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If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that in the rush and activity and cares of day-to-day life, it’s incredibly easy to forget about God.

From the simple act of heading to work or school all the way to complicated circumstances involving relationships, finances, and health, our limited, mortal minds and hearts aren’t always geared toward God as much as they should be.

This can be especially prevalent when things are going well, right? How many of us tend to put the Lord on the back burner when life is rich with success and happiness — only to come back to God for help when things take a wrong turn.

In today’s passage (Nehemiah 8: 13-18), Ezra reads from the Law to his fellow Israelites a command from God to “live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month.” And why? So they all will remember what they went through during their desert wanderings — and that God was the One who brought them out of captivity and into the Promised Land.

Ezra may have read from a passage like Deuteronomy 8:10-18, which reminds the Jewish people to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands … Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” 

But instead what we find in this Nehemiah passage is the people heeding the command to build temporary shelters so they will remember the Lord — and verse 17 says, “The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.”

Remembering and thanking God is a joyful act, isn’t it? True, the world we live in combined with our sinful natures makes it easy to forget the Lord. But there are things we can do to counteract that — even using the technology that often sidetracks us.

We can use apps and email sign-ups to provide moments every day to get into God’s word, even with the expectation that the Lord will show us something great, something life changing. We can apply what we’ve learned each day, whether that means encouraging just one person, talking to somebody who’s in need or lonely, or integrating our faith into everything we do.

But the bottom line is this: Remember the Lord. Always.

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Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength “, now if you want to exercise this Joy in your life, Nehemiah is going to go on in the passage and tell us how to do that. How do we maximize this joy, how do we exercise this joy solution when our hearts are heavy?

This what Nehemiah told the people they needed to do:
1) Go and celebrate God’s grace by enjoying a meal together, allowing God to bring joy into their hearts to deal with the mourning, regrets and the grieving that’s going on.
2) Share God’s grace with others, by sharing their food with others and shifting their focus from their pain to others who can be blessed.
3) Finally they’re going to understand God’s word by listening intently and seeing that He is at work in their past, present and futures. Joy at its depth is understanding God and what He’s done for us.

Today is the day we’re going to embrace the joy of the Lord in our hearts. Today is the day we’re going to be different people. We’re going to think about the future, we’re going to allow God to forgive us for the past, and when the grief and the loss and the pain that we experience in our hearts reveals itself, we are going to rely on the joy of the Lord as our strength.

And that joy’s going to grow to be so strong that we may not forget the regrets and the mourning, but the perspective of having the joy of the Lord as our strength allows us to be able to have compassion on others, to be able to give a testimony about the things we’ve done in the past that we regret, and bless others in the midst of that.

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There’s nothing like anticipating something great: A movie we’ve been dying to watch, seeing a friend or family member after a long time apart, or waiting for that great meal as the ingredients coming together waft through the air.

God wants us to come to Him and His word with that same sense of wonder and anticipation — that the Lord will reveal something life-changing and profound when we open the Bible and let Him speak to us through it.

This passage in Nehemiah describes a group of people who very likely were eagerly awaiting the public reading God’s word. It was a huge moment because no one had “Bibles” to carry around back then — much less instant access to verses on the Internet. So, the occasion was momentous and profound.

And think about it: Centuries upon centuries have passed since then — but we’re reading the same truths. And we have access to the same power of God.

How? Exactly how Nehemiah’s people accessed it: Reading God’s word, believing it, declaring it — and last but not least, obeying it. When we as Christians combine our faith and belief in Jesus and the reading of His word, great things will happen — not just in our own lives, but in our church, in our communities, in our country, and in our world.

God wants to unleash his power in our lives today — right now. It’s all there for those of us who believe. But we have to want it — and take that first step by opening up God’s word. Won’t you do that today?

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Now that it’s the year 2020, why not pause for a moment right now as you’re reading these words and briefly reflect upon what you accomplished in 2019.

Did you make more money or increase your assets? Did you get a promotion at work or a better job? Did you improve your health? Did you make strides in your relationships with people — or in your relationship with God?

Today’s passage deals with a similar theme, as it’s about an important milestone Nehemiah reached.

But while achieving visible goals is important, we also must remember that God looks at our hearts, too, and sees deeper ways we’re growing and changing — strides that often aren’t measurable.

Nehemiah has just built the wall of Jerusalem and set the doors in place — a huge accomplishment! But afterward he shifted his focus. First, he solidified the wall by appointing gatekeepers to look after it. Then he celebrated the milestone by appointing musicians and Levites to lead his people in the worship of God. 

Whatever measurable goals we reach, let’s follow Nehemiah’s example by solidifying and celebrating them according to God’s will. 

What does God want to accomplish in your life in 2020? What changes does he want to make in your heart? Whatever those things are and wherever God leads, let’s all make sure to take the necessary steps to keep the Lord at the center of our “to-do” lists.