Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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28. Rediscovering Revival Part 6

Nehemiah 9:16-36

16 “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to your commands. 17 They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them, 18 even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies.19 “But in your great mercy you did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. 20 You sent your good Spirit to instruct them, and you did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst.21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!22 “Then you helped our ancestors conquer kingdoms and nations, and you placed your people in every corner of the land. They took over the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and the land of King Og of Bashan. 23 You made their descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and brought them into the land you had promised to their ancestors.24 “They went in and took possession of the land. You subdued whole nations before them. Even the Canaanites, who inhabited the land, were powerless! Your people could deal with these nations and their kings as they pleased. 25 Our ancestors captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, with cisterns already dug and vineyards and olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate until they were full and grew fat and enjoyed themselves in all your blessings.26 “But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies.28 “But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times!29 “You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. 30 In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen! So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them. 31 But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!32 “And now, our God, the great and mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of unfailing love, do not let all the hardships we have suffered seem insignificant to you. Great trouble has come upon us and upon our kings and leaders and priests and prophets and ancestors—all of your people—from the days when the kings of Assyria first triumphed over us until now. 33 Every time you punished us you were being just. We have sinned greatly, and you gave us only what we deserved. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your Law or listen to the warnings in your commands and laws. 35 Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you, though you showered your goodness on them. You gave them a large, fertile land, but they refused to turn from their wickedness.36 “So now today we are slaves in the land of plenty that you gave our ancestors for their enjoyment! We are slaves here in this good land. 37 The lush produce of this land piles up in the hands of the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They have power over us and our livestock. We serve them at their pleasure, and we are in great misery.”

Not only did the people confess their confidence in the greatness of God but also in the:

B. Goodness of God

In this prayer God is clearly the focal point, as the word “you” is used over 50 times.  Also, I want you to note that the word “give” is used in one form or another at least 16 different times. This part of the prayer rehearses the history of Israel, revealing God’s goodness to His people and their repeated failure to appreciate His gifts and obey His will. George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher has said, “He who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it.” I want you to underline Verse 25 because it is the perfect summary of how God showed His goodness through blessing His people: “They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.” Did you catch that? God gave them much more than they deserved. The land was fertile. Their houses were already furnished. The water was already running, and the fruit was just waiting to be picked. They had everything they needed. They “reveled” in God’s great goodness, which literally means that they “luxuriated” in God’s blessings. The same is true for us, 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us everything we need as well, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” That leads to a question. Are you “luxuriating” in God’s goodness today? Or, are you taking God for granted? Are you focused more on what you don’t have? So often we base God’s goodness on our circumstances instead of His character. Some of us mistakenly thank God for His goodness only when things go the way we want them to go. But the real challenge and test of our discipleship, is to thank Him for His goodness even when we experience grief. Corrie Ten Boom writes: “Deep in our hearts we believe in a good God. Yet how shallow is our understanding of His goodness. How often I have heard people say, ‘How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic and look at the lovely weather!’ Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister Betsie to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp.” When we base God’s goodness on our circumstances instead of His character, we open up the door for the Devil to deceive us into believing that God is not good. Sometimes my pain is the product of a Good God dealing with His disobedient child. Not only did they confess their confidence in a great and good God but also in the:

C. Grace of God

Verse 31 sates: “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” Because He is a God of grace, He is good to His people even when they are not good to Him. In His mercy, God didn’t give them what they deserved; and in His grace, He gave them what they didn’t deserve. The people finish their prayer confessing their sins that made them slaves to others. It is here that we see a change in pronouns, instead of focusing on “their” sins, the people now say, “we did wrong.” Until we can personally own our specific sins you will miss out on experiencing the grace of God. Their prayer ends on a jarring note, “We are in great distress.” The people recognize that generation after generation; the same sin problems seem to come back. Some of you are brave enough to admit that you are in great distress. You have your own history of good intentions that fell apart. You’ve seen the cycle of sin repeated over and over in your life. But we don’t have to stay in the sin cycle any longer, Jesus has joined us in the process. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus’ ministry to us in 4:14-16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” This entire chapter speaks of grace. God demonstrates His greatness and His goodness and what do the people do? They turn from Him, run from His Word, and persist in doing things their own way. At any point, God could have said, “That’s it. You’ve messed up too much. You’re on your own.” Yet He invites us to come to Him to confess so that our story of guilt can be replaced with songs of God’s grace. What about you, do you need to come clean and confess your sins, do you need to come and confess your confidence in God? Have you been taking God for granted, focusing more on what you can get  than on His greatness, goodness and grace. Do you have a small view of God or a grand one?





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27. Rediscovering Revival Part 5

Nehemiah 9:4-15

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Kenani—stood on the stairway of the Levites and cried out to the Lord their God with loud voices. Then the leaders of the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—called out to the people: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!” Then they prayed:“May your glorious name be praised! May it be exalted above all blessing and praise! “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you. “You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him from Ur of the Chaldeans and renamed him Abraham. When he had proved himself faithful, you made a covenant with him to give him and his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. And you have done what you promised, for you are always true to your word. “You saw the misery of our ancestors in Egypt, and you heard their cries from beside the Red Sea.[c] 10 You displayed miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his officials, and all his people, for you knew how arrogantly they were treating our ancestors. You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten. 11 You divided the sea for your people so they could walk through on dry land! And then you hurled their enemies into the depths of the sea. They sank like stones beneath the mighty waters. 12 You led our ancestors by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night so that they could find their way. 13 “You came down at Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and instructions that were just, and decrees and commands that were good. 14 You instructed them concerning your holy Sabbath. And you commanded them, through Moses your servant, to obey all your commands, decrees, and instructions. 15 “You gave them bread from heaven when they were hungry and water from the rock when they were thirsty. You commanded them to go and take possession of the land you had sworn to give them.”

Not only did their confession accurately expresses their sorrow over sin but also their confidence in their Savior.  That is why we see the people not only confessing their sins but secondly:

  1. Confessing their confidence in God.

Forgiveness frees us to focus on God not our guilt. Are you focused on the Father or your failures? As the people confessed their confidence in their Savior, they proclaimed the:

a. Greatness of God

Your view affects your voice, many of us are voicing failure and frustration instead of the Father. As we learned last week, they longed for the Word, listened to the Word, learned the Word, and lived the Word. And here we see that their longing for the Word had not subsided because verse 3 tells us that they spent three hours reading the Bible and then three hours in confession and worship. The order here is significant when we read the Word, we will see how far we fall short which leads to confession. But as we contemplate our sinfulness we will begin to understand more about God’s greatness. The Word brings both weeping and worship. It’s not just about confessing our sin but also confessing our confidence in the Savior. If you’re struggling with your faith today, it may well be because your view of God is too small or too narrow. David Wells, a theologian, refers to this view as the “weightlessness of God.” He writes that our sense of inadequacy or ineffectiveness can be traced to our limited understanding and experience of God: “God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace too ordinary, his judgment too benign, his gospel too easy, and His Christ too common.” Look at verse 6, it is a clear statement of God’s greatness that is grounded in the opening verses of Genesis: “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” All you have to do to see the greatness of God is to look out and look up, creation cries out God’s glory: Psalm 19:1 clearly states: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” During the French Revolution, many people wanted to get rid of Christianity forever. On one clear night an atheist boastfully proclaimed his beliefs to a poor peasant: “Everything will be abolished churches, Bibles, and the clergy. Yes, even the word “God” itself! We shall remove everything that speaks of religion.” The peasant gave a quiet chuckle. The atheist wanted to know what the believer was laughing about. The peasant then pointed to the stars and replied, “I was just wondering how you’re going to manage to get all of those bright lights out of the sky!” Not only does creation proclaim the glory of God but so should the crown of His creation you and me. I am going to ask you to take out your phone and take a selfie then text it to yourself with this caption: Am I going to use my life to proclaim God’s greatness or my glory? Am I going to life my life for God’s glory or my greatness? Instead of starting with the greatness of God we tend to focus on what He will give and what we can get. God is replaced with greed and we worship Him not for who He is but for what we can get. Do you see God as great today? Or, is your God too small? We must glory in the incomparable magnificence of our grand God. Take a moment and thank God for His greatness.