What if-- what if a thief were coming into our homes? A thief who took our children. What would you do? How would you respond?
There are thieves that are stealing our children. Media, music, and movies, are all powerfully targeting the morals of our children. They're stealing our children's souls, and leaving their bodies behind. Today, Skip Heitzig continues the series, Homeland Security, with the message, How to Prevent Soul Thieves.
OK, Ty did his spooky voice in that video. Can you tell? I feel like saying good morning. How are you? Tell you what, it is a beautiful day outside here. And yesterday was gorgeous.
I had a bicycle ride yesterday and even after I got a flat tire and I had to walk two miles, it was worth it. I didn't care because it was just so lovely outside, and just great to be out. This service is broadcast live on M88 throughout the great state of New Mexico, so for those who happen to be tuning in different cities, would you say hello to them?
Listen to this author as he describes taking a child home after the birth. He writes, "Do you remember waiting for that first baby? The anticipation of bringing home this soft, cuddly, wonderful, delightful infant? And finally, the birth and everything's fine. And a day or so later, you come home.
The first week you realize that what you really have is a cross between the Terminator and the Swamp Thing. I mean this creature sleeps when you're awake, and is wide awake when you're asleep. And has a set of lungs to drown out a Concorde jet. My wife used to say, honey, I'm sort of forgetting what our baby's face looks like, I'm spending so much time at the other end."
I'd like to talk to you this morning about dealing with the right end of your life-- the right part of your life. The soul. And how to prevent, as the message is, how to prevent soul thieves. How to protect your soul and the soul of your family.
Now, I'm not going to discuss the theological fine points of, is man a bipartite being, body and soul, or a tripartite being body, soul, and spirit. That's a great theological discussion. It'd be fun for another study. But I want to talk about the inner you that the Bible so often refers to as the soul.
I talked to a builder this week and I said, let me ask you a question. What is the average home security system go for? He said about $1,000 per home, is what people will spend on a home security system. It can go down from there, and it can go way up.
Securing your home will secure your stuff. But it won't secure the people. So how do you protect the souls? What activities do you need to watch out? For what practices? What sights and sounds are getting into your home that are breaking it down?
I'd like you to listen to this. It's a comparison. Researchers from John Hopkins University report 30 years ago, the greatest fears of grade school children were-- now this is 30 years ago, what kids were afraid of. Number one, animals. Number two, being in a dark room. Number three, high places. Four, strangers. Five, loud noises.
Now listen how things have changed. Today, children are afraid of the following. Number one, divorce. Number two, nuclear war. Number three, cancer. Four, pollution. And five, being mugged.
Now there are other things that they should be afraid of, but they're unaware of what those things are. Technology, for example, has brought the world into our homes, and into our laptops, and into our phones. You can go anywhere and see anything with so many different sites. In fact, you've all heard of YouTube. You know how much time in the very first year when YouTube was up-- the cumulative amount of time that people watched YouTube was 9,305 years. Very, very popular site.
Well, would you turn in your Bibles with me to Nehemiah, chapter one. And we will look at-- through the lens of Nehemiah-- what he did in bringing protection to those who were vulnerable. Last week after church I went home and watched the Super Bowl. I don't know if any of you did. Sure you did. I mean that's church after church, right?
So I was watching the Super Bowl. In the fourth quarter, TV went out-- cable went out. I mean, there is a whole corridor of my community that lost reception. I didn't even bother calling the cable company. I knew that the phone system was lit up. I just waited. And it came on just in time to watch New York beat Boston. It was fabulous.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm rubbing it in, to some of you, and I wouldn't-- didn't mean that. What I really want to say is, that is usually not the problem. The problem usually isn't not getting enough information. Usually the problem is getting too much information through the cable, through the television.
Nehemiah understood that Jerusalem needed to be protected, that it was vulnerable. And the gates needed to be guarded, and the wall needed to be built up. And I'm going to suggest today that we follow the same approach with our own souls and with the souls of our family. That we set up gatekeepers and watchmen on the walls to make sure that their little souls are protected.
Somebody once said there's three kinds of people, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who have no idea what's happening. There's a lot of people in that last camp. They just are not aware of what's going on around them until it's too late. Nehemiah was in that first category. He was going to make things happen based on what he understands.
So, to prevent soul thieves, there's three things you need to do right. You need to ask the right questions. You need to have the right reaction. And you need to take the right action. The right question, the right reaction to the answer you get to the question, and then you need to take the right action based on that.
Let's look at Nehemiah, chapter one, first few verses, and see the question that Nehemiah will ask. The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hakaliah. "It came to pass in the month of Kislev in the 20th year, I was in Shushan the citadel." That's modern day Iraq. That's Persia in ancient times.
"That Hanani, one of my brethren, came with men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, the survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire."
Now, Nehemiah was one of those captives now in Persia. The Babylonian captivity had happened years before. The Persians had taken over the world. And now, in their central city of Shushan, in the palace, is this Jewish man named Nehemiah. Verse 11 tells us what he was doing in that palace. He was the cup bearer to the King.
So Nehemiah was a cup bearer. It doesn't sound very impressive. You think of a cup bearer maybe as a busboy. But you should know that the cup bearer was a position of high prominence, great importance. Look at it this way, in the Persian court the cup bearer was like the head of Homeland Security for the whole palace.
Nothing got into the presence of the King unless it first went through the supervision of the cup bearer-- no document, no food, no drink. Because they feared that somebody might try to kill the King, it was the cup bearer who would taste the wine and taste the food before it even got to the King. According to historians, the only one closer to a Persian King beside the cup bearer was his own wife. So Nehemiah was in a very prominent position. Probably had a great life.
Till one day there was a group of people who came from Jerusalem and Nehemiah has a concern. Hey, what's happening in Jerusalem? What's going on with those captives who are there? They came back, they returned. What's it like in that once devastated city? What's the security situation like?
He being in charge of security for the palace, would naturally want to know that. But I've got a question. Why should Nehemiah even care? I mean after all, he's 540 miles away from Jerusalem. He has a great position in a great spot. Why should he even be concerned about Jerusalem?
Well, there's an old saying. The Jew never forgets Jerusalem. That's the heart of God's program on earth, the Jew knows. And his heart is always. No matter where he or she is at, is toward Jerusalem. Even the Psalmists, in psalm 137 writes, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget it skill. If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy."
So he's concerned about the homeland, about the city of God's program. He asked questions. You know what? Some people don't ask questions because they don't want the information. In fact, some people prefer to live-- don't tell me that! I don't want to know those things.
And here's why. Once you have the information, you might be faced with an obligation to do something about what you just found out. So, don't even tell me. I don't want to know. Nehemiah wants to know. He asked the right questions.
There was a college professor, and he said-- to one of his students who seems sort of lethargic he said, let me ask you a question, young man. Which do you think is the biggest problem in America today, ignorance or apathy? And the student said, I don't know and I don't care. A lot of people live that way.
Nehemiah did not. He wanted to know, and he cared about what he found out. I was reading a little article about the Vice President of the United States. He said this, "the first thing the President and I do every morning is to receive and read intelligent briefings telling of the security threats--" plural, "that are accumulating against the United States, of the terrorist groups that are in 60 different countries." Would be a sort of a hard thing to wake up to wouldn't it?
Find out that in 60 different countries there's groups that are in all those countries that want nothing more than to attack your homeland and your way of life. He has to survey that every day. When I read that article I thought, that's what we need. We need intelligent briefings to tell of the security threats against our own homes. Because a lot of people, like those in Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah, are set free from their captivity, set free from sin, saved, but in great danger-- great danger.
And so the concern-- and notice the condition. It says the survivors are there in great distress. He goes on to describe the city. The wall has broken down, the gates have been burned with fire. Now, all of this happened.
If you know your history, back in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian attack the city of Jerusalem, put holes in the walls, breached it, went into the city, burned it down, and destroyed its gates. It's still in that condition. Nehemiah hears that. It's an interesting description of the people that are living in Jerusalem. And I wonder if you caught this. "They said to me, the survivors who are left from the captivity."
Just think about that for a minute. Survivors. It's possible to be a survivor. You're surviving, you're just barely making it. You're not thriving, you're surviving. I bring that up because Paul used a description of the Christian in Romans. He said, "for we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." More than conquerors. One word in Greek, [SPEAKING GREEK], we are completely victorious.
This, coming from a man who is in prison, who was beaten, who was on the run. And he writes, we are more than conquerors. He was thriving. Those in Jerusalem were surviving. Which describes you best? You just barely making it? You surviving? Or are you more than conquerors?
Here's the reason why they were just survivors. The wall is broken. There's holes in the walls. There's breaches. The city is vulnerable. Terrorists could come in. Attacks were more easily made because the city was just not secure.
Let me tell you just a little bit about the ancient cities. In old times, ancient cities had walls around them. They would build up the walls and then they would put gates. The gates were portals to let people in and out. But when you think of the gate of a city, don't think of a little wooden gate on hinges, flopping back and forth. A city gate of Jerusalem was a structure, was a building, made out of stone.
It had at least two openings, often at right angles to each other. I'll explain in a minute. The city gate was the place of all of the action in town. If you walked into a city gate, you would see walls that enclose a room. There would be benches there. The elders and the judges would sit on the benches.
You'd get information exchanged at the gate. You'd have disputes settled at the gate. You'd have cases adjudicated at the gate. And if you were an enemy you couldn't go directly into the city. You would be taken through a portal, and then you'd have to slow down and turn left or right because the openings were at right angles to each other.
At each of those openings was a huge wooden door covered with metal so that it wouldn't easily burn and it couldn't easily be penetrated. Well, if you were an army trying to get into the city you could be trapped in that enclosure called the gate. And then people would shoot at you with arrows from above, or even pour hot oil on the army. Give you a warm welcome into their city.
Well, that's why gatekeeper's and watchmen were so important because they kept the city safe from intruders. So the question is, this morning, as a gatekeeper to your own soul and for your family's well-being, what are you letting in the gates? I'm speaking metaphorically of course. I'm using the same sort of metaphor that Paul the Apostle used in First Corinthians 6:19 when he said, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
So what's getting in the eye gate and the ear gate that shouldn't get in? That's what the ancients used to describe seeing and hearing-- the eye gate, the ear gate. Well, this is how it works. We build up the walls of our lives daily by spiritual disciplines. Every time we read the Bible for our quiet time in the morning, and we pray, and we obey what we read. There's principles that govern our life during the day.
Those things build up the walls of our lives. But we have to guard the gates-- what we see, what we hear. And you can think of a typical list. What you see on television, movies, the internet, e-mails, newspapers, magazines, gossip, all of those things that get into you and affect your soul, go in through those gates.
So what good does it to build up the walls if the gates are letting everything in? You go through all of the spiritual discipline, reading and praying, but the gates are unprotected. It was helpful when I read this description of an author who said, picture of your soul like a bowl of clear water. That's how God intends your soul to be, clean and clear. Every bad thought that comes into the eye gate or the ear gate, that you allow through, is like a drop of food coloring.
So a bad thought comes in, you see something or you hear something, one drop in the bowl. Another one, another drop, another drop of food coloring. By the end of the day, if those gates are letting anything freely in, you'll have a very murky bowl of water. Not clean, not clear, but muddied up.
Listen to this very colorful description by Solomon, Proverbs 25:28. "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit--" you could translate that, his own soul-- "--is like a city broken down without walls." Doesn't that fit perfectly? Once again, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down without walls." No self-control, left open to ruin, a victim of what he sees and what he hears.
So you need to ask the right questions. What is going on? I want to know the condition. Asking the right questions should then lead to having the right reaction to what you know. Nehemiah does. Look at verse three and then verse four.
"Then he said to me, the survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem has also broken down, and the gates are burned with fire. So it was when I heard these words that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days. I was fasting and praying before the God of Heaven."
Boy, that's a strong emotion. That's a strong emotion for a political figure in a Persian court. It's an interesting one. Nehemiah doesn't hear it and go, huh. Wow, OK, whatever. I mean, he's really affected emotionally. He has a reaction to the information which leads him to craft a course of action.
Look at it this way. What if you had two roommates, they both rented an apartment or a house together. And one was Mr. Clean. He was a neat freak. And one was Mr. Slob. Now, the slob throws stuff anywhere he wants to, piles up the dishes, washes them once a month whether they need it or not. His clothes are everywhere. And he comes home, goes, what? This is organized.
Well, the clean freak can't handle that. So as time goes on, the house gets dirtier. The paint starts peeling from the walls. Little holes develop in the ceiling. And Mr. Slob just puts bowls underneath to collect the water, no big deal. When it's time to repair the house, which one's going to do it?
Not Mr. Slob. Mr. Clean, because he sees the problem and is moved by it. He'll have a strong reaction to it. And he'll be the one doing it. Well, unless we see the problem and respond appropriately, never going to look for a remedy.
Do you remember when Jesus saw the multitude that was coming around him? It says he was moved with compassion-- moved with compassion. You know, Jesus never saw a crowd and said, I hate crowds. What do they want now? I just can't handle this.
Never. He was moved with compassion. He looked at them as sheep not having a shepherd. That's why he sent his 12 out to address the problem. What alarms you? What moves you? Because whatever it is that alarms you, whatever it does that move you, will determine your course. So I'm going ask you if you're alarmed over some of these statistics I'm going to read. Some examples of soul thieves.
Approximately 40 million people in the United States are sexually involved with the internet. That's hard to even put our heads around that number. 40 million people are sexually involved with the internet. Sex is the number one topic searched for on the internet. Not two, not three, not 10. It's number one.
25% of search engine requests are pornographic. A fourth of everything searched for is pornographic. According to the Data Monitor Corporation, over one half of all spending on the internet is sex related. At least 20,000 American adults visit internet sex sites at least 11 hours per week.
Are you alarmed yet? Well, listen to this. For every 10 men in church, five is struggling with pornography. It's half. That's half. And before some of you gals think, well, that's just a guy thing, according to Mark O'Keefe of the Charlotte Observer, who did an article on this, he said, quote, "34% of church going women say they have intentionally visited porn websites online."
That's staggering-- staggering. And you know what's worse? According to the Barna research group, 38% of Americans find nothing morally wrong with this. What? It's not-- what's the big deal? 38% of Americans would say. Dr. Victor Klein, University of Utah, writes, studies show that pornography is progressive and addictive for many. It can lead to the user acting out his fantasy-- get this-- and often on children.
And it's easy to see why, because children are weak, vulnerable, trusting. And what about your children? Well, it would seem that the walls are broken down and the gates are burned with fire. According to the Internet Filter Review, the largest consumer of internet pornography is in the age 12 to 17 group.
It doesn't stop there because when kids are online, they are vulnerable and they're terrorized by some. One in 17-- one in 17 children ages 10 through 17 are threatened or harassed over the internet. One in five children have been propositioned for cybersex on the internet.
You say, where does this happen? In your home. 70% of sexual advances over the internet are while kids are on their home computers. 89% of those sexual solicitations were made in chat rooms. Chat rooms. Parents, I wonder how many of you know what your kids chat about? I wonder if you know some of the code language.
If you come across the letters P-O-S, do you even know what that is? It's Parent Over Shoulder. So you come in the room, and you're look-- hey, what are you doing? P-O-S. In other words, let's move this conversation to a different thing now. I've got a parent over my shoulder.
There's a lot of code language developed for how to handle you in their lives. Now, all of this exposure skews our thinking, corrupts our heart, cuts the soul. For men, it changes the way they look at women, act toward women, think is beautiful in a woman. It changes the way a husband looks at his wife.
It changes women's attitude toward men. It changes children. They are learning what is right morally and what is wrong. All of that is skewed. So the information should lead to the right reaction. That's why I ask the question, how alarmed are we at all this? Will we go, huh. That's a trip.
Or like Nehemiah, this deep kind of reaction? Now, go back to Nehemiah chapter 1. The third thing that Nehemiah does after asking the questions, getting the information, having the reaction, is now he decides a course to take. He has to take the right actions. And he does two things. One is spiritual, one is practical.
Not that spirituality is impractical, but he reaches up toward God and then he reaches out to fix the problem. Verse 5. "And I said, I pray, Lord God of Heaven, oh great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and Your mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments. Please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which, I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel, Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against You.
Both my Father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember I pray the word that You commanded Your servant Moses saying, if you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast to the farthest part of the heavens yet I will gather them from there and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.
Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. Oh Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants, who desire to fear Your name. And let Your servant--" that is himself, "--prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man--" that is the King Artaxerxes, "--for I was the King's cup bearer."
First thing he does-- and it's recorded here in a rather lengthy prominent section of chapter one-- is he prays to God. He reaches up. Just an aside, there are 406 verses in the book of Nehemiah. 46 of them, 11% of the book, is prayer. Shows you where his priorities lay. It shows you what his reaction was when there was a problem.
First thing he did was pray. Nehemiah knew, this is where it starts. You can always do more than pray after you've prayed. But you can't do anything more until you've prayed. And noticed the language he uses. He didn't say, Lord, I'm praying for those people. They're so bad. He uses the we language. I and my Father's house, we have sinned. He's not a finger pointer. He's part of the problem so he can be part of the solution.
I encourage you, parents, to pray every single day for your own souls and for the souls, the minds, the hearts, of your children. And it would be good to pray out loud in their presence. And use we language, not just them, they, those. Us, we, Lord forgive us, help us. Humble yourself in the child's sight. Humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord in their presence.
And then they'll go, oh, that's how I'm supposed to live. Nehemia does that. But then, he gets practical. In chapter two, he stands before the King in his position of authority as cup bearer. Look at two verses in chapter two, verse 5 and 6. "I said to the King, if it pleases the King and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my father's tombs, that I may rebuild it.
The King said to me, the queen also sitting beside him, how long will your journey be? And when will you return? So it pleased the King to send me, and I set him a time." Follow the progression to the story. Nehemiah sat down to weep. Nehemiah knelt down to pray. Now Nehemiah stands up to work. He knew that you can only agonize so long. After a while, it's time to organize.
So he cries out, oh God, this is horrible! Didn't live there. He does something about it. He acts very decisively and very responsibly, and he says, send me. I want to rebuild the walls that are broken down. So what do we do? What do we do in lieu of soul thieves? In lieu of all the information we just heard about?
We act very decisively and very responsibly. You have in your bulletins this morning a handout and the flip side is a good way to get started. Things to look for in your children's lives and their practices on computers. There are websites at the bottom that give you great resources that will help you out.
Also, I think you act decisively in your own home like this. There are certain channels that come through that you should block. You can block them, usually on your own remote or you can call the company and say block these channels. I don't want to see them. Yeah, but I'm paying for them. Don't pay for them. Just block them. You know which ones they are.
Or it could mean setting a schedule. We watch television, but after this hour at night we don't. You draw those lines of restriction for your own self as well as your family. Also, you could set up accountability partners with the internet. There's great programs out there that you can sign up for so that every internet site you visit, at the end of every month, is sent to a buddy. So he or she can look over every place you've visited and if there's a red flag, that friend can say, now I noticed you were on this questionable site. Why?
It's a great way to monitor that activity. There's also a great class here at our church called Every Man's Battle that will help men especially in this area. Now, I want you to turn to one final text of scripture. We'll end with Matthew chapter five. Matthew chapter 5, sermon on the mount, words of Jesus Christ. Matthew chapter 5, Jesus touches on this to the men that were in his audience that day.
Though as we have seen by the stats, this is just not a male problem exclusively. Although I would say mostly it is. Verse 27 of Matthew 5. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not commit adultery." Stroking their beards, going yep, that's right. "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Knife to the heart. Every man in that audience was slain that day. That word, huh, I'm guilty. So they would naturally think, well, now what do I do? So He 11% that thought. "If your right eye caused you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell."
How's that for the bottom line in a message? "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you, for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell." You go, come on that is the grossest thing I've ever heard. We're shocked by it. That was the intended effect. What Jesus is saying is, deal radically with sin. Don't compromise, deal radically with it. Avoid it at all costs. Do whatever necessary to avoid it.
Martin Luther had a great little saying. He said, you can't stop birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair. That's the control you have. You deal with it. You cut it off.
Don't be the devil's dart board. Flee temptation. Remember that text? Flee temptation. What does that mean? It means flee, run, walk away, change channels, turn it off, get out, call somebody. Flee. Don't flee temptation and then leave the devil your forwarding address. Flee. Deal radically.
It was a doctor who called his pastor one night-- true story. True phone call. It was about midnight he made the call. And the doctor had just been called to the hospital for an emergency situation. A young girl was brought in. A young woman, excuse me-- not a young girl, but a young woman had been beaten mercilessly, beyond recognition. Many of her bones in her body were broken.
It was her boyfriend that beat her. As they brought her into the-- from emergency room to the operating suite, they knew that the only hope was direct contact with the heart, cardiac massage. It was the only thing that they could save her life with. So they attempted to-- they opened her up and they were massaging the heart. She didn't make it through the operation. She died.
And after she died, it was now time to find out who this young lady was. So they went through her purse. They discovered used syringes, used hypodermic needles. She was a drug user who was living with her boyfriend who was a drug user. She was also HIV positive. That's where the alarm came in. As the doctors said to the pastor, as we were doing the operation and it was a hurried operation, I cut my finger through the glove, into the skin, on one of the broken ribs around the heart.
Pastor said, is that really a huge problem? He was a pastor, not a doctor. Doctor said, pastor, even a paper thin cut when you are in direct contact with that blood stream is enough to infect you with AIDS. How many paper thin cuts to your soul do we allow? Little infection, little contact, through the eye gate, through the ear gate.
The soul is infected and that clear water is murky. So, how about, like Nehemiah, saying to the Lord today, tonight, this week, in a group with other people, whatever it is-- I want to rebuild those walls. Those gates that are broken down, I'm going to figure out ways to have gatekeepers and wall watchers as those things are attacking my soul and my family's soul. Be very careful what I live in. Let's pray for that.
Heavenly Father, so many of us need to draw lines of resistance. To say, that's it. I won't go over that. I can't get to that place. I can't see those things, or I can't hear. There's a lot of ways infection comes. From what we see in visual form, what we read about, what gossip goes to our ears, what e-mails come to us, what internet sites are seen, or movies.
We are the gatekeepers. We are the watchman on the wall. Lord, thank You for Your love, Your mercy, Your forgiveness. Thank You for saving us from captivity. But we don't want to live in that vulnerable, dangerous position any longer. I pray that in assessing the information, and feeling the proper reaction, and in reaching up to You, and in reaching out to join with others as Nehemiah did in building the city, that we could be more than conquerors-- victorious. And enjoy Your peace.
Lord, our souls are at stake. Our minds, our hearts, the inner us. And those children in our own homes. Lord, I pray that we would deal very cautiously, carefully, with their souls. And Lord, we really mean this prayer. We really long for this. We really want this. This isn't just the cap at the end of a speech. We're asking for Your help. Forgive us, cleanse us, and motivate us, in Jesus' name. Amen.