“What’s on God’s heart?”
January 3, 2016
Focus of message: See introduction from NIV to the book of Ezra for comments to set the stage.
Introduction: Fortress Church vs. Ministry oriented church.
l. Fortress church – buys land, builds a building, and the focus is on the internal program of the church. After all these are the people we know and like, and it’s easier than reaching out. Like much of society today, church is all about me aud what I get out of it! Sad to say this is the idea that many of us have of what church should be like today. In this brief series of sermons on the book of Nehemiah I want to challenge this idea in light of the vision that I believe God wants to inspire here at First Church of the Brethren.
2. The ministry oriented church! For Nehemiah, Jerusalem is where God lives – the temple, – the holy of holies, etc. This is where the nations will see God – in the nation of Israel!
Ex. Vs. 4 is the key to the whole book of Nehemiah and I dare say to our understanding of what it means to be a ministryoriented church vs. a fortress church. This verse ought to be underlined in your Bibles! It shows us that Nehemiah’s heart beats with God’s heart. Our hearts need to beat with God’s heart too!
“When I heard these things I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Ex. “The single most important thing for any Christian is to cultivate a heart that beats with God’s heart and never stops!” Frank Tillapaugh
We in the church must have hearts that are broken over the same things that break God’s heart! Natural disasters certainly break God’s heart, wars certainly break God’s heart, but I believe that the condition of the church today especially in North America with all of it’s vast material wealth, breaks God’s heart. The fortress church was never intended by God for his people! I’m going to introduce a number of principles in this series that I hope we can pickup and use in working at discerning a fresh vision for York First COB.
I.) Principle #1: First things first – the ministry of prayer!
A.) How do we go about changing the things that need to be changed?
l. What did Nehemiah do?
a. He didn’t buy the latest book on the subject, or attend some inspiring conference.
b. He goes to God in prayer!
Ex. Let’s look at Nehemiah’s prayer in verses 511 (reread)
c. Nehemiah lays hold of God first!
2. Nehemiah goes to God knowing that things are bad but that God is still a great and awesome God!
a. God hasn’t changed – we have!
b. Our situation maybe a mess but God is still the sovereign God of all that exists, including First Church of the Brethren!
c. Nehemiah settles the issue of who God is back in his prayer chamber – remember this as we go through this series of messages on this small Old Testament book that has a powerful message for the church of today!
Ex. Later when this issue comes up again, Nehemiah is having a terrible day. Yes, God’s people do have bad days from time to time. Nehemiah doesn’t settle the issue of who God is when he’s out on the front lines of battle in spiritual warfare, sotospeak, he has already settled this issue in his prayer chamber. It is very important as we begin the work of dreaming new dreams and seeking the vision for renewal that God has for us that we remember that vision and renewal are birthed in prayer and that it must continually be prayed over so that we are certain that what we are about is what God wants for his people in this place at this time.
B.) vs.6 Confession and Repentance
l. It is very difficult to say the word repentance in a culture that is as proud as our culture is. When we preach God’s love for each of us and God’s wonderful plan for our lives all the time, repentance somehow just doesn’t seem to fit.
a. Do you know what un-churched people hear when we talk this way about God? They hear that God is like a genie in a bottle who grants all of our wishes and takes care of all of our problems and life is like living every day at Disney Land!
b. Then when we encounter problems, as we all do, we feel let down by God!
c. I don’t know that we really know and understand repentance with so many people converting into the faith and then back out again.
d. Our objective with people is never just conversion! We have got to be about the business of making disciples for the Kingdom of God!
e. The issue of regeneration is one of receiving a new nature, a new heart, a new motivation for all that we do in life! A heart that beats with God’s heart!
f. The Gospel as it is given in many churches today is not conducive to regeneration it is conducive to conversion because it is a good deal right now but has no strength for the long haul!
C.) Vs.1l – Nehemiah does not hesitate to ask for success in his prayer.
1. This prayer is a sample prayer of four months of time spent in prayer before God!
a. vs.1, Kislev (January) to 2:2, Nisan (April).
b. This prayer represents the great themes that Nehemiah prayed over during that time period.
c. Nehemiah has been petitioning God to do something about the situation in Jerusalem for four months, weeping and crying out to God in his prayer closet.
Ex. I encourage everyone to see the movie, “War Room.” It will help you understand the whole concept of having a prayer closet as it is talked about in the New Testament by our Lord Jesus.
d. I sense that a number of people have been doing just this sort of thing on behalf of York First Church and that God is calling us to action. f. You know what God said to Nehemiah, “I plan to do something about the situation in Jerusalem and l plan to do it through you!
g. Nehemiah’s response is just like the one we would give, he says to God that he is the cupbearer to the king and that he doesn’t have any vacation time to go and do anything about the situation! We would give God the same response wouldn’t we?
Ex. Role of cupbearer, to taste the drink before the king to be sure it wasn’t poisoned. He was one to the most trusted people in the court of the king. There’s something else here in this first part of the second chapter, Nehemiah is sad in the presence of the king and this could cost him his life. Notice Nehemiah’s words in vs.l of ch.2 “I had not been sad in his presence before;” The job description for the cupbearer included always wearing a McDonald’s happy face! In vs.2 the king asks Nehemiah if he knows what he’s doing? The king could have said take this man out and execute him but instead we see the hand of God at work here. This brings us to the second principle.
II.) Get off your knees and risk whatever it takes!
A. Do what God wants you to do!
l. We know so little about risk in our part of the world. We are so comfortable!
2. We set up long range planning committees with the idea to kill everything instead of to actually accomplish that which God is calling us to be about.
Ex. In Ron Sider’s book “Rich Christians in an age of Hunger” we read about what the ministry church should be like. Let’s let God work out the details when he gives us a vision for expanding ministry. We’ve got to be willing to allow God to move even when we don’t know what the bottom line is and what all pieces of the puzzle are just yet. When God places a burden on our hearts for ministry it is up to us to step out in faith. Not foolishly but in faith and confirmation from God’s word, his Spirit and his people!
“It is better to lose your life than to risk not doing what God wants you to do with it. – Frank Tillapaugh. Each generation must wrestle with these questions and ideas!
B.) Back to our story with Nehemiah, what will the king say’? Vs.4
1. Execute him or what do you want?
2. God doesn’t always deliver us from tough situations.
EX. Stephen in the N.T. being stoned to death.
3. Nehemiah just happens to have his shopping list with him when the king looks favorably upon his request: (reread vs.58)
Conclusion to message: The most important thing for us right now as we begin to seek a fresh vision of renewal from God, is for each of us to understand that it is God calling us to this work. We need to think in terms of strategies instead of a series of special events.
When God calls us to a task he gives us the time we need to see it through, the authority to get the job done, and the resources we need. God is calling us to move out of our fortress mentality and to take on a new mindset, that of ministry to our world beginning right here in Haines Acres and moving around the world. It could be the most exciting time in the long, 130 year history of York First or. . .well I don’t even want to consider the alternative!
Prayer: Make us alert and sensitive this day, O God, to your call on our lives and to leading of your Spirit in our midst! Amen