Last week we began talking about what it takes to actually change the world around you – what it takes to not only have a dream for change but to begin that process of change. We talked about Nehemiah, a little known figure in the Old Testament, who not only had a ridiculously big dream for change, he worked the idea and recruited the masses to help him progress towards making that dream a reality. Today we finish the story as we catalogue the principles and techniques Nehemiah used to accomplish what seemed impossible. Not only did Nehemiah achieve something magnificent, he also left clues and tools along the way for us to pick up on and use to apply to the changes we want to effect in our own lives.
Everyone wants their world to be better. Everyone has dreams and ideas they see as transformative - even innovative - yet the vast majority of us never do anything about those dreams and ideas to bring them to reality. Why the lack of effort? Because it is hard, because it takes thought, energy and determination and most of us are not convicted enough by our dreams and ideas to be willing to commit all of that effort. Occasionally someone stands apart from this typical reaction and actually thinks, acts, leads and accomplishes their dream or idea. Today we will talk about a little known man in the Old Testament who did just that. His dream was laughable, his mission was ridiculous and his enemies were determined to stop him, yet he focused and fought with all of his being and changed his world in the process!
A few weeks ago we began a conversation about the Bible and its inherent challenges of understanding and interpretation. As we discussed the book in all of its complexity, we suggested a very straightforward and simple conclusion: the Bible is difficult to understand because it was purposely written to be difficult to understand. Such a conclusion really disturbs most common Christian thinking about converting the world here and now. As we continue to lay out what we believe to be the reasons for such an avoidance of world appeal by the Scriptures, we now turn the focus on the really big question of results. Why would God, why did God set up a plan where everyone does NOT get a fair chance to come to an understanding of the Bible in our present environment? What good could possibly come from such a strategy?
Pick up a book or an article and start reading...if that book or article is well-written, it will bring you to some kind of conclusion, some kind of understanding or realization that you didn’t have before. Now, these realizations can be across a wide scope of subjects and learning, but the bottom line is you picked up that well-written book or article and now you have some greater knowledge or insight. Now pick up the Bible and start reading…it starts out all good and wonderful and then just six chapters later it seems like God gets mad and pretty much scraps His whole creation thing. Why? Read further and the confusion grows! So, what's up with this, anyway? The Almighty God, creator of all things, surely could have had the Bible written in such a way that it would be universally understood! Well the fact is, He didn’t! Why not? There is actually a really cool answer to this!
Two weeks ago we talked about Elijah and the incredible courage he had toward accomplishing God’s will. We saw him prophesy, take responsibility, wait, perform miracles, wait some more, appear before his greatest enemy and overwhelmingly conquer in a challenge to prove that God is in fact God over all. The next thing we knew, Elijah was running for his life – afraid and feeling alone. Turns out that all his heroics got him was more threats on his life. So, what happens to that courageous prophet of God now? He still must fight but in a different way for in this next stage of his life God is going to teach him submission. Submission – it does not sound like a characteristic that belongs with courage, but as we will see courage will burn you without submission and submission will burden you without courage.
Courage is perhaps the most underrated, under-appreciated and invisible virtue of our time. We are so busy complying with the status quo, with watching our words and with following what others say and do on social media that we seem to have forgotten the simple yet powerful virtue of courage. Courage is stepping up, stepping out and standing against the tide of darkness. Courage is being what you know you should be when it is unpopular with others. Courage is having the guts to listen when others only want to argue; it is reaching out to give when others are focused on taking and courage is leading by example when following in anonymity would be so much easier. Courage, when observed, incites others to stand, it provokes others to act and it plants hope where there is none. Yes, we need courage, but how do we find it and how do we learn to truly be courageous?
What would you think of a powerful leader who sanctions rape, pillaging, the destruction of thousands of lives for the wrong doings of one, racism and genocide? No matter who we are, if we have a conscience in any way tuned to the sanctity of human life, we would have to label them a monster – a maniacal psychopathic egotist. Sadly, there are many who read certain parts of the Bible and handily conclude that the God of the Bible – the Creator of all things - is such a being. They call Him out for the horrible and harsh things written in the Old Testament and boldly claim that a God who presides over those things is no god at all – He is instead a monster. Now look – there are terrible things written in the Old Testament, but do they point to a heartless dictator or is there another explanation?
For many religions, prayer is a mainstay and a staple of ritual and lifestyle. Whatever the religion, prayer is a lifeline to a higher power, a calming factor in individual experiences and a connector to others who share the same faith. Prayer can and should permeate the life of a Christian. So, if this is the case, then the question is, do we know how we should be praying, why we should be praying and for what we should be praying? Stay with us as we explore some of the many teachings on prayer from Jesus!
Several weeks ago we looked into the life and times of Noah, the righteous man of God who built the Ark upon dry ground in obedience to the will and direction of God. The flood came and destroyed a world that had not only become a society without God, it had become a society that destroyed God. Spirit and human being alike took the goodness of God’s creation, mixed it into a forbidden hybrid formula of intelligence and form that may have resembled God’s intentions on the outside, but on the inside was a force that rebelled against all that God stood for. The Bible tells us that the resulting destruction was a preview of future destruction to come…has the full length feature of that preview arrived?