What is your fondest memory in church?
George Barna, the sociologist of religion, notes that most people form their religious identities by the time they are thirteen years old. For many people true worship is what they experienced as children. For me that was in the 1970’s. I remember the revivals and the packed churches and the weirdness of a lively church because the Sunday church was dead. I praise God that He gave me a second chance to see revival through Victory Baptist Church. God help our churches in America and may we never be one like that.
I got the idea for todays lesson from a preacher who went to a Lutheran Church in the 1960’s where the attendance was 3,000 or better. He said they had to arrive at church at least 20 minutes early to get a seat, they sat up folding chairs in the aisles. Many of the people look back on those times as the glory days. But a visiting Pastor said that he was there in the 60’s and said that those folks looked back on the glory days of the 1950’s. We’re always looking back.
And that’s where our text is at today.
Don’t Look Back
Isaiah 43:18-25 KJVS
 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Nostalgia, for which I and any other person my age is usually guilty of isn’t helpful and it’s not true to the Bible. It oftentimes makes us unhappy. As Christians we need to remember God’s work in the past, but never lose sight of what He’s doing now. Because it’s every bit as wonderful.
Right now we seem to be in a terribly dry dessert. What will be your memories of church during this period of your life?
What’s something amazing that you’ve seen Him do during the past year?
For me it’s the longing in my soul for spiritual things. That sounds bad, but it’s what drives me and for that I’m grateful. We’re most often not thirsty until we’re dry. And then we really want a drink and when we get it it’s amazing. Perry Noble’s church, which just expanded their building, had 14 saved last Sunday. In the midst of this dry time they’re growing because thirsty people are showing up. And that can happen anywhere, but we’ve got to offer the drink, because some people are clueless that church is where it’s at.
Don’t Be Silent
 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.  This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.  But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
Somebody or something will praise God. But when the people of God are silent, it makes us weary. I don’t want to be guilty of that. God has provided water to drink in these dry times. But where do we find it, and how do we share it?
Have you ever felt dry and thirsty spiritually. Be honest. Why or why not. Why do you think the thirst isn’t in many churches today for wanting to feel the Spirit move in their congregations.
Don’t be Inactive or Ungrateful
 Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.  Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
Usually when people talk about the “good ol’ days it’s about the sacrifices people made to have the churches that we have today. They gave of their time, and their money and they would have never considered laying out of church. They had too much invested in it to turn their back on God. But now that the church building is built, we’ve stopped building the body of Christ. That is a sign of ingratitude. We’re failing to remember that were it not for someone else’s work, we’d not have what we do. So what are we going to leave the next generation.
Don’t be Afraid of the Future
 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
Jesus reminds us to live each day knowing that God loves us and forgives us for all our failures. The Bible’s not filled with perfect people (save One) and that was Jesus. It’s filled with people who failed God, but stayed faithful.
Are you prepared to stay faithful to the church.
God’s prophet Isaiah spoke to a people demoralized and in exile in Babylon. They had suffered much—the towns and farms of Judah were destroyed, Jerusalem was in ruins and the Temple, God’s House destroyed. The land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was now in the hands of others who did not know the Lord God. God had brought the people out of slavery in Egypt into the land of milk and honey but now they were exiled from that Promised Land. It seemed as if God had abandoned them. But the words of the prophet went out: DO NOT REMEMBER THE FORMER THINGS, OR CONSIDER THE THINGS OF OLD. I AM ABOUT TO DO A NEW THING, NOW IT SPRINGS FORTH, DO YOU NOT PERCEIVE IT? God’s mercy and salvation were not only past actions, but present and future—and what is coming, the Lord says to the people of Israel —and us—is greater even than God’s work in the past.
Just like it still is. God’s word still brings us hope! It’s okay to remember the past, but don’t discount the future. We need to focus on how God sustains us even when the times are dry just like He did Israel when they fled Egypt and for forty years, God provided for them. Suffering almost always results in a closer relationship with God. And by the same token, good times seem to cause us to stray.
When the temple was destroyed the people had to gather together in small groups, in congregations, to study and learn God’s Word. All that was left to them was the Scripture. The people gathered around Torah, God’s instruction and learned in a more personal way of God’s loving intention for them. The suffering of the people resulted in a closer relationship with God and a renewal in their trust and dependence upon God.
We remember what God has done for us as well. Our Christian faith is based upon God’s faithfulness in the past which we remember and also make personal. We look back to the Old Testament—and Isaiah’s prophecy came to pass—the people marched back through the desert home to Jerusalem. And after almost two thousand years in exile from AD 70 to 1948, the Jewish people have found a home again in the land of Israel. What God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 1900 years before Jesus is still God’s promise 2000 years after. For us as Christians we look to Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the whole world. In Jesus, God Himself paid the penalty for our sins. In Jesus, God came into the world to be one of us; nothing human is foreign to this God. In Jesus, God is with us now and will be forever. God will never leaves us or forsake us.
So what are we going to focus on now?
What do you want to see accomplished in our church. I personally want to see the Sunday School classes grow because if this grows, so will the worship hour.
What would you like to see happen in the church?
Isaiah 43:1-2 KJVS says
 But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
That’s a promise to Israel, but to us as well.
God going to bring us through. But as He does, we don’t want to make Him weary.