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The hope of Mars Hill since the beginning is that Seattle is a great city, and what it needs is a great city within that city, a city that loves Jesus, a city that believes scripture, a city that lives for the good of the whole city, not just its own self-interest. And so Mars Hill it started off as an experiment to see if we can build a city within the city that would love the city and seek a transformation of the city, as the city meets Jesus.

Welcome. Welcome. We are starting a new of the Bible. We’re in Nehemiah. If you’ve got a Bible, go there. We’re gonna finish up Chapter 1 and launch into Chapter 2 this week. I’ll go ahead and pray, and we will just get right to work. Have a lot to cover. Father, we thank you so much for an opportunity to gather together as your people, the church, to be a city within the city of Seattle, a city that has its citizenship ultimately in your kingdom. God, as we study your word tonight, we want to know something about how our relationship with you is affected by prayer and planning.

And so we’re asking to learn vicariously through the example of our brother and friend, Nehemiah. We’re also asking, Lord God, that Jesus would be the center of our attention, the subject of our devotion, and the object of our affection as we gather together this evening. And for that to happen, we invite you, Holy Spirit, to take the words that you inspired to be written in scripture and illuminate our understanding of them, as we ask this in Jesus’ good name. Amen.

And I’ll catch ya up to speed real quick in the Book of Nehemiah. It’s written about 445 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. And 141 years before that the Babylonians attacked the city of Jerusalem. May not seem like much, but Jerusalem was a very important city because it was inextricably connected to God’s name and reputation on the earth. It’s where God’s people lived together to study the Bible, pray, worship, to be the church as it were. And they were to be a city that shone forth to the other cities of the world of what life could and should be like through obedience and relationship with God of the Bible.

What happened when the Babylonians attacked is they destroyed the wall that encircled the city. That made God’s people very vulnerable, and actually left them in harm’s way. Many people were taken off into exile, the gates were burned. Life couldn’t be secured within that city. The church essentially was destroyed and devastated. As a result of this, God’s name was thought very little of among the nations and the peoples. And this had been that way for 141 years. New reaches Nehemiah in Nehemiah Chapter 1. He’s working not in Jerusalem, but in a capital city for a foreign king, essentially is a well-treated slave. And he hears of the news, the devastation of the city. And though this has been widely known for 141 years, it hits him in a new way. He’s emotionally distraught, broken, devastated. He weeps, he mourns, he fasts. He prays for three or four months.

The moral of the story is it is not uncommon for our lives to have aspects in which things are broken and devastated. Our city, our business, our church, our family can have aspects that are broken and devastated, but because things have been that way for such a long time, in this case it was 141 years, there’s a proclivity to think that it’s normative, it’s the way that things always have been, and it’s the way that things always will be. Nehemiah in understanding the situation of God’s people couldn’t tolerate it any longer. He wanted things to change. He needed emotionally things to change. And so he goes into this prolonged season of prayer. And his heart is to see the city of Jerusalem built up to be a great city, and in that city to have another city called the church where God’s people could worship together.

And so though his residence would be in Jerusalem, his citizenship was in heaven. And for us it is that same way. The New Testament says that our citizenship is in God’s kingdom of heaven, but our residence is here in Seattle. And we come to the Book of Nehemiah seeing a man who wanted to see a great city and a great church as a city within that city that represented God’s kingdom. And that’s exactly what our mission is as Mars Hill Church here in the city of Seattle, to be a city of God within the city of Seattle to serve and love the city, to help the city be the best city that it possibly can be. And our gift to the city is the truth of the Bible. That is the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And it comes to us at a very interesting and pivotal time in our city and our church’s history. Act 17 says that “God determines when and where we live.” And so God has us here as a people at this strategic time when our city is making the transition from being sort of a small town with a small town mentality to being a first-rate world class city. Some of the discussions and arguments that are going on in the city right now about zoning restrictions and about transportation and infrastructure and education those are all the conversations of a city that is, in many ways, rebuilding itself. And our church is in the process of, in many ways, rearchitecting and reengineering and rebuilding itself as well to do an even better job serving more people in the city and, by God’s grace, seeing more “Come to me Jesus.”

For that to occur, we’ll need to learn the two lessons that God has for us in Nehemiah this week, namely prayer and planning. And so we’ll pick up the story in 1:11, the second half of that verse. And this week what you’ll be reading are journal entries from Nehemiah. So these are very personal snapshots in what’s going on in his heart, in his life, and in his prayer life, and how God is answering his prayer. And just by way of excurses, I would submit to you that it is a good idea to be a person who journals out your thoughts and prayers to God and to keep those to share with children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, family and friends.

We are now looking at a man’s journal that is almost 2,500 years old. And the lessons that he learned, the prayers that he prayed, the answers that he received from God through his life of prayer are gonna minister to us. They’re gonna teach us and serve us together some 2,500 years later. So he says, beginning 1:11, the second half, “Now, I was cup bearer to the king.” That’s his job. Okay? And this is a very important, but a very dangerous sort of Jack Bauer-esque kind of job because here’s how it works: You’re working for a foreign king. Everybody wants to kill that king. The way they would kill the king is they’d slip poison in the wine. So the king would hire some guy who was either very bold or very stupid, fine line, and he would hire that guy to drink the wine before he tasted it. And if it was poisoned, you would know ‘cause that guy would die and then you wouldn’t drink the wine. That’s how it worked (Laughter).

So Nehemiah being cupbearer, that means he would go out and he would broker the deals for the best wine for the king. He would run the winery for the kingdom and the storage of wine. And then he would sample the wine. And if it was poisoned, he would die. So this is a guy with a little bit of courage. And a job that had some perks. You live in the castle, you got a little condo, things are pretty cool. You eat and drink very good. But there’s always that risk that you could die on the job. And one thing I would say too that we learn from the example of Nehemiah here, he’s in this exceedingly important role where the king’s life, the most important man in that nation, his life is literally contingent on the execution of Nehemiah doing his job. Okay?

And the question is well, how does a foreign slave like Nehemiah rise to the position where literally the king’s life is in his hand? And I would submit to you there’s a good but simple lesson to be learned here, that whether it’s in ministry or business, wherever you find yourself, on the job or in a ministry or even in a church or even in this church, there are two ways for you to rise up in positions of significance and importance. One is that God would call you and enable you and gift you to just rise up and be a leader, that people would be attracted to you, they would follow you, they would respect you, they would naturally be drawn to trust you.

The other kind of person is what we’ll call – a number one person, would be the first person who rises. Sort of a number two person is someone who isn’t going to rise on their own. They’re not a naturally gifted particular leader, but what they have is character, humility, faithfulness, dependability. They’re willing to humble themselves and serve and come alongside someone who is a leader on the rise. And by attaching themselves to that leader, as that leader rises, they rise as well. And those people need to have outstanding character. Nehemiah is that kind of man. He will never be the king. He’s a foreign slave. But his humility and his servant’s heart and his dependability and his willingness to be faithful and proven over what is undoubtedly a great number of years has allowed him to rise up to this very important position.

So I would tell you in your place of business, your place of ministry, your place of service some of you God will call to be leaders, some of you God will call to be helpers and servants and number two people, people who are worthy of respect because of your faithfulness and your humility and your devotion. Nehemiah is exactly that kind of man. He’s much like Joseph who did the same thing for the king in Egypt, the great and mighty Pharaoh. He rose up not because he was necessarily an immediately gifted leader, but because he was committed to helping and serving and coming alongside a very gifted leader, in fact, the king.

And so I want you all to see that God can and does use people who are humble enough to just serve, to not be in the limelight, to not get all of the praise, to not be the appointed leader. But what you’ll find is over those years of service Nehemiah’s character has been refined so that he too has been developed into a pretty skilled leader. And God’s going to use this opportunity to use those gifts. So it moves on. 2:1. In the month of Nissan, that’s three to four months after he started praying, in the 20th year of King Artxerxes, that’s about 445 BC, “When wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. And now I had not been sad in his presence.” Here’s what he’s saying: He’s been praying for three or four months. Okay?

What this tells us is that even if you’re praying in God’s will, you may need to persevere in prayer for God’s timing. Some of you may be praying for things that are fully within God’s desire for you. Get married, have kids, buy a house, finish college, start a ministry. Whatever it is. You know, get out of debt. Whatever it is. God may have you praying for things that are things that God would have you to be praying for, and then God not answering them. It’s good not to grow weary and lose heart and give up and throw in the towel but to wait because in addition to God’s will, there’s the matter of God’s timing.

He’s been persevering in prayer for three or four months. And he says, “I’ve never been sad in front of the king before.” That’s because the rule is when you go before the king, you’re happy. You fake it. Right? Some of you have a boss like this. You all – “How are you doing?” “Great. So glad to be here. Love that cubicle. How you doing (Laughter)?” You know, they want you to pretend that you’re happy. They want you to pretend that being with them is such a delight and a joy, and being at work is such a wonderful thing and “It’s so great to be here, part of the team. Yeah.” They just – they want you to be (Laughter) happy. Right? Now, the king, because he was so powerful and he was loved and adored like a god, when you’re around the king, you’re supposed to be happy. “How are you doing?” “Great. I’m with the king. Yeah.” You’re always supposed to be that way. And if you’re not that way, the king will kill you (Laughter). So that’s further incentive, right, to be happy (Laughter) or at least to fake it.

But he is sad. He’s going before the king, serving him wine, and he’s sad. “And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you’re not sick?”’ This can be nothing but sadness of heart. See, the disposition of his heart is that the city is destroyed, that the city needs him, that he’s far away from his home town, that the church needs to be replanted or planted there. People need to learn about God. The Bible needs to be taught. People need to be brought home. There’s a lot of work to be done. And the disposition of his heart is broken. He shares the heart of Jesus whose heart is broken over any city where the church is not strong and he is not worshipped and the Bible is not taught and God’s people are not encouraged and conversions are not happening.

Jesus’ heart breaks or any city like that. That’s why Jesus himself, like Nehemiah, wept over Jerusalem. So Nehemiah has Jesus’ heart for that city, the same heart God intends for us to have for our city, one of brokenness and sadness and grief, that we love our city, and we want our city to meet Jesus, and we want churches, including our churches, to grow and be strengthened. He goes before the king, and the king says, “You have a very sad face.” It’s because his heart is so broken that he can’t fake it anymore in his demeanor. And there’s a good despair. There’s a good brokenness. There’s a good grieving. I’ve shed a lot of tears for Seattle. Some of you have as well. We have many desires for this city to be a great city and for our church to be part of the way in which God blesses this city. The king looks at him and says, “Why are you so sad? You’ve never been sad in my presence. What’s going on?”

I think, too, he’s probably stressed out. He’s probably spent a lot of nights sleepless, sketching out plans. I understand this. I understand what it’s like to have seasons and moments of darkness because what you feel God has called you to is far beyond you. Your heart is so broken and God’s call is so real that you can’t stop thinking about it. You can’t stop praying about it. You can’t stop preparing for it. And he says, “I was very much afraid.” I appreciate this. Sometimes the false image of a leader is one who is courageous and fearless and bold. Nehemiah says, “No, I packed a roll of toilet paper just in case (Laughter). I was a little scared going into this deal.” And that’s the truth, that leadership and taking responsibility and asking people to follow you and raising money and taking risks it’s a fearful thing.

And then now we’re at the place as Mars Hill with millions of dollars of real estate, massive number of employees, families are fed off of this church, and children are raised in this church. And marriages come together in this church. And the Bible says, “I need to stand before God and give an account.” And like Nehemiah says, very much afraid. Very much afraid. It’s a heavy responsibility, and he gets that. And so he says, “I said to the king ‘Let the king live forever.’” That’s a good start. “King, it’s not you. You and me, we’re good. I like you. We’re fine. It’s not you. There’s something else. Why should not my face be sad when the city, the place of my father’s graves, lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire? Here’s why I’m bummed out. My home town’s destroyed, I’m far away from home. Somebody needs to go there and do something.”

This is a burden for his home town. Okay? Seattle is my home town. I grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota. That’s where I was born. As soon as my folks could afford a full tank of gas, we left and we came to Seattle (Laughter). We got to Seattle. I was little. I was young, just a couple years old. I was a little itty-bitty guy. I don’t remember anything but living in Seattle. That’s really all that I remember. I’ve lived here since I was very young. I love Seattle. I don’t really like it, to be honest with ya (Laughter), but I do love it. And I’ll tell ya why I don’t like it. It’s very expensive, it’s very self-righteous, you can’t drive anywhere, and the weather’s horrible. And I’ve heard people say things like “You’ll get used to it.” No, you don’t, really. I (Laughter) – it’s like getting up every day and stubbing your toe. You’re like “Some day you’re gonna like that.” “No. Probably not, actually. It’s probably gonna hurt every day.”

I hate the weather. Some people say, “It’s not so bad.” It is, really. It truly is (Laughter). It’s horrible. If God came to me and said, “Where do you want to be?”, I’d say, “Sunny, fruity drinks with umbrellas in ‘em (Laughter). I’d like to have the top off my Jeep for more than 15 minutes a year (Laughter).” There’s some certain things. I would like a place that had a hammock. You know, there’s a few things I would vote for. I mean, this last year we had mudslides. And the earth can’t handle that much rain. That’s too much (Laughter). You know, that’s too much (Laughter). I was down in San Diego a few weeks ago speaking at a conference, and Pastor Jamie was with me. We rented a Mustang convertible. We’re driving along the waterfront in San Diego. I looked at Jamie. I said, “Why are we going home? Why? Why are we going home?” I couldn’t think of any reason (Laughter), other than God’s call. That’s it. Right?

Do you want to go to a city that doesn’t know Jesus, is really self-righteous, that doesn’t have much building, they’re really expensive, it rains all the time, you won’t see the sun? Hmm. Not really. Not so much. No. No. I don’t (Laughter). I don’t. But, again, it’s God’s call. And Nehemiah’s calling God to a town that’s – it doesn’t have a church, it doesn’t have a well-built infrastructure. This city needs a lot of work. The church in the city needs a lot of work. Everything’s gonna take a lot of time and energy and money and risk. I remember when God called me back to Seattle, he spoke to me audibly. He told me to marry Grace. We were in college. And to move back to Seattle and to start Mars Hill. And so my heart is here, and I love it here, but it’s a lot of work. But because of God’s call, you do what God’s called you to do.

And you read Revelation, which says that “When Jesus comes back, there’ll be sunshine every day.” You just hang in there (Laughter). At least that’s what I say. “So the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’” I love the king. The king’s just like – he doesn’t talk about his emotional state. “I’m so sorry. Can I hold you? You know, did your inner child get a spanking? Does it need a cookie?” None of that (Laughter), you know, sort of talk. It’s just “Okay, what do you want?” Bottom line. “I’m the king. Tell me what you want.” Goes on. “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” He stops and he prayers. What’s he been doing for three or four months?

Response: Praying.

Praying. What’s he gonna do? Pray again. You say, “Why? Did he dial the wrong number?” No. You got to pray a lot. You can’t pray too much. Okay? You can’t pray too much. First Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Keep on praying. Now, some prayers are long, some prayers are short. Sometimes we make too much of prayer, we make it too complicated. Let me break it down for ya. God’s a father. We’re his kids. You can talk to your dad any time about anything. Sometimes you talk to him for a long time, sometimes you just give a little “Hey, dad.” Just a quickie. Just a little short prayer works fine also. Sometimes it’s you pouring out your heart crying. Sometimes it’s just saying, “Thanks.” There’s all kinds of prayers. Long, short. Doesn’t matter. God’s a father, loves you. Feel free to talk to him. Prayer didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It made more sense, I should say, when I became a dad. I got five kids now. The oldest is nine.

And as a dad, my kids will come talk to me about all kinds of things. Little things, big things, long conversations, short conversations. And I love ‘em all ‘cause I love my kids, and I want to be in their heart, in their mind, in their life. I want to speak to ‘em. I want to listen to ‘em. I want to build a relationship. I care. And it’s not so much that I care about what they want to talk about. I care about them. My kids come to me, they’re like “I did a puzzle.” “Yeah.” Now, normally that would not, you know, fire me up, you know, puzzle completion (Laughter), but it’s my kid, so I’m excited. They need to tell me.

My daughter’s three. She looks like Cindy Loo Who. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Itty-bitty cute thing. She’s like a photocopy of her mom. She’s totally a doll. She has a massive number of wardrobe changes throughout the day (Laughter). Unbelievable.

She just keeps changing outfits depending upon her mood and her activities. And it’s Lego time, color time, you know, it’s princess time, it’s rock star time. I mean, she just goes through wardrobe changes. And she’ll just continually come out to me. She does a – I can’t do it (Laughter). She does this (Laughter) “How do I look?” And I’ll say, “You – oh, my golly, that’s an unbelievable outfit. That – everything goes together. You look glorious for three. You look like you’re four. You look so big”, you know (Laughter). I tell her that. “Thank you.” And she just sort of walks away. That’s all she needs. Just a minute. Just a second, you know.

Sometimes my son Zac though he needs hours of theological conversation. My son Calvin he needs to tell me all about getting to the next level of Shrek 2. “Dad. I’ll let you be Gingie. You can throw the candy cane. We’ll go kill the bad guys.” I mean, he needs to talk to me about this so we can have a relationship. And your kids are different, and they need to talk to you at different times about different things. And it may not seem like a big thing to you, but the worst thing a dad could ever do is say, “What? Do you think I care about Jell-O? I don’t care about Jell-O. I don’t care about puzzles. I don’t care about Play dough. I’m very important. I’m very busy.” That’s a bad dad. A good dad says, “Cool. I love you. What do you want to talk to me about? If it’s important to you, it’s important to me. I’m listening. I’ll speak. We have a relationship. I care. I’m connected.” God’s a father. Jesus says to pray what? Our father, dad.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year God’s available to listen to his kids, talk to his kids. Prayer because of the Lord Jesus’ intercession, him taking away our sins, we are able to speak to God at any time, as scripture says, “To approach the throne of grace boldly. Talk to dad about anything. Now, I tell you that because sometimes you may believe these myths like “He’s too busy, he’s got more important things to do, I got myself into the mess, I need to clean it up. You know, I need to do the right thing here. I don’t need to bug him.” Talk to him. He loves you. He’s the prefect father, and he wants to help. He wants to hear. He wants you to invite him into your life. He’s already there, but he wants you to be willing and have a heart of reception.

Nehemiah prays throughout the book repeatedly. It’s one of the great threads that weaves the whole book together. Here’s a quick prayer ‘cause certain decisions in life and certain opportunities in life are strategic. You miss it, it’s gone. So in those moments you still got to pray again. And this can be even a quiet prayer. You’re going into a meeting, pray. You go into a job interview, you’re praying silently. Going in to take a test in college, pray silently. She’s cute, you’re scared, you’re hoping for the best. You know, pray. Pray a lot, you know (Laughter). Things that matter, pray on your way in. You’re sitting in a meeting at a place of work and you feel compelled to speak, you could pray silently, “God, give me the right words, give them ears to hear.” Short prayers work because God’s listening and he cares.

He sends up one last prayer, “God, give me the right words, give me the right spirit, give him the right attitude, don’t let him kill me. Amen.” A quick little prayer. Good one. “And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king’,” he says humbly. What he doesn’t say is “I’m a Christian. God told me you need to obey.” He doesn’t do that. Some of you do that. Do not do that to the non-Christian. Right? How many ladies have met this guy? “God told me you’re supposed to marry me.” “Well, Ducky, if he calls, I’ll let you know. You know, he hasn’t told me anything.” Some people like to pull out the “God told me” card. Don’t pull out the “God told me” card. Pull out the “God has convicted me of this, I’ve been praying for you, and if the Lord lays on your heart and you agree with me, then you should proceed in this direction.” Looks at his non-Christian boss, says, “If it pleases the king. If God should give you the same understanding that he’s given me, then here is what I am requesting. So I prayed to the God of heaven, and the king said – and I said to the king ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight – ’” how’s he been doing at his job to this point? Good.

He’s saying, “Boss, you know I love ya, you know I’ve been faithful, you know I’ve worked hard. You know I’ve been right at your side. You know I’ve never asked for anything. I’m not that Christian who reads the Bible on company time because I’m supposed to be doing my job. I’m not the person who leaves tracks in the bathroom to annoy his coworkers.” Right (Laughter)? When you go to work, you go there to?

Response: Work.

Work. And if you do a good job and they know you love the Lord, they’re gonna like the Lord ‘cause you’re doing a good job. If you go there and be a jerk or Jesus, it’s not gonna move the ball down the field at all (Laughter). Right? If you’re the Christian T-shirt, tracks in the bathroom, reading your Bible on the job, forwarding all the funny, you know, Internet jokes about church that they don’t get, no, that’s not gonna help anything (Laughter). What he says is “Boss, you’re not a believer, I am. We don’t worship the same God. You know I’ve done a good job. You know I’ve worked hard. You know I never ask for anything. I’m humbly making a request here. I’m not trying to bring my religion into my workplace in an inappropriate way, but you’ve asked. And I know you care about me, and you know I love you. And here’s really what I’m burdened for. Let me tell ya what’s on my heart. If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, the city of my father’s graves, that I may rebuild it. I want to go back to Judah, I want to rebuild the city, I want to build a church, which is the city within the city. I want to get out of my job.”

Now, here’s what’s particularly amazing about this ask. Ezra Chapter 4 – and Ezra and Nehemiah in the Hebrew Jewish Bible they’re actually one book. In our Christian Bible we bifurcate them into two, but it’s actually one book. They go together. Same content. In Ezrah 4:7 through 23 the request was made to go back and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and then to also rebuild the church in the city within the city for the worship of God. And this very king set forth an edict saying, “No. I forbid it. There will be no rebuilding of the city, no rebuilding of the gates or the walls, no rebuilding of the houses of worship. Nowhere for God’s people to meet. I forbid it.” Here’s what he’s asking. “I want you to reverse your foreign policy.” Okay?

Now, this is a guy who essentially mops up the White House. All right? That’s where he is. He’s mopping the White House, happens to go into the Oval Office mopping. The president looks at him and says, “You look bummed out. How come?” “I don’t like your foreign policy in the Middle East (Laughter). I feel like the way you’ve handled Israel is just all jacked up (Laughter). I would like to be an ambassador. I would like you to send me to Israel. And I would like to rebuild the city. And I would like to be appointed as the person to negotiate peace talks and to rebuild the city.” The mop guy. That’s a big ask, right? That’s an unusual request. “And I know you said we would never do this particular foreign policy thing, but I think you were wrong. And I want you to reverse your policy. And I want you to go on CNN and MSNBC and CSPAN and I want you to say, ‘My foreign policy was totally jacked up, and thankfully the janitor set me straight.’” All right?

Either you believe in God or you need meds, right? This is an incredible request. This is an unbelievable request (Laughter). Now you know why he’s very much afraid. It goes on. The king said to me, with the queen sitting beside him – it’s one thing to diss the king. It’s a whole other thing to diss the king in front of the queen. This is a big risk. (Laughter) The king said to me “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” Don’t you love the king? “What do you want? How long will it take? How long are you asking off of work?” “So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.” It doesn’t tell us the time, but in Chapter 5 I think it’s Verse 14, and in Chapter 13 I think it’s Verse 6, how much time off did he ask for? Twelve years (Laughter). You got to pray to get there, don’t ya?

“What do you want?” “Twelve years off. You might die. Sorry about that. I want to leave this town, go to another town. I would like to be an ambassador. I’d like a promotion. I would like to rebuild a city, kinda be the mayor, build a church there to worship a God you don’t like, and I would like all the people to come there and worship God. And I’d like that city to obey the Bible, to teach all the other cities, including your city, how they should be. That’s not gonna be a problem, is it (Laughter)?” For a slave (Laughter)? I love this guy. “And I said to the king ‘If it pleases the king.’” Here he’s gonna lay out his plan. What’s he been doing for three or four months? Praying. What’s he been doing in that time? Planning. Prayer and planning go together. Many Christians don’t know this. Some of you are more charismatic. All right? So you don’t have a plan.

You say, “I want to lose weight, I want to make more money, I want to finish college, I want to get married, I want to buy a house, I want to do ministry, I want to disciple people, I want to Evangelize people. I want to change the world.” “What’s your plan?” “I’m praying about it.” You just pray. Prayer’s good, but prayer should lead to a plan. Some of you say, “It’s not spiritual to have a plan.” Sure it is. As soon as the king asked Nehemiah “What’s your plan?” Nehemiah just starts rattling off his plan because during his three or four months of prayer, he wasn’t just praying and crying. He was sketching out a plan. How many of you your strength is praying, you’re not planners? You say things like “I’m just trusting the Lord.” What that means is “I have no idea.” That’s what it means (Laughter). That’s Christianese, right? Translate that for ya (Laughter). “Whatever the Lord leads.” What does that mean? “I have no idea where I’m going.” That’s what it means (Laughter).

How many of you are prayers, you pray a lot, you pray sincere, you pray good, you pray hard, what’s the plan? “Hmm. I don’t know. Not so good with numbers and calendars.” And how many of you are planners, not prayers? You go to Home Depot, you get all excited, and you go to, excuse me, Office Depot, Office Max, get all – “Look at that. Look at that. There’s administrative tools. There’s software. Excel. New laptop. Portable printer. PDA. Blackberry. Thank you, Jesus, I can sync with my Outlook. It’s just (Laughter) like the Holy Spirit entered my body, and it comes together in this wonderful way.” You get all excited. You make plans. You execute plans. You got files. You got notes. You got OCD (Laughter). You just do. Excel’s your friend. You love that stuff. Charts, graphs. “QuickBooks. I love QuickBooks (Laughter).” You love that, but you don’t pray. And so it all just plehh, you’re like “Oop. I better pray about it now.” You pray after you’ve jacked up everything with your crummy plan (Laughter). Or you pray like this: “God, here’s the plan. Do it. Amen. Go do that, God. I have a great plan. You’re welcome”, you know (Laughter).

The key is to pray so you know what God wants for you, and then pray that God would reveal to you a plan, and then move forward praying through all the aspects of that plan and executing on the plan. Prayer and planning go together. Prayer and planning go together. My wife’s a prayer, I’m a planner. Sometimes God does that. It’s frustrating for everyone, but it’s better (Laughter). But it’s better. She’ll be like “Did you pray about it?” It’s like “Ugh, yeah. I’m a pastor (Laughter). I did.” So for me what I’ve learned is I got to pray before I plan ‘cause my first instinct is to plan. I love facts and figures and data and calendars and budgets. Love all of that. Makes me feel safe. It’s like a blankie (Laughter). I feel comfortable. But I need to pray before I plan. So what I’ve started doing is I take prayer walks, usually in the woods, so I can talk out loud, and people don’t think I’m nuts ‘cause there’s nobody there.

I’ve also learned that I like to pray in my car while I’m driving, like to go on road trips. So I’ll put my wireless, hands free cell phone earpiece in. I’m not talking to anybody other than God, so technically it is a call (Laughter). But that way when I’m driving and I’m talking to myself, people don’t look over at me like “Hoo-hoo. That’s ___ talking to himself.” It’s like “He’s on the phone. He is. He’s on the phone with God (Laughter), and he’s praying.” So I like to prayer drive. I like to pray walk. I’m just not that guy who can sit in the Lotus position all day, mm, mm, download. I’m not flexible, I’m not patient. I need to be doing something. So I walk. I go for prayer walks, and I pray. And I bring a little notepad, and I’m jotting stuff down, and I make my plans out of my prayers. And then I pray over my plans, and I pray through my plans. And I’ll tell ya what. As a church, we need plans. Individual ministries in this church have plans. And then you also for your life, you need plans.

Some of you say, “Well, I don’t know how to make a plan.” Well, find somebody who’s good with money or dieting or exercise or real estate or ministry or discipleship or whatever it is. There’s a lot of people here. Find somebody and ask them “Hey, help me make a plan. Help me learn how to pray to make a plan.” Some of you need to learn to pray before you start your planning, and they go together. He’s been praying for three or four months. He’s got a plan in place. The king says, “What do you want?” He says, “You know what? I got a plan.” And it’s a good thing you had a plan, right? Otherwise, he gets one shot with the king. “What do you want?” “I don’t know.” “Well, great. Drink some wine (Laughter). Good luck”, you know. Verse 7: “I said to the king ‘If it pleases the king – ’” here’s his plan. “Number one, let letters be given to the governors of the providence beyond the river, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah. First thing “I can’t just go from the capital down to Judah, Jerusalem. I’m gonna need you to endorse me, make me an ambassador, give me, you know, a letter stating that I come under your cover, that I’m protected by your forces, so I’m not messed with and thrown in prison, incarcerated. Right? I need support. I need you to publicly endorse this. Reverse your 13-year public policy. Give me permission to go do this job.”

The second thing he needs, he says, “And a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s force, that he may give me timber to make beams. I’m gonna need a lot of wood. It’s very expensive. I’m a slave. I don’t have a lot of extra wood. You re a king. You have your own private forest. You have your own private lumber company. I want that lumber. You know who made those trees? God did. He wants those trees, king. Give me those threes.” He’s asking for the king’s private forest reserve. He’s asking for the best lumber. He’s asking for the king to pay for this. Does king worship his God? Nope. But he’s asking the king to fund this 12-year plan to build a city and a church that he has forbidden to be built and to allow his right-hand servant who protects his life to be released from his job to go do it and to do it under his own protection and to do it at his own expense. It’s a good thing Nehemiah had a plan.

He goes on. “And make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple and for the wall of the city and for the house that I shall occupy. Here’s what I need from you, king. We need to rebuild the wall so we can build the city. We need to rebuild the gates to protect the people, keep the bad guys out, let the people who are open to God come in. In that town we’re gonna need to build a church. I need ya to pay for that church. And also I’m gonna need a house. I’d like a house. I need a place to live and work and plan and strategize. So while you’re at it, throw in a house for me.” Major request. I think sometimes we don’t pray in accordance with the size and capacity of our God. I think in so doing we may be thinking “Well, I’m gonna save him from looking bad” and all the while we make him look really bad. Nehemiah’s not just asking so that Nehemiah would be rich and wealthy and successful. He’s asking that God’s name would be made great, that people would come to know the god of the Bible, and that people could worship God, and they could live as a city within the city, they could live as the church.

What’s the king gonna say? “And the king granted me what I asked for (Laughter).” You’re kidding (Laughter). We call t his a miracle, right? We call this a miracle. “Why did this happen? For the hand, the good hand of my God was upon me.” Who gets the credit? God. Some of you fear success, prominence, power thinking “You know what? I need to be humble.” Well, let me tell ya if you don’t aspire to greatness, to significance, to achievement, you’re not being humble. You’re being arrogant because you’re worried about what other people think of you. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to greatness. There is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve and succeed and influence and lead. The only problem that God has with that is if you’re arrogant. That’s all. That’s all.

Nehemiah is a very humble man. We’re reading his journal. Here’s what he says, “I was scared to death, I prayed a ton, and God did a miracle.” That’s not arrogance. Arrogance would be “God picked me ‘cause I’m so gifted. Look what I did. I put together the right plan. I sold it to the king in the right way.” Nehemiah takes no credit at all for what God has done. Is God working through Nehemiah? Yes, but Nehemiah knows that God has revealed the need, God has broken his heart, God has given him entrance to be before the king, God has prompted the king to ask him, God has given him the plan, God has answered every single one of his prayers. God changed the king’s heart to reverse 13 years of foreign policy decision and pay for it. It’s a miracle. It’s a God thing. The only thing you and I need worry about is not significance or success or status, but humility. That’s all. Because “God opposes the proud and he gives grace to the humble”, scripture says. Nehemiah’s a humble man. He’s been humbly serving a non-believing king for a great number of years, and now God is going to lift him up to a very important position.

I would hope and pray that you would all aspire to great things. To success, to influence, to leadership, to prominence not so that your name could be great, but the name of Jesus could be great. Not so that you could do great things, but you could help a lot of people. Not so that people would think you were amazing, but so people would learn about your God and how he can work through even simple, regular, humble ordinary people like Nehemiah. He’s not a pastor, he’s not a priest, he’s not a religious professional. He’s a slave. He’s a slave, and God’s gonna use him to pull off something that hasn’t been accomplished despite many failed efforts for 141 years. I’ll tell ya what. I fully believe that this is how God does work. This is the first church I’ve ever been a member of. All right? I was meeting this last week with a few pastors of churches much larger than ours, and one of the guys said, “So, where did you get your management background to run the real estate and the technology and the staffing?” I said, “Well, I grew up behind a strip club, I was working on a curveball, and then I went to college, got saved. I was a bell hop, I can carry a lot of things, and now I pastor a mega church.” In the middle was a miracle.

You know, guys who can throw a curveball and carry things tend not to run large staffs of anything. I am here fully by God’s grace. I know it. Every day I wake up, I look in the mirror, and I’m just like “You couldn’t find an adult (Laughter)?” I mean, it’s just – you know, I’m kinda surprised. I’m kinda surprised (Laughter) that this is what I’m doing, to be honest with ya. I mean, I don’t have the management training, Bible college, seminary – I don’t have that kind of background that would have enabled me to do this job. Jamie, our – I didn’t ask him. Sorry, Jamie. It’s always good to apologize in advance (Laughter). Pastor Jamie who’s our executive pastor, I mean, he got saved in this church, and he’s just risen with the organization from being a non-Christian, pot-smoking kid to I think a magazine recently named him Church Executive of the Year. And when you go from pot-smoker, you know, who listens to Bon Jovi and thinks it’s good music (Laughter) to – true story (Laughter) – to Church Executive of the Year in a couple years, that’s God. This is what God does. God – because God is funny. That’s how he is (Laughter), and he likes taking total misfits and using them so that everybody know who did it. There could be no confusing about who gets the glory when he’s using a bunch of wing nuts to get something done (Laughter).

I mean, our elders meetings we’re all looking at each other “We should definitely pray some more”, you know (Laughter). I mean, that’s how we feel. Totally overwhelmed like Nehemiah. Knees shaking, man. Like “Mm, this is a big thing God’s called us to”, but hey, if God wants to show up, that’s cool. I’ll be the kite in the hurricane. That’s fine. And Nehemiah gets that. And you know what? If we’re honest and we look at our life and we understand that we’re all sinners and prone to self-destruction and folly, that God would us, boy, it’s a humbling, overwhelming, wonderful thing. And throughout the book repeatedly two of the great themes of the book, prayer and then thanking and honoring God for the results. That’s humility. Here is one of the occasions where he says, “God did it.” I’ll tell ya what. God’s the one who shows up. God’s the one who’ll get things done because your skills, your talents, your abilities, your burdens, your objectives, your opportunities, your relationships, your resources, your prayers, your plans they’re all God.

He may be working through you, me. Still God. Still God. And I love that humility about Nehemiah. And this is really an illustration of – Proverbs 21:1. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord. He turns it wherever he will.” Nothing is too big for God. Nothing is too hard for God. Prayer and planning though are how God chooses to work through his servants. So let me hit both briefly in closing. First, let me talk a little bit about prayer. I think one of the things we have not done as well as we could or should in the history of this church is to inform you on how to be strategically praying. Okay? As elders, we’re convicted about that. I apologize. And so what we’re launching on Mars Hill Church.org in the next week is a prayer blog that the elders can update at any time and keep getting before you prayer requests of “Here’s where we’re going, here’s what we’re doing, here’s what’s going on, here’s what we need, here’s how God has answered prayer, here’s how we’ve been blessed.” We want you to get inside information. As the church grows and spreads, I know it’s harder to know exactly what’s going on here. Some of you are prayers. Some of you are – you like to pray.

Response: Whew.

You’re prayers, right? Okay. Now, for both of you, train somebody else (Laughter). Apparently we’re running short. Okay (Laughter)? So, okay, we believe that God is alive. We believe that God hears and answers prayer. We believe that in prayer God’s hand moves and our heart changes. It’s good on both accounts. And so we’re gonna get before you specific, updated, regular, strategic prayer requests. And secondly, we’ve got a plan, but the plan is in pencil. I’m gonna share it with ya. Okay? We’re working on it. We’re in that three- to four-month cycle of Nehemiah where we’re praying. We’re praying for God’s plan. I think we’re getting close to it. And the elders and the executive elders are praying it through, but we’re asking you to join us. And here’s where we’re at as a church. Okay.

There’s – who – depending upon who you ask, there’s between three and roughly four hundred thousand Protestant, non-Catholic churches in America. Those that are 2,000 or more there’s about 1,300. Those that are 6,000 or more, which is right where we’ve gone to in one of the least churched cities in America, it’s a total miracle, there’s only 100 at that level. The next level is 10,000 people. There’s only 40 churches in America that are 10,000 or more. What that means is we’re in that gap from the 100 largest to the 40 largest churches in America. What that means is there’s not a lot of people to ask what we’re supposed to do now. We’re sort of off the map. So I’ve been traveling, talking to people, asking questions.

I met with two guys last week that have churches of 20,000. Huge churches. And just like “Okay. I do not know what’s next. What do you do? What do we need to know? What do we need to learn? You know, what can you tell us? Help.” And they had some great insight, some great wisdom. And so we’ve been noodling on this plan, seeking counsel for this plan, praying for this plan. The big barriers we face are pretty obvious. One is simply we don’t have the seats. Right? We don’t have the seats that we need. We – it’s like the issue of Nehemiah. We need more land so the church can meet in a place and have a home and be God’s people in that place. Part of what makes it difficult in this city is zoning. Some years ago the city passed an ordinance that outlawed the building of churches over 20,000 square feet. It’s a discriminatory zoning requirement, in my opinion, because it doesn’t apply to a lot of other organizations and institutions. Just to churches.

Now, President Clinton, when he was in office, passed a law that basically forbid the zoning discrimination against churches that I think is the case in the city of Seattle. Now, I’m not an attorney, so my legal advice is good for nothing, but those who I talk to say, “There is a legitimate case here. That the city and county law violates the national law, and if that were contested, that probably could be overturned.” So we’re talking about do you really want to sue the city though? Is that the best outreach mechanism (Laughter)? “We love the city. Jesus loves you. You’ve been served.” That’s sort of a – you’re like “Eh, I don’t know if I can get that to synch up so easy.” So we’re trying to find less confrontational, more go “If it pleases the king” kind of ways to see if we can (Laughter) work around that. ‘

In the meantime, one of the issues too that’s difficult for us is the pace of our growth. It’s constant turnover because there’s so many college students and singles and people coming and going. That means about half of the people in this church weren’t here last year. Welcome. And it means that we’re growing. Since we really started growing 4 years ago, we’ve gone from 1,200 to 6,000 in 4 years. Okay? And so – and we grew by 1,000 people last month. The 5:00 and 7:00 services here at the Ballard Campus we actually turn people away at various services upwards of 100 at a time. We don’t know if they’re Christians or not. We just said, “Hey, we got no more seats. Good luck, you know, find another service that has a seat. We can’t get any more people in the building.” And so that’s where we find ourselves, with seating and facilities limitations. We’re also hemmed in by this zoning restriction.

So here’s our solution, it’s three-fold, to serve the whole city. One, we want to serve all the Christian churches. So through Resurgence, which is our theological and conference cooperative and our Acts 29 church-planting network, this year we’ll give about $1,000,000.00 away to help other churches. So it’s not just all about Mars Hill. Secondly, we’re gonna keep planting churches through Acts 29, as we get qualified applicants. Right now there’s 200 or 300 young men who have applied to plant churches. We’re assessing them. We’ll have a boot camp here just for the ___ sound that will include 30-plus potential candidates to see who we’ve got for church planters to keep planting churches. And then thirdly, we’ve gone to a multi-campus approach saying, “Well, maybe in God’s providence if we can’t get everybody in one building, we could scatter to a whole bunch of buildings.”

So here’s some things I would give you for prayer. One, pray that in the coming years we still get between 3,000 and 5,000 seats. Pray we get it either in Seattle or south to be a regional hub somewhere more accessible than Ballard. Love Ballard. I’m not saying we’ll leave, but this is not the most strategic place to get to unless you live next door. It’s just not a great place to get to regionally. We have over 1,000 people on the east side who come to services here, and they have to leave the day before (Laughter). I mean, it’s just – it’s not a direct route. Okay? So pray we can get more seats, rental or purchase or building. We’re pursuing every single conceivable option. In the meantime, we’ve gone to three and now we’re looking at four campuses. I’ll give you specific prayer requests o each.

This campus, Ballard, 1,350 seats, 4 services. Next fall it looks like we’re gonna need to go to six services here. That includes three evening services on Sunday nights, so we’ll have to adjust some service times, and an earlier service during the week to capture the video to distribute it to all the campuses because we’re out ahead with the technological curve. There is no way to do dual streaming, high-definition broadcast feeds to our campuses. It doesn’t exist. We’ve looked at million-dollar TV trucks, everything else. It doesn’t work. We don’t have a guaranteed safe option, so we need to capture Thursday, Saturday night. Something like that. You can definitely pray about that, where we should put the earlier service, capture it so the video can go out to all the different campuses on Sunday.

Furthermore, what’s the big problem at the Ballard Campus? Parking. Parking. Parking. Okay? People come in, they say, “Boy, your people are in good shape.” “That’s ‘cause they walked five miles to get to church (Laughter). They parked in a totally different zip code.” Just behind the Ballard Campus it just so happens they’re building a 500-car parking garage. They’ve got the big hole dug, construction is underway. Little Bay Root is actually becoming a shopping mall right next door. And so we’re in negotiations with the owner of the property about the potential of leasing, using, borrowing, renting, taking 500 (Laughter) of those parking places and using them for kingdom purposes on Sundays. And so he’s a very nice guy, does love our church. We’ve got a very good working relationship. He’s been very good to us, the owner of that property. So do pray for that because that would definitely help a great deal if there was a way to rent those spaces. That will allow Ballard to have a little bit of breathing room.

We started a year ago in Shoreline – North Seattle. We would drive up the video on Sunday morning, kind of like the Bourne Supremacy. Put a guy in a little car and make him drive like crazy to get it up there (Laughter). There’d be a band, and we’d just set up at the Crista Ministry Campus to see how it went. Two hundred people showed up a year later. Today they have 650. It’s growing very fast. Lots of babies. That whole “Be fruitful, increase the number, fill the earth, so do it” verse, they said, “Dibs.” They’ve just taken that one as their own (Laughter). They’re a baby-making machine up there (Laughter), and it’s growing really fast. So we need to get a permanent location for the Shoreline Campus. And there are two services on Sunday morning.

We’re in negotiations with a church that is considering joining under Mars Hill, allowing us to take the building, renovate it. Churches are already grandfathered in under zoning exceptions. So we can take preexisting churches, retrofit them, put in sound, light, video, and then plug them in as Mars Hill campuses. That’s what we’re hoping to do in the north end. That is a complicated negotiation for Pastor Steve. Pray for him. We’re trying to get that building nailed down for the fall. We also have people coming from West Seattle. Our friends at Doxa Church and such gave us that building. It’s 50,000 square feet. We’re renovating 40,000 square feet of it right now. It was given to us. It’s about a $5,000,000.00 gift. We’re doing about a $2,500,000.00 renovation.

We’re meeting temporarily at Chief South High School. No midweek, no offices, no classes, nothing. Just “Hey, let’s get it started.” And we’re – it’s amazing. We had 750 this week. It’s grown very fast. The building seats 850. We hope to get in for 
Easter. And we’ve already outgrown it, and we haven’t been in it yet. That’s where we’re at. So we’re gonna need to go to two services there almost immediately. There is no parking. We’ll run shuttle busses. And that’s how it’s gonna need to go. You could pray for west Seattle. Construction is fast and furious. We hope to get it open for Easter. And next fall we hope to go to two services. Maybe also an evening service there, and possibly an evening service in Shoreline.

We’ve got a building in Wedgewood, north of the University of Washington. Southern Baptist gave it to us on a sweetheart deal. Offices are there. We’re talking about opening that as a campus with two mornings and possibly an evening service. Seats about 250, has sufficient parking. If we could work out the childcare option there. It’s all very (Laughter) complicated. The hope though is to expand from seven services in three locations to thirteen services in four locations in six months. Okay? So just pray (Laughter). Pray. Pray for God’s plan. If Jesus doesn’t want us to do this, I don’t want to do it (Laughter). You know what I’m saying? I mean, I don’t have that threshold for pain.

If this is what Jesus wants and it’s using every facility and maximizing every opportunity and enabling us to see 4,000 more people worship Jesus, that’s what we’re gonna do. That’s what we’re gonna do. Two things I would tell you in prayer in conclusion. A couple – I’ll say this first: The reason I’m telling you this, I’m Nehemiah, you’re the king. And all the resources are with you. The money, the prayers, the service, the gifts, the talents, the skills, abilities they’re yours. You sit in the position of the king. You can make it happen or you cannot make it happen. It’s up to you. So we’re asking you to give cheerfully, sacrificially, regularly. We’re asking you to serve, to go through the Gospel class, to become a member, to get plugged in, to find your place, to use your skills to help us to see the good news of the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus go forth in our city.

The whole point of this project in Nehemiah was that God’s name would be made great. We know that the name of God is Jesus. There is no name under heaven by which we can be saved but the name of Jesus. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We are about Jesus. We want to know that people are given every opportunity to meet Jesus, to worship Jesus. If we can scatter throughout this very tribal city into various pockets and neighborhoods and areas, and if we could send people who love Jesus and the good news and the work of Jesus and the forgiveness of sin and the reconciliation that Jesus gives, if we could send that to every aspect of our region and be like Starbucks and have one on every corner, that would just be perfect (Laughter). That’s what I’m talking about (Applause).

So you’re in the position of the king. You’ve got the resources. We need you to make it happen. That also means that you’re gonna need to accept video as our inevitable future. Now, I’ll sell it in this way: If we capture it early, I could sort of do like a John Stewart Mind of Mencia, throw in clips of men on the street, and make the video a little funnier (Laughter). And also, too, I don’t want to die. I have this real strong commitment to breathing (Laughter). And I’ll tell ya that where it’s going, I am the limiting factor for the forward progress of Mars Hill Church because unlike Jesus, I can’t be everywhere at the same time. We can’t do 13 services and have me there. I’m big, but I’m not that big. I can’t go to that many places. You know, I can’t be there. And so this is our future. This is how it’s going to have to be and it’s gonna have to go.

And I’ll say that I’ve hit my threshold. I found my max. The end of last year I was pushing it, apparently blew out my adrenal glands. I’ve been sleeping two to three hours a night for a few months. Okay? On Sundays I’m held together by stubbornness and Red Bull. That’s how I make it (Laughter). That’s not a good plan for a long season. I’m dealing with a really good naturopath who’s got me taking vitamins, minerals, supplements, hippie food, all that stuff (Laughter). It seems to be going good. I’m sleeping a little bit. I’m starting to bounce back. My energy levels are coming back. I’m slowly on the mend, but what he’s telling me is this – and he loves Jesus, he’s a good guy – he says, “Either you take a Sabbath or God’s gonna impose one on you (Laughter).” Those are no fun. They’re not like vacations (Laughter). They’re more like “Ugh.” It’s not the same. Okay?

And so I am – I can preach four times on Sunday and then I tap out. And usually by the seven I say stuff that’s not right (Laughter). I think that’s why that one’s growing. We don’t even put that one on the Internet ‘cause I already got enough critics (Laughter). So you can pray for my health, my family. I’m in that season of praying and planning. “Okay. How can I still be a good husband, good father, good Christian, breathing, bipedal, upright, sane, have my underwear inside my pants, not totally lose my mind (Laughter)?” You know, all those things that matter to me. “And how can I serve Mars Hill? How can we see the Gospel go forward? How can we help reinvigorate some dead and dying struggling churches, plant some more churches, encouraging some churches from other denominations? How can we do all of this?” It’s gonna take a lot of prayer so that God will go before us and do a miracle. It’s also gonna take a really wise, strategic plan that I can be here for 40 or 50 years.

I love this church. And my problem is I preach seven nights a week, and I would just go until I died. And then I’d tell Jesus you said, “Hi (Laughter).” But that’s not a great plan. So I’m trying to be more wise and prudent and realistic with my own capacity. We’re at this place where it’s a wonderful opportunity, guys, and I’m so excited. The city is rebuilding. The church has never taken root here. The Gospel has really never caught on. And like Nehemiah, we’re here at this wonderful, strategic time to be the church, to help build the city, to love the city, to serve the city and to give our gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the city of Seattle and to see it ring out to all the suburbs, rural areas and extend very far. Right now we have people driving from Olympia, Chehalis, Centralia. We have people coming from Issaquah and North Bend. People coming all the way up from Arlington and Mount Vernon every week to Mars Hill.

We have community groups that are starting to split in places like Auburn. People that are 40 minutes away. What that means is there’s an opportunity to go there and to start campuses, and we want to do that. It’s gonna take a lot of prayer, it’s gonna take a lot of planning, it’s gonna take a lot of participation. And for those of you who have the resources of the king, we need everybody on board. I love you guys. Please do be in prayer for us. All this is in pencil. We’ve got a few more weeks to figure it out, then we got to pull the trigger for the fall. So the clock is ticking. I’ll go ahead and pray. For those of you who aren’t Christians, you say, “What does this got to do with me?” That’s why you’re here. You’re here to get saved meet Jesus. That’s why. That’s why we’re here, so you can meet Jesus. You’re a sinner, you’re gonna die and go to hell. Period (Laughter). Let me just get to it.

I mean, “I’m a good person.” Well, that proves my point. You’re not. You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner, we’re a sinner. We’re all sinners. We all have fallen short of God’s glory. We’ve all separated our self from God. None of us deserves God’s love, forgiveness, kindness, compassion. None of us. We’ve made a mess of the world, made a mess of our own lives. We’ve devastated and hurt those around us. We are not good people. But God’s a good God, and God had mercy and compassion and kindness on us. He came as the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived the life we could never live, the life without sin. He died the death we should have died as our substitute to pay the penalty of sin, which is death. Three days later he arose. And here’s the good news: Jesus Christ is alive and well today. He will hear your prayers. He will change your life. He will forgive your sin. He will be your God. He will lead you into your future. When you die, you will see him face to face and spend forever with him in his kingdom.

It’s all about Jesus. And Jesus Christ is extending a hand of friendship to you, and all he asks is that you confess your sins and that you receive his forgiveness. And he will change you, and he will forgive you, and he will love you, and he will walk with you, and he will encourage you. And he will listen to your prayers, and he will improve your life. And he is a wonderful, great, glorious, good God. He’s the God of the Bible. If you are a Christian, it’s a good time for you to be praying for yourself and your church, that you and we would have God’s plan and that God would bless that plan. When you’re ready, you can give tithes and offerings, you can partake in communion, which is the remembering of the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus, his broken body and shed blood. And then we’ll sing. They’ve got a great set. We’re gonna gather together as God’s people to make the name of Jesus great. And it’s an honor to be your pastor. And I love you guys with all my heart.

Response: We love you too.

And I would just ask that you be in prayer for us so we can do the best job that we possibly can. Okay? Thank you. Lord Jesus, thank you that the tomb is empty, that you are alive and well. That your name is great, and it’s easy to make your name great because it is so great. It is my prayer, Lord Jesus, that through this church you would get much glory, that we would help the other churches, be they Assemblies of God or whether they be Presbyterian or whether they be Calvary or whether they be Independent Bible. Jesus, if they love you and believe the Bible, may we treat them as family and friend and not foe. May we encourage and love and pray for and serve them too so that the whole church would win, so that the whole city would be blessed. Jesus, we pray as well for Mars Hill Church, that you would answer our prayers by giving us the right plan individually and corporately for us as a people.

We pray you would go before us and make your name great, that you would do a miracle like you did in the days of Nehemiah. That would you provide the real estate, the buildings. That you would provide the covering and the legal opportunity, that you would provide everything that we need to be your people, to be a city within this city to help make this the greatest possible city that it can be. And so, God, we thank you.