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Mosaic Spokane

Divine Pre-Construction

Divine Pre-Construction

Part 2 of Rebuilding the City—Renewing the Soul

Nehemiah 1-2

October 5, 2014

 

So much of life seems to be about planning and preparation.

  • Some of you here today got married in this last year. How many hours of planning and preparation did it take to pull off a half-hour wedding and couple of hours reception?
  • Any idea how much time goes into planning a simple worship service like we have here every Sunday? [Preacher=12-18 hours prep; Music=5-10 hours for musicians; Tech=2-5 hours prep; communion=1 hr; coffee=1 hr.; building clean = 2 hrs.; admin (bulletins, publications, set-up)=3-5 hrs. TOTAL: 25-40 hours…for just 75 minutes of time together!
  • How about preparing for a career? (2-12 years!)
  • Building a house?
  • Taking a long-distance vacation?
  • Organizing Bloomsday or Hoopfest?

 

Life is a whole lot about planning and preparing well, not just the job we ultimately get or destination at which we eventually arrive.

I think that is why life is really a journey that all points towards an ultimate destiny. From God’s perspective, everything from the process to the end products we experience in life are really the staging areas for a much more important destination—eternity. That doesn’t make life less significant; it makes it more significant than most people are ever willing to contemplate.

 

Today we’re in Nehemiah 2 in this series we’re calling “Rebuilding the City…Renewing the Soul”. The book of Nehemiah is all about what the people of God did together to rebuild their city and what God did individually to renew their souls. It’s about rebuilding of an entire nation by rebuilding a single city. It’s precisely what we will need to engage in as we seek to build God’s church in our city and experience renewal in our own souls in the process.

 

Last week we saw how accurate information about the terrible state of Jerusalem moved Nehemiah to cry out to God, to change his daily routine, risk his high place and position in the Medo-Persian Empire in order to prepare the way for God to move in his life and his generation. News of the horrible state of God’s people in a place he had never been to broke his heart. And that broken heart poured forth in tears of grief, in days of fasting, in sleepless nights and prayer-filled days. He somehow knew that the rescue and revival of God’s people depended upon his prayers.

 

APP:

  • What if the rescue and revival of God’s church in Spokane depended on our praying?
  • What if the rescue and revival of our nation which seems to be unraveling at warp speed depended on our praying?
  • What if the rescue and revival of our persecuted brethren in Syria or Iraq or Sudan or Nigeria or Saudi Arabia or India depended upon us?

Somehow it does…but I’m not sure we’re really convinced about that. That’s why I feel compelled to spend a little more time letting this honestly surprising truth sink in to our souls. Prayer has, throughout the history of God’s working in this world, been the singularly most consistent and important component in God doing amazing things in our world.

As your pastor, I feel God calling us to prayer. I sense an urgency I’ve never known before. I don’t know exactly what to do with it. But I do know prayer must be the cornerstone of our response to crisis and our preparation for renewal.

I know that prayer must change us.

I know that without a change in our prayers, there will be no change in our nation, in our leaders, in the slaughter of our sisters and brothers, in the take-over of whole nations by godless despots, in the crisis of Ebola, in the destruction of our culture and the disintegration of our families, in the rebuilding of Spokane and the renewal of our souls.

Nehemiah refused to let his life go on as usual when confronted with the sad state of God’s people in his day. He refused to be unmoved. He allowed real-time reality to change his heart and his destiny. He knew something had to be done so the first thing he did was PRAY.

 

Let me quote from an article by Pastor Tony Evans I read this week.

“As Christians, we must ask: are we going to sit by and watch our culture fall apart and our families disintegrate? Or are we going to do something to help turn America to God?”

“The future of our culture is in the hands of Christians because the cause of our cultural demise is innately spiritual. And if a problem is spiritual, its cure must be spiritual as well. If we Christians are going to help turn our nation to God, we must fall on our knees and our faces before God and pray. We must not only talk about prayer, but pray. Not only agree on the importance of prayer, but pray. Not only preach on the power of prayer, but pray. As Billy Graham once said, “To get our nation o its feet, we must get on our knees.””

He continues. “Prayer is an earthly request for heavenly intervention. It is the tool and strategy we have been given in order to pull something down out of the invisible and into the visible. Prayer enacts God’s hand in history like nothing else….”

“But we can’t enjoy this kind of divine intervention of healing in our land with just a little prayer tossed toward Heaven occasionally. The kind of prayer that will reclaim lives, families and a nation for God must take high priority in our schedules.”

Then he points to the very passage we dealt with last week and will again this week. “If you look back at Nehemiah 1:4, you see that Nehemiah prayed and fasted for days when he heard about the conditions in Jerusalem.”

“In the face of his nation’s ongoing cultural [and spiritual] demise, Nehemiah didn’t sit down and write out a “Great Society” program for Jerusalem. He didn’t propose a Jerusalem “New Deal.” He fasted and prayed and sought God. As he did so, God revealed His strategy—and reversed years of deterioration in just 52 days. This is because prayer saves time.”

“We know that God moved in response to Nehemiah’s prayer allowing him to use his position of influence with the king to get Artaxerxes to support the rebuilding of Jerusalem. But Nehemiah didn’t start with his position. He started with prayer….”

He asks, “If you see something in our nation or political leaders that is broken, is prayer the first thing you do, or the last thing you do? If it’s the last thing you do, more than likely you will have wasted your time on other things. If prayer comes last, then so will the solution to the problem.”

“God does not like being last...” OR 5th OR even 2nd, I would add.

“If we are going to turn our communities and nation around, congregations are going to have to join in a unified, national solemn assemble (Joel 1:14) to repent and to throw themselves before the face of Almighty God.”

He then returns to Nehemiah. “In Nehemiah’s case, the crumbled walls of Jerusalem were a pressing problem, something that cried out for immediate and decisive action. But Nehemiah fasted and prayed first. So my question to you is, “What wall is crumbling?” The answer: America. The spiritual foundations of this nation are crumbling fast; our beloved nation is imploding. Political action won’t stop the erosion. More money and finger pointing and judgment won’t stop it. Instead, political leaders need our fasting and our prayers.”

 

Amen? But just what kind of fasting and prayer is needed? Take a look first at Nehemiah’s praying. Let me remind you of what we saw last week:

1.)    His praying saw God as BIG—big in power, big in mercy, big in love, big in faithfulness, big in attentiveness to the cries of His people (1:5-6).

Do you see God as BIG today or the problems as BIG. If our prayers are to exceed the size of the problems we’re praying about, God must be seen and known as BIG and the problems as powerless in His presence.

2.)    His praying was round the clock, “day and night” (vs. 6).

Really, do we even know what it is like to pray more than a few minutes? How many of us have ever been to a prayer gathering that really prayed for an hour…or three…or 15? The thought of a prayer session that lasts longer than a few minutes is enough to empty most churches in a few seconds. But what about “night and day”? Most of us really have never had that experience. But it was Nehemiah’s first…and continual response…for months!

3.)    His praying acknowledged and confessed sin—generational sin, national sin, personal sin, family sin, (vss. 6-7). We spent a few minutes acknowledging the sins of the church last week. But I wonder if God doesn’t want to do some deeper work in really getting us to hate both the sins we’ve become so accustomed to as well as their effects on us.

4.)    His prayer was filled with Scripture—the promises of God about both discipline for disobedience and revival for repentance, (vss. 6-9). Praying Scripture is not what you will normally find in even the few remaining prayer meetings of churches today. More often it may sound like a complaint session…or a grocery list…or a medical history recitation. But when our prayers become filled with God’s word, they will begin to be filled with conviction and faith. We’ll have the confidence that what we are asking for is really God’s will.

5.)    His praying was passionate. This prayer oozes with passion for God’s glory and the healing of God’s people.

At the same time, his praying had NOT a trace of discouragement, not a trace of despair, not a trace of anger against this godless king (who, by the way, was the very man who had stopped by royal edict 20 years earlier the reconstruction of Jerusalem and its walls, see Ezra 4:21-23). Nehemiah saw his pagan boss as an instrument in God’s hands, able to both be God’s hand of discipline on his people as well as able to be the instrument of God’s provision to bring rebuilding and renewal of God’s people.

            We must ask ourselves, “Is that how we see the leaders over us in our land today?” If they are making things hard on God’s people, then maybe we need to see God’s disciplining hand in their edicts and “executive orders”. Maybe we need to rail less and repent more. Maybe we need to renew our theology and refresh our faith in believing, as Nehemiah did, that God can change their hearts to hand down orders that actually reverse the destruction and revive the people of God.

 

So Nehemiah’s praying had a lot to do with his pagan sovereign, King Artaxerxes. And it wasn’t angry or accusatory or imprecatory; it was humble, submissive and expectant. Just turn vs. 11 into a corporate prayer for us today:

“O Lord, [we] pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your [church], and to the prayer[s] of Your [saints worldwide] who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant[s] prosper this day, [we] pray, and grant [us] mercy in the sight of [our national leaders].”

            This is the kind of praying that is needed…daily…week after week…month after month. Nehemiah prayed this way for at least 3-4 months. We have strong reason to believe that he even fasted that long in some capacity. Chapter 1 tells us it was the month of Chislev (November-December) and chapter 2 tells us he kept that routine up until the month of Nisan (March-

April) when God finally moved in the king’s heart to ask him what was wrong.

 

I wonder how desperate we will need to get before we start fasting for the spiritual revival of our land?

I wonder if Ebola will need to get out of hand so that we begin to experience the same level of desperation some African countries are currently experiencing?

I wonder if our nation will have to see more 9-11 scale attacks on our own soil for God’s people to take prayer and fasting to a life and schedule-changing level?

I wonder if we’ll have to see a financial melt-down…or an electrical grid collapse…or food shortages…or riots in hundreds of cities…or martial law…or… you fill in the fear.

I wonder.

 

Our praying must be combined with fasting too. Yes, I’m talking the abstaining from food kind of fasting that makes us feel our weakness, feel our needs of God, feel our helplessness apart from Divine intervention.

            But I’m also talking the kind of fasting Isaiah told us really matters, the kind of fasting Mosaic is uniquely positioned to do and to invite the rest of the Body of Christ to do.

            Let’s read that part of Isaiah 58 which tells us how to “fast” in any culture or nation or time. As we do, notice the conditional statements of “if/then” logic that Isaiah lays out for us. “IF” we want to experience renewal and rebuilding, “then” what must we DO?

            God speaks through Isaiah of fasting with intentional love for the spiritually and physically needy around us.

 

Isaiah 58:6-12

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?

[Is this not descriptive of what salvation in Jesus alone can bring? God is calling us to share His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ with people. We must be a witnessing people. Yet far too often I/we go week after week without calling anyone to put their faith in Jesus.]


“Is it
[fasting] not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10 And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
11 “And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

 

  • Is this not the kind of city God is calling us to rebuild?
  • Do we want the light of the Body of Christ to break out like the dawn across our state and nation?
  • Do we want our country to experience a speedy recovery from what ails it?
  • Do we want the Lord to answer us when we call on Him on behalf of our city?

If the answer if “Yes,” then we have to do the “if” that comes before the “then.” It’s dependent on that. Because the praying and fasting that will get our lives in the right road and God’s grace pouring from His throne involves loving the most needy in both word and action. It means sharing the Gospel with people in word and power. It means rebuilding our city one life at a time, one hour spent serving at a time, one spiritually or materially or emotionally or mentally needy person at a time.

It means far more than just “going to church” and hanging out with people we’re comfortable with. It means more than singing a few songs a week or listening to a few sermons or giving a few dollars to some charity. It means BEING a loving, charitable person to people who need it. THEN we can be sure that God is going to do some rebuilding and renewing in both our city and our souls. To impact our community and country for good and turn our nation to God, we—His people—must fast and pray with His heart. For only when we have His heart will we move His hand.

 

APP:

  • Take the post-it-note in your bulletin and write in big, bold letters “PRAY!” Then, when you leave here, put it somewhere that you are going to see it several times a day—your car dashboard, the bathroom mirror, your dining room table. Every time you see it, take 30 seconds to just pause and pray.
  • Is God asking you to fast one day a week…one meal a day…one day a month…and take the time you usually spend cooking, eating and cleaning up just to PRAY?
  • Is God nudging you to start attending a prayer meeting with others? Mosaic meets Thursday mornings at 6:30a.m. at Mosaic?

Bu the way, I Googled “Spokane Prayer Meetings” this week and guess what came up? First link on the page was this, “Prayer Meeting—Men—Mosaic Spokane….” Want to know the good news and the bad news? The good news is that this little group of 6-8 men that meets every week has men that drive as far as 45 minutes to an hour away to come, from 5 different churches in the region. The bad news? We only have 3 men from Mosaic regularly.

  • So let me make this simple. Choose one of the churches nearest to where you live. Call their pastor or secretary and ask them, “When does your church have a prayer meeting I can come to on a weekly basis?” And ask, “How much of the time is actually spent praying?” Then find another church that is spending more than half of their time actually praying, go visit it and start attending regularly. What would happen if 50 or 75 of us committed just 60-90 minutes a week to join with others either from Mosaic or from totally different churches and actually prayed with them, week after week, month after month until God rained down grace from heaven on our entire city?

So now I’m going to stop talking about praying for our city, our region, our nation, our brothers and sisters in distress in the world…and we’re going to start praying. We’re going to start changing the future of our world and city.

            I want as many of us as possible to be as deeply and passionate engaged in our praying this morning. So I am going to suggest several different WAYS of praying. I’m going to introduce different TOPICS to pray about. And I’m going to ask that sometimes we pray silently, sometimes together, sometimes in smaller groups, sometimes all at once, sometimes standing, sometimes kneeling, sometimes singing, sometime speaking.

In order for this to work, we need to avoid a couple of “ditches” on our road of prayer today.

1.)    We need to lay aside any fear of what others will think about our prayers. In other words, you need to be willing to let God use YOU to lead your group or all of us in prayer.

2.)    We need to avoid monopolizing the prayer time with long prayers. In other words, keep your praying short and concise… to not more than 30-45 seconds so more people can lead us in prayer.

 

We’re going to start “out there”, with God’s greatness and promises as the backdrop to our needs. Then we’ll move to the world, where entire nations are being decimated, whole cities of Christians are being persecuted, entire families are being killed for Christ. Then we will move to our nation...and finally to our city and church.

            I’m also going to put up some pictures that may help you pray. Some of them will be verbal pictures that help you envision what you are praying for. Some may just remind you of who or what we need to be praying about. Others may break your heart. They may make you tear up (as Nehemiah did) as you are reminded of how desperately this world needs God’s grace and mercy.

 

So let’s start reminding ourselves and thanking God for how great He is and what promises He has made to us if we will but pray. Feel free to quote or read a verse or truth about God. Let’s prime the pump with a few eternal truths from Scripture:

 

Hebrews 4:16--Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 117—Praise the Lord all you nations! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever.

1 Peter 5:7--Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Jeremiah 32:17--“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

 

THE WORLD:

Let’s get on our knees in prayer for our persecuted brethren in the world. Every 11 minutes, another Christian is killed for thir faith somewhere in the world

1.)    The persecuted Church in our world—Today let’s pray for these 3 countries:

  1. Iraq—This past Thursday (Oct. 2), the U.N. released a 29-page report that talks about the 1.8 million people who have been displaced by the recent advance of ISIS. It confirms their “attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms." Iraq has gone from a nation of 1.5 million Christians 11 years ago when the Gulf War began to less than 200,000 today. How ironic that our nation, the most powerful Christian majority nation in the world, has been in part responsible for a war that has decimated one of the world’s oldest Christian communities—2 millennia old—in Iraq?
  2. Syria-- One pastor recently told an Christian relief worker: '"We have prayed for a revival for years and now it's here, but we never expected that God would use a civil war."

The massacre of Christians in the Christian settlement of Sada was described by Archbishop Selwanos “the largest massacre of Christians in Syria….We have shouted out to the world, but no-one has listened to us. Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness? Where are my brothers?” Christians are about 6% or 1.2 million people in Syria.

 

Let’s stand to our feet as we pray for nations being ravaged by the Ebola virus.

2.)    Ebola outbreak in West Africa: latest CDC numbers put the dead at over 7,000. It is the largest outbreak in history of this disease. It is concentrated mostly in Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leon but has also spread to the first case in the U.S. in Dallas, TX.

In an article in the NY Times entitled, A Hospital from Hell, In a City Swamped by Ebola, the writer gives this first hand account.

“The burial-team worker shouted, “Where’s the corpse?” kicking open the door of the isolation ward at the government hospital here. The body was right in front of him, a solidly built young man sprawled out on the floor all night, his right hand twisted in an awkward clench.

The other patients, normally padlocked inside, were too sick to look up as the body was hauled away. Nurses, some not wearing gloves and others in street clothes, clustered by the door as pools of the patients’ bodily fluids spread to the threshold. A worker kicked another man on the floor to see if he was still alive. The man’s foot moved and the team kept going. It was 1:30 in the afternoon.

In the next ward, a 4-year-old girl lay on the floor in urine, motionless, bleeding from her mouth, her eyes open. A corpse lay in the corner — a young woman, legs akimbo, who had died overnight. A small child stood on a cot watching as the team took the body away, stepping around a little boy lying immobile next to black buckets of vomit. They sprayed the body, and the little girl on the floor, with chlorine as they left.

Ebola patients are dying under trees at holding centers or in foul-smelling hospital wards surrounded by pools of infectious waste, cared for as best they can by lightly trained and minimally protected nurses, some wearing merely bluejeans.

 

3.)    Let’s get into groups/circles of 5-10 people to pray for God to move in the hearts of specific national leaders. If Nehemiah could pray for months for a godless, pagan ruler who had specifically stopped the reconstruction of his city and homeland, certainly we can pray for a few minutes for God to move in the hearts of leaders in our land who need God’s wisdom and need to come to know Jesus Christ.

  1. President Barak Obama.
  2. The Supreme Court
  3. Our Senators Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.

 

4.)    Our city SPOKANE. What are some of the most pressing needs that you feel in your spirit need God to intervene, to rebuild here, to revive the church? Let’s sit down and pray either in whispers or with the person next to us for just a few areas of life in our city that particularly need moves of God.

  1. The younger generation of millennials that is roughly 5% Christian. This includes 30,000 15-24 year olds in our city and a total of 110,000 youth 18 and under.
  2. The nearly 7,000 single mom homes with kids under 18.
  3. The some 850 foster children that need homes every month.
  4. 16,000 unemployed residents. Per capita income is 14.0 percent below the U.S. average and 18.0 percent below the state average. Pray for jobs, businesses, wages, workers.
  5. Spokane churches—400. That’s less than 1 per 1,000 people.

 

Corporate Prayer:

“O Lord, [we] pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your [church], and to the prayer[s] of Your [saints worldwide] who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant[s] prosper this day, [we] pray, and grant [us] mercy in the sight of [our national leaders].”

 

 

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