It has been called a builder's manual, a handbook on management and a how-to guide for getting your employees to do their jobs. But is leadership and building really what the book of Nehemiah is all about?
The book of Nehemiah brings the biblical record of Israel's rise and fall to a close—it is the last historical Bible book before the time of Jesus. It records how Nehemiah left his position as a high official in the court of the Persian King to return to Israel to rebuild the city walls. It's the account of how Israel ceremoniously recommitted itself to the law of Moses—only to fail yet again to obey it. It's a renovator's dream—and a renovator's nightmare.
In these seven studies, you will see the history of Israel through Nehemiah's eyes and experience the many successes—but larger failure—of one leader to restore holy living among his people. It's the story of how bricks and mortar just aren't enough to rebuild a nation's heart. An ideal study for individuals and small groups.
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Table of contents:
- The promise keeper
- God the builder
- Leading by example
- Fear of the Lord
- The water gate affair
- The story of your life
- When backs are turned
- Appendix 1: Tips for leaders
How to make the most of these studies
1. What is an Interactive Bible Study?
Interactive Bible Studies are a bit like a guided tour of a famous city. They take you on a tour through the Bible, looking at material related to the topic (in this case, prayer), helping you to know where to start, pointing out things along the way, suggesting avenues for further exploration, and making sure that you know how to get home. Like any good tour, the real purpose is to allow you to go exploring for yourself—to dive in, have a good look around, and discover for yourself the riches that God’s word has in store.
In other words, these studies aim to provide stimulation and input and point you in the right direction, while leaving you to do plenty of the exploration and discovery yourself.
These studies are like a tour of a famous city in another sense—they don’t hope to look at everything; just the impor- tant things. We can’t cover in detail everything the Bible says on a given topic, but we do aim to finish our tour without having missed any significant landmarks.
We hope that these studies will stimulate lots of interaction— interaction with the Bible, with the things we’ve written, with your own current thoughts and attitudes, with other people as you discuss them, and with God as you talk to him about it all.
2. The format
The studies contain five main components:
- sections of text that introduce, inform, summarize and challenge
- numbered questions that help you examine the Bible and think through its meaning
- sidebars that provide extra bits of background or optional extra study ideas, especially regarding other relevant parts of the Bible
- ‘Implications’ sections that help you think about what this passage means for you and your life today
- suggestions for thanksgiving and prayer as you close.
3. How to use these studies on your own
- Before you begin, pray that God would open your eyes to what he is saying in the Bible, and give you the spiritual strength to do something about it.
- Work through the study, reading the text, answering the questions about the Bible passage, and exploring the sidebars as you have time.
- Resist the temptation to skip over the ‘Implications’ and ‘Give thanks and pray’ sections at the end. It is important that we not only hear and understand God’s word, but respond to it. These closing sections help us do that.
- Take what opportunities you can to talk to others about what you’ve learnt.
4. How to use these studies in a small group
- Much of the above applies to group study as well. The studies are suitable for structured Bible study or cell groups, as well as for more informal pairs and triplets. Get together with a friend or friends and work through them at your own pace; use them as the basis for regular Bible study with your spouse. You don’t need the formal structure of a ‘group’ to gain maximum benefit.
- For small groups, it is very useful if group members can work through the study themselves before the group meets. The group discussion can take place comfortably in an hour (depending on how sidetracked you get!) if all the members have done some work in advance.
- The role of the group leader is to direct the course of the discussion and to try to draw the threads together at the end. If you are a group leader, the material in the appendix ‘Tips for group leaders’ (at the back of this book) is designed to help you think through how to use these studies in a group setting.
- We haven’t included an ‘answer guide’ to the questions in the studies. This is a deliberate move. We want to give you a guided tour of the Bible, not a lecture. There is more than enough in the text we have written and the questions we have asked to point you in what we think is the right direction. The rest is up to you.
5. Bible translation
Previous editions of this Interactive Bible Study have assumed that most readers would be using the New International Version of the Bible. However, since the release of the English Standard Version in 2001, many have switched to the ESV for study purposes. So with this new edition of Renovator’s Dream, we have decided to quote from and refer to the ESV text, which we recommend.