Never try and go it Alone

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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

Response to Brokenness Continued

 

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

 

           

            Last week we learned the first responses of Nehemiah to the news of Jerusalem being in a state of brokenness was to weep and mourn. We explored a number of biblical reasons for weeping and mourning. Many of these were because of some illness or tragedy, yet we also learned that there are equally as many reasons for us to weep tears of joy.

 

            This week we will examine the second part of Nehemiah’s response when he fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. Because of the scope of this short phrase I am going to look at fasting today.

 

            In the bible fasting is mentioned over 70 times. The practice of fasting is not taught in the first 5 books of Moses where God lays down the Law. One can infer then that fasting is not commanded of God to His children. However it is found in the historical books, Psalms and the prophet’s writings. From that one can easily surmise that while God does order the practice neither does He forbid it.

 

            The Hebrew word found in our text that is translated as fasting is Tsuwm  (Tsoom) which means to abstain from food. Thus biblical fasting is the decision to abstain or go without food but to what reason and end must be explored.

 

            In many evangelical churches today fasting is almost never spoken of, or if it is in a rather negative context. I think this comes from the warning Christ gives in Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. In an effort to not appear puffed up, many have completely ignored fasting as an effective tool in our personal spiritual tool boxes. But note Jesus is not telling them to avoid fasting, no he is saying avoid doing it wrongly.

 

            Let’s us look at some of the tradition of fasting. As noted there are some 70 references to it in the bible. In addition the following historical church documents speak of it:

 

“The Westminster Confession spoke briefly of fasting in the context of public worship:

 

The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner (21.5; emphasis added).

 

In the Larger Catechism this is put more strikingly: “What are the duties required in the second commandment? The duties required in the second commandment are . . . religious fasting” (Q&A 108).

 

In the Assembly’s Directory for the Public Worship of God, an entire section was taken up with “Public Solemn Fasting.” The context is either a time of trouble or a time of seeking God’s blessing:”

 

            Let us look at when fasting is appropriate:

 

1) Upon hearing sad and distressful news as in our main text. Nehemiah hears of the troubles in Jerusalem and not only weeps and prays but also fasts. His grief over the brokenness of his fellow Jews is so intense that tears and prayer alone are not sufficient to appease his mind.

 

2) For Guidance And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)

            Grand decisions require grand advice and no one can provide better advice than God. Before choosing to ordain (or commission) elders/pastors the Apostles prayed and fasted seeking God’s advice on the matter

            The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed (Judges 20:26-28).

            Today we too should seek God’s advice in life’s BIG decisions. In fact it would do us good to seek it in all decisions. The choice is yours to fast or not.

 

3) Help in Prayer! Have you ever had trouble praying? I know I have had periods in my life that seemed like deserts where prayer was concerned. Fasting may be a solution for that.

 

            Note in 2 Sam chap 12, King David fasts and prays for his son that he had with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned against God and wanted intense prayer to intercede on behalf of his son. We know God did not grant David’s petition yet two things are noteworthy. First David did not complain, he was satisfied and content with God’s decision to let David’s son die. David knew he had screwed up and through repentance he also knew there are consequences to our poor decisions. David manned up and acknowledged the sovereignty of God. Secondly you would think the bible would have pointed out David’s acknowledgement and atonement for his sins. Instead we are led to believe it is a given that a true believer will always do so.

 

 

4) To Humble Ourselves Before God, sometimes as an act of repentance, remorse or even apology prayer may not seem enough and we can fast as an act of contrition.

 

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. PS 35:13

 

When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. PS 69:10

 

            I am sure we can all think of many more reasons to humble ourselves before God maybe the best is a reminder of just who HE is.

 

5) In our Worship of God,

 

            Fasting can be a way to worship God. By fasting we can give God what he desires:

 

 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise PS 5116-17

 

6) For Spiritual Strength, I would venture to say that all of us have some weak points in our spiritual amour. To deny this is to deceive ourselves and invite the devil in. As hard as we try to repair the weak area we sometimes fail and that can be a good time to fast and pray.

 

            In Luke 4:1-11 while Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. Did HE the living God have to fast to defeat Satan? No of course not but there is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting that we find in the life of Christ.

            These are all good reasons to fast but we cannot forget that all must be done with a proper attitude.  At the beginnings of the sermon I quoted Matt 6:16 where Christ warns of fasting as a hypocrite. He goes on in verse 18 to say: That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

            Fasting (even corporate/family) should always be done as an act between you and God alone. When a friend or co-worker asks why you are not eating today there is no need to announce “I am fasting for God” no an appropriate answer is simply I am just not eating today. Fasting for biblical purposes should ALWAYS draw us closer to God. Any other result and we have wasted our time.

            No discussion on fasting would be proper without a warning! Always seek medical advice before fasting. Some folks like me take certain medications must be taken with food. So fasting for me might not be the same for you. There are any number of reasons why fasting can be spiritually helpful and just as many where it can be physically harmful to the unprepared.

            I would like to point out that there are many reasons folks today ignore fasting in there walk with the Lord. Some legitimate (health and lack of spiritual urging) many just plain bogus. John Calvin in his commentary on the book of Joel (14:45) says it is all spiritual laziness. . . . this practice {FASTING} has not been abolished by the gospel. And it hence appears how much we have departed from the right and lawful order of things; for at this day it would be new and unusual to proclaim a fast. How so? Because the greater part are become hardened; and as they know not commonly what repentance is, so they understand not what the profession of repentance means; for they understand not what sin is, what the wrath of God is, what grace is. It is then no wonder that they are so secure, and that when praying for pardon is mentioned, it is a thing wholly unknown at this day. But though people in general are thus stupid, it is yet our duty to learn from the Prophets what has always been the actual mode of proceeding among the people of God, and to labor as much as we can, that this may be known, so that when there shall come an occasion for a public repentance, even the most ignorant may understand that this practice has ever prevailed in the Church of God, and that it did not prevail through inconsiderate zeal of men, but through the will of God himself .

            This most common excuse toady may be “I am too busy”.  I know I my life there are days that seem overwhelming. I have so much on my plate I feel like I need a crane to lift it. But an old Army saying of mine applies “The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters” Do you really want to stand before God someday and tell Him “I was too busy for you”?

            Finally we as a people are spiritually ill-informed or uninformed about the subject. We have decided fasting is not for us based not upon our own research or wise counsel of elders. No we heard something from someone who knows little or nothing about much of anything yet that is who we are base our opinion on.

            In closing I am not advocating everyone begin fasting. I am advocating that like Nehemiah when we need the strong counsel of God we should not neglect this method of drawing closer to Him.

 

In HIS Service