Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nehemiahs Blueprint

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.  ~Nehemiah 1:4
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hac-aliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the capital, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. ~Nehemiah 1:1,2

Pastor began a new sermon series this past Sunday and it is built on the book of Nehemiah. It is entitled “Nehemiah’s Blueprint: Building Walls, Restoring Lives.” The first message began by focusing on Nehemiah’s prayer life and these three characteristics; Nehemiah was:
  • A man of burden
  • A man of prayer
  • A man of action
This series is not about looking at the life of Nehemiah and then trying to mimic his life and walk with God, but recognize the type of attributes evident in the life of one who knows God intimately and is changed in a radical way by that relationship. A close look at the life of Nehemiah should not be used to produce a “laundry list” of things to do differently, but produce a compelling and deep desire to know God in the same way.

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. ~Nehemiah 1:3,4

Nehemiah was a man whose default reaction was to go to God in prayer. When faced with trying circumstances or a difficult decision, Nehemiah turned to prayer asking for wisdom and God's leading. Prayer is meant to be an integral part of a Christian’s life and even the disciples of Jesus struggled with it and came to Him asking for help with it.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” ~Luke 11:1

Feeling overwhelmed with what you should pray about? Can't remember the name of the person you said you would pray for? Are you a new Christian or are you inexperienced in prayer? Our prayer life is of the utmost importance and it is through our prayers we come to know our Lord intimately. Speaking to God on a daily basis will reveal to us something He already sees and understands, the contents of our heart. Prayer is far, far more than just asking God for something, it is a conversation between the finite and the infinite. How then, shall we pray? Jesus answered this question for His disciples.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” ~Matthew 6:9

Our Father in heaven already knows what things we need, even before we ask. This model prayer Jesus offers is a prayer of faith and when rightly understood, will teach us some things about God. God is our Father and He is the Creator and once we understand this relationship, then we will realize all Christians are family. It's true, the divisions we have established between us all, are not of God. We use them as an excuse to remain separate and aloof from each other. Having one Father in heaven reminds us we have been ignoring or even hating our own flesh and blood.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” ~Matthew 6:10

We must learn to get past ourselves in prayer. Many times we ask God to submit to our will and do those things we want, but we cannot be used by God in a given circumstance if we refuse to face it. Prayer will not get God to change His mind or His will, but rather bring our will and desires into alignment with His. God already has the plan, it was finished and put into motion long ago. So then when we utter “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we are not giving God permission, we are submitting and recognizing something that has been there all along.

“Give us this day our daily bread,” ~Matthew 6:11

Evidently prayer was meant to be uttered every day. By it, we look to God for sustenance only for today and rest in the faith that He will provide tomorrow. When we acknowledge that it is God who provides for us, we will understand we really haven't gotten where we are by ourselves. It is our nature to look up to the one who provides for us and if we still believe we are the one bringing home the paycheck then it is not God we will be worshipping, but ourselves. Dependence on God will liberate your faith and bring you peace as you have never experienced before.

“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” ~Matthew 6:12

The word “debts” here is a figure of our sins, and we need God to forgive them. Sin is not a debt we can repay, and it is a condition for which we have no remedy. We need God to forgive our sin because we cannot ever make restitution on our own. This prayer reminds us we all need a Savior. If then God forgives us, how can we not forgive others? Only through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we forgive others. If we are still harboring an unforgiving spirit towards others then maybe the change of heart necessary for salvation has not taken place.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” ~Matthew 6:13

God allows His people into circumstances which try or test the strength of their faith, however, God does not tempt anyone. Our petition here is that God not allow us to fall to the temptation. We are not praying that God stop temptation from coming into our lives, for this is necessary for us to grow stronger, but when we know God, we look to Him to provide support and the power to overcome it. God is able to do all this because this is His creation, He has the power to do it, and we give Him the praise for it. Nehemiah prayed because he knew God.

And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.” ~Nehemiah 1:5,6

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reconciliation

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  ~Romans 12:18
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; ~2 Corinthians 5:18

When Paul begins verse 18 with “All this is from God,” he is referring to those things he had just been talking about, the renewing of the human heart, his own desire to forsake all and give his life for the furthering of the Gospel. He says all this to make the point that even though he may be the one who is reaching out to people and calling them to repentance and faith, it is really God who is doing the work of reconciling.

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. ~2 Corinthians 5:19

The word “reconciliation” certainly fits into the category of “Big Words, Deep Truths” and Nathan did a great job this past Sunday helping us to see exactly what the Bible has to say about it. He gave us two important points to meditate on this week:
  • Recognize God as the reconciler.
  • Receive the reconciliation.
Because of sin, man is alienated from God. Think if that, in our fallen state we had no love for Him, we detest His laws and we are unwilling to be governed by Him. We seek our own pleasure; we are proud, vain, and self-confident. Mankind is not pleased with the character of God, His claims, or His plans. Because of that, God is angry with mankind and the relationship we once had with Him is broken. Scripture tells us that we are at enmity with God. It is a wonder that God has not given us what we deserve.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; ~Lamentations 3:21,22

A lot of people refuse to recognize that we are the creation of an almighty God and there are even some Christians who forget it is God who created us and not we ourselves. We feel our existence is a right that we have earned but the truth is we only exist at the good pleasure of a merciful God. Our own actions and behavior when judged by His unchangeable and perfect law have condemned us to destruction and everlasting punishment, but the mercy of God has stayed the iron rod of judgment. Why?

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. ~Lamentations 3:25

My children will at times do something wrong and for a while I will be angry with them. Even though they will have done something to damage our relationship, I watch and look for any sign they may feel repentant. When I see they are sorry, I will look for an opportunity to bridge the gap they have created. I do this because they are my children, the flesh of my body, and I love them. We are the creation of God, the flesh He created and breathed the very breath of life into. Oh yes, and He loves us.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; ~Jeremiah 31:3b

Because of God's endless love and mercy He has reached to us through our disobedience and sin to draw us to Himself (reconciliation). Our sin nature is an obstacle we would never have been able to overcome on our own, but it was no obstacle for an almighty God. He came to bridge the gap that separated us from His presence. It is not we who have decided to change our ways, but it is God who draws us. Always remember that it was God who made the first step towards reconciliation, it was because of God's love and mercy that He died for us.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8

Nathan’s second point was very important… receive the reconciliation. There are no other ways to be right with God. There are no plan B’s, no second or third options. The only way for the relationship with God to be repaired is to receive the reconciliation He alone extends. This reconciliation only come through His Son.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~2 Corinthians 5:20,21