January 7, 2011: Nehemiah 8 Devotion Sharing

Go here to read Pastor Ed’s Devotion Thoughts on Nehemiah 8

Devotional Sharing, Submitted by Gary Chang, Gracepoint Hsinchu

In verses 1-6 it says that “all the people assembled as one man” from daybreak until noon and “listened attentively” to the Book of the Law.  The picture of the spiritual community that emerges from this observation is one in which the Word of God is at the center of the lives of every member of the community.  What defines the spiritual community belonging to God separate and distinct from every other community out there, at its core, has to be the Word of God as the central authority in the people’s lives.  And this is what we try to prioritize as well as a church.  “Connecting with God” is the foremost of our church’s core values.  Here in Taiwan we start our day every morning at 7:15am when we all gather at the fellowship hall to do DT, so that we can all start our days on the right footing of the Word of God.  But more importantly than studying and reflecting on the Word of God, of course, is the importance of living it out in the concrete details of our lives.  To the extent I can have true fellowship with God, to the extent I can personally claim that the Word of God is central to my life, I am to put the Word and its teachings into practice and daily strive to live it out, down to patterning my life after it in the mundane matters.

In verses 7-12, however, was the central passage for me this morning.  I was personally struck by the phrase, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  This was the point of emphasis from Ajith Fernando as well when he visited our church.  There are the pains of life and ministry and there is the joy of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord needs to always be the source of our strength, the power sustaining everything that we do, and the buoyant in our lives that keep our heads above the water.  I thought about in what sense is the joy of the Lord the strength in my life.  Having served here in Taiwan for some time now, I have experienced deeply, more than ever before, how the joy of the Lord has indeed been a tremendous source of strength in my life that keeps me joyful and hopeful.  I could have focused on the less encouraging things in my life: the sorrow over my own sins and inconsistencies, the discouragement from people whom I invested heart and prayers in but who ended up being unresponsive to or walking away from the Gospel, etc.  I know that when I do focus on these things, I can easily end up feeling glum or down.  But when this happens I will again and again snap myself out of it, for to focus on these things is to ignore the greater reality of the joy of the Lord that is in my life:

– There is the grace of God that is new every morning, for as inconsistent as I am, as sinful as I am, when I come before God and confess and repent of my sins there is the grace and mercy of God that forgives me and purifies me from all unrighteousness.

– There is the presence of this spiritual community that is the Taiwan Team, as I see my brothers and sisters giving their all to serve the Lord and reach out to the students here, and as I see their hard work and zeal, I get really encouraged and spurred on to likewise give myself fully to the worthy work of building up an Acts 2 church here in this idolatrous nation.

– Then there are the recent salvations within the past two months that is the evidence of God’s zeal and faithfulness in wanting to bring these precious students to come to know Him, and it reminds me that His Spirit is actively at work in our midst.

– And, finally, there is the fact that I get to have the privilege of being here to build up our church, knowing that with every person we impact with the Gospel we are pushing back a little bit of Satan’s hold over this country.  […] There is simply nothing like the joy of watching a church grow and the hearts of people being transformed, especially in a place like Taiwan.

I can go on and on about the joys of the Lord that sustain me and from which I draw strength daily.  But each one of them is indeed a tremendous source of joy for me.  And when I draw strength from the joy of the Lord, it gives me the renewal and the perseverance that I need to press on toward the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

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