GETTING TO THE MOON
by Mike Kern
Illus.- "The Moon Car"
Jeff, a Wycliffe Bible translator, was working on the island of Papua New Guinea to translate God’s Word into the islanders’ native language. One evening Jeff sat outside talking with his translator assistant, a local native he had spent months with learning the language and translating the New Testament.
As they sat outside looking up into the night sky, Jeff pointed at the moon and asked his assistant, "What is it?"
The assistant responded with his language’s word for the moon. "No," Jeff replied. "What is it?"
"Well," his assistant began. "When I was young my father told me a story. He said that his father’s father’s father’s father’s father once carved a great spear. He then took this large spear and, with all his might, hurled it into the sky, where it stuck fast. When we look at the moon, what we are actually seeing is the round end of that spear."
The assistant then turned to Jeff and asked, "What about you? What did your father tell you about the moon?"
Jeff chuckled and said, "In America, we are told that many years ago some men built a great big metal bird. When the bird was finished, three men put on special suits and climbed inside the bird. Then the bird took off from the ground and flew all the way up to the moon.
"They flew around the moon several times, then two men climbed into the bird’s head. The head detached from the body, leaving behind the third man, and flew down to the surface of the moon, where it landed. The two men got out of the bird’s head in their special suits and began to walk around. They discovered that on the surface of the moon there were no trees, water, grass, buildings or anything else; nothing but rocks and dirt.
"After looking around a bit, they opened up the bird’s head and took out a little car they had brought with them. They got in the car and drove around on the moon, collecting rocks and some dust. Then they planted an American flag and got back into the bird’s head, leaving behind the car. The head then flew back to the body still circling the moon, where it was reattached. Then the whole big metal bird and the three men flew all the way back to earth, where they landed in a great big lake and were picked up by men in giant canoes."
Jeff continued, "We actually have a museum in America where you can go and look at the rocks that the men brought back from the moon in the metal bird."
The assistant sat quietly for a moment pondering the story he’d just been told. As he turned to reply, Jeff, expecting some question about how the metal bird was built or what the rocks looked like, was amused to hear his assistant ask, "So, you mean to tell me they left a perfectly good car up there?"
"Yes," Jeff answered. "They sure did."
"Do you think they left the keys in it?" The assistant asked.
"I’m sure the keys are there," Jeff said. "Furthermore, the car was built by the American government. I am here from America, and as an American citizen, I give you that car! It’s yours!"
A smile broke out on his assistant’s face. He turned and gazed intently at the moon, as if searching for a glimpse of the vehicle he now owned, then turned and said, "But, how do I get it down?"
Jeff laughed and replied, "It’s your car, you work it out!"
1. Ever feel like your destiny is car on moon, & God’s telling you, "It’s your car, you work it out!"?
a. Sometimes it seems like the promises of God are so wonderful, yet so impossibly far from reality!
b. How am I ever going to amount to something in the Kingdom of God? I can barely keep my own life together, let alone be used to minister to others!
c. The thought of me ever preaching the gospel, or running a youth ministry, or leading a music group or drama team, or taking movie outreaches into neighborhoods! Come on, it’s hard enough just getting myself in church three times a week!
You hear sermons on destiny and ministry, you read about God using common men and women to do great things, you long for something more in your walk with God…
a. But, like the Bible translator’s assistant, you find yourself asking, "That’s all fine and dandy, but how do I get there?"
b. You look at where you are, then where you’d like to be and think, "There’s just no way to get there from here!"
3. Today, I want to preach on "Getting To The Moon"
4. Nehemiah understood the sense of hopelessness we can feel many times in serving God
a. Israel has been sacked by the Babylonians, it’s people enslaved
b. Nehemiah receives word of the destruction of Israel’s greatest city, Jerusalem -- home of the temple
c. No doubt remembers the city in all its glory… Had prob. gone to the temple many times with thousands of fellow Jews to worship God… Beautiful, carefully designed and built city and temple
d. Now lies in ruins… Situation seems hopeless… No way to rebuild (we’re prisoners)
5. Yet, Nehemiah somehow grasps that God hasn’t given up… and neither will he! And with that he steps forward into destiny and did what some thought was as impossible as getting to the moon!
a. How did he do it? What made him different that the millions of other Jews in similar circumstances?
b. How is it that through the actions of Nehemiah, the walls were rebuilt, the city was restored and the temple once again became the focal point of worship for the nation of Israel?
c. I want to examine three keys today to being the man or woman God has called you to be, regardless of how impossible it seems.
I. Make Yourself Available
A. NEHEMIAH WASN’T THE BEST MAN FOR THE JOB
1. Nehemiah’s destiny was to rebuild Jerusalem and it’s temple
a. He wasn’t a construction worker… had a cushy job in the palace
b. Furthermore, proj. had enemies… Builders were armed at all times against attack…
c. Nehemiah was no soldier… Bible doesn’t say he had any leadership experience
2. The only thing Nehemiah had going for him was… He was available
a. I’m sure he felt inadequate for the task at hand… "I’m the wrong guy for the job!"
b. Yet Nehemiah saw the need and set about to do what had to be done!
Illus.- "An American Army of Two"
Rebecca and Abigail Bates lived on the coast of Massachusetts, near a little village named Scituate. Their father was the keeper of the lighthouse, which stood at the entrance of the harbor and warned ships away from the rocky coast.
One day Rebecca and Abigail were up in the tower, polishing the great glass that sent the light far over the sea. Their father and mother had rowed across the bay to the village, leaving the lighthouse in their daughters’ care. As they polished away with all their might, they noticed a strange ship creeping around a point. It stopped and lowered two little boats, which turned and started toward land.
At that time people feared every ship they did not know, for the year was 1814 and America and England were at war. British ships often sailed right into harbors and sent their soldiers ashore to attach the villages. The British had already made one raid on Scituate’s harbor, and had burned ten vessels before putting back to sea.
Now Rebecca and Abigail stood frozen in the lighthouse, peering down and holding their breath while they waited to see what these two strange boats would do. Closer and closer they crept, until finally they entered the harbor. They were full of British soldiers!
The girls looked along the shore. No help was to be seen. What could they do? If they could only warn the townspeople! But they had no boat, and there would be no time to run to the village, for it was a long way around the bay.
Rebecca grabbed her sister by the sleeve.
"Listen, Abigail," she cried. "Here’s what we two girls are going to do." And she began whispering into her ear, as if the British might hear her plan as they rowed swiftly across the water.
The sisters raced down the winding staircase and across the lawn to their house. Abigail snatched up a drrum, which her father had brought home to mend just the other day. Rebecca grabbed a fife, and they slipped out of the house toward the beach, crouching behind bushes and sandhills to keep out of sight.
The British boats were now quite close, and the soldiers were preparing to leap ashore. Suddenly the order was given to halt. The soldiers listened closely.
From behind a clump of cedar trees came the beating of a drum, and then the squeak of a fife. It was not skillful, but it was loud and clear -- the strains of "Yankee Doodle" floated over the sands.
"The militia has seen us coming!" cried the British soldiers. "They will attack us as soon as we land!" They turned their boats around and rowed for their lives, back to their ship.
A moment later the villagers spotted the British boats. They raised a great alarm, and all hurried toward the lighthouse.
When they reached the point, they found only Rebecca and Abigail Bates, sitting on a rock, watching a faraway ship put to sea. A drum and fife lay beside them.
The "American Army of Two" had won the day.
3. Ever feel like a child up against an army?! What hope did these two young girls have?
a. Yet, rather than hiding in fear, doing nothing… they chose to rise up to the challenge
b. No weapons, no strength in numbers, nothing but an old drum and a fife
c. But because they were willing to try, the enemy was routed!
B. GOD WILL EQUIP YOU
1. Nehemiah did not leave for Jerusalem empty-handed (Neh. 2:5-9)
a. received letters of protection from the king of Persia
b. furthermore, given all the timber he needed, and a military escort
c. (remember our translator’s assistant in the opening story? No way he was getting to the moon… Need a spaceship, astronauts, Ground Control… He didn’t have what was necessary!)
2. Patti’s flight… Got to counter, no ticket.
a. Airline said, not in computer… Called travel agent, she blamed airline, etc.
b. End result, Patti had to purchase a new ticket! Bottom line, no ticket… no flight!
3. Rest assured, in your journey to destiny, God has already secured all travel arrangements
a. But when do you pick up your boarding pass? When you need it… right before you get on the plane
b. We want all our tickets lined up in our hands so we can say, "I’m ready!"
c. But, God will give you what you need, when you need it!
II. Get Help
A. FROM GOD
1. Nehemiah’s first step, before going to the king, before setting foot out of the palace, was to cry out to God for help!
a. (vs. 4) He got ahold of God!
b. He understood nothing was going to happen without God’s involvement.
2. What is it about human nature that we don’t want any help?
a. My daughter, if I try to open a door for her or lift her up, "I can do it, Daddy!"
b. We love our independence
3. Problem is, we have the same attitude when it comes to spiritual things
a. I don’t need to ask for God’s help… I know right from wrong… I know what I’m supposed to be doing
b. I don’t need to pray or read my Bible to be a Christian!
4. But, you see, this is His work, His plan… And He needs to get involved!
a. J. Hudson Taylor once said, "I used to ask God if He would come and help me. Then I asked if I could come and help Him. Finally I ended by asking God to do His own work through me."
b. Your ideas aren’t going to work… Your methods of getting things done count for nothing here… God’s not interested in what you bring to the table, except for your willingness to obey orders and let Him use you as He sees fit
4. He really does know what He’s doing!
a. Why do we doubt God so much?
b. "I don’t doubt God, Pastor!"… Oh yeah, then how come He doesn’t have any say in your life? Why won’t you trust Him? Why are you still doing things your way!
c. Doubt, stubbornness, disobedience… These aren’t sinner issues… These are problems Christians face!
B. FROM HEADSHIP
1. Do you know what the purpose of a pastor is?
a. Most people think I’m just the preacher… When this sermon is over, and I step off the platform, my job is finished
b. Put me in the same box with the teachers and evangelists… Pull an offering, teach us something about God’s Word and go home
c. Do you know what the Word of God compares pastors to? Shepherds!
2. What does a shepherd do?
a. He watches over his sheep, guides & directs them
b. But we don’t want anybody directing us, do we? "Who are you to tell me what to do?"
c. Well, if you want to reach the green grass on the other side of the hill, you’ll follow directions from someone whose been there and knows how to get there, Amen?!
3. You see, my life is this church… Not my job, not my hobbies or personal interests
a. I put everything on a back burner two years ago and said, "God, I want to be a pastor… I want to help nurture your church… I want to make an investment in people’s lives
b. That’s what I’m here for, but the sheep has to choose the shepherd…I won’t make anyone follow me… Come to me for counseling… Ask for help, or share their problems with me
c. But to those who do, you’ll find that God placed me here to bless your life… to help you… to use the Word of God to bring direction to your life when you’ve gotten lost or sidetracked
d. But some people would rather die than come to me… Crash and burn in your life before you’ll ask Pastor for help… Why? You’re ignoring a resource God has given you to get you through these times
C. FROM YOUR FAMILY
1. Look around you. These people are going to get you where your going… if you let them.
a. I didn’t get here today on my own… I put my trust in God, I opened up to my pastor and I built relationships in the Bullhead City church that have shaped what I am today
b. There were people who encouraged me when I was down… Others who always pressured me to rise up and accept God’s calling on my life... New converts whose dependence on me as an example and a leader forced me to mature
If you read ch. 3 of our text, the entire chapter is nothing more than a recitation of all the men and families and groups of Israelites who worked with Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the city and the temple!
a. We don’t know much about Meremoth the son of Urijah, or Zaccur the son of Imri, or the men of the plain or the Tekoites… But the Bible is quick to point out that when Nehemiah set his heart to the will of God, there they were side by side with him, sweating, laboring, working to rebuild the city!
b. There are couples in here, someday the people of this church may launch you out into another city to break ground on a new work of God… They’ll support you financially, pray for you, encourage you… (As a pioneer for nine months in Charlotte with my wife and my daughter as my entire congregation, sometimes the support from my family in BHC was the only thing that kept us afloat!)
c. There will be hard times in your life when you contemplate throwing in the towel, and it may be the encouraging words of one of the brothers or sisters in this room that keeps your head above water
3. How do you see the people around you?
a. Are they your competition? "Huh, they got more ministry than me!"
b. Your adversary, or just an acquaintance who happens to attend the same church as you
c. Jesus said, "Who are my mother and brothers? These are my mother and brothers."… This is your family, given to you by God to help you make it
4. But again, it boils down to our spirit of independence
a. You don’t want anyone else’s help
b. You think it’s a sign of weakness to admit you need others… Well, you are too weak to make it alone
c. If you won’t let others get involved then you’re going to shipwreck your life, and we’re going to be left on the shore watching your boat sink!
III. Don’t Lose Sight of Destiny
A. KEEP THE REAL ISSUES IN SIGHT
1. (Neh. 6:1-4) Here Nehemiah has a legitimate problem
a. earlier, this same crew had threatened to attack the builders… but instead of cowering in fear, perhaps going into hiding, Nehemiah simply armed his workers, set up a guard and kept right on building
b. Not that he was ignoring the problem, but he simply understood what was more important. Nothing was going to distract him from his work
c. Now, the same Sanballat and Geshem are requesting a meeting to "discuss" the rebuilding that was going on, but Nehemiah will not be sidetracked! (vs. 3)
2. There will always be Sanballats and Geshems and Tobiahs seeking to distract you from the work of God
a. Maybe family who says, "Aren’t you spending too much time at that church? You know, we deserve some of your time too."
b. Friends who tell you, "You know, you’re no fun anymore since you got religion. How come you won’t hang out with us anymore?"
c. I’ll tell you why I don’t hang out with them anymore… because they’re a distraction! Because what do sinners do when they get together? They sin! We have no common ground for conversation, entertainment, we’re in two different worlds!
d. Growing up in a Christian home, if family showed up from out of town on a weekend, my father told them, "We’re going to church. You’re welcome to come along!"
3. You need to decide this evening what your going to give your life for… You will give your life for something!
a. Then, when your priorities are established, don’t get sidetracked.
b. Make everything count toward establishing those priorities
B. DON’T FORGET WHO YOU ARE
1. (6:5-7) His enemies made Nehemiah out to be this great rebel leader
a. establishing himself as the new king of the Israelites… Setting himself up on a throne at Jerusalem
b. Sometimes, if the Devil can’t distract us by telling us how bad or weak or insufficient we are, he’ll take the opposite tack… "You’re such a big man! Look how spiritual you are. That little ole’ church is just holding you back. Those people just don’t understand you… You don’t need them!"
2. We would do well to remember who we really are
a. Phillipians 4:13- I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me
b. Sometimes we forget the last half of that verse!
c. Without the grace of God, the body of Christ He’s placed us in… We are nothing!
d. Nehemiah wasn’t foolish enough to take the bait (vs. 8)
What seemed so impossible became reality through a man no different than you or I. Your destiny may seem as remote and far away as that Lunar Rover sitting on the moon today, but Getting To The Moon is God’s specialty!