Happy Sunday everyone! I’m Peter, your trusty handyman… ready to kick off another Sunday with some of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places. Last week I was up in Canada after we had won a free website build. We started from scratch and built the website from the ground up. It is really incredible! I hope you’ll jump over there today and check it out. But we were building this website using tools that I’ve never heard of. There were so many words that I had no idea what they were even talking about.
There were no hammers and nails, but Href’s and Pages, and posts…. I want to welcome you to our brand new series Fixer Upper. How many of you have ever seen the show Fixer Upper? You know the reality TV show with chip and Joanna Gaines? Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen it! What’s special about Fixer Upper is that the stars of the TV show are this charming couple named Chip & Joanna Gaines. Chip is the fun-loving dad who is a home contractor… And Joanna is the designer!
Together, they specialize in taking old, beaten down homes and… Demoing… Renovating… and Rebuilding the place. Transforming it into a showcase home. They take a FIXER UPPER, while Chip does the demo and Joanna designs it. So it’s a combo of his construction expertise & her creativity! And the result is magic. Transforming a mess… into a Miracle! See, this is the space before…
But here’s the kitchen after… Just gorgeous. Super elegant design! Joanna’s signature element is using SHIPLAP in her decorating. In Fixer Upper, Joanna slaps ShipLap on bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms… when in doubt, just add a little shiplap! And voila! Transformation!
They have this amazing chemistry where Chip’s goofiness balances Joanna’s driven-ness. They get stuff done and have a lot of fun in the process. Here’s a quick clip that captures their chemistry:
Although Chip & Joanna like to laugh—they are committed Christians—followers of Jesus who take their faith pretty seriously! Their first book “The Magnolia Story”—which tells about their first renovation project… and real-life drama behind-the-scenes.
Their story isn’t without hardships. Not every Fixer Upper was a success. They made some mistakes along the way… Joanna had to close her dream business to focus on raising their kids. Real-life stuff. About how Life is a Fixer Upper, in many ways. And that’s what this series is about.
Our Series, Fixer Upper is about a book in the Bible that describes a Renovation Project. About rebuilding something that’s broken down. And that book is called… Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the name of a guy in the OT—who undertook one of the most Miraculous Renovation Projects in human history! He saw the walls of his city in ruins—dumpy, dilapidated, in disrepair—and with God’s help, he performed a FIXER UPPER—completely transforming his world! In a record 52 days, Nehemiah rebuilds the walls Jerusalem—for the glory of God & the good of God’s people!
It’s an Amazing story! And in this series, we’re going to ask the Question:
What’s BROKEN in your world that needs FIXING?
Cause we all got a fixer upper in life—Something that’s fallen apart & needs a little TLC. Maybe it’s a relationship that needs fixing… Your marriage could use a makeover. Or maybe your finances have fallen apart—you need to get out of debt & rebuild your bank account. Or rebuild your career or your body. Maybe you’ve let your health or diet go—and you need to get the walls back up this Spring. Or maybe there’s a broken situation in your family—with your kids or parents—that’s fallen apart over the past year… and needs rebuilding.
I’m talking REAL LIFE– not reality TV. In this church, there are people listening right now who are facing real-life rebuilds.
See: In a broken world—where things don’t go as planned—I believe every single person listening today will experience at least ONE MOMENT in life where you’ll find yourself rebuilding. Rebuilding a relationship… Rebuilding a family… Rebuilding your health… A career… … rebuilding a life!
It’s like a Fixer Upper. And people wonder: Where do I start? How do I begin? It’s like doing a RENO without a set of blueprints!
Enter Nehemiah. See: God doesn’t leave us guessing. He gives us the book of Nehemiah– which provides a blueprint for Rebuilding Your World! That’s the subtitle of this series: Rebuild Your World in 52 Days. Don’t think that’s possible? You’re right: With man, it’s impossible… but the Bible says: With God, all things are possible. Amen? So let’s open our Bibles to look at God’s blueprint.
If you have a Bible— or flip in your phone—Nehemiah chapter 1 is located in the Old Testament. Before the book of Psalms—sandwiched between Ezra & Esther. Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
And for the next few weeks, we’re going to go through the first 6 chapters of Nehemiah’s story. And I believe this could really change your life. Cause when you have the courage to take on a Fixer Upper—and you have the humility to ask for God’s help… that’s when transformation happens!
I mean, it’s one thing to renovate an old farmhouse in West Texas—but it’s a lot harder to reno an entire life. But Nehemiah is gonna teach us how step-by-step. So let’s read this together: Nehemiah chapter 1, starting at verse 1.
1 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. Nehemiah 1:1-2
Let me pause here & give you a little history. So you can understand the backstory. Here are 2 words to hold onto. The first word is RUIN… the second is RETURN.
Nehemiah was written around 445 BC—so this is about 400 years before the birth of Jesus. At this moment, Jerusalem (the capital city of God’s People where the Temple is), the city is in RUINS. Why? According to history, in 587 BC, King Nebuchanezzar & Babylonians attacked the city of Jerusalem—and burned it to the ground. Why?
A: God’s people—the Jews—had turned from God… rebelled… started worshiping idols… and the judgment was severe. God allowed the Babylonians to come in & wipe out the city & its people. Nebuchadnezzar’s Army sacked the city. Tore down its walls. Ransacked the Temple. Burned their homes. And led God’s people away in chains. To Babylon. See: King Nebuchadnezzar had a policy of DEPORTATION! After he conquered his enemies, he enslaved them & shipped them off to Babylon. And that’s where most of the Jews were deported. Exiled. In captivity.
Fast forward: 50 years go by. And another King named CYRUS the Great— becomes the dominant superpower. Cyrus ruled over Persia (modern day Iran)— and the Persians attacked & conquered the Babylonians. But King Cyrus had a different policy. He allowed some of the Jews to RETURN to their homeland—to journey back to Jersualem. But not many families make the trip. Remember: This is 50 years after the exile: By this point, most of the Jews had settled in—had homes in Babylon, kids went to school, families worked there. So only a small group of Israelites returned—they were called the REMNANT (like a carpet remnant—the leftover piece at the end).
When they arrive, they find Jerusalem in RUINS. So Nehemiah who’s living in Persia, asks his brother (Hanani who returned) “Hey, how’s it going? What’s happening with the remnant back home?” Verse 2:
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.” Nehemiah 1:2-3
Translation: It’s a trainwreck! Jerusalem is a disaster. The walls are broken down… the gates are burned down. Bro, it ain’t a Fixer Upper… It’s a total disaster. A disgrace!
Guys, understand: The city walls had been down for 140 years at this point—that would be like us saying, the walls of America have been down since late 1800s! It was humiliating to God’s People. Without gates, they’re unprotected. Vulnerable to attack. The Temple is in tatters. Their homes are falling apart. Israel’s enemies are mocking them: “This is how Your Mighty God lets His people live? In a broke down city? With broken gates? And broken homes? You’re pathetic! Israel’s God is pathetic!”
And what’s interesting is Nehemiah’s response in verse 4:
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.
Q: What do you do when someone you love— you learn their world is falling apart? When you discover your son or daughter is binge drinking? Or using drugs? Or you hear your close friends are getting a divorce? (and you had NO idea)! Some part of their world is imploding—the walls are coming down.
A: According to Nehemiah… You let the Grief in. You let the pain touch your heart. Jerusalem’s walls are BROKEN… and Nehemiah is BROKEN-HEARTED! He lets the grief in… and feels it deeply in his soul.
If you’re taking notes, this is the first step in any Spiritual Renovation, according to Scripture. If you want to rebuild your world, you can’t just grab a hammer & swing into action! Today, Nehemiah is going to show us 3 FOUNDATIONAL STEPS ANY BELIEVER must lay if they want to change their world. The first thing we learn is that leaders who change the world… first…
1) SIT DOWN TO CRY
First step of a Fixer Upper. Nehemiah hears about the broken walls of his city… and what’s his reaction? 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.
He did the very thing Jesus did when he saw Jerusalem & God’s people being oppressed. He was overcome with emotion & said, “They’re like sheep without a shepherd. No one to protect them or care for them.” Jesus WEPT over Jerusalem.
Not just crying—but weeping. There’s a difference, isn’t there? This isn’t like BABY CRY—sniff, sniff, boo hoo! Nehemiah says, “I sat down and wept.” Weeping is an Ugly Cry. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about? If you’re a lady & you ugly cry—it’s a MESS. It means your MAKE-UP is running down… snots pouring… You’re sobbing… can’t speak or stand!
Nehemiah is so overcome with emotion that he SAT DOWN & just sobbed & sobbed & sobbed. Not for himself—but for people he loved.
Let me ask again: What’s BROKEN in your world that breaks your heart?
It may be intensely personal. I’ve talked with people about the pain and brokenness in their world, and it never gets lost on me how hurt people are. I’ve talked with mom’s who are overwhelmed with pain because of what their kids are going through.
I’ve talked with couples on the verge of divorce and heard the pain in their voices.
Nehemiah shows us: The first step to changing your world is to FACE REALITY! You have to SIT DOWN TO CRY. That is: Don’t push the pain away… let the grief touch your heart! Guys, this is not a bad thing—you don’t have to be afraid of this! Understand: Nehemiah was not a weak or wimpy man. He is a STRONG Man & COURAGEOUS Leader! He has an entire book of the Bible written about him! But for Nehemiah, his grief & heartache becomes the LAUNCH PAD for rebuilding his broken world!
This is the FIRST STEP toward changing your world—and changing the rest of your life! I wanna encourage you today. If you walked in today… and you are at a point of absolute brokenness—there’s been an implosion, something falling apart in your world… and you don’t know what to do next—God often uses brokenness as the LAUNCH PAD for lasting change.
Translation: There’s HOPE for you! Nehemiah’s story begins with brokenness. With grief. But it doesn’t end there.
So lemme ask again: What’s broken in your world that breaks your heart? That needs fixing? Where do you need to let Hope in?
In fact, let’s broaden that: From the PERSONAL… to the GLOBAL. Bc some of you may be like: Peter, I don’t really have anything seriously broken in my world right now.” Thank God—that’s a blessing!
Q: But how about the world around you? Think globally for a moment. When you watch the news & look at our broken world— the injustice, the hunger, the corruption, the poverty. What’s broken in the world around you that breaks your heart?
It makes me think of BOB PIERCE—the founder of World Vision. The global charity that sponsors children around the world. Bob Pierce was an ordinary guy traveling through China when a woman put a battered & abandoned child in his arms. And asked, “What are you going to do about her?” Pierce gave all the money in his pocket to the woman— a $5 bill– and said, “I’m going to send you the same amount every month to help care for this child.”
And he did every month. Sent $5… $5… $5… And God broke his heart for children living in poverty. So in 1950, he founded World Vision—which now sponsors millions of children living in poverty. Providing food, health care, clean water, education. World Vision now has a revenue of $2.8 Billion and is not just transforming families… communities… entire nations in the name of Jesus!
Why? All bc some ordinary American guy prayed a dangerous prayer. Bob Pierce prayed:
“God, break my heart with what breaks yours.”
And God lit a fire in Bob Pierce—poured gasoline on that burden & changed the world through him!
Nehemiah lived 1,000 miles away from Jerusalem in Persia. And it would’ve been very easy for him to shake his head: “Sad to hear! Too bad for them!” He’s living in luxury in the citadel—or castle of the King. He could’ve let his comfortable life of privilege say, “I’ll write a check. I’ll pray about that. Hopefully, someone will do something about this!”
But guess what? Nehemiah looked at his broken world around him and said:
“Somebody’s gotta do something about this… And it might as well be me!” He saw people suffering on the other side of the world and said, “God, I have a burden & I want to help fix their world!”
This is why I love our summer serve days. Just yesterday our church participated in the Day of Hope… You guys went over and served our city. You served families who needed some help getting ready for school this year. There were doctors there, nurses, back packs, school supplies. Everything to help these families who needed it. Serve Days help us unlock our compassion for those around us, and be #FORSarasota together in more than just talk.
One of the reasons we planted Hope City Church was because we were praying a bold prayer. God break my heart for what breaks yours. We saw friends, and friends of friends who were tired of religion. They were burned out on church. They thought that God was irrelevant because the Church has become irrelevant and self-serving. And Tiffany and I knew that we had to do something about it. We couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t think about anything but Hope City Church. There was a burden on our heart.
I challenge you to pray for 52 days, God break my heart for what breaks yours. See what God does. See what he burdens your heart with, and then don’t ignore it. This is how God works: Your biggest BURDEN is often the doorway to your biggest BLESSING! God uses leaders who are willing to sit down and cry. But he also uses leaders who are willing to kneel down and pray.
After Nehemiah finishes weeping… He prays & seeks the God of heaven. Verses 4-6:
For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him… 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.” Nehemiah 1:4-6
Nehemiah is a Man of deep & committed Prayer. He has a tender heart. And tough knees. He fights from his knees. This prayer in chapter 1 is the first of 12 different references to Prayer in Nehemiah. You may be facing some walls that are down—some burdens that are big. And think “What can I do about this? I’m just one little person? One little family? What can we do?” I’ll tell you what you can do… You can PRAY! Pray day & night and call upon your Heavenly Father!
You think: I’m just one person! What can I do? A: You can kneel down to pray. This is a humbling position. And Nehemiah prays a humble prayer. Verse 6:
I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. Nehemiah 1:6-7
This is a Prayer of Confession, isn’t it? And notice something interesting: Nehemiah includes himself! I confess the sins… we have committed. (including myself & my family) Even though he lives far away, Nehemiah owns his part in the brokenness.
See some brokenness in life is:
• Random (not our fault) ie: You’re just driving along. And someone runs a red light & T-bones your car. Now you have a shattered hip. It’s random—not your fault.
• But some brokenness is our fault ie: You were the one texting & driving. ie: Something’s broken & we caused it! We made a bad choice or poor decision. And now there are consequences.
• And some Brokenness is a Combo Platter—I’m digging out of debt: My company downsized & wasn’t my fault. But I admit: I did overspend for many years. Made stupid credit card choices—overspent… that contributed to the financial mess I’m in.
It’s a combination—and it requires Confession. We own our part of the mess. We come clean before God. And repent. Don’t rush past this: A humble, heartfelt Prayer of Confession is a foundational step in rebuilding a broken world!
Q: Why is this so important? A: Bc God opposes the Proud—but gives Grace to the Humble!
That’s why Nehemiah kneels down to PRAY. We don’t know how long—but he prayed day & night “for some days.” Read the rest of his prayer in verse 10:
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Nehemiah 1:10-11
And when he finally got up, Nehemiah has the POWER of GOD behind him!
And we’re gonna see the impact in the weeks to come: Through Nehemiah’s prayerful leadership—rebuilding his city’s walls– something that should’ve taken Years (maybe Decades)– took Nehemiah 52 DAYS! Through an ordinary humble leader, God performed a Fixer Upper Miracle… and rebuilt an entire nation!
Nehemiah is a book of hope. It starts with brokenness—but it leads to a new beginning!
As we’ll see next Sunday. Next week, we’re gonna see how Xians who change the world…
3) STAND UP TO ACT
Decisively! After Nehemiah sat down to cry… knelt down to pray… he took Action! Dramatic Action! Find out next week… in our next episode of Fixer Upper!
Guys, I pray this series is going to stir something up in every single one of you… and over the next few weeks, God’s going let a burden touch your heart… you’re going to get to praying… And your life & our world will never be the same! I wanna see God move mountains in this church, amen?