Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2. what nehemiah taught me

I can't help but make comparisons between the experience of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and my own experience in church planting. I know the two are radically different, but from a vision/passion standpoint they seem similar to me. I find myself identifying with the sacrifice, the hard work, the single-mindedness, the firm resolve to press on in spite of opposition. So, forgive me if it seems like I'm reading into the biblical text too much, but I just can't help it.

Because of this, yesterday I shared how convicted I was about Nehemiah's prayer of confession; that is, he confessed the sins of his people, while at the same time acknowledging his own part in that sin.

Along with this, another more basic principle hit me: the miracle started with confession.

This struck me because I found myself reflecting on how seldom we cry out to God to "have mercy on us, poor sinners, in the hour of our need." So often, we're concerned with how our churches are "coming across" to people; that is, do our churches seem "good enough" or are they "going well"? We tend to focus on "putting on good services", making sure we are organized well and have good Bible studies. Do we pass as "friendly enough" or "cool enough" to attract more people? We can sometimes focus too much on those incidental details, forgetting that, just below the surface, there is a fatal wound that needs to be cleaned and dressed.

The tears of repentance are too seldom shed in our modern day communities of faith. Rarely have I seen or heard, in all my years as a Christian, a band of believers falling to their knees with arms outstretched to the God of heaven and earth and tears streaming down their anguished faces, crying out to God: "We are so sorry! We have not followed your ways! We have not loved you with our whole heart! We have not loved our neighbor! We have performed terrible actions in dark, secret places, thinking we could get away with it. But, who can avoid your gaze, O God? Where can we flee? We are guilty, we are sorry and we cry mercy, dear God, so that we may be able to turn and walk in your ways once again. Forgive us our indifference and apathy. Make us whole-hearted once again; single-minded in our love and devotion to you, to one another and to our poor, hurting, lonely, hungry neighbors."

The Bible tells us that if we but pray this one prayer, then God will "hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land." This is certainly what we see in the story of Nehemiah and the same kind of prayer is recorded in Ezra, the story preceding Nehemiah. The Bible tells us what happens when we pray this prayer of confession and plead for mercy--and history confirms that God has kept his promise to that end every single time.

Let us pray for brokenness. Let us pray for tears. Let us mourn, for then we will be comforted.

To read the next entry in this series, click here.

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