I have been reading Deuteronomy in my private devotional time. It was no easy choice as there are so many questions and subjects that I would love to look up and I found it more than difficult to sort of hone in on any one place. I suppose I could have just gone wherever I wanted to go, read whatever I wanted, looked for something that very specifically addressed my current need. But Jesus hit me hard with that kind of thinking and behaviour not to long ago.
My church has been going through Nehemiah in our series called Magna Civitas. We have been looking at how God rebuilt his people as they rebuilt their destroyed city of Jerusalem and the take away is how we as followers of Jesus Christ are to approach the city we are in. It has been something rich with the Gospel Story, with Discipleship and the call to mission and to leave our comfort zone so that we can identify the broken gates in our city and help repair them. Not a week goes by where God hasn’t challenged with with this. In fact, it was this very series that was pivotal in my decision not to go back to Manchester, but to remain in Calgary (more on that another time). It’s the reason I started this blog in the first place.
We had been going through Nehemiah 8 a couple weeks ago and it occurred to me just how selfish my time in the bible tends to be. We go to the bible because it is a great source of encouragement to us. We learn about our identity and how it is rooted in Jesus. We learn about our purpose and why God created us. We learn about who God is, not just through prophets and poetry and divine acts, but in the life of Jesus Christ and the impact he had on people. When times get tough, we can go to the bible and we can find steady footing again, we can recentre ourselves on Jesus and find security in him.
Confession. I do not always do this.
It is hard enough to remind myself in times of doubt, or times of loneliness or when I need to be uplifted, to find those things in the bible. So imagine how hard it is to not just go into the bible for myself, but for others as well! The challenge that Jesus laid on my heart was that I was using his word as a means of settling my own problems which was keeping me back from an incredible and much more full expression of community. Yes, there will be times where God can speak through his word directly into a situation in my life. But there are other times where I might be reading something and have trouble making sense of it. My immediate reaction is drop whatever it is that I am reading, and flick through until I find something that deals with my problem. Again, it isn’t bad to want to find encouragement in God’s word. My question is, what if God gave that piece of encouragement to someone else, to give to me? Better yet, what if that difficult passage I am reading and having trouble with isn’t in fact for me, but is in fact for me to share with another person?
Kind of puts a new spin on things, eh?
It occurred to me that I was missing out in engaging with other people because I would crawl inside my own issues and seek a private answer. Yes, it is important for us to see the value of the bible in our lives, but it is equally as important to encourage others with it as well. This is a part of mission, this is a part of discipleship. When it comes to mission, we get to live these encouragements out, maybe people ask us about them, or maybe, if you’ve developed a good relationship with a person, you can just tell them about it. When it comes to discipleship, what I am learning is what you are learning and what you are learning becomes what I learning. I was intensely convicted by this. I was challenged.
I love challenges.
Sometimes a challenge can put me on edge and start to question the worth of pursuing it. Other times, most of the time, it is an opportunity to rise to the occasion. Don’t leave here thinking anything special on the part of my character here. There is a very good chance that this desire stems completely from my bull headed stubbornness. It’s a family trait.
In Nehemiah chapter 8, the word of the law, the words of God, are read to the entire nation of Israel that had helped to rebuild Jerusalem, and they were made to understand with the assistance of the priests. After they were convicted, they celebrated together because they understood together. This is a community thing. The word of God is a community thing, something we do together and not alone. How cool is that!? Doesn’t that excite you? It certainly excites me, and it lit a fire under my ass to want to get into my bible more, not for head knowledge, not even just heart knowledge (heart knowledge is an amazing thing), but for Heart Application as well. This conviction certainly stopped me in my tracks for a moment, but then I grew excited at the prospect of being made closer to people for it. I yearned, from that moment, even more to understand Jesus so that I could be drawn closer to him, but also closer to the people, all of the people, that God has blessed my life with.
I hope this challenges you. Like it did me.
I hope this encourages you. Like it did me.
I hope this draws you closer to Jesus. Like it did me.
I hope this draws you closer to people. Like it did me.
It’s kind of funny, I had started this post in the hopes of sharing what I am learning in Deuteronomy…looks like that will need to wait for another day. Did I mention I was unorganised?