What makes you cry?
Some of you can’t make it through one day with out crying.
Cat videos on YouTube make you cry.
For others of you, it takes a lot.
I used to always say that I cry once a year…
But, I think the Lord is growing my heart as I get older…so, it might be more like twice a year…
But what makes you cry?
A lot of times, we cry because of our own difficult situations.
But what would make you cry for other people?
Would you ever look at someone else’s situation, and be so moved for them, that it would move you to tears?
This morning, as we study God’s Word together, my prayer is that it shows you whom you should be crying for.
BACKGROUND ON NEHEMIAH
We are starting a brand-new series on the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Specifically on chapters 1- 4.
If you’ve never read Nehemiah before, Nehemiah is famous, as you might have guessed from the series name, for being a builder.
He was the one who rallied God’s people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah is fairly short book in the Bible, just 13 chapters.
If you’ve never read it before, I encourage you to start reading it this week in your time reading the Word.
Before we dive into the book…I need to give you some background on when this all happens in history, and in context of the larger story of the Bible.
I recognize that many of you are new to the faith, or just checking Jesus out, so let’s zoom out before we zoom in.
The Old Testament (the first two-thirds of the Bible) focuses on the story of God’s people, the Israelites…and eventually a sub-section of them…the Jews.
God brings them to the promised land (which will become Israel), but over the centuries, they become unfaithful to God and start engaging in all sorts of wickedness and even start worshipping false gods.
Eventually, God has enough, and as He promised He would if they weren’t faithful, he sends someone to punish them.
God sends Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who captures the people of Judah (the Jews), and exiles the vast majority of them to the Kingdom of Babylon.
(SHOW Nehemiah Map) – KEEP UP TO VERSE
Nebuchadnezzar exiles the Jews in stages, but the last grouping of people are exiled in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar also destroys the temple and Jerusalem’s walls.
Well, 48 years after that, Cyrus the Great (the King of Persia) conquers Babylon, and he decrees, that all of the exiled people (that Nebuchadnezzar had taken) can go home.
This is in 538 BC (all of this is attested by archaeology & history too, not just the Bible)
And about 50,000 Jews decided to go back to of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.
But many more of the Jews stayed in Babylon, and throughout, what was now, the Persia Empire.
In fact, Esther (whom you can read about in the Book of ESTHER J) is an example of this…
In 478 BC, even though she’s a Jew, Esther becomes a wife of the King of Persia!
And she marries King Xerxes
Well, Xerxes has a son, named Artaxerxes…
And one of Artaxerxes important servants (his cupbearer), is a Jew by the name of…NEHEMIAH.
And the book of Nehemiah starts off in the year 445 BC.
And it’s been 141 years since Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and its walls.
It’s now been 93 years since the Jews could go back to Jerusalem.
And as Nehemiah, the Jew, is serving King Artaxerxes, a world away in Susa, the capital of Persia, his brother arrives…all the way from Jerusalem.
Let’s start reading
(Nehemiah 1:1-11) – NIV
The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
So Nehemiah’s brother comes from Jerusalem, all the way to Susa, in Persia
And look at verse 2; we see that Nehemiah questions him about the people of Jerusalem.
The city of his ancestors.
The most important city in the world to Jews.
The city where God made his name to dwell.
Nehemiah cares about this city.
And when Nehemiah’s brother tells him the news…
And he says that Jerusalem is in an awful condition…that the people are in great trouble…and the walls are broken down…
Nehemiah hears the news…and there’s no strength in his legs.
He has to sit down.
And as he sits down, this powerful man, begins to weep.
Not just get misty eyed, or shed a tear, but to weep, the Bible says.
And he begins this period of mourning…and he even fasts (abstains from eating) while he prays.
Nehemiah cries tears…for his city.
For his people.
And the lack of walls for Jerusalem are heavy on his heart.
In the ancient world, a city that didn’t have walls was a city that was completely open and vulnerable to its enemies.
Those who lived in the city lived in constant fear that they could be attacked at any moment, and there would be no defense against the enemy.
Plus, the temple had now been rebuilt in Jerusalem, but it was defenseless
Jerusalem was in a sad state.
And so Nehemiah cries tears…for his city.
What about your city?
What about Blaine?
I know many of you live in Coon Rapids, or Andover, or somewhere else, but the majority of you live here, in Blaine.
What about Blaine?
85% of people aren’t in church on an average Sunday.
That percentage was significantly lower, 25-30 years ago.
Let’s just say that 70% of people in Blaine, don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.
The population of Blaine is 65,000.
70% of 65,000 is just over 45,000.
And if we believe what the Bible teaches, then 45,000 people in our city, the people who live next door to us, and work with us, and whose kids play on our kids’ soccer teams…
45,000 of them will suffer in hell for all of eternity.
And for most of us that statement doesn’t do much.
Except maybe make you wish that I didn’t say it, because it makes many of us feel uncomfortable
But if God’s Spirit really got a hold of your heart…
If you could look 100 years into the future…and you could see eternity…I promise you that you would weep like Nehemiah.
We would weep for days.
If we could see our friends…our co-workers…in hell…in agony…
Saying, like the rich man who went to hell in Luke chapter 16, “If only someone could come back from the dead and warn them about what’s coming!”
We would weep.
We would weep over their lostness
We would weep over the fact that we choose not to think about these things…simply because they are unpleasant to think about
Or, because we have so many other things going on with our own life that we’ve deemed as “more important.”
But was Nehemiah’s job not important?
He was cupbearer to the King!
He protected the king from being poisoned.
In the ancient world, the King only gave this position to the most moral and the most trustworthy person
And Nehemiah had risen to that position…as an exile!
And he wasn’t just serving any King
Artaxerxes, as leader of the Persian empire, would have been THE most powerful man on the planet.
Didn’t Nehemiah have more important things to do than worry about his city far away?
He had his own important and busy life to worry about!
But when God draws you near, He will always give you a heart for His people.
And He’ll move your heart off of yourself and onto his people.
As we’ll see in the next few weeks, God is going to do something great in Nehemiah through this wall-building project
But first God did something IN Nehemiah.
And it will always be the same in your life.
God will never do something great through you until you first let Him do something great IN you.
This is why chapter 1 is really important.
We can’t just jump to when they’re “building for God’ and building the wall in Jerusalem in chapter 2.
The wall building didn’t begin with the mixing of cement, it began when the Lord got a hold of someone’s heart.
THE PEOPLE IN YOUR CITY NEED YOU
Will you let the Lord get ahold of your heart for His people?
Do you know what God could do with this church if we each let Him get a hold of His heart for lost people?
It would blow your mind.
We would see all-out revival here.
Will you ask God to break your heart for the people of your city?
God is still reaching many people for Christ through this church…but what we’re doing is barely making a dent in that 45,000 lost people in this city.
There is an incredible amount of work to be done…and people…REAL people to be reached.
Over these past two weeks, our House Groups took part in Provide, which is a ministry our church started to bring groceries, personal care items, and home cooked meals…to people really in need…right here in Blaine and its surrounding cities.
Our church delivered to 27 different homes over the past two weeks…and we’ll do 27 more homes in the spring.
And as I went out (with the house group I attend) on one of the deliveries…I was reminded anew of the hurt people have.
Many of you told me that the people you brought food to, were so touched by your act of kindness during their tough times… that they said, “And where is your church…how do I get there?”
People are hurting, and they need us…
And we can bring the light!
But if you want God to do something THROUGH you, you have to let Him first do something IN you.
Will you let God break your heart for your city?
Will you shed tears for your city?
One of the things that jumped out at me as I studied Nehemiah this week was that, in a sense, this information wasn’t new to Nehemiah.
Jerusalem’s walls had been knocked down for 141 years already.
Why was he moved to tears now?
Because God had come into His heart…and was moving Him to do something about it!
Nehemiah is deeply moved when he hears that his city is in great trouble…and breaking down.
But so is ours! Look harder!
Behind all of its suburban siding, our city is crumbling
Marriages are dissolving daily
Domestic abuse is happening but hidden
Kids are growing up in an incredibly confused world, where there are no norms regarding sex, gender, morals, purpose, direction…it’s dizzying
The suicide rate is rising fast. Even at our local high schools.
And we have the answer!
We have it!
His name is Jesus!
People don’t have to feel lost
They don’t have to be without hope.
They can be surrounded by His love.
They can have their lives changed.
They can experience the love of God.
Real lives can be changed…saved.
And listen, many of the people in our city aren’t going through a crisis right now.
But that doesn’t mean that they still don’t feel lost and without an eternal hope
Just this week, we had yet another person surrender their life to Christ in our church…this time in our House Groups
This woman had been invited to church by one of our people, and just kept coming and seeking God.
And after months of feeling darkness pulling her down for no discernible reason, she surrendered her life to Christ this week.
And there are thousands of people out there in our city, just like that, and we can reach them with the good news of Jesus!
We cannot hide this answer from people.
We cannot keep it to ourselves.
I worry most for our city, and its people, not when I see how immoral they are or the choices they’re making.
For they are like sheep without shepherd…travelers without a compass
I worry most for our city, when I see how the Christians are responding to it
Instead of weeping for the lost people around them…
…Christians (people bearing the name of Jesus)…are instead responding to lost people in anger and in fear…
We’re not seeing people as Jesus sees them.
Instead, I hear Christians all the time saying, “The world is changing. Can you believe what people do nowadays? What they believe? It’s awful. It’s terrible. Society is ruining itself.”
But Christians are saying these words in anger and fear…
But fear will just push Christians away from the lost…to the fringes of society.
But tears, not fear, tears…will push us toward people…
Like Jesus Christ.
And my prayer is that that kind of talk…of anger and fear…maybe never be us, Renovation Church.
Will you let God break your heart for this city?
He will, if you let Him.
Will you be like Christ, who didn’t roll his eyes at the sinfulness of Jerusalem…but instead…
(Luke 19:41) – NIV
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it
The city that was so far gone, that it was going to kill him 5 days after he said this.
We’re told that He wept over it because He could have given them peace and life…but they were choosing destruction instead.
FROM THE FARTHEST HORIZONS
And God CAN do something about the lost in our city…through us…the believers in this city.
It might not feel like He can, but He is able.
He’s about to do something through Nehemiah even though he’s still 800 miles away, with no resources, no authority, and no people.
There’s a line in Nehemiah’s prayer that I really love…where Nehemiah quotes what God once told the Israelites through Moses
Look at verse 9
(Nehemiah 1:9) – NIV
but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
2,500 years ago, Susa would have felt like light years away from Jerusalem...the farthest horizon.
And God is saying, if my people would pray, and seek me, and obey me…
I’ll do an amazing work by bringing my people back to my holy city…even if they’ve been taken away to the farthest horizon.
Nothing is too hard for me.
And that is God’s word to us concerning the lost people around us right now.
Don’t look at the culture…the people around you and say:
“What is this world coming to? It’s crazy. It’s so far gone. It’s hopeless.”
The culture could drift to the farthest horizon, and God could bring it back.
But as the Word says, it STARTS with the people of God crying out to God.
It always does.
One of the things we’ll learn in chapter 2 is that Nehemiah is going to enter into a 4 month season of prayer…before he begins building for God
You’ll see in the coming weeks that it’s only going to take 52 days to build the walls.
But he prayed for 4 months first.
And in those 4 months, God shaped his heart…and showed Him what to do.
Our heart is for this city…
And that thousands would come to know Christ because of this church.
And thousands upon thousands more would through our church plants.
You know…we’re about to enter into an incredibly important season in the life and history of our church.
Next week, we’re going to talk about what it’s going to take for us to break ground on our building in just 4 months or so.
We’re going to talk a lot about the building, we’re going to start showing you what it looks like, in detail… (pictures, videos)
It’s going to be a really, really memorable Sunday.
And I want you to know that we are on the cusp on what I believe will be a movement of God in this city
And this future building will be a big part of that.
Now the building is just a tool…to build the Kingdom of God.
It’s a larger space for a greater impact.
What matters most is our hearts.
And if you will let God break it for your city…and its people.
And if your heart still feels hard…and you’re nowhere near weeping for the lost…but you want to…
Then come and pray with us.
And ask God, not only to move through us, but to first move in us.
Come, please come, to Encounter this Wednesday, where we’re going to cry out to God and ask Him to move in us and through us.
Over these next few weeks, as we enter into this important season regarding our future plans, come to the prayer meetings in the cafeteria
(prayer meeting slide)
They start 20 minutes before each service…each week.
If you’ve never been, try it.
Pray with us.
We will never impress people into the Kingdom with a show or even a building.
But if God breaks our hearts, and the tears start to flow for our city, God can do the impossible.
Let’s pray He does it.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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