Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nehemiah 4:1-23 - Building the Church -- Learning how to trust God!

Nehemiah 4:1-23 - Building the Church -- Learning how to trust God!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 29, 2011 AM

Why is it that some of us seem to face more opposition in life than others? Perhaps it is because of our circumstances, the results of our choices, or could there be another dynamic at work in our lives that we have not understood before? When children are little, they often love to be thrown high into the air and caught by their father. However, as they get older the rules for the game became different. As the child is tossed into the air, as has happened so many times before, they now become frightened. Why? (No, it is not because they have been dropped so many times before!) They began to trust their head more than their faith in their father to catch them!

When trying to build our lives in Christ we can go through the same kind of fears. We start out trusting Jesus, but as we face physical and spiritual obstacles, we begin to trust our head more than we trust Christ. A Church that wants to build and grow will face physical and spiritual obstacles to trusting God as well. When tough times came, Nehemiah learned to trust God. How did he do that? We can learn from Nehemiah how to trust God.

READ: Nehemiah 4:1-23

The real test of a person’s or a Church’s faith in Christ is how they face a crisis and how they react to opposition. Many of us will look at individuals in the Bible and secretly think, “Sheesh, if I could only be like him or her in the face of opposition.” What we may

fail to understand is the spiritual dynamic at work in these people’s lives. Nehemiah teaches us that…

I. Opposition is to be expected! (Vv. 1-3, 7-9, 12)

1. Faith is like tea--its full strength is not drawn out until it is put into hot water!

1) Wherever we look in the Bible, we see there is a dynamic in learning to trust God! The writer of Hebrews wrote that people, who faced all kinds of opposition “...were commended for their faith.” (Hebrews 11:39) Why was this true? Because they persevered in their faith even during opposition!

2) Jesus reminded his followers that opposition was to be expected when he told them, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen

you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20) Jesus knew that, “They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (John 15:21) Opposition comes because of our faith in Jesus!

3) Many have wondered in life why this has to occur but James reminds us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds!” Then, James gives us the reason why when he concludes, “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) Opposition produces a stronger faith in Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever tried to do something, only to have another criticize your work? You know knock your wall down before you get it built, so-to-speak. How did it make you feel? When Nehemiah decided to pick up and go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, he immediately set himself against the prevailing worldview. Conquered people should not try to restore what was taken from them. We also discover that Satan loves to oppose anything God tries to accomplish. He used the Boo Birds of Jerusalem to oppose Nehemiah. We see spiritual and physical opposition taking place. Whom did Nehemiah listen too? Where did he place his faith? In the Lord! In our world, there will always be those who will try to tell you that your faith in Christ is worthless. There are those who may say that our church cannot build or grow. They will try to knock our wall down. Whom will we listen too? When we try and build our lives or church for Christ, opposition is to be expected.

When we place our trust in God, and try to live by faith, the opposition will come. It is to be expected. Nehemiah found this out. It is a dynamic of a spiritual walk with God. As Grace enters into growing both physically and spiritually, there will be those who try to knock the walls down. Our faith can remain strong however. Nehemiah teaches us that in learning to trust God, there will be…

II. Obstacles to be eliminated! (Vv. 10-13)

1. Progress begins with getting a clear view of the obstacles!

1) There is an old warrior’s adage that states, “Know your enemy.” When we “know our enemy” (the sin obstacles in our life), we will know their weaknesses so that they can be defeated. How many of us know our enemy? Nehemiah knew his enemies. He knew they would come and attack his workers when they were at their weakest. It reminds me of what Peter wrote about Satan when he attacks believers’ faith, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” However, notice that Peter first told them to “Be self-controlled and alert.” (1 Peter 5:8)

2) Nehemiah also did not listen to the popular propaganda (Vv. 11-12) and acted instead to eliminate any obstacles that existed, “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their

swords, spears and bows. (Nehemiah 4:13) In our learning to trust God, we must decide not to listen to all the propaganda! We need to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything,to stand!”(Ephesians 6:13)

3) Jesus’ brother James would put it this way: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) James understood “that friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” In fact, he would boldly write, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) We must remove any obstacles from our lives that keep us from trusting God! Nehemiah armed himself and others, and we should do the same spiritually in order to withstand the opposition that comes our way!

EXAMPLE: One of the best things ever invented was the drinking straw. Now some of you may disagree and that is okay, but for simple pure enjoyment, the drinking straw serves well. I still get childlike enjoyment from shooting the wrapper at some unsuspecting person and then there is the fun of pinching the straw while someone is trying to drink out of it. Now you may be wondering why I brought this rather odd example up, let me explain. If our lives in God are not what they should be, we may have pinched off our spiritual resource, the Holy Spirit! We do that by allowing ungodly things into our lives. Paul writes, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:3-5) Ask yourself this morning, “Have I removed the spiritual and physical obstacles in my life that keep me from a trusting faith?” Nehemiah did as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The sinful rubble in our lives cannot be simply jumped over it must be cleared away and completely eliminated from our lives.

There’s a children’s song that talks about going on a lion hunt. Some of the stanzas tell us about obstacles to go around, over, or through. As much as we would like to think so, we cannot go around the spiritual obstacles in our lives! They must be removed. Weak faith comes from an unwillingness to remove those things in our lives that keep us from a close relationship with the Lord. Nehemiah learned that in order for him or his people to trust God, he had an…

III. Offense to execute! (Vv. 14-23)

1. Think less of the power of things over you and more of the power of Christ in you!

1) John reminded the early church as it was facing extreme spiritual opposition, that Jesus who lived in them was “...greater than the one who is in the world,” namely, Satan. (1 John 4:4) John knew that Christians not only faced opposition, but they could succumb easily to spiritual attack if they were not reminded of the power that existed in them! Remember that “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” I mentioned before? Paul wrote the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) Nehemiah could have listened to those around him. Instead, Nehemiah listened to God. I believe Nehemiah did the most basic offense of all--he focused the people’s attention where it needed to be, on God! “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

2) Paul taught how to be on the offense when he wrote, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish

arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3-5) We have to use spiritual weapons to wage a spiritual war! A spiritual offense! Nehemiah reminded his fellow Israelites of this and we can take comfort in his words as well. Why? We discover from Nehemiah that, “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.”

3) Nehemiah realized he had a spiritual and psychological offense to run, as well as rebuilding some walls. Nehemiah encouraged the people to remember (v. 14) whom they followed and to not listen to the world’s advice. Then he took the physical offensive by placing guards and a security system, “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah” to help protect the people! His plan followed God’s desire and frustrated the enemy (v. 15)! In fact, they ate, slept, and worked with their weapons ready for the battle if it came (v. 23)!

EXAMPLE: Football coaches will tell you that a good offense is a great defense. Why? Well I believe it establishes what we trust in. The same is true for our faith walk. Christians should not continually be on the defensive in their walk with Christ. If they are, it shows that they are spiritually weak in certain basic spiritual areas. Let me ask you some personal questions. Are you struggling with sin in your life? Do you struggle with worldly habits and attitudes? Is there a Christian consistency in your life that is seen by your family, friends, classmates or coworkers as well as fellow Christians? What kind of friends do you hang around? Do they influence you more than you influence them? If your family, friends, co-workers, classmates or church members were asked if you were a Christian, what would they say? We could do well in establishing a good spiritual offense in our lives by thinking less of the things that have power over us, and more on the One who

has placed power in us! A good offense is a great defense!

Conclusion:

Nehemiah recognized a spiritual and psychological dynamics at work. He realized that in order for his people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem they would need each of them in their lives as well. He expected opposition, eliminated the obstacles, and executed a good offense. Are you struggling with your spirituality? Learn how to trust God like Nehemiah did. Do it today for building a great life, for a building a great Church.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Building a strong church--accomplishing the impossible!

Building a strong church--accomplishing the impossible!
Nehemiah 3:1-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 22, 2011 AM

Has anyone ever told you that you cannot do something and so to prove him or her wrong, you went ahead and did it anyway? That attitude can be seen as being headstrong, if it is motivated by pride. I remember when I was in High School I told a young lady I could ski. I had not been on skis since I was a very young boy and I knew nothing of getting on or off a ski lift! This fact was embarrassingly revealed when I agreed to take her skiing at Crystal Mountain near Mt. Rainer. The first time down the slope, I nearly killed several others and myself all because I wanted to impress a girl. However, if your attitude is motivated by what God has shown is possible in your life, then, there is a whole new dynamic at work! The Apostle Paul wrote that he could “...do everything through Him (Jesus) who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) We discover that Nehemiah had the same kind of attitude.

In our lives, we need to understand that if God is in the details God can and will give each of us the ability to accomplish the impossible! Nehemiah learned this as he watched the people of Jerusalem respond to God’s call to rebuild the walls. From this passage of Scripture, we can learn three principles for accomplishing the impossible as we build a strong church or lives in Christ.

READ: Nehemiah 3:1-32

I thought skiing would be a cinch. After all, how hard could it be? When I was rushing down that 45-degree ski slope, I soon realized there was nothing I could do to improve my situation except to go with the flow! Needless to say, I felt helpless. My feet would not work the way I wanted them to, and my ski poles kept flying up and hitting me in the head and face! You could say I was out of control. Our lives can be like that. So can our Church. Nehemiah teaches us…

I. The Principle of Coordination.

1. When your car breaks down, someone needs to push, but someone also has to steer!
1) Coordination takes people who are willing not just to do a job, but who are willing to follow directions! In 1 Corinthians 4:2 Paul reminds us that, “Those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Amos asks us, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3) Each of these passages refers to the principle of coordination. Anyone who has raised children knows it takes coordination to do just about anything as a family. It takes each person doing an assigned task to get a job done. This is especially true when going on vacation! We find this with the builders who helped Nehemiah. It took coordination to get all those people going in the same direction, working together, helping to rebuild a section of the wall. It took the coordination of time, talent, and treasure!

EXAMPLE: When people look back at any great task that was accomplished, usually the one thing that stands out is how people came together with their personal resources and did the job! When the Vancouver shipyards were at full swing during the W.W.II, they were able to produce several ships a day! Why? Because of coordination! Grace can build, and we can build a great church through coordination of our resources -- the resources of our people, our time, our talents, and our treasure. We want to see our church succeed so that men, women, boys and girls in our community come to faith in Christ. It will take the coordination of us all! Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem through the principle of coordination.

The girl I was with, the day I decided to show my prowess as the “ultimate skier,” asked me if I needed help. Being like all sensitive male 16 year-olds I said, “Help? I’m fine!” Then I began to make excuses as to how it was probably the skis, the poles, the snow wasn’t quite right, or... well, you get my drift. I was just like many of us who allow our pride to get in the way: we do not think we need anyone’s help. However, in order for us to build a strong Church or life in Christ, we learn from Nehemiah…

II. The Principle of Cooperation.

1. Cooperation is spelled with two letters--WE!
1) Nehemiah knew that rebuilding those walls would require more than a one-man building team. He needed help. Not just any help though, because some help can be worthless. Have you ever been part of a team effort where one person does the job, but grips or complains the whole time? We all probably have. Nehemiah needed helpers who would cooperate and cooperation begins with a willing heart! Why? For people to work at a hard dirty job day after day, it takes a lot of cooperation, especially during Nehemiah’s time. Most work back then required a lot of manpower. Working together in harmony was extremely important. Jesus taught about cooperation when He related to His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) It is the rhythm of the heart, soul, mind, and strength in perfect spiritual harmony whereby the love of God is your focus. Now that’s real cooperation! Those workers could not focus on their blisters, the heat, or how tired they were because if they did, they would soon become discouraged. Nehemiah, I am sure, reminded them moment by moment who they were doing this for and as they worked, they began to see and sense God’s direction. This is why Jesus described our love of God is to be with all our “heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Cooperation describes the relationship between a disciple and their Lord, and for a church or a life in Christ, cooperation must begin there!

EXAMPLE: I enjoy going to Bonneville Dam. It is fascinating to realize just how powerful the Columbia River really is. The fantastic thing is realizing that mighty river is made up of individual drops of water! Separate drops formed from snow, rain, clouds and fog. Droplets of water that come together to form one of the most powerful rivers in the world! Tiny drops of water bonding together, making enough power to move giant turbines that create huge amounts of electricity. A river is powerful because each of those drops of water bond together. Nehemiah and his friends understood the power of cooperation as well. We must also in order to build a strong life in Christ or a great church. However, group harmony is seldom achieved without personal sacrifice! In a family or in a church it is the same. Each person must come together and learn the principle of cooperation. To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength!

There is nothing like skiing all day to reinvigorate a person! Especially if you spend most of your time, hitting trees and being dug out of snow banks. Even if I did not know how to ski when I first started out, by the end of the day I had learned--how to keep my cool. When a church begins the process of building, it takes all of the members keeping their cool. When you begin your journey with the Lord, it demands the same cool-headedness. Nehemiah teaches us…

III. The Principle of a Cool-head.

1. Any dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream! We can either float or swim! Look at Nehemiah. He could have quit in disgust or anger when some of the leaders refused to help (v. 5), instead he remained true to his task. A cool head means: 1) Not believing more in our problems than in God’s promises! Remember, Nehemiah kept the people focused on what God wanted done, not on outside distractions! Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) 2) It means remembering that for God’s people, our worship must come before our work! If Nehemiah’s people were not rebuilding for the Lord, they would have failed. Solomon, someone else who built for the Lord, wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) 3) A cool-head also means that each of us must realize that people will not remember how fast we did the work, but they will remember how well we finished it! Take a look again at the verses and see how those people took the time to do a good job and to do it right! It takes a cool head to keep-on-keeping-on! Remember, those walls and gates were not rebuilt in a day, week, or month -- it took them years to rebuild Jerusalem! A great church or a great life in Christ takes time and cool-head!

EXAMPLE: Little children can get frustrated easily when a task gets to be too much for them. One little girl, when she could not stay within the lines coloring, threw her crayons down and declared, “I need new crayons! I DO NOT like coloring with these STUPID crayons! They can’t stay inside the lines!” As time progressed, though, she learned that staying on task, and seeing a job through, helped her to remain focused. She learned how to “stay in the lines” herself by remaining cool-headed. It is easy to get frustrated, want to hurry, or forget that God wants us to remain focused on what He desires for our lives or for our Church. As we build Grace or our lives in Christ, it will mean keeping a cool-head like Nehemiah did.

Conclusion:
There’s an old saying that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time.” Nehemiah’s task could have seemed impossible. The walls were in desperate need of repair; the people did not have the resources to repair them; and Nehemiah’s enemies were very vocal they would not succeed. Nehemiah’s teaches us the lessons of coordination, cooperation, and keeping a cool head in building our lives in God or building our Church.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nehemiah 2:11-20 - Building a Church through F. A. I. T. H.

Nehemiah 2:11-20 - Building a Church through F. A. I. T. H.
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 15, 2011 AM

We have all heard the old adage that states, “Heaven helps those who help themselves!” However, many might be surprised to learn that it is not found anywhere in the Bible. In fact, it comes from an Aesop’s fable! The story does give out some good advice. It seems that a teamster got his heavy wagon stuck deep in the mud. As he stood there, helpless, and crying out for help, Hercules shows up! Hercules looks disgustingly at the man and tells him, “Put your shoulder to the wheel and goad your horses. Then, call on Hercules to assist you. If you won’t lift a finger to help yourself, you can’t expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid.”

Some mistakenly think that faith works that way that they have to be good before God loves them. They have to “help” themselves before God will. This simply is not true. God already loves us, if he did not, he would not have sent Jesus to die for us! However, after we place our faith in Christ, we need to put our shoulder to the wheel and trust God! In building a church or a relationship with God, FAITH is the key. Nehemiah teaches us, through his actions, how faith works. Let’s find out what Nehemiah teaches us about Building a Church through F. A. I. T. H.

READ: Nehemiah 2:11-20

It is amazing to me that so many families have no budget. How would you feel if you found out your Church was giving money to the Mormon Ward down the street? Would you become angered? If so why? Because we understand that kind of thing should not be part of our Church’s plan and it should not be part of our budget! Yet, while many of us demand responsibility from our Church, we have no vision, no plan for our life! Look at Nehemiah. Faith for Nehemiah meant that he…

I. Formed a Godly plan! (Vv. 11-12)

1. You will have no idea where you’ve been until you know where you are going!
1) For Nehemiah, God’s plan was to use him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so that the Israelites would begin to rely on God again. Yet notice that Nehemiah tells no one else at this point, “I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.” Why would Nehemiah want to keep the building a secret? I believe it was because there were already folks who would not want it to be built, there were those who would think it could not be done, and there were those who would be ready to take advantage of the situation for their own personal gain.
2) Proverbs reminds us that, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) However, Nehemiah also knew that God also gives us this promise concerning our lives: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) God’s purpose prevails, but he also has great things in store for us! Nehemiah planned according to what God’s purpose was.

EXAMPLE: Nehemiah could have gone off half-baked and determined that God didn’t know what he was doing concerning rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Instead, we discover that Nehemiah formulated a plan with God’s help. When I was 15-years-old I thought I knew everything! Adults were stupid, didn’t understand, and I was convinced that they could only see their own little narrow-minded viewpoint. Why couldn’t I hitchhike across the country, with three other 15-year-olds? (My mother probably saved my life, if not a lot of personal pain.) Hindsight is always better than foresight. Our problem is that we often act immature when it comes to asking God to help us formulate a plan for our lives or our Church. Strong faith comes by forming a Godly plan.

Nehemiah, after having a plan, didn’t run off and immediately to buy materials, hire workers, and place stones. Instead, he stepped back and took a good hard look at what needed to be done. This is good advice for building a strong Church or a strong faith. Nehemiah formed his plan and then he…

II. Assessed the situation! (Vv. 13-16)

1. The proper time to do the proper thing is before you begin!
1) Nehemiah understood that something done right today, doesn’t bring trouble tomorrow. He wanted to know exactly what resources it would take to rebuild the walls! He assessed the situation by walking the walls and looking at what actually needed to be done! He counted the cost involved. Far too often folks are unwilling to “count the cost” involved in their schemes.
2) Jesus shared with His disciples about assessing the situation when he asked them, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost...?” (Luke 14:28) Assessing the situation is good godly advice!

EXAMPLE: Many live their lives in a moment-by-moment feel good fashion. “If it feels good do it!” is today’s mantra. The Bible not only warns against such an attitude, it teaches us how extremely foolish it can be. Remember, what were Noah’s neighbors doing while Noah was building the ark? They were living for the moment! You cannot look around in our day and age and not think that the storm clouds are not gathering. We have a nation in spiritual, physical, and financial crisis! During such times as these, a Church that needs to move forward, a family that needs to financially survive, or an individual who desires a deep relationship with God must assess the situation like Nehemiah did. A strong faith comes from a daily assessment!

Nehemiah formed a plan, and assessed the situation--he also understood something else that was very important. Nehemiah had come to realize that he could never do it all by himself! This flies in the face of our independent American rugged individualism! However, the Bible doesn’t teach rugged individualism! It teaches mutual dependence and unity: a dependency on God and unified spirit with fellow believers! Nehemiah teaches us about building a strong Church or faith when he…

III. Invited people to join him! (Vv. 17-18)

1. Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; and working together is success!
1) Nehemiah understood that rebuilding the walls had to be a community effort. Notice how he tells them about the situation, “"You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace." There could be no Lone Rangers in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It could mean your death and the destruction of all you had accomplished. Spiritually, the same is true for the church today. Strong cords are formed when several strands are wrapped together, when they are unified in their purpose.
2) Nehemiah’s faith grew therefore because he was willing to do what many Christians are not willing to do--he was willing to invite other people to join him! Realize that Nehemiah also elicited a response from those he invited (v. 17)! He literally is saying, “Now that you know, you should respond.” Nehemiah believed, as I do, namely that God’s people need to be involved in building God’s house for his purpose! Paul reminds us, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5) Church members all belong to one another! The people responded by saying, “"Let us start rebuilding!" We should all join together to build God’s house!

EXAMPLE: Strong faith comes when people begin to depend on God and one another. Any Boy Scout worth their salt soon learns that in order to start a fire is only part of the picture; you also have to keep it going. It may take only a spark to get a fire going, but it takes many pieces of wood to keep a flame burning. A single flaming log is soon snuffed out, smokes, and grows cold without more wood being added to fuel the flames! Christians who begin to think that they can “go it alone” are soon doomed to spiritual frustration and failure. God intended that we work as Christ’s Body in the world. Grace Baptist cannot build, grow, or be the strong church God desires without her people coming, contributing, encouraging, and helping one another! Nehemiah teaches us that strong faith comes when we invite others to join us.

When Nehemiah took the people into his confidence about rebuilding the walls, what was the first thing that happened? Everyone was excited but soon there were those who “mocked and ridiculed” them. When God wants to use His people to grow in faith, there will always be those who oppose them. Rather than back away, we find that Nehemiah…

IV. Took on the opposition! (Vv. 19-20)

1. The critics of God always sit on the snide-lines!
1) Nehemiah understood where the opposition was coming from and why--they weren’t God’s people following God’s plan! In fact, we find him bluntly telling them, “…you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it!” These men were Ammonites and Arabs! They were not even from that area! They had been robbers, thieves, and had only recently come into the area in order to gain some kind of foothold there. They were in direct opposition to what God desired for his people. The Bible calls it rebellion.
2) Ungodly people always hate godly things. Jesus said that Christians would be “hated by all nations because of” him! (Matthew 24:9) However, there can be Ammonites and Arabs among Christians as well. Here’s what I mean: There can be folks who are in direct rebellion to what God desires to do in his church! They mock God’s leaders or his people as they work to build his church. Notice, they vainly tried to say that Nehemiah was “rebelling against the king.” Nehemiah meets them head on, “The God of heaven will give us success.”

EXAMPLE: Anyone who has raised children understands that rebellion can be silent or loud! Children can be quiet outwardly because they are really inwardly rebellious. Others can be very expressive in their rebellion! A good parent meets rebellion head-on. The same can be true for opposition to what God desires to do in our church or our lives. It can be silent or loud. We must be willing to meet it head on in a godly way. Nehemiah took on the opposition because he knew what God desired! Faith does that. It meets any opposition to what God desires head on and straight forward just as Nehemiah did.

I know that when Nehemiah began to express his plans to rebuild the walls, people began to make excuses as to why it was impossible. I can hear them now: “We do not have enough money.” “There aren’t enough workers.” “We are all busy and we do not have enough time.” Excuses haven’t changed much, have they? That’s why Nehemiah immediately told them about how God had it all worked out. Nehemiah’s faith could have been distracted, but he…

V. Heard God instead of the world! (V. 20)

1. A Christian’s motto should be the same as RCA’s--He hears his Master’s voice!
1) How did Nehemiah get to where he was? Not by listening to his detractors! Detractors belong in de-field! There will always be spiritually deaf people who tell those who have ears to hear, not to listen to what God is asking them to do. Now we know what we need to do in order for us to be sure it is God speaking and not our own selfish selves. The Holy Spirit will work through our prayer, the Bible, fellow believers, and past experiences to show us what we need to do. Remember, Nehemiah retorted, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding…!”
2) The problem of Christianity and much of the church today is that we tend to listen more to the world than to what God is telling us! Isaiah and Jesus warned that the world would be “ever hearing but never understanding... they have become (spiritually) callused!” (Isaiah 6:9 and Matthew 13:14)
3) Those who refuse to listen to God’s voice will not share in His blessings--that was Nehemiah’s message and it should be ours as well. Jesus said that his sheep hear His voice. (John 10:2-5) We are to listen to God and not the world!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever tried to get a child’s attention when they are playing a video game? It’s like talking to a wall. (I confess that I can be that way too when football is on!) When a parent or a wife thinks that you may not be listening to what they said, what do they ask? “Did you hear what I said?” Why? They expect a response. I can speak to you about building a great Church or having strong personal faith, but hearing isn’t a passive activity--you have to respond. You must be willing to hear God instead of the world! Nehemiah heard God and followed Him, how about you?

Conclusion:
Father Kolbe always listened to God rather than the world. He was like that. In 1939, most Poles listened to Hitler as he ravaged their country. Father Kolbe soon found himself a prisoner of the Nazis. He continued to follow God’s plan. While waiting to be punished with the rest of his cellblock, because of an escape that had occurred, men were picked to die of starvation in a cellar. One man pleaded not to be chosen because of his wife and children. Father Kolbe formed a plan, assessed his situation, invited others to encourage him and decided to take on the opposition, after hearing God. He took the man’s place. Where screams and cursing usually were heard before, now there were the strains of hymns being sung to praise God! Father Kolbe was the last one out of ten to die in that cellar. Hitler’s memory lives on because he was a violent ungodly fiend. Father Kolbe’s memory lives on because of his strong faith in God. Nehemiah would understand.

Nehemiah teaches us about a strong faith and building the Church. 1) We need to FORM a plan, 2) ASSESS the situation, 3) INVITE people to join us, 4) TAKE on the opposition, and finally 5) HEAR God speaking instead of the world.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 yearsin Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causesand maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by LeeHemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless youquote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Building the Church--Allowing Time for Proper Preparation

Building the Church--Allowing Time for Proper Preparation
Nehemiah 2:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 7, 2011 AM

I had received one of those plastic model airplanes! This was going to be great stuff! With eager anticipation I opened the box and out fell hundreds of pieces of tiny little plastic parts, decals, and plans. What had started out as eager anticipation was reduced to utter disappointment. How was I going to build this thing with all of its hundreds of parts and pieces? My mother happened to come into my bedroom delivering a pile of clean clothes, she inquired why I was so depressed looking. I showed her the hundreds of plastic pieces and she responded, “You’ve just got to allow time for proper preparation. Read the directions and take it one piece at a time.” Now a ten-year-old kid doesn’t have a lot of patience with details, but I learned that spring that if I planned properly I could build a pretty detailed plastic model airplane!

A church can be a lot like a ten-year-old and not plan properly to reach its community. An individual can be the same way with his life. Whether building a church or our personal lives, we need to allow time for proper preparation. Nehemiah teaches us how this is possible.

READ: Nehemiah 2:1-10

Opportunity is everything. Children learn the best times to ask for certain things. I learned to wait for the weekend to ask my mother for anything because she worked so hard during the week. Four months went by before Nehemiah’s opportunity came, but the opportune moment did arrive. As he was going about his duties evidently Nehemiah had been preparing for the moment when he would ask the king for help in rebuilding Jerusalem. Nehemiah teaches us about allowing time for proper preparation in building our church. Nehemiah teaches us about--

I. Waiting (vv. 1-8).

1. The secret of waiting is to do exactly what God has you doing already!
1) My mother would say that a person often makes their own opportunity, but I have since learned that God is always in the details. Notice that Nehemiah wasn’t idle while he waited for God to present an opportunity for him to speak to the king--he prayed, he thought, he planned. He kept doing what he had been doing all along until God presented the opportunity!
1. Proverbs 14:15 tells us: “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Henry Blackaby writes, in his book "Experiencing God, Knowing and Doing the Will of God," that we are to continue doing what God has us doing where we are until he tells us something different! I have found that to be great advice!
2) Nehemiah planned carefully and he knew his precise needs--letters of safe conduct, the king’s permission to the forest manager, and dependence on God’s help! Nehemiah had done some extensive research to know what was needed, who was in charge, and how he could ask. He wasn't idle, he began his preparation and he stayed put until God opened the opportunity. Far too often we try and force God to open a door when he has not even directed us to the threshold!

EXAMPLE: God’s work and our planning are not contradictory. J. White notes that “Prayer is where planning starts!” Nehemiah modeled good leadership and judgment; he prayed, planned, and acted in dependence on God and submission to His guidance. My mother was famous for making sure her children were not idle. In fact, we may have had a day of laziness planned, but my mother already had other things in mind. She would remind us, "If you boys can't find something for yourself to do, I can!" We learned real fast that the secret of waiting was to do something else right where we were in the meantime! In any activity that God blesses, He desires that His people are active in their waiting. Waiting should never be a time for wasting! While we wait is a time of great activity--we are to pray and plan.

Have you ever wanted something so much that your expectations began to bring about a great deal of anxiety as to whether you would actually get what you wanted? Every child at Christmas probably has experienced this. When we would bug my mother about what we were getting for Christmas. She would remind us, “If you keep asking me, I will give you something you wish you did not have!” We learned to quit bugging her. Nehemiah was not despondent because of wanting something so bad that he was insecure as to whether he would get it or not--he was worried because of the condition Jerusalem was in. Nehemiah teaches us that in rebuilding a city, temple, or our church there is an importance to--

II. Wanting (vv. 1-3).

1. The greatest enemy of man is not disease--it is unrealistic desire!
1) It must be noted that Nehemiah could have been risking his life. Persons who served a Persian king were never to show their unhappiness in any way around the royal presence--it could have been misunderstood as being unhappy with the king!
2) Evidently Nehemiah had a close relationship with the king. He was present during a special time when one of the queens was there, because the perhaps the king would be a better mood. So, we find that Nehemiah took the opportunity to say he was sad because of the condition of the city “where my fathers are buried.” Nehemiah knew what he wanted but did not risk it by letting his overwhelming desire to overtake his common sense!
3) God teaches us that it is okay to desire what He desires. King David would write: “Show me the way I should go...Teach me to do your will, for you are my God” (Psalm 143:8b, 10a)!

EXAMPLE: We can confuse wanting what God wants with what we desire. The important factor to remember was NOT what Nehemiah wanted, it was ultimately what God desired. The important factor is what God sought for Jerusalem and for the Israelites. Nehemiah learned that personal experience could not be his guide. Experience had to be controlled and understood by what God wanted to do through Nehemiah! Every teenager at some point thinks they know what is best for their lives. This is part of growing and maturing. Sometimes this can lead to wanting something so much we forget to listen to the wisdom around us! My mom would often remind us that, “You just might get what you wished for, and then what will you do?” The same is true for Grace Baptist. The same is true for our lives! We must always make our decisions based on biblical principles and not on wishful thinking! Wanting isn’t necessarily wrong, but we should desire what God desires! We should want the things that God does.

Most children quickly learn the old adage that “If momma ain’t happy, no one is happy!” As kids we learned to watch all the nuances of our mom closely. Nehemiah was a very perceptive person as well. He noticed things around him. Things about his king, his country; but most importantly, Nehemiah noticed how God was working around him to accomplish His will. Nehemiah teaches us an important truth concerning growing our lives or our church. Nehemiah teaches us about--

III. Watching (vv. 9-10).

1. Every person should take some time daily to look at the spiritual road map of their lives!
1) We already have seen how Nehemiah put together his “to do” list and here we see him watching out for where he should go and to whom he should speak. Why? Nehemiah learned evidently from God that there is always opposition from the world to what he desires in the lives of his people. In fact, most people would rather follow their own plans and programs rather than what God desires for their lives!
2) The Apostle Paul knew this to be true as well! Just when God wanted to do some truly great things at Corinth, the people wanted to do their “own thing.” Paul admonished them by saying, “I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good” (1 Corinthians 11:17)! Could a church get that bad? Yes.
3) We must watch to see where God is working and join Him there! Nehemiah did just that. He did not ask: “What is God’s will for my life?” instead he asked “What is God’s will?” Nehemiah’s focus was on God, not on his own life! Nehemiah was sensitive to watch where God was working and join God in what He was doing. Shouldn’t that be true for us today?
EXAMPLE: In Scripture we see those who opposed the early church being scolded by their own leadership! A “Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin” and admonished his listeners by telling them, “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (Acts 5:34, 38-39) When I was growing up, we would hike down to the Wenatchee River to swim. We had to cross a large cattle pasture and my mom would constantly remind us, “Watch where you step!” We knew if we stepped wrong, we would be in a lot of stink! We can face spiritual “land mines” in our lives unless we are willing to watch. Watching out means watching out for what God desires and for the opposition that comes when God begins to work.

Conclusion:

Remember in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy is in the cave? He very carefully listens, looks at his map, and then focuses his attention on where he is going to step. One wrong move and he could release a hidden trap, like a huge stone that comes rolling after him! Proper preparation helps us to avoid the traps.

We see what the results of Nehemiah’s efforts were. He was able to do what God wanted him to do. Nehemiah was able to go to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah waited, wanted, and watched the way God desired him to. Nehemiah was able to do the things God had planned for him because of that. Nehemiah had a great relationship with the Lord. He rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Grace can build a strong church. It can happen when we wait, want, and watch for what God desires.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 yearsin Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causesand maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by LeeHemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless youquote the entire article and have my permission.