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

 

[i]

 http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,disguise28.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,disguisep://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,disguise

image  image

                     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 II

clip_image002

 

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

 

Road Blocks  Part I

image

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

----- Nehemiah 4:1-6 (ESV) All scripture ESV unless otherwise noted.

           

           

            When last we looked at Nehemiah in Chapter three, he and a host of volunteers were hard at work rebuilding the gates and walls of Jerusalem. We discussed how like Nehemiah, we too, if we are to be successful in rebuilding our lives, must have a team to help us.  There is a biblical mandate for us to have fellowship (communion, which is unity, close relationships, working together) with God and other likeminded believers.

            As we explore Chapter Four and Five our theme will be Roadblocks.  You can be assured that during our rebuilding process we are certain to run into many of them. We will break Chapter four into three main types of Roadblocks: verses 1-6 mockery or ridicule, verses 7-14 threats of attack and verses 15- 23 we will see them by way of by way of discouragement.

            Before we begin in earnest let me be clear ALL Christians have roadblocks, obstacles, trials call them what you may in their lives. James 1:12-13Blessed 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.

            I wish to start tonight with the one obstacle that for many of you may be the hardest to overcome. If you have your bibles turn with me to Matthew 10:35-36For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household”.  The Reformation Study Bible comments on this, Although coming to Christ brings peace to the heart (Matt 11:29), embracing the gospel also makes life more difficult in some respects, because Jesus demands allegiance that takes priority over the natural ties of life.”

            Some of you came to the place you are at in life now with no real faith in Christ. Oh you may have gone to church on Sunday but that’s not what I am referring to. I am speaking of a true deep personal relationship with Jesus. It is a relationship that makes Him both Savior and more importantly; LORD of your life.

            When you get out the family you left behind will notice this change and for some they will not know how to handle it. A few will quietly accept it. A few may just ignore you and some will even mock you.  You must be prepared for this, you must remember that they are just as confused and living in the dark (John 3:19) as you once were. Your response must be to pray for them. Never abandon Christ for your earthly family.

            In Job we find; Job 14:1 “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble”. Job understood the facts. Man can and will apart from constant interaction with God get into trouble. Psalm 73:26 says: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  You too will have set backs simply because you are not perfect. It is alright to make mistakes, to fail at things. The mark of a true Christian is how we handle these roadblocks in our rebuilding process. Do you use these trials as reasons to quit and go back to drinking, drugging or other criminal activities? Or are these opportunities to call upon God; to draw closer to him in joyous fellowship. The choice is yours.

            Ok let’s look at verse 1-6 again. That lowly gofer of Satan Sandballat is at it again. You know the type, a whole lot of mouth especially if he has an audience, which it seems he may have here: 2 “And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” I don’t know about you but when I was in the U.S. Army I could talk all kinds of smack. I mean I had the men and the goods to back it up. This guy though does it not for any good or noble reason he does it for evil. He is trying to upset, irritate and provoke Nehemiah and his teammates.

            You know the type the guy (or gal) that knows just the right button of yours to push. The near magic words to make your blood seem to boil. So what do you so? Fly off the handle punch them in the face because the deserve it. That is one option; a wrong course of action certainly and costly too.

            Let us consider who is Sandballat and those like him mocking? Are they really mocking you? In most cases I would say probably not. Look at Isaiah 57:4 with me “Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit?”  Isaiah is describing the futility of Israel’s idolatry by asking them whom is it you think you are mocking? Later Jesus confronts the Pharisees by pointing out a similar issue in Luke 16:13-15 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

            It is not really Nehemiah that Sandballat and his clowns are making fun of it is God. It is not you; most of the people who mock you are making fun of it is our Lord and Savior. That my friend is a good thing for it means they are seeing Christ in you. If they are truly mocking you then the light of Christ is to dim in you today.

            We have Jesus as our example He was mocked, ridiculed scorned call it what you may. We as His followers should expect the same. Especially if it is being done so because of the things we are doing for Christ: Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

imageThere are many running around today claiming to be doing “things” for Christ. I would be very cautious of and weary of any person(s) or organization that does not have the full support and backing of their local church.  Just because someone uses Jesus’s name does not mean they are on Jesus’ team.

            The mocking of God’s people is nothing new. In the Old Testament God in His loving kindness sent messenger after messenger to Judah in an effort to get them to reform : 2 Chronicles 36: 15-16  The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.  Well, no to disagree with the word of God but there was a remedy of sorts if you will, it was called an invasion. God had enough and He allowed the Babylonians to invade Israel and the nation of Israel ceased to exist in approximately 582 BC. Not to regain national status until 1948 AD a period of 2530 years.

            The admonitions continued and we were left with the same warnings in the New Testament:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that yin the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, obedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

2 Peter 3:3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires

Jude 17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

            So how do we handle these folks those who would mock, ridicule and scoff at us. We already mentioned one way was to haul off and clock them. It is ungodly solution for sure one that would prove their point and show your lack of faith in God.

            First rely on God and His word. The bible says only a fool says there is no God Ps 14:1. Those that mock believers for being believers are denying the existence of God. Do not be mad at them pray for their souls. You were once like them lost without hope.

            Next do as Nehemiah does in verses 4-6:

4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives.

5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

What do you do in times of trouble PRAY. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I am not going to lie and tell you that is an easy task. I will tell you it is a doable task.            

            Remember last week’s theme? That is correct teamwork. Who was the most important teammate we had, God of course? Not only is He numero uno, He is all powerful so let Him handle it. Why get your hands dirty? Look at what Nehemiah prayed. His prayer was not so nice goody covered in love for his enemy’s thing, nope. It was a in your face I am upset and you need to handle this God kind of prayer. He says:

·         Do not cover their guilt

·         Do not blot out their sin

·         They provoked you God

·         So turn back their taunts

·         Give them up to the land for plunder

            In closing I wish to relate one last verse this time from Colossians. Paul is closing his letter to the church at Colossi and imparts these words of wisdom: Colossians 4:5-6 (AMP) 5 Behave yourselves wisely [living prudently and with discretion] in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians), making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity. 6 Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].

            If you wish to mitigate or lessen the opportunities for mockery and ridicule there is no better advice to follow than that given by Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Act appropriately in a manner at all times that brings honor and glory to God and the devil and his followers will have few occasions to establish roadblocks in your recovery.

Let’s pray.

In HIS Service

Mike

 

Never try and go it Alone

image

 

And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. 3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. 6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters. 13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate. 14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king's garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. 24 After him Binnui the son of enadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress 25 and to the corner. Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel. 28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.

                                                                             - - - - Nehemiah 3:2-32 (ESV)

 

            Last week we looked at just the first verse of chapter three and its theme of dedicating oneself unto the Lord. This week we can cover the remaining 31 verses again in one major theme. This time the theme is the need to Never try and go it alone.  

 

            “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

― Michael Jordan

 

            While it might seem strange to start a sermon with a quote from Michael Jordon, yet for all his immense talent Mr. Jordon understood the concept that he was not a one man team. During their two 3 year championship runs the Chicago Bulls had Michael, Scotty Pippen and two sets of core individuals (teammates) in which to depend upon.  We too if we are to obtain any amount of success the rebuilding of our lives MUST have a core of individuals (teammates) we can depend upon. We canNever try and go it Alone”.

 

            The biblical importance of partnership, fellowship, unity etc. is repeated throughout the bible. I want to look at a few areas today that touch on this. First is in the design of creation, in the beginning God created a helper for Adam. Second is in the design of our own bodies many parts functioning as a whole. Next is the area of Christian fellowship. Concluding with a look at this is only possible because of God.

 

            First we it is crucial to establish were not designed to function alone. In the beginning God recognized the need for man to have help and so created a help meet (KJV) for Adam (Gen 2:18).

 

            This idea is carried throughout the Old Testament; we can see it in verses such as:

 

Proverbs 18:1 ESV Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Very few people would consider someone who keeps to themselves as selfish but God does. He says it is because they seek their own, not God’s desires. Compare this with Ps 34:5?

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

            My wife’s Harley (I’m the chaufferJ)  is around 900 lbs. Trust me at 172 soaking wet I need help getting that thing up if its ever laid down. Two is a must.

 

            Trust me I have heard it all before. Those who feel put down can come up with some very creative excuses why they can’t get help and got to do things alone.   I have no one. No one cares for me, no one will write me. I have no stamps. Not one of them is valid.

 

            Listen if we spent half as much effort on doing things to rebuild our lives in preparation for getting out as we did to get in jail all them there excuses would just disappear. Take it from me I had no Christian support on the outside. I knew I need a solid Bible church if I was going to stay out. I wrote 12 churches in the community I planned on going to 18 months before my expected release. One, just one church wrote me back. Guess where I went when I got out. Guess which church my wife and I got married in. Guess which church sent us to Mississippi as domestic missionaries. You cannot make it if you make excuses, you can make because you are not alone God is with you. There is no excuse.

 

            Okay now that I have vented let get off my soap box and continue when we look at ourselves do we think of us as individuals or as the biblical model of many parts working in unison? Look at the following verses with me:

 

1 Corinthians 12:20-25 ESV As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,

 

Ephesians 4:16 ESV From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

            Do you see it, God has constructed us in such a manner that each part of the body is formed of many parts all working together. The balance God put into effect is amazing On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor… Yes I know technology has made it so some parts are replaceable. But that again is God. Who do you think put the brain cells in these men and women that develop all these things? Some cosmic accidental explosion y’all cannot be that naive.

 

            Today we are taught that it’s all about self, you are beautiful just the way you are and its ok for you to be this or that no matter how you was born. Truth is what you make it because absolute truth cannot be known, and doubting is the mature approach to life. We are fed a bunch of lies when the truth is in front of us. God and God alone is the authority on man, why because He created man. And He created us to function in a manner that was dependent upon God and fellow man.

 

            Are we truly dependent upon our fellow man? I mean, why I need anyone else I am smart I can get along just fine on my own.  If you call yourself a Christian you need to rethink this attitude. Again let us turn to the word of God for some answers:

 

Proverbs 27:17 ESV Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

            Pretty hard to sharpen yourself against your fellow man LONER!

 

Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

            We are commanded to join together in fellowship to worship God. Note this is not some optional club meeting. This is God commanding us to fellowship, keep reading to find out why.

 

1 Peter 4:10 ESV As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

            If you go about serving yourself, well that would just get you a trip to the checkup from the neck up doctorJ.

 

1 John 1:1-4 ESV  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

            I know I have used this before (It is a favorite) but verses 3  & 4 are crucial.  Do you know anyone who does not want JOY in their life? If you want joy you might as well want fullness of JOY right? To get it you MUST (can’t void it, work around it, shy away from it, make excuses to get out of it) have fellowship with God and other Christians

 

“When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles; When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs; When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.” Corrie Ten Boom

 

            Can you think of any instances of fellowship (teamwork) in the bible? How about:

Noah and his Sons, one man did not build that big ole boat

Mosses and Aaron

Naomi and Ruth

Priscilla and Aquila

Paul and Silas

            Ok who missed it? Of course, Nehemiah today’s text; we won’t read it again but the whole of Chapter three except for verse one describes groups of men (teams) working together to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

 

            In closing tonight I want to try and come full circle as it were. We as believer’s can only enjoy this fellowship with others and God because of God. Like everything else that comes our way it is not by our works but buy His grace. His word tells us:

 

1 Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

John Gill  in his commentary says: unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; to partake of his grace, and to be heirs of glory with him; to enjoy communion with him in private and public exercises of religion, which is an evidence of being in him, and of union to him; for it is not merely into the fellowship of his saints or churches, but into the fellowship of his Son they are said to be called; and such are members of Christ, of his body, of his flesh, and of his bone; and shall never be lost and perish, but shall be confirmed to the end; be preserved in him blameless, and presented to him faultless, and have everlasting life.

 

            Think on that for a moment with me, heirs of Glory with Him. When God adopts you it not like being the proverbial redheaded step child. No we are given the keys to the kingdom. Can you even imagine “enjoy communion with hit [Jesus] in private” please do not take this as being flippant but think of asking Him to sit and just talk about whatever.

 

I love John Wesley quote “I want the whole Christ for my Saviour, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”  John Wesley was saying he was 100% all in as a Christian there was no walking the fence for him. He wanted all that it had to offer, including the fellowship of the Church.

 

            Whether it is in church, on the job, at home or in a jail cell we are not alone. God word tells us “Never try and go it Alone”.  He expects us to seek fellowship with Him and true fellow believers. This will never be truer than for those who will be rebuilding their lives after a period of incarceration or addiction recovery or restitution rehabilitation whatever the case may be.  Not only is a biblical principle it is a statistical fact that those who get out and find a solid faith based support network, a good church, and a job their recidivism (return to incarceration) rate drops dramatically.

 

            If you are do not know this fellowship with Christ and fellow believers I encourage you to admit you are a sinner, confessing your sins to Christ and accepting Him as Lord of your life.

 

In HIS Service

 

Mike

Time to Stop Think then Do

Part II

image

 

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

clip_image002

 

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.

 

clip_image002

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

 

clip_image002[4]

 

PRAYING PART THREE

 

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

 

            The last two times we were in Nehemiah we looked at the subject of prayer. How it was Nehemiah’s final response to learning of the brokenness of his people in and the city of Jerusalem. We discovered what prayer is (and is not), why we pray, to whom we should pray, the reason(s) we should pray, how are we to pray and our expectations in prayer. Tonight we will look specifically at Nehemiah’s prayer. I will use four points to illustrate what we discussed.

 

1)  Only God is worthy of our prayer.

 

Verse 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:

 

            a.        Nehemiah starts prayer by crying out I beseech thee. His pray is both passionate and decisive. He is not just asking no; he it is more like begging God to hear his prayer. He does this with already understanding that God will hear.

 

            b.        But not to just anyone. No Nehemiah cry’s out to the only person who can be of help in the situation God. Not just any god either, but the Lord God of heaven.

 

            1 Tim 1:17   Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen!  Only one is all knowing, powerful and ever present. Only He is worthy of all praise.

 

            c.         Next Nehemiah recognized and clearly acknowledges the Lord God’s exalted position the great and terrible God. Men throughout history like Nero, Genghis Kahn and Stalin have been elevated to great status and most have been terrible human beings. In describing God as the great and terrible God; Nehemiah has something completely different in mind.

 

                        The great as in the One who is able to accomplish mighty things

                        The Terrible as in the One who is able to impose immense judgments

 

            God, creator of all is the only one capable of both righteous justice and mercy at the same time. Calvary is all the proof we need of that.

 

          1 Chronicles 29:10-11   Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. 11 Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.

 

          Ps 97:9   For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.

 

2)  Pray acknowledging our humble state

 

Verse 6-7  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.

 

            Like Nehemiah when we pray we must acknowledge our poor state. By that I mean not our present situation whether it is illness, financial or legal woes we are battling, but our total and complete inability to rise above such a status without God.

 

            a.        Admit our limitations: 

 

1 Chronicles 29:6-9 (AMP)  Solomon said, You have shown to Your servant David my father great mercy and loving-kindness, according as he walked before You in faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness of heart with You; and You have kept for him this great kindness and steadfast love, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of David my father, and I am [a]but a lad [in wisdom and experience]; I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish). 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who cannot be counted for multitude.9 So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge and rule this Your great people?

 

            Solomon commonly referred to as the wisest man whom ever lived understood he was nothing apart from the wisdom and understanding that only God could provide.  So too did Nehemiah declare this by saying the prayer of thy servant and children of Israel thy servants. This is not a self-deprecating statement calling himself and all Israel servants. No it is an acknowledgment of their simple state of being.

 

            b.        Admit we are sinful men

 

Luke 18:9-14 (AMP)   He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that they were upright and in right standing with God] and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men: 10 Two men went up into the temple [[i]enclosure] to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee [j]took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers—or even like this tax collector here. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. 13 But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the [k]especially wicked sinner that I am! 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted

 

            Whenever we come to God in prayer, no matter the reason, be it to beseech Him for help or offer praise for something He has provided; we must as Nehemiah confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I {insert your name here} and my father's house have sinned

 

            God cannot and will not have any part of sinful man’s prayers apart from the confession of sins. Asking God while hiding or withholding sin and you ask amiss. (Ps 66:18, Is 59:2)

 

            c.         Admit our unworthiness

 

Luke 15: 17-19 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

 

            The story of the prodigal son is oft told as a good news story. That no matter how bad you have screwed up God (our Father) has forgiveness in His heart and will always welcome you back into the fold.  Yet so many fail to get the key to God’s forgiveness is our own realization and admittance of our unworthiness to be called a son of God. If we fail to acknowledge our worthlessness and refuse to confess our transgressions how can a loving God offer forgiveness?

 

            Do not expect help from God nor a fellow believer if you will not admit your faults and your need for help. Nehemiah knew this and did not hesitate to declare it when he said we have dealt very corruptly against thee.

 

            d.        Admit our disobedience

 

            If you want God to help your efforts you must be obedient to His decrees. Nehemiah understood this and confirmed that the people of Israel; have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

 

            There comes a time in everyone’s life when the will run out of excuses. Roman 14:11-12 says; For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.   For some unfortunately that day will not come in this world And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Heb 9:27).

 

            I am one of the blessed ones, God in His grace and mercy saw fit to bring me into that realization on the third day of my incarceration. I was tossed (he could not hand it to me due to the distance and bars) a bible by the Chaplain.  Catching it I opened it to where my thumb had landed and what I read brought me to my knees: Deut. 11:26-28 26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

 

            Although I had spent time years before in a bible preaching church even helping in their bus ministry I was not converted. I was a sinner running from the truth living on the dark side. But this day God made clear my future I could as it were continue down the road to damnation or cry out to God surrendering all to the call of God and enjoying the blessings of obedience.

 

            I would like to close with two quotes on the subject of prayer:

 

The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked.  But this is a most dishonouring and degading conception.  The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires.  No, prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best.                                          —Arthur W. Pink

 

To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees. ~ Billy Graham

 

            As these quotes point out God is not some instant genie granting wishes. No He alone is worthy of deciding life’s course. If we want that path to be one that honors and glorifies Him we have no choice but to humble ourselves and get on our knees in prayer.

 

            Next time we will look at the Hope and expectation of Nehemiah’s prayer.

 

 

Recognition of Brokenness

 

That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

 

3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:2-4

 

            It may seem evident but before one can rebuild something one must recognize that something is broken. Building upon the previous two weeks, especially last week’s sermon on the persecuted church I would like to take a look at what I am entitling Our Recognition of  Brokenness.  

 

            The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” would seem to apply. You would not waste your time tuning up a brand new 2015 vehicle with 25 miles on it. Neither would you put a new roof on a just completed home. The same applies to the Gospel. If the whole world was good and proper (as God intended) there would be no brokenness and no need for the Gospel Good News. But as we all know the world we live in is severely broken.

             

            Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 describes Brokenness as: A state of being broken; unevenness; as brokenness of heart. Charles Stanley says:  Brokenness is the Lord’s method of dealing with our self-reliance—that desire within us to act independently from Him.  God wants us to bring every area of our lives into submission to His will, and He uses our trials to lead us to a point of total surrender.

 

            The bible is full of stories of broke things. It starts out with the glory of God in creation and quickly erodes to man breaking God’s covenant in the Garden of Eden. There is the story of Pharaoh who must be broken step by step in order for God to be fully glorified. The story of Joseph recounts many broken moments from a fathers love to a faithful servant falsely accused. Of course we could go on but suffice it to say there is no shortage of similar stories throughout the Bible. The common thread in every case is man’s depravity, his broken state. His inability to do good of his own accord and the evil he can generate towards others. As I preached for the first time this past Jan (2014) in jail, one cannot truly appreciate the love of God (John 3:16) until one really understands the unbridled evil in man (John3:19).

 

            Here too in Nehemiah we see this in verses 2 and 3. Nehemiah asks about the Jews who had previously left Persia with Ezra and returned to Jerusalem. I want to emphasize these words in verse 3 that describe those in Jerusalem they: are in great affliction and reproach. Their lives are broken.

 

            Think about this for a moment how was man intended to live? Genesis 1:31a gives us a hint And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. We can see that all of God’s creation under the heavens and earth were good. It is not a farfetched leap to think God intended man to LIVE THE GOOD LIFE.

 

            The Hebrew word translated good is Towb a partial list of its meanings should enlighten us:

 

good, pleasant, agreeable, [No bad stuff here]

good, excellent (of its kind) [cream of the crop]

good, rich, valuable in estimation [worthwhile]

better (comparative) [as compared to after the fall should be obvious]

glad, happy, prosperous (of man's sensuous nature)

good understanding (of man's intellectual nature)

good, kind, benign [no evil intent]

good, right (ethical) n m [capable of making right decisions]

welfare, prosperity, happiness [ for ones benefit]

good things (collective) [creation individually and as a whole]

 

Not just a good VERY GOOD. Again it is the choice of the emphatic Very that makes this so compelling. It was not just ok good it was the best of the best.

 

The second thing to consider here is man’s intended role in the Garden. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth Gen 1:26 God gave man dominion or rule over all the earth. Not just bits and pieces but all the earth. He entrusted man because He created him good. But man had other ideas.

 

            Back to Nehemiah, the report he gets is they (the Jerusalem Jews) are living a broken existence. One not in line with God’s plan, they are in great affliction and reproach.

 

According to Josephus, Nehemiah, while walking around the palace walls, overheard some persons conversing in the Hebrew language. Having ascertained that they had lately returned from Judea, he was informed by them, in answer to his eager inquiries, of the unfinished and desolate condition of Jerusalem, as well as the defenseless state of the returned exiles. The commissions previously given to Zerubbabel and Ezra extending only to the repair of the temple and private dwellings, the walls and gates of the city had been allowed to remain a mass of shattered ruins, as they had been laid by the Chaldean siege.

 

            The walls of the city were left in disrepair, broken and a disgrace to the citizenry there. It is important to recognize the broken state of folks around us. We should never be surprised at the brokenness around us. I often hear comments like “how could someone do such a thing” from Christians and stand amazed at their ignorance. It amazes me even more, how someone who is completely broken does not do far worse. 

 

            We can look upon Nehemiah’s situation as symbolic of our own lives apart from God. Without Christ where was your life headed? It has been my experience that very few folks have come to Christ without first being completely broken in need of a complete renovation.

 

            There are many things that get us to that point (thanks to In Touch Ministries for the following list with my comments in italics)

 

A. Pride - How many of us thought we could go it alone?

B. IgnoranceMaybe stupidity would be my choice we knew better than God?

C. FearAfraid be seen as Broken therefore afraid to change leaves us broken,

D. Worldly entanglementsHere we again, loving the dark side of life.

E. Unhealthy relationshipsPersonal, Business, Social, who are you hanging with?

F. RebelliousnessResisting the truth; afraid to own up to our failures

G. Strongholds of SatanHe can’t make you do it but can plant the seeds to sedition.

 

            Often times this broken state is not as apparent as the words told to Nehemiah. We must always be on the lookout for family, friends, co-workers and even those who in authority over us who are broken and in despair. As a prison chaplain I am constantly on the lookout for signs of new brokenness if you will in the men women and staff I minister to. Some are easy to spot. They guy who is normally boisterous lying on his bunk with his head wrapped in a towel is a dead giveaway something new is wrong. Or the officer who grunts a greeting instead of their normal smile sets my alarm off. I constantly hear gripes from the inmates regarding the staff (and yes sometimes the other way around). The lack of control over their own lives (brokenness) leads them lash out at those God has appointed over them. Rarely justified it goes to the total depravity of man. I often try and pint out to those complaining that not only did they put themselves there, they have no idea of the (broken) state the staff member maybe in.

 

            Why is living in a state of brokenness so bad? Let us look at some of the Consequences: (Again thanks to In Touch Ministries)

 

A. We hinder our relationship with the Lord. (We can never make things right)

B. We delay the fulfillment of God’s will in our lives. (God will not work with junk)

C. We hurt those who are closest to us. (Our brokenness affects others)

D. We limit what the Father can do through our gifts and talents. (SOS mode all the way)

 

E. We are “put on the shelf”—unused by the Lord and prevented from experiencing His blessings and future rewards. (God wants representatives that glorify him not the devil)

 

            God uses the humble the willing and the broken of self for His kingdoms work.

 

·         Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor [humble] in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. We are drawn closer to God as we acknowledge our brokenness

 

·         Psalm 32:9a  Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. WE must yield to the Holy Spirit as we recognize our brokenness

 

·         2 Timothy 2:20,21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. We must be broken to be restored in the inmage of God.

 

            Recognition of our broken state is only the beginning of the process of rebuilding. Next week we will look at Responses to Brokenness.

 

            In HIS Service