7-21-19 Message: Our Future – Worth “Fighting” For
Nehemiah 1:1-4; 4:1-8 HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?
1 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.
4 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
(Nehemiah’s Prayer-filled response)
4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
FIGHTING THROUGH THE RESISTANCE -- Ephesians 6:10-20
Notice, that the first response by Nehemiah to the negativity & verbal RESISTANCE (political, if you will), was not to argue back, but to PRAY!!!!! PRAYER IS OUR FIRST WEAPON!!!
That’s why Paul INCLUDED IT in his instructions to the first generation disciples in Ephesus!!
God was “building a NEW ‘temple’ THERE – and throughout the Roman Empire! A NEW Temple made up of HUMAN LIVES – of people – and the existing, surrounding neighbors would not be happy. That’s where these two story-lines merge!!!
Nehemiah was surrounded by human NEGATIVITY!
The Ephesian disciples were surrounded by SPIRITUAL NEGATIVITY!!! (& human).
And SO ARE WE!!! So, listen to what Paul urges us to do, NEXT!!!
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
So, if this is the case. If our MAIN TASK in addressing our challenges as a church family is prayer, the next question is HOW SHOULD WE PRAY???
Jesus tells us: Luke 18:1-8 POWER OF PRAYER FOR THE FUTURE
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
What is our future?
I have a suggestion…
Actually, it’s a fairly sure hunch.
The teen aged boys that Pastor Don & Family ministries have been engaging with the past couple years…
So, it’s not so much a WHAT, but a WHO, that is our future?
What will WE do?
We CANNOT afford to try to recreate what once was!
It will not happen, because it CAN NOT happen – the way it used to be.
Some of our church family might need to mourn this reality.
And we must let them!
But we CANNOT stay immersed in a thought process that is not anchored in the current reality!
We MUST address the reality we’ve been handed!
And, this reality is that MANY, MANY of our neighbors are LOST!
– our literal neighbors on Ridge, Fifth, Sixth, Walnut Streets, are LOST! They most likely have no church background, or if they do, they are no longer connected to that church --- just like many of our own sons, daughters, grandsons & granddaughters are not connected with any church family!
If we are waiting around for church families to come and visit us and decide they ‘LIKE’ us, we will wait A LONG, LONG TIME….
The world where churches could just open their doors and expect that people would be glad about that and come to “try them out” is GONE!!!
The most recent members that have joined St. Matthews have all come because SOMEONE went OUT!!! OUTSIDE!!!!!!!!!!
Outside the walls of the building.
Outside the confines of Sunday morning worship experiences.
Outside the typical children’s and youth ministry-styles that most churches offer to suburban families, and someone offered a non-traditional, slightly chaotic yet fun-filled, and food-connected experience of playing in the park and talking with the parents!
Outside the narrow alleys of Sunday School & “church” and WENT into the neighborhood.
Or, others went OUTSIDE the building and spoke about what they were experiencing and learning to a co-worker or a friend (in the relationships and gatherings – in Family Ministries, and Worship 2).
What will YOU do?
I want to deeply encourage us, all of us, our whole church family ----
to consider WHAT KIND OF A FUTURE YOU ARE EXPECTING FOR ST. MATTHEWS?
Let’s be realistic.
But, let’s also be OPTIMISTIC in the resurrection power of Jesus in us.
Let’s be realistic.
But let’s also TAKE ON THE BIG CHALLENGES we face – inside the walls of this building, but ALSO recognize the BIGGER CHALLENGES that LOST PEOPLE all around us are facing WITHOUT JESUS IN THEIR LIVES!!!!!
Let’s be realistic.
But LET’S NOT DAMPEN OR QUENCH WHAT THE SPIRIT has already begun to do IN us, and in the Green Shoot(s) that have appeared in our church family the last couple years!!!
Because, I will NOT be able to lead you as a church family, if you give up on the FUTURE!!!
There is NO REASON for me to stay with St. Matthews if we are not going to plan for, prepare for, look for, dream for, pray for and FIGHT FOR A GOD-INSPIRED FUTURE for not just this church family, but for THIS COMMUNITY!
I’ve got a VISION – given to me by God – to make disciples and lead others to do the same!
If you are not interested in that.
If you are only interested in how we can keep the lights on (and the air conditioning & heat!) for a few more years until we empty out all the available funds….
Then, please let me know now!
I will gladly step aside and allow you to find a HOSPICE PASTOR to help you die gracefully!
That IS a legitimate ministry.
But that is NOT what I’m called to do!
And, it really does matter A LOT!
Because there are decisions that can be made now –
financially and by the property teams,
to accommodate a graceful laying to rest of a congregation.
But, if not --- If you believe that there is something BIGGER
TO PRAY FOR -- TO WORK FOR -- TO SACRIFICE FINANCIALLY FOR -- TO BELIEVE GOD FOR &
TO FIGHT FOR! Then, that will impact the types of decisions we make as a Support Team and as a Congregation, as we move into the future!
But, we can’t straddle the fence anymore! (straddling the fence is always a dangerous place!)
Either we are going to begin preparing for the “end”
or we are going to realign & position ourselves for a FIGHT for the FUTURE!
Who’s with me?
Who will pledge their prayers, their energy, their time,
their money & resources to WINNING THIS FIGHT?