Getting Kicked to the Glory of God

January 8, 2014 at 10:51 am | Posted in Nehemiah | 4 Comments
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The Book of Nehemiah demonstrates the greatness of God. God chose Nehemiah to do a great work. He didn’t choose him because of his training, background, or aptitude, but Nehemiah did recognize the greatness of God.

And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

Nehemiah 1:5

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

Nehemiah 4:14

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Nehemiah 8:6

In Nehemiah God’s people go from great affliction and reproach to great joy.

And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

Nehemiah 1:3

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

Nehemiah 12:43

Difficult situations are opportunities to show God’s greatness. We see obstacles when really they’re great opportunities. Nehemiah could have heard the bad news about Jerusalem, and seen a big problem. Do you look at the seats in your local church and get discouraged about how many are empty? Or do you look at those empty seats and get excited about the great opportunity to see them filled? One of the ways that Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God was not because God made it so that Nehemiah had no problems, but rather because God caused Nehemiah to overcome his problems. If Nehemiah had done it on his own, he would have received the glory, not God.

Some people say, “If God is so great, why is he letting my enemies kick my behind?” They forget that getting your behind kicked means you are walking in the lead. Some of us need to start something for God that’s too big for us to finish on our own – so everyone will know it’s God and not us when it gets accomplished.

Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God because he was attacked by enemies.

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18 (emphasis added)

That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

Nehemiah 6:2-3

Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God, and this caused him to say, “Oh yes,” instead of “Oh no.” Don’t go down there into the plain of “Ono (Oh no).” If you are doing the work of a great God, you don’t have to compromise with the world to get it done. How do you think those mocking, scorning enemies of God felt when they saw the celebration – even standing on the very wall they had tried to prevent? They felt ashamed, but they must have also thought, “What a great God.”

Defeating Slander, Intimidation, and Discouragement

October 14, 2013 at 11:31 am | Posted in Nehemiah | 3 Comments
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In Nehemiah Chapter 5 we see an example of how the world tries to disrupt the work of God, as wealthier workers began to take advantage of poorer workers.

And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

Nehemiah 5:1-5

Nehemiah was originally angry, but he controlled his anger.

And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

Nehemiah 5:6-7

He dealt with the problem through Biblical teaching and preaching. He used six different reasons to condemn the practice of usury, and one of them was the testimony of the people of God in front of unbelievers.

Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

Nehemiah 5:9

Another highlight of Nehemiah Chapter 5 is the fact that the leaders worked too.

Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.

Nehemiah 5:16

When there’s work to do we need to be motivated by love. We need to do it the way God’s Word says to do it. And we need to do it – do all – to the glory of God. Do it for the right reason, do it the right way, and give the glory to the right One!

Nehemiah Chapter 6 shows that the way to overcome fear is with faith. Nehemiah wouldn’t compromise with the enemy. He would not be defeated in the work, and he wouldn’t compromise the work.

Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

Nehemiah 6:1-4

Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 2:20

By faith that stands firm we can stand up to: (1) slander (Nehemiah 6:5-9); (2) intimidation (Nehemiah 6:10-14); and (3) the discouragement of no end in sight (Nehemiah 6:15-19). As Christians, our “end” is not “in sight.” We live by faith and not by sight. We “walk in the Spirit,” and a walker is someone who has a place to go.

Throughout all the distractions, Nehemiah never stopped working:

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 2:4

So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.

Nehemiah 2:11

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

Nehemiah 4:6

So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

Nehemiah 4:21

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

Nehemiah 6:15

Scorn, Schemes, Scoundrels, Schizophrenics, and Scares

September 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 3 Comments
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And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5 (emphasis added)

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

Nehemiah 2:7 (emphasis added)

Nehemiah’s “send me” became his “give me.” Perhaps it would be good for us to sometimes pray as volunteers before praying as beggars. “Let my friend be saved” becomes “give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with him.” “Heal my eyes” becomes “Lord, I repent of using my eyes to look with lust; help me to use them to see people’s needs.” I’m not saying we should try to bribe God. He knows our hearts. But Nehemiah had been fasting, praying, and planning for four months before his emergency prayer to God in the presence of the king.

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 2:4

The journey to Jerusalem took approximately two months, and Nehemiah traveled with a military escort, including some of the king’s officers. It must have been discouraging for him to see that there were enemies waiting for him when he got there, but there will often be enemies waiting when we set out by faith on a journey to do the will of God. We must not mistake the successful arrival at the place of battle for the victory itself. Recovering from an illness is not the victory; it’s only the successful trip to get back into the fight.

These were Nehemiah’s enemies:

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?

Nehemiah 2:19

Sanballat held an official position in Samaria, and it is very common for worldly officials to oppose the work of God when money is at stake. Tobiah was an Ammonite: a sworn enemy of the Jews (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The devil opposes anything and everything Godly. Tobiah was related to some of the workers by marriage. Therefore, he had a “foothold” to try to interfere with the work, and he gathered intelligence. The devil is in the intelligence-gathering business. He can’t read our minds, but he doesn’t need to do so. He can learn everything he needs just by hitching a ride in the back seat on our way home from church. That’s why it’s important to prepare your weapons for battle in church, not just to have a party. The devil can spoil a party, but he can’t overcome a vigilant Christian warrior. Too many professing Christians are like dogs after a bath. They feel like they’ve been scrubbed clean during church and they can’t wait to get back in the mud.

wet dog shake

Geshem represents the flesh. The devil and the world will always try to enlist the flesh. Our flesh is weak, and it is a burden which must be borne and battled throughout the life of a believer.

Notice the tactics of opposition in which the world and the devil enlist the flesh to help attack the work and the workers of God:

Scorn

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Nehemiah 4:1-2

Mockery and ridicule must not deter the work of God.

Schemes

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Nehemiah 4:7-8

In spiritual warfare, our enemies will set traps. They spend time and effort planning and plotting.

Scoundrels and Schizophrenics

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

Nehemiah 4:10

A scoundrel is someone who is deceitful and unreliable – someone who will lie to get out of work. A schizophrenic is someone who is afflicted by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements. Christian workers can be infiltrated and influenced by lazy and double-minded enemies of the work of God.

Scares

And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

Nehemiah 4:11-12

Fear of God is the friend of faith. Fear of failure is the enemy of faith. Nehemiah and his helpers had started a project so big and so daunting that only God could finish it, and they trusted Him to use them to do so. Don’t be ignorant of the devices of your enemies. You know who they are (world, devil, flesh), and now you know their tactics.

Brain “Washing” Produces “Clean” Living (Part 2)

March 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 6 Comments
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Continuing from Part 1, Philippians 4:8 tells us exactly what sorts of things are good to think about.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

But what about the thoughts that are not good – the fiery darts of Satan? How do we keep them from coming in? First we need to know about our enemy, and take him seriously. There is a story about Teddy Roosevelt, who thought that his dog was a good fighter. However, the dog was once attacked by another dog and soundly beaten. When challenged on whether the President’s dog could no longer be classified as a good fighter, President Roosevelt replied, “No, he’s still a good fighter – he’s just a poor judge of dogs!” As Christians we should know that Christ’s love for us will give us the ultimate victory over any enemy.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

We should never underestimate our enemies, but, once we are able to recognize them, we can be confident.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 5:10

When we think about the seemingly limitless assault on our thought lives, and wonder how we can out-think so many enemies, we must remember that even statistics are on our side. King Hezekiah told his soldiers when he saw the multitude of Sennacherib’s army against them:

Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:

II Chronicles 32:7

After all, only a third of the angels fell from Heaven. That means there are still two-thirds on our side as ministering spirits. I’m not great at math, but, by my count, two-thirds is at least twice as much as one-third!

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Things we should think about:

1. What is true. There is no point worrying about what we don’t know or what we can’t control. Some of us remember the “Y2K” hysteria when supposedly all of our technology was going to fail, causing chaos, when computers would be unable to recognize the year “2000.” It turned out not to be such a big deal. Worrying about something when there is no indication it will come to pass probably means the devil is lying to you. He is a liar, he’s the father of lies, and he was a liar from the beginning.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Genesis 3:1

2. What is honest and just. Some things are unworthy of a Christian’s energy, even of his thought energy. Scheming to work out things on our own, instead of trusting God to take care of them, is dishonest, and it causes a bad report. Don’t even think on it!

3. Whatever possesses virtue and praise. Some things are morally neither right nor wrong. They are amoral. But they have no “virtue” – they don’t motivate anyone to do good. Leisure activities may be technically without sin – but will they become a source of time consumption? Where is the virtue? It is not immoral to think about fashion, and to think about how we are going to dress. The issue is not what’s wrong with that. The issue is what is right with that? Where’s the virtue in it? Does it possess the potential for praise?

We are going to spend time talking to other people. When we think about what we’re going to say ( and it is important to think about it!) we need to think of something we can praise them for, not something that will tear them down.

When I think of Sis. Susie, do I think, “Oh no, here comes old big-mouth?” If so, then I’ll have to lie to her to be nice to her face. What I need to do is think, “She might be talkative, but she really is a friendly person.” That will produce praise.

Our testimony is affected more by what we do than what we think, but it is so important to “wash our brain” – to clean up our thinking. Because right thinking produces right living. “Brain washing” results in “clean living.”

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:9

To live right we must learn, but we also must “receive.” Learning is when it enters the brain – when something becomes a stored fact. But “receiving” is when we accept it and make it a part of our life. Hearing the Word of God produces faith – and living the Word of God is the evidence that we have that faith. If I know the God of peace, I should also know the peace of God.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

Only God knows your heart, but if you’re easily offended then you’re not acting like someone who’s truly a Christian. In Nehemiah they had all kinds of opposition – traitors within and intimidators without. I know that the real key is that they had God on their side when they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days, but look at the type of people God used to do this great work.

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

Nehemiah 4:6

Their thinking was right, so their living was right, and therefore their working was right. Our thoughts control our actions – and our actions reveal our thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 warns to beware of the evil ruler: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”

Is your brain washed? Is your life clean? You can’t have a clean mind or a clean life until you have a clean heart – until the Lord Jesus Christ has created in you a new heart.


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