Sunday, June 26, 2011

Romans 10:17 – Where faith and life connect!

Romans 10:17 – Where faith and life connect!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 26, 2011 AM

There are those who actually think that Vacation Bible School is old fashioned. Some in fact have tried to kind of “lie” about it and rename it “Summer Day Camp,” or “Children’s Week.” Vacation Bible School is still VBS, no matter how you try to repackage it. Nevertheless, is it still important for a church to continue to do? After all, it does take a lot of time, effort, and money. I believe it is extremely important for any church to do VBS because it is where faith and life connect!

In our modern world, we have become disconnected because of the advent of electronics and the use of things like E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, or Skype. We can stay kind of connected by these means, but they tend to be impersonal, fragmented, and an excuse not to know one another face-to-face. While some of these things can be used to keep loved ones connected, they are poor substitutes for the real thing. The same is true when presenting Biblical truth. You can have all the knowledge and means in the world at your disposal, but fail in reaching others for Jesus Christ. The Jews of Paul’s day were kind of like this. They were zealous for God, but in reality, they actually knew little about him and they hardly shared him with nonbelievers. They had sought to know righteousness apart from God. They had become disconnected. For Paul, righteousness is where faith and life connect!

READ: Romans 10:17

Paul would write, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NIV) With less than 10% of the population professing faith in Christ, this is why VBS is so vital. Let me share with you how. First, we have to…

I. Hear it!

1. Hearing is more than just listening!
1) We are reminded that Jesus told his listeners over and over, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15 NIV) If folks want to find the ultimate reason for life, they need to grasp who Jesus is. He is more than just a good guy or a fine spiritual teacher. In fact, Jesus told them to “"Consider carefully what you hear,” and he went on to relate that, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.” (Mark 4:24 NIV) We become responsible for what we hear. This is vital, because Jesus admonished, “He who belongs to God hears what God says” and perhaps “The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47 NIV) Therefore, hearing the word of God is critical for someone to come to understand who Jesus is. This is also why Paul would ask, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14 NIV) We not only need folks to hear the word of God, but we need folks who will speak the word of God! Vacation Bible School does this! Children can come and hear the word of God from those who are willing to speak it! Hearing is more than listening!

EXAMPLE: My mother used to ask us boys, “Did you hear what I just said to you?” Charles Stanley does something similar by telling his audiences to, “Listen, listen to what I am about to say.” Jesus admonished his followers by telling them, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen,” and he told them to, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you!” (Luke 8:18 & 9:44 NIV) I guess hearing is more than listening because each of these folks wants their listeners to respond and to act upon what they were saying. Vacation Bible School allows those who have perhaps never heard the words of God to do so for the first time and then to act upon what they hear! VBS helps the lost to hear it!

However, there is more than just hearing the Bible during VBS. Did you know less than 15% of the population could honestly answer the question concerning what they truly believe spiritually? Why? I think it is because folks do not realize what faith means. I have discovered that VBS also gives children the opportunity to…

II. Believe it!

1. Believing is more than acknowledgment!
1) Perhaps the best example of believing is found in the honest answer of the father whose son was demon possessed. He desperately wanted his son healed. When Jesus offered a way to see this occur, Jesus told him, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NIV) The man honestly responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV) This is where most folks are in our day and age. They want to believe, but they are not sure how to believe. Many have a fuzzy appreciation of who Jesus might be. However, belief is more than a mere acknowledgment of Jesus, it is the total acceptance that he is whom he says he is. This is why Jesus asks Mary, the sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Her responding confession is extremely important, “‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’” (John 11:27 NIV) Belief is placing one’s faith and trust in Jesus because he is the “Christ, the Son of God!” This is why Paul would write, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message.” It is the outcome of one placing their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Vacation Bible School gives whole families the opportunity to hear and then to believe in what they have heard! Believing is more than acknowledgment!

EXAMPLE: My father would take us swimming and one of the things he would do was stand in the water and ask us to jump into his arms. We had to trust him that he would always be there to catch us. Being a preschooler is when that kind of trust is developed. Many in our day and age say they believe there is a “God,” but many are also confused in understanding what that means. Jesus remarked, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1 NIV) Believing is more than acknowledgment. Vacation Bible School allows children and whole families for the first time to trust in God by trusting in Jesus.

Through the music, the games, the crafts, the snacks, and the Bible study Vacation Bible School is a means to present the gospel. Less than 20% of Christians have ever actually shared their faith with someone else. Herein is the real problem of the Christian church today, few witness. However, VBS is a perfect means to…

III. Connect it!

1. Connecting is more than feelings!
1) Jesus related to his followers that there was a very good way to discover whether or not a person’s faith was genuine. He said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:19-20 NIV) Wow! Does this mean we should burn every believer to see if his or her faith is real or not? No, but there will come a day when we will personally discover if it is true or not. Jesus went on to teach, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV) Connecting our faith means putting it all together in our lives! Connecting our mind, will, and emotions and giving it all to Jesus. When Paul related, “the message is heard through the word of Christ,” he meant that, it was shared through our words and actions! We would deliberately tell others and we would deliberately do those things that showed the world we believe in Jesus! As James would write, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) This why Paul warned, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13 NIV) Vacation Bible School allows believers to connect with others and to connect their faith with their life. Connecting is more than feelings!

EXAMPLE: Hunting down electrical problems can be a real hassle. I remember one time when we were trying to get things wired right at the church. We began by simply flipping the switch on the wall, then looking at the circuit breakers. Finally, we had to remove some of the outlets, look inside the wall only to discover that there was no wire connection! It is tough trying to get power to an outlet when there is no possible means of connection! Putting it all together where our faith is concerned is actually very similar. We can say we love Jesus; we can go through the motions of worship, coming to church, and being in Bible Study, but without connecting it all together in our lives, it could mean there is a real problem. Connecting is more than feelings. Vacation Bible School helps believers to connect with their faith and it also helps those who have never heard of Jesus to connect with him. Now, have you made the connection of just how important VBS is to our church and community?


Vacation Bible School helps others, and us with our faith, to hear it, believe it, and to connect it! Now, will you prayer walk today for VBS, will you serve, will you give to VBS?
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, June 19, 2011

Nehemiah 6:15-16 - Building the Church -- Doing the work of God!

Nehemiah 6:15-16 - Building the Church -- Doing the work of God!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 19, 2011 AM

Just when we thought we would be getting ready to be empty nesters, God had other plans. It may not have been the way we would have planned out our lives, but I am honored and willing to be used of the Lord in helping my grandson grow and mature in him. The spiritual and physical maturation of a family is never completed. It is an ongoing process and a parent can see it either as drudgery or as a blessing. I have discovered that God’s task in the Church is never completed either, why is that? I believe it is because we are to be about the Master’s business until he returns. However, have you noticed that for some Christians they never get involved in their church, for others it has become drudgery, and yet for still others it remains a joy? Now, why is that? I believe that it all depends on how you view doing God’s task!

After Nehemiah’s wall rebuilding was finished, he did not stop there. The task of rebuilding Jerusalem was not finished. Nehemiah began to repopulate the area with Israelites who had been in captivity in Babylon. He then had the Prophet Ezra remind the people of God’s word. He asked the people to respond to what they had heard and they did. Nehemiah realized there was more to finishing a project than just the physical aspects of building a few walls. It is a process of doing the work of God!

READ: Nehemiah 6:15-16

I remember getting discouraged in building a chessboard for my father. It was hard work getting the finish perfect. Yet I remembered how he loved to play chess and how he picked up the game. My brother and I actually taught him and soon he could beat anyone he played. After giving him the board, his face lit up and that was all the encouragement I needed! Doing “Church” can become hard work, when we feel that no one cares about what we do! Becoming discouraged Christians can begin to wonder why they are serving. When that occurs, believers have forgotten why God has called them. He has called his people to the task of reaching a lost and dying world for Jesus Christ! Nehemiah understood that in order for God to be known, there had to be people willing wholeheartedly to serve the Lord. God always desires to shine through his willing servants. In doing God’s task, like the people of Nehemiah’s day, we need to be…

I. Reminded of God’s Love! (Vv. 8:1-3, 6)

1. Tears will flow freely from the fountain of a loved-filled heart!
1) Nehemiah calls Ezra, who had been in Jerusalem 14 years before Nehemiah set foot in the city, to reeducate the people concerning the Lord and his Word! How the people responded to the rebuilding is a testimony to Ezra’s teaching and ministry, and how they responded to hearing the words of God’s love for them was encouraging! We are reminded that God calls his people to ministry and not to self! Paul would remind us that it is God “who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 timothy 1:9 NIV) It is God who calls us by his purpose and grace.
2) Ezra had begun to instruct the people about God’s law, and to remind them of the special relationship they had with him as his people! Teaching the Word, preaching God’s message, telling people of God’s love had a dramatic effect--they fell down and worshipped God! (v. 6)
3) I am reminded of Jude who wrote a struggling Church, “Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21 NIV) In other words, remember the Lord, his task for you, and keep doing the task of God! Like Jude, Nehemiah and Ezra reminded the people of God’s love for them! When doing the work of God, if you are getting discouraged, it helps to remember his steadfast love for you! Remind yourself of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: There have been times when I have felt the daily drudgery of ministry. Each time, every time, God reminds me that he has called me. He reminds me of his love for me. In my toughest days, God has reminded me of his love for me. Perhaps you face a tough time in your marriage, your work, or here at Grace doing the work of the Church. However, please remember, if I forget to tell you or if someone else neglects to tell you, God loves your willing service. I remember my father who at an early age had to walk with a cane because of the negligence of night nurse, when in giving him a shot, severed the nerve in his leg. He rarely complained and still longed to work and earn a living for his family. Serving others is not always easy, but in doing God’s task we can remind ourselves of his love for us in doing it!

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” and Jesus proved his love by doing it! (John 15:13 NIV) God loves us! Nehemiah and Ezra sought to remind the Israelites of that love. Nehemiah knew that the Israelites had wandered far from God spiritually. Living in a foreign land, they had begun to worship foreign idols of stone or wood. Nehemiah knew that when a person comes face-to-face with the Living God, doing His task would be much easier. When we truly meet God face-to-face in worship, like in Nehemiah’s day, we will…

II. Confess Our Sin! (Vv. 9:1-3)

1. Confession is not just saying you are sorry, but it is agreeing with God that you have sinned!
1) So moved and struck by the power of God at the reading of His Word, the Israelites began to realize just how far away from Him they had wandered. They placed ashes on their heads, fasted and wore sackcloth, signifying their repentance. Notice that for three hours they stood and confessed their sins! Wow! I wonder how long it would take some church congregations in our day and age to stand and confess their sins publicly! True worship will bring a person to confession of their sins. Why? Being in the presence of God reveals to us just how far away we actually are from him.
2) Notice what had lead them to this point was the reading of God’s Word, celebrating together, and remembering what God had done for them and how far they had left God out of their lives! In our day, we call it “church.” Is it any wonder that Ezra would eventually write, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV) When doing the work of God, if things do not seem to be where they need to be it is a good time to pause, read the Word of God and confess our sin! To come and be in church with others who love the Lord, listening to his Word, and are worshipping him through our personal confession of our sin!

EXAMPLE: I had run over my mother’s prize roses. Not that I had meant too, it was just that they were in my way when I was trying to escape the enemy soldiers coming after me! When faced with the threat of your best friend capturing you in a make-believe game of war, you run any way you can! Dad came home from the store and found me on the back porch. When I told him what had happened, and how Mom had punished me, he replied, “Lee, confession is good for the soul.” I agreed but I also asked him if it “could heal a hurt bottom also?” That’s the way it is with real confession. Sometimes it does hurt, but then there is the cleansing that follows. Nehemiah’s people experienced it, have you? When tiring of the task of God, confession brings us back to him!

In doing God’s task we have to realize, we cannot do it alone. It takes everyone doing his or her part! Each person has a share in God’s work. In building his church here until he comes again. From the least to the great, the leader to the layman, young or old, each one of us has a part. Nehemiah set the example. He was the first to act on what God wanted him to do. In building a strong church or family, we have to also, like Nehemiah and his people did…

III. Act On What We Have Learned from God! (Vv. 9:38; 10:38-39)

1. Remember, service really is love dressed in work clothes!
1) Nehemiah and the Israelite people responded to God’s call to the task. They responded to God’s call to service. They made an agreement in front of everyone, which was one of the first historically recorded response times during a worship service! They did more than just talk a good talk they walked the walk, (v. 9:38) and they openly confessed, “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.” They not only said they would do what they agreed to do, but they made it into a binding legal agreement! I wonder how many folks in today’s church would do the same thing. They acted on what they had learned from God!
2) Notice also that by actively serving it encouraged each person to give as each one was supposed to in the first place, (v. 10:38) and then each one took to heart the condition of their temple building and promised, “Not to neglect the house of our God.” (v. 10:39) It is reminiscent of Paul when he reminded the Asian churches that although they did not think much of themselves, God did! He reminded them that God had a reason for them to exist and even for their suffering. Paul said, “God chose the foolish things... the weak things... the lowly things... and the despised things--and the things that are not,” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28) Why? “To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13 NIV) The same is true for any Christian and church! Just as Nehemiah encouraged his people, we need to act on what we have learned from God!

EXAMPLE: Church is more than a rest stop on Sunday mornings. My father was a devote Catholic, and he said something to me one time that I remember quite well. After moaning about having to go to church, which often was long and boring, I asked him why we had to go. He responded by stating, “I love God and I love his church. That is where we are expected to be on his day.” I thought to myself, “Love church?” I have since learned that church isn’t just for us participants. It isn’t a quick fix to get us through the rest of the week! Our church is here to encourage, praise god, and to serve him, but it also exists to disciple and discipline the believer as well. It is the body of Christ doing his work and will in the world. “Disciple” means to train and to help all of us to use the gifts God has given us! Real service however comes not from a sense of guilt, but from an overflow of love! Often, I would ask my Dad why he would do something for me. His usual response was, “Because I love you!” When you love someone, you will want to serve him. Christ loved us, served us, and now it is our turn to build a strong Church by serving him in his body! We must act on what we have learned from God!

This morning God is calling us to his task. He desires a relationship with us that is both real and personal. Nehemiah understood that God works through His people. It helps to be reminded of God’s love, to confess our sin that has separated us, and to act on what we have learned. Nehemiah built more than a wall. He helped God build a strong nation. How about you? There are places where you can serve in your Church. You can dedicate yourselves to his service here at Grace.
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, June 12, 2011

Nehemiah 6:1-14 - Building the Church -- How Satan’s snares work!

Nehemiah 6:1-14 - Building the Church -- How Satan’s snares work!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 12, 2011 AM

When you’re ten years old, there is nothing better than trapping and catching your own wild animals! Now I am not advocating hurting God’s little creatures for fun, but when you’re 10 being a “big” game hunter is an adventure! My brother and I went after the wily chipmunk. Actually, it was my father’s fault. He was the one who showed us how to make the traps! We caught and released dozens of chipmunks that summer. The little guys never figured out the traps we prepared for them!

In our spiritual lives there are snares set for the unsuspecting as well and those that have no relationship with Christ fall easily into them. Sometimes, the strongest believer can be snared. Satan sets his snares well. In Nehemiah, we see several different types of these snares that were used to discourage God’s man and make him ineffective. The same snares are used on us today. When we know how Satan’s snares work we can avoid being trapped.

READ: Nehemiah 6:1-14

It is popular today to have an “open mind.” When someone wants you to compromise your faith, often he or she will usually say, “We need to be opened minded.” My father used to say that “Some people are so open minded that they left their brains on the sidewalk!” This false notion of being open-minded is the same satanic snare used on Eve when the snake coyly asks her “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) Those who wanted to ensnare Nehemiah used this argument as well. One of Satan’s snares is…

I. Manipulation of Our Mind! (Vv. 1-4)

1. Silly Putty is more than a toy--it can represent our willingness to be too open-minded!
1) When Nehemiah’s enemies could not discourage him through ridicule or physical threats, they resorted to manipulation. Nehemiah saw through their plans immediately. He writes, “When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: ‘Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.’ But they were scheming to harm me…” (Nehemiah 6:1-2) Nehemiah understood they were playing mind games with him and responded boldly to what was occurring!
2) Like Nehemiah, Paul understood Satan’s snare of manipulating our minds. He wrote that knowing about it was important “in order that Satan might not outwit (the Christian). For (he Paul) was not unaware of (Satan’s) schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) Paul also boldly responded to Satan’s manipulation like Nehemiah did! He would not let Satan gain a foothold! The same should be true for our lives in Christ. Paul reminds us that, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6) Why, because, “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) Believers should not allow Satan to manipulate their minds.

EXAMPLE: Someone once said, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” How correct they are when it is wasted playing senseless mind games! I remember one gentleman who was a devout man of God, but he thrived on worrying. If he didn’t have something to worry about, he was concerned that there was nothing happening! I’ve known others who always try to “second guess” another person’s motives. My Aunt wouldn’t use a certain serving tray a neighbor gave them because she was just “sure they did it in spite!” In spite of what, I never could figure out. Satan is always ready to exploit our psyches. He loves to mess with our minds! Nehemiah understood it and met it boldly!

I never realized that I was an extremist or a radical, did you? Yet we discover that anyone who is against abortion has been labeled such by certain politicians and the news media. How do you feel when you believe something is right, but others refuse to see it when they know that your motives are good? They not only refuse to see it, but they lead others into believing your motives are wrong! Just when God desires to do something great in the life of an individual or the Church Satan loves to exploit our intentions. Satan exploited God’s purposes when he told Eve, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4a) Another one of his favorite snares is the…

II. Misrepresentation of Our Motives! (Vv. 5-9)

1. Satan, like a corrupt lawyer, will always misinterpret the facts to fit their verdict!
1) When Nehemiah’s enemies realized that he would not leave Jerusalem (v. 5) and meet with them, they tried a different tactic. “Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: ‘It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” (Nehemiah 6:5-7) When the truth did not work, they used lies and innuendoes! Notice the transition of their arguments:
1. First, they tried to suggest that they were trying to protect Nehemiah!
2. Then, they tried to get him to respond to fear!
3. Finally, some of the letter contained a partial truth. (Half a lie is still a lie!) Some zealous person may have announced that Nehemiah was like a king to Jerusalem and his adversaries used it as a threat! However, they knew Nehemiah would not do such a thing and risk the anger of the Babylonian king! It was a complete misrepresentation of Nehemiah’s motives!
2) Nehemiah would have none of it and he knew immediately where this came from, “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’” (Nehemiah 6:8) In fact, he realized, “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9) Nehemiah confronts the issue and goes to God in prayer!
1. Jesus dealt with misrepresentation of His motives all throughout His ministry. He rebuked the Pharisees by telling them, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) and we will as well when we take a stand for our faith! People will misrepresent our motives!

EXAMPLE: My brother and I had been teasing one another all day long. (When you are bored, you do those kinds of things.) My Mom had had enough and she convinced Dad to send us to bed early. Being magnanimous, I decided to make peace with Ed. I took him a glass of water. Carrying the water to his bedside, I tripped and drenched him! Needless to say, we begin to have a rather dynamic and concerted discussion as to my real motives. Dad wasn’t interested. After cleaning up the water, and making Ed’s bed, I got a couple of swats. Talk about misrepresentation! Have you been misunderstood for doing what is right? That can happen in our lives as we try to live them for Christ. It can happen when a Church steps out and begins to strive for the Lord. Satan loves to misrepresent a believer’s motives. If that doesn’t work then he will try the last snare in his arsenal.

One of the best ways to keep a Christian from doing what they are supposed to do for the Lord is to sidetrack them. For some of us, that is an easy thing to do! I can be all ready to do one thing, go into the next room, and begin to do something entirely different! If I were a train, there would be a lot of derailments in my house! My boxcar gets switched easily. When mind games and misrepresentation doesn’t work, then Satan will try a more subtle tactic. He told Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.” (Genesis 3:4) We see the same snare being used against Nehemiah. Satan will try a…

III. Modification of Your Mission! (Vv. 10-14)

1. People who compromise in life will end up with a mutated faith!
1) Nehemiah could not be swayed to stop his rebuilding so his enemies decided to destroy his credibility by luring him into a compromising situation, “One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, ‘Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.’” (Nehemiah 6:10) They hired an “inside” man (v. 13). Claiming to be a prophet, he invited him into the temple area--a clear violation of God’s law (v. 12)! Nehemiah would not go inside (v. 11). Nehemiah refused to be manipulated by Shemaiah for Satan’s purposes!
2) Once, when Jesus was walking with his disciples he asked them who the people thought that he was. Peter answered that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah). Just a short time later, however, when Jesus told them that he had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die as the Messiah, Peter tried to tell that him that he didn’t have to die! Jesus realized that Satan was using Peter to try and modify his mission. He immediately rebuked Peter harshly by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23) This is what Nehemiah’s adversaries were guilty of as well! They wanted to modify Nehemiah’s mission! When Christians begin to live for the Lord, there will be all kinds of things or folks who will try to modify your mission!

EXAMPLE: As a new pastor, a young man had invited me to lunch. He wanted to know what my views on tithing were. I explained that God desires all of us. That the issue isn’t 10% or 30%, it is where our hearts are in Christ. He then asked me what I thought about a person who tithed regularly but put aside part their tithe on their own into “a separate bank account to do the Lord’s work.” It dawned on me that he had been putting aside part of his tithe into a savings account and collecting the interest for himself and then giving the money for what he wanted it used for instead of tithing! Satan had not only modified the mission, he had mutated the method! Satan loves to do this. He loves to use a half-truth in order to get God’s folks off track from the mission he has for them to do. Nehemiah not only refused the offer of sanctuary! Nehemiah then prayed for God’s protection.

She knew eating the fruit was wrong. She knew it was wrong to get Adam involved as well. It seemed so innocent. God wouldn’t mind if they just ate one! After eating it she understood her mistake. She was ashamed of herself, of her nakedness, and now of her sin. She wanted to run and hide as far away as possible. Then God walked in the Garden. He looked for her, forgave her, and He took control of Satan’s snares. She would suffer the consequences, but God had a plan. As we build for the future, as we step out and follow Christ, we will become the target of his snares: Satan’s snare of manipulating our minds; the snare of misrepresenting our motives and the snare of modifying our mission. Nehemiah responded boldly, he refused his motives to be hampered, and he would not be a part of modifying the mission God had for his life! He prayed all the more for God’s guidance and help. How about you?
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, June 05, 2011

Nehemiah 5:1-13 - Building the Church -- Responding to the challenges!

Nehemiah 5:1-13 - Building the Church -- Responding to the challenges!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 5, 2011 AM

Up to this time, the spiritual challenges that Nehemiah had to face were mainly from the outside of Judah. Nevertheless, before the walls were rebuilt, he encountered the most difficult and intense problem that most spiritual leaders have to face--problems from within. He faced problems from his own people! How would he meet these challenges?

When an individual decides to be the spiritual leader in their home or life, they will immediately face challenges from within! The challenges will come from within yourself in remaining steadfast in your faith, from within your family, friendships, or sometimes even by fellow church members! Nehemiah teaches us how to break down the challenges into bite-sized pieces, and to respond in an appropriate way as a believer. As we build our church or our lives, we can respond to the challenges that we face!

READ: Nehemiah 5:1-13

Shari has over extended herself with her job, her housework, and her church. Instead of feeling satisfied with any of them, she is frustrated and tired all of the time. How can Shari find answers to the challenges she is facing? Donna, on the other hand would just like some answers as a single parent. Her kids openly challenge her authority as a parent. She struggles to get them fed, clothed, to school on time and to church once in a while. How is she going to face her challenges? You may be facing a challenge. Nehemiah did. Let’s take our first bite-sized piece and look at--

I. The Challenges (Vv. 1-5)!
1. A challenge is an obstacle to some and an opportunity to others!
1) Nehemiah met four challenges. First, 1) the people faced a food shortage (v. 2). Second, 2) the work on rebuilding the walls hindered their job responsibilities at home and created a local famine (v. 3). Third 3) some had to borrow money from those who loaned it inappropriately, to pay their taxes (v. 4), and fourth, 4) because of the high interest rates charged to borrow money, some had to sell their daughters into slavery (v. 5)! Wow, talk about personal challenges!
2) You may ask, “How does this relate to the challenges we might face today?” It does. We discover that as we try to grow our church we will face the challenge of being asked to give perhaps more than we have in the past. We may be asked to commit our time and talent in the building process. In addition, it can demand a sacrifice of some of our family or personal time. As we see with Nehemiah and the Israelites, how we spiritually and physically meet these challenges will reveal our faith walk with Christ as a congregation.
3) Notice also that these challenges are applicable to our personal lives as well! Nehemiah saw them as an opportunity. An opportunity for personal and community growth! Peter writes that we may have to face challenges of all kinds for “a little while” and that “These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) Nehemiah understood that God sends challenges not to impair us, but to improve us!
EXAMPLE: Where do we go from here? Well, let’s consider what Nehemiah did. Jared threw up his hands and wondered out loud, “I just don’t know what they expect of me? Where am I going to get the money?” Jared and his wife Susan was a young couple just buying a house, getting involved in social activities with their kids, and getting involved with their church. They wanted to give and serve, but time and money seem stretched. Jared gets angry. Susan worries. After Susan read in Matthew that God’s eye was even on the smallest of creatures and that he numbered the hairs on our heads, she realized that if God cared for them, they could meet any challenge. Susan shared with Jared and they began to pray and ask the Lord to show them how he was going to use them to do just that!

Nehemiah shows us challenges but he also teaches us about…

II. Our Initial Response (Vv. 6-7a)!
1. Nothing shows more accurately, what we are than the way we respond to the challenges of life!
1) Notice how Nehemiah responded at first (v. 6). Nehemiah writes that, “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.” However, notice how his response came about, “I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials.” (v. 7a) Nehemiah takes the time to think through his response, he “ponders” it in his mind. He does not fly off the handle and do the very first thing in response to his anger--he takes time to think it over!
2) Proverbs reinforces this notion of taking the time to think things through, “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.” (Proverbs 12:23) and that, “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15) Our initial response is important because it displays our trust in God to work things through.
3) When faced with a challenge our initial response can be anger, despair, or frustration. The Bible teaches us to trust not in our feelings but rather in our relationship with God! Again, Proverbs come to our rescue by reminding us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Often when we have become angered or frustrated it is because we haven’t pondered (prayed and meditated) on what God desires us to do! Instead, we rely on our emotions to guide us. We plead; get angry with others or ourselves around us or resentful at God. While Nehemiah’s initial response was anger, he then paused to ponder the situation. What is your initial response to a challenge?
EXAMPLE: Darrel became sullen because his Pastor was challenging the men of the church to respond spiritually and physically to building their families and the church. It festered inside of him until he began to stay home from church. When asked by his wife why, he blew up at her. Like most wives, she understood her husband’s moods better than he did--she quietly suggested that he consider asking God’s advice and then respond by doing something positive instead. Darrel all of a sudden realized that that would mean some kind of action on his part. He realized his initial response was ungodly and wrong. He repented and got involved the way he knew God was directing him to.

Nehemiah would have understood as well. In meeting life’s challenges, personally or in building a church, Nehemiah teaches us to consider…

III. The Action Required (Vv. 7b-13)!
1. There are two ways we can meet any challenge: either we can alter the challenge or we can alter ourselves to meet it!
1) What do you think Nehemiah and the people decided to do? Did they alter the challenge or did they alter themselves? Notice what occurs. We discover that, Nehemiah demands they stop any “usury.” He bluntly confronts them by commanding them, “Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.” Far too often, we are afraid to confront folks on their ungodly sinfulness because we are afraid we might “offend” them. However, notice what occurs. The people immediately respond, “We will give it back, and we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say!” They altered themselves! They changed their ungodly direction!
2) Nehemiah does not leave it there though, he writes, “Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ At this, the whole assembly said, ‘Amen,’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5:13) Nehemiah’s actions get them to agree to the fact of their behavior toward one another and then when he holds them accountable, they repent, praise God, and agree not to do it again! Our godly actions can get people to repent of their wicked ways!
EXAMPLE: Sometimes the challenges of life cannot be changed no matter how much we want them to be, instead, we must alter how we react to them! Noah did not decide build a roof to keep out the rain, instead, at God’s direction he built one big boat! David didn’t cringe at camp with his brothers over Goliath, he walked out under God’s guidance, and picked up some stones in which to rock Goliath’s world! Paul didn’t run away and whine about how unfairly he had been treated when he was lowered in a basket over the walls of Damascus, kicked out of every town and county from Antioch to Athens and back again. He then heads to Jerusalem and confronts the other thickheaded apostles that they were wrong in how they were relating to the gentile converts! You may be thinking, “Pastor, you simply do not understand the challenges I face every day. If you had to face the ones I have to, you’d sing a different tune!” Well, we could all curl up in a tight ball and chant “Kumbaya” until the cows come home but that would not solve the challenges. One thing I have learned: A wall-building faith or a dynamic church doesn’t focus on the challenges, they focus on the action required to meet the challenge, just as Nehemiah did.

I believe with all of my heart that this is why Paul wrote, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) This was not some catch phrase of Paul’s for a new get out the gospel campaign or the next encouragement seminar! Paul knew it to be true because he had to meet the challenges of his life through his faith! Nehemiah didn’t react to life’s challenges he acted on them through his trust in God. Nehemiah teaches us how to build our church or our faith when we are faced with the challenges of life. The challenges will always exist, how we respond to them says a lot about what we believe about God.
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.