Nehemiah re-built The Valley Gate. This is a difficult gate and one that we don’t generally want to go through- the valley experiences which no-one likes. We would all (myself included) much rather stay on the mountain top and enjoy those experiences with God but I don’t believe that we can stay there forever if we are to grow, mature and move on.
The valley gate can be a necessary part of following our path to achieve what God is preparing us for. It develops our faith and trust in God and we learn from the experience that God is faithful. I believe that Jesus had to go through the valley gate when he went from Mt Olives through the Kidron Gate into Garden of Gethsemane and then to the Cross. He was in agony in the garden but He yielded to God’s will to be done. Generally, in life we will all go through valley experiences but the encouragement is that we are never alone at those times and we can get through them. Jesus promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us through the valley – even the valley of death. The words of Psalm 23 encourages that God is with us and will not forsake us and will comfort us in time of difficulty and pain.
If you are in a valley situation right now – keep going, don’t give up and ask for God’s help. Sometimes the valley situations teach us far more than the mountain top experiences and our faith in God grows. God will show you the way through to the other side. Humility and the valley gate in my experience can sometimes go together hand in hand. I have had to humble myself under God’s mighty hand before I realise that I can’t handle situations on my own or with my own wisdom or little understanding. If I submit and surrender to God and acknowledge my dependence on Him then I have felt His peace even in the most difficult of situations.
Just as the name suggests this gate which Nehemiah rebuilt was the one used to get rid of the rubbish and dung. I don’t know about you but even after being a Christian for over 40 years, I am still a work in progress and I still sin (even when I don’t want to or intend to) and get things wrong. However, I don’t write myself off. Even though I still sin, I know that the power of sin over me has been broken because of the work of Christ at the Cross. I repent when I know I have done wrong and the Holy Spirit convicts me and I am cleansed by the power of the blood of Christ. The rubbish is swept out of the door. When the accuser comes to me I just point to the blood of Jesus and he has nothing on me. The slate is wiped clean. I don’t use the grace of Christ as a licence to sin but I rely on the grace of God in my life to convict me of sin.
If there is still rubbish in your life or you are carrying it around then I encourage you to get rid of it. It is only choking the word of God and the fruit of the Spirit maturing in you. If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives then He will convict us of sin. Keeping our hearts soft and not hardened by disobedience. What rubbish needs to be out of our lives today? Let’s be ruthless with it and get rid of it – once and for all.
The fish Gate was another gate which Nehemiah rebuilt. As followers of Christ we are called like the disciples of Jesus to be fishers of men. We have been given the great commission to go out and make disciples. It is the mandate from Christ to His church. If however we just put all of our efforts into catching the fish and seeing converts, but don’t disciple them properly afterwards, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see any growth or maturity.
Discipleship requires service, commitment, love and sacrifice. In order to walk alongside people, especially people who are hurting, we can need grace, patience and love in great abundance. The Holy Spirit can help us to develop the fruit of the Spirit in discipleship and teach us how to disciple others. We need to know the truth of the gospel ourselves in order that we can help others to mature in Christ and follow Him. The Christian life can be one of suffering, hardship and persecution because of our faith in Jesus and preparing people for that is a key part of discipleship.
Are the nets ready for the catch? If there is to be a great harvest of souls then we need to get ready to disciple them. If you are a follower of Christ then I encourage you to share your testimony and life with others who are new to the faith and disciple them. Help them and strengthen them to grow and mature in Christ and share your experiences with them. We all have something to offer in service to Jesus. Is there someone that you can take under your wing today or give a supporting hand?
Here are some questions for us? How and What are we building in our lives? First the How? I am encouraged by the example of how to build from Nehemiah Ch 3 in the Old Testament. The order in which Nehemiah describes how the gates and walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt is an example of how the Holy Spirit inspires us to build in our lives. Jesus said that he would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
The Sheep Gate was the first gate to be rebuilt. This is the most important in our lives. We have to come to God through the Sheep gate. The bible teaches us that it is only those who enter in by Christ (the Shepherd and the Sheep gate) who can come into relationship with God. Have we come through the Cross – and really understood the power of the Cross in our lives? That the power of sin and death is broken. If we try and build on anything apart from the true revelation of Christ and the Cross we will be in difficulty. Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. We need to come in through the Sheep gate.
Christ warns us about those who don’t come in by the Sheep gate – not sheep but wolves in Sheep’s clothing – and false shepherds. John 10 -7 – Jesus says “Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” “But he who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep – To him the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus went on to explain: “Most assuredly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before me are thieves and robbers but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door, If anyone enters by Me he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Please beware of any teaching about Jesus which is contrary to what the Bible reveals to us about Jesus and weigh and test it against scripture. We need to come to Christ through a true revelation of the Cross and build on Him as the cornerstone of our faith.
I understand that the Sheep gate was the only gate that didn’t have locks and bars. To me this symbolises that the way to God is open through Jesus and it is open to everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done. Nothing can disqualify you from receiving grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ and the redemptive power of the Cross. If you have never come through the Sheep Gate then I encourage you to confess your sins and take that step by faith today. Receive forgiveness and start a new life in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The message bible translation of Zechariah 3 v 10 is “At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence; friendly visits on one another’s porches.” What a lovely picture of peacefulness.
We all long, I am sure, for a day when peace reigns in our neighbourhoods and cities. When people can rub along together despite “fences ” -the differences that separate them. The Bible talks here of just such a day when this can happen. I want that in my neighbourhood and I am sure you do too.
A day when knife crime and violence is not the words we see and read about in our newspapers and TV but instead there is genuine friendship and love for one another. Love your neighbour as yourself is one of the commandments in the bible and Jesus emphasised it in His teaching. As we come into this season of Lent what is it that we can do for our neighbours as a friendly gesture that will show God’s love for them through us.
What could it be? A friendly greeting, a smile, a bunch of flowers, a catch up with a cup of tea, an invitation for a meal? Showing friendship to those who are alone and lonely. I am sure that God will show us and open up the door of opportunity to us in this season of Lent.
Psalm 46 verse 1 says that “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in times of trouble”. If you are in the middle of difficult times and struggling to hang on and feel that everything is conspiring against you then I encourage you to take hold of these verses. God is with you and will not let you sink. His everlasting arms are around you to support you.
In verse 10 it says “Be still and know that I am God”. I always thought that this meant that I was to be still and know Him in such times but the footnotes in my Bible say that this is God telling the wicked- “Be Still and know that I am God”. In other words God is telling the enemy who is rising against us and conspiring against us “Back off -enough is enough- you don’t have a chance of winning in this situation because I am God”.
I love that. Thank you Father that you are on our side. God puts the enemy well and truly in his place. He reminds the enemy that God alone will be exalted among the nations. God may allow us to go through certain trials and struggles to strengthen our faith and so that we can grow in spiritual maturity – things that sometimes we do not understand- but ultimately God always has the last say over the enemy and his strategies because God is God. God is sovereign and everything in heaven and earth is subject to Him.
This was evident when Jesus spoke to the storm that was raging all around the boat carrying the disciples and Jesus over the sea of Galilee and He commanded the winds and the waves to “Be still” and they were. Does God need to speak into a few storms in your life or do you need to remind the storms that God is saying to them “Be Still”.
A visiting speaker encouraged us recently to be a bit of kindling and allow the Lord to set fire to us. A little fire can be all it takes – it can spread like wildfire as nature has shown us with the wildfires which took hold last year in various places. At this time we are to press in and not be discouraged. Don’t settle where you are but press on in faith. The breakthrough or miracle you have been waiting for or seeing in faith could be just around the corner.
We may face opposition just before we see the promise and answer come to pass. When Jesus was on the way to heal the sick daughter of the leader, Jairus, people came to tell him not to bother because the girl was already dead. Jesus refused to accept that and told them that she was not dead only sleeping. The people ridiculed him but Jesus silenced them, pressed ahead and the girl was raised up. People may ridicule you or try to stop you pressing in to what God has for you and the vision He has shown you.
When we step out in faith we are His vessels. It is the oil of His Presence and the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us to do His good works which He prepared beforehand for us to do. The people who know their God will be strong and do mighty things. You may have people telling you opposite things to the promises of God and what God has revealed to you by His Holy Spirit. Do not listen to them and refuse to believe them. Stand on the Word of God. You may have to be bold and silence them. Fix your eyes on Christ. Lift up your head and see the King of Glory
In scripture John the Baptist said that Jesus was the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. Tongues of fire appeared on the heads of those who first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I have been baptised in the Holy Spirit but I want to be on fire for Jesus. I believe this fire is purifying and empowering to enable the Holy Spirit to flow through us in power in signs and wonders to give a powerful witness to the gospel message of Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and glorifies Jesus Christ. People are saved and those who are suffering to healed and restored. Hold on to your promise and vision today and believe in faith. It will happen in His appointed time.