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Broken for the City (Nehemiah 1)

This week begins a 12-week series in Nehemiah at Redeeming Life Church.  We're calling it, "Ordinary Man." Extraordinary Mission.  I'm excited about what Nehemiah's story will teach us and how it will motivate our church to join with God on his mission in our area.  

Before we knew where God was sending us, I spent many hours driving and walking through neighborhoods.  I prayed.  I looked and listened.  I can't say what I was looking for, but I knew that God would prick my soul the same way he did to Nehemiah.  I still remember driving up and down North Temple.  Redwood Road.  600 North.  1000 North.  I saw a lot of lostness.  On 10th, there's a Buddhist temple.  On North Temple there are drugs, prostitution, and homelessness.  The parks were packed with people in the soccer fields on 6th.  But it was when pointed my car north on American beauty and just sort of let go of the wheel. Sure, I was driving, but I was just letting God move me.  I can't remember where I turned, maybe it was Rambler or Pinocchio, but I parked the car and got out.  

It was a white picket-fence neighborhood.  The homes were well tended and there was a family on a walk.  It was in that moment that God showed me I really didn't understand Rose Park.  I was cut to the core.  It felt like mission impossible.  What could I possibly do to connect with these hard-working families in these little neighborhoods?  

Eventually I moved here.  I spend a few months surveying that area.  And over time, God started showing me his plan.  

Nehemiah spend a great deal of time praying and fasting.  He didn't have the answers.  He didn't have a plan.  But he knew if God was breaking him over this, God had a plan.  Nehemiah was an ordinary guy.  He wasn't a CEO.  He didn't have an MBA or some other leadership degree.  There was nothing too special about Nehemiah. . . except that God has strategically placed Nehemiah on the path of an extraordinary mission.  

The opening chapter of Nehemiah should move us to ask ourselves, "Is God breaking my heart for something?"  And if the answer is yes, the next question should be, "What am I doing about that?"  Might God be putting you, and ordinary person, in a strategic place on an extraordinary mission?  Could it be that God wants to cut through the surface?  Is he showing us what he loves and what breaks him?  Is Redeeming Life Church ready to care about what God cares about?  

We'll be hearing from God out of the first chapter of Nehemiah this Sunday.  I want to encourage you to pick up your Bible and read the chapter.  Read it a few times.  I know we're all busy people, but let's not be too busy to hear from the Lord.  I'd also like to encourage you to connect with a Fellowship Group this week and get your hands dirty in the text.  Let's be open to the extraordinary mission God may have in store for us. 

See you Sunday at 11! 
Pastor Bryan    

"Give Success to Your Servant"

We've been exploring what the Bible has to say about prayer, and no series would be complete without a look at the prayers of Nehemiah.  

Nehemiah was a Jew who lived in Babylon during the exile. He was likely born in Babylon but held a keen hope that his people would return to Jerusalem and that Jerusalem would someday hold the same reputation it once did.   He was the King's cup-bearer (which was kind of the like the wine sommelier, server, and poison checker crammed into one).  

Nehemiah heard a bad report from people who returned from Jerusalem.  The city was in shambles and the wall was destroyed.  "The remnant there is the province who had survived the exile," said his brothers," is in great trouble and shame" (Nehemiah 1:3).  Nehemiah was broken.  He wept for days.  But that's not all he did.  He started fasting and praying.  He prayed and prayed.   It seems from Nehemiah 1:1 and Nehemiah 2:1, that he prayed for about 4 months.  This matter was deeply burned on his heart.  H.G.M. Williamson writes, "[Nehemiah's] persistence in prayer over several months demonstrates how fully involved he became in the fate of his fellow Jews" (WBC, Vol. 18, 1985). 

We can read a sample of his prayers in Nehemiah 1:5-11, but I suspect there were some that included confusion, some that were deep pleading, some begging, some seeking understanding, and so-on.  When you are still sad over the matter and have been praying about it for 4 months, it's likely that a lot has been said in prayer.  I think it's safe to say that this matter had been deeply bathed in prayer. 

But not all of Nehemiah's prayers were these lengthy prayers.  Nehemiah is also famous for showing us the "arrow prayer."  (They might also be called dart prayers, bullet prayers, missile prayers, microwave prayers, quick shot prayers, and so-on.)  Look at this prayer in chapter 2, specifically in verses 4 and 5.  If you actually opened your Bible and read, you probably noticed that the Bible doesn't report what he prayed, only that he did.  You might have also noticed that he didn't have time to pray a long prayer.  Just maybe, "here we go God," or maybe it was, "this is what we've been talking about Lord," or even just" help me God."  In any case, it was likely really short.  

But it is not as if that was the only prayer Nehemiah had given to this situation.  He had been praying and praying.  He was ready.  He was, "prayed up" I've heard it said.  "Loaded" and just needing to execute.  

Nehemiah had turned his problem into prayers.  He does that same thing again later in the book.  Are you turning your problems into prayers?  Are you praying when you have time and then shooting arrow prayers when you don't? 

We'll be talking about this more this Sunday as we conclude our series, "If My People Pray. . ."  I hope you'll consider joining us at 11. 

Soli Deo gloria!
Pastor Bryan