Disguise Part I

Disguise

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Disguise 1v.t:

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

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

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

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

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

DISGUISE, n.

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

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

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

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

3. Change of manner by drink; intoxication.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

           

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

           

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

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

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

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

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

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

       

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

 

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

 Let’s Pray

In HIS Service

Mike

 

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                     PAST                                  FUTURE

Looking Back to Get Ahead

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

           

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

           

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In HIS Service

Mike

 

 

Road Blocks  Part 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

           

           

 

 

             

 

           

 

Finding Favor

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5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.

6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Nehemiah 2:5-8

            When last we met we looked at the first four verses of Chapter two which I had entitled “Carpe Diem or Seize the Day”.  It is my hope that everyone got the message that when God provides the opportunity for us we must not be gripped by fear but by courage and Seize that occasion for God’s glory.

            As you will see in as our study continues Nehemiah was very good at seizing the circumstance God so graciously provided. He patiently waited on the Lord but when He opened doors Nehemiah did not hesitate to stick his foot in there. So to must we, as we set about rebuilding the brokenness in our lives be patient but ever ready to plant our foot securely in the opening(s) God delivers?

            Like anything else in life; when those doors open there is a correct (righteous) and wrong (unrighteous) way to proceed. I for one am like a bull in a china closet. Yes sir, a type “A” personality pedal to the metal kind of guy. For sure it has gotten me in some trouble over the years. I thank God I am learning to slow down some (yeah, getting older is having something to do with it). But mostly it is God working in me to correct my faults.

            I often joke that for some folks God needed a 2x4 upside the head to bring them around well for me it was a 6x6. There are days when I bet He wishes He used a 10x10. That is why I have entitled this sermon “Finding Favor”. When the time comes to enter the path God has put before you, you must do so with a proper attitude. One that will find favor with those you encounter along the way and of course with God too.

            Look at verse 5 with me again. Nehemiah says And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. Twice Nehemiah asks “if”, if it please the king and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight.  I thought Nehemiah was a trusted servant of the King why is he asking “if”? It is because Nehemiah understands his position in life, at that moment in time. Although a trusted servant he is in fact a servant and slave and to ask otherwise would be presumptuous (arrogantly bold) and he would be asking amiss.

            Let me chase a rabbit for a moment. Far too often today I hear of preachers saying (in print, radio and TV) that we have this power of faith and we have no need to ask God if. That is “if it be your will Lord”.  They would have us cast a seeming magic spell by claiming things in Jesus’s name. That is unbiblical; somehow these men and women feeding this garbage to the masses have forgotten to read “The Book”. For in my bible I find Jesus at Gethsemane where He prays Matt 26:3942  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. Listen “if” it was good enough for Jesus the living God to pray and ask “if”; you better believe it is good enough for you and me. Further who are you to claim things in Jesus’s name? Are you sinless and able to pay back that marker?

            Ok, back to our text. Let us explore the means by which we find favor with God and Man. I believe there are FIVE (5) essential elements of finding favor with God and man. They are prayer, obedience, humility, diligence and sensibility.

            Psalm 90 is in fact a prayer. In fact many bibles have a heading at its beginning defining it as a prayer of Moses. Moses acknowledges that God is there refuge or hope, that he is Glorious and the creator of all, eternal and powerful. That is we, his children, must be willing to be taught by Him.  It is the final verse that stands out as Moses closes with; PS 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Moses calls upon God to find favor in their work. Not because their work is so good but because it is in fact the work God ordains or establishes and they wish it to be pleases to Him. Prayer is essential to all we do, never more so than if we desire to find favor in the sight of God and Man.

            Prayers are of no help if we are in a state of disobedience (sin).  Proverbs 3:1-4 tells us My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments: 2 For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Note what is says if we wish to find favor we must keep God’s commandments not just some, not just the ones we find easy or agree with, no all of them. I know, I know that is impossible. True but it is what every true believer strives for daily; to be perfect in the Lord.

            Next we read in Proverbs 3:33-35: The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. 34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. 35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace. One of the things I see most often in today’s society is the attitude that I am on equal footing with everyone else. Folks I am here to tell you that is simply a lie. A private in the Army is in no way equal to his squad leader never mind the company commander. It’s called the chain of command for a reason. A person living in South Central Los Angeles has in no way equal financial footing as a person living in Beverly Hills. Obviously one has inherent advantages over the other. An inmate is on no way on equal footing with a guard. It should be obvious but I constantly see inmates mouthing off like they are completely equal. While the private, the kid from South Central and inmates may have some advantages (knowledge, health or a relationship with Christ) over the others they are still disadvantaged in many ways. It is here that this verse speaks to us.

            We must be willing to humble ourselves before God and Man is we wish to secure favor from God. This is a no brainer there is no better example than of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:5-8; Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. It may seem simplistic but if Christ could humble Himself for me it’s the least I can do towards Him.

          We must diligent seek God and Mans favor. Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. In today’s society if you mention this most folks think your nuts. “I do not care what others think of me” is an often heard quote. But it is totally unbiblical for a Christian. We should be very concerned what others think of us. Oh not in the sense that they think we are crazy to be a believer but in the sense that they think of us as a person. Our actions as seen by others are a BIG part of our witness for Christ. How many times after you have done something and heard “and I thought you were a Christian” or “and you call yourself a Christian”. I know we have all heard it undeservedly but I for one have had that comment justifiably leveled at me more than one time. Just as importantly we must not be shocked or offended if we cannot find favor simply because of our faith.

            Noah is a great example of this. The language of Genesis 6:8 gives us insight into Noah’s character. “Found” is a simple active perfect verb, not a passive one. Thus, Noah found favor—grace—in God’s eyes because he was diligent that is actively looking for it. He diligently worked at his standing with God. So should we.

            Common or good sense is another thing I find lacking today. People do the dumbest things. If you have driven anywhere lately cell phones are a HUGE problem. Last fall I rounded a corner on our motorcycle and there was a car backing up at full pedal to the metal because they missed the turn into the Gas station. Of course they were taking on the phone. I was blessed and avoided the collision but a friend was not so fortunate and his bike was nearly totaled in a similar incident. What were these folks thinking? The answer is they were not thinking.

            Another sensible thing I see absent amongst so called believers is a lack of understanding there position. Working hand in hand with a lack of humility is this attitude of “Entitlement”. We make demands upon God and others because we feel we deserve to be _______________ you fill in the blank. Really, who am I to make demands on God that is the all-powerful, all-knowing and ever present God of all? It makes no sense.

            In Proverbs 13:14-16 we find: The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death. 15 Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin. 16 In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. In all things we need to be asking ourselves does doing this make sense. For a Christian that means does it Glorify God and edify others. If not why are you even thinking of it?

            In closing I am not advocating you become some push over. Nor am I suggesting that you should be overly concerned about pleasing everyone. I am however strongly encouraging you to diligently seek to find favor (approval) with God and mam as you work to rebuild your future. That means praying, obeying His commands, humbling ourselves before him and those he has appointed over us. In short doing what is right and sensible to His glory.

            In HIS Service.

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