Jump Start # 2787
Nehemiah 8:13 “Then on the second day the heads of father’s households of all the people, the priests and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law.”
Our verse shows us day two of the large worship gathering in Nehemiah’s day. On the first day, people stood for hours when the Law of God was read. They wept. The law was explained and the people understood. Now, it’s the next day. They didn’t get it all on the previous day. They still had a hunger in their hearts for the Lord.
And, within this verse is the expression that they might “gain insight into the words of the law.” Insight. In Hebrews we see that the mature could discern good and evil. In Psalms, the blessed man is the one who meditates upon God’s word day and night. In a section about worry, Jesus told the disciples to observe how the lilies of the field grow. Observe. Insight. Discernment. Meditating. All of these words carry the idea of thinking. They involve taking your mind to places that will help you grow, get stronger and closer to the Lord. Much too often, we don’t find time to think, outside of work. We allow others to direct our minds and thoughts and that influences our moods and our behavior. Insight. Observe. Mediate. Discern.
Let me take you to a personal story.
Lillie died yesterday. She was my age. I’ve known her for almost twenty-five years. She was a beautiful person. Charming on the outside as well as the inside. She was a believer and a disciple of Jesus. She taught Bible classes, opened her home up to hospitality and a true model of what one ought to be. She and my wife were friends. She was my friend. Cheerful, smiling and a delight to be around—that’s how she was.
She had some tough moments in her life. Her husband had broken his vows to her and was living immorally. I remember those days. Lillie came to me for advice. As painful as it was, she filed for divorce. I went to the court house with her. She became a single mom. Later, she met a man on a Christian dating site. I had lunch with this man. I was being Lillie’s big brother. I questioned him, quizzed him and analyzed him. I sure wanted to protect Lillie. Ron was a gem. A great man and he made a great husband to Lillie. We became friends. Ron became my go to handy man when I needed something done. When I was out on the road preaching, it was Ron that my wife would call to help fix whatever needed fixing.
We left Kansas City. Moved to where I am now. Big church. Lots of people to know and connect with. Our kids married and then came the grandkids. We’d hear from our Kansas City friends now and then, but states away, we drifted apart. They moved to another state.
Last summer, while on vacation, we heard that Lillie had advanced cancer. It was very serious. We made arrangements to drive to their home to spend a couple of hours with our old friends. We laughed. We remembered old stories. Lillie and my wife, who is an oncology nurse, talked about treatment and medicines. We cried as we left. My wife kept in touch. She and Lillie were texting often. We sent things for Lillie. Just a couple of weeks ago I received a sympathy card from them after my dad had passed away. Now that the holidays are over, and the snow storm is behind us, we were seriously thinking about going to see her again.
But yesterday morning, Lillie died. I called Ron her husband. All I could think to say was, “I’m so sorry.” No one expected her passing to be this soon. No one, that is, except the Lord. And, as I lay awake most of the night thinking about our friends, discernment, insight, observation and meditation filled my heart and mind.
First, every once in a while the Lord puts quality people in our lives. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does what a difference it can make. People of faith. People that genuinely love you and their desire is Heaven. What a blessing it is when we recognize this and we utilize these wonderful people to enrich our lives.
We are talking much, much more than just friends. Everyone has friends. And, someone might say that they have great friends from work or school. And, I’m sure they do. But unless those people are the high spiritual quality that is found only in Christians, you will never experience the wonder and joy of true friendships. Certainly, you can laugh with your friends. They may come when you need them. But there is an upper dimension, only understood and only found among Christians. And, sadly, so many go through life without ever reaching that dimension. The Lord has crisscrossed their lives with all kinds of high quality people, but they do not discern, recognize, observe or appreciate them. They’d rather have worldly friends and what a loss that is. And, I believe in just about every congregation you will find those wonderful, high quality Christians that would love to be your friend. Lillie was such a person. I wonder if we settle for the consolation prizes in life rather than striving for excellence. We can do this in marriage. We can do this with friendships. Good people or the best people—there is a difference.
Second, preachers can often get so tied up with the church that they are working with that they lose connections to the people of other places. Most of us preachers who have moved have left good friendships. And, in my shameful case, we get so caught up with those around us, that we forget about those dear ones in other places. I am ashamed of myself for allowing over a decade to pass with very little contact with our friends. Oh, I could justify it with busy schedule, growing church, family ties, but in the end, I feel that I fumbled on this one. I feel terrible about it now and wonder how many other friendships I have done the same to. Sometimes we hide behind the word “work” and allow that to be an excuse to neglect family and friends. I will try to do better. I will be better.
Third, Lillie was my age. I thought about that a lot last night. What if it had been me? What if the roles had changed? What if I had passed through that door of death. Has my presence on this planet made any difference? Have I glorified the Lord? How will others remember me? Simply, as all work? Many would say that they have lived a good life, but that definition involves doing whatever they felt like doing. We know better than that. Have we made this place better because we have been here? Remember, discern, observe, meditate, insight.
Fourth, the Lord sends His angels when He is ready, not when we are. We have plans. We’ve got a lot more to do. We’ve got things we still want to see. We are holding on to life with both hands, often very tightly at that. But when the angels come for the righteous, it’s time to let go and head home. Discern. Observe. Mediate. Insight. Each day is important, so don’t waste it. Every relationship is precious, so treasure them. Every opportunity to worship the Lord is a golden moment, honor it.
Insight. Discern. Observe. Mediate. What have you done with your life? How has your life honored and reflected the Lord? One day will be your last day—make the most of the time you have. Find the high level spiritual quality people and connect with them often. Become such a person yourself and reach out to others.
Safe in the arms of Jesus. That’s where you’ll find Lillie. That’s where we need to be.