Category Archives: Nehemiah

NEHEMIAH 6: Chapter 4 Sermon Transcript

This is the transcript/notes from a sermon preached at MainStreet Covenant Church on November 13, 2011, as a rally cry to mobilize a community to join us in furthering the mission of MainStreet in Mound.  This was the 3rd monthly preview service before beginning regular weekly worship in 2012.

Nehemiah chapter 3 is misleading if taken on it’s own. In reading chapter 3, one gets the impression that the project rolled along smoothly as each person does their part. However, chapter 4 continues the narrative and gives us a more in depth look at how the project really went forward, and more importantly, how Nehemiah and his crew overcame many obstacles and harsh opposition!

Chapter 4 takes us to the front lines, like the movie Saving Private Ryan, and with shaky camera and real-life danger, gives us the detailed account of the rebuilding project. We find that this task was no walk in the park, but rather a feat of great courage, requiring gutsy determination, wise leadership, unity among the builders, a deep faith in God’s protection and a willingness to “work with all their heart” from sunrise to sunset.

This was a difficult message for me to prepare, as this chapter is chock full of innumerable insights for living — too many to unpack in one morning.  For an entire month I’ve been swimming around in chapter 4 of Nehemiah, wrestling with where to focus my message today.   Continue reading NEHEMIAH 6: Chapter 4 Sermon Transcript

NEHEMIAH 5: Overcoming Verbal Assaults by Faith

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”  Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders” (Neh. 4:1-5).

When we read this narrative, most of us cannot relate to the violent persecution Nehemiah and the workers endure. As a church planter, I face many challenges and plenty of opposition to our vision, but at least I don’t have “the army of Samaria” breathing down my back.

But what is worse?  Facing an angry mob you can see with their clubs and spears, or having your character assassinated, enduring the onslaught of unseen enemies spreading lies behind your back, accusing you of evil motives, deriding your ambition and mocking your hard work?  As for me, somedays I’d almost rather face with the blatant attack of a physical enemy head on, than go to bed battling the voice inside my head — doubting, accusing, questioning. We all know that the biggest lie we’ve ever been told is that “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Words can paralyze the strongest of people.

Nehemiah is a strong leader, and he knows he is doing the Lord’s work.  But it isn’t too long into the rebuilding that he gets an ear full of heart-piercing slander and derision.  Here’s how Raymond Brown summarizes the verbal assault in the passage above: Continue reading NEHEMIAH 5: Overcoming Verbal Assaults by Faith

NEHEMIAH 4: Gateways Into God’s Presence

At first glance, Nehemiah’s rebuilding project of the walls of Jerusalem can seem quite…well…unspiritual. Is it all about brick and mortar?  Is the purpose strictly practical and militaristic?  Are the walls being rebuilt merely to keep the city safe from enemy attack?  I think not.

The clue to the deeper motivation behind Nehemiah’s project, and therefore, wider application to today, is found in Nehemiah’s prayer in 1:8-9: “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying,‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 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.’”

Here we have the primary purpose for the rebuilding of the city’s ruined walls: God has chosen this city to be a dwelling for God’s Name.  That is, Jerusalem was supposed to be a place where God’s glory shines forth in a unique way.  A place set apart as Holy to the Lord. The broken down walls were not merely a safety issue for the inhabitants; it was an affront to the Holy God who desires to make the city His dwelling place.

How does this relate to us today?  Well, God no longer dwells in a temple made by human hands, but has chosen to dwell in human temples — namely, the community of believers called the church. God no longer resides uniquely in a small geographical region in the middle east called Jerusalem; His presence now dwells all across the globe as the church brings the gospel to more and more places.

Yet, just as the Holy City in Nehemiah’s day was in a state of disgrace (2:17), so our churches today can lose our saltiness or hide our light under a bowl (Matt. 5:13-16), forsake our calling to make disciples (Matt. 28), and even have our lamp stand removed (Rev. 2:5).  When and where such a tragedy occurs, God will raise up modern day Nehemiah’s to rebuild God’s church, to plant new churches, to revive old churches, to raise up communities where God’s Name can dwell. Continue reading NEHEMIAH 4: Gateways Into God’s Presence

NEHEMIAH 3: More than Monotonous

At first glance, Nehemiah chapter 3 is a monotonous list of random people doing seemingly mundane tasks (e.g., “So and so repaired such and such gate, putting in the doors and hinges…”).  Yet, digging deeper we find a beautiful picture of an entire community — local families, business owners, religious leaders, neighborhoods — all uniting around the vision of rebuilding a city!  How can the people of MainStreet follow their example as we unite in building up this new church in Mound?

In this sermon, we unpack 9 fascinating insights hidden deeper in this often skimmed over chapter of Nehemiah.  But first, one of the most encouraging things about Nehemiah 3 is that it’s filled with a bunch of “no names” like you and I, ordinary people who said ‘Yes’ to God and found themselves in the Bible alongside the more well-known names. All they did was move boulders, swing a hammer and hang some doors!  This should give significance to our own seemingly mundane lives IF we’ll only dedicate our every day tasks to the LORD for his glory and honor!

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Here are the other 9 points in the sermon: Continue reading NEHEMIAH 3: More than Monotonous

NEHEMIAH 2: They Came From Abroad

We’re studying the life and mission of Nehemiah at MainStreet this fall. I’m amazed at Nehemiah’s sacrifice, prayerfulness, leadership abilities and perseverance.  I have used Nehemiah as a role model as Keri and I have set out with our own burden to rebuild in Mound — not physical walls but a new church community to glorify God’s Name in this city!

One of the biggest surprises on this journey has been where much of the  help has come from so far.  We’re inviting local friends and families to join MainStreet’s mission in Mound, but so far few of them have jumped in. I still believe, as Paul discovered in Corinth, that God “has many people in this city” (Acts 19) and they will come in God’s time. But, as I read about Nehemiah’s enormous project to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, I was encouraged to discover that many of Nehemiah’s team members were also drawn from a variety of different locations outside of Jerusalem. People came from eight different places up to a fifteen- or twenty-mile radius — and that’s centuries before automobiles and the interstate! Raymond Brown summarizes,

Continue reading NEHEMIAH 2: They Came From Abroad

Nehemiah 1 – The Citadel Factor

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. (Nehemiah 1:1-4)

We are bombarded with painful news everyday — wars, famines, joblessness, broken marriages, disease, dysfunctional families, and more.  We get to choose to move toward or away from the suffering around us. However, by nature we tend to try to protect and insulate us from the suffering, because it’s just too hard to face head on.  We surround ourselves with walls, barriers, instinctual defense mechanisms to keep ourselves from being dragged down emotionally by the pain we see others going through.

Nehemiah’s story begins in a safe, comfortable palace guarded by high walls and guards.  He resides in the Citadel of Susa, the grand imperial residence of the Persian King. Soon enough this man will make the heroic, self-sacrificial move toward restoring the broken down walls of Jerusalem.  But what’s remarkable about this man is not just that he moves toward the brokenness.  What’s remarkable is what he left behind, and that the news of a devastated city over 1,000 miles away in a far off land was able to penetrate his heart while living in the insulated, luxurious confines of the Citadel. Continue reading Nehemiah 1 – The Citadel Factor

Prayer Walking with Nehemiah

This was prepared as a guide for a prayer walk about the city of Mound.  Enjoy. -JB

This fall Nehemiah will be our guide and model for mobilizing MainStreet in the task of restoring the city of Mound for the glory of God. Nehemiah was living in the King’s winter palace when he got word of the broken down state of Jerusalem. Filled with compassion for the plight of Jerusalem, and filled with determination to do something about the problem, Nehemiah courageously asked the King to send him to Jerusalem with provisions to rebuild.

Upon his arrival in the city, he spent 3 days preparing his heart and mind to face the challenge ahead of him. Then he arose secretly in the cover of night, and with a small band of men, he went walking through the city examining the extent of the damage. Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and I would guess that his walk that night was filled with heart-felt prayer for the city lying in ruins, and for the strength and determination to complete the significant project ahead of him.

Similarly, God has filled a group of people with compassion for the spiritual state of the city of Mound. God has enlisted a strong team of people to begin the work of rebuilding the church of God in this community. Tonight we want to follow Nehemiah’s example, and make our own prayerful walk down the main street of Mound praying for revival in this city, for the mission of MainStreet, for those who don’t yet know Christ, and for this Sunday’s groundbreaking worship service. Here’s the story: Continue reading Prayer Walking with Nehemiah