September 26, 2021 | Rick Atchley
Building a Future
People of faith do not settle for the way things are. They pursue the way things ought to be. Using the book of Nehemiah as an example, this series will explore what it means for the Hills Church to commit to a vision of the future that blesses nations and generations.
Welcome to the hills, all of you watching online literally around the world. And if you're in person at one of our three campuses, so glad you are with us. So a young man walks into a candy store and order three boxes of candy and ten dollar box of 20 dollar box and a 50 dollar box of candy
. And the man behind the counter says, Son, why do you need three boxes of candy? He said, oh, I've got a first date tonight. It could be very special when I take her home. If she shakes my hand, she gets the ten dollar box.
If she gives me a hug, I'm going to give her the 20 dollar box of candy. If she gives me a goodnight kiss, she gets the fifty dollar box, he buys all three, puts him in his car, goes to pick her up at her home that night and gets invited in to have meal with the family.
He gets around the table and her father says, it's our practice to say grace before meals. Would you pray that young man about his head? He prayed the longest, most fervent, most passionate prayer you've ever heard before. A meal when he was two is young, datelined over, whispered.
I had no idea you were so spiritual. And she leaned back and whispered, and I had no idea. Your daddy owns a candy store. So here's the moral. If you've got some big plans, you need to pray. So big prayers.
And if you've been at our church last two weeks, if you've been listening online or going back and listen to the sermons on some of our platforms, you know that for the next five years, our church has some big plans.
And what I want to do this fall is help us to own this vision. And I'm going to use the book of Nehemiah, the story of how God blessed a man with a huge vision. And I'm calling the series Building a Future.
Years ago, I was driving to East Texas. I came to a spot on the road called Little Hope, Texas, nothing more than just a gas station and convenience store. And down a dirt road, there was a sign with an arrow that said this way to Little Hope Baptist Church.
Now, they may be some of God's sweetest people, but they need to change the name of their church, who wants to go to the Church of Little Hope. And yet many Christians and churches are doing little more than just moaning about the way things are.
People of vision commit to pursuing the way things ought to be. They believe in building the future they want instead of just accepting the kind of future they would otherwise get. And the first step to build in the future.
Now, this is true in your personal life. This is true for your family and this is true for a church. The first step in building a future is laying a foundation. Of prayer. So what I want to do now is read to you the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, and then I'll
come back and share some context, the words of Nehemiah, some of Akhalaia in the month of Kiselev and the 20th year. Well, I was at the Citadel of Suza, and then 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. They said to me, Moses, about the exile are back in the province, are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and this gates have been burned with fire.
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days, I mourn and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven, and then I said, Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments.
Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is pray before you day and night for your service. The people of Israel, I confess to sins. We Israelites, including myself, of my father's family, have committed against you.
We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant, Moses. Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses saying if you were unfaithful, I was scared of you among the nations, but if you returned to me, it'll be my commands.
Then, even if you're exile, 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. They are your service and your people whom you redeem by your great strength and your mighty hand.
Lord, let your air be attentive to the prayer of this, your servant, and to the prayers of your servant who delight in revering your name, give your servant success day by granting him favor in the presence of this man.
I was cupbearer to the king. So when the Old Testament, God's redemptive agenda begins in Genesis Chapter 12, when he chooses a man name Abraham. And he says, do your seed. I want to bless all the nations of the world.
And it is so by raising up to Abraham, a nation called Israel. And it was to Israel that the messiah, the savior was to come. Now, God's history with Israel was rocky. He entered into a covenant with Israel.
God kept his part of the covenant. Israel did not constantly turning to other gods, committing adultery and and great wickedness. Even though God warned him of consequences. In fact, the nation split into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom was taken into captivity about the Assyrian empire, and they disappeared from the world stage.
The southern kingdom, after much warning from God through the prophets, was taken into captivity by the Babylonian empire. Now, God had said through prophets like Jeremiah, this captivity is going to last for 70 years. If you will repent and signee with all your heart, I will let your people go back home.
After 70 years, the Babylonians are conquered by the Persian Empire, and the first Persian king says to the Jews. Anybody who wants can go back to your homeland. Some people call this the second exodus. You can read about it in a book called Ezra in the Old Testament.
The first wave of returnees was led by an official name, Zerubbabel. The second wave was led by a priest named Ezra. Now, since Nehemiah is right after the Book of Ezra, you might think they happened at the same time, but they didn't.
The exiles had returned 70 to 100 years earlier. Before you get to the book in your mind, you see not everybody went back. A lot of people, they said, we've lived out here for several generations, we've built businesses, we've got homes, we've got grandkids.
We're staying right here. And Nehemiah was one of those people. He had lived in Persia all his life. So when his brother, who did go back, came to visit, he said, well, how are things with all the people who went back and how is Jerusalem?
And when he got the report that things were bad knee, Amaya's heart broke. Why? He's got a good life. He's got a great job, he's got a position of prominence. Why did he care about a city he's never seen a thousand miles away?
Well, there were two reasons. One was his concern for the glory of God. Because Jerusalem was the dwelling place for the name of God. Psalm 76, God is honored and Judah. His name is great in Jerusalem. In Israel, I mean, Jerusalem is where he lives now.
Zion is his home. Everyone knew that Israel's god bunim yallah. And it always home was Jerusalem. God said, and I quote him in his prayer, I will bring the people back to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.
So get this. If Jerusalem is disgraced, the God of Israel is disgraced. That's why he had this prayer. He said, listen to the ear of your servant and all those who delight in revering your name. Listen, Nehemiah wasn't interested in building a future that would bring glory to Nehemiah.
The goal of a godly vision, whether it's for your life or for your family or for this church. The goal of a godly vision should be hallowed, be your name. So he was concerned when he heard about Jerusalem.
He was concerned for the reputation of God. But he was also concerned. Because you realize the condition of the walls of the city. Reflected the condition of the spiritual health of the people. That if the walls were weak, it was because their hopes for the future.
We're weaker. Now, like I said, Nehama has got a good job. And he got a good life. And he could have said and nobody would have blamed him. Well, that's just too bad. That is so tragic. But what can I do?
You just have to accept the things you cannot change, my life and my future are in Persian. He could have shrug your shoulders and instead he bent his knees. For some days, I born and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
And by the way, that was for four months. Let me tell you, a lot of people can pray and they may never get the chance to lead. Nobody should leave if they never pray. Because prayer is what fuels vision.
Vision is fueled by prayer. Whether it's your life or your family, your business. Your church prayer should never be the last resort when you're building a future. Prayer should be the first priority. And that's because our sovereign God often makes the sovereign choice not to accomplish his will until he's asked to do it.
You know that, don't you? God is sovereign. God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. So why are things so bad? Because our sovereign God has made the sovereign choice not to accomplish his will until he's asked to do it.
That's what Jesus taught us to pray in. Matthew six. Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I know this world is messed up. I know there's a lot to moan about. But it could it be that the greatest obstacle to a thriving future is not the wickedness of the world, but
the prayer looseness of the church? The God birth, a church put it in this world and said, now ask me for my will to come. And James says, you don't have what you want. Because you don't ask God for it.
So I want to remind you that when God gave me that vision on that retreat, I went on. Many of you prayed for me. The first word God gave me was it nations or generations? The first word God gave me.
Was ask. Because the future is built on a foundation. Of prayer. We're going to launch this vision with prayer in two ways. First, we've created a 40 day prayer guide. It starts tomorrow for the next 40 days at every campus and online, all the Hill's family.
We are going to pray to God. Now we've got print copies available to welcome center or go to the website or nations and generations dot org. Learn about the vision. And you can download the Peridot onto your device.
You can listen to the audio version of the prayer guide. We're making it as easy as we can. What's your best place to pray? Is it insolate on your commute to work in the morning? Then download and stream and listen to the feragut.
Do you like it on your device, your phone, your mobile device? Then get that PDA file and download it and look at it every day. Do you want to hold it in your hand? Pick up a copy? We don't care.
Just get it. Get a copy for your child. That coloring book we have created is so that you mom and dad can sit down with your child and teach them to pray for their church and for God's will.
That's first our second test tonight at five o'clock on every campus. We're going to pray. We're going to launch our vision with prayer. Now I want you to come. This is so important to me, I've made the decision I'm going to visit every campus, all three.
See, how are you going to do that? I'm Mubarak, Jerry Jones helicopter, and I'm going to fly to each campus. I'm going to get there and get back. If that doesn't work, I'm going to drive fast. I'm not going to break the law.
I'm just going to come very close. But I want you to understand. We have asked for some huge, big, bold, audacious things, and only God can do what we're asking for, but we've got to ask him for it.
Prayer is the fuel for vision, and here's why. Because, number one, it fuels our awareness of the problem. You see, when you have privilege and you have position like niemira, you can isolate yourself. You don't have to get close to the problems of other people.
Nehemiah could have easily thought that's too bad, but it's not my fault. So it's not my problem. Have you heard that before? That's too bad about all those families have to leave their country, but that's not my problem.
I didn't make that situation not my fault. That's too bad about all these kids that don't have a good, stable home. But I didn't make that mess. It's not my problem. I feel bad about all the racial strife and injustice in this country, but I'm not the reason.
It's not my fault. So it's no problem. Listen, it wasn't the Amaya's fault that the walls were down. But what was it, his problem? Became his murdered. People who build a better future. Are people who allow their hearts to be broken over the things that are breaking the heart of God.
And this is one of the outcomes of persistent prayer and increased capacity to see and care about what God sees and cares about. So, for example, if you join us these next 40 days and you start praying. For the 25 asylum seeking families we want to bless.
What's going to happen is you're going to start to see people like that the way God does. And your heart is going to grow for people who live in terrible situations and have to leave. If you start praying that we become a multi ethnic church, God is going to expand your heart and your concern for racial reconciliation
, not just in our church, but across the world. If you start praying for kids who have dysfunctional homes, you're going to start to become more aware of all the systems that are broken that need to be addressed so that we can help more kids.
If you start praying that we launch, celebrate recovery, you're going to start noticing and caring more about people that struggle with addiction instead of just writing them off, because it's not your problem. See, this is what happens. Prayer fuels her awareness of the problem and Premiere do something else.
It'll help you realize that even if you are not guilty for the creation of the problem, you might just be responsible. For the solution to it. She Premiere will help you. Own the sins of past generations. For the welfare of future generations.
Nehemiah said, I confessed my sins and the sins of my family. Wait a second, Nehemiah. You had nothing to do with what happened in Jerusalem. You've never even lived there. You know what he's doing. He is owning the sins of past generations because he wants to be an answer for the sake of future generations.
When you tell me, well, I didn't do it and it wasn't my people, so I don't have to care. That is not only not biblical, that is unbiblical. Read Nehemiah nine. Read Ezra nine. Read Daniel nine. And what you will see is that we've all been stained by the sins of the generations before us.
There is no generation as morally superior to any other. Every generation is broken. Every generation needs grace. And the hope for the future don't depend on our goodness, but on the goodness of God. But if. Our future depends on who God is.
Then nothing has to stay the way it is. So when God told Abraham and Sarah, though, they were very old, you're going to have a baby, and they laughed, God said, is anything too hard? For the Lord. And that's what prayer does, it doesn't just help you become aware of the problem.
But prayer fuels the boldness of your goals. Because you remember who you're talking to. Nehemiah worked for the most powerful man on the earth, and he went over his head. He said, My boss does not determine the future.
I'm talking to the ruler of the universe. Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love. I love that he prayed the parable we teach our kids. God is great. God is good.
And it's the character of God that keeps us from being crushed and overwhelmed by the burdens of the world. You see at his heart, prayer is a rebuke to earthly authority. Prayer is a way of saying. That rulers and authorities don't decide the future, the ruler of the universe does, and acts for when the first Christians are
persecuted and told to stop talking about Jesus, look what it says. When they heard this, they refused. They raised their voices together in prayer to God, sovereign Lord, they said, you made the heavens and the earth in the sea and everything in them.
You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father. David, why do the nations rage and the people's plot in vain? You were to pray God. You're Troh. You're the maker of heaven and earth.
You're the sovereign lord. Why do people plot and think they can keep you from the future that you want to build? History is not written in stone. Prayer is asking God to enter history and do what he wants to do.
So if you're talking to the ruler of the universe, how would you pray Puni? I know 825 baptism sounds like a lot. But do you think God wants that many people to get saved? If you think God wants it, ask for it.
We want to see five church platea movements in parts of the world where Christians are despised and persecuted. You think God wants it punished for it? We want to see 250 fifty marriages get blessed, we want to see three hundred and future leaders rise up.
What is too big to ask for if we think God wants it? We pray to a God who is just as willing to be active today as he was in the past and he will be in the future.
Here's what that means. It means extraordinary ought to be ordinary in the Church of God. We ought to get comfortable hearing extraordinary. Parameters. Years ago, back before cell phones and FAQ's, I read a book on prayer by a man who said one of my all time favorite testimonies was was at a church and a woman came up
and said, so I just put a pioneer of it. I get a phone call. School nurse says, your son is sick. You need to come getting. I pick him up. He's running a fever. She said, you better take him straight to the doctor.
I'll take you to the doctor. The doctor says take him home and get him on this medicine right away. I take him home. I go to the drugstore. I lock my keys in the car. I got a call, my son.
What am I supposed to do? See if you can find a coat hanger and and unlock that car. So I get a coat hanger. I go back to my car. Nothing's working. I'm getting frantic. I got a pile about to explode.
I've got a sick fever, son. I can't get it to my car. I start to cry out to the Lord, Lord. You got to send somebody that can break into my car. Not that Tom are really scruffy. Dude walks by, says Mammoet, crying.
She said, I need someone that can break into my car. He said, Give me that. He said, it took about two seconds. He giggled at that car block, went straight up. She said, Oh, my goodness, you're such a good boy.
You must be a Christian. He said, I'm not a Christian. I'm not a good boy. I just got out of prison. She said, Praise God, he sent me a professional. We should expect the extraordinary. When you pray to the God of the universe, nothing lies outside the reach of prayer except what lies outside the will of God
and God. Prue. At Easter, you can't seal a door too tight that he can't open it. Damien. But here's the thing. When God opened that door. He might just expect you to walk through it. And that's the last thing prayer does.
It fuels our willingness to engage. So for four months, Nehemiah prayed and he fasted. And then he said this. Give your servants access today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. Nehemiah, did it just offer prayers?
Nehemiah offered himself. Now, here's what prayer will do. I'm not talking about once a month prayer. Or once a week for. I'm talking about when you really seek God every day for something in the future. Here's what prayer will do.
It will take you out of your comfort zone. The more you pray for the future, God wants. The more you want God to use you. To build it. And so if you start praying for an international university. You may hear God say.
Are you going to go? You start praying for eighteen hundred twenty five people in the next five years to give their life to Christ. You're going to hear God say, who's your one? You start praying to two thousand people a year in our church will do something to bless children.
I guarantee you, God's going to open a door and say, well, here's how you could bless a kid. You start praying for people to go through roaded. You're going to feel pretty weird if you don't. Maybe God is going to call you to be a respite worker when you pray for foster kids.
Here's what I know. The more you pray for a future that you think God wants. The more you're going to want God to use you to help build that future. Is he prayer is not how we get God to do our will.
Prayer is how God gets us to want to do his will. And what God wants is a future even more awesome than we can imagine. Paul, put it like this now, all glory to God who was able through his mighty power at work within us.
To accomplish infinitely more. Then we might ask her think. Hey, just. Ponder that verse a moment. Just stay with that verse, one woman. God is able. To do far more than you ask him to do. No matter how big.
Your ask is. Imagine there's a library in heaven, and I walked down the aisle and I see this big, thick volume on a shelf life in ministry of Rick Atchley. And so I pull it down enough to the pages, it is a great read.
Just one problem. I see victory after victory, I can't remember. And I say Jesus and I say, Lord, I don't get it. It's my life. Why don't I remember most of this? And Jesus says, no, that was the bulk of all the things I wanted.
To do through. Over on the tables, a little pamphlet of everything you asked for. And now imagine that library, there's a shelf 12 thick volumes history of the Hills Church. And it is filled with miracle after miracle conversion after a conversion, victory after victory.
And again, I say Lord, but I was pastor at that church over 30 years. I don't remember most of this. And again, the Lord says, oh. Those are the volumes of all the things I wanted to do through that church.
Little magazine over there. Is all they asked me to do. I don't want to get to heaven to learn what could have been. If I had prayed more Not for me. Not for my family. Not for you. God will do more than we ask.
If we ask. More. So we asked four nations and generations, I ask you to join me the next 40 days. Thousands of us every day praying for our vision. I ask you to come here at five o'clock tonight as a church on three campuses.
Let's get together and let's launch our vision. With prayer. For the next five years, let's sustain our vision with prayer. And in five years, let's celebrate all that we saw happen. Because we prayed. And God will get the glory because only God can do what we are asking for.
God still moves mountains. Prayer still moves. God. So let's pray. Now your hands, please. And I'm going to ask you to pray about something I bet no one's ever asked you to pray about. Here it is. I want you to pray that God.
Will make you a person that wants to pray more. I want you to ask God to give you a greater desire to ask God. Oh, God, we would like extraordinary to be ordinary again. We don't want to settle for anything less than you want us to see.
That you want us to have. So God, we ask that you would help us ask more. Ask bigger. Ask. With great faith. And with only one. Motive. That's your name would be haloed. In all the world, we pray this through Christ.