Disguise Part I

Disguise

1 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates),

2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono." But they intended to do me harm.3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" 4 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. 5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written, "It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, 'There is a king in Judah.' And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together." 8 Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind." 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done." But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

              - - - Nehemiah 6:1-9 (ESV) all scripture ESV unless otherwise noted

 

            We ended chapter five by focusing on the theme that in order to move forward, in order to rebuild our lives we can NEVER forget the mistakes of the past. We must look to the past in order to move ahead with our lives. We discussed the importance not getting mired or bogged in our past, as the Word of God says 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are a new creature in Christ. At the same time failing to remember our past mistakes is inviting them to reenter our lives.

 

            Remember back in Chapter four we looked at all the different type of roadblocks we might face in our rebuilding process.  One thing we did not examine is how cleverly these obstacles or enemies can conceal themselves from us.  That is what I want to concentrate on in tonight’s sermon, how the enemy disguises themselves in order to trap or snare on the rebuilding path.

 

            When I think of a disguise the first things that pop into my mind are Halloween costumes and criminals wearing a mask. But before we go any further let us look at the definition of the word:

Disguise 1v.t:

1. To conceal by an unusual habit, or mask. Men sometimes disguise themselves for the purpose of committing crimes without danger of detection. They disguise their faces in a masquerade.

2. To hide by a counterfeit appearance; to cloak by a false show, by false language, or an artificial manner; as, to disguise anger, sentiments or intentions.

3. To disfigure; to alter the form, and exhibit an unusual appearance.

They saw the faces, which too well they knew, though then disguised in death.

4. To disfigure or deform by liquor; to intoxicate.

DISGUISE, n.

1. A counterfeit habit; a dress intended to conceal the person who wears it.

By the laws of England, persons doing unlawful acts in disguise are subjected to heavy penalties, and in some cases, declared felons.

2. A false appearance; a counterfeit show; an artificial or assumed appearance in tended to deceive the beholder.

A treacherous design is often concealed under the disguise of great candor.

3. Change of manner by drink; intoxication.

 

            There are many reasons for disguise. A few that can be deemed acceptable, for protection from the elements one must disguise their appearance in the north regions and wear heavy and bulky clothing. Soldiers disguise themselves in order that the enemy will not find them out (camouflage). But for the most part the reason is for deceit and deception otherwise known as evil intent.

 

1 Samuel 28:8  To conjure up spirits after the order had been given forbidding the practice

 

1 Kings 14:2  For protection against enemies prying eyes.

 

1 Kings 22:30  For protection against enemies harm, note this does not always work as Ahab found out.

 

Job 24:13-17There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths. 14 The murderer rises before it is light, that he may kill the poor and needy, and in the night he is like a thief. 15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight,  saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he veils his face. 16 In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light. 17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness. Here we have the criminal’s the breaking and entering specialists those who do their dirty deeds at night using the darkness to hide or disguise their evil.

 

            In our text we see 1 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono." But they intended to do me harm.

           

            On the surface Come let us meet together seems innocent enough, but Nehemiah is no dummy. He has been dealing with these men for some time and understands their mindset. A mindset that is against Nehemiah and all that God would have him accomplish. That is where the." But they intended to do me harm.” comes in. They have disguised their true intentions for harm with a seemingly peaceful invitation to lunch.

           

            The New Testament is full of such stories and examples such as this warning to believers to be on our guard at all times. We need to prepare against those who disguise themselves as friends who are really foes. Look at 2 Corinthians 11:14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. If the Lord of the earth can disguise himself as an angel of light you had better be on your guard at all times against all forms of trickery. His first objective is to get you into a stinking thinking mode. 2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. From there what else can he temp you to do?

            You are so handsome or you are very attractive, or how about wow you did such a great job today at work, whatever the case we as humans like to be acknowledged and complimented for our achievements and in especially for our looks. I have yet to overhear anyone respond to someone’s nasty remark about “hey fatso” with “gee thank you very much for that compliment.” While when the following verse was written it may have applied only to women today many a man are just as vain Proverbs 31:30  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  That leads me and us to  Romans 16:17-18  I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.  You can rest assured that the deceiver’s underlings are a bunch of smooth trash talkers. They are everywhere filling up the TV, Radio and internet with their own form of a watered down unbiblical gospel. It sounds good but it is based on half-truths and not the whole counsel of God.

            Before we proceed I do not to leave anyone with the wrong impression that I believe paying someone a compliment is wrong. Acknowledging accomplishments of others especially if you are a leader is a key principle of leadership. Parents telling your children they have done well is just as important as telling them they have done wrong. Men complimenting your wife on how well she looks every once in a while should be a no brainer.

               If you thought being deceived by those disguises was bad read the book of First John. In it the Apostle John, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit warns us that as time goes on the world will turn itself over to antichrist’s (not “the antichrist of the Left Behind series” but the biblical antichrist’s) and those men and I believe a growing number of women will come from within the ranks of the church. Not some off the wall non-mainstream cult church either. We are talking bible preaching evangelical protestant and Catholic churches.    

               Look at 1 John 2:18-19 with me; 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  Do you see it in verse 19, they went out from us. There can be no doubt these were men and women who sat in the pews among us disguised as fellow believers. These will be our one time friends and maybe colleagues who will turn against the truths of the bible and start sprouting all sorts of things against (anti) Christ.

             So how do you deal with these folks? First let us look back to Nehemiah his enemies were persistent, four more times they tried to trap him into meeting them.  Then they sent a new messenger with a new message, a different form of lie intended to embarrass Nehemiah and challenge his honor.  6 In it was written, "It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, 'There is a king in Judah.' And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together."

       

           What did Nehemiah do, well he sent the last messenger’s head back in a sack cloth as a warning to knock the crap off. No didn’t read that part, Okay, maybe it was he threatens to bring the Kings troops that are under his command to bear against his enemies if they kept up this harassment. I mean after all a man has to stand his ground and can’t be pushed around or he is not a man is he? Uh, no, Nehemiah did respond that way either. The way he does things is the way we all should handle those who come at us in disguise read the next verses; 8 Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind." 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done." But now, O God, strengthen my hands. Nehemiah is not joking around. He calmly and politely told them they were lying and nuts. Then he did that which we all need to do more of. He prayed to God to strengthen him in these difficult times. His prayer is simple, he calls upon the All-knowing, Ever-present, All- Powerful God of the universe to back his play. Uh, yeah Sanbalatt I am ready for you now.

 

            What gives Nehemiah the ability to do this? I’d like to think he is like me and every morning as he rises as his feet hit the floor he pray Lord don’t let me do nothing stupid today. Then he puts on the whole Armor of God Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. He like we, need to, prepared by reading the word of God. If we are to do battle with the deceivers of this world and their disguises we must have our spiritual tool bad full and ready for use.

 Let’s Pray

In HIS Service

Mike

 

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                     PAST                                  FUTURE

Looking Back to Get Ahead

14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

              - - - Nehemiah 5:14-19 (ESV) all scripture ESV unless otherwise noted

 

            We conclude chapter five this week by focusing on the actions of Nehemiah after he has successfully navigated the many roadblocks that had been set before him and the peoples of Jerusalem in the preceding chapter and a half. 

 

            First there is one obvious thing I would like to point out in our text before I move on to the main points for tonight. It is the uniqueness of Nehemiah being governor of Jerusalem. He is a Jew, and has been appointed so by Artaxerxes the king, a pagan king. Nehemiah has been rewarded for his honesty and his loyalty, but to whom?  But remember as we have seen time and again throughout this series he is loyal to God before all others. It is God who has rewarded him though this pagan king.  It is imperative we understand this; that God alone is in control. Why else would you bow down and worship Him?

 

            The main point I wish to emphasize tonight is the same thing Nehemiah did some 2600 years ago. That in order to move forward, in order to rebuild our lives we can NEVER forget the mistakes of the past. We must look to the past in order to move ahead with our lives.

 

            Now I know if this were a TV or radio sermon some of you would be reaching to change the channel right now, because my statement above seems to fly in the face of the modern evangelical hyped teachings of today but please bear with me. Let’s look at what God’s Word says:

 

 Isaiah 43:18-19 ““Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”

 

Philippians 3:13 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”

 

            On the face of it, it would seem we should never look back “Remember not the former things”  or “forgetting what lies behind”  Or the so often miss applied Luke 9:62 “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” But is that really what God is saying? Does God really tell us not to remember our past?

 

            Again let us dig further into scripture looking at The Whole Counsel of God!

 

Turn back to Nehemiah 1:8-11 “Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

 

            We are encouraged to remember God’s promises to us, especially in times of trouble and conflict. Can you think of any other familiar passages of scripture folks go to in times of trouble? 

Psalm 23 and Psalm 91 come to mind or a favorite of mine Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

 

Nehemiah 9: 18-24 “Even when they had made for themselves a golden[c] calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. 22 “And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. 23 You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would.”

 

            We are to remind ourselves daily of the many blessing God has given unless we become dissatisfied with God.  Here in Nehemiah chapter 9 the story of the Exodus in all its Glory and sorrow is recounted as a reminder that God is a God of promises and one who keeps His promises.  He promised the Jewish people a promised land and even though they were rebellious and continually turned away from Him, He kept that promise. What would you have done?  We also see one of his greatest promises in the sky Genesis 9:15-16 “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

           

            How about 2 Peter 1:15-21 “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

 

            We need to be able to recall biblical truths. How else are we to share the Good News of Christ with others? This the great commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 is the duty of all believers.

 

            Are you confused yet? This is where the naysayer (fancy word for doubters) that is those who claim the bible is a lie, made up and written by men contradicts itself. They point out that in some places it says do not look back on your past and in other places it says to recall the past. So see it’s all a bunch of junk.  Well if you are one of those who mind has been blinded by the god of this world (Satan) 2 Corinthians 4:4 that would make sense. To the rest of us in our right mind we can reason this out.

 

            Let us start with a text every believer knows   2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Does this mean you will not battle with sin? Not in the least listen:

15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [[b]which my moral instinct condemns]. 16 Now if I do [habitually] what is contrary to my desire, [that means that] I acknowledge and agree that the Law is good (morally excellent) and that I take sides with it. 17 However, it is no longer I who do the deed, but the sin [principle] which is at home in me and has possession of me.18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. [I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out.] 19 For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing.  That is none other than the Apostle Paul from Romans Chapter 8. Did you hear his words? Can you feel the struggle he is experiencing? This is Paul the writer of 2/3 of the New Testament, not just some average Joe.  How are you to combat dealing with sinfulness of the flesh if you cannot look to your past experiences Like Paul?

           

            Another of the Proverbs that comes to mind is Proverbs 4:25-27 “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder[c] the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. I like this one because I am guilty of not doing this. I am speaking of eyes look directly forward I won’t embarrass everyone by asking for a show of hands but I bet I am not the only one to have walked into an unmovable object because I was not watching where I was going.  

 

            God’s admonition in this verse and other verses like it is to not forbid looking back on the past while trying to move forward.  He is saying do not dwell on the past while trying to move forward. Do not get stuck in the mud, bogged down in your past, mired in the muck of your past mistakes.  You cannot move forward if you are having your own little pity party and decide all is lost because of your past mistakes.  At the same time it would be foolish to try and move forward and not remember your past behaviors and mistakes.

 

            Let us look at our main text again.  Nehemiah is a wise governor he has learned from the past mistakes of others.  In verse 15 we read “The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.”  Note why Nehemiah did not do so, was it because he was scared of God?  No the Greek word translated fear in English means reverence. It was because of his admiration, his awe his devotion to God. In the remaining four verses of our main text we see Nehemiah again demonstrating changes to the previous administrations burdensome rule.

 

            Let us put this in perspective, many here have struggled with alcohol or drugs over the years. So you get released and the first place you find to rent is a small studio. It is a good deal, the rent is affordable and the landlord is nice and understanding about folks who have been in your shoes. He is even willing to ask around about jobs for you. Sounds like the perfect place except it is right above a bar. Now if you believe and follow the advice of those who advocate NEVER looking back on our past then living there will be no problem. However if you believe and follow the Word of God that arrangement has DANGER! ! ! written all over it. 

 

            Oswald Chambers wrote on the matter: "A man's disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of that nature. Every man has the setting of this own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition. Temptation yielded to... is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before." In other words, Satan isn’t no dummy he knows how and what with to temp you.  Yet here we go putting ourselves right in the midst of the very temptations that contributed to our problems. Of course we will pray beforehand Matthew 6:13 “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” I am sorry but that is S.O.S. disease at its best. Asking God for favors and then doing something that thumbs your nose at the favor.

 

            In closing I want to reexamine Luke 9:62 “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Why was Jesus so adamant in this statement? It sounds like on casual reading that if anyone looks back after becoming a Christian they are doomed, not worthy of entry to heaven. We’ll again need to look at the Whole Counsel of God by backing up to the previous verses for a clue. In verses 57 -60 we have conversations between those who wish to follow Jesus and Christ who tells them the cost.  You remember elsewhere when he says it can be a heavy price, even one’s own family. Then in verse 61 we see “Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Do you see it, Jesus is not saying do not remember the past he is saying once on the chosen path do not deviate from it. There is a huge difference between those two meanings. Our Lord is telling the person, if you have truly decided to follow me, then do so, make me the priority and not those who are left behind. Nowhere does He, Jesus, say do not think of them, just do not look back and long after that life you are leaving behind. If you do you cannot stay on the path of righteousness. Using metaphors or images of the plow He easily makes His point understood by all. Put in modern terms if you have ever tried to drive a mower or tractor forward while looking backward you will understand the results are UGLY.  Unfit for any lawn or farmers field.

 

            Like Nehemiah prayed in verse 19 “Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.” We need to stand ready to call upon God to remember us as we look back to get ahead.

 

            Let’s pray, most gracious and heavenly father I ask that you continue to work in the minds and hearts of the hearers and readers of this message. That it will build them up that they may glorify you in all that they do. I pray father that if anyone knows not Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour that you would choose them now send your Holy Spirit upon them convict them of their sins, have them repent and claim the free gift of Christ. We pray this in His most Holy and precious name. Amen.

 

In HIS Service

Mike

 

 

Road Blocks   Part IV

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 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” 3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” 4 And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them 8 and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say. 9 So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nation’s our enemies? 10 Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest.11 Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” 12 Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised. 13 I also shook out the fold[a] of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised. Nehemiah 5:1-13 ESV all scripture ESV unless otherwise noted

 

            We wrap up the section on Roadblocks, this week looking at the beginning of Chapter five and the theme here is financial burdens.  I could have easily slid this in with the last sermon on discouragement but it deserves a place of its own those who are following Nehemiah are complaining of the injustice being carried out by the rich rulers of their day a familiar theme in our time.

 

            Matthew Henry in his Commentary on the matter says “How bravely Nehemiah, as a wise and faithful governor, stood upon his guard against the attacks of enemies abroad, we read in the foregoing chapter. Here we have him no less bold and active to redress grievances at home, and, having kept them from being destroyed by their enemies, to keep them from destroying one another. Here is, I. The complaint which the poor made to him of the great hardships which the rich (of whom they were forced to borrow money) put upon them, v. 1-5)..."

 

            You too upon your release will be facing many issues with respect to financial responsibilities. Normal everyday expenses include the following:

1.      Food

2.      Shelter (Rent plus Utilities)

3.      Phone (You cannot get a job without one today)

4.      Transportation (Most employers are not going to pick you up)

5.      Tools (Depending on the job you may need tools of the trade)

6.      Alimony or Child Support

            As ex-mates you may have additional expenses that include:

1.      Restitution

2.      Court Fees

3.      Parole or Probation Fees

 

            You can choose to do what many in our country today have done taken the unbiblical Social Justice approach of blaming every one of our problems on those with wealth, trying to redistribute the wealth from the rich to the poor claiming it is all in the name of equality. Along with this umbilical Social Justice approach goes the equally unbiblical government sponsored social welfare system. The bible calls for families and the local church to care for widows and orphans not the government. Yet millions of “Christians” have bought into this lie.    

               

            An excellent article on the subject can be found here http://www.gotquestions.org/social-justice.html at Got Questions dot Org a portion of which I will relate:

“The problem with this doctrine is twofold: first, there is a mistaken premise in economic egalitarianism that the rich have become wealthy by exploiting the poor. Much of the socialist literature of the past 150 years promotes this premise. This may have been primarily the case back when Karl Marx first wrote his Communist Manifesto, and even today it may be the case some of the time, but certainly not all of the time. Second, socialist programs tend to create more problems than they solve; in other words, they don’t work. Welfare, which uses public tax revenue to supplement the income of the underemployed or unemployed, typically has the effect of recipients becoming dependent on the government handout rather than trying to improve their situation. Every place where socialism/communism has been tried on a national scale, it has failed to remove the class distinctions in society. Instead, all it does is replace the nobility/common man distinction with a working class/political class distinction.”

 

            The alternative if you are going to wear the Badge “Christian” is to choose to do what the bible teaches here in Nehemiah and elsewhere, the biblical approach to fiscal responsibility. Again from the same article:

“What, then, is the Christian view of social justice? The Bible teaches that God is a God of justice. In fact, “all his ways are justice” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Furthermore, the Bible supports the notion of social justice in which concern and care are shown to the plight of the poor and afflicted (Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:17; 27:19). The Bible often refers to the fatherless, the widow and the sojourner – that is, people who were not able to fend for themselves or had no support system. The nation of Israel was commanded by God to care for society’s less fortunate, and their eventual failure to do so was partly the reason for their judgment and expulsion from the land.”

               

            Let us break down God’s word here in Nehemiah 5:

 

            Verse 1 & 2 “Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers For there were those who said, With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain that we may eat and keep alive.” Having a large family is great, but it can at times seem a blessing and at other times a curse. Trying to feed a large family on a tight budget can be tough.  But then again there are more of them to help earn a day’s wage or do chores.

 

            Verse 3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.”  The lesson for all of us here is simple do not over extend our selves. If you cannot afford it do not buy it. Oh but I can get it on payments if I just fill out this form from that nice salesman. After all God is good I should have a better job soon. Sure you will, un huh.

 

            Verse 4 “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. Listen no matter what you are still going to have to render unto Caesar (Matt 22:21) but whom do you pay first? Is it the government, your bills or God?

 

            Verse 5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”  The price of repayment of their debt had gotten so high that their fellow Jews had demanded their sons and daughters be brought into servitude as payment. Servitude is a polite term for slavery. While today in America we do not have slavery or do we?  According to Federal Reserve Statistics the average American household owes $15,863.00 in credit card debt alone. Most American households are SALVES to consumer debit.

 

            The miseries of debt include

I. Mental unrest. One of the leading causes of suicide

II. Social degradation. The poor are looked down upon

III. Family ruin. Arguments, fights and divorce over money is rampant

IV. A disregard of a Divine command: “Thou shalt not steal.”

            Application--

1. Christians should set the world an example.

2. Watch the beginnings of extravagance. {Oft times take from Peter to pay Paul} Again the question of Tithing

            3. In small things as well as in greater act on Christian principle.

 

            Verse 6 & 7I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. Note what Nehemiah does, he takes counsel with whom? That is right, himself; he had to determine what was to be done, what method to be taken to correct these complaints. I know what you are thinking how come Nehemiah this great praying man (remember all the times he consulted God in the previous Chapters) of God did not immediately drop down and pray to God for guidance. Does this not somehow violate Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. Or how come he did not do that modern slogan I dislike so much “Let go and Let God” I will tell you why, Nehemiah was a man called by God, appointed by God, equipped by God and therefore made capable by God.  Those who “Let God and Let God” at every instance are just lazy. There are occasions when you cannot do anything about a given situation that you must “Let go and let God”, but that is not the norm. God expects us to do our part that is why he will judge us (2 Corinthians 5:10).

 

            I am actually going to stop my verse by verse commentary here. In the remaining verses Nehemiah points out the error to the rich Jewish leaders according to the scriptures and they recant and make compensation for their ways. I would not expect that in today’s world my friends. Go ahead try and bring it to the attention of some worldly landlord how the place he is renting is in bad shape. If he makes any repairs he is likely to jack up the rent not make restitution for overcharging you in the first place.  

 

            What are the lessons to be learned for us today? Well first we need to be right with God if we are to expect God’s blessings upon us. That includes his financial blessings. I recently had an ex-mate contact me with the woe, woe pitiful me story line about how tough it had been lately. Then he told me how he and his girlfriend had just moved into an apartment and it had cost so must right after that work slowed way down and they laid him off. I responded so you are being obedient to God in all things and you are still having issues wow that’s tough. He remained silent of course. Living in a sinful relationship and expecting God’s blessing is a form of SOS (Suck on Stupid) disease.

 

            Even when we are obedient to God that is no guarantee things will go smoothly. Look at Job.  There was none like him in all the land and yet God let Satan put him to a test I dare say all of us would fail.

 

            That is why each morning we must arise and rejoice in the new day praising God and placing our hope: 

 

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

 

            Let’s pray, most gracious and heavenly father I ask that you continue to work in the minds and hearts of the hearers and readers of this message. That it will build them up that they may glorify you in all that they do. I pray father that if anyone knows not Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour that you would choose them now send your Holy Spirit upon them convict them of their sins, have them repent and claim the free gift of Christ. We pray this in His most Holy and precious name. Amen.

 

In HIS Service

Mike

Road Blocks  Part III

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15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand

 

----- Nehemiah 4:15-23 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

 

            We continue working our way through Nehemiah Chapter four and the theme of Roadblocks, this week looking at the final verses and the theme of discouragement.

 

            There are many reasons we can become discouraged. I have chosen just a few that the bible lists:

 

Being defeated: Joshua 7:7-9 “And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

 

Heavy Burdens: Numbers 11:10-15 “Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers?13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”

Self-Pity: 1 Kings 19:1-4Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying,“So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

In Sickness Isaiah 38:9-20  A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness: 10 I said, In the middle[a] of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol or the rest of my years. 11 I said, I shall not see the Lord, the Lord in the land of the living; I shall look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world.

            Like everything else God’s word does not leave us hanging. It/He has an answer for everything. IN the case of discouragement there are many answers. Again I have chosen just a few:

We can find strength to overcome the discouragement in Christ. Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Christ provides the peace we need in times of discouragement. John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The power is not in us to deal with discouragement it is found in Christ alone through Grace alone. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

We must turn to Christ as our example to encourage us in times of discouragement.  Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

            Ok, I hope you can see the pattern. To use a bad phrase even a blind man could. It is all about Christ. As I have stressed from day one in Nehemiah our rebuilding process as crazy as it sounds cannot be about us it must be about God. He through Christ must be the focus if we are to have success.

            Instead of listening to me rattle on I have selected a sermon from William Hughes former Pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church Coconut Creek, FL. 

You can download the file from sermon audio available here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1171293925

 

In HIS Service

 

Mike

Road Blocks   Part II

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7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. 10 In Judah it was said, "The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall." 11 And our enemies said, "They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work. 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, "You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and aroseand said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. "

- Nehemiah 4:7-14 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

            We continue working our way through Nehemiah Chapter four and the theme of Roadblocks, this week looking at threats of attack. Next week we will close with verses 15 to 23 where we will see them by way of by way of discouragement.

 

            A reminder as I noted last time ALL Christians have roadblocks, obstacles, trials call them what you may in their lives. James 1:12-13 "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." Some of these Roadblocks will come from our own making and some as in our text will come from those who oppose us. It is how we react and handle these obstacles that will dictate where our futures lie.

 

             'He pushed me, well he pushed me first, no I didn't.' If you are a parent this may be a battle that has gone on in your home a time or two. The fact is though as believers it is not our earthly siblings or even the humans in a foreign land that we are really at war with. God's word tells us in Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

            That is whom Nehemiah faces attack from in our text. 7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. My point is we should never be surprised that someone wants to attack, that is physically harm us for going about and doing God's work. Note I said going about and doing God's work, this ****assumes**** you are doing something God has called you to do, trained you to do, and sent you to do. I cannot place enough emphasis on this point. There are just to many "Christians" out there doing what they want and calling it God's work. Many of them look good, many of them sound good but a large number of them will one day meet God and he will say to them: Matthew 7:21-23 Amplified Bible (AMP) 21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name?23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands}.

 

            So what do you do when you find out there is an attack planned? What do you do in a situation like the tragedy on 17 June 2015 at the church in Charleston, S.C.? This can be a difficult topic because to some the bible would seem contradictory. Some verses such as:

 

Proverbs 25:2-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

 

Matt 5:39 But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

 

Romans 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

 

            These verses almost make is sound like Christians are meant to be pansies, pushed around by everyone and just have to suck it up and take it. But how do we reconcile that with John 2:15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. That "He" is Jesus, and it sure does not sound like He was turning the other cheek. In fact it sounds like He was the instigator in that action.

 

            Confused yet? Well let's look at the biblical mandate to preserve life; which by the way flies in the face of the Supreme Court decision to legalize murder in the U.S. by calling it abortion. Since that fateful day in 1973 nearly 58 Million murders have been committed in America. More than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and all the rest of the worst 20th century war criminals and mass murders combined.

 

Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

 

Proverbs 24:11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

 

Ezekiel 33:6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes anyone of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.

            If that was not enough to make the head spin then there are many verses in the Old Testament where God commanded the nation of Israel to completely destroy everyone and everything in the Promise Land. So it is clear, to me at least, that God is not opposed to war, that He is in favor of protecting life, yet it is just as clear He is also completely opposed to unnecessary bloodshed. So what is a man to do when the treat comes like in our text? First, pray and ask God for guidance. This should be our daily task in all things. Look what Nehemiah and his fellow workers did 9 "And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night."  They asked God for the biggest and baddest weapons to nuke their enemies till they glowed. Uh no not exactly they asked God for a guardian to protect them. A watchman if you will to act as guardian. That is the very first thing we need to do is ask God for is help.

 

            Next be a Solomon in these situations and ask for Wisdom. Yeah I know you know it all. NOT! I do not care how rough and tough you once were (or are) in the military, or wherever, remember the guy directing this fight is the devil himself. He maybe six times removed from it all but his evil influence is in there somewhere you can bet on it. So why fight spiritual evil with physical might? To use an expression from a movie (can't remember which now) that is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Pray and ask God for wisdom to defeat your enemies in the battle to come.

 

            Then you must be prepared. I do not want to sound like a dooms day prepper but those days are coming maybe not in my lifetime; but surely in my children's or grandchildren's lives. Would you enter the court room with no plan, no defense just a dumb look on your face? Of course you would not. Be prepared for the fight to come. Have a plan what are you going to do if a fight comes your way.
How are you going to respond? How are you going to protect your family, your home?

 

            Arm yourself. Not only do we have Nehemiah in our text 12 "At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, '"'"You must return to us," 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows." We can also look to Jesus in the New Testament who calls on the disciples to arm themselves: Luke 22:35-38 And he said to them, '"'When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." 36 He said to them!' "But. now let the one who has a moneybag take it!' and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors/ For what is written about me has its fulfillment:" 38 And they said, "Looh, Lord, here are two suiords." And he said to them!' "It is enough,"

 

            Arming yourself is a fool's errand if you are not properly trained. King
David u
nderstood this
Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war!' and my fingers for battle. In the New Testament we see 2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. While this verse is obviously speaking of the use of scripture I do not feel it to far a stretch to imply that as we find in 1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink!' or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. That is if we are going to arm ourselves we must do so in a way that Glorifies God by being properly trained with our weapon of choice. I know folks who insist on owing a "Dirty Harry" .44 Magnum revolver. "The most powerful handgun in the world", well not anymore but it will still break your wrist if you do not know what you are doing. Not much help for self-defense then. A well-aimed .22 Magnum with a 30 round clip can do just as much damage, is easier to handle and holds a lot more affordable ammo, just a consideration.

 

            In closing it would be thoughtless of me if I failed to note that it is wrong to admire "viciousness men." I am not advocating nor do I believe the bible teaches violence but preparedness. The bible clearly tells us to be humble, slow to anger and not to esteem violence:

 

Proverbs 3:31-32 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, 32 for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence.

 

Proverbs 1:16 for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

 

            I believe however you can see there is clear biblical mandate for men to protect themselves, their families and property. We must nevertheless understand and never forget who the Commander-In-Chief of our Army is. God, He alone has the authority to issue the order to attack. Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

 

            Again let us look to Nehemiah in the last verse of our text 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes." Nehemiah got it. He knew the battle could only be won if he (we) depend upon the Lord to deliver the victory.

 

            The grand lesson in all this is not that the bible condemns this or condones that. It is that apart from fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, you (we) will be facing spiritual/fed physical attacks alone. As prepared as you may think you are, you will never be prepared enough. Would you not prefer to go into battle wearing the Full Armor of God? You can because God offers it as a benefit of His free gift of Salvation. If he is calling upon your heart tonight please acknowledge you are lost in a world of sin, needing the work of Christ at Calvary to rescue you from eternal damnation. Make Christ the Lord of your life tonight and that armor is yours to keep.

 

 

In HIS Service

Mike

 

Time to Stop Think then Do

Part II

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17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.”

18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”- - - - Nehemiah 2:17-20

            As a matter of reviewing what we looked at last time, Nehemiah the main subject of the book has just arrived in Jerusalem after a long journey from the palace of the Persian King.

            Nehemiah arrives and we jokingly said pulled up his recliner and a cold one. Of course the bible just says he was there three days (v11) and really gives no clue as to his actions. We made some assumptions based upon what we learned of him in Chapter one.

            I used these assumptions to develop the Stop, Think then Do title in which we covered the first two portions last time. At that time we learned that whenever we are about to take any action; it is wise to always first Stop and assess the situation become familiar with your surroundings. This may seem silly but I left for basic and advance training in the Army returning some 6 months later I got pulled over. The officer asked the obligatory “do you know why I stopped you? I honestly replied I had no clue. He said I was going the wrong way down a one way street. I finally stooped long enough to look around and sure enough all the cars were going the wrong wayJ. I asked him when they had made this a one way he said about 4 months ago.  Things change take time to think about what you intend to do. Our Final and most important things to consider before taking action was this: If it is not illegal, immoral or unethical you are probably on the right path. I want to stress probably. Finally you need to confirm your walk with Reflection, Meditation and Reevaluation insuring it will accomplish the most important criteria of all, does it Glorify God?  You see you can do things in this world that are NOT illegal, NOT immoral and NOT unethical and DO NOT Glorify GOD. As a brother or Sister in Christ you should have no part in them.

            In our second look at Nehemiah’s initial arrival in Jerusalem we get to the doing part, the action part.  I want to look at three topics here. First is Personal Motivation, Next is Personnel Motivation and finally dangers of being lazy associated with Doing things for God.

            Look at verse 17 Nehemiah urges the men that had inspected the city with him to Do something, Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem. Doing something anything takes motivation. Just try getting your 8 year old to pick up after themselves and you’ll understand what I mean. For Nehemiah this motivation seems to come from a deep sense of anguish he felt for the suffering and despair of his fellow Jews in the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah stays the course. He remains focused on the objective that God has placed upon his heart from the beginning, Again I cannot stress enough that he has gone through the process of reevaluating the objective, being confident nothing has changed. Once assured only then does he proceed to attack the objective to use military terms.

            While that might seem sufficient, for Nehemiah the Holy Spirit saw fit to have added the following text to verse 17: that we may no longer suffer derision.” That changes the reason for the Doing not for Nehemiah but for those hearing his plea.

            Nehemiah is still on a mission from God. He will not be deterred. But the people of Jerusalem have lived in despair and in ruble for some time with seemingly no effort to overcome the situation. They needed some serious motivation if they were going to get with the program. Along comes Nehemiah with a troop from the King and all is supposed to be fix right. Not! These people needed a reason and God provided one. The ESV translates the word derision, the King James, reproach the Hebrew Transliterated Word is Cherpah meaning reproach, scorn.  God gave them a reason He said you’re being made fools of.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

16-17. the rulers knew not—The following day, having assembled the elders, Nehemiah produced his commission and exhorted them to assist in the work. The sight of his credentials, and the animating strain of his address and example, so revived their drooping spirits that they resolved immediately to commence the building, which they did,…

            What is it that motivated these men so? Was it as JFB states; the King’s credentials and the animated plea of Nehemiah’s voice? In part I must agree. I can see Nehemiah giving a rousing speech along the lines of Robert Lowery’s[1]To arms! To arms! Ye soldiers song; listen to just a portion:

To arms! To arms! Ye soldiers,
The trumpet call obey!
With Jesus as our Leader,
We’re sure to win the day.

’Tis not to rest, or banquet,
Or proud parade we go;
The fight of faith is fiercer,
Than worldly warriors know
.

            No I would suggest the real reason was pride. We probably all know or have heard some version of Proverb 11:2 ESV When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Normally being prideful in the bible is not looked upon as a good thing. Yet we cannot forget Jeremiah 9:24 ESV but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”  The Apostle Paul even quotes this to the church on Corinth 1 Corinthians 1:31 ESV so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

            Have I lost you yet? Do you get where I am going with this? Who is Nehemiah’s audience? The remnant of Jews left behind in Jerusalem. The elders, the Rabbi’s the leaders of the city, God’s chosen people and He tells them you/we are being mocked, made fools of because of the way we live. Our enemies think our God is nothing, has no power, and cares nothing about us. Join with me and prove them wrong.  This is not personal pride but pride in their God in other words a righteous pride.

            One last idea I wish to make. Nowhere in the bible does it talk about using bribery as a source of motivation. Earlier I made reference to an 8 year old cleaning his room. Some teach today that you should “bribe” a child promise them a treat (like a doggy treat?) if they are obedient and clean pick up after themselves. Really y’all need to show me that one in the book. Just saying!

            The last topic I want to talk about is slothfulness or laziness. Look at verse 19 with me: 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

            Why are these guys hootin and a hollerin at the Jews? Because they were lazy bums. They liked things the way they were and knew that any change was not going to be in their favor.

            Yet Nehemiah has an answer for them and it was not name calling back at them.  Me I might of called for a cavalry charge, I mean the King sent a mounted troop why not use them? No Nehemiah is level headed and calls upon God again: 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

            Nehemiah calls upon God and takes Sanballat, Tobiah and their cohorts to task. If you won’t get with the program, if you will not be a part of the solution you will have to part of the rewards. 

            God’s word is very straight forward no nonsense about those who are lazy. Here are just a few of my favorite verses:

Proverbs 10:4 ESV A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

            And who does not riches/

Proverbs 13:4 ESV The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied

            It takes diligence, that is steady determination and hard work to obtain those riches

Proverbs 14:23 ESV In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty

            One must work for their gain. Sanballat, Tobiah and their cronies had it easy and they wanted to keep it that way. They wanted nothing to do with real work. So they mocked, and teased the Jews under Nehemiah hoping to make them feel every more inadequate than before. Nehemiah just continued to remind them v.20 “The God of heaven will make us prosper.

             What about you? Who will make you prosper in the rebuilding of your life? The Sanballat’s of this world or the God of all heaven and earth.

In HIS Service

Mike


[1] New­man Hall, in Wel­come Tid­ings, by Ro­bert Low­ry et al. (New York: Biglow & Main, 1877

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And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

2 Wherefore the king said unto me, why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

3 And said unto the king, Let the king live forever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?        

 4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven    

                 Nehemiah 2:1-4

 

            Last time we looked Nehemiah was crying out to God for wisdom on what to do about the devastation in Jerusalem. For many of us that is where our story would end. We have recognized that our lives our broken and that only God can fix them. We even pray and ask God for help in correcting our broken lives and then we stop.

 

            I believe the greatest deterrent to men and women moving beyond praying and doing things needed to rebuild their futures is fear. Oh I know men “we don’t fear anything”; yeah right. Sorry I am not convinced.

 

            Fear takes many forms. There is actually a website http://phobialist.com/  dedicated to listing all the things people are afraid of. Some are common like Acrophobia- Fear of heights or how about Agoraphobia- Fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets it includes the fear of leaving a safe place. Others like Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth would seem rather rare.   This site lists hundreds maybe thousands of know fears, all of which folks can easily use to be indecisive and inactive.

 

            Before I go on let me clarify one point, I do believe that some folks have legitimate medical explanations for having these phobia. But I dare say that number is minimal compared to those who are just looking for an excuse to sit on the side lines.

 

            The Bible on the other hand only defines two forms of fear. First there is what I will call healthy fear. As you may recall in our look at Nehemiah’s prayer he called God “great and terrible”. This was in reverence to God as Nehemiah recognized and clearly acknowledges the Lord God’s exalted position.  The great as in the One who is able to accomplish mighty things and     The Terrible as in the One who is able to impose immense judgments. This first type is righteous and is to be encouraged. It is a fear that requires action. It requires faith and it requires a strong fellowship with God.  It is the fear Nehemiah had when the King asks him what was wrong.

 

            Then of course there is unhealthy fear, this is a crippling fear, filled with weakness and quivering. It leads to inaction and loss. It is what Ray Stedman describes as: Many today find themselves in almost total ruin. They have lost their way and are wide open to the attacks of any destructive or hostile force. Others have severely damaged areas in their lives. They are, perhaps, still held in bondage to wrongful attitudes or habits. It almost goes without saying that if you are praying for help, as Nehemiah prayed for help in the opening chapter of this book, then you should expect an answer: Expect God to do something. Be ready for it when it comes.

 

            I believe that the type of fear most associated with why people do not take action to change or rebuild their lives is the fear of change. This fear of change or changing things is called Metathesiophobia.  We get so used to our rebellious ways that we do not feel comfortable in any other environment or the thought of making moves to improve our lives is far too scary a thought to act upon.

 

            We can come up with all sorts of excuses like, what can I do I am only one person, or resignation like whatever happens, happens. Two modern quotes seem to dispel these notions:  If you think you're too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room – unknown and from R.S. Sproul No choice is a choice. No choice is to accept things as they are---and they are unacceptable.  

 

            While in the Army I had a 3x5 card with the saying “The max effective range of an excuse is zero meters” on it. It was a daily reminder that inaction equaled failure and where lives matter failure was not an option.  You may have heard the old farm saying “make hay while the sun shines” or how about “never put off tomorrow what you can do today” and any sailor would recognize “Time and tide waits for no man”.  All these sayings have one thing in common they require us to take action to not procrastinate, to get about doing something.

 

            I entitled this sermon Carpe Diem or Seize the Day. While dictionaries define this as meaning:  the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future. I take it as a battle cry to take every opportunity to make righteous changes in our lives. Note I said righteous changes. In a  believer’s life it is getting about God’s work for us.

 

            Let us look back at Nehemiah for a moment. In Chapter 1 verse one; we are in the month of Chisleu or Kislev which equates to our Nov-Dec. Now look at today’s text in verse one; we have fast forwarded to Nisan or Mar-April time frame.  When I say we must seize the day and make righteous changes to our lives I mean us to be like Nehemiah. He and we must be patient and wait upon the Lord.  Nehemiah did not pray and go off halfcocked without any preparation. No Nehemiah took a lesson from Habakkuk 2:3 - For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. I hope you can see it.  Even though the bible is silent on the matter we can extrapolate that Nehemiah waited upon the Lord before taking action. This is not much of a leap since even if we assume Dec 31st and March 1st for the dates referenced in Chapters 1 and 2 we are taking a period of 2 months. What was Nehemiah doing for that period? We do know his countenance {or expression} was sad. One can only guess that he continued on prayer seeking God’s guidance.

           

            It is when God actually reveals to us the chosen path that we must spring into action.  The bible is very clear on this matter it takes a dim view of those who are lazy (slothful)

 

Proverbs Chapter 24:30-32  I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, [and] nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, [and] considered [it] well: I looked upon [it, and] received instruction.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:10 (AMP)  For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat

 

            Compare that with what the Bible says about working:

 

James 1:23-25 ESV For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

 

James 2:18 ESV But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 

Colossians 3:23-24 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

            Verse three of our text is very telling:

 

(AMP) And said to the king, Let the king live forever! Why should I not be sad faced when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lies waste, and its [fortified] gates are consumed by fire?

 

One thing that might easily be missed is back in verse 2. The King recognized something was amiss in his servant Nehemiah. I want to tell you this is a trait of a very good leader. I cannot begin to tell you the number of leaders (bosses) I have seen over the years that were clueless. I or one of my fellow employees could be bleeding all over the floor never mind just looking sad and they would never notice. But notice Artaxerxes does recognize something is wrong with Nehemiah. Then Nehemiah, in verse 3, does not hesitate in his response to the King. He clearly and intelligibly points out that he has every reason to be sad. He seizes the opportunity to plead the plight of his people before the King.  Nehemiah had waited (and prayed) for 2 to 4 months for God to give his insight on how to help the people in and the city of Jerusalem. When God provided the occasion to take action he did not waiver. He found the strength in his belief that God is able in His (God’s) time.

 

            The King responds to what Nehemiah has told him in a manner I think most bosses would; what do you want me to do about it? While some would ask this with sarcasm I do not think it the case here. The text would seem to imply genuine concern on the part of the King, Nehemiah’s boss.

 

            The final sentence of our text is the most telling to me. I for one when asked this by the King would probably launch right into suggested courses of action. You know give the King some options on what I think could be done to rectify the problem(s). Yet Nehemiah does something I need to do more of, he: prayed to the God of heaven. Here is a guy who apparently has been praying for 2-4 months and he immediately prays some more. So what’s up with that? Isn’t he prayed up enough? Can’t Nehemiah handle it on his own after all that prayer? An emphatic NO!!!!!  Nehemiah (unlike many of us) does get it. What he gets is he is nothing and God is everything. 

 

            Nehemiah chooses Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. What will you choose when your opportunity for change comes? Will you seize the day or be muddled in fear.  Will you be a Nehemiah fearless in your work for Christ? Or maybe you are unable to “seize the day” and will be more like  the rich young ruler—who was afraid of change and unwilling to give up the comfort of his wealthy lifestyle to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23). The choice is coming and it is yours alone to make.

 

In HIS Service.

 

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PRAYING PART FOUR

5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:5-11

 

            Last time we began our look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer, with an eye towards its meeting our previous analysis of prayer.  We got through two topics last time, 1) Only God (that is the God of the Bible) is worthy of our prayers and 2) we must always acknowledge our humble state when we pray.

            Today we will explore the final two points of Nehemiah’s prayer, 1) His prayer was and our prayer must; be founded upon hope and 2) we must pray with faithful expectation. While at first glance these two may seem similar I hope to show their significant and important differences.

 

1)  Prayers must be founded upon hope  

Verse 8-9   Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

            It may seem obvious but I think it may be helpful if I first define the word “HOPE”.  Hope has come to mean the following:

noun

1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

            Note the uncertainty of the matter, it is a feeling and desire

2. Grounds for believing that something good may happen.

            Again uncertainty; it may happen as in "he does see some hope for the future"

 

Now the classic or dare I say biblical definition is quite different. Although considered “Archaic” or out of fashion it is: a sense of trust or confident expectation

 

            You can see the modern translation is one of uncertainty a feeling without foundation as in wishful thinking. The biblical definition conveys conviction. It is in that manner Nehemiah prayed to God.

            Look with me what he prayed;

1) He implores God to remember

2) To remember His promise to the Israelites

3) That even though they had been disobedient and scattered abroad

4) If they repented He was powerful enough to gather them

5) Gather them not just anywhere but in Jerusalem

            Nehemiah points out that God had made certain promises and Nehemiah expected God to honor them. Should we expect anything less? I dare say no, for why pray to God if you do not trust Him to hear your prayers and more importantly be capable of fulfilling them.

            Our hope today is the same as Nehemiah’s. God has promised us just as He did the Israelites. Yet our Hope is founded upon something greater than that of those of Nehemiah’s time, our Hope is still in God but founded upon Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;  I hope you see it is still God where our Hope lies, it is just founded upon Christ and His work at Calvary.   Psalm 130:5 reiterates this: I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

            Our hope stands in stark contrast to that of the wicked (those without Christ):

 

Prov 10:28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish

            Our hope brings joy

Prov 11:7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.

            The unrighteous only hope is death

Prov 11:23 The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath

            Believers desire (hope in) good things the sinner in evil

Prov 23:18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

            Our hope is in a future that cannot be taken away          

 

2)  Pray with faithful expectation

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

 

You need not utterly despair even of those who for the present "turn again and rend you." For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual, when no other method avails. This is prayer. Therefore, whatsoever you desire or want, either for others or for your own soul, "Ask, and it shall be given you." -- JOHN WESLEY

 

 

Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith. http://www.joelbeeke.org/author/jrbeeke/

            We have discussed many times that one must pray in a manner that honors God and acknowledges His authority and control in all matters. Praying in such a manner that imposes your will upon God, (belief things will always work out as you planned), that just by asking God He will remove all troubles in your life or asking God for proof He is with you, are all recipes for prayer disaster.

            Everyone who prays does so with expectations at some level. These prayers are either founded on Worldly Expectations or Righteous Expectations. Righteous expectations start with:

            1) God’s sovereignty - Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

            2) Obedience - Joshua 1:7-9 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success

            3) Faith - Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

            4) Confidence - 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

            I like what R.C. Sproul says on the matter:

We can take comfort from the fact that God knows our hearts and hears our unspoken petitions more than the words that emanate from our lips. Whenever we are unable to express the deep feelings and emotions of our souls or when we are completely unclear about what it is for which we ought to be praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for in a given situation, the Holy Spirit assists us. There is reason to believe from the text that if we pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit corrects the error in our prayers before he takes them before the Father, for verse 27 tells us that he “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”     Excerpt from Does Prayer Change Things?  by R.C. Sproul

            Let us look back on Nehemiah’s prayer a moment:

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

            By declaring himself and those in Jerusalem God’s redeemed Nehemiah has a righteous expectation of God hearing these prayers of His people.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

            Humbly but with confidence Nehemiah asks God to look favorably upon his prayer. The end of which is so significant but many miss it.

I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

            Note what Nehemiah asks for, mercy from the King of Persia. Nehemiah did not ask amiss. He pleaded with God to look favorably upon him not by building him up but by changing the heart of his captor. In essence Nehemiah prayed God use this pagan to bring about your will. There was no ego involved here, no vengeance against those who had oppressed God’s people, no self in this at all. Instead Nehemiah prayed for God to bring glory upon himself by using a pagan King to do God’s bidding. That my friend’s is a righteous prayer, it is a God centered prayer. Only with God centered prayers do we have a faithful expectation of being answered.

            I will close by citing part of an article by noted author and Pastor Derek Thomas. He expresses 4 points in the article and I will only quote the final.

How can we ensure that our prayers are God-centered? Consider the following five-step strategy:

1. Remind yourself that there is only one God in the universe, and that you are not Him.

2. Adoration comes first, before confession, thanksgiving, or supplication. Worship the Lord in your praying.

3. Read a psalm before you pray, and attempt to emulate what you find: a preoccupation with God in all His multifaceted nature. Find psalms of joy or grief, praise or lament, and note how the psalmist spends time with God, making Him the center of his thoughts and desires.

4. Learn to love God’s names so that saying and repeating them fills you with an inexpressible joy, a reminder of who He is and His covenant faithfulness to you in the gospel of His grace.

5. Learn to “wait” upon the Lord. Watch how the psalmist, “fainting” as he thinks of his own troubles, finds relief by deliberately focusing on the great things God has done:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds (Ps. 77:11–12). http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-centered-prayer/

 

Until next time may God watch over and protect you.

 

In HIS Service

 

 Trials or Tribulations?

 

            Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I thought it a good opportunity to reflect again upon what many Christians refer to as trials and tribulations.

 

            I have heard and read from many with illness, financial woes, the incarcerated and those with a variety of other problems that they must endure the tribulations that they are going through. That they can with God’s help deal with these great present tribulations, While the sentiments are nice they are somewhat lacking in biblical standing.

 

            As much as I can understand their feelings, I must first caution them that Biblical tribulations are always something one endures for the sake of Christ. Tribulation always equals suffering via persecution.  Even Nehemiah’s situation was not one of tribulation. A trial certainly, but true persecution for God; I think not.

 

            As we learned last week Nehemiah was living as an outcast in the land of his captors. Yet as the King’s cup bearer and trusted servant of the court his life could hardly be described as one of suffering. Although he has a lofty position in the court of King Artaxerxes, he is as a prisoner. He could only do what the King ordered and allowed. He may have been trusted but as we have seen in Ester the Persians probably did not approve of his high post. Finally he is a Jew in a pagan nation much like we all are as Christians in the World today.  Nehemiah must have been in daily conflict. To live as a Jew was greatly different than that of a Persian.

 

            The lesson from last week is this; most Christians today, like Nehemiah, go through trails in their lives. Some are brought upon themselves by illegal, immoral or unethical actions. While others through no direct action of their own (illness, injury, work cut backs, etc.) have equally challenging trials.

 

            I want to take a minute or two to expand on this for a moment. Verse one says:

 

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

 

            Do you remember why Nehemiah was in Shushan and not say Bethlehem? He was there as a direct result of the actions of his forefathers. They had broken God’s law and there was a price to pay for such actions. Listen even though Nehemiah was not one of those who had broken God’s law that led to the Babylonians conquering and enslaving the nation of Judah in 586 B.C. he must endure the consequences.

 

              Illegal actions that lead to our imprisonment have consequences not only for us but for our families and friends. While prison is not a fun time for anyone and can certainly be a trial in that it tests us in many ways it cannot be considered a time of tribulation. After all (in most every case) you put yourself there.

 

 

            Marital problems due to infidelity while trying are not a time of tribulation. Nor is the aftermath that while trying and seemingly under persecution (high alimony) again it is a problem of your own making.  Laziness that leads to financial woes cannot be blamed on the economy or anyone else. A man that will not work (at any legal job) to feed his family is not a real man in my book. Immoral acts such as gambling and drinking that lead to family, financial and health issues cannot be described as times of tribulation. Trying yes, but that is everyday life in a fallen and depraved world.

 

            There are many in the world today who face real tribulation. Who daily are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus.  We in America are blessed that true persecution has not reached our shores. But be forewarned that day is coming. The actions of a misguided mayor in Houston and the passing of Hate Crime legislation making it seemingly illegal to speak out biblically against abortion, sexual orientation, same sex marriage etc. are bringing the day ever closer.

 

            For real Tribulations in the life of Christians today Voice of the Martyrs is one of the best sites for information. I gleaned the following from a long list:  

 

Egypt - Akhom, was shot during an attack on his Christian neighborhood. VOMedical will help him get the treatment he needs.

 

India - House Destroyed an Orissa victim sits amid what used to be her home. “We are waiting for the next riot. We do not know where it will happen. We know this was a warning, not an end.”

 

India - Imprisoned Indian pastors are imprisoned for their evangelical activity.

 

India - Four young Dalit pastors in India - Shivashankar, Ramiah, Yesuraj and Jeevan - were beaten by Hindu radicals and police and imprisoned. We assisted in their release from the Karnataka jail. They have returned to Bible study and ministry!

 

Indonesia - Before Christmas bulldozers were sent by the Muslim government of Tangerang County to destroy five church buildings.

 

Indonesia - Police tried to protect Christians of the Batak church, but two of the church’s pastors, including Pastor Purba (in the red tie), were beaten by the mob in August 2010. One banner carried by radicals during the protest read, “The Muslim community rejects the building of a church in Mustika Jaya.”

 

Iraq - In 2011, militant Muslims burst into Afanan’s home in Iraq. They locked Afanan and her two children in a room while they tortured her husband. The family was forced to listen to his cries until they ended with a fatal gunshot. VOM is supporting this widow and her children.

 

Laos - Somchi, a young Khmu woman, handed us an unusual package — a burned Bible in a plastic bag. The Bible was still wet from the rain, but we separated and dried the pages. Somchi has underlined many scriptures in her Bible. The most underlined section was around I Cor 9:19. She put a blue asterisk by this verse.

 

Nigeria - Seyi was hit with a machete several times and almost burned to death during Muslim rioting in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria - Monica was attacked by Islamic radicals in July and has already had four surgeries. She is due for another one.

 

Nigeria - Godwin lost his arm in an attack by local Muslims. VOM provided him with a prosthetic arm.

 

Pakistan - When Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra, Pakistan, in 2009, Christians used a cart as a strecher to transport the injured.

 

Vietnam - Pastor Cong’s home was destroyed by local authorities.

 

Vietnam - Who can forget the stunning photo we printed of Vietnamese secret police officers swinging a club at a member of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang’s Mennonite Church in August 2006? About 50 police officers swarmed the grounds of the house church, beating congregants with nightsticks, nunchucks and electric cattle prods. Pastor Quang was arrested. Today, Pastor Quang, released from prison, is operating a Bible school. Currently, 47 young Vietnamese and tribal youth are studying in the three-year program. The course teaches them a thorough understanding of the Bible, how to use a computer, how to establish a church and qualifies them to serve in full-time ministry. Oh, and secret police are still coming by his church and home.

 

India - VOM helped a woman after Hindu radicals beat her husband and burned her Bible. Christians are attacked in India more frequently than in any other country.

 

            For a look at real persecution and tribulation in the lives of Christians today I recommend you watch the following video. Afterwards ask yourself are you ready to answer the call of God? Are you truly a Christian?

http://www.persecution.com/idop       Leana’s Prayer

In HIS Service

Perseverance

 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

- - Phil 1:6

 

            What words come to mind when you here the term persevere? Initially I think of determination, steadfast, resolve, grit, diligence and I could go on but you get the idea. Here are a couple of quotes to help us understand the concept of perseverance ever better:

 

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. - C.H. Spurgeon

 

Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams. – Dr. Benjamin Carson

 

When we are foiled, let us believe we shall overcome; when we have fallen, let us believe we shall rise again. Jacob, after he received a blow which made him lame, yet would not give over wrestling (Gen. 32:25) till he had obtained the blessing. So let us never give up, but, in our thoughts knit the beginning, progress and end together, and then we shall see ourselves in heaven out of the reach of all enemies.  —Richard Sibbes

 

            Let us pause for a moment, think of that snail if Noah took 120 years to build the ark, when did the snail set out for it? Dr Carson’s quote is a slap in the face to today’s world of live for yourself. He tells us to reach our dreams our aspirations we must have faith in God. Finally Richard Sibbes reminds us that even with God on our side there will be battles to fight along life’s path. but we are never to quit.

 

            As we come to the 7th step in the Order of Salvation let us take a quick moment to review what we have learned:

 

Step 1            Election:                    We are Chosen by God

Step 2            Calling:                      We are Called by God

Step 3            Regeneration          We are Regenerated made anew by God

Step 4            Conversion              We are Born Again by God

Step 5            Justification              We are Justified by God

Step 6            Adoption                  We are made Heirs by God
Step 7            Sanctified                 We are made Holy by God

 

            Note the ongoing thread throughout each step. It is by God; not by anything we can do for or by ourselves that this process of salvation happens.  That same theme is present in today’s lesson on perseverance.

 

            How many of you have ever started a project of any kind and failed to see it through to the end? I know I am guilty of that.  The bible speaks of a different kind of project one that will always be completed fully. Look back at our base text for a moment:

 

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

 

            There are three aspects of perseverance brought out in this verse. We can have confidence because it is of God, we can be assured God will not quit in mid project and it is a lifelong process.

 

            When it comes to better understanding Perseverance of the Saints I have broken it down into three categories: Command, Change and Compensation.

 

COMMAND:

 

            We are commanded to persevere:

 

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  - - 2 Tim 2:1-3

 

Once again my mind says is it really that simple. Get and order, obey and order all is well in the world. Oh if were only so. Let us look deeper.

 

            First we are to be strong in Grace. Not our own grace but that of Christ Jesus. Again the theme from the beginning of this series on salvation is repeated; it is of God, by God and for God.

 

            How are we to be Strong on Grace? By learning and being convicted of the Word of God. We are to listen only to faithful men of God; we are to be a Berean in all things checking the genuine, uncorrupted word of God against all we hear and read.

 

            I have heard it said from to many that they need only the Bible and the Holy Spirit to fully understand the Word of God. While this may be technically correct (the Holy Spirit is God and fully capable of doing anything) it is not biblically correct. The Holy Spirit is our guide and as such is there to assist us in our studies of the Word. I want to emphasize the word STUDIES. If one is to truly unlock all the truths of God’s word we must examine and reexamine God Word as it was originally written. I understand that for many this is not practical or possible for a variety of reasons. That is why Paul wrote (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit) the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others.

 

            Finally perseverance is no easy task; for the Holy Spirit calls us to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. This is a cry to war not a family BBQ. There will be battles to fight and we must be prepared.

 

Change:

 

            How do we prepare for the battles to come? How do we endure the trials to come? By controlling our actions! We can only do this by changing how we go about our daily lives.  Let’s face facts, although some who claim to be “Christians” live a life that resembles anything but. We however understand that we must change to persevere.

 

“For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” - - Eph 2:10     

 

            As we read in our base text God has begun a good work in us. Here we see not only has he begun a good work in us He created us for good works. Now I do not know about y’all but before and apart from Christ there was and is nothing good about neither me nor my deeds. It is only by God’s work in changing me that I have any hope of persevering.

 

            We all know that once we are “born again” we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). But apart from the obvious need to separate us from sin, why else are we changed as it relates to perseverance?

 

            I thought of three that we can all easily relate to:

 

1) For Fruitfulness: John 15:4-8 says a person who perseveres will bear much fruit. I believe this is what Paul was referring to in Eph 2:1.  We become change so we can do good works for the Kingdom of God.  Just as the withered branch those apart from God not willing to persevere are cast into the fire but those who do persevere are able to do great things for God.

 

2) For Spiritual Growth: Ephesians 4:12-15 says those who persevere will not be as little children easily deceived and misled. They/we through perseverance mature in our faith.

 

3) For a Testimony to others: 2 Tim 2:10 reminds us that like Job many good saints must endure (persevere) through many illnesses and trials not for our sake but for God’s glory. Out testimony in testing times may be will help reach others for the Kingdom of God.

 

 

COMPENSATION:

 

            Remember our base text until the day of Jesus Christ? So what happens then? Not that we need any incentive to persevere, as we learned God commanded it so we should be obedient but hey it’s nice to know what the benefits of it are.

 

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap,

 if we faint not. - - Gal 6:9

 

            I love this verse it tells me that my time and effort are not wasted for God. That in the end there will be a payoff a return on my investment if you will. Here are a few thoughts on our compensation for persevering.

 

             I will start with one you may not have thought of Eph 6:11-18. Yes Armor, one of the benefits of perseverance is the Armor God gives us to fight the good fight. It gets less and less restrictive as we get accustomed to utilizing it in all conditions. Just like the modern soldier must train and train to utilize all his tools on the battlefield so to must God’s children train to meet the spiritual war raging around us. God provides all the Armor we need it is by persevering through trials that we reap its full benefits.

 

            How about strengthening our faith? 2 Tim 3:11 reminds us that Paul endured more than any of us probably ever will. Yet he complained not. No instead he praised the Lord for delivering him out of them all. His faith was strengthened by God’s demands of him.

 

            James writes of what maybe the greatest reason for persevering when in James 1:2 he says Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let that sink in a moment. In one short verse we are promised a reward but no ordinary reward for it is the crown of life!  This pinnacle of our existence is promised only to those who persevere to the end.

 

 

            In closing I would like to quote another Puritan writer William Ames who summarized Perseverance of the saints this way:

 

“This truth is perceived [perseverance of the saints] and made certain in us in these ways:

 

             First, by a certain spiritual sense in which the grace of God now present becomes known and evident to the believer.

 

             Second, by the gift of discernment through which believers distinguish true grace from its shadow.

 

            Third, by the whisper and witness of conscience in which grace and salvation are made fast for believers, just as sin and death for unbelievers.

 

            Fourth, the Spirit of God so confirms to believers these ways of perceiving that they have the same certainty as faith itself…This certainty follows upon the perceiving of faith and repentance, where the free covenant of God is rightly understood.”           

 

            Perseverance is commanded to all saints. Whether you are in the valleys or on the mountain tops we must endure all. The path up the hill or down may be very difficult and we must be properly equipped for the fight to come. I urge you to study God word daily, seek out learned men who are properly trained to teach God’s word. Guard yourself against the lies and smooth talk of world and above all else seek Him daily.

 

In HIS Service