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It’s late at night and my wife is asleep on the couch, but I just have to post this before I go to bed. Tonight at the Skylight Coffeehouse in Lafayette, I went to the open mic night as I usually do on Thursdays. Tonight, however, I was actually hosting, and I performed a little bit myself, but we were graced at the end with an act that was just so cool.
The band is called POPPLE, and you have to visit their websites:
You need to watch some of those videos and then come back here to leave a comment.
(Oh, and they are actually doing their music as a Christian Ministry.)
I hope they don’t mind my posting of this rip. (The live version was better.)
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Finally, we get to move off of the “downer” parts of this passage to begin a discussion of God’s promises to those who fully return to him.
In this message, I get to talk about the fact that God wants to bring us together in unity so that we can experience his presence. It’s a powerful truth that we can often talk about without truly realizing it. Take the time to listen to this incredible teaching of what it takes to unify people and why it’s so important.
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In Nehemiah 1:9, it’s clear that returning to God is only the first half of what God wants from his people. The other half is obedience. In order for God to release his blessings on his people, he requires them to return to him and obey him.
In the original Hebrew, that word “obey” in the NIV was actually two seperate concepts translated in some modern translations like this:
…if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them…
Obedience itself has two halves. Keeping God’s commands and doing them. In this message, I describe the difference and how the one makes the other possible.
What does it mean to obey God? How do I do it? For a start, listen to this message.
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As soon as Nehemiah has spoken the words of confession in his prayer to God, he asks God to “Remember” his promises to the people of Israel that he would restore them if they returned to him.
In this message, I look at why returning to God is important, and what it requires.
Popularity: 9% [?]
To listen or download this message, click here: We Turn From Sin
What’s Going On?
Yesterday, I gave a message to my congregation, and afterward, a friend of mine who was visiting, said, “Jeff, you’ve got kahoonas!” (Can I say that on a “pastor’s” website? — yeah, sure!)
It was all because I preached a message on confession of sin, and I got pretty serious.
If you have been following along with my weblog or if you have been paying attention to my Sunday messages, you probably know that I’m guiding our church through a process of intense spiritual rebuilding. The bottom line is that as a church, we aren’t doing so well. In fact, as a church, we aren’t doing well at all. We have had some really rough months (about 18 of them) recently, and I think there are some serious spiritual issues at heart that we need to deal with.
I’m not just pointing my finger at others and blaming them. In fact, I have a hard time not taking all the blame on myself. I really feel responsible for a good portion of the stuff that’s been going on in our church. One way that I have failed the church is that I have put too much emphasis on how we go about doing things and I haven’t put enough emphasis on the heart that we should be developing in ourselves and in each other.
I’ve paid a great deal of attention to structural issues, but I haven’t paid enough attention at the bottom line spiritual vitality component of the church.
However, the time has come for us to take the Christian life seriously and return to God with a deep conviction.
When Nehemiah heard that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, the first thing he did was to enter a season of fasting and prayer. I have called the members of this congregation to join me in a season of fasting and prayer. Particularly, I have challenged them to join me:
- 30 minutes a day (fasting from distractions and spending time with God)
- 3 hours a week (1 hour on Sunday, 1 hour during the week to pray with others, and 15 minutes before and after each of those other meetings for fellowship)
- 1 day a month (for fasting and prayer all day long).
However, prayer alone isn’t what we need. Nehemiah revealed to us the character of his prayer when he wrote down one of them for us. In that prayer the first thing he did was to acknowledge God’s supremacy, and then he immediately turned to confession of sin.
I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
A Call to Confession
Therefore, yesterday, I called those present to join me in a time of confession of sin. Our whole morning service was about confessing our sins. In my message (click the “Rebuilding” category to see a listing of all the messages in this series), I challenged the people to think about the big and nasty effects of sin, and called them to take some time in silence to confess sins before God.
To guide our time of confession, I asked people first to consider the Great Commandment that Jesus taught us:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Specifically, I asked people (and I’ll ask you) how accurate each of these statements is for them.
- I love God more than money.
- I love God more than prestige.
- I love God more than my comfort.
- I love God more than my fears.
- I treat others with the kind of love I wish they had for me.
I also asked people to consider the Great Commission that Jesus gave us before he was taken back into heaven:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So I asked the people to reflect upon how accurate this statement is of their lives:
- I am currently and personally involved in helping others become like Jesus.
I then asked people to spend some time in personal confession before God, and I also took the risk to have a microphone just standing in the middle of the room for people to come forward and publicly confess sins.
When I was at Wheaton College, a revival was launched when a worship service was held, people were called to confess, and a microphone was provided for public confessions.
At Northwest Baptist yesterday, no one came forward.
I really don’t know what to think about that…
One of the most profound truths of the book of Nehemiah is that he stands at the beginning of the book to confess not merely his own sins, but also the sins of the entire nation of Israel. He confesses all the sins to God. Therefore, we took the time in our service to corporately confess the sins we as a church have committed. I identified the biggest and most generalized sins for that time based on some current trends of our church.
Some Current Facts
- The median household income in this neighborhood is $45,000.
- Since January, 84 individuals and families have given money to this church
- If those families had been attending faithfully and tithing, our church would have received $189,000 already
- Since January, our income has been around $75,000
- In the past two years combined, we have seen 4 people get baptized and 5 people join the church in membership
Lord, we confess…
- We have not honored your Word in this church as the ultimate source of life and truth and the final authority for all things.
- We have not honored the name of your Son by sharing the good news with those in this neighborhood.
- We have placed the operations of the church above helping people become like Jesus.
- We have selfishly pursued our own comfort rather than pursuing the lost.
- We have not obeyed you with our tithes.
- We have not served the poor and needy around us.
- We have loved many things more than you
The greatest truth about confession is that God promises to forgive, cleanse, and heal us whenever we confess our sins to him. Therefore, we ended the service with songs of affirmation that we live by the grace of God offered us through the death of Jesus.
“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. “
As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
To hear my message in its entirety click here: We Turn From Sin
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In this message, I explore Nehemiah 1:5-6. The passage is incredibly encouraging because it just simply reminds us who God is, and after all, that’s the real reason to return to him.
I want to encourage you to come back to God simply because of who he is!
Subscribe to this series by dragging this link to your podcast software or RSS reader. LINK
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