Moved to Action!

Nehemiah 2:1-3 

And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?

Division – Violence – Strife – Suffering: When we turn on the news, these are the words the would describe a lot of what is on the headlines. We hear of school shooting and turmoil in the government. There is a lot of good that is happening, but it is overshadowed many times by the dark issues of our time. It is easy to get despondent, overwhelmed and give into the tendency to just unplug. 
Nehemiah chose to allow the news of his friend to sink in rather than stick his head in the sand and ignore what was happening. He allowed it to break his heart and to move him to action. He didn’t just take the news, shed a tear and move on with his life – he chose to do something about it. He allowed the condition of his people to stir something deep inside him that would not let him just sit idly by. Nehemiah determined to go and rebuild those walls!
Are you broken over what is happening around you? When you hear of the violence in the inner city – do you simply shake your head and thank God that you don’t live in that environment? Or does the poverty, the drug abuse, the suicide and the violence break your heart for a people that God loved enough to go the cross and shed His precious blood for? The walls are broken down, the gates are consumed, the city lies in waste – What are you going to do about it?
This morning as we Refocus our hearts and minds on Christ we must determine not to stick our heads in the sand. In a world consumed by sin we must stand as beacons of hope as we take the Love of Christ to the uttermost – the outermost! Allow what you see around you to move you to action! 

Reminders of God’s Promises

Nehemiah 1:8-11

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. 10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. 11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

What are some things you have done to remind you of something important? Some tie a string on their finger, hang a chalk board in the kitchen, or put a sticky note on a mirror or refrigerator. Technology is a big help in this too. My phone has a reminder app that I can set to help me remember important things, as long as I remember to use it! We do all of this because it is easy to forget important things as we do life.
The verses we are focusing on this morning is part of a prayer. Nehemiah has received bad news from Jerusalem. The people are hurting, the walls are broken and the gates are burned. This broke his heart and he cried out to God in prayer. In verse 8 he “reminds” God of His promise. God had told Israel that if they turned from God, He would allow them to be scattered, but if they would turn back to Him then God would restore them. Did Nehemiah think that God had forgotten His own Word? Did God need to be reminded of His promises like a busy father who had promised his son that he would go a play catch after work, but let it slip his mind in the business of his day? 
It is not God that needs the reminder, its me. God’s promises are the one things that we can be absolutely sure of – but too many times we forget. When I feel alone and fearful, I need to be reminded of the promise that God is always with me (Deut. 31:6). When I find myself away from God, I need to be reminded of the promise of God’s faithfulness (1 John 1:9). When the battle is on and I am running out of strength, I need to be reminded that He is the one who is the source of my strength (Phil. 4:13). What promise do you need to be reminded of today?
As we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ today, let’s remember the promises of God. God doesn’t forget them, but sometimes we need to be reminded so we can learn to trust in His faithfulness. (Romans 4:21, “And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”)

Our Trusty Sword

Ephesians 6:17b 
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
Growing up in the country was awesome. There was no internet, no cell phones, no video games (mom outlawed the Atari). Anything we could put our hands on became the toy of choice as we used our imaginations. We used to love playing like we were knights on a quest, like King Arthur! Excalibur was in our hands and with it we could vanquish the dragon that threatened our castle! Of course, Excalibur was a sturdy stick and the foe was the dog that wandered up into the yard…but it was fun to pretend as long as we were back in the castle in time for supper! I can still remember the thrill of victory as the dragon yelped and ran back to where it had come from. The kingdom was safe, and mom was calling.
As nice as it is to remember the “good old days”, the reality of today sets in eventually. The battles we face daily are much different than a pretend dragon attacking our kingdom. The enemy that we face is real and always around that next corner. That is why we have been talking about the armor of the Christian. The breastplate, the shoes, the belt, the helmet and the shield all help to protect us as we face the foe. I thank my God, that he did not leave us defenseless, but He also didn’t leave us weaponless! He has given us a sword. Sharper than any scalpel, stronger than any steel. With this sword the enemy flees, kings are humbled and lives are transformed. It’s Name? The Word of God. 
The sword the Paul had in mind was called the “gladius”. Historians call this the “sword that conquered the world” as the roman soldiers used it to defeat the enemy and spread the influence of Rome. Around 2 feet long, it was especially useful for close combat. Used in conjunction with the shield the warrior would batter down the defenses of the opponent, and move in close to vanquish the foe. The sword was an extension of the arm of the trained warrior and because of that, he could step onto the battlefield with the confidence needed for victory.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is alive, and powerful – sharper than any sword. When Christ was tempted by Satan, He countered with scripture. When the apostles were arrested and tried, they preached the word of God. Over the years, it hasn’t dulled, it hasn’t lost its power. The Sword of the Spirit wielded in the hands and heart of the Christian will still defeat the foe of doubt, discouragement and temptation. Used in conjunction with our faith in the truths of God’s word the enemy is driven back and defeated. We must know it, we must apply it! And when the battle comes we can stand in confidence of the faith it His Word, knowing that when the smoke clears and all is said and done we will stand with Christ in victory!
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us take up our sword. When the attack comes, and it will, we must be ready with the Word of God if we are to have the hope of victory. Let it transform you, let it lead you – let its truth sink so far deep into your heart that it truly becomes and extension of who you are!