The Nehemiah Code (book review)

I love studying biblical leadership principles, the people who follow or violate those principles, the outcomes of their decisions, and the lessons that we can apply today from those stories. Probably everyone has had something fall apart in their lives that needed to be rebuilt. If so, you will love the biblical leadership principles that O.S. Hawkins reveals in The Nehemiah Code. 

Nehemiah comes on the scene after the Jewish people have been in exile for 70 years, but they are now allowed to return to their homeland. However, there’s an embarrassing problem: the walls around Jerusalem are in utter disrepair and the city gates have been burned away to ash. The returning exiles are wringing their hands over this sorry state of affairs for a long time until a rebuilding leader named Nehemiah comes on the scene. 

O.S. Hawkins shares the leadership principles Nehemiah employs to get the walls rebuilt and the gates rehung—a massive project that he was able to accomplish in just 52 days! But the powerful thing about the way Rev. Hawkins shares these principles is that they are all applicable to rebuilding projects we face today. 

Maybe you don’t have city walls to rebuild, but perhaps your marriage has crumbled, or your status at work has fallen apart, or you’ve done damage to your integrity. Whatever rebuilding project you need to undertake, you will find principles in The Nehemiah Project that you will be able to put into practice today! As Rev. Hawkins says over and over: It’s never too late for a new beginning. 

Whether you have a rebuilding project of your own, you would like to come alongside a friend who is rebuilding something in their own life, or you are simply a God-honoring leader that wants to expand your leadership capacity, this book will help you soar. 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

C.S. Lewis On Relationships

All of these quotes from C.S. Lewis appear in the book Yours, Jack.

“The modern tradition is that the proper reason for marrying is the state described as ‘being in love.’ … Doesn’t the modern emphasis on ‘love’ lead people either into divorce or into misery, because when that emotion dies down they conclude that their marriage is a ‘failure,’ though in fact they have just reached the point at which real marriage begins.” 

“There is a terrible comment on this in I Cor VI 16 ‘he that is joined to a harlot is one flesh.’ You see? Apparently, if Christianity is true, the mere fact of sexual intercourse set up between human beings a relation which has, so to speak, transcendent repercussions—some eternal relation is established whether they like it or not.” 

“Agape is best seen, I think, in the words ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ i.e., by an act of will, aim at your neighbor’s good in the same way as you aim at your own. Now you don’t ‘love’ yourself because of your own ‘lovable qualities.’ You may, in moments of vanity, attribute lovable qualities to yourself, but that is not the cause of your self-love but one of the results of it. At other moments, when you dislike yourself, you still wish for your own happiness. This attitude to one’s own self is dictated by nature: towards other selves it has to be acquired.” 

“The great thing in friendship as in all other forms of love is, as you know, to turn from the demand to be loved (or helped or answered) to the wish to love (or help or answer).” 

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” 

“I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which forces it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all of our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving.” 

“It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. … God has His own unique way with each soul.” 

“The real trouble about the duty of forgiveness is that you do it with all your might on Monday and then find on Wednesday that it hasn’t stayed put and all has to be done over again.”

You can read my review of Yours, Jack by clicking here. And you can check out some other quotes I shared from this collection of Lewis’ personal correspondence here and here.

10 Marriage Tips For Guys

Guys, here’s how to add heat to your marriage (regardless of its current temperature)—

  1. Let the Holy Spirit continue to develop His fruit in you—this is the only way to become a truly exceptional lover.
  2. Pray for your wife, and pray with your wife.
  3. Say “I love you” every day. 
  4. Learn her love language and speak it regularly. 
  5. Hold her hand. 
  6. Compliment her privately—not just for how she looks or what she does, but for who she is. 
  7. Praise her publicly in front of her friends, family, and coworkers.
  8. Find ways to assure her that she is your #1 priority. Every single day.
  9. Take her out on a date that you have planned. 
  10. Repeat steps 1-9.

“The most joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, trustworthy lovers are Spirit-empowered lovers.” —Craig T. Owens

Got any other ideas? Share them in the comments below so we can all benefit from them.

Strengths-Based Marriage (reading plan review)

Normally on Tuesdays, I post book reviews here, but I’ve been reading a couple of YouVersion reading plans with my wife this summer that I felt I must share with you. Both of them are by Jimmy Evans—One: A Marriage Devotional and Strengths-Based Marriage. 

If you are unfamiliar with YouVersion Bible, there is both a web-based site and a mobile app that you really should check out. I spend a lot of quality time in the Scripture using the app on my iPhone each day. One of the cool features YouVersion has recently introduced is the ability to read devotional plans with friends. This offers:

  • accountability with your reading partners 
  • a set schedule of reading assignments
  • access to all the biblical texts that correspond with the day’s devotional reading
  • a place to share your thoughts just with your reading partners, and inaccessible to anyone else on YouVersion

Strengths-Based Marriage focuses on exactly what the title leads you to expect—the strengths in you and your spouse. Instead of trying to “fix” something in your spouse, Jimmy Evans turns your attention toward the God-implanted strengths in your spouse, and then gives you some practical counsel for calling out those strengths. 

For example, in one of the devotions he wrote, “Each of us is remarkably unique, and to minimize that irreplaceable uniqueness is to rob the world of a contribution that cannot come any other way.” And in another devotional he says, “You cannot separate your treasures from your passions. In other words, you will always be most passionate about the people, pursuits, and places where you are investing the best of your life. Your passions will always follow the investments of your time, energy, and strengths.”

One: A Marriage Devotional is a much more daily nuts-and-bolts approach to our marriages. In this devotional he shares relationships principles, and then gives us a “Talk It Out” and a “Walk It Out” assignment to put into practice. 

In one of these devotionals he writes, “God created marriage to operate as the most important human relationship in our lives, and it only succeeds on that level. … Priority must be proven daily in real terms and not just in words. Good intentions mean very little in marriage. The only thing that matters is what you do and continue to do consistently. For your marriage to work, you must establish it as the first priority and be willing to protect it against good or bad things that try to distract you.”

Whether your marriage is in need of urgent attention, it could use some minor improvements, or it’s already pretty great, both of these devotionals will give you practical tips, time with your spouse in God’s Word, great conversation-starting questions, and some highly practical tips you can use right now. 

Saturday In The Proverbs—A Powerful 1-2 Punch (Proverbs 5)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

My son, pay attention… (Proverbs 5:1).

Adultery can look exciting.

Pornography might seem harmless.

Sex outside of marriage may appear appealing…

…but only to the foolish! 

Solomon warns of the perils of any sexual activity outside of marriage, but he also tells of the joyous satisfaction of sex inside of marriage. 

His conclusion for us:

  1. DON’T even dabble in sexual immorality 
  2. DO invest in your marriage

This is a powerful 1-2 punch to both find satisfaction in your spouse, and avoid the heartache illicit sexual activity is guaranteed to bring. 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “E” Is For Engagement Of Christ’s Followers

Let’s get some insight into the Greco-Roman and Jewish mindsets of the first century AD. Specifically, the mindset of men. 

There is a well-known letter written June 17, 1 BC, from a man named Hilarion, who was gone off to Alexandria, to his wife Alis, whom he has left at home. He writes to her: “If—good luck to you—you bear a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” This letter captures the male-dominated mindset in the Roman world concerning women and children. In a word: inferior or even disposable. 

This mindset wasn’t limited to the world the Jews called “pagan,” but it was prevalent in Judaism too. Every day Jewish men began their morning prayer time with, “God, I thank You that You did not make me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” 

With this background, it makes it startling that a Jewish man (who prayed that prayer thousands of times) writing to people in Rome (who undoubtedly had the same mindset as Hilarion), begins his list of thank you notes with gratitude to two women! Paul goes on to list no less than 8 women, even giving preferential treatment to a wife (Priscilla) over her husband (Aquila) when he mentions her name first! (see Romans 16:1-4, 6, 12).

William Barclay wrote, “Anyone who asks the question: ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.”

Indeed Christians changed the lives of at least four groups:

  1. Women (especially in the role of marriage)—divorce was so common that it was neither unusual nor particularly blameworthy for a woman to have a new husband every year. Yet Christians taught men to esteem their wives and for marriage to be honored by everyone (Ephesians 5:28; Hebrews 13:4). 
  2. Children—who weren’t even considered a part of the family until they had grown up and proven their worth to the father. Yet Christians taught fathers to nurture their children (Ephesians 6:4).
  3. Senior citizens—the pragmatic Romans had little to do with those they considered less valuable. But the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free medical dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady.
  4. The weak and sick—when a plague hit Rome, all the young, healthy people left the sick and elderly behind. They ran away, but the Christians stayed to help. The Christians taught that everyone (regardless of age, sex, or wealth) was valuable (1 Timothy 5:1-2). 

That was just the start of Christianity. Men like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln were Christians who opposed slavery; Clara Barton was nicknamed “the angel of the battlefield” and founded the Red Cross; Paul Brand was a doctor who ran to leprosy patients when everyone else shunned them; Mother Teresa loved those poor, dying souls whom others ignored. 

So what’s your conclusion? Throughout history Christians have been martyred for their faith, but not only are they willing to die for their belief that Jesus is alive, but they continue to do good to those who persecute them. Would people do this to perpetrate a hoax? Or does this sound more like the real deal?

Please check out the other evidence I have presented for the resurrection of Jesus:

Book Reviews From 2017

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