And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem. — Nehemiah 2:16-20
The world has changed much in the decades since Soviet dominion in Eastern Europe. In this area of the world, one can trace through generations the legacies of atheism, oppression, communism, and hopelessness. The church, which over the centuries was the center of life, is now tiny, making up less than one third of one percent in a country of 10.5 million. Most Czechs have no religious affiliation.
The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Amen — Nehemiah 1:1-4 (NIV)
Eagle River is full of energetic people on a mission to ‘love their neighbor’! As followers of Jesus Christ, they take seriously Jesus’ teaching to all of us when He said: “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me ... and assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did this to the least of my brethren you did this to Me.” (Matthew 25)
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. — 1 Corinthians 15:58
A conversation with my teenage daughter and some of her friends was on my mind recently as I read the 17th book of the Bible, Esther. Ten short chapters long, it’s a story of romance, intrigue, revenge, and God’s provision for His people. I was struck by the parallels between the issues we face in our lives and a story from ancient Persia.
3 One of Jesus’ twelve apostles was named Judas Iscariot. Satan entered him, 4 and he went and talked with the leading priests and some of the soldiers who guarded the Temple. He talked to them about a way to hand Jesus over to them. 5 The priests were very happy about this. They promised to give Judas money for doing this. 6 He agreed. Then he waited for the best time to hand him over to them. He wanted to do it when no one was around to see it.
Wow! An inspiring speaker just came through Eagle River with an emotionally gripping story of how his family endured Confederate-South slavery and ‘Jim Crow law’ discrimination by the sheer power of their Christian faith. If you missed Fr. Moses Berry’s moving story, you can still see his film introduction at http://godsgardenthefilm.com.
“No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent...” — John Donne, Meditation XVII