October 18 – I Will Remember: Rising Up and Building Even During Times of Trial

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Read Nehemiah 1:2-4. Nehemiah 2:17-20, Nehemiah 1:4-11

In the opening pages of Nehemiah, we hear horrible news: Jerusalem is in ruins. We can see how much a crisis this is for the people of Israel in Nehemiah’s reaction. He not only weeps, fasts, and prays, but he works up the courage to go to the King who sends him to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around the city. 

Upon arriving, Nehemiah surveys the scene before recruiting those in the city to join in rebuilding. In the story, we see that it was not simply a matter of city defenses, but a statement about God and his people. In his prayer in 1:4-11, Nehemiah repents of how Israel had been unfaithful and calls upon God to hear and respond to their need. 

In walking through this passage, three features of Nehemiah’s response are helpful for us when we’re faced with a crisis. 

First, Nehemiah’s initial reaction was to mourn and pray for God’s provision. In times of trial, our first instinct is often to act in our own strength. Moreover, we can belittle or minimize our emotions of pain and frustration. Yet Nehemiah turns his mourning towards God in prayer to seek him rather than dismiss it as unimportant or wrong. 

Second, notice that upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah sets to work recognizing that it is time to “rise up and build.” Times of crisis and trial can sometimes freeze us with inaction. Yet Nehemiah recognizes that God has set him on mission and likewise calls others to join him. That ought to be our focus as well. 

Finally, when Nehemiah is confronted by opposition, he does not allow them to distract from his objective. Rather, he recognizes the opposition for what it is and reorients back to what God has called him to do. 

Throughout the passage, we see a powerful example of responding to the difficult seasons of life. Beginning with mourning and prayer, we need to move out on mission and fend off those who attempt to distract us from God’s calling. 

Questions for Reflection

How have you responded in times of trial and difficulty?

How can you be a light to others during times of anxiety and fear? 

October 17 – I Will Remember – Here I Raise My Ebenezer: A Stone of Remembrance

The following is a YouVersion plan written by the Billy Graham Center. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

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Read 1 Samuel 7:3-17, 1 Samuel 3:20

The hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” begins the second stanza with the following lyrics:

“Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” 

For those unfamiliar with the storyline behind the usage of Ebenezer, one could think that someone is raising their child named Ebenezer in Lion-King fashion. However, Ebenezer is a reference to a stone that the prophet Samuel had established between two cities as a memorial to the Lord, representing how the Lord was a “stone of help,” helping Israel win the victory over the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:3-17). Thus, the reference to raising one’s Ebenezer is raising a memorial—a remembrance—of how the Lord has been and is a stone of help.

Within the context of the raising of “the stone of help,” or the raising of Ebenezer, there are two particular points of interest.

First, the “stone of help” was raised after a much-needed return to the Lord. 

If you read back a couple of chapters, you will see that Israel had experienced a period of turbulent times. They had seen the corruption and evil of the sons of Eli—the priest of Israel. They had experienced multiple poundings by the Philistines. After their last beating, the Philistines captured their national sacred mascot, the ark of the covenant. In addition, they witnessed the death of the priestly family. Furthermore, they were a nation chasing after other gods. After these events, Samuel, the established prophet of the Lord (1 Sam. 3:20), called Israel to return to the Lord with all their hearts.

Second, the stone of help was raised after Israel cried out to the Lord in great desperation. 

As Israel gathered as a nation to repent and return to the Lord, the Philistines heard about the gathering and planned to crash the repentance party with an attack. When Israel heard about the attack, “they were afraid of the Philistines.” 

However, they asked Samuel to constantly “cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” The difference between their actions now, verses their previous actions, was the central power and focus behind the fighting. Previously, Israel was fighting in their own power and for themselves—even though they used God as a lucky rabbit’s foot. 

Don’t miss this. Prior to the Ebenezer being raised, Israel approached God in desperation, knowing that they could not win unless he fought for them. In other words, they were completely dependent on God for help—for victory. This is where God wants us all to be—regardless of the kind of crises we may face. 

In closing, whatever we face today, tomorrow, or down the road is something that God does not just want to face with us, but for us. Jesus did not come to be “part” of our life as if to become a spiritual tack-on, but rather has come to bring us life and to be our life! Thus, we should live lives completely dependent on him. When we live this way, we will find ourselves raising more “Ebenezers” (memorial stones signifying how God has been our stone of help). 

Questions for Reflection

What Ebenezer should you raise today in remembrance of how God was your stone of help? 

How can you come alongside others to help them see their Ebenezers? 

October 16 – I Will Remember – God’s Faithfulness in Past Trials

The following is a YouVersion plan written by the Billy Graham Center. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

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Read Deuteronomy 8:1-7

Leading up to this passage, God has just given to Israel his greatest commandment—love the Lord your God (Deut. 6:5)—and established his relationship to them: the Lord your God has chosen you (Deut. 7:6). Now God reinforces these two truths with the key to living them out faithfully. 

Commanding Israel to be faithful, God connects this obedience with taking care in the importance of remembering. In scripture, the call to remember is always attached to covenant faithfulness. To remember is to remain faithful while to forget is to fall away. This is why God is regularly depicted as the one who remembers (Gen. 8:1; 1 Sam. 1:19; Ps. 105:42). It is a way of expressing his steadfast love and faithfulness: he remembers his covenant with his people. 

For God’s people, however, there is always the temptation to forget—not only what God has done, but also what he has commanded us to do in the present. Israel was to live a certain way because God was real, he had made them his people, and he had liberated them from captivity. 

Just as God was real, so his law was real. To forget God’s actions in history was to invalidate or at least lesson the realness of his law. In this passage, God specifies what he wants them to remember: He had not abandoned them to hunger or cold in the wilderness but supernaturally provided for them. In their need, God has been there. 

One of the reasons why forgetting God’s faithfulness for us in the past can be so destructive is because it blinds us to his presence and provision in the midst of current struggle. We face challenges and worry that God is not there, that the problem is too great, or that the future is too uncertain. Remembering is critical to faithfulness because it confronts these thoughts with the truth of God’s track record.  

Questions for Reflection

Take time to list out what God has done in past seasons in the wilderness. How did he answer your prayers in that season? How did he grow your faith? 

How can you share your stories of remembering with neighbors, friends, and family during their times of difficulty?

PUBLISHER

We would like to thank Billy Graham Center for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.billygrahamcenter.com

October 15 – I Will Remember – Remembering God in the Wilderness

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Read Numbers 14:1–38; Matthew 4:1–11

Israel’s time in the wilderness wasn’t meant to last 40 years. It lasted 40 years because of their rebellious hearts. In response to the report from the majority of the spies, whom Moses sent to scout the Promised Land, the people of Israel refused to believe God’s promise. 

As a result, “The Lord responded…’none of the men who have seen my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did not obey me, will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers’” (Num. 14:20, 22). 

Fast-forward thousands of years, and we see Jesus in the wilderness. And just like Israel, Jesus was led there. While in the wilderness, rather than rebel against God, Jesus obeys him and emerges ready to launch his ministry (Matt. 4). 

The wilderness is something that we all have experienced. Wilderness seasons make us feel as though we’ve been driven out to the middle of nowhere and the pleasures and comfort of life have vanished. In the wilderness, every step feels like a struggle as God seems to be far away.

In both of these wilderness accounts, there are at least three lessons for us to remember. 

First, the wilderness is part of God’s plan. The wilderness is not the destination, but part of the journey God has for us. Second, the wilderness acts as a spiritual thermometer that takes your spiritual temperature. The wilderness has a way of revealing either how far away you are from God or how close you are to God. Third, what you remember in the wilderness will either prevent you from or push you towards the promises of God. 

Most of the older generation of Israel chose to remember a distorted reality in Egypt. Rather than pressing into the presence, power, and promises of God, they chose to remember their life under an oppressive and violent regime as better. 

Jesus, on the other hand, chose to remember to live by God’s word, trust God’s faithfulness, and worship and serve God alone. 

Maybe you find yourself in a wilderness season where every day seems to be a struggle and God seems to be distant. But even when God feels distant, we must remember that he will never leave nor forsake his children.

Questions for Reflection

If you are in a season of wilderness journeying, how are you allowing it to either prevent you from God’s promises or push you towards his promises? 

How can you journey with others through this wilderness right now?

PUBLISHER

We would like to thank Billy Graham Center for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.billygrahamcenter.com

October 14 – I Will Remember – When Your World Falls Apart

The following is a YouVersion plan written by the Billy Graham Center. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

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Read Genesis 1:26–31; 2:15–25; 3:1–19

There are many people today who believe their world is falling apart. That world could be physical, financial, vocational, relational, personal, or spiritual. 

When someone feels as though his or her world is falling apart, what that person is saying is that there has been this instant shift from the good to the bad. The good he or she had worked for, invested in, spent time with, enjoyed, and/or loved, is, in a moment, gone. 

This is the picture in Genesis 1, 2, and 3. In these chapters, we read that God created, built, invested in, and enjoyed his perfect creation. In addition, he created man in his own image for the purpose of reflecting his glory throughout the created order. Being his prized creation, Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect fellowship with their Creator as well as with one another. In short, there was shalom (total flourishing) over the whole earth. 

However, in a single moment shalom was shattered. Rebellion entered into God’s perfectly created order when Eve and Adam cognitively chose to disobey his word and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. At that moment, their world fell apart. 

Their world of perfection, harmony, peace, love, unity, and fellowship ended. They instantaneously realized they were naked. Rather than seeking God to fix this feeling, this change of reality, they sought to fix it themselves. And when they sensed God’s presence, they played a little game of “Hide and Seek” with God. But even when they came out of hiding, they immediately began blaming someone else for the crashing of their world. 

In short, their situation—a world in shambles—was now one of fear, confusion, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and chaos. 

In the midst of a broken world, God speaks a word of hope. We see this word of hope in Genesis 3:15 where he promises than an offspring (a child) of Eve would bruise the head of the serpent. Scholars refer to this as the “first gospel” where God promises to reconcile the world to himself, to restore the world to a pre-fall state, and to consummate his cosmic divine kingdom. He will accomplish this by crushing the head of the serpent, ultimately defeating sin. 

To foreshadow this promise, God clothes Adam and Eve’s nakedness by using animal skin (Gen. 3:21). 

Maybe you feel as though your world is falling apart. Maybe you feel, in general, that the world is falling apart. If so, remember today the wonderful promise that God made to Adam and Eve, which was fulfilled when Jesus (the offspring of Eve) went to the cross to die for the sin of the world. Remember that the Lord will one day fully reverse a world that has fallen apart to a world of total flourishing (shalom). 

Questions for Reflection


How does it seem your world is falling apart, and where do you sense God meeting you in that? 

How can you speak the truth of restoration into the lives of those around you?

PUBLISHER

We would like to thank Billy Graham Center for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.billygrahamcenter.com