June 13, 2020
Encounter: Read slowly through Nehemiah chapter 1 in The Voice translation. When Nehemiah hears about the conditions of the city that he loves, he is overcome with grief. What is the first thing that he begins to do?
Every morning I walk Meg’s little pup, Apollo. This particular morning I was admiring the gardens around a beautiful country cottage when I heard a woman say good morning. We introduced ourselves, my new friend is Trudy. She is in her 70’s and she grew up in that cottage raised by a father, she told me, who was a real trailblazer. Actually, he created the trail that I was walking along each morning. She walked with me on part of the path sharing with me the story of her father, Werner Raz, and his concern to keep students safe as they were walking to school. This wore on his mind so much so he took his pic shovel and hoe and began to create a trail that students could take instead of walking on the busy street.
Sounds like a good cause right? One new article about his work read, “some of his neighbors are mad as blazes about his latest trail and that confuses Raz.” The city council issued an order to try and stop him and Raz wondered why people resisted something that would bring so much good. So, he quietly finished his work and then laid his shovel down.
When God burdened Nehemiah’s heart to go back and begin rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, I wonder if he felt the same way. The good things he was doing to rebuild a community were met with resistance, manipulation and sometimes violence. Jesus tells us, “A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow! Whenever we see abundant and full life for everyone, we know we are witnesses to the work of a Trailblazer
God gives everything in abundance to His people so they can Rise up and Build and overflow with the goodness of God to the culture around them.
Today the trailblazing that Werner worked so hard to complete is now part of the Stephens Creek Nature Park. What people resisted 50 years ago has now become hundreds of miles of trail systems throughout Portland. Yes, some people drop trash or spray graffiti, there is always a force that tries to destroy the work of the Trailblazers and the new paths of goodness but like the redwoods towering above them on the Raz trail system, God’s works will stand above it all and the power of evil will not prevail against it. That is, as long as the Trailblazers are doing their work.
Where did Nehemiah begin when he heard that his nation was so broken down? “I mourned this news and sought the audience of the True God of heaven, praying and fasting before Him.”
This is where our trailblazing begins. As we encounter trials, affliction, or evil, we must respond by entering into seasons of prayer, and confession, as well as recalling the character and promises of God. We must have long obedience in the same direction. Trailblazers wanted, are you ready? Will it be said of us one day, that we finished our work and then we laid our shovel down.
Encourage: In what ways does the desire for instant gratification influence our spiritual lives? How can we persevere when the results we seek do not happen quickly? Ask a friend what are some of the promises of God they hope to see in their lives and ask if you can pray for them.
Reflect: How do you typically respond, initially, when you receive a bad report or something difficult happens to you? Trailblazing is a challenging work that requires “long obedience in the same direction.” Is God calling you to be a trailblazer in some way to our culture. Would you commit to looking at the broken places in our community, city and nation, praying specifically for the next year as you wait on the Lord to show you?
Gather: Respond to this statement: “Prayer should be our first and natural
response to all situations in life—good and bad.” How can we develop the
practice of praying first? Discuss this in your Life Group, Triad or with a friend.