January 3rd 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

COME HUNGRY  Nehemiah 8:1-18

I hope you had a great break — time with family, time with friends.  Kelly and I and the kids had the chance to both get a way a little bit up to the mountains and to stay home and to do some things around Denver.  One of the things we love doing around Denver is going to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  We love taking the kids there.  We have a six-year-old (almost seven), a five-year-old and a two-and-a-half year old.  This time Ethan, our six-year-old, was on fire.  He walked in those doors.  If you have young kids you may have experienced this, but it was like walking through the threshold of the doorjamb, followed by a tidal wave of questions.  We walk in…..Dad, how far away is the earth from the sun?  I’m like ummm……Google!  Dad, why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?  We went in the mummy room……so wait, that’s a real body there?  Mmhmm.  Am I going to get mummified when I die?  Uh-huh.  No, son, you’re going to eventually turn into dust.  In about five minutes we see him sitting on this bench and he goes I don’t wanna turn into dust!!  What happens to us when we die?  (These questions are all in the mummy room.)  Why do we turn to dust?  I turn to Kelly and tell her we’re never going into this room again.  We went to the dinosaur room.  Dad, what happened to the dinosaurs?  How did they get the bones out of the ground?  Were there dinosaurs in Denver?  Where were the dinosaurs in Denver?  What would happen if you got hit in the face with the tail of a dinosaur?  There was this big display of insects on the wall and there was this young couple sitting there and he ran over to them and said something and ran back to us.  They were looking at him, laughing, as he ran back.  We said, “Ethan, what did you say to those people?”  He said, “Well, I asked them what they would do if that huge bug flew into their face.”   Who is this kid??  I have so much respect for parents who managed before Google.  God bless you!!  I don’t know how you did it!  I am always on my phone……how far is the earth from the sun?  93 million miles!  My son thinks I’m a genius…..just because I have an iPhone and quick fingers.  He walked in there (to the museum) and it was just this world of wonder that he entered into.  Question upon question upon question.  A few of them I had answers for, but if you ever want to feel really, really dumb, I’ll let you take my six-year-old to the museum.  Just soaking it all in.  I was worried about how cold it was and how far away I had to park.  I walked in and I’m like how many hours are we going to be here.  We’re going to do this, this, this and this and…….the wonder.

I don’t know what’s happened, but something’s different in the way that my son walks into the museum and the way that I walk into the museum.  I know a little bit more, but let’s be really honest for a moment, the percentage of “more” that I know than him and how much knowledge there is to have there….I don’t know all that much more.  Neither do you!  We don’t.  Something happens in us.  We lose sight of, as we get older and older, the fact that we live in this God-bathed world.  We should wake up every day and enter into wonder. Enter into amazement.  Enter into this God, where are you at work? and God, how are you at work?  The truth of the matter is, friends, we don’t just lose the wonder when it comes to the museum.  We also lose the wonder when it comes to walking with our Father.  You can probably remember, if you’re a follower of Jesus, a time in your life where you were just alive.  Vital.  Relationship with Jesus that was just growing.  You can probably remember going to the Bible and feeling like the words were just leaping off the page.  I wonder what it would look like for us to reawaken the wonder.  To start the year in such a way where we say back to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, we don’t just want to put it on cruise control.  I want to walk with Jesus in the same way my son walks into the museum.  I want to ask a lot of questions this year.  I want to wrestle with truth from the Scripture this year.  The truth of the matter is, friends, that God is speaking, not just in this place, but when you open up your Bible in the home in the morning, or whenever you do it, or when you’re out on a walk, whatever it is.  When you’re sitting around a table with good food and good friends, God speaks!  The question is…..Do we hear?

Jesus tells this parable in Luke 8:4-15 about a farmer that takes some seed and he goes out into a field.  He starts to scatter this seed around.  It’s one of the only parables that Jesus explains.  He talks about three types of people.  Some people the seed falls on and He says the enemy comes and sorta snatches it away before it can start to dig in and get roots.  There’s other seeds that a time of testing or trial come and the word of God is just ripped away.  You may have been through a season like that.  You’ve been through a difficult health crisis, you’ve lost a job and you’re just walking in a season where you’re saying God, I need to hear your voice and it’s so hard to hear you right now because there are so many other voices and other things going on.  It’s just so loud.  There’s this third type of person where the seed starts to sprout and grow and it starts to do the work it’s suppose to do as seed and there’s weeds that grow in and there’s weeds that choke it out.  The interesting part about this parable though, is that I believe it’s mislabeled.  If you have your Bible, Luke 8 is where Jesus tells this parable and it’s entitled “The Parable of the Sower.”  I really think it should be called “The Parable of the Soils.”  It’s a lot more about the condition of the heart that the seed lands on than it is about the seed or the sower.  There’s two constants in the parable.  One is the farmer.  He is just throwing seed.  It’s constant.  Everybody’s life.  The other constant?  The seed.  The seed in this parable Jesus tells—-the story He tells to illustrate this deep spiritual truth—-is the word of God.  It’s constant.  The variable, the differentiator, of every person in this room is NOT whether or not God is speaking.  The question is whether or not we have ears and soils and souls that can hear His voice.  Jesus comes to the end of this parable and says this:  Take care then how you hear….  {Be careful how you hear, as if to say don’t lose the wonder.  Don’t come to the Scriptures as if it’s some textbook.  Don’t walk into church expecting it to be just like last week.  Don’t go on your run or your walk in God’s creation and assume that He’s quiet.  Be careful then….take care then….how you hear.} Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given.  {So the person who ferociously receives from the Word of God, they’re just going to want more.  You’ve been there, probably, at some point in your life.  Where you’re going God, you’re filling me up.  More. More. More.  Then Jesus continues…} ..and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.(Luke 4:18)  I think what Jesus wants to say is His words…..and one of the way we hear His words are through His Word.  It’s not the only way.  It’s one of the ways we hear the voice of God speak to us.  I think what He’s saying is…..it’s sorta like the closet door to Narnia.  Once you get in it, you just want more.  The truth of the Scriptures and the transformative power of the Spirit as He interacts with the Holy Scriptures just make God come alive.  The sower…..he’s throwing seed.  He’ll be throwing seed 365 days this year.  The question is…..Can we hear?  WILL we hear?  Here’s the main point for today:  Coming hungry to God is THE thing that frees me to receive supply (sustenance, nourishment, life) from God.  The way I approach God determines the provision I receive from God.  The seed is consistent.  The sower is consistent.  The question is my soul.  Do I have ears to hear?  Do I have eyes to see?  Here’s what I want to do.  I want to start 2016 by saying back to God, God, we want to come hungry this year.  Anyone else want to say that with me?  God, we want to come hungry.  We want to hear your voice.  We want to sense your spirit.  We want to know your love.

Part of coming hungry means we need to disconnect some of the other things in our life.  I love going to Rodizio Grill. They have all this meat on skewers.  The gauchos come over and ask do you want more?  What a dumb question!  Yes!  There’s also a great salad bar there if you’re into that.  Here’s the thing.  I would never, ever, ever eat lunch if I know we’re going to Rodizio Grill for dinner.  It’s not going to happen.  I don’t want to get there and see all this deliciousness and not have room for it.  Right?  I think a lot of us fill our lives with some STUFF that prevents us from coming hungry to God.  Some of it’s really good stuff.  Family.  Friends.  The good stuff in life.  Some of it’s just the junk…..the Netflix binge marathon that you nailed this break.  That’s twelve hours of your life you’re not going to get back, right?!  We fill our lives with so many different things that it’s hard for us to come hungry to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, ironically, because His breathe, His Word is what we really need to hear.  Your approach to God will determine your provision from God.

Here’s an invitation God gives in James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  These are all things that fill up someone’s life and don’t create the availability for Jesus to fill.  You only have a certain amount of room in your life.  You only have a certain amount of time.  You only have a certain amount of energy.  You only have a certain amount of head space—emotional investment.  If we fill it with this other stuff, what we really do is take space from the One who has words of life.  James says draw near to God.  Push into Him.  I don’t think it’s like God says well, if you’re going to draw near then I’m going to draw near….   I think what happens when we draw near is we realize that the King of kings and the Lord of lords is ferociously in pursuit of us every moment of every day. We just get to notice it.  If I don’t come hungry, I leave empty handed and that is absolutely devastating.  Even if we come to church…..that was a great experience….that was fun to sing songs….I sorta enjoyed the message…..but if I didn’t approach it with a heart of God, I need to hear your voice and God, I need to hear you speak, then we probably walk out the door unchanged.   Coming to God hungry is THE thing that frees me to receive supply from God.  The seed’s going out.  The question is….is my soul ready to hear??  If you’ve gotten to the end of 2015 and you’re like my life is just sorta on fumes, this message is for you.  If you’ve gotten to the end of 2015 and you go I just sorta plateau’d out and God, I don’t hear your voice anymore and I read the Scriptures, but it’s more duty than delight and I’m not getting a whole lot from it…..this message is for you.  If you’re stagnant in your faith….this message is for you.  The word is hungry.  Come hungry!  He meets you in that place.  Hunger is a dangerous thing.  It’s a dangerous thing to come hungry, because that means we need to trust.  We need to trust that He’s going to be sufficient.  We need to trust He’s going to be enough.  We need to trust He’s going to be good on his word.  We need to say I believe every word that you say you are….in the good times and in the hardest parts…..I’m coming hungry.  My availability determines my supply.  God, work! God, move!  Jesus told us the issue is some of us can hear and receive and some of us can’t.  The Word’s going out.  The seed’s going out, but some of us can hear and some of us can’t.  We were instructed to hear carefully.

I just want to paint a picture for you of what that might look like.  Turn to Nehemiah 8.  I want to look at how we can come hungry.  You’re going that’s great, Paulson.  Come hungry.  That’s the imperative.  That’s the command.  How do we actually do that?  Nehemiah 8 gives us a great picture of what it looks like to come hungry to the King of kings and the Lord of lords and to receive provision.  To come hungry and receive supply. Nehemiah has led, with Ezra, a group of people back to the ancient city of Jerusalem.  They’ve been decades in exile and they’ve been released to come back and to start to rebuild the wall.  The first seven chapters of Nehemiah are Nehemiah rebuilding the wall with the help of the people in Israel that have come back with him. In chapter 8, we get to this point where the wall is built and instead of throwing a party, the Israelites throw a church service.  You’re going……well, that’s strange.  And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. {This was a public place.  Back in this day, if they were in the temple, they would have had to say men only in the temple, women and children outside.  They pick a public place so that everybody could come around and hear the word of God.  Most estimates are about 50,000 people hearing this Scripture read.  That’s a good church service.}  And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.  So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.   {The first day of the seventh month just happens to be, coincidentally, new year.  It’s the civil new year for the nation of Israel. Happy New Year!}  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the mean and the women and those who could understand.  And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.  {A six hour church service to start the new year!!!  You think it’s hard to keep your kids unsquirmy for an hour and 15 minutes!  You got nothing on them, man!  They’re like we brought a snack…we’re good to go.  Keep reading!}  And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose.  And beside him stood {Pray for me!} Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, (and Hashum’s brother) Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.    

It tells you in verse 3 that they were attentive for six hours.  These are hungry people, right?  They are attentive and they stand.  They go God, we want to give you reverence and we want to give you awe, but we also want to position ourselves so that the moment doesn’t pass us by.  We don’t want to just sit back and hear the word without hearing the word.  We want it to soak in.  We want to walk in the museum and just have our hearts light up.  Coming hungry to the Scriptures means coming and listening attentively.  That’s the picture that they paint here.  They come hungry and they listen attentively.  Here’s the deal.  To listen attentively, I need to come to the Scriptures with expectation.  That God, somehow I’m going to meet you in this place. Your Spirit’s going to work in the words of the Scriptures to make your Word, your living Word, Jesus’ word, alive in my heart and my soul.  I think the problem most of us have and the reason we don’t come hungry is we don’t come attentively, because we don’t come with any sort of expectation that we actually get to meet with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  That should be devastating to us!!  We just heard the story so many times, right?  That’s the other hard part about being attentive.  We’ve heard the story so many times.  I know what happens in every chapter of John.  God goes yeah, yeah, yeah, but you don’t know how my Spirit’s going to use my Scriptures in your life today.  It’s a new day.  I’m living and I’m active and you can come attentively.  Coming attentively means we come hungry.  There’s space here in me, God, for you to fill.

At the end of the summer, I was on a run on the Highline Canal trail near Heritage High School.  I was coming back home and I had my music on and I was cruising along.  It was real early in the morning.  There was a guy standing along the side of the trail.  He was just saying, “Stop! Stop!”  I thought we had an incident on our hands.  We almost did—I almost had a heart attack!  He’s going stop! stop!  I popped out my earbuds and asked him what the deal was.  He goes turn around.  I turned around and on the side of the trail, maybe a foot off of the trail, stood one of the biggest deers I’ve ever seen.  Eight points on his head.  Eight fuzzy points on his head.  Massive deer standing right along the side of the trail.  He goes you ran right passed it.     I think we run right passed it.  I think in the busyness of life, we are on the proverbial trail, head down, we know we just gotta get through the day and we’re just going.  Here’s what I want to do today:  I want to say STOP!  Stop!  The King of kings and the Lord of lords is speaking.  He wants you to hear His heart.  He wants you to hear His voice. He wants to sing over you with His love.  Come attentive.  Come expecting that this God will speak through His Scriptures to your soul.  When you come attentively, you approach it differently.  And when you approach it differently and come hungry, you receive supply.  When we come full, we don’t hear anything and we blame it on God.  The seed’s going out.  The sower’s not different.  We are.

We listen attentively.  Verse 6:  And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands.   {This is just from reading the Scriptures.  The Levites are going around in the crowd and asking people hey, do you understand what’s going on here?  Do you understand what’s being taught here?  They’re going around and teaching on a micro level while Ezra reads and teaches on a macro level. But they respond with Amen, Amen.}  And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  This is important.  They don’t worship the Scriptures.  They worship the God who is revealed in the Scriptures.  This is an important distinction, friends, because sometimes as evangelicals we can be pegged as people who believe in the Holy Trinity and then we add one more.  They don’t worship the Scriptures.  They worship the God whom the Scriptures reveal, but when I come to the Scriptures with expectation, worship is always my experience.  When was the last time you got up in the morning, brewed a delicious cup of coffee, opened the Bible and assumed you were going to worship?  Not just reading.  It’s very different.  But entering in.  Hearing His voice.  Allowing Him to speak and creating space to actually hear.  This is what it means to come hungry.  We listen attentively.  God, we believe and have this expectation that you’re speaking.  We worship passionately, God, when you speak and when we hear your voice, we want to declare back to you You are good.

Let me give you three ways that reading the Scriptures and encountering the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, stirs our hearts to worship.  One, when we read the Scriptures, it reminds us of God’s nature and His character.  You might read something on a given morning like:  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)  And it’s the very morning you need to hear it. And you go God, thank you.  I need that because I’m in a place right now where I just don’t feel like You care and I can’t hear your voice.  My response when I read that has to be God, you’re amazing.  You’re great.  You’re close to the brokenhearted.  The psalmist in Psalm 16:11 writes:  You make known to me the path of life.  So a reading of the Scripture where we’re worshipful is going God, thank you!  In your presence there is fullness of joy.  Jesus, teach me how to walk closer, walk deeper, take your hand, hear your voice, because I want the joy that your presence leads to.  This is a worshipful reading of the Scriptures: At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  (Psalm 103:11-12) For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.   So you read the Scriptures and you’re reminded of your desperate need and you’re reminded of His gracious provision.  And at THAT intersection is worship!  If we can’t read the Scriptures and worship as we’re reminded of the nature and character of God than we probably have bigger problems than being a little stagnant or dry.

It reminds us of his nature and his character. It reunites us to ultimate reality….to truth!  That’s what it does. The world has this way of pushing in on me where I start to think my life is the only thing going on.  You have the same problem?  Let me tell you….you have the same problem!!  We all have the same problem.  It just happens.  We walk through a health scare.  We walk through a job loss.  We walk through pain and our walls start to close in.  Here’s what the Scriptures do:  it reminds me that God is at work in ways that I cannot see, cannot comprehend and have no idea of.  So I praise Him for it.  God, thank you for working in ways that I can’t see and for doing things that I’m not in control of.  Thank you.

So, it reminds us of God’s nature and character.  Reorients our life to ultimate true reality–truth.  And it reengages us in God’s invitation to follow Him.  When we read the Scriptures, we read it and hear, on almost every single page, invitation.  Come!  Come!  Lay down your heavy load and pick up my light burden.  Come and learn from me.  My yolk is easy, my burden’s light.  Come! Come! Come!  When I hear Jesus inviting me to come, my response is: Me? First, I’m in absolute shock and awe that you want me.  It’s worship!  As we read, we’re reinvited into the reality that the way of Jesus is open for me today.   Come hungry.  Come worshipful. Come and ask God prick my heart with the truth of the Scriptures.  Leave me changed because of who you are and the way you reveal yourself in your word.

Verse 9: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “this day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” {Whatever they read had made them weep.  There’s a lot of scholarly debate on why they were weeping.  We don’t know why.  It could have been because the light was shone on them for who they really were and they were just in this mode of repentance and God, we are undeserving and You are holy, which is absolutely true, so we’re weeping because of that.  They could have been overjoyed at hearing the words of God.  We don’t know.}  For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.  Then he said to them, “Go your way. {So six hours is evidently enough.}  Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord.  {Don’t you love it.  Today is holy.  Stop your crying.  Go have a celebration.  Go have a party and invite people who have nothing to come and to feast around your table.  So as you hear the word of God, respond with joy.  Respond with celebration.  Respond with generosity.  But whatever you do, respond.}  And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”  And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

It’s really interesting growing up in a time and age where we have the Bible in our pockets at every moment. Not only the Bible, but we have access to information at an absolutely unprecedented level.  I don’t know about you, but I love that.  I’m curious.  I’m a learner and I’ll chase a rabbit trail….what does that mean?..what does that mean?  Kelly and I will be watching a movie and hear something and we’ll be like..(makes motion of checking devices)…we’ll be nerding out….I didn’t know that.  I love information.  I clip about twenty articles a day on my “evernote app” in different folders for different times and different stuff.  I LOVE information….information….information!  You may be the same way.  We’re flooded with it!  It’s at our fingertips at every single moment in time.  We live in an information saturated world.  You know what that means?  That the value, because of the accessibility, of information is drastically diminished in our time.  It’s hard for us to discern what information is actually valuable for me and what information is just something I should accumulate.  I think a lot of us treat the Scriptures with the lens of this is interesting and let’s accumulate information, but we don’t ever plan on doing anything with it.  In Nehemiah 8, what you see is listening attentively, worshiping passionately and then responding obediently……to the Scriptures that say don’t just be a hearer of the Word, but be a doer.  Be somebody who practices what you hear.  Is that the way you open the Scriptures?  God, I’m attentive.  You’re going to speak and God I have that expectation.  I’m worshipful.  You’re going to reveal yourself and when you do I want to see it and respond by saying you’re amazing and you’re great.  God, whatever you ask me to do here, I’m going to follow because you’re God!

The last time I went on a plane, I sat down and I wasn’t in the exit row.  I was in the middle seat.  I decided to observe.  You know the stewardesses do the safety talk, where they tell you the plane might crash.  Here’s what happens.  Every single person on the flight, even the people in the exit row, are checked out.  They’re looking at the Sky Mall magazine.  They’re (flight attendants) sharing real valuable information and nobody hears it. I started to think:  God, how many times do I approach Scriptures in the same way?  I want to respond.  I don’t want to just hear.  They respond with repentance.  They allow the Word…..they don’t just read the Word, they let the Word read them.  When was the last time we did that?  They respond with celebration.  God, you’re amazing.  You’re great.  Let’s throw a party.  They respond with obedience.  We read about the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles in the following verses.  They’re like we should do that.  Boom!  They do.

We listen attentively.  We worship passionately.  We respond obediently.  That’s how we come hungry.  And if we’re not hungry, one of those things or multiple is missing in our life.  So the prayer this morning is God, would you create space that you then fill.  Would you create hunger that you satisfy?  Would you create a desire that you supply the answer to?  In all of our lives because that’s where growth happens.  For 2000 years, followers of Jesus have been gathering around this table.  They’ve been gathering around this food—this bread and this drink—to remind themselves that this God satisfies.  They’ve been reminding themselves that the deepest hunger we will ever taste has already been quenched by the King of kings and the Lord of lords when He walked Calvary’s hill and He gave His life for ours.  Followers of Jesus have been reminding themselves, when they come to this table, that they hear His voice and they experience His love.  Followers of Jesus have been reminding themselves at this table that His story of redemption is our story by his covenantal love and faithfulness.  We’ve been reminding ourselves to taste and see that He is good.  We’ve been reminding ourselves in this table for 2000 years that it’s okay to come starving…….and to leave satisfied. Because He gives us the supply we ultimately need with His body broken and His blood shed.  As we come to the table this morning, friends, come hungry.  Come hungry and leave satisfied, because it’s when we receive His supply that we get to walk in His joy.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, in this moment, we want to be attentive.  In this moment, we want to be worshipful, remembering the sacrifice that you’ve made and then bowing down and declaring our love.  We want to respond.  Lord, if there’s a word you speak to us, if there’s an invitation you give us, we don’t just want to be people who hear it and then walk away.  We want to be people who follow.  So we’re coming hungry.  We’re asking, Lord, will you meet us in this place.  It’s with great expectation that we celebrate your grace.  Your table.  Your life given.  Your body broken and your blood shed.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.