Wednesday, March 24, 2010

OnFire #220 Building Blocks

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #220 Building Blocks

“What were you thinking?”

My friend and I stood before his father as he inspected the carpentry job he had given us. They were renovating their house and we were supposed to put strapping on the ceiling so that his father could hang the drywall sheets.

As we started the job, we asked ourselves how far apart the pieces ought to be. We didn’t know, so we guessed and the evidence of our wrongness was nailed to the ceiling over our heads. It took quite a while to take it all down and put it up properly.

That was an easy situation to fix. It was a far different occasion one morning a few years before when our jazz band director asked us all the same question. While at a music competition, some students snuck out to go drinking. One of them slipped on the steps and cut his head open, requiring stitches. After returning from the emergency department with the student, our director called a meeting early in the morning.

I have to say that was one of the toughest meetings I have ever sat through. I was innocent, most of us were, but we all bore responsibility to look out for each other, to protect the reputation of our school and our band, and to rebuild trust with our director. Lets just say that he made it very clear that we had a lot of rebuilding to do!

I tell these two stories because they are relatively safe examples of rebuilding. I can think of lots of others I would rather not share because the ruins of sin and failure lay all around me. There was no going back, only going forward to rebuild one piece at a time.

That was the situation Nehemiah found himself in. The ruins of the city lay all around, a shameful reminder of faded glory and past sins. This much was obvious as he stood before the leaders of the city after surveying the damage: "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (2:17*)

There are times when the evidence of our sin and shame lays in ruins for all to see. Nehemiah points out the obvious, and we don’t always like to be reminded. In fact, sometimes we resent it. “That’s none of your business,” we say. But there is hope in this. As long as we deny that anything is wrong we can’t fix the problem. As long we think that things will get better on their own, nothing changes.

Nehemiah continues: “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace." (2:17) Nehemiah gives us insight for our own mess. The way out of shame is a rebuilding of sorts. We take what is left and rebuild, one block at a time. We prove our faithfulness only by being faithful.

We do not do this alone. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me...” (2:18) We know it is hard work to rebuild out of brokenness, but we do not need to suffer through this alone. With God’s strength, we can put those stones back together. One block at a time.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Mar 24, 2010. Scripture references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at  Blog located at

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