Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Old Testament’

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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Can You See My Grinchy Heart?

“The Grinch’s Heart grew three sizes that day.”

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

I am naturally hard-hearted. Those who know me personally may take issue with this statement, but they do not see the inner workings of my soul.  Even I do not fully understand myself.  But it is true that when this hidden realm of my inner life is laid bare to God, it desperately needs His softening.

Most recently, my heart hardness was revealed to me as unconcern.  I read the indictment of the Israelites and her neighbors by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and saw myself reflected in this uncaring way of seeing those around me: “They were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16: 49 NIV)

“It is much easier to convince a human soul of its natural impurity, than to convince it of its natural hardness and utter destitution of heavenly and Divine tenderness.  The very essence of the Gospel is Divinely imparted tenderness and sweetness of spirit.  Even among intensely religious people, nothing is rarer to find than a continuous and all-pervading spirit of tenderness.” (Springs in the Valley by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

Ouch! That’s me! I am “intensely religious” and I need sweetness of spirit.

So God touched my heart.  I had a “Grinch “moment – it was exquisitely painful and pleasurable to have God tenderize my heart.  It was a miracle.

Do you remember the Grinch’s story?  It shows the power of heart change.

My friend Cindy and her college friends ignored a dorm fire drill because the old cartoon was airing on television and they couldn’t tear themselves away from the climactic moment:

“And what happened then…? Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light and he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he… HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beast!” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss)

As Mrs. Cowman writes, tenderness of spirit “is a supernatural work throughout the whole spiritual being.  It is an exquisitely interior fountain of God’s own sweetness and tenderness of nature, opened up in the inner spirit to such a degree that it completely inundates the soul.”

God is tenderhearted.

This is how He wants to make us.

That’s good.

I want more of it!

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Is it Worth the Risk? Part One

“So on the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.

Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Micmash.  One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man bearing his armor, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.

On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff;…. Jonathan said to his young armor bearer, “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” (I Samuel 13:23-14:7)

“Outgunned” and outmanned, the Israelite army waits for a plan of attack.  Meanwhile, the king’s son, Jonathan, comes up with a daring idea and sneaks off to implement it.  He has a sword and a loyal sidekick.  The two young men scale cliffs, goad the enemy into attacking and kill twenty men.  What results is a rout – the enemy panics and “melts away in all directions” (verse 16).

This amazing story possesses all the elements of a great action movie and has within it all we need to empower us to take risks in our own lives.

What is the risky idea that God has stirred up in your heart?  Often, we clearly see something, but hold back for fear of failure or others’ negative reactions.

We need God’s reassurance that our particular risky idea lines up with God’s heart and purpose.   Todd Beamer asked the 911 responder to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him before he and the other passengers on Flight 93 tried to take back control of the airplane from the terrorists: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

New strength comes from realizing that often God’s design is for us to take the risk with others.  We are not alone because God provides those faithful ones who say like Jonathan’s armor-bearer: “Do all that you have in mind. I am with you heart and soul.”(verse 7)

Photo Credit: linus_art

Photo Credit: linus_art

The most important element in taking any risk is the unshakeable trust that God will act in our behalf.  Jonathan declares this truth before he starts climbing the cliff: “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” (verse 6)

It is not all about us – our abilities, our efforts.  The stupid move on the part of the Philistine lookouts to come over to Jonathan, the panic that routed the larger army – all were sent from God who was fighting for Israel.

So what do we have to lose? Let’s go scale some cliffs!

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