Measure Twice, Cut Once

nehemiah wall_final

Nehemiah was broken over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. They were living in ruins and they accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation.


I measure for a living. Yes, people get paid to do that. We’re called Metrologists. We love to measure, to understand how uncertain we are about a measurement. We actually have conferences where bunches of us get together to discuss our measurement issues. Slide rules, scientific calculators, calculus, strange words…It is a regular Nerd-a-palooza! It may sound like strange career, but it is a rewarding one. I’ve been doing this for the past 32 years of my life. I can measure. Well most of the time I can measure.

My dad could build anything out of nearly nothing. He could take scrap lumber and make the Taj Mahal. He was THAT good. Unfortunately that part of him skipped me. I can build stuff but not nearly on the scale or precision that my dad could build. He tried to teach me but it really didn’t stick to well. One thing he taught me that should have stuck but didn’t was the adage “Measure twice, cut once.” The idea behind that is to be sure BEFORE you cut that you want to cut at that point. I should put that into practice sometime.

There is a spiritual aspect to “Measure twice, cut once” that I think is overlooked far too often. It has to do with prayer. So often we rush into prayer for things we have no knowledge of. Now I realize that there are times when we can’t have a lot of knowledge. My thoughts drift to the persecution of the Church in certain parts of the world. We can’t know what exactly is going on but we know we need to pray. But here is the point: we do know SOMETHING about the situation. How often have you prayed without really being burdened about what you are praying about? Have you ever just said some words without a real burden for the reason for your prayer. Yeah, me too. So what is the cure for this lackadaisical attitude towards prayer? Lets take a look at someone and learn from him the importance of being burdened and how being burdened actually positively affects our prayer life.

In Nehemiah we see a wonderful example of a person who had this correct. He didn’t just jump to prayer – vainly reciting words about things for which he wasn’t concerned. No, as we will see today, Nehemiah, before he prayed, would know the situation so well that he would be burdened for that situation. It was out of that burden that Nehemiah’s prayers – and actions – would flow.


These are the words of Nehemiah son of HacaliahIt so happened that in the month of Kislevin the twentieth year,   I was in Susa   the citadel. 1:2 Hananiwho was one of my relatives,  along with some of the men from Judahcame to me,  and I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and had survived the exileand about Jerusalem. 1:3 They said to me, “The remnant that remains from the exile there in the province are experiencing considerable  adversity and reproachThe wall of Jerusalem lies breachedand its gates have been burned down! 1:4 When I heard these things I sat down abruptly,  crying and mourning for several daysI continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 

So who is this Nehemiah guy?

We know from verse 11 that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. As cupbearer Nehemiah had a great job: he had intimate access to royalty, political standing, and a place to live in the palace. It was a cushy job that provided everything he needed. And yet, when one of his brothers returned from a road trip to Jerusalem, verse 2 says that Nehemiah “questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.” The word, “question” means “to inquire or demand” an answer. Nehemiah was greatly concerned about what  was happening in Jerusalem. He could have insulated himself if he chose to, but he didn’t. He sought them out and wanted to hear the first-hand report. You see Nehemiah was concerned about the problems in Jerusalem.

This is an important starting point. It’s so easy for us to stay not involved and unaware. Some of us don’t want to even think about stuff that’s going on in our own lives much less the lives of others in the Church. Even though Nehemiah had never been to Jerusalem, he had heard stories about it, and knew that his ancestors had been led away in chains when Babylon destroyed it. He was doing what Jeremiah 51:50 instructed the exiles to do: “…Remember the Lord in a distant land, and think on Jerusalem.”

As he thought on Jerusalem, he listened to the report in verse 3 that the survivors were in great trouble and disgrace, that the wall of Jerusalem was in shambles and that its gates had been burned with fire. As he tried to imagine the shame in the city of David, he could barely stand it. The phrase, “great trouble” meant that the people had “broken down and were falling to pieces.” Three words summarize the bad news: remnant, ruin, and reproach.

Nehemiah was broken over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. They were living in ruins and they accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation.

Friends, nothing is ever going to change in your life, in the life of the church, or for that matter, our nation, until we become concerned about the problem. Some of us have become complacent about the way our lives are going. We’re living with rubble and it doesn’t even bother us any more. We don’t care to pray about our situation. And when we do pray, those prayers lack urgency and passion How sad. When we become so unconcerned with the state of our sanctification that we don’t engage it anymore, we are truly getting a little too comfortable in the rubble of life. This should never be!

Think about this for a moment: have we lost the walls that once surrounded our lives? I’m not speaking about the protective wall God places around us. No I’m talking about the walls that hem in our actions  – the walls that keep us away from the things that we should avoid, and in the things we should be in. How are you doing here? Are you reading things you shouldn’t read? Are you looking at things that that are impure? We do not need to experience immorality to say immorality is wrong.

When Nehemiah heard this report, he hit the ground and began to weep in verse 4,  much like Jesus did when he cried out in painful tears when he observed the hard hearts of those in Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He also fasted. These are all signs of humility and show his deep concern for the problem of the desolation of Jerusalem.

Are you deeply concerned with your closeness to Christ? Or are you too comfortable in the rubble of your life? Have you taken steps to be more intimate with your Savior? Before you DO anything, pray. You know, its really hard to be intimate with someone when you rarely talk to that person.

Take time to be holy…take time to pray. 





The Church – not a local expression of it but the universal one true Church – must lock arms and get to work together. We must move forward in both sharing our faith and expressing our faith in ever-increasingly hostile environments.





Have you ever been afraid? Have you ever feared doing something? I’m not talking abut a fear of heights or a fear of swimming with crocodiles. No, I’m talking abut a fear of answering a call God has on your life. Perhaps that call involves moving somewhere you’re not familiar with or taking a job that you feel you don’t fully understand. You know what I’m talking about: fear of the unknown.



But what about your faith? Shouldn’t that override your fear? Well, yes it should. But sometimes engaging our faith in a time of fear is difficult. We don’t know what that looks like so we often times just give in to fear and wait longer than we should. So what doe it look like when my fear of the unknown (whether it is a job, a call, or where I live or what I do) intersects with my faith in an all-knowing, all-good God? Hmmmm.


Fear and Faith

I’m beginning a series of devotionals from the book of Nehemiah. I’ve wanted to do this for some time but kept putting it off for some reason. I’ll blame it on the winter blues. With the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) fast approaching, I figured I’d better get off my you-know-what and get to writing this devotion. So beginning Monday March 23, 2015, I will begin publishing my devotions from Nehemiah. I hope you profit from my observations. This week I’m focusing on introducing you to the book of Nehemiah and the series of devotionals coming up in the next few weeks and months.


nehemiah wall_final


The book of Nehemiah is actually titled Ezra-Nehemiah in the Hebrew canon. This is because the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are seen as one in the Hebrew canon. They were first divided in 1448 when a Hebrew manuscript first divided them. Since then that division has been the norm.


Nehemiah means “YHWH comforts” and was authored by – you guessed it – Nehemiah! Now there is the possibility that another chronicler worked on this book as well but the majority of the writing belongs to Nehemiah since the vast majority of Nehemiah is in the first person. Ezra appears to have combined his work with Nehemiah’s. Another possibility is the chronicler may have combined Ezra and Nehemiah into one work at a later (but not much later) date. Speaking of dates, the date of writing for Nehemiah is sometime around 433 – 400 BC.



From reading the book of Nehemiah, one comes away with multiple purposes for the book. Among these purposes is the historical one of providing a record of the reconstruction of the destroyed city of Jerusalem to the spiritual one of emphasizing of covenant renewal in the restored community in Jerusalem. While there are more purposes we can find in the book of Nehemiah, I want to focus on these two for various reasons.


The first reason is to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to His word. We’ll see this early in Nehemiah when Nehemiah recalls the promise of God to restore His people to the Promised Land. The second reason is to demonstrate that even through severe trials God’s plan is always good regardless of the obstacles in the way. The third reason I want to focus on the above two purposes of Nehemiah is because of thir direct application to us today. We need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness in the past as we navigate the treacherous waters of the present and future.



I think the title of this series gives away my application of this book: what happens when my fear collides with my faith. Throughout the individual devotions I hope to provide a practical application to what we have just learned. I hope those applications will provide you with encouragement to face the ever increasing difficulties of life in general.

As we stand on and for our faith, we must realize that opposition to us and our faith is mounting. We are facing difficulties now and will continue to face them in the future. The Church – not a local expression of it but the universal one true Church – must lock arms and get to work together. We must move forward in both sharing our faith and expressing our faith in ever-increasingly hostile environments.

I hope you enjoy this series. But more importantly I hope you both profit from and are encouraged by the observation I make. To God be all the glory!

He is Enough

Is Jesus enough to create the world, save me from my sin, and keep me saved in spite of myself?


Contemplating eternity is quite difficult for us. Actually it is near if not totally impossible for our minds to grasp what it means to be eternal. We have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We live from moment to moment. But God does not. He simply is. And grasping that idea is very difficult. But just because it is difficult to grasp does not mean it is untrue. As we continue in our short exegesis and exposition of Colossians 1, lets turn our attention to the final few verses.

 and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:18b-20 NASB

He is the beginning

We saw earlier in this passage that Jesus is the Creator of the universe. He existed before anything else and was the cause that other things exist. So is Paul repeating himself here? No, not really. Remember that we must interpret in context what is being said. We must never lift a verse or two out of the context in which it was written. If we do that then we run the risk of misunderstanding what God has for us.

So to what “beginning” is Paul referring? Well Paul just referred to Jesus as the head of the church so it seems natural to take the beginning as referring to the beginning of the church. So Jesus not only is God, not only is He the head of the church, He is the very beginning of the church. So how is he the beginning of the church. Well I can think of a couple of ways this works. First He is the source of the power from which the Church sprang. If Christ had not come and died, there would be no church. Second, He is THE source of the spiritual life of the church. Without Christ, the church is simply a social club. There would be no spiritual importance or purpose to the church.


He is Firstborn…again

Here we go again with the idea of being firstborn. Remember from our previous discussion that the term used for firstborn (prototokos) has less to do with the order as much as it has to do with the rank or importance of an individual. When we read that Jesus is firstborn from the dead, we know that this can not refer to Him being the first to be raised from the dead. Why? Well, did not Jesus Himself raise Lazarus from the dead? Yep, He sure did. So this must refer to the fact that Jesus is the most important person to be resurrected from the dead. And I do think He qualifies for that. So we see in this passage in Colossians 1 that Jesus has supremacy in creation and redemption.

So not only is He creator, He is supreme in redemption. How comforting it is to have a Savior who reigns supreme in the two most important events in history!


He is the Reconciler

Not only has Jesus been named God, chief in the universe, creator, the head and initiator of the church and supreme in redemption, now we see Jesus as the agent of reconciliation. Now I want to draw your attention to this phrase; “…to reconcile all things to Himself…” Some take this to mean that all people will be reconciled to Himself. But that would be universalism and universalism is false. So what does this phrase mean. Well, I may be on a limb here, but I think this may be referring to the eternal state rather than now. Why do I think this? The way this section ends – through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven – seems to leave out those who are not reconciled through His blood. Do you notice that those who are reconciled are those on earth or in heaven. But there are those who are in “outer darkness” and are not part of the earth or heaven. Could this be what Paul is referencing here. Well I think it is at least possible.

Another way to look at this is that reconciliation is not just redemption. This view would take the final judgement as a method to reconcile even those who are not redeemed. Scripture does states that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10). Interesting enough, Philippians 2:10 states that this will occur “in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” Hmmm, maybe I’m on to something here.


Is Jesus enough?

Is Jesus enough to create the word, save me from my sin, and keep me saved in spite of myself? When we think of all Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, we must never forget how He accomplished those things. He accomplished these various things as God would – perfectly, for His glory, and for His purpose.

Since both creation and redemption were initiated by Jesus, we can reject any notion that we are here by chance. We can also know that our redemption is secure since it depends wholly on the character of God  rather than our action.

Now how’s that for being secure!

He’s Better than Krazy Glue

We have a Savior who isn’t a part of our creation. He existed before anything else came into being. In fact He is the cause that anything came into being.

Do you remember the commercial with a guy hanging from a beam held there only by the product Krazy Glue? That stuff could hold things together like nobody’s business. Now we have Loctite, Gorilla Glue, Scotch Weld, 2 part epoxy. Each one of these glues claim t be the toughest and the strongest. But you know what? None of these glues could hold the universe together. Now while that may sound silly, you need to know that the universe is held together. Now it isn’t held together by gravity, dark matter, or some unknown force yet to be discovered. But it is nevertheless held together.

As we continue to progress through this passage at the speed of dark, lets not lose heart or grow weary at our slow pace. Far too often we rush through passages and don’t pay attention to what we are being taught. So enjoy our sow, methodical pace. Let’s continue to discover what God has for us here in Colossians 1.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning… Colossians 1:17-18a NASB

In these verses we see more about Jesus that should humble us. We should be humbled because this person Jesus described here is the same one who died and rose from the dead for us. This one…died for you and me. Wow.

He is Before the Beginning

In v. 17 we see some interesting things about Jesus. The first thing we see is that He is before all things. This means that Jesus predated the creation of the world. And if you remember a previous article, He is the creator of everything we see and don’t see.

We tend to think in a very linear fashion. What I mean by linear is that we think in terms of beginning – middle – end. Almost all our thoughts follow this pattern, at least when we think of issues of life. And why shouldn’t we think this way when every living thing or being has these three linear elements. But we can’t think this way when we think about Jesus. He is before all things…and this sums up the idea of being firstborn. He is not a created creature. No! He is the creator of the creatures! Wow.

Look again at v. 17. Jesus is before all things. He existed before light. He existed before time. He existed before everything. Now who is the One that has existed before everything else? Yep, you’re right, that One is God. Now are you seeing a pattern here in Colossians 1? Paul is pounding on the facts that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He has been existing for all time, before anything came into existent. In fact Jesus is the cause that anything came into existence. What a truth to try to comprehend! I admit that I struggle with this. How about you? To struggle with these magnificent truths that are outside of our experience are stretching experiences for our faith. We need to embrace these struggles.

He is Better than Krazy Glue

Not only did Jesus exist before everything, not only did He create everything, not only is Jesus before all things, but He holds everything together. Now what does the term everything mean? Well, look around. Do you see the mountain? The valley? The sun, moon and stars? Our galaxy? Our universe? What about the things you don’t see…atoms, sub atomic particles, dark matter? All that and everything else we see and do not see is held together by Jesus Christ Himself. You see gravity doesn’t hold things together, our ingenuity doesn’t hold things together, not even Krazy Glue holds everything together. No, Jesus is the One who holds all things together.

So not only did He exist prior to creation. Not only did He create everything. He also sustains all things. He is the reason the universe has order in it. He is the reason our atmosphere doesn’t fly off into outer space. Isn’t that comforting?

He is Head of the Church

I hope you attend a good church wherever you find yourself. We oftentimes think the Pastor of our church is the head. But as i was reminded many times when I was a Pastor, I am simply an under shepherd – like your Pastor – and Christ is the true Head of the Church. He is the One in charge, He is the One to whom we owe our loyalty. We serve Him, not our earthly Pastor. We live for Him, not our earthly Pastor. Sure we are to respect and obey those placed in authority and responsibility over us. But we must never forget that they are under Christ. They are not a law unto themselves. If you ever run into someone who thinks he’s has absolute authority over you and is correct in all things, run – don’t walk – away from him. Only Christ has all authority over you. Don’t ever let a mere man take the place that Christ rightfully holds.

Putting Everything Together

We have a Savior who isn’t a part of our creation. He existed before anything else came into being. In fact He is the cause that anything came into being. And far from the god of the deist, Jesus is involved in His creation. He did not just her it started and let it go. He continues to hold it all together. And all certainly includes the Church. He is our head, he bought the Church and He owns it. He is and always will be our Chief Shepherd. Regardless of what happens in our respective countries, He is the One to whom we owe loyalty.

We have learned much about Jesus Christ in our short survey of Colossians 1. Our survey, though, has only scratched the surface of what is contained in this passage. I sincerely hope that you are spurred on to look deeper into this passage. and deeper into Scripture as a whole.Lets take some time this next week and practice these things we have learned.

And lets be thankful and joyful that He has not and will not abandon us to chance. To God be all glory, power and honor. Amen.