The Nehemiah Project (Sermon Notes)
(by Pastor Jerry Ingalls)
“God’s Strategy Begins with You Where You Sit!”
September 25, 2016
The strategy of Nehemiah was birthed in the 4 months of prayer and fasting. It did not begin with a good idea, it started with a broken heart over bad news. The strategy grew from brokenness for the people of God to a conviction that God may be calling Nehemiah, personally, to do something.
This is what we have learned so far: God breaks your heart for that which breaks His heart. Where your heart breaks, God is inviting you personally to serve. God responds to humility and trust.
Today, the question from Nehemiah is, “Are you willing to trust His provision for His plan and put your faith into action?”
For me personally, I have a broken heart for the people of the God; not only our church, but for God’s Church in America. And within that call, I have learned that I have a unique call to pastors (at the deepest place of my being is a call to heal the hearts of and call forth spiritual leaders). I am called to this and I am seeking how to be all of who God has called me to be for His will.
How is God uniquely breaking your heart and convicting you to rise up?
Testimonials (Bob & Heath)
Nehemiah 3 is a listing of the people who became a part of the strategy of God that started with the one man Nehemiah, but quickly became a community renewal effort. It is the power of all!
Whose name is not used in Nehemiah 3? Nehemiah’s! Yes, there is another guy named Nehemiah in 3:16, but that is “Nehemiah, son of Azbuk” our Nehemiah is “the son of Hacaliah” (1:1). Details, details, but details matter! The reason Nehemiah is not mentioned is because God’s strategy starts with a person to carry it, but the vision must be cast and caught by the community of God.
It takes a plane load of people to execute God’s plan, even if one person must get it off the ground. But that one person cannot be idolized; he is but a fellow worker. Listen to Paul deal with this issue in 1 Corinthians 3:5-11, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The will of God has never been a lone ranger operation [see lone ranger image at end of document]; it is the work of God’s covenant people…all of them working together as one mature body (Ephesians 4:11-16 & 1 Corinthians 12)! The power of all is greater than the power of one, but the power of all requires that each one sees its value to the whole. You, the person of God’s choosing, are God’s strategy!
Listen to a humble 19th century pastor and author E.M. Bounds wrote, “God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method…. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer” (Preacher and Prayer, 5, 6).
Listen again to Nehemiah’s prayer to God in Nehemiah 1:8-9, “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.’”
God’s strategy is God’s people! You are invited to be the place where God chooses to have His Name dwell… But, not automatically, just because you showed up at church. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s not conditional – it is. He won’t dwell here if we aren’t welcoming Him and giving lip service is not welcoming; it is just plain disrespectful! He won’t kick the door in. If we aren’t living our part of the covenant, we won’t get to share in His work—He doesn’t need us and wont pander to us to get us on board! God only builds on the one true foundation of Jesus Christ in and through those who humble themselves, believe and trust (The Bible calls this faith!).
Listen to God’s Word from Ephesians 2:19-22, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
The living stones are joined together, built together, they grow together. This is an imagery of ancient masonry that was not mass produced prefabricated blocks, but stones gathered from the fields and brought together to build something greater than anyone could be on their own [see picture of stone wall].
Check out the diversity of “Living Stones” throughout Nehemiah 3 (reference the multitudes of names listed throughout the chapter). God loves to brag on His faithful people. God love to name names because He gets the glory when even one formerly dead son is grafted into His plans as a living stone!
God calls us to unity within our diversity! Unity is a call to become one as God’s covenant people; this is the call of Jesus Christ to His Church for the sake of God’s glory manifesting in the Church! God does not manifest His presence and power in disunity—He loves to manifest in diversity because He is the master artist of His creation! Listen again to the purpose God has called us together as the place where His name dwells:
1 Peter 2:5, 9-10 highlights, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Are you willing to have unity within our diversity; to see the value in each living stone and be willing to be connected to them as the building of God?
As we conclude, let me highlight two contrasting verses from chapter 3 that jump out; one verse that is so disturbing and the other that is so encouraging that I am equally captivated by both. Verses that at once haunt me and inspire me as a spiritual leader who must stand before God’s judgement one day.
First, listen to Nehemiah 3:5, “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.” What!?! The nobles wouldn’t stoop to serve the Lord…what pride!
Could you imagine if God would record a book about His revival in His Church in 21st century America and in that book God named names? What a horrible chapter that would be in our people’s history if God were to record a letter for His people to read years from now and in that letter it was said that FBC would not stoop to serve their Lord. I cannot imagine what my judgment would be like as your pastor.
Second, listen to Nehemiah 3:14, “Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.”
Rebuilding the Dung Gate was the dirty work! Through the Dung Gate, the trash was taken out of Jerusalem, to the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna in Gk), in which it was burnt. It was the city dump where garbage and anything deemed unclean (including the bodies of executed criminals) was incinerated. Who was it that stooped to get the work done? Malchijah, a ruler, a humble man in a position of influence! This is the epitome of a true servant’s heart, “see a need, meet a need!” Would you “stoop to serving the Lord” if God called you to rebuild the dump? Is there any work or person you consider below you?
I hope God has your willingness to do whatever He asks of you no matter what! Are you asking, “Where do I start?” God’s strategy begins with you where you sit! That’s what Nehemiah did. He cast a great vision to the people in Nehemiah 2:17-19 and the people declared, “Let us rise up and build” (19).
Where did the people of Jerusalem start? In Nehemiah 3, the people are seen building “opposite their house” (23) and “beside his own house” (23) and “from the house to the buttress” (24).
The Holy Spirit is calling us to start in the same places that Nehemiah had his people start! Where has God planted you? Where in the church does your heart break? Take a moment to look around the people you choose to share space with… Do you know their stories? Do you know the person sitting next to you? Do you know who is missing from a month ago or a year ago or for some of you 10 years ago? Do you know why they are not there; do you even care?
Where does your heart break beyond the four walls of our church in our community? Where do you live and what is the story of your neighborhood, your school, your place of work?
We are going to respond this morning by calling everyone to do 2 practical things that both require you to get up out of your seats during the closing worship set:
1) You are invited to connect and commit to be a part of your worship neighborhood. I encourage you to face one another, maybe join hands, but make eye contact and pray together. Pray that you will not only love one another well, but you will also be an inviting neighborhood and welcome new neighbors.
2) After that work, make their way down as individuals, families, and neighborhoods as tangible witnesses of your willingness to be used by God where you have been placed in our community. Each household is invited to put a push pin in one of the three mission neighborhood maps (explain the 3 maps: city, county, or surrounding counties).
The strategies of God start where you sit because YOU ARE INVITED to be the place where God chooses to have His Name dwell. We are invited to work together to build God’s Church to the Glory of Jesus Christ…one living stone at time!
To read more about the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.
On October 2nd Pastor Jerry Ingalls will be preaching on Nehemiah 4: Overcome the Opposition!