The Gracious Hand of God

November 24, 2019

David Sorn

When God’s hand is on the work, God will provide!

The Gracious Hand of God

November 24, 2019

David Sorn

When God’s hand is on the work, God will provide!

SERMON TRANSCRIPT | Nehemiah 2:1-20


God’s gracious hand has been on this church…for a long time now.

Since we started this process of working towards a building, we’ve now five years of watching God provide and provide and provide.

I’ve told some of you the story before of when, in late 2014, we were trying to raise $500,000 for the land…

And I, in my lack of faith, had privately convinced myself we’d never even hit $300,000.

Until I got an email from a 23 year old in our church, telling me how she had just been given a significant raise, and felt led by the Lord, to give $50,000 over 3 years.

And God provided.

Or when it took us over 2 years to find a piece of land…

And just as we were beginning to lose hope, we got together and prayed…and God led us to the land that we’re on.

Land where 30,000 cars pass by every single day..

And we even ended up getting it for $600,000 less than it was worth!

We’ve been working on this project for 5 years now, and as I said in the video, the finish line to this chapter…is near.

And as we are in a critical season of life regarding our future building, I felt like one of the best places for us to be in the Scriptures, was to be studying Nehemiah, who also built something for God.

If you were here last week, we went over chapter 1 of Nehemiah, which takes place about 400 or so years before Jesus…when many of the Jewish people were still living in the land of Persia

(Page 383)

(Renovation App)

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King of Persia, Artaxerxes.

And Nehemiah’s brother, brings a report all the way from Jerusalem:

(Nehemiah 1:3-4) – NIV

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.

Chapter 1 ends with Nehemiah’s prayer.

Let’s see what happens in Chapter 2


(Nehemiah 2:1-2) – NIV

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid,

See, in those days, it was an incredibly dangerous thing for a servant of the king to be sad in the king’s presence.

The idea was that the king was, of course, such a wonderful person that it would be impossible for anyone to be sad in his presence.

Nehemiah looking sad could have been taken as a terrible insult to the king.

That’s why Nehemiah writes, “I was very much afraid”

We’re also told that now it’s the month of Nisan, so 4 months have gone by since chapter 1.

4 Months of Nehemiah praying and seeking God on what he should do if he’s going to go to Jerusalem and build the wall.

4 months of waiting for God to provide an opportunity, and now God has…and Nehemiah is about to take that opportunity and run with it

(Nehemiah 2:3-5a) – NIV

3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king,

Nehemiah is going to risk his life to ask the most powerful man in the world to do something for him.

And why is He going to do that?

Because God has given him an incredible burden for his city.

And God has done the same for us.

We talked last week about how there are probably close to 45,000 people in this city alone who aren’t saved…and are on a path towards a Christless eternity.

We want to reach as many of them as possible for Christ.

God has given us a burden for this city!

And in order to reach more people in this city for Christ…we’re going to need a building

For the last two years now, we’ve called the project of working towards our building: “Harvest”

And we named it that because of the unique story of our land and God’s heart for people.

(Show LAND PHOTO SLIDE) - Keep up until next slide

Our land, near the corner of Lexington and 125th in Blaine, was previously home to the Finn Farm

For almost a full century, it was used as farmland, and every year, there was a fruitful harvest.

We’re praying that now God uses that same land for an amazing spiritual Harvest.

And the Harvest is indeed growing here! So much so…that our current “field”…here at Northpoint Elementary…is going to run out of room for the Harvest J


On the screen, you can see the history of our attendance as a church…

And you can see that if we take where we are right now (at 540)…and we take the same level of growth out…we’re out of space in just 2 to 3 years

We believe our ceiling here is about 800…

Of course we know how to squeeze more people in here at big outreaches

But that’s not sustainable week-to-week

We’re not going to do 7 services every week

And park over 200 of our people 1/3 of a mile away!

And so we know that if we “do NOTHING” in just 2 or 3 years…we’ll have to start turning people away

2 to 3 years is not far away!

I know a lot of you have seen some of our plans for the building before, but I also know that MANY of you in this room have not…

And even if you have, what we had last year was just a basic concept (a floorplan), but what we have now are drawings that are almost 100% complete!

As I begin to show you what our building looks like, I’m going to ask our Ushers to hand out our UPDATED Harvest Booklet

(Ushers hand out booklets)

Even if you’ve seen a booklet like this before, take it.

There is A LOT of updated information in there, including a number of photos of what the outside and inside of the building will look like!

I believe at defining moments like this, it’s important to communicate as clearly as possible.

So we’ve personally put together this guide to help you understand what’s coming.

I hope you can tell, but there has been an absolutely incredible amount of planning that has gone into this building from our staff and building team.

And you know, one of the things that jumped out at me from the Nehemiah passage this week, is just how ready Nehemiah was with his own plans, when the king asked him why he was sad

Look at the next few verses

(Nehemiah 2:5-8) – NIV

and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.

I love this, because not only has Nehemiah spent 4 months in prayer seeking God…

But He’s also working diligently on his planning…with the Lord’s guidance.

When the king asks him, he doesn’t fumble his words and awkwardly say, “I, uh, want to, uh, go uh…”

Nehemiah has got a plan!

He knew the amount of time it will take

He knew he needed to ask for letters, so he could have safe conduct as he traveled!

He even knew to ask for an army to accompany him, so he could appear legitimate

And then finally, he even had a plan to ask for the timber to help build the wall!

Nehemiah is a great example about the importance of balancing prayer and planning.

You can’t just pray, and not plan

And you certainly can’t just plan, and not pray!

Nehemiah does both.

And the Gracious Hand of God is upon him.

And the King says yes to all of his requests.

And likewise, our staff and building team have worked really hard to come up with a plan for our building.

In fact, I want to show you a flyover video of the exterior of our building.

We had something remotely similar to this in the past, but it was just simple blocks.

Now you’ll be able to see what the building will actually look like!


We couldn’t fit everything into today’s message, so come back next week, and we’re actually going to show you a flythrough that goes inside the rooms of the building.

It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

Before we go any further, let me ask you to put your Harvest booklets under the chair

I just want to make sure you don’t miss any of this next part.

Last November I said that there were 4 main factors to us being able to break ground in March of 2020.

Let me remind you of what those 4 factors were and update you on how they have gone

The first factor was how well our Harvest pledges have come in for the building.

For the most part, I’d rate this as decent

Could be better, could be worse.

The second factor was, “Would we continue to grow in attendance?”

That matters because if we shrink in size, we’re not going to be able to afford a mortgage payment on a building

That factor has also gone well…quite well…as you saw earlier.

The third factor (and this was the massive one we’ve been praying about) was how well our appraisal would go.

The appraisal was good and bad.

More good than bad though.

They didn’t give our land as much value as we thought it had…but they amazingly valued our building at a much higher percentage than what is typical for a church building, and that helped us out!

Honestly, if the appraisal would have been even $100,000 lower, which is nothing on a project of this magnitude, we’d be at a standstill right now.

So, I’d rate our appraisal at a 6.5 or 7 out of 10

Nothing had more potential to stop this project in its tracks than this, and it didn’t, so THANK YOU for praying for it!

The fourth factor was probably the one we were the least worried about, and it’s actually been the most difficult…

And that is the economy

And that…it’s too good J

What I mean by that is that because the economy is so good right now, businesses are building everywhere.

You can drive around Blaine and see it!

And because contractors and workers in the trades have SO much business, they are raising their prices, like crazy!

In fact, with the good economy, along with added tariffs, some of the trades costs are up even 20%, in just 12 months!

And so, it’s been a painful year at times for our Building Team as we’ve watched prices just soar on us these past 12 months.

In fact, it became apparent in very early 2019, that we wouldn’t be able to build a 25,000 sq ft building like we wanted to, because we wouldn’t be able to afford it with prices rising this fast.

So, our building is now 21,000 sq ft.

I tell you what though… we have worked SO hard to maximize those 21,000 square feet, I don’t feel like we lost very much at all…but we lost some classroom space, lobby space, and a little bit of office space.

For the last few years, our financial research has told us that we would be able to build and afford a building from 5 to about 5.6 million on the high end.

In March of this year, after we had cut the size of the building down, we received an “updated project cost estimate” from our contractors.

After adding in our own costs for chairs, furniture, fees, A/V, etc., the total project cost pushed our total project cost to 5.5 million…just under that threshold of 5.6 million.

Our contractors did some more estimation work and came back to us a month later, and we were all expecting the price to go down.

We had only cut stuff out of the building, not added to it.

However, they came in, updated us again about rising costs, and said we were now at 5.8 million, which pushed us over budget for our total building cost

We were really we had to be below 5.6 million to make this project work

We felt like the only way to get that price lower was to just keep going in our work with the architects.

When you get to a greater level of detail in the drawings, there is less guess work to do when estimating prices, and thus the prices usually goes down cuz contractors aren’t padding their prices for an estimation.

They’re working off real drawings now

We met again in July and our General Contractor reported their latest estimate of the building costs based on the bids they received from sub-contractors

And in what was probably one of the top 10 worst days of my life, they came back and said that the total cost of our project had now jumped from 5.8 million to 6.6 million…

WAY over our goal of 5.6 million for this project

As they revealed that number, I remember feeling absolutely devasted.

Honestly, I just wanted to walk out of the meeting and go hide in my bed. I’m dead serious.

We spent the remainder of the meeting talking through what our future options might be…and it was painful.

We were a MILLION dollars short, and all of the options we talked about were in a range of painful to excruciatingly painful

There were plenty of people around that table that still had hoped, but I just needed to go to bed.

I’ve learned through this process…that while some people can say in the moment, “God has a plan!”…I need a day to be able to say that.

The next morning, I woke up with an idea as soon as my eyes opened.

It occurred to me (I think from the Holy Spirit), that one of the only options we had left was to put our architect drawings out to other General Contractors to see if we could get a lower bid.

The chances of getting a bid that was 1 million dollars lower was next to nothing, but at least there was a chance!

And so we put it out to bed. We got 2 more companies to bid on the project

The first one came back 2 weeks later.

Remember, our latest bid was 6.6 million for total costs, but we needed to get under 5.6 million

The first bid came back, and instead of being high like our 6.6 million bid, it was higher…8.7 million.

I died a little inside that day J

That was 3 million more dollars than what we could do!

On Wednesday, August 14th, I can remember driving in my car over the 610 bridge over the Mississippi, and telling God that He was good even if it was going to take us 10 years to get to this building…

It was a powerful moment for me, and I felt a peace I hadn’t felt in months as I released it to God.

It’s a surrendering to His will, not mine, right?

Later that afternoon, the final bid came in.

Brian Baas of BJ Baas Builders, who’s a man of strong Christian faith, whose company has built a few churches before…

…. called me and said they could build our building for within our budget…and today, our project cost is right at that 5.6 million dollar range

…within our budget…and 1 million dollars lower of what we were quoted for this summer.

Brian Prunty from our church, who leads our Building Team, and is an architect himself, told me, “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this!”

After BJ Baas told us they could do the project, I hung up the phone, dropped to my knees in the office…and started to cry.

And I just had this sense of…why do we even doubt?

The gracious hand of God…is on this project.

God has certainly been growing our faith through the suspenseful ups and downs.

But his hand is, undoubtedly, on it.

So, where does that all leave us?

As I mentioned in October, we’ve always been planning to raise money this November (that’s been part of the budget)

Although, admittedly, it is a bit more than we were planning, but the number we need to raise is not insurmountable.

And so, here’s where the rubber hits the road:

Based on all of those numbers, in order for us to still break ground in March, our bank is requiring us to raise an additional $210,000 in pledges.

I know that the majority of you have already pledged to our Harvest Building Fund for a 3-year period or a 2-year period

And so if we’re going to raise $210,000, we’re going to have to rely heavily on the 100 or so of you that are new here (and haven’t ever pledged)… joining us in this.

Otherwise, we won’t be breaking ground in March…we’d probably need to delay this project by at least a year.

I really believe that God has brought you to this church in this past year or so for a reason

We can’t do this without you.

It won’t happen…without you!

Besides, I don’t want you walking into that building in a year and feeling like you weren’t even a part of this….

If we’re going to get there…it’s going to take ALL OF US that are a part of Renovation Church.

Everyone that is sitting in this room right now.

We say all the time that this church is a row boat, not a cruise ship…

Now we have to prove it!

So we’re asking people who’ve never pledged to Harvest Building Fund before to begin praying about making a 15-month pledge

A pledge that would start next month, in December.

That’s a pledge of how much you want to give above and beyond what you’re already giving to the General Fund .

In other words, if we all move our regular giving to the Harvest Fund, we won’t be here next week to have a service because we have to pay the rent J

But we also know, that because $210,000 is a little higher than we were anticipating that number would be 12 months ago…we know that we aren’t probably going to make it to $210,000 from just the pledges of the 100 of you that are new.

So we’re asking all of you who have already pledged to Harvest in the past, to consider extending your pledge by an extra 3 months

For those of you that have already pledged, Harvest pledges were set to end in November of next year, 2020

And we’re asking all of you who have already been giving to Harvest to extend your pledge for an extra 3 months beyond that date.

So that would be December 2020, January of 21, and February 21,

So basically if you’ve already been giving monthly for 24 months, or, what would be, 36 months at that time…we’re simply asking you to just keep doing it for 3 more months.

And if you’ve been giving annually, then to give a portion of that.

And if almost all of you do that, we believe that (combined w/ the new pledges) will get us to where the bank is requiring us to get.

And if that happens, we would break ground on March 23rd (less than 4 months from today)… that is of course a weather-dependent date.

And our goal date for getting in the building is December 18th, 2020…just in time for Christmas next year.

So for now, just pray…if you’re married, begin to talk it over with your spouse.

If you’re unsure of what your original pledge was, our financial people will be sending all of you who have already pledged, your original pledge amount sometime in the next 48 hours.

(Put up Commitment Sunday slide)

Our commitment Sunday, where people turn in what they want to pledge, will be in just two weeks on Sunday, December 8th


This is a tall order, but I believe the gracious hand of God is on this church.

I believe that now more than ever.

When Nehemiah gets back to Jerusalem, in verses 11 through 16, he goes out at night inspects the wall for himself.

After he sees how pressing it really is to get building, he gathers the people together and says this:

(Nehemiah 2:17-18) – NIV

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

Think about this!

The walls had been broken down for 141 years already, but now, the people are ready to take a risk and go forward.


Because they saw the gracious hand of God.

Nehemiah asked if he could leave the king and go to Jerusalem…

The king somehow said yes.

And then Nehemiah said:

“How about you send an army with me”


“And…how about you provide the timber for the wall…”

“No problem”

That’s the gracious hand of God!

God was moving…and the people of Jerusalem wanted to move with Him!

We’re asking you to do the same.

God is moving here.

His gracious hand has been on this project in miraculous ways for 5 years.


Because He has incredible plans to use this building to reach people for Christ!

Entire Families are going to be changed for eternity

And the multitudes are going to be saved!

God is moving here in Blaine…will you join Him?

So seek God, and begin talking to Him about what you can do…and how you can be a part of what He’s doing here with this movement.

Let’s pray

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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