The Relevance and Hope of Nehemiah’s Prayer

Recently, many of us saw the video of the unjust treatment and killing of George Floyd. Since then, chaos and destruction have inflicted cities all across the United States. There is a lot of concern, fear, anger, and rage. But is there hope?

Nehemiah was a Jew and served as a cupbearer to a foreign king. Word was brought to Nehemiah concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the great city of his homeland. Upon hearing the news, he sat down and wept. For days, being anguished in spirit, he fasted and prayed.

I believe within Nehemiah‘s prayer we can find hope and healing for our nation.

First, he humbled himself before God, acknowledging His faithfulness in both love and word. As he prays, he says:

I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” ~ Nehemiah 1:6-9 (ESV)

Notice, he confesses the sins of the people at large, he then shifts attention to his own sin and those of his father’s house. All of these sins contributed to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Our nation is spiraling downward. It has been for some time, but the pace seems to be increasing. There is not just a single sin by a particular group of people. Rather, there are a host of sins each of us have contributed.

At large, we have so many politicians and big businesses cemented in corruption—greed, lust for power, sexual scandals, deceit, and even crimes of all sorts. Then there is Hollywood with all its vain extravagance, well known for all its immorality and mockery of God. Added to this is its love for debauchery, not only indulging in sex, but also substances. Even the church is not guiltless, as many churches have turned away from the faith and true teachings of the Bible. Churches are well known for hypocrisy and judgmentalism. Yet, the sins do not stop here. Added to these are the areas of education and journalism, rewriting history and polishing stories, not for the sake of truly educating or showing what is happening, but rather propagating and brainwashing. Yet, again, the sins do not stop here.

Now, bringing it in closer to—but not quite—home, I saw a touching video. There were two groups: one side was “whites” and the other side “blacks.” The whites were kneeling, and one man prayed aloud, confessing to God our sins and the sins of our fathers. Acknowledging real injustices done to blacks. The black community joined in prayer, as a man pronounced forgiveness, then acknowledged the anger and resentment of theirs and their fathers. I know of one writer who mocked this video; yet, the prayers of these men and communities are in line with the prayer of Nehemiah. Neither side blamed the other, but simply owned up to personal sins and sins of society before God. This, I believe, can open genuine discussion and healing—IF we will let it.

Now, bringing it home, personally. This has been difficult as I have taken some spiritual inventory of my own life. I find it easier to burn bridges than to build them. I am guilty, at times, of being biased, partial, and assuming the worse in others before taking the time to know them. There are times when I do not validate another’s words or feelings. This is all sin, because I am not honoring those made in God’s image. I am not loving them as I love myself nor treating them the way I want to be treated. Thus, I have had to do my own share of confessing. But this has led to the reconciliation between a friend and me.

A lot of healing can take place in our world if we would humble ourselves, validate and honor others, genuinely own up to our own offenses, and let go of the anger, rage, biases, presumptions, refusal to forgive, and the like. Healing and hope are possible, even for our nation. However, the challenge for each of us is following the directions of what God prescribes to us. For many, this is too big a pill to swallow. Our own pride is often one of the biggest obstacles to genuine unity and healing.

    

When I Only Want to Go Home

There are times when I really want to go home. No, I do not mean the place of my upbringing; rather, to breathe my last breath so I can go to my eternal home. I was experiencing this longing recently. Perhaps you can relate?

Mind you, this is not a morbid death wish, nor is it a grunge rock anthem about how life sucks. Life is precious and creation is beautiful. For me, the crushing weight is the inner loneliness I feel and the gnawing question as to why am I here?

I used to be a pastor. Yes, I preached sermons of encouragement and hope, but I also preached against sin. While I made my share of mistakes, I also did a lot of things right. Yet, in the end, I was betrayed and deeply wounded by certain individuals. I now loathe church politics and want nothing to do with it.

I have been ordained. I worked hard to earn my bachelor’s degree in ministry (graduating with honors) and my master’s degree in discipleship (graduating with a 4.0 gpa). All of this, for what?

I am a theologian, in my own right. I am an introvert and deep thinker, with a melancholy temperament to match. I am not the life of a party, to say the least. Genuine friends are few.

My desire is simplistic: for people to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, and to truly grow in relationship to Him. Yet, when all is said and done, I often feel like a vagabond.

So what do I do when I am feeling weary and useless? What do I do when I only want to go home? I try to look to Christ, and remember that I am not an accident or a mistake. God was actively present when I was being formed in the womb (see Psalm 139). I try to remember that He is at work even when I cannot see or understand. I continue to write, even if readers are few—trusting that God will use my writings to minister to someone’s heart and spirit. Finally, I try to remember my real purpose is to glorify God. If I can maintain this, then I am fulfilling my destiny regardless of the perception of my eyes and heart.

Although I look forward to going home, God has me here for a reason. I do not need to understand, but I do need to trust. Perhaps today was simply to offer some needed hope to someone reading this—like you?

Books on Hope and Faith

My blogs, overall, are meant to encourage and hope for those struggling with depression, anxiety, and the like. I rarely use posts to advertise. However, at this time I do want to mention some books I have a available through Amazon. For a limited time each book is under $10.

Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World – This book is intended for the Christian always on the go. There are 150 brief reflections with Scripture and questions to help a person think about eternal things in the midst of the busyness. $5.99

In the Eye of the Calm: Reflections and Poems on Faith, Hope, Love, & Life – Approximately 100 poems along with numerous, more in-depth reflections on many of life’s experiences, both joyful and painful.  $4.99

Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers – A compilation of 35 of my blogs on hope and encouragement. $5.99

Take Up the Shield of Faith: Christian Reflections for Young Adults Serious About Their Faith – 100 brief reflections with Scripture and questions, covering twenty subjects, such as: the Bible, the Fall’s effects, faith, truth and wisdom, false teachers, spiritual warfare, conduct, etc. $4.99

A Royal Priesthood: The Christian’s Privilege and Responsibility – Studies in Practical Theology – The Apostle Peter says believers in Christ make up a holy and royal priesthood. How should this change one’s perception of God, himself, other believers, and the world around him? This books seeks to answer these. $6.99

I hope you will take the time to check these out. Again, these prices are for a limited time.

Blessings!

Peace in the Coming Night

Uncertainty is a mark of the time we are living in: What is going on? Who can we trust? Where are we headed? When is the storm going to hit? Why is this happening? Our world is giving ample reasons to fret and fear. I want to encourage you to  place your faith in Jesus Christ.

Oh, I know the “experts” say to jettison the faith. Many university professors, celebrities, and politicians scorn such faith. This is fine, but I ask you to ponder this: The more the world pushes out Jesus, do things get better or worse? Does the world become more peaceful or more turbulent?

I know it is common for some (e.g. Mikhail Gorbachev) to blame wars on religion, but this is not true. Most have to do with a lust for power. Have you ever considered dictators are never religious individuals? Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, etc. were neither religious nor virtuous. And this New World Order we occasionally hear about, this will be an atheistic, secular humanistic totalitarian government. This might be closer than we realize.

The Bible has warned us for many years there would come a time of great difficulty (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7); a time when many would reject the Christian faith (see 2 Thes. 2:1-12); a totalitarian government and cashless society (see Rev. 13). I do not profess to know when all this will fully fall into place, but the process has begun. Even now, there are many within the U.N. pushing for a one-world government and an ecumenical one-world religion. The present Pope Francis does not hide his ambitions concerning these.

All of this gives us multiple reasons to be afraid, but Jesus invites is to find refuge and peace in Him.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:1, 6 (ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

The world continues to promote the myth and superstition of a secular humanistic “utopia.” This tale is but a smokescreen for a lust for power of the elite. Nothing less. And like deadly spiders, they will spin whatever lie to catch and devour.

Jesus is up front with us and tells us there will be difficulty; however, in Him we can have peace, and He will get us through the difficulties.

May these words encourage your heart, and help you fix your eyes on Jesus with a renewed confidence.

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus and prayer. Many scoff at these during these difficult times, saying they don’t work. However, this is like a person cursing tools because he can’t get a screwdriver to screw in a nail or a hammer to saw through a plank. The problem is not the tools but the one misusing them. 

There is peace, guidance, and even healing for our nation and its citizens; Jesus and prayer are the means by which these can be attained. However, we want to approach Him, the King of the universe, as if He is some waiter still in high school: “Hey buddy, yeah, we’d like riches, cures, and power. Do these and you might get a $5 tip and maybe even a thank you… Oh, and make it quick!” We treat the King like some schmuck, then wonder why we seem to be ignored?

Yet, the Scriptures give us promises for if we are ever really ready to do business:

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ~ Isaiah 1:18

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

So much good can happen if we would but go to God with humility and sincerity. Jesus and prayer are not the problems. We are. 

If we would but go to God on His terms, acknowledging our guilt (guilty we are), and truly seeking His face—only heaven knows what incredible blessings would come!

Lose not hope. Instead, let us lose our pride.

Our Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea. . . . ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’” Psalm 46:1-2
Augustine writes, “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest You.” How often our hearts are restless, uneasy, on edge, and fearful. Just as there are numerous natural phenomena that pose very real threats of destruction (e.g., tornados, floods, hurricanes, fires, etc.), so there are also numerous stressors that pose very real threats of mental and emotional trauma (e.g., loss of loved ones or work, betrayal, marriage conflict, financial debt, etc.). We can feel like we have been pulled into the depths from a riptide, dangerously far from shore. Nevertheless, our God promises to be a refuge for His people. While He will not always immediately take away the storms, He will protect us through them. May we learn to be still before Him, and that in doing so our hearts may experience peace.
~ From the book, Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World

Spring’s Declaration of Our Everlasting Hope

Living in Minnesota, the winters can seem rather long. In fact, some can seem forever. The sky is often gray and dismal, and the temperature biting. “Seasonal depression” is not uncommon here.

March and April can be taunting months. Warm, sunny days and melting snow—then comes another snowfall. Repeat the process. I remember one year this happened several times, and one could sense the irritability in many people (including myself). Although the blustery, lifeless winters would appear to have a stranglehold, spring proves to be victorious as life bursts forth throughout the landscape.

In his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis tells of the evil white witch who brought perpetual winter to the land of Narnia. Yet, certain citizens (i. e., the Beaver’s) remained steadfast in their hope in Aslan and his promise of the coming spring. Mr. Beaver quotes the ancient rhyme:

“Wrong will be right,
when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar,
sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth,
winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane,
we shall have spring again.” [1]

Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia, is an allegorical story of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. The winter wonderfully portrays the brutal coldness of the witch’s heart, as well as the barrenness and harshness of the ice and snow. These capture well the absolute evil of the adversary (the devil), and the  impoverishing effects of sin: loneliness, guilt, greed, violence, evil, and death. I know Hollywood makes entertainment of these, the education system scoffs at the source of them, and Washington and world leaders make use by exploiting these. Regardless, the reality of these is before us continually.

The situation, indeed, appears hopeless. However, just as the Beaver’s held to the promises of ancient rhymes, we also have ancient promises we can hold onto with confidence.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~ Romans 8:18-25

Because of sin, creation was subjected to bondage, corruption, and futility. For centuries, for millennia, creation has been groaning—left to suffer in the ever bitter winter. However, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sunlight has pierced the dreary skies. The temperature is rising, and the snow and ice are melting. Although the winds still bite, the eternal Spring draws ever closer! At that time,

A new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:1-4

Although the devil and wicked men sought, and continue to seek, to silence Jesus, His Gospel continues on and will not stop.

As Lewis writes, in a manner as only he could,

“‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards’” [2]

Darkness will continue to try to smother the light; evil will continue to resist the good; and the wicked will continue to persecute the righteous. These would forever perpetuate the winter; however, the light of Christ has already dawned. Even now the ice is melting. Although the blustery, lifeless winter of sin at times seems to have a stranglehold, when Christ returns His Eternal Spring will prove to be victorious as life bursts forth gloriously throughout the landscape—to never succumb to another winter again.

Notes:

[1]  C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1950), 74-75

[2]  Ibid., 159-160.

The Splendid Sound of Silence

In my last post I had mentioned that ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. There are many who cannot bear the sound of silence—especially when it is broken by the sounds of their own thoughts and questions.

What is it about silence that is so unnerving? For prolonged periods of silence (and lack of distractions) we must wrestle with questions of deeper issues:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Why am I here? Do I have significance?
  • Is there a God? If so, What is He like?
  • What happens after I die?

Such questions are quite natural. The writer of Ecclesiastes notes, “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Mind you, when I talk about silence, I am talking about healthy, essential periods of quiet solitude. I am not encouraging unhealthy, debilitating isolation. We are social creatures. Yet, consider the following:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. ~ Psalm 145:5

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ~ 1 Kings 19:12-13

What might we hear if we take the time to be still, to be quiet, to hear—to actually listen—in the silence? In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer discusses “The Speaking Voice.” This Voice, the voice of God, is constantly calling, forever pursuing, people.

“It is spiritual responses for which this Wisdom of God is pleading, a response which she [in Proverbs Wisdom is referred to in the feminine] has always sought and is but rarely able to secure. The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.”

Tozer later writes,

“When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it explained it by natural causes, saying, ‘It thundered.’ This habit of explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern science. In the living, breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, ‘God.’ The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshiper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. ‘It thundered,’ we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” [1]

The Voice continues to speak that we might gain wisdom, discernment, and life. Yet, how often do we miss it due to all the noise? The psalmist tells us:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. ~ Psalm 19:1-4

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. ~ 1:1-2

If we learn to listen we might learn to delight in the sound of silence, for its in the silence we can begin to hear the Voice. Nevertheless, I am sure many will be apprehensive. Tozer writes:

“The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need to fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not only the human race but all creation as well. ‘And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20)….

Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven…. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10), and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.” [2]

May the Voice break our addiction to noise and may we come to delight in the splendid sound of silence—being broken by the Voice of the God who so loves us!

__________

[1]  A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1993), 64-66.

[2]  Ibid., 67-68.

Be Not Afraid

We are living in turbulent times. This should not come as a surprise, since the Scriptures tell us:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. ~ 2 Timothy 3:1 (KJV)

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” ~ Hebrews 12:26 (ESV)

The closer Christ’s return draws near the more difficult things are going to become (see also Matthew 24). Nevertheless, the people of God do not need to be paralyzed with fear.

With the recent concerns of the Coronavirus, many have gone into an irrational panic, while others have tried to exploit the situation.

I question the chaos around me. Is the panic, closings, etc. truly warranted? What I do know is I am not in control—but my God is. Furthermore, whether by a virus or something else, I am going to die someday. What good is all the toilet paper and supplies worth, then, if I didn’t have Christ? Therefore:

I will not live in fear, what’s going to happen is going to happen. I will do the best I can day by day.

I will be thankful. Tomorrow I might not have a house, food, job, etc; but TODAY I do.

I will not hoard. I will purchase as I have need of just as I always have.

If my family, friends, or neighbors are in need, I will not close my heart to them if they need me. God knows that there are times I need them.

I will remember the poem, “If,” by Rudyard Kipling, for it is an excellent reminder of what it truly means to be a man in difficult times.

And I will try to not be so cynical of panic, hoarding, and attempts to exploit that I am aware of. How else should human depravity be expressed? Any peace, goodwill, or benevolence I might have simply comes from my Lord Jesus Christ. How truly arrogant of me whenever I think otherwise!

My friends, whatever may come, May we not be afraid. May we find comfort in God, and through Him support and comfort one another.

Several years ago I wrote the following song. I hope it may be of encouragement and comfort to your heart, mind, spirit.

Be Not Afraid (I’m Watching Over You)

Be not afraid, though nighttime approaches;
Though shadows stir within the dark.
Be not afraid, for I am your Starshine,
And I will be shining within your heart.

Be not afraid, though storm clouds might gather,
And tears might fall down like the rain.
Be not afraid of thunder and lightning,
Know that the daytime will come again.

Chorus:
Be not afraid, dear child,
You’re not alone;
Be not afraid, My child,
I am with you.
Be not afraid, dear child,
Though you can’t see Me;
I am your God, My child,
I’m watching over you.

Be not afraid, though winds might be howling,
Taunting you within the dark;
Be not afraid, for I will be whispering
My love and peace into your heart.

(Repeat chorus)

Be not afraid, no, be not afraid;
Be not afraid, dear child, be not afraid.
Be not afraid, no, be not afraid;
Be not afraid, My child, be not afraid.
I am your God, My child, I’m watching over you.

~ G.P.

To God be the glory. Peace to you. You are loved!

Heaven (Part 3): R.S.V.P.

Not everyone will enter heaven. What a sad and fearful thought that many church members—even persons of the clergy—will be denied entrance. Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” ~ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Only those who repent of their sins (each of us have sinned) and believe on Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins. Some will argue this is unfair, but consider the following:

  1. God is perfectly holy and pure. By His very nature and essence  He cannot, and will not, permit sin in His presence and heaven.
  2. Those who love sin would not enjoy heaven. The immoral, nefarious, and maleficent would abhor the absolute purity of heaven. Make no mistake, heaven would not be a paradise for those whose hearts are not changed by the Gospel and Holy Spirit.
  3. Some argue the Gospel is too “exclusive,” but God offers His salvation to every individual, regardless of their age, background, gender, color, or nationality. He will not force anyone to accept, but why would a person not want to?

If a deadly virus began ravaging the world, would you resent hospitals for saying there is only one cure? Would you refuse it because of its exclusivity? Yet, God says the only Cure for our dire spiritual predicament is to believe on His Son Jesus who died for our sins. Many are offended by this, and thus, forfeit heaven and every spiritual blessing that could be their’s in Christ.