Category Archives: Funeral

Romans 8.28

Title: Our Hope in Suffering

Text: Romans 8.28

Introduction: Joseph; all things seemed bad; actually, they didn’t just seem bad; they were bad; they were actually very bad; Consider:

  • His brothers hated him. Most of them wanted him dead.
  • They didn’t kill him, but they made his father think that he was dead.
  • They sold him into slavery. Human trafficking.
  • Purchased by Potiphar to serve in his household.
  • Falsely accused of rape – or attempted rape.
  • Thrown in prison and forgotten.

When Jacob had died, his brothers got scairt! They knew their deeds had been wrong. They feared for their lives. They said: rah-ro! Now that dad is gone, Joseph might want to repay us the evil we did to him. So they concocted a story – it might be true, but I’m not so sure it is. “Hey Joseph, Dad said that you should forgive us for the evil we did to you.”

But Joseph was very insightful and said: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Here’s an interesting understanding of God’s activity and our activity. I don’t fully understand it all, but I see it here very clearly: God is at work accomplishing his will, his purpose, his plan. And somehow, he does that through our actions in life.

God took all of the bad things that happened to Joseph – which were the result of this brothers’ evil toward him – and worked it for the Good. God had intention in their actions.

That’s deep!

Joseph’s story is a great illustration of our text: And we know that, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I love this verse (Romans 8.28). But I do worry that too many believers take a popular verse like this and apply it to their liking outside of its framed context. This is a real Danger for us. Not just for this verse, but for any verse, really… As we journey into this message and take a closer, deeper look at this verse, I want you to consider right now, that you’re seeing a caution sign. Caution: Don’t take this verse out of context. But maybe that isn’t strong enough. Maybe our sign should read Danger: Don’t take this verse of out of context.

Note: 2 parts – Sovereignty and the Free Will of Men & Context of Suffering

And speaking of context, the context for Romans 8 has not changed; the overall arching context of our passage is suffering. He hasn’t dwelt on suffering, but that is the context. The theme or the topic is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s activity in the life of a believer. Paul is writing about certain people and that really comes out in the next couple of verses. Note how many times it says: for those who or those whom. 6x’s! And just who are these those? It is those who love God, those who have been called according to his purpose. If you go back a verse, to 27, you see the Holy Spirit intercedes for these same people in accordance with God’s Will, in accordance with His purpose.

This presupposes a relationship. I would like to stop right there and save this discussion for next week. For now, I want you to know that there is a special relationship between God and his people. Now, even though we won’t discuss them until next week, we need to remember that “those” people are who this verse applies to.

 

Our verse is 8.28: 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.

This morning I simply want to look at this short phrase (all things work together for good) and talk to you about what we know because of whom we know. We are God’s and with that knowledge of him, we experience confidence. It comes back to the old adage: It’s not what you know, but whom you know!

It says in v.28 And we know (perceive; not experiential); in the original language of Gk there are these two different words for what we translate ‘know’. Other languages differentiate between these two understandings of this word. English, not so much. One word is γινώσκω and it is experiential knowledge. The other word is οἶδα and it means to perceive something.

Ill.: let’s say a boy is watching his dad hammer in a nail. The dad misses the nail and hits his thumb. The dad now knows by experience that when you hammer in a nail and miss the nail and hit your thumb, it hurts. That’s the word γινώσκω. The son, who is watching, he’s never hit his thumb with a nail. But, he’s watching closely and he sees his father’s reaction. He hears his father cry out. He sees his father recoil;  he grabs his thumb; he drops his hammer. The boy percieves his father’s pain. He knows (oida) that if you hit your thumb with a hammer it will hurt.

Paul writes: We know (we perceive) that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Because we know God, we can be confident that all things work together for good. But what if it doesn’t seem like it at the time? all things work together for good… Listen you can have confidence that just like Joseph, God is working his plan, just as he did for the people of Israel.

  1. πάντα: all things
  2. συνεργεῖ: work together
  3. εἰς ἀγαθόν: for good

How do you think we would live if we truly believed that God was sovereign? Some of you are getting scared! You’ve heard these verses and predestination, foreknowledge, election, and calling, those terms scare you. But don’t be. This is just a simple question: How would we live if we truly believed that God was in control of this world, even down to the bottom of our lives?

Would financial distress scare you? Would sickness, illness or even death scare you?

I read a story this week about some folks, some Moravian Christians, who were traveling on a ship sometime in the 1740s. They had gathered for worship on deck when a storm swirled up out of nowhere. The story goes that the storm wreaked havoc and many aboard the ship thought they would die. That is to say, many on board with the exception this small group of Christians who had gathered for worship. They just kept singing and worshipping. As the storm raged, they worshipped. One observer was amazed as he watched what he thought would be his last moments on earth, this band of believers singing without a care in the world.

As the storm subsided, these worshippers finished their time together. The young man who was observing them couldn’t help but stop and ask some who passed by him: Weren’t you scared? Weren’t you terrified during the storm? They calmly answered him: No. He pressed them: What about the women and the children? Weren’t they afraid? One of them stepped forward and said: No, our women and children are not afraid to die.

That astonished the Englishman and it stayed with him for days. He would later identify that moment as one crucial step in his becoming a Christian. By the way, the Englishman? John Wesley.

I often wonder at how my theology has affected my witness and how my witness has affected other non-believers observing my life and my struggle.

You see, I ask this question about God’s Sovereignty, but not as a preacher. I ask this question out of my personal experience. Most of you know my brother’s wife passed away from her struggle with cancer. But did you know that my biological mother passed away on Thursday? As I reflect on my life, I’ve got a bunch of questions that flood my mind. But not about God! And I don’t doubt or worry about what God has done and is doing.

Now, how is it that Christians can behave in a manner that doesn’t fit with their suffering? How is it that believers respond to suffering, death and what appears to be chaos in this world with total confidence? Like the Moravian believers on the ship? It is because … look at v 28… it is because we know that for those who love God … he works all things together for good.

We know… contrast this with what we saw in v 26; 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. We may not know what to pray, but what we do know is that God is at work, working all things together for good.

Let’s take a moment and look at these word pairs:

  1. πάντα: all things
  2. συνεργεῖ: work together
  3. εἰς ἀγαθόν: for good

Even when we don’t know a lot about what is going on in this life, we still know that God is working all things together for good…

These two words in English, all and things, are really one word in the Gk. ‘Things’ is added to complete a thought expressed in the Greek, but not really communicated in English. The idea is that God is taking the totality of your life and doing something special with it. Let that sink in for a moment.

Ill.: The idea is that God is taking the totality of your life and doing something special with it. Have you ever thought about that? The good, the bad, the ugly… all things. Those mistakes you made? God is using them, too. Those poor choices you’ve made – let’s just call it what it is: sin. When you sinned against God and rebelled against his desires and commands – well, God is using those situations and circumstances for his glory and he’s working it out for the good.

Do you see those 2nd set of words: working together

These two words in English, working and together, are also one word in the Gk. This Gk word is the word from which we get our English word: synergy. Syn (συν): with; and εργός: work.

Ill.: As you guys know, this past week I was in Arizona to be with my brother who lost his wife. My job was to be there for him. So, I did my best to be available when I was needed. During this time, two people made theological statements. Their intentions were to encourage the family. These remarks were in passing and I don’t think they meant any harm. But these two people, really nice people made statements about God that just are not true.

I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t my place and I know these people had good intentions. But this is what crossed my mind: Sound, healthy doctrine is important. I can’t tell you why bad things happen to good people and what God’s purposes are in all matters. I don’t know why some people get cancer and die and other people get cancer and live. I don’t why a tornado hits a neighborhood and one house is demolished and the other house is untouched. I don’t know why two people make the same bad decision and experience two different outcomes. But I do know that God is at work in your life. And I know enough to tell you not to tally up your points halfway through the game of life. All things not just some things, all things work together for good.

This is what we know as Christians: God is working all things togetherfor good…

All things: the good and the bad, the expected and the unexpected, the suffering and the rejoicing, in laughter and in pain – those experiences; God is working all things together for good.

When I was on sabbatical, I read a few leadership biographies and autobiographies. One man I enjoyed reading about was Harry Truman. What I didn’t know about him was his sense of humor. He tells the story of a man who was hit on the head and the people took him for dead. This tells you how old the story is! He was picked up by the undertaker and taken to the funeral home. He woke up in the middle of the night and sat up in his coffin. He looked around and said, “Good night! What’s going on? If I’m alive then why am I in a coffin. And if I’m dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom so bad!”

Don’t judge what God is doing in your life in just one moment of your life. Because if you try, the totality of it all will not make sense.

Friday I got a call that my biological mother passed away. I knew this day would one day come. I mentioned it to Lisa when we talked through some decisions I had to make years ago. Let me explain.

I was abandoned by my mother at a young age. I don’t know the whole story because I was just a baby. There are six of us kids who share the same mom and I think they would all agree with me that her decisions and the decisions of our fathers really messed us up.

Now, I’m an external processor and I’m not trying to process this in front of you. The pulpit isn’t a place to do that. And, I don’t want to go into all of the gory details that have created this man of dysfunction that you’ve come to know and love. But I want you to know a little, so what I say will make sense.

As a young man, my biological mother blamed me for her messed up life – like it was my fault she did this and did that. As with all of her children, each of us was made to feel like we somehow were the cause of her failures. I abandoned that line of thinking and made the conscious decision to not put myself in harm’s way ever again. So, I’ve not spoken to my mom in decades. That was my decision. And she made it easy because she never called me. The last time we spoke, I called her. She wrote me two letters in my life. Once when I 18 years old and once when I was 50. I saw her at my grandmother’s funeral, which was about that same time (the 1990s).

So I get this phone call Friday morning that she has died and I look at this wake of destruction in the life of so many people. I’ve heard that she was going to church regularly these past few years. I’m glad. I can’t say this morning that she was or wasn’t a believer because I don’t know. I’ll probably hear some good stories in the days and weeks to come.

I’m reminded of a funeral I did for a woman in my church in Worland. It was probably my first funeral there. Rowena was in her 90’s. I’d know her for a very short period of time, but I what I knew of her was that she loved the Lord. She prayed for me regularly. She was reading her Bible and studying her Sunday School Lesson when she died. At the funeral, I told of my experience with her and stories other church members shared. I told people how much Rowena loved me, loved the church and how much I was going to miss her.

But after the service, her daughter approached me and told me that she didn’t know that woman. The woman she knew was not a believer and had left a wake of destruction in her life.

As I reflect on that, I remember now hearing stories about my Nana from her younger years. She, too, had made many poor decisions and hurt many people. I imagine some of my dysfunction can be traced back to her decisions. But that isn’t the woman I knew. The woman I knew read the Bible with me every night I was with her. She would rise early and make me a hot breakfast – always, a hot breakfast. Cold Cereal was for Saturday mornings and late night snacks. After she fixed breakfast, she would enjoy a cup of coffee and read her Bible. That’s the woman I remember.

So what I say to you today isn’t just some mantra I repeat that gets me through the tough times. It isn’t just some cliché I throw out with no feeling. This statement is a fact of my life. All things work together for good, for those who love God, who’ve been called according to his purpose.

Let me offer some take-a-ways:

  1. All things: Consider Joseph’s life, what a mess! Some might consider that he brought some of his struggles upon himself! He shouldn’t have been so arrogant toward his brothers or his parents. Bad things happened, and no matter who is responsible for those struggles, those experiences all work together for good.

Some of you might be thinking that I just don’t know all of the bad stuff in your life. I don’t have to! We hide that stuff well, don’t we? Our dysfunction? Our Sin? Our rebellion?

  • Some kid might say to you, ‘Dad, you got mom pregnant and then married her.’ Who are you to lecture me?
  • Or Mom, you were living with dad and you weren’t even married.’ You have no right to…
  • Or, ‘I remember when you stole that stuff.’
  • You used to smoke. Or cuss, or… .fill in the blank.
  • Your life hasn’t always been a model example of what a Christian is.

Listen, that’s what Grace is for. Tell those who know you best: Yes, Yes, and Yes. I did do that. I was that man. I was that woman. But it isn’t the gory stuff I want you to focus, but rather the grace of God that forgave this pitiful, wretched person.

You may not see it. You may not even be able to comprehend it. But God is working all things!

  1. Working together: Unless you’re dead this morning, your story is still being written. And if you’re dead, please let one of the ushers know. They might just think you’re sleeping through my sermon. Listen, your story is still being written. Don’t write it off! Let God do his work in and through you.

If you’ve messed up, own up to it. Confess it. Let it be an example of God’s incredible, amazing Grace! And then, trust that God is going to use, not just that experience, but the totality of your life to work all things for the good. This moment might be a struggle, but it will pass. Trust that this is one chapter of God’s book about you for his glory.

  1. For good: even when it seems it is so bad. There will be tears. There will be pain. There will be sorrow. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Whatever you’re going through, hang in there. And then we come to these last words…

  1. For those: Who are the ‘those’ in this passage? Well, it is a topic I’d like to visit next week. But in short, it is those who love the Lord. Those whose lives have been committed to him.
  • If you’ve never done that, I want to give you the chance.
  • Maybe you just need prayer.
  • Maybe you feel the Lord’s calling on your life.
  • Maybe you’re interested in joining the church. We have a new member’s class scheduled for the 17th of May.
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Service for Scotty Calhoun

Service for Scotty Calhoun

20 April 2018

 

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

Prayer & Scripture Reading: Psalm 121

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer by Pastor Fred

Song: Nearer, My God, to Thee

 Message: Psalm 139.13-18

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

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

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

        O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

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

you discern my thoughts from afar.

                        You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

                        Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

                        You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

                        Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

        If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

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

        If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10         even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

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

and the light about me be night,”

12         even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

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

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

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

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

13         For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

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

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

15         My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16         Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

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

How vast is the sum of them!

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

                                       I awake, and I am still with you.

This part of the passage focuses on the word formed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

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

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

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

Everyone said, “What a fortunate young man.”

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

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

Prayer:

Song: How Great Thou Art

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