Category Archives: Christian Living

Psalm 126

Title: From where does prayer come?

Text: Psalm 126

Introduction: I sat on the edge of my bed and cried. I was 34 years old and had worked toward this moment for 13 years. And, I felt like such a failure.

Why had God called me and not blessed? What was I doing wrong? Why didn’t God let me pursue a different vocation that interested me so many years ago? There were many! Lisa can tell you I changed my mind about what I wanted to do and be a dozen times.

But that wasn’t the case. I was pastoring a church, as had been my dream, and felt I was wasting everyone’s time. So I just sat there and cried.

I don’t know if my kids know about that moment. I know Lisa knows, not because she was there. She wasn’t. She was busy in the kitchen getting lunch ready. But I know she knows I was down. Those moments over the past 35 years have never escaped her notice.

So, I sat alone in the bedroom, on the end of the bed and just cried.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt despair or struggle and just laid your soul bare before the Lord with tears and petitions?

Transition: That is where the Psalmist describes these people, but with one added flare: God delivered them. The context appears to be agricultural in nature. So, I think we can assume the Psalm itself is about a drought or famine in the past and God blessed them and restored their fortunes with abundant harvests and crops. So keep that in mind as we make our way through Psalm 126.

The Psalm has one natural division between verse 3 and 4. You might note that your text in whatever version you’re using. I think there is a good argument to say that there is even a third section by dividing up the 2nd section, between verses 4&5. Here’s how I see it (One long sentence into three parts):

  1. Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the past (1-3)
  2. Leads us to Powerful Petitions through Prayer (4)
  3. And makes us laborers who water our work with tears of passion and expectation (5-6).

Let’s look first at God’s faithfulness.

I.     Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the past (1-3)

exp.: if you notice in these first three verses, the writer calls for the hearers to remember when God acted ‘before’ and what joy it brought them. Furthermore, the nations saw what God had done and God was glorified in all of that. Rd v 1; a memory of God’s faithfulness; there was a time in the past when Israel had lost its ‘fortunes’ and then God ‘restored’ them; the truth is we don’t know what he’s talking about. It could have been a reference to the exile, but if you go back to Judges, when they first settled the land and read all the way through up to this point, you’ll see that happen repeatedly. Maybe that’s the point. Then, he uses this simile: we were like those who dream. Sometimes, God moves in such miraculous ways, that life just seems to be dreamlike – like it just can’t be real.

ill.: Consider Peter chained between two guards, with two sets of chains. Peter was fast asleep when an angel of the Lord ‘struck’ him on the side. That is to say, he nudged Peter awake. Now, Peter was not quite sure that what was happening to him was real. He thought he was having a vision. That is until the angel left him and he stood alone in the street. That is when he came to himself. I love that phrase. We see it also of the prodigal son who was suffering and finally came to himself. That means he came to his senses – the predicament he found himself in was real.

exp.: you’ll note the writer uses a simile in both verse one and verse four: like those who dream, like streams in the Negeb… The Negeb is a desert area in the southern part of Israel. Man, oh, Man, to the streams flow when it rains.

Now, there are more similarities in these two verses (1-4): Yahweh is used in both, restore is used in both and fortunes is used in both. And, as I already mentioned, you see the word like. When that happens it should cause you to ask yourself if there is some sort of repetition here. It is fitting to see if there is a chiastic structure going on. It looks like there just might be: there is repetition in v 2 in the tongue and the mouth. And there is another repetition at the end of 2 and v3 in The Lord has done great things. If that is the case, then the phrase then they said among the nations is being magnified or is the emphasis of this section. Let that sink in for a moment. The whole focus then would be that God is glorified through us in those moments.

app.: it makes me wonder about what that looks like. I wonder if sometimes we glory in the blessings of God and don’t point others to Him during those times. Just wondering…

Let’s stick with the simile for now and move away from form and structure. It is used for effect. Remember when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, it was like…

A dreamlike anticipation is what Leslie Allen suggests in his commentary. Now, dreamers get this. You stable, realistic, “in-the-moment” people probably don’t get this imagery. Dreamers – we get it.

Ill.: One of my favorite illustrations about dreaming is in the book The Disney Way. Walt Disney was a dreamer. After Disney World was completed there was a special ceremony to cut the ribbon. Many who had worked on the project gathered for that special celebration near the front. As they were getting ready to cut the ribbon, one lady commented that it saddened her to think that Walt Disney wasn’t there to see this grand opening. A man standing near her said: He did see it. That’s why its here! That’s vision and that’s dreaming.

app.: Allen is suggesting that there was a ‘time’ before God’s blessings. Israel had experienced God’s blessings before, but now, for whatever reason, that wasn’t the experience. It could have been famine or drought. Who knows, but God? It doesn’t matter so much of what or when it was for us, but that it did happen at some time.

There was a time when the leadership saw people in the fields gathering more fruit and vegetables than they could possibly eat. The leadership saw the rivers flowing at their banks capacity, markets full, people laughing and enjoying the bounty of God’s blessing. And in that moment the leadership remembered when there had been drought or famine or pestilence or something horrible and they remember petitioning God for his blessings. They had been in a tough situation and wha-la! Now, what they had prayed about and asked God for – God’s answer was happening before their eyes. One day, after toil, struggle, prayer, and patience, God restored their fortune. He blessed them in the very manner their leadership had envisioned while praying.

And what did that cause them to do? rd v 2a: Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; Isn’t that what happens when God answers prayer? Aren’t you just amazed and filled with worship that has to spill out?

Look at the rest of v2; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” And indeed, they testify in v 3: The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

t.s.: So, now the writer moves to prayer – a prayer born out of remembrance. And that’s our 2nd point this morning… Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past…

II.    Leads us to Powerful Petitions through Prayer (4)

exp.: rd v 4; Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! ; A simple prayer, really; this is a prayer grounded in the faithfulness of God.

ill.: Can I just stop and be straight-forward with you right now? I’m there. I look at Calvary and recognize that she is a shadow of her former self. Lisa found a brochure of Calvary from the year 1999. There is a picture on the front of 20 people (really 21, but you can make out who it is). Of those 20 people whose pictures grace the cover of that brochure, only one person is still at Calvary 20 years later.

app.: God has blessed Calvary in the past. If I could show you pictures of her in her former glory (to use a worldly term), then that would be a great picture of v1 for us. To those who are older, I could say, Remember when the Lord restored the fortunes of Calvary? We were like those who dream. Can you use your imagination and see these hallways filled with people? Can you see us moving back into the south wing and needing one room per age group: one room for the 1st graders and one room for the 2nd graders and…. Can you see the worship center filled to capacity? Can you see this Fellowship Hall filled with every table and every chair? If you’re someone who has been here for at least the last 20 years, you can imagine it. And if you’ve been here since the 1940’s you can remember the former days when Calvary had 100’s and 100’s and 100’s of people – maybe 1,000 or more.

t.s.: that’s where those prayers are born… in memories of God’s faithfulness in the past. But the Psalmist is clear now. He tells just how those prayers flow –

III.   And makes us laborers who water our work with tears of passion and expectation (5-6)

exp.: rd v 5; Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Then there is this repeat of v 5 and a doubling up with emphasis: He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

ill.: What a picture! It isn’t the rain that comes which waters the seed that has been sown. It’s the tears of the laborers! Notice that these people don’t just get on their knees to pray. These people go to work.

app.: I think there will be times when a person will stop in and say they stopped in because they saw the church and they heard a voice that said: you should visit there. But really, that isn’t the Great Commission. Is it?

ill.: Matthew 28.18 – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. That’s a lot of authority Y’all. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, pray. … no… that isn’t what he said. He said… ? Go! Make disciples. Baptizing. Teaching.

Just curious, when you think of times when Jesus taught about prayer, what did he say? Does this sound familiar: And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Listen, sometimes, all you can do is pray. But, often times, there is work to be done.

Conclusion: Do you remember my story from the beginning of this message of me sitting down on the end of my bed and just weeping before God.

Well, God answered my prayer. Some months later an evangelist came to town. I church joined in the effort and it was a nice week. Afterward, I got cards representing some six different families. As I recall, all six of those families began coming to Calvary. I baptized at least one person from each of those families. Our church began reaching lost people and our church grew. God heard my prayers, he saw my tears, he restored our fortune…

Application: So what does this mean for us today? Well, a couple of thoughts:

  1. Repentance: Most Psalms that deal with this topic of prayer for restoring Israel’s fortunes have something about repentance, too. When taken as a whole, we must remember that God will not bless us in our sin. Where sin abounds, repentance must come first.
  2. When the church is blessed, God is glorified. I wonder if too many churches touch that glory and forget that the blessings of God are for the glory of God.
  3. Don’t confuse your idea of blessings and restoring of fortunes with God’s idea of the same.
  4. The younger generation doesn’t know what we know. My morning Scripture reading is in Deuteronomy and just this week Moses told the adults in 11.1: And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, and he continues on… I was reminded that those who are younger don’t understand what it means. They don’t remember the former glory, the times of fortune. Do you remember in Ezra where the young people wept for joy at the Temple and the older people wept with sorrow because they remembered the former glory of the Temple? The younger generation doesn’t know what we know. Keep that in mind. Maybe the younger generation can comprehend, but only on a small scale. But, for those of us who’ve endured, we must communicate with this younger generation: We’ve been through worse and God has always been faithful to His Church.
  5. Let me ask you: Do you recognize our need? Have you been moved to tears over Calvary? Have you been moved to labor? Do you realize that our church will not simply grow because we are here or even that we pray? Do you realize that we must get out of our seats and go beyond these walls to the ones who are lost and hurting? There is a man who has his 8th 1st-day chip from AA in two years. There is the wife who is hurting because her husband is addicted to porn. There is the mom who doesn’t know how to reach her hurting teenager. There is the daughter who has to make the hard decision to move her momma into a nursing home where she can get the around-the-clock attention she needs. There is the young couple who has been trying to have a baby for 5 long years. There are people all around us who are suffering in silence and you and I have been given the Great Commission to go to them.

Let’s start now. Let’s take our prayers and our tears to God and plead with him to save us, to deliver us, to send us to the hurting and the lost and the ones in need. Lord, send us out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing. And bring us back home with shouts of joy, bringing in the sheaves!

In a moment we’re going to call for a moment of silence. I’d like for you to reflect, honestly, on your heart for our church and our community. If you’ve never asked Christ to forgive you of your sin, I want to talk with you about that. If you have a decision or a commitment you’d like to talk with me about… (like you’re interested in joining our church or believe God might be calling you into the ministry or on to the mission field) please, come and talk with me about it. I’d love to visit with you about whatever is on your mind.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Psalm 122

Title: The Simple Pleasure of Public Worship

Text: Psalm 122

Introduction: Simple Pleasures. Most times, it seems, that what we enjoy most in life – are the simple pleasures.

I don’t know, maybe it is just because I’m getting older, but that is what I look forward to. I know everyone likes something different. Lisa and I are headed out of town for a couple of weeks of summer vacation. We’re going to do what we love. I’ve been praying the weather is nice and we can have a fire at night. I don’t know what it is about a fire in the fireplace or fire pit, but I could just sit and stare at it for hours. When you’re in the mountains it seems there are more stars – and they’re so much brighter.

The Simple Pleasures.

If the pilgrims are making their way up toward the Temple for worship and ‘singing’ these Psalms of Ascent, then, Psalm 120 is sung while they are still far off. Psalm 121 is sung as they see the hills of Jerusalem in the distance – maybe they don’t see the city, but they know they’re getting closer. If so, then Psalm 122 would be sung as they stepped inside the gates of the city. Just to be inside the gates! Man, they’re so close! Simple Pleasures.

What joy there would be when they arrived! The journey would have been long, but it at this time, would be considered worth it! Maybe they’ll be like Jesus who turned his face toward Jerusalem in Luke 9.51; There are like 6 references to their journey toward Jerusalem. You read through Luke and you follow Christ and where he goes, but if you’re not looking specifically at the references, you’ll miss the pilgrimage. These guys are probably thinking their journey is for a feast or festival – It is the Passover – but, I believe Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He was going to be the Passover lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of the world.

Maybe the people have been on a long journey and now they’ve arrived. I wonder what went through their hearts and minds. I wonder what their senses picked up that was familiar and brought excitement. The sound of animal hooves on the stone road or the noises they make as they coo and crow. The sights and sounds of the big city that they’ve not heard since last there? I wonder… I’ll bet it was the simple pleasures.

 

Let’s pause for a moment and bring this home: What goes through your heart and mind when it comes time to go to church? What do you think? What do you feel? Is there excitement? Is there a sense of anticipation?

Look back with me now to Psalm 122; rd v 1-2; someone said, “it’s time!” and now they’re standing within the gates.

Transition: note with me the first simple pleasure David records…

I.     There is a joy that arises from within when the Psalmist hears the invitation to go to the house of the Lord. (1-2)

exp.: I was glad! The House of Yahweh; which, by the way, forms bookends to this Psalm. You’ll see the House of Yahweh again in v9; I think this joy rises up within because the psalmist loves to worship Yahweh.

If this Psalm is of David, then the context is of David already standing within the walls of Jerusalem rejoicing at the call of someone who had previously said to him, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” For the Psalms of Ascent, this psalm was added to this collection because it works perfectly with the pilgrims who are making their way to Jerusalem. There is an excitement that arises when one considers coming to the house of God to worship him.

ill.: I liken it to Youth camp. You guys just got back. Some of you testified to how wonderful it was. If Duffey were to announce this morning that He is putting together a group of teens who will be going back to Camp, I wonder if any would be like David here and say: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go back to Youth Camp!” At Youth camp, you probably worshipped and fellowship and had experiences that are unlike being in the real world. You’ve withdrawn from the world and you’ve enjoyed the mountaintop experiences of getting away from the world and getting closer to God.

app.: Look at his experiences of worship: v4, to give thanks; v6-8, for prayer (peace, security, prosperity, unity, community);

t.s.: there is joy – and if you don’t have it, I can’t make you experience it. It is something that is born from within you. There is joy that arises from within when the believer hears the invitation to go to the house of the Lord because the believer loves to worship God. But there is a 2nd Simple Pleasure…

II.    There is a gratitude that arises from within when the Psalmist thinks about the city where the Worship of God is central and the rule of David’s throne is set. (3-5)

exp.: Jerusalem, the psalmist loves Jerusalem! Why does he love this city?

  • From the context of the king, David has been there all week at a festival. He now thinks about leaving and he can’t wait to return.
  • For the pilgrim from a faraway land, he’s thinking and longing about standing there again. Whether that is someone who is coming back from exile, or if it is someone who lives in the country but has to travel to Jerusalem for a festival and a time of worship, that person is longing for the city – And, that person is so excited about getting there once again, because it isn’t just any city.

Ill.: Consider that those who lived out in the country of Judea had to travel to Jerusalem and how hard that would have been. Do you remember Hannah and her husband, Elkannah? Their journey was once a year – year by year. Every year they would travel from his city to Shiloh, where the ark was at that time. Consider when a family packed up and went, who took care of the business; fed and cared for the animals, etc.?

ill.#2: There is work to be done. Lisa and I are going out of town. It is absurd, the amount of work. Lisa had to make three bulletins this week. I had to line up someone to mow our yard. There was a lot of prep work. And, when we return, we’ll be playing catch up for a few days.

These people had it harder than we do! They would be gone for longer than we will be gone.

There was this hard work, but there was also this ‘emotional’ experience – an emotional attachment. But, it is more than an emotional attachment!

  • There is stability here in Jerusalem.
    • The gates (v2) are strong and sturdy; rd v 3,
    • the city itself is built in such a way that it is described as; bound firmly together; And I think this is more than just stone and mortar, walls and towers (v7).
    • It is also a community.
      • You see this in v 4; there are 13 tribes of Israel and they’ve all come to this place for this celebration, this festival.
      • This is where the king lives and rules. The Davidic lineage. Remember the Christmas story? Jesus was of the house of David.
    • In the last section, you see two words that are very similar, but still different: Secure and Security. We’ll say more about these two words in a minute, but for now, note the feel of what being inside the city gates would bring to the pilgrim.

ill.: When I was in Harlingen as a young minister, my pastor required the staff to make hospital visits each week. In a church that size, there was always someone in the hospital. Every Thursday I would drive to Valley Baptist Hospital and visit members. To be quite honest, I didn’t know 99% of the people there who were members of my own congregation. But I got to meet some neat people. One such lady was in her late 90’s. She had been a part of FBC Harlingen most of her life. She played the piano and taught in the children’s Sunday School for decades. Her memories were much like what David is sharing here: they brought her joy and a deep sense of gratitude. She would refer to the church as ‘choych’. And she would say it with a sweetness, such a fondness that I think most folks just don’t get.

app.: I wonder if the younger generation is missing out on something truly wonderful in having an emotional attachment to the church? We’re so mobile. With 400 churches in Smith County, it is so easy to just move your membership.

Now, an emotional attachment isn’t everything, but it is something wonderful. There is an emotional attachment to the place and to the people. And I think it only comes through a loyalty of commitment to community and unity – to the people of God.

Let me ask you: What happens to you when someone mentions the church? Is there a feeling, an emotion that rises up within you of longing and desire? Is there joy and gratitude that arises within when you speak of the church?

Derek Kidner in his two-volume set on Psalms says: What Jerusalem was to the Israelite, the church is to the Christian.

Martin Luther: Our Jerusalem is the church and our temple is Christ.

app.: I think the text is clear that their reasoning for coming was to (v.4) give thanks. Unity and Community were byproducts of that mandate. They did not come to Jerusalem on a yearly basis to work on their unity.

t.s.: there is joy when he hears of and gratitude when he thinks of Jerusalem and the Temple. Then, there is a switch on the part of the Psalmist. His longing turns to an imperative. He commands the people to pray – and that is my 3rd Simple pleasure…

III.   There is a concern that arises within the Psalmist for the welfare of this divine institution as he considers the fragile state of the human condition. (6-9)

exp.: it feels good to care about something; to take ownership! In v6 he begins with a command: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is a question about whether this should still be going on. Maybe you’ve seen this bumper sticker? The Psalmist tells you what to pray – I mean he gives you the words: “May they be secure who love you! 7Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” These two words secure and security have the connotation of May they ‘securely prosper and secure prosperity’. Why pray for these things? His answer is in 8-9: For the sake of my family and friends, for the sake of the Lord’s house.

Do you follow the news of Jerusalem? UPI headlines yesterday: Muslims Worshipers, Israeli Police Clash at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Jerusalem continues to search for peace, but peace eludes them. Why? Jesus told them 2,000 ago: 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19.41-44 – We learned in our Christian History class this summer that there were Christians who knew this and fled to the hills and were saved when Jerusalem fell in 70AD.

1,000 years after David commanded the Israelites to pray for peace, Peace came and stood in their midst. And they missed him! You see in v 41 that it broke his heart as he wept over the ‘city of peace’.

(Pause)

ill.: Do you remember when David was chilling out in his Palace and looked out across the way and saw the tent where the Ark of the Covenant was? His heart broke. He thought it wrong that he, the King of Israel should dwell in a palace and the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant should dwell in a tent. He set his heart and his mind to build a Temple for God. You probably remember the story. God chose his son, Solomon to build the Temple. So David prepared everything ahead time for his son. He got all the lumber and materials in order before he died so that his son could build that Temple.

It was at that time that the Israelites were given a picture of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace:

  • He is the king who was descended from David
  • He is the great high priest who would intercede for us.

app.: And only when you come to the place where you surrender your life to the King and ask for him to intercede for you as your priest can you truly find peace. Peace can only come through Christ. That’s why he wept. Consider Luke 13: 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! He wanted to gather them! He wanted that peace for them. But they had other plans.

Now, you might be wondering really Fred, you got that from here? Do you see v 3? That phrase bound firmly together? That is the same wording in Exodus for the prescription of how the Tent, which possessed the Ark, was built: bound firmly together. Exodus 26.11; So you have this imagery of God and the command of the tribes of Israel to ascend (v.4 – go up) to give thanks to the name of the Lord. Verse 5 declares the rule of the King who administers justice and judgment.

t.s.: And for me, that’s point #4 this morning and the conclusion of the matter:

Conclusion – The Reality of it all: they missed it (Luke 19.41; 13.34)

exp.: But you don’t have to miss it. That really is the message of the Gospel: there is no peace without Jesus.

They came to their festivals. They sang their psalms. They longed for peace, but when peace was in their midst, when peace visited them, they missed him. Don’t miss your opportunity to find peace.

Application: What are we called to do in light of this message? Three questions for you to consider:

  1. When was the last time you said: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” The Psalmist loves Worship, he loves the place of worship, and he loves the people who worship God with him. There is a zeal and a passion for the Worship of God – for the Place of Worship, the People of Worship. Do you get excited about that, too?

ill.: One of the things I miss about my girls is that they used to get so excited about Sundays and going to church. There was an excitement about picking out their dresses; about picking out the necklace that would go with that dress; about the shoes that would match; about getting their hair done. I can remember driving by the church and my girls, when they were little would point it out with enthusiasm, there’s the church – like I was missing it somehow. When was the last time you got excited about church? When was the last time you said: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

  1. When you do come to the church, what are your expectations? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you look for those who aren’t here and make comments about them? Is this a social hour? Or, Do you come to this place for the sole purpose of giving thanks to the name of the Lord?
  2. Do you long for, deeply desire God’s favor to be visited upon the people of God? Do you pray for her peace? Do you pray for her prosperity? Do your prayers bubble up from the passion and longing you have for her? Pray for the Church.
    1. Matthew Henry: The peace and welfare of the gospel church, particularly in our land, is to be earnestly desired and prayed for by every one of us.
    2. Spurgeon said: For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. It is to the advantage of all Israel that there should be peace in Jerusalem. It is for the good of every Christian, yea, of every man, that there should be peace and prosperity in the church. Here our humanity and our children, our neighbors, and our fellow countrymen are likely to be blest.

 

Here at Calvary, we spend time in fellowship after our worship services. If you’re a guest, we’d love to visit with you, too. If you’ve never accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we want to take advantage of this time and share Christ with you. Maybe you have a commitment you’d like to share with us: surrendering to missions, joining our fellowship and becoming a member – whatever it might be – we’re going to have a moment of silence to reflect upon the Greatness of God and consider what He is calling us to do. After that time of silence, join us in our time of fellowship – come and talk with us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon

Introduction to the Psalms of Ascent

Title: Psalms of Ascent

Text: Psalm 120-134

Introduction: Ezra (and Nehemiah)

When you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah you get an understanding of the intense passion these two men had. Their desire was for their heritage. Their passion was for their God and the city he gave them – Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Temple. Ezra was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the wall around the city.

The journey these men took began in Persia. It is believed by some that this is where the small collection of Psalms that we know as the Psalms of Ascent originated. We don’t know this for sure, but it is a very good theory. The idea behind this theory is that the Psalms of Ascent were compiled by Ezra (or priests working with him). The same word is used in Ezra 2.1 (7.9) as in this title telling of how the people “went up”. So, Ezra then compiled these Psalms and the priests then taught them to the people as they journeyed to Jerusalem. At least that’s one theory. I like it. It would have been inspirational and motivational. And so after the people returned from exile, they kept the tradition alive and would sing the Psalms of Ascent whenever they would journey from their homes in Israel to the Temple in Jerusalem for their seasons of feasts and festivals. This is how their children and their children’s children would learn.

There is a 2nd theory and this is the one I learned as a young man. The theory is that the priests would make their way to the Temple and as they ascended the 15 steps to the Temple, they would stop and recite one Psalm for each step. The 1st step would be Psalm 120. The 2nd step would be Psalm 121, and on up we go.

Let me show you some pictures.

I would propose to you that both of these happened: the priests reciting the Psalms as they climbed the stairs to the Temple and the People singing them as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. Theory probably isn’t the right word. There is evidence both happened, it is just that neither one became a prominent tradition practiced through the years.

This leads to a question you might have: Why are we working through them? Why the Psalms of Ascent? Why did we leave Romans? Well, it is hard! Romans 8-11 are probably some of my favorite passages in Romans. Two Reasons: 1. I calendared it this way months ago. But really, the simple answer is Worship; I want to focus on worship for a season – that is the reason I put it on the calendar. Consider our three areas of focus as a church:

  • Worship: One Passion
  • Discipleship: One Mission – the Great Commission
  • Mission/Ministry: One Body serving in ministry and mission.

So, for this season, we’ll keep an eye on this task of worship.

Let’s approach it from the same standpoint as Ezra and Nehemiah. Consider their lives; where they were and what they were going through:

  1. Israel has been in exile for the past 70 years or so. So, these guys were born in exile. They’ve never known a Temple. All they know is what they’ve been told. There is much of their past they don’t know about or they don’t understand.
  2. They are in exile because of their sin and their rebellion; Daniel 9.3-19; Wow, what a prayer, an acknowledgment of why they were where they were. Consider this: God’s actions were so real, so evident and so very effective, that the Israelites never again had trouble with worshipping idols.

Let me ask you as you consider the prayer of Daniel: Do you want God’s blessing on Calvary? Do you desire for God to pour out his blessing on this Body of Believers? Do we deserve for God to bless us? No, and we must remember that we cannot appeal to God because of our righteousness, but only because of his mercy. Let us keep this in mind and ask God to draw us closer to him in the coming weeks as we focus on him, as we experience his mercy and forgiveness, and as we are moved to worship.

The plan is to sing the Psalms, study the Psalms and hopefully be moved in our worship.

A Word about the whole book: The Book of Psalms used to be understood as a random collection of Songs. But, today, more and more scholars are seeing the organization of these Songs.

  1. Outline of Psalms – 5 books
    1. Book 1: 1-41 tell of David’s reign
    2. Book 2: 42-72 is more of David’s reign and the transition to Solomon’s reign.
    3. Book 3: 73-89 is about the divided kingdom and the eventual conquering of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom by Babylon and being carried into exile.
    4. Book 4: 90-106 covers the years Israel was in exile.
    5. Book 5: 107-150 is post-exilic in nature.
  2. You could break that down even further with an Introduction (1-2) and a conclusion (146-150)
    1. Psalm 1 is about the torah and Psalm 2 is about the King of Israel. So the idea is of delighting oneself in the Law of God and following God as their King.

Speaking of organization, there are even smaller segments with different types of focus. Let me show you some famous segments.

  1. Segments
    1. Hallel (113-118)
    2. The Law (Psalm 119, Psalm 19)
    3. Psalms of Ascent (120-134)
    4. 103-107

Let’s talk about this particular segment, the Psalms of Ascent, for just a moment, as we prepare to study them in the coming weeks. I want you to see there is flow here, too. There are smaller segments that demonstrate cohesion.

  1. It appears that these songs were selected with their theme of the Temple:
    1. 7 of the 15 Psalms mention Zion. 125, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133, 134
    2. Psalm 122 mentions Jerusalem.
    3. Psalm 121, 123, 124 use formulations related to Zion.
    4. Psalm 127 mentions the ‘city’ and 130 and 131 mention the faith community of Israel gathered in the Temple complex.
    5. Only the 1st Psalm (120) doesn’t mention the Temple in any fashion. So, what does that mean?
  2. From the Jewish viewpoint, the Psalms of Ascent begin with the Jews at war and ends with the priest’s blessing them in the Temple. So, the flow appears to be a journey. The people are in a foreign land (120.5), Meshech and Kedar as the Psalms of ascent begin in 120 and they are in the Temple worshipping in Psalm 134. Read those passages.
  3. The high points: popularity and familiarity
    1. Psalm 121: 1-2
    2. Psalm 122:1
    3. Psalm 127:1, 3-5a
    4. Psalm 130: 1-4
    5. Psalm 133: 1

Conclusion: So, what am I hoping to accomplish here?

Well, I mentioned earlier the purpose of this study is worship. But where does worship come from? How does it well up within and boil over? I mentioned earlier that the introduction to the book of Psalms in Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are about delighting in the Law of God and following God as their king. But, I think it is deeper than that. I think that both of these two themes are all about Jesus and He’s the one I want us to see as we make our way through the Psalms of Ascent.

Look at Psalm 1 with me. rd v 1; Blessed is the man who… rd 2. …Blessed are all who take refuge in him. So, you see these already go together with these bookends. Go back to Ps. 1: read v 1; Really, who is that? Anyone here do that perfectly? Anyone you know of? Only Jesus. Look at v 5-6; who is the only one who can stand on his own in the judgment? Only Jesus, the perfect man.

Look at Psalm 2 with me. rd Ps 2.1-9; This is about the King – The Lord’s King, who according to v 7 is – His Son. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Jesus.

I propose to you that the Psalms of Ascent, as with all of the Psalms, point us to Jesus – God’s Anointed One. He is the theme, the purpose, the reason for those songs. It is Him we will see and it is Him we will be inspired to worship. In the Psalms of Ascent, you’ll see themes of:

  • Peace
  • Unity
  • Mercy
  • Protection
  • Rest and Restoration
  • Family and Community and how they impact each other
  • Discipline
  • Redemption
  • Faithfulness
  • Blessing

Application:

  1. Read through the POA
    1. You can read through them in one easy sitting.
    2. Read half on one day and the other half on the manãna.
  2. See how they go together. Is there a familiar theme in the previous Psalm or in the next Psalm? Is there a flow here? See if there are bookends to different Psalms, like I showed you in Psalm 1 and 2.
  3. Be praying about your worship.
    1. As an individual
    2. As a family
    3. As a community

Ask: Do I come in here Sunday after Sunday without having prepared my heart for worship? What is your Sunday morning routine like? Does it include yelling? Scrambling to get here in a fashionable time? Be praying about your worship and how you contribute to this time on Sunday. Also, pray about what God might be doing in your life concerning worship. Where does he want to take you? What does he want you to see? Is there anything about your worship he doesn’t like – that he wants to refine?

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Reading, Christian Living, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Romans 6.23

Title: The Gospel: A Story of Comparing and Contrasting

Text: Romans 6.23

Introduction: Do you guys know who Michael Rotondo is? He is the 30-year-old man from NY who was evicted by his parents. They gave him 5 or 6 letters of eviction. They pleaded with him to get a job. They reasoned that there were plenty of jobs out there, even jobs for folks who have horrible work records. Just get some employment. They wrote in an eviction notice back in February: “There are jobs available even for those with a poor work history like you,” one letter they sent him reads. “Get one – you have to work!”

Finally, on May 22nd, they took him to court. Michael lost. He moved out this week.

What a nightmare. I feel for his parents. They felt used. They wanted their son to quit being a leech. Earn a wage!

That’s tough. I know our government gives lots of handouts. There are many who survive from weekly government checks. I’m not knocking those folks. Unless of course, their career is living on the government – kind of like Michael, here living off his parents.

His parents offered him $1,100 to move out on. The money was for Deposits, first month’s rent, etc. he turned them down.

I’m not them, so I have no idea what they went through. But, as a parent, I know the feeling of wanting your child to grow up and become self-sufficient – to earn a wage.

Our verse this morning uses that word – ‘wage’. We’re in Romans 6.23: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

6.23 is the summation verse of Chapter 6. It began back in v 1 with a question – a question a “Judaizer” would have asked. You can imagine a debate going on where Paul declares the teaching of Acts 15 and someone begins to question him. Saved by faith are we now? Where sin increased, grace increased all the more then? So, Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound all the more?

Well, Paul gives us the answer in verse 2-3 and 15-16 with a definitive: No! And then he spends the rest of the chapter explaining it all. Verses 20-23 are the closing statement to an argument that says we should not, we must not continue in sin… We’ve been set free from all of that

Now, Paul compares and contrasts three different elements to his summation.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Wages and free gift
  • Sin and God
  • Death and Eternal life

 

  1. We first find The Means by which we receive our reward. It is something we earn or we can’t earn it, but rather are freely given.
  2. Next, we see The Master we choose to serve who gives us this reward – whichever it might be…
  3. Finally, The Manifestation of our full reward is revealed.

Transition: Let’s begin with this first element… A comparing and contrasting of:

I.     The Means

exp.: One of my favorite sayings on God’s Sovereignty is: The One who determines the ends, also determines the means. I don’t know who said it or where it comes from. But what is being expressed is the idea that God is the one who makes all the rules. rd v 23: Wages vs. Free Gift; 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I assume that we all know what wages are. Wages are something we earn and are owed to us. We’ve ‘worked’ for wages. Usually, this involves time, energy, effort, etc. We’ve worked for someone and now that someone owes us.

When you look at the free gift, that doesn’t really fit. A gift isn’t earned. I’ve heard of parents saying stuff like: if you’ll lose weight, then I’ll give you this gift. That’s twisted. That’s not a gift. That’s something that is earned. You usually deserve your wages. You’ve worked for them. You don’t usually deserve a gift. It comes free of charge and with no strings attached. If there are strings attached, then it isn’t really a gift. It’s just that person trying to get something out of you – probably for selfish reasons.

ill.: Consider the parents of Michael Rotondo. They wanted to give him a gift $1,100 to pay for deposits, first months rent, etc. They wanted something from Michael – to move out. Their ‘gift’ wasn’t really a gift – was it? That’s different.

app.: Boy, this has me thinking about times I thought I was giving a gift, but really was selfishly trying to get something myself. Maybe I had good intentions or maybe I thought I was helping whomever for whatever reason. But, if I’m honest, I was probably giving that gift as a reward or a wage.

t.s.: I think to understand this better – this concept of wages – and to understand it correctly, we must look at this 2nd element: A comparing and contrasting of

II.    The Master

exp.: 6.23: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I think it becomes clearer when you put them side-by-side and place it in the context of the slave owners found in v 20-22; Slaves of sin and Slaves of God. This terminology bothers folks today because it isn’t PC. Consider some of our translations even change up the word slave for servant. But, Slave is the correct word. When you’re a slave and you work, you usually aren’t working for pleasure – to earn a wage, you simply work because you’re told to do so. You’re doing the work of your master. So one master is Sin and the other master is God. And in both illustrations, you don’t work for your master to get something from them. You work for your master because you are his slave. The Master then gives you what he wants to give you. The master, Sin, pays out what he wants. The Master, God, wants to give free gifts.

ill.: Does it make you uncomfortable to consider yourself a slave? This is the term Jesus used to describe those who practice sin. He said in John 8.34 that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. It really is like that isn’t it? Sinful behavior is like a chain that holds you captive and doesn’t let you go.

app.: But that isn’t the way it goes with God – when He is your Master. In that same passage, John 8, Jesus said that if the Son sets you free, you’re free indeed. Or as some younger folks would say: You’re really, really free. Not just free, you’re not just really free, you’re really, really free!

How is this possible? How is someone a slave to righteousness, a slave to God and free at the same time?

I think you have to understand the whole story. I’m talking about the story that begins with Creation. God created you – a human being – to exist a certain way. Satan has corrupted that through sin. Sin promises so much but delivers nothing. Sin promises to make you feel better, look better, be more popular, to remove your pain, to gain more friends and the list goes on. But the truth is – Sin doesn’t deliver on its promises. Sin gives you a temporary fix to a permanent problem.

But God created you for a different existence. You were not created to be in bondage to sin. You were created for a relationship with God.

Imagine coming home to the one who made you and setting you free from this bondage of sin which leads to death, – setting you free to live life as He designed. Imagine coming home to him and finding that he doesn’t exact a wage from you, but rather lavishes precious gifts upon you.

Jesus tells this story in Luke 15.11-32;

app.: the one son who broke his Father’s heart returned. I love the picture of the father waiting, watching. I love the picture of the father running. I love how the father lavished precious gifts upon the son.

t.s.: And that leads us to our last comparison…

III.   The Manifestation

exp.: 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Death or Eternal Life. Sin’s ultimate wage is death. God’s ultimate gift is eternal life. Hmmm… I wonder why it is so hard to choose? Would you call it irony that in refusing to choose, you really are making a choice anyway?

ill.: Michael Rotondo’s parents really wanted something special for their son. They wanted him to be totally free and independent. I think that’s what all parents want for their kids. Some folks probably think a great illustration from them would have been if they bought Michael a home and gave it to him as a gift. No strings attached. But this is where the illustration breaks down. I’m assuming that these parents are doing what they’re doing because they’re trying to teach their son what it means to be truly free.

app.: Isn’t that odd. They’re doing something that seems really mean to do what they would consider in the best interest of their son. I’m sure there are many who see that as contradictory: how can hurting him, how can making him struggle and suffer now make him better and stronger later?

t.s.: Well, there seem to be a contradiction in coming to faith in Christ, too.

Conclusion: Here is what I mean: true freedom comes when you finally surrender your life to Christ. You’ve tried living life your way. You’ve been a slave to sin and maybe you didn’t even know it. You see what that life has done for you. Rd 6.21; that life brought you shame. Now, will you trust your life to Christ? Will you surrender your life to God and trust Him to do things his way?

The Bible teaches us that we’re all sinners. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And what does it cost us to be sinners – each and every one of us? Death. Eternal death. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Note that last phrase: in Christ Jesus our Lord. Death is the payment due, but Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for you and me. When Christ died on the Cross, God took your sin and placed on him. He died for your sin. And he took the righteousness of Christ – all of his perfection – and put it on you.

So, when you put your faith in Christ, God takes away your sin and makes you righteous in His eyes. Then, you begin to live life the way he designed – in a relationship with Him.

Application: So, what would I like you to take home with you today?

  1. When you give gifts, are they really gifts or wages for something you desire? What a great reminder to us to think through what is given and what is expected. What a great reminder that Sin operates that way: it makes you think you’re getting something, but in reality, Sin is the one who does the ‘getting’.
  2. I hope that last question has you thinking about your heart. Is it selfish? Does your heart seek your own way? This is your life – Are you who you want to be? Are you who you thought you’d be?
  3. What is really stopping you right now from surrendering your life to Christ? Really?
  4. Is this not the most incredible story you’ve ever heard? A good and gracious God who desires a relationship with you will do whatever it takes to make you into the person he created you to be – even to the giving up of his own son. Would you tell someone?

**Post Sermon Remarks: Giving is a touchy subject. My purpose is to challenge each person reading this to search his or her heart concerning intention and motive.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Living, Luke, Romans, Sanctification, Scripture, Sermon

Service for Scotty Calhoun

Service for Scotty Calhoun

20 April 2018

 

Song: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands played over the speaker system

Prayer & Scripture Reading: Psalm 121

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Eulogy/Obituary: Mr. Scott Calhoun (Scotty), 58 of Tyler, passed away Tuesday, April 17, 2018 in Tyler. He was born October, 16, 1959 in Tyler to Sammy Joe Calhoun and Martha Gentry Calhoun.

Scott was a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Tyler, TX (I was told that Scotty and his family were the 1st folks to join Calvary when Calvary relocated to its currently location. That they actually drove downtown to the old facility just for the purpose of joining, knowing they were moving south to Old Jacksonville Hwy. The Obituary reads that Scotty lived at Breckenridge Village of Tyler.

Scott was preceded in death by parents, uncle, Paul Gentry, grandparents, Joe and Gladys Gentry and Park and Jessie Calhoun. He is survived by his loving family including his uncle, Bill Gentry and wife Peggy of Lewisville; aunt, Alice Arnett and husband Don of Emmet, AR; cousins, Sherry DiPatri, Dick Gentry, Teresa Klembara, Lisa Ormsbee, Linda Aull, Kathie Cobb and Cindy Allen; and numerous friends from Breckenridge Village of Tyler.

Prayer by Pastor Fred

Song: Nearer, My God, to Thee

 Message: Psalm 139.13-18

This afternoon we’ve come together to celebrate. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is mourning at the loss of Scotty Calhoun. But there is celebration, too. Why? Why is there celebration?

  1. We celebrate God’s incredible love for us.

Psalm 139 is a Psalm of Praise, which highlights the wonderful works of God. They’re really too incredible to actually wrap our minds around.

        O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

                        You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

                        You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

                        Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

                        You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

                        Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Consider how God knows us. He knows the simple things and the complex things. He understands what we’re thinking before we even form the words to say.

ill.: When I would visit with Martha and Scotty, I have to say, there were times I didn’t understand what Scotty was saying or what he wanted. Not with Martha, she would know and she would ‘translate’ for me or explain to me what was going on. I have to say, her wisdom and experience were invaluable. She knew Scotty so well.

Do you ever wonder about your own life? Does God truly understand? Does he really know? Let me encourage you today and say yes! Even better than a mom knows her child, even deeper than a wife knows her husband, God’s knowledge of you and your life is mind blowing: v6 reads: Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Transition: We gather here today to celebrate God’s incredible love us. We also gather to celebrate God’s incredible grace toward us.

  1. We celebrate God’s incredible grace toward us.

Read with me Psalm 139.7-12; Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

        If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

        If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10         even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

11         If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

12         even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

Consider then, according to the Psalmist, that wherever we go or wherever we are, God is with us. You’re never alone. Sam and Martha had an incredible plan. Sam worked while he was alive and Martha carried it over to completion. They were watching out for their boy. I feel positive they knew pretty much everything about his coming and going. And, they made sure that when they were gone, there would be someone watching over him, too. But, as believers, they knew that God was watching over him. There is no place on earth he could go that would ever take him out of God’s care.

As a preacher, my concern would be that you know this amazing principle, too. God’s Holy Spirit, once it enters us upon the invitation of the heart, never leaves us. There is no place you can go where God is not there with you also. I know, that is a double negative, but it just doesn’t sound the same worded differently. If you don’t know Christ, my plea would be that you would.

Transition: We’re here today to celebrate God’s incredible love for us, his incredible grace toward us and thirdly…

  1. We celebrate this wonderful life that God has given us.

13         For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

14         I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

15         My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16         Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

17         How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18         If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

                                       I awake, and I am still with you.

This part of the passage focuses on the word formed.

  • You formed my inward parts
  • Your eyes saw my unformed substance

Even before the sperm and the egg came together to create the first cell known as us, God knew us. God saw us before we came to be. That is mind blowing! He formed our inward parts together. Get that, now, intentionally forming every part of us to make us who we are. And we’re perfect the way God makes us.

There is more here, though, consider this third use of the word formed:

  • That all of my days (and your days) were formed for me (and for you), and written down in God’s book before even my (or your) first day came to be.

There is a scene in the Matrix where Neo goes to visit the oracle. The oracle says to Neo – don’t worry about the vase. He turns to look for the vase and bumps it. It falls and breaks. He apologizes for breaking the vase and she says: I told you not to worry about it. Then, she says: What’s really going to cook your noodle later is: would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything.

Did you know nothing is going to happen to you today that God doesn’t already know about?

Ill.: I had plans to be at the San Antonio Zoo today. My wife and I were invited home for a family get together, that our family has every Easter. This was the closest weekend when the most of us could be there together. Think about this, now: I made plans to be at the San Antonio Zoo. But while I was making those plans, God knew where I’d be and what I’d be doing.

Have you ever heard the quip: if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

Are you someone who questions God’s plan for your life? I hope you won’t and I hope you don’t. Because we never know why things happen the way they do.

I’m often time confounded by the world’s smartest people who will spend millions of dollars to send a probe into space to look for life out there on Mars or some other remote part of the Universe. And yet, these same smart people will not choose life when it comes to people who aren’t like them. They miss the fact that we’re all made the way we’re made for God’s glory.

Did you know that in the last 30 years, the life expectancy of someone born with Down syndrome has increased from 25 years to 55 years. Medical advances have created the possibility where babies can be born without heart defects, colon and intestinal problems, cleft lips and cleft palates. Surgery can actually be done in the womb and there are no physical scars when the child is born! And still, with all of these technological and medical advances, the smart people out there are working to stop these children from ever being born. And worse, there is a movement to end their lives prematurely.

States are moving at an alarming rate to approve euthanasia for those whose lives are lived outside of the ‘normal’ boundaries.

Listen, God’s blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the blessings we receive are from those gifts we would have never expected.

I want to take this moment before I close to give a shout out to Breckenridge Village and the wonderful people who work there. You folks are the best. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry to our families! Do you let youth groups and volunteers come help? What a great mission project for your church. What an opportunity to pull out your check book and donate to a Christian Cause that truly blesses others.

Closing:

Once upon a time, there was a farmer in the central region of China. He didn’t have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field.

One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, “Oh, what a horrible thing to happen.” The farmer said simply, “We’ll see.”

He was so at peace and so calm, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave him a new horse as a gift.

Everyone’s reaction now was, “What a lucky man.” And the farmer said, “We’ll see.”

A couple days later, the new horse jumped a fence and ran away. Everyone in the village shook their heads and said, “What a poor fellow!”

The farmer smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

Eventually, the horse found his way home, and brought with him another horse that had been out in the wilderness. Everyone again said, “What a blessed man.” He lost his horse and now he has two!

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

The farmer’s son went out to break and train the new horse when he was thrown and broke his leg. Everyone in the village said, “What a shame for the poor boy.”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Two days later, the army came into the village to draft new recruits. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they decided not to recruit him.

Everyone said, “What a fortunate young man.”

The farmer smiled again – and said, “We’ll see.”

Moral of the story: We have no idea what the circumstances we find ourselves in today will be for us tomorrow. There’s no use in overreacting to the events and circumstances of our everyday lives. We must trust that God has “formed our days” and written them down in his book – before even one of those days came to be. We must trust that God is going to glorify himself in and through our lives. And we have evidence of his goodness in the life of Scotty Calhoun. We are better people because we knew him. Both he and his family have profoundly influenced our lives for the good.

Prayer:

Song: How Great Thou Art

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Evangelism, Family, Funeral, Psalms, Scripture, Sermon, Special Needs, The Gospel, Thoughts, Happenings, Events

Romans 5.12-14

Title: The Doctrine of Original Sin

Text: Romans 5.12-14

CIT: Sin entered the world through Adam’s rebellion and has infected every human being so that all have sin and none is without sin.

CIS: Where Adam brought both sin and death to all humans, Jesus has conquered both in his redeeming work on the Cross.

Introduction: Is there any doubt that sin exists?

Story: I love the children’s message today because it really brings home the teaching of God’s Word and the author.

Ill.: Story of the elk who licked the hunter…

Some stories are hard to believe. But, everything changes when you consider the one who tells it.

That is the way it is with Scripture. When our story comes straight from the mouth of God, then it is easy to believe. We’ll look at just such a story this morning as Paul presents the Doctrine of Original Sin to the Romans.

I’d like to present a series of questions, which I believe this passage answers:

  1. How did sin enter into the world?
  2. What are the consequences of that action?
  3. Was it that way before the Law was given?
  4. This is all so very bleak! What hope is there, then?

Let’s begin with this first question:

  1. How did sin get here? (12a)

exp.: The answer is: Sin and Death Entered the World through Adam’s Rebellion. Rd 12a; I think it is important that we not separate these two – sin and death, because they are really inseperabl. Let’s look at the actual text where Paul’s teaching comes from: Gen. 2.25-3.7; you’ll notice the bookends of 2.25-3.7 concerning their nakedness. In one, they were not ashamed in their nakedness. In the other, there is great shame in their nakedness.

ill.: In the Simeon Trust Preach Workshops, this passage is often used as an example of Deuteronomy 4.2: You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. You see the idea in preaching is to present God’s Word – unadulterated, pure and simple. Read with me 3.1; I wonder if Satan spoke with a hiss: Did God really sssssay? Look how Eve responds:

  • She minimizes the freedom that God gave them. read v 2; God originally told them they could eat from every tree except one. Next,
  • She added a strictness to his command – not to even touch it. rd v 3; (2.17)
  • She softened his word in regard to their certain death. God said She said lest.

Let me ask you this morning: what importance do you place upon handling the Word of God. Is every word important? You bet, because when we don’t know God’s Word, it is so easy for someone to lead us astray. Rd v 4-7;

I say it is. Furthermore, what we’re seeing here is that a breakdown in properly handling God’s Word leads to sinful behavior. It leads to rebellion.

app.: I wish Eve would have said: you know what, let me get back to you on this. I need to consult God on this first!

Well, we see here how sin entered the world: through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Their rebellion brings about the curse at the end of the chapter and it ends with the assurance that God’s Word was true all along. He said: in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. And the curse concludes with: for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Furthermore, you can read to chapter 5, verse 5 and read: Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

Ill.: This past week a woman I encountered at the bank asked me a question about the temptation in the Garden: Pastor, was Adam even there. Well, I needed to do some research for that one. I had always assumed he was. I mention this because, at some point, we must address the issue of roles and responsibilities. Why wasn’t it Eve who suffered the brunt of the punishment? As you finish up chapter three, you read about the submissive role Eve was to take, the contrary nature she would have against her husband, and the authority and responsibility Adam was given.

I wish we had more time to spend here, but I’m sure many of you are probably asking: Why did Adam take the brunt and the sin was passed through him to all people? Simply put: Because, he had a responsibility and he remained passive in the event. Two items to note:

  1. The word you is plural throughout Genesis 3.1-5;
  2. Rd v 6; So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

app.: He failed in the responsibility and the role God had given to him.

t.s.: How did sin get here? Sin and Death Entered the World through Adam’s Rebellion: 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, we continue… and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— which brings us to our second question:

  1. What are the consequences of that action? (12b)

exp.: And the answer is quite simple: Sin and Death have affected every human since that time. And since, or because) Adam was the 1st human, sin was passed on to all other humans. It is interesting the verbs you find in these verses: First, Sin came into; 2nd, Death came through; the picture is that Death spread throughout all of humanity like a sickness to all humans; So the scripture reads…and so death spread to all men. That word men, of course means, mankind. And then we read this little phrase: because all sinned.

ill.: I’m thinking of the movie, The Prince’s Bride, and the scene when indigo Montoya says: I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Well, because all sinned, doesn’t mean that everyone is a sinner because everyone has sinned – like, if they had never sinned, then they’d be sinless. To be sure, this is had to understand from the Gk to the English. Literally, it is a prepositional phrase. Often times, context will determine how you translate something into English. Certain words have different meaning in context. Husbands, you wife comes home with groceries. She gets to the door and you open it for her. She says: Carry this. You know to take the bag from her arm and carry it. If She then says: Can you carry me to the doctor tomorrow – you don’t think that she means to pick her up like a sack of potatoes and throw her over your shoulder, do you? No, you know she needs a ride.

The preposition is on or upon, when in reference to location or proximity you would translate it near or at. And, sometimes in reference to authority it can be translated over. When concerning legal terms, it would be translated before (before authority). But at times this word can be translated on the basis of… cf.: 1 Tim 5.19: 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. And that’s probably closer to the meaning here: you might translate this: and so death spread to all men based on the fact that all sinned. You know that sin has infected every human because we see that every human sins.

app.: Tom Shreiner brings out the understanding of this phrase in the simple explanation: we sin because we’re spiritually dead.

t.s.: What are the consequences of that action? Sin and Death have affected every human since that time. Well, that raises a really good question then:

 

  • What about before the Law was given? (13-14a)

exp.: I don’t know if you’ve ever even considered this, but it really is a good question. If the law brings a knowledge of sin (3.20), then how do people know what sin is if there is no law? And, at one time, before Moses, there was no law. We see the question raised in v 13 and answered in v 14; So, if there was no law, was there then no sin? Paul says: No. There has always been sin, ever since Adam sinned. Answer: Sin and Death have reigned over all humanity, even those who lived before the law was given.

t.s.: Wow… if this is the case, it appears that all is hopeless. That is our last question…

  1. So, what hope is there? (25-32)

exp.: It would have been, except for one small – or rather large detail: God had a plan… and we read about it in the rest of v. 14b: who was a type of the one who was to come.

ill.: Let’s say you and I are having a conversation – and we’re talking about Joshua Webb. Did you know the Webb’s have a dog? What’s her name? Let’s say I then describe her to you… she’s black, has black eyes, has four legs, a tail that is always wagging when you speak to her and just loves to be loved on. And that’s about it, right? But let’s say that you come over to my house and you meet Suzy, my dog. And I ask you to describe her. Well, she looks nothing like Joshua’s dog, but you’d say all the same things. But how is my dog different? Well, she’s a lot shorter. Appears a lot younger, can jump and move a lot faster, can accept commands in three different languages. You see the differences when you see them side-by-side. That’s what a ‘type’ is. It allows you to see something similar, but notice the difference.

app.: Adam was a ‘type’ of Christ. His action affected us all. Jesus, well, his action would affect us all, too – but in a different way. Where death came by the 1st Adam, life comes by the 2nd Adam.

Ill.: Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley wrote Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Conclusion: Well, that is what we’ll be looking at next week. For now, what should we do with what we’ve learned?

Application: So, what do we do in light of this information?

  1. Understand the Doctrine is so very important to our Christian Faith.
    1. If you remove the doctrine of original sin, you remove a vital component to the gospel. It is at this moment in Scripture we first learn of God’s plan for redemption.
    2. Consider religions where people attempt to balance their sin and their good deeds.
  2. Respond to this message! Where Adam brought both sin and death to all humans, Jesus has conquered both in his redeeming work on the Cross. If you find that you’re a sinner because sin was passed to you through Adam and you’ve never done anything about it – well, respond to Jesus.
    1. He came to die for your sin.
    2. Trust him as your Lord and Savior.
  3. Tell someone! Tell someone about the death that comes through Adam and the hope eternal life through Jesus. Don’t keep it to yourself!
    1. CWT: knocking on doors, introducing ourselves and seeking opportunities to share the story of Christ.
    2. Begin a prayer strategy:
      1. Target individuals
      2. Become intentional about sharing
        1. At work
        2. Invite them over for dinner or some activity

We’re going to have a moment of silence for you to consider these things. Then, after a moment of silence, we’ll be dismissed with a benedictory prayer. Then, we’ll gather in the back for a time of fellowship. I’d like to talk with you about these things. Come visit with me over some coffee and a snack.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Living, Deuteronomy, Evangelism, Romans, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Romans 5.1-11

Title: The Demonstration of God’s Love

Text: Romans 5.5-11

Central Idea of the Text: We have peace with God because he has reconciled us to Himself through the death of his Son.

Central Idea of the Sermon: Christ took the punishment of our sin upon himself in order that we might be reconciled to God.

Opening: We’re in Romans 5 this morning. We’ll be looking at verses 1-11.

Introduction: Make Your Bed, pg 85-88; end at I could see the instructor smiling. He knew once one man quit, others would follow.

Hopelessness is a tough place to be. I suppose that’s right where the disciples were on that last day of the week. Jesus had died the day before. I imagine Satan standing there in the darkness with the light of the fire around him exposing his smile, too.

But Sunday was coming! And things were about to change!

We’re in Romans 5 this morning. We’re in the midst of a story of hope. In 5.1 Paul writes: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith… he’s talking about the faith we have that is just like Abraham’s. You see, Abraham heard God’s promises and he believed God. God then credited his faith as righteousness. And Paul is saying that we, too, are justified by faith when we believe God.

The incredible blessings that the justified experience are what follows in v 1-3 (rd v1ff):

  • We have Peace,
  • We have access into this Grace in which we now stand,
  • We have Joy, and this joy expresses itself in Hope…
  • We have Hope. And this hope that he writes about isn’t just for the future, but it exists even now – in the midst of suffering. Paul then tells us that God loves us. We know this because of two actions that God takes to express His love:

1st, he pours his love into our hearts via the Holy Spirit who he has given to us. This was our focus last week.

2nd, he then demonstrates or proves his love by sending his Son to die for our sins. This is where I’d like to focus our attention this Easter Sunday morning.

Now the first action is subjective and can only be expressed by the person experiencing that action. There isn’t an observable marker to verify it’s authenticity. I can’t say: Oh, you’ll cry! Some people do and some people don’t. I can’t say: you’ll get goose bumps. Some people do and some people don’t. It’s an internal experience. And in that moment… we only have your word.

This second action is objective and can be verified by the fact that God gave us an historical event. We see the cross and it is an object we can point toward. We have the historical evidence of an empty tomb. The disciples saw it. The Jewish leaders made excuses for it. The Roman soldiers reported it.

I’m so glad for both an internal and an external expression by God.

Transition: But let’s focus our attention now on this last part: the external, historical demonstration of God’s love as displayed on the cross. You know,

I.     It’s pretty amazing when you consider our condition.

exp.: rd 6a; we and us; who is he talking about? Gentiles and Jews who have come to faith in Christ. Now, look at the words Paul uses to describe how we were:

  • Weak (6); sometimes this means weakness from being sick; other times it means morally weak, incapable of acting on our behalf; Think sin sickness or spiritually sick; just one sin in your life is too great of a barrier for you to remove. Just one! And you and I are plagued with sin! And while we were in this condition… Christ died for us. And here is where we see our 2nd term:
  • Ungodly (6); this is simply a word that describes someone who lives without God. You might consider the word godless. Ungodly is a good translation because the idea being expressed is the action of the individual. People behave outwardly in a way that displays their inward disposition. When they’re being watched, they’ll often times act a certain way because they want you to think they’re good. But, if there is a hidden camera, you’ll catch their true disposition. Well, no hidden cameras with God. He sees all and knows all. He knows what is in mankind – and yet loved him enough to send his son to die for all of mankind.
  • Sinners (8); the noun form of άρμαρτια, missing the mark; falling short of the glory of God. This past week Duffey and I led Chapel for the students at the BMA Seminary in Jacksonville. Duffey led worship and I brought the message. In the message, there was this term In the Hebrew, it has the connotation of not being equal. God is perfect and we’re unequal to him. We’re subpar – way below his level. You’re probably very familiar with the verse: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That word sinned is the same word we have here. The defining of that word – falling short describes that unequalled state. Here is God’s glory and we’re not equal to the task of ever obtaining. That is what being called sinners means: we’ve sinned and fallen short of His perfection.
  • Enemies (10); Romans 11.28 gives us the idea that this word is the opposite of love – 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. In verse 10 of Romans 5, we see God loving us when we were just the opposite of toward him. And yet he loved us still!

This is truly amazing when you consider that it wasn’t like we deserved this. Who we were…where we were.

t.s.: It really is pretty amazing when you consider our condition. The second amazing fact concerning the demonstration of God’s love is:

II.    It’s pretty amazing when you consider the cost.

exp.: I’ve often wondered why God didn’t just say: Oh, don’t worry about it. I forgive you. The answer is really quite simple. God set the standard: Perfection. God set the punishment for failure: Death. To be perfectly just, God had to carry out the punishment for the failure to set the standard. We must die for our sins. So, God made a way… Note:

  • Christ died; 4x’s in v6-8; it is the last word in each sentence (in Gk) giving it prominence, importance in the sentence. Also in v 10; Paul is placing great emphasis upon the fact that Christ died.

ill.: John 3.16: the manner vs. the measure; Thus or So; meaning, God showed you his love through the death of his son.

  • The timing: while weak (6), right time (6), while sinners (8), while enemies (10); You might ask: how does the timing relate to the cost? Well, simply this:
    1. We didn’t have to get “cleaned up” to get saved. Most people act like they’ve got to get clean before they can come to Christ. I love that Jesus told the disciples that he’d make them fishers of men. You catch ‘em and the Holy Spirit will clean them!

Ill.: I think of those who say: I’ll diet and exercise when I lose some weight.

App.: We didn’t have to get clean first – God sent his son to die for us while we were still weak, ungodly sinners – while we were still enemies!

Transition: #2, when you consider the timing…

  1. God structured it all in his plan: – Revelation 13.8 declares for us that it was all planned before the foundation of the world. …all who dwell on earth will worship (the Beast), everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
    1. Your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world was laid. Or,
    2. The Book of Life, which belongs to the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. I like option #1, but it really doesn’t matter, because either one you choose shows that God had a plan to redeem you before the world was formed – before Adam and Eve even sinned! Psalm 139.16: 16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

t.s.: It is truly amazing to try and consider the mind of God who planned all of this before the creation of the World. It is pretty amazing when you consider the cost – that Christ would die on the cross for our sins. And 3rd,

III.   It’s pretty amazing when you consider what it all accomplished.

exp.:

  • Justified by his blood. Rd v 9; And more than that: we’re saved from his wrath; The punishment due for our sin is death – the shedding of blood. Have you ever realized that the penalty has always been death? If you journey back to Genesis chapter 2, you’ll find that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden and told them they could eat from any tree in the Garden, but ceptn’ one: the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. God told them: in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die. But now, we don’t have to die to pay the penalty for our sins, because Jesus paid that debt for us!
    • Paul calls Jesus our Passover Lamb in 1 Corinthians 5.7; If you follow the requirements in Exodus 12 for the Passover Lamb, you’ll see that Jesus was performing that function for the world at the same time…
    • In John 1.29, John the Baptist is quoted as seeing Jesus and telling everyone: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!
  • Reconciled by his death – and even more, saved by his life. This part is so important because Jesus didn’t just die and then was buried – No! There is more to the story! He rose again!

Conclusion: It’s pretty amazing when you consider the hope this one man, Jesus, brought to us. Read Make Your Bed, pg 85-89.

Application: We have this hope because God has poured His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who he has given us. And we have this hope because God sent his son to die on the cross of Calvary and then three days later, to rise from the dead. And that’s why we celebrate this morning. Because He is Risen!

In a moment we’re going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper: a time that we as Christians remember the costly sacrifice of Christ. I’d like to invite the Deacons to come and prepare the Lord’s Supper Table.

Don’t participate if you’re not a Christian.

Don’t participate if you’re a Christian, but right now you’re in Rebellion. Use this time to repent.

Fellowship, following the hymn…

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Easter, Romans, Scripture, Sermon

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.

1 Comment

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