Failing Strength

“In Judah it was said,The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10 ESV)

Feeling tired this am, and discouraged by all the things that seem to need doing. Nothing earth shaking, no quest into Mordor, no life threatening illness, no great problems to speak of. Just the sense of the slow drain of vitality into the sump of meaningless tasks, the small demands of life that steal life itself.

That make you feel as if you are stuck on a shelf.

( I guess I could bring in the word “Elf”, and keep the rhyme going?)

Then I read the verse above.

My strength feels like it is failing. There is too much rubble.

What am I trying to build, to rebuild? A lot I could share about, but to keep to one topic for today, I will talk about the church.

Now, Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. That is good to remember. By ourselves we can do nothing. I belong to a fellowship that seeks to operate as the church did in the early part of church history, the time of the Apostles. It seems to many of us that the walls need rebuilding.

What is the rubble? The rubble is the accumulation of traditions, misunderstandings, and distractions over the centuries that hinder us from understanding and being what Jesus intends for us to be as the church. And as individual members of  it.

The walls? A true and  deep understanding of God’s love expressed in the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ, which is the only safe motivator for good works. It is the only real power to manifest those good works that we are to walk in,  prepared for us by God himself.

The problem for us? If we try to do it by our own wisdom and ability, we either get burned out, depressed, or proud. We get distracted by many things. Like Martha. We get busy. We get stressed. We don’t really get much of importance done. But our days seem so full!

The solution? Sit at Jesus’ feet. Like Mary. We learn about Jesus, from Jesus. We  become more like him. We develop a meek and quiet spirit. We learn how to rest, and even work from and in a place of rest. We walk by faith. Things get done, we are not always sure how. We are joyful, and spread joy. God is glorified, the kingdom is built. The rubble starts to disappear.

What do we need to do? Seek first that kingdom. Trust him to provide the essentials. Quiet our hearts by trusting him, even when his ways are not what we would think wise, or sensible. Lay aside anything that slows us down. The expectations of others, of ourselves, even those “holy” expectations, born out of the traditions of men and the ways of the world, and not of the word of God. Understand the priority of love. The priority of knowing God’s love in and through Christ, and having that love flow through us to others.

What I can build on my own,” if a fox goes up on it he will break down…” (Nehemiah 4:3 ESV)

What God builds cannot be shaken. At all.

“But Jesus looked at them and said With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. ” (Matthew 19:26)

This prescription, that of seeking first the kingdom, that of sitting at Jesus feet, applies to every area of life, any struggle, all trials, every temptation, each discouragement. This is not all we do, but it must be first, primary, and underneath everything we strive to accomplish, big or small.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly that all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever . Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)


Engraving can be Forever

I became a Christian at 19. I started engraving at 29. How do those statements relate to each other? In many ways. But I have one particular connection in mind tonight.

Once when preparing a Sunday School lesson, I came across the following verse.

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:16 WEB)

Having been an engraver for a few years at that point, that verse struck me. In order to engrave something, you need a tool capable of making a cut into the material. A brass graver will not cut steel. Then once the engraving is finished, it is not easily erased. The engraving is not on the surface, but below the surface, IN the material it self. To remove hand cut engraving, one must physically remove the material that has been engraved to a depth greater than the deepest cut of the engraving.

These facts prompted in me the following thoughts. Who is able to make a mark in the hand of God? Once there, who could remove the substance of God’s hand, to remove any name engraved there? I would answer in these ways. No one can make a mark on God, but God himself. Secondly, no one can remove the substance of God from him.

The application? God engraves our names into his hands. His choice is sovereign in this matter. We do willingly receive Christ by faith, but God works this faith and choice in us in us. Secondly, “ I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10 :28-29 WEB) Not only is no one strong enough to snatch us out of the father’s hand, but even if they could pry open his fingers, they would see that we are engraved there , un removable, forever one with Him.

Dear brother or sister in Christ, you are secure in God’s love. He will not forget you. Your name is engraved in his hand!

All of you made in his image, fallen in Adam,  as of yet sinners under God’s present and impending judgment(Which I also once was, and all Christians were. We do not think ourselves better than you!), realize your need, and your inability to save yourselves. Then ask the only one who can, to put your name into his hand. Jesus took the nails into his hands, died upon a cross to pay for the sins of any who will believe in him, and now stands ready to receive those who call upon him, and come to him by faith.

 All those who the Father gives me will come to me. Him who comes to me I will in no way throw out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.  This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise them up at the last day.  This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37-40 WEB)

Engraving. It takes skill, a plan, persistence, patience, and power. Done by a master, it is beautiful. It is enduring.

It is not a bad illustration of our salvation.