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Today you are going to meet the Lincoln of the Old Testament. A respected leader with a tender heart. You will see his tears as he weeps for his nation and its people who are oppressed and vulnerable. You are about to meet the Patton of the Old Testament. A rugged leader, intolerant of compromise. Relentlessly demanding loyalty. Punishing the soft and cowardly. You are about to meet the Churchill of the Old Testament. A true statesman. Tested, but resisting the enemies that seek to lure him away from his task and rising above the squabbling factions who would distract him from his mission. You are about to meet the Henry Ford of the Old Testament. Renowned for his revolutionary vision which was the manufacture of inexpensive automobiles made by skilled workers, earning good wages. Ford’s vision was for every family in America to own an automobile, not just the rich. From 1908 to 1927, Ford built the Model T, the first affordable car for average Americans. In 1913 he launched the first moving mass assembly line, and by 1918 half of all US cars were “Tin Lizzy’s.” These quotes are from Ford’s biography; “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” “You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars. Enthusiasm is the spark in your eye, the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of your will and your energy to execute your ideas. Enthusiasts are fighters, they have fortitude, they have strong qualities. Enthusiasm is at the bottom of all progress. With it there is accomplishment. Without it there are only alibis.” And finally “Vision without execution is just hallucination.”
The tenderness of Lincoln. The fire of Patton. The savvy of Churchill. The vision of Ford. All wrapped up in one man. His name – Nehemiah!
You and I live thousands of years after Nehemiah, but we live in a time when we desperately need churches and Christians who are enthusiastically filled with tenderness, fire, savvy, and vision. We live in a day when the walls of spirituality, decency, integrity, morality and virtue have been torn down and set aflame. It’s clear that the church today is a mere shell of its former self. Our own SBC has numerous Pastors accused of misconduct today, putting our denomination under the same scrutiny as the Catholic Church. Our total membership is the lowest in 30 years. In 2002 we peaked at 16.2 million members. We ended 2018 with 14.87 million. Our baptism numbers were down by over 3% last year. The gates of glory that identified the church as the house of God have been burned by the flames of sin and tarnished by the blight of apathy. How can we turn the tide? By having “Vision in our Souls and Fire in our Bellies for the Future!” Couple that with enthusiastic Love and Tenderness for one another and the people of our Commission and we Will be victorious people!
I have Good News for you today. We can become those people! We can determine to be the people God uses to make a difference in our world for His kingdom! God has Issued a Clarion Call to us! That Call is – “Wanted: People Of Vision!” I want to be an enthusiastic Pastor of Vision, and I believe you want to be enthusiastic People of Vision! If we become enthusiastic people of Vision Together, Jesus will grow a great congregation in this place and God will get the Glory! SO, What Does It Look Like To Be People Of Enthusiastic Vision? First,
There is a Calm before the storm of Enthusiastic Vision. Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer. His life was peaceful, prosperous and powerful. His job was to taste all the king’s food to prevent the king from being poisoned. He was one of the most trusted men in the kingdom. The king often asked Nehemiah for advice. Nehemiah was living the good life, wearing fine robes and sweet perfumes!
But there is Calamity when we embrace Enthusiastic Vision. Nehemiah’s peace and serenity were shattered by a visit from one of his brethren. Hanani told him the people of Israel were being afflicted by their enemies and the city of Jerusalem was devastated and in a state of calamity. Isn’t it amazing how life can be perfect one minute and fall all to pieces the next? I saw an Allstate commercial the other day. John is at the gym working out when his cell phone security app shows someone approaching his front door. “Who are you?” he asks. “Hi, John! My name is Mayhem! I’m here to steal your car, because, well, that’s my job!” Mayhem then breaks the door glass to steal John’s car, and to add insult to injury, he runs over john’s motorcycle! Who runs over a man’s motorcycle?! But that’s how mayhem and calamity work. What causes mayhem and calamity? Destruction, conflict, disruption. In one word – Change!
Life was calm and good for Nehemiah, working for the King. But when he heard the walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair, he knew the Temple of God was vulnerable. He knew something had to change. Nehemiah had a vision for the future of Jerusalem. Family, when Jesus Followers are Not attacking the gates of Hell, Satan leaves you alone. When we enthusiastically follow God’s vision and mission for the church, he gets scared. He knows the Holy Spirit living in us is Much more powerful than all his demons. Satan knows that the H.S. makes us More than conquerors. Jesus Christ annihilated Satan, and so can we! And then,
Our Compassion for others enhances our enthusiastic vision. After hearing the awful news, Nehemiah’s heart breaks and he enters a season of fasting, weeping and prayer. Instead of being happy in his position, his life is shattered and he’s brought to his knees! Watch This: The first thing Nehemiah does is Pray! Here’s how God forms people of vision! He stirs up your life. He Grabs you by the heart and focuses your mind on the things that truly matter. For Nehemiah, the question King Artexerxes asked in 2:2 “Why are you so sad?” was the pivotal moment of his life. He cared deeply about the people of Israel and God used that to work in his heart. You see, God wanted to restore Jerusalem, but He needed a man of fire, vision and tenderness to bring it to pass. Nehemiah was that man, and he was eager to get involved in what God wanted to do.
When God stirs up your life, that is His call for you to buy into what He is about to do. When the Call came for Isaiah, he responded eagerly to God’s invitation. “Here am I, send me!” Jonah ran to the Sea to try to escape the Call. Moses saw the vision, but made excuses and tried to convince God to go find someone else. God is trying to get your attention today. He’s stirring up your lives and placing a burden on your hearts, to win your world for Jesus! It’s time to get onboard! Listen - Nothing is greater than being a part of God’s plan! Compassion causes us to want to be God’s Vision People. Secondly,
Nehemiah’s prayer to the Lord shows us how to be people of vision. He teaches us visionary praying.
Visionary Prayer Includes Praise. Nehemiah begins his prayer by exalting the Lord. He praises God for His Superiority, His Strength, His Sovereignty, His Sacredness and His Sincerity. Shucks, that’ll preach! Nehemiah praises God for Who He is! That’s a lesson we all need to learn! After all, that’s how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Matt. 6:9 “Our Father in Heaven, Holy is YOUR name.” Psa. 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Praise Him when you pray.
Visionary Prayer Includes Perseverance. Nehemiah prayed “day and night.” He prayed non-stop until the answer came. We need that kind of praying today. Not the once or twice prayers. We need prayers that never cease until God has answers them. In Luke 18:1 Jesus tells His disciples “always pray and never give up.” Paul said “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer that is born out of a genuine burden and need cannot be satisfied until it is answered! If we can pray for something once or twice and forget about it, we should ask ourselves whether or not we were truly praying from a burdened heart! Persevere in your praying.
Visionary Prayer Includes Penitence. As Nehemiah prays, he confesses sin. First he confesses his own sin, then he confesses the sins of His people. Repentance is essential to answered prayer. Psa. 66:18. “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Nehemiah wasn’t just telling God where others had gone wrong, he was also telling God where he had missed the mark. Repentance is first of all about me getting my heart right with God! Have YOU repented of your sin? Get your heart right with God!
Visionary Praying Includes Promises. Nehemiah reminds God of the promises He made to Israel. Promises to punish their sins but also to restore them if they repented. (Note: When prayer is from a believer, based on the Word of God and founded on the promises of God, the believer can be sure his prayers will be answered. Why? Because God staked His reputation on the accuracy of His Word. Psa. 138:2-3 “I praise Your name for Your unfailing love and faithfulness; for Your promises are backed by all the honor of Your name. As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength.” God says His promises will always be fulfilled, Rom. 4:20-21 “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do Whatever He promises.” I believe the Promises of my God! Do you?
Visionary Praying Includes Partners. – In 2:11 Nehemiah reminds God that many others were involved in this prayer effort. Nehemiah was part of a team effort in prayer and action. We have a weekly prayer list so we can get as many people as possible involved in praying with, for, and about the needs of our congregation. There is power in corporate prayer - Matt. 18:19 “I also tell you this; if two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in Heaven will do it for you.”
Visionary Praying Includes Petitions. Now Nehemiah reveals what’s on his heart. He is asking God to give him grace from the king. He knows that to prevail with man, we must prevail with the Lord! Part of our praying is expressing our needs to the Lord, Phil. 4:6 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.” The Lord already knows what you need, but He wants you to ask! That way you can recognize His provision for your life. Thirdly,
Nehemiah knew that who he was and where he was right this moment was no accident! It was a God thing.
Position Is A God-Thing. - Regardless of your position in life, at church, at work, at school, in society, at home, or wherever, you need to know that it is no accident! God has placed you there for a purpose. For His purpose! You are where you are for God’s glory! Do you GET THAT? Esther 4:14 “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
Prosperity Is A God-Thing. - Your resources are not yours by luck! They have been given to you by the providence of God to be used for His glory. I’ve learned a couple very important monetary principles in my life. 1. God already owns it all! We are stewards of a portion of what is His, and he wants us to be generous and cheerful in using our resources to increase His kingdom and bless other people. 2. You Cannot out give God! Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of Heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!” When I counsel people on financial issues, I ask “Do you tithe?” If they answer “No”, my response is – “There’s your first problem.” I don’t care if you make $10 a week or $10,000 a week, you should tithe. It’s scriptural, it’s needful, and it’s beneficial to all concerned. Use your prosperity to bring people to God’s Kingdom.
Power Is A God-Thing. – The power and influence you have in the lives of others is no accident! God has given you the ear of certain people for a purpose. Allow God to use you where you are for His glory.
Vance Havner said “I thank God for the Unseen Hand, sometimes urging me onward, sometimes holding me back; sometimes with a caress of approval, sometimes with a stroke of reproof; sometimes correcting, sometimes comforting. My times are in His hands.”
When we met Nehemiah he was wearing the fine robes of the King’s cupbearer. He had a Position of Power, but his Heartbeat was for the people of Israel. When he found out the Temple was being rebuilt, but the protective walls around the city had been destroyed, God Gave Him A Vision! Nehemiah asked God to Use him to save Jerusalem, its people, and the Temple by allowing him to lead the people in Rebuilding the Walls.
Years ago God gave Me a Vision for HBC. Now I see that God was preparing Me for just such a time as this, like he did Nehemiah and Esther. I have a heart for this church, for you, and for SW MO. God has Called Me to Lead You in Rebuilding.
So it’s time to Slather some Gravy on some Taters! Let’s get Real Up In Here. Do you believe God is Real? Do you believe God is Real in You? Do you Know His Holy Spirit lives Inside you. If Jesus lives in you, He wants you to Yield to His Lordship in your life. When you Yield to Christ, He makes a difference! He Changes you from the Inside out. Dan V.W. had surgery on his foot, and now he has a Wound Vacuum attached to it. I’ve had them 3 times. The wound vacuum Sucks the Ugly, Nasty, Rotten Corruption out of your body, creates granulation, and heals your wound from the inside out. Now Watch This: Jesus is like a Wound Vac. If you allow Him to be Lord, He will Suck out the Ugly, Nasty, Rotten Corruption and heal you from the inside out! Praise His Name!
Nehemiah exchanged his fine robes for coveralls and got to work rebuilding the walls. The project was a Serious uphill battle! Nehemiah was accused of everything from faulty construction to being a power hungry dictator. In spite of grumpy workers and lurking enemies, Nehemiah kept encouraging and leading the people and they completed the project of building the walls, probably 22-24 ft. tall, around the entire city of Jerusalem in just 52 days! It was a tremendous victory! The people rejoiced and Nehemiah returned to Persia. 12 years later he returned to Jerusalem to find the walls standing strong, but the people had gone to seed! Faithfulness and holiness had been abandoned and spiritual discipline was non-existent. So Nehemiah went to work again. He went to his closet, hanging up his royal robes, bypassing his coveralls and donning his priestly frock for the task of Rebuilding the Spiritual foundations of decency, integrity, morality, faithfulness, and holiness. Merchants were selling goods in the city on the Sabbath. Many Jewish men had married pagan women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. Half their children couldn’t even speak Hebrew! Nehemiah didn’t mince his words. 13:25 “So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. I made them swear in the name of God that they would not let their children intermarry with the pagan people of the land.” 13:27 “How could you even think of committing this sinful deed and acting unfaithfully toward God by marrying foreign women?” First Nehemiah led in rebuilding the physical Walls and now he leads in rebuilding the Spiritual foundations.
My Vision from God for HBC is in the Opposite order of Nehemiah’s. First, we will build the Foundations for ministry. I am developing three Discipleship Modules to set those foundations. Look At Me – These three Modules are Key to our future and they are Absolutely Essential for our church growth. I believe you are ready to see HBC turn around and start reaching and discipling people for Jesus. I believe you Want to see HBC grow. AMEN? To that end - We will set the Foundations First, and then we will Build. That way we know the growth will be sustainable.
My Goal is to prepare three Discipleship Modules and begin using them on Sunday evenings in September. Each weekly session will be one hour. Completing the three modules will take about a year. After that, the modules will be ongoing and facilitated by other trained leaders in small groups on Sunday morning. I will equip them and you for ministry according to God’s vision and my scriptural mandate. But I will Not do the work for you. I will lead by example, but ultimately, the future growth of HBC lies in Your willingness to consistently Attend on Sunday evenings and allow yourselves to be trained, then prayerfully put into practice what you learn. Let’s not mince words – Most of you here today do Not come on Sunday evenings. I Know it’s hard! But is it Too Hard? Is it too much of a commitment for Christ’s Kingdom? Is it TOO difficult a commitment if it means just ONE person going to Heaven instead of Hell? Is it too much to ask even if you only get to disciple one other person to Christian maturity as a Jesus follower?
There are many Jesus followers worldwide whose commitment to Christ is causing them to suffer persecution, prison, torture and even death! Each year “Open Doors” prints a “Top 50 World Watch List” of places it’s dangerous to be a Christian. Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme levels of persecution. 1 in 12 Christians worldwide live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished.” North Korea alone has 50,000 Christians in prisons or labor camps, and countless believers have been martyred for their faith. Those are the kind of people Jesus will use to change our world in these last days. Question: Do you want to be one of those people? I’m not asking you to suffer physical persecution, torture, prison, or death! I’m asking you to Believe that working together under the Lordship of Christ, we can change our corner of the world! Do You Believe that today? I Believe that today!
So, as the praise team comes, let me tell you how I want you to respond to Jesus? If you need Jesus in your heart, let’s get that settled first. If you need a church home, I invite you to come and “Grow With Us!” Otherwise, I’m asking Every Last One Of You to be a vital and productive part of the future growth of HBC by committing yourself to our Sunday evening Discipleship Modules. People – that’s not much to ask! Come individually, come as couples, or come as families, and say –“WE want to be part of the VISION for HBC. You and God can count on us. We’ll be here for the Discipleship Modules, and we’ll let God use us for His glory.” Come Now! Fill up the aisle as you take your stand for Christ and verbally share your enthusiastic commitment to be People OF Vision at HBC. Come Now.