Jesus, Me, and Nehemiah- It’s a Heart Thing!
I have been here in our camper for the last four days.
Just me…ALONE, me and Jesus that is. And we have been working. Yesterday I began reading a PDF book I received in my Ultimate Homemaking Bundle a few months back. The title is Revival by Christi Gee. She walks you through portions of the book of Nehemiah where Israel is transformed. One of her thoughts really struck me and got me thinking…
Christi Says about Nehemiah 8 & 9:
Israel went through a process to experience confession and repentance. In that process the Israelites spent THREE HOURS listening to the law being read and the history of Israel’s failures and sins by Ezra and that brought them to their knees crying out, confessing to their God for repentance for ANOTHER THREE HOURS! (paraphrased from Revival)
It took Israel concentrated and extended time in God’s Word to experience growth and yet in today’s American churches we complain, moan and groan if the pastor goes over his “allotted” 30 minutes by 15. I have even read discussions from pastors on reducing preaching to 15 min total. We as Americans have lost sight as to why we NEED church (Church is for the teaching of believers. Instruction in how to live the Christian life and encouragement to keep fighting the hard Battle for Jesus!). It’s become a deed we check off our “good Christian checklist” so we can get on with our week.
There are People groups in this world who “count it all joy” to be taught God’s word for hours at a time, there are even churches (though they are few and far between) in this country that still sit and listen to their pastor teach from God’s word for an hour or more. We sit in churches week after week and we say to ourselves “I’m so thankful we live in a Christian nation,” when in reality we lie to ourselves, not only about being a Christian Nation BUT being in a Christian Church. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Churches today look more like social gatherings than sitting at the feet of our teachers soaking up truth because we need it to thrive in our daily walk as believers of Jesus. It was their fuel that kept them motivated to keep walking forward rather than running and hiding in fear of persecution. Yes our country was founded on Christian principles, but our forefathers sat in church each week from about 9 in the morning til noon. They then took a break for lunch and came back for another 2-3 hours of teaching depending on the pastor and time of year. That is what a Christian nation was built on. That was the foundation that was laid.
(Did I mention that in many of those churches the people stood all of that time and others sat on hard wooden benches with no backs- thats dedication)
A Christian nation is only as strong its churches and so many churches in America are weak. I’m not talking about weak in stature or in physical strength. We are sissies in our dedication to what is really needed. We are sissies in our faith. The #1 way we show we are weak is that we think it’s all about us. We complain because we aren’t happy. There is strength in numbers and when we are unified for the cause of Christ we are the strongest we can possibly be. YET we complain because the church Service went over 15 minutes (and our kids are cranky, and we have plans, and we……). We complain that the pastor was boring (he just couldn’t keep MY attention). We complained that the music wasn’t what “I” like. We complain that the people didn’t dress “right.”
(Ummm Jesus said “worship in spirit and in truth”- He was concerned about our heart not the exterior appearance. He accepted people as they were, He didn’t say come as I am to worship- if he did we better start seeing men in long robes and sashes -EVERY. SINGLE. SUNDAY!)
John 4:23-24 New International Version (NIV)
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
We complain it’s too hot or too cold. We complain…. we complain…. we complain. When in reality the real issue isn’t what’s wrong with church, it’s what’s wrong with our hearts- Selfishness and discontentment. Complaining shows we only care about three things: me, myself, and I.
Matthew 15:18-20 New International Version (NIV)
18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Luke 6:45 New International Version (NIV)
45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
God Centered Hearts:
The people of Israel stood and listened to the Law being read (which is the book of Leviticus) for THREE hours!! I don’t know about you, but Leviticus is the hardest book for me to focus on and read. It’s three hours of do’s and dont’s and that along with the history of their shortcomings, their sin- brought the Israelites to their knees. They fell to the ground and repented before God AND they were changed!!
No three points and poems
No funny anecdotal illustrations
No excitement -the book of Leviticus is not an exciting book ! It’s just not!
The Gospels= exciting
But Leviticus?- not so much, but God’s word is powerful! Even the least exciting book of all brought the Israelites to their knees. They bowed and repented before God and they were changed, not because of some gripping sermon by some exuberant pastor- It was a two fold reason:
1) God’s word
2) people with hearts who took their eyes off what they “thought” was best and sought after God’s best. They wanted CHANGE! because their way wasn’t working!
We tend to think we have a God-given right to critique everything in our churches through our preferences (the lost spiritual gift of criticism), as if our own preferences are somehow more holy than the preferences of the person next to us or standing up in front of us. I have heard countless people, in countless churches say, “I don’t go to that church anymore because I was not being fed.” My first question is “was the pastor a heretic?” I am usually met with a wide eyed stare and I say “you know a guy who goes against God’s Word?” At this point I get-a, “oh, no. I just didn’t get anything out of his preaching.” My answer is a big fat “HOGWASH” because the Bible says God’s Word NEVER returns void.” If your pastor is preaching the Word of God and you are present…
1) IT IS FOR YOU NOT Joe Smith across the aisle. AND
2) YOU CAN GET SOMETHING out of it…..it comes down to your heart.
The first question for us is- DO you REALLY want to learn? Is your heart prepared? And with that is your heart humble saying “Lord show me what you want me to learn.”
It is our responsibility to learn and keep our hearts in check. Have you heard the old saying “You can lead your horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” NEWSFLASH we are that Horse!!! Your pastor can give you everything you need to walk in truth and light BUT if you do nothing with it, it’s not his fault, it’s yours. We will be held accountable someday. And I don’t think you really want to look him in the eye and say, but that pastor you gave me Lord…he wasn’t …..Adam tried that and Look how well THAt worked out for HIM!
Isaiah 55:11 New International Version (NIV)
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Hebrews 4:12 New International Version (NIV)
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The other question is: Do we have bitterness that is keeping us from seeing what church really should be. We get so caught up in what we think it “should look like” that we forget the purpose of church. To build up and teach believers. to encourage them in their daily walk helping them to fight the good fight and outreach.”
The Change of Heart Challenge:
I challenge you to set aside yourself and your your desires for what you think church should look like and ask God to give you His eyes, His heart and His desires and watch the miracles He does right before your eyes!