading to mission failure. Discernment doesn’t wait for visible failure. By that time it is often too late. Before the addiction is overtly evident, a leader must discern nice words, deflection of accountability and avoidance of disclosure. A leader’s discernment then partners with wisdom making a good decision, fulfilling God’s plan and thwarting the devil’s schemes.
I have been ministering recently from the book of Nehemiah where the Holy Spirit reveals several deep spiritual truths. Nehemiah was an apostolic forerunner….a governmental leader who set things in order spiritually, organizationally, and relationally in Jerusalem. A kingdom principle revealed in Nehemiah’s story is that he sacrificed his rights for a greater good. He gave up the right to acquire land and eat choice food allotted for governors. If you read Neh. 5:14-18 you will find that Nehemiah made this sacrifice ‘because the demands were heavy on the people’. Even though he had such rights as governor he did not exercise those rights. He sacrificed them.
To sacrifice is to give up, to slay, to make holy; in this context one sacrifices for a greater good; figuratively one dies to self so fresh kingdom life comes forth beyond self. Leadership often includes sacrifice of your rights so that a kingdom purpose is fulfilled. This kingdom principle is found throughout the Word of God. For example, Jesus said He did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mk. 10:45)
Nehemiah’s apostolic ministry differed dramatically from his governmental predecessors who had consumed the best food, amassed land and placed additional burdens on the people. Nehemiah sacrificed to bring forth a unique spiritual refreshing and social stability for his nation. Following Nehemiah’s leadership there is no historical account of God’s people going into exile and slavery for the 450 years leading up the birth of Christ! Nehemiah died to his ‘rights’, set things in order in Jerusalem, and refreshing came to the people who occupied the land for the next 450 years!!!! The sacrifice of one man led to new life for the entire nation.
Consider you own ministry. Do you desire refreshing for your ministry; for the people? What will you sacrifice for the greater good? What right will you give up so kingdom life may spring up forth? It is a kingdom principle. Sacrifice and watch refreshing come forth.
Did you like this post? Check out, The Call to Leadership Costs, another leadership post by Harvey Wittmier.
Did you like this post? Check out, The Call to Leadership Costs, another leadership post by Harvey Wittmier.
|Manteo Mitchel (left) of the USA team. Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images|
In this series of posts on Nehemiah, we see the character of God revealed through Nehemiah’s actions in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. After receiving from King Artaxerxes permission to rebuild, he engaged the Jewish people saying “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 told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. (Neh. 2:17, 18)
Throughout the account of Nehemiah we see his faith, his focus, and his passion to finish a good work.
His faith is revealed as he told them that the hand of God was upon him. He prayed at least eleven times regarding the rebuilding of the walls. From beginning to end, whether it was his response to opposition or the need to encourage the people, he spoke words of faith that revealed a heart of faith. Revealed faith is the outward manifestation of inner transformation. Every leader must have faith to lead, faith to encourage, and faith to finish the good work to which God has called you.
Nehemiah’s focus is first revealed as he spoke of the specific work to be done; ‘come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem’. He engaged the people with that same focus; rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. These rock walls were originally 8 feet thick. Tens of thousands of the rocks lay scattered and strewn about the city. The wooden gates, hinges and framing were burned beyond repair. The city was not a city. It was a collection of buildings without walls of protection for community and without an identity. It was a disgrace. Nehemiah did not repair other buildings… not houses, not streets, and not market places. He focused on the walls! Leaders must be focused toward the good work God has for you. Without focus you will scatter your energy, water down your vision, and diminish the impact and effectiveness of your ministry.
A passion to finish is revealed in the emotional description of the condition of the city; ‘you see the trouble we are in’; Jerusalem lies in ruins, it’s gates are burned; we will no longer be in disgrace’. Nehemiah wept, fasted, prayed, repented, and humbled himself in so many ways because of the heart wrenching knowledge that his beloved home town was defenseless, vulnerable, and in disgrace. Every leader must come to a place of great humility, sometimes disgraced in the eyes of men, before there emerges a refined heart and a finishing passion. It is from this heart and passion that God’s plan goes forth to finish the work to which we are called. Humility emerges from burning away superficial cares and extraneous distractions of the world. It allows the silver and gold handiwork of God’s kingdom to come through us.
A recent event from the Olympics in London reflects these principles found in Nehemiah. An American sprinter named Mitchell was in the 4X400 meter relay (1600 meters). In the semi-final qualifying race, Mitchel broke his lower leg half way through his part of the race. The leg was completely fractured! Normal men would have stopped, writhed in pain, and failed to finish thus losing the race. However Mitchell ran on and finished his segment handing the baton to his teammate who went on to win the race and qualify for the finals. A doctor said that if Mitchell would have taken two or three more steps the broken bone would have burst through the skin of his leg. The relay team, with a replacement for Mitchell, went on to win the silver medal in the finals. When asked by the media what drove him to continue running in such pain, he said his lifestyle is shaped by 3 words; Faith, Focus, Finish. What an inspiring account of commitment to finishing!
Mitchell is a modern day Nehemiah pushing beyond opposition; pushing beyond normal, pushing beyond the realm of the natural into the supernatural to finish a ‘good work’! You can be a Nehemiah! You have faith. You have focus. You MUST finish the work of your calling; the work of bringing God’s kingdom through you!