So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height,
for the people worked with all their heart.
Meanwhile, the people in Judah said,
“The strength of the laborers is giving out,
and there is so much rubble we cannot rebuild the wall.”
Nehemiah 4:6, 10

There is often a lot of enthusiasm when we begin a significant project. We can go at it with great zeal. But over time we can begin to wear out. To sustain enthusiasm over a long period of time is difficult. And if you add being insulted, persecuted and criticized to it, well, we can get part way done and just want to give up. That is what happened to the Jewish people rebuilding the wall. They got half way done and wanted to give up.
Nehemiah 6:15 says, “So the wall was completed… in fifty-two days.”
It didn’t even take two months, but with the opposition of their enemies, and with the difficulty of working through the rubble, the people almost gave up half way through the project.
If God has put something on your heart to do, and you are getting discouraged, remember Galatians 6:9:

Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.

It will take more than fifty-two days for us to build the new addition at Crossroads. There will be inconveniences on our property as we do it. It will take three years to gather all the offerings to pay for it. Sometimes it might be easy to get discouraged and want to give up. But we believe God has called us to this, and if we do not become discouraged, if we keep working, at the proper time it will all come together – if we do not give up.
Is there something you felt God put on your heart to do that you are struggling with now? Do you just want to give up? (Maybe a New Year Resolution?) Let me encourage you to keep going!

He [Sanballat] ridiculed the Jews,
and in the presence of his associates
and the army of Samaria, he said,
“What are those feeble Jews doing?
Will they restore their wall?
Will they offer sacrifices?
Will they finish in a day?
Can they bring the stones back to life
from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?”
Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at this side, said,
“What they are building – even a fox climbing up on it
would break down their wall of stones!”
Nehemiah 4:1-3

Matthew starts his record of Jesus’ teaching with the Beatitudes. He ends the Beatitudes with these words:

Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you
because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
because great is your reward in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted the prophets
who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12

If you are living for Jesus, and you are being insulted, persecuted or lied about, “rejoice and be glad,” for that is how Nehemiah, and other great men and women of God were treated in the past. You are in good company!
Lord Jesus, help us follow you as our Good Shepherd, no matter where you may lead and no matter what others may say!

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall,
he became angry and was greatly incensed.
Nehemiah 4:1

Someone has said, “Anytime you stick your head above the crowd, someone will take a shot at it.” No great endeavor goes without some criticizing it.
Was there a time in your past when you chose to take a risk and do something “significant”? I would be willing to bet that some criticized you for it. Or maybe you are taking a risk right now and are being criticized.
People might say things like, “Who does he think he is?” or “She has no idea what she is getting herself into!” or “I can’t believe he/she thinks he/she can do that!”
I have been in full-time ministry for over 35 years – and if you add the part-time ministry I did in my twenties, for almost 40. I can tell you that no matter what I, or any other pastor or church sought to do for God, someone – or many people – found fault with it.
Jesus was perfect, and people criticized him. They even nailed him to the cross.
Know this: If God’s Spirit is leading you to do something significant for him, you will face some criticism. And sometimes it is even from other believers.
Pray today that the leaders of Crossroads discern what God’s Spirit is calling us to do as a church, and that we do it even if some criticize. Pray the same for yourself!

Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of the half-district of Jerusalem,
repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
…Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section,
from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
Nehemiah 3:12, 20

Sometimes we skip certain passages of Scripture that have lots of names – like all the “begats” in the Bible. “So and so begat so and so.” It seems so boring. But if we take the time to read these closely, what I have found is that every now and then something unusual is mentioned. Something different.
It would be easy for us to skip over Nehemiah chapter 3. We don’t know enough about the wall of Jerusalem to know where the different gates or towers are, so it might seem boring. But if we read it closely we find Scriptural gems, like the two from verses 12 and 20. A ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, an important man, put his shoulder to the work (unlike the nobles of Tekoa). But not only did he go to work, his daughters helped him! They are the only females listed. But male or female, if Jesus is your Lord and you are a willing servant, you can make a difference for his kingdom.
And then there is Baruch. It says he “zealously repaired another section…” Nehemiah lists many who worked hard, but there was something special about what Baruch did! He worked extra hard, and Nehemiah took note of it.
Maybe you work hard for the Lord, but feel like no one else notices. Know this: Our Lord knows who you are (male or female) and how hard you work for him.
This reminds me to thank the many volunteers at Crossroads who do so much every week:

  • The Hospitality Team who provide coffee, cookies and donuts to build a welcoming atmosphere!
  • The Ushers, Greeters and Information Booth people who welcome any and all who walk through our doors!
  • The children’s ministry and youth ministry volunteers who make sure young people know Jesus loves them and we do too!
  • The Worship Team and audio/visual team members who lead us in worship each week!
  • Life Group leaders and Community Group leaders that gather people together to worship together, grow closer to Jesus, support each other and reach the lost!
  • The people who serve in Stephen Ministry, Celebrate Recovery, Winter Shelter Network, Operation Christmas Child, Meals Ministry, Food for Thought with SECOR, GriefShare, Divorce Care, Men’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, World Missions, Local Community Outreach and more!
  • The Public Safety Team members who work hard to protect the flock and provide care for those who are hurting!
  • The women who fold and stuff the bulletins each week.
  • A special thank you to Mark and Lisa Hossack and to David and Sheila Spiecker for taking the positions of Capital Campaign Directors for REACHING BEYOND, and for all those on the Media/Communications Team, the Calling Team, the Purpose Team, the Leadership Team, the Youth & Children’s Team, the Administrative Team, the Celebration, Living Room Team and the Prayer Team!

My greatest fear in writing this list is that there are so many who serve in so many ways and I may forget someone. But again, God sees you – and you are not forgotten! If you serve in any way at Crossroads, I thank you from the depths of my heart!

Uzziel son of Harhariah, one of the goldsmiths,
repaired the next section;
and Hananiah, one of the perfume makers,
made repairs next to that.
They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.
…Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths,
made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants
and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate,
and as far as the room above the corner;
and between the room above the cover and the Sheep Gate,
the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.
Nehemiah 3:8, 31-32

I love that Nehemiah not only listed names of people who worked on the wall, but also what many of them did for a living. Goldsmiths knew how to work hard, but also had very lucrative jobs. Perfume makers were considered gifted and prestigious people too. In I Samuel 8:13 Samuel warned the people of Israel that if they appointed a king he would take their perfumers for his service.
Wow! Goldsmiths stopped their work to help rebuild the wall! And perfume makers said, “Manual labor to rebuild the wall is more important than taking time at my trade.”
There are many ways to sacrifice and give. Whatever you do for a living, pray and ask God what role he may want you to play in furthering his kingdom. Even if it is not at Crossroads right now – if it is to go on a short-term mission trip, or to help with Alternatives Pregnancy Center or SECOR or with one of our other local community ministry partners. No matter what you and I do, and how important it seems, sometimes God calls us to set that aside to help further his kingdom.
Are you unconditionally available to him – to do whatever he as our King of kings may ask of you? Pray that everyone at Crossroads, me included, that no matter what we do for a living, we will be available to do whatever our living Lord calls us to do!
Take some time right now to ponder the many ways God has blessed you throughout the years of your life! Take some time to thank him for how he has already blessed us as his flock here at Crossroads! And take some time to thank him in advance for the many who will come to know him in this new addition we are adding to our building!
To God be the glory – great things he has done!

The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa,
but the nobles would not put their shoulders to the work
under their supervisors.
Nehemiah 3:5

As mentioned yesterday, Jericho is about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Tekoa is about 11 miles south of Jerusalem. Again, we find men who don’t even live in Jerusalem carving out time to help rebuild the walls. But sadly, what stands out about the men of Tekoa is that their nobles refused to help! Maybe it was their pride. Perhaps they felt they were too important to help! Maybe they had a disagreement with the leaders in Jerusalem. Maybe they didn’t want to leave their city, their homes, to go and help. Maybe they were just lazy. Whatever it was, they go down in the annals of history as the only people listed who did not help! Every other person or group of people that Nehemiah lists in chapter 3 are people who helped!
In Mark 10:42-45 Jesus told his twelve disciples,

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles
lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you
must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be serve,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:42-45

When we read the Bible hundreds of years after the wall was rebuilt, and we read what Nehemiah wrote, we don’t admire the nobles of Tekoa for their position. Instead, we look up to the others who were willing to work.
How do people who know you best look at you, or how do those who know me best look at me? Are we willing to be servants, even if it means doing something that seems to be “demeaning” or “lowly”? I hope so.
Today please pray that God’s Spirit gives all of us at Crossroads hearts like Jesus – to serve!

The men of Jericho built the adjoining section,
and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them.
Nehemiah 3:2

The second group of people mentioned when Nehemiah wrote about those who helped rebuild the wall of Jerusalem are “the men of Jericho.” You may or may not realize this, but Jericho was a completely different city in Israel, some 15 miles from Jerusalem. Fifteen miles may not seem very far to us today because we have cars, but it was a long way back in Nehemiah’s day.
The men of Jericho could have said, “Why should we help with the wall of Jerusalem? Our own city has lots of needs. We should focus on Jericho, not Jerusalem!” But they didn’t! They unselfishly came to Jerusalem to help rebuild the walls knowing Jerusalem was an important city in Israel. And if Jerusalem was well protected, the whole land would be blessed by this!
Some at Crossroads might be tempted to say, “Why should I care about a 19,000 square foot multipurpose building that will be used mostly for teens and children? All of my children are grown. We should focus on what people our age need!” That would be a temptation. But I think we can all agree that the youth are the future of our church, of our country, and of Christianity! It is not a stretch to say that if the youth and children’s ministry grows well, then the whole church will be blessed! Plus, the new building will offer us overflow at Christmas and Easter, more classrooms during the week for Bible Studies, a second entrance and lobby on the north side of our building and more!
If you do not have children or youth who will be using the new facility, please pray and ask God if he wants you to sacrificially help so that Crossroads can have an ongoing, effective ministry in the future!

Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests
went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate.
They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far
as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated,
and as far as the Tower of Hananel.
Nehemiah 3:1

Nehemiah 3 is a chapter that lists by name the different people who worked to help rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. It is interesting to me that the first people Nehemiah mentions are the priests. That says a lot.
Sometimes religious leaders can be poor examples. They can excuse themselves from tough manual labor saying that they are “doing the Lord’s work.” But sometimes the “Lord’s work” is to labor!
One of the things I love about Crossroads is how our ministry staff are all servants – all willing to pitch in and do whatever needs to be done. Often, they move chairs, pick up trash, help with tables and more. And in our REACHING BEYOND CAMPAIGN they again are willing to pitch in and do whatever needs to be done.
Your pastors and ministry staff are doing all we can to “practice what we preach.” I hope that inspires you. Please take some time today to pray for at least 2 or three of the pastors or other staff at Crossroads – that we follow our Shepherd wherever he leads us, and that we serve others as he serves us!

I answered by saying,
“The God of heaven will give us success.
We his servants will start rebuilding,
but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem
or any claim or historic right to it.”
Nehemiah 2:20

“The God of heaven will give us success.” We already looked earlier at Acts 5:38-39 where it says, “If their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
What a great truth. If what we are doing is from God, he will give us success. If it is not, then we are headed for trouble.
Reflect on this in your own life. Is the purpose or activity you are involved in from God? Or is it from your own heart, or from another person’s vision? If it is of human origin it will fail. If it is from God it can’t be stopped. Give your plans to God and ask him to help you know what he is calling you to do.
Pray for us at Crossroads, that in all we do we seek God, and seek to do his will! That way if anyone criticizes or resists us, they will only find themselves fighting against God!

But when Sanballat the Horonite,
Tobiah that Ammonite official
and Geshem the Arab heard about it,
they mocked and ridiculed us.
“What are you doing?” they asked.
“Are you rebelling against the king?”
Nehemiah 2:19

No matter what we do, some will mock and ridicule us! Even when we do something good for God. Maybe especially when we do something great for God! Jesus came to earth to do the most amazing thing that could ever be done for mankind. He was perfect, and people mocked him, ridiculed him, and even crucified him!
We need to be prepared for some to question what we believe God has called us to do. Not everyone will agree. Some may even be outright critical.
We have to ask if there is truth in their criticism or not. If there is, we need to learn from it. If there isn’t, we need to still move forward and do what God’s Spirit has put on our hearts to do.
Are there people criticizing you for some things you are doing? Is there truth in the criticism to learn from? Or is their criticism not based on truth? Whatever you do, give it to God in prayer, and trust him as you move forward – or if you know what you are doing is wrong, stop and ask God to help you know what he wants you to do.