Most popular posts in '028 Rebuilding' category.
Archive for the '028 Rebuilding' Category
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.
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This last Sunday, I wasn’t able to preach because of my trip to New Jersey; however, I prepared a small group discussion guide to help the people in my congregation think through what it means to seek God’s face.
Here it is…
I want to thank those of you who’ve been here for the past few weeks. Our church is facing some rough times, and right now, we are going through a process of spiritual rebuilding. I’ve been teaching messages on some pretty serious and heavy topics, and last week, I challenged you all to confess sin to each other so that we can be a cleansed church. We also recognized that sin isn’t only individual and personal, sin is also corporate. So together, we read some confession statements as a church seeking God’s forgiveness for ways we have fallen short. I want to thank you who’ve been here for the past few weeks. Your presence here last week as we confessed sin was so important for the future of this church, and I thank you.
In our journey, we have been following the pattern set for us by Nehemiah in the first chapter of the book by his name. We’ve seen his heartbreak at the realization that Jerusalem, the city of God, lay in ruins, but we’ve also seen that he did not rush into solving the problem. Instead, he fell to his knees in a season of prayer, fasting, and repentance.
Now I’ve called you to join me in a season of prayer and fasting. Specifically, I’ve challenged you to join me in my personal commitment—30 minutes a day, 3 hours a week, 1 day a month—to set aside time to pray, fast from something desirable in my life for that time, and really seek God’s face individually and in fellowship with others.
Have you taken the challenge?
- How have you felt about this series of messages?
- Have you taken Pastor Jeff up on his challenge? If so, how has it been for you? If not, what have you decided to do?
If we seek his face…
Let’s look at the next couple of verses in Nehemiah’s prayer to God.
“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
Nehemiah here is pulling together many promises that God gave to Israel, and he is putting them together into one summary promise that if his people are unfaithful to him, he will dissolve them into the rest of the world, but if they return to him and obey him, then he will restore them. Particularly, Nehemiah is making a reference to Jerusalem because that is the city God chose as a dwelling for his Name. God’s choice was clearly evident on the day when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem many years before Nehemiah. Let’s take a look at that passage.
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
This passage is often used by churches and Christian groups to emphasize how “prayer will heal our land” or something like that, but there are some important details that are often missed.
- Take a couple minutes to read the passage in its context then share with the group any insights you received while reading.
- In 2 Chronicles 7:14, what does God promise he will do?
- What does “heal their land” mean in the context of 2 Chronicles 7:13?
- What are the prerequisites the people must meet before God keeps his promise?
- What does it mean to seek God’s face?
The promise is for us
Now, these promises in both Nehemiah and in 2 Chronicles were given originally to the people and nation of Israel, but throughout the New Testament, it is made clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises to Israel, and those who believe in Jesus are heirs with him of all the promises. However, the Old Testament promises about the land and the Temple are much harder to connect with the New Testament reality. Different people have differing interpretations of the Bible on that matter, but here are a few significant passages to consider quickly:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The temple today is the church! As believers are built together, we collectively are God’s new temple on the earth! Therefore, God’s promises to Israel about the land and the temple are promises that apply today to the church!
- Looking back at Nehemiah and 1 Chronicles 7, where does NWBC fit into the context of those verses?
- 1 Chronicles 7:13 speaks of a time when God removes blessing from the land of Israel, what would that look like when applied to a church?
- What do you think “heal their land” means when applied to NWBC?
We’ve been digging pretty deeply over the past few weeks into our own souls and the state of our church. We have obviously been dealing with some uncomfortable truths because our attendance has been even lower! This is the truth: God has something great in store for us as individuals and God has something great in store for this neighborhood through us together! However, we will not experience this great blessing unless we are who God wants us to be.
The promises of restoration found in the Bible, are always preceded by the command to return wholeheartedly to God, to seek his face, to turn from sin.
- What do you think? How close are we to being the kind of church God wants us to be?
- What will it mean for us as a church to return to God and seek his face?
- What will it mean for you?
Time to Seek His Face
In your groups, spend some time seeking God’s face through prayer. If there is some confession that still needs to be done, then do it together in your groups. Also, make sure that at least one person prays for each of those who answered the last question.
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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!
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