Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 12: Starting Over, With Joy!

And Nehemiah the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people, said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way: eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing has been prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord, neither be sorrowful, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh. 8:9-10)

It’s normal for us as human beings to look back and feel the pangs of regret. One day we will find ourselves in the splendor of God’s presence and even there we will lament what we might have done in this life. On that day, it tells us, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.

The first day of the seventh month was the Jewish New Year. We know it as Rosh Hashanah. It’s a day of introspection which begins ten days of awe and repentance leading up to the Day of Atonement. The people wept when they heard the law and realized how they had missed the mark. But the exciting news was that God would have none of their mourning and told them to dry their tears.

He called them to rejoice at the fresh start he was giving them as a people. He told them to take care of each other and rejoice in Him – for that joy would strengthen them as they continued to work to make their city whole.

(Note: today is the 1st of Tishri, 5769 on the Jewish Calendar, Rosh Hashanah.)

Father, we determine with Your help to put behind us the regrets, doubts, and self-imposed limitations of the past. We want to work in the new things You have for us, with joy in our spirits. Help us to do it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 11: A People Of Worship

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Neh. 8:6)

In the first chapter of Nehemiah’s book, we see his concern for the people of the land, who were in “great distress.” But by the time we reach the eighth chapter we see that there has been a stunning transformation: they have become an army of worshippers.

God is in the reclamation business. His work in and through the people of Jerusalem had turned them away from self-pity and toward a God-centered confidence. What can He do with people like that? Well, what they and their children built would last for some five centuries.

Father, give us grace to yield to Your transforming power, that we, too, can become the kind of people who build things of lasting significance – people of enduring impact who can touch the generations who will follow us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 10: Focused, Part Two

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same way for the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; in which was written, “It is reported among the Gentiles and Gashmu says that you and the Jews are thinking of rebelling, and this is why you are building the wall, so that you may be their king, according to these words. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim you at Jerusalem, saying, ‘There is a king in Judah,’ and now it shall be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.”

Then I sent to him, saying, “There are no such things done as you say, but you are inventing them out of your own heart.” For they all made us afraid, saying, “Their hands shall be weakened from the work, so that it shall not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. (Neh. 6:3-9)

Sometimes it seems like we overcome a temptation only to be rewarded with a full-fledged assault. When the devil failed to trap Nehemiah with craftiness he moved on to a more direct approach – causing panic among the Jews through outright lies about the project and about Nehemiah himself. Would Sanballat really spread lies as far as the king? What would the king do?

In any “great work” there can come moments of alarm. People may misunderstand what we are doing; they may think we are seeking to make a name for ourselves. They may be envious or even angry, as Nehemiah’s enemies were, when someone steps forward to promote the interests of Christ’s Church. All this can cause our faith to waver – we begin listen to our fears and our minds begin racing with frightful possibilities.

How did Nehemiah respond? Undoubtedly, he must have reminded people of how God had led them this far. They stayed focused on the goal despite their fears and instead of giving in to panic they asked God to “strengthen their hands.”

God, give me courage when things look tough. On those days when we are tempted to think You have forgotten about Your own project in this world, strengthen our hands instead!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 9: Focused, Part One

…Sanballat and Geshem sent word to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?” (Neh. 6:2-3)

In Nehemiah’s case this was an outright attempt at assassination. Thankfully, most of the distractions we face aren’t quite so dangerous! Still, it’s worth looking at the reasons Nehemiah did not leave Jerusalem and the work site.

First, it was a waste of time. Nehemiah couldn’t afford the delay. The work would cease while he was gone, or at least his very important portion of that work.

Second, it was a waste of resources. Nehemiah was an important person whose life was at risk, and for him to travel to Ono, some 25 or 30 miles away, would mean diverting money, supplies, and pulling men off the job to form a military escort.

Finally, anything useful that could come of such a meeting was simply not as important as what he was already doing. He was already engaged in a “great work” and he had no time for lesser things which would sap his energy and split his focus.

Like Nehemiah, let’s learn to spot unnecessary distractions before they can “assassinate” our work and take us miles off course from where we need to be.

God, cause us to see that you have called us to a great work and like Nehemiah, we cannot come down. Give us the grace to not only commit to Your work, to not only begin well, but to finish well also. Thank-you for giving us fresh insight into those things which would rob our time through the power of distraction.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 8: Fasting and Prayer

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our possessions. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but his power and his wrath is against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and sought our God for this, and He heard us….

Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and from those who were lying in wait by the way. And we came to Jerusalem… (Ezra 8:21-23, 31-32a)

Ezra and the people arrive at their goal through fasting and prayer. Of course there was planning, of course there was preparation, and of course labor. But – the ultimate success of the venture depended on prayer and fasting.

Ezra believed it was necessary for the people to humble themselves, acknowledging their total dependency on God. They were also seeking guidance and, to put it in our terms, preservation of capital. The result? God saved them from opposition and from surprise attacks, too! Let’s learn to cover our own “voyage” with prayer, too – and fasting.

Thank-you, Father, for this gracious reminder that prayer is more than haphazard thoughts strewn about in a few distracted moments. You encourage us by this example and many others, that when Your people unite to pray, humble themselves and fast, You will command deliverances and create a smooth path on which they can travel. We ask You as Ezra did, with fasting, for a right way for us and our little ones, and for all our possessions.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 7: Encouraged by the promise of a new beginning

So the wall was finished in the twenty-fifth day of the month Ellul… (Neh. 6:15)

(Note: today is the 25th of Ellul on the Jewish Calendar)

It’s been said that nothing in the Bible is there by accident, and this certainly applies to times and dates as much as anything else. In what is probably more than a coincidence, many significant events in Jewish history and in the history of salvation have occurred on the same dates of the Jewish calendar down through the centuries. Seeing the dates on which the events of Nehemiah’s project unfolded, the people would have been greatly encouraged to think that God was working with them. Nehemiah had arrived 55 days earlier, on the first day of the Jewish month of Av. This was a day that symbolized a coming change, that the time of judgment was beginning to end, for the First of Av was the day that Noah saw the tops of the mountains breaking through the waters of the Great Flood as they finally began to recede. After three days of reconnaissance by Nehemiah, there were 52 days of labor which resulted in the wall being finished on the 25th of Ellul. This was a day of even greater significance. According to Jewish tradition, Adam was created on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah). But of course God had actually made the world five days earlier on – you guessed it – the 25th of Ellul! What better day to celebrate a new beginning than on the anniversary of the day the world itself was made? No doubt the religious leaders took this as a sign from God that just as He had done long ago, He was again creating something beautiful for his people.

God, help us to remember that, truly, there are no coincidences – there is only Your Hand, guiding and shaping the world and even the events of our lives. We, like the people of Jerusalem before us, ask You to use Your mighty power to create something of beauty that will display Your glory to the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 6: Starting on the right foot

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. Listen to the voice of my cry, my King, and my God, for I will pray to You. You shall hear my voice in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct my prayer to You, and will look up. (Psalm 5:1-3)

A heart that is intent on glorifying God must put Him first in all things. As we enter into a season of spiritual preparation, prayer, and even fasting, let's follow in the steps of the godly leaders of the past. They knew that all effective ministry and effective planning flows out of time spent with God. Of course, we can't always give God as much time in prayer as we would like, but we can all give Him the best of the time we do have. Let's be sure to begin each day with the Lord - after all, we only get one chance to start the day off right!

Lord, we determine in our hearts that we will begin each day, and each enterprise, with You. Help us to remember to invite Your grace and Your aid into every project and every undertaking.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 5: Refusing to accept the status quo

Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, so that we will no longer be a reproach!” (Neh. 2:17)

An old joke says that status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.”

Like any good leader, Nehemiah was honest about the situation the people faced. The broken-down wall and ruined gates meant the city could never be safe or prosperous. It also meant that they were in disgrace, and the laughingstock of their neighbors.

“Things will never be the same around here.”

“This place used to be beautiful; now it’s a ruin!”

“I know God has chosen Jerusalem but I just can’t picture how things will improve.”

We can imagine how the people, having lost hope, might have said things like these. They knew Jerusalem had a powerful call and destiny – but Nehemiah helped them see that they could seize it and live it out instead of living with reproach on a daily basis. He awakened something within them that would refuse to accept the way things were as the ways things had to be!

Lord, when you call your people to do a work, there may be great difficulties and testings along the way. Help us to remember the great call and the great destiny You have placed on this house; don’t let us be satisfied but keep us reaching out to You for what seems incredible and even impossible. Let us walk by faith and not by sight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 4: Honey, you’ll never guess who I saw at the job site!

Next to him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next to him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the perfumers, and they fortified Jerusalem to the broad wall. (Neh. 3:8)

When people catch a vision for what God is doing they receive grace to rise above their fears and inhibitions and put their hands to the work however they can.

I think people were surprised to see two men with the background of Uzziel and Hananiah doing the hard physical labor of fortifying a city wall. In ancient times, perfumers and goldsmiths were artisans who catered to the rich and to noblemen. It’s probably a safe bet that Uzziel and Hananiah were raised in the lap of luxury, and had no calluses on their hands.

Nevertheless, something gripped them and caused them to rise up like the others. They had an urgency to participate that was stronger than their self-consciousness about being rookies on a construction site. In the same way, we can support God’s project even when:

  • it’s not our usual area of ministry
  • it doesn’t give me a chance to shine
  • it just isn’t “my thing”

Father, give me a servant’s heart that will want to be involved in what You are doing, even when it’s something new or unfamiliar to me, maybe even something that seems a little menial compared to what I’m trained to do or what I enjoy doing. Let me do whatever is required to see Your purposes become a reality.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 3: Prayer: The Foundation Of All

And it came to pass in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah, and I asked them concerning the Jews… And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. (Neh. 1:1-2; 2:1)

Nehemiah mourned for a number of days after hearing of the Jews’ plight. We are not told the number of days or the number of times he fasted, but we know that his total time of mourning before God was three or four months. How can we know this? Nehemiah first learned of the Jews’ condition in the month of Chislev. However, he does not discuss the matter with the king for the first time until the month of Nisan, which is several months later.2

The lesson? Too often we do things rashly or without thought or wisdom from God. Prayer (particularly when it’s sustained over time) will bring us into the wisdom and favor of God, softening people’s hearts and weakening the enemy’s grip. The miraculous favor Nehemiah enjoyed was being laid up in store for him and for the people of God every time he sought the Lord over those months of mourning for their condition.

God, give us grace to continually plead before You for the advancement of Your kingdom and the progress of this work. As we seek Your favor, let Your hand be upon us for good as it was upon Nehemiah.

2 For example, in 2008 Chislev begins in late November; Nisan begins in late March, 2009.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 2: For The Good Of Others

Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" 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 would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may build it." And the king said unto me (the queen also sitting by him), “How long shall your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. (Neh. 2:4-6)

When Nehemiah mentioned his plan to the king, he received no guarantee that he would get to see things through to the end, or that he would get to enjoy the fruits of his labor in a rebuilt Jerusalem. He was a valuable member of the king’s court and the king wanted him to return to the palace. Nehemiah understood that his role in this fantastic project might be a very short-term one, maybe something that would only get the wheels rolling. There is no trace of disappointment or complaining, for his heart was content to serve the needs of others and make provision for their futures.

Lord, help us to keep the needs and the futures of others before our eyes as we labor
together to build what You are calling us to build!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Day 1: A Heart For The People

…I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant that is left of the captivity there in the province is in great affliction and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” And it came to pass that when I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven… (Neh. 1:1-4)

For 2400 years, we have associated the name of Nehemiah with a project, and justly so. A recent Jerusalem Post article trumpeted the news about the discovery of Nehemiah’s Wall1, strengthening the connection between the man and the wall in the minds of many. Ask even the casual Bible reader what Nehemiah is known for and… well, you know.

However, Nehemiah knew that any noble project is really about people. Projects unite people and call them to something bigger than themselves. Once completed, the finished work should serve their needs and continue to inspire.

Nehemiah’s Wall was a true people project, one that would serve many important purposes for the community. The wall was merely a means to an end; Nehemiah’s concern was for the welfare of the people. Their condition was what he asked about, and their beleaguered status made him weep. The wall was merely a way to restore them and propel them into God’s destiny. Only by building the wall could Nehemiah (and God) set them on the road to renewed prosperity, vision and hope. Nehemiah’s heart was never for the wall in and of itself; his heart was for God’s people and their welfare.

God, as we undertake to build help us to remember that this is a people project more than a building project. Use our hearts and our hands to build something that will bless and serve the people of God and the entire region for many generations to come.

1 Jerusalem Post article; accessed August 20, 2008.

52-day prayer devotional begins today!

Nehemiah tells the story of one of the most amazing building projects ever. God accelerated the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls so that more than a year's worth of work was finished in just 52 days!

Now Harvest Time is preparing to finish a journey that we began together almost 10 years ago. It is time to move forward with the construction of our Phase 2 building which was planned and approved when we bought our church property in 1999. Would you join us in prayer over the next 52 days?

We have prepared a 52-day devotional designed to help our congregation unite in prayer over:

  • our walk with Him
  • our faith
  • our finances
  • the ministries of our church
  • the harvest in our region
  • the Phase 2 building project
Please take a few minutes to read and pray along with us each day for the next 52 days. You can follow the devotional here or get a hard copy by calling the church at (203) 531-7778.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall classes launching at Harvest Time this week!

Fall will be here before you know it and our Tuesday adult discipleship and Wednesday family courses have launched!

Among the popular returning course offerings are The Alpha Course, the Cleansing Stream Seminar, and Financial Peace University. New offerings this fall include a parenting class from Dr. Gary Smalley called Homes of Honor, and Stepping Up, which is a study in the Psalms with noted author Beth Moore.

To see more and sign up now, please visit our special easy registration page at:


For more complete information, please visit our main website at http://www.HTChurch.com or call us at (203) 531-7778.