Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rebuilding the Walls - Nehemiah 1

“Rebuilding the Walls”  Nehemiah 1

How many of you have any problems today?  Really?  That many?  I thought I was the only one.  How many of you don’t know what to do about some of those problems?  How many of you know what to do but it is hard to do it?  Do you wish you had some help?  I have some thoughts on that before we get to the real help we find in our passage today.  First, your church is here to help you.  Believe it or not we don’t just meet on Sundays and Wednesdays for worship.  This church is made up of individuals that love and care for each other and I know for a fact that they would enjoy helping you and that the hindrance to you getting help with a lot of things is your own pride and I, I mean we, need to get over that.

Secondly, James says in his book that we are to consider it pure joy when we have troubles because that means that God is giving us the opportunity to grow and to have everything we need.  That’s what it says:  everything we need.  That ought to encourage you.  We have seen lately that there are benefits to _____?  Obedience.  And consequences to ­­­______?  Disobedience.  BOOCOD.

Sometimes we have problems because we weren’t obedient in the first place.  Sometimes our problems continue because we are not obedient and sometimes no matter what we do we still have problems.  I read about the man who went to put some bricks on a house and wound up with some problems.  Here is his letter to his boss: 

  I went to the building after the storm, checked the building and saw that the top needed repairs.  I rigged a hoist and a boom, attached the rope to a barrel and pulled the bricks to the top.  When I pulled the barrel to the top, I secured the rope at the bottom.  After repairing the building I went back to fill the barrel with the leftover bricks.  I went down and released the rope to lower the barrel but it was heavier than I and jerked me off the ground.  Halfway up I met the barrel and received a blow to the shoulder.  I hung on and went to the top where I hit my head on the boom and caught my fingers in the pulley.  In the meantime, the barrel hit the ground and burst open, throwing the bricks all over.  This made the barrel lighter than I, and I started back down at high speed.  Halfway down, I met the barrel coming up and received a blow to my leg.  I continued down and fell on the bricks giving me cuts and bruises.  At this time I must have lost my presence of mind because I let go of the rope and the barrel came down and hit me on the head.  I respectfully request sick leave.

Sometimes no matter what you do you are going to have trouble.  Job said, “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”  (14:1)  The question is, what do we do about it?  The book of Nehemiah is a fascinating book of the Bible that tells so much about the who, what, where and whys of Jewish history but if you only read it for the history you are missing out on some incredible insight into how to handle problems.  This is good to know for us as individuals, for our families, church and even country.  Turn to Nehemiah chapter 1.  Nehemiah is after Ezra and before Esther in the Old Testament.  One last thing before we read that chapter, this will be a short series on how to deal with our problems.  And you know me.  If I have a problem and say Jeremiah or Zechariah or Zephaniah, just bear with me.  Nehemiah is the only “iah” I should be talking about, just so you know.

Read Nehemiah chapter 1.

There are 4 quick things I want us to look at in this passage.  The first 3 are the walls that need to be rebuilt and the 4th is where we start to solve those problems and start rebuilding the walls.

Nehemiah is an old book, obviously; written some 400-plus years before Jesus but it was written well after Jerusalem was destroyed.  If you remember, so much of the Old Testament was a warning to the children of Israel that if they didn’t repent and turn back to God then He would have them punished and their land destroyed.  He warned and warned and warned and finally He said, “Enough is enough. “  And when the army of Babylon walked out of the city of Jerusalem it had been reduced to rubble.

The vast majority of the people of Israel that weren’t killed were taken into slavery; dispersed to countries they probably had only heard of.  Their houses were destroyed.  Their families were broken up.  And even the walls around the city had been broken down and the gates burned.  No longer was this a land where God’s chosen people could live.    Without walls they had no protection from the enemy.  Without walls there was no use planting a field much less trying to raise a family.  Anything you had could easily be taken away from you.  There was no police, no army.  Even the wild animals had some protection but not the few left in Jerusalem.

It was also a great shame to the people and to God.  You see, everyone knew Israel was God’s chosen people and the city of Jerusalem was the absolute heart of God so now whenever somebody would walk past that city they had to wonder what kind of God would allow such a thing.  “Where’s your God now, Israel?!  He must not be very powerful to let such a thing happen!  What a bunch of fools.”

I starting looking at the book of Nehemiah wondering if there might be a few things we could learn from it.  What I didn’t realize at first was that it was practically a letter addressed to 513 Port O Call and should start with the words, “Dear FBC RB, please study this closely so this never has to happen to you.”  I don’t know what is going on at the Community Church.  I don’t know if FBC Bridgeport is being obedient.  I don’t have any responsibility for what Grace Fellowship does.  I pray that God would give them wisdom and guidance but unless we want to be haunted by the words of the Old Testament prophets just like the Israelites were, then change has to start right here with us!  I guarantee you that the US is headed for the same place and there are too many lives at stake for us to just sit back and let it happen.  Too many souls are headed for eternal Hell, damnation and separation from God for us to be apathetic.

While the walls around Jerusalem were real, physical walls, we have walls in our lives as well that are under attack just as sure as Jerusalem’s were.  I want you to see and know that our walls of democracy, decency, and doctrine being threatened and they have been neglected.  Yes, the very walls of our country’s democracy are being eroded, attacked and chipped away, little by little every day and if it doesn’t stop immediately we may not have anything to save.  We may wake up one day and find that our national language, our national currency and our national religion are now what someone else wants them to be.

You may not have enjoyed studying history when you were in school.  For some of you there was considerably less history to study when you were a kid but no matter.  If we want to keep from going the way of the dispersed Israelites then a quick glance at history would be appropriate.  I understand that the average age of a civilized nation is about 200 years.  They also say that the life and death of a nation can be followed in 9 steps.  It starts with the people going from bondage to spiritual faith, then from spiritual faith to courage then to liberty, abundance and then selfishness.  From selfishness they go to complacency and then to apathy and then to dependence and from dependence they go back to bondage.

Look at how many people are dependent on the government today.  1 out of 4 people receive some sort of financial assistance from the government.  That’s the last of the 9 steps.  How much longer do we have? 

How much longer does this country have when God is taken out of school and the courts?  How would you like to be the one to tell a child in school or the criminal in the court that they should start to live right when you have no guide to tell you what is right and wrong?  Without the Bible, who is to say what is moral or immoral?  Without God’s wisdom our leaders are guaranteed failure.  When we try to appease the Muslims so we don’t hurt their feelings at the expense of Christian values, how long do you think God will let that go on?  I don’t hate the Muslims.  I just hate the lie of the devil that they have believed and that will contribute to the destruction of this nation.  The very walls of our democracy are definitely being threatened.

The walls of this country’s decency are also being chipped away and there is not much left.  I pray all the time as I drive down the road that God would not allow my mother to see a bumper sticker like the one I just saw.  I pray that my sweet, innocent niece never sees that billboard or that TV show or that magazine cover.  God please protect their precious eyes like only you can!  What used to be only for what we considered sick perverts is now available all over the internet.  I read something the other day that said that nearly 90% of men have a problem with internet porn.  If half of that is true then how long is God going to allow that to continue?  By the way, after reading that and praying about it I cancelled my internet at home.  It saved me money and I’m not tempted nor will anybody ever have to wonder about what I do.  It might be something you need to pray about.  Because the walls of our decency are being attacked and it starts with us.

The other wall that is in need of repair lest it fall is the wall of doctrine.  And by doctrine I don’t mean that this world would be better off if everybody was a Baptist.  I mean this world would be better off if men, in and out of the pulpit would say, “Thus says the Lord!”  If women would teach their children what the Bible says instead of what Dr. Phil says.  If preachers would get up and preach what God puts on their hearts from what the Bible says instead of what will tickle the ears of the congregation.  That hip, good-looking pastor in California who says there is no hell is going to be judged harshly for giving his opinion over what God says.  Don’t doubt it.  I just pray he doesn’t lead too many astray.

In the name of tolerance our walls of democracy, decency and doctrine are being torn down daily right before our eyes and we act like we don’t see.  We act like there is nothing we can do about it.  I want us to see from the life of Nehemiah that there is something we can do.  You see, Nehemiah was not a prophet or a priest or king.  He was not powerful or rich.  He was a slave.  His ancestors had been taken from Jerusalem and he had been born in Persia.  He had never even seen Jerusalem but when word got back to him that the walls had been torn down and that the city still lay in ruins all these years later, he was broken hearted. 

He saw the danger his people were in and he saw the shame it brought to them and to God.  It is time for us to realize the danger we are in and the great shame it brings to us and to God for our walls to be torn down.  You say you can’t do anything about what goes on in our nation and you are right if you try to do it alone but look at what Nehemiah does in verse 4.  He mourned and wept and fasted and prayed.  We saw in Ephesians last week the power we have in the weapon of prayer.  James 5:16 says that fervent prayer is powerful and effective.  The very first thing we should do to halt the attack on our walls is to pray.  Not just a casual prayer; something you real quick before you eat.  In the last chapter of Colossians Paul says that Epaphras sends his greeting and that he is always wrestling in prayer for you.

Have you ever done that?  Jacob wrestled with God and said he would not let him go until God blessed him.  I am going to challenge all of us to do that this week.  Instead of a quick prayer before you eat, how about praying instead of eating?  Just one meal.  Take the time you would have spent eating and spend that time wrestling with God and begging Him to restore our walls of democracy, decency and doctrine, before it’s too late.

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