Category Archives: Discipleship

Mark 8:22 – 9:1

Title: Discipleship Defined

Text: 8.22-9.1

Introduction: I’ve told you before that Mark seems to love Triads? Well, observe this set of Triads: a triad of triads.

Cycle of Events:

1. Prediction of the Passion: 8.31, 9.30-31, 10.32-34

2. Demonstration of selfishness and pride: 8.32, 9.33-34, 10.35-41

3. Teaching on True Discipleship: 8.34-38, 9.35-37. 10.42-45

  • An Illustration of the slow progression of blindness to sight (8.22-26). Basically, here is how the Scripture flows in Outline form:
  • An Example of Peter in the midst of his progression to perception (8.27-33).
  • The Reality of Discipleship: you must be like Christ! (8.34-9.1)

Transition: let’s begin with the illustration we finished up with last week.

I.      An Illustration of the slow progression of blindness to sight (22-26)

exp.: As a way of review, I think this story fits our storyline; the miracle is completed in two stages:

  • 23b: and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”
  • 25: 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

This progression illustrates for us the slow, progressive coming to faith the disciples’ experience; and, especially in today’s passage, Peter’s journey.

app.: Jesus demonstrates that He is The Messiah through the healing of the blind man. He is the answer to the prophecy found in Isaiah 35.5-6. He concludes with the command to keep the Messianic secret: Don’t even enter the village.

t.s.: Mark then gives us the an example of Peter’s progression.

II.     An example of Peter in the midst of his progression to perception (27-33)

exp.: where he lets us see into a certain time frame in Peter’s journey; rd 27a; where are they headed toward? Caesarea Philippi.

Let me digress for a moment – when traveling in Israel this past June, we went Caesarea Philippi. This is the sight of Banias Springs the second tributary of the Jordan. It is actually “Panias” but Arabs cannot say a P and there is no P in Arabic, thus they called it Banias. It is named Panias because they would worship their many gods here (Hence, the word Pan). At the start of this area is where the spring used to be – you can see from the picture that the water carved out a little cave. At the mouth of this spring, the people who worshiped their many gods believed was the entrance to the underworld, Hades, hell. The river that flows through Hades is the river Styx.

Remember that, we’ll come back to that. For now, they’re on their way and Jesus asks them a simple question: who do people say that I am? This is the 2nd time we’ve seen this: 6.14;

6.14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

8.27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

So, the rumor mill is the same; however, Christ wants them to know that he isn’t any of those men. And so he asks them, personally in v 29: “But who do you say that I am?”

  1. It appears at first that Peter understands who Jesus is: Q.: Who do you say I am? A.: You are the Christ or Messiah. That’s huge! So, it appears that Peter gets it. He understands.

Matthew 16, records this same story and expounds on it quite a bit. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Transition: we have the Messianic Secret again in v 30 where he charges them to tell no one. What Peter has said is true, but his time has not yet come. And then, in v 31…

  1. Jesus gives a clear picture of the Messiah in his prediction of the passion.

app.: rd v 31-32b; So, just to be sure you understand when you say I’m the Messiah – this is what the Messiah looks like:

  • Suffering: Lit.: It is necessary that the Son of Man will suffer much (the word things doesn’t appear in the Gk)
  • Rejection: will come by the religious leaders;
  • Death: he will be killed
  • Resurrection: after 3 days, he will rise again

That’s the Gospel! That’s the whole reason Christ has come! That is the job of the Messiah. That is how he will save his people from their sins – he will pay the penalty for them. Thank you, Mark for v 32a…

So Jesus asks who they think he is. Peter gets it: You the promised Messiah! Jesus says, yes, wonderful. Let me let you in on more of what the Messiah has come to do. He will suffer and be rejected. He will die, and he will rise again.

Transition: and this leads us to the third step in his progression… rd 32b-33

  1. It appears that Peter doesn’t understand at all who Jesus is at all.

exp.: Peter makes one of the most beautiful declarations in Scripture! He thinks he knows who Jesus is! It’s kind of like Jesus says Do you know who I am. Peter says: Yes, I do. And Jesus says: uh, no, you don’t.

This is a cycle we’ll see repeated and climax at the end of this cycle of triads.

  • What do you know or what can you do?
  • I do know, or, I can…
  • No, you don’t or No, you can’t

Transition: to be sure, Jesus now outlines what it means to be like him… what it means to be a true disciple.

III.    The Reality of Discipleship (8.34-9.1)

exp.: rd v 34: Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. You’ve probably noted before that Jesus commands those individuals listening to take up his or her own cross, but they don’t have the context of Jesus doing the same thing. You and I do! Still I wonder, if he’s not giving them context here. He just told them he was going to suffer, be rejected and die. I’m wondering if that is the context for this statement. I’m going to suffer, be rejected and die. And, if you want to follow me, you’ve got to do the same thing as me (i.e.: take up your cross). You’re going to have to suffer and be rejected and die to yourself on your cross.

Jesus then presents or defines this reality, this task of discipleship with a set of oxymorons:

1) Save and lose

2) Profit, gain, and forfeit;

 3) Give and return;

4) Shame and Glory

app.: One author wrote: Jesus presents the choice of following him through a series of dichotomous positions.

t.s.: I wish I could talk like that!

Conclusion: Jesus has just defined for us who the Messiah is and what the Messiah will do. He is not one who comes for conquests; but, through suffering and rejection he will die. The good news is, three days later he will rise again.

He then turns to the crowd and he speaks to individuals. This is important, don’t miss this – he doesn’t speak to the crowd, but rather individuals in the crowd: If someone wants to follow me, you (sg) must

(1) Deny yourself (reject): That means you’re no longer calling the shots for your life. You surrender what you want to what Jesus wants. And when selfishness rears it’s ugly head, you reject or deny yourself (daily) and follow after Christ.

(2) Take up your own cross (lift it up and carry it); Have you ever thought about this? What do you do with a cross? You don’t ride them – they don’t take you anywhere? You don’t give them to other people – Jesus makes that clear with the relative personal pronoun he uses. What do you do with a cross? You carry it, until you lay it down and climb upon it to die.

(3) Follow him; The paradox of the Christian faith is that by dying to ourselves and following God’s way, we inherit true life. We save it, when we lose it. We truly profit and gain it, when we forfeit it.

Application:

  1. Jesus wants to clarify misperceptions about him. He is the promised Messiah!
    1. He is not Elijah, John the Baptist or one of the prophets.
    2. He is not a military or political ruler.
    3. He would suffer and be rejected and die on a cross to pay the penalty for sins.
  2. Jesus demonstrates true Christian leadership through sacrifice and service. And, he calls us to be like him.

In a few moments we’re going to baptize a couple of girls. But I don’t want to let this time slip away and offer someone here the chance to follow Christ. Just as he did 2,000 years ago, Jesus spoke to the crowd, but he was speaking to individuals. If you hear his voice today, summoning you to follow him – I want to give you that chance to make it public this morning.

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Filed under Discipleship, Mark, Sermon, Sermons, Uncategorized

Mark 7:24-30

Title: The Gospel to the Gentiles: Part 1

Text: Mark 7.24-30

Introduction: We’re in the midst of a sermon series on Mark: Jesus, the Bread of Life. This section is in Mark 6.30-8.21; it is the extended ministry of Jesus, beyond the Sea of Galilee. Here in chapter 7, Jesus has rebuked the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their clinging to the traditions of men, above even the Word of God. In that passage, Jesus declared all food clean. And then, he does something amazing: he gets up from there and enters into Gentile territory. Now, the Jews wouldn’t eat or fellowship with Gentiles. If someone went into the home of a Gentile, that person would become unclean. Now, that is nowhere in the Law of God, but it had simply become one of their own traditions or standards.

Listen, setting standards can be a good thing. I think you should set standards for yourself. In order to help you live a holy and godly life, set some standards. But, don’t make those the requirements for getting into heaven! That standard has already been set!

  • Let’s say you decide you’re never going to go out on Saturday nights, but instead, you’ll be home by a certain time and get ready for Sunday. There is nothing wrong with that. However, when you begin to judge others who don’t live the same way – then, you’re wrong.
  • Let’s say you decide you’re always going to look your best on Sunday mornings. You want to present your very best to God. Great. Iron you clothes, polish your shoes, Get your hair cut or done on Saturday. Whatever it takes. But here is where you might mess up: when you judge the brother or sister who isn’t in their suit and tie, or in their nicest dress.

Yes, set standards to help yourself – just don’t make them the requirement for salvation!

Jesus is going to step outside the standards set by the traditions of the elders…again. He just did it in 7.1-23. He’s going to do it again by going into Gentile territory.

And here is where we pick up the storyline in v 24 – I’ve divided this passage into three main parts:

  1. Jesus withdraws from that region into the land of the Gentiles.
  2. A desperate mother discovers his whereabouts and petitions him to save her daughter.
  3. Jesus responds to this mother in a very uncharacteristic way.

Transition: Let’s begin with this 1st point…

I.      Jesus withdraws from that region (24)

exp.: rd v 24; the fact that he didn’t want anyone to know where he was demonstrates for me his desire to be hidden – to get away from people.

Ill.: I’m sure you remember Southwest Airlines commercials from a few years back – back before there was DVR? You want to get away? I love the one where the delivery man is headed back to his truck after dropping something off at this house. The couple who lives there is working in their garden by the driveway. He sees a basketball and decides to be cool and take a shot. The couple watches as he picks up the ball and ‘air balls it’, missing the rim but shooting the ball right through the glass windows on the garage door. The couple looks at him – he looks at the couple: you want to get away?

Well, Jesus wanted to get away and so he gets up and heads northwest toward the region of Tyre and Sidon.  Now, a great question to ask for discussion later would be: why? Why did Jesus need to be hidden or want to be hidden? Maybe he was tired and needed rest? Maybe he wanted to demonstrate further about what is truly clean and unclean?

Transition: It’s the last part of this verse that lets us in on the story – though he wanted to be, Jesus couldn’t be hidden! This desperate momma finds out about him and makes an appearance. So, point #1, there is this need to get away. Point #2 –

II.     A Desperate Mother Discovers His Whereabouts (25-26)

exp.: Now, we know very little about this woman, but look at what Mark does tell us:

  1. Her problem: rd v 25;
    1. A demon possessed daughter; That’s what this means; I think Mark uses this word, unclean because it fits with his theme. What is clean and unclean: what is unclean is the demon inside this little girl – not the girl. So, desperate is she that she comes and falls down at his feet. What humility! Surely she knows he Jewish. Surely she knows he’s a man. Middle eastern behavior would frown upon this. Mark down this character trait: humility. Rd v 26a;
    2. A Woman, not just a woman, but a Gentile woman! And, if this were not enough, she is Syrophoenician by birth! Talk about unclean in the eyes of the Pharisees. When you read this, a certain woman should pop into your minds. Can you name a king who married a Syrophoenician woman? Can you name that evil woman?

Ill.: I read somewhere that the Jewish men pray daily a prayer of thanks – that they weren’t born: Women, slaves, or Gentiles.

That’s just how poor of a view the Jews had toward Gentiles. Maybe they still do – I don’t know.

app.: for some reason, this doesn’t matter to her. She’s desperate. Her daughter needs help and she believes Jesus is the only one who can save her daughter. Now, this really comes out in the last sentence of v 26; here we see…

  1. Her persistence: rd 26b; this word translated begged is really more of an interpretation, I think. You see, the word actually means asked or requested. If you translate it straight out – word for word, you lose something. In the original language here, there are two ways of describing past tense: aorist, is simple past tense (she asked); imperfect tense shows action in the past (she kept on asking); That’s the picture here: she wouldn’t leave him alone.

app.: So there is a persistent request from a desperate mother in spite of the fact that Jesus desires to remain hidden. And, why not? What really does she have to lose? At this point, an odd thing happens…

III.    Jesus responds to this mother in a very uncharacteristic way (27-29)

exp.: Jesus answers her in a way that shocks even the most hard-hearted of people. Rd v 27; this is strange or odd because Jesus uses…

  • A Strange Illustration: Jesus uses what is called the ‘Family Table’ illustration to refuse her request. Now, we could go so many places from here, but I’ll just save that for your Bible Study time. For now, I want you to just note that there is a theme in Mark about eating and eating at the table. There is the idea of fellowship, and more importantly, fellowship with Jesus. In this illustration, Jesus speaks of Children and their eating of bread. It isn’t that the dogs aren’t to be fed, but that the children are to be fed first. It isn’t odd that Jesus uses a ‘Family Dinning Experience’ as an illustration – that’s not odd. The odd part is that…
  • Jesus compares or relates exorcism to the family dining table. Now, that’s just weird. Let that sink in: Jesus, I have a daughter who has a demon in her. Will you cast it out of her, please? How in the world does he get to the dinner table from there?

Remember this trick: when you aren’t sure of what Jesus is doing, try to figure out the easy, obvious answers.

  • Children – The Children of Israel. The OT uses this comparison repeated. I think it is safe to assume these children in his analogy are the Children of Israel; They are fed first; 1st means priority. It doesn’t mean that no one else within or outside of the family won’t eat! It’s just that the children in our illustration have priority. So, 1st answer we have is
  • Fed – lit.: to be satisfied, or to eat their fill; This word appears 2 other times in the Mark; both are when Jesus feeds the 5,000 and the 4,000; The beatitudes: Matt 5.“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. We see this also in the parable of Lazarus, who desired to be filled or satisfied by the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. At this stage, I think it is safe to say that the Gospel is what satisfies and it is to be presented to the Children of Israel first. It’s a matter of timing. This demonstrates the Priority in the Gospel; as Paul writes 3x’s to the Romans: to the Jew first, and then the Gentile. Still, pretty straight forward. Next,
  • Bread – v 27; the children’s bread; here is another example of Bread being used by Mark in these three chapters (6-8); now because of our previous work on this topic, we know that the Bread is Jesus. We will probably see it each week until we reach the halfway point of Mark; in each analogy, we see that Jesus is the Bread of Life (27); To be sure, it is a lot of work to get there, and I’ll refer you to last week’s sermon to study up on the Bread of Life But, there is no doubt that Jesus is the Bread in this illustration: he is the one who fills and satisfies the soul. His priority is 1st to the Children of Israel. Here is where it get’s ugly…rd 27b
  • Dogs – that’s a harsh word. There is no way to clean that up in translation. So, before we talk about this word, can I say a word about my Savior? Again – remember, when you don’t understand something, go with what you know – what are the obvious answers.
    • He is good and merciful. He isn’t mean and hateful. So, I know right away, that he doesn’t mean what I might think it means in the 21st century; this isn’t Jesus being mean and hateful. He is perfect and no sin dwells in him. He isn’t selfish or even rude. He isn’t being ugly to her because she found him when he was trying to remain hidden.
    • 2ndly, He knows everything. He knows what I need before I even do.

ill.: I’ve seen him have someone in another county or another state write a check to cover my needs before I even know I’m going to need it. The need appears and then, so does the check, which was written last week.

This is what I know about Jesus: He knows what this woman needs! And what he says to her is what she needs to hear. It may not be what I’d say. It might not be the thing to say in western culture. But, it is what she needs to hear.

  • The word ‘dog’ or ‘dogs’ appears 9x’s in the NT; Over 40x’s in the Bible; This particular word from the Gk only appears 4 times. That caught my attention. It turns out there is another word translated dog. These two words come from the same root; however, this word here, is slightly different. It means a small dog, a housedog or even a lap dog. This would be common for Gentiles, because Jews would not have dogs. The other word is for big, wild dogs that roam freely. It is a euphemism for the immoral and/or evil people. That word isn’t this word. Jesus uses a word that she is culturally familiar with. I don’t know this, but I’m guessing that Jesus uses a word that is close to her situation – a word that she will take to heart; a word that she will understand and connect with. That changes the meaning for me. I couldn’t find a translation that made this distinction. But it is there – and that changes so much for me. Jesus isn’t using a word to describe the immoral and perverted (cf. Ps 22.16: 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—).

So, here we have this strange confrontation. Jesus answers her repeated request with just what she needs to hear. He’s taking her somewhere in this conversation. There is something he wants to see from her. And, it looks like he gets what he’s looking for in her; rd 28; I love this!

  • A Witty Response: Lord, even the little, house dogs under the table eat from the crumbs of the children.

Take a moment and check out her demeanor: We’ve already seen that she is showing humility in her posture and desperation. Now we see her wit and wisdom in her response. She could have gotten offended and walked away, leaving her daughter to continue suffering. But there is something more. And it is her faith. She wants this bread, and even if it’s just the crumbs from the bread – it is enough.

Wow! Oh, to have this kind of faith in Jesus. So great and mighty is he, that all she needs is just a crumb and it will suffice to save her daughter.

Now, you don’t see this here, but it is clearer in Matthew’s gospel: Jesus is impressed with her.

Ill.: I kind of had this experience once. Kind of… Stephen was 16 years old. He hadn’t had his license for very long and he came and asked if he could drive out into the Bad Lands with his friends and build a bonfire. I didn’t even give him a chance to explain what they were doing, who was going, etc. I just shut him down by saying NO! He didn’t even hesitate. He simply said yes, sir. No sadness, No disappointment, just, simple obedience. Yes, sir. Then he turned to leave.

I said, wait. Aren’t you going to debate this with me? Aren’t you going to argue with me until you get your way? He told me no. He asked and I gave my answer and that was enough. I was blown away. I asked him to tell me more about this bonfire out in the middle of nowhere. Then, I let him go.

Jesus is moved somewhat like that. He’s caught off guard by this woman’s wise and witty response. So impressed with this woman’s humility and faith, that he grants her request for her daughter. Rd v 29;

  • A Timely Grant: On account of the word, depart (imperative); The demon has come out (perfect) of your daughter. Now, you don’t see this in the English translation, but the Gk verb here uses the perfect tense. The perfect tense means a current state, based on a past action: meaning, as Jesus is saying the words, the demon has already gone. The girl is no longer possessed. Rd v 30

Application: So, what will we take home with us today?

  1. Jesus knows just what you need – even if you don’t! I can’t answer for your struggles. I can’t place blame or offer any defense for what Jesus is doing in your life. But this I know: Jesus knows just what you need – even if you don’t!
    1. Can I add to that? He knows what others need, too. You might think you know best for others – no matter what your intentions are – But he still knows what is best for them. It may seem harsh. It may seem unfair, But, he really does know what is best. And, he knows what he’s doing in their life.
  2. God rewards faith and humility demonstrated in him. This Gentile woman is a remarkable model of faith. Knowing God can do something and living your life in response to that knowledge are two different things altogether! It is one thing to say something, but another to live it out. Think of the woman from Zarephath in 1 Kings 17: You have a jar with a little flour left and a jar with a little oil left. But, to make a loaf of bread for your guest and feed him first means so much more than simply acknowledging with your mind and mouth who that person is.
  3. Salvation has now become accessible to all.
    1. Yes, there is a priority to the Gospel. That hasn’t changed. Israel still is God’s chosen people and I am opposed to how our government is now treating Israel. The blessings of Genesis 12 remain as true today as they did when God spoke them to Abraham. With that being said, we also know that the Gospel is universal in scope.
    2. The Gospel is for the entire world. We saw this when Jesus healed the Gadarene Demoniac. Jesus healed him and sent him as an evangelist, as a missionary to the Decapolis. Now, we see it again with this Canaanite Woman.
      1. We’re reminded in 1 Kings 17 that it has always been that way. Somehow, in their Jewish minds, they had thought of themselves as better than others.
      2. God reminded them through prophets like Isaiah who said (49.6): I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. Let us remember this: the poor, the needy, the desperate, the single mom, the foreigner, the sinner – Christ died for the ungodly, to bring the ungodly to God.
  • Listen to Galatians 3.6-9: just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 

 

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Filed under Discipleship, Evangelism, Israel, Mark, missions, Scripture

Nehemiah 8

Title: The Word of God at Work in the People of God

Text: Nehemiah 8.1-18

CIT: Ezra reads the Law of Moses and it greatly impacts the lives of God’s people.

CIS: if we believe the Word of God is power and effective, then we’ll demonstrate that truth with our actions by allowing it to dictate our existence.

Introduction: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? Is God’s Word important to you? If so, how important? Do you wake up on Sunday morning with an excitement about gathering together with God’s people to hear his Word and obey? For me, I’ve been blessed. Because of my position in the church, Lisa took it upon herself to get the kids ready and to let me worry about myself. Oh, sure, there were Saturday nights when I would be a part of getting things ready – but that was more rare than regular. I didn’t worry about kids eating or what they’d wear. Mom took care of that. She did everything so that I could focus upon my task as a pastor or staff member. For the most part, we didn’t even travel together. That’s what a 2nd car was for. But that isn’t the way it is with most families.

Tony Payne in his book, How to Walk into Church, writes:

I exit the car, usually with a wife and various kids in tow, an amble in the front door, tossing off a quick greeting to whomever is handing out the folded sheets of paper that in church-speak are called ‘bulletins.’

After a quick scan of the seating situation – who has already parked themselves where, who I might want to avoid and so on – I chose a spot not too near the front and sidle into the chosen row, smiling feebly at the person sitting on the other side of the seat that I’ve politely left vacant between us.

I wonder what it is like for most families. Is it like the experience Payne writes about when he and his wife had 5 kids – all under the age of 12: After a week of long days and short sleeps, followed by the chaos of getting everyone out the door on a Sunday morning, and culminating in a circus of noise and infighting in the car, I didn’t really walk into church. It was more of a stagger, followed by a semi-collapse into a seat, followed by lengthy periods of zoning out.

Maybe it isn’t like that at all for you. Maybe you’re more of a strategist. This is what you do. 1, 2, 3, 4 – checked it off my list. Now, to my next task on the agenda. Again, that wasn’t and isn’t me. I’ve been truly blessed. But, I digress. Let’s get back to the question at hand: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? If so, how important? How does it impact your day – your Sunday? Does it touch even the way you walk into church?

Today’s passage is all about a people who wanted to hear and learn of God’s Word. We’re in Nehemiah 8. Thank you, Clay, for reading this passage for us this morning. I would say there are three main sections to this chapter:

  1. Ezra, while being flanked by other leaders, reads the Law of God at the request of the people who’ve gathered in the city. These people give their full attention to its reading. Ezra has the help of certain Levites who give the sense of God’s law so that the people clearly understand this teaching.
  2. The people of God then demonstrate their understanding of the Law of God when they begin to weep at hearing the words of the Law. The leaders then command them to stop their weeping and to rejoice, for this is a day set apart for the Lord. Furthermore, the people of God “went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”
  3. This understanding is further demonstrated as they celebrate the Feast of Booths according to the commandment of Moses. Nehemiah even references those Scriptures.

I’ve outlined it into two main points:

  1. The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)
  2. The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)
    1. Obedience – their actions fall into line with what they’ve learned.
    2. Observance – practicing the holy day as it has been designed in Scripture.

 

Transition: let’s begin with the 1st main point in v1-8…

1.      The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)

exp.: rd v 1; this, I find interesting. Let’s look at the actions of these people.

  1. All the people gathered as one man… that’s a picture of the church; synagogue means to gather together with. I love the intentionality of this action. I’ve never seen this in the American church. I think this would describe the churches I’ve experienced overseas. You could argue that these are missionaries I’m talking about. They’re working overseas. They’re holier than most of us – maybe so. But should we expect less of ourselves?
  2. They told Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses. The Leaders aren’t organizing this from what we can gather. So, Ezra agrees – this is a good thing. And he reads. Look at v 3;
  3. They are attentive. They’re giving their full attention to what God has to say. Rd v 4a
  4. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. This is important to them. Let’s set this up so we can all hear. Build a platform! Notice, this isn’t in the Temple. You might think that the Temple would be a better place. Not if you understood how the Temple works. The men and the women and the children can’t stand together. It’s just different. They do not want to sacrifice animals here. That happens at the Temple. They just want to hear God’s Word – so, they construct a platform for this occasion. The rest of v. 4 tells us who was on his right and who was on his left. Look at what the people do next. Rd v 5;
  5. All the people stood as the book is opened. I love that. You’ve experienced it before I’m sure. Ezra steps up onto the platform. The people are murmuring, but it dies down. He opens the book, a scroll, I’m sure. The people are standing. Wow… rd v 6;
  6. All the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. What an incredible moment for these people!

ill.: I’m sure they’ve dreamed of this day for their entire lives. And, as God has answered their prayers and kept His promises, they are eyewitness to this moment. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring all at the same moment.

app.: the people are active in this whole process.

t.s.: And it doesn’t change once they hear what God has instructed them to do… which brings us to the 2nd part of this passage;

2.     The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)

exp.: rd v 8-9; here we see a 7th action from the people;

  1. All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law; I’m sure the weeping is varied. Thousands of people are there and each one encountering the Words of God for the 1st There is shame; there is conviction; there is awe; this is an incredible moment – a moment which has culminated over decades of separation. A torn down, burnt up city and Temple – now restored. A wall, and gates and doors in place. But the leadership is telling them not to weep and mourn. This isn’t that time! No, this is a holy day to the Lord. Eat, drink and be merry! Rd v 12
  2. And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. They’re being obedient to what they’ve heard.
  • They Obey the Word of the Lord: there are some famous verses in this chapter; v 8; v 10; but v 12 moves me; They hear; They understand; They obey.

Now, that must have been a joyous day and even into the evening. I picture God’s pleasure at his people in celebration. That’s what our time of worship should be. That is what our times of fellowship should be – something that brings our Father pleasure. But the day ends and the heads of the households want to know more; so they come together to learn from God’s Word in v 13-14, and they find that this timing is perfect for a time set apart for celebration: The Festival of Booths. The passage is referenced in v 15; rd v 15b; “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” They get this from Leviticus 23 & Deuteronomy 16.

This is how I picture this happening. You see Neh 8.2: on the first day of the seventh month. It is now day two and they’re learning about what God requires of them to be and do. In their studies they read about the three yearly requirements and come across Lev. 23.39ff: 39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Someone notes that this is the 2nd day of the 7th month (v13) and says: Hey, that’s only two weeks away. Can we pull this off? Ah, yeah! Let’s do this! They see the requirement. They note the day and realize that they can do this.

V 16-18 tells us they did just that…

  • They Observe the Festival of Booths as prescribed in the Law.

Conclusion: So, what can we learn from this?

Q.: Is this passage a prescription for us or a description for us? Should we require all people to stand when the Word of God is read? In short, no. It would be nice. We could begin the practice. But not because it is prescribe in Scripture this way. This isn’t a commandment for us. But it would be nice. I do believe that there is a principle here: The author wants his readers to identify the Word of God as the authority by which we must live our lives.

In light of this truth and in light of our comprehension of this truth (God’s Word is the authority for our lives) then what must we do about this?

Application:

  1. If God’s word is to accomplish its primary purpose in our lives,
    1. A sense of expectancy should mark our approach to reading and studying it, and
    2. A positive response to apply it to our daily lives must be required.

Let’s expound on these two truths. If these two statements are indeed true, then how should it affect the way you walk into these facilities on Sunday morning?

  1. How to enter the church facilities on Sunday morning: Re-phrase: how do YOU enter?
    1. Pray about where to sit. That’s right. Some of you might think there is assigned seating. That’s a joke. May I press you on this?
      1. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to Him, then you must believe He has a message for you. Where is the absolute best place for you to sit and be free from distractions and be able to hear? Is sitting next to your friends really the best place or the most comfortable? What about taking notes?
      2. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to him, then you must believe that he has brought others here for that same reason. If that is true, might God want you to sit near someone who needs encouragement? A guest who needs to be shown the ropes (where are the restrooms, where is the nursery, to share your Bible if they don’t have one, maybe you bring two Bibles – your big one and a tiny one in your purse or pocket); A mother who needs help with her child(ren); She’s here to hear and do God’s Word – so are her children. What is God doing there in her little family?
      3. If God is the one and only true God, then you must believe there is nothing more important in this week than gathering together with others who believe the same thing – who’ve come to hear a Word from Him. You’re an encouragement to them when you’re here – in the way you worship, when you sing robustly (I’m not saying sing so loud you disrupt others – this isn’t the place to show off your singing lessons – or your lack of them!) but when you pour yourself – body, mind and spirit – into worship, you encourage others. Your note taking encourages others. Using your Bible encourages other people.

2.   Pray for those who are sitting by you.

  1. This Body has been assembled by God. He has called us out of the world to gather together. It is important to him. Tony Payne, in his book How to Walk into Church writes: “We’re walking into a gathering that God himself has called together, as part of his majestic plan to save and gather his people around the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. The picture we see in this text is Men, Women, and others who are old enough to understand gathered to a place to hear God’s Word. We see leaders, gathered around the reading of God’s Word. We see teachers expounding on what has been read so that those gathered can get the sense of the reading. This is the Body at work.

 

16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

 

 

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What’s in a Word?

Title: What’s in a Word

Text: Luke 1.37-38

Introduction: The year came to an end. The holiday season is over. New Year’s resolutions have been set. Or, not! Maybe, you’re thinking this through still, wondering if you even need a New Year’s resolution. Each year or two I find a verse that moves me and I make it a focal verse for that season of my life. Hardly ever does it happen on January 1st! My most recent verse was Jn 4.34: 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. It started with a fast, but became a point of focus for me in ministry. Lisa shared something with me last week that got me to thinking about my focus and what God is doing in my life.

I’ve shared with you before that my greatest spiritual gift is hindsight! Well, Lisa shared with me an article by John McGee entitled: Two Guiding Words for Pastors. His two words come from reflecting on his past – hindsight. I’d like to share it with you this morning.            John writes:

I’ve always been intrigued by people who say they have a word for the year. You know the people I’m talking about – every year they have some big action word like “excellence” or “expansion” to guide their year. When I hear someone talk like this, I always feel left out because I don’t have a word for the year, and worse, I’m not even sure where to go if I wanted one. I’ve wondered if there’s a book of power words that I don’t know about, an unlisted blog they’re reading that I can’t find, or a Twitter account that spits out these words so people can pretend they came up with them to impress the rest of us.

Unfortunately, I’m still on the outside looking in when it comes to this phenomenon, but over the last year I’ve felt impressed to try and be two things: faithful and helpful. When I think about being faithful I think about Luke 16:10 and being faithful in little things first. Being helpful is along the lines of 1 Peter 4:10 where I’m supposed to use whatever gifts I have to help others.

Faithful and helpful don’t seem nearly as powerful as some of the other words I’ve seen others order their lives around, but it’s been an incredible benefit to keep both in the forefront of my mind.

Now this got me to thinking about my verses – that often keep me grounded, focused. One year, I found a manta that I would repeat over and over and over again. It was during one of the most difficult years of my ministry: Relentless Forward Progress. I don’t remember the verse that went with it, but I remember the phrase. I got it from my running experiences. Don’t stop. Walk if you have to do so, but don’t stop. Relentless forward progress. I cannot tell you how much this mantra helped me through that very tough year.

Now, for John, in his article, he makes it clear that he didn’t come upon these words first and then try to mold his life around them. But, after noticing them, began to focus upon them – using them for direction and guidance.

Listen to how these words offered him some guidance:

Here are few things I’ve noticed as I’ve pursued faithfulness and helpfulness:

  • When I’m simply trying to be faithful, I find I don’t worry about “How many were there?” I find I sleep better, regardless of numbers.
  • I’m more creative. I find as I pursue faithfulness that I don’t worry about numbers and success. This gives me more brain space, and new thoughts, illustrations, and ideas seem to flow.
  • It has helped me slow down. When I don’t have to generate endless activity in an attempt to prove my significance, I can simply give myself fully to the things that God seems to have given me to do rather than always asking, “What’s next?”
  • It has freed me from trying to be significant. When I’m trying to be helpful, I don’t have to impress people; I can simply look for ways to serve them.
  • I’m present with others. When I’m trying to be helpful to someone, I can be fully engaged. I don’t have to worry about impacting them, and I’m free to simply help them.

Trying to be faithful and helpful is freeing me from striving for significance. If I’m striving for significance, I ride the emotional roll coaster when I think I have it and when I think I don’t. Not only does the nauseating ride impact me, it negatively impacts my ability to simply be with people without agendas or needs for outcomes.

Now this has me thinking about my seasonal verse. Where is God leading me? How does He want me to serve? Live? Give?

I love John McGee’s words and the direction and guidance it gave him. I’m a pastor – I need that same guidance and direction. I need to be more focused on people and not on numbers. I desire to:

  • Not worry
  • Be more creative
  • Slow down – focus on productivity and not endless activity to validate my significance
  • To be present…

But those are His… I want my own!

Transition: Is this even important? Is it Biblical? I want to be very careful and not just be a motivational speaker today! Turn to Luke 1.36-38: 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

In the last couple of years, I was translating this verse from the Gk to the Eng when Shawn Cook stopped by for a visit. Shawn’s visit has nothing to do with this verse, except that He was taking Greek and it was a point of conversation with us. The literal translation of verse 37 was what moved me: because every word of God shall not be impossible. The Subj. of the sentence is “Word” – Every word of God. The verb is the word impossible. It is in the future tense – shall be impossible. But, it has a negative particle – shall not be impossible. Put it all together and you have because every word of God shall not be impossible. That’s what makes Mary’s statement so beautiful in the next verse, she takes and uses what the Angel has just said: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – ῥῆμα – she uses the same word.

I don’t know about you, but this moves me. To see this young girl surrender to the will of God. Wow! Listen, I’ve simplified this explanation. I’m not implying our translations are wrong. Or that I’m smarter than all of the translators of every Bible translation. I’m wanting to dig deeper into a sentence, into the very words themselves and find out what’s being communicated. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God means that every word God speaks will be established.

So, what’s in a word? Well, if it’s God’s word – nothing is impossible. If God says you’re forgiven – then you’re forgiven! If God says you’re loved – then you are loved! If God says you are healed: then you’re healed! If God says Peace, be still! Then the wind and the waves obey. So, what is God speaking into your life?

Ill.: He spoke and the world came into being. He spoke light and there was light, ground, trees, plants, moons, planets, stars, etc.!

Transition: That’s why I think it is so good to have a verse for a season – something that speaks possibility into our lives. Now, I’m very careful to say that – speaks possibility into our lives. I’m not saying pick a word or a verse and that God’s gonna make it happen! No! This isn’t a possibility message of get what you want from God now…No, this is a message to say that God can accomplish anything through a surrendered life. Anything He desires.

I’m guessing Mary’s word would have been Faithful. God would be faithful to fulfill his word. Maybe she would use that word to describe her life in the face of her circumstances: No matter what comes my way, I will be faithful.

Pause…

I want to share my word with you today. But, I’m cautious. I hesitate, because I don’t want to just throw it out there and devalue it somehow.

I want to share my word with you today. I think in so doing, there is accountability, but there is also grace. My word is my word. Your word should be something that matches where you are. My word is meant for me. I don’t share it so that you’ll throw it back at me should I struggle or fall. I share it because I hope you’ll encourage me. My word is…

Stability.

I like that word. It makes me think of steadfastness in the midst of struggle. Keeping the ship aright, when the storms toss it about. I think of someone who doesn’t get too emotional in times of uncertainty. I think of consistency…continuity…perseverance…solid…steady…strong…immovable. All of these are words that pop up in the synonyms category. Yeah, it’s a good word for me. As Peter closed his 2nd letter to the Christians he was encouraging, he wrote:

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

In Proverbs, Solomon wrote: 2When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.

Understanding and knowledge – yeah, two traits I need. What’s more, in Isaiah stability is what God brings: 5The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, 6and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Stability: It’s something I need in my life and something I greatly desire for Calvary.

John McGee finishes his article: So what about you? Where is your focus today? If your goal is significance, you’ll probably end up using people and feeling empty because you aren’t significant enough. You also won’t be able to present and enjoy your pastoral work because you’re worried about how you can be more important.

You don’t have to be a pastor to struggle with significance. That can happen to anyone in the church at any mark on the spectrum.

Here’s what I want to challenge you to do:

  1. Over the next few days, even weeks, reflect upon 2015 and see where you were at your best. See if there is a word that sums up that activity – or that activity of God in your life. Consider whether that word might just be a good word to adopt for the next year. Maybe you’ll see too many down times – too many failures. Think of a word that best fits what you need. Find your word.
  2. 2nd, search the Scriptures for a verse that will strengthen the use of that word in your life.

Consider: Faithful, Helpful, Available, Giving, Serving, Patient, Hidden, Loving, Forgiving, Forgiven, Contemplative,

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Ezra 7

Title: Finding the Favor of God by Fulfilling your Purpose in Life.

Text: Ezra 7

 

Introduction: We’re in chapter 7 of Ezra. The next few sermons will reflect the previous messages on Ezra. In Ezra 1-6, we saw an edict from a king, a return of the people and strong opposition by the inhabitants of the land. In Ezra 7-10 we’ll see much of the same thing: a decree from the King, a return of the people as they face strong opposition.

Let me begin this morning by asking you a question: What is your purpose in life? Let me show you where I’m going with this as you ponder this question: What is your purpose in life? At Calvary, we say our purpose is to develop passionate followers of Christ. Calvary, what is your mission statement? …developing passionate followers of Christ! That’s why we’re here at 6704 Old Jacksonville Hwy.

I’m reading a book entitled: 7 men and the secret of their greatness. These 7 men are men who have impressed Eric Metaxes. Show video: Let me tell you about a couple.

  1. George Washington, who had every opportunity to sieze power and become the 1st King of America, but saw a greater purpose for his life. And boy are we blessed today because of his selfless actions.
  2. William Wilberforce, who saw the purpose of his life was the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners. This purpose drove him.
  3. Eric Liddell – missionary to China, Olympic Gold medalist, Chariots of Fire. He died in a concentration camp at the young age of 43 in 1945. Metaxes writes that in 2008, just before the Beijing Olympics, Chinese authorities revealed that Liddell had refused an opportunity to leave the camp, and instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. He could have been freed. He could have been reunited with his family, yet chose to sacrifice his pleasure for that of a woman in need. Apparently, the Japanese and British, with Churchill’s approval, had agreed upon a prisoner exchange. News of this final act of sacrifice surprised even his family members.
  4. Dietrich Bonheoffer – murdered by the Nazis. He actually fled Europe and made it to America, only to return to face the Nazis, to be imprisoned. He, a pastor, a professor, a mentor to young men, was in the group of men who plotted and planned the assassination of Hitler. A movie was made starring Tom Cruise – Valkyrie.
  5. Jackie Robinson – who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The trial and tribulation he endured is almost unimaginable. Just because his skin was the wrong color.
  6. Pope John Paul II: A truly amazing story.
  7. Chuck Colson: One of my all-time heroes.

Each of these men had purpose. They saw what they were doing gave them purpose – and it drove them. What is even more amazing is that they faced severe trials during it all. Like, God where are you in all of this kinds of trials. And yet they persevered. Today, we’re going to the purpose Ezra had and how it drove him to follow God.

Transition: I’ve outlined this passage, thus –

  1. A Description of Ezra, the Priest
  2. A Decree by Artexerxes, the King
  3. A Doxology of Blessing and Favor

So, let’s begin with the 1st section…

  1.     A Description of The Priest: Ezra (1-11)

exp.: rd v 1a;

  1. He gives a Date (1); in the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia – 465-425 BC; v 7 tells us the 7th year of the king – that’s be 458 (BC); rd v 1b-5;
  2. He is a Descendant of the High priestly line (1-5) – this alone doesn’t determine who he is; it isn’t to make him proud or arrogant (though many High Priests seem to take this line). No, it is to show us that God is faithful. He keeps his promises.

app.: Some of you are from godly stock. Your parents were strong believers and raised you in the church – as did their parents for them – your grandparents. I think that is truly awesome. But that doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Some of you came to Christ without the benefit of godly parents – or godly grandparents. That doesn’t make you any worse. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated though both! Celebrate that and boast in Him. Next,

  1. A Description – rd v 6;
    1. Position: Scribe (6); a lawyer, copied the law. Rd 6b;
    2. Ability: Skilled; Learned (11); this is more than position – a priest; I’m sure there were many men who were priests who were not skilled; But, Ezra knew God’s Word so well that the King knew he knew it.
    3. Leadership: rd v 7-9; The Group & Their Journey (7-9); He takes the time to assemble of team of quality, of men to accomplish this task. If you missed it before: the hand of the Lord was with him in v 6, 9; This has been the desire of my heart – that God’s hand would be with me in this ministry. Will you pray that for me – God, let your good hand be upon our pastor and this ministry. And here is where we see his purpose as expressed in his character; rd v 10a
    4. Character: defined in His Purpose; set his heart: The Law of the Lord (10);

This past week I taught the NT class at Venture and one of our discussions was upon the purpose of Christ in Luke: He set his face toward Jerusalem in 9.51. Time and again, Luke brings the reader back to that purpose. Chapter after Chapter, reminding us as Jesus makes his way toward Jerusalem – and then it culminates in the cry of our Master as he stands on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem. 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.” Earlier in Luke, as he makes his way to Jerusalem he cries out: 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!

Christ knew his purpose. And here, Ezra knows his purpose, too: rd 10b; a three-fold purpose

  1. To Study the Torah
  2. To Do it (Obey the Torah)
  • To Teach the Torah

Ill.: in my 1st year as a pastor – 18 years ago, I had came to a point of struggle. I had no idea what I was doing. I had a book from my college days that led me to create a purpose statement for my life. I’ve shared this with you before:

I will strive with skillful hands

To build and equip leaders to accomplish the Great Commission,

By being an example through service,

An effective communicator of God’s Word,

And a faithful and loving husband and father,

As I work daily to conform to the character of Christ.

 

app.: Who you are isn’t determined by your success or failures; who you are is determined by what you do based upon your God given ability given you and the usage of those gifts in your life to fulfill your purpose. The Results: those are God’s. You do – he blesses. You obey – he uses. You give – he accomplishes. You don’t know what God is doing. Your job is to trust. Hold on to what you know – and keep the faith.

I didn’t write out my purpose statement in a few minutes. It took work, re-wording, moving things around. It took thought and input from those around me who I’ve given permission to speak into my life. I want to encourage you to do the same thing. If you have questions, I’ll share my journey. I’m sure I can find the book that helped me. Aubrey Malphurs.

Transition: A description of the priest. 2ndly,

2.     A Decree from The King: Artexerxes (11-26)

exp.: Ok, I say “A Decree” and that’s true, but really, as you read this, you’ll see it as two decrees. The 1st one is v 13-20 and the 2nd one is v 21-26; Now, verse 11 begins this next portion. I added it to the last section because the comments here fit with the previous section: a man learned in matters of the commandments and statutes for Israel. It’s interesting to see how many times the word Torah or the context of the Torah appears in this passage (ch 7):

  • 6 – He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord,…
  • 10 – For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
  • 11 – a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel
  • 12 – the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven.
  • 14 – For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand
  • 21 – Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence,
  • (24), – We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll
  • 25 – all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.
  • 26 – Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

exp.: There is a short introduction in v 12 and the Decree is 13-20; The 2nd Decree is outlined in 21-26;

  1. Decree #1 (11-20) – Whosoever may freely go;
  2. Decree #2 (21-26) – How it is to be funded – this is how it is going to be paid for…

Look at the beginning of this 1st Decree: rd v13-14; according to the Law of your God, that is in your hand. You’ll see this again in v 25, at the end of the 2nd Decree; rd v 25; And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand… It’s pretty subtle, but don’t miss this: it really is a sweet comparison – The King, and I’d say Ezra, too, since he’s the writing this out here before us – when Ezra holds the Torah of God in his hand, he has the wisdom of God in his hand, too. Too often we take the O.T and we divide it up into parts. We read Psalms and separate them from the Torah, or the History, or the Apocalyptic portions – like they’re not wisdom liturature. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, this – hold your copy up – Go ahead – this is the wisdom of God, right here in your hand.

Challenge: Teachers, Elders, Deacons, Bible Study Leaders, Missionaries, Staff – look at the end of the 2nd decree: rd 25: 25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. You shall teach them the manifold wisdom of God. That’s my challenge to you: teach the manifold wisdom of God!

ill.: Paul told Timothy: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (Grandma Lois and momma Eunice) 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3.14-15) Parents, Moms, Dads, Grandparents – teach the manifold wisdom of God to those in your care.

app.: the wisdom of God in your hand! Wisdom, that leads to salvation. Teacher, ask your students if they want to receive Christ and the forgiveness of sin. Teach them of salvation and lead them to it.

This final section is entitled:

3.     A Doxology: Blessing & Favor (27-28)

exp.: Blessed be God…who; look at the work of God:

  1. Who put it on the King’s heart to beautify his Temple… What a great reminder for me that God is in control. Aren’t you glad that God is still in control of this crazy world? I’m reminded when I look at the people running for president… the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord… Proverbs 21.1: The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
  2. Who extended to me his steadfast love… Aren’t you glad for God extending to you his steadfast love? He says to you, what the King said to the Jews – whosoever will, may come!

This thought actually crossed my mind as I read this 1st decree: rd v 13; And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. Whosoever desires to go – may go. And that’s the gospel. Anyone, whosoever desires to come, let him come along with us! Come with me! If you’ve never asked Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and found the promise of heaven…Come!

  1. Transition: In just a moment I’m going to ask Chris to come and lead us in a time of singing. During this time, if you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or you just have questions… come.

That same cry goes out to you today. Freely, heaven has been made available to you. Do you get that? At no cost to you, the price has already been paid in full – all you have to do is receive the free gift of God!

Transition: rd last sentence of v 28: I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

Normally, here is where I outline my take-a-ways, but this morning I wish to do things differently. Can I ask you to take courage and respond, if the hand of the Lord is on you now?

If you’ve never asked Christ to come into your life, would you do it now?

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2 Corinthians 11.1-15

Title: Instinctual Leadership

Text: 2 Corinthians 11.1-15

CIT: Paul’s boasting is with good reason. He is led to it by

Introduction: Pastor Joe Wright had been invited to serve as the House’s guest chaplain by Rep. Anthony Powell, a Wichita Republican who was also a member of Wright’s church. Accordingly, Pastor Wright composed a prayer, read it at the opening of the legislature on January 23,and departed, unaware of the ruckus he had created until his church secretary called him on his car phone to ask him what he had done.

Reportedly, one Democrat walked out in protest, three others gave speeches critical of Wright’s prayer, and another blasted Wright’s “message of intolerance.” House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (also a Democrat) asserted that the prayer “reflects the extreme, radical views that continue to dominate the House Republican agenda since right-wing extremists seized control of the House Republican caucus last year.” Rep. Jim Long, a Democrat from Kansas City, said that Wright “made everyone mad.” But Rep. Powell, who had invited Wright in the first place, claimed that House Democrats were only trying to make political points with their criticism and affirmed that he supported the theme of the prayer. What did he pray that was so bad?

Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. Lord, we know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. 

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism. 

We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism. 

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. 

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. 

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. 

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. 

We have killed our unborn and called it choice. 

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. 

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem. 

We have abused power and called it political savvy. 

We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition. 

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. 

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our fore-fathers and called it enlightenment. 

Search us oh God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. 

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Amen.

R Kent Hughes tells a similar story in his commentary on 2 Corinthians. He writes: Many years ago a number of government officials in The Hague, who were more fashionable than religious, invited Van Courtonne, the famous court preacher of Paris who was of Dutch descent, to preach in their State Church chapel. But because Van Courtonne considered their interest more social than spiritual, more a curiosity than a zeal for truth, he declined to come. When the invitation was repeated several times, he agreed to accept—on the condition that all the government officials would be present. They agreed.

The famous Van Courtonne appeared and preached on “The Ethiopian” from Acts 8. His sermon had four points:

1) A government official who read his Bible—something rare.

2) A government official who acknowledged his ignorance—something rarer still.

3) A government official who asked a lesser person for instruction—something extremely rare.

4) A government official who was converted—the rarest thing of all!

Van Courtonne never received a second invitiation.

What is it about the Truth that makes people so mad? … especially those in leadership? Are we really so righteous and holy that we have a right to be angry when confronted with the truth? that is not what ‘above reproach means?” If anyone here thinks that he has obtained perfection, let me say: Get over yourself! Good! Nobody got up and walked out!

Yes, it is true that being confronted with our sin is painful. But as it says in Proverbs 12.15: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Paul is hoping these Corinthians will listen to him. Look at 2 Corinthians. In chapter 10, He has just explained that boasting has limits – the limits of the work of God through the Apostle. After this passage that we’ll look at today, Paul will begin his boasting in v 22. But, only in his weaknesses! For today, he’ll explain where this boasting is coming from and just why he is driven to boasting. Namely, he describes three instincts:

  1. The Paternal Instinct of an Apostle
  2. The Pastoral Instinct of an Apostle
  3. The Prophetic Instinct of an Apostle

Transition: Let’s begin with the 1st instinct, the paternal instinct…

1.     Paternal Instincts (1-6)

exp.: it is interesting how many times we see the personal pronoun “I”; rd v 1-6 w/ emphasis; Parents don’t usually have to explain ourselves to our children; but, sometimes we do – especially if we think it’s going to help them; if we think it’s for their good; Paul is really hard on himself here;

  • I wish
  • I feel a divine jealousy is zealous;
  • I betrothed
  • I am afraid –
  • Even if I am unskilled: idiot; I told you Paul was being hard on himself! It simply means, Untrained or unskilled – not professional;
  • I am knowledgeable!

Paul’s use of parental terminology and illustrations is rather common; to make his point from time to time in the letters he compares his feelings and emotion to that of a parent;

  • to the Corinthians themselves, in 1 Cor 4.15; 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church
  • Phil 2.22 of his relationship to Timothy again; But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
  • Turn to 1 Thess. 2. He tells them of his parental instincts using both the father and the mother; Turn there:
    • Dare to share (2.1-7) – facing strong opposition
    • Care to share (2.8-9) – being affectionately desirous of you – to share our very selves. Like a mother
    • Go out there to share (2.9-12) – like a father; a hard worker; is not a burden to his children but is holy and righteous before them; exhorting and encouraging and charging his children to live in a manner worthy of the name we bear.

This is what our missionaries are enduring even now in Montenegro. This is what our missionaries will endure when they head out overseas.

  • And likewise, in Philemon 10 of his relationship to Onesimus; I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

ill.: I have two fathers in the ministry; One who was a part of my conversion and growth (And, has kept up with me through the years) and another who invested heavily in my ministry.

  • 3 John 4 – John says: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. And often calls those he’s writing to my little children.

ill.: This is something we can relate to, as we consider what Paul is saying. We as fathers wish to present our daughters to their future husbands – pure and prepared. We have a divine jealousy for them. We want to protect them from those who would take advantage of them. I think of some dads who will do this sooner than later. You’re thinking, man I got years before that happens to me! Listen, the years pass so fast! David – to Ellie; Lee to Audry; Bob – to Abbey! And mothers feel no less toward their daughters: Dawn to Kristin; Melissa to Allie, Jennifer and her girls and the list goes on –

app.: you understand what he means – you get this illustration of a parent’s instinctual concern.

t.s.: Paul demonstrates his parental instincts through his concern for this church, his baby, if you will. Next, he shows us his…

2.     Pastoral Instincts (7-11)

exp.: rd v 7; a pastor knows he’s called to preach, at whatever expense he can; for Paul, he didn’t want the Corinthian church to be burdened; rd v 8;

ill.: Teen Mania has been in the news for the last few years because of their financial woes. In an article I read in World magazine, they were spending money in wasteful ways. One such report was that Ron Luce paid TD Jakes $100,000 to speak in New York at their BattleCry event in 2008. Jacob Morales (Luce’s executive assistant) says Teen Mania chartered a $21,000 private jet and spent more than $4,000 on a two-night stay at the Ritz Carlton for Jakes, whom Luce wanted as a Teen Mania partner. Morales says he had discretion over $10,000 in cash to buy imported flowers, chocolates, rare bread, candy, iPods, and other gifts for the Jakes family to find in their hotel suite, green room, and two Cadillac Escalade limousines.

app.: Now, I don’t want to disparage Jakes or Luce. I’m sure there are fans of these ministers here in this room. From what I understand, Jakes didn’t accept Luce’s offer to speak at first – it was only after much prodding and pressure to get him that he gave in to Luce’s advances. My point is that this isn’t anything new: the super apostles were an expense to the Corinthians. My guess is that Jakes had no idea of the financial struggles Teen Mania was experiencing.

What I do see is a man here who loves the people he’s trying to reach so much, that he took a hit financially to bring them the gospel. He even accepted gifts from others who saw his work as missionary and wanted to contribute so that he could forego making tents to spend time in ministry. And, that appears not to be the case with these so-called super-apostles.

exp.: and Paul declares this in the next verse: rd v 9; And the effect has been tremendous, rd v 10; But the Corinthians might not see this…they might see his refusal to accept payment as spite; rd v 11;

app.: a pastor loves his congregation. Just how to describe it? I’m not sure it can be put into words. Maybe love isn’t supposed to be expressed in words; maybe love is simply shown through the sacrifices made and the actions one takes to protect and care for others – like a father or mother, like a pastor and his church.

t.s.: finally, Paul displays his…

3.     Prophetic Instincts (12-15)

exp.: The role of a pastor is to wear many hats; gratefully, I’m blessed with many around me who help keep the ministry going. There is the pastoral role already mentioned, but there is also the prophetic role – the job of declaring thus saith the Lord. It involves the spiritual side of what we do. The prophetic instinct is to smell out unhealthy, unsound doctrine and those who lead the church astray.

rd v 12-15; he calls them false, lit.: pseudo apostles; he says they’re disguising themselves: is the word μετασχηματίζω; So you have this small schematic of a larger one; These false apostles are like the one they imulate, the one who disguises himself as a angel of light. Their end will correspond to their deeds. Like Satan, they’re fooled into thinking they’re something.

The prophet, using the Word of God as his standard, works to see that believers are being transformed into the image of Christ. There is a huge difference between the two. Note: There is a difference between a change that takes place with the believer vs. the non-believer. In Romans 12.2 Paul says: Do not be conformed (schematic) to this world, but be transformed (metamorphosis) by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

app.: Wow! Paul puts it so clearly: these super apostles were simply smaller diagrams, schematics, patterning themselves after the devil – and they probably didn’t even know it! Acting out of pride, selfishness and greed, they acted like the one they were following. That isn’t what we do as believers. It is God who works in us, transforming us, as we work out our salvation – with fear and trembling.

And isn’t that the goal of the parent, the goal of the pastor, the goal of the prophet who speaks the Word of God to you? – that you would be renewed, that you would discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Conclusion: Paul’s message has been much like Van Courtonne’s and Pastor Joe Wright’s prayer to the Senate. What would have happened if the leadership in Paris or in Kansas would have bowed their heads before God and asked for wisdom to see … what did he pray?… see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Application:

  1. A Heart of Humility: The church and its leadership must humble itself before the Lord. There is no place to stand before the Lord.
  2. A Zeal for Honesty: The church and its leadership must deal honestly with God’s Word. What does God’s word say? What does it mean? And what does it mean for me? What is God calling me to do in light of what I’ve just heard?
  3. A Spirit of Wisdom: The false apostles of today, who proclaim another Jesus and present a different gospel, must be identified. They are slick and smart. This calls for wisdom on the part of the believer.
  4. A Physical Boldness: We must confront false doctrine. We must speak out against the sin that is becoming commonplace in our society and culture. The days of being quiet about sin are behind us.

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Discipleship: DNA

Title: Discipleship: Getting the Job Done

Text: Acts 11.19-30

CIT: The Church at Antioch had been Evangelized and Discipled so well, that they naturally wanted to serve when the time came.

CIS: that we as a congregation, and as individuals would be looking for that one person to ‘disciple’

Introduction: A Marine recruiter took the stage in front of a high school assembly after the other service recruiters had given long-winded speeches about why the students should join their respective branches.

The Marine recruiter simply looked out over the audience for a few seconds and said:

“I don’t think I see anyone in this room that has what it takes to be a United States Marine. But if any of you think you can prove me wrong, I’ll be at that table over there.”

The Marines got more recruits that day than all other branches combined.

There is something about a challenge – Or should I say there is something to being challenged. Most people want to do better than others. We want to feel that we’re above average when we’re compared with others. It doesn’t stop as individuals. We do this as members of teams and owners of businesses. We do this as churches.

Ill.: It seems to me that when I’m asked about Calvary, the question that is asked most is: how big is your church? Translation: how many people come to your church? Well, I’m not convinced that numbers alone is the measure of a healthy church.

Today we’ll look at a church and how it found success. And, to be quite honest, I was surprised at what I found:

Turn to Acts 11.19-30; In this text we’ll find three parts to an healthy, active church;

  1. Evangelism (19-21)
  2. Discipleship (22-26)
  3. Mission/Ministry (27-30)

This is the outline, but I’ve structured it differently… evangelism and evidence. 1st,

1.     Evangelism (19-20)

exp.: rd v 19a; A persecution arises and forces many believers to flee. I like the Greek – it paints a picture with the words; the word translated scattered is a farming word. It is what farmers would do when sowing their seed. It’s as if the writer is letting us in on what God is up to behind the scene. You can almost picture God’s hand sowing the seeds of faith in broader strokes. Rd 19b; These persecuted believers were at first sharing only with Jews, but something cool happens in the next verse; rd v 20; for the 1st time, we see a concentrated effort in sharing Christ with non-Jews;

1st, let’s look at this word: Hellenist. It’s found in 6.1, in reference to the Greek speaking Jewish widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The 2nd time we see it is in 9.29, when Paul comes to Jerusalem after his conversion and preaches Christ to Jews who are only Greek speaking. The context gives us a clear understanding of this. But when we come to Hellenists in 11.20, we see the context leads us to understand that for the 1st time, someone other than Jews is being targeted with the Gospel. There is greater emphasis placed on this with the word εὐαγγελίζω – preaching boldly in the name of Jesus. If you transliterate that word, εὐαγγελίζω, you get Evangelism;

ill.: C.H. Spurgeon is credited with saying: In the Roman Empire, all roads led to Rome. In the Bible, all texts lead to Christ. No matter what Scripture you’re reading, there is a message of hope and something that points us back or toward Christ. And so when reading Scripture – What a great opportunity to εὐαγγελίζω!

app.: Here is a simple reason to commit to reading the Bible with someone: Evangelism. Sharing the good news. Did you know that many people don’t want to go to a church. They’re uncomfortable with it. However, many people wish they knew the Bible better. Believers and non-believers alike.

t.s.: now, there a second part to this and it really runs inside this first point; however, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to make this point #2 and it is:

2.     Evidence (22-26)

exp.: rd v 21; note the two parts: 1st, God’s favor is upon them and 2nd their numbers show that! The 1st part of this echoes my verse for this year: Ps 90.17: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! That has been my prayer since I came across it on Sabbatical. I pray it almost every day. Will you pray that with me? …that God’s hand would be with us and that we would begin to see people committing their lives to Christ? We can do our part, but if God doesn’t bless – it’s all for naught. Pray: Indeed, Lord, Let your favor be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! And 2ndly, Let this evidence be found in us! May we see untold numbers of people committing their lives to you!

Look at v22; in v 22 we find set of words most common to the LXX; you get the idea of what this means when you read Mt 10.27: 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. Jesus is of course speaking there. But here, there is this idea of whispers about the church at Antioch coming to the ears of the church in Jerusalem – Did you hear that Believers are sharing Christ with Gentiles – and some of them are actually getting saved? “Whispers in dark”; this adds weight to our thought about these Hellenists being non-Jews, that is Gentiles. This is something new, something different.

So, what do they do? They send Barnabas – good, ole Barnabas – Son of Encouragement – to check things out. Why? Who are they? There is some wording here that doesn’t really translate into English. It’s the idea that this church in Jerusalem, being what it was at that time, when they heard of this, sent Barnabas. I think that’s an interesting statement by Dr. Luke. How would that apply to us?

Well, 1st off: we have a responsibility to check on those who are coming to faith through our ministry. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s a huge responsibility. We’re recording this, so I want to be careful. But let me ask: how are we following up on the people who get saved through our ministry. From Pine Cove to the Pacific Rim, how are we actively following up on reports that someone has accepted Christ? I’ve heard some reports about people being saved. You have, too. Let’s ponder that for a while – while I push on into verse 23.

Rd v 23; What did he find? Evidence!

  • He saw the grace of God! He saw God’s favor had been poured out on these people. Which of course, echoes the above statement that God’s hand was with them. Next,
  • He rejoiced! He was glad.
  • He encouraged them to remain faithful to the Lord w/ steadfast purpose.

Ill.: Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, tells the story of a church being revitalized. It was during his tenure teaching at a seminary. He was asked to step in and fill the pulpit. So, he did. It was a hard experience, but it was well worth it as many people were reached.

On my last day at the church, Harold, the over 80 year old deacon chairman poked me in the chest and said, “Preacher, I still don’t like the music and the kids are breaking everything.” And he was right. The more activity you have in a church, the more likely things are going to be broken.

Any disconnected church that seeks to reengage with their community will find the experience to be messy. There may be mud on the carpet, smudges on the walls, dirty bathrooms, or broken vases. The way of church life to which your people had grown accustomed will suddenly change.

So there we were, Harold with his finger in my chest and me looking at him trying to figure out this confrontation. Still making eye contact, he teared up and said, “I still don’t like the music and the kids are breaking everything, but it was worth it.

App.: a church that chooses to reach out to its community and to the world needs to know that this work is messy. It is. But like Harold said – It’s worth it.

I think Harold is a bit like Barnabas – able to see the good in things. I made a few notes about Barnabas, that I felt like each person who chooses to disciple others, should emulate:

  1. His Character: Wisdom, joy, encouragement – that is, an encourager of others. 2nd, his…
  2. His Attributes: rd v 24; good; full of the Holy Spirit; Full of Faith – faithful, yeah, but I like full of faith; rd v 24; another attribute – discernment: seeing what is needed; and having the wisdom to act on that. His Character, His Attributes, His Sacrifice. Rd v 25-26a;
  3. His Sacrifice: Invest in the lives of others…
    1. Yourself – What I mean by this is: it takes someone – why not you? Most of us like the group setting; probably because we don’t have to go very deep – just let others do the talking. Consider one to one.
    2. Your time – rd v 26; a whole year; ;
    3. Meet together – this isn’t a fb Bible study; sorry ladies, I mean no offense; but, I’m asking you to do more than ‘friend’ someone. I’m asking you to sacrifice yourself on the behalf of another; sacrifice your time; give of yourself – be vulnerable, be transparent;

Here is an area I think we’ve failed at as believers. We’ve tried to make people think that being a Christian means everything perfect. It is not. Indeed, my guess is that we have just as many problems, concerns and issues as the rest of the world. The difference comes in how we handle those problems, concerns and issues. We don’t respond like the world does. And, that’s part of what you’re teaching when you meet with someone. And that’s the next area where sacrifice is made.

  1. Teaching – Specifically, God’s Word; As I’ve repeated over the past couple of weeks: this is our standard – the measurement by which we measure our lives.

ill.: We’ll delve more into this on May 17th for those that are interested, but for the moment let me just add what it means to meet and teach someone.

  1. Read the text – This is what it says.
  2. Discuss the text – This is what it means.
  3. Apply the text – this is what it means to me.

app.: There are believers out there who would like to grow in Christ, but don’t know how. Spending time reading God’s Word with them will open doors for you to teach, share and invest in their lives. Discipleship; this is our main area of focus this morning – investing our lives in someone else.

t.s.: this text concludes with one last section – mission/ministry

3.     Mission/Ministry (27-30)

exp.: rd v 27-30; Maybe this is another area of evidence? I think Calvary is doing this well. Sunday night, May 17th, I’m going to invite you to the church to talk about reading the Bible one-to-one. I want to challenge you now to find someone and invite them to meet with you regualarly – one a week, once every two weeks, at lunch, on Saturdays for brunch, just whenever you can make the time. The goal isn’t to meet with someone to encourage you and then to meet with someone who needs your encouragement. We’re just trying to start something here. I’m calling it DNA (Discipleship and Accountability) Sunday night May 17th, we’ll meet to talk about all of this. To conclude, I want to give you 4 reason to consider DNA.

Conclusion: let me ask: Why participate in DNA?

  1. Salvation: each of us knows someone who is lost and needs to be reached. This just might be a way to present the gospel.
  2. Sanctification: no doubt each of us needs to grow. None of us has arrived.
  3. Service: Right now, would you think of one person you are pouring your life into? Maybe it’s your kid. Maybe it’s your sibling. If there isn’t someone you’re meeting with regularly, will you begin to pray about doing just that?
  4. Substance: This comes back to the issue of a superficial church. How involved are we in the lives of others? Who are you meeting with regularly to share life with – as it pertains to Scripture? I basically want to challenge you to begin praying about developing a relationship that takes you beyond the superficial. Our Church is only as strong as a weakest link.

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