Staying the Course Despite Resistance

20171201_gettyimages-462881839_FotorGod never promises that we will experience easy times, never encountering resistance; after all we are in the midst of the most significant war in history.  In this war, the soul of every man and woman hang in the balance.  I’m not sure I even understand the scale of this war.  It is a war that’s ending is already known, but every single man and woman on this earth has a choice…to follow the ways of Christ and submit to His Lordship or follow the ways of the world and submit to its lordship. To either experience freedom…or bondage.  I believe Nehemiah understood this war. His choice to take the resistance he encountered to the Lord, seek His wisdom, then take action, is a clear identifier that he understood.  (For a better understanding of the personal battle we face, especially as believers in the western world, please read Killing Kryptonite, by John Bevere).

Nehemiah had a few people who were relentless in their pursuit of making his and the builders of the wall lives completely miserable…Sanballat and Tobiah.  I am not sure these two knew it, but the enemy’s goal through them was to prevent the protection of Israel and its people and to ensure they continue to be blended into the world so as to remove their identity in God. Ultimately, his goal was to ensure their soul, in this great war, fell on the side of hell. They harassed Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall.  And this was Nehemiah’s response:

Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6)

A couple points I want to make about this passage and what follows in chapter 4 of Nehemiah.

  1. Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews who were rebuilding the wall were being criticized and threatened. The threat was real and it was physical in nature.  At the beginning of the chapter it was noted the Samaritan army was involved and later, Nehemiah and the people took up arms.  BUT, in the face of a real and significant threat, Nehemiah’s gut reaction was to pray and seek the Lord FIRST.  Nehemiah’s prayer displays the fact he refused to take matters in to his own hands, but instead asked the Lord to deal with the threat.  What is your reaction to a threat?  Fight or Flight?  What about prayer, even in the midst of a threat?  All God needs to hear is an open heart and a cry for help…He will respond.
  2. Nehemiah took action after he sought God’s wisdom, “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh 4:9). He charged his men to take up arms and every man had a sword on his side…they built with one arm and defended with the other arm.  Nehemiah himself kept a man with a trumpet next to his side, so in the case there was a battle, all parties could gather at the sound.  Throughout this ordeal Nehemiah kept encouraging the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome” and “Our God will fight for us.”  Nehemiah prayed, took action, encouraged his people, and trusted the Lord.  The results? “When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (Neh 4:15).

James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20b); I would suggest that prayer without action is powerless and weak prayer.  What kind of faith does it take to sit down and pray for the Lord to build the wall in the middle of all my enemies?  None what-so-ever!  On the other hand, what kind of faith does it take to seek the Lord, hear His voice, and begin rebuilding the wall under a pagan king, surrounded by people that hate you? SIGNIFICANT FAITH.  Now, I want to caution you that action without seeking the Lord is just as foolish…action for the sake of action, success for the sake of success, trying to prove your worth…is simply an idol in the way of the Lordship of Christ and God’s will for your life.

Stop now!!! And ask the Lord where he needs you to take action today.  If you are willing to pray that prayer and truly mean it with no exceptions, He will use you in a significant way.  Just get ready for the adventure!!!

Blessings!!!

Scott

 

Fasting For Breakthrough

Presence

Todays post is written by my friend and pastor, Matt Wagner.  I met Matt in 2001, while Danielle and I lived in Bartow, Florida. Matt is an amazing leader who is driven to make disciples who make disciples.  He has church planting flowing through his veins, successfully planting six churches to date, with another 999,994 on his heart.

Exodus 33:15

Over the years I have not blogged much but have found myself standing at the window peaking in, desiring to experience the power and transformation that comes from a consistent and steady diet of articulating thought.  So, here goes!

As many of you know, we as a church recently started a 21 day fast.  What is interesting is that I have done fasts for many years now.  I have fasted for a few days and I have fasted for 21 days.  I have fasted and fallen off the wagon and I have fasted for some breakthrough only to find that my discipline ended up being nothing more than a glorified diet.

You see, historically speaking, when I have fasted in the past my goal has been for the hand of God to be extended in some area of my life, but not necessarily Him.  I have wanted the impact of God but not necessarily the presence of God.  I have wanted the faithfulness of God, the dream of God, the power of God, the influence of God, but not necessarily His presence.

This is a new-found revelation for me, for if you would have asked me in years past if I desired the presence of the Lord I would have said, “Of course I do.”  It was just that my prayers to God communicated something different.

In Exodus 33, we find a young man by the name of Moses sitting on Mt. Sinai with the Lord.  And it is here that we read Moses had an intimate relationship with God.  As a matter of fact, the Bible makes it clear that Moses was a friend of God.  He experienced God in a personal way.  It was that personal understanding of God that allowed Moses to remain humble and aware of the presence of the Lord.

In this passage, God tells Moses that He is going to keep His promise to the nation of Israel, and He will continue to watch after them, but He himself would not go with them due to them constantly violating His standards.  It is here that Moses makes a powerful declaration, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.  For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight.” (Ex. 33:15, NKJV)

As I read those words, my heart was cut because suddenly I realized that I wanted the impact of God in my life, but did not necessarily want Him.  I guess I would say I could not honestly answer whether or not I would have said the same thing Moses did.  I probably would have said, “Lord, we are going to miss you.  Thank you for blessing us.  We will come visit often.”  You see, I wanted the promised land, without the promise keeper.  Here is the problem with that…if you ever want to forfeit your impact, then short change your intimacy with God.

This fasting season, I encourage you not to focus so much on the breakthrough but rather focus on His Presence.

Remembering God’s Promises

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When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said,

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

“The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”

In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer. (Nehemiah 1:4-11, NLT)

Nehemiah was a younger man who was employed by King Artaxerxes of Persia.  Based on what we knew about Nehemiah, he was well trained in God’s Law; this comes out clearly in his amazing prayers throughout the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah had just received news the wall of Jerusalem was not rebuilt yet, leaving the city and God’s temple exposed to people with bad intentions.  His response to this news…he wept, mourned for his people, fasted, and prayed.  He prayed and he took action, both in his prayers and in his physical form…he went to work.  Yes, prayer involves work!

There are some important components to Nehemiah’s prayer:  he praised God; there was thanksgiving; he repented not only for himself, but for his people; he presented specific requests to God; and he displayed commitment to God by reminding God of His Word.  A couple of the characteristics in Nehemiah’s prayers have grabbed hold of my heart and has caused a significant work in me:  repentance and commitment.  It is my hope that God will speak to your heart and some of these characteristics will become part of your being, part of the thread God uses to weave you into His child, made in His image.

First, for most of us a primary portion of our prayers is repentance.  The closer in relationship I get to my Father, the more I find myself in a state of repentance.  You cannot get closer to the Father, without an increase of awareness of your own brokenness.  Personal repentance is both freeing and allows God to show mercy and bring healing.  Nehemiah takes repentance far beyond personal repentance…he accepts the sin of his people and repents on their behalf (Jesus did this in a very final way, John 3:16-17).  Nehemiah, broken on their behalf and saddened by the fact that God’s city is left exposed to the corruption of the world, repents for his entire people prior to repenting of his own sin. He confesses “we have sinned”, then follows up with “Yes, even my own family and I have sinned.”  Nehemiah took on the sin of all his people. He hurt for them, he was broken for them, he was pleading with the God of heaven to forgive his people…God’s people.

So, the question becomes how often do we have a conversation with somebody about how wicked this world is?  Can you believe what Harvey Weinstein did?  Did you read the president’s tweet?  I cannot believe what Planned Parenthood does.  We need to boycott company “A”.  The list goes on. Nehemiah did not do that, he simply fell on his face in front of a holy God and cried out in repentance for his people.  What would this world look like if every follower of Jesus fell on their face in repentance of our people…His people?  What would it look like if instead of gossiping, we simply prayed with one voice for those people or that organization.  I have a personal responsibility, we have a personal responsibility to lead through prayer and repentance, just as Nehemiah did.  And, if we do, I promise you God will honor His people, just as he did for Nehemiah.

Secondly, Nehemiah always gave God the glory for what he accomplished, but many times Nehemiah would remind God of His word, His promises.  Nehemiah stated, “remember what you told your servant Moses…”  Do you think God really needs a reminder about what He said or has accomplished in the past?  Of course not, but this displays Nehemiah’s commitment to God’s word and His deeds throughout time.  Nehemiah’s prayer was a proclamation to God about His goodness to His people, especially when they were repentant and following His laws. (As a side note, His laws had a significant purpose.  Not to regulate and rule over the people, but to provide the people with safety, security, and joy). You will see throughout Nehemiah’s prayers, he reminds God of His Word, and what he himself has done for the Lord.

How often do you remind God of His word in your prayers?  How often do you remind God of the things you have accomplished for him?  God has challenged me in this area lately; to know His Word well enough to speak it in my conversation with Him and also, to not be afraid to remind God of the sacrifices I have made for Him even though my sacrifice is imperfect.  These things are never done in an attitude of pride or an attempt to manipulate, but simply in a humble conversation with our Father.  Furthermore, when I speak these things out loud, they are a reminder to my flesh of what God has accomplished in me and through me, with the goal of aligning myself with His will.  We are created to accomplish His good works (Eph 2:10), and if you are like me, you need a reminder often.  Reminding God of His Word displays commitment to His truth and further cements those very truths in your own mind.

Over the next few days, pray God’s Word as the Holy Spirit guides you, remind Him of His goodness, His mercy, His patience, and ask Him to forgive His people.  Our world is simply a result of people walking away from God’s goodness.  We are disillusioned to believe God’s goodness is oppressive, when the reality is our own sin is oppressive. God’s goodness, His forgiveness, brings freedom!  Let’s pray for freedom in our cities, our state, our country, and our world.  And, just as Nehemiah did, pray and take action where the Lord leads you.

Blessings in the New Year!

Scott