No Expert Builders Listed (Nehemiah 3:8,32)

No Expert Builders Listed (Nehemiah 3:8,32)

Have you ever felt under-qualified for a task? Like maybe somebody has got to do something, but you can’t do it because the task is bigger than you or requires more knowledge or training than you have? I can’t imagine what it would have been like had the disciples known up front how Jesus would transform their lives and send them to the utter most parts of the earth with His gospel. Each one would have probably rejected the idea out of hand. No way they could do that, but they could and they would. A little time with Jesus shapes us not into the person we think we are, but into the person he has always intended us to be. As the old saying goes, “He doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

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Rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah’s day was no exception. What I love most about Nehemiah chapter three is that while we hear about all the folks who put their hand to rebuilding the wall we don’t hear about any that are qualified. We don’t read word’s like carpenter, stone mason, architect, expert builder, or even handy man. Instead we read things like, priest, perfumer, goldsmiths, and merchants. These are the qualified builders who rebuilt the wall! No expert builders are present! God uses all sorts of people!

You may feel like you are in over your head or are playing in a bigger league than you should. You may think, “I’m just a teenager” or “I just don’t have the gifting. What can I do anyway?” The beauty of taking on a God sized task like reaching your neighborhood, school, or city is that God does all the heavy lifting. He puts us in proximity to others whose hearts are stirred and creates movement. In the end it is His call that qualifies you and no matter how good your resume gets, the call will be the only credentials you ever really needed.

Leadership by Example (Nehemiah 3:1)

Leadership by Example (Nehemiah 3:1)

My dad had this rule growing up that he wouldn’t watch something on TV that we weren’t allowed to watch. It made it safe to watch TV in our house. I could wakeup at 10pm from a nightmare and run into the living-room without fear that there would be a different nightmare unfolding on TV. I took that for granted when I was a child, but realize that when my dad did something to intentionally put himself on my level for the sake of the family, he was leading by example. When I installed software and parental protections on my kids electronic devices I didn’t want them to see it as a punishment, but as a way of being diligent and so I installed the same stuff on all of our electronic devices. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t asking them to do something that I wasn’t also willing to do.

I think it’s great that when it comes to the record of how the wall was going to be rebuilt and strengthened that we find the high priest and the other priests mentioned first! They could have sat back and offered a prayer or thought of this kind of work as beneath them, but they chose instead to roll up their sleeves and not only build the wall, but lead the way in rebuilding the wall. This was leadership by example!

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. (Nehemiah 3:1 ESV)

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Far too often it is too easy to sit back and try and bark orders at folks. I remember one time I had a conversation with a young man about some frustration he had with his youth group. “They just aren’t telling others about Jesus like they are supposed to! It’s like they don’t even care!” He commented. Then I asked him, “Who did you tell about Jesus this week?” and he didn’t have an answer. That’s leadership from the rear and it’s not leadership it’s just whining and complaining about what other people should do. These priests didn’t have time to complain about who should fix the wall on their side of town because they were too busy fixing the wall themselves.

Too often in our churches and ministry organizations we hear people whine and complain rather than invest and lead. Imagine what your little corner of the world would look like if those who profess to be Christians were known for making a difference rather and lack of critical attitude. Take time today to evaluate your actions. Be sure your prayers for God to move don’t become complaints. Make sure you are ready to move as soon as God does.

Lead by example today! Don’t wait!

Hurt Feelings, Bad Days, and Little Boys: A Letter to My Daughter About Manhood

You came in the other day and said, “Ask me about my day?” I knew something was up because when I normally ask you say, “fine.” Knowing you had something to share I put my stuff down and quickly got out of my grumpy dad coming home from work routine and sat across from you in the kitchen. You shared about how an older boy kicked a ball at you and called you a bad name. There were tears in your eyes as you relived the moment and felt a shame that wasn’t yours to own.

Fear gripped my heart and I pressed in to give you a hug. I wondered how deep the would was? I wondered if I could mend it with my words, my hugs, or even my tears? Part of me was desperate to mend your brokenness, part of me was wondering how I might break the boy who made you feel this way, and part of me was glad that you had shared it with me.

The part that wanted to heal your brokenness jumped in first. We talked about how this boy was wrong and how you had done nothing wrong. We talked about forgiveness and cleaning the bitterness out of our hearts. We talked about the gospel and how Jesus had loved us and died for us while we were still sinners. We talked about how hard it was to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but we knew that if Jesus commanded us to do that, we could do it in his strength and power. So we prayed for him.

Then I came back and let you know that I was jealous for you. As you father when that boy called you a name, he called me a name. That you are my princess (not the word he called you) and that should it ever happen again he would answer to me when I go to have a conversation with his parents. I let you know that you had a bigger advocate who was willing to take on this older boy who seemed so big and brave on the playground but was tiny compared to your father.

Then I was glad that you had shared this moment so we could walk through it together. You gave me the gift of allowing me to be your dad, to hug you, to guide you, to model maleness different than what you experienced on the playground. My prayer is that you forget this incident ever happened and when you come back to read this you have a hard time recalling the event… but that your character has been impacted by it so you are quick to forgive, know deeply you are loved, and walk confidently into womanhood.

There is a kind of boy who pushes shame on others through his words, his actions and even his stares… There is also a kind of man who removes shame that is not yours to carry, who loves you and will give his all for you. I’ll never stop being your dad, but when another man like that enters your life it will be my joy to walk you down an isle to him and give you away. You are my princess.

James 4:13-17 (Devotional Thought)

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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 ESV)

I had the benefit of getting my master’s degree a few years ago. I was in my early thirties and as old as some of the younger professors at the school, so for a joke one time I walked into a class on the first day and began to act just like I was the professor. I said things like, “Ok everyone get out your text books for the course.” The charade lasted only a few minutes before the real professor came in and the joke was up. Everyone soon recognized that I was a student just like them.

Sometimes we like to pretend that we know more than we do. I was pretending to be a teacher, but I was really there to learn. Sometimes we pretend to be like God and make plans as if we know everything that will happen. The truth is we don’t. We don’t even know what the next moment will truly hold. Only God does. James writes and reminds us to submit everything to God, even how we speak needs to be seasoned with an honest submission to God’s authority. We can say, “This is my plan and I think it’s good, but only God truly knows what will happen.” By approaching our life and plans like this we are recognizing the Lordship of God in everything we do.

Check out “Real-life Discipleship” by Jim Putman (this guy gets it)

Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples by Jim Putman is a must read for anyone serious about discipleship!  It is packed with Biblical, simple, and time-tested  strategy on how to help people grow in Christ. I really appreciated Jim’s pastoral style of writing that bleeds through on every page.  While handling the truth of God’s word, Jim is sure to pull readers into the story of redemption and call them to take up the mantle of discipleship. After reading hundreds of books I have come to learn that not all books are equal.  If you had to read only one book on discipleship (besides the Bible), this is the book. I was blessed, encouraged and even rebuked in areas of my own life while reading this book.

I was first turned on to this resource after reading Avery Willis and Mark Snowden’s book Truth that Sticks (another book well worth a read).  After reading that book I commented that more books would be needed, this is one of those books!  I am excited an encouraged all at once about the series of books that are coming out of NavPress on the topics of discipleship.

Real-life Discipleship is a clarion call back to a biblical model of discipleship.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in developing a biblical model of discipleship in their church.  The retail price is $17.99 (Hardcover), and is available at a discount at  Amazon.com for $12.23. I gave it FIVE stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Little Background on Sennacherib

So I said I wasn’t blogging for a while.  This doesn’t count.  I wrote this a few years ago to assert my position given the historical evidences on if Sennacherib campaigned twice in Judah.  This part of the paper provided a great background for the passage we studied today following along with Chris Aiken’s Blog and I thought I would share it here.

You can also find pictures and descriptions of Assyrian Wall Reliefs of Sennacherib’s campaign against Lachish here and photographs of the dig at Lachish here.

I admit I am a little bit of a Biblical Archaeology nerd.

A Little Background on Sennacherib and Judah

The ancient Hebrews witnessed many geopolitical changes in late eighth-century B.C. Palestine.  According to the writer of II Kings, idolatry was rampant throughout the land of Israel.  God had been patient with the Israelites, however, the patience of the Lord had come to an end and he released the Assyrian army against the populace of the Northern Kingdom. [1]

Hoshea, the king of Israel, had come to power in the Northern Kingdom as a vassal to an already powerful Assyria under the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III.  However, in 727 B.C., Tiglath-Pileser III died and Hoshea, along with several other vassals, revolted by not paying tribute.  The new Assyrian King, Shalmaneser V, proved mightier than first suspected and Israel was brought back into submission.  Hoshea remained desperate to remove the yoke of servitude and made an alliance with Egypt. Once again, tribute was withheld.  Shalamanser V marched on Israel and Assyria eventually claimed victory in 722 B.C. under a new king known as Sargon II.  The people of Israel were removed from the land and troubled inhabitants from all over the Assyrian empire were transplanted to Samaria.[2]

Judah, to the South, fared much better.  King Uziah had ushered in a time of stability in the Southern Kingdom.  After Uziah’s death, his son Jortham reigned briefly before being succeeded by Ahaz. After much pressure from Israel and Syria to form an alliance against Assyria, Ahaz closed the temple, stripped it of everything of value, and sent the temple goods to Tigalath-Pileser III as an appeal for help against Israel and Syria.  Tigalath-Pileser III obliged and marched on Israel and Syria, effectively making Judah a vassal state to Assyria in the process.[3]

In 1988, Iraqi archeologists excavating in the Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal (Nimrud) uncovered a tomb with startling implications.  The palace that was also used by Tigalath-Pileser and Sargon held tombs of female consorts who are believed to be of Hebrew descent.[4] One consort in particular was Tigalath-Pileser III’s chief consort and the Queen Mother of Shalamanser V.[5] This made many leading members of the Assyrian royal family and the Judean royal family cousins.[6] Some scholars presume this extra-biblical evidence explains why Judah was inclined to favor Assyria at a time when Israel was in the throes of rebellion.[7]

Hezekiah became king of Judah in 727 B.C. [8] Just five years later he would witness the fall of Israel into the hands of the Assyrians and the subsequent removal of the northern tribes from their land. Hezekiah sought to restore Judah to the Lord and reopened Solomon’s temple.  He led religious reforms to remove idolatry from Judah and instigated the tearing down of the high places and idols, including the bronze serpent that Moses had set up in the wilderness.  He was successful in conquering some of the neighboring Philistine garrisons and was thus able to expand the kingdom of Judah[9] However, Hezekiah became involved in a local dispute in which a loyal vassal of Assyria known as Padi was deposed from his throne in Ekron and Hezekiah imprisoned him in Jerusalem.[10] Hezekiah also decided at this time to withhold tribute and actively cast his lot against the king of Assyria.[11]

The change in Hezekiah’s foreign policy seems to flow from his religious reforms and the changing political landscape in Assyria.  Stephanie Dalley comments:

“To Hezekiah in Jerusalem it must have looked as if the balance of power was weighed against Assyria.  Embassies from Babylon and Nubia each came to persuade him to turn against his erstwhile ally and join them…Normally a vassal king or client king would have sworn oaths of loyalty to the Assyrian king, in a ceremony accompanied by horrifying rituals of sympathetic magic.  Perjury would be punished by the gods.  But when Sargon in 705 died an unexpected death in battle far from home, it was clear, according to the thinking of the time, that he gods no longer supported the Assyrian dynasty, so its vassals were automatically excused from their oaths of loyalty.  This gave Hezekiah an excuse to turn against Assyria.”[12]

In 705 B.C. following Sargon II’s assassination, Sennacherib had to act quickly to take the throne and affirm his rightful place as the head of the Assyrian empire.  His name, “Sennacherib,” literally means, “Sin has increased (or replaced) the (lost) brothers,”[13]indicating that Sennacherib was not the eldest son of Sargon, but was nonetheless affirmed for his leadership and battle skills.[14] After two immediate and successful campaigns to Tarsus and Babylon, Sennacherib set his sights on an alliance formed against him by Judah, Egypt, and the coastal Philistine cities.[15] Hezekiah’s actions had drawn the attention of Assyria’s newest king.

Sennacherib’s campaign into Judah is a well-documented event in history.  Three books of the Bible (II Kings, II Chronicles, Isaiah), Sennacherib’s annuals, archaeological evidence from the wall reliefs of Sennacherib’s palace, and current archaeological evidences from the dig at Lachish all bear testimony to Sennacherib’s campaign into Judah.[16]


[1] II Kings 17, ESV.

[2] Alfred Hoereth, Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 335.

[3] Ibid., 336-338.

[4] Stephanie Dalley, “Recent Evidene from Assyrian Sources for Jeudaean History from Uzziah to Manasseh,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 28, no.4 (Jun 2004), 394-395.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 396.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Hershel Shanks, “Destruction of Judean Fortress Portrayed in Dramatic Eighth-Century B.C. Pictures: Stunning New Book Assembles Evidence of the Conquest of Lachish,” Biblical Archaeology Review 10, no.2 (March/April 1984).

[9] II Kings 18:1-8, ESV.

[10] Alfred Hoerth, “Archaeology,”343.

[11] II Kings 18:7, ESV.

[12] Stephanie Dalley, “Recent Evidence from Assyrian Sources,” 391.

[13] D.J. Wiseman, “Sennacherib,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 338-339.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 339.

[16] Shanks, “Destruction of a Judean Fortress.”