Rebuild, Restore, Revive – Building, Blueprints & Bruises

August 29, 2021
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor Joel
 
Scripture Readings: Nehemiah 2:11-20
 

I want you to know something about your life and my life: Change is inevitable.  You just can’t escape it. It’s a constant in life. Everything will change.  I know some of you don’t like that.  At times, I don’t like that in some areas in my life.

  1. Change Requires that we Choose.
 

Now maybe you have been stuck like the walls in Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day.  The walls are tumbled down, and your life seems to be in a bit of ruin.  For others, you just look at the stuff in front of you and go, ‘I don’t know how to get out of this place.  I don’t know what to do next.’  There must be something different.  Here’s the thing: change requires that you choose.  We make choices all the time. We choose every day.  We choose to go into work or call in sick.  We choose what clothes to wear.  We choose whether to hug our dad or to shake his hand.  We do all kinds of choosing all over the place. We even choose some bad things, bad habits, and bad friends. We choose things all the time.  If you want to change, it requires a choice. 

In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah goes on a journey to Jerusalem.  He’s going to set about rebuilding the walls.  We’re going to pick up the story in chapter 2 at the end.  Nehemiah decided that he was going to go out there and survey the walls of Jerusalem and the damage that was done.  He gets on a donkey and takes a few people with him, and he goes out to see what’s what.  The destruction that he sees is worse than he heard.  Jerusalem is lying in ruins and the Bible says, ‘and all the gates have been destroyed by fire.’  We are talking about a mile and a half to two miles worth of gates and walls destroyed.  They didn’t have equipment to move those gigantic stones needed to make the wall gates secure.  This was impossible.

 

  1. Don’t allow people to steal the voice of the Holy Spirit.

 

But, here is what’s going to happen to you: Opposition.  How many of you have ever heard the words in your head, ‘You can’t do that!’  How many of you have heard the voice that says, ‘You’re not good enough?  There’s no way that you can do that. Just remember all the terrible things that you’ve done.  What makes you think that you can do that for God?’  Never mind the words in your head, but some of you know people who have come along and said that to you.  You’ve told your parents your dream, and they come up and told you, “Are you crazy?”  You told your best friend that you’re going to make a change and they said, “Nah, go slow.”  You had a dream for something great for God and it got squashed by someone with a reckless word and it just loss all its energy. 

What does Nehemiah do?  “The God of heaven is the one who will give us success, and we his servants are going to start building; but you have no share or claim or historical right in Jerusalem.” (v.20)  If God has called you to do something, then it’s time for you to step up into that moment and say, ‘That’s the devil speaking and I’m not going to listen.’  So many times, peoples’ dreams are squashed because they listen to that voice, they listen to that person, and step away.

 

  • Find People to Go Along with You.

 

Now, Nehemiah is no fool, Nehemiah is taking on a huge task. This is something that is going to require the entire city to make happen.  It’s an incredible change and the lesson that I want you to hear in this message is the same message for you if you want to make a change in your life.  You’ve got to find some people to go along with you on that journey.  What does Nehemiah do?  He goes out and he looks at the walls and he shows up in front of a group of people, the administrators, the priests, the Levites, all the important people and he looks at them and says, ‘We will rebuild this wall together.  Let us rebuild the wall.’ This is a huge task, but the same principle is true in your life if you’re ready to make a change. If you are ready to end that romance because it toxic, if you’re ready to go to another job, if you believe that God is saying I want you to do this or that for me, I want you to tell someone.  Tell your spouse.  Maybe you’ve got kids and you’re looking at your family and you’re saying, ‘We just can’t go on that way anymore.  We need to change.’ Talk to your spouse, then talk to your kids and say ‘Look, change is coming.’ And, get some support in the journey. Nehemiah is no fool, he couldn’t stand up in front of that large crowd and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to rebuild the wall,’ and not expect that he himself was going to be involved in it, nor could he expect that he would do it all alone. 

 

  1. Be a Change Agent.

 

We need to be change agents. We need to do these types of things where we say to ourselves, ‘God is calling me. I am going to tell someone about it.  I am not going to listen to the naysayers. But if I am going to be an agent of change, I need to believe that change is possible.’ Some people don’t believe that they can change. I know a lot of people who say, ‘I wish my marriage would get better.’ That’s not believing in change. I’m going to make my marriage better with the help of Christ. That’s what we need to hear.

We also need to be problem solvers, not problem analysts. I know, when people are faced with change, all they do analyze, analyze, analyze and they get stuck. They analyze things to death.  They are not problem solvers.  Nehemiah was a problem solver. He went out, surveyed the walls, came back, and said, ‘We got a big job ahead of us.’ He didn’t have all the plans laid out ahead of him, but he said, ‘We’re going to tackle the problem as they come.’ And the rest of the story of Nehemiah is one problem being solved after another. You will not have all the problems solved before we get started on your journey of change.

A change maker is also available to do something tangible that will bring about change. You must take a step, make a move.  If it’s in your spiritual life and you want to go to a Bible study and you say to yourself, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to make a change,’ and all the sudden you step back, and you say, ‘Oh, but wait a minute. I have all these things going on. I have work, I have kids. Really, with all those things I don’t have any time for Bible study.’ That’s just a matter of priorities. It’s a matter of stepping back and saying ‘Okay, I’ve got to reexamine where I’m at, and maybe step forward in a new way.’  Make a change by taking a step.

 

  1. Turn a Negative into a Positive.

 

It’s also a life-long thing that we do together. Make it a positive one. If you’re going to make a change, make it a positive one. Some of you have had some bad experiences in your past. When you’re ready to make a change, all those bad experiences come flooding back and you want to pull from that experience into your future. If you want to pull from your past into your future, do it with the positive things that you learned and not the negative ones. 

But here’s the thing: Our journey of change is not going to end until we get to heaven.  From here all the way through to the time when Jesus comes back again, we are going to be changing.  This is the ultimate change, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”

Our hope is that one day we will get to that place where we have eternal life. We’re going to get to that place where we are going to get new bodies with an eternal life guarantee.  But until then, you will be changing.  We are going to look around that that day and say, ‘Praise God that things are as they used to be.’  We’re going to get to that day when we’re grateful for all that God has done to shape us and change us.

 

  1. Church Changes.

 

That’s you, but as a church we are also changing. In our journey as the church, we must be ready to change, because life happens. We must be ready to respond to the needs that we see in front of us, with that prophetic voice of truth, with the word of scripture to stand up for justice to see things that are happening in front of us and say, ‘Look, this is the light of the world that stands in the darkness.’ We have to adapt what we do as a church in order to show the people of this community who Jesus Christ is. 

We also must be standing up for justice and mercy and kindness as we step into the needs of the people in our world.  To make life better than what it was. What is the alternative? To do nothing, and to not change. Jesus said go and make disciples. The alternative is to not make disciples. I am so grateful that we are on a journey and say that WE have to Adapt and Change



Breaking Through the Wilderness: Overcoming Fear & Anxiety

May 16, 2021
7th Sunday of Easter

Pastor Charles

Scripture Readings: Psalm 23, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7, Joshua 1:9,

This morning I want to talk about how one can overcome fear and anxiety. Truth be told, there are many things to be fearful of from the fear of getting COVID, failing economy, and being afraid of the dark. Some people live their life in fear. In response to worldwide suffering, many people’s instinct is to become fearful. Even those who know Christ often fall into anxious thoughts and fear-based living. We are all capable of forgetting the promises and commands of God when we are tested by hardship. So, this message is good for those who are struggling with issues of fear and anxiety.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed (2013) says fear relates to a known or understood threat, whereas anxiety follows from an unknown, expected, or poorly defined threat.” Some common fears include fear of the dark, fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of danger.

 At his first inaugural address after the 1932 elections, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” I think there is truth in that. But the God of the universe says that we have nothing to fear. What does God’s Word say about fear? How do you know if you are living in fear?

Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 God is our strength, our help, and our hope in trouble.  This does not mean our lives will be trouble-free- far from it. But the message of God’s word is that fear…of our enemies, of the future, of failure, whatever your fear is- need not dominate your life and paralyze you from living victoriously. Read more…



Breaking Through the Wilderness: Overcoming Fear & Anxiety

May 16, 2021
7th Sunday of Easter

Pastor Charles

Scripture Readings: Psalm 23, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7, Joshua 1:9,

This morning I want to talk about how one can overcome fear and anxiety. Truth be told, there are many things to be fearful of from the fear of getting COVID, failing economy, and being afraid of the dark. Some people live their life in fear. In response to worldwide suffering, many people’s instinct is to become fearful. Even those who know Christ often fall into anxious thoughts and fear-based living. We are all capable of forgetting the promises and commands of God when we are tested by hardship. So, this message is good for those who are struggling with issues of fear and anxiety.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed (2013) says fear relates to a known or understood threat, whereas anxiety follows from an unknown, expected, or poorly defined threat.” Some common fears include fear of the dark, fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of danger.

 At his first inaugural address after the 1932 elections, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” I think there is truth in that. But the God of the universe says that we have nothing to fear. What does God’s Word say about fear? How do you know if you are living in fear?

Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 God is our strength, our help, and our hope in trouble.  This does not mean our lives will be trouble-free- far from it. But the message of God’s word is that fear…of our enemies, of the future, of failure, whatever your fear is- need not dominate your life and paralyze you from living victoriously.

Fear has many faces; guilt and shame are forms of fear inwardly, commonly causing depression and anxiety. Anger and hatred manifest themself outwardly at someone else. Most fears seem to be subtle and unexpected. It starts with one fearful thought, leads to another; before you know it, it has taken a life of its own.

In Philippians (4:6-7), Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God commands us to seek Him in prayer and gratitude when we are tempted to be anxious. God says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He tells us that this life is not all that there is; for those that know Christ, are a child of God, this is a moment of time.

Joshua (1:9) says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”.  As we break through this COVID-induced wilderness, we are reminded to put our trust in God.

In Psalm 23, we have a good Shepherd who is for us; we do not have to fear even in the valley of the shadow of death. As one scholar said, “The psalm itself is green pasture; the psalm itself is still water; the psalm itself restores my soul. Can you imagine celebrating in the presence of God, in the presence of those enemies?  The celebration comes not when all those things have been pushed aside, but the real celebration, the real promise, the real invitation of Psalm 23 is to find abundance this week, in the presence of fear. To celebrate even with the news, that somehow revel even with the voices of criticism and judgment that we bring on ourselves. It is then that we will find God restoring our soul. Read more…



We Shall Always be the Church

May 9, 2021
6th Sunday of Easter
Pastor Joel
 
Scripture Reading:  Acts 2 42-47
I have a question for you. How do you remember your
first car? There’s something about your first car, isn’t there?
The first car you had was your first shot at freedom,
where you could drive yourself anywhere.
I came from a family where you had to buy your car. I was living on my own and got sick of walking to college and work, so you take what you can get. What I got was a 1975 Chevy Impala. They don’t make a car like these anymore. You could tap dance on the hood and not one dent. It was the most beautiful shade of Banana yellow you ever saw; it could be seen anywhere in a parking lot. The floorboard was rusted through, so I could see the road beneath me as I was driving. I paid a total of five hundred dollars for it. It was a total wreck, but it was mine. Most first cars because you don’t know how to drive well, so often are clunkers, and we learn how to drive better as we go.
This idea of what drives you is essential. What are the things in life that drive you? Doesn’t something drive us all? Money, power, love, friendship, hope, or despair?
As we are breaking through the wilderness of this COVID season
that we have been through, I question what drove the early Church to do what they did to change the world as we know it? And can it be recaptured?
The end of Acts chapter 2 talks about what the Church
looks like when it’s freshly filled with the Holy Spirit. Right as the Spirit of God empowers the Church, we get this explanation of how they were. To me, this is an excellent example of what the Church is meant to be. Church is not the building.
First, I want to show you the end of verse 47 where it says, “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) That’s important because God is interested in saving people.
The reality is that when someone is lost, they need to be saved. So here we see a newly spirit-filled church the Lord was adding daily those who were being saved. God is interested in finding the lost people, seeing them get found and then ushering them into the Church.
Then notice we get these four big ideas in verse 42. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

Now, what’s fascinating is that if you take verse 42 and use it
to blanket over the rest of these verses, you’ll notice that in verse 43, they talk about the Apostles again. It says, “Awe came upon everyone because the apostles were doing many wonders and signs.” Then verse 43 amplifies what the apostles were doing.

We learn about the word fellowship in verses 44 and 45. “All who
believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Fellowship is the understanding that all of our lives are connected as the people of God. That runs contrary to our beliefs about our individualism. We are individual members, but we’re part of something bigger.

Next, we see the breaking of bread. Was this communion?
Maybe? During this last year and a half, one of the areas we have
missed is breaking bread together. But now the veil is lifting, and we
can enter into those meals together.
They would gather in the temple, and then they would go from
house to house. They were doing life together. They were sharing meals together. Notice they ate their meals with glad and generous hearts.
There’s an outgrowth that comes from this: gladness and simplicity.
Then the last one is prayer; they were praying, they were also praising God. God was granting them favor with the people around them. Read more…


We Shall Always be the Church

May 9, 2021
6th Sunday of Easter

Pastor Joel

Scripture Reading:  Acts 2 42-47

I have a question for you. How do you remember your first car? There’s something about your first car, isn’t there?
The first car you had was your first shot at freedom, where you could drive yourself anywhere.

 

I came from a family where you had to buy your car. I was living on my own and got sick of walking to college and work, so you take what you can get. What I got was a 1975 Chevy Impala. They don’t make a car like these anymore. You could tap dance on the hood and not one dent. It was the most beautiful shade of Banana yellow you ever saw; it could be seen anywhere in a parking lot. The floorboard was rusted through, so I could see the road beneath me as I was driving. I paid a total of five hundred dollars for it. It was a total wreck, but it was mine. Most first cars because you don’t know how to drive well, so often are clunkers, and we learn how to drive better as we go.

 

This idea of what drives you is essential. What are the things in life that drive you? Doesn’t something drive us all? Money, power, love, friendship, hope, or despair?

As we are breaking through the wilderness of this COVID season that we have been through, I question what drove the early Church to do what they did to change the world as we know it? And can it be recaptured?

 

The end of Acts chapter 2 talks about what the Church looks like when it’s freshly filled with the Holy Spirit. Right as the Spirit of God empowers the Church, we get this explanation of how they were. To me, this is an excellent example of what the Church is meant to be. Church is not the building.

 

First, I want to show you the end of verse 47 where it says, “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) That’s important because God is interested in saving people.

Read more…