December 3, 2015

Nehemiah 7-9 -  
After the wall was rebuilt, Nehemiah put his brother, Hanani, along with Hananiah (captain of the citadel), in charge of Jerusalem because he was an honest man and feared God more than most men...

God put in my heart to gather the nobles, officials, and the people in general to be registered...  The total count for the congregation was 42, 360 along with 7,337 slaves and 245 singers = 49, 942.

By the time the 7th month arrived, the People of Israel were settled in their town.  Then all the people gathered as one person...and asked Ezra to bring the Book of the Revelation of Moses that God had commanded for Israel....He read it...from early dawn until noon in the hearing of the men and women, all who could understand it.  And all the people listened.  They were all ears...Then Ezra praised God, the great God, and all the people responded, “oh yes, yes!” with hands raised high.  And then they fell to their knees in worship of God, their faces to the ground.

On the second day of the month, the family heads and leaders gathered around Ezra to get a deeper understanding of the words of The Revelation and found that the People of Israel were to live in booths during the festival of the seventh the people were asked to follow this tradition...the entire congregation that had come back from exile made booths and lived in them.  The people of Israel hadn’t done this from the time of Joshua, son of Nun, until that very day--a terrific day!  Great joy!  Ezra read from the Book of the Revelation each day, from the first to the last day--they celebrated the feast for 7 days.  On the 8th day, they held a solemn assembly in accordance with the decree.

Then on the 24th day of this month, the People of Israel gathered for a fast, wearing burlap and faces smudged with dirt as signs of repentance....while they stood there in their places, they read from the Book of Revelation of God for a quarter of the day.  For another quarter of the day, they confessed and worshiped their God.  

Then the Levites prayed:
...You’re the one, God, the God who chose Abram....You found his heart to be steady and true to you and signed a covenant with him...Through your servant, Moses, you decreed commands, rules and instructions.  You gave bread from heaven for their hunger, you sent water from the rock for their thirst....And you, a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, incredibly patient, with tons of love--you didn’t dump them...You gave them your good Spirit to teach them to live wisely....their clothes didn’t wear out and their feet never blistered...and they ate, grew fat on the fat of the land; they reveled in your bountiful goodness.  But then they mutinied, rebelled against you...

but when they called out for help in their troubles, you listened from heaven and in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors; saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse  of their enemies.  But as soon as they had it easy again, they were right back at it--more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate .... Still because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them, you didn’t walk out and leave them for good, you are a God of grace and compassion...Because of all this we are drawing up a binding pledge, a sealed document signed by our leaders.

Our spiritual communities are as susceptible to disease as our physical bodies.  But it is easier to detect whatever is wrong in our stomachs and lungs than in our worship and witness....

As much as we need physicians for our bodies, we have an even greater need for diagnosticians and healers of the spirit.  Jude’s letter to an early community of Christians is just such a diagnosis...

The primary Christian posture is, in Jude’s words, “keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ (verse 21.)”

Jude 1 -  
I Jude, a brother to James, writing to those loved by God...

Relax, everything is going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!...I have to write insisting---begging!---that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.  

What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks, who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels...but these people sneer at anything they can’t understand and by doing whatever they feel like doing--living by animal instincts only--they participate in their own destruction.  I’m fed up with them!...

These are the “grumblers, “ the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead....As the apostles told us, “in the  last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore.  They’ll treat them like a joke, and make religion of their own whims and lusts.”  These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves.  There is nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!  

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right in the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.  This is the unending life, the real life!  Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith.  Go after those who take the wrong way.  Be tender with sinners but not soft on sin.  The sin itself stinks to high heaven.