Sunday, May 27, 2012

We're gonna hafta cheat.

5/27/12  FBCRB

“Rebuilding the Walls”, Pt II

Is anybody else out there an optimist?  I don’t mean a member of the Optimist Club.  I mean do you have an optimistic outlook on life?  I do.  I always have.  I have always felt that if I wanted to do something bad enough and worked hard enough to get it that I could do anything I wanted.  I have always felt that way…in spite of the fact that many times it just doesn’t happen.

In my senior year of high school, we were playing Wichita Falls Hirschi in football at their stadium in WF.  It was the first time I had ever played on astroturf.  It was a huge stadium and it was packed on their side.  We had nobody on our side in the stands.  They were a huge school with lots of players and all the best equipment and by halftime we were down something like 42-0.  They were already putting in the second string before the half.  We were well on our way to getting slaughtered.

When we went to the locker room at halftime, even the coaches were depressed.  We were just no match for them.  Nobody had too much to say and we were all just sitting there waiting to be called back out there to have our heads handed to us and so I stood up and started in with the best “win one for the Gipper, dig down, man up, be a warrior” speech I could give.  And   I really got everybody fired up.  We ran back out on the field with war cries and high fives and we were convinced that if we really, really tried that we could actually win this game.

And when the game was over the scoreboard read…65-14.  The only reason we were able to get 14 was because they literally had 4th stringers playing.  I’m pretty sure at one point some of their lunch ladies were taking snaps.  It was awful.  And by the way, I was never allowed to say anything at halftime again. 

Now, this may seem like a strange way to start a sermon encouraging you to rebuild the walls.  We saw last week from the book of Nehemiah that, like Jerusalem, we also have some walls that need to be rebuilt.  I mentioned that our walls of democracy, decency and doctrine have fallen almost completely down and we need to rebuild them so why would I start today’s message by telling that kind of story?

Well, the harsh reality of this world is that sometimes the work we need to do is just too much for us.  We don’t have enough people and we don’t have the supplies we need and we have to admit that we just don’t have the talent we need to get it done.  It looks hopeless.  The obstacles before us are too big and we are too small and as hard as we try we have to admit that we are no match for the job at hand and so I have an idea.  I do.  Now this may sound crazy but hear me out.  I say we cheat.

If I could have figured out a way to cheat in that football game and not get caught I have to admit I probably would have done it because I knew that there was just too much shame in losing that game that bad.  I was embarrassed to go home and tell people that we tried as hard as we could but we still lost.  I felt like I let down my team, my school, my family and my community and I don’t want to feel that way again in this real –life battle for the walls of democracy, decency and doctrine and so I say we still work real hard but we cheat by using the power of the One who is all-powerful.  We will use the wisdom of the One who is all-knowing and we will do our part to rebuild these walls because we have the favor of the Creator, the Sustainer and the Deliverer.  And when God commands us to do something, He always provides the way.

Turn to the book of Nehemiah.  As we saw last week, Nehemiah got word from his brother that the walls around Jerusalem had been torn down and the gates burned and the people that remained there had no protection from their enemies and were also living in great shame since they were supposed to be God’s chosen people.

 Now, Nehemiah had every excuse in the book not to even attempt to solve the problem.  What could one man do?  He didn’t have the people or supplies.  This wasn’t caused by his failure.  He wasn’t even born when the walls were torn down by the Babylonian army and …oh yea, he was a slave in a land far away from Jerusalem.  He had to know there was no human way he could ever rebuild the walls and yet that was evidently what God called him to do and so the first thing Nehemiah does…is cheat.

Do you remember in grade school when you were playing football in somebody’s front yard and some kid would go ask his dad to be their quarterback?  How fair was that?!  That’s what Nehemiah does right off the bat in chapter 1.  It says he mourned and fasted and prayed to God.  You see, Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the Persian king.  That meant he had to choose and then taste the king’s wine to make sure it wasn’t poisonous.  It was a job that required a lot of trust but he was still a slave and therefore really had no rights.

Let’s start reading in chapter 2.  Read 1-4a.

Stop right there for a second.  I can just picture this.  Nehemiah has been praying for months for God to open the door for him to have a talk with the king but it just hasn’t happened.  And as a slave, just going into the presence of the king without a smile was enough to get Nehemiah killed but he just couldn’t help how he looked today and the king asked him about it and so what does Nehemiah do?  He cheats!  He prays that quick “breath prayer” that we have probably all prayed when we are desperate for God’s help.  I don’t know if he prayed for wisdom or boldness or what but maybe he just prayed “God help me!”  And look what happens.  Starting back with 4b – 6.

We don’t necessarily know how but Nehemiah has obviously heard from God and God placed it on his heart that he needs to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.  In fact, Nehemiah has prayed about this from the start and do you remember from last week what he prayed?  That prayer he prayed in chapter 1 from verse 5-11 is basically repeating back to God what  God had told the Israelites time after time; that if they didn’t turn back to Him that He would scatter them among the nations. Nehemiah acknowledged that.   But Nehemiah also prayed that God would remember that God promised to bring them back together.  Nehemiah was praying in the Spirit and heard from God and now God has told Nehemiah what to do and Nehemiah was obedient.

Then what happens?  God blesses his effort and the Persian king allows Nehemiah to leave which in itself is pretty amazing but in the next paragraph Nehemiah gets bold.  He asks the king for protection and provisions for his trip and the king gives Nehemiah supplies and provisions and letters to all the rulers of the country through which Nehemiah will have to travel telling them to give him safe passage.  I guess if Nehemiah had asked the king to give him a piggyback ride over there he would have done that too.  Which just shows how when we are obedient, God blesses.

God wants to bless you.  He is waiting to bless you.  In fact, because God is so gracious and loves you so much He wants to give you more than you even ask for.  God is not offended by how much we ask Him for.  He is offended by how little we ask Him for.  We know that God is loaded, right Ron?  It’s time we ask Him for what we need.  I don’t mean ask God for everything we want.  I mean it is time we ask God for everything we need to do what He has called us to do.

We as a church have heard from God.  We know our goal as a church is to further the Kingdom of God.  But it is difficult being a small church.  We don’t have all the people, money and resources we really need.  We don’t have the talent or the leadership or the supplies.  Let’s ask God for it today.  Not for our glory or our benefit or our comfort or to make us look good to other churches or other people.  Let’s ask God to give us what we need because if we fail there are people’s eternities at stake. 

It’s time for us to pray that God would give us everything we need to make Him look good and we can’t do that while we try to make ourselves look good so just forget about that.  It is time that we pray back to God what He has told us in Matthew 6:33 that if we seek His Kingdom first that all these things will be added to us.

Do you believe that?  Do you believe that God can and will give us everything we need to be world-changers?  Aw, Todd, that’s asking too much to be world-changers.  Let’s just focus on Runaway Bay.  Well, that’s where it starts.  I have said before that the local church is the hope of the world and so changing the world starts right here with us as individuals. 

Todd, those are real pretty words but what does it mean for me tomorrow.  That’s a good question.  Let me give you some practical ways that we can start rebuilding the walls of democracy, decency and doctrine.  The first thing you need to do is vote.  If we are going to repair our wall of democracy then you pick up the first stone by doing your homework and walking into the voting booth and being obedient right there.

If we are going to rebuild the wall of decency in our society the first stone we have to pick up is in our own lives.  You have heard it said that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging.  Stop having just a little more decency than the world has.  We are called to be holy not a little holier than most.  I told you we are going to have to make sacrifices just like Nehemiah did and that means we don’t watch the same TV as the world, we don’t tell the same jokes, we don’t go to the same places and when somebody asks why you haven’t heard Lady GaGa’s new song, you say because I’m gaga about Jesus.  Let me tell you what He has done for me lately.

If we are going to rebuild the wall of doctrine in Runaway Bay then today is the day we start owning the Bible.  I don’t mean just purchasing one from the book store but really living out what is said.  When the opportunity arises we need to lovingly tell people that the Bible teaches that sex outside of marriage is sin.  We need to show people Deuteronomy 5:11 where God says not to misuse His name and that the name of His Son is not to be used as a cuss word.  They need to see in our lives and in our Bibles that revenge is not our business but God’s.

Those are just some of the first stones that we need to pick up as we start the long process of rebuilding the walls of democracy, decency and doctrine.  This is not going to be easy.  This isn’t going to be quick.  But we have seen in the life of Nehemiah what happens when we are obedient.  We see God blesses.  He heard from God.  He smothered the situation in prayer and God blessed.  Now do you know what happens next?  After we are obedient and after God blesses, what always happens? 

I’ll close by giving you a hint and reading one last verse from chapter 2.  Read verse 10. 

We have seen Nehemiah be obedient.  We have seen God bless and now this is just a foreshadowing of what happens next.  Knowing that our battle is not against flesh and blood, this can only mean that Satan is about to attack.  We will see next week how to deal with those attacks. 

I will tell you this much.  While there are several things that we have to do, we don’t overcome those attacks in our own power.  We have to cheat.

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