Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for February, 2014

Where Do You Work?

Photo Credit: Melissa Wall

Photo Credit: Melissa Wall

“Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.” Nehemiah 2: 17- 18 (NIV)

In this first person account found in the Old Testament, Nehemiah described how the Israelites returning from exile began to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that had lain in lonely ruin every since the sacking of the city by the Babylonians in 582 B.C.

The vision, the imperial favor, the strategy, the supplies – all these came from the hand of Almighty God to be channeled through Nehemiah for this great achievement. Now it was time for the people to build.  Nehemiah devoted an entire chapter of his narrative to a detailed description of how and where the wall construction was done.  His report also included who did it; recording each leader’s name – over forty men who had many willing helpers from their tribe, clan, group, or city to rebuild a section.

This was a massive project, with a huge workforce, yet its focus was extremely personal: “Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah, son of Maaseiah…made repairs beside his house.” Nehemiah 3:23 (NIV).

Do you see the principle here? I work at what God calls me to do; you invest in your assignment. Each specific job and its location are right in front of us.  Although at times we must transition to a new mission, much of the time, we are already precisely where we are meant to be – to live, to work, and to serve God.

Let’s open our eyes and look around with fresh vision to see our own section of the wall.

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God, Can You Rescue Me?

Photo Credit: Moe Adel

Photo Credit: Moe Adel

“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distress.  He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Psalm 107: 10-16 (NIV)

My worst nightmare – literally – occurred years ago when my first child was newborn.  Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation or the anxiety of caring for my first baby, but whatever the cause, I dreamt I was trapped in a clothes dryer, tossed and rolled about in a hot, dark, confined space.  Dizzy, disoriented, and hopelessly unable to find the door to get out, time stopped and I suffered on and on.  The nightmare would not yield and relentlessly tossed me in dark confusion until I finally woke up.

Much earlier in my life, as a young adult, I experimented with a lifestyle forbidden by my Christian morals.  My sense of freely making choices quickly dissipated as I found I couldn’t extricate myself from what I was doing by my own self will.  I was trapped and disoriented; “addicted” in my own fashion.  For the first time, I understood how we become trapped and need more than ourselves to be rescued.  In verse sixteen of Psalm 107, the psalmist calls attention to the distress of the prisoners who need God to “break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron”.

We have many types of prisons: “besetting sins”, situations that hold us fast, and addictions. Alcoholics Anonymous frames this entrapment in the first step of its twelve step program:”We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well. All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go.  Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name.” Jeremiah 50:33 NIV

We need the strong arm of Almighty God to bring us out and break us free from those addictions and sins that hold us fast.  As we turn to God in trust we become like those captives mentioned in Psalm 107 who “cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distress.” (verse 13).  The moment we cry out, he hears us and mounts his rescue operation.

Hitting bottom causes us to look up and call out.  AA’s second step: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” shows that hope that God is strong enough to free us and the third step voices our cry out to God: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

“Rescue us, Lord, and rescue those we love, who are in any kind of bondage for you desire us to be free.”
Alcoholics Anonymous website: http://www.aa.org

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