Hello to you this rainy Friday here in the Midwest.
We are thankful for the rain and dare not complain!
For those of you who attend FCC, I hope you have been doing the extra handout for Nehemiah. If you attended our Sunday school class for any length of time I am sure you can guess that I am all in for this series and study. Nehemiah has been a go to book for me for so many things including spiritual warfare and guidance when the world has gone mad around me and family support and when I want to know how to work together and not be intimidated by the negativity of others and on and on.
It is a great inspiration and guide, but it also steps heftily on all my toes.
This week we did the introductory chapters and one of the questions resonated with a conviction I have had each time I dive into Nehemiah. Our pastor who wrote the study asks what Nehemiah’s response to the news of the condition of Israel and the people who were there was.
Just in case you aren’t doing the study….here is what is recorded in Nehemiah:
“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
Then the study guide asks if this is my response when I hear news of persecution of Christians around the world.
And I have to hang my head and say, no.
I am sorrowed and sad.
I am righteously angry.
I am thankful for the safety I have practicing my faith and fearful for the ways it is seeming to become narrower for me to feel free to believe and live as a follower of Christ.
But stopping activity and weeping and mourning for days, and fasting and praying….I simply don’t have time for that.
And that is where conviction strikes deep.
Because when one of my own is injured or hurting or betrayed, I do stop. I can’t think of anything else. I weep and I don’t feel like eating and I pray.
There is so much hurting and wrong being done in this world that it overwhelms to the point that our consciences become seared. We feel bad for those who have been wronged or where we see the enemy wreaking havoc, but our attention span can only go so far and after a while we take down the blue and yellow wreath on our Facebook profile picture or take the hearts down from our windows that showed support for first responders and we have to move on.
Perhaps the key here is that our first response to the suffering and injustice being done to others is just emotional and fueled by our own sense of right and wrong.We do an outward public show of grief for an injustice, but that is as far as it goes.
Nehemiah reveals as the chapter unfolds that he is aware of the condition of Israel being a direct result for their betrayal and disobedience to God. His prayer that follows shows a repentant heart and a complete agreement that he and his family were part of the problem that brought about the whole mess they are in. His grief is something beyond just his emotional response, but his emotions are involved.
It is ownership of being part of the sin condition of the world.
And it is when I realize that I and my family line have contributed to the sin conditions of this world through omission and commission, that I would find myself broken and mourning and fasting and praying for God to intervene through forgiveness and grace and mercy. It is when I realize that the attacks of the enemy are directly against God and His plan through the events I read about in the news, that the depth of pain moves beyond how it affects just me.
Imagine if, when we prayed for God to move in situations that are troubling us greatly, we first bent down broken and in tears confessing our own sins before we asked of this help.
Much to ponder.
Much to pray for.
May God work in each of the hearts of His people to truly count the cost of sin against Him that has been done, even in His name, and lead us to repentance as we weep and mourn for others today.
I think for me, the best starting place is a prayer of confession that I am not moved to tears and fasting and prayer when I hear of the sorrows and pain of others. This can be followed by a decision to allow God full access to my heart and mind so that my response to the events of the day are seen from His perspective and a decision to forego my own comfort and safe places so that I can have a heart that wants to fast and pray and mourn for the things that are wrong in this world.
It is a place to start and I know God will meet me as I take that first step.