Category Archives: Calling

1 Tim 4.11-16

Title: The Servant’s Success Comes through Faithfulness

Text: 1 Timothy 4.11-16

CP: Serve in such a way that you are an example to the believers of how they should conduct themselves.

Intro: Did you see this week’s article from the NY Times by Elisabeth Dias: “The Apocalypse as an ‘unveiling’: What religion teaches us about end times.”

She writes: For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah, even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.

Well, to be sure, all of this is for us to gain a picture of what end times will be like and be reminded that they’re coming. Lk 21. 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

So yes, we’re near the end times, but this pandemic isn’t the apocalypse. But according to the Lord, these events are warnings or signs of the end. These ‘episodes’ are opportunities for people to come to Christ. They are opportunities for people to see this as a forewarning of the apocalypse to come. That’s why we have the book of Revelation. Just as the Old Testament folks were told of the Christ and given opportunities for repentance – opportunities to trust and follow God, we likewise, are given information and opportunities. By the way, the word apocalypse is the Greek word we translate Revelation.

So how are we to live in this age of pandemics and wars? Do we live in fear? You and I as believers have an advantage over others who walk in darkness. We know who is in charge and that we don’t have to live in fear. Jesus says in the Matthew passage a couple of verses later that the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations. So, what’s more, important for us to ask is if that is happening. Are we busy doing what we’re supposed to be doing? I would say we must be busy about our work – taking the gospel to the nations – no matter the circumstances surrounding us.

This has been the topic of our study over recent weeks: service, ministry. But, to serve people without sharing the Gospel or without the underlying goal of sharing the Gospel falls short of our goal of letting people know that we’re all sinners, we all need forgiveness and God has provided that forgiveness through His Son Jesus. It’s falling short of what we have been called to do.

So, with this in mind, I’d like to turn our focus onto the individual: You, me.

In our study in 1 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy in his work. Let me cut to the chase – Paul tells Timothy that his success as a servant comes through faithfulness in what he does, in how he does it and in his consistency to that work.

I’ve outlined it this way – The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness:

  • In what you do (11-12)
  • In how you do it, and (13-14)
  • In your consistency to it (15-16)

Our context is godliness, so keep that in mind as we make our way through this passage on the servant and the task; This theme of godliness really flows throughout the letter. In 3.14-16, Paul states his purpose in writing this letter, to encourage Timothy to teach the church about who she is, how she should behave and what it is she believes. And what she believes is that her godliness comes through the atoning work of Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection. That godliness then comes through the believer’s life in what he does and how he acts.

Don’t forget this: in all of your ‘doing’ it doesn’t make you godly. Let that sink in! This doesn’t mean you don’t do the work of the ministry, but rather that your ministry flows from your godliness – that was the focus last week.

In 4.1, Paul points to the false teachers and their false godliness, achieved by what they do and don’t do. And then in the passage we looked at last week, Paul encourages Timothy in his personal godliness: to nourish himself through the word of God and exercise his godliness daily as he lives out his life.

We’re still in the context of godliness, Paul now brings this section to a conclusion. It is a transitional paragraph to more teaching on how the church should behave; on how they should be godly in their behavior toward each other. So, Paul focuses now on Timothy’s work – his service. And just what is that work? We see it in v11, v13, and v16: teaching.

Timothy is encouraged to faithfully serve through his teaching – which combats the false teachers and directs the believers in a proper direction and understanding.

So, these are the three sections

The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness:

  • In what you do (11-12)
  • In how you do it, and (13-14)
  • In your consistency to it (15-16)

Transition: let’s look 1st at The Servant’s Success come through faithfulness:

  1. In what you do

exp.: Timothy is commanded here: imperatives; there are actually 12 imperatives from v6-16; there are 10 in our text (11-16); I’ve lost some of you kids; you guys know what an imperative is: clean your room; take out the trash; It is a command; Paul is giving his orders to Timothy; command and teach these things; ‘these things’ is repeated (6, 11, 15, v 16 pronoun); this is the job you’ve been assigned – do your job!

But Paul anticipates problems for Timothy, more problems of what he’s probably been dealing with; rd v 12; We see in v 11-12 two areas of focus:

  1. A Focus on others: Command & Teach these things
  2. A Focus on Oneself: Let no one despise (think against) you, but set the example (‘be the type’); tupos; type, be the type of Christian you’re teaching them to be.
  3. In 5 ways: Speech, Conduct, Love, Faith, and Purity.

Our focus this morning is on the servant. The context is, of course, Timothy. He is the pastor there. But as a servant, the same principles apply to you. You want to do what you have been called to do, and you want to do it faithfully. And as you serve, you want to be the type of Christian that is an example for others to follow. Notice the 1st two characteristics (Speech & Conduct) are external and the last two (Faith & Purity) are internal. Love binds them all together.

What’s even more interesting to me is that these characteristics are the exact opposite of what the false teachers were presenting.

The False Teachers were just the opposite

  • In Speech: They were babblers, vain, foolish talkers (1.6)
  • In Conduct: these guys have brought disrepute upon the church and have caused many to stray (6.10)
  • In Love: These guys are lovers of money and themselves (3.3; 6.10)
  • In Faith: they’ve made shipwreck of their faith (1.19); departed from the faith (4.1)
  • In Purity: which these guys have stained; their false teaching spreads like gangrene (6.12; 2 Tim 2.17)

app.: But not so with Timothy, and not so with you and me, as we set the believers an example to be followed.

t.s.: The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness: In what you do, and next, in how you do it.

  1. In how you do it (13-14)

exp.: rd v 13a; until I come, harkens back to his expectation of delay, as seen in 3.14; I can’t help but hear the Word of the Lord for us to devote ourselves to the work He has called us to do. Rd 6.6f; But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

Mt. 28.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Js 5 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Repeated in God’s Word we’re encouraged, exhorted to our word from the text, to devote ourselves to the task at hand, to serve faithfully, because the Lord’s return is imminent.

Look at v 14; rd v 14; as before, so we see again how Paul calls charges Timothy to conduct his work with a focus on others but to not neglect a focus on himself in fulfilling this duty. Two areas of focus:

  1. A Focus on others through ministry: Command & Teach these things
  2. A Focus on Oneself in that ministry: Let no one despise (think against) you, but set the example
  1. A Focus on others through ministry: Public Reading of Scriptures, Exhortation, Teaching
  2. A Focus on Oneself in that ministry: Do not neglect the gift you have;

I love that teaching is focused on again (11&13); because teaching is his ministry, it is his service.

app.: Your gifting may be teaching, just like Timothy’s. But your gifting may be in other areas. I don’t know what you’ve been called to do but do it well. Success in your service comes through faithfulness to what you do and how you do it (utilizing your gifts).

t.s.: finally, The Servant’s Success comes through faithfulness:

  1. In your consistency

exp.: Look at the three words Paul uses to encourage Timothy’s consistency: practice, immerse, persist; I love the word practice – as in what lawyers and doctors do: they practice law or medicine. The idea of practicing something means to apply what you’ve been theorizing. It is the application of your contemplation. Cambridge Dictionary: action rather than thoughts or ideas. And that fits so well with servants who consider what they’re called to do and then practice it. Practice, immerse yourself, persist in this; actually, the pronoun is plural. I like most other translations: persist in these.

Transition: Now, before you think my message is teaching that the results depend solely upon the servant and his ability to keep to the task…

ill.: E. Stanley Jones, Methodist Missionary to India in the early 1900s, presents a wonderful illustration that fits our teaching this morning. He says there are three types of people. There is the rowboat Christian who knows what to do and does it. The work hard and things move. But, if they stop, so does the work. The work is dependent on their abilities, their strength, and – well, it just depends totally upon them. But progress is slow and hard.

There is the 2nd person – the sailboat. This person knows what to do, but success is so dependent upon other things: circumstances, situations, etc. Sailboat Christians can get so much done when life is good and everything is moving along with no interruptions, with nothing to sideline them. As the sailboat can move so much faster than a rowboat, at times, it just sits dead in the water because it is so dependent upon outside forces.

And finally, there is the Steamboat. Steamboat Christians move forward because of what’s inside. It’s circumstances of wind, or a lack of wind, don’t stop it. It progresses against the current, against the wind, and just keep chugging along because of what is inside. And for the believer, we understand this is the Spirit of the Living God taking up residence in our souls, empowering us.

app.: This is so important to remember because a life of service without the spirit is legalism. This is our first take-a-way for the day.

Take-aways:

1.  A life of service without the Spirit is legalism. There are a lot of people working really hard during this time. You can identify this problem in your own life because those who are doing this work in their own power usually grow resentful and bitter.

I’m reminded of a MASH scene where a sickness runs through the camp. For some reason, Father Mulcahy doesn’t get the sickness and he serves others with such excitement. I think because so often he feels useless. Now, while others are in need, he can serve – and he does. In this scene, he’s washing the soiled sheets in a big washbasin and just singing, “This is the way we wash our sheets, wash our sheets, wash our sheets…” Now Major Winchester comes in from some time away and he walks into this sickness running throughout the camp.” He’s needed, but he doesn’t want to serve. Major Houlihan says otherwise. The scene ends with Major Winchester washing the sheets with him singing the same song Father Mulcahy sings, only he’s obviously not as enthusiastic.

A life of service without the Spirit is no different than what the Pharisees did. And with that comes a vengeance to protect the position you’re in and not the people you’re serving.

So how do you keep from getting that way? Can I share from experience? I think Paul does a great job of reminding us through his letter to Timothy that we need to keep our focus on two spheres: our work to others and ourselves. For ourselves, he uses negatives:

2.  Remember the two spheres of focus:

    1. Service – serving others, but in our work don’t forget:
    2. Self – you have to take care of yourself.
      1. Be the example of what a servant is. (don’t let others despise you)
      2. Use your gifts, serve out of who you are. (don’t neglect your gift)

3.  Remember as you serve the Lord, he’s fully aware of what is going on.

Do you remember the story of the Lord’s Supper? Do you remember how it all came about? In Mark 14.12-16 it reads: 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

Now, note that the Lord knows a man is going to be coming their way entering into the city – at the same time they’re there. 2nd, they follow this man to a house – where he goes in and they follow him. Notice also, the room is already prepared!

I’ve learned through the years that God sends us to places he already knows about and has already worked out the details. I promise you: God already knows about this virus and how it will play out in our lives. If he calls you into service, he’s worked out your details, too. God is going to do what he does to glorify himself.

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Calling, Purpose, Scripture, Sermon

1 Timothy 3.1-7

Title: The Two Offices of the Church (Part 1)

Text: 1 Timothy 3.1-7

CIT: There are standards by which elders should live.

CIS: The work of an Elder is noble and should not be entered into lightly. The church should recognize these men and appoint them very carefully.

 

Intro: Last week we dealt with a particularly tough text, but only if it is taken out of context. When understood within the context of the letter, you understand how important our roles and responsibilities are.

Now, here is our biggest problem: people who serve in areas they shouldn’t be serving in! We’ve all experienced deacons and elders who gave those offices bad names. I’m grateful for the men who I’ve had the privilege of serving with who fulfilled their roles with dignity and honor; And, brought honor and dignity to the office.

You don’t know him, and I’ve not spoken to him in 30 years. His name was/is Malcolm Dickinson. Malcolm and his little family went to our church in Copperas Cove. Malcolm was a deacon and he took his responsibilities seriously. I’ll never forget driving down the road and seeing him working on a widow’s porch. Another time I saw him repairing a screen. He took his job of caring for the widows seriously.

Here’s the thing about Malcolm. He was a coach at the local high school and was busy with 4 little boys – 4 little rambunctious boys. And yet he still found time to be a good deacon.

He was a godly man. I loved to hear him pray during the worship service. It was like everyone disappeared and it was just Malcolm and God.

This morning I want to talk with you about the two offices of the church: elder & deacon. In the context of our passage, Paul is writing to Timothy, but for the benefit of the church. So, this is how I’m seeing this. I want to approach this from the perspective of a letter to the church and your responsibility toward your leadership and your potential leadership. Consider this: God has placed men in your midst who are elders and deacons. You recognize them right now by their actions, their demeanor, and their deportment. You see it in the way they carry themselves and how they are around others. There will come a time when you will need to ask them to step up and fulfill the role. Will you commit to praying about it now?

Ill.: I’ve had the privilege of serving on various teams, committees, and boards. I’ve been on some incredible bands. Over the past 40 years, I have sung with and/or played the bass and/or played acoustic in many bands with many people – and this is what I’ve learned: having the right people in the right place is the key.

I played with many singers and instrumentalists who were very good at their job; however, their personalities caused so many problems in the band that we couldn’t function properly. And it only takes one person to disrupt your group. It is the same with your staff or team or committee. You might have a wonderful businessman who has no business serving as an elder. You have to be careful who you select and appoint to these roles. Again, will you commit to pray over this?

App.: the application remains the same for any team or committee or board or staff member: One wrong person can create havoc on you and your work. So, you as a body can select a really good man – who fits the requirements in every way and still fracture your body. And that is the scary part. Our goal is unity for the benefit of our witness.

Remember the context: These folks have been looking down on their leadership. They’ve shown disrespect and dishonor to folks in authority. And because of it, they’ve been a poor witness to the community at large.

Transition: you have a great responsibility – maybe that is why Paul goes into such great detail about who should and who should not serve as an overseer.

Let’s go back to the beginning and identify the steps that got us to where we are in 1 Timothy:

  • A charge to confront false teachers and their false teaching (chap. 1);
  • The role of men and women in the public arena concerning prayer and worship (chap. 2); the lost are watching; it appears throughout this letter that there is a lack of understanding of how you treat your leadership and those who are seniors.
  • Leadership in the church… the role of the church to put the right men in the right spot… all within the context of false teaching and false teachers.

From this text we find that there are two offices in the church:

  1. Overseers (4 terms: Overseers [bishops], Pastors [shepherds], Elders, and leaders) v1-7; interchangeable
  2. Deacons v8-15

Ill.: The opening of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one great example of this: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

BTW: this is clarified in our Statement of Faith (BF&M 2000) in Article 6: VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

This morning, I’d like to focus on just the first of these two offices: the elders or overseers. We note first in v.1 that Paul declares this a noble task. Rd v 1; The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. This someone aspires to something good. It is a good work. Overseer is ἐπισκοπή (episcope, i.e.: Episcopalian): epi: over and scope: to see.  He desires a noble task. Lit.: a good work; We saw this phrase a good work up in the previous chapter (2.10), as a characteristic of a godly woman. ἀγαθός and καλός, both are synonymous and are used in Scripture attributes of God.

So, the first step in becoming an elder is: you want to be one.

I.     If someone aspires to be an overseer… he desires a good work. So, because this is a good work, a noble task, the church should not enter lightly into selecting men to serve here. That’s why Paul says in the next verse: Therefore… rd v 2-3;

Transition: So, if someone aspires to be an overseer,

II.    If someone aspires to be an overseer, you will see it displayed in his upstanding character.

Exp.: We’re talking Behavior/Actions; rd v 2-3; Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

I agree with DA Carson who said that there really isn’t anything special in these quality characteristics – except for one – being able to teach. I mean really, shouldn’t these be characteristics of any man or woman who claims to be a believer?

  1. He must be above reproach: in Titus, he uses the synonym It isn’t that he’s perfect and sinless, but rather that he exemplifies Christ in his manner and deportment. Thabiti Anyabwile: Being above reproach means that an elder is to be the kind of man whom no one suspects of wrong-doing or immorality. People would be shocked to hear this kind of man charged with such acts. Above reproach; blameless.
  2. He must be ‘a man of one woman’: that’s the literal translation; most translation read: the husband of one wife. It’s hard to know exactly what is meant here. It could mean that he’s never been divorced. There are a lot of scholars I respect deeply who hold to that opinion. I think there is a principle being taught here, though, that is really important. I’m not absolutely positive that Paul is laying down the letter of the law here, but rather presenting a principle. No matter your view on divorced or even single men serving as elders, I think Paul is communicating that this man has a high view of marriage as between a man and a woman and that marriage is sacred. His marriage is a display of this belief.
  3. He must be sober-minded: the literal meaning here means temperate in his use of alcohol. He is sober. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t drink any alcohol, but rather that he never drinks alcoholic beverages to a point that he is out of control. Baptists like to use this part of Scripture to declare alcohol is bad. You should never do it. But that’s just legalism, too. This man, though, he never lets what he consumes get out of control.
  4. Self-controlled. The negatives in v 3 below outline a man who is out of control. He can’t control his drinking (must not be a drunkard). He can’t control his anger (he must not be violent). He can’t control himself in conversation (he is quarrelsome; he always has to be right!). And he can’t control his appetite for more and more money. Maybe he gambles, hoping for a big windfall. He works too long and too hard to make more money, not observing the Sabbath, but trying to get the extra cash. No, our man is self-controlled.
  5. He must be respectable: these are noted by his family (his wife and children) and the community. We’ll look more at this when we get to those verses in 4-7.
  6. He must be hospitable: this Gk word is a compound word translated a lover of strangers. He is a lover of strangers and not a lover of money. The man who loves his money holds his purse strings tight. The man who loves strangers opens up his moneybag and pours out his money for them. He uses his money to love people instead of using people to satisfy his love of money.
  7. He must be able to teach: this is our first and only requirement that isn’t really universal of all believers. Basically, all of the traits we’ve listed simply outline who and how we should be as Christians.

Now Paul turns toward the negatives, which we already listed with the out of control man.

  1. He must not be a drunkard
  2. He must not be violent but gentle
  3. He must not be quarrelsome
  4. He must not be a lover of money.

So, the only requirement listed here that wouldn’t be an expectation of any man in your congregation is that he be able to teach. I believe the reason for this is his responsibility to communicate sound, healthy doctrine.

Conclusion: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – he must display upstanding character. You will have already seen it in his behavior.

III.   If someone aspires to be an overseer, then he has set an example of leadership with his family.

If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – his example has already been set in his family.

Exp.: rd v 4-5; He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

This doesn’t mean that his family is perfect any more than it means that the church is perfect. There are problems; there are struggles. You will find it anywhere you find relationships. The issue isn’t that he has the perfect family. Because he won’t and he can’t! It has to do with his management skills in caring for his family. Here is a good question to ask: Does his wife respect him? Do his children hold him with high regard and have that same respect? You can witness this respect through the submissive nature of their relationship. They hold him in high regard. They know him better than anyone else. Their respect speaks volumes.

Conclusion: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – his example has already been set in his family. Not that they are perfect, mind you, but that they see him that same way.

IV.    If someone aspires to be an overseer, then the church must determine his fitness based upon his spiritual maturity and positive public perception.

Exp.: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – the church must be careful in its appointment of this someone to the position of overseer. Rd v 6; He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Spiritual maturity will help a man avoid those pitfalls and snares of the devil. Oh Man, if there is anything the devil can do to bring down your elders, he will. So be careful in your appointments. Don’t appoint a man before his time.

So to review:

  1. If someone aspires to be an overseer… he desires a good work.
  2. If someone aspires to be an overseer, you will see this desire displayed in his upstanding character.
  3. If someone aspires to be an overseer, then he has set an example of leadership with his family.
  4. If someone aspires to be an overseer, then the church must determine his fitness based upon his spiritual maturity and positive public perception.

Take-a-ways: As we consider sound doctrine…

  1. Church, your theology drives your methodology. It impacts everything you do. That is why your doctrine is to be pure and sound.
    • Bad theology corrupts a church body. Remember, it was Paul’s purpose in placing Timothy in Ephesus – to protect them.
  2. Church, when you appoint men to serve as elders (and deacons for that matter), you are making a doctrinal statement. Too often, the church wants to pick popular, pretty people. Standards set in the Word of God are cast aside for comfort and popularity.

Ill.: Mark Dever writes: I had made a statement in a doctoral seminar about God. Bill responded politely but firmly that he liked to think of God rather differently. For several minutes, Bill painted a picture for us of a friendly deity. He liked to think of God as being wise, but not meddling; compassionate, but never overpowering; ever so resourceful, but never interrupting. “This,” said Bill in conclusion, “is how I like to think of God.”

My reply was perhaps somewhat sharper than it should have been. “Thank you, Bill,” I said, “for telling us so much about yourself, but we are concerned to know what God is really liked, not simply about our own desires.”

And all of God’s children said, “Ouch”. Dever has a great point: what someone likes to think about God isn’t so as important as what God says about himself. Our theology is important and it must be grounded in God’s Word. The God of Christmas in Luke is also the God of Judgment in Revelation. So, when you appoint men to serve, you’re making a doctrinal statement about what you believe. Finally,

  1. Men, if you aspire to the office of elder, I’d like to close with two thoughts:

Conclusion:

First, as a pastor and elder, there are certain texts of Scripture that float around in my head on a regular basis. Scriptures like James 3.1: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. And Heb 13.17: 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Professor John Brown was sought out by a former divinity student, who had graduated and moved to the country to become the pastor of a very small church. This young man wrote his former professor declaring his impatience in serving the 16 souls in the country church. He stated that he could not wait until he was finally asked to pastor a much larger congregation with greater prestige and publicity. The kindly professor responded to this eager young preacher:

I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough.

Oh, what a mighty leadership team we could build if we selected men with this mindset.

Second, 1 Peter charges the elders to serve the people under their care: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And then he finishes with this: And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Let’s pray.

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SIX QUALITIES OF A GODLY MAN

Title: Six Qualities of a Godly Man

Text: Romans 1.8-15

CIT: Paul’s Prayers for Rome Reveal Much About This Man

CIS: There are characteristics and traits to observe in an Apostle.

Introduction: It is quite typical to move from the Greetings and Salutations to a mentioning of Prayer and Thanksgiving in a 1st Century letter. That is exactly what Paul does in this next section.

Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Rome is outlined in verses 8-15. First of all, these prayers include thanksgiving for the fact that their faith is known and proclaimed by other believers throughout the Greco-Roman world (8).

Secondly, Paul offers the unceasing request to one day make his journey to Rome (9-10). His request is simply to preach the gospel among them and it is expressed in three separate statements:

1st, Paul’s desire is to impart some spiritual gift to them to encourage them and to be encouraged by them, as well (11-12).

2nd, Paul has intended for some time to get to them but has been prevented from ministering there (13). Now, it appears that whatever was hindering is no longer in the way.

3rd, Paul has a calling to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He says he is under obligation to all and so desires to come and preach the gospel in Rome.

These prayers reveal more of the man we know as The Apostle Paul and his desires as a godly man. I think there is more than just information sharing here. Paul is opening up his soul and giving us a glimpse inside.

Transition: This week I shared with the Venture group in Chapel about the old man and his elder wife who were sitting at the Table sharing a meal. The woman looked over at her husband of many, many decades and felt this overwhelming sense of pride. Herbert, I’m proud of you, She gushed. Without missing a beat, the old man replied: Well, I’m tired of you, too!

Sometimes it is easy to communicate what is in your heart and at other times… not so much. Sometimes you want to communicate what lies deep within but it gets misunderstood.

Well Paul doesn’t confuse us here and there is no miscommunication as he reveals his heart to the church at Rome – and to us. Paul tells them plainly what he feels and what his desires are. He does so by laying his prayer requests before God and he lets us all in on those prayers.

For us, we’re able to glean some qualities from a godly man. These qualities are Paul’s, but I think they can be true for any man or woman who has been called of God to serve. And yes, that means even you. Your first temptation might be to take them and measure them up against me. To be honest, that is fine. It really is something you should do. I would encourage you to do so. Furthermore, you can use them to measure up your spiritual leaders (i.e.: elders and deacons).

But don’t be so quick to just move in that direction. I want to encourage you to use these marks for your own life – to see how you measure up to Paul. And, I would not say these marks are exhaustive and complete. But I would say they are useful for us today in their current form to help in our service and ministry. So here we go…

Six Qualities Found in a Godly Leader:

I. He has a thankful heart for all God has done in fulfilling His promises. (8)

exp.: rd v8; God is fulfilling his promises to the Romans. The proof is in the pudding! They’re being discussed wherever there are other Christians gathering. It is interesting what Paul doesn’t note here. He thanks God, but not for…

  • It isn’t their leadership – pastors or elders.
  • It isn’t their worship.
  • It isn’t their facilities.
  • It isn’t their ministries or ministers.
  • It isn’t their mission work.
  • It isn’t the money they’ve raised for disaster relief or the people they’re sending to help the folks in Jerusalem.

Paul is grateful for their faith. Faith is expressed and their expression has been something to talk about. The word all appears 2x’s in v 8; two different words: all is the word pan; the 2nd all is the word from which we get whole. A most literal translation would be the whole world. And I think to myself: Really? The whole world? I think what he is saying is that brothers and sister across the Christian world are talking about the faith of this church. That is amazing… people talking about their congregation.

ill.: this past week Spring Creek Baptist Church was in the News. The County Commissioner who attends there, JoAnn Hampton was indicted on aggravated assault charges this past week. Back on April 2nd, Ms. Hampton came to church to find someone had already prepared the Lord’s Supper Table. It seems a 72-year-old member of the congregation and Ms. Hampton had already had words about the timeliness of setting up the table. The 72-year-old woman came in early and set everything up. Ms. Hampton was furious. She went to the pastor’s office where the woman was talking with the pastor and assaulted her. Basically, she pushed her back onto the couch and the woman injured her hand.

app.: That isn’t the kind of notoriety Paul is talking about! These folks in Rome are in the news because of their faith. Do you remember I told you Claudius Caesar kicked the Jews out of Rome in 49AD? Well, it appears this young Gentile congregation had to start living by faith. And the result was the testimony of those who were scattered abroad.

Philippians 1.6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Paul was so thankful to God for fulfilling his promises to this congregation.

t.s.: The 1st Quality we see here of this godly leader is: he has a grateful heart. 2ndly,

II. He recognizes His first and main audience is with God (9a)

exp.: The context, of course, is that God is his witness  – that he is telling the truth concerning his prayers. Rd v 9a; Yes, God is his witness, but more than that. It is God that he serves. When he says with or literally, in, my spirit… I think that is his way of saying with my whole heart.

You’ve probably felt this way about yourself when you’re singing: Bless the Lord, O’ my soul, and all that is within me… bless his holy name. All that is within me… that is, with my spirit. And his service: the gospel. This may be hard to grasp, but a pastor’s first calling is to the gospel. It is the spread of the Gospel that saves souls and it is the repetition of the gospel that disciples the believers. It’s the telling and retelling of that old, old story – over and over again.

ill.: I love to tell the story of unseen things above. Of Jesus and his glory… of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story because I know tis true. It satisfies my longing as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story – tis pleasant to repeat. What seems each time I tell it more wonderfully sweet. I love to tell the story for some have never heard the message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word.

I love to tell the story. T’will be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

app.: Sing them over again to me… Wonderful words of life. That’s what discipleship is. And that is what the godly man loves to do – is to tell the story that changed his life. And to tell the story that sustains this congregation. Well, a godly man recognizes his first and main audience is with God. It is God he serves. That’s why God is a witness to the work and prayer.

t.s.: He has a grateful heart. He recognizes that he serves God by serving others with the Gospel. 3rd,

III. He incessantly remembers the church in his prayers (9b-10)

exp.: Paul’s prayers don’t just end with thanksgiving. Paul’s prayers are unceasing for this congregation, moving from gratitude to a very special request. Rd v 9b-10; Paul’s desire is to travel to Rome. Who wouldn’t, right? Anyone here ever been to Rome? We’re looking for missionaries to serve in Tahiti and Hawaii! We need Home Missionaries in Florida and Colorado!

ill.: I remember reading about some missionaries who on Sunday morning would go skiing and stop at a chapel up on the slopes. There, they would lead a service. I thought: where do I sign up? Well, my guess is that some of the hardest ministry is in the midst of those who think they don’t need it. But, those people need Jesus, too.

app.: Paul’s message is clear, but let me be very literal here: so that without coming to an end, remembrance of you I make my request or I do my asking; “Without ceasing, unrelenting”; It’s very wordy, but desperately points out the prayers of Paul for these people.

Do you know that your leadership prays for you? I can’t say for me it is without ceasing. I wish I were better at it. But I do pray for you daily. Sometimes I pray for individuals. Sometimes I pray for groups. And my requests for you vary according to our needs.

I like knowing how to pray and what to pray for. If you want me to be specific in my prayers for you, email me or drop it in the offering plate. That will allow me to pray specifically for you.

t.s.: Godly leaders have grateful hearts. They recognize their service to others is service to God. And they pray for their churches and their members. They keep them before the Lord. 4th… And we see this of Paul…

IV. He desires to encourage them through his service (and to be mutually encouraged by them in theirs) (11-12)

exp.: look at v 11; do you see the 1st word there: γὰρ. A marker of reason. Because; At this stage he’s telling them why he wants to come. Truth is, he finally gets to it in v 15; …so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. His purpose in going there is singular in focus (i.e.: to preach the Gospel, v 9, 15) but this focus of preaching the Gospel is expressed in three different ways; the 1st is in v 11: I like to translate this: For I long to behold you. I want to see you, to behold you with my own eyes. Continue reading v 11…

  1. By preaching the Gospel in their midst, he would be imparting a spiritual gift that will encourage them and strengthen them. Added to this, that he might be encouraged at the same time. Rd v 12; He’s heard about their faith (8) – really all over the Christian world. I’m supposing because of Paul’s popularity that they’ve heard of his faith, too. If not, they will from Phoebe and anyone else carrying this letter.

app.: I don’t know if you’ve thought this through or not, from a personal standpoint, but living out your faith in front of others strengthens and encourages them…just as you are when you see others living out their faith.

Last month Jamie Dean of World Magazine shared the story of a North Korean defector who talked about the punishment and persecution of Christians. One family kept their Bible in magpie nest… a bird’s nest. Late at night, someone would crawl up into the tree, into the nest and get the Bible. They would read what they could under the cloak of darkness. Then, get the Bible back in place before sun up. One day, a neighbor who was cutting a branch down, somehow caused the nest to fall and reveal the Bible. The family was busted. Can you imagine? How many of you have your Bible with you now? If we were in North Korea, we’d all be thrown in prison.

We’re so blessed to live out our faith in the eyes of others. We’re so blessed that we don’t have to hide our Bible in a tree outside. You, meeting in your community group… that’s mutually encouraging to each other.

Transition: Paul hopes to strengthen them and to be strengthen and encouraged by them in return. Also, he says in v 13; Rd v 13a; this is the 2nd way of he hopes to preach the Gospel to them but it is also our 5th quality that we find in Paul.

V. He surrenders his will to the Lord’s will in spite of what he himself wants (13)

exp.: he’s been hindered from going there to Rome. He has wanted to for some time, but for some reason, God hasn’t opened that door to him.

  1. Because, whatever was hindering him before, is no longer in the way. I suppose it was his mission work in the east. He has been preaching the Gospel everywhere he can between Jerusalem and Greece. Now, he’s finding others who’ve gone before him… like Rome for example. Having completed that task, and seeing the area evangelized, Paul’s desire now is to expand the mission work to Spain. We’ll see that in 15.24. He’ll mention also in chapter 15 the gift from the Asian churches to Jerusalem and his need to travel there to deliver that gift. But after that, he wants to come see them on his way to Spain.

app.: Man, we’re learning something very valuable here, in this quality Paul displays. Sometimes, and this has been my experience as a believer and as a pastor, God says no. Sometimes God says, yes. And sometimes God gives us a third answer and says – not yet. It doesn’t mean no, forever, just for a while. It usually means that God has some work to do in our hearts and in our lives to prepare us for what we’re asking.

ill.: When Lisa and I were in Cotulla we felt a call to go to the Rocky Mtns and work. We knew the call was on our hearts, but God wasn’t opening up the door. Instead, we went south to Harlingen. God made it clear to us that we were to go south. The criticism was pretty sharp by some. I thought God was calling you to go north? Well, we moved to Harlingen, 8 miles north of the Mexican border. And God used our experience there in so many ways, preparing us for the ministry in Wyoming.

I could stand here and begin telling you stories of what I learned in deep South Texas that God used in Wyoming, but we don’t have time… so I’ll save those for then.

God may have called you and is preparing you, but thus far has hindered your progress. Let me encourage you: Trust him. Whatever you want for this church or this mission or this ministry or your community group or… whatever it is of God… Let me tell you: He wants even better things than you do. So let this quality be found in you: surrender your will to his, in spite of what you might want. Let him finish preparing you for the task ahead.

t.s.: His 3rd expression is found in the rest of 13(b) and 14.

  1. His obligation to the Gentiles encompasses the believers in Rome. Do you see the last word in v 13? It is the word from which we get ethnic… ethnic groups or as we say today, people groups.

t.s.: and that my friends, is the 6th quality we find in Paul…

VI. He knows his calling and is passionate about fulfilling it (14-15)

exp.: He is eager to preach the Gospel to this unreached people group. I didn’t say unreached and unengaged, because I’m assuming they are engaging their own people. But as a whole, they remain unreached. That is his mission field. He’s been gifted to be successful among the ethnos… the unreached people groups.

t.s.:

  1. He has a thankful heart.
  2. He recognizes his 1st audience and service is to God.
  3. He keeps his people and ministry before the Lord in prayer…
  4. He desires to strengthen and encourage his people through his service and to be encouraged by them, too.
  5. He surrenders his wants and wishes to the Lord, in spite of what he desires. That’s because he trusts in What God is doing…
  6. He knows his calling and is passionate about fulfilling it.

Conclusion: Let’s land this plane. So what will you take home with you today? How can you make it personal?

Application: 1st, let me ask you some questions…

  1. What moves you to prayer?
    1. Gratitude? Or, are you taking God’s blessings for Granted?
    2. Is it opportunities for the Gospel? Do you get excited about what God might be doing in your life and in the life of your church?
    3. Or do you find you only pray when things are bad and you’re in need?

Maybe that is a commitment you need to make this morning: to pray regularly.

  1. Do you recognize that your service to people and for people is really to and for God? He is your first audience. I think of the ministries we have:
    1. CUB: it is easy to get tired of people who just use you.
    2. Bridgemark and Venture: for bridgemark, sometimes it feels like people just take advantage, just using the building; but then there are times when I see the good we’re doing in a child’s life. Do you realize that there are children who will grow up to be adults and know how to read because of your ministry? Some little girl down there will hold her granddaughter someday and read the Bible with her. Some man may read Scripture from the pulpit. Or even more – God may call one of them to missions or to the pastorate. Don’t grow weary in well doing. You’re serving God by serving people when you do his bidding.
    3. Maybe its teaching Bible Study or a Community Group. Trust that your service to God is being rewarded and used by Him for his glory.
  2. Do you know your calling and are you passionate about it? I hope so. If not, you’re missing out on so much. I believe God has every person here for a reason and it isn’t to keep the seat you’re sitting in warm. God began a good work in you and I am confident that he will carry it through to completion.

If you don’t know your calling, will you come visit with me about that? Or, maybe you’d feel comfortable with an elder. Please come talk to us. If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, I offer him to you today.

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Filed under Calling, Christian Living, Romans, Sermons, Spiritual Formations

Affirming the Call of God

Title: Affirming the Call of God

Text: 2 Corinthians 8.16-24

Introduction: We’re in 2 Corinthians 8.16-24 this morning. Turn there.

Answering the Call of God upon one’s life can be the most exhilarating and adrenalin pumping adventures for any man. It is scary and exciting all at the same time. The journey begins with humble commitment and unrealistic expectations. I suppose the same goes for missionaries and other types of call.

But it gets hard through the years because the church often times feels it must keep a tight budget. Pay raises are passed over and excused as budget cuts. Church members try to run a faith budget like their home or business. Added to this, no one keeps track of the minister’s days off (except for maybe his wife, who feels defenseless in speaking up about either the finances or the workload) and so he works too many days without taking the break he needs. Many men of God feel overworked and underpaid.

Church members feel that the call of God weighs heavily on the person’s life and that they’re called to serve – they’ve been called to ministry, not to money. The pastor and his family are made to feel out of place and awkward if they even talk about money.

Isn’t it odd how the church wants men who’ve been to school – who have a Master’s Degree or even a Doctorate, but they want to pay those men like they’re high school dropouts?

Anybody getting uncomfortable? Are the A/C’s working ok? Is it getting warm in here?

There are hard issues in calling someone to commit to this ministry. Aren’t there? You’re getting something very special here in calling this family. What will you give in return?

How Special, you might ask: The elders and the search team feel like we’ve found you the very best man for the job. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not exaggeration. We’re so excited to present this young man to you. WE believe we’ve done due diligence in ferreting out this man from the crowd of applicants. Furthermore, we believe Duffey to be an answer to the prayers we’ve offered. We believe this is God’s man for this position.

I’m not slamming any of the other applicants. There were some quality applicants. And I’m sure God has great plans for those people; however, we believe God’s plan for Calvary is this man. It began for us as elders a couple of years ago and has grown to this point. We done our best to follow God’s leading in this area. Nearly 2 years later, we’re standing here in front of you guys with a confident assurance that God has brought us to this place.

Transition: So, what do you do as a church with this information? How do you behave and act toward someone being called as Pastor of Worship and Students?

A Brief look at the Reformation:

Historically, the Pope and his Bishops did all that. The Pope basically issued orders ex cathedra and the people followed. Martin Luther and John Calvin rose up against that very thing in a little movement called the Reformation. Luther taught that Christians should gather, not at the call of a particular man (pope or priest), but that they should gather around their shared convictions. That was huge! Unheard of!

Ill.: Ignaz Semmelwiess had a revolutionary idea for doctors. As a physician himself, it was something he began to do in his practice – and his patients faired well because of it. He, however, was opposed and ostracized. His views were seen as unscientific. The mistreatment he experienced from his fellow physicians was so great and so overwhelming that he was forced from his practice. Decades later, as doctors began to see the wisdom in what he had done, they began to adopt this new practice of his. But he wouldn’t live to see it. He died in an insane asylum years before.

What was his crazy idea? Simply this: wash your hands before visiting each patient. That’s it. Wash your hands in between patients.

App.: many of you would be grossed out if your doctor didn’t wash his or her hands when they came into see you. But that’s because it is accepted today.

And it is that way as you vote today. It should feel natural. Christians in the 1500’s would be aghast!

Luther believed that Christians should organize themselves as their own final authority in religious matters. Next month will mark 500 years since this radical new teaching. You practice it today, but it was born out of the Reformation and established under much persecution. Luther believed firmly that the Bible teaches what we call ‘congregationalism’. We are governed as a Congregation. Luther and many of the Reformers believed that the sheep know the Shepherd and identify his voice. John 10.4-8

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

Jesus warns the believers about false teachers and the fact that they have the ability to do something about it.

Cf.; Mt 7.15: A Tree and Its Fruit 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

We see this set out plainly for us in the pattern for selecting deacons. Acts 6.3-4: Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

I love this: YOU pick. We’ll put them to work. When Luther wrote about these new ideas and practices in 1523, he entitled his tract, A Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and to Call, Appoint, and Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture.

You must understand how radical this was in 1523. The Reformation had been gaining ground over the past 100 or so years to be sure, but to pick and choose your leaders? That was a radical reformation. And just how did Luther accomplish such a feat? He translated the New Testament for the people to study these very doctrinal issues in their own language.

This doctrine of Congregationalism began gaining momentum through the 1600’s as John Cotton, John Owen, and Thomas Goodwin advocated for “the Congregational way.” By the time of the American Revolution, a full 40% of Christians in the American Colonies was in a congregational church.

So what do we do with this gift of self-governing? We choose. You chose your deacons. You chose your elders. Sure, it all begins with a sub-committee of sorts doing the hard labor of research and organization. But in the end, you listen to the voice of the Lord and affirm God’s will in this matter.

There was something going on in the life of the Church that we find is very similar to what we’re doing here today. 2 Corinthians 8.16-24 is about a collection taking place throughout Asia Minor and is being carried to the brothers in Jerusalem and Judea who are in need. That is the context. But here is the application:

God is at Work in Duffey’s life and in the life of our church. This is evident when you…

  1. You Affirm him through your vote.
  2. You Appoint him to his service.
  3. You Support him in accomplishing the ministry

Transition: let me show you where this is in the passage…

I. Your Affirmation of Him with your vote (16-18)

exp.: rd v 16; God was at work in the life of Titus, placing deep within him, a care and a concern for the people. God has been at work in the life of the Henderson family. At sometime in the past, he put a deep desire for ministry in Duffey’s heart. God called him to this service. Furthermore, God is calling him to serve here. That is being demonstrated through a passion for leading in Worship and ministering to our Students. Your vote today affirms the Call of God to this place.

rd v 17-18; It is so hard to explain the passion in one’s heart when God calls. It moves men to service and surrender. The passion for ministry is something that burns deep within. It is a felted thing, but evident in one’s actions. By your vote, you affirm

  1. His Call to this ministry
  2. His Passion for this ministry

t.s.: 2ndly,

II. Your Appointment of Him to this Ministry (19-22)

exp.: rd v 19; As your leadership, we’ve done what we believe is God’s will for Calvary. We have not entered this lightly. We have bathed this in prayer over the past two years. We’ve cast vision and dreamed dreams. We made PowerPoint presentations of how to realign staff and reorganize our ministry to accommodate the needs of the church. We’ve evaluated our situation and found it lacking. Stability has been the answer we’ve come up with and Stability is what we’re trying to bring about. We believe God has brought us to this place. Not just over the past 2 years, as this began for us in October of 2015, but even over the past 10 years. We believe and understand that God has been at work in the life of our church all along, bringing us to this point.

And so we present Duffey to you. But, like the Church at Corinth who had to appoint men to do the work that they couldn’t do, you must appoint Duffey to this ministry in our congregation. We present him to you for this appointment because we’ve found him to be of sound character and high moral value.

Note what Paul says of Titus and Epaphras; rd v 20;

  • Blameless; rd v 21
  • Honorable; rd v 22a
  • Trustworthy: Tried and Tested; rd v 22b
  • Full of Faith – con: with; fidere – faith.

app.: His presence here today with his wife demonstrates his confidence in you. He loves the ministry and mission you’ve displayed and have been active in. He and his wife have spoken highly of what you’ve been doing. We as a team have heard them. They are so excited about the opportunities to serve with us – helping us accomplish the ministry God has called us to.

t.s.:  Which brings me to my last point this morning. God is at Work in Duffey’s life and in the life of our church. This is evident when you…

  1. You Affirm him through your vote.
  2. You Appoint him to his service.
  3. You Support him in accomplishing the ministry

III. You Support Him in Accomplishing the Ministry (23)

exp.:rd v 23-24;  It excites me to think of this young man coming alongside me in ministry… to be my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. Which makes me think of a few cautionary points.

Benefit here doesn’t mean that your work is done. He is not here to do your work – the ministry God has called you to accomplish. He is here to benefit you, not take your place. His presence and ministry should augment what we’re doing here at Calvary. I’ve experienced this first hand when I accepted a call some years ago. The team that brought me in just disappeared. They felt their work was done.

I know you have worked hard, but now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to rise up!

2nd, We (the elders) don’t believe that because God has brought Duffey, Calvary will now grow to a thousand. Our baptistery will not overflow because Duffey Henderson is leading our Students. Our coffers will not overflow with money because Duffey Henderson is leading our Worship. That’d be nice, but your elders don’t have some “if you build it they will come” mentality. We don’t think Duffey is the Savior of the World. No, that position has already been filled and will never be vacated!

Conclusion: Howard Hendricks, Living By the Book (as quoted by Chuck Swindoll)

A scientist was using the inductive method to observe the characteristics of a flea. Plucking a leg off the flea, he ordered, “jump!”

The flea promptly jumped.

Taking another leg off, the scientist again commended, “jump!”

The flea jumped again.

The scientist continued this process until he came to the sixth and final leg. By now the fleet was having a little more difficulty jumping, but it was still trying.

The scientist pulled the final leg off and again order the flea to jump. But the flea didn’t respond. The scientist raised his voice and demanded, “jump!” Again, the flea failed to respond.

For third time the scientist shouted at the top of his lungs, “jump!” But the hapless flea lay motionless.

The scientist then made the following observation in his notebook: When you remove the legs from a flea, it loses its sense of hearing.

app.: Funny how the scientist didn’t connect the dots correctly… we’re worried that you might think like that scientist. Baptisms, Financial blessings may come and they may not, but don’t connect the one with the other. God’s blessings are God’s blessings.

Still, Your support of Duffey is vital to the accomplishment of this ministry. You call him, you appoint him, you support him. You support him with your words, your presence, and your money. You support him by loving his wife and their children. Pay him well and make sure he is keeping the Sabbath.

Duffey’s success is dependent upon you.

We’re going to move to a time of business now. We’ll take a few moments for folks to leave if they’d like. If you’re a guest, you’re welcomed to stay if you’d like, but please feel free to slip out if you’d like. As for our membership: we’ll take a couple of minutes to break (go to the bathroom or get a drink) and then we’ll regroup for our special called Business Meeting.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Calling, Commissioning Service, Faithfulness, Leadership, Sermon

SENT Conference: David & Goliath

Title: Becoming something greater than yourself!

Text: 1 Samuel 17

CIT: God’s faithfulness to David gave him the faith to stand, fight and defeat Goliath.

CIS: We can place our faith in Christ because he has conquered sin and death.

Introduction: Today’s story is a story you’re probably pretty familiar with. I’m guessing you’ve heard this story dozens and dozens of times. The story is about a kid and a giant. The kid’s name is David. The Giant – Goliath. The story is located in 1 Samuel 17; Turn there with me.

Most days I receive a NYTimes briefing. The idea is that I’ll find stories I wish to follow up on and read them. It works, by the way. At the conclusion of each briefing there is a Back Story. The following story was taken from the briefing.

Cracker Jack… The 87th Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played this week in San Diego. It was nice to see the American League win. I’m hoping it pays dividends when the Texas Rangers make it to the World Series – that is if they can bounce back for their last 13 ugly games. The All-Star game is a fine summer tradition, but here’s one that goes back even further: Eating Cracker Jack at the ballpark. The gooey treat’s origins go back to 1872, when F. W. Rueckheim, a German immigrant, began selling candy and popcorn in Chicago. By the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Rueckheim and his brother, Louis, created a confection of molasses, peanuts and popcorn that millions of fairgoers gobbled up.

They perfected their recipe by 1896 when — legend has it — a salesman tasted a sample and shouted, “That’s crackerjack!” If you google Cracker Jack online, you’ll find the definition: exceptionally good; an exceptionally good person or thing. Translation for this man: it was fantastic. A name and a brand (it’s singular, not plural) were born, and the brothers began packaging and advertising the concoction.

Just to add to the story, the company first issued coupons in the boxes that could be redeemed for household items at a store in Chicago. It switched to “A Prize in Every Box” in 1912. The prizes went digital this spring, after billions of trinkets were distributed.

But I think the coolest part of the story is that Cracker Jack’s timelessness is wrapped up in one of the best-known songs in history:

Take me out to the ball game,

Take me out with the crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,

I don’t care if I never get back,

Let me root, root, root for the home team,

If they don’t win it’s a shame.

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,

At the old ball game.

Now, that’s pretty cool for Frito-Lay, who owns Cracker Jack. There aren’t too many mlb games where that song isn’t heard. That’s free publicity for Cracker Jack. No wonder they’ve been around so long! Now, Cracker Jack is a small thing compared with major league baseball. A really small thing! How cool it must be for them to be a part of something so much larger.

As we look at 1 Samuel 17 and review the story of David and Goliath, I’m hoping you’ll desire to be a part of something so much larger than yourself.

Dr. Viktor Frankl is credited with saying: He who has a why can bear any how. I think what he meant by that statement is that purpose can give someone meaning. A purpose to life can empower someone to face the most difficult of circumstances.

Now, just how do these come together: purpose & meaning? Being a part of something so much greater than your self? We don’t have time read all of the verses in 1 Samuel 17, so with your permission, I’d like to present an outline of the story. It moves as follows:

  1. In v. 1-11, we meet the Philistines. They are Israel’s enemy.
  2. In v. 12-18 we meet David and his family and find out a little of what they do. They are some of the main players in this story.
  3. In v. 19-30, David is tasked by his father with the job of taking food to his brothers at the front where battle lines have been drawn up between the two armies. He is then to return and give a report to his father. So David takes supplies to them. It is here at the front David learns of Goliath, the fear the Israelite men have toward Goliath and the reward for the man who would face and defeat him. David said, “I’ll do it. I’ll take him on.”
  4. Here then, is where we pick up the story (31-50). I’ve entitled this section:

 

I.      David’s Faith: David Intercedes for the Fearful Israelites (31-50)

We note first His Confidence. Rd v 31-32

  • His Confidence: Now where does someone get such confidence? If you break this word down into two parts, you’ve got con – which means “with” and fide, which means “faith”; most literally then it means to have full faith and trust with… someone, something. For David, He tells us clearly where his faith is: rd v 37; 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” – Saul doesn’t say: Go and your faith be with you. Or go in this confidence you have. He says: Go, and the Lord (all caps) be with you. David’s confidence was in the LORD and only in him. Now, why? Why was this so? He tells us in this same verse: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear; David says: Saul, come here, check this out. Let me show you my game room. Do you know what a game room is? For a hunter, it is the place he displays his trophies.

Ill.: Down south of Austin, my in-laws have a ranch. My father-in-law built a cabin on that ranch. In the cabin is a trophy wall mount of an elk I shot in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Hunters love to tell stories of their trophies. I love to tell the story of how I shot that elk. What it was like field dressing the huge animal. Getting it down the mountain. It was the experience of a lifetime. I love it when someone sees it hanging over the fireplace and asks, “who shot that?” They always want to know more.

App.: David is like: Saul, let me show you my game room. See that lion? That lion came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And when he rose up against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him down and killed him.

Come over here. See that bear? That bear came into camp all hungry and grumpy. He tried to have his way by getting a free meal, but I struck him down. Now, he’s just that sweet throw rug.

Confidence comes in the Lord and in his work in and through you. How are you able to stand? Because I’ve been here before. This ain’t my first rodeo!

T.S.: So, note 1st his confidence in the Lord and what the Lord has done through David. 2ndly, we notice his …

  • His Strategy:

Rd v 38; Saul is thinking to himself that this kid is in deep trouble. Who has better armor than the King? So, let’s get him geared up! Rd v 39; Here is an application that I’m not sure we can teach. David senses that this isn’t going to work. This is called discernment. This armor has served the king well. It is probably the best armor in the kingdom. But, David knows this isn’t for him. Discernment is a gift from the Lord. But I think there is a great application for us here: Go with what you know! That’s what David does; rd v 40;

Transition: So, David gears up and makes his way toward Goliath. This is the third point:

  • His Actions:
  1. You might expect Goliath to laugh, but he doesn’t. Read 41-44; Goliath disdains David and defies God by putting his trust in his gods and in his weapons.; David recognizes his failure and points it out; rd v 45; what a sharp contrast; Goliath in his ‘things’ – even his gods are things;
  2. David, however, puts his faith in God alone for God’s glory alone; rd 46-47; Goliath makes his move toward David, and David doesn’t hesitate; rd v 48;
  3. David runs to the battle line. Rd 49a;

Ill.: I love to run; I carry a ‘fanny pack’; it’s not really that, but it is similar; It has a water carrier and bottle and it has a pouch for my phone and keys; I can carry money. Can I just say it aint easy to run and put your hand into your pouch. 2nd, From time to time, I take off my shirt and swing it around to get rid of some pesky flies that are trying to land on me. I sling it around and around, taking out any bees, wasps, or giant flies that are trying to land on my. I’m thinking that David had done this before. Only because I know this isn’t easy.

  1. But, David hits Goliath with the perfect shot. (49-50) Keep reading; rd v 51;
  2. David took his own sword and cut off the giant’s head. He said he was going to do that when he didn’t even have a sword (cf.: v 46). When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. I have a vivid imagination: I picture the people, especially the Philistines screaming at the top of the lungs: Kill that kid! Hah! Rip his head off! Teach him a lesson! Then, puff, just like that, it is over and their champion lies on the ground. I’ll bet it got quiet real quick like. David runs and stands over the giant – taking his sword and cutting off his head. The roar of the Israelites rises quickly as David picks up the Giant’s head by the hair and shows his people! The Philistines, though, their jaws drop – their eyes just about pop out with disbelief. And then they take off running! When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Transition: Well, you know the rest of the story. It’s the conclusion to the story: The Collapse of the Philistine Army (51-53)

Conclusion: V. The Collapse of the Philistine Army (51-53)

  1. Israel’s Pursuit of the Philistines (51-52)
  2. Israel Plunders the Philistines (53)
  3. Post Remarks: David’s Victory with the Giant’s head in his hands. (54-58)

Transition: So Fred, how does this apply to missions? I’ve come here to learn about missions!

Yesterday, I stopped in to see a friend. 8 years ago, he and his wife sold everything to return home to missionaries to his family for one year. That was a big deal because he from Austria. Their goal was to spend the year with family, live the Christian life and share Christ with the people they love.

While they were there they searched hard for a church. They found a house church and became a part of it. It wasn’t easy. They made friends, they found jobs – his wife learned the language. But after a year they returned to Tyler and started their lives back up. As far as they could tell, they had made some friends in a house church, but none in his family came to Christ.

Since returning they’ve had two beautiful little girls. The youngest has yet to return to the homeland to meet family. A few weeks ago, my friend got a phone call that his father came home from work and fell over dead. No warning. No sickness. No nothing.

What hurts so bad is that my friend has tickets to return to Austria next week. He had planned a 2 week vacation with the sole purpose that his daddy might see his little girl face to face. They called the airline and tried to get things changed, but the airline would only do it for fee – a fee too large for my friend and his family to pay.

So he bought a ticket home for himself. That’s why I stopped in to see him. Losing your dad at 62 is hard. Losing your dad at any age is hard. I wanted to know how he was doing. Well, it’s been hard. His parents were divorced years ago. There is a will from the 80’s. Other people are a part of the family now. It goes on and on and if you’ve ever dealt with that stuff you know the struggle.

But in this process, He was able to sit down with his mom for a long visit. As he talked she told him he sounded like this guy she met who works with her. Some months ago she started selling Tupperware and met a young man in their group who is a Christian. It just so happens that this man was a friend of my friend. They met in a house church 8 years ago. He told his mom why they sound so much alike – why they sound so positive, even in hard times – He told his mom about Christ. And after presenting the gospel to her – 8 years after living there and not seeing any fruit from his labor, she prayed with him to receive Christ.

Transition: Becoming a part of something so much larger than yourself isn’t quick and easy. It isn’t something you can script. It means surrendering yourself to God’s will, even when you don’t understand it. So let me offer a couple of take-a-ways…

Application:

  1. The author wants to demonstrate the Glory of God over Israel’s enemies by taking what seems like certain defeat and bringing about his victory through the young man, David. Listen up, Missions in your church and in your life is much the same: God wants to demonstrate his glory through you. If the task looks too big for you, it probably is, but it isn’t for God! Your mission endeavor isn’t so much about you and your church. No, not really – It’s about God’s Glory. I feel confident in saying that God’s more concerned about His glory than just about anything else.
  2. Let your faith develop by trusting God in the small matters. Begin your mission work around your house, around your city. David did what he did and he did it the way he knew how because of his success in the smaller things. Grow from where you are. As God builds and strengthens your faith, move out from there. Start with what you know. God will teach you more as he grows you.
  3. We’ve got to stop thinking of the Gospel as transforming lives only through perfect vessels. God uses the weak to confound the wise. Saul’s armor was probably the best in the land, but it wasn’t what David needed nor what God was going to use. Here’s another application that fits with this idea: The sins of our past can be testimonies to the grace and forgiveness of God. That was my friend’s message to his mother. Sinners need to know they can be forgiven. We may not be the best speaker, we may not be the prettiest or the sharpest. But, if we’re a tool in the hands of God, watch out! 2 Corinthians 12.10: 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  4. We can trust God to bring about victory in our mission through Christ who has come to redeem us from our enemy. God accomplished this by sending his Son to die a criminal’s death on a cross – a symbol of weakness. If you’ve never experienced the grace and compassion of God, I offer that Grace and compassion to you right now. Today is the day of Salvation. Today is the day of forgiveness. We’re going to dismiss shortly, but if you want to accept Christ this morning – come find me. I’d like to tell you how.
  5. You can be a part of something larger than you. You can become Cracker Jack missionary. Once you realize that God is working through you to Glorify himself – it becomes so much easier. You’re not worried about you. You’re not worried about your church. Your concern for God’s glory gives you the why – and you can face any how!

 

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Nehemiah 5.1-19

Title: Leaders Who Care

Text: Nehemiah 5.1-19

Introduction: I want to talk to you today about Leaders Who Care. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey isn’t able to go to war on account of his ear – he’s deaf in his left ear. He had fallen into an icy pond saving his brother and never heard from that ear again (except for a short period of time where he gets to experience what life would have been like if he’d never been born. During the war, there are some scenes of George working in the community. He prays during D-Day and VJ-Day; He wept and prayed. He participates in the rubber drive. At one point he hollers out at the people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on.

The point was that there were can drives, rubber drives, rations, keeping the lights off at night. People in times past were expected to live at a certain level during the war. We’ve not experienced that in our lifetimes – those of us 50 and under. But our seniors, when they were little – did without during the war.

App.: Ladies & Gentlemen, Don’t you know there’s a war going on? It’s a spiritual war and we can’t be living like we’re at peace with the devil.

This morning we’re in Nehemiah ch. 5; As we began Nehemiah, we looked at his calling and his leadership. Today, we’ll look at how he cares for his people. Ch. 5 is a chapter that feels like it doesn’t fit. Here these folks are working away on the wall, facing opposition and then this…interruption. Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, the following takes place.

  1. The Setting: (1-6) The Outcry of the People – against interest/taxes/famine
  2. The Conflict: (7-10) Nehemiah confronts his brothers (and himself)
  3. The Climax: (11) Return these to your brothers
  4. The Resolution: (12-13) commitment & Oath; imagery;
  5. Post-Script: (14-19) as Governor, Nehemiah chose not to be a burden to his brothers, but rather took care of his own needs and the needs of his people at his own expense.

This is how I’ve outlined it:

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)
  2. Nehemiah Confronts his Brothers (7-13)
  3. Nehemiah Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

Transition: So, let’s begin ch. 5 w/

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)

exp.: rd v 1; Now, over the next 3 verses we see the groups and their struggles: rd v 2;

  1. We’ve not enough grain. Maybe they worked on the wall and left their fields untended. We don’t know, we’ll read about a famine in a moment – maybe the drought has hit their crops, too. Rd v 3;
  2. We’ve mortgaged our fields, vineyards and homes to buy grain. Another group has entered into debt to cover the costs brought about by the famine. They need food to eat. Rd v 4
  3. We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes. And what’s more – these actions, these predicaments have hurt us; rd v 5-6

The Result: (v 5-6): This debt has forced their children into slavery; it seems a particularly desperate situation for their girls. The power these Jewish brothers have over their own kin is destructive and putting them in a powerless, helpless position. It is an endless vicious cycle.

app.: I believe this is a principle that Christians often forget. Preying upon the poor is something God detests. We’ll see that more in a moment. For now, we apply this portion of Scripture to our lives by recognizing the error of preying upon the poor. And we can do that in so many ways – pushing the poor into deeper poverty and into greater dependence upon the government or the church.

t.s.: Nehemiah recognizes what has happened and becomes angry at the situation. And so he…

  1. Nehemiah Confronts His Brothers (7-13)

exp.: rd v 7a; note how Nehemiah levels 1st a charge against them and then 2nd, he offers a solution to the problem. He said: I took counsel w/ myself and I brought charges.

  • Nehemiah’s Charge: rd v 7b-8a
    1. In this great assembly he says:
      1. We’ve brought back our brothers from slavery, only to enslave them ourselves. Note 8b – silence; rd 9;
      2. He says: This isn’t Biblical and it’s a poor witness to the Nations! And he add to that in v 10; Where is he getting this from? Why does he think this is wrong?

Q.: How is it that we can ever say anything is wrong? Who sets the standard for right and wrong?

Ill.: I’ve been quizzing our girls at home: How do you know something is wrong and something is right? A.: God’s Word, the Bible. Well, that’s where Nehemiah gets this bit of information, that what they’re doing is wrong – namely,

  • Leviticus 25.35-38; 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

It’s here in the last part of v 10 that Nehemiah offers a solution; rd 10b-11:

  • Nehemiah’s Solution:
  1. Let’s abandon this practice. App.: When you’re doing something wrong – abandon the practice!
  2. Let’s return their stuff to them. i.e.: their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.

The Brother’s Respond in v 12; rd v 12; note their points of action:

  1. We will Restore these
  2. We will Require nothing (except to payback what is borrowed)
  3. We will do as you say
  4. A verbal commitment – he made them swear…raise your right hand. There is something interesting that takes place here – something like a covenant. Rd v 13;

ill.: Their Commitment Demonstrated: the shaking out of the garment. So may he be shaken out and emptied.

app.: And all the congregation said: Amen.

t.s.: Now, really, that is the end of that story, but Nehemiah gives us a sort of post script. Why? I’m not sure of his purpose. Some people might think it’s narcissistic. Woo-who! Look at me. Not me.

  1. Nehemiah’s Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

exp.: rd v 14; Governor for 12 years; I wonder if this is the amount of time he asked the King for back in chapter 2; During his 12 year tenure, he:

  • Did not burden the people; as was the practice of his predecessors.
  • He finished the work on the wall;
  • He provided for his servants and workers; out of his own pocket…
  • Remember me, O God – 6x’s; 5.19; 6.14; 13.14, 22, 29, 31;

app.: Nehemiah changes his lifestyle and begins to live like his country is at war. And he’s telling his wealthy brothers who’ve enslaved their own people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on? This implies sacrifice, it implies service, and it implies giving. Nehemiah demonstrated his understanding of this with his life.

Here’s what we’ve seen today:

  1. Leaders who care see the injustice being done to their people.
  2. Leaders who care confront the injustice of their people.
  3. Leaders who care set the example by living a godly life toward their brothers.

t.s.: so, how does this apply to us?

Observations & Implications:

  1. We should be cognizant of the way we treat the poor. Are we hurting them with our policies? Are we enslaving them to a life under the burden of debt? Are we cashing in on their desperate situations? Are we exploiting their despair for our betterment.

Nehemiah is the govt. He sees what they are doing to the poor. Ladies and Gentlemen, as the time comes for us to vote – vote for someone who is going to stop exploiting the poor.

  1. How do you use the money God has blessed you with? Are you faithful to tithe? Are you faithful to give to ministry needs as they arise? Do you live with a wartime mentality when it comes to your finances?
  2. If God is your God – and not money, if you’re a good steward of the resources He has blessed you with, if you’re looking out for the poor and those in need – then enjoy the blessings of God. There is no need to feel guilty for being rich. God has made you that way because you have shown yourself faithful. Continue in that blessing…
    1. Listen to James Hamilton: Tall people who trust in Christ should not feel guilty about being tall. People who trust in Christ and have great marriages should not feel guilty for having a believing, faithful spouse. Those who trust in Christ and whom God has made rich should not feel guilty because God did not make someone else rich also. God is God. We will give an account to him for the way that we stewarded what he gave us. Refusing to enjoy the way that he has blessed our bank accounts is along the lines of refusing to enjoy the blessing of a sunset or a spouse, a flower or a forest. If he has lavished largesse upon you, praise him.

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Nehemiah 2.9-4.23

Title: Why do the Nations Rage?

Text: Nehemiah 2.11-4.23

Introduction: We began this portion of our sermon series in Nehemiah with a look at his call. He heart was broken by the news from his homeland. He fasted and prayed, as God put a plan into his heart. When the time was right, he took action. He petitioned the king with a well thought out plan. And God blessed.

With this thought in mind, that is, Nehemiah’s obedience to the call in his life. I’d like to continue looking at this man, called to a task, called to lead.

Today, we’ll cover a lot of information in a short period of time. My purpose in doing so is two-fold:

  1. I don’t want to be in Nehemiah through the summer and into the fall. And in order for that to happen, I’ve got to keep moving.
  2. I feel I can cover a lot of information without going into deeper detail. You can have your own time of study if you feel led to dig deeper. My purpose isn’t to conduct that here. I’ve got this message on my heart and to preach it, I’ve got to cover a lot of ground.

Today, we’ll cover 2½ chapters. So, let us begin. The outline is as follows:

  1. Before the work begins: Nehemiah gets organized. (2.9-20)
  2. The Work begins: Beams, Bolts & Bars (3.1-32)
  3. The Work progresses with Shovels & Spears (4.1-23)
    1. The Nations Rage (1-4)
    2. The Peoples Plot (5-14)
    3. The Lord Laughs (15-23)

Transition: so let’s begin quickly now, with point # 1…

I.     Before the Work Begins: Getting Organized (Tell this in my own words quickly)

  1. Assessment of the Ruins (2.9-16) possibly over two nights?
  2. Appeal to Rebuild (2.16-18) A call for unity; community;
  3. Antagonists Rise up to Oppose the Work of God (2.19-20)

 

II.    The Work Begins: Beams, Bolts and Bars (3.1-32) – a basic description of the work; not just a rebuilding, some areas are totally wiped out.

  1. The Sheep Gate (1)
  2. The Fish Gate (3)
  3. The Old City Gate (6)
  4. The Valley Gate (13)
  5. The Dung Gate (14)
  6. The Fountain Gate (15)
  7. The Water Gate (26)
  8. The Horse Gate (28)
  9. The East Gate (29)
  10. The Muster Gate (31)

Transition: as we move into chapter 4, we begin to see what happens when God’s people do God’s work – following His leading – being obedient to the call. Let’s pick up in chapter 4 where the work progresses.

III.   The Work Progresses

  1. The Nations Rage (1-5)

exp.: rd v 1; enraged; Why do the nations rage? A question asked by the Psalmist that was read earlier in the service. A common theme in Scripture: People, who are not God’s people, always stand against Him. They stand against Him as if it were possible – and I believe they think so – that they could persevere against Him. They say he isn’t real but their words don’t match their actions. Perhaps it is no more poignantly presented than in the words Christ heard while hanging on the Cross, Matt 27.42ff: 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Rd v 2-3; now for me, what’s surprising in this story is the way Nehemiah responds: rd v 4-5; wow! He’s praying a “King David, before he was king” kind of prayer (e.g., Pss 35, 58.6, 59, 69, 109, and 137)!

ill.: Can I pause and expound on this? I want to be careful to not be misunderstood. You ready for this? I’m ok with this kind of praying: (e.g., Pss 35.1-8)

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;

fight against those who fight against me!

        Take hold of shield and buckler

and rise for my help!

        Draw the spear and javelin

against my pursuers!

Say to my soul,

“I am your salvation!”

        Let them be put to shame and dishonor

who seek after my life!

Let them be turned back and disappointed

who devise evil against me!

        Let them be like chaff before the wind,

with the angel of the Lord driving them away!

        Let their way be dark and slippery,

with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!

        For without cause they hid their net for me;

without cause they dug a pit for my life.

        Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!

And let the net that he hid ensnare him;

let him fall into it—to his destruction!

58.6-9

        O God, break the teeth in their mouths;

tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

        Let them vanish like water that runs away;

when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.

        Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,

like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.

        Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,

whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

59.1-10

        Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;

protect me from those who rise up against me;

        deliver me from those who work evil,

and save me from bloodthirsty men.

        For behold, they lie in wait for my life;

fierce men stir up strife against me.

For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,

        for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Awake, come to meet me, and see!

        You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.

Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;

spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah

        Each evening they come back,

howling like dogs

and prowling about the city.

        There they are, bellowing with their mouths

with swords in their lips—

for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

        But you, O Lord, laugh at them;

you hold all the nations in derision.

        O my Strength, I will watch for you,

for you, O God, are my fortress.

10         My God in his steadfast love will meet me;

God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Cf.: 69, 109, and 137

app.: Here is where I think it is ok: when the attack is against the LORD and not you. Just because someone doesn’t like you or what you’re doing doesn’t give cause for such prayers. However, when it comes to the work of God, I believe such prayers are warranted.

  1. 1st, the prayers here are directed to God, not their enemies.
  2. 2nd, such prayers are the response to threats – not retaliation. It is not wrong prayer when your heart’s greatest passion is the glory of God. Such prayers for retaliation that are delivered from an insecure heart and a damaged ego should be condemned. But when your heart’s cry is God’s glory – well, you know you’re praying according to God’s will because that is His will. He has said in 48.11 11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Where prayers from insecurity draw condemnation, such prayers from a sincere and upright heart should be commended.

t.s.: The Nations Rage and

  1. The Peoples Plot in vain (6-14)

exp.: rd v 6; oh, they rage and they plot, but it is all in vain. Why? Because God will accomplish his heart’s desire. Rd v 7; he was very angry; in v 1 he was just angry; rd v 8; heh, the people plot; rd v 9; Note actions on the part of Nehemiah:

  • He Trusts God – and makes this evident in his prayers.
  • He Takes Action – he posts guards in strategic places.

Nehemiah does this in spite of the mocking coming from the peoples. Rd v 10-12; Here is the reality of this sort of persecution, this opposition: It brings discouragement to the ranks. The wall is half high, meaning they’re about half way through, maybe a little further (because the doors and gates are hung). Now, it’s one thing to be hit by those outside your own walls, but it is altogether a greater sense of defeat when the discouragement comes from within. We learn a great principle from Nehemiah at this lowest of lows for the people. Rd v 13; Nehemiah puts people as guards over their own people. And he tells them, rd v 14;

app.: And here is the principle: we protect and serve best – the people we love.

t.s.: the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain, but…

  1. He who sits in the heavens laughs; The Lord holds them in derision. (15-23)

exp.: rd v 15-23; Here we find another principle for the one who has been called to serve and to lead: Nehemiah leads by example. He was there in the midst of the people. He kept the trumpeter near, while he kept a watch over his people and on the enemy in the distance. And this charge was not his alone, but also the other leaders.

app.: this is a wonderful lesson for us here as a church: The Nations Rage and the People Plot in Vain. They have as far back as time goes. But God is not moved. As we read about Sanballet and Tobiah’s mocking, jeering it says back in v 1, we find that this is the same word used to describe the Lord’s actions in Psalm 2. And again in Ps 59.8: But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.

t.s.: Galatians 6 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Let me close with some questions for you to Ponder:

  1. Do you exist for a cause greater than yourself? Think about this: Purpose comes from meaning. There is then direction, action, and movement. No meaning or purpose leads to simple existence.
  2. Does your purpose lead you to lay down your life for others? I’m not talking about dying – I’m talking about taking your selfish ‘ness’ and laying it down – on the altar of life. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  3. Nehemiah is prepared to interrupt the building of the wall to address concerns. Some of the people trade a spade for a spear. Others trade a shovel for a sword. Others continue the work. To pursue the completion of the wall without addressing concerns would have meant certain failure. It is quite possible that people might have put down their spades and shovels and walked away. Which by the way, is what the enemy was hoping for! What would you do – how would you respond if your leadership approached you and asked you to change positions? What if they moved you to a different section of the wall? What if they took your tool away and gave you a trumpet? What would your response be?
    1. This is MY ministry! I started it!
    2. This is MY committee – MY team – I created it!
    3. This is MY… you fill in the blank.
  4. Nehemiah set a guard in place both day and night. In today’s context, what should God’s people be on guard against both day and night? How might you live in such a way that you work with one hand and hold your weapon with the other?
  5. In 4.12, God’s people were discouraging God’s people. How might your actions or your words be a discouragement to God’s people today?

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Filed under Calling, Ezra-Nehemiah, Leadership, Sermon

Nehemiah 1.1-2.9

Title: When God Calls You

Text: Nehemiah 1.1-2.9

Introduction: Recording? We’re in Nehemiah 2. We began last week with a message in Nehemiah 1 and stopped at chapter 2.11. I don’t think that has ever happened before in 28 years of ministry. There have for sure been interruptions and unintended bumps, but never have I had to just stop.

Let me let you in on my personality: when something like that happens I ask God what He is doing. I’m really good at missing a moment and I didn’t want to miss what God was doing. So I got scared. Responding to moments like that is crucial and critical. You guys made me proud.

Last week I began with a question: What do you do when you’re in a wonderful job, life is good and begin to feel the call of God on your life to do something else? Maybe it is a one time thing or for the rest of your life, but its God’s call nonetheless? Maybe the call begins with information. There has been a tug on your heart. There has been something inside – you’re not sure what to call it – but something inside that has drawn you to this. Then, it hits! There is the unmistakable reality that God has been working in your life for this moment.

You can pull away. You can choose to ignore it and hope that someone else might go. Or, you can face it.

We than began a look at a man who was in a grand place. His life would seem to indicate that he has arrived. He has position. He has power. He has Prestige. He has access to the king himself. But something happens to shake his world. Let’s meet him in Nehemiah 1.1-4a…rd 1.1-4a; As we meet Nehemiah, he is in the service of the King. V11 tells us he was cupbearer to the King. Nehemiah inquires of his homeland of a brother who has just returned from there. And something happens to Nehemiah. He is moved. He is pained when he…

  1. He Hears of the plight of his homeland

exp.: he hears in v 3 that the walls are torn down and the gates are burned ; this news just destroys him! It knocks him off balance. This is not what he had expected. It had been that way for 50 years, why was he so hit by this news? He must have thought his people would have made the repairs by now. Note how it affects him in v 4: I sat, I wept, I mourned for days!

ill.: Pause for a moment: When was the last time you were moved to tears over the matters of God? Maybe this morning God is tugging on your heartstrings concerning the matters of God. Maybe it is his house – the church. Maybe it is over his people – church. Maybe you’re struggling with his name and his fame among the people?

app.: Are you being called to preach, teach, to go into the world? Has God put into your heart a people, a place, a plan? What will you do about it?

t.s.: Well, let’s look at what Nehemiah does…rd v4b;

  1. He Prays to God according to God’s Word 4-9

exp.: fasting & prayer; these two have a way of humbling God’s servant. There is nothing in this life as wonderful as an extended fast and time of prayer before the Master. Nothing. Fasting and Praying takes you into the presence of God in a powerful way. It cannot really be explained. It can only be experienced. The joy – the pure joy of experiencing this closeness to God is something that must be felt – enjoyed. Look at how he prayers:

  • His Praise: rd v 5; The Great and Awesome God, who is faithful! He keeps his covenant; he keeps his promises; He remains steadfast! Would you like a simple way to learn to praise God? Learn a lesson from Nehemiah – list God’s characteristics. Next,
  • His Petition: rd v 6; Please hear my prayer! Please give me your full attention – open your eyes and see me in my desperate state; open your ears and hear my desperate plea; Hear my confession of sin! 3rd,
  • His Confession; rd v 7; We have; When I was a teenage, I heard a sermon on confession; I wrote in my bible and it has stuck with me all these years. Confession is the acknowledgement that He is right and I am wrong. Note the acknowledgement of Nehemiah:
    • Acknowledgement: we have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules. “Lord, your commandments are right. We haven’t kept them. We’ve acted corruptly toward you.” Now, how does he know this? How can he identify his failures and that of his people? Easy, you ready? God’s Word; rd v 8;
    • God’s Word – The Source of his knowledge: What we have here in v 8-10 is a summation of Leviticus 26. In Lev. 26. He offers blessings for obedience and following him; however, in v 14 he gives them fair warning about not following them – he says he will discipline them – And if they still won’t obey: 27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. He is basically quoting God’s Word in v 8; compare v 8 w/ 26.33; rd v 9-10 he’s paraphrasing the rest of 26 in Leviticus. You’ll find it again in Deuteronomy 4; “we’re talking about your servants and your people – whom you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand; rd v 11a;

app.: he sounds like he’s repeating v 6; hear my prayer, O Lord.

t.s.: Now there comes a time when you get up off your knees – note, I didn’t say stop praying. You get up off your knees, you leave your prayer room and you take action; So far we’ve seen his pain, his prayers and now his plans…

  1. He Plans in faith, according to the promises of God.1-8

exp.: rd v 1.11b; Now I was cupbearer to the king. This was a very important position; He was in a place to protect the king, but he may very well have been one of his counselors, too. Williamson in the Word Biblical Commentary writes: Royal cupbearers in antiquity, in addition to their skill in selecting and serving wine and their duty in tasting it as proof against poison, were also expected to be convivial and tactful companions to the king. Being much in his confidence, they could thus wield considerable influence by way of informal counsel and discussion.

This brings us to a very important part of your calling after fasting and praying:

  1. Start where you are.
    1. God has brought you to where you are for a reason. I have no idea why he has you where he has you. Maybe it’s growth. Maybe it was because of your disobedience. Maybe the way to get to where He is calling you to go is through your current position. Whatever the reason, God has you right where he wants you – so start there. Which brings me to a question concerning the fact that God has brought you to where you are for a reason.
    2. How can you be faithful to where God is calling you to go, if you’re not faithful where he has you right now?

ill.: There is a couple that you are all familiar with. They are our missionaries to our unreached people group. They had felt the call to missions for years. And, even when they got here, they both still felt called to missions. We met her before we knew anything about him. Both of these two, served where they were. And the greatest example is when they were here. For just over a year, both knew that God’s call was on their lives. But they didn’t sit around waiting for a miracle to beam them overseas. No, they got involved in ministry where they were.

Here is something many of you may not know. CUB was not their first choice of ministry. There were other ideas that were shot down. Good ideas! Doors were closed, but that didn’t stop them. They looked for other areas to serve. Eventually came up with joining CUB.

app.: Listen, this couple isn’t perfect. They’re just normal people doing their best to serve God. But there example leads me back to this question: How can you be faithful to where God is calling you to go, if you’re not faithful where he has you now? I’m talking about in the smallest of matters. Is there something God has revealed to you but you’re just not doing anything about it. Luke 16.10-13 says:

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is obedience. We’re afraid of this word obedience. In this day and age we long to focus on Grace. We don’t use words like obedience, but rather call that legalism – and it can be. But, it is a very important word and a very important act on our part because obedience is the display of our faith and trust. Your faithfulness to service in little things will open doors for your service in bigger things.

t.s.: So, start where you are: Bloom where you’re planted. I heard a testimony from the pastor who coined that term. He was struggling with his call and didn’t want to be serving where he was. He longed to be in the place he felt God had called him to go. He was in an alley way, just crying out to the Lord. He got out of his car and started to walk to the place he was going and there in the crack of the asphalt, a flower had grown and blossomed. He said he felt the Lord saying to him: Bloom where you are planted. A sermon was born out of the experience.

Be faithful right where you are. 2ndly,

  1. In your season of prayer and service where God has you, take action.

exp.: rd 2.1a; Here we see Nehemiah has waited 4 months to approach the King. (1.1 – Chislev; 2.1 – Nisan) Surely this isn’t the 1st time he’s seen him or been in his presence. No, he’s fasted and he’s prayed, all the while working for the king. Now, he’s ready to act. rd 2.1-2; Ah, yeah! Of course he’s afraid. You’re not supposed to be sad in front of the king! But the moment presents itself and Nehemiah takes action.

I wonder if Nehemiah was filled with fear because he hadn’t expected to speak to the King at that moment. This is important for us to see because when God calls you and God prepares you, he then opens up the doors. My guess is that it won’t be in a way you expect. Nehemiah is expecting to pour a glass of wine for the King. Instead, God opens the door to share. This leads me to an application:

If you take action before you’ve prepared, you’re sure to fail. Too many people are just waiting around for the opportunity without the proper prior planning. They’re hoping to get lucky when the opportunity presents itself.

Steve Kerr, the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors played on 5 NBA championship teams. Three with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and two with Timmy Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs and one as head coach with Golden State. I remember well the last year of his time with the Spurs. He sat the bench most of the season. What we didn’t know was that he was working his tail off for the moment he would get to play. Game after game he sat the bench. Night after night, day after day he worked on his three-point shots. Then, his opportunity came. The year was 2003. It was game five against the Dallas Mavericks. Steve Kerr hadn’t played a single minute of the playoffs. But for some reason Coach Popovich put him in. And he went on a terror! Hitting threes from every area of the floor and sparking a comeback for the ages. The spurs went on to outscore the Mavericks 34-9. Steve Kerr went on to collect his 5th NBA Championship.

Later, when he was interviewed about that moment he said that he didn’t know if he would get the chance to ever play again – but if he did, he wanted to be ready. So he practiced and prepared for that moment. Success is when preparation meets opportunity.

If God is calling you, then he is preparing you. Don’t shun it. Soak it up! Take advantage of every moment where you are. Get education; get experience. Be observant if you can’t serve. Practice, Pray and prepare.

Look at what Nehemiah has done. We’ll see it as we read through this next few verses; rd v 3-4; Boom! Opportunity presented! He swallows, throws up a prayer (in keeping with his prayers over the past few months), and presents his requests to the King: rd v 5

  • Let me go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. Rd v 6
    • He planned it out in such a way that he knew how long he’d be gone and when he could return. Rd v 7
    • He knew what travel plans were needed. He needed papers, he needed protection (you see that in v 9); rd v 8
    • He knew he needed supplies. Wood for beams, for the gates, for the walls and for his house where he would live. That’s planning. That’s preparation. Rd 8b: And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

app.: Can I encourage you to make plans to fulfill the calling of God on your life? You may be asking: how can I know?

Application:

  1. Is there a burden on your heart? Is there something that has grieved you, something you see needing to be done? Where has God been active in your life? I believe God gives you a passion for where he is leading you. Some of you are set up perfectly: you’re retired or near there. Some of you have nothing holding you back except your sentimentality to this place. You think your momma needs you or your daddy needs you or your children need you. It makes me sad to think of the blessings missed out on because of fear or sentiment.
  2. Pray about it. Set aside time to fast & pray. And when you’re done – pray some more! Create a prayer journal to help. Make notes. Be observant in your prayers. Watch for where God is working in preparing you. If you think about it, Nehemiah’s position in Persia prepared him for the work he would do in Jerusalem.
  3. Take Action: start where you are and go from there. Outline the steps: do you need schooling? Do you need training? Do you need finances? Do you need backing? Do you need accountability? Do you need resources? Do you need to be discipled? Make a list; start checking off the items on your list; and finally,
  4. Be ready! Success is when preparation meets opportunity. The day will come when God will call your name to come in off the bench.

Do I have any Cowboys fans in here? We’re all gonna go home today and not watch our favorite team in the playoffs. That wasn’t the picture last August. Most everyone had picked the Cowboys to be in the super bowl! The best offensive line in football! Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray. What happened? Jerry Jones wasn’t prepared for what happened. Tony Romo went down and we went through three QB’s 11 loses and 1 win. One win. The opportunity came and the Cowboys weren’t ready.

My hope, My prayer for you is that you’ll be ready… let’s pray.

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Filed under Calling, Ezra-Nehemiah, Purpose, Sermon