The people recognized that their city of Jerusalem was in trouble. Its gates were ruined and its walls were broken down. When they heard the vision God had given His servant Nehemiah to rebuild, they caught the vision and said, “Let us rise up and build.”
Whenever God wants to get a work done, He lays hold of a people who are willing to rise up. The walls of Jerusalem had been ruined; a small remnant had returned; and there was much work that needed to be done. In 536 BC, Zerubbabel had taken about 50,000 Jews back and by 516 BC had rebuilt the temple. In 457 BC, there had been a small revival under Ezra, but now it was 445 BC, and God was looking for someone to go to the ruined city and restore safety and order. Nehemiah was that person. In the book of Nehemiah, God caused Nehemiah to rise up and catch a vision for his city, Jerusalem.
If you ever really looked at the city that we live in, I mean, really looked at it? I guess I’m thinking about Nehemiah right now. He’d never been to the city of Jerusalem. He asked those who had really seen it to say what’s going on there. He was disappointed to hear that they said that the people are in trouble and they’re ashamed. The walls are broken down and the gates are ruined.What would it look like if we asked God to look at our city? What would it look like if we said God, what do you see when you look at that? What do you say, Lord?
You know, we see beautiful neighborhoods. We see, you know, we see a downtown that’s really improving. But when you think about the combined populations between the two campuses, when you think about the fact that between the two of us we have one hundred seventy six thousand people living in Nash County and Wilson count on less than half more like thirty some percent, forty percent even go to church. So that’s like a hundred thousand plus people that don’t go to church and all. And even those who might go to church, possibly don’t even go to a life giving church, you know, come as you are kind of church.
So when you look at the houses when you look at the businesses when you see the cars drive by it looks ok. But when you look at it through God’s eyes, there is a lot of broken people around here. I mean, the walls are broken down and the gates are ruined so that everything’s getting in. Broken marriages, broken people broken teens, broken lives. There’s so many people that are hurting today.
Where is the church? Where is the church that would really look at the city? They need to ask themselves this question. What would it look like to be the kind of church that says we’re going to rise up because we’re not okay with that? All right. Good morning, Church. Look at you out there, man it’s raining, it’s raining and you came to church anyway. That’s awesome. I’m excited about that.
So what’s the big deal with this rise up thing? Can you explain to me the people with the T shirts, the wrist bands and the journey guides? Yeah, well, we were going to try to reach Wilson for Jesus. Somebody out here wants us to take over. I don’t know if you could take over, but we’re going to try to reach Wilson. That’s awesome. Glad you’re excited. You got one of these. Everybody lift it up. Let me see it. Get your journey guide. timers, whoever you get one. Okay. If you didn’t get one lift your hand real quick. If you didn’t get one, ushers get one to them. Get a pen and a journey guidebecause we’re taking notes in our journal during this season. So if you look at your bulletin, you’ll see there’s no room for you to take notes in the bulletin this time. And so we want you to take notes in your journey guide.
Now, what’s this about? Let me get the right order of my pages. Here it comes, from the book of Nehemiah chapter 2 where we see the theme for this book of Nehemiah where. Nehemiah goes to the people of Jerusalem and he says, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision. And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” the
And so that’s what we’re talking about this morning. And we’re going to be talking about over the next few weeks as we get to the book of Nehemiah, and we asked ourselves the same question that the people there asked. What? What does their city look like? And how might we rise up for what God’s calling us to do now? What does our city look like? We’re a church of two cities because we have a Wilson campus and Rocky Mountain campus. I think I’m having trouble with this again at this service. So can somebody run here and get me a handheld radio? Or is there one that I can use? ? Okay, I’m a one armed preacher . pray for me, but I want this to get out. If this microphone goes bad, you know what it is, right? Okay. So you’re going to dial in and listen close. So what does our city look like? Just a few stats. We will just throw a few stats at you. What’s the condition we have? We have a church campus and Rocky Mount. We have this campus and Wilson. So really, we’re really aimed at Nash County and and Wilson County, certainly all of eastern North Carolina, But we’re really aimed at at those two.
Very specifically. If you look at those two counties combined, it’s one hundred seventy six thousand people. Ninety four thousand in Nash County, eighty two thousand Wilson County. Probably around thirty five percent say they go to church. Okay. But if somebody’s taking a survey that said, that means that over one thousand people don’t go to church and of the people who do go to church, maybe they don’t go to a life giving church. You know what a life giving church is; a life giving church is that kind of church that is a come as you are church. We say come and belong and along the way believe we want you to come and belong. First, come and be part of us, and then we’re going to introduce you to Jesus. Your life’s going to change. So it’s that kind of church we want to be.
And so we’re looking to address that our city needs to hear more about Jesus. The crime rate in Wilson is thirty one percent higher than the national average. The crime rate in Nash County is fifty six percent higher than the national average. In fact, in the city of Rocky Mount, the crime rate, the violent crime rate is ninety percent higher than the average of North Carolina, so there’s a lot of crime. There is an opioid crisis. Nearly five North Carolinians die every day from unintentional overdose of either prescription drugs or illegal drugs.
I work with the Wilson Pregnancy Center to help women who have an unplanned pregnancy to make a choice for life. But my heart is still broken because five hundred babies lost their lives in the last year between those two counties. Two hundred seventy three babies from Nash County, two hundred sixteen from Wilson County. And those are just the ones that drove to the county of Wake in Raleigh, where the nearest abortion clinic is and reported Wilson County or Nash County as where they were from. We don’t know who went out of state and in other places.
Food insecurity. Twenty two percent of the population of Wilson is food insecure. Thirty percent of our children, children under six grade are living in those homes. That’s one out of three homes in Wilson County. Their children are hungry. Food insecurity. Nash County’s twenty percent; one out of five food insecurity. There are people here this morning and maybe it’s you; these are statistics, but you’re the statistics. You’re part of the numbers. I said that so well, earlier statistic. So you’re part of that’s not a distant number for you. It’s not a statistic. It’s you. You’re hungry today.
I hope all of you are spiritually hungry today. Amen. I hope you’re hungry to hear the word of God, but some of you are here because you’re not doing that well, so it’s not this distant thing for you. In fact, as I think about who’s here this morning, there’s at least three types of people here this morning.
The first type. You’ve been following Jesus for a little while. It’s kind of new to you still, but you’ve been following him and you’re still growing. And this Rise Up idea might be scaring you a little bit because it’s probably going to take you out of your comfort zone. Well, it’s definitely going to take you out of your comfort zone. But you are learning to trust Jesus and you’re willing to dip your toes in the water.
Then there’s a group of people, a type of person in the room. You’ve been on the journey with Jesus for a while, and you’re used to Him taking you and saying stuff like he said to Peter, push out into deep water. You’re used to Him saying that, and you know that there’s a great catch of fish out there, and it’s kind of scary going in deep water. But you’re not dipping your toe in anymore. You ready to dive in the deep end with Jesus. So there’s a type of people like that here. This series is going to cause you to go even deeper with God.
Then there’s that person. Somebody invited you and you showed up at the Rise Up series launch. And you’re like, what in the world happened? Why am I here? And maybe you’re still seeking. Maybe you’re just in that place in your life, and you’re not sure about God. You just know you need something. I’m glad you’re here especially. I’m glad everybody’s here, but I’m especially glad you’re here. And I don’t want you to get all nervous about what we’re talking about, except for one part, one part. And that is what if today, you were to rise up and make a decision, make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
So let’s go on this journey together starting today, and that’s really what we want to do. What is this Rise Up thing? It’s more than a sermon; it’s a series through the book of Nehemiah. It certainly is a sermon series through Nehemiah. But it’s a three year generosity initiative where we want to make room for more people to come as they are, and be forever changed by the love of Jesus. That’s what it is. Over the next three years, we’re going to rise up. We’re starting today. We’re called and we believe that God is calling us to partner with him by investing ourselves. And our resource is more fully in greater levels that will impact our cities in Rocky Mount, Wilson and then the nearby cities. God calls people out so so that we reach our city. We reach our county, We reach our region. We reach our world with the love of Jesus.
Now you have your journey book; you probably noticed a few things about it. Now this gets complicated because I’m a one armed preacher , so I just kind of do this now, but you have these tabs down the side. We’ll talk about what the vision is. Sermon notes. Hopefully, you’ve already found that tab and you’re taking notes there today. You’re writing down three questions that you have as the sermon goes along , that you would like to unpack in your community grou. If you are not in a community group get in a community group. These are committed groups that meet during the week, and they unpack the sermon so that the sermon moves from head to heart. It moves from head knowledge to heart knowledge, which is application knowledge. You start applying it to your life If you open it up to the front page, you’ll see a photo of the guy in the water with his clothes on in some old fashioned aviators. That’s me. That’s June nineteen ninety two. I still need glasses. But I wear contacts now. At the time we planned the church, I went without income for fourteen months and I couldn’t afford to go the doctor so I couldn’t buy contacts. That’s what it looks like when you plan to church. Sometimes you have to rise up and go without. That’s why I’m wearing those aviators that you’re laughing at. They’ll come back. They’ll come back in style.
That little boy, that six year old boy is the first person I baptized. Our church was six months old. That is Jonathan Combs; he’s our pastor at the Rocky Mount campus and he is preaching the same sermon right now. That’s what God will do in your family if you’ll put him first. That’s the kind of church we started, with seven people in my living room. A group of people decided to rise up and say, we want a church, they’ll accept people to just come in the door as they are. And we can talk about Jesus and asked Him to change lives and we’re not going to play. So you look through there and I want you to get yourself familiar with it. And I want you to get yourself a wristband. They’re free there at the rise up kiosk. Make sure you have a journey book and bring it back every week. Get yourself a T shirt: get you some rise up swag people. Come on. I’m gonna wear my wristband everyday, so when the waitress or the checkout cashier says, What’s that? We’ll talk to him about Jesus. It will be a good reminder. Do that. Also it will remind me every day to pray for what God has called us to do together. Now, what would it look like? Don’t you put this wristband on unless you’re ready to rise up.
Here’s my goal. If one hundred percent of you commit to go on this journey together and we just say, God you do it, I’ll be happy. Whatever offerings are brought whatever commitments are made that’s up to God. That’s between you and God and whether or not you’re going to hear from God. I can’t control success; success is up to God. My prayers and my yes is up to me and it’s up to you. So I’m praying that you’ll say yes. You’ll slap on a wrist band and say I’m going. I’m going to keep the rise up commitment
Now, what’s the rise up commitment? We’ve put it in your bulletins and we’re going to put on the screen. #1 Commit to come every Sunday. Bring your journey guide with you, take sermon notes and reflect on God’s word. #2 Do the daily devotion. It starts in the morning. We’re going to give you weekends off. You could catch up on weekends; it’s a thirty day devotion. And you can take your notes in the journey guide #3 Attend a weekly community group and discuss it. Unpack your cares and concerns and encourage each other . #4 Commit to pray our Rise Up prayer: Lord, what do you want to do in me and through me? And then commit to pray and to answer whatever God leads you to do. #5 On February twenty fourth, when we make a commitment.
Back in 2010, we found out that this building really was within our prayer reach, like our spiritual reach. And so we started praying as a church. Now, the building closed; .it was a regal cinema six. That’s six theaters. This room is one of them, In 2006 they closed Labor Day weekend. How many of you ever went to a movie here when it used to be a movie theater? A whole bunch of you have. One of the last movies I went to was in this room, in this very room, and our church rented it because The Passion was about to come out with Mel Gibson. He directed and wrote the movie, The Passion. My wife and I had the privilege of being invited to go to Chicago and meet with Mel Gibson and see the preview three months before it launched. And so we went to see it, I cried my eyes out and came home and called Regal Cinema corporate and rented this very room and packed it out three days before it opened to the public so our church members could watch it in this theater. Who knew years later God would give us this building and we would have church in this room. We started practicing before it was ours .
So Regal closed. They wanted two million dollars for this, right? Six acres and twentysix thousand square foot building. They wanted two million dollars. For nineteen years, I’d seen every property we’d probably leased. I used to ask pastors in town, how many weddings have you had it in your church? They’d say, well, I’ve had three since I’ve been here. I would tell that I had done seven weddings at their church.
The church is not the steeple. The church is the people. And this used to be an old movie theatre, and we’re just passing through. We need a place. Aren’t you glad you got a seat to sit in? Somebody paid for it. Somebody before you. I don’t know how many of you’ve ever eaten an apple from an apple tree you planted? Probably not many . Probably no one. Someone goes before us, prepares the way for us to hear the gospel. But it’s time for another generation to rise up. And so some people went before us. And that’s why we’re here today. And we have this place.
They wanted two million dollars for it. We offered them $250,000. You know how much we had in our building fund at the time? We didn’t have a building fund at the time. And I went before the church. We offered them $250,000 and they didn’t blink. It had been on the market for five years and someone had broken in and stolen all the copper out of it so you couldn’t turn the lights on. And the whole place was moldy,stinky and nasty. And I mean, we offered $250,000 and they countered $300,000 and we countered, $280,000 and they countered 30 days cash and we countered 40 days because God likes 40 better. God gave us this place . Do you believe that? Nineteen years portable.
What are we going to to with what God has given us? You know, we haven’t even moved into the whole building yet. We’ve been here almost eight years. One is the theater next door. The other was the multi purpose room; which was where we accumulated junk. Got a church family that had been portable for nineteen years. Plus what this stuff you didn’t want in your garage that you thought maybe the church would like it. That’s what that room used to be. We called it the multi purpose room . It should have been called the multi junk room . But now it’s a beautiful children’s wing. And ever since we opened the doors, our attendance of children between zero to fifth grade has just gone up, up, up, up. They’re not driving themselves here. We’re going to need more room for adults.
We have a new playground. I said, Let’s build something because our kids have waited twenty six years to have a playground and let’s build something. My kids grew up without any frills, you know? But what if we built something not just for the kids, not our kids, but the city’s kids so that when family’s are sitting in the Taco Bell drive through, by the way, look at your connection cards. If that’s about how you heard about the church you checked the box, I heard about it in the Taco Bell Drive thru. It’s on the back of your bulletin. One of our number one outreaches are people who go through the Taco Bell drive through and they ask what’s a WCC? We want people with their kids to go, Mommy, look at that playground and then drive over here and eat their tacos at a picnic table while their kids play because we wanted to be a gift to our city. So we just did that. We asked as we were thinking about what God has given us, and we’ve been here for a little while .
We asked two professionals to come in and do consulting with us; to consult us and and ask questions. What if we fully utilized everything God has given us because you don’t want to waste what God has given you, right? What if we fully utilized it? How many people could we reach on this campus? And they said sixteen hundred to two thousand people. And so we had him draw it up and it’s on the wall out in the out in the lobby. You can see it’s been there for about a year now. We’ve got a room next door that we haven’t touched yet. Guess what? It’s becoming the junk room, and that’s how it works at your house. Any room you’re not fully using becomes junk that you go don’t want to throw away. Let’s put it in the theater room. We call it the theater room. I don’t know why, because it still looks like it did when we first got it. That’s what it looks like.
I believe if they’re over one hundred thousand people who don’t go to church, we can make room for some more. Why would you do that? Why would you want to be that kind of church? Because people are far from God and they are broken and they’re hurting and they’re living life on their own. And somebody, some churches are supposed to ask them what they are going to do with Jesus. I want to be that church. There’s the theatre room. It’s right there. It’s over there. Look at it. It’s nothing to look at. What we want to do is to level the floor and get a “three-fer” out of it. Make it a place that we can use three different ways.
One is it would be the biggest level floor area in the whole building. It presently has fixed seats so it’s kind of inflexible. It’s not meant for multi use, but we want to make that a multi use room so that we could do worship in there. We could have fellowships in there, and the youth can use it, so we get a “three-fer” out of it. And so we’re going to level the floor and make it a new kind of space. We want to bring up the common areas to a sharper look, which would be the lobby and the hallways. We’re thinking about lifting the ceiling, putting in some new flooring, different things, new bathrooms to get ready for phase three, which we’re not talking about yet. This is Phase 2. Phase one was the children’s wing; this is phase two. We put the children first. We are going to enlarge the current nursery. That’s phase two. That’s what we’re talking about in this season to rise up
And there’s one other part. So many people are sitting at the Taco Bill drive through and they look out here and they go. What is a WCC? What is that? Yeah, that’s right. Well, here’s what happened. We first got the building. We were meeting with the sign company and I said, How much or how tall should a letter be so they could see it on Tarboro Street? It is three feet tall, needs to be thirty six inches tall. And I said, How much is one letter? And he gives two thousand dollars and I so I counted Wilson Community Church. I said, How much for three letters? That’s how that happened. Then, Wilson Community College, which didn’t used to be Wilson Community College. It was Wilson Technical Community College. WTCC said it would be a good idea to just take the T out and now people go well, it’s a extension campus of Wilson Community College. So we gotta do something about our sign and our parking lot. We’ve got to do something about her first impressions.
You may be sitting there, thinking, I don’t care about any of that. This is my house; I’m used to it. I love it. I’m not trying to reach you anymore. I love you. Hope you love me back, especially after today. But my heart’s broken for people far from God. And we have to consider two things: to stretch ourselves and come out of our comfort for zone in order to reach them. So we want to be a place that’s attractive so they’ll come. Okay. Whenever God wants to do something, whenever he wants to reach a city, He starts with a handful of people and he stirs their hearts up and he gives them a vision.
You can’t teach a vision. I can’t teach you the vision I have in my heart because you can’t learn it. You can only catch it because vision is caught, not taught. You can’t really catch it from me; you just have to get in touch with the God that fills me. The Lord Jesus Christ his spirit in me. . And if you get filled with that, you’ll see the city the way he sees it. And you’ll catch fire too. That’s what I’m praying for today.
In the book of of Nehemiah, God gave Nehemiah a vision for the city of Jerusalem. He called him to rise up and do something about the condition of that city. And I believe that that same God lives today. And he’s calling us to do something about the city that we live in. And as we look at the text today, we’re going to read the text. Now, that was the longest introduction I’ve givenin forever. But it is important you were here this day as we launch the Rise Up series. But let’s look at the scripture now. This is God’s word. The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers came with certain man from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile concerning Jerusalem. 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. And I said, Oh, Lord , God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant in steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. Let your ear being 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 in my father’s house have sinned. We’ve acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes and the rules that you commanded your servant, Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. But if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen to make my name dwell there. They are your servants and your people, whom you ha’ve redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. Now I was cupbearer to the king. This is God’s word.
We’re looking for three steps on how we can catch God’s vision for our city. Here’s the first Ask God to reveal what he sees in our city. God, I want to see this city through your eyes, God show me what you see. Notice the first few verses in Nehemiah. His name means Jehovah comforts. He’s the son of Hacaliah. Oh, yeah. His father had that same emphasis. The ja is a shortened version of Yahweh. Jehovah! God! This is who he is.
He’s got a cushy job. He’s the cupbearer to the king Artaxerxes. It’s not a small job. Some people think that he just had job to stand next to the king and taste of the wine to make sure it wasn’t poisoned before the king drank it. Well, yeah, that’s part of it. But he was one of the most trusted courtiers that would be in the king’s court because he was like the Secret Service guy checking to make sure his food and his drink was safe. So he was also the guy that would hire the kitchen help. And I would imagine he’d be pretty careful about that because he had to eat and drink the stuff first. So he’s kind of over that. Plus, he hears everything that’s going on in the king’s court. So he’s a trusted advisor. In fact, Artaxerxes’ father had been murdered by one of his people on the court. And so Artaxerxes has that in his mind .
So, Gary, I guarantee you Nehemiah is especially cared for by the king. He’s an important person, he has a cushy job, is well educated, is Jewish. But he’s never suffered. He’s never seen Jerusalem. He’s like the second generation exile. The exiles were carried off to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar when he destroyed one hundred forty years before this one hundred forty years before this, King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem, and he carried off Jewish exiles to Babylon. But then his kingdom was overthrown by the Persians and they took the Jewish exiles, Daniel among them. And now there’s a second and even a third generation being born that never knew Jerusalem. The Maya’s among them.
After seventy years of captivity, King Cyrus of Persia allowed some Jews to go back and rebuild Jerusalem. Ezra, Zerubbabel, Yeshua some of these names You read the book of Ezra. You read some of the other books. You’ll see them going back and they rebuild the temple; the temple has been rebuilt. But about fifty more years have gone by. Now here’s Nehemiah. And he’s saying so news from the city. I’ve never seen it. He’s got in his mind what he thinks it looks like. He’s working for the king. Everything he’s seen, he’s in the city of Susa.
So pop the map up quick. I like maps. I want to show you where this is at. So when you read the Bible, the Bible’s a true book. It’s about real places. These are not made up stories. They really happened; they are history. Here is Susa; it’s in modern day Iraq. It’s right on the border. But this was the kingdom of Persia at the time. Today if you go there, it’s all desert. That’s in Iraq. But anyway, he’s in this kingdom of Susa. He’s in the Winter palace where Artaxerxes would go when it was too hot. He was going down here. That’s where he’s at when he asks, How are things in Jerusalem? And they say that the people are in trouble, they are filled with shame. The walls are broken down and the gates are ruined; they’ve been burned down. You know what name I was really getting there. The way I know he got it from God. Because in verse four, he sat down and wept. You don’t get a response like that just because you checked the news out. He felt something, man. He saw it through God’s eyes . He had an image of what he thought it looked like but he didn’t realize things were so bad. He really looked. He really saw Jerusalem through Hanani and his friends eyes when he asked, he really looked.
Last week I made announcements at this campus, both services. Brother, Adam Purvis was preaching in my place last Sunday. He did an awesome job, by the way. We have a great teaching team here. I made announcements at both services and then I got my car and went as fast as I could to make an announcement at the Rocky Mount campus and to commission one of our very own who is leaving this coming Wednesday. Our sister, Mary is going to Sumatra, North Sumatra, for a year to work there.
And as I was coming back from that service in Rocky Mount coming off of 301 going down to stop sign, I often see this. There was a man standing there with a piece of cardboard that said he was homeless and hungry. Then you know what you don’t do. You come to a stop sign. And there’s a guy standing there with a piece of cardboard and it has homeless and hungry written on it. Don’t look at him. Do not look at him, right? Because if you look at him, he’s going to come over to your window and knock on it if you look at him he’s going to come over, he’s gonna expect you to help him. so don’t look at him, right. That’s how that’s how we think, right? That’s what I think; that’s not how God thinks. If you look at the world through God’s eyes, He says to look at him.
What do we see in the book of Luke? Here is Jesus, He is coming near the city of Jerusalem, that same city that Nehemiah cried for, and it says he cried as he saw it. He said,”If you had only known on this great day the good things that make peace! But now they’re hidden from your eyes.” If you only knew who I am, He looked at it. He cried.
After Jesus was crucified and was risen, and sent back to the father, Peter and John, as was their habit, were going up for the time of prayer in the temple of Jerusalem. They went up the steps toward the gate called Beautiful , and there sat a man whose parents, probably or his friends every day helped him get up to the spot just outside the gate and he sat there with a cup going “Alms for the poor.” He’s a crippled man; he was born crippled. The whole city knew about him because he was always there at the gate call Beautiful. That’s his spot, and as Peter and John walked up. We read this in the Scriptures. In the Book of Acts chapter, 3 “And Peter directed his gaze in him.” That’s an intensification in the Greek language; it says he looked right in his eyes. He looked at him with really kind of an uncomfortably long look to the point where he had to say to the man, “Look at us.” What? That’s what God calls us to do. To look at people and to tell them to look at me. I have something for you. “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give to thee rise up and walk.” The man leaped to his feet and goes leaping through the temple.
People said, How did this happen to use those guys, Peter and John? Don’t look at these guys. It was Jesus. He’s the one. The one who you crucified is risen. And it was in his name that we said rise up, but they looked. Christ gives us the courage to really look at people. We’re afraid to look at him because we know they’re hurting and we can barely keep it together ourselves. So we can’t stand to look at him because we’re afraid they’ll ask us for something that will so stretch us out of our comfort zones in our ability to live our own lives. I It will mess up everything so we don’t look at him. But I’m saying, Lord, let us pray. Show us this city. Let us see it in your eyes. Vision is caught, not taught. Lord, show us.
And then here’s number two. That’s the first step. Asked the Lord to show you what your city really looks like. Here’s number two Get alone with God to hear his heart for our city. Get alone with God. That’s what Nehemiah does in verses four through eleven after he has had a good cry, he fasts and prays. He gets alone with God. He prays. He calls out to God; he gets alone with God. Ask God to show you what he sees then ask God to let you feel what he feels. God, what’s your heart for this? How do you feel about this? I want to put away my feelings. I want to feel about things, the way you feel about things.
Nehemiah wept and mourned, and he fasted and prayed. How long did he do it? We have to kind of look at the chronology between chapter one and chapter two. Chapter one tells us what year it was; it’s the twentieth year. What month was that? It was Chislev. Live Chislev in the Jewish calendar, was around November or December; kind of end of the year.
And then we get to chapter two. We find out that the time was in the month of Nissan. That’s not the car you drove in on. That’s a Jewish month. It’s around March or April during the time of Passover. So it’s been about four months he’s been praying and fasting and asking God about this. Not four minutes, not four days, not four weeks but four months. God’s giving him a clear vision. Now he knows how God feels about it. He knows God’s heart. He knows what God sees when he looks at Jerusalem and he is stirred up baby, he’s tore up about it. But there’s a problem. He works for the king. He’s already at the point where he’s ready to give up his comfort. He’s ready to do it, but he works for the King and he has to have the king’s permission, knowing that he doesn’t have what it needs to fix the problem. He needs the King’s authority. Not only that he doesn’t have the resources to answer the problem. He needs the king’s resources; he needs the king’s money. He needs his authority, needs his money. He’s called, but the king has everything he needs to do it And so he prays. How does he pray? Well, let’s look. Let’s see how he prays
Verse 5, “ O Lord, God of heaven.” He worships. He prays like Jesus taught his disciples. Our father, which art in heaven, hallowed be your name. That’s how he starts. He starts off going. You’re God,not my plans, Your plans. Your God, I’m not. You’re the God of glory. He worships.
Then notice in verse six. He confesses. He confesses it’s easy to confess other people’s sins. Lord, look at those poor sinners; that’s so easy. Some of you are doing that right now. I wish such and such was here so they could hear this; I hope that person next to me right now is listening. But he didn’t stop there. In verse six he says, even I and my father’s house have sinned. Man, he’s sitting there thinking I live in luxury and I only know the stories about Jerusalem. I didn’t get carried off and exiled. But really, I pretty much got it made over here. And so he confesses , and if he’s like me, he’s probably confessing how scared he is. He’s probably confessing, “Lord, pick somebody else.” He’s going through what he’s confessing.
Then he prays in verse eight. He prays for God to remember, like can God forget? I don’t think that’s what he means. I don’t think he means God can forget . But he’s praying, remember the word that you commanded? In other words, he’s praying God’s word back to Him. You know, God loves it when you pray his word back to Him. Don’t you love it when one of your kids say back to you something that you taught them? You feel like you actually got something right; they actually listened. You pray back to God saying God, remember your word. He’s like I wrote it. Yeah, The father loves it when we pray His word back to him. That’s what Nehemiah is; he not only is a prayer warrior, he is a man of the book. He’s a student of the word and he’s praying God’s promises back to Him. I know we deserve what we got. We got kicked out of Jerusalem and scattered all over the planet because you said that’s what would happen if we didn’t put you first. But look at me. Look at me. God, I’m putting you first. Can it start with me? I’m putting you first. That started with me. Let this spiritual awakening for my people start with me for my city. Let it start with me. I can’t control y’all. But I could say yes and that’s what he’s doing. He’s saying, Lord, I confessed my sin. I confess their sin for them because they hadn’t done it yet. But I’ll start it for them. And he prays the promises of God. He says You promised you’d scatter us. But you know what else you said? If we repent and follow you, that you would gather us back. I’m calling you out on that God .
So is God calling you to reach your city? Start with me. I can’t speak for you. I mean, if I could, you guys would already be on it. But you have to catch it. I don’t know if you will with what you see, because you don’t really see. I don’t know if you’re gonna be okay with what you feel because you don’t really feel. But if you’ll start seeing and start feeling you won’t be okay. You won’t be okay.
Remember. You know, about fifty, sixty, seventy years before this moment in time, a guy name Israel went over there. Zerubbabel from the house of David. Good name Yeshua. That was a priest. These guys went over there. They finally after a lot of fighting and battle and believing God built the temple. But there’s too much resistance they can’t get the city fixed they can’t get the walls fixed. They’ve got a church building, but they can’t reach their city. You God tag them. And he said, Look at it. Look at it as Ezra chapter one. “Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judea and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.” That’s a generation earlier; He stirred their hearts.
What’s that look like for God to stick something in your heart and stir it around? What’s that feel like? That messes up your old hard heart, Breaks it all up, makes it all soft and tender and broken Makes the most macho man among us cry tears and weep. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” He’s the most manly man who ever walked the planet. When is your heart going a break? When are you going to feel what God feels? When is your heart going to get stirred up?
I’m just fresh off of a my annual study retreat. Thank God for a church that lets me take a break. So I go read God’s word and study. I prayed every day for you and us together and for unity and for a city. So I’m fresh and on fire and you’re the recipient of it. You let me do it every year. You guys let me get away and study and pray. I love you for it. Thank you. I want you to have that too in your life. That’s why I spent, myself and my team, this is three months of my life. The stuff that we didn’t buy. This well, this is us. We designed it. We built it. We wrote it. Understand? This is blood, sweat and tears right here. Don’t just toss in the corner when you get home with it. It would break my hear, but If you don’t care about my heart I think it’ll break the heart of God because it’s really from him.
So take this thirty day devotional start in the morning. Get along with God. I know it’s hard, everything comes against us as we try to get alone with God and I’m taking you on a journey through the book of Nehemiah, Monday through Friday, I’m giving your weekends off. And start asking God I want your heart for this.
Number three. You’ll still with me. You still in the room? Decide to join God in his work for our city. Decide to join God in his work for our city. God, show me what you see. Let me feel what you feel. Let me do what you do. No. Here’s what we tend to do. Lord, today looks like it’s going to be a hard day. I need you to help me with this problem at work with this problem at school. I need some extra money because the bills are coming due. And Lord, I really wish you’d follow me. I got a great plan for the day. If you just follow my plan and pitching right here, I believe we probably will make it. Here’s the problem with that? That’s your plan. You’re asking God to join your work.
When was the last time you said to God like in verse eleven, Oh, Lord, let your ears be attentive. Give success to your servant. Today, after four months of prayers, he’s ready to go in there. He’s like Lord make Artaxerxes look at me and ask me something. So I get to tell him what’s on my heart. Now, remember, if you’ve ever read the book of Esther, you can’t just go and start talking to the king of Persia because he’ll kill you. And so, like Esther had already told Mordechai in the book of Esther said, Hey, look, go tell everybody go tell all the Jews to pray for three days. Because if I go in without invitation and start talking to him and she’s the queen of Persia, he’ll kill me because you can’t just go talk to the King of Persia without an appointment . Even if you’re the queen.
Never mind the cupbearer. He’s like, Lord, I know. I know what you’re coming to do. You know exactly what the plan is. I want to do it, but I need Artaxerxes. Give me the authority and the resources because I work for him. So get hold of him in this house. Pray. Do you see it? He wants to do it, but he needs God’s help because success is up to God. But our yes or are no. It is on us. We can’t build the church. Jesus never told us to build the church. He says upon this rock I will build my church. So Jesus is the church builder. Our job is to be the church. If we will be the church, he will build the church.. We have to say, “Let me see what you see. Let me feel what you feel. Let me join you in what you’re already doing.” .
We’re to be the church. He’ll build a church. Jesus said this in John chapter 5, “My father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” “ I tell you the truth. The Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.”
When my oldest son, Stephen, who leads our worship, was a little fellow and I was out mowing the yard, Robin would call to me saying that Stephen is out there following you. She didn’t want him to get hurt. He had his little plastic lawn mower following me. Little kids. I don’t know what happens to us when they turn into teenagers, but when they are still little, they want to do what Mom and Dad do. So when we love them, they love us. They want to study well. What ?
When parents are on their best behavior, we want to help. The father always wants us to help. He always wants us to join. The Son says that the Father loves me and I only do what he’s doing. And then he says to us, Come, follow me. Come, follow me. So success is in your hands. But whether or not I follow you is up to me. Where do you need success in your life? Where is their brokenness? Where is their hurt? You can’t fix it, but you can follow Jesus. You say, “Let me see. Let me hear. Let me follow. Let me do what you are doing. Let me be with you as you do your work in this city.”
Henry Blackaby, in his book, Experiencing God says, God’s invitation always leads to a crisis of belief.” Anytime God calls us and we see it, we feel it. We want to join him. We have a crisis of belief. We start going, I don’t know how to do it? And so there’s a crisis of belief. I’m going to ask you on this journey together to put away your preconceived notions. Or you’re already thinking of how you could do it your own power. And I want you to think I want to see this. I want to pray. Lord, what do you want to do in me and through me. That’s all. That’s all I’m asking that you’ll answer that question between you and the Lord because I believe he’s calling us to rise up together and to do something about our city. The time’s come for us to act. Are you willing to put aside your fears and your doubts?
Pastor Rick Warren says, “If you want to be a person of great faith with a great dream and a great life work, you must defeat the giants of delay, discouragement, disapproval and doubt.” All of those d’s are out there right now, floating in our minds. We have to decide, Lord, give me success because my yes is on the table and I’m joining you in your work. And when we do, when we rise up with extravagant generosity and we do all that God’s called us to do.
Look what it says in Isaiah, “I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them and do not hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy too. You’ll be like a well- watered garden, like an ever- flowing spring. Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities.”
What? Come on. Really? Yes. God will do that if will say yes to him. If we’ll rise up. Will you join us in this rise up spiritual journey together? Will you say Lord, I want to see the city through your eyes I want to feel your heart beat I want to join you in your work. Generations before you sacrificed so you would have a seat today so you’d have a journey guide in your hands so there would be lights on and heat in the room. All these things don’t happen by magic. People before you laid down their lives to make it happen.
What about this next generation of millennials? What about this next generation that didn’t get to be a part of the nineteen years of portable church? It’s not too late to rise up and to be part of the story that God’s writing as he desires to reach this city with Jesus.
Let’s pray, Lord I pray that we as a people would be united. I pray we would overcome barriers and hang ups and fears and doubts and that every person would say yes to the prayer Lord, show us, show me what you want to do in and through me. Oh, and, Lord, I’m remembering now that there’s three types of people in the room. They’re the people that are new on the journey. I pray for them, especially lord, that you’d protect their minds and help them to lean into you right now. Lord, I’m praying for those who have been on the journey with you for a while that they wouldn’t check out and say, I’ve already done it. I was there earlier, and I’ve done my load lifting. I praythat they would be like Caleb and say I may be eighty years old, but my right arm is strong. God has made it as strong as it ever was. Give me the mountains, Give me the giants. And then I especially pray for that person that came here today on a thread. And you, you want to know Jesus, you want to be You want to be a child of God, I especially pray for you right now. Right where you are. Right in your seat. Would you pray with me? Dear Lord Jesus, It’s just a prayer. Faith believing. Dear Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. My life’s out of control. I’m not able to fix it. I admit it. I need Jesus. I believe you died on the cross that you rose from the grave and that you live. Come and live in me. I invite you to be my lord and savior. Come into my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be. I want to be a child of God. Friend, if you’re praying that prayer right now believing the Bible says if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. And so have confidence. Give him thanks. Right now. Lord, we love you. Thank you. That you called us to this city, not just for ourselves, but to be the church that you would call to rise up and see and feel and do what you came to do in Christ’s name. All God’s people said Amen.