Social Injustice

Leadership, Plugging the Leaks

Scripture Resource Passage: Nehemiah 5

            Living in a time of thundering silence Nehemiah is willing to speak. He provides a voice for the voiceless. He champions oppressed people. He does so fully aware that his commitment will not be popular; at least it will not be popular in the court yards of oppressors. It is fair to ask: What’s in this record for 21stcentury disciples?

            Today’s reading from Nehemiah (5:1-13) amplifies the counter point of moral justice—moral injustice. It was a time when leaders abandoned virtue and vulnerable people suffered. Social turmoil, racial discrimination and lousy political leadership were society’s guiding forces. Disenfranchised people were crying out in pain because of injustices authored by those in power. The scenes are as contemporary as racial turmoil in the 21stcentury and just as painful. What’s in this Scripture-record for today’s disciples?

            As you might guess, there is more to our difficulties than Nehemiah’s story can resolve. Peer inside any family or any of Scripture’s many books. Each story you see or read contains enough moral failure to sink a ship. Families leak water continuously. No amount of bailing is sufficient. Moral courage is conspicuous by her absence. What’s in Nehemiah’s records for today’s disciples?

            If only someone would speak and say, “Plug the leaks!” Good news—there is a leak-plugger, a seam-filler, an obedient courage-filled servant of God who in a time of near total devastation speaks — “No more!” That someone is Nehemiah. In spite of society’s turmoil, one person makes a difference and life changes.

            Nehemiah, when confronted with systemic graft, abuse of power, racial scheming, and outright fraud speaks: ‘This is evil.’ Nehemiah looks like Jesus. Thank you Nehemiah for your faithful discipleship in the days before the coming of Messiah. 

            Four questions to encourage your personal application of today’s passage are presented below.

Life Application Questions

  1. What examples of injustice do you see around you?
  2. During times of controversy what helps you know it is time speak up?
  3. Have you witnessed an example of moral courage within your family or on a national level?
  4. Is there a message for each generation’s disciples in Proverbs 31:8-9?

Weekend Extra for Courage, Opposition, Fear

Continue discovering spiritual encouragement through the current Thoughtful Study Emphasis by investigating Hand Me Another Brick.

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Hand Me Another Brick: Building Character in Yourself and Others is available through numerous online sellers and on Kindle. Though published many years ago (1983) the resource is solid, timely and leads readers whose interests include spiritually based character formation. Charles Swindoll writes clearly and in a helpful manner. Consider adding it to your resources. Cost (at last check) ranged from $2 to $6 on Amazon Prime and other sellers.

Blessings on your weekend.

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Courage, Opposition, Fear

Scripture Resource Passage: Nehemiah 4

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            The Bible has construction reports? Yes, including a construction report with spiritual values which calls for lioness-like determination. 

            Hopefully, your personal fear-level is completely unlike the City of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah. Their fearfully begun construction project required courage as well as cooperation.

            Yet, there is more. The armed-ready-to-kill-you-opposition plots sabotage (Nehemiah 4). 

            To all these things God appears to say ‘Be courageous, physically alert and spiritually strong for your adversary does indeed know your address!’

            To the people who share the labor of rebuilding Jerusalem Nehemiah might have invoked a powerful analogy: ‘Have the tenacity of one of God’s great untamed cats. Be like the lioness on the hunt! Show courage!’

            Classically defined, courage is the ability to continue moving forward in spite of extreme danger. Does Nehemiah’s story have anything for us?

            In matters of the heart Nehemiah’s story asks for a commitment from each generation. Captured in one sentence: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid,  but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (emphasis added). The words may sound like an inspirational phrase from Nehemiah; actually the words are from an Apostle of the Church (2 Timothy 1:7).

            A significant part of Nehemiah’s story is the inner conviction and the soul-strength to fulfill the dream of enhancing Jerusalem. Indeed, Nehemiah is not timid while demonstrating tenacity and muscular strength similar to that of God’s great cats.

            When the lioness chases prey there will be a precise moment when she aggressively extends a paw and four claws launch from sheaths. The dew-claw engages as the hooks grab and hold. Tenacity has her reward. 

            She does so, our lioness, while running at full speed over rough terrain avoiding hooves launched with the intention of tearing off her head. An amazing sight to behold.

            Is it courage or hunger? A good allotment of each, we suppose. Hunger drives her—courage is her way forward. 

            Tenacity, timing and many attempts increases the success rate of a lioness.  As a solo hunter she is typically below 20%. When the lioness has a hunting companion, their success rate moves above 30%. Repeatedly, in the company of others, she stealthily seeks her goal. How like Nehemiah she is—determined to succeed.  

Life Applications:

  • Does God still call people to projects which require profound amounts of courage and tenacity?
  • Does God call you?

Courage and Opposition

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Fully alert, focused, determined

Coming Friday, August 21, 2020 a blog in the continuing foundational study series.

I hope you find the posts helpful in spiritual formation for your life as a disciple. Please feel free to provide links to the site.

Thank you for continuing to make use of the materials and greetings to the newest readers. You are welcome here.

No Unimportant People

Together and Working

Resource Scripture Passage: Nehemiah 3

      “What’s the scariest part of a meeting?” William and Susan were discussing an invitation from friends who are Christians.

            Susan replied, “For me the scary part happens when they start opening their Bibles. I don’t know where all those books are found. If I look like I’m using the TOC everyone probably thinks I’m a dummy.”

            “What’s a TOC?”

            Deep sight of exasperation. “You know, it’s a Table of Contents.” William nods in understanding.

            “What’s scary to you?”        

            “Finding the book is tough but what really locks me up is when they say ‘We’ll take turns reading.’ When they say that, I start to worry and count around the group because I always get a passage with these names no one can pronounce. One time I had to read something like Mahershalalhashbaz.” 

            William agrees, “Some of these people just read the names like they were Robert or Sam or something. I don’t get it. Why does the Bible have to have all these names?”

            Susan paused and while nodding her head finally said, “Maybe it’s because God thinks they were all important people.” A shoulder shrug from William appeared to signal agreement or more puzzled wondering. 

            Friends, it is vitally important to be aware God knows our names. A casual reading of today’s Scripture passage from the Bible’s book of Nehemiah (3:22-32) may be daunting because the names sound odd to us.

            William and Susan might be scrambling if they heard Nehemiah’s list for there was: “Benjamin, Hasshub, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, Binnui son of Henadad, Palal son of Uzai, Pedaiah son of Parosh, Zadok son of Immer, Shemaiah son of Shekaniah, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, Meshullam son of Berekiah, and Malkijah….”

            Thankfully, obstacles like unusual names (to us unusual) are no barrier to Almighty God. Every name is a person. Every person is in a family. Evidently, God knows people so well that the names, even unpronounceable names to our ears, are important – God is always taking names and observing behavior.

            Thus, naming the individuals, the families, the teams, and the wondrous outcomes they achieve, records God attentiveness to the people. Jerusalem is being rebuilt. 

            It is the desire of God for disciples to work together; and when it happens, the results can be magnificent. Whatever your name, let’s get to work.

Life Application: More insight? If the naming list of Nehemiah is not enough, read and think about what William’s and Susan’s reflections might be after reading Matthew 1:1-17 or Luke 3:23-37. Using your online search engine check out: Jen Wilkin, “Son of a Son of a Son,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, p.28.

      

Flowers on the Wall?

           Scripture Resource Passage: Hebrew Bible, Nehemiah 1-11

You ask, “Why read the Old Testament books?” Thanks for asking.

             The books are the only Bible Jesus ever read. 

            And the stories are compelling. The truths are startling. There is brutal daunting punishment. The earthy and graphic stories are also ones Jesus would have heard. 

            I choose to not walk away from these stories for they tell of God moving His people from the grave to the garden. They were spiritually dead and God intends for them to come to the Garden. Yes, there were flowers in that Garden. Sadly, there are no reports of zinnias or roses growing in Nehemiah’s construction zone. Here’s how to begin this multi-week study: find the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Nehemiah.

            If it’s hiding from you there’s this wonderful device at the front of each Bible—a Table of Contents—which will speed you toward the hiding place. Or, use your search engine and you’ll quickly arrive in the long ago, ready to discover 21stcentury resources.

            Each week of this study you’ll discover patterns of spiritual discernment and wisdom. Here’s how this week, in a L, P, then A pattern works out. I strongly encourage you to read the Scripture passages noted in the parentheses.

            First, the ‘L’ is for listening—when I am very attentive to the words of others, I am watching for both what is and is not said. Nehemiah listens well by bringing his full self to these moments (Nehemiah 1:1-3). The reports are challenging. The disaster ominous.

            Second, the ‘P’ is for prayer—Nehemiah’s strong passion in a leadership-prayer calls to be heard in our generation (Nehemiah 1:4-11). In ways similar to Jesus, Nehemiah also pleads for the support of Heaven (Matthew 26:36-46).

            Third, the ‘A’ is for action—after the ‘L’ and ‘P’ strategies are implemented, Nehemiah moves to action, believing in the ongoing presence of God (Nehemiah 2-13). Chapters 2-13 of the book are the action story. Could the L, the P, then A model work for you? 

Life Applications

            Listen to the reports of those around you.

            Pray with the intensity of Jesus and yes, Nehemiah.

            Act with the determined strength of Heaven as your companion.

Consider enriching your listening by reading a legitimate background article from an Old Testament specialist. Many are available online. Or, read along with Eugene Peterson in his Bible paraphrase—The Message. Peterson loved language and The Message is a resourceful commentary on the Book of Nehemiah. 

If not the work of Eugene Peterson, consider adding a copy of the Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, produced by the Jewish Publication Society. Your goal in reading this translation would be hearing Nehemiah’s story even as Jesus might have heard the account. You might discover flowers on the wall.

Flowers on the Wall?

Can you imagine? Flowers on the walls? There were certainly guards, swords and fearful workers.

Coming Friday, August 7, 2020 a multi-week study in a portion of the Hebrew Bible emphasizing ethical behavior developed from godly directives.

Many thanks for reviewing the posts (and commenting) as well as recommending the site to others. I appreciate your interest and trust you find the materials encouraging.

The blogs are offered freely. I provide them in the interest of encouraging individuals and small groups to pursue the lifestyle of disciples as apprentices of the Master. Maybe, just maybe someone was planting flowers along the walls–see you Friday.

Special Weekend Edition; Spirituality in the Public Arena

Resource Scripture Passage: “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Providing a resource into the broad world of spirituality–across many faith-perspectives–Duke University has an excellent resource-media site which also happens to be available without charge.

dukespiritualityandhealth@gmail.com

Please don’t miss this as a resource–though an individual issue of CROSSROADS may not call your name, choosing to subscribe (again, it is free) helps you be aware of contemporary spirituality discussions. Links in the August, 2020 issue include articles investigating Moral Injury to Health Care Professionals re: the Covid-19 crisis. This edition also features a most timely piece of research: Religiosity Buffers Negative Effects of Police Abuse on Black Adolescents.

Hopefully you’ll find the work of the university’s research team helpful in pursuing your own spirituality. Blessings to each of you and please remember to refer others to: http://www.woodsedgeonline.com