Summary: When we fear God we won't fear anyone else.
A country preacher sold a mule to a friend, and told him the mule was trained to go when the rider said "Praise the Lord," and to stop when the rider said, "Amen." The buyer mounted the beast and commanded, "Praise the Lord," and the mule shot off like a rocket. The startled rider panicked. "Whoa!" he screamed. The mule was headed straight for a cliff, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" At the last second he remembered the minister’s instructions. "Amen!" he shouted, and the mule screeched to a halt right at the edge of the cliff. As the new owner peered over the precipice, he wiped his brow and sighed, "Praise the Lord."...
As Christians we have developed a language all our own. The trouble is that sometimes we know what we’re saying and nobody else does. The other danger is that sometimes we don’t fully understand the impact of the words that we are saying. Today is our first official Sunday together. Some people would say it is a time of renewal. That today represents a new beginning. Understanding of course that good things have happened here in the past. But rather than merely asking for a new beginning my prayer would be that there is a revival that has already started here at Madison Baptist and that it will continue until we see God move in ways that only He can.
As I was talking to God about what the first sermon series should be on He said Nehemiah. There are a lot of things that are interesting about picking the book of Nehemiah to preach from for our first series together. The first is that this is the book that Norm first preached on 33 years ago. I didn’t know that when I planned this but I think it indicates that this book contains a message that God has for the people who meet in this place.
Nehemiah is the story of a people coming out of exile they had spent their time wandering around a bit. I believe that all of us can relate to that right now. As a church Madison has wandered a bit during the past couple of years wondering what the future would hold as Norm announced his intent to retire and then ultimately his retirement. I can tell you personally that Linda and I have wandered a bit for the past few years as we served faithfully in a church but in the background God was beginning to call us here. As individuals many of us are wandering as our nation is in a period of insecurity, not just financially but also spiritually. As our world and circumstances change many people begin to question where is God. But God is where He has always been. He is on His throne in complete control. This time of trouble will pass, God will see His people through, it did not surprise Him and the next one won’t either.
During this time of change, I don’t think that it is any coincidence that God has led us to look at the book of Nehemiah, it is the story of a people coming out of exile. Now some of you may have read Nehemiah in preparation for this series and you may be a little surprised to that we’re actually starting in the book of Ezra, but I think it is difficult to tell the story of Nehemiah without looking at the story of Ezra. You see Ezra was the priest and Nehemiah was the general. One laid the foundation of the temple and the other rebuilt the walls of the city. God worked in both men together to achieve what he needed to get done. So if you want to tell the story of one then you have to tell the story of both of them together. When you look at them the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are a call to revival. Think about how far down the people were, they had lost everything, even the walls of their city were torn down, the temple was destroyed, they were sent into exile. This tactic was done so that the nation would never reform, that never again would their be a people who called themselves the nation of Israel. As far down as these people were, God was going to call them back, He was going to restore them to their place and the worship of and a relationship with Him. The message for us is that no matter how far down we may be, no matter how far away it may feel like God is, if He can restore these people, He can restore us.
We tend to think that revival is a time of evangelism, when people come to know Christ for the first time, and sometimes that what it is, but that is not always what it is. Revival is an not simply an outbreak of evangelism but a reawakening of the heart of God’s people to pursue the heart of God. See the root word of revival is revive, to bring something back. A revival is not just about people outside the church it is about turning the hearts of the people inside the church back to God.