Page 269 was a Sunday with Bible study and worship at Deer Run. Our Bible study class was in the fifth chapter of Esther today as we continue our way through that story. When Esther first goes to the king and he invites her in as he is pleased with her, he offers to give her whatever she asks for, up to half the kingdom. While it may have been tempting to take the king up on his offer right then and there, she and all the Jewish people had been fasting for three days as they sought God’s solution to the edict that would wipe them from the face of the earth if carried out. Half the kingdom may have seemed like a workable solution to have the resources necessary to survive — but it would have been a shortcut to what God was going to do. I’m afraid that far too often we are willing to take the shortcuts offered by satan rather than live with an integrity that stays committed to God’s plan no matter what. Much of the time we willingly take the shortcut because we know it is our own plan we are pursuing and satan’s shortcuts are enticing because somewhere within us we know that our plan isn’t God’s plan and there is not way it will happen on our own. We plan and then we pray as a polite thing to do in asking God to bless our plans. What we ought to be doing is praying, and calling others to pray with us, so that we know we are pursuing God’s plan in all things before we take any action.
Following the Bible study class, our morning worship gathering included another sermon from Nehemiah as David continues his series out of that book. Today’s message found Nehemiah arriving in Jerusalem to a scene that had to be at least a little disheartening. We’ve all been there, right? We may have even been warned, Nehemiah was, but we walk into a situation that simply takes our breath away — and not in a good way. What we do next will often determine if the situation gets the best of us or if God gets the best of us. One of the things we learn from Nehemiah is not only the importance of getting on God’s page to begin with, but the critical nature of staying on God’s page through everything. From the moment Nehemiah heard reports that Jerusalem was in distress, he earnestly sought God in prayer and continued to do so throughout every step of obedience to God’s plan. Even as he evaluated in person the problems that existed in Jerusalem, he did so not to determine if the work could be done, but to determine the scope of the work God had already called him to. His commitment to hearing and doing God’s plan led the way through all of survey work he did in evaluating the actual condition of the city and its walls. When it came time to recruit workers who would help with the rebuilding, he spoke with integrity — both about the amount of work that needed done and the hand of God that had been with him through every step of the journey to this point. He didn’t soft sell the project or sugar coat it with empty promises and commitments he had no intention of keeping. His integrity made it clear that this was God’s project and he was simply the on-site manager. It was a big project, but one that God could handle. It was through his integrity in keeping with God’s plan and explaining it as such to the people, that he was able to address fully the opposition that arose. Without integrity in all aspects of his seeking God, of his careful evaluation of the walls, and of his explanation to the people, there would have been multiple footholds for the opposition to gain leverage and have some measure of success against the plan. Through integrity in all phases, the opposition was silenced (at least for the time being) and the work would soon begin.
After the worship gathering at church, we had lunch and rested a short time before heading down to Potato Creek for a family walk. We manged to walk, feed the mosquitoes, cross paths with some friends from church, and even shoot a few photos before the day was done. The photo on today’s page is one of those from the afternoon. As I saw it through the lens of my camera, it made me think of Nehemiah and how sometimes we just have to wade into the mess as we listen to God’s instructions on how to clean it up.
I pray that you and I would hold fast to God and His will even as the enemy works to convince us that his shortcuts are a better plan. I pray that we would be in constant pursuit of God as we seek to live His plans and not our own. I pray that we would reject any notion to use prayer as a means of pronouncing God’s blessing on anything that is not of Him. I pray that we would learn, and put into practice, the lessons from Nehemiah in everything that God calls us to do.