Road Blocks  Part I

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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

Dedicating Yourself unto the Lord

 

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel.  - - - Nehemiah 3:1 (ESV)

 

            So finally after months of prayer and planning, a long journey and a brief rest and reconnaissance Nehemiah starts to build the walls of Jerusalem. Well actually he starts at one of the many gates that surround the city, the sheep gate. We too will come to that point when the time comes to finally begin rebuilding from our brokenness.

 

            Like Nehemiah I would hope you have a solid plan in place, you have taken a few days to rest and reassess the situation before you begin the process of rebuilding. Also like Nehemiah I hope you do not waiver in your cause for Christ and move forward with the righteous plan you have laid out. It is what Nehemiah does next and what I believe we should all be doing in our daily walks that I wish to speak about tonight.

 

            Look at verse one with me again. Did you see what is says they did after they built the gate? They consecrated it. That is they asked God’s blessing on it. The Geneva study bible says: In Hebrew they sanctified it, that is, they finished it, and so dedicated it to the Lord by prayer, in desiring him to maintain it.

 

            Now before anyone thinks I am making some weird new idea notion. I am not suggesting that every time you put a nail in the wall to hang a picture or tighten a loose screw you ask God to bless and maintain that item. That is not what Nehemiah and the men did.

           

            I am absolutely suggesting that you dedicate things to the Lord and ask Him to maintain them. An example we are as many of you know constructing a new church building. We are always asking God to bless the work week, we dedicate it to His glory and when the church is complete we will have a “dedication” ceremony asking Him to maintain it.

 

            The idea of consecrating or dedicating “things” unto the Lord in nothing new it is found from the beginnings of the Old Testament. Cain and Abel’s offerings in Genesis Chapter 4, Noah’s building an altar and offering sacrifices consecrating the end of the flood, or the Passover in Exodus Chapter 12. The significance here is most likely because this is the “Sheep Gate” aptly names because this is where the cleaned sheep would enter into the temple for sacrifice. The priests would definitely want this entrance consecrated unto the Lord and as we will read later it is the only one they dedicate.

 

            One of my favorite bible verses tells us that we should always do all things as unto the Lord: Colossians 3:17 (ESV) And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  As we have seen Nehemiah is a great example of this he consistently goes about his daily affairs in a manner that glorifies God all the while giving thanks to God for each thing.  It is this “thing” that is most important for us to consecrate unto the Lord in our rebuilding process; ourselves! It is here in the area of what the bible says about consecrating ourselves unto the Lord that I wish to spend the remainder of our time.

            Leviticus 20:7 (ESV) Tells us: Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. That my friends can be a tall order for anyone, especially if you feel the world has the deck stacked against you as it were. Someone who has been broken and is trying to recover from that brokenness is seemingly at a disadvantage. As I am so, so fond of saying read the book. God never ever leaves us hanging. The very next verse He writes: Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

 

            Do you see it? We are to consecrate ourselves which is dedicating ourselves unto the Lord God. Live a God glorifying life.  But God understands you cannot do it on your own. No he says I am the LORD who sanctifies you. If you get up and try to live for God on your own you’re going to end up working for Satan. You must depend upon God for this rebuilding process and lifelong sanctification (same word as dedication and consecration) to work.

 

            Listen there is no one in this world that is more qualified to help in this process. There is no one in this world more willing to help in this process.  I am reminded of a hit song back in the day called Lean on me by Bill Withers. Part of it went like this:

 

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand

We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you'll understand

We all need somebody to lean on

 

            Sounds good right? Now listen to this:

Psalm 55:22 (ESV) Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Answer me this to whom would you rather “Lean On? A friend with problems of their own or the ever present, all knowing, all powerful God of all the Heavens and Earth? You would think the choice would be simple.

 

            But the sad truth is some listening to this tonight or reading it on the web will inevitably make the wrong choice. This brings to mind the often misquoted Philippians 4:13 (KJV) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I hope the inflection in my voice (and bold and light print) was a telltale sign of my meaning. I cannot do all things even with Christ in me for I am not God.  Matthew Poole’s Commentary on this verse tells us:  we are not to understand it absolutely, but restrictively to the subject matter he had before mentioned in the precedent verses, intimating he could by the Lord’s help use well both prosperity and adversity: or, all those things the Lord called him to and put him upon.

 

            Another area we must be willing and ready to consecrate is our bodies. 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 (ESV)  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.  Dedicating our rebuilding process unto the Lord must include cleaning up our bodies. Whether it is alcohol, drugs, tobacco or unhealthy eating habits whatever is defiling your body which is the temple of the Living God must be made clean. Again for many this is an often agonizing process, but one that can be overcome but the power of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

 

            Paul was so serious about this that he practically begs (appeals very similar) in Romans 12:1 (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Paul says we worship the Lord God by presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice.

 

            Lastly I wish to look at the importance God places upon each of His chosen people. Look at 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

            That is some strong language there. Let’s break it down:

1)     YOU are a chosen race; elect of God no other way to get there.

2)     You are a royal priesthood = immediately we become Co-heirs with Christ that’s Royalty.

3)     You are part of a Holy Nation = the body of true believers all worship God

4)     For His own Possession = more accurately purchased for His possession

5)     Our mission = Simple proclaim the Gospel, telling others how He dragged you out of darkness into the light.

6)     I/You were once lost without mercy now mercy abounds.

 

            After all that how could anyone calling themselves a Christian not want to consecrate, dedicate, sanctify themselves call it what you may, unto the Lord. If you are truly born again, regenerated your overwhelming desire will be service to the Lord. All else falls in comparison to the debt we owe. The debt we are incapable of repaying. The love that drives us forward each day as we together with the Lord rebuild our lives in order that we may glorify Him.

 

            If you do not know and understand that love, if you are still lost in the world of selfish sin. I beg you to turn away from those evil ways, repent of your sinful self and let Christ Jesus rule as Lord of your life.

 

In HIS Service

 

Mike