Monday, October 13, 2014

Nehemiah Journal - #7 - A Watchful LIfe - Nehemiah 7:1-73

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.   Proverbs 4.23

Many Christians today want to center on blessings, blessings, blessings.  Now, blessings aren’t bad, but they are not the center of the target here.  Blessings are a by-product of obedience and watchfulness over our Christian lifestyle.  They are not the end we seek – they are the serendipitous overflow of a life lived under obedience to the direction of God.

Nehemiah displays several principles that can help every one of us as we apply them to our roles in life.  The principles work with leadership, work life and raising your kids and grandkids.  It has to do with how to live a watchful life.

In our study of Nehemiah we’ve seen how, against great odds and opposition they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days. 

Once the shell to the city was rebuilt it was time to concentrate on building up the homes.  They had to build and keep watch at the same time.

Principle I - Watch the BORDERS Carefully

1Now when the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed, Nehemiah 7:1 (NASB)

Godly watchfulness is a constant theme in the Bible:
Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.  Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God;  2 John 1.8-9  (NASB)

In 1991 I preached a message to the church I was serving.  It was near Independence Day.  I said this about our political roots:
We were founded as a Democracy, based upon the basic Judeo-Christian model of Holy Scripture; we have been called a Christian nation - Our pledge of allegiance even says we are one nation under God.  But we are no longer a Christian nation.

There are some looks you never forget.  At the sound of my words, one lady had the look of someone who'd been shot between the eyes.  She didn't move the rest of the service, deep in thought.  After the service she came to me and said, “Oh, Pastor, are we not a Christian nation anymore?  What are we?”  I gently placed my hand on her shoulder and said, “Dottie, we are a secular nation”.  She thought a minute, and then asked, “When did it happen?  Nobody told me”.

When it comes to watching the borders at home, parents cannot be too careful.  Several years ago a single father called me, wanting help with Christmas.  I questioned the man and found out he doesn’t go to church, but he allows a church to take his children (both pre-teens) every Sunday.  They go all the way from down around Denton to Winston. 

When I asked the name of the church the man couldn’t remember it.  I said to him, Mister, you let them take your kids 30 miles, and you don’t even know what church it is?  His reply was:  Well I trust them; they’re real nice.  They bring the kids bubble gum and stuff every week.  

Now, folks, that’s not watching the borders of home. 

Principle II - Examine the BUILDERS Constantly

then I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.
Nehemiah 7:2 (NASB)

Nehemiah didn’t put just anyone in charge of the city he’d just risked his life to rebuild.  He chose men who were faithful and men who feared God above others’ example. 

How did he know these men were faithful?  I can’t really say, but I will venture a guess that he investigated thoroughly by reputation as well as proving them in the work; what convinced Nehemiah was probably their daily example of working on the wall and leading others.

It was that way in the early church as they selected leaders:
Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.    1 Timothy 3.8-10

Many churches these days hold a popularity contest when they elect leaders – or a political and friend-building exercise.  That isn’t Biblical; it isn’t even smart.  Just because you like someone doesn’t mean [s]he makes a good leader.  On the contrary, leadership means holding firmly to the stuff, even when people don’t like it – or you! 

When you choose leaders make certain they are committed to this church, and to God’s principles.  Anything less is not examining the builders or watching the borders.
Now, it’s important as parents to make certain there are Godly people exercising Godly discernment who are leading our children.  A question that should constantly be on our minds is:  Are our Sunday School classes building lives or are they simply entertaining or “babysitting” our children?  Are we guilty of being activity directors or are we in the spiritual development business?

There is no “wiggle room” on any of that.  

I served in a church once where there was a dark past hovering over the youth ministry.  A few years before I arrived, two young adults (a man and woman) were co-leaders of the Youth Department.  They were both married, but not to each other.  They took the youth to camp that year, and hid nothing of their passion for each other.  She got pregnant.

Ladies and gentlemen, that couple’s obscene example split that church wide open the year I accepted the pastorate there.  The reason was poor choice of leadership.  Those folks should not have been in leadership.  They had no commitment to God’s Word.  Leaders especially have a responsibility to avoid even the appearance of evil
Abstain from all appearance of evil.   1 Thessalonians 5.22

What that means is, even if there is nothing going on, make certain what you do doesn’t even give that impression – not by the world’s standards, but by Christ’s standard. 

I don’t counsel with women unless one of two conditions are met – either my door is open, and there’s someone else in the next room, or my wife is present.  I could say nothing is happening…I want everyone to know nothing is happening.  I’ve been accused of being afraid of women because of my stance on this – I’d rather be accused on the side of Christ than stand silently convicted. 

That’s what it means to constantly examine the builders.  You have to take a look at who is influencing your children…and your own life. 

Kevin Garvey has a thriving business in Broward County, Florida.  He is the only trapper licensed by the county to remove nuisance alligators.  In 2000, he received 616 alligator complaints and removed 97 animals.  The top spot in his county [for gator sightings is] Weston, a meticulously groomed planned city.  Seems the homeowners there, who spent up to $700,000 for their homes, did not expect [or] appreciate giant reptiles in their idyllic new community.…Weston and other planned communities are often built right on top of the marshlands that were previously inhabited by the offensive reptiles….Such a story begs the question:  How could anyone who moves into prime alligator habitat be surprised to see alligators there? 

In the same way, why do so many Christians settle for lifestyles that invite trouble, then act surprised when they fall into sinful conduct?[1]  Nehemiah examined the life of those leaders he put in charge of running Jerusalem.  In the lives of our children and grandchildren, it is no less important.               

The borders must be carefully watched, and the builders must be constantly examined, and then….

Principle III - Follow the BLUEPRINT Faithfully

These were they who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon and Immer; but they could not show their fathers’ houses or their descendants, whether they were of Israel:  Nehemiah. 7:61 (NASB)
The whole assembly together was 42,360, besides their male and their female servants, of whom there were 7,337; and they had 245 male and female singers.  Their horses were 736; their mules, 245; their camels, 435; their donkeys, 6,720.              Nehemiah 7:66-69 (NASB)

Unless you read the passage closely you can miss something.  Starting at verse 6 there is a long list of the members of each family.  At verse 61 we are shown the list of those without valid claim to being in the family.  They presented themselves as part of the nation of Israel, but they had no birth certificate proof!  Verses 66 – 69 add up the total (even the mules) of all the true members of the household – positively excluding those pretenders.

There is a word to each of us here about being in the family.  There’s a wonderful little Gospel song…”The Family of God”.  The chorus is, I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.  For those folks who lived near Jerusalem, and had called themselves Jews, part of the family of Reuben or Judah, or whatever, there came a time when proof was required.  When there was no proof, they were put outside. 

The parallel is easy to see from Matthew 7:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’       Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)

There is that about the Christian family.  It is open to anyone; God has said so!  On the other hand, God has also said how that happens; there is only one blueprint for salvation.  You come via the cross, not how good you’ve been, or how much money you’ve given, or how often you’ve gone to church.

The blueprint to be obedient to God is to confess to God the fact that you are a sinner, believing that Christ died for you to take your punishment for sin. 

And, by faith you receive the forgiveness He freely offers anyone who will come to Him that way.

Who is it that is building your life?  Are your borders secured? 

Is God’s blueprint being followed?
Following the blueprint of God’s Word is a watchful life that will be blessed. 

[1] Ed Rowell, Franklin, Tennessee; source: USA Today (7-24-01)                         

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