Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)
Call to Worship
In the midst of continual change, God remains steadfast in His love for us. God is creating something new, a new heaven and a new earth. Each day offers newness of hope and faith.
Let us open our hearts and spirits to God’s creative word for us that we may learn, grow, and serve as effective witnesses to God’s love and power.
GOOD MORNING FBK & WELCOME TO WORSHIP!
Prayer of Confession & Assurance
Merciful God, we come before You this day as those who are often afraid to confess all the many ways in which we have disappointed and betrayed You. You have given us continual opportunities to serve and love others, but we have withdrawn into lives of selfishness and greed. We have turned our backs on others in need. We have denied the gifts You have given us. Where can we turn now that we have run from You? Your voice calls to us to come home, to come to You unafraid, to receive forgiveness and healing. Open our hearts this day to receive these magnificent blessings. Help us understand the many ways in which You love us and help us share that love with all those whom we meet. For we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Assurance of Pardon:
Christ died for our sins. He made a full atonement for us. We are forgiven and we have that even though we have turned away from God, our God is faithful to us. We are the beloved of God and recipients of His grace. AMEN.
The Hole in Our Gospel
Today's Message: Pastors Marlee Page and Dave Page
Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 1:1-11
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. 5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
As Richard Stearns begins the last of the Chapters of his book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” he writes the following:
“So far, I have spent twenty-two chapters arguing the case that there is a hole in our gospel and that, as a result, we have embraced a view of our faith that is far too tame. We have, in fact, reduced the gospel to a mere transaction involving the right beliefs rather than seeing in it the power to change the world. I have painted a picture of a world aflame with violence, poverty, injustice, disease, corruption, and human suffering—a world in need of revolution. But I have also attempted to make clear from Scripture that the whole gospel—the very social revolution Jesus intended as His kingdom unfolded “in earth as it is in heaven”—has been entrusted to us, those who claim to follow Christ.”
Do you want to change the world – what a question??
Are you willing to do, what it will take to change the world?
That’s the question the Richard Stearns has been posing to us these past weeks. Immediately there’s a part of each of us that says, yes, of course!!! And, if we’re honest, there’s also a part of us that says…well, that depends.
Is it safe? How long will it take? What will it cost me?
When Apple computer’s co-founder Steve Jobs approached John Sculley, vice president of Pepsi, about coming on board with apple as chairman of the company he asked him this question – “are you content to spend your life selling fizzy water or do you want to change the world?”
The life we have each been given is an assignment from the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:17) You don’t need to be someone else, and you don’t really need to be somewhere else. You need to be who and where God wants you to be. Because your life is not just about you. It’s also about hundreds of others around you and hundreds of thousands of others who will come after you. And since we are generally not wise or foreseeing enough to chart our own course for the sake of our present and future fruitfulness, we must follow Jesus by faith. This is the truth of humanity.
But there is also another truth that Stearns has discovered, and I suspect, some of you know as well. You will change the world, more than you know. And because of that, because your life will impact so many others, Jesus wants you to live prayerfully (Ephesians 6:18), walk carefully (Ephesians 5:15), and seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). If you do, if you faithfully invest the “little” He has entrusted to you, no labor of yours in this life will be in vain and He will entrust you with more in the life to come. (Matthew 25:51)
Richard Stearns brings us to the story of someone who also came to that very same conclusion a long time ago. Let us tell you a brief part of the Story of a man named Nehemiah.
The first thing to know about him was that he had a really, really cushy job. And he knew it. It was probably the best job in the kingdom, and he was well aware of how lucky he was to have it.
Nehemiah is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah (Old Testament), which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. He was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia.
Born: 473 BC, Babylon – Nationality: Israeli
Most scholars believe Nehemiah was an actual historical figure. The Nehemiah Memoir, a name scholars give to certain portions of the book written in the first person, is historically reliable.
In the 20th year of Artaxerxes I, (445 or 444 BC), Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. Learning that the remnant of Jews in Judah was in distress and that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild the city in 468 BC. Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild. Once there, Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs, and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days – an amazing feat. But, at the beginning of this story about the life and action of Nehemiah, we find a clue as to the cushiness of his job – He was cupbearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:11b) It was a cushy job. And he knew it. It meant that he didn’t have to work in the hot sun, that he never had to worry about going hungry or having no place to sleep at night. It meant security for his family, it meant having a comfortable place to live, and plenty to eat. Cupbearer to the king might not mean much to us, it meant a lot to Nehemiah. You see it really was a cushy job, he did exactly what his title implied he did, he carried the king’s cup. In a time when kings were deposed in a much more permanent way, thus you had a cupbearer whose job it was to ensure that your cup was not hazardous to your health. He carried that cup with him everywhere he went, it never left his sight. And he could always reassure the king that when his drinks were poured that there would be nothing wrong with the cup. Now the only drawback with the job was that Nehemiah always got to have the first drink out of the cup, just in case. In spite of that, Nehemiah had it made, and he knew it.
It’s very easy to get comfortable in this life, that was true for Nehemiah and it’s true for us in our culture situation today as well.
Well, one day, into Nehemiah’s comfortable little life came an interruption. His brother had just come back from Jerusalem and Nehemiah asked about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. The truth it seems, that in asking this question, Nehemiah was just passing time. You know when you run into somebody from your hometown and you say, “how’s everybody doing?” Perhaps you don’t really care but it is the proper thing to do. “Hi how are you, oh really and everybody in the old neighbourhood, good, good.” But this time instead of hearing that everything was going just fine, Nehemiah was in for somewhat of a shock because what his brother told him was that those who survived the exile and are back in their home province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
Now to be frank that wasn’t what our hero wanted to hear, he wanted to hear that everything was going alright. But that wasn’t the truth. In fact, the story was just the opposite, things were bad and getting worse. And that got to Nehemiah, he may well have been living in exile, and living a pretty good life so to speak, but he was still a Jew at heart and Jerusalem was still his spiritual home, and to hear about the tragedy surrounding those who had chosen to return to Jerusalem broke his heart. His reaction is recorded in Nehemiah 1:4 – “when I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the god of heaven.”
Nehemiah was upset, the news shook him, probably if he had of stopped to think about it before he would have realized that was what was happening, but he had never stepped out of his comfort zone before long enough to be concerned about anything except for his own welfare. Isn’t that how it often happens for us too? Living our lives and minding our own business, comfortable. And then God intrudes into our comfort zone to remind us that there are men and women, boys and girls out there who are impoverished, sick, imprisoned, made to go to war as children, many of them who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. And so, we discover, as Nehemiah did that, we aren’t alone in our cushy lives, minding our own business, but that we have a purpose for being here. You see the very things that make our lives uncomfortable, our church uncomfortable, are often the things that make us grow and makes our church grow. We’re not here simply as a comfort club for the saints we are here to make a difference. One of the greatest definitions I’ve ever seen of Christian was given by the religious leaders in Thessalonica who dragged the Christians to the city rulers and in Acts 17:6 we read the charges “these who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”
When was the last time our church was referred to as “those who have turned the world upside down.” We are only 1 week away from celebrating our 199th Anniversary and from beginning our 200th year as First Baptist Church in Kingsville. What will our next 200 years be like. Will we grasp the reality of the world around us? The world God is calling us to move out into in His name? And when that happens then like Nehemiah what will be our response?
Nehemiah’s response was not what you might initially expect. His was to sit down and weep and fast and mourn. In his concern Nehemiah began to pray and began to ask God, “why don’t you do something.” but the problem didn’t go away, and it weighed down Nehemiah’s spirit, and this normally happy go lucky guy began to look down and act down, until even his boss noticed that this wasn’t the same old Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 2:2, “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.” Hey, Nehemiah, what’s wrong? How come you look like your dog died. And Nehemiah explains the entire thing to the king, because when you are concerned about something, you like to spread the concern around. Maybe you think that the load will lighten if you make some other people feel guilty as well. And so, Nehemiah poured out his heart to the king. And the king did something totally unspiritual, instead of asking “what is God going to do about this” he asked what do you want me to do about this?
Nehemiah gave a typical Christian response and said, “let me pray about it.” as if he hadn’t already been praying about it for five months. And so, the scriptures don’t give us a complete description of the conversation that Nehemiah had with God. We can only speculate that it went something along the lines of “God, it’s me Nehemiah, ah look the king wants to know what he should do about Jerusalem. It’s like a real answer to prayer, you know when I prayed that you would call up somebody to fix the walls around Jerusalem. I’m really glad that you answered the prayer, so like what do you want the king to do? You want him to give me some time off? Sure, like I could always use a vacation but what do you want the king to do concerning the walls of Jerusalem, God? You want him to give me some time off so I can go and fix the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Ahhh, God that isn’t what I had in mind when I prayed that you would call somebody to fix the walls. I mean like what’s wrong with my brother Hanani? Oh, you want me huh?”
Do you ever have discussions like that with God, “hey God why don’t you do something about this?” and the next thing you know He’s saying, “I am, now go for it.”
Well Nehemiah bit the bullet and went back to the king and told him Nehemiah 2:5 “if it pleases the king and if your servant has found favour in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
I like Nehemiah’s vision at this point, notice he didn’t say he wanted to go look at the wall, or he wasn’t going to pray over the wall, he wasn’t even going to look to see if it could be done. He said that he was going to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, plain and simple.
“Hey Nehemiah, you ever consider that the job might be too big for you” I think his response would be something like “maybe but it’s not too big for me and God.” You see, we need to realize that as Christians we don’t function alone, remember Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It doesn’t say “I can do all things by myself”, it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
So, what do we do with these past several weeks where the Holy Spirit has used Richard Stearns to stir within us a holy discontent?? Well, honestly that’s up to you.
“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel Barker
Application: Can we identify specific ways we can engage with God’s kingdom mission of justice and compassion.
This is the question God is asking each of us to wrestle with.
Stearns says late in the pages of his book that “One of the most common mistakes we can make is to believe that we have nothing of significance to offer—that we’re not rich enough, smart enough, skilled enough, or spiritual enough to make much difference at all, especially in the face of huge global problems. . . . But the very good news for those of us who want to follow Christ and be part of God’s plan for our world is that he uses what we have to offer, no matter how unimportant we think it might be.”
On pages 282–288 in The Hole in Our Gospel, there are several ideas listed for taking action. Here is a good place for you and your family to start if you’ve not already done this. Read those ideas, and then put checkmarks beside any of the items below that give you some ideas for things you might do – in prayer, ask God to bring some of these things to the surface of the list for you. Things like:
Take on a service project with your small group. Take a short-term mission trip or learning trip – Bolivia. Raise funds for your favourite charity – Matthew House. Run a marathon, climb a mountain, or do some other activity to raise awareness and funds for the poor – CBM Active in Mission. Give meaningful gifts through alternate-giving catalogs – CBM Gift catalogue
What is one thing you are committed to doing with your time, talents, and/or treasure on behalf of the world’s poor? What are you committed to doing on your own or with your family? What are you committed to doing with your church?
Do you remember the question we asked you at the outset of this series? What does God expect of you? What have you heard? Has God put something on your heart these past several weeks? FBK, He is calling us right now and for the next 200 years to do what He uniquely created only you to do.
The last words Stearns writes in his book are these – “Can you hear Him? I can.”
Can you hear Him Church – what is He saying to you?
Father in heaven, you are so good to us. You provide us with everything we need, satisfying us. Grant us, Lord God, the vision of Your kingdom. Grant us forgiveness and new life. Grant us the stirring of Your Spirit so that we may proclaim Your love and change this world.
May your Spirit make us wise and guide us. May Your Spirit strengthen us so that we may be strong in the faith, courageous in witness, and persistent in deeds You call us to.
God the Sender, send us. God the Sent, come with us. God the strengthener of those who go, empower us so that we may go with You and find those who will call You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We pray all of this in the name and power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We go rejoicing in God’s love.
And because of that, we commit our lives to serving God by serving others. God’s love has made us new. God’s peace goes with us in all that we say and do. AMEN
Blessings & have a wonderful week.