What we need
is an Extreme Makeover! #2
(Second in a series of 3 messages from Nehemiah)
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
Editor’s note: The series “Extreme Makeover” was first delivered at a conference of Pastors and Ministry Leaders, hence some of the specific directives to the group assembled. The core message, however, is totally applicable to every member of the Body of Christ and therefore appears here on the Website. May you read with an open heart, asking God how this should affect you where you are. jzv
There is no one, who is being earnest and honest, that wouldn’t admit the need for an Extreme Makeover in the Church today. Would you agree with that or can you possibly believe you’re there already? That you have arrived at godly perfection? Well, you’re still here on this planet – that’s proof positive you too still need some changes to be made! :-)
Here’s one particularly exciting facet about the Word of God: It is inexhaustible! There are so many different ways we could preach from the Book of Nehemiah. We all can re-visit scriptures that have just been exegeted with great anointing and yet can find something more (new, fresh) that we’ve never seen before! Only God can have that kind of input of meaning, His Word appealing to every believer at every level of spiritual maturity – there is something nourishing for each one of us. When Jesus taught, little children loved Him and at the same time, doctors and scholars were astounded. That is the Word of God! It’s not merely the skill of the presenter; it’s the Life that comes from the Word of God Itself.
We have been looking at this marvelous Book, reminding ourselves that Nehemiah is from an awesome background. His father, Hacaliah, knew how to wait on God and receive enlightenment from God. I really believe that we, the Church today, are on the brink of a fresh enlightening. That doesn’t necessarily mean a word you’ve never heard before. We say (almost demand), “I want to hear ‘new truth.’ I’ve heard this all my life. I want to hear something ‘new.’” Now, “new” can be something you finally understand! :-) It’s like something you suddenly comprehend or grasp its significance. It’s a fresh revelation to you that causes you to proclaim: “Alright! I get it! I can embrace that!”
I really believe that the Body of Christ is right on the pinnacle, right on the very edge, of having new expressions come forth from God. Especially, I think leaders who are students of the Bible, are going to begin to see things they haven’t really perceived before. The time is coming soon when fresh revelation is about to burst forth! They may have spoken the words before as Bible-truth, giving mental or academic assent or lip-service to a thought or concept, but have not truly perceived them. Revelation is going to precede the return of Jesus Christ!
Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, “You can tell so many things – you can see the signs (or signals) in the natural – but you don’t really understand what’s happening in the spiritual realm” (see Mt.16:1-3). If we would just open our spiritual eyes, we could discern the signs. It should upset us when we turn on the news. Every time we look at a newscast and watch the horror that is in our streets, it should upset us. It should not defeat us! But it should upset the norm. Things are no longer “normal” – or “as usual.” Things in Israel are not “as usual.” We’re no longer doing business “as usual.” So, if you’re doing “business as usual” in your church, you’re boring! :-) because we just can’t do it (anything) the same old way anymore. If you’re looking for books on “How to” – there are scads of them! – vast spiritual libraries filled with “how to do this” and “how to do that” and “how to do the other thing.” How many of you know how frustrating it is to have done all the prescribed “do-s” and it just hasn’t worked? But this is a new day! I’m telling you, it’s a new moment in history! We just have to be willing to see it.
Nehemiah, in the palace of Shushan (Chap.1), is one who asked the brothers who came to visit him from Jerusalem, “How are things back home? How are things now that the exile has ended? How is it with the ones who have returned to the Promised Land?” And the report given to him was extremely negative.
That is so parallel with the way things are today! If I would say to you, “How do you see things in society right now? How are things really going where you live? How do you think things are in our beloved United States? How do you think things are going in the world?” there isn’t one of us that would say, “Oh, things are great! Couldn’t be better!” On the contrary, we have to admit, “They are not really very good right now. There have been some walls that have been torn down – they’re barely half up. Things just aren’t very good.”
But, that is not the end of the story. Hallelujah! If we think it is, or if we simply expect God to do everything on our behalf – things we actually are capable of doing for ourselves – we’re mistaken. You see, God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He will enable us to do things that are beyond us, but He isn’t going to do what we want just because we say, “in Jesus’ Name.” That is not a spiritual magic wand! “Lord, I ask You to do this – in Jesus’ Name.” If we’d listen more carefully, we’d hear Him say, “That’s a great plan. Where do you think you got the idea? :-) I am imparting,” says God, “into you, the creative nature of My Being.”
We sing the songs and have been: “I was created to praise. I was created to worship. I was created to give myself back to You.” Well, now we need to fulfill the purpose of our creation.
Nehemiah heard the report of their situation and was greatly distressed. It’s interesting what our response is to the stresses of conditions in our world. Our response is to converse about it – not with God but with one another! “My, my, my. Things are just… so… I’ll tell you, you just have to wonder how much worse it can get!” Instead of being moved by the Holy Spirit within and motivated, we… Well, why do you think He filled you with His Spirit? So you could say, “Shon-da-makai?” :-) Or, is there… could there be… a higher purpose?
We are always trying to “pray the Holy Spirit down.” Down from where? He must really get weary of us! :-) He already came down (see Jn.20:21,22; Ac.2:1-4) – He’s inside you (1Jn.2:24-28) – and instead of recognizing His presence and allowing His Lordship to arise – we’re always trying to pray Him back down!
Many years ago, I’d pray: “Oh, Lord, come. Come, Lord, come!” At some point, I heard Him clearly say: “I already did!” :-) That just shocked me! I thought, “Oh, You mean I can’t pray for You to come down?” He said, “Why don’t you allow Me to rise up from within?” Oh, my Friends. If you could only hear this truth! If we could understand or learn how to exert or release the power that is in just one room filled with believers – you have no idea what we could accomplish! I honestly mean that! The Holy Spirit is without limit – except for us!
And Nehemiah began to weep. He cared so deeply, he wept over the report. And then he prayed. “The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah… I asked the Lord, O Lord God of heaven (1:5) the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands, let Your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear...” We sing it: “Is it true that You are mindful of me? That You hear me, when I call?” Nehemiah is saying the same thing – or, we’re singing what was in his heart.
“Let Your ears be attentive and Your eyes open, verse 6, to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You, day and night, for Your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against You.” That would preach by itself – just that much. It’s not “them” and “you.” It’s “we” and “us.” Nehemiah identifies with them.
“Lord, WE have sinned. We have acted very wickedly toward You. We have not obeyed Your commands, decrees and laws that You gave Your servant Moses. Remember, Lord, the instruction You…” When we say, “Lord, remember…” what are we really doing? We are putting stones of remembrance in the middle of the Jordan River (see Josh.4). We are reminding us! He has not forgotten!
“Lord, remember the instruction you gave Your servant Moses, saying,” verse 8, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to Me and obey My commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for My Name.” Nehemiah is praying God’s own Word. “They are Your servants and Your people, whom You redeemed by Your great strength and Your mighty hand. O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your Name. Give Your servant success….”
Every leader, every believer, needs to say that right now. “Give Your servant success!” Oh, Lord, give Your servants success.
Let’s look for a moment at Titus 1, verses 1 and 2. “I Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Whew! That alone is a mouth full! Remember – look for the “little” treasures in His Word. Notice here in Titus the order Paul uses. We learn so much simply by reading more slowly. “I Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” I do not mean to diminish the 5-fold ministry offices in the Church by pointing this out. We need them all, but God had to come in through the backdoor with this “revival” of the office of apostle because denominations have tried to vote it out! Apostle – prophet – evangelist – pastor – teacher – the five-fold ministry (Eph.4:11).
It takes this 5-fold ministry to bring maturity to the Body of Christ (Eph.4:12-13). We need them – all five of them. We really have no vote about the matter, but we have tried to veto some of them in a lot of denominations. They labeled it “Old Testament.” So, this is the New Testament we’re reading in Titus. Because we didn’t believe in apostles we’ve had little or no order in the Church.
Following the revival of recognizing apostles, the Church went to another extreme when we started recognizing the prophets. Many people stopped praying for themselves and began a practice of seeking out the prophets for personal direction. As a result, many of these prophets stopped wearing garments of humility and put on crowns! And they became – clairvoyant! Then the Church split over that because there were so many false prophecies that were not being fulfilled. Hello?
Remember this – if you forget a lot of other things you read here, remember this: one of the usual tactics of the enemy is, if he can’t talk you out of something, he will escalate it until you overdose and end up despising it! (see 1Thes.5:20).
I’m old enough to remember going through what we’re now coming back to once again. :-) The apostolic mantle DID come to the Church in my lifetime already. And it was a very powerful time. But then these apostles became known by their glowing reputations – and they vaunted, or boasted – and strutted their authority, but were without God’s anointing. Nothing is more dangerous than un-anointed authority in the Church!
Also, in my own lifetime, we had prophets – who rose and fell. And then evangelists came on the scene. Oh, my! Did we go through the evangelists! They became our heroes. They would come into our dead churches and light the fire! Of course, we didn’t bother to check out which fire… :-) Everyone would jump up and down, and whoop, and holler, and so on. It wasn’t that so many souls were being saved in these meetings; it was just there was so much excitement. And they grew very wealthy – very lifted up in pride – very choosy about where they would go. Are you okay hearing the truth? We must face our past failures and see the hand of the enemy in all of that, in the excesses, in the pride, in how easy it was for “spiritual” people to fall under the influence of – ego.
Do you know why I so pointedly tell these things? Because I think I’m the only one that will! :-) You may THINK them, but not many people speak about the past failures of the Church. My brother Judson used to say to me, “Sis, you tell it.” :-)
Regardless of what man has done in the past to bring shame into the Church, do not despise the 5-fold ministry – we need it, but we don’t need them heralded or exalted one at a time! We need them altogether, functioning as God designed.
The cloud that preceded the rain was the size of a man’s hand. “I see a little cloud! It’s the size of a man’s hand!” (1Kgs.18:44). Elijah says, “That’s big enough!” Look at your own hand – you have five fingers on a single hand. One hand, all the fingers working together. That is by divine design and that is how your hand operates most effectively and efficiently.
If we can get the 5-fold ministry to operate – all at once …. Are you there? Can you grasp this illustration? Look at your hand. How well does it function without the thumb? If we can get all five offices to function together in the Church, they’ll bring the rain of Revival – the rain of refreshing – the rain of harvest. There will be the reaper overtaking the sower (Amos 9:13). It will happen, Church, there’s no question about that! The only question is, “When?” And that’s the part we affect.
Continue reading in Titus from the King James Version, 1:1,2: “I Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness in hope of eternal life which God [listen!] which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
Now this time, let’s read the same passage from The Message paraphrase: “I, Paul, am God’s slave and Christ’s agent for promoting the faith among God’s chosen people, getting out the accurate word on God and how to respond rightly to it.” “…rightly respond to it” – Don’t you love that? That’s your calling. Paul continues, “My aim is to raise hopes by pointing the way to life without end. This is the life God promised long ago – and he doesn’t break promises.”
Comparing various translations will always enlarge your comprehension. From the Amplified Bible – undoubtedly influenced by a woman because it’s so wordy! :-) [You know, if you read through the Bible and select the Amplified, credit yourself for twice! :-) ] – Here is Titus 1 once again: “I, Paul, a bond servant of God and an apostle (a special messenger) of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, to stimulate and promote the faith of God’s chosen ones and lead them on to accurate discernment and recognition of and acquaintance with the Truth which belongs to and harmonizes with and tends to godliness, 2(Resting) in the hope of eternal life, [life] which the ever-truthful God Who cannot deceive, promised before the world of the ages of time began.”
That’s the God we serve! That’s the God to Whom we pray! When we truly come to that recognition, that understanding, we’ll come back to fervent prayer! “The effectual fervent prayer” (Jas.5:16b) is one that rests in, and relies on, Who God is. It is the prayer of one that knows Who God really is! It isn’t a matter of haphazardly throwing something up in the air toward heaven – “Hey God, if You don’t mind doing this... Listen, if You’re busy, it’s okay, but…” That’s the way I hear so many people pray. “Dear Lord, if You will bless this…”
IF?? Is there no promise in The Book that He will? Is there no promise that “He who called you will accomplish what He called you to do” (see Phil.1:6)? You don’t have any promise? If you truly have the promise – you can’t have the question mark! No "ifs!"
We’ve just read it – 3 times! “God who cannot lie!” “God, who doesn’t break promises!” “God, who cannot deceive.”
Go to Part 2