Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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2. The Power of Prayer – Part 2

Nehemiah 1:5-11

Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.

It’s here that we see a shift from concern to:

  1. Conviction about God’s Character – Vs 5

It’s here that we come to the second leadership principle, how to handle the hard and hurtful things of life. How does Nehemiah handle the hurts, where does he turn with his tragedy? He takes his problems to God in prayer. Prayer is not a principle it’s a practice. Nehemiah brought his problems into the presence of God’s power. For Nehemiah prayer was not just a passing fad, prayer was his foundation. Prayer is one of the overriding themes of the book, this prayer in chapter one is the first of 12 different prayers. Prayer is the secret to Nehemiah’s success. Dependence on God was the source of his success while dismissing God was the reason for the ruin that the nation was in. Do you want blessing or brokenness? What part does prayer play in your life, is it your first response or your last resort? Many of us turn to pray only after we have exhausted all of our resources instead of responding to all of Gods. Nehemiah recognizes that he needed God and so God was his first stop not his last. He realized that the problems he faced were bigger than him but not bigger than God. You see prayer provides perspective; it widens our horizons, sharpens our vision and dwarfs all anxieties. Which brings us to leadership principle number 3, Nehemiah’s public life was the outflow of his personal and private life, a life saturated and shaped by, a lifestyle of prayer. His devotion to God, his dependence on God and his desire for the glory of God found equal expression. He knew that only ventures that are begun in prayer and bathed in prayer throughout are likely to be blessed. Nehemiah turned to prayer first not to people, who are you petitioning? Nehemiah fasted, he forsook food so he could seek the Father, how serious are you about seeking God, what’s more important to you, food or the Father? I also want you to notice that this isn’t just some popcorn prayer, while there are times for those kinds of prayers this was a time for persistent and passionate prayer. Nehemiah prayed for days something many of us are unwilling to do in our instant gratification geared society. We are unwilling and unprepared to pursue prayer over the long haul. What we want is quick answers to quick prayers. Are you prepared to settle in for seasons of prayer in stubborn situations? Nehemiah teaches us to focus on God’s character not our circumstances. His focus is on the Father not on his fears. “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands”Nehemiah comes back to who God is, Lord God of heaven, that means he is in charge, great and awesome his power and ability, who keeps His covenants His faithfulness. Are you getting caught up in the challenges or in God’s character? It’s out of this conviction about God’s character that third we come to:

  1. Confession of Sin – vs 5-7

It’s one thing to be concerned and to have a firm conviction of who God is, but it’s another thing to actually confess. You see many of us never go this far. We are content to be concerned, to feel bad about our sins but not enough to come clean. Notice that Nehemiah didn’t dismiss his sin by pointing the finger at others. He owned his part he didn’t dismiss or try to justify his disobedience. It would have been easy for Nehemiah to look back and blame his ancestors but instead he looked within and blamed himself. Many of us spend our time complaining about the consequences of sin instead of confessing our sin. Today we have bought into the lie that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It’s a change in belief without a change in behavior. Its revival without real repentance. Prayer isn’t just about petitioning God over the problems it’s also about confronting and confessing our sin. When was the last time you came before God and came clean? Because when we confess, we can be cleansed and when we are clean fourth, we can be:

  1. Confidence in God’s promises – Vs 8-10

In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of God’s divine mercy. The promise that Nehemiah was proclaiming was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had already been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would bring them back to Jerusalem. This is the promise that Nehemiah focused on. Nehemiah chose to focus on God’s faithfulness not the people’s failures. The bible is filled with God’s promises and the better we know His Word the better we will be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. Are you going to focus on the problems or on God’s promises? Confidence in God’s promises should lead to a:

  1. Commitment to get involved – Vs 11

It has been said that prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but getting God’s will done on earth. The point of prayer is not petitioning God with your wants but positioning your heart to hear His Will and when you do, responding. You see while Nehemiah was an incredible administrator the real source of his success was not his ability but his availability.  The true measure of our concern is whether or not we are willing to make a commitment to get involved. Prayer doesn’t change God it changes us. How available are you to the Almighty?

 

 

 


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1. The Power of Prayer – Part 1

Nehemiah 1:1-4

In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem. They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Today as we begin a new series in the book of Nehemiah titled “Building in the Battle” we meet a man called by God named Nehemiah. God not only used Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but to restore worship of the One true God. As we go through this book, we need to understand that it wasn’t just about rebuilding walls but about restoring worship. We also need to see that the building happened in the midst of the battle. Our struggle is that we want to work on the wall we just don’t want to have to deal with the war. But Nehemiah reminds us that even though there will be obstacles and enemies God’s people can still build in the mist of the battle. To give you a little background God’s people had walked away from God, they chose the path of rebellion and ended up reaping its ruin. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army captured the Jews, and Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were knocked down, and the temple was burned. The people were deported and were forced into slavery and Jerusalem was left in ruins. But God did not forsake His people. He moved King Cyrus to make a decree to let some of the Jews return. And in three stages, over about a hundred years, they were allowed to migrate back to Jerusalem, only to discover the city was still demolished and desolate. They started to rebuild but they got discouraged and quit and it’s here that we meet Nehemiah. The book falls into several divisions. The first six chapters cover the rebuilding of the wall, while chapters 7 through 10 deal with the renewing of Jerusalem’s worship, while the final chapters deal with the repopulation and revival of God’s people. As we start in chapter one, we discover that it begins with Nehemiah’s:

  1. Concern

The story appears to start with the condition of the city but in actually starts with Nehemiah’s concern for the city. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, which provided him with intimate access to royalty, political standing, and a place to live in the palace. In some respects, it was a comfortable job that provided everything he needed. You see he could have insulated himself in his comfortable life, but a heart of compassion compels us to care. And so, Nehemiah inquires as to the condition of Jerusalem because he cares. It’s here that we see Leadership principle number one, without love you will never lead effectively. Leading starts with loving. When leadership flows out of love the focus is on the people not just the project. But leadership without love leads to lording, it becomes about me not the mission. Do you have a loving leadership or a lording leadership? Your kids don’t need a dictator they need a dad. Nehemiah learned about the condition of Jerusalem because he cared enough to ask. Do you care about the condition of your kids’ hearts? Do you care that their walls have been broken down and their gates have been burned? That their hearts are unprotected and open to attack? Do you know the condition of your kids? Proverbs 27:23 says: “know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds”Are we like Nehemiah concerned enough to take the time to find out what is really going on in the heart of our home? Because Nehemiah leads with love, because he cares he discovers the real condition of Jerusalem. And as he learns about the devastation, he becomes broken and starts to cry over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. You see the real tragedy was that they were living in ruins and they had accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation. Nothing is ever going to change in your life or in this nation until we become concerned about the problem. Some of you have become complacent about the way your life is going. You’re living in the rubble and the mess and it doesn’t even bother you anymore. A building hand starts with a broken heart. You will never carry out God’s call if you don’t first care. Do you have a caring heart or a calloused one? Like Nehemiah we need to learn to first focus on the person of God not the problem.