Freedom in our Hearts

Happy 4th of July

 

We don’t have anything super special planned for today so I though I would share this simple patriotic table setting that I found on Pinterest instead.

Now… on with the rest of the post.

The Story

A man weeps, fasts, and prays for a city in ruins. Not the city he lives or works in but the city of his relatives, Jerusalem. After confessing his sin and his people’s sin, he prayed for strength to approach the king with his concerns and plans from God.
Despite all the odds being against him…
The king gave permission to Nehemiah to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and its walls. King Artaxerxes even gave him letters that gave him the ok to travel through foreign lands along the way. Nehemiah began his journey to Jerusalem to help his relatives but not without some resistance from Sanballat and Tobiah.

This is a summary of the first chapter and a half of Nehemiah. I am blown away by the compassion Nehemiah had for Jerusalem. Sometimes, I feel like it is so easy to become immune to the poor, weak, or suffering in our world. All most of us have to do is turn off the t.v., stay in the comforts of our own home or never reach out to those in need. But we must remember that behind every news story, every face and need, is a person. A person equal in the eyes of God to you and me.

And because as Christians, we are filled with the love of Christ, our hearts should weep for them. We should devote prayer time to the poor, weak, and suffering.

To be honest I haven’t been doing a good job of this. Often times I find my thoughts centered around me. I mean wouldn’t life be easier if all we had to do was pray and plead with God to make our lives easier… to bless us more. That’s not how it works or what prayer is intended for.

Nehemiah heard about the weak, poor, and suffering, and his first instinct was to pray. Pray fervently, pray scripture. Often times when faced with a problem or stressful situation, I forget that prayer should be my first mode of operation. I long to be able to pray scripture… to weave scripture throughout my speech during the day. What greater way to talk and hear from God than from the Word He has given us.

One of my friends (Mary Beth of New Life Steward) wrote an excellent post on how to pray scripture. I am going to go back and read and work to apply it to my prayer life. I challenge you to do the same.

Do our hearts break for the poor, weak, and suffering? Many times mine does not, and there is no excuse for this. As Kelly says in Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break,

“Though many of us do not have unlimited wealth or descend from royalty, most of us dwell in a far wealthier state than the rest of the world. This is not a truth meant to paralyze us beneath the weight of overwhelming guilt but an urgent call for us to stop and ask the Lord, “What have You put in my heart to do?

I fear that while much of the Western church slumbers in its palace of comfort, many who desperately need our resources, both spiritual and material, are suffering greatly. Like David and Nehemiah, we must be willing to sacrifice our own comforts and protections for the sake of others. Here’s the wonderful news: neither of these men dreaded the thought of making sacrifices. Their hearts were so taken up with God’s that they prayed and planned and dreamed about how they could quench the need that so troubled their souls.”

I hope you have enjoyed this first week of the study… I have. Kelly says so many great things that I wish I could share them all with you. I wish we could sit next to each other, so we could see each other’s favorite parts and all our comments we have written all over the pages. Instead, I listed a few questions below from the Leader Guide. Don’t feel that you have to answer all of them, but I would love it if you would answer just one. You may not have an answer for all of them. God works in His own timing and will reveal it to you in His timing.

Week 1 Questions

  • What was the most impacting moment for you this week? (It may be a Bible verse, principle, prayer experience, revelation, new understanding, conviction, or other.)* When I realized how self centered my prayers normally are. I hardly ever intercede for others or pray scripture.
  • Nehemiah’s heart broke for the suffering in Jerusalem while living in a Persian resort. How did discovering this impact your own heart for the poor, suffering, sick, or a family member?* Nehemiah left his home of luxury to help those his heart hurt for. God may not call us all to leave our current homes but we must be willing to. Everything we have must be available for Him to use for His glory! Joy comes from giving.
  • How did the study on prayer this week cause you to think differently about prayer and/or encourage you to persist in prayer? In what ways is prayer difficult for you?* This week has really challenged my prayer life with my lack of intercessory prayer. God is the Creator of everything and who am I to just blow Him off as if it’s nothing. I think I make prayer difficult. I don’t allow time in my day for it, and when I do I am easily distracted. I want to challenge myself to pray more and to pray for more than just myself. Through this I know God will break my heart for what breaks His.
  • Nehemiah 2:12 says that God put the desire to rebuild Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s heart. What do you believe God is stirring in your heart to do for someone?* I have spent a lot of time praying about this. I mean I know God has placed on my heart a desire for adoption, but besides just perusing the actual path of adopting a child, what more can I do? Finally, I sensed God revealing to me His desire for me to help with a local ministry here in town, Jessie’s Place. I can minister and serve women and children who are working to get their feet back on the ground. And the best part is that Noah can do this with me… children are welcome! After watching the Tyler Perry movie, Good Deeds, I was just broken by the thought of children being physically taken away from their mothers because she couldn’t provide for them. I want to help these women gain control of their life (or give it to God) and keep the custody of their children.
* Questions taken directly from Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break Leader Guide

Memory Verse Nehemiah 4:6

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10 thoughts on “Freedom in our Hearts

  1. Laura Beth

    This wasn’t the most impacting thing this week, but it was interesting. I never noticed before that Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, who stopped the rebuilding of the temple led by Ezra and begun under King Cyrus at the request of some of the people who opposed the Jews and their rebuilding. These people who opposed the rebuilding of the temple appealed to King Artaxerxes to stop the rebuilding on the grounds that the Jews would rebel against Persia. It’s amazing that Nehemiah had to ask this man if he could rebuild the walls – something that would strengthen a rebellious city even more than a rebuilt temple. It’s neat that God changes hearts and makes things happen when He is accomplishing something.

    I liked the discussion in Day 2 about the four different descriptions of God Nehemiah uses in the opening of his prayer. I especially liked “Hesed” which can’t be translated very well into English. It’s the idea of a covenantal love. I think my ESV study bible might translate it as “steadfast love and faithfulness” that it says refers to God’s covenental love. I think it’s so cool that throughout the Old Testament we see God affirming the Israelites as his people. He never forsakes them, even though they forsake him. The most blessed people on earth turn away from their blessing: the presence of and covenant with the God of the universe. They choose idols instead time and time again. They are eventually exiled because of it and it’s so clear in the prophets that though God is angry with them for abandoning him and worshiping other things (reminds me of Romans 1:18-32 “…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”), God is also still faithfully promising to bring them back after the exile, to send them a Messiah to save them from their sins, and to give them all the Holy Spirit so they can hold up their end of the covenant. I am so thankful for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to me. I am not unlike the Israelites.

    I think it’s so important and always encouraging to remember the character of God and to let my prayers be guided by his character, which I think is why knowing the Word and praying the Word is so powerful and important. The Word is God’s revelation of himself to us! That is something the study on prayer reminded me of! Every fear and control issue I have is answered by the character of God. He loves me. He provides. He works for my good and his glory. He is powerful. He is wise.

    That being said, prayer is difficult for me. I feel like my experience with prayer doesn’t match the Biblical promises about it. Take Matthew 21:22 for example: “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” I have asked for many things in prayer with faith that I haven’t received. Some say, “well then it wasn’t in God’s will,” but I’m praying for people’s salvation and for good things that I see in Scripture that God desires. God works mysteriously and I want to be humble in recognizing that God knows infinitely better than I do, but it’s painful that God would have me pray for something with all my heart and desire that wasn’t in his will or wasn’t best. I’ve struggled with this for years, but what I’ve been coming to recently is that it’s all about trust. Do I trust that the Lord is good? That he is working even though I can’t see it? The answer to those on one level is yes. But I’m still a little hurt and confused when it comes to prayer. I’d love your thoughts!

    Reply
    1. Krystle Post author

      Sorry for taking so long to reply. I have often wondered the same things about prayer as you. It is confusing and frustrating sometimes when we don’t fully understand what God’s plan is for our lives and others. Lately, I have been focusing more on praying for things to happen for His glory. To let every circumstance (good or bad) work for His glory. I guess this doesn’t really help with what to do with the pleading for another’s salvation. Maybe though instead of focusing on God bringing that person to salvation pray that that person would bring glory to God. Of course that doesn’t magically change the outcome but it is God’s desire. I think you are right though… trust is huge! Trusting that God’s way and will is better than anything we could dream or imagine. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to hearing what else God reveals to you!

      Reply
  2. Erin McCoy

    sometimes I feel like a ‘downer’ and/or have been told that. Just last week I was told I needed to get back in a bubble.. that my life would be a lot more peaceful and I would be happier.. Clearly, it wasn’t biblical advice, but it goes back to what she said in the little intro. That she ‘doesn’t have a formula for how much to give to those starving compared to how much to spend on a new piece of furniture’. That totally works emotionally too. I don’t feel down because I subject myself to the truths of the horrors of this world.. I feel overwhelmed at times, I feel grateful to how God has let my life play out so far, I feel grateful to be more or less in a position to do something about some of it. I mean we already live in the ‘Persian resort’.. well, maybe not compared to some, but ya know what I mean

    the study on prayer — prayer is difficult to me in a lot of ways.. for one, I totally can echo LB’s feelings… but also, sometimes I just don’t find myself praying like I would like… sometimes, I let thoughts run around and around in my head and at the end of just thinking to myself, I think “hey God, can you retroactively make all those thoughts a prayer”… hmmm.. that’s not very reverent.. Our Lord shouldn’t be the after thought. :-/ I definitely would love to have scripture become more of a part of my prayerlife. I had for a long time, taken the lord’s prayer and would write it out line for line, interjecting in between each life to sort of ‘flesh out’ the prayer in regards to circumstance either in my life or around me. I would say that has been incredible.. and so I would love to know how to better use the bible to talk with the Father…. so this week, I started going line for line in proverbs 31… and pleading with Him to allow me to be that kind of wife for keith, and that kind of mom to S, C, J, …… LB, BG, E, and D (as appropriate) and whomever else he grants us the opportunity/priveledge/responsibility to parent, and to open my arms to the poor, extend to the needy, and be a woman who fears the Lord. I think this sort of praying method.. slow reading thru scripture can really be expanded in any circumstance.

    that being said, I have a hard time with intercessory prayers… even for illness etc.. I can’t wrap my head around it (not that doing that is even a goal), but… I mean.. God is sovereign.. How can I know in a certain situation what to pray for EXCEPT to say ‘Your will be done’…. Like I said, I could echo LB’s feelings, but hardly from personal experience.. It seems I tend to pray for wisdom/discernement a lot, but I tend to rarely actually pray for a certain thing to ever happen. This is tricky sometimes, esp with foster care… Our main goal is reunification of family.. so pray for that?? Pray for him to end up wherever will nurture his heart to God?… Pray for healing of a loved one, or pray that God uses whatever happens to glorify His name? So, I end up praying for discernement, and peace to handle however God works it out… and sometimes “and/or” prayer

    (i.e. God I think that this situation would work out really well if You had it to this… but if not, then of course Your will be done”

    Sometimes I feel like this is just trusting Him, and SOMETIMES I feel like I’m sorta copping out… But, that depends on the day apparently! ha.. I think we have such a small glimpse of the picture, and knowing that God can/will work things out to His glory, even if we never get to see how it pans out this side of heaven, is both comforting and temporarily sorta terrifying too… I mean comfort in the whole scheme of thing, but boy, that can/will make this life here on this earth pretty complicated. It also leaves me so confused on what ‘sacrifices’ to make..

    one of the impacting moments – I like what she wrote in her journal “perhaps many could have done the work of Nehemiah, but his heart was tender enough to break. Maybe no one else cared that much”.. ==== I totally agree with this.. I think in SOOOO many aspects we shortchange the gospel and God’s goodness to excuse ourself from things that He would have us to if we would just make ourselves vulnerable to the Holy Spirit’s callings. I know the Holy Spirit works in different ways in different people, but I would think that He wouldn’t be stubborn and ‘loud’ if a person isn’t willing to listen.. I think He can be very easy to ignore in most cases in our happy little lives. .. after all, He’s a ‘very present help in time of need’ – so if we never have ‘need’ than we can fall right into the lies of satan.

    Reply
  3. Susan Stilwell

    Hopping over from WIPwed! I love studying the OT and Nehemiah is one of my favorites. I love that his heart broke for his nation and that he was willing to risk so much to help them. I’m hearing the Lord call me to do small yet thoughtful things each day for the people around me. Blogging about that soon 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your insights on Nehemiah. May God richly bless you as you continue in His Word!
    Hugs from VA,
    Susan

    Reply
  4. Mary Beth

    One of my goals is to memorize Scripture-I want my speech to be sprinkled with it like you said and to know Scripture to pray off hand in situations when necessary! Looks like a great study y’all are doing!

    Thanks for linking up!
    Mary Beth

    Reply
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