Monday, April 15, 2013

Faith-Finely Manicured or Cracked and Calloused?

As my study of Nehemiah enters chapter 12, I am encouraged, empowered, and filled with praise to Him Who is Able.

In the middle of the night, Nehemiah found himself surveying the ruins of the wall of the holy city. It had been decimated, and so had Nehemiah’s heart when he heard of it. Assessing the damage of the once glorious dwelling place of All Mighty God broke Nehemiah’s heart.

I have lain awake at night, surveying the rubble of my hopes and dreams. My heart has been broken for what might have been. As Nehemiah ran his hand across the the topped stones, I have mentally run my hand across my regrets, wondering what I could have done differently, knowing that I could have done better. I have wrestled with my failures and even my sin, wondering if I, myself, caused this devastation.

Kelly Minter has led us on a journey with Nehemiah through the trials of rebuilding and repopulating the Holy City of Jerusalem. Nehemiah has faced ridicule and slander. Personal accusations have been hurled at him. Lies about him and his God have been broadcast publically. He has had to strengthen and encourage this motley crew of perfume makers, artists, priests, and everyday folk through hand-to-hand combat, emotional battles and spiritual warfare. He has sacrificed so that they would have what they needed and so they wouldn’t lose hope. It has been a harrowing experience.

I know I am not alone in battling the lies, accusations and ridicule that Satan hurls at my mind. That’s what keeps me awake at night. It may keep you awake at night too. But I find strength and courage to continue to fight this battle as I see how Nehemiah fought it—and taught others to fight it with him--physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Now in chapter 12, the wall is complete and “Nehemiah’s finely manicured hands that once served wine in a king’s palace had certainly become cracked and calloused…”

My faith was once finely manicured. It was smooth and clean, neat and tidy. It had never really been tested. But today my faith is cracked and calloused. It has been battered, twisted, stretched and bloodied. But it is stronger than that neat and tidy faith I once had. I have a long way to go, and my faith is tiny compared to what it should be. But as I continue this journey called life, I will stumble and sometimes fall. My faith will continue to be battered and stretched. And God will continue to be faithful--that is my unswerving hope.

Again "Be Still"

I have been holding on to Psalm 46:10 since last September. And today, I read in Nehemiah 8:11 those same words, “Be still.” At a time when the Israelites were filled with grief and regret over their sins and failures, the Levites calmed them and spoke grace to them. At a time when their failure was weighing heavy on their hearts, dragging them down emotionally, the Levites encouraged them to celebrate and rejoice in God’s goodness.

This speaks to me because I struggle with the what-ifs. Sometimes the grief and burden of past failures weigh me down and keep me from being who God wants me to be. There is a time for mourning and grieving and confessing. But today is not that day. I have mourned. I have grieved. I have confessed. So today I pick myself up, dust myself off and I

rejoice in the goodness of God, trusting Him to redeem my past failures and, yes, even my sin. And that is my unswerving hope.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stille Nacht

Yes, I know it's April. In fact, it's 256 days until Christmas. Timing has never been a strong point for me. Either I'm a day late and a dollar short, or I'm 256 days ahead. I'm not sure which but I still love this picture!

Monday, April 1, 2013


There are at least two kinds of lies that we often believe. Both wreak havoc on our spiritual and emotional lives. Lies about God. Lies about ourselves.

In Nehemiah 6, Sanballat sent an unsealed letter to Nehemiah that contained lies meant to intimidate Nehemiah, to distract him from his calling, to discourage him in the task God had sent him to do. They were lies about Nehemiah--much like the lies about ourselves the enemy whispers in our ears. Lies like, “I can never be good enough for God,” “There is something different about me, something wrong with me… I just don’t fit in, so I might as well stop trying.” Or how about this one, “I really don’t have anything of value to offer the body of Christ or anyone else. What makes me think I can serve God?” Or, “I’ve just failed too many times, I am in no position to minister to anyone else.”

In Genesis 3, the lies of the serpent were about God—meant to put doubt in Eve’s mind about who God was and what His plans were for her life. Also much like the lies Satan whispers to us about who God is and how He feels about each one of us... “He doesn’t hear my prayers, or if He does, He’s choosing not to answer them.” “He really doesn’t want what’s best for me.” Or “He doesn’t love me as much as He loves Miss Susie Perfect-Christian-Mom/Wife-with-the-perfect-family-who-seems-to-have-it-all-together! Why would He love me as much as her since I’m a failure anyway?!”

Wow, I’m going to stop right there, because I can feel the effects of those lies even as I type them. I know they’re not true, but unless I make a conscious effort to find the truth and believe it, repeating it over and over to myself, those lies have a profound effect on my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical state. They are debilitating lies that keep us from accomplishing the things God sent us to do. They keep us from loving one another effectively. Instead, we get caught up in self-protective, defensive, reactions. We become self-absorbed, ruminating on what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with God, and what’s wrong with everybody else! We become consumed with jealousy, envy and self-pity. We isolate ourselves because, frankly, relationships are just too difficult, messy and painful. Please tell me it’s not just me!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live that way! But in order not to live that way, I have to make a conscious effort to think differently… to learn the truth about God… to learn the truth about me… then meditate and ruminate on the truth instead of the lies. Kick the lies to the curb by telling yourself the truth!

There is a huge difference in the outcomes of the stories of Eve and Nehemiah… Eve believed the lies, bringing sin into the world resulting in eternal consequences for all mankind. Nehemiah saw through the lies. He was secure in his calling and pressed on despite them.
What is the truth? I was once a sinner, but the price has been paid! I still struggle with sin, but I have been redeemed. Christ’s sacrifice was enough! I can’t out-sin God’s love. Life is tough, but that’s no surprise to God. He told us it would be. So far I have not been boiled in oil, sawn in two or crucified. That’s what the early Christians faced, but they continued to keep the faith.

My life is actually pretty cushy. I have been very blessed. When I begin to count those blessings, I realize how much God loves me and cares for me and the lies are exposed for what they are… attempts to discourage me, distract me, and deflate me.

Lord, I want to know you! I want my faith to be deep enough and strong enough to withstand whatever may come my way. I need a deeper knowledge of You. I need a deeper knowledge of Your truth. Thank You for Your faithfulness to me. Help me to always be faithful to You. Amen.