Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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30. The Sacrifice of getting Serious – Part 2

Nehemiah 10:30-31

30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.31 “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

Not only was there a submission to Gods Word but also:

  1. Separation from the World – Vs 30

After submitting themselves to God’s Word they make a second vow to be separate from the world by promising not to give their daughters in marriage to the nations around them or to take their daughters for their sons. Separation is simply total devotion to God, no matter what the cost. When a man and woman get married, they separate themselves from all other possible mates and give themselves completely to each other. The Israelites separated themselves from the people around them so they could be devoted to God. This was not about ethnic pride or a sense that they were superior to others, it had to do with how they worshipped God and honored Him. Wrong relationships can wipe out our witness. God has called us to be a missionary people and so it is critical that His message is not corrupted. Throughout the bible we see marriages with pagan people bringing problems and pain, in fact in Nehemiah 13:26 the question is asked, “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? I’m convinced that the greatest effort of satanic attack today is aimed at the home. Homes divided by divorce, homes caught in the constant grip of conflict and chaos. Just like the people of Jerusalem, second on our list of priorities today, after loving God, should be to make sure that our homes are holy and that our children are being taught the truth. Separation here involves not being unequally yoked, Christians not marrying non-Christians. First let me start by saying, I know some of you are married to an unsaved spouse. I want to encourage you to be committed to Christ and to live out the teaching of His Word in 1 Peter 3:1-6: “Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over by watching your pure, godly behavior.” Today I want to take some time to talk to those of you who are not married yet. Perhaps you’re dating someone who is not a believer and it seems harmless to date a non-Christian. But God cares about your spiritual life and your ability to be a clear witness to Him. On the authority of God’s Word, don’t deliberately disobey God in this area. The question is not, “Will this relationship work out?” but, “Will this relationship enjoy God’s best blessing and fulfill God’s will?” I know this is not easy for some of you to hear but if you are truly submitted to God and His Word, you will honor Him in all your relationships. If you put God first, don’t enter into a marriage relationship with someone who does not also put the Lord first. Now separation doesn’t mean isolation. If we isolate ourselves from the world, we will never be a witness and win them to Christ. But you don’t have to marry people to share the message. After pledging themselves to submit to the Word of God and to live separated from the world they commit to:

  1. Savoring the Sabbath – Vs 31

The Sabbath was a time set aside first to honor God. It was distinctive from other days and given to God so that they might offer their worship to Him without being distracted by the demands of everyday life. Secondly, it was a day of rest. Relaxation is a vital ingredient in effective living, and God provided the pattern for this by resting on the seventh day of creation. Man’s first full day of existence was Sabbath a day of worship not work. Do you remember when the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt, they worked with no breaks in their weekly schedule. Some of you are slaves to your work, but Sabbath calls us to trade our work for worship. Why do we work none stop, because we want to be productive but sometimes we need to stop and sharpen our axes. Some of us have become dull and ineffective because we are not spending time with God and allowing Him to sharpen our lives. We love to recite Psalm 23 we just don’t love to live it. It starts with these words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul.” Success is not found in striving but in surrendering to the Shepherd. Thirdly, it was a day to help others. Israelite employees had a compulsory rest day automatically written into their employment contracts. This helped others enjoy the blessings of rest. Fourthly, the Sabbath was a day to declare truth. It was a silent witness to God’s supremacy and gave the Israelites multiple witnessing opportunities. To their unbelieving neighbors it proclaimed, in very practical terms, the truth that God comes first. The Israelites also promised to observe the “Sabbatical Year.” Every seventh year, they were to let the land lie fallow so that it might restore itself. To obey God in this way involved believing and trusting Him. Many of us are afraid to trust God and let the land lie fallow. We are more comfortable trying and trusting in our capability than trusting in Christ. Along with letting the ground lie fallow they also promised to cancel all debts. Every seven years they would live out a renewed scale of values that people matter more than money. The keeping of the Sabbath and Sabbatical Years were ways of guarding against greed and saying “no” to a life of maximum acquisition. We need Sabbath times of rest to remind us that people are more important than possessions. Why are so many people living worn out lives because we are living to work instead of letting worship fuel us for work. We are not resting and not leaning on the Lord, we are trying to cart around all the debt instead of trusting the Lord and letting go. What about you are you living for the world and work or are you relying on and resting in the Lord?

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29. The Sacrifice of getting Serious – Part 1

Nehemiah 10:28-29

“The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

Last time in Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we saw the people confessing their sin to God and confessing their confidence in God. At the end of the chapter we saw them making commitments to God that were personal, practical and public. As we come to chapter ten, we see these promises in greater detail and it’s here than Nehemiah introduces us to the building block of commitment. We need the word commitment in our world today, many people today start out but few finish. Webster’s Dictionary defines commitment as: “an agreement or pledge to do something in the future;” or the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled. The reason so many people are afraid of commitment is that they don’t want to be obligated. They want to be free to do whatever they decide to do at the moment, because we care more about our feelings than we do faithfulness. These promises or commitments are called vows. The law governing oaths and vows is found in Numbers 30:2: “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” There are many examples of people in the Bible making vows and covenants with God, only to break them later on. In Exodus 24, the Israelites promise to do “everything the Lord has said.” But in less than six weeks, these same people construct a golden calf and bow down in worship before it. In Mark 14:29, Peter promises Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Hours later, Peter responds to a servant girl’s questions by swearing in verse 71: “He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’” That leads to a question, are vows of any use today? I think they are for at least two reasons.  First, they help us focus. When you make a vow, you are saying that you are going to do something specific. We can say, “Lord, I need to witness more” or we can say, “I’m going to invite my neighbor to the Church. Second, vows allow us to express our love. That’s why couples make vows during a marriage ceremony. They’re the language of love. Love is more than just a feeling, it’s a commitment to faithfulness. Some of you have made promises to God in the past that you haven’t kept, and you are not alone. Jeremiah 31:32 says that God’s people broke the covenant on a regular basis. Verse 33 says that He will one day make a new covenant in which he says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jesus inaugurated this new covenant. Listen to what He said in Mark 14:24: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” In the Old Covenant, we are expected to live up to our end completely. In the New Covenant, nothing comes from us, and everything comes from Jesus. Because of His grace, we can surrender, submit and obey out of love, not fear. While it can be helpful to make a vow or promise to God, we need to remember this: We don’t succeed as Christians because we make promises to God, we succeed because we believe the promises of God and act upon them. As a result of hearing God’s Word, they made 4 commitments which are critical to the success of every Christian.

  1. Submission to Gods Word – Vs 29

The passage starts by listing those who committed to the covenant, there were 84 people who signed their names and notice that Nehemiah’s name led the list. Leaders lead by example; parents you can’t just preach to your kids you have to practice what you preach. There were also many others who also committed to these principles without signing their names. What did they commit to? They committed themselves to follow God’s Word. They were serious in their desire to devote themselves to walking out the Word of God. Let me ask this question, “Who does God use to make an impact? Super saints? Heroes? No. Listen to the words of 1 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” The key is devotion, the depth of your devotion determines your impact. God is not looking for strong people, or great people, or even perfect people, He is looking for devoted disciples, people that are fully committed to Him. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was once asked what his secret was to his incredible ministry. This is what he said, “God has had all that there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I…but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with me and them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth that there was.” Are you dangerously devoted, Does God have all of you? What these people were saying is that they were so seriously submitted to God’s Word that they are willing for the curses of God to fall on them if they do not carefully obey what He says. I wonder if we have that same submission and dangerous devotion today?