Monthly Archives: September 2014

Transition 2: On David and Nehemiah

David was a reflective leader and man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22).  Nehemiah was a dynamic change agent and a man who demonstrated dependence upon God while engaging human effort (Nehemiah 4:9).  Both men were intent on doing God’s will and fulfilling His purposes.  From these two men we learn that biographical studies can enrich our living and leading significantly.  How do you study the life of a person in order to discover such rich truth?

In seminary I took a course from Dr. Howard Hendricks on Biographical Bible Study.  Before electronic search was possible he identified 2930 different persons mentioned in the Bible.  By studying a person we can learn:

How truth was translated into life
What works and does not work
That every person has flaws and admirable qualities
How the Holy Spirit operated through people
Let me suggest a process that I was taught that could certainly launch you into a rewarding biographical study.  Until you gain some experience with biographical studies you might want to choose a character that has enough written about him or her, but not so much to overwhelm you.

1.  Collect the passages that address the person directly or indirectly.

2.  Conduct a personality interview by asking as many relevant questions as you can think of about background, family, birth order, strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, failure, etc.

3.  Categorize the person’s life in one or more structures such as chronologically, crises, geography, etc.

4.  Consolidate principles or lessons that stand out as characterizing the person’s main contributions.

You can find a helpful approach and lists for biographical studies here:

For anyone having read the Bible at least once and attended some form of teaching you have developed opinions about major Bible characters.  It would be helpful to write a paragraph or so on what comes to mind when you think of a person before you start your study.  These opinions may or may not be accurate and to be aware of your assumptions (both good and bad) will enable you to study more objectively.

Because biographies can so powerfully connect with our life in terms of areas of identification, we do well to read or listen to at least one a year.  What are your favorite biblical characters and why?  Which historical characters have most touched your life?  Regardless of your life stage, how can you seek to cultivate one positive aspect you see in another so you can better enjoy life and build a legacy to be proud about?  This generation needs Davids and Nehemiahs.  Maybe God would have you carry on their tradition!



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Nehemiah Review

As was noted in prior blogs on the man Nehemiah, he was God’s change agent at a crucial time in Israel’s history.  He had the character and skill needed to facilitate change.  He was also a master at motivation, getting the people to do what was needed for the city, what was best for them, and what was a part of God’s bigger plan.  So please remember this as you read on.

When is comes to lasting change, Nehemiah was not so successful.  For 12 years Nehemiah remained in Jerusalem as the political head to assist the religious leaders with developing a society that would exemplify God-honoring principles.  Getting materials in place, whether for a temple or for walls, is a relatively easy process compared to getting people to live well with one another and in God’s way.  When Nehemiah returned to Babylon, he left seemingly good people in place to continue building a healthy community.  However in a short time, things turned bad and he felt responsible to return and exert his authority to rectify problems.

The only biblical record to follow Nehemiah historically is found in the book of Malachi.  Here we learn that the people living in Jerusalem fall into many problems and are once again scolded by God for their unbelief and sinful behavior.  Nehemiah performed his task well, but was unable to bring about the lasting change in the hearts of people for which the walls were built to facilitate.  Change is certainly complex.

Any and every change process is time bound.  Only salvation through Christ is eternal.  In our rapidly changing world, we should not expect our change efforts to last for years.  The second law of thermodynamics seems accurate for most of life: the quality of everything deteriorates over time while randomness and chaos increases.  So it was with the change that took place under Nehemiah’s leadership and so it will be with ours.

How can we labor knowing that our efforts will deteriorate?  This story of a famous hymn might help.

“In 1887, just following an evangelistic meeting held by Dwight L. Moody, a young man stood to share his story in an after-service testimony meeting.  As he was speaking, it became clear to many that he knew little about the Bible or acceptable Christian doctrine.  His closing lines, however, spoke volumes to seasoned and new believers alike: I’m not quite sure. But, I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.

Daniel Towner was so struck by the power of those simple words that he quickly jotted them down, then delivered them to John Sammis, who developed the lyrics to Trust and Obey.  Towner composed the music and the song quickly became a favorite.” (

Every change process is an exercise in trust and obedience.  How much of our personal change never reverts?  How much of the change we have seen in loved ones continues without relapses?  How much of our ministry efforts have continued without deterioration?  Sustainable change is only possible through constant prayer, through vigilant focus applying the needed energy to maintain progress, and through a realization that change is not an end but a never-ending process.

So, how regular are you in praying for what you are seeking to change?  How much energy do you continue to apply to keep the change momentum?  What change have you seen that needs to be allowed to deteriorate so you can focus on new change?  Effective leaders facilitate change—may you do so while understanding the process and like Nehemiah, ask God to strengthen the work of your hands (6:9).  Maybe Nehemiah was quite effective with change after all.




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