Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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23. Rediscovering Revival – Part 1

Nehemiah 8:1-2

“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.” 

 As we continue in our series “Building in the Battle” in the book of Nehemiah, we are going to skip over chapter 7 and come back to it at the end of our study. It’s here in chapter 8 that we see a major shift from construction to consecration. The first 6 chapters deal with the rebuilding of the wall while the second half deals with the restoration and worship of the people. It is here in chapter 8 that we come to the building block of the Bible. Where we see a people who not only want the Word but want to walk out the Word. They not only long for the Word, they listen to the Word, learn the Word and live out the Word. Church it’s not just about the walls it’s about our worship. The work on the walls had been completed and it would have been easy to sit back and slack off, but it was never about the walls it was about worship. As Christians we have an incredible opportunity to use our worship to impact the world with the Word of God. As the people hear the Word of God, they go from sitting to standing. Then, they raised their hands, shouted out their agreement by saying “Amen” and then bowed down and worshipped by putting their faces to the ground. The anticipation of hearing the Word of God caused them to jump up but listening to the Word of God caused them to kneel down. Today some of us are sitting when we should be standing, some of us are standing when we should be submitting. Church it’s time for us to stop sitting and start standing on scripture so that we can submitting to truth. As Nehemiah introduces us to the building block of the BIBLE see 4 truths that should be evident in our lives, first a:

  1. LONGING FOR TRUTH Vs 1-2

Strong walls begin with the Word. It’s here that we see people who are thirsty for truth, they assembled with a unified purpose, to hear God’s Word. What is the longing of your heart, are your wants based on the Word or the world, these people wanted the Word. Some of us are no longer hungering after holiness, your deepest desire is not Jesus it’s the junk. As a result instead of longing for truth we are lusting after trash. Instead of filling our life with the Word we are filling it with the World, trading truth for trash. How much did you feast on God this week and how much on garbage? How many of us spent more time this week pursuing social media than we did the Son of God? You know why we are living famished lives instead of full ones, because our food is no longer the Father its Facebook. We no longer have a longing for the Father because we are feasting on junk, look you can’t fill your life with filth and expect to be fruitful. Verse 3 tells us that Ezra started reading at dawn and read until lunch. The people listened to the Word of God for over six hours and we know from verse 18 that this continued for a week as they “listened attentively.” As a pastor I am so thankful that the majority of my sheep are hungry to hear God’s Word. A while back a guy who was just passing through on vacation came to one of our services and after said to me after, I saw all the people during worship and thought huh just another feel good church based on fluff but then you got up and preached the Word and there was an alter call and people came in droves, how can that be? Because people are thirsty for truth. The problem is preachers have convinced themselves that people are not hungry for holiness, so they have substituted scripture for stories, they have become story tellers instead of truth sharers. Ezra’s shared the Word for six-hour, which begs the question, how much of our time do we devote to truth? We wouldn’t have a problem wasting 6 hours of our lives on a Netflix binge, but when was the last time you went on a bible binge?  Are you content to snack on scripture, feeding on the world and trying to supplement with the Word? The true source of our Spiritual Strength is found in scripture.  Israel found it again, after having lost it for 70 years in the Babylonian Captivity. Their strength lay buried beneath 70 years of oppression and captivity and there were many who had never heard the Word. That Source could only be found in the place where they had left it, buried in the past, under a heap of destruction, covered by the dust and debris of lost battles, and forgotten under the rubble of a destroyed life. They had to get back to where that source was and begin to dig it out, dust it off and discover its power to bring Joy once again. Like them we also have to come back to the Bible. If your bible is buried as a result of neglect get it out dust it off and dive in. Not only did they assemble with a unified purpose but notice where they assembled, the Water Gate. The water gate is a picture of the Word of God and its effect in our life. Ephesians 5:26 states ‘… having washed her by the water of the word.’ Psalm 119:9 says: “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word” it is only through God’s Word that we can be clean. It was the Word of God that washed their hearts. Are you washing your life with Word or wallowing in the world? There are so many Christians today who are living in doubt, fear and unbelief because they have forsaken the source of their Strength, the Word of God, and embraced the wisdom of the world. They’ve allowed their well to run dry, and there is no more spiritual water daily washing over their souls. They’ve allowed Satan to dry up the source of their strength and they have ignored their spiritually dead and dry condition for so long that they’ve forgotten what it truly feels like to have the Joy of the Lord. The result is that we start trusting in our walls instead of the Word. The Bible will either keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible. Today as we celebrate independence and freedom lets not forget that the Word doesn’t just set us free it keeps us free. Are you saturating yourself with Scripture?

 


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22. Dealing with Distractions – Part 3

Nehemiah 6:5-19

The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, and this is what it said: “There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’ “You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.” I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.” They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. 10 Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.” 11 But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” 12 I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun.16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. 17 During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. 18 For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.

When the enemy couldn’t distract Nehemiah through flattery he turned to fear, you see after the invitation comes:

  1. INTIMADATION – VS 5-9

This arm-twisting tactic is designed to pressure Nehemiah to give in to their demands and thus fall into their trap. But he resists because he sees it for what it really is, an enticement based upon lies. There is one thing that both the flattery and the fear here have in common they both use deceit to distract. I want you to note two things: First this was an “open letter, meaning an unsealed letter. In other words, it was designed for everyone to read, so that the lie would be spread around that Nehemiah was trying to make himself king. Second Geshem is sited as a source. Have you ever noticed that rumors regularly cite people of distinction as sources in an attempt to give credibility to a lie? That’s what happened here they were spreading a rumor to ruin Nehemiah’s reputation. That instead of having pure motives he was self-seeking and in it for self not for service. How did Nehemiah handle it when people tried to ruin his reputation, he prayed, he relied on God to defend his reputation? There is a powerful truth here, Nehemiah took care of his character and trusted God to take care of his reputation. Many of us are wasting our time trying to defend self instead of trusting the Savior. We need to remember that our reputation is who people say we are, while our character is who we really are. We need to spend more time on our character and less time worrying about our reputation. Nehemiah responded three ways he confronted the lie with truth and denied the rumor, he prayed to God for strength, and he went back to work. Don’t waste time worrying about lies they will only keep you from God’s work.  Once again, the enemy switches his game plan from intimidation to:

  1. INCRIMINATION – Vs 10-19

Tobiah and Sanballat hired a man to make a false prophesy intended to trick and trap Nehemiah in sin. What he says sounded logical: “Some people are out to get you. They are going to kill you.”But his solution wasn’t scriptural, because what he suggested that Nehemiah should do to save his life was sin. Nehemiah was not permitted to go into the temple, only the priests could enter the holy place. How do you know if what someone is saying is true, sift it through scripture. Nehemiah didn’t lean on logic he leaned on the Lord. Nehemiah cared more about the Lord and living right than saving his life. This brings us to the end of this first phase of Nehemiah’s work. The wall was completed in 52 days and the enemy recognized the hand of God. What a picture of the power that a Christian witness can have to a watching world. If we want to defeat the distractions, we need to first:

  1. Practice saying, “yes” to God’s priorities.

The best way to not be distracted is by being attracted to those things that are on the heart of God. It’s not just a matter of saying ‘no’ to distractions, we have to first say ‘yes’ to the right things, so that our priorities match up with God’s priorities. In her book, “A Practical Guide to Prayer,” Dorothy Haskins tells about a noted concert violinist who was asked the secret of her mastery of the instrument. This is what she said, “There are many things that used to demand my time. When I went to my room after breakfast, I made my bed, straightened the room, dusted, and did whatever seemed necessary. When I finished my work, I turned to my violin practice. That system prevented me from accomplishing what I should on the violin. So, I reversed things. I deliberately planned to neglect everything else until my practice period was complete. And that program of planned neglect is the secret to my success.” We’ve been called to a great task, one that we have to prioritize, or we’ll be distracted from it. If we don’t practice some “planned neglect” of other things, even good things, we’ll be distracted from God’s best. Second, we need to:

  1. Practice saying, “no” to the devil’s distractions.

So, let me ask you, what areas of your life do you need to guard the gate and stop being distracted by the devil?