Nehemiah 5: Keeping the Faith 11/27/14

Text: Nehemiah 8:1-9

From www.untilallarereached.com

Today is the final sermon in the Series on Nehemiah

Let us remind ourselves of the historical timeline that Israel and particularly the tribe of Judah had been on up to this point.

In 587 BC the Southern kingdom was taken into captivity and 70 years later the first returning exiles returned to Jerusalem and began to rebuild the temple. This was completed in 520 BC.

About 60 years later a Scribe by the name of Ezra returned to Jerusalem and his focus was to rebuild the spiritual lives of those who had returned to the land, his focus was to teach the Jews God’s law. About 13 or 14 years after Ezra returned God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and this took place in just 52 days as we have seen.

We pick up the account of Nehemiah at a time when the walls were completed and the Israelites had settled in their towns.

Ezra, was a direct descendant of Aaron. When he arrived in Jerusalem the moral and spiritual condition of the people was terrible. But Ezra was a faithful witness and teacher, he taught for 14 years with little fruit, however when the people had been inspired to build the walls, it was they, the people that asked Ezra to read the law. Notice this, the people came to Ezra, as we see in verse 1. The water gate was an open public place that was large enough for all the people to gather. Verse 1 says all the people gathered, scholars estimate that it was between 30 000 and 50 000 people. They even built a platform for Ezra to stand on and read the Law. What followed was an amazing church service. As Ezra opened the scrolls and began reading from the Law of Moses, which was the same as the first five books in our modern Bible. All the people stood in reverence and with a sense of expectancy, they listened attentively. Ezra read aloud, probably very loud from daybreak until noon, six hours.

Two things struck me as I read this first part of chapter 8; firstly the reading took place at the water gate. This place was chosen because the temple court was too small, but it is also significant that God’s Word was proclaimed in the Market place, in the streets and in the public square. The Word of God is meant to be proclaimed in the public places, in the market place and in society, as we do that, whole communities will be transformed. All too often the only place that the Word of God is proclaimed is in buildings like this one, we are doing such a disservice to our community by not proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in our communities.

Secondly the proclamation of the Law led to an immediate revival, the people were overcome with remorse and wept as Ezra expounded on the Law of God. Their sins were being exposed by the Holy Spirit and they repented and turned from their ways. This is revival, God’s word proclaimed, the Holy Spirit convicts of Sin and the people respond in repentance. Life change happens.

Let us look at this word revival for a minute, we pray for it, we discuss it, we long for it, but what is it?

Firstly, what it is not is a church meeting. Revival can start in a meeting, but a meeting itself is not revival.

Revival refers to a spiritual reawakening from a state of dormancy and unfortunately many times, stagnation in the life of a believer. Notice how revival is personal, this is not something that we can hope the church encounters, it must start with you and me and our personal walk with God.

As we see from the account in Nehemiah, the people were overcome with grief and repentance as the law was read. This was an unusual encounter with the presence of God.

But this is what happens when we get a glimpse of the Glory of God and of his awesome purity compared to the sin in our lives. None of us is sinless, and as we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins, and we see how far short of the Glory of God we are, we will break down in sorrow and repentance. Revival is a move of God, it is God’s grace and not something we engineer. Revival results in changed lives as people live in holiness and walk in evangelism and social justice.

There have been some incredible revivals that have taken place in the past and these have been well documented.

In the 1730s, a religious revival swept through the British American colonies. Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield proclaimed the word of God and the Holy Spirit transformed the nation.

In 1872 -1873 DL Moody’s evangelism led to the Scottish revival

In 1904 The great Welsh revival took place under the leadership of a coal miner by the name of Evan Roberts.

After the welsh revival there was an awakening in various parts of the world including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, California, South Korea, China, Chile and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

Every Church needs revival, every nation needs revival, we need revival and that is my prayer for our church and our nation. Turning back to God with an overwhelming sense of his Glory and majesty.

 All these accounts of revival and spiritual reawakening are well documented and frequently recalled, but what about today, the American Northeast, where the Great Awakening took place in America is a place where God is all but forgotten, where the church is a historical monument, not a lively representation of the presence of God. What has happened?

When we look at Nehemiah chapter 13 we see that this is not an uncommon occurrence. After serving as the governor in Jerusalem for 12 years, Nehemiah had gone back to Susa. He had gone back to serve King Artaxerxes presumably as his cupbearer. Nehemiah later went back to Jerusalem after what was probably a few years. To his dismay the people had slipped back into lives of disobedience to the Law of God. They were not following the Sabbath day, they were trading and working on the Sabbath. They had also intermarried with the foreign tribes in the region.

Nehemiah took drastic action. He quickly went about restoring order and bringing the city into alignment with the laws of God. In fact his example of church discipline is one that probably would have him thrown in jail in our society (13:25). Nehemiah was angry because he knew the consequences of the sins of the people would lead to further punishment from God. Nehemiah saw things from a heavenly perspective.

So applying this to our lives, how we keep the faith? How do we continue to grow and experience more of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Our lives should be a constant growing experience, becoming more like Jesus. If you are not more like Jesus today, than you were a year ago, something is wrong and you need to re-evaluate your walk with the Lord. You see, revival comes and revivals go, but it is up to you to appropriate that to your personal life, you are responsible for how you respond to Jesus’ call.

I want to give you 4 things you need to do to ensure that you are encountering God on a daily basis and living in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

  1. Bible – The first is reading and studying the Word of God, make it the priority of your life. This is the Word of God from which we gain our sustenance; it is the sword of the Spirit. Our primary offensive weapon in this world.
  2. Confession – unconfessed sin will prevent you from experience revival and it will also ensure that you remain a spiritual infant. Confess your sins before God, and ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and lead you to repentance.
  3. Community – In this day and age, we hear a lot about community, but true community is rare. Even in our church, community is a goal that is seldom achieved. Connect with other Christians and commit to walking together, encouraging and challenging one another in your personal walk.
  4. Prayer – I cannot stress this enough. Prayer in your own private place, find a place, make it a regular encounter with God every day. And then praying together with other believers. Praying for revival. Worshiping God, thanking the Lord, Confessing our sins and bringing our requests before him.

Nehemiah 4: Obstacles the Opportunity for Growth 11/17/14

Text:   Nehemiah 6:9-16From www.untilallarereached.com

Opposition is a normal part of the Christian life, we need to realize that and not be surprised when the enemy comes with his stealth attacks on us. Last week I encouraged you to begin rebuilding; rebuilding in your personal life, praying and reading God’s word and then getting involved in ministry. But be sure that Satan does not want you to do that. He will try multiple ways in which to throw you off the path that God has for you. But challenges allow us to grow. As we encounter challenges, we learn to lean on our Heavenly Father. That is when true growth in our spiritual lives occurs.

We pickup the account of Nehemiah in chapter 6. Last week we saw how Nehemiah got the green light and the building of the walls of Jerusalem was progressing well. But there was opposition to the rebuilding of the walls. Enemies of Judah did not want to see Jerusalem re-established and fortified.

Specifically we read about three men, Sanballat – who was the governor of Samaria; Tobiah who was a Persian official over the region of the Ammonites east of the Jordan and Geshem who was an Arab leader allied to the Samaritans. In these three chapters (4-6), we see multiple forms of opposition to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, culminating in chapter 6 in the direct attacks on Nehemiah himself.

The first attempt of intimidation against the people of Judah is found in ch4. It was a direct approach, the enemy was coming to kill the workers and put an end to the rebuilding process (4:11).

But Nehemiah encouraged the people to keep their eyes on the Lord (v14). The people rallied together and prepared themselves for the impending attack from the enemy. We read further in chapter 4 that they posted sentries and the workers worked with weapons in one hand to protect themselves. We don’t read that there was actually any attack rather it was a plot by Sanballat and Tobiah to intimidate and stop the building, but the end result was that the people rallied and came through the intimidation stronger and more committed to the project.

The second weapon that Satan used was to create disunity amongst the people. There was an intense famine in the land, coupled with the fact that many of the people were so committed to building the wall that they had neglected their own crops and businesses. The wealthy were beginning to lend to the poor and enslave them with high interest and impossible loan terms. This resulted in dissatisfaction and squabbling among the people. Nehemiah confronted the problem head on he did not wait and hope the problem would take care of itself (5:6). Here was a man who was obviously under stress and it didn’t take much to push him to anger. He was angry not only because of the injustice done to each other, he was angry because he saw the consequences of the disunity. The wall building was being hampered and the workers were being discouraged. Nehemiah once again displayed integrity and leadership in order to bring focus to the people of Judah.

Now in Chapter 6 we see the ways in which Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem focus their attention directly on Nehemiah. The walls had been completed, but the gates were still not in place.

These three men suddenly pretended to want to meet Nehemiah in a display of goodwill, however Nehemiah realized and saw through their plot to do him harm. On four occasions they asked him to come out to them and each time he responded with the same answer v3; “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah displayed discernment and determination as he refused to be influenced by their repeated offers.

The next plan the three enemies hatched was to discredit Nehemiah by slandering him and creating rumors in an attempt to upset the King of Persia. But Nehemiah is secure in the truth and he simply rebuffs their false accusations. And he identifies their true motives as we see in verse 9. Nehemiah knew where his strength lay and did not fear man or the attempts to discredit him.

The final attempt to ruin the mission of Nehemiah was what we read in our scripture portion today. This prophet Shemaiah had been hired by Sanballat and Tobiah to try to get Nehemiah to go into hiding in the temple. This seems like a reasonable suggestion, since there were obviously people trying to do away with Nehemiah.

Just one problem, Shemaiah’s proposal was directly opposed to the Law of Moses. Only the Priests and Levites could go beyond the Altar of burnt offerings at the temple. Numbers 18:7 stated that any layman entering this part of the temple is to be put to death. But Nehemiah saw that this was just an attempt to discredit him, to show him as a coward and as a man who had no regard for the Law of Moses. Nehemiah showed discernment and again Nehemiah prayed and went back to work.

Nehemiah showed incredible courage and perseverance, he could have quite easily given up and gone back to Susa and resumed his role as cupbearer to the King. However he knew that his mission was assigned by God and that God would protect and vindicate him. As a result the wall was completed in just 52 days, a remarkable and miraculous feat.

With every challenge that Nehemiah faced he seemed to grow stronger and more determined.

What is God calling you to build today? Last week I challenged you to begin rebuild the walls of your personal spiritual life and to ask the Lord where he would have you serve him. How has God been directing you? Are you feeling a stirring to begin building something for the Kingdom of God?

I guarantee you that as soon as you begin along the path of building something for the Kingdom of God you will encounter opposition. You will begin to have thoughts of doubt, thoughts along the lines of; “you can’t do this”, “you are not educated enough”, “you will just make a fool of yourself”, “you are going to lose your friends”, “if you get involved in that area of ministry, you will miss out on that favorite TV show”. The enemy will use every trick he has to prevent you from serving the Lord. However as you step forward in faith, you will see that God will give you grace and strength to accomplish more than you ever dreamt of.

Anything worth doing for the Kingdom of God will take somebody who walks in faith and determination. A holy determination, that believes in the promises of God.

Nehemiah 3 Faith leads to Action 11/10/14

Text: Nehemiah 2:11-18 From www.untilallarereached.com

We have all faced large projects at one time or another in our lives. It might have been a large paper due for college or high school, or a business launch, or even building a house or other large construction project. It is an exciting time. I have worked on many large engineering projects, in many different fields. And I can honestly say that the best part of the entire project is always the moment you receive the purchase order. That moment when your bid has been accepted and you finally see all the work of the quoting process paying off.

Right after that however, the work proper begins and you have to roll up your sleeves. The problems start coming and the project begins to give you sleepless nights. What project are you facing right now?

Nehemiah was at the purchase order stage. He had just been given the letters from the King and he had taken the 900 mile journey to Jerusalem. He must have had tremendous excitement and fear at the same time. But his entrance to Jerusalem must have caused quite a stir. He was the king’s representative and had a military escort. His arrival did not go unnoticed. There must have been a lot of people watching him and waiting to see what he would do next.

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he took some time to rest. Actually he rested for three days.

Nehemiah also was watching the people, he was looking for workers, people who had a mind to work. Notice in verse 16 he writes; “The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work” Nehemiah was assigning resources, like any good project manager, he was assessing the workers and seeing who could do what jobs and how best to allocate them.

But Nehemiah was still operating in tremendous faith. He had no idea of all that was about to happen in his life. Nehemiah completely trusted the Lord for the outcome of the project. He did not operate out of fear he operated out of faith as we saw last week. Nehemiah was preparing and doing his part, because he trusted that God would do his.

After completing the survey of the walls and the people, Nehemiah took a very bold step in faith he made his “sales pitch” to the people. Verse 17 tells us that he addressed the people. The people of Jerusalem were discouraged and defeated. They did not have much hope for the future. But not Nehemiah, he was filled with courage and boldness that came from his relationship with God and the secure knowledge that God would allow them to rebuild the wall. His presentation to the people was three-fold;

  1. Firstly he drew their attention to the obvious; “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.” They didn’t need reminding, but he wanted to create in them a sense of dissatisfaction, this is key like any good salesman will tell you.
  2. Then he went on to say “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem,” He didn’t say, I am here to make you build the wall, no he was invested, it was their project, he was all in.
  3. And finally he reinforces his appeal by showing them that this was God’s idea and plan, not his; “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me”. He encouraged them that God was going to bring this rebuilding project to be, and that God was with them.

The people responded immediately; “Let us start rebuilding.” Nehemiah just got his second purchase order!

This is such a great story of fear to faith to action, but it is more than just a Biblical narrative, what is the application for us today? What does God want us to rebuild here at Grace Point? When we look at the hand of God over this church in the last year, it is amazing to see all that He has done. But truthfully there is a lot of rebuilding to do, we are beginning to get a glimpse of the plan the Lord has for his church here. Are we going to respond like the Jews and say; “Let us start rebuilding” starting something new or are we going to hold back and resist the move of God.

But maybe God is speaking to you on a more personal level today. What is God asking you to rebuild in your personal life, in your home? Maybe today you have just received the purchase order to rebuild your personal and spiritual walls. Not walls to prevent others from being able to contact you, but walls from which to operate as a Christian from a position of strength and security in the Lord. Knowing who your God is and moving from fear and defeat into a life filled with peace and most importantly a life that God will use for His glory as you lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

So how do you go about rebuilding the walls of your spiritual life?It is all about time management, I am not going to give you a teaching on time management, but we all need that desperately. Time is a precious God given commodity, and we only have a limited amount of time on this earth. God is going to hold us accountable for the use of the time that he has given us. Successful people know the secret of success is what you read and who you spend your time with.Well as a Christian if that is true then we have a perfect answer, reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus in prayer. You can start today, what are you reading, and who are you spending time with? Building up the spiritual walls of our lives only happens as we pray and read God’s word.

But what about Grace Point? There is no doubt that this church is not what it was twenty years ago. But God is doing something here he is stirring in the hearts of his people here, and in this community. There is a definite shift that has taken place. God is bringing new people in, and raising up a new generation of workers who have a heart to build on the work of those who have gone before and have labored to build the foundations and walls of the ministry of this church.

Let us begin rebuilding, starting with our personal lives. We read in the book of Nehemiah that the people all rebuilt the wall section that was directly in front of their homes. They started rebuilding at home. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, and convict us of areas and places that need rebuilding. Spend more time in prayer and reading God’s word. Praying for the Church and praying for your families. Then as God leads you get involved with the ministry of God here at Grace Point.

Nehemiah 2 From Fear to Faith 11/3/14

Text:  Nehemiah 2:1-10

 In this scripture reading Nehemiah displayed faith that resulted from his season of prayer. I want to look at two specific characteristics of his faith today.

The first was that Nehemiah had the faith to wait. Four months after Nehemiah had received the bad report from his brother, he was still waiting, and Nehemiah was patiently waiting on the Lord for direction (see Hebrews 6:12). It is through faith and patience that we receive the promises of God.

Nehemiah took to heart that great verse in Psalm 46:10; “Be still and know that I am God”. Sometimes the best use of our time is to simply be still, and rest in the presence of God, being patient and secure in His faithfulness. When we wait on the Lord, we are not waiting in vain, it is not a waste of time, rather it is the greatest investment of our time as God is aligning our heart with His purposes. It is a fact that faith and patience go together.

This leads us to the next characteristic of faith that Nehemiah displayed in this chapter. Nehemiah had the opportunity to bring the wine before the King, and the king noticed that he was sad and not looking healthy. Immediately the King noticed, this was a serious issue. The king held the life of Nehemiah in his hands. Nehemiah states in verse 2; “I was very much afraid”. Nehemiah knew that this could end really badly for him. However the King discerned that Nehemiah was deeply troubled by something that did not relate to his serving the King as cupbearer and he asked him.

Nehemiah then had the faith to ask; This was his moment to shine, this was the open door that he had been waiting for. He had one shot, what was he going to do? Nehemiah explained to the King that he was deeply burdened for the city of his ancestors, note he did not mention Jerusalem by name, he did not want to risk upsetting the king by using a buzzword that would remind the King the former enemy. Then the king does something surprising, he asks Nehemiah in verse 4; “what is it you want?” Suddenly all the wealth and power of the kingdom supported the question from the King. Nehemiah knew that this was it! He had to act now! But what do we read in the second part of verse 4; “then I prayed to the God of heaven.” This was a very brief, telegraph prayer; he didn’t bow his head, get on his knees and pray. No, he simply and quietly asked the Lord for the right words to say and for favor. After his brief prayer, Nehemiah took a leap of faith. He asked the king to be allowed to go back and rebuild the city. Notice, in verse 6 we read that it pleased the king to send me and he asks him “how long will this journey take?” Nehemiah gives him a timeframe, which we are not given, but it was probably around six months to a year initially. We know from the rest of the book that Nehemiah eventually spent 12 years in Jerusalem. But before the king can give any further comment, in a rush of boldness, Nehemiah asks for letters of safe conduct to the governors of Trans- Euphrates and a letter to give him access to building materials. Nehemiah pushed king Artaxerxes to the limit. Here he was asking one of the nations that had destroyed Jerusalem to help rebuild it. He was literally pushing the limits of the king’s generosity.

This took courage, this was faith in action! The King granted him his request, as we know, the King’s heart had been prepared for this moment as well and the hand of God was directing the situation. Nehemiah went out with authority; he had letters showing that he had the Authority of the king of one of the world’s great superpowers.

This reminds me of the Great Commission, this story of Nehemiah is such a great picture of Matthew 28:18 and 19; When Jesus sends his followers out on the greatest mission of all mankind, he gives authority, but not just any authority; “all authority in heaven and earth”. We don’t have to be afraid or troubled by opposition. Were he sends we must go and have the faith that he will bring about the results. The important thing is that we do as he says.

Martin Luther once said; “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” (See Matthew 17:20)

Faith is one of those attributes that is so easy to speak about, but so challenging to completely live out, because for faith to truly operate there needs to be a certain amount of fear and doubt. Without doubt there can be no faith; there must be an element of doubt, even small for faith to flourish.

Nehemiah 2:2 states that Nehemiah was “very much afraid” and for good reason, his life was on the line, everything he was praying for during the last 4 months was in the balance.

It is no small thing that the single command that occurs most in scripture is; “do not fear” This is God’s most frequently repeated instruction; “fear not” (Joshua 1:9). God consistently throughout his word states; “Do not be afraid, be courageous, you can trust me, fear not!”

From www.untilallarereached.com

But fear is such a normal human reaction. In fact fear is a healthy form of self preservation. So why does God tell human beings to stop being afraid more often than he tells them anything else?

I believe it is because fear paralyses us from doing what God asks us to do. Every time in scripture that God commands someone to not fear, it is on the brink of a momentous decision or life change that affects millions of people. Fear is the main reason why we do not do what God tells us to do.

Ten years ago, Debbie and I were both earning really good salaries, I as an engineer and she as a nurse, we had a nice house, a three year old little girl and life in America was good. Then God told us to give up our jobs and trust him to provide as we began our lives in fulltime missions. That first step to resign and begin trusting God for a paycheck was unnerving. How would we respond?

As we look back now we can see how each time God asked us to do something, or go somewhere, or give up something, it became easier and easier. Because we knew that our heavenly father would never let us fall. He was always there, around us and caring for us.

Joe Stowell says,

“In the midst of the changing circumstances of life, we have a choice. We can live in fear of all the uncertainties, or we can cling to the reality of God’s sustaining and intervening presence in our lives.”

What are you earnestly praying for? Will you be ready with faith when God opens the door? Don’t give up, keep pressing in, the Lord will open the door in his timing and you need to be ready.

Nehemiah 1 Building on a solid Foundation 10/27/14

Nehemiah Chapter 1

From www.untilallarereached.com

What is a “Vision”? We often hear about CEO’s and leaders casting vision for the future and directing the future of organizations and corporations. However when we as Christians talk about having a vision for the future, it is not a crystal ball looking into the future. It is a belief in your heart that God is going to do something that is consistent with his word and his will. Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at this book of Nehemiah. The book of Nehemiah is all about a man who received a vision from God and God allowed him to accomplish a great task.

The Israelites after King David and Solomon were prone to forgetting all that God had done for them, and they began to worship idols and perform the wicked acts of the religions of those who lived in the promised-land before them. As a result, after many warnings by his prophets, God punished the Israelites and they were attacked by the superpowers of the day. God used first the Syrians, and then the Babylonians. In 597 B.C. the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took the people of Judah into captivity. It was now it 445 B.C., and God was looking for someone to go to the ruined city and restore safety and order. Nehemiah was to be that person.

 So who was this man? He was an Israelite, who was born in ancient Persia and became the cupbearer to the King. This was not simply a fancy term for a butler. No, he was a high ranking official and someone that the King would turn to for personal advice and policy advice. Only a person of exceptional trustworthiness would be given such a post.

Nehemiah was not forgetful of his own people, for he eagerly asked his brother for news about Jerusalem. The news was distressing: the remnant was suffering shame, the walls were broken down, and the gates were burned. (See Ps. 79:1–4)

Instead of being a city of praise and glory, it was a city of shame and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed. It was an ever present reminder of their sin, defeat and disgrace.

Nehemiah was overcome with sadness and remorse. Even though Nehemiah grieved, he didn’t stay there, he didn’t wallow in his sadness and simply burry his head in the sand hoping someone else would take care of the city of Jerusalem. The fact that he was more than 700 miles away made no difference, he could have easily said that the situation in Jerusalem was not his problem.

Nehemiah’s response to hearing the news is indicative of his awareness that God was calling him to a completely new sphere of service, for which his position and training had uniquely prepared him. This is shown in particular by his sense of identity with his people and the fact that he prayed about the situation for four months fasting and praying, asking the Lord for wisdom and direction. (From Dec. to April – 1:1 and 2:1)

Nehemiah was a man of action, he was not someone to sit idly by and wait for someone else to take care of the problem. However he had the wisdom to realize that this was a calling on his life unlike anything else he had ever received. He did not take it lightly, he asked God for timing and guidance. He knew that the burden in his heart was not enough; he needed the wisdom and power of God to move forward. Nehemiah knew that anything worthwhile begins with a solid foundation and a vision from the Lord.

When we are faced with a huge challenge and life changing decision, who do we turn to? Our friends? Parents? Any sympathetic ear? Why do we do this, when we can go to the Solid foundation of the ALMIGHTY GOD.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer and a man of action. He started with prayer and fasting. It is a sad feature of the modern day church that prayer is relegated to a side room for those who “like that sort of thing”. However prayer is our life blood. A church without prayer is a church that is complacent and ultimately will die.

As I mentioned earlier the book shows Nehemiah to be a man of prayer (1:4–11; 2:4; 4:4; 4:9; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). The book starts and ends with prayer! But we can learn so much from the format and flow of the prayer of Nehemiah in the first chapter of the book. First he begins by worshiping God, acknowledging him for who He is;” Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God.” Then he repents for his personal sins and then for the sins of his people.

As Nehemiah continues in prayer, he reminds God of his promises that were given to Moses, because of his knowledge of the Law of Moses he is able to stand firm on the promises of God. This is such a lesson for us. How can we stand firm on the promises of God when we don’t know them? God doesn’t need reminding, but we need to get into the habit of quoting the promised of God from His word.

Nehemiah’s prayer (1:5–11) was a model of adoration (1:5), confession (1:6–7), and petition (1:8–11). I like to add in the aspect of thanksgiving, reminding us of the blessings of God.

I started this sermon with the question; “what is a vision” what is our vision? Where are we going? We need to come together as God’s people in this place and seek His will. Ultimately it will come down to God’s people on their knees in prayer seeking God’s will for His purposes.

From www.untilallarereached.com

Compassion – A Pillar of the Church 10/12/14

Text:  Mark 2:1-12 From www.untilallarereached.com

Today I want to look at the final pillar of the church, that is compassion. This is a function of the church that some people do very well, but unfortunately so often we fail dismally, because compassion costs us. Compassion means that we have to go out of our way, Compassion makes us tired.

Social concern is a more defined way of describing compassion. Compassion is observing and seeking to meet the felt needs of the community. It is important that the church understands its role of bringing the love and comfort of the message of Jesus to those who are hurting, whether they are believers or not. Jesus set the example of caring for the sick and needy of society, we too need to continue with this ministry. James 2:18

Social concern must also include standing against injustice even if it is not popular in modern society. The church needs to be the leader in community service as a key function of the church. We cannot stand idly by and pretend that we did not know, because we do know and we must get involved.

In Mark chapter 2 we read the Jesus looked at the man and declared that his sins were forgiven.

Jesus was looking beyond his physical and temporal condition and knew that he had an eternal need, the same need all of humanity has, the problem of sin. As we read later in the account in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus goes on to heal the man completely and he walks home.          But before Jesus healed the man, he spoke peace into his heart, he forgave his sins. Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs, it meets the greatest need of man and it cost the greatest price.

Jesus was full of compassion as we read this throughout the Gospels. However the primary focus of Jesus’ ministry was to save those who were condemned to an eternity in Hell (Luke 19:10). Jesus expects his church to follow his example and to have the same priority.

During this post-modern age, with the advent of 24 hour news and the internet, the plight of the poor and hurting is much more visible. There has arisen a division in the greater body of Christ There are those who say that we need to do everything we can to demonstrate the Gospel and help the poor and hurting in the world, these people are identified with the social gospel. Then there are those who say that it is most important to preach the Gospel, and that the social programs are taking away our focus from the real task of reaching the lost.

We need to strike a balance between these two extremes. We cannot overlook the social justice issues of our day and age, but we also need to understand that if we help people without giving them the life saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are still destined for an eternity in hell.

Meeting felt needs is important, but it must lead to meeting the eternal need

There is a popular saying that that is often repeated these days on facebook, twitter, and from our pulpits. It has been attributed to St Francis of Assisi ; “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words” I can see why people are drawn to this way of thinking, however there are two basic problems with this quote; firstly there is not proof that Francis ever said it, and secondly it simply is not biblical. (See Romans 10:13-14)

Let us never be guilty of assuming that people will get to heaven because they have been helped by a well meaning person. Please, let us make sure we help as much as we can, but at the same time lead them to Jesus. In the midst of the darkest places and times in human history, is when people are the most open to the saving message of Jesus. Let us not miss that open door.

So as we have been looking at the church over the last 5 weeks. This picture has developed. As you can see the image is a portrayal of what looks like smoke of different colors – this is intended to represent the aroma that the church presents to the world and to God. Is our worship a pleasing sacrifice to him? Is our edification, evangelism and compassion a pleasing aroma to the world around us? Paul writing to the Corinthian church states in 2 Corinthians 2:15 states ”Forwe are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”;

 The church does not exist for itself; it exists to bring others to a commitment to Jesus Christ.

Evangelism – A Pillar of the Church 10/5/15

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

From www.untilallarereached.com

Introduction:

Evangelism is clearly outwards focused function of the church. However we need to get back to the clear gospel proclamation in our churches. The tragedy is that people attend churches all around the world and think they are Christians because they y listen to a good speech every week. We need to proclaim the gospel from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classes and our small groups.

Paul was writing to the Corinthian church and confronting those in Corinth who were saying that there is no resurrection from the dead and that Jesus himself did not rise from the dead. If this were the case then there is no hope, and without the resurrection of Jesus, we have no reason to be meeting together today.

He presents in the verses we read today, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes one of the clearest presentations of the simple gospel message that we find anywhere in the bible.

Paul declares that Jesus died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised to life on the third day. Paul produces proof of this in the way of the Old Testament prophecies and the fact that there were many witnesses of these events.

The gospel message is a historical fact, it is not a distant story that changed history, and is still changing lives today for the glory of God. This is the wonderful message on which our faith is built. Jesus won the victory over death that day. When Jesus died, he said, “it is finished” not “I am finished”. Jesus was not a martyr, dying for his faith, but he was a savior dying to save you and me from the penalty of our sins.

There is probably not a finer example in the bible for us of what it is to be a witness of the Gospel message than the story of the four lepers found in 2 Kings 7. We are not people with a superior knowledge reaching down to others who are not as smart as us, we are not theological practitioners. We are sinners saved by Grace, and we are able to say to people, Come with us! See what we have seen, Salvation is here!

Years ago a missional church or a Great Commission church was defined by how much money they gave to missions, and the focus was on the mission field over there…. But now the world is a very different place. We have so many cultures and nationalities right here in Kansas City, in our neighborhoods the mission field has come to us. We need to ask God the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the lost all around us.

Are we truly a missional church if when people come into our churches, they see a church that is not relevant and meaningful to their world or even their generation. A missional church is a church that sacrifices their non biblical traditions that may or may not be very good, in order to present a relevant Gospel message to the lost in their community. Are we a missional church?

There is a difference between evangelism and the gift of the evangelist. The spiritual gift of being an evangelist is rare, probably 5 or 10% of the Body of Christ. However evangelism is an assignment, the commission, and Command of Jesus Christ for every Christian. Witnessing is the role of every Christian. We have a story to tell.

The evangelist has the role of equipping the body of Christ to do the work of evangelism.

We must remember that we do not save anyone, we don’t have the power to convince someone to die to their old life and make Jesus Lord of their lives. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to pray for the lost and to present the message of Jesus to them.

Without prayer, our evangelism is weak and ineffective. Matthew 9:37 &38

By the death and resurrection of Jesus, he has made it possible for those who believe in him and make him Lord of their lives to be able to come into a relationship with God the Father. Those who make Jesus Lord of their lives are saved from an eternity in Hell and will spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven.

This is true salvation, not a temporary salvation it is the eternal message of the good news of the cross. And it is available to any and all who call on the name of Jesus.

 

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

Discipleship – A Pillar of the Church 9/28/14

Equipping the Saints – A Pillar of the Church

Text: 2 Timothy 3:10-17 

From www.untilallarereached.com

 Introduction:

As we enter our third week in focusing on the church, this week we focus on the second pillar of the church, namely edification. Edification or equipping is a major function of the church, although Jesus focused more on evangelism, it is logical that equipping or edification took place before the disciples were sent out on evangelism missions.

It is important to note that edification is not simply training, it goes much deeper than that, and the fact that it is not only the pastors or teachers being edified, it is the building up of the entire body of Christ.

In the text for today Paul was encouraging his young disciple. Timothy knew Paul’s doctrine (teaching); his manner of life (conduct); the purpose that motivated his life; the faith that sustained him in trial; the long-suffering, love, and endurance that he showed, even when persecuted; and the wonderful way God took care of him through it all. Paul had been a divine object lesson to young Timothy,

Today I want to look at 3 ways in which the members of a church are equipped or edified.

One of them is fellowship; the early church in the New Testament shared all things in common and cared for each other as we see in Acts 5. However we sometimes lose the intention of true fellowship. We meet together for meals, share a cup of coffee and don’t really fellowship as Christians, unfortunately sometimes it is little more than a get together that turns into gossip meetings. However I like to call true fellowship, fellowship with Purpose – when we get together, let us intentionally speak about things that build one another up, encourage one another, speak about the word of God, what is God saying to you in your life right now? What are you learning? This is true fellowship that leads to edification.

Another method of edification is preaching and teaching- Today we have access to literally hundreds of thousands of training and teaching tools, from the internet and printed material. Timothy knew the scriptures, and Paul commended him on that (v15). The Bible transforms the child of GOD into a mature person in Christ; it equips the saints to be servants. “Equipped for service.” In other words, the Word of God furnishes and equips a believer so that he can live a life that pleases God and do the work God wants him to do. The better we know the Word, the better we are able to live and work for God.

The purpose of Bible study is not just to understand doctrines or to be able to defend the faith, as important as these things are. The ultimate purpose is the equipping of the believers who read it. It is the Word of God that equips God’s people to do the work of God.

As church members are edified, the church grows healthier, as the church grows healthier, the church grows in number. But the foundation must be set with equipping or edification or training.,

The final method of edification is Discipleship; this is one of the most overused words and misunderstood terms in the modern day church. Some people question whether or not Paul truly discipled Timothy, however as we look at our text this morning it gives us a clue into his methodology of discipleship (see verse 10). How did Timothy know all these things about Paul? Obviously he observed Paul, they spent time together and lived life together. We confuse discipleship with teaching, we have this picture of an overweight guru sitting on a rock “discipling” his students. We can easily allow our students to believe that we are wonderful people who never get flustered or angry if we limit discipleship to a teacher/student paradigm. However Jesus modeled for us the perfect form of discipleship, his disciples knew him well, he taught them when he was teaching formally and he taught them when they observed his life. Jesus knew that he had to model for his disciples how to live this new life he was presenting to them. They had to see it in action.

You may say, how does this have anything to do with me? The discipling of new (and sometimes old) Christians in the fundamentals of living the Christian life has largely been neglected in churches. Here is a great place where you can make a difference. When you lead someone to Christ, take him/her under your wing (so to speak) and show them how to be a Christian disciple. Don’t worry about being a master teacher just share your life with them.

But the primary reason for discipleship is to equip people to lead others into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we are not discipling intentionally towards training people to lead others to Christ, we probably need to take the name “disciple” out of it.

So why is equipping or edification so important in our churches today? What we all need to understand is that when we are saved, we all become God’s ministering people. We need to see the church as a place where we become equipped and trained to go out into the world to serve the Lord in our particular area of ministry. Wherever Christians go, they are the church, reaching and touching people for the Lord Jesus.

A church that is equipped and engaging in ministry becomes a powerful church and makes a difference in the lives of those around them.

How about we change our perspective and seek to find a job for every member rather than trying to find a few members to do all the jobs. As we train new members, high on the list of priorities will be a challenge to them to be plugged in to some area of ministry. This is discipleship, this is equipping!

Worship – A Pillar of the Church 9/21/14

Worship – A Pillar of the Church  From www.untilallarereached.com

The first function of the church is Worship. The early church set an example of regular worship. Even though worship is directed towards God, it serves to benefit the worshippers as they are drawn closer to God in their worship. As believers focus on God, they begin to learn more about him, this also includes teaching and instruction, and then the believers being thus equipped go out and share the Gospel message with the lost.

What is Worship? The Greek verb here (latreuein) may also be translated ‘to serve’. Christian worship cannot be restricted to prayer and praise in a congregational context. As the Apostle Paul states in Romans 12:1

Worship is an expression of reverence and adoration of God. – Worship is the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices, hearts and very lives.

The Gospel is a call to worship, to turn from sin and call on the name of the Lord. Worship is a direct expression of our ultimate purpose for living. (Ephesians 1:12)

Everything in our worship services, should be to draw attention to God and to cause people to think about him.

Throughout the Old Testament period listening to God’s Word, prayer, and sacrifice constituted the essence of worship. But in every case the worshiper killed the animal from his own flock with his own hands. These sacrifices expressed in a vivid and tangible way the cost of sin and the worshiper’s responsibility. Under the Old Covenant, believers could only draw near to god in a limited way. Most could not enter the temple.

               When Jesus came, he proclaimed that he himself was the temple of God; in resurrection, he would provide the spiritual dwelling where God the Spirit and people, in spirit, could have spiritual communion. In other words, worship would no longer be in a place but in a person—through Jesus Christ and his Spirit the worshipers could come directly to God.

This shift in worship—from physical to spiritual—is the theme of John 4 when Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan Woman (John 4:23-24) God the Father would no longer be worshiped in a place. A new age had come in which the true worshipers (Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile) must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Remember from a few weeks ago, we discussed how the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church, Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t.

Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate and not man. John Piper

 

As we so frequently mention, Grace Point is a missional church, but missions must never supersede worship. Missions is a temporary necessity, worship will continue forever. Worship is the fuel and goal of missions, In order for us to direct others to Jesus, we need to come from a place of intimacy and worship.

How sad it is that today, many people walk into churches today and experience passionless worship and see the lives of so called Christians who are just going through the routine of Sunday morning. Are we not claiming to be worshipping the creator and sustainer of the entire universe? How can our worship services be anything but a powerful expression of our love and reverence for God.

But today Sunday morning “services” become a practical list of how-to’s and psychological soothing and relational therapy – but this is all so out of touch with the true reality – the overwhelming greatness of God.

The term ‘worship’ is misunderstood if it gives the impression that the major element is what human beings do or offer to God. Worship is human response to a gracious God, and it needs to be placed in this context if it is to be properly understood.

True worship also flows out of seeing and realizing God for Who he is. When we get a glimpse of the awesome throne room of God, it will be impossible for us not to respond in true worship. (Isaiah 6:3)

Sadly many evangelical churches do not worship, they gather, sing, give, read the Word, and pray, but in their hearts it is nothing more than a mechanical process. So many churches lack the fire and passion of true worship, because we have lost sight of who we gather to worship! I pray that here at Grace Point, we will have an ever increasing passion and realization of the Almighty God.

So how can we make our worship more effective? We need to remember that worship is primarily spiritual, thus we need to look for spiritual solutions to the desire for more effective worship. We need to spend much time in prayer before we come together to worship. The worship team and pastoral staff pray, but do we as a congregation prepare our hearts in prayer? How much time did you pray for the service, before coming to church today?

Before we enter into a worship service we need to prepare our own hearts and see if we are holding any ill feelings towards anyone in the congregation. This will hinder worship. We need to be reconciled to each other before we focus on worshiping God. Also, as we need to approach the throne of grace in worship, we need to be seeking personal holiness in our lives. As we see in Hebrews 12:14;” 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What a challenge – are we walking in holiness and purity?

What is the Church? 9/10/14

 

The Church – Athol Barnes

Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

From www.untilallarereached.com

Today there is much confusion regarding the church. What is the church, is it a building, is it a community, how many people constitute a church. Part of the misunderstanding is the multiple uses of the word church. On September 13 1911, the members attending a Wednesday meeting voted to constitute Swope Park Baptist Church, which became Grace Point. Was that when the church started? Do we need to have a 501c3 corporation to be called a church?

The church is known as a large group of people in a building set aside for the purpose of worship, or the church is a small group of people meeting in the home, and then you have the entire collection of believers around the globe also being called the church. So what is the church?

Much of the emphasis today is on what the church does in relation to social change and mission rather than on focusing on God and the essence of worship. Thus more emphasis is on the mission than on the identity of the church. In fact, today the church is viewed by many as being dynamic and flexible, changing with the culture and times. The church is seen as an event rather than a complete entity.

However if we frequently change the church identity to adapt to the world, rather than the church being a change agent in the world, how can we call ourselves a church that is based on the Bible and the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesian church while imprisoned and awaiting trial in Rome.

Let us look briefly at 3 images that Pau uses for the Church, namely the People of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The people of God; the church is the people of God, because God chose them (Romans 9:24-26).

               There are several implications to being called the People of God; – God takes care of them, – takes pride in them and protects them. He also expects that his people will be devoted to him without divided loyalty. The people of God must be holy and pure.

It goes without saying that the church is not a building. Although we designate the building as a church building, it is not the church. We do not “go to church” we go to a building where the church meets. Praise God for this beautiful building, but it is not the church. We are the people of God, those who have made the personal decision to make Jesus Chris the Lord of their lives.

The Body of Christ; this is the most common image of the church. This image emphasizes that the church is the center and focal point of Christ’s activity now, just as was his physical body during his time on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the head of this body; (Colossians 1:18.) The image of the body of Christ also talks about the interconnectedness of the persons who make up the church. Each member needs the other. Members of the body are meant to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

The body is also characterized by fellowship. The body represents unity. All ethnic and social barriers have been removed.

Paul spells out one implication of the body analogy. It is love that holds the body together. It is each person doing his or her part—exercising his or her gift within the body—that produces spiritual growth. Every person has an important role to play in the church.

The Temple of the Holy Spirit. The church was started by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Now the Holy Spirit indwells the church , both individually and collectively (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).Dwelling inside the church the Holy Spirit gives life to the church. The Holy Spirit conveys power to the Church. Acts 1:8. The results of the early church and any church are attributed to the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to experience unity in the Church ( Acts 4:32).

In the twentieth century and in our current century, there has been a shift away from the theoretical view of the church towards a more realistic approach to the doctrine of the church. We have the theory of what the ideal church should look like, but in reality we also understand that it is dynamic and changing, based on the culture and location of the church. Problems or dynamics in certain locations affect the makeup of the specific church, as it seeks to be relevant. Many theologians see this flux as normative and even desirable. The world is in a constant state of transition, this applies to language, cultures and the church. The church is viewed as an ongoing work or an incomplete project.

However this is a very real danger, if the church is seen as a developing project without a fixed foundation, it can easily lose its definition and become nothing more than a social institution. But as we know the church is way more than a social institution. There are areas that need to change with generations and culture, but we need to ensure that the core message is not compromised. If the core message is compromised and the church becomes another social institution, then why call it a church at all.

A healthy church will be focused on reaching the lost for Christ, and church growth will result from that. Church growth is not a goal, it is a natural byproduct of evangelism. True church growth is the result of the members of the church being obedient to Christ.

Rick Warren has stated the following; “I believe the key issue for churches in the 21st century will be church health not church growth.”

So what are the evidences of Spiritual Growth?

The first evidence of spiritual growth is Christlikeness.Pastors are supposed to equip the saints unto the work of the ministry that leads to the building up of the body of Christ. I sincerely hope that you did not call me to be your pastor so that I personally will be able to evangelize all of South Kansas City. Rather you called me follow my leadership as I, through the Word, equips you to do the job (2 Tim. 3:16–17).The members of the church grow by feeding on the Word and ministering to each other. The pastor-teacher is to nourish the saints with the Word of God and equip them for service; the members of the church, in turn, perform the work of the ministry. As each Christian grows and wins others, the entire body grows in Christ. Everyone shares in the growth of the church. Churches are not built up and strengthened through man-made programs, entertainment, recreation, or “drives.” The church is a body and must have spiritual food; this food is the Word of God.

The second evidence is stability. The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are religious quacks waiting to kidnap God’s children and get them into their false cults, but the maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. Are you stable? Are your feet secure on the firm foundation of the Word of God?

The third evidence of maturity is truth joined with love: (Eph. 4:15). It has well been said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.

The body – this church – grows as the individual members grow, and they grow as they feed on the Word and minister to each other. Note once again the emphasis on love: showing tolerance for one another in love” (Eph. 4:2); “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15); building up of itself in love” (4:16). Love is the circulatory system of the body. An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to him, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way.

So know as we close, in order to see the church grow, remember this is a by-product of the mission of God, we need to lift Jesus up. John 12:32 ; “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Let us lift up our savior, let us make much of Jesus. Jesus is the head of the Church, Colossians 1:18; “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”