Category Archives: Faithfulness

The Servant of the Lord Waits Upon the Lord

Isaiah 49

Opening Remarks: We’re in Isaiah 49 this morning. Turn there. Isaiah 49;

I want to be of encouragement to you this morning. I see too many worried and wearied believers.

So, I’m leaving Romans for the morning and preaching a message that God has laid on my heart. I don’t expect it will be long. My goal is to be short and sweet and aimed straight at your heart.

Introduction: God affirmed my calling in September of 1987 through a little church in Copperas Cove, TX. That was 30 years ago last month. 30 years.

I served three churches in 10 years will in College, Seminary and after Seminary as an Associate. I’ve served for 20 years now as a Senior Pastor. In those 30 years, I’ve seen many men fall by the wayside. In those 30 years I’ve watch many a man start off with a bang and fizzle to a drip. I’ve watched many a man talk a big talk and at first begin a wonderful walk to match the talk, but when times got hard, they walked away. I, myself, have grown weary in well doing and have wanted to quit. And even though that number is high, once was too much. In all of my struggles and in all of the struggles of those I’ve journeyed with through the years, I have never once seen the Lord fail to keep his promises.

I have spoken to many a faithful senior adult who has weathered many more storms than this preacher, and they insist that ‘this ain’t nuthing!’ ‘We’ve been through worse!’

As I read through Scripture, I find men who started out with a bang and fizzled at the end. Adam, Noah, David, Solomon, Saul… and the list goes on! I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be a church like the Galatians… I learned this in the NIV and it has stuck with me… 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Or, consider the Corinthians, or so many of the churches that started with a bang and then fizzled.

My heart’s desire today is to remind you that God is faithful… He always has been. And, his ability to accomplish his mission has never been dependent upon the fickleness of men.

Let’s go back in time and see how Isaiah was encouraged…

I’ve got simple points this morning which serve as our application. Normally, I preach and offer a few points. At the end, I bring the application. This morning, though, my points are the application. This is what I want you to take home with you today:

So, here we go…Application #1: A servant of the Lord waits upon the Lord because he knows…

I. A servant of the Lord knows that He is Sovereign. (1)

exp.: rd 49.1; If you think about it clearly, everything you’re enduring today was understood by God long ago. For Isaiah, he understands that it was while he was still in his mother’s womb that God called him and named him. This is not the time to make an argument against abortion, but it would fit. Scripture is clear that God knit each of us individually together in our mother’s womb. Our frames were not hidden from him. Psalm 139 says that everyday of our lives was planned and written down in his book before one of them came to be.

Ill.: yesterday Lisa and I were talking about Bart Millard and the incredible songs he has written. I saw him in an interview and he said that his most popular songs were written through the struggle and the trials he was enduring. His greatest growth and his best stuff came out of the adversity in his life.

app.: storms may come and trials may befall us, but God, who is sovereign is not caught off guard. He knows your day and your trial, as well as your name. There is nothing that will come upon you and me that surprises God. And in his sovereignty, he is working for his glory. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

t.s.: He has called you by name and you are his. A servant of the Lord knows that He is Sovereign. Application #2:

 

II. A servant of the Lord knows that God has equipped him. (2)

exp.: God gave Isaiah just what he needed to be the man he would call him to be. He equipped him for the service to which he would be called. Look at v2; He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. “He made”; God, who is sovereign fashioned Isaiah into the tool he desired to use. He began while Isaiah was still in his mother’s womb. He took Isaiah and began to fashion, mold and shape him. You may feel like you’re a product of your environment, but the truth is you are who you are because God made you that way. Every action and inaction of your life, God has been making you into the man or woman he has desired you to be. You are not a mistake. God doesn’t say, “oops!” when he is working. He is intentional about his glory and you are all a part of that intention.

Did you have a tough childhood? Did you grow up poor? Sick? In foster care? With Christian parents? Did you grow up with lost parents? Were you abused? Were you sheltered? Have you experienced homelessness? Have you experienced fear? Pain? Whether you see God allowed things in your life or whether you see God did things in your life… the outcome is the same: God has been equipping you to be a sharp tool, ready for use. To him, you are a sharp sword in its sheath or a polished arrow in its quiver.

t.s.: And why? The answer is in our 3rd application:

III. A servant of the Lord knows that God has called him. (3, 5a)

exp.: rd v 3:   And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” God has been doing all that he has been doing for the sole purpose of glorifying himself.

I’ve been asked periodically if I think Calvary has sinned and God is punishing her. The Truth is that I don’t know. Yes, we’re sinners. We have done things wrong because we are sinners. If you know where Calvary has sinned, then we should confess that sin. It would be good for us to come with repentant hearts, begging God to show us where we’ve failed. We want to be used for his glory.

ill.: Do you remember the story of the man born blind in John 9? The disciples asked the Lord who had sinned – this man or his parents that he was born blind. That has seemed like a simple answer to me: it had to be his parents because how could he have sinned before he was born in order that blindness would be his punishment? But Jesus said: neither. What?!? The effects of his life aren’t born out the actions of his life? You mean God did this so that the works of God could be done? Jesus said: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

app.: If we’ve sinned in such a manner that this is punishment, then let’s pray that God declares that to us and calls us to repentance. But, it could be that God has made us who we are, and what we are, in order that His works might be displayed in us. Do you want to be used by God for His glory? Do you? I do! I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want this to be painful. But I do want to be used by God to bring him glory and honor.

t.s.: Let’s pray unto that end: God don’t let us wimp out. Make us strong for your glory. Accomplish your work in us. A servant of the Lord knows that God is sovereign and that he has called and equipped us for His work. Application #4

IV. A servant of the Lord knows that God will care for him. (4, 5b)

exp.: rd v 4a; Even when the soldier is down; even when it appears that the man of God has labored in vain; even when his strength has been zapped; even when it appears that he has come to an end! God will be our recompense. Keep reading; 4b-5; God will establish us! God will honor us! So, let us honor him with our faith. Let us stand before God ready to be used to bring people to him. Let’s make ourselves available. If you do nothing but come here and sing songs and listen to a man speak – if that is the totality of your Christianity, then you’re like a sword lying in a corner – you’re like an arrow in a quiver that is hanging on a wall.

ill.: Galatians 6.9-10: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

app.: Oh, brother and sister in Christ. I know the road is long and the journey has been hard. You and I have seen many faces come and go. But there is a reward that is waiting for those of us who labor for the Lord. He is the one who cares for us. Are you wounded? He will bind up your wounds. Are you weary and heavy laden? Jesus says, “Come, and I will give you rest.”

t.s.: A servant of the Lord knows that God will care for him. Application #5:

V. A servant of the Lord knows that God will accomplish His mission in His time. (6-7)

exp.: rd v 6;

5a.: God’s mission is greater than you can imagine. Maybe some of your problem is that you’re thinking too small. Maybe you don’t think God is big enough to accomplish his goals and his purposes. God tells Isaiah that looking at Israel is too small of a mission. God is thinking bigger. God has grander plans!

Rd v 7;

5b.: for some strange reason, God has chosen to glorify himself through us. Rd v 21; If you’ll hold on, you’ll look around and say I was alone, but look at all the people around me now. Where have they come from? Let’s Continue reading22-23; those who wait on the Lord shall not be put to shame!

app.: My brother and sister in Christ, if you are serving God with your whole heart, if you have not chased after idols and the ways of the world, if you are totally committed to him, Then it is time to take your stand! Be reminded that:

  • You do not serve the Lord because there is money in the bank.
  • You do not serve the Lord because there are more than enough people to do the job.
  • You do not serve the Lord because of what you will get out of it!
  • You do not serve the Lord because you are the best one for the job!

t.s.: You serve because you were chosen, you were called and you have been equipped for such a time as this!

 

Conclusion: Listen clearly to me. I want to be very clear: Our actions don’t make God do what we want. I’m not preaching this sermon this morning to say God has to do anything. He is the boss…He is in charge!

I’m not saying that your obedience will bring money. That isn’t God’s promise. I’m not saying that your obedience will bring people. That isn’t God’s promise. God’s promise is His glory. And I’m pretty sure that is your goal, too: His glory.

So, what do we do now? I say: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14

Here in is our last application #6: Servants of the Lord waits upon the Lord because they know…This fight is not against each other. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. At least we’re not supposed to! Satan laughs his most hideous laugh of victory when brothers and sisters in Christ fight each other, when they abandon each other, when they gossip and slander each other. When they use their money against each other. When they use their committees against each other.

I think I can stand and say for each elder today that we love you dearly. We have never intentionally led you astray. If we have failed you in our leadership, we are truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness. I know that isn’t the way an apology is supposed to sound…if. But what I mean by that is: we as elders are humbled at this point. We’re just like you… trusting God to move. If you feel betrayed or led astray. If you feel that we have sinned against you… we want you to obey Matt 18 and come to us – show us the error of our way and we will repent before.

Let me offer you this final caveat. Just because I preach a message about faith, doesn’t mean that God has to do something that we want. Do you hear me? God is God. And, he will be glorified in whatever way he chooses. I’m hoping and praying for God’s blessing on Calvary and her ministries and missions. Will you pray with me, too?

  1. God, show us our sin, that we might be repentant of our rebellion and sinful ways.
  2. God, lead us in your favor to accomplish the ministry and mission of your heart. We are your servants – show us exactly what you would have us to do.
  3. Our lives are in your hands. We’ve always known that. Thank you for you gentle reminders.
  4. We trust now, as always, that you have brought us here to 6704 Old Jacksonville Hwy and that you have great plans to use us here.
  5. We are yours, have your way in us.
  6. For we know that those who wait upon you, will not be put to shame… they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.

 

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Filed under Faithfulness, Isaiah, Sermons, Servant

Affirming the Call of God

Title: Affirming the Call of God

Text: 2 Corinthians 8.16-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Brief look at the Reformation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

t.s.: 2ndly,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flea promptly jumped.

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

The flea jumped again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duffey’s success is dependent upon you.

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

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

Romans 1.16-17

Title: From Faith for Faith

Text: Romans 1.16-17

Introduction: (Read) 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

In these two verses, the Gospel’s objective is presented in a couple of sentences. The Gospel is God’s power at work bringing salvation to all who puts their faith in Him. Believe what God has done and you’ll be saved. Trust him, that he has done all that he has done through Christ and you’ll have salvation. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. These verses teach us that the only way to attain salvation is to be perfectly righteous. Now, on your own, that is impossible. The Law has demonstrated this for us. We’re all sinners and we can’t obey the Law perfectly. But now, the righteousness of God is revealed to us: how do you become righteous in the eyes of God? By believing the Gospel!

The Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is basically summed up in 1 Cor 15.3-4: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures – as had been foretold in the Old Testament.

Now, with that in mind, let us look at our passage for today a little closer – read it with me: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Transition: Within this passage we see The Gospel’s Power, The Gospel’s Provision and The Gospel’s Proof. Let’s begin with the first point…

I.     The Gospel’s Power (16)

exp.: The Gospel is God’s power displayed in people’s lives: God’s power saving those who believe; The Gospel’s power is demonstrated through the salvation of people. Paul says here that he isn’t ashamed of the Gospel, because it (The Gospel) is the power of God for salvation – for everyone who believes. There is no power outside of God’s that can bring you salvation. None. You can’t buy it with your money; you can’t earn it with your good works; you can’t steal it; you can’t get lucky somehow on you own; you can’t get there through someone else’s work or charm. Our very best – the most righteous we can be on our own is as filthy rags before God. But, the Gospel is God’s power at work in the lives of people – saving us from our sins. You see that in this rest of this sentence: to everyone who believes. As I stated previously: Believe what God has done and you’ll be saved. Trust that he has placed your sin upon Christ who died for you. Trust him that he has placed all of Christ’s righteousness on you. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. Place your trust in him and you are saved.

t.s.: that’s the Gospel’s power – saving you through faith. 2nd,

II.   The Gospel’s Provision: (17)

exp.: Righteousness through forgiveness: The passage reads: For in it (i.e.: the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed… what that means is that God makes us righteous – that is, His righteousness is credited to us. You see, we’re sinners. We’re conceived in our momma’s wombs that way. And the only way to have a relationship with God is that we must be righteous – we must be forgiven of the sins that separate us from God. A couple of chapters from here, in 3.21-22, Paul explains more about this righteousness. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. You see, what Paul is saying to us is that this righteousness could only be attained through the perfect obedience to the Law. But what the Law did, was show us that we can’t be perfect – we can’t obey the Law perfectly. So, God made a way – apart from the Law – through the Gospel, we can have this righteousness poured out on us. See v 22: The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

t.s: That’s the Gospel’s Provision – making you righteous in God’s eyes – if you’ll trust and believe Him. Finally, we see the Gospel’s Proof through a life lived in faith.

III.    The Gospel’s Proof: (17)

exp.: the Gospel’s proof in a person’s life is simply this: The Righteous Shall Live by Faith. What I love about this quote is that it is from the Old Testament. When NT writers quote OT passages it gives us insight into what those passages mean and what that NT writer was trying to communicate. With Habakkuk’s help, which by the way, he’s quoting God there, we understand that Paul is communicating to us that our lives reflect the decision and commitment we’ve made. A righteous life demonstrates that someone has found the forgiveness of God and is now living according to God’s plan.

ill.: It’s like this – you say, God, I’m tired of living my life the way I want. I’ve made a mess of things. I want to live this life the way you’ve designed. I want to live life according to your plan. Please forgive me of my sins, come into my life and change me.

app.: it’s really that simple. The Gospel is the power of God at work in your life, bring you forgiveness and making you righteous, calling you to live your new life in righteousness – demonstrating your new commitment.

Conclusion: So, what do we do about this?

–  Peter said to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved. This is Wonderful news. The best response you can make is take advantage of this moment and give your life to Christ. I don’t care how old you, where you’re from, or what you’ve done. If you’ve never accepted Christ, let today be the day. The greatest gift you can give your kids is to give them the assurance that they’re momma or daddy is saved.

The Gospel is God’s power for Salvation to everyone who believes.

  • God can save you
  • If you believe (have faith, trust) that what he says to you is true.
  1. You’re a sinner.
  2. The punishment of your sin is death (eternal death).
  3. Jesus paid your penalty when he died on the cross.
  4. Place your faith (trust, belief) in Christ and all of your sin is placed on him and all of his righteousness is placed on you.
    • Then you will be saved.

– Share this good news with others. There are so many out there who don’t know Christ. They’ve never experienced this forgiveness I’m talking about. I was out jogging Friday with Elizabeth. We met a man who took a moment to engage us in conversation and ask me personally if I’ve come to know Christ as Lord and Savior. That was cool. No too many people beat me to the draw, but this man did. I’d like to challenge you to do the same: share this good news with others.

– Live by faith. That’s what the righteous do. The best testimony is the one where a person’s words match his life. Trust Christ – especially when life is hard. Trust that He knows what he’s doing.

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, Evangelism, Faith, Faithfulness, Hebrews, Romans, Scripture, Sermon

Nehemiah 6-7

Title: The Call to Perseverance

Text: Nehemiah 6.1-7.73

CIT: The author wants the people to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.

CIS: We are called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because there is something grander beyond this moment.

Introduction: Fear doesn’t always cause Fight or Flight responses. Sometimes it just causes a breakdown. It can be crippling. Paralyzing, even. Fear isolates people and causes them to go into hiding. It can arrest a community, a people – stop them dead in their tracks. And, it can come from anywhere…at anytime…from anyone – even from those you would not expect.

Today we’re going to study a man who was attacked again and again. The tactic was to strike fear in this man and halt his work. The goal was to intimidate him to the point that he would stop the work of God and give in to their demands. The enemies of God and His people wanted to bring an end to this rebuilding of their wall and the strengthening of their community.

But, Nehemiah was prepared. He had set it in his heart to accomplish this work because God had called him to this work. Besides, he had faith that the One who had called him to this work, would see it through to completion. He would bring it to completion because Nehemiah knew the bigger picture. Nehemiah was called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because he was certain that there was something much grander beyond this moment in which he was serving and living.

Let me ask you this morning to think about fear. What do you fear? Of what are you afraid? Do you ever get scared? What scares you? I ain’t scairt!

I’ve outlined the passage like this:

The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

  1. Privately
  2. Publicly
  3. Persistently
  4. Because God is at work – there is a bigger picture.

Transition: let’s begin in the 1st section of chapter 6, The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

I.     Privately (6.1-4)

exp.: for Nehemiah, it was with letters of invitation: come, let us meet together. Where? Hakkephirim; we don’t honestly know where this is, but he gives us a little more detail: in the plain of Ono.” I don’t know about you but I don’t think that sounds too encouraging: Oh, No! In Neh.11.35, it is called the valley of craftsmen – but that doesn’t help us much either. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where this place was. What matters for us is what Nehemiah knew. He knew where it was and he knew it was only a ploy to make him stop working. Here’s a great place to make our first application of the morning.

app.: Don’t go there! Too often we’re invited into danger or trouble that will stop the work of God. Don’t go there. Lisa says: Don’t borrow trouble! Leave it where it is. You keep working on the task at hand. Do you need some help with this? Look at how Nehemiah handles it (Nehemiah’s response): Rd v 3: And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

t.s.: the enemy attacks privately, but when that doesn’t work – he’ll up the ante and attack you

II.    Publicly (6.5-9)

exp.: in our passage, they do it with accusations of embarrassment; rd v 6-7 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” “Look, we’re just trying to save you from yourselves.” The request to fix this looks simple enough. It is for all intents and purposes the same request as before. You see it there in v 7: let us take counsel together. There is a pattern here is found in v4:

  • The Request from the enemies
  • The Response from Nehemiah, and it is after this 2nd rotation, that Nehemiah tells us of his insight into this matter. You see the request in v 7; the response in v 8; and the purpose of the enemy revealed in v 9;
  • The Reason: They wanted to frighten us into quitting! The purpose is to instill fear.

ill.: why fear? Listen to this – Why do the enemies of God want you to be afraid? Why scare tactics? You ready for this? Because it is really all they’ve got. In our story: Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the people who follow them have no physical power to stop the work. They’ve taunted them, laughed at them, said that if a fox climbed up on the wall it would simply topple over. They’ve made fun of them and threatened them. But when it all came down to it – they were just a bunch of noise.

app.: Consider your work now – your calling to complete the work God has called you to do. Is God limited in accomplishing his work through you? He is where you focus should be. Scare tactics are used to divert your attention away from your Master and His Work. Scare tactics are meant to get you to look away from God and see the enemy.

t.s.: We will see this pattern again in the next set of verses, 15-19 as the enemy ups the ante and doesn’t relent of its attacks – they are private, they are public and they are, 3rd, persistent.

III.   Persistently (6.10-19)

exp.: The enemy has been straight forward and that didn’t work. So, they change things up a little: they then attack through his passion for the things of God – the temple, and prophets. In v 10 it tells us he is invited to the house of Shemaiah. Let us meet together in the house of God. Sounds harmless. Rd v 10;

ill.: There are two possibilities here on what this means:

First, This ‘man of God’ is warning Nehemiah of a death threat and that he can run into the rebuilt Temple and find sanctuary. There, he’ll be safe. He can run to the altar and hold on to the horn of the altar and be safe.

2ndly, he could be telling him to go into the deepest part of the Temple, the holy of holies or the holiest place. The enemies of God can’t follow him in there.

Answer: Nehemiah’s response is appropriate in either case. He says: “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?

Either one, Nehemiah knows that if he runs into the holy of holies he’ll die.

Or two, he is saying: I’m not that kind of man – I’m not the kind of man who would abandon his people. Sure, for anyone who is threatened with death, he can flee those seeking his life and find asylum in the Temple. But, that also means the work on the wall will stop. And, his people will be left out there without their leader.

app.: Nehemiah knows the full counsel of God. He knows this person is perverting the Word of God. Either way, Nehemiah is fully aware of the result that either of these two options would bring – the work on the wall would stop. And that – as far as he is concerned – is no option. He knows what they’re really trying to do is scare him.

So the enemies are persistent by attacking him in using the things of God. Next, the enemies will use the people of God.

  1. The Things of God.
  2. The People of God.

Look at v 14; We expect this from Sanballet and Tobiah. But from the prophets of God? Skip down to v 17: rd 17-19; Man, These guys are relentless. You’d think that Nehemiah would become paranoid! Now, he’ll use his own people against him;

App.: Well, in spite of all this we read in v 15; the wall is done – it is finished; in just over 7 weeks. Their goal was to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of God’s people – so that they would abandon their work. But look at what really happens. Rd v 16; Look what God has done! Do you see the irony in this – they’ve been hoping to strike fear in Nehemiah and Israel; But it backfires!

t.s.: Why does Nehemiah keep up the fight? Why does he keep going? I propose to you that his persistence is born out of a knowledge of greater things. That is: he sees the bigger picture. And that’s our last section this morning: The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

IV.    Because God is at work. There is a bigger picture. (7.1-73)

exp.: rd 1-4; he posts an even larger guard within the city. Rd v 5; God puts it in his heart to put the people of God in the City of God. This is genius at work. The goal was never just the wall. The goal was never just the Temple. There is a bigger picture that Nehemiah understood. He assembles the people of God through their genealogy. Rd v 66-67; rd v 73-8.1.

app.: At this point in Salvation History – God has been true to his people. He had promised to return a remnant – and here they are. The story of God has come full circle. But, you know there is more to come: there is a Messiah who has been promised – and all of this is just one small part of the Bigger picture.

t.s.: So, how does this apply to you?

Application:

  1. The author wants the people of God to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.
  2. You can read this and see how attacks come and know how to recognize them. Basically, attacks come in the form of fear tactics and the purpose is to get you to stop the work of the ministry.
  3. The promises of God are still with us this morning.
    1. Lo, I am with you always – even to the end of the age.
    2. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
    3. I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
    4. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
    5. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
    6. Three times in Revelation 22 Jesus says: I am coming soon. That’s a promise.
  4. In v 17 of Revelation 22 it says: 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Why? Because the price has already been paid.

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Filed under Ezra-Nehemiah, Faithfulness, Leadership, Persecution, Purpose, Sermon

Ezra 9-10

Title: The Greatest Threat to the Church

Text: Ezra 9-10

Introduction: Ezra 9-10; We come to the conclusion of Ezra – but it isn’t really a conclusion. Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah was seen as one book. For us today, we’ll be closing this book and beginning another focus next week. Interestingly, this book stands alone in its teaching. And, this message is a message that can stand alone in its preaching.

Let me offer a quick review, since it was before the Holiday break we left off…

Ezra and Nehemiah are about the rebuilding of the Temple and the Rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem – respectively. Ezra, the book about the rebuilding of the Temple, is two divided into two parts – two accounts, if you will, of the rebuilding of the Temple: 1-6 and 7-10. In both sections, Israel faces opposition. The main difference between the two sections is that 1-6 is about external opposition from the people of the land. In Chapters 7-10, the opposition comes from within.

I propose to you this morning, taking from the Title of my message, that the Greatest Threat for the Church comes not from opposition outside this community of believers, but from inside the church itself.

Transition: As believers, we will face opposition. Jesus clearly warned us of this. However, as the body of Christ, we must be ever aware and always on heightened alert to the internal opposition – to the sin that destroys the body of Christ from within. Today’s passage does just that – it sets off a warning to our faithlessness and yet, encourages us to hold on to God’s Faithfulness. I’ve outlined these two chapters this way:

  1. The Acknowledgement of Rebellion – 9.1-15
  2. The Repentance of the People – 10.1-17
  3. A list of those who publicly repented – 10.18-45

Transition: Let’s begin with…

  1. The Acknowledgement of Rebellion (9.1-15)

exp.: rd v 1; the 1st step to healing and restitution is to admit you have a problem; The leadership does that here:

  1. Israel’s Sin is Recognized – note their words: they have not separated; God had made this clear ffrom their beginning and for centuries afterward. The slippery slope into rebellion begins when one doesn’t acknowledge that there is sin against God. Those commands aren’t really commands. That applied to them or that doesn’t apply in the 21st Century or etc. Is there any one reason to the weakening of the church greater than the church’s acceptance of sin? Note it is the Leadership: I recognize this begins with the pastor and the pastoral leadership (elders).

ill.: something I see from time to time is a picture of ‘pastors’ who are standing together in a display of solidarity for something the Bible clearly condemns. The most recent is of the Wheaton College Professor. But I’ve seen them surround others concerning their stance on Gay Marriage and other politically motivated agendas that conflict with Scripture. I started looking for some online, but started feeling queasy and uneasy.

app.: Their acknowledgement gets pretty specific here:

  • We have not separated ourselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations; special note here: it isn’t so much the peoples of the land as it is with their abominations – it’s not their ethnicity! Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
  • Rd v 2; For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands; race is seed or offspring; reminds me of Gen 3.15; I think that plays a part here. Hey are the holy seed, descended from Eve – through whom the promise One would come.

app.: if you want to stop the fall down that slippery slope into rebellion, acknowledge your sin. And that’s just what Ezra does.

  1. The Response of Ezra to that Faithlessness – rd v 3; Torn garments, pulled hair/beard, sat appalled. But it’s not just him, rd v 4; There were others; Why did Ezra respond this way? Were the others moved by his response? No, not the very specific words in v 4; which brings me to sub-point #3;
  2. The Source that sets the Standard – God’s Word; rd v 4: Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, How do they know they’ve sinned? How do they know their actions are rebellion? How do they know they’ve been faithless? God’s Words. It is God’s Word that informs us.

ill.: Russell Moore wrote in his blog this past week What I’ve Learned in 20 years of Ministry. # 2 is: 2) At my ordination, an elderly deacon referenced the Bible and my wife, saying, “Son, don’t ever get in the pulpit with any other book than that one, and don’t ever get into bed with any other woman but her.” Wise counsel. Another way of putting it: “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds; Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

app.: that is wise counsel – Preach God’s word in the pulpit. Only God’s Word. This is the source that taught the Israelites that they were in violation of God’s Word. Back in 7.10 we read: 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. He must have done a good job for the people to speak up.

  1. Ezra’s Prayer of Repentance –rd v 6; we’re drowning in our sins; rd v 7-8; but you O’ God are merciful! We don’t deserve to be here but you have preserved us. Rd v 9: you’ve been merciful but we’ve been unfaithful in spite of your great mercy! Rd v 10-13; So great is your mercy, you’ve not punished us to the extent that we deserve! You’ve blessed us and allowed us to return and build this great temple. You’ve protected and preserved us! Rd v 14-15; We are utterly defenseless! We are guilty! We deserve the punishment you dole out.

ill.: Wow! This is powerful! Ezra totally understands what has happened. He comprehends his position and the position of the people before a holy and righteous God. Do you?

app.: Do you comprehend God’s perfection? He is blameless. No one can accuse Him…of anything. He has never done anything wrong and there is no wrong in him. He is right. As God, he not only sets the standard, He is the standard – In every way.

We are the antithesis of God. He is light; we are darkness. He is the standard of what is right, we are epitome of what is wrong. He is perfect in his actions. We are imperfection… in every way. With him there is no spot or wrinkle or blemish. We are, at our very best, filthy rags piled in a heap of trash. We need sacrifices of pleasing aroma to cover our stench. The wages of our sin is death. If we got what we truly deserved, not one of us would finish the breath in our lungs. On our own we are lost. We can’t find our way out of a wet paper bag without his grace. We haven’t the ability to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We are utterly destitute, lost, helpless and hopeless with out Him. And what’s worse? We don’t even deserve His Grace. He would be right and just to impose on us the penalty due our sins.

And that is what Ezra is saying. And that’s what repentance is – it’s acknowledging that God is right and we are wrong. And then, saying I don’t want to do it wrong anymore. I don’t want to do things my way anymore. Right here, Right now, I’m changing my ways to do things your way. That’s not my nature, but it’s my desire. God, come into my life and change me. Cleanse me. Make me new. Make me like you.

t.s.: Rebellion is a slippery slope. It starts when we fail to acknowledge the sin in our lives. It steepens as we walk in that rebellion. But look at what the people do…

  1. The Repentance of the People

exp.: rd 10.1; Have you ever been moved to tears over your sin? Not because you got caught, but because God’s Word told you that you were a sinner? Rd 10.2 – here we see a 1st step in returning to God.

  1. Confession your Sin – rd v 3; 2ndly,
  2. Turn from your sin – producing deeds in keeping with repentance. Your heart convicts you to rectify the situation as you can. Sometimes you can’t! Often times you can’t. But here they can – and they want to do right according to:
    1. The Counsel of Ezra
    2. The Counsel of others who understand God’s Word
  • God’s Word – His Law
  1. Take Action – rd 4; Be strong and do it! They told Ezra that they wanted to make things right. Lead us! We’re behind you. Sometimes you can’t make things right. But if you can, would you?
    1. Pornography – seal off your computer from that stuff. Get help. For yourself. For your family. Stop hurting your wife with that stuff. Don’t think she doesn’t know. You’re destroying her self image – her confidence.
    2. Tithes and offerings – God has commanded you to not love money more than him. I’m not asking for your money and I’m not telling you where or when to give. But God does. That’s something you can make right. You can begin to be obedient in this matter. You can stop using money to fill selfish longings and start using money as God designed.
  • What about your time? Do you find yourself wasting too much time in sloth and laziness and not being productive with the time God has given you? Do you make excuses for not getting things done and keeping your schedule because of this problem? Repent. Stop. Get organized. Get accountability – “open your books” to someone who can help.

We see some great steps right here in Ezra.

  1. Start with your words – rd v 5; I’d encourage you to do that today. Start with your words. In a moment I’m going to give you that opportunity. We have elders and staff members and their wives available to pray with you. You start with your words. Acknowledging you have a problem is the very 1st
  2. Own up to it. The trash in your backyard is your trash. Rd v 2…“We have broken faith with our God… we have married foreign women… You say: Dear God, I am a sinner. I have sinned against you! You said in your word not to… or to… and I have failed. This is my sin.
  3. Make the necessary changes – in v 6-17 the people take the steps to correct the rebellion and faithlessness.

Note: I’m supposing that the people did not put away wives who worshipped Yahweh. I’m supposing the people put away idols and idolatry and the evil and wickedness brought into their lives.

app.: The list of those who confessed and made corrections are listed in v 18-44: the priests in v 18, the Levites in v 23; and of Israel in v 25.

t.s.:

Conclusion: the Title of the message today is The Greatest Threat to the Church. The Greatest Threat to the Church isn’t the oppression that comes from outside the Church. No, it’s the threat of what is inside the church. The greatest threat to the church is allowing sin into the fold. That is what will destroy us.

We can be thrown in prison and some of us could even be put to death – but that won’t stop God from getting the glory in all of that! But if we allow sin to flourish within these walls and we allow the church to be destroyed from within.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Do you look at what God calls sin and not let it bother you? Do you change words so as not to offend?
  2. Do you think you could ever be so repulsed by sin that you would pull out your hair and sit in shock and outrage? Not because you got your feelings hurt…but because it offends God!
  3. Do you ever feel entitled, like God owes you something? Do you comprehend the greatness of your sin and that God has been gracious by not punishing you as your sin deserves?
  4. Did you recognize that Ezra and Israel moved from Conviction to Confession and a commitment to take action because they saw…but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. (10.2) Or, is your tendency to break down and sully in your wretchedness and despair? Do you see the hope in Jesus?
  5. What steps can you outline to alienate yourself from the sin that is destroying you and maybe those around you? Can you see them as action points?

Invitation

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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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Filed under Discipleship, Faithfulness, Leadership, Luke, Scripture, Sermon, Thoughts

Ezra 5-6

Title: The Work of God

Text: Ezra 5-6

CIT: The rebuilding begins and the people of the land openly oppose the work by sending a report to the King. The King responds positively by not only supporting the decree of Darius, but by funding the rebuilding.

CIS: The Word of God is prevalent in all of this. His prophets prophesy about it all, encouraging obedience and faithfulness. The exiles return has God had promised. All is restored as God had promised.

Introduction: Our last message in Ezra came from chapter 4 and the theme was: Opposition. The sad news is that opposition will be relentless; Houston’s city ordinance; persecution of pastors; Now it is back to the drawing board for the LGBTQ Community.

Ezra and Nehemiah are about the rebuilding of the Temple and the Rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem – respectively. Ezra, the book we’re in now, is two divided into two parts – two accounts, if you will, of the rebuilding of the Temple: 1-6 and 7-10. We’re currently in chapters 1-6. Chapter four deals with the persecution of Jews in their return from Exile over a period of 80-100 years. Chapters 5 and 6 return to the time period of Chapters 1-3.

Transition: as believers, we will face opposition; it may appear small and in some cases, it may appear rather severe; but we can be sure that God will fulfill his promises in his Word. Please don’t miss that. There seems to be chaos and confusion in the world. Right now the persecution of believers around the world is at an all time high. Today’s passage encourages us to hold on to God’s Word.

2 Peter 1.3-4: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

…he has granted to us his precious and very great promises. Peter’s letters are filled with encouragement for those who were enduring suffering. Let God’s Word meet you where you are today. If I could narrow down today’s message into a phrase – it would be the faithfulness of God’s Word: God’s Word is True.

I’ve outlined Chapters 5&6 as follows:

  1. The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins Anew (5.1-5)
  2. The Report of Tettanai’s Opposition is Sent to the King (5.6-13)
  3. The Response of King Darius (6.1-12)
  4. The Restoration of the Sacrificial System (6.13-22)

Transition: Let’s begin with the 1st section…

I.     The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins Anew (5.1-5)

exp.: Right away, in v 1, we’re given our 1st application of the day; rd v 1-2; you probably recognize these two names; Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; Their prophecy is ‘speaking the Word of God to the people of God.’ And they ‘support’ these leaders who ‘rise up’ and ‘begin’ the process of rebuilding God’s Temple. Here we find our 1st two points of application.

  1. The Word of God Gives us Direction; The word of God is given through the prophets; And look what happens in v 2; – and this is our 2nd application:
  2. The Leadership of the Church Guides us in Obedience to that Direction. Zerubabbel and Jeshua rise up and lead. I had the privilege of serving under a great leader. He was truly gifted at moving people and getting things done. I could be in a meeting with him and hate the idea being presented. He could turn to me and get me to a place of acceptance. One time, I walked into his office fully aware of what I was going into his office to talk to him about. I fully intended to let him know in no uncertain terms that I would not, I could not add anything else to my plate. I knew he was going to ask me to do something I didn’t want to do and planned to shut him down. Somehow, I left that meeting in charge of that project and excited about what could be. How is that? Harry Truman is noted as saying of leadership: A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. I think my former pastor went to the Truman School of Leadership. Really, though, I think Henry and Richard Blackaby’s definition of spiritual leadership works best: Spiritual Leadership is moving people on to God’s agenda. That fits this passage to a tee! This leadership hears the Word of God and then rises up to move God’s people on to God’s Agenda! – Rebuilding the Temple – which in itself has purpose – more on that in a moment.

Well, you know the rest of the story. It wasn’t that easy. It never is! Rd v 3; Here is our 3rd application:

  1. The World stands in Opposition to the Church to moving in that Direction. I can’t fully explain why, they just do. They want to know who authorized this and they’re taking names of everyone working on the project. Look at these questions: #
    1. By whose authority are you doing this work?
    2. Who is participating in this work? They want names. This is a scare tactic and it works! Just try it.

Transition: You know what, that’s ok. Because it doesn’t phase God or his work: rd v 5; it didn’t stop the work, it didn’t even slow them down. I think this is made clear in the next section:

II.    The Letter from Tettanai (5.6-16)

exp.: in v 6-16, a letter is sent to King Darius. It consists of two parts –

  • The Report: from the Governor of that region; v 8 tells the King that this work prospers in their hands. In v 9-10 they tell the King just what we saw in the previous verses – Who gave you permission to do this? who are the workers?; v 11- this was their reply; rd v 11-16; wow… that’s pretty spot on.

Can I give you a 4th application here:

  1. When faced with opposition, be honest and forthright. They basically say:
    • Who we are; where we’ve come from; how we got here; this is the history of this place, but we were bad and deserved what God has promised would happen to us in our rebellion.
    • This is the earthly authority who sent us to work here;
    • Everything is Honest & Detailed & forthright;
  • The Request: rd v 17

Transition: So, chapter 6 picks up with the king’s reception of this letter and a decree is issued that a search for King Cyrus’ decree be made in the house of the archives. And, in v 2, the decree is found and in v 3-5 it is repeated for the governors. And this leads us to the next point, where King Darius gives his response.

III.  The Response of King Darius (6.1-12)

exp.: this picks up in v 6, rd v 6-7

  1. Keep Away; Leave the work and the workers alone; let the workers rebuild the House of God.

So back off! I love this! But, to add insult to injury, the king says; rd v 8a; I’m going to add to what the previous king ordered; rd v 8b

  1. The Work is to be fully funded – and it’s to be funded by you! This had to hurt. These guys wanted bad things for the Jews. But, instead of bad things happening, they’re told to leave them alone and let the work continue. But no, that’s not enough! Now, you guys, take money from the royal revenue, generated from money raised in your area and pay for this work! Oh, that had to hurt! But wait, there’s more! Rd v 9-10; Not only is the work to be financially funded, but…
  2. The Worship is to be fully supplied – if they need animals for sacrifice – give ‘em! If they need ingredients to make food – give it! But wait, there’s more – it feels like I’m selling Ginsu knives: buy these knives and we’ll throw in a blender, but wait there’s more… if you order before…

Keep Away! Pay for the funding of the work! Provide the materials necessary for the Service! And, oh, yeah, rd v 11;

  1. A punishment for anyone who hinders the rebuilding.

Ouch! That’s bad! That’s a heavy warning! The King makes it clear not to mess with what’s going on. And then he makes this statement; rd v 12; From what I can gather, this wasn’t done by Cyrus and Darius and we’ll see Artexerxes because they were believers. Rather, they wanted to cover their bases. What could it hurt to let these people practice their faith, and in turn, beseech their God on my behalf. Better play it safe and not upset any of the gods. It makes sense here.

Transition: well, these governors receive the letter and the king’s wishes are carried out: The Temple is built and the sacrificial system is once again instituted;

IV.    The Restoration of the Sacrificial System (6.13-22)

exp.: Here is a simple outline of v. 13-22

  • The Temple is Completed
  • The Temple is Dedicated
  • The Passover is Celebrated

Transition: So, what are some Observations & Implications:

  1. God’s Word is Sure.
    1. God had brought back the Exiles as he had promised
    2. God had restored the Temple and its practices as promised
    3. God gave his word through the prophets and the people prospered through their obedience to that word. Don’t separate those two – God’s Word – Our Obedience.
  2. Picking your leaders is a great responsibility. It isn’t a popularity contest. It isn’t for the men who’ve been here the longest or for the wealthiest of the membership.

I heard a story recently about a church that nominated a man who had been successful in business to lead as an elder. Their thinking was that if he had led his business to success, then he could do the same for the church. That would probably work if the church were a business! There are qualifications for your leaders and success in the business world isn’t on that list.

You must pick men who will lead you on to God’s agenda. Men who will lead you to be obedient to God’s Word.

  1. Opposition from the world is to be expected. But when it comes, don’t respond as the world does. Don’t try to lie your way out of it or to hide some of the situation. Be honest and up front.
  2. God is going to accomplish all that his heart desires. No one can stand against Him. And he will use whoever or whatever he desires. Don’t let the politics of America get you down. Cities will take churches to court over worldly issues. Trust God – He is at work moving us to that Great Day.

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Filed under Ezra, Faithfulness, Scripture

2 Corinthians 11.16-33

Title: A Necessary Foolishness

Text: 2 Corinthians 11.17-33

CIT: Paul has suffered greatly for the mission he was called to accomplish.

CIS: Paul’s reason for boasting should remind us that God works through our weaknesses.

Introduction: A few years back, a man stopped by the church and wanted to visit. He told me his name was Beatty and that his dad had been the pastor of Calvary back in the late 40’s maybe the early 50’s (48-51?). He asked many questions and left after a short tour. He was just a little boy when his dad was pastor at Broadway and Bow.

I’ve often thought of him and wish I had got some information from him. Like, where is he today? What about his siblings? Pastor Beatty was the senior pastor of Calvary during some of its largest attendance days. I’ve heard numbers of over a thousand! Even 1,500! I would love to see some definitive numbers.

Just curious: How many of you here were members of Calvary in the late 1940’s? Recognize them.

Transition: In our text today, Paul is going to boast about his work. He does this in some ingenious ways.

  1. 1st, he introduces us to his sarcasm.
  2. Next, he establishes his station in life.
  3. Then, he employs a form of boasting familiar to the Greeks, but with a twist: He’ll focus on his suffering.
  4. Finally, He concludes with his service, and makes note that his service has always been through weakness.

Transition: let’s begin with Paul’s use of Sarcasm.

1.     His Sarcasm (16-21)

exp.: rd v 16-18; Very well then, if boasting is what I must do, then I will do it! It’s not the way Jesus would respond; but for me, it is a necessary foolishness; rd 19-20; I can do this because you know how to put up with it: Why, You’re so brilliant that you put up with fools while they take advantage of you. Rd v 21: to which he is saying, “Oh poor me, I was too weak to enslave you and exploit you by taking full advantage of you! I should have been stronger than that!” You can see his sarcasm. Some scholars think that stories got back to Paul of these super apostles actually getting them to do all of the work and using up their resources for their own benefit. Taking such great advantage of them that one of them actually slapped one of the members in the face!

ill.: We can see this possibility in Acts where Paul was order by the High Priest to slap Paul (23.2); And of course, with Jesus as well (John 18.22); Maybe these super apostles were taking such advantages of the Corinthians, even to the point of mistreating the membership.

app.: If this is true, it adds to Paul’s sarcasm: I was too weak to slap you around and enslave you for my purposes!

t.s.: From his sarcasm, Paul moves to what I call His station.

2.     His Station (22-23)

exp.: rd v 22-23; note 4 questions frame our outline:

  • Are they Hebrews? This deals with the Religious part of who he was; a Hebrew of Hebrews; training under a famous scholar, Gamaliel; Acts: I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
  • Are they Israelites? Israelite; of the Tribe of Benjamin; Ethnicity; born a Jew – both mom and dad are Jewish; he spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek! He was well educated in the Scriptures in any and all languages where copies of God’s Word could be found.
  • Are they Abraham’s Offspring?
    • John 8.33ff; in the famous discourse with Christ; Jesus says: If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did…;
    • And in Romans 9.6-8 Paul wrote: For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    • Abrahamic Covenant; not just born into it, not just studying in it, He’s a part of the lineage; He would later write that not all who are from Abraham are Abraham’s descent. Believers are a part of this, too. He would tell the Galatians: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
  • Are the servants of Christ? I love the picture the Gk paints: Lit.: Servants of Christ are they? παραφρονῶν λαλῶ; I must be out of my mind to talk this way! ὑπὲρ ἐγώ; I am hyper! Lit.: above and beyond. My service goes above and beyond theirs. I think this has two implications; 1st, that he is
    • A Believer: someone who comprehends the work of Christ and the redemption that comes through that work. And 2ndly,
    • A Minister – someone who has been called into service; namely, someone who has received a commission to go, proclaim and disciple.

ill.: sounds similar to Phil 3.5-6;

app.: Well, they’ve received the same calling, surrendered to the same mission; however, there is more to this calling than meets the eye. To talk about it is really crazy, but nonetheless, he must.

t.s.: So, he uses Sarcasm and he notes his Station of prestige in relation to these other super apostles. Now, he dives head first into how “hyper” – far above and far beyond – his service takes him…

3.     His Suffering (24-29)

exp.: Look with me at how Paul breaks down his suffering. He breaks down his boasting into three categories flowing between physical mistreatment by others to natural disasters or tragedy.

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25;

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship (κόπον ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν μόχθον)·

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25; Physical Mistreatment; Gal 6.17; “Let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. I guess so.

This portion of his argument is framed in terms of repetition: 5x’s; 3x’s; once; 3x’s; D.A. Carson says that this threw his detractors off. Paul uses a familiar form of boasting by following a particular outline – Res Gestae Divi Augusti which translated means: the deeds of the divine Augustus. It reads like this: Twice I received triumphal ovations. Three times I received curule triumphs. Twenty times and one did I receive the appelaiton of imperator…” In following this form, Carson writes that Paul was expected to say:

“I have established more churches; I have preached the gospel in more lands and to more ethnic groups; I have traveled more miles; I have won more converts; I have written more books; I have raised more money; I have dominated more councils; I have walked with God more fervently and seen more visions; I have commanded the greatest crowds and performed the most spectacular miracles.”

Instead, Paul goes in a direction they’re not expecting. Now, obviously, there are experiences here we’ve not heard about in the book of Acts; for example: We only know of 1 time that he was ship wrecked; And, if I’m right, it’s after this letter is written. Furthermore, if you trace his missionary journeys, you’ll see he was on a boat at least 9 times in the book of Acts. And, Phillip Hughes (NICNT) says there are at least nine other voyages from place to place subsequent to the writing of II Corinthians and prior to the Malta shipwreck.

ill.: Pastor Saeed Abedini, in an Iranian prison, was recently beaten. Again. This comes from the website of the ACLJ (the American Center for Law and Justice) it was posted 4 days ago.

http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/american-pastor-saeed-abedini-attacked-beaten-by-fellow-prisoners

Wednesday of last week, fellow prisoners viciously beat American Pastor Saeed Abedini in prison.

Unprovoked, fellow prisoners  attacked Pastor Saeed as he attempted to leave his cell, punching him in the face near his left eye and nose.  In addition to physically beating the persecuted pastor, prisoners demolished a small table Pastor Saeed used to study and read.

As he was attacked, Pastor Saeed called out for help.  Iranian prison guards did intervene and prevent further injury.  However, Pastor Saeed suffered injuries to his face – his eyes beaten black and blue.  He was able to be seen briefly by a prison doctor, and thankfully he did not receive any broken bones.

This wasn’t the first time he was beaten.  Over the course of his nearly three years in prison, he has suffered numerous beatings, including from prison guards.  He has sustained internal injuries that require surgery.  With each beating, his condition worsens.  Even before this most recent beating, Naghmeh testified about the toll it has taken on him, “I’m not just worried about his physical pain, but his psychological [pain].”

He is suffering because of his Christian faith, beaten and bruised for the Gospel. Pastor Saeed was able to recount this beating to a family member in Iran who was able to visit him today and see his injuries first-hand.

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

  • Note the Dangers:
    • Natural Disasters
    • Human Disasters

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship; v 27

And then to top off his physical pain and suffering, he adds a phrase, I think goes unnoticed: rd v 28;

  • Mental Anguish:

ill.: as a young pastor, I was asked if I would meet with someone. I, of course said yes. As the visiting moved along, this man I was meeting with told me of a bank account in which he had saved up enough money for his funeral. Then he told me he wanted me to have access to that account because he was going to end his life. When I told him I had a responsibility to get him help, he threatened to leave my office and go home and take his life in front of his kids right then. If that happened, he said it would be my fault.

That experience plunged me into a deep depression that took me three days to climb out of. I mean for three days it was hard for me to function. We were able to work through that tough experience in his life – but I was scared.

Three times I have been asked by members of 12 step programs to be their 5th step – the one to whom confession is made. Two of those experiences did much the same thing. I was tossed into a sea of depression. I heard confession to evil that I didn’t even know existed. Just standing here thinking about it … hurts.

app.: Paul is letting the Corinthians (and us) know that there is a psychological side to ministry that bears such a heavy load – and it is inexplicable – unexplainable.

t.s.: He concludes this section by saying: 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? We see his sarcasm, his station, his suffering, and he closes with his service – the way it has been even from the beginning…

4.     His Service (30-33)

exp.: rd v 30-31; it’s kind of an odd statement for us, but I don’t think so from him and his readers; for them it was a way of signing his name to what he’s just said – something akin to us putting our hand on the Bible and having someone ask us: Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the Truth so help you God? I do. here Paul is declaring that his entire service has been in weakness; it even started that way. Rd v 32-33;

Application: We’ve not experienced these things and we don’t really even know anyone who has. So how does this apply to us?

  1. The struggles of life should become the altars of praise. This past week, during my morning reading time, I read about David and had an insight I’d not really grasped before. David sinned a great sin against God by having a census taken of the people. He knew it was wrong. He was counseled against it by his friend, Joab. But David would not listen. God sent an angel of the Lord to draw his sword against Jerusalem and some 70,000 men died from pestilence. David saw the angel there – 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” You know the story. David was told to go and sacrifice to the Lord. He purchased everything needed to do so and sacrificed to the Lord. Then, The LORD told the angel to put his sword back in it’s sheath. Then in 2 Chronicles 22.1 it reads: Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” Now, I knew that story and that was how the Temple got to it’s location. Repeat: But somehow I missed that it was the struggle of life that brought an altar of praise.

It makes me wonder about this place. How did it get here? What happened here a century before we got here. Did someone dedicate this land to God, even before there was an Old Jacksonville Hwy? I don’t know.

  1. Do you know that you enjoy this facility at the expense of others? To quote: We stand on the shoulders of Giants. Many have worked hard to have what we have. It may seem that others take advantage of our generosity, but I don’t think those who’ve sacrificed see it that way. This ministry exists because of the faithfulness of many believers who have kept it going for many decades now. Many of those believers are dead now. There are some still here. And, should you remain faithful, you’ll be a part of that group of witnesses who surround us now.
  2. How have you expressed your gratitude? My I propose something? This year marks 125 years that Calvary has existed. It is the 2nd oldest Baptist church in Smith County. There aren’t too many churches with a longer history. It was established in 1890 and was a mission of First Baptist Church. It was called North Tyler Mission. I propose we celebrate. Let’s throw a party. Let’s invite the people who were a part of it’s heritage and honor them. People from 1st People from Colonial Hills. Pastors from our past who sacrificed in many ways to keep things moving along. For those pastors who’ve gone home to be with the Lord, what about their wives, their kids who are still alive. We could honor them. Former staff members; deacons; workers; Let’s do this up big. Will you pray about being a part of something like that? We could invite Mrs. Sarah Wall – whose mother joined this church in it’s sixth week. I don’t know if she could make the trip, but we could invite her. Maybe we could track down Mr. Beatty and his family?
  3. Have you considered being a part of this great body? Maybe God’s calling you to join our church and to build upon the work of those who’ve gone before.
  4. If you’ve never asked Christ to forgive you of your sin and commit your life to him, I offer him to you today.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Boasting, Church History, Faithfulness, Loyalty