Trust God, Dream Big and Stop Sinning (Nehemiah Wrap-up)

March 28, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We just finished 2.5 months of Nehemiah.  Thanks for all the good feedback on the series.  Nehemiah is an incredible book that tells a powerful story of an incredible leader and a nation trying to restore its relationship with God and break the cycle of sin.

I just wanted to take a moment and review all the different pieces of the story and what we learned from Nehemiah.

We first meet Nehemiah and we see an influential leader in Persia being called by God to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.  The plight of his people broke his heart and he had to take action.  Follow the passions that God put on your heart and believe that God will do incredible things through your life. Way too often we settle for ordinary with God, and don’t believe that God even wants to do great things in our lives.

In Nehemiah, we see a man who was devoted to prayer.  He knew that the only way anything significant was going to happen was if God moved.  God moves through prayer.  However, he was also a very deliberate planner.  He wasn’t just one or the other.  He prayed and planned.  I’ve often heard it said that we should pray like it depends only on God, and work like it depends completely on us.  I don’t know that I like that, because even in our planning there should be a built-in dependence on God. So, we should pray like it depends only on God, and plan like the God of the universe is calling you to do it.

In the actual building of the wall, we see a lot of different people playing a role.  The job could never depend on one person.  People were focused on building their one section of the wall.  No one did anything spectacular on their own, but together they did something incredible.  When we each believe that God wants to use us and we all work together, we see God do amazing things.

However, in the middle of all of this we see a ton of opposition from the outside and struggles within.  Anything worth doing for God will find opposition and skeptics. Our success will depend on who we listen to.  We need to listen to God’s call on our life more than we listen to critics. We also need to take care to not be divisive.  What God has called us to is too important and significant for us to fight over little things. How big the things are that divide us depends on what we compare them to.  If God has called us to reach the world, just about everything else becomes fairly small.

After they rebuilt the wall, we see the greater work of rebuilding the people begin.  It begins with Ezra reading the Law to the people.  They respond with great sadness for their sins.  However, first the leadership wants the people to take time to celebrate.  They have been reconciled and brought back. They must rejoice.  We have to take time to celebrate the fact that we have a relationship with the God of the universe. It is a very serious thing to walk with God, but serious doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate.  We must celebrate.

Next comes the time to repent.  Sin is a big deal, and the Israelites realize that it is their sin that has separated them from God and they rightly respond with repentance.  Although God is gracious to us, we must realize that sin hurts us and offends God, and we must repent. Saying “sorry” is one thing, being sorry and changing is another.

After the time of repentance we see the Israelites desiring to make commitments to try and break the cycle of sin.  Sin-sorry-forgiveness…sin-sorry-forgiveness…and on and on it went.  They wanted to break that cycle, and so they pledge to not intermarry, to honor the Sabbath and to give sacrificially.  It takes great sacrifice on our part to see God do incredible things among us in the long-term.

In Nehemiah, we have a great leader, and as he is wrapping up this task, we see his leadership skills and those of the leaders he is leaving behind.  We see leaders taking initiative, doing what others won’t. The leaders are the ones to move to the new rebuilt city.  We also see a great party to celebrate and dedicate the wall.  The people are inspired, because that’s what leaders do.  Leaders inspire people.

You really do wish that the story could have ended there, but it doesn’t.  Despite their desire to not fall back into the cycle of sin, they quickly do and Nehemiah has to rebuke and correct them when he comes back to check on the people.  Regret and feelings last a little while.  We need to be people that desire long-term repentance.  This doesn’t happen quickly.  This comes when in our hearts we commit to doing what it takes to be the men and women God has called us to be.  We become a part of a community.  We are committed to God’s word and prayer.  We often reflect on the power and love of God demonstrated in the Gospel.

There is much to be learned in Nehemiah.  I’d encourage you to read the book (again, I hope).  Listen again to some of the sermons on the chapters that you most need to apply.  Let’s allow this time in Nehemiah to impact us not just for now, but for years to come.

How Did We End Up Here? (Nehemiah 10 preview)

March 10, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

Have you ever asked that question?  “How did we end up here?” or “How did I end up here?”  This is not a post about how guys don’t ask for directions or women can’t read maps.  (Gender stereo-typing.  Fastest way to make friends) Although, I could make some quippy metaphors about needing directions, being lost, but I won’t. (Sure. We’ll see.)

We wake up one day and we don’t like where our life is.  At one point, things were great with you and God.  You were growing spiritually.  Your family was strong.  You felt like God had a great plan for your life and you were following it. Then…here you are.  How did you get here?

Typically what we can do is decide that we want to do better.  We’ll stop the bad habit.  We go back to church.  We pray more.  We make good solid decisions to improve our life, in the present.  But what about the future?  What will keep us from going back to the dark place we were in?  How do we prevent that?

The way to do that is to ask “How did I get here?”  What did I do to start this?  What started me on this path?  What kept me from turning around?

Making surface changes are good for the short-term.  We need to dig deeper and find out what causes us to fall away.  Change those things as well.

Through the first 9 chapters of Nehemiah, we have seen the people rally together and build a wall as a symbol of renewing themselves as God’s people.  Then they celebrate the Feast of Booths to celebrate God’s deliverance from their exile.  Then we see them repent of their sins.  Those are incredible action steps that help turn the people toward God.

But now they are asking what got them here and how can they prevent.  They got here through their sin and God’s judgment upon them.  Their ancestors refused to follow after God and chose their own path.  They followed other gods, they neglected God’s temple, they didn’t pass their faith on to their children, they refused to be a light to the nations around them.

We will see in Nehemiah chapter 10 doing more than being sorry and trying to be better.  We will see them take some steps to help insure a long-term following after God.

They aren’t just asking for directions, they are learning how to use a map.


March 7, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I decided to go with the least interesting blog post title ever.  Hopefully it’s lack of catchy title will be catchy enough to make you click on the link anyway.  Well, I guess you clicked on it anyway, so it worked for you.  So there you go.

This winter has been exciting at the Grove.  The Nehemiah series has been going well.  Miller and the Millerettes have been doing an incredible job leading us in worship.  We have seen a lot of new people coming to the Grove.  We started some new curriculum in the Greenhouse and our teachers have been doing a great job loving and serving our kids.  Thanks to everyone who makes our services possible and incredible.

But you know what they say, “Mo’ people, mo’ problems.”  (Wait. Who says that?  Well, you know, they do.  Who they?  Well, no one says that.  Leave me alone.)

I know I have said this before, but we need to think about where we park.  I had the owner of the used car lot next to us come and talk to me on Sunday after church.  We was very gracious, but also concerned.  He had a trailer that he needed access to and it was blocked in.  He kindly asked if we could no longer park in his lot.  I told him that we would do our best.  So, we are trying to get the word out.  We also are going to try and put cones out and block it.  (I was going to use cone as a verb.  Would that have been ok?)

Where should we park then?  If you want to be an All-Star, park on the north side of Braums.  (Sorry, I’m directionally challenged.  Which way is north?  If you don’t have a compass, just think the side that is closest to the Grove.  There’s a median, park on the Grove side of that median). The street behind the Grove is good as well.  There is no traffic on that street.  Park far down. Walking is good for you.

We want to reserve the best spots for new people and late people.  It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.  A new person can find a spot and we make our neighbors happy.

You know what they say, “There’s a special blessing for those that park inconveniently.”