Faithful and Fearful – Nehemiah 7:1-3

This will not exactly be a gospel message, even though that is my usual intention for a Sunday morning. Spurgeon once told his students: “Every message should eventually come around to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.” And in a round about way, if you hang in there long enough, so will this message. I am currently reading a biography about the life of “Eric Liddell.” Liddell was one of the heros of the 1981 British movie “Chariots of Fire.” It’s a good, clean film that I don’t mind recommending to people, despite its flaws. I also recommend, perhaps a bit more, this book, even though it doesn’t have the catchy music. The film is about the months before the 1924 Paris Olympics and two British runners, Liddell and Harold Abrahams. The Americans not withstanding, Liddell and Abrahams were the two fastest runners in the world. But they were contrasting characters – Abrahams would do anything short of cheating to win. And if he had not won the gold medal at Paris, he would have considered his life a waste. Liddell, the son of a Protestant missionary, ran for the glory of God, and nothing could make him break or bend his Christian principles – not even the possibility of Olympic gold. They were both 100m sprinters, but because some of the early races were to be held on Sunday, Liddell refused to compete. Eventually, he agreed to participate in a much longer race which did not take place on the Lord’s Day. For years he had been training to run the sprint, but in the months before...

Fear and Sin – Nehemiah 6:10-14

On a scale of 1 to 10 how fearful are you? 8, 5, 2 ??? For example, do you fear the Corona Virus? Apparently millions of Americans do. Do you fret about whether or not the government is going to force us all to receive their virus vaccination? Does your blood pressure rise when you hear about electronic currencies or the implantation of a chip? Are you anxious about the upcoming election? Do you worry about potential rioting when the results are announced? I don’t fear any of these things, and perhaps you don’t either, but many of our unsaved neighbors do. There may be as much fear in America today as there was during the Cuban Missile Crisis or World War 2. As I was thinking about today’s panic-stricken society, some of Thomas Paine’s words returned to me. I have never before publicly quoted Thomas Paine, and you’ll likely never hear me quote him again. But Paine, at the time of the revolution against Britain, was one of the most influential men in America. His pamphlets “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis” are sometimes said to make him the father of Revolution. But as a Deist, he also wrote “The Age of Reason,” which was an attack upon Christianity and the Bible. And for that reason I don’t want to give him much credit for anything positive. And yet here I am quoting the man – and deliberately misquoting him as well. On Dec. 23, 1776 Paine published an article called “The Crisis” which with some editing could be reused today. He began with the words which came...

The First Point in John’s Message – Matthew 3:1-4

There was a man who attended our services off and on for a couple years, but who finally had enough and left. He had strange opinions about a great many things, most of which were conjured up in his own head. I say that because it was nearly impossible to reason with him. He didn’t listen to any respected pastors, and he apparently didn’t read the classic works on theology or the Bible. He didn’t appear to be the follower of any man. So today he has chained his wife and children to his feet and has formed a “church” in his own home. One of the last differences between us revolves around “repentance.” He adamantly condemns the modern preaching of repentance. If he had the courage, I’m sure he would have withstood John the Baptist and even Christ Jesus – both of whom said things like, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I think the man’s problem revolves around his own distorted definition of the word. He seems to confuse the Roman Catholic doctrine of “penance” with the Biblical doctrine of repentance. He also confuses “penitence” with repentance. “Penitence” involves the things people do, in penance, when they feel guilty about something. And “penance” is one of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church in which when those folk make confession, they are absolved from the sins which they have committed after baptism. Without doubt, Christ, John, the apostles and God’s later evangelists were not thinking of “penance” or “penitence” when they used the word “repentance.” Here in Matthew 3 the ministry of...

He has Gone to Prepare – Matthew 25:31-34

This morning I have the pleasure to consider several of the most beloved scriptures in all the Word of God. What Christian has not been moved at some point in his life by the words of John 14 – “In my father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Arguably Psalm 23 is the best known and loved of all scriptures – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” And how about I Corinthians 2:9 – “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” These and a dozen other scriptures bring up a theme – a topic – that I’d like you to think about. We are told in these verses that God is – or has been – making preparations for His people. What a blessed thought. And what huge considerations. I know that this contains an accommodation to our weak minds, but there is reality behind the strictly human terminology. We know that the infinite and omnipotent God doesn’t need to plan things before getting them done. And He doesn’t need time in order to complete things. The Lord Jesus, in speaking to us, once said, “What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten...

Nehemiah’s Imprecation – Nehemiah 4:4-5

William Parkinson, was a 3 term chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, and after that he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of New York. Long before, and shortly after his salvation, he was traveling on business, when he heard that a “celebrated preacher” was to deliver a message in a certain town, and Parkinson went to hear him. But the speaker didn’t arrive and the crowd grew restless. When someone recognized Parkinson as the school teacher from a nearby county, he was encouraged to read the Word and give an exhortation or two. Very reluctantly he complied. He chose Psalm 97 as his text, and he commended on verse 11 – “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Parkinson, who was not a preacher at the time, then showed how the passage comforts the Christian and how it should alarm the sinner. It is reported that his hearers paid profound attention, and many became bathed in tears under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When he had finished Parkinson was surprised to learn that he had been preaching for more than 3 hours. I mention this to point out that under the leadership of the Holy Spirit many scriptures which you and I might not think are important, can be used to present the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have no idea how Parkinson used Psalm 97:11 to preach Christ. However, I hope to think that perhaps this prayer of Nehemiah might be used in that way. What first caught my attention and made me think in...

Going Without – Hebrews 12:14

Bro. Fulton and I often joke about one of the common styles of teaching and preaching. Right now, Austin is using the “expository method” in studying David – taking an entire chapter and generally exposing its highlights – while making personal applications. Our study of Nehemiah is similar, in that we are going through his book, but the style I am using is called “textual,” where I try to find specific sermonic points on which to hang the lessons. For example, we had a message on “Ejaculatory Prayer,” and the three points were – the nature, the privilege and the blessing of this kind of prayer. In this kind of preaching, the texts are usually only a few verses long, although tonight’s message covers an entire chapter. This is by far my favorite way of preaching, no matter what it is we are studying. And, personally, I think that it may be easier to digest and remember this kind of message. The third style, the one about which he and I joke, is called the “topical” method. In this variety of sermon, a specific subject is studied – taking scriptures and the points of the message from all over the Bible. There is nothing wrong with “topical preaching,” and sometimes it is the only way to study the subject. But quite often this is the choice of lazy preachers, who don’t want to do the work of real Bible study. Beware of the man who preaches nothing but topics. He may not be the Bible student you need. Topical messages are often by nature more simple than others. I’ve...

The Power of God unto Salvation – Romans 1:14-17; I Corinthians 1:17-18

Did you know that the coronavirus is a relatively large molecule as viruses go? And yet, I have read, a hundred million corona particles can sit on the head of a pin. And by the way, it usually takes a hundred million of those particles to begin to infect someone. When that virus does infect and multiply, the effects are devastating to a human respiratory system. The point is: powerful things – and terrible effects – can be contained in tiny packages. Our subject this morning is the power of God. Now, the God to whom I refer is “Elohim,” the Almighty God – not some imitation or make-believe God. The power of Elohim is unlimited, and it is uncontainable when men get it in their heads to try to thwart it. Just as science hasn’t come up with a way to stop a hurricane out in the Atlantic Ocean, and there is no cork, or fountain of water, or atomic bomb which can stop a raging volcano, even so when God flexes his little finger – things happen, and mankind has to step back or die. Just as God’s power can be seen in the hurricane and earthquake, it can also be seen in the virus and mosquito. Sometimes God’s power can be seen by the eye, and it can be felt by the flesh. But at other times, it is as silent and incidental as a thought of the heart. I have quoted Proverbs 21:1 many times over the last few weeks – “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of...

Our Father which Art in Heaven – Matthew 6:9-13

I hope to use Christ’s model prayer as a guide for making a complex subject simple. This being “Father’s Day,” I’d like to talk to you about the Fatherhood of God. It is a complex subject when we try to talk about Fatherhood and Sonship within the Trinity. God is the Father to God the Son in ways we will never understand – even when we have our future perfect and glorified minds. Besides that – as the Creator, Elohim is father to everyone. And more importantly He is Father to His special people in a special way. Let me begin by saying that I turned to my library, pulling out one set of theologies and 4 books on the subject of God. I was looking for some guidance for an outline to use this morning. “God the Father” wasn’t listed in the index of my 8 volume set “Systematic Theology” by L. S. Chafer. And the neo-evangelical, J. I. Packer in his book “Knowing God” didn’t think it important that we know Him as Father. He had twenty-two chapters with nothing in depth on this aspect of God. A.W. Pink has a book called “Gleanings in the Godhead,” but I couldn’t glean anything in his 25 chapters on the fatherhood of God Stephen Charnock’s and Daniel Chamberlin’s books on God didn’t spend any time on the subject either. I have other theologies, but I have to admit that I gave up at that point and didn’t open any of them. The truth is – the Bible is better than of the theologies of men. And there are over...

The King’s Pleasure – Nehemiah 2:5-8

Proverbs 21:1 is clearly related to our text. It says – “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Solomon – himself a king as great as Artaxerxes Longimanus – willingly bowed to God – “I may be a human king, but there is a King greater than I, and His dominion is greater than mine. My power may be seen in domestic laws, in the execution of criminals, in levying taxes and in armies, but Jehovah’s power is often undetected as it works in the hearts of men turning them this way and that.” This is a hated idea, because we all by nature want to be sovereign over our little dominions – our lives. But this is so commonly taught in the Bible that to deny it is to cast aside the right to be called a “Bible-believing Christian.” Proverbs 16:1 – “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.” I believe that Jehovah was preparing the heart of Artaxerxes, and his answer to Nehemiah was of God. In all this we see a blending of God’s will, Nehemiah’s prayers and the will of the king of Persia. Also, I wonder how much the counsel of his wife had to do with the direction of his heart. Is there a reason that she is specifically mentioned in this text? Did God use the queen to influence her husband? Earlier, Ezra praised God with the words, “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath...

What Makes You Sad? – Nehemiah 2:1-3

The books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther should be studied together or in succession, because they are interrelated and interlocked. The Book of Nehemiah follows the Book of Ezra in time, and Ezra, the man, is found in both books. Artaxerxes is named in two of the books, and Ahasuerus is also mention in two, but not the same two. Esther was Ahasuerus’ Queen some time after Cyrus, but before Artaxerxes the king in this chapter. Before we go on, we need to tie two statements together. Verse 1 concludes with the words, “Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.” And verse 2 ends with “Then I was very sore afraid.” Nehemiah wasn’t simply afraid when the king pointed out his obvious sadness. He was “VERY sore afraid.” He was exceedingly afraid – terrified. How odd that seems to us. How could Nehemiah’s attitude or sadness be a reason to fear the king? There is a statement in Esther which sheds light on this. In the midst of the three emigrations of Jews to Judah, racial prejudice among the heathen below the level of king, was rampant. Everywhere they turned the Jews were either loved or hated – often out of envy, as in the case of Daniel. Esther’s cousin was hated because he honored God and wouldn’t play the political games of the day. Anti-Semitism is nothing new. Not only was there hatred in Judah led by Sanballot and others, fomenting persecution against the returnees. But even in Shushan the hatred against Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah still roiled in the hearts of some Chaldeans...

The King’s Cupbearer – Nehemiah 1:11

“Why are you here in this auditorium this morning?” Or, why, instead of gardening or working on your vehicle are you sitting in front of a screen watching this broadcast of our church service? The simple answer is that the sovereign God ordained that it be so. And in either case the Lord put it in your heart to participate. But beyond that He gave our church the money to buy this building and then supplied the experts and equipment to make this all happen. God has a purpose in presenting today’s message to you. The question is – “What will you make of that opportunity?” Mis-applying the words of Paul to a small degree – “despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” It is a part of the goodness of God which has brought us together today. Now, let me modify my first question just slightly – “Why or how is it that you are the person you are?” Why did you become a school teacher? An auto mechanic? A housewife? A butcher? Whatever? Was it your desire from the time of your earliest memories? Was it accidental? Or thrust upon you? For most people my age, looking back we can see throughout our lives, a combination of good choices and bad choices; changing circumstances and sometimes the miraculous hand of God. The truth is: in every case, the hand of God has been there the whole time, sometimes pushing and sometimes ameliorating the problems our bad decisions have made. You have skilled...

The Godly Christian in a Post-Christian World – Nehemiah 1:1-11

Borrowing from a recent lesson by Bro. Fulton, I am going to say that Nehemiah was a unique individual. Austin pointed out that David, during his exile from home, had a hard time living for God. He had no support structure; only one young inexperience priest; no godly wife to encourage him. He had no access to the Tabernacle of God; his godly friend Jonathan was forbidden to him. He was captain over a pretty motley crew, so generally speaking his companions weren’t much help. I Samuel 22:2 – “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him.” It was through no fault of his own that he had no church, no pastor and no Christian brethren to uplift him. He had no access to Biblical preaching, the prayers of like-minded men, even a Christian handshake. And yet, despite moments, minutes and months of living in the flesh, he was an above average saint. Well, Nehemiah was in much the same situation. Nehemiah – even while in Shushan – had limited access to the outward aspects of his religion. By the way, I need to correct a mistake I uttered last Sunday. I said that when Nehemiah got to Jerusalem there were no strong priests there to support him. I said that Ezra had passed away. I discovered my mistake Monday when in my reading I fought Ezra once again in the spot light. Ezra led the second emigration to Jerusalem which was only 10 years before Nehemiah’s. And the truth is, he was...

Rational Religion – Isaiah 1:1-20

A great many people in our world today think that the old, ancient religions are irrelevant? “In the light of modern scientific thought, we don’t need religions like Bible Christianity.” The people who say such things, think of themselves as intelligent; that they are thinkers. But the fact is that most of them are pseudo-intelligent at best – or plain, old, everyday non-thinkers. Many have heard some famous writer or Hollywood star, and they repeat what they have been told. And some of those pseudo-intelligent notables are often inventing new religions and new gods, to go along with their new movies, new phones, new medical techniques and new modes of transportation. But reality is – the majority of the fallen children of Adam are merely looking for excuses to avoid thinking about the one true and living God. Of course, it must acknowledged there are hundreds of ancient religions which are not worth a second thought. With one exception of course – the faith that Abraham had – and Moses and David. I believe that Adam was saved by grace through faith in the same way the Lord has saved me. The old ways are without a doubt the very best ways. We aren’t going to stop eating vegetables simply because our great grandparents ate vegetables. I am, not going to stop enjoying the heat of the sun, just because that same sun warmed the faces of Adam and Abraham. And I am not going to trash the worship of Jehovah simply because He was worshiped by godly people 5,000 years ago. The Bible is as relevant in the...

Do You See Yourself in Job’s Reflection? – Job 1:1

There are people who, knowing a little bit about the Bible, picture themselves as the descendants of Job. They have heard about some Bible character who lost everything, and they remember his unusual name. He had been at the top of the world in so many ways, but every one of those avenues to success had been blocked, and then stripped away, like some sort of evil ambush. He lost his oxen and asses to marauding Sabeans, and at nearly the same moment three bands of Chaldeans rustled all the man’s camels. Immediately on the heels of that, a great wind, perhaps like an American tornado, brought down the house where all of Job’s children were celebrating something – a birthday, perhaps birth – something. Not long after that Job’s health broke. He came down with a terrible disease which ate away his very skin. When Mrs. Job could take it no longer she turned on her husband – “Then said his wife unto him. Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die.” Some of our half-educated neighbors picture themselves as grandchildren of Job, because these are troublesome times – much of which related to this Covid-19 problem. Not only have 39,000 Americans died, and 161 thousand people world-wide … But the reaction – the over reaction – of dictatorial governments, has effectually stripped millions of people of their camels, asses and oxen, taking from them the opportunity of earing a living. We are even forbidden, threatened, and sometimes fined for entering our houses of worship. And we are encouraged to mask our faces. It is believed...

Resurrection Results (33 AD) – Mark 16:1-7

This is arguably the most religious week of the calendar year. For the people of Israel, the Passover began last Thursday, and for most professing “Christians” today is Easter. Only the rest of the world – Muslims, Hindus and other unbelievers would argue with me. But there is a pall – a dark cloud, a funeral shroud – draped over us this year. We aren’t gathering as we usually do – rejoicing together in the empty tomb, publically singing the great resurrection hymns. And for those Catholics and Protestants whose salvation depends on the festivities of this day, they must be pulling their religious hair out worrying about the future of their idolatrous souls, especially since they could be running a fever of 102º by tomorrow evening. Because born-again Christians are not bound to the empty tomb for deliverance from sin, I had considered not preaching the resurrection this morning. It seemed to me, under the circumstances, that there could be better subjects to address this “Easter.” But Thursday, as I sat down at my desk, the Lord brought me to my senses and back to the subject of His resurrection. According to the calendar this is “Easter.” I believe it is the day after Christ’s resurrection. And as such it is as appropriate a subject in a plague-infested-2020 as it is any other year. Let’s begin with my understanding of the events of the last week of our Lord’s earthly life. I believe that Christ was crucified at about noon on Wednesday, and He died just before sundown that day. In haste that Wednesday He was laid in...