Sermon Audio

DO I HAVE INTEGRITY AND REVERENCE FOR GOD? – Nehemiah 7:2

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DO I HAVE INTEGRITY AND REVERENCE FOR GOD? – Nehemiah 7:2

Nehemiah 7:2, “I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and reverenced God more than most people do.”

Hananiah didn’t have as the necessary qualities stunning good looks, a charismatic personality, a clever wit, or important political connections, no, he was a man Nehemiah observed as one who had the two very important qualities of integrity and a reverence for God.

I had to ask myself as I was putting this message together, “Do I have the type of integrity and a reverence for God that would qualify me to be placed in charge of some thing like a large city?”

I looked up the word integrity. It has its root in a mathematical term from the word “integer”, which means “intact or untouched.” An integer is a whole number. So if you take that and define “integrity”, it means being whole, complete, honest, sound, dependable.

Based on that definition, do YOU have integrity? In a world filled with half baked, half truths, half way, conditional, and convenient, a person of integrity stands out as an exceptional person, because that person keeps their vows & promises, is dependable, does things with excellence, tells the truth, and can be counted on no matter what.

Oh that we would be a church filled with people like that. Jesus, the perfect example of integrity, modeled for us how to live such a life. And where we lack, Jesus makes us whole. Colossians 2:10 says we are complete in Christ. Let Him make you a person of integrity.

And as far as reverence for God, may we be careful we don’t check that off our list as “done”. Do we really reverence God? Reverence means to stand in dumbfounded awe of Him. We are struck silent in holy respect for who He is. Are you that way towards God? Or has He lost His Holy luster?

Another way to say reverence is “prize, cherish, or value” and what we prize, cherish, and value we prioritize.

Do you prioritize God by valuing Him above all things in your life? Is He #1? Do you prize Him as the precious gift and jewel that He is? Do you cherish your relationship with Him above all else?

THAT’S reverence. And I believe the church of Jesus Christ is sorely lacking in its reverence to God.

The original root of “reverence” has as part of its meaning, “to become aware of”. It’s as if every day we should become more and more awestruck at God holiness, His love, His power, His glory.

Are you becoming more and more aware of these things as it relates to your loving heavenly Father?

Oh that we would stand in an ever-growing awareness of God’s awesomeness in our lives, and as a result may we prioritize, value, cherish, and treasure Him in our lives in a deeper way every day.

It’ll change how you live your life if you do.

May we be a people of dependable excellence and prioritized cherishing of our a God for the world to see.

Please listen to Sunday’s message as you click on the link below. You’ll also find a bonus part of my message that I haven’t included in these Faith Notes as I shared with the congregation something the Holy Spirit spoke to me several months ago when He told me, “Get Ready.”

Listen to the message to hear what He’s told us what we’re to get ready for.

Be a person of integrity and reverence for God. The world around you desperately needs it.

THE 52 DAY CHALLENGE

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52daychallenge

THE 52 DAY CHALLENGE

Nehemiah 6:15-16, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”

What could you do in 52 days?

Lose weight? Pay off a debt? Knock out all of the items on your “to-do” list?

52 days from today is December 2, 2014.

There’s much we could do in 52 days if we put our minds to it.

Nehemiah organized a group of people to rebuild a wall around a city, and in 52 days, in spite of the opposition and the size of the task, because of God’s help, he succeeded.

Aside from the personal things we could accomplish in 52 days, what are some things we could do for God’s kingdom in that many days?

Spend time in His Word? 1 chapter a day will get you through 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Titus. That’s 7 books in the Bible!

Prayer? 10 minutes of uninterrupted prayer will net you 8.6 hours over 52 days. Prayer is a crucial discipline of the faith we don’t exercise nearly enough.

Witness? Sharing Jesus with one person a day for 52 days, and them in turn sharing with their friends, and so on and so on, times 10, will result on over 52,000 people hearing about Christ in 52 days!

Beyond that, many of us have had the Lord speak to our hearts over the years to step out in faith and do that “thing”, you know what it is, for Him.

Maybe now is that time. Maybe you can make a difference in the next 52 days that people 2500 years from now will be sharing with their contemporaries.

If not now, why? If not now, when?

May it be said that satan trembled in fear and lost his self-confidence because of the work you did for God’s Kingdom over the next 52 days with God’s help!

Please click on the link below and listen to the entire message, “The 52 Day Challenge”, and then let’s pray and ask God what it is that He wants US to do for His glory and to strengthen His people.

I look forward to hearing the stories of those who accept the challenge and will step out to do something different over the next 52 days.

You are the right person in the right place and the right time to make a difference for God’s Kingdom!

THE DESPERATION OF THE ENEMY – Nehemiah 6:1-14

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THE DESPERATION OF THE ENEMY – Nehemiah 6:1-14

Satan’s time is almost up and he knows.

He’s getting desperate.

He understands the urgency of the hour and he’s pulling out all the stops as history inches closer and closer to the Rapture and Christ’s return.

We see parallels in Nehemiah 6:1-14 as Sanballat and his cronies attempt one final time to thwart Nehemiah and God’s people from completing the task.

We can pull three things from this story as it relates to the end times as satan engages his last, desperate maneuver to take as many people as he can with him, and our response to these tactics.

First, the enemy is relentless. He never gives up. If one way doesn’t work he’ll try another.
He never get tired. He also understands the urgency of the hour (probably more so than most Christians) and it motivates him to be relentless.

Our response? Rely on God’s strength to fight for us and realize God is in control!

Second, the enemy will try to intimidate us and make us afraid.
His strategy is to get in our faces and threaten in whatever means possible to weaken our resolve.

Our response? Don’t look at the size of the threat in front of you, but at the size of God inside of you!
God is bigger!

Third, the enemy will attempt to lure us away with subtle deception.
Everyone has a different weakness. Satan knows what it is and will dangle it in front of us to try and lure us away.

Our response? Run to Jesus! Pray to Him for the way of escape. He’ll provide it for you!

If you’d like to hear the full message, “The Desperation of the Enemy”, click on the link below.

Be encouraged today. God is in control! God is bigger! Run to Jesus!

He’s coming soon!!!!

ARE YOU WORN OUT? – Nehemiah 5:14

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ARE YOU WORN OUT? – Nehemiah 5:14

Do you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of, burning the candles at both ends, like there’s no end to the demands and responsibilities in your life?

Have you been treated harshly?

Nehemiah faced this as he was leading the people in rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah Chapter 5 he recalled how the former governors had placed a heavy demand on the people by taxing them. He choose not to, even though it was in his legal right to do so.

He had as his primary concern the task and burden that God had placed on his heart to do, rebuild the wall.

I love the compassion and gentle care he had towards the people of Israel. And I love how we can apply this to ourselves today.

It seems the world is lacking gentleness these days. Instead we’re surrounded by harsh people doing harsh things.

This harshness is reflected in how we treat God’s creation. But the new paradigm I’d like to challenge you with today is:

If you deplete it, fill it back up, if you break it, fix it, if you drop it, pick it up, if you make a mess, clean it up.

Leave things BETTER than how you found them.

Don’t cause the problem, be the solution.

Don’t wear things out. Be gentle.

Because the way we approach stewarding God’s creation and our personal resources spills over into how we treat others.

Philippians 4:4 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”

Gentleness means considerate, kind, & tender, not severe or harsh.

That was Nehemiah’s approach to the people of Israel. He used his own resources to supply his needs. He came expecting nothing from anyone other than the help to do what God had laid on his heart. He was gentle to the people placed in his care.

You see, God hasn’t placed people in your life for you to see what you can get out of them, but for what you can deposit into them.

God’s reward is guaranteed. Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”

So, if you’re exhausted and weary from the harshness of this world, and if you feel depleted because of it, come to Jesus and be refreshed and find rest.

Jesus extends this beautiful, gentle invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle (there’s that word again) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls….”

Be still in His presence. Be at peace & let Him quiet your soul with His gentle love, and in Him find your rest.

WHAT’S YOUR HEART CONDITION?

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WHAT’S YOUR HEART CONDITION?
Nehemiah 5:1-13

In the midst of this project, Nehemiah is faced with an issue that at first glance seems like it really has nothing to do with rebuilding the wall. But it did.

Because the issue he dealt with was a heart issue. Greed, taking advantage of the situation for personal gain, you know, how we treat one another. In other words, issues we face today. Nehemiah knew that once the wall was rebuilt people were going to have to learn how to get along because they would be in closer proximity to one another. He went to the heart of the issue, their hearts, to make the needed adjustments to stave off future troubles.

Let’s look at it as we answer the question, “What’s the condition of your heart?”

Nehemiah 5:1-13 , “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine (maybe caused from the influx of many people all at once, food became scarce).” Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king (of Persia’s) tax on our fields and vineyards (food, shelter, ways to earn money, these are genuine needs). Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry (with righteous indignation). I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them— 1% (possibly a month, 12% a year) of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.” “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say (according to God’s Word).” Then I summoned the priests (God’s representatives) and made the nobles and officials take an oath (before God) to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe (pulled my pants pockets inside out) and said, “In this way may God shake out (empty out) of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied (of all their profits and possessions)!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised (according to God’s Word).”

Nehemiah was upset because this was a direct act of disobedience & disregard of the command found in Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.”

These rich Jews were blessed by God and were in a position to be a blessing and help to their fellow man, but instead took advantage of and exploited the situation for their own personal gain.

Think about what’s in your pockets or purses right now. Wallets, keys, check books. They represent much of what we “own”. Our cars, homes, etc, and our checking, savings, & investment monies. Do you “own” it or does it “own” you?

Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10-11, “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

God used Nehemiah to call these guys out on their tight-fisted grudging heart, their greed, and their selfishness, and remind them of what they should be doing instead.

The World’s Plan- “Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.”

God’s Plan- “Do what you can, when you can, how you can, with what you have, as unto the Lord.”

God desires us to be a conduit, not a reservoir, a channel, not a pool, a funnel, not a bucket.

Should we invest wisely? Yes. Should we be good stewards of our resources? Yes. Should we take care of our family’s needs? Yes. But we should also be willing and ready to give to everyone that is in need. Be openhanded & open-hearted, willing to share God’s bounty with others.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

These men had the opportunity to be generous and willing to share, but instead put people in a place of bondage for their own personal gain. They didn’t see the big picture and were looking our for themselves only.

I’ve struggled at times with being willing to share. I must admit I’m not by nature the most giving, generous person in the world.

I meet others who are givers and find myself at times envious of them. They have no problem giving of their time, talent, and treasure to others. They seek out opportunities to give, and gladly do it from their hearts, not out of compulsion.

It’s a want to, not a have to. And that’s the hurdle I often am required to jump over as it relates to giving.

I know it’s RIGHT to be a giver. I know I’ll be blessed when I do. It’s just getting over that hump, whether it be fear, selfishness, greed, inconvenience, or maybe even cynicism or indifference.

There are so many voices giving me reasons to NOT be generous, to NOT give, to NOT care, telling me to look out for #1, to let the “other person do it”, to take advantage of the situation, to “get while the gettin’s good”, but none of those will come back to bless me, instead they will come back to my detriment.

That’s what God’s Word says, His Word that seems convoluted from the world’s vantage point, who’s warped standards are celebrated and practiced by a selfish, greedy, unregenerate culture.

Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

This really seems counterintuitive. Give and you gain even more? True, in God’s economy. Be generous and prosper? Yes, but not just in finances. Prosperity comes in so many different forms.

3 John 1:2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health (prosper) and that all may go well with you (prosper), even as your soul is getting along well (prospering).”

The prosperity gospel that is so appealing to Christians says, “Give to get”, as if God is some sort of slot machine. Put a token in, pull the lever, and win the jackpot!

This feeds our fleshly pursuits and is justified, like many doctrines in the Church today, by Scripture taken out of context and manipulated to fit our selfish, carnal lifestyles.

While our main focus it seems is mostly the pursuit of the almighty dollar, God’s primary focus is the prosperity of our souls as we are in pursuit of the Almighty Christ.

The Jewish men Nehemiah confronted had the pursuit of the almighty dollar in their sights. They had forgotten the command of God. They had as their singular focus getting rich, at the neglect of their right relationship with God. And just as Esau did, they traded their God-given birthright for a measly cup of soup.

He would that we would prosper in all areas of our life at the same pace, level, and intensity as our relationship is prospering with Jesus Christ.

Out of this prosperity comes the genuine reflection of His care & concern, His love & compassion, to the world around us. It’s the outpouring of our inner prosperity that manifests itself in genuine giving of our whole being to mankind, just as Jesus Himself did for us.

It’s the mark of a true and matur(ing) Christian.

It was out of His great love for us that He gave His life for us. The Cross the was the ultimate expression of that love.

He expects us to do the same. We give expecting nothing in return. We give because we’ve been blessed to be a blessing. We give without holding a grudge. We do what we can, when we can, how we can, with what we have, as unto the Lord, and know God is pleased as we honor Him with our lives.

Did you know that everyone reading this has a heart condition? Not that you need to go to the doctor and get checked! That’s not what I’m talking about!

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Jesus taught us in Luke 12:32-34, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The Jewish men’s hearts were tested, and they failed the test. Their true colors came shining through when they began to mistreat the people and manipulate the situation for their personal gain.

The condition of our physical heart is tested when we do a stress test. You may have gotten on one of those machines to see how much stress your heart can take. Based on its results, a diagnosis is given and a plan of action is formulated.

I’m convinced that many hearts today are being tested and stressed as a result of this message. No one likes their wallets or purses messed with. But based on your response, and only you and God knows what’s going on right now, you can come up with an accurate diagnosis and commit to a plan of action to make things better.

So, how’s your heart doing right now? 10 milligrams of generosity, STAT!

So, God has blessed us in so many ways. And He’s blessed us to be a blessing. He desires to prosper us in all areas as our soul prospers in Him. And He’s continually testing our hearts in this, checking to see where our treasure truly lies.

But how we give is just as important as what we give.

Jesus described how we should give when He said in Matthew 6:2-4, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

It would be like me standing here and telling you of a wonderful opportunity I had this past week to help a stranger on the street. Yeah, I put him up in a hotel, fed him a great big meal, bought him a suit & a new pair of shoes, and gave him some cash for his journey. Praise God He gave me the opportunity! ZONK! I just lost my heavenly reward!

I’ve heard of people boasting in such ways over the years, talking about themselves in such a way to glorify themselves instead of God. But God blesses those who give in secret.

Let me challenge you to do a generous deed anonymously this week. You name it. It could be anything, and it doesn’t have to involve money. Get creative. Ask God to show you. But do it without the person or anyone else knowing. When you do, you’ll discover this wonderful feeling inside your heart, and you’ll be well on your way to being the kind of person this message today is describing, one who is a conduit of blessing for the Lord’s purposes.

This wasn’t just an OT command, by the way, but it was in fact expanded upon in the NT when the Church first begun.

The beginnings of the Church were marked by this selfless, caring lifestyle. Acts 2:42-45 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

They not only didn’t charge interest, they did in even expect to be paid back! They pooled their resources to make sure the widows, orphans, and other needy in their congregation never went without.

We have a needy family fund here at Faith. Over the years we’ve seen folks give into it so that when the needs arise, which they always do, we are able to take care of them so that no one struggles. It’s a tangible love of Jesus expressed by this precious Body of Believers, and I thank you for your continued generosity towards it.

One of my favorite truths in God’s Word is, you can’t out give God.

Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

You can try, but the more you give, the more you will receive…..so you can give more!

Nehemiah reminded the Jewish men of what God’s Word commanded, and they repented and decided to give back all the stuff and the interest as well, not just 1%, but 1% a month, which equals 12%! They set themselves up to be blessed by God to be a blessing.

I spoke with a pastor friend of mine this week who told me he hadn’t made any more than $17K in any given year. Yet he told me story after story of resources of food and other ministry items that had flowed through him over the years to minister in his community.

He hadn’t had much of a personal income, to be sure, but hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed through him over the years as a conduit to touch his community for Jesus Christ.

He is rich in the treasure that will last, the one stored up for him in Heaven.

As you are faithful in the little things, He’ll give you more in which to be faithful, because He knows He can trust you.

God has blessed us in so many ways, and we are blessed to be a blessing. He wants our lives to prosper in every area as our souls prosper in Him. He’s concerned about our hearts, though, and will test us to make sure our treasure always remains in Him. So we give – secretly, generously, as unto the Lord, with a glad heart.

Let’s give our whole lives generously for the cause of Christ, including our money, our words, our thoughts, our bodies, our marriages, our occupations, our relationships, our studies, our abilities, our possessions, our everything!

The Bible says God shakes us continually, so that only what cannot be shaken remains.

He will continually shake out the wrinkles in our lives, the pride, the greed, the lack of concern, and lay us bare if need be so that what is left is humility, generosity, and genuine love for others.

To their credit, these wealthy Jews didn’t push back and resist, but yielded quickly in obedience to God’s command. They all said, “Amen”, and praised the Lord.

May we do the same as the Holy Spirit tests our hearts and lovingly corrects us so that we can have shaken out of us the wrinkles of our fleshly ways and clothe ourselves in the righteousness of Christ.

Can you say Amen? Can you say, Praise the Lord?