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Thursday, February 25, 2016

All Scripture is God-Breathed

In my Bible Study, we've been diving into the book of Nehemiah recently. For those of you who don't know the story, Nehemiah is a cup bearer to the king of Persia during the Jewish exile. At this point in Jewish history, groups of exiles have begun making their way back to Jerusalem. They've rebuilt the temple and started to resettle the land. But, the walls of the city still lie in ruin. Nehemiah hears this and is greatly distressed. He gets permission to go back to his beloved city and start the wall rebuilding process. If you've never studied Nehemiah, please take the time to do so. Outside of Jesus, I think he's one of the strongest examples in scripture of true servant leadership.

Anyways, he arrives in Jerusalem and immediately sets to work on rebuilding the wall. In 52 days, the job is completed. Once that physical need it met, he moves on to the spiritual needs of the people. It has been awhile since they've heard a reading of the the Law (God's Word) and he decides to gather the community as one to hear it read. Their response to the reading of Scripture is what I want to focus on here.

Nehemiah 8:3b says that, "And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law." And as it started to be read they, "bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (8:6b). Continuing in verse 9b, it says that, "all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law." And then Nehemiah calls them to cease their weeping and celebrate by eating and drinking and sharing with those who have none.

What struck me in this story is how fully engaged with their hearts, minds and bodies they were with Scripture. They were attentive to the reading with their minds. They listened and wanted to understand what was being read. With their hearts and their bodies they worshiped the Lord in response to His Word being read. With their emotions, their engagement with the Scripture led them to weep. Presumably, the Scripture revealed to them their sin and they were overwhelmed by their guilt. But, God never wants us to stay in that state in the repentance process. Yes, repentance begins with recognizing our sin and feeling remorse, but we cannot remain there. We have to move on to the celebration of God's mercy and forgiveness, and begin afresh.

That is what Nehemiah calls them to do. He says, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." (8:9a) But instead, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (8:10, emphasis mine)

Their full engagement with the scripture led them to celebrate the Lord and stirred them to action. Not only did they treat themselves but they also gave to those who had none. The reading of God's Word should always move us to action. We are not called to read it and shut the book and move along. We are called to apply what we have learned.

James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

For me personally, I pray that God would help me to engage fully in my reading of the Scriptures. I pray that I would learn to be more attentive as I read or hear it. I also pray that I would engage fully with my emotions so that as I read I would weep over my sins and be drawn into worship as I read. I also pray that I would be stirred to action through my study of the Word.

Would you choose to listen more attentively to God's Word and then put into practice what He reveals?

Monday, February 8, 2016


This Wednesday kicks off the Easter season. With Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent begins. Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. And, contrary to popular belief, the purpose of Lent is not to lose weight or deprive yourself of your favorite food or drink to somehow be healthy for 6 weeks. While these endeavors are noble and healthy living is commendable, it is not the purpose of Lent. The purpose of Lent has always been self-examination demonstrated by self-denial in order to prepare for Easter.

As I approach Lent this year, I have to ask myself what is it in my life that could keep me from focusing on Christ and spending time with God as I prepare myself spiritually for Easter. What is the biggest distraction in my life? Well, besides my children which I can't really give up for 6 weeks :), social media is the biggest distraction in my life. I often lament that I have no time to read or write or mediate or pray, but I find hours in my day to dive into the black holes otherwise known as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. And, once again, none of these are bad in and of themselves, for me they serve as the biggest distractors as I desire this Easter season to prepare myself to contemplate the great weight of the price Christ paid for me on the cross.

I also desire for Lent to be a time where I grow spiritually and serve as a role model to my family as they search for meaning in the Easter season. I pray that instead of spending hours investigating the lives of my "friends", I would spend the next six weeks investigating the life of the one who laid down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

So, as we approach Ash Wednesday this week, what is it for you that serves as a distraction from growing spiritually during this Lenten season? Would you contemplate giving it up in order to spend more time with the one "who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24)?

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” Pope Francis