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Friday, June 20, 2008

The History of an Old Rock

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:4).

As I meditated on Isaiah’s words this morning, I thought about the ancient rocks I saw on my trip to Europe.

In March of this year, I visited an old rock known as the Areopagus or Mars Hill.

This rock is the location of several well-known events. As recounted in Acts 17, the apostle Paul addressed the Athenians from Mars Hill in around 50 A.D. Hundreds of years earlier (in 399 B.C.), the philosopher Socrates’ trial took place on this same rock. In addition, Aeschylus, the Greek playwright who lived from 525-456 B.C., sets a portion of his drama The Furies on the Areopagus. The tragedy details the trial of Orestes on this rock shortly after the Trojan War ended in 1184 B.C.

Rocks last a long time. They do not, however, last forever. Near the Areopagus is the Odeon of Herodes (which is not nearly as old, having been built in only the second century B.C.). After more than 2000 years in use, this theater is showing evidence of wear—mainly from the stiletto heels of many visitors.

Although millions of feet are wearing away the rocks of Greece, God is the rock that will never erode.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Pursuit

The hounds bay with excitement. They have found the scent. They race off after their quarry, filled with elation as they perform their work. Yes, it is work, but it is good work. It is the work that they were created to do, and joy fills their bodies as they do it.

The underbrush is thick, and the dogs must fight their way through it. But they don’t care. All they care about is chasing that deer, for that is what their master wants them to do. They run with abandon. Through dense brush, under low hanging branches, across swift rills, they run. The hounds run and run and run.

The youngest hound begins to grow weary. In the beginning, he ran ahead of the other dogs in his enthusiasm, but now he falls to the back of the pack. The chase is long and hard. He has never run like this before.

An older dog woofs an encouragement to him. Experience knows the pursuit is worth the effort.

At last, they sight the hart. He stands alone among the trees. Exuberantly, the hounds fill the air with their song. The stag lifts his majestic head, crowned with antlers. He sees the dogs racing toward him.

For a moment, he waits.

With renewed energy the dogs rush forward, but the deer turns and bounds gracefully away. He maneuvers swiftly through the trees, rapidly expanding the gap between himself and his pursuers. Soon, he is lost to sight, but the scent is strong.

The dogs race onward in pursuit.

. . .

Okay, so I don’t actually know anything about hounds chasing deer, but that’s the image I get in my head when I read the word “pursue.” Pursing is chasing after and actively seeking. It is not a passive word.

Paul tells Timothy to “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). The apostle again exhorts him in 2 Timothy 2:22, “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”

It’s not, sit in your tree stand and hope that these virtues come walking along, but grab your hounds and chase them down!

“. . . he loves him who pursues righteousness.” – Proverbs 15:9

Friday, June 06, 2008

Nehemiah's Prayer

At various times, I have heard the acronym ACTS used as a structure for prayer. It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Recently, I realized that this replicates very closely Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1 of the book bearing his name.

He begins his prayer by praising God. He uses terms like “LORD,” “God of heaven,” “great and awesome God,” and One “who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (v. 5). Acknowledging His greatness, leads us to humility. Nehemiah recognizes his own lowly state, referring to himself as God’s “servant” (v. 6).

Nehemiah then confesses sin. He has been praying “day and night . . . confessing the sins of the people of Israel” (v. 6). He does not, however, just admit the guilt of others; he includes himself, saying, “Even I and my father’s house have sinned” (v. 6). He sees this iniquity and repents.

Next, he reminds God of His promises (he must have known the Scriptures well). Through God’s words to Moses, he can know why the Israelites have been scattered and know how they can be gathered again. “Return to me and keep my commandments and do them” (v. 9).

He concludes with supplication, reminding God who it is that he is praying for: “They are your servants and your people, who you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand” (v. 10, emphasis added). With his final words, he again asks for God’s attention to be upon His humbled people, “who delight to fear your name,” and pleads for success and mercy (v. 11).