Steps to Spiritual Renewal

Series: Preacher: Date: July 5, 2015 Scripture Reference: Nehemiah 7-8

A few years ago my wife, Sue, took a trip to Nairobi, Kenya with Nancy Faulconer to visit Cathie Burke and the women of Amani Ya Ju. Sue was gone 11 days and I decided that while she was away I would tackle a home improvement project that I knew was something she wanted done. My plan was to surprise her with the completed project when she got home. Like you, we had lots of projects that needed doing but the one I chose to complete was to update and improve the floor of our laundry room.  You see, it was carpeted with that indoor/outdoor stuff—but over the years the sink that the washer drains into had overflown a few of times and no matter how many fans we put down to dry out the carpet and no matter much Lysol we sprayed it still smelled pretty mildewy.

My plan was to rip up the carpet, take it to the dump, and then paint the concrete floor.  I didn’t dare try to put down laminate tile or anything.  That would have been way above my skill level. But I thought that even with my limited handy man abilities I could rip up some old carpet and slop on some new paint. I was thinking a nice concrete gray or maybe one of those new garage floor paints with the flecks of different colors in it.

So—the day after she left when I came home from the church office I started to work.  I cut the carpet into smaller pieces with an Exacto knife—which made it easier to remove—especially the parts that were under the washer and dryer—and in a couple hours I had finished that mildewy part of my project.

So far—so good!

But when I got the carpet out I saw that about a third the floor was covered with old linoleum.  I tried to pry it up with my fingers but it was glued to the concrete. So the next day I went to HOME DEPOT and bought a scraping tool.  It was the kind you use with your hands while you’re down on your knees but it wasn’t effective. Even after a couple hours the only thing I got was a lot of sweat and sore arms. So the next day I went back for a more heavy duty tool. This one was heavy and was the size of a shovel. I thought that surely with the leverage it provided I could get the stuff up in a day or so. But that was not to be.  Every night after work I would scrape with all my strength for hours but I only succeeded in getting a couple chips up. That linoleum was seriously glued down. I went on line to get advice and read about a heating tool to melt the glue—but it was expensive and sounded dangerous and I decided not to go with that option.

In any case the linoleum is still there.  And my scraping tools are still there as well—if any of you need them. I’ll make you a good deal! My point is I didn’t realize how hard it would be to finish the job. I thought once I had the carpet up it would pretty much be a done deal.

I share this sad home improvement story because there came a point when Nehemiah discovered a similar thing.  Now—of course he didn’t have a carpet to get up—he had a WALL to get up—which as I’ve told you in past messages, he did, in 52 days. In chapter 7 Nehemiah lists the people he gave the various jobs that needed doing in the city once the wall was complete—men to guard the gates and open and close them at the appropriate times—musicians and Levites to serve in the temple—soldiers and guards for the walls and the citadel.

And at this point we might wonder why we are still reading. I mean, “the carpet is up”—the wall was up and manned. The city was well-ordered, well-governed and well-defended. The people had homes and jobs—end of story, right? No—you see, in spite of all this the job was not done because there was a spiritual vacuum in the city. At this point God helped Nehemiah to realize the job he came to do wasn’t really about the wall—it was about the PEOPLE themselves. You see, the Hebrew people were called to be a unique nation—they were to be God’s witness to the world and they weren’t anywhere near being ready for that.

Now—if you read the entire book of Nehemiah you will see it’s divided into two sections. The first six chapters deal with rebuilding the WALL. The second six deal with rebuilding the PEOPLE—preparing them for their God-given mission. Here’s another thing you may have noted. The first six chapters are written in the first person. But here in chapter 7 it changes to the third person.  Nehemiah’s first person narration doesn’t resume until the dedication of the walls at the end of chapter 12. The reason for this change is that in this second half of the book the focus changes from Nehemiah to Ezra. Nehemiah was still very much involved but he was a wise enough leader to know that Ezra was more skilled at rebuilding people than he was—so in essence he subcontracts this part of the job to Ezra.

Remember, Ezra had come to Jerusalem 14 years before Nehemiah did. Ezra had led in the reconstruction of the temple. Ezra was a priest—so he was the perfect man to finish the job—the perfect man to lead the people in the spiritual renewal or revival they would need in order for them to mature to the point that God could use them.

This is a great chapter for us to study because all Christians need times of revival or renewal. The famous evangelist, Billy Sunday, was once asked if revivals lasted and he replied, “No, neither does a bath; so it’s good to have one occasionally.” Take your Bibles and turn to Nehemiah chapter 8. Follow along as I read.

7:33b –When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns,

8:1 – all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses,which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

2 – So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.

3 – He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gatein the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

4 – Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

5 – Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.

6 – Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7 – The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.

8 – They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

9 – Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God.  Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 – Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 – The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 – Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

13 – On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law.

14 – They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month

15 – and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.

16 – So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God—and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.

17 – The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them.From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebratedit like this. And their joy was very great.

18 – Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.  They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.

In the verses we just read we see that for the times of revival that we all need to come—four things have to happen.

(1) First, the people of God must be UNIFIED.

Verses 1 and 2 say that, “ALL the people came together as ONE in the square before the Water Gate—men and women and all who were able to understand.” These were city people as well as people who lived in the countryside. You could say there were white collar workers and blue collar workers—“men in three-piece suits carrying i-pads and men in overalls carrying pitchforks.” They were educated—and uneducated—young and old—men and women. These were Jews brought back from captivity whose origin was no doubt all over the Promised Land—so they were different in several ways—but they came together as ONE.

Perhaps because of the things they learned in the exile—and by worshiping in the rebuilt temple and by being part of the miraculous restoration of the walls around Jerusalem—the people’s eyes were opened and they saw anew their need for God. They got to the point where they yearned for a “revival” of their relationship with our Heavenly Father and so they gathered at the Water Gate—thousands of them—even children who were old enough to understand.

This reminds us that for revival—renewal—to come, Christians have to come TOGETHER like this saying, “WE are different in many ways but the same in ONE and it is this—WE NEED REVIVAL. WE need to be made right with God. WE confess our sins. WE want God to use us.” Let me put it this way—a church—a family—cannot be rebuilt—it cannot experience revival—if it doesn’t act like a family—love one another like a family. As Paul puts it, it is that LOVE that binds us together like the ligaments bind a body together. Without UNITY revival cannot come.

You know, many times churches settle for UNIFORMITY instead of UNITY.  And uniformity—when we look the same and like the same things—kind of like a country club—well, that’s not all that difficult. Sadly many churches think this way. They settle for uniformity. Churches are segregated by race—others by financial status. I mean there are wealthy churches and poor churches. Some are segregated by age. New church starts tend to be mostly young people. More established churches have a higher percentage of older members.

Well, Biblical unity is not like this. Unity is when we are DIFFERENT but still ONE. We look different—act different—like different things—but we come together as one—come together as a diverse group with one thing in common—the most important thing—a mutual awareness that we are each fallen sinners in need of God’s grace. To be clear, we may not agree on the non-essentials like worship styles or whether or not to raise hands when we sing—but we agree on the essentials—our belief that the Bible is God’s Word and that Jesus is God’s only Son—and that we are sinners hopelessly lost if not for the grace of God made possible on the cross. I’m saying a diverse but UNIFIED church—a group of different people made one by their experience with Jesus—a unified church is a beautiful thing!

By the way I’ve had more than one young couple coming to Redland and saying how refreshing it was to be in a church where there were older couples—couples who had been married a long time—raised their families—people this young couple could look to as mentors. I’m thankful for our racial diversity and educational diversity and financial diversity—and like this couple—our age diversity. This is what makes us strong. This is what makes our UNITY so wonderful—and makes spiritual renewal POSSIBLE. It makes us a very effective tool for God to use to further His Kingdom.

Scott McKnight is a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.  He does a survey where he gives incoming students questions about what Jesus is like. He asks things like: “Is Jesus moody?” “Is Jesus the life of the party?” “What kind of music would Jesus like?” There are 24 questions like that. Then later in the year he gives these same students these same questions about THEMSELVES. “Are you moody?” “Are you the life of the party?” “What kind of music do you like?” The results of his study are consistent. By comparing the responses to these two surveys McKnight has concluded that everyone thinks Jesus is just like them.  Introverts say Jesus is an introvert. Neat freaks say Jesus is a neat freak. “Jesus doesn’t like country music because I don’t like country music.”  —that kind of thing.

I mention this study because down through the years churches have had their unity destroyed by believers who try to make Jesus more like them instead of the other way around. Unity is when we gather in spite of our differences because of what Jesus does in us. Unity is when diverse people gather to be conformed to the image of our Lord. And that is the essence of revival—Christians coming together—committing to become more like Jesus.

Here’s a second thing that is required for revival or spiritual renewal to come.

(2) The Word of God must be RESPECTED.

When they came together at the Water Gate, this group of diverse yet unified Hebrews asked Ezra to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses and read it to them.  And don’t miss what I just said—this request for the Word of God to be read wasn’t Nehemiah’s idea. It wasn’t Ezra’s idea—it was the PEOPLE’S idea. Remember—it had been 140 years since these Hebrews had read from God’s book. They were truly hungry spiritually. They were famished to hear from God. This hunger for the Word of God had been prophesied long ago.  Amos 8:11-12 says, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

You see, because of their sin the Hebrews hadn’t heard much from God in a long time and they were finally ready—EAGER even—to listen. So, a large platform was built next to the wall near the Water Gate. I imagine they did this so as to get the acoustical benefits of the backdrop of that wall. And I’m sure the height of the “pulpit” they built for Ezra to read from helped as well. The idea was that everyone wanted to hear and everyone wanted to see because they were all HUNGRY to hear from God—hungry to hear from His written WORD! They didn’t just sit on the edge of their seats. They STOOD as Ezra began to read—and that’s what he did. He read the entire Book of the Law. We see the Hebrews’ respect for the Word because they didn’t just stand for a few minutes—you know, long enough to hear the typical sermon text.

No they stood for the entire time—he entire “revival meeting”—and it was a long one. Ezra started his reading and teaching early in the morning and continued through midday, which means the people stood and listened for five or six hours—and this continued for an entire week.

No doubt, from time to time, Ezra gave the people opportunities to rest but they knew they were there to hear God speak so every day they returned and stood. As verse 3 says, “All the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” And as a preacher, I have to say—I like this part.

I mean you can see me up here—but in spite of the glare I can see you too. I can hear you as well. I mean, I can tell when you are not attentive. I don’t mean to make you feel guilty or anything—just wanted you to know I can see you and it’s great when people you are speaking to are listening. Well, that day the Jews were listening. There was no glow from smart phones as people checked their e-mail. No one was fidgeting—no yawns—no blank expressions indicating they were daydreaming—no walking out in the middle of the reading. No—the people listened attentively because they knew they were hearing GOD’S WORD! Their actions showed they respected it as such.

A couple weeks ago we all went to see Daniel graduate from his three year infectious disease fellowship. It was a big deal. It the Strathmore and everyone was in their dress uniforms. The speaker was one of the medics who served during the Blackhawk Down deal in Somalia. Well, Ashley decided to take the kids. But like the great mom she is, she went well-prepared. She brought Cheerios and other snacks—crayons and coloring books—quiet toys to play with. I imagine many of you young parents have done this because let’s face it, listening to me preach for 30 minutes is boring for a preschooler. I remember when I was a rug-rat, crawling under the pews while my dad preached—in the hopes of either escaping outside to play or to visit with other rug-rat friends seated elsewhere in the church. Sadly, many adults don’t outgrow this attitude about worship. We think teaching the Bible is boring—because it’s just a list of hard to pronounce names and hard to understand prophecies. But these people weren’t like that. They hung on every word—every jot—every tittle. One translation puts it this way, “They gave their ears over to the Word.”

Listen—for us to experience the kind of renewal experienced by these Jews—we must respect the Bible’s teachings. It must be our conviction that this is not just any book. This is GOD’S book. We must obey the command in 1st Timothy 4:13 where it says we are to, “give attention to the public reading of Scripture.” We must believe that as Paul told young Timothy, All scripture is GOD-BREATHED—None of it originated in the will of man.” (2nd Timothy 3:16).

I like something Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Life.  He said, “The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook. God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change—frightens the Devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope—releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever. We cannot live without the Word of God! Never take it for granted. You should consider it as essential to your life as food.”

And Warren is right. For us to be nourished and renewed as Christ-followers we must draw “nutrition” from this book of books! In fact, I would say that the reason many of us don’t experience renewal—the reason our Christian walk is lifeless—is because we look for direction in life elsewhere. We base our choices on unreliable sources of authority like: culture (“everybody is doing it”), tradition (“We’ve always done it”), reason (“It seemed logical”) or emotion (“It just felt right”). All four of these things are flawed by the Fall and as such are not reliable. What we need is a perfect standard that will never lead us in the wrong direction and only God’s Word meets that need. To experience the renewing abundant life we all long for, we have to respect the words of the Bible—for they are God’s Words. As the hymn puts it they are wonderful words of LIFE.

At its founding a well-known university had this mission statement: “To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.”

Founded in 1636, this university employed exclusively Christian professors, emphasized character formation in its students above all else, taught the Bible as God’s Word—and placed a strong emphasis on equipping ministers to share the good news found in its pages.  Every diploma read, “Christo et Ecclesiae” around the word, “Veritas,”— meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.” You’ve probably heard of this school. It’s called Harvard University. Only 80 years after its founding, a group of New England pastors sensed Harvard had drifted too far for their liking.  So, concerned by the secularization at Harvard, they approached a wealthy philanthropist who shared their concerns and agreed to help them start a new college. This man, Elihu Yale, financed their efforts in 1718, and they called the new school Yale University.  Yale’s motto was not just “Veritas” (truth) like Harvard, but “Lux et Veritas” (light and truth).

Today, Harvard’s and Yale’s legacy of academic excellence are still intact. But neither school resembles what their founders envisioned.  At the 350th anniversary celebration of Harvard, Steven Muller, former president of Johns Hopkins University, bluntly stated, “The bad news is the university has become Godless.”  Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard, confessed, “Things divine have been central neither to my professional nor to my personal life.”

Both Harvard’s and Yale’s founders were unmistakably clear in their goals: academic excellence and Christian formation.  The Bible was respected and taught in its classrooms. Today, they do something very different from their founding purpose. What happened to Harvard and Yale is called “Mission Drift.”

To prevent US as individuals and a church from suffering this “mission drift” deal—we need the ANCHOR of the WORD of God. We must RESPECT it and live our lives by its teachings. Let me ask: Do you do that? Is the Bible an ANCHOR in your life? Do you respect the Bible? Is it your Source of authority in life?  Do you seek out and heed its words? This leads to a third requirement for revival or spiritual renewal.

(3) The Word of God has to be UNDERSTOOD.

You see, it’s not enough to just hear and revere the Bible. It must be studied and taught. As Paul told Timothy it must be taught correctly—it must be “rightly divided.” I mean, the Bible is not a “magic book” that changes people or circumstances just because somebody reads it or recites it. No—the power of this book lies in understanding it.  This is one reason Ezra’s revival took six hours a day for a week. Ezra and the priests took the time to stop and EXPLAIN the reading to the people of Jerusalem. Verses 7 and 8 say that Ezra and his Levitical assistants, “instructed the people in the law—making it clear and giving the meaning so the people understood what was being read.” I get the picture of the first Vacation Bible School. But however you picture it the people needed this instruction because remember, these people were Jews by birth but not by tongue or culture.  They had been born and raised in Babylon so when they came to Jerusalem they brought with them a Chaldean mentality and life-style. Plus the words read to them were in Hebrew and they spoke a dialect of Hebrew called Aramaic so these trained scribes took the Hebrew text and made it meaningful to the ears of the listeners.  They gave their audience an in-depth meaning of the words and passages so that understanding would result. This is why we need new translations of the Bible—as our language and culture changes. Understand the MEANING—the TRUTH—of these infallible words does not change—but to communicate that eternal truth the words have to change from time to time so that people understand.

To show you what I mean, suppose you and I had to use John Wycliffe’s Version of the Bible—the oldest version in English. It would read like this. Look at the screens as I try to read its words. This is Matthew 11:28: “alle ye that traueilen and ben charged come to me and I schal fulfille you. Take y my yok on you and lerne ye of me for I am mylde and meke in herte: and y schulen finde rest to youre soulis/ for my yok is softe and my charge liyt.” Wycliffe’s translation goes back about 600 years (1382) but between Moses’ writing of the Law and Ezra’s reading of it a thousand years had elapsed. So the people needed help UNDERSTANDING its words.

Well, when the people UNDERSTOOD the law they were able to see how far they had drifted from it. Understanding this part of the Bible helped them to see their sin—and they responded by weeping. You know, sometimes before we can rebuild our lives—we first must be broken. God has to demolish us before He can rebuild us. Many times we have to be pushed to tears before we can renew our relationship with our Lord. Well, Bible study does that. It shows us our sins and shortcomings. It helps us see our need for confession and forgiveness. This is what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 5 when he wrote about, “—making the church holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the WORD—so that she may be holy without any blemish.”

The fact is that when we UNDERSTAND the Bible—we “wash the sin out of our eyes” enough to understand OURSELVES. The Bible washes away self-righteous attitudes so that we can see our sin as sin.

I once read of a college student who had a job as a janitor in a hospital. At night he would rush through his duties and then he would sneak into a storage room to study for two or three hours. He always got his work done, but the quality of his work wasn’t anything to brag about. One day he read Colossians 3:23 which says,  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.” The Holy Spirit used that verse to help him understand that with his work habit he was both cheating the hospital and sinning against God and so he changed.  He began to give his labors his all. That’s the way it is with Scripture. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “For whatever God says to us is full of power; it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are.” (TLB)

By the way, the importance of UNDERSTANDING the Bible is why it is vital for all Christians to be in a small group setting, like a Sunday School class. Sermons are great—but the classroom is where we study and UNDERSTAND the Scriptures best.  This is where iron sharpens iron as we learn together and build relationships with other learners through which we hold each other accountable. The fact is you can’t get the fullest impact of understanding Scripture by just attending worship. You need other Christians to help you understand the Word. Here’s one final thing we see here that has to happen for spiritual renewal to come.

(4) The Word of God must be OBEYED.

As the people heard and understood the Book of the Law that day they learned about the Feast of Tabernacles.  This was a feast that God had commanded the Jews to celebrate annually in which the people lived in shelters made of branches that they built on the flat roofs of their houses. It was a time for LOOKING BACK and remembering the nation’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, when the people were homeless and lived in temporary shelters. It was also a time for LOOKING AROUND at the harvest of blessings from the hand of God. From their roof top shelters they could see that the Lord had given them a good land—and that they were never to forget the Giver as they enjoyed the gifts. But the Feast of Tabernacles was also an occasion for LOOKING AHEAD to the glorious kingdom God promised His people.  It was a week-long festival of joyful praise and thanksgiving, focusing on the goodness of the Lord.

Well, when they read about and understood this feast in the Book of the Law they obeyed God and celebrated it joyfully. They went out into the country side and gathered branches and built temporary shelters throughout the city. I have to wonder what Sanballat and  Tobiah and Geshem thought: “They built this amazing wall and now they are building all these rickety shelters! They’ve been in the sun too long!” In any case this reminds us that it is not enough to HEAR the Word of God. We must also OBEY what it tells us to do.  This is what Jesus was talking about in John 13:17 when He said, “Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you DO them.” James 1:22 says, “Do not merely LISTEN to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. DO what it says.” Rick Warren writes, “We fool ourselves when we assume that just because we have heard or read or studied a Biblical text, we have internalized its truth. Without implementation, all our Bible studies are worthless.”  Warren is right again because to experience the renewal that comes from the Bible we must obey—we must live out—its teachings—and that can be hard in our fallen culture.

I’m reminded of a story from the American frontier days, there was a settlement in the West whose citizens were engaged in the lumber business.  The town felt they wanted a church. They built a building and called a minister. The preacher moved into the settlement and initially was well received. Then one afternoon he happened to see some of his parishioners dragging some logs, which had been floated down the river from another village upstream, onto the bank.  Each log was marked with the owner’s stamp on one end. To his great distress, the minister saw his members pulling in the logs and sawing off the end where the telltale stamp appeared. The following Sunday he preached a strong sermon on the commandment “Thou shall not steal.” At the close of the service, his people lined up and offered enthusiastic congratulations: “Wonderful message, Pastor.” “Mighty fine preaching.” “Keep up the good work.” It wasn’t the response he expected, so he went home to prepare his sermon for the following Sunday. He preached on the same text, the same commandment, but gave it a different ending.  He said, “Yes, thou shall not steal, but thou shall also not cut off the end of thy neighbor’s logs.”  When he got through, the congregation ran him out of town. They UNDERSTOOD the Bible—but just didn’t want to obey it.

As we come to our time of decision, I’d like us to follow the example of the people who listened as Ezra read from God’s book that day in Jerusalem.  I want to read a couple passages of Scripture. I want you to listen—and then respond as God leads. In the book of Romans it says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If you are here and you have never accepted God’s gift of salvation—if you have never called on the name of Jesus—won’t you do that today?  Pray and ask Him to forgive your sin and come into your heart and life. Then come forward and share that decision with us. We will rejoice with you. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I believe that this verse and others like it teach the importance of being an active part of a local church. If you don’t have a church home, could it be that God is guiding you to join Redland? If so, come and ask to become a part of our membership. We would love to have you. James 1:5 says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God Who gives generously to all without finding fault.”  This verse says that if we have a problem, we can and should ask God for guidance. If that describes you, pray at your seat or come forward and we will pray with you.

Let’s all respond now as God through His Word leads.

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