Sermon Notes

8/21/22

Scripture: I Samuel 30:7-8, 17-18, 21-25

Subject: Never Would Have Made It

Introduction

The title of today’s sermon is both a song and a testimony.  The words to the song were recorded by Pastor Marvin Sapp and were birthed after the death of his father, Henry Lewis Sapp, in September 2006.   The phrase, Never would have made it crossed his lips one week after he eulogized his father.  Pastor Sapp’s wife, MaLinda encouraged him to record the words in a song.   The words to the song would be a lasting testimony because of the challenges he would face in life.

Pastor Sapp’s Losses

1)     His spiritual father, Bishop William C Abney Jr. died in January 2007

2)     His musical mentor died

3)     His wife MaLinda died of cancer in 2010 and he had 3 children to raise

Pastor Sapp’s Struggles

1)     He has been stalked

2)     Disrespected by people that he tried to help

3)     Accused and slandered

4)     Suffered from epilepsy

Pastor Sapp’s Noted Mistakes

1)     He hurt people that were dear to him

2)     After His mother and father divorced when he was 9.  He became rebellious

3)     He turned to marihuana and hard drugs

But here it is Saints: Most of us can testify about the Losses, Struggles and Mistakes that we had to face in this life. .  But we can take solace in focusing on the  common theme in the Pastor Sapp’s song: “Never would have made it.”

“I would have lost it all, but NOW I see that you were there for me.”

“When I look back over all you brought me through, I can see You were the One I held on to.”

These words focus on how in retrospect, a person’s eyes were open to a fascinating truth—a truth that was not perceived or contemplated in the beginning.  The truth was only known after the person could reflect back on God being in the midst of the struggle.  For example:  The words NOW I SEE that you were there for me and “When I look back over all you brought me through” are statements that indicate What was perceived to be true at the beginning of the struggle was not the reality. 

And here is the crux of today’s message.  Our faith lies somewhere between what we perceive and what we are able to know and discern through God’s Spirit.  For Isaiah 64:4 declares: Since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who ACTS for the one who waits for Him.

Examples of biblical perceptions that were in error

1)     In I Samuel 16:6 Samuel had the task of anointing Saul’s successor.  He looked at the stature of Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, and said: Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.  His perception was flawed and God corrected Samuel by telling him he looked at the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart.

2)     In Mark 8:14—after Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees asking for a sign from heaven, He departed from them and when he got onboard a ship with the disciples He told them: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” The disciples believed Jesus was focusing on the fact that they had not brought sufficient bread for their journey.  Jesus said why do you reason because you have not bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand.  Their perception was flawed.

But look at Examples where knowledge beyond perception

1)     In Matthew 16:13 Jesus asked his disciples, who do men say that I am.  The response was some say you are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  But when Jesus directed the question to Peter, he responded: Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.  Jesus declared “Blessed art thou Simon Peter for this was not revealed to you through flesh and blood but my Father which is in heaven.”  Here it is: Perception is often flawed because it comes through carnal flesh.

2)   Matthew 9:29—two blind men encounter Jesus and cried out: “Son of David, Have mercy on us.”  Jesus asked them, do you believe that I am able to do this—to which they replied, “Yes Lord.”  Jesus touched their eyes and said “according to your faith be it unto you.”  Here we have a miracle where blind men, not having natural sight, were able to discern they were in the presence of the healer.  This miracle teaches us to keep an open mind about what God can do because when real knowledge and faith rises above our perceptions, we can have a hand in shaping our new reality.

Well Today’s Text

We are able to see from David’s vantage point, how he perceived God.  And his perception of God came from the many times God sustained him through his losses—through his struggles–and even in his mistakes.  Indeed as we review David’s life, we can see at least three things that afforded him spiritual insight and knowledge about what God will do, through faith.  And saints, our eyes can be opened in our own journey and we too will come away a testimony: I “Never would have made it” without the Lord.

Point 1—We should perceive and know God as our Provider

David first came to the biblical scene as a lowly shepherd boy—so lowly that he was disregarded by his own brothers when he went to the field of battled to minister to them.  But after he defeated Goliath he was praised as a mightier warrior and the savior of Israel.  His fame and renown, however, turned King Saul against him so he had to flee from Israel to preserve his life.

In running from Saul, David had to find refuge and sustenance in the wilderness—but we know that provision was made by the Lord:

 1)     I Samuel 21:6 He received hallowed bread from the priest—which was not lawful for him to eat—but Saints, the Lord’s compassion is greater than the Law—and by this David knew that the Lord will provide

2)     I Samuel Chapter 25 we see David and his men being offered food by Abigail. (I Sam. 25:18)—In Abigail’s wisdom she went against her husband’s wishes and fed David—and by this David knew that the Lord will provide

3)     I Samuel 27:7–We then see David taking refuge in the most unlikely place—for 16 months (I Samuel 27:7) he stayed amongst the Philistines—the same Philistines that he killed by the thousands in battle.—Notice that it was David that declared: The Lord prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies—and by this David knew that the Lord will provide.

Point 2—We should perceive and know that God is Present with us. 

Some of you might recall your early days of school when the roll was called every morning.  As the names were called you could hear your fellow students respond by saying “here.”  On a rare occasion I once heard a student respond “Present” and it caught my attention.  I turned to see who it was because I wanted to know who was going against the norm in his response.  Well, if a name were called in class and you heard no response, the immediate assumption would probably be the student was absent.  In larger classes, sometimes the teacher would call the name twice, to make sure the student would not be assigned as absent in error.

Saints, just because you don’t hear the Lord when you call His name—even when you call Him more than once—don’t assume He is absent.  I believe sometimes the Lord will brank rank and go against the norm in what we expect–because in doing so He is able to get our attention.  When we cannot sense the presence of God, maybe He is wanting our perception of Him, regarding what He is able to do, to be strengthened.  But know that if you have been redeemed by God Isaiah 43:1 declares fear not for the Lord has called you by name and you are His—and he will keep you in the flood and through the fire.

Well David had the proper perception of God there at Ziglag, but after the Amalekites took his wives and children captive—after they stole his possessions, and after some of his own men wanted to kill him, he wanted to know that the Lord was present in his struggle. So he told Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod—the priestly garment that contained the Urim and Thummim.  And David prayed unto the Lord: [Lord shall I pursue and overtake the Amalekites] and the Lord responded: [Pursue for you shall overtake them and recover all that have taken]

Point 3—We should perceive and know God as our Protector

The bible declares that as David prepared for battle only 400 of his 600 men followed him.  The 200 that did not go were said to be faint.  But as David pursued the Amalekites, his men happened upon a young Egyptian who had been in the service of the Amalekites–but they left him behind because he became sick.  Well David and his company gave the man bread to eat and water to drink.  They gave him figs and raisins and when his strength returned, his allegiance was more with David than the Amalekites.  Saints: be careful how you treat people.  Yes, we show compassion to our friends but we must be careful about how we treat our enemies—because if God has put them in our pathway, they are there for a reason.  So allow me to tell you what I perceived about the Egyptian.  This Egyptian who was left to die was a “Ram in the Bush” for David—and his presence was a sign for David that  God was yet Present and yet Providing.

Well the bible declares after David showed the Egyptian favor, he led him to the Amalekite camp.  And David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day.

But look at how Satan can get the “spiritual spoil” even when we get the “natural victory.”  We should know that when God is blessing, is messing.  The bible declares that upon returning to Ziglag some of the men who fought with David did not want to share what was recovered with the 200 men who were too faint to fight,   But David spoke against these men because he had a better vantage point.  His vantage point told him that THEY did not win the battle—They did not victory—The victory belonged to God—David and his faithful 400 were just instruments used by God.

When the men said the 200 men should not be given anything but their wives and children and they should take their family and depart from us.  We can see that their perception of what happened in the battle was lacking because they believed the victory was an excuse to exclude the 200 who did not fight from receiving the spoils of the battle.  But David knew that they never would have made it—without the Lord.  David told his men:

1)     It shall not be so my brethren

2)     For the spoils of the battle were given to us by the Lord

3)     It was the Lord who preserved us

4)     It was the Lord that delivered the enemy into our hands

Closing

Saints I believe that God desires for each of us to fasten our minds to the fact that we  “Never would have made it” through some things in this life had the Lord not been with us.

Saints we should move beyond our perceptions into the reality of who God is, and who He can be in our lives.

Someone once said faith is not believing that God can—but knowing that He will

Yes, prayer is always in order, but someone once said that prayer moves us closer to God—but faith moves God’s hand

So If you want to move God’s hand on your behalf don’t just send up prayers asking God for stuff and positions.  Rather first acknowledge Him by saying:

1)     Lord when I went through my struggles—I now know that you were there—and I never would have made it without you

2)     Lord when I went through the loss of friends in love-ones, You were there—and I never would have made it without you

3)     Lord when I made mistakes, you didn’t forsake me—and I never would have made it without you.

4)     Lord in my sickness—you were there—and I never would have made it without you.

And I’m stronger—I’m wiser—I’m better—much better.

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8/7/22

Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-4

Subject: How much is your salvation worth?

Introduction

As I have taught many times before, the author of Hebrews penned his letter specifically to those of Jewish descent.  The book of Hebrews is dedicated to proclaiming the sufficiency and superiority of Jesus above all of the Old Testament rituals and practices.

Our author expressed the concern that despite what Jesus accomplished while here on earth, there was a risk of losing what he described as a “great salvation.” He further declared that if this salvation were lost it would be because of neglect. Neglect is defined as the failure to properly care for something or someone. 

Let me suggest to you that neglect arises from a perceived lack of value or worth.  And we are inclined to properly care for and maintain the things that we deem valuable.  And all through life we make conscious decisions on the value and worth of things. For example.

1)     Perhaps you have gone in the grocery store to buy your favorite food, only to find the price had increased 20%.  So you had to make a decision on whether or not what you wanted was worth the price.

2)     Perhaps you have made a purchase that was rather expensive but after the salesperson described all of the amenities of the product, you decided the purchase was worth the money.  Illustration: Over a year ago, my wife and I went to an Oreck vacuum store to purchase a reliable vacuum cleaner. We were frustrated with the cheaper vacuums that under-performed.  I was ready to pay as much as $500 but was surprised to learn that the top of the line vacuum was more than $1000.  OI evaluated the product based on 3 things:  (1) benefits, (2) promises and (3) an independent observation. The benefits were demonstrated in the store.  The salesperson then promised 3 years of “free” service and cleaning.  But I wanted more information (independent observation) so I researched the product online and saw a video that praised the product above others.  So the purchased was made because these 3 things enhanced my perceived value of the product.

3)     We have seen antique shows on TV where people take things to the appraiser to assess the value.  We have seen the surprise on the faces of those that had items of significant value—they were surprised because they did not know the item’s value was hidden in antiquity.  In other words, the item had a rare quality in its design or craftsmanship that made its value much greater than anything in the present day.

Well our author believed the Hebrews did not know the value and worth of the gospel of salvation.  Had they known, they would have moved away from the Old Covenant way of worship and made Jesus the centerpiece of their faith.

So our author wrote this letter to draw attention to the value and worth of Jesus.   Notice that he used a nautical term in the NKJV—“Give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we Drift Away.  A boat or ship that was not under sail would be anchored in the harbor to moorings.  If you have been near a harbor where boats are housed you might see a “slip” or dock where a boat could be moored or anchored with an anchor or chain.  This prevents the boat from drifting away.

Now the Hebrews, to whom this letter was penned, were perhaps more susceptible to drifting away from the gospel of Jesus Christ because they were second generation Christians who did not witness Jesus’ power when He walked the earth.  All they knew of Him was from eye witness accounts.  Our author sought to anchor them to the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ by using an OT reference.

He was familiar with Psalms 8, wherein David in his prayer to God posed the question: What is man that though are mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visiteth him? For you have made him just a little lower than angels and crowed him with glory in honor.  Well in that Jesus in the flesh had a carnal nature, he too was looked upon as a little lower than angels—but look at what Hebrews declares of His nature after His ascension in Chapter 2 verse 7 (RSV, NIV) “But we see Jesus who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

So then the message was clear: If we anchor our salvation to anything other than Jesus, our true anchor, we run the risk of drifting away from God.

Point 1—Our Neglect of the gospel and our salvation can go Undetected

There is Nigerian proverb that says: When you neglect the pot it boils over and extinguishes the fire.  The principal pieces in this proverb are the POT and the FIRE.  The pot represents the confines or parameters in which something must operate—For example in the OT, the contents of the pot would be the Law and operating outside the Law was sin or sinful.  In the NT the contents of the pot is salvation through faith.  The fire represents the power that brings life to the pot.  So then, if we are vessels or pots of light and neglect what God has placed in us, or misuse the gifts given to us, what comes out of us will be carnal, and our fire will be extinguished

And let us not be deceived, for some would choose to believe that we are not neglecting the gospel because

1)     We read our devotion every morning

2)     We pray two or more times a day

3)     We fast and afflict our bodies to keep them under submission

4)     We freely give words of encouragement to others

5)     We tithe and give offerings

6)     We study using our audio bible and stream live services

Yes, what we lend our ears to is important—how we treat others and how we minister to others is important—but it does not mean that we are in good standing with God.  Here’s the question—how well do we represent God when no one is looking (aside from Him)?  Do we attend to our pots or neglect them and suffer the consequences?

Point 2—Neglect is the product of inaction and distraction

Our author concerned himself with keeping Christians focused on the person, character, and authority of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ authority was far superior to the vestiges of the past.  Listen: it does not make sense to hold on to old methods that have proven to be inefficient: For example:

1)     We used to have only black and white TVs in our homes but as color TVs became more prevalent, what they offered in visual content was more efficient than the black and white alternative

2)     We used to live in dwellings without air-conditioning, and despite the fact that today’s electric bill is more with the air, our comfort with air makes it more efficient

3)     In the 60s some of our cars did not have air-conditioning—and although the current price of gas may tempt some to leave the air off and let the windows down, the truth is, the wind-drag on our car, especially at high speeds, depletes what we hoped to gain by turning the air off.

Here it is:  When time, knowledge, and ingenuity affords us a more excellent way—a way that is more efficient and rewarding, why not change course, and embrace what is new?  This was the argument that our author presented to the Hebrews.  He asserted: In the past we had

1)     Prophets to give us God’s Word—but Jesus was a better prophet than they

2)     We revered Angels because they gave God’s Word to Moses—but Jesus was superior to angels because they were ministering spirits whose role was to serve humankind—but Jesus, the Son of God—not angels—is seated at the right hand of the Father

3)     The Old Covenant on stones could not penetrate the heart of man—but now we have Jesus who is the mediator of a better covenant, established upon better promises. (Heb. 8:6)—a covenant that both Isaiah and Jeremiah declared would awaken the conscious of man

4)     High Priest—who by the call of his office could enter the Holy of Holies each year to petition and make intersession for man’s sins—but Jesus was a greater high priest because He entered the Holy of Holies (Heb. 9:12) (heaven) once for us all and thereby obtained eternal redemption.

With this knowledge, our author would say:  Let’s not neglect to embrace Jesus by holding onto old methods.  Let’s not get distracted by false teachings—Let’s not allow our trials, persecutions or our circumstances in life to dismiss or take for granted God’s glory in His Son.  For such things by design come to loose us from the moorings that are available to hold us steady.  Illustration of Distraction: A young mother by the name of Candace Brown was a devout Christian who grew up in a family with strong Christian values.  Candace met Michael Jeffrey Land briefly in prison during a prison ministry.  On 6/19/92 Michael Land kidnapped Candace from her home in Alabama and left her 2 year old son in the house alone.  Michael took Candace to a quarry and killed her.  After her body was discovered her brother said: [That’s it, I am through with following God---for what type of God would allow a person as innocent as my sister to be taken and killed in such a fashion?]

Can I minister to someone in saying?

1)     Anger and contempt are distractions—and they can cause us to neglect our calling

2)     Loneliness is a distraction—that also causes us to withdraw into a shell and deny the power of God to be a friend to the friendless.

3)     Sickness is a distraction—that will make us say: “I am getting ready to die,” when God is saying–”Live”

4)     Inaction from failure to minister—failure to serve, pray, and intercede—is a sign of neglect.

And if we are not in tuned to our inactions and distractions, the ensuing neglect of where we should be in the Lord will cause us to drift away.

Candace Brown’s brother would later come to himself.  He said the Lord told him: [Your sister’s death was not caused by Me.] And with that, he was able to renew his faith.

We must stay vigil in recognizing that our distractions and inaction come to set us adrift—and when this happens we must know where we stand and return to the harbor to be anchored.  Dorothy Norwood sang an old song that characterizes Saints that have left their pots unattended—those that may have become distracted and disillusioned by the cares of life—to those who are adrift:

O Zion, what’s the matter now—O Zion, what’s the matter now.

You don’t sing like you used to sing, what’s the matter now

You don’t shout like you used to shout, what’s the matter now

You don’t pray like you used to pray what’s the matter now.

And while singing, praying, and shouting are not sure signs that we are not neglecting our salvation, they should be part of our regular devotion.  For the bible declares: Psalm 33:1 KJV “Rejoice in the Lord O ye righteous for praise is comely for the upright.”  The NIV reads “It is fitting for the upright to praise Him.”

Point 3—We will never neglect what we truly value

Yes, we have assigned a value to most everything in life—not necessarily a monetary value but a relative value.  A relative value means I am willing to make a certain investment in keeping and maintaining what I have.  For example:

1)     About 2 years ago I took my car into the dealership for routine maintenance.  The service writer came back with a number of things that he said my car needed, which totaled about $1,800.  I asked the man, why would I invest half the value of the car in upgrades?  In other words, the car was worth having the oil changed and tires rotated—these things were essential but the value of the car—the worth of the car—which depreciates over time, dictated that I needed to draw the line on how much I should put into it.

2)     Might I suggest that how much we value our relationships—to each other—to our spouses—to our coworkers—is reflected in how careful we are to nurture those ties?  And we cannot say our relationships are solid when only one person in it is doing most of the “heavy lifting.” Sometimes relationships succeed, or at least don’t fail, because the other party to the relationship is more forbearing—more loving—more understanding—more willing to let the God of their salvation be front and center.

So it behooves each of us to determine what our salvation—our relationship with God is worth.  For what we truly value, we will maintain.  If necessary, we will do the heavy lifting.  For if we neglect to maintain, and even enhance our position in the faith, we are in danger of drifting away.  Indeed, anything that falls victim to neglect will eventually become just a shadow of its former self.  That is why Richard Whately stated: “It is the neglect of TIMELY REPAIR that makes rebuilding necessary.”

Closing

Do you remember the saying: A stitch in time saves nine?  It carried the sentiment that it is better to attend to a garment and fix a tear with one stitch than to wait until the tear is larger and then have need of nine.

Saints of God, let’s not neglect this great salvation and then have need to rebuild what God first established in us.  If we are constant in maintaining our salvation, there will not be a need to redo and rebuild from scratch.

And just in case we have lost sight of all of the value of salvation, I have come as your salesman to proclaim the value and benefits.

 1)     Romans 5:1 declares we are justified (made righteous) by faith and now we have peace with God through Christ Jesus—not only that but our faith gives us access to the grace in which we now stand.—That’s a benefit.

2)     Jesus declared in Matthew 6:25—you don’t have to worry about your life—about what you will eat or drink—the birds of the air neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns, yet your Father feeds them.  You are more valuable than they—So our Lord was saying—He will provide what we need.  That’s a benefit

3)     Romans 5:5 declares that even in our tribulations, our trials, our hope is yet in Jesus and that hope will not put us to shame—it will not disappoint us—That’s a benefit.

4)     Romans 5:36 declares though we are led as sheep before the slaughter, yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us—I am a conqueror through Christ—That’s a benefit.

5)     John 10:25 Jesus said: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.—He is a keeper and That’s a benefit

6)     In II Corinthians 5:1 Paul said it this way.  If this earthly tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  I have another building eternal in the heavens, —That’s a benefit.

And to access these benefits I’ve got to.

1)     Value my salvation

2)     Watch my pot

3)     Anchor to the moorings—the gospel of salvation

4)     Do the heavy lifting

5)     Maintain my house in good repair.

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7/10/22

Scripture: Matthew 16:1-4

Subject: What Time is it?

Introduction

The span of Jesus’ ministry was 3.5 years and within that time He accomplished all that His Father called him to do.  But even with all of His accomplishments—with all of the miracles, signs and wonders that were manifested through Him, many refused to accept Him as the Son of God and Savior of humanity.  Despite the fact that He was the fulfilment of several OT prophesies that were messianic in nature, many, especially in the Jewish community, would not accept Him.   The reason they could not accept Jesus is because they really didn’t know what time it was.

The question, “What Time is it?” is most often asked when someone is under a time constraint.  The constraint could be a set appointment, such as:

1) An appointment with a doctor, lawyer, or dentist

2) The need to be on time to catch a flight

3) The need to be on time for work, school and yes, even church

Indeed, all through life we will be imposed with constraints upon our time.  And we must value our use of time because how well we do in this world, and in the world to come, hinges on a masterful use of time.

There are two words in the Greek language that define time (1) Chronos  (χρόṿός)  and Kairos (Ḳαϊρός)

Chronos—has to do with chronological or sequential time.  Chronos is quantitative because it seeks to measure events over time. 

Illustration

When a baby is taken to the pediatrician for the 6 month check-up the pediatrician knows that after 6 months “time,” the weight and length of the baby should fall within certain parameters.  If the baby’s weight and length fall outside the norm, the doctor may look deeper into the cause.

Kairos—has to do with opportune timethe right time—the time to act.

Illustration:

On Friday morning I decided to go to the park to exercise.  Now, in chronological or sequential time, I could have chosen any time of day to exercise, however, since a high temperature of a 90 degrees was forecasted, I chose to leave my house at 6:50, which was an opportune time, or Kairos time.

It is interesting that in Ecclesiastes 3:1 Solomon used both Chronological and Opportune time when he wrote (LXX—Septuagint)—“To everything there is a season (Kairos) and a time (Chronos) for every purpose under the heaven.” In other words, in chronological time there will be seasons or opportune times to act.

In Today’s Text

When Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees they could discern the face of the sky but not see the sign of the times, in effect He accused them of being blind to all of the prevailing signs that pointed the end of the age.  For if they would but accept the signs, they would recognize that the time—the opportune or Kairos time was upon them to accept salvation through Him.  But before we go further into the text, lest fast forward some 2,000 years to see how even we can be lulled into missing the times.  Today we draw our points from the US Department of Labor Statistics for 2021.

Point 1—We dedicated more than 7.8 hours per day doing business

Business is defined as making a living—using our skill-set to have what we deem as good for achieving a good standard of living.  This would include

1)     Maintaining a job

2)     Paying bills and creditors

3)     Making wise purchases

4)     Making solid investments

And our bible teaches us the tenets of business.

1)     Deut 8:18—Remember the Lord for it is He who give you the ability to produce wealth

2)     Proverbs 10:4—Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

3)     I Thessalonians 4:11—Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.

4)     II Thessalonians 3:10b—If any will not work, neither should he eat

So then in our 7.8 hours per day that we allocate to doing business, we have the responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner pleasing to God.  But here’s the rub:  Given the stressors involved in getting to work—dealing with customers—meeting quotas, and pleasing management, our prime objective in pleasing God can become second place.

Point 2—On average we dedicated 12.8 hours a day in leisure and sleep

Leisure time is a time to relax and detach from the concerns and pressures that come from doing business.

1)     Entertainment—listening to radio, tv,

2)     Reading

3)     Vacationing

And yes, our bible tells of the value for leisure time—After the disciples had labored in ministry—Mark 6:30-31– declares:  “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.  (31) Then, Jesus said unto them:—“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure to much as to eat.

Leisure allows us time to equip ourselves for future tasks.  Leisure also is also needed to strengthen our relationships with others.  But here’s the rub: Too much leisure time can make the senses dull, which can then make us insensitive to the voice of God

  Point 3—Both Business time and Leisure time are subject to God approval

Conducting business and engaging in leisure does not mean we are to divest ourselves of time with God.

1)     James 4:13 cautions the one that takes a presumptive right in saying on today or tomorrow we will go into the city where we will buy and sell for a profit.  But since our lives are like a vapor, we ought to say, if it is the Lord’s will do this or that

2)     Luke 12:16—the parable about one who assumes his material gain grants him the privilege of taking his leisure without recognizing God—this man who would say to his soul, soul thou has goods laid up for many years—take thine ease—eat drink and be merry.  He was ready to retire and recline, not knowing that his failure to recognize God in his season of plenty would bring about his demise.

Although leisure time is needed and necessary we are not to become Time Wasters. Time wasters are those who consume time without a spiritual and even natural benefit.  When recreation, sports, exercise become excessive, they can become idols.  Social media, internet surfing, computer games and online entertainment can take precious moments.  And if WE become time wasters—like the 5 foolish virgins in Matthew chapter 25—we can miss the Kairos time of our Lord’s return.

Point 4—Knowing what time it is means being sensitive to the move of God

In our text Jesus asked the Pharisees and Sadducees a question to which He knew the answer:  If the sky is red in the evening you know there will be fair weather—if the sky is red in the morning and threatening, you know the weather will be foul.  How is it then that you can discern the face of the sky, but not know signs—the Kairos signs of the times.

Jesus knew that the Pharisees and Sadducees were testing Him—they sought an occasion by which they could find fought in Him.  We know this because:

1)     The Pharisees and Sadducees did not socialize together.  The Sadducees were a higher, priestly sect, and unlike the Pharisees they did not believe in the resurrection.  But here it is:  Although they did not come together for tea and crumpets, they saw Jesus as a common threat—and for that reason, they joined forces in an attempt to derail Him.

2)     The Pharisees and Sadducees did not need a sign that Jesus was from God because Matthew recorded many signs that had already gone forth before this encounter in Chapter 16

  1. Matthew 8:16—after healing Peter’s mother-in-law many were brought to Jesus that were possessed and sick and He healed them—the bible says—to fulfill the prophetic Word in Isaiah 53:4“He took our infirmities and bore our sickness.”  And the bible declares there was a certain scribe present who saw Jesus in action and said: Master I will follow you wherever you go.
  2. Matthew 9:7—a paralyzed man is healed and scribes are present
  3. Matthew 9:27—a blind man’s sight is restored
  4. Matthew 9:33—Jesus cast the demon out of a man could not speak and after he spoke the crowd said, we have never seen anything like this in all of Israel—but the Pharisees said, Jesus power came from Satan
  5. Matthew 9:22—The woman with the issue is healed by touching Jesus’ garment
  6. Matthew 9:25—Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter
  7. So in today’s text, although the Pharisees said they wanted Jesus to show them a sign from heaven, they didn’t really want one.  Their mission was not to see God in Jesus but to quiet the multitude who were getting ready to come into the kingdom.  So knowing their motive, Jesus simply responded, the only sign you will receive is the sign of Jonah. (Belly or whale and heart of the earth)

 Here it is: I believe that God will give every believer a “Kairos Moment”—a moment in time where He will reveal Himself and His power.  But He is less inclined to reveal Himself to those who after seeing the manifestation of His power, would then come away doubting Him

There comes a time in our Christian walk that we must stand on God’s promises.  If we begin to waiver along the way, the book of James describes us as a wave of the sea driven and tossed with the wind—and such a man should not think he would receive anything from the Lord.

Closing

So to the question: What time is it? I must respond by saying its praying time–because no matter what you are going through, all time is the right time to pray.

What time is it?  It’s praying time because the caution that Paul gave the church of Corinth is valid today.  In II Corinthians 6:1  Paul told the Saints:  “Don’t receive God’s grace in vain for in the time (Kairos) of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  “Now is the time (Kairos) of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

What time is it?  It’s praying time–And we can take a lesson from our OT patriarchs.  The bible declares in the 6th Chapter of II Chronicles that after King Solomon finished building the temple—after the priest entered the temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies—Solomon kneeled down and began to pray, and much of his prayer was in anticipation of man failing God—and so Solomon appealed to God to allow space for man to return to him

 1)     II Chronicles 6:24—When Israel is defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against You—and when they turn back and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication before you in the temple-please hear from heaven and forgive their sin.

2)     II Chronicles 6:26—When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against You, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to Your name and turn from their sin because You have AFFLICTED them—then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people and bring them back to the land You gave their ancestors.

3)     II Chronicles 6:28—When famine or plague comes to the land, or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities—whatever disaster or disease may come—when a prayer or plea is made by anyone in Israel—when they spread out their hands toward this temple—then hear from heaven and forgive.

And here’s how I know its praying time.  It is found in God’s response.  The Lord told Solomon, I have heard your prayer…: “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or If I send pestilence among my people: If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

So yes we are under a time constraint and we cannot be Time Wasters.  Given how the average day is consumed with work, leisure, sleep and chores, we must be faithful in giving the Lord time in prayer.

 

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7/3/22

Scripture: Judges 4:1-9

Subject: Developing a Faith Initiative

Introduction

After Moses died, God chose Joshua succeed him in leading His people.  After Joshua died, God used “Judges,” to lead and direct them.  The fourth chapter of the Book of Judges introduces us to a judge by the name of Deborah who was both a Prophetess and the 4th of 12 judges recorded in the book.

Now the children of Israel had been oppressed by the Canaanites for 20 years.  Deborah summoned Barak, her captain of arms, and told him God would deliver Sisera, the captain of the Canaanite army, into his hands.  Barak responded by saying, “IF you go with me I will go, but IF you don’t go, I will not go.”

Let’s not be too critical of Barak because in a natural setting, any commander of troops will weigh the human odds of achieving victory.  Barak knew the Canaanites had 900 chariots and a strong regiment of troops.  Not only did Israel not have chariots, Deborah instructed him to take only 10,000 troops from two of the 12 tribes of Israel—Naphtali and Zebulun.  And despite Deborah telling him God would give the victory, Barak doubted the chances of success.

Point 1—A Mature Faith will take the Initiative at God’s command

The word initiative simply means to initiate—it is the power or opportunity to act or take charge, before others do.  Based on this, it is clear that Barak lacked a faith initiative and this lack came from the fact that he put more trust in Human strength than in God’s promise.

Saints of God, as it was with Barak, without a mature faith—one that will take the initiative at opportune times, we will forever be spiritual babes, relying on someone’s faith to get us through.  Barak lacked the faith to go into battle but he did have faith in Deborah’s faith.   It was Deborah’s vicarious faith that gave him the confidence to move.

Vicarious faith Defined:  Faith that is exercised on behalf of another and is accepted by God for that other person

1)     Mark 2:5—four friends of a paralyzed man lowered his body through a roof to get to Jesus.  The bible declares, when Jesus saw their faith He told the paralyzed man Son your sins are forgiven you.  The man was healed and forgiven, not by his faith but by the faith of his friends.

2)     Matthew 8:5-13 the Centurion who had a sick servant at home asked Jesus to heal him.  When he told Jesus you don’t have to come to my house to heal him—just speak the word.  The servant was healed not by his own faith but by the Centurion’s.

3)     John 4:46-54 the nobleman approached Jesus and asked Him to come heal his son who was at the point of death.  Jesus told him: Go, your son will live.  When the nobleman got home he learned that his son’s fever broke at the same hour that Jesus said, your son will live.  It wasn’t the son’s faith that wrought his healing—but the faith of the father

Yes, there are times when we might have to intercede for those who need to be delivered, because their faith is either nonexistent or underdeveloped.  But today’s message comes to tell us we can go beyond Barak’s shortcomings.  And I must be careful here because Hebrews Chapter 11 extols Barak as being a man of faith—nevertheless, today’s text is definitive and relaying he would not have gone into battle were it not for Deborah’s faith.  So, I come away with the following observations:  A person who relies solely on another’s faith is like:

1)     A Stow-away—One who secretly boards a conveyance without paying the cost of a ticket.  Barak was riding on Deborah’s ticket.

2)      An Intermediary—one who is a go-between—not having the actual authority or power but accesses power from another.  Some people are comfortable being perpetual intermediaries because they are shielded from accountability for mistakes.  But while they are shielded from accountability they can never gain full access to the power that is available. Remember the saying: No Guts, No Glory.  This is what Deborah told Barak: [I will surely with you but you will get no glory in the journey for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman]

3) Powerless—Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31.  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you (plural) as wheat.  But I have prayed for you (singular), that your faith fail not; and when you have been converted (when you return to me) go and strengthen your brothers. Peter, the same Peter that took the initiative to walk on water, told Jesus I will follow you both to prison and to death.  But Peter soon learned much of his faith was in the physical Jesus—the Jesus who did signs and wonders.  For when Physical Jesus was captured and removed from Peter’s presence, he denied Him three times.  A mature faith has the initiative to say even if I cannot see, feel or touch Jesus, I know He is with me.

Point 2—Without a Faith Initiative we will only trust in Chariots and Horses

Psalm 20 is a prayer of David concerning victory over the enemy.  In verse 6 of that Psalm David declared: “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.”  “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.  “They (the enemy) have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stand upright.”

Despite the enemy having amassed a greater armament, David saw them as being at disadvantage.  For in that David killed the lion and bear with his hands; in that he was able to defeat Goliath with a sling-shot and a stone; he knew victory would come, not by the size of the armament, but by the size of his God.

There are those in the room today that desire a greater level of faith and trust in God.  But it will not come by relying on the faith of others—it will not come by relying on anything made by man—those are the horses and chariots.  But it only comes by taking the initiative through our commitment and personal devotion to God’s word.  Illustration: Teachers teach our children with a set curriculum that is suitable for their age.  As the child gets older, what is taught becomes more advanced.  But even if teachers are dedicated and do a good job, they cannot teach children how to learn.  Learning takes place after the child takes the initiative toward disciplined study—and what has been learned is measured by how well the child performs on various tests.  Likewise, God and His Spirit teaches us with a curriculum that requires us to study His word and follow His precepts.  God moves us along His curriculum in a manner suitable for our level of spiritual growth.   But what God does not do is give us or teach us faith.  Romans 10:17 declares faith comes by hearing and hearing the preached Word of Christ.  And here it is: The level of maturity of our faith is measured by the many tests that we face in life.

Point 3—A Strong Faith Initiative removes the desire to bargain with God

There is a prevailing belief that we cannot bargain with God—that there is no quid—pro–quo or tit for tat with God.  But many have made promises to God based on the expectation of Him fulfilling a need:

1)     If you heal me God, I will be in church every Sunday

2)     If you provide me a good car, I will come to church and bring others with me

3)     If you heal my child/spouse I will devote my life to You

4)     Lord if you save my marriage, I will read my bible daily

5)     God if you give me this job I will serve you and tithe a 10th

6)     Lord I know I did wrong, but if you give me favor in my courtroom, I will serve you and my community.

But the bible does give us examples of those who “bargained” with God

1)     Jacob made a vow in Genesis 28:20-22—If You will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and all that you give me I will give you a tenth.

2)     Hannah made a vow in I Samuel 1:11: Lord of Hosts, if you will only look upon your handmaid’s affliction and give me a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life and no razor will ever be used on his head (Nazirite vow)

3)     Jephthah, the 9th judge of Israel made a vow in Judges 11:30: Lord if you will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then I will sacrifice whatever comes out of my house to meet me.  But fate would have it that his only daughter would be the first to come out of his house.  Jephthah would later sacrifice his daughter.

Well if we look closely at our text Barak attempted to make a deal with God.  Yes, as an intermediary he responded to Deborah—but since Deborah was a prophetess, her command was God’s command.  So in effect, Barak was speaking to God when he told Deborah, “If you go, I will go, but if you don’t go I will not go.”

Closing

I don’t want to disparage Jacob, Hannah, Barak or Jephthah, but in Christ, a mature believer will not feel the need to make a deal with God.  When we pray to Him we should do so without the need to control the outcome. If our prayers are reduced to a bargain, it demonstrates a lack of trust in God.

Whatever happens in life, our frame of mind should be, God will take care of me.  So when we pray, we do so with an attitude of surrender—an attitude that says—thy will be done.  For a fully developed faith will take the initiative to trust God when all we see around us is sifting sand. My bible declares: Whatever we stand in need of, the Lord knows all about it, even before we ask.   So we don’t have to be:

1)     Stow Away s—desiring to make it to heaven without purchasing a ticket. For the price of the journey was paid in advance through the shedding of Jesus’ blood

2)     Intermediarieshaving to wait on someone to point us in the direction in which we should go. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.  Having no guts and getting no glory.  But my bible declares in Romans 8:30—Those that God predestined, He also called, and those whom He called, He also justified, and those whom he justified, He also glorified.  Being glorified is an honor bestowed by God that lets people know that He has raised us to the level of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.

3)     Powerless—For the bible declares you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon you.  And if God’s indwelling Spirit abides in us, we have the both the Dunamis (ability) and Exousia (authority) to face and win our battles.

 

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6/12/22

Scripture: Psalm 124:1-8

Subject: Acknowledging the Favor of God

Introduction

This Psalm has been attributed to David and is one of the 15 songs described as Songs of the AssentsIt is believed that the congregation of Israel would sing these songs as they journeyed to Jerusalem, which was situated some 2,500 feet above sea level.  Why would they sing in route?

Story of Carl Benkert—Interior Engineer from Detroit.  In 1965 he heeded the call from Martin Luther King Jr.  to go to AL for the march from Selma to Montgomery, which ended at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  He arrived with a camera and a large reel-to-reel tape recorder.  He hid the tape recorder under his large coat, for fear that whites would seize and destroy it.  Mr. Benkert’s historical writings, videos and recordings were archived and donated to the University of Michigan but he recorded the “Freedom Songs” that were sung during the 54 mile march to Montgomery.  Some of the songs were:

1)     This little light of mine

2)     Come by here my Lord

3)      Get on board

4)      Ain’t gone let nobody turn  me around

5)     Woke up this morning with my mind, stayed on Freedom

6)      If you miss me from the back of the bus

7)     We shall overcome

It is good that these songs were recorded live because they brought the sentiment of the movement to life—the songs also help to instill courage amongst the marchers.  Mr Benkert was quoted as saying: “Music was an essential element; music in song expressing hope and sorrow; music to pacify and excite; music to engage the intellect and even touch the spirit.”

Edmund Pettus was a US Senator, Klansman, supporter of segregation and everything that the Jim Crow laws represented.  And although there have been recent thoughts of renaming the bridge that was dedicated to honor him, there are those that want the name to remain the same.  For this eponymous structure is a REMINDER of the struggle for civil rights.  Therefore when our minds are able to focus on the bridge and hear the recordings of the Freedom Songs, we are not likely to forget the torrid past and come away saying: Look where He brought us from.

Well if the Freedom Songs could help quell the fear of the Freedom Marchers, certainly the Songs of Zion strengthened the Jews as they walked the roads leading to Jerusalem.  And like the Freedom Songs, the Songs of Zion REFLECTED ON THE PAST, TO BRING HOPE FOR THE FUTURE.

Saints here’s a statement of fact:   If we don’t recognize God’s favor, we will never acknowledge it.  If we cannot recognize favor, we can easily attribute our blessings to luck or good fortune.  For example, you win the lottery by luck, where no one can influence your chance of winning.  But God’s favor and blessings are not luck in that they are not a fortuitous or chance happening.  No, favor does not happen by chance—the favor of God comes as an ordained, orchestrated, prescient and prescribed sequence of events, that He put into place.

Point 1—Acknowledge God’s Favor for the things He has done—Vs 1-5

David acknowledged God’s favor in the first line of this song by using an If/then (protasis/apodosis) or before/after postulate.  He wanted the congregation of Israel, and us, to recognize that had God not done what He did, all would have been lost.

For the words of the song declared:  IF it had not been for the Lord who was on our side when men rose us against us THEN they would have swallowed us alive.  Not only that but IF it had not been for the Lord who was on our side, THEN the waters (metaphor symbolizing an all-consuming force) would have overwhelmed us and the stream and swollen waters (metaphors) would have gone over our soul.  And this song is being sung while in route to the temple—so God’s people will Recognize, and Acknowledge God’s favor.

Saints there is nothing like going to church and acknowledging Him while in route.  Acknowledge Him

1)     For the things he has done

2)     For the things he brought us to

3)     For the things he had kept us from

4)     For preserving our lives in those times when we didn’t even know if we would be able to make it back to the church house.

Point 2—Acknowledge God’s Favor in a Declaration of Praise—VS 6-7

Saints it is one thing for us to come into the sanctuary and acknowledge God’s favor but how many of you know that for God to truly be glorified, our praise must go outside the four walls of the church.

There are at least two reasons people don’t tell of His favor beyond the church.

1)     We don’t give our Declaration of Praise outside the church because our life has not really  changed, and we fear the blowback from those that really know who we are.

2)     We don’t give a Declaration of Praise because we fear someone will use it against us if things done pan-out well for us in future trials.  The fear is grounded in anticipation of them possibly saying: “Where is your God now?”

Such as it was in Psalm 127 when the Jews were taken into captivity near the waters of Babylon, they became the source of mockery and derision as their captors said: “Sing us one of those songs of Zion.”  And the response in the mind of the people of God was: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange and foreign land.

Here it is:  If God has EVER shown Himself strong and mighty in your life, don’t let fear snatch away your Declaration of Praise.  Don’t allow your testimony on Sunday to be defeated on Monday due to a heavy trial that surfaces.  It may be God’s way of saying now that you have testified to those that don’t know Me, I will take you through a great torment and IF you stand in the midst of the test, THEN all will know the testimony was real.

Illustration: Al Horford is Power Forward/Center for the Boston Celtics.  He just turned 37 years old, which is old for a pro basketball player.  On May 9th 2022 age 36 he scored 30 points against the Milwaukee Bucks.  As it is customary for reporters to interview the players who had the greatest impact on the game, they put the microphone in his face and he proceeded to say: “First I want to thank God for putting me in the position to get this win.”  And I have noticed every time they interview him he gives a Declaration of Praise in acknowledging His God.  In Game 1 against the Warriors he scored 26 points but in game 2 he only scored 2 points.  Here it is: In the worst of times our Declaration of Praise to God must be just as strong as in the best of times—otherwise our Praise will ring hollow. Consider Elijah who was used mightily by God on Mt Carmel, but immediately ran south when Jezebel threatened him.

So in verses 6 and 7 in today’s text David gives a Declaration of Praise. [Bless be the Lord who did give us over as prey to the enemy.  Bless be the Lord—who spoiled the enemy’s plan—For he broke the snare of the fowler]

Point 3—Acknowledge Confidence in God—Vs 8

Notice how the Psalm concludes:

1)     After David declared God’s favor had come because the Lord was on their side—

2)     after he declared we should bless the Lord because of His favor

3)     In verse 8 he concluded by declaring the majesty of God. He acknowledged his majesty by declaring our help is in the name of the Lord—the Lord who made the heaven and earth.  When he wrote: “He created the heaven and earth” he was declaring there is none like Him

Closing

Saints of God for us to get the best that this Psalm has to offer, we must make our own personal declarations about the God’s favor—and why not begin with our own IF/THEN postulate

1)     If it had not been for the Lord on my side—I would be homeless today

2)     If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side—the job that I lost would have caused me to lose my house

3)     If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side—my spouse would have been lost in that accident

4)     If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side—the sickness in my body would have taken me out

5)     If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side—my child might have been cut down in the school house

6)     If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side—my marriage would have ended and my children would be scattered.

So now that I know how to recognize and acknowledge the favor of God, all that I need to do now is bless His name.  David said

1)     Psalm 103==Bless the Lord O my SOUL: and all that is within me bless his holy name

2)     Psalm 34—I will bless the Lord at all times and His praise shall CONTINUALLY be in my mouth

  1. Saints I want you to heed the clarion call to continually look at your IF/THEN scenario and bless Him because of His favor—and not just with you lips but give Him a guttural praise—and then let the praise go beyond the interior of the sanctuary.

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6/5/22

Scripture John 8:1-5, 7—11

Subject: Overcoming the Impact of Sin: Stigma, Stain and Condemnation

Introduction

Today’s text is very familiar and I believe it highlights how born-again believers should use wisdom when giving counsel to those who have either fallen into sin, or have not yet come out of sin.

The text is clear in showing there was an ulterior motive in the scribes and Pharisees bringing the adulterous woman to Jesus.  Scripture declares the greater motive was to have occasion to accuse Jesus of doing wrong.  For had He said the woman should be released, He could be accused of violating the Mosaic Law (Deut. 22:23-24); Had He said she should be stoned, they could accuse Him of accused of violating Roman Law that disallowed Jews taking execution into their own hands. (John 18:31)

Looking at the Character of the Law

The purpose of Mosaic Law and Levitical Law was to provide God’s chosen people guidelines for living by His precepts—but it had shortcomings:

1)     Paul declared in Romans 8:3—The law was weak through the flesh—meaning: The Law could identify sin but had no power to bring sin under subjection.

2)     In some instances, the Law also lacked compassion, sympathy, and forgiveness. Examples:

Law of retaliation: Eye for and Eye—tooth for tooth—hand for hand—foot for foot—Exodus 21:24

Law of Parental Discipline: A rebellious son who refuses to obey his father or mother—and who after being chastised will not heed them, should be brought before the men of the city to be stoned to death.  (Deut: 21:18-22) to put the evil from amongst you—and all of Israel shall hear and fear—so the offense was not just considered to have been done against the parents, but against larger community.

And Yes, the Law of Adultery—If a man be found to lay with a woman married to an husband, they both shall die—to put away the evil from Israel (Deut: 23:22)—Here again offense was not only against the wronged spouse, but also to the community.

Well most of us would agree that such punishments were too harsh.  So when Jesus came to us He knew that some of the laws were designed to maintain order through fear, but that fear didn’t make the people more righteous.  Much like today in our criminal justice system—the sentence imposed by the law does not necessarily make the offender a better person.  So whether it be an offense within a religious sect or in the world, there must be an Intervening Influence that first effects a change in the mind and conscience—for when the mind is changed, a change in behavior will follow.

This is why Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 5:20—“Except your righteousness (and yes, our righteousness) exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees—those that had a righteousness of Laws—you will not enter into the kingdom of God.”  Let’s look at why we need a higher righteousness.

Point 1—The Stigma of Sin can handicap our Spiritual Growth

When Jesus was asked in Matthew 24:37 which was the greatest commandment He responded: Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  He then said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself–and if we do these two commandments, we have fulfilled all of the 613 OT laws.

But what happens if and when we sin against God or our neighbor?  Yes, the bible declares (John 1:9)  [if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness]–but even after being forgiven by God, sometimes a stigma remains.

Stigma Defined:  A label or mark of disgrace.  It is a strong feeling of disapproval that others hold against us because of our offense.  And even if God has forgiven us and released us from our offense—there will always be those in our community that will harbor contempt for our past actions.

Illustration: In the 17th century Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote an historical fiction entitled: The Scarlet Letter.  The storyline has its setting in a Puritan Boston New England town in the 1800s.  In this period the church was more powerful than the government—there was no separation of church and state, so church leaders were given authority over secular and non-secular matters.

The main character in the novel is Hester Prynne, whose husband was presumed lost at sea.  Over time Hester became pregnant out of wedlock and refused to name the father of her child.   The city officials and her pastor, Arthur Dimmesdale, insisted that Hester name her lover, but she refused.  As punishment, Hester was paraded in the town square where she had to stand on a scaffold wearing a large red “A” sewn on her garments for the rest of her life.  Hester’s daughter, Pearl grew up with no playmates for she, like her mother was shunned by the church.  Pearl became unruly, causing the church to want her removed from the home she appealed to the governor and Ministers Wilson and Dimmesdale.  The ministers convinced the governor that Pearl should remain with her mother. As time progressed Hester’s pastor, became ill and frail and as the story draws to its conclusion, we learn that pastor Dimmesdale was Pearl’s father.  And here it is: It was the guilt of his sin, to which he later confessed, that caused his ill-health and ultimate demise.

Saints imagine if we had to wear the stigma of an alphabet on our garments for every sin or wrong that we have done. Yes, the storyline in the Scarlet Letter is out of step with today’s view, but it nevertheless draws attention to how stigmas levied by the greater community can, if we are not strong, cause us to lose ground in our spiritual growth. In the Scarlet Letter, Hester had to bear the STIGMA OF SIN given to her by the community but pastor Dimmesdale bore the STAIN OF SIN—which brings us to our next point.

Point 2—The Stain of Sin cannot be removed by natural means

Unlike a stigma which is imposed upon us by others, the stain of sin comes from our own actions.  And the stain of sin cannot be seen with the natural eye because it abides within the soul.

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah the Lord instructed him to give the nation of Judah a Word concerning their sin:  Jeremiah 2:22 NIV “Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me.”  Two observations should be seen in this verse (1) This mark or stain, which came by way of Judah following false gods, was not a visible stain (2) The stain could not be removed by natural means—no amount of soap and water could remove it, because the stain of sin takes residence in our inner being.  Here’s the pitfall—like David who sinned with Bathsheba, when we think our sin is hidden from others, we might be less inclined to deal with it.

Illustration.  When my wife and I traveled to Thomson for this year’s Worker’s Meeting, I wore a custom made suit with accessories that would accent the garment.  You couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t—figuratively speaking—“clean.”   Well when we got in the car to leave, I reached for the gear shift and only then noticed three rather long black marks on my shirt sleeve.  It concerned me because the shirt was freshly laundered, which means either the marks came from an error at the cleaners or somehow I brushed against something and never saw it.  Either way, it is safe to assume that since the shirt was laundered, the markings were baked into the garment.  How many of you know that much like sin, you need to deal with stains in the early stage, and not allow them to settle and sear into the garment?

Well I loved my shirt (like God loves us)  so I decided to work hard at removing the stain.

1)     I applied Dawn to the stain—I scrubbed, but the stain remained

2)     I applied OxiClean MaxForce Laundry stain remover—and although the markings seem lighter—the stained remained

3)     I applied Shout, and the bottle read: #1 Stain Remover—Triple Acting Power: (1) Cleans (2) Penetrates (3) Lifts

Well in short, I returned the shirt back to the laundry and now you would have a difficult time seeing the stain—but since it is my garment I can point out tail-tail signs of what was there.  Here it is again: Even though the stain could not be removed without the application of various cleaning agents—sometimes the evidence of the stain will still be present.

Well if it can be so difficult removing stains from a garment, we can imagine the difficulty of trying to remove the stains on the soul.  To cleanse the soul, we must have an Intervening Influence, to remove the stain.  For if we allow the stain to remain it will lead to condemnation

Point 3—The Condemnation for Sin Resides with God Alone

Although most of us desire to be thought well of by our peers, associates, and community, the fact remains that some folk are not going to like us, even after we have made amends for our wrong—even after we have said, I am sorry and with the Lord’s help, I won’t do the wrong again.

Despite having a willingness of heart to turn back the hands of time and undo our wrong, there are those that have the opinion that we should be banned from the “community,” and to forever be viewed as a castaway.  But here’s a Theological Truth: God is the only one who can condemn us—and I am so glad that man’s condemnation is not the final word.

Revisiting the stained shirt: I thought I had two options: Either get the stain out or throw away the shirt.  And here it is: Sometimes we want to throw away people whom WE have given stigmas and those who are stained–but I am glad that I serve a God who will not throw us away.

Going back to our text we should take note that Jesus’ words of correction were more on point with the “would be stoners” than the woman caught in adultery.   Jesus did not speak to the crowd in the

1)   Greek Aorist tense and say: If ye that have sinned in the past–throw the stone.

2)     Greek Passive tense and say: If ye have be led into sin–throw the stone.

No Jesus spoke in the Present Voice—Jesus said: “He that is without sin among you (present tense) cast the first stone.”  This present voice indicates something that is currently happening or continuously happening.  In effect, Jesus was saying:  Only those who are faultless should be in a position to condemn.  How many of you know we all have faults?

This word that Jesus shared with the crowd was an Intervening Influence, that even if just for a moment, effected change in the minds of the crowd.  For the bible declares they not only dropped their stones—they were convicted by their conscience.

Closing

Well I have come bearing good news.  We don’t have to suffer under the stigmas that others cast upon us.  We don’t have to bear stains upon the soul.  We don’t have to walk in condemnation for our past wrongs—but there is a work that we must do.

We need to hold to an Intervening Influence that will speak to the stigmas, remove the stains, and release the condemnation.  What we need is a winning Trifecta that will Cleanse, Penetrate and Lift.

There is a winning Trifecta called the God-head—Our Intervening Influence.

1)     God spoke in Isaiah 1:18 and said Come let us reason together, saith the Lord.  Though your sins be like scarlet they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

2)     Jesus said: John 15:3 (NKJV) —You are already clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you for a branch cannot bear fruit of itself.

3)     Then Jesus approached Peter in Acts Chapter 10 because Peter, like most of the Hebrews, had given the gentiles a stigma—believing them to be unclean and barbaric.  But after Jesus showed Peter the vision of all manner of beasts being lowered in a sheet—after he told Peter to rise, kill, and eat.  Peter said, Lord I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean.  The Lord told him. “Whatever God has cleansed, don’t call it common.”  Are there any gentiles in the house that know you have been cleansed and washed in the blood?

4)  Paul then spoke on behalf the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:1—Therefore there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the SPIRIT.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Now if the trifecta is working in your life you can speak to the stigma—speak to the stain and sing what the songwriter wrote: “I feel alright, no condemnation –no condemnation in my soul today, no condemnation in my soul today—no condemnation in my soul.”

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5/22/22

Scriptures: Numbers 11:4-6; 11-15, 16-17

Subject: You Don’t have to Bear the Unbearable Alone (Per 11:14)

Background

In today’s text Moses has made a desperate appeal to God for help.  He has done all that he possibly could to move God’s people to the land of promise but it seems with every step forward, he is met with opposition and complaining.

You might recall the miracle at the Red Sea where by a strong east wind, (Exodus 14:21), God caused the waters to part, allowing His people access to the other side.  But even before the Red Sea miracle, and for years thereafter, the children of Israel took Moses to task about his leadership.

Complaints

1)     When they believed they were trapped at the Red Sea they complained, “Were their no graves in Egypt that you have brought us to the wilderness to die?”  (Exodus 14:12)  In other words, if we are going to die, we could have just died in Egypt.

2)     As soon as they are cross the Red Sea by the power of God, then they wanted to “have church.”  They began to sing what is called the Song of Moses which praised the Lord for bringing them victory—Miriam, Moses’ sister, took her tambourine and  gathered the women together.  They all began to dance and Miriam said to them, “Sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider have been thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 15:20)

3)     But how many of you know that church “ain’t” really church if our acts of praise worship are not strong enough to carry us through our next trial. If what we sing about, pray about, and testify about has no sustaining power, all we have done is make some noise.  Here it is: Just 3 days after “having church,” (15:22), they complained to Moses for lack of water—and when they came to the water of Marah (bitter), they complained because the water was bitter.

4)     And so it was throughout the wilderness journey—the children of Israel would confront Moses with a barrage of complaints:

1)     Exodus 16:3—the children of Israel complained—we should have died in Egypt where we at least had pots of meat and ate bread until we were full.  (So God gave them manna for the morning and quail for the evening)

2)     Exodus 17:1-2—they complained for lack of water and God gave them water from a rock.

3)     Exodus 17:8  Amalek (descendants of Esau—Gen. 36:12) came against the children of Israel.  As long as Moses was able to hold up his rod, God allowed His chosen to defeat Amalek.  As a sign of appreciation to God, Moses built an altar and called the place Jehovah Nissi—the Lord is my banner

4)     And when God told Moses to sanctify the people because in 3 days I will come down and talk to them—to give them His law—the Lord descended upon the mountain with the sound of an angelic trumpet—this sound was followed by thunder, lightning and smoke (19:16)  Out of fear the people said, Moses we will hear you (19:19-20)

5)     Nevertheless, after the law was given the children of Israel yet complained.

I want you to take note of something: In life we need both physical and spiritual strength.  Here, Moses was in need of is spiritual strength because Deuteronomy 34:7 scripture declares: “And Moses was 120 years old when he died—his eyes were not dim neither was his natural force abated.”  Saints, sometimes when we suffer from extreme fatigue it is not always from the lack of physical energy—rather our spiritual strength has been depleted.  As we approach the text with this refrain, it will help answer the question:  How do we bear what is considered to be the unbearable?

Point 1—In trying times, don’t accept the best of the worst

 Now this point has to do with how the children of Israel responded through complaints, but since the complaints were directed at Moses, their disrespect weighted upon him.

Well, how many of you believe that God wants and desires what is best for His people?  But here it is:  Sometimes giving us the best comes with a cost.

1)     Exodus 16:4—God’s provision of manna from heaven came at a cost—the cost of discipline.  God said he would rain bread from heaven but the people could only gather as much as could be consumed in one day. God said: “That I may prove them whether they will walk in my law or not.”

2)     Numbers 13:33==The land of Milk and Honey came with a cost– “Giants.” The cost of war.

In today’s text we learn the mixed multitude (non-Hebrews who followed the children of Israel out of Egypt, yielded to intense craving and influenced the next complaint: “Who will give us meat to eat?  We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic but now our whole being is dried up, and there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.” (11:4-5)

There is a saying: Misery loves company, which means, people who are miserable want others to be miserable too so they can feel better about themselves.  So here is a motley crew of God’s chosen, along with other malcontents who have decided to reflect on the best of the worst:

1)     Yes they remembered being enslaved in Egypt but would rather focus on the meat they ate there—the best of the worst

2)     They remembered having to make bricks without straw but would rather focus on the cucumbers and onions—the best of the worst.

3)     They remembered how Pharaoh’s army chased them to the Red Sea but would rather focus on the garlic—the best of the worst.

Well the same is  going on today

1)     Perhaps you have heard of someone whose love interest would beat them but they would rather focus on empty love tokens like flowers or jewelry offered after the beating.

2)     Perhaps you know someone who endured racial epithets on the job but remained there because the money was good

3)     Perhaps you know someone who knew their spouse was a serial cheater but remained in the relationship because that spouse brought in the most money.

Here it is: No matter how difficult things are in our present day, we should never desire to return to something that God has delivered us from.  Anyone desiring to turn back to “something” or “someone” who hurts them have become addicted to pain.

Now all of this murmuring has fallen on Moses, so he lays before the Lord in prayer.  “Lord I cannot bear all of these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.” This takes us to our next point.

Point 2: You can’t pour out of an empty cup (Norm Kelly)

 Moses became disturbed for not being able to satisfy God’s people. And based on his prayer to God, we can see that his cup is empty.  In natural life our cup is what we draw from when we thirst.  But we draw from our spiritual cup when spiritual strength is needed.

Each of us has a call upon our life—a natural and spiritual call.  We are called to be good:

1)     Mothers and fathers

2)     Employers and employees

3)     Wives and husbands

Sometimes we can give and pour out to the point of exhaustion in these roles.  What really zaps our spiritual cup is to give with no appreciation being shown by the recipient.  There are no “thank yous,” no “I really appreciate you being there for me,” no “thanks for going out of your way.”

Yes,  in our call to minister to others we can get exhausted.  Illustration.  I remember in March of 2020 I went to the hospital to minister to a member but in truth I did not feel well myself.  I recall walking down the halls trying to find the patients room—she happened to see me passing by and called out to me.  Before leaving I entered into prayer, all the while asking the Lord to hold me up in the process.

Here it is: Sometimes being faithful in our natural and spiritual calling will become unbearable, “UNLESS.”  “Unless” our spiritual cup is full.  In whatever role God has given us we need a spiritual endowment to fulfill the call in a godly fashion.  And if our spiritual cup is empty, know that we cannot pour into someone else what we do not have.  If our cup is empty we will operate in a purely carnal state—making decisions and choices based on how we feel, rather than how the Spirit of God dictates.

So God heard Moses’ prayer and told him to select 70 elders and bring them to the tabernacle.  I will come down and talk with you there and will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them—that they bear the burden of the people with you.  Saints stay close to God—for out of all that you have poured out, God stands ready to pour back into you

Point 3—We are sustained through a spiritual renewal and refreshing

Saints know that Satan’s plays a role in our feeling empty and defeated.  He knows our godly potential—Our potential to excel in the vocation in which we have been called.  He knows that you are a champion–chosen by God to be effective. So he has devised a plan to take you off point.

Illustration: The NBA playoffs are underway and recently the Phoenix Suns were defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in game 7.  Dallas won game 7 because their game plan was simple:  Make sure their best player—Devin Booker has an off night.  Devin Booker only scored 11 points in game 7 and he would later say:   “They followed their plan—they kept the ball out of my hands and they trapped me in every action.”  And so the game plan was “Anybody but Booker”—In other words if we are defeated it will not come at the hands of their champion player.  We are going to shut him down.

Illustration: Well for those of you that don’t follow sports we can look at I Samuel chapter 17.  Goliath was the Philistine champion and the Philistines believed their conquest of Israel rested in him.  But what they could not contemplate was that their champion would be shut down by a shepherd boy named David.  David spoke to Goliath, not out of his natural strength, for he was a rather small ruddy boy.  No, he spoke out of a spiritual endowment and said: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head.  (17:46)

Here it is Saints: The reason we need spiritual renewal and spiritual refreshing is because our adversary knows we are champions—Paul said, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)  And since you are God’s champion the enemy’s game plan against your calling is: “Anybody but you.”

Closing

Saints of God, I know life can deal us some difficult blows and hardships.  What makes life seem unbearable at times is that after we have poured from our cups into others, the emptiness that remains will make the next task seem daunting.

But I want you to know that it is all part of the enemy’s plan because he can see what God has planted in you:  if you are:

1)     A strong prayer warrior, he knows you are a champion who can get a prayer through—so when it’s praying time, his plan will be: “Anybody but you.”

2)     A strong intercessor, he knows you are a champion, chosen by God—so when it’s time to intercede, his plan will be: “Anybody but you.”

3)     A model husband or wife who extols the virtues of walking godly before your spouses—he knows you are a champion so when he wants to spoil marriages his plan will be:  “Anybody but you.”

4)     Excellent at your vocation—doctor, lawyer, truck driver, teacher, social worker who unabashedly will stand on the Word of God, he knows you to be a champion—and rather than let your gifting be on display, his plan will be: “Anybody but you.”

Well now that you know that your spiritual cup can help sustain you.  Now that you know that we are not sustained by carnal things—not by— fish, melons, leeks and onions–not through, money, houses and land.  No, Jesus told Satan man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  So before your cup seems empty, you better get a Word.   A Word that says:

1)     Isaiah 41:10—Fear not for I am with thee: be not dismayed for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee: yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

2)     Psalm 46—The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble

3)     Psalm 27—The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear.  The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid

4)     Psalm 73:26—My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

5)     Psalm 23—The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.—He leads me beside still waters—he restores my soul—my CUP runneth over.

Such words are the source of our spiritual strength and carrying them in our hearts will ensure we won’t have to bear the unbearable alone.

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5/15/22

Scripture: Luke 13:10-14

Subject: Don’t Let Your Condition Make you Doubt God

Introduction

The story of the woman who was physically bound is only told in the gospel according to Luke.   Although Luke was not present in Jesus’ 3.5 year ministry, he nevertheless informed Theophilus in the first 4 verses of chapter 1 that he recoded the works of Jesus, based on eyewitness testimonies.

As the story unfolds, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, which was His custom (Luke 4:16).  There He observed a woman who had an affliction for 18 years   Her affliction was evinced by the physical state of her body—she could not straighten her body and was bound by the inability to walk upright as you and me.

Now some theologians believed the woman’s condition was Spondyhitis Deformans—a condition that causes the bones of the spine to fuse together in a rigid mass.  But the woman’s condition, although possibly degenerative, was directly caused by an evil spirit.  Point of Clarity: Now let me interject here that our Lord is a just and righteous God.  You should not read this scripture and take on the belief that your own affliction has been brought on by an evil spirit.  Furthermore, you should not readily believe your affliction is the result of God chastising you.  Rather, in all things search yourself to determine if you are in the will of God.  Peter told us if the righteous suffer, let it not be because of evil doing–as murders, thieves, and those that meddle in the affairs of others.  I Peter 4:15

With this in mind, there is nothing to suggest that the woman in our text was afflicted because she had offended heaven.  Indeed the text declares the source of her affliction was an evil spirit.  Notice: the text did not say that she was demon-possessed.  Therefore Jesus did not have to perform an exorcism; rather, He spoke a word for her bondage to be removed.  What is “remarkable” about the story is the fact that despite the woman’s affliction, which was before her for nearly two decades, she yet found her way to the “church.”

Point 1—Be Careful what you bow down to

To bow down to something or someone means we give it deference over existing thoughts, norms and customs. For example, in Luke Chapter 5, Peter had been fishing all day and caught nothing.  Peter was an experienced fisher who no doubt knew all of the tricks of the trade.  But when Jesus told him to “launch out into the deep, and let down your net for a catch,” he gave deference (bowed down) to Jesus and said we have toiled all night and have caught nothing, but nevertheless at your word I will let the net down.  In giving deference to Jesus, he caught more fish than his nets could hold

On the other hand In I Samuel 28:7 The bible declares when the Spirit of God left King Saul he became so desperate that he gave deference to the Witch of Endor, hoping for a Word from God.  Saul bowed down to someone that he knew was an offense to God.  Here it is Saints: No matter how desperate we might become in life, we cannot afford to turn to an evil source, expecting a righteous outcome.

We also have the example of Pilate, who after finding no fault in Jesus, asked the Jews:

1)  This is the your season (Passover) of release—should I release Jesus or Barabbas—The crowd said Barabbas (Matt 18:39-40)

2)  When the Jews told Pilate Jesus should be killed because He made himself to be the Son of God (Matt 18:7, Xref Lev. 24:16) the bible declares Pilate became more fearful of sentencing Jesus to death.  He returned to the judgment hall and said to Jesus: “Don’t you know that I have the power to crucify thee and the power to release thee?” Jesus then said: “You have no power at all against me, except it was given to you from above”(Matt 19:11)

3)  Finally, though he was weary of sentencing Jesus to death, he gave deference to the Jewish mob.  Here’s the point: There are several ploys that Satan uses to distract us from what we ought to be in Christ.  For example:

1)  Distress in the job market—distress in retail market place, as businesses have closed

2)  Distress caused by sickness in the land.  Today we still see the ill effects the Corona Virus, which even now has made some fearful to enter the church house.  Well If we can find a level of comfort to go to

a)     The hospital—the doctors house

b)    The Sports Arenas—the Braves house (The Battery), and the Falcons house

c)     The Restaurants—food house

d)    Go on vacations—the recreational house

But are fearful on being in the Lord’s house, it is a ploy of the enemy.

But here comes a woman with an affliction for 18 years, who still believed, despite her affliction, it was good to be in the Lord’s house.   She did not give deference to (bow down) to her condition.  Here it is:  She was afflicted in her body but not in her spirit.  And had she not been in the synagogue on the day that Jesus happened by, she would have returned home with the same infirmity.  Be careful what you bow down to.

Point 2—Anyone Standing against Christ and His chosen will be cast down

 Notice that those who opposed Jesus took every available opportunity to assail Jesus’ character and His person. 

1)     After His birth Herod sought to destroy Him

2)     The Pharisees tried to trap him by asking was it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. (Mark 12:13-15) Had he said no they would have accused Him of sedition against Rome

3)     The Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery to him asking if she should be stoned in accordance with Moses’ instructions.  They hoped he would say something against the Law of Moses but Jesus said: [He who is without sin cast the first stone] John 8:3-6

4)     In today’s text the ruler of the synagogue accused Jesus of doing something unlawful because He healed the woman on the Sabbath.  Isn’t it strange that the church house, which should be a place of healing and deliverance finds itself at odds with the Spirit of the Lord taking control?

But the text declares that despite the fact that the ruler of the synagogue showed indignation at the woman being healed, he was made to be ashamed.  For when Jesus said, how is it that you can loose your cattle on the Sabbath to be watered but this woman who is a daughter of Abraham—bound for 18 years should not be loosed from her bondage on the Sabbath?

The bible declares that after Jesus had his say, ALL His adversaries were ashamed and ALL the people began to rejoice for the glorious work done by Jesus

Saints there will always be naysayers and some will say nay because:

1)  They can see God moving in your life.

2)  Some can see a difference between who you used to be and who you are right now.

3)  Some can see your back beginning to straighten and will try to put more weight on you to keep you in a bowed down position.

4)     Some may be envious because they can see what you are getting ready to come into.  But God has a way of dismissing the naysayers, so their words become shallow and empty.  In other words, at the outset the naysayers may outnumber those that stand with God—but in the words of Elisha to his servant when the house was surrounded by Syrian forces—[Fear not, for those that be with us are more than they that be with them] II Kings 6:16.  So the Word of God give us consolation in the face of naysayers.

Point 3—We should Gird up our Loins, no matter the Season

The term “Gird up your Loins,” (Proverbs 31:17, Job 38:3, Luke 12:35-40) refers to getting in a fighting or hard laboring position.  In ancient times men wore long tunics and these garments would interfere with brisk movement.  When the men needed to move freely they would lift up the excess material and either tie it in a knot of secure with the sash that was worn around the waist.

I am persuaded that the reason the Saints of God seem to be troubled on every side—and can’t seem to get from under the weight of distress, is because we believe church time is the only time that we need to be on guard and prayerful.  But if our eyes are opened to what is going on in this world, we know that even in a Season of plenty and blessings, we should gird up our loins and be ready to fight.

You see we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices.  If he had authority over our lives:

1)     He would have us believe the only purpose church serves is to follow in the tradition of those that came before us

2)     He would have us believe, the Holy Spirit—which is the source of our strength, healing, deliverance, was only present in the days following Jesus’ ascension

3)     He would have us believe that debilitating conditions that have held us bound for the last 10, 20 years have a hold on us.  But I am reminded of what Jesus said told Pilate;  [The enemy has no power against us except that which was given to him from heaven.]

4)     I am reminded of what Peter told the Saints of God (II Peter 2:9).  The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to reserve the unjust until the Day of Judgment.

Closing

Now if you can believe this—if you stand on the promises of God.  I got a Rhema Word for you.  Straighten up your spiritual back.

1)     Straighten up your back–Stop bowing down to people and things  people that are a weight and burden in your life

2)     Straighten up your back—Don’t worsen your affliction by extolling your Doctor’s words over the Word of God

3)     Straighten up your back—Don’t allow the enemy to enter your house with ideas and thoughts that go against the commands of God

4)     Straighten up your back—Don’t try to get ahead in life by ungodly and unlawful means

If you can believe these things and straighten up your back, the battle is already won.

Illustration: Several years ago we hosted our Annual Men’s Day.  I wanted to be in service but was hampered with a severe muscle spasm in my back that had me all bent over.  I got up that morning and had trouble just walking downstairs for breakfast.  I had resigned myself to getting back in the bed.  But within the hour I began to pray to God.

1)     Lord if you can just allow me to stand in the shower

2)     Lord if you can just allow me to put on my garments (not a suit, which would require more movement)

3)     Lord if you can just allow me to get in my car and drive

4)     Upon arriving at the church—Lord if you can just allow me to exit my car (because the greatest pain comes from moving from a seated position to an upright position).  Well, I entered the sanctuary just happy to be here and while here, the Lord moved on my behalf—all because I refused to allow my condition to make me doubt God.

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5/8/22

Scripture: John 16:21

Subject: The Character of a Mother

Introduction

In today’s scripture, Jesus is drawing an analogy between the suffering imposed upon his followers and the suffering of a woman as she travails in child birth.  Jesus told His disciples:  “A little while you will not see me: and again a little while you shall see me because I go to the Father” (16:16).  The disciples did not understand this saying so Jesus then said, “You shall weep and lament but the world shall rejoice.” “You shall be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Jesus drew a parallel between His departure to heaven and a woman’s labor to express the fact that both would come with pain and sorrow but would end in joy.  Concerning Jesus, sadness would come with His death but his death was a necessary means to a glorious and joyful end.  For He told his disciples I am going away (his death) to prepare a place for you (John 14:3) and if I don’t go away the Comforter will not come. (John 16:7)   Now Concerning a Mother giving birth,  though her pain is insufferable, when she looks into the eyes of her newborn, she is able to rest from her labor and rejoice in what has come forth.

I will never fully understand the physiological and psychological stress a woman endures from the time of conception until birth, but allow me to share what science says about the impact of the process: Science says:

1)     She becomes upset and anxious more easily—probably due to hormonal and emotional changes.

2)     In the first trimester—she is more inclined to feel sick with nausea.  Her colon can become lazy or even spastic.

3)     In the second trimester—she MAY feel more energetic about the pregnancy but mood swings and tearful moments may surface.

4)     The third trimester is uncomfortable and tiring.  Strange food-cravings emerge—food combinations that are so odd that are unimaginable, but for the state of pregnancy.

5)     As the baby grows the mother struggles to get a good night sleep due to discomfort.  It becomes increasingly more difficult to walk from point A to point B.  Every mirror in the house is a constant reminder of how she has changed physically.

a)     She no longer has that school-girl figure

b)    She is bewildered with incontinence, indigestion

c)     Her nose gets broader

d)    Her facial complexion darkens with Chloasma—also called the “mask of pregnancy”—as hormones stimulate the production of more melanin

e)     As her feet, arms, and legs become engorged in the process of carrying her baby, the fears of child-birth set in.

Given all of these changes in carrying a child to birth, it is no wonder that the mother feels an eternal bond with her children—a bond that the father will never experience—no matter how close the child might be to him after birth—because he has not had this experience.  Here’s an additional thought.  Accompanying this experience is the fact that everything that happens in the 9 month process has been commissioned and ordained by God.  Let’s look at 3 women who are examples of God not only ordained  their child coming forth, but also commissioned, ordained, and ordered the steps of that life.

Let’s look at the life of 3 women who had maternal instincts

Sarah—Impatient but Protective

Yes, if we are honest, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was impatient.  Although God promised Abraham He would give him and Sarah a son, we find her telling her husband to go to the Egyptian maid Hagar to sire the son who was named Ishmael.  In fairness to Sarah had long since passed the season of fertility, so like many of us, when it seems God’s delay is denial, we move out of position and get ahead of God.

Nevertheless, when Isaac, her son came forth, we find Sarah being protective (a maternal instinct) of her son.  The bible declares when Isaac was weaned, Abraham gave him a party and Hagar’s son began to mock Isaac.  Sarah, being a mother, told Abraham we got to [clean house].  You see, now that Sarah’s shame had been taken away (the shame of being barren) there was no way she would allow her son to be mocked by the servant’s child—not in her own house—not after she had waited 90 years for her own child to come forth.

Sarah told Abraham: Cast out this bondwoman (didn’t even call her by name—relegating her to the ranks of a stranger) Sarah told Abraham Hagar’s son shall not be an heir with her son Isaac.

Now here’s the evidence that God ordered Isaac’s steps.  Through Isaac, the Son of Promise, came the chosen people of God called Hebrews.  And through Isaac’s son Jacob, the progenitor of the children of Israel, came the Mosaic Law for God’s people.  Here’s it is: a lawless people are an ungodly people.  So God ordered Isaac’s steps that even today we have a blueprint for godly living

Hannah—Having Maternal Instinct of: Prayer and Praise and Sacrifice

We learn of Hannah in the book of First Samuel.  Hannah’s husband Elkanah has two wives, Peninnah and Hannah.  Although Elkanah favored Hannah over Peninnah, Hannah was barren, while Peninnah had birthed sons and daughters.  We can only imagine that the shame experience by Hannah was on the same level of Sarah’s Abraham’s wife.  And as Ishmael mocked Isaac, in like fashion the bible declares: “Elkannah but the Lord had shut up her womb.  Not only had that but Peninnah provoked Hannah to tears.

But one year when the family journeyed to worship, Hannah went to the temple to pray.  The bible declares her soul was vexed but she prayed unto the Lord.  In her prayer she made a vow to the Lord: [O Lord of hosts, if thou will indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget me but give me a man child, then I will give him back to you all the days of his life] 

The priest in the temple saw Hannah praying—the prayer was so intense that her lips moved but not a word was heard by man.  The bible shares with us that Hannah’s shame was removed for God not only gave her a male child who was named Samuel.  The Song of Hannah found in I Samuel 2:1-10 was her prayer of thanks and praise for the birth of her son. And after Hannah weaned him and took him to the priest to serve in the temple for the rest of his life, God gave her 5 more children as a blessing for having dedicated Samuel to the Lord (2:21)—a sacrifice (a maternal instinct)

Now here’s the evidence that God ordered Samuel’s steps:  The book of I Samuel follows the book of Judges.  Samuel comes on the scene when the people of God had a strong desired to be governed by a king, like other nations.  Samuel was the last judge for the nation of Israel and the first prophet as they moved from a theocracy to a monarchy.  Here it is: After the Law of Moses was given the people of God yet erred from their teachings.  So the position of Prophet was established by God because the prophet was considered a spokesperson for God—and as he spoke, he was speaking what God had given him to say.

Mary—A Chosen woman of Passion, Purpose and Praise—

Mary was the perfect vessel selected by God for the purpose of bringing forth Jesus.  Not only could her lineage be traced back to the days of Adam in Luke 1:38 but she was a virgin who was espoused to Joseph.

Mary demonstrated many attributes worthy of the “Mother of a King.”

1)     She was humble—this humility was initially shrouded in shame as she contemplated how her pregnancy would make her an outcast in her community:  So unlike Sarah and Hannah, Mary’s shame was not for being barren but for being unwed.

2)    But her shame was removed when the angel of the Lord told her the [Holy Ghost shall come upon you and what shall be born of you shall be called the son of God] Mary would give her praise in what is called the Song of Mary in Luke 2:46: [My soul doth magnify the Lord My spirit has rejoiced in God my savior for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden…henceforth all generations shall called me blessed.  

All believers know that Jesus’ steps were ordered by the Lord and that His coming was the fulfillment of God’s plan from the beginning.  For after God gave us the OT covenant built upon Laws—after he gave us prophets whose calling was to have the people adhere to the laws—He then gave us Jesus who ushered in the NT covenant.  A covenant not built upon laws but the Spirit of God.  And it was Jesus who said: [I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him that sent me]. John 6:38

Closing

Now we know there will never be another Sarah, Hannah, and Mary but if God has blessed us with children (Ps 127:3—our heritage and a reward) we (mothers and fathers) should keep them before the Lord, even if we can only do so in prayer.  For we don’t know how they might be used by Him.

So on this day we give a special salute to mothers, for they are the vessels of God who have been chosen not just to bring forth life, but to:

1) show the maternal instincts of: Caring, love, compassion, protection, comfort, nurturing and devotion, and sacrifice.

2) direct them and teach them about the Lord that their steps might be ordered by Him.

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5/1/22

Scripture: II Corinthians 2:5-11

Subject: Release: A Benefit of Salvation

Introduction

Throughout life we will experience various people and things that will infringe upon our right to enjoy the fullness of life that God intended for us.  This infringement comes from Satan’s manipulation to enslave and entangle us with the affairs and concerns of this world.

John 10:10—Jesus declared “the thief comes to kill steal and destroy but I am come that you might have life and life more abundantly.”  Now this abundant life doesn’t directly speak to the abundance of things.  Listen to a footnote in one of my commentary bibles: Abundant life includes salvation, nourishment, healing and much more. Life refers to eternal life—life with God.  It speaks not only to endlessness but also to the quality of life.  With Christ, life on earth can reach a much higher quality, and then in heaven it will be complete and perfect.

For us to really enjoy the abundant life in Christ there must be at least 4 types of releases.

Release 1—We first must release the bondage of sin from our old life—

Without salvation we are under bondage to sin.  Paul declared in Romans 6:20 NKJV- For when you were slaves to sin you were free from the control of righteousness. (6:22)-But now that you have been set free (released) from sin, and are slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result if eternal life.

Paul described the fallen nature of man before accepting Christ in Ephesians 2:1 NKJV,  “You has He quickened (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience….”

It is interesting that Paul uses two terms in Ephesians to described man’s waywardness:  Sin (hamartia) is a military term that refers to coming short of hitting a desired target or mark. For believers it means God has a target or goal that we should strive to hit or reach, and if we miss that mark we come short of modeling Christ-like behavior.

Trespasses (paraptoma) refers to moving beyond an established standard or boundary. This boundary has been set by God and to move beyond or outside the boundary places, us in foreign and unfriendly territory.

About 20 years ago a new development of homes was constructed behind my neighborhood.  My neighbor and I noticed that some people in this new neighborhood would walk through our back yards to save time getting to their destination.  They did this despite the fact that our back yards were full of trees and brush that would deter most people from entering.  My neighbor put up a sign that read: “No Trespassing,” but it did not stop trespassers.  But when my neighbor later put up a sign that read: “Beware of Snakes”  the trespassing stopped

Here it is: When we have not been released from sin, the old nature will trespass in areas that God will not have us go.  Not only that but the illustration of how people responded to the Beware of Snakes sign also shows that the Old Man in his Old Nature is more inclined to respect boundaries when he believes going beyond them might cost his life

Well I know I am preaching to the choir but aren’t you glad that Paul told us II Corinthians 5:17 Paul declared if any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.

This new nature refers to the spiritual transformation that occurs when we accept Christ as our savior.  New does not mean reformed, renovated, renewed or rehabilitated—all of these terms refer to something that has been given a fresh and updated appearance but the core elements remain unchanged.

By contrast, “New Creature” refers to being completely and distinctively new—having new values, principles, motivations, and objectives.  And this can only be accomplished through our dedication to growing spiritually in Christ.

Release 2—Releasing Others from the Bondage of Recompense–making amends

If we don’t release others from an offense against us, we technically place them in a type of “time-out” that enslaves them.  What enslaves them is when they truly desire to be released as an offender, yet we keep them at arm’s length and ignore their attempts to make amends

We see this in today’s text as Paul shares godly wisdom with the church at Corinth.  A brother has done wrong and the members of the church have exacted punishment that Paul believes is excessive.  Many believe the man in today’s text is the same person Paul wrote about in I Corinthians Chapter 5, who was involved in an incestuous relationship.  If this is the same man, you might recall that Paul was disturbed that the church did nothing to correct him.  So Paul, instructed them:  [deliver him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that he might be saved…]

If this is the same man who by his sin had offended both heaven and the Church of Corinth, Paul acknowledged that the “earthly punishment” for his sin—that is, treating him as a castaway and not worthy of God’s providence, had become excessive.  Paul believed the man had made amends and the penalty that the entire church had put upon the brother had (1) served its purpose, but also, (2) if allowed to continue, could be counter-productive, giving Satan—the snake that he is– the upper hand.  Saints: Beware of the Snakes.

In reality when WE release others from their wrong we are not forgiving sin.  OUR forgiveness is relational, for the purpose of restoring fellowship. God’s forgiveness is moral, for the purpose of removing the guilt of sin. Consider two examples:

1)     Notice in Psalm 51:4 where David repented of his sin with Bathsheba he declared: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done evil in thy sight.

2)     Notice in Mark 2:7 when Jesus told the man with the palsy, your sins are forgiven, the scribes accused Him of blasphemy saying: “Only God can forgive sin.”

3)     Yes, only God can forgive sin:  He told us Isaiah 43:26—I am he that blotted out transgressions for my own sake and will not remember thy sins.

4)     What WE forgive is the ill feelings that arose from being mistreated or disrespected.  The infringement that we endured at the hands of the offending party must be released if we are to be in good standing with God.  This brings us to the 3rd release

Release 3—Releasing Our Psychological Bondage from being wronged

If after being wronged we harbor: (1) Anger (2) Bitterness (3) Anxiety (4) An inability to trust—all of which can lead to depression–we must understand that these are spiritual wounds.  And anything that wounds the spirit also interferes with our relationship with God

A wounded spirit is a spirit that has been offended and if not put in check, will revert back to the Old Nature.  Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11.  Knowing he had done wrong, he turned back to his father’s house saying: When I get home I will say to daddy, [I have offended both heaven and you (father}]:  I know this is a parable but this speaks volumes because it focuses on the need for us to ask heaven (God) for forgiveness and also ask our earthly brothers/sisters for forgiveness.  God forgives the sin and we forgive the wrong.

But although the prodigal son is believed to have been forgiven by heaven and the father, the brother that never left home had psychological bondage.  This brother’s anger and bitterness controlled his mind.   He believed his brother should not be allowed to walk back home and received welcome home party.  In other words, his brother had not made amends for his wrong and for that reason, the older brother carried spiritual wounds.

Spiritual wounds can be brought to naught, if you watch out for the snakes.  The snakes represent Satan, as he was in the Garden of Eden—a tempter and cunning spirit.  We can see his hand at work throughout the bible. I submit it was a wounded spirit at Satan’s hand:

1)     That caused Cain to be angry, resulting in him killing Able (Gen 3:5-8)

2)     That caused Esau to hate Jacob (Gen. 27:41)—causing the nations of Israel and Edom to be at odds throughout eternity

3)     That caused Pharaoh to pursue the children of Israel to the Red Sea-resulting in the destruction of his army (Exodus 14:9)

4)     That caused Saul to seek David’s life  (I Samuel 16:14; 18:25)

Here it is: When we carry spiritual wounds we give a license to others to control us.  And if we don’t release the psychological bondage from being wronged—we have the greater hand in our self-destruction.

Closing

Well despite the spiritual wounds that we suffer, we have a great cloud of witnesses who suffered spiritual wounds but were able to look to the Lord for their release

1)     Job, who was physically and psychologically wounded declared: Though He slay me yet will I trust him.

2)     Job, also declared, the Lord knows the path I take and when He gets through with me, I shall come forth as gold

3)     In Jeremiah Chapter 19, the Lord told Jeremiah to warn Judah that destruction was coming:

a)     Because have forsaken me and served other gods

b)    Because you burned your own sons in the Valley of Hinnom—I will make the city desolate—he then broke a flask in their midst to demonstrate how the Lord would break the city and the people.

c)     Well they beat Jeremiah and put him in the stockade—but he yet declared the Lord said, “Destruction will come at the hand of Babylon.”  But notice this: Jeremiah cried unto the Lord saying: I did what you asked me to do—but the Word I preached has come back against me.  For everybody is mocking me and laughing at me daily.  Jeremiah said within himself, I will no longer preach God’s Word nor mention His name (20:9). Jeremiah has a wounded spirit. But he then said “But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones.”

  1. And so it is Saints—every release comes by the Word that is in us

1)     We are saved from the bondage of sin by the Word

2)     We release others from bondage by the Word

3)     We release ourselves from bondage by the Word

What is the 4th release? Paul served notice in the time of suffering that all of creation groans eagerly awaiting for the adoption—that is, the redemption of our bodies.  And for this reason, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 18-22).  Further, to be absent (released) from the body is to be present with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)

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4/17/22

Scripture: Isaiah 53:1-7

Subject: Isn’t it Amazing

Introduction

During life encounters we will sometimes witness people or events that would fit the description of being amazing.

Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines Amazing:  The surprise, shock, or fear that occurs in the mind when a normal condition found in nature has been greatly changed or altered.  In other words, AMAZING occurs when a natural force moves in a manner that defies the imagination.  For example:

1)     Athletes make an amazing play

2)     Doctors perform amazing surgeries

3)     Precocious children amaze us with intelligence beyond their years

4)     And yes, we were all amazed out of fear at the destruction of 9/11

I believe the prophecy in Isaiah Chapter 53 describes Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant.   In reading in the NT how the prophecy came to life, I am left with the opinion that Jesus Christ was and amazing man who did amazing things.

Point 1—Anything Amazing leaves an indelible impression in the mind.

An indelible impression is one that takes residence in the mind that can be recalled many years after it occurred.

Isaiah Chapter 53 describes Jesus Christ as the Suffering Servant that God would send to humankind.  It is amazing that Isaiah, an 8th century prophet, wrote of the Suffering Servant, with amazing accuracy, 700 years before He came.  Isaiah described Him as:

1)  A tender plant in dry ground—describing the manner in which he would come—lowly and bereft of the finer things befitting royalty.

2)  Despised and rejected—a man acquainted with sorrow and grief

3)   And although he carried our grief. He was not esteemed by us

4)   He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.  He bore the chastisement of peace upon His shoulders.  In other words, the peace that we have, or have access to today, came by way of His sacrifice.  John wrote in his gospel–Jesus’ declaration before going to the cross: “Peace I leave with you.” “My peace if give unto you: not as the world giveth. (John 14:27)

5)   And here’s the most amazing part about Him being bruised—Isaiah declared: “By His stripes we are healed.”  Now what makes this amazing is described in Isaiah 53:10—“It pleased God to bruise Him; He Hath put Him to grief when thou shall make his soul an offering for sin.”  In today’s terminology this is referred to as Displaced Aggression—where one redirects anger or an emotional response to an innocent, instead of the offending party.

Here it is: If you have ever been on the receiving end of someone’s anger because of their discontent with somebody else, you know it did not feel good.  Imagine the passion that Jesus felt when the penalty of OUR sins was directed at Him.

Look at how the NT described Jesus as the victim of Displaced Aggression?

1)   Romans 5:6-7 (NIV)—It is rare for anyone to die for a righteous person, though some may die for a good person, but while we were yet in our sin—continuing in ungodly behavior—Christ die for us.

2)  II Corinthians 5:21—He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

So yes it is AMAZING that Jesus Christ, who was innocent and without guilt, did not defend Himself. Isaiah declared (53:7) He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.  It is Amazing because it is natural for us to cry out “injustice” “foul” and desire validation, if not retribution, when we are wronged—but to the extent that Jesus said nothing—here was a natural force that moved in  a manner that defies the imagination.

Point 2—God Uses the “Amazing” to draw us to Christ.

Mathew 12:22 A man that was blind and dumb was brought to Jesus.  When Jesus healed him all the people were AMAZED and asked, is this the Son of David?

Mark—2:12 A man sick of the palsy was lowered on his bed through the roof to be healed.  Jesus told him arise, take up your bed and go home.  When he took up his bed, the crowd was AMAZED and said, we have NEVER seen anything like this.  Here it is: They were AMAZED because It defies our imagination because the human condition that accompanies the palsy had been changed and altered.

Mark 6:47—The disciples in a ship on the Sea of Galilee when the wind begins to rage.  They then see Jesus walk on the water.  The bible declares they were AMAZED BEYOND MEASURE.

Luke 2:41-48—Jesus at the age of 12 accompanied His family to Jerusalem for an annual Passover feast.  When the family left for home they notice Jesus was not with them.  They returned to Jerusalem to find him in the temple amongst the doctors hearing them as asking question.  The Luke declared all that heard him were AMAZED at is understanding.

In Acts 2:7 the 120 received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues.  Those from other countries were AMAZED that they spoke in their native tongue.  But the drawing power of this miracle is mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians 14:22—tongues are a sign to the unbeliever (that they may believe)

In Acts 9-17-22 Saul is converted.  Scripture declares that after Ananias laid hands on him the scales fell from his eyes—he received the Holy Ghost and began to preach Jesus was the Son of God.  Scripture declares all that heard of this were AMAZED saying: “Isn’t this the one who destroyed those that called on Jesus’ name back in Jerusalem? “And didn’t he come up here to Damascus to take them back to the high priest in Jerusalem?”

Well unlike the synoptic gospels, John does not use the word amazing in his.  But in John 20:30 he wrote about the miracles that Christ performed and declared: [the miracles of which I wrote were provided that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that in believing you might have life through His name.]

Point 3—To be Profitable, Amazement must be followed by transformation

Although miracles, signs and wonders, were performed in the OT—many of the people that were chosen by God failed at being faithful to Him. So it should be no surprise that when God came to us in the flesh as Jesus Christ, and performed miracles at His father’s behest that there would yet be those that would not believe.

There were those in the ranks of Pharisee, elders, scribes and priests that would not and could not accept Jesus’ signs and miracles as validation of Him being the Son of God.  Therefore, whatever He did was met with skepticism.

1)  When Jesus healed the demon possessed man in Matthew 12:22-  The Pharisees said Jesus did the miracle because he was in league with Satan

2)  There were others who could not deny the power of God operating in Jesus—so they sought to destroy Him.

Everyone who  saw Jesus as an affront to the law and the principles of God used their voice to push Him toward Calvary’s cross.  And even today there are those who are “confessing” but not “possessing.”  So this insolence and defiance is why God allowed Isaiah to peer into the future and write: “Who shall believe our report?” “And to whom shall the arm of the Lord be revealed?”

 Closing

Well, when I examine the Old Testament concerning God’s love for His chosen people and His plan to bring gentiles into the fold.  When I read the New testament and learn how God fulfilled his promises through Jesus–I am Amazed:

1)  Matthew recorded that after died the veil in temple was torn in two—symbolizing we don’t have to go through a priest to have access to God—isn’t it amazing?

2)     Matthew also said that after Jesus died the earth began to quake and rocks were broken into pieces–the forces of nature were changed and altered. Isn’t it amazing?

3)     Matthew also said that the Roman guards that were on duty watching Jesus, witnessed the earthquake and testified out of fear: Truly this man was the Son of God?  Isn’t it amazing?

4)     Well over the course of the last 200 years men and women all over the world have lost their live in wars and battles.  Despite this carnage, many of us would be at a loss to remember them or call them by name.   But today, nearly 3,000 years after Isaiah’s prophesy, all of us remember the man called Jesus who gave his life for us.   Isn’t it amazing?

5)     They tell me that blood donated to the Red Cross only has a shelf-life of 42 days.  But the blood of Jesus that was donated 2,000 years ago has maintained its power to save—to heal—and to deliver.  Isn’t it amazing?  Yes the blood still works but is only good for those who will believe the report.

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4/3/22

Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-2; 6

Subject: Faith Dimensions: Established, Strengthen, Gifted

Introduction

Doubtless, faith is the central component for entry into the family of God.  Having faith in God means we trust Him—not only in small trials but also in those that seem impossible to bear.  Small trials are more an irritant than an overwhelming obstacle, so they are less likely to greatly disturb our peace.  But how many of you know that life will give us trials that are so heavy that our peace is not just disturbed; it is turned upside-down, rocked, and nearly destroyed.  So today I want to examine 3 dimensions of faith and how they can work in the life of believers.

1st Dimension—An Established Faith

Now it is obvious that all believers must have faith but even if we can agree on this fact, the truth is not all “believers” have faith.  I submit to you that a true believer’s belief must translate into what is called a Saving Faith.  In truth, we cannot take the title of born-again believers if a Saving Faith has not been established within us.  For even James declared (2:19) demons are “believers.”  James declared they not only believe in God but they also tremble at His presence.  (Also see Matthew 8:29).  But although demons believe in God, their belief was not a Saving Faith.  A Saving Faith requires two things: (1) we must believe that the finished work of Christ on the cross is the only basis for forgiveness of our sins and entry into heaven.  (2) our belief must be followed by our obedience to Jesus commands.

Many so-called believers are faithful in church attendance and church activities but being faithful in activities does not mean that they have given their lives to the Lord.  Here it is: some people are able to Shadow Christian Behavior—for a stated time they can give the appearance of having surrendered their lives to God but when the shadow is removed what is revealed is just a façade—a facsimile of what a Christian should be.

Yes, new believer’s faith is first established based on what Paul told us in Romans 10:9: If we confess we our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead we shall be saved.  For with the heart man believes (faith) in righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  Paul goes on in the 17th verse to declare: Faith comes by hearing the word of God.  But we know in many situations this is a Christian ideal but not reality.  Because if we continue to read what Paul wrote in Chapter 10 he makes us aware that God’s chosen people in the OT heard the Word of God but did not respond in faith.  So Paul addresses a question that he believes is in the minds of Christian Gentiles:

Have the (Jews) not heard (the preached Word)? To which Paul responded—Yes, the preached Word went out to all the ends of the world, but nevertheless, God’s people were disobedient.  So God declared His Word would go out to gentiles to provoke his chosen people and to make them jealous.  Here it is:  If we understand that the preached Word fell upon deaf ears in the OT, think it not strange that churchgoers today can hear the Word and not respond with a submissive heart.  Even the author of Hebrews declared in Chapter 4:2 The gospel (good news) was preached to them (OT chosen people) and to us but it did not profit them because it was not mixed with faith.

2nd Dimension—A strengthened Faith

Once we have received Christ with an Unfeigned Faith—one that is real and unpretentious—God desires our faith to grow and blossom because He gets the glory when our blooms are showing.  Not only that but He understands that although we bask in the spring and summer—the seasons of growth and prosperity—we must prepare because the seasons of autumn and winter—a time of lack and want, will soon approach.  How then does God get us ready for the difficult seasons: Examples:

1)     Jesus knew His disciples needed a strengthen faith when his friend Lazarus was sick.  When he was told Lazarus had died he said: I am glad for your sakes that I was not there that you may believe—Nevertheless let us go to him.  Jesus knew he wasn’t going to a funeral but a resurrection.

2)     Even upon arriving in Bethel, Martha ran to Jesus and said: Had you been here my brother would not have died.  Jesus, seeing that Martha’s faith needed to be strengthened said: your brother shall rise again.  Martha’s mind was focused on the When and not the Now, for she said [I know I will see him in the resurrection, in the last day.  But Jesus said I am the resurrection.  Whosoever believes in me though he dies yet shall he live—and whoever believes in me shall never die.  And then he asked the strength-building question: Believest thou this?]

3)     Mark 9:14 is the story of a man whose son was demon possessed. And the spirit was so dominant that it tore at his flesh, tossed him in fire and water— So the man spoke to Jesus: “IF” thou can do anything, have compassion and help us.” Well the father’s statement was shrouded in doubt. For he said “If” thou can do anything.  But his doubt was in the fact that (1) His son had been possessed for years and a prolonged battle works against our faith (2) He first asked the disciples for help but they could not cast out the demon.  But when Jesus told him, “If you can believe, all things are possible,” the man said I believe, help my unbelief. His words expressed the dilemma facing today’s church—that even those who believe will sometimes be beset with doubt.  So this man was saying, yes I believe but my belief is being hindered by the gravity of my situation—so help my unbelief.

 

Here it is:

It is essential that we know that God can rescue us from all our problems even before they take hold. But just because He can rescue us does not mean He will.  Part of the Faith Strengthening Process is having to endure hardship and come out the other side fortified.  Listen to why our faith needs to be strengthened:

Faith doesn’t always result in your problem being removed but it takes you through the problem.  Faith does not always take away the pain but will give you a resolve to handle the pain.  Faith does not always remove your storm, but it will keep you in the midst of the storm.  So then:

1)     Without a test there can be no testimony

2)     Without a struggle there will be little strength

3)     Without pressure there can be no perseverance

Illustration:

Before a child is able to walk, there is a phrase that is used to express what has to happen: “He must get his legs under him,” which simply means he has to get strength and stability.  But when the strength comes to the bones, the child does not immediately walk because he has not experienced walking—therefore the body and mind are not in sync.  To bring them in sync, the father and mother will see the child walking while leaning on the coffee tables and chairs.  The Father and mother will hold the child’s hand as they walk and gradually extend less and less of their hand until only the edge of the fingertips is offered.  The idea is to build up the child’s confidence.

Here it is: In the Faith Strengthening Process:  The Lord recognizes our faith will abound when we depend less on earthly institutions–those that have become OUR coffee tables and chairs on which we lean—institutions such as banks, jobs, homes, cars, government payments.  Yes, we may need these things but we nevertheless need to know that we must look to the hills from which cometh our help—our help comes from the Lord.  And it is when we realize this is when we can say.  “I got my legs under me now.”

3rd Dimension—The Gift of Faith

Unlike the established faith and strengthen faith, which we access to build us up to grow closer to God, the Gift of Faith comes from the Holy Spirit not to build us up but to edify the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:7; 14)  In C. Peter Wagner’s book “Your Spiritual Gifts,” he defines the gift of faith

The gift of faith is the special ability that God gives to some members of the Body of Christ to discern with extraordinary confidence the will and purposes of God for the future of his work.

Those to whom God has given the gift of faith are able to discern with confidence what God wants to accomplish in the church 5 to 10 years from now—and with this confidence they move even before they are able to understand how all of the pieces will come together.  Examples of those that had the gift of faith

1)     Noah followed the instructions of God to build an ark, without even knowing what rain was.  The book of Hebrews (11:7) declares: Noah was warned of God of things not yet seen but out of fear of the Lord he prepared an ark

2)     Abraham followed God’s instructions to sacrifice his son Isaac without knowing the outcome.  Nevertheless, Abraham was able to discern the truth in God’s word when He said (Genesis 17:19) “Sarah will bear a son and he shall be called Isaac—I will establish my covenant with him—an everlasting covenant.”  Having the faith and confidence that God would perform what He promised, He was able to tell Isaac who asked father where is the sacrifice?—“The Lord will provide.”

Closing

Well, I am determined to hold ground and build up my faith in God.  I may not understand all mysteries but I’m holding on and won’t let go of my faith.

Before Judah was sent in exile, God sent them a prophet named Habakkuk.  Habakkuk was disturbed that the nation of Judah had gone outside of the will of God, so he asked God what he would do about their apostasy.  The Lord answered by saying he would allow the nation of Babylon to plunder His chosen people.  Habakkuk did not understand why the Lord would allow a nation that was worse than they to take the advantage.  Habakkuk decided he would wait in a tower for the Lord to answer-he even contemplated the Lord correcting him and how he would respond.  And when the Lord responded He said: I want you to record this vision and inscribe it on tablets.  Now the vision will not occur immediately but will come at an appointed time.  So post the vision on tablets in bold print so he that runs to herald the Words in this vision can do so with ease.  Habakkuk don’t worry about those that are proud and evil.  Don’t worry about the Babylonians that I will use to bring judgment to Judah.  Just know this: That the just shall live by faith. (2:4)

Saints of God—Jude told us to build up our most Holy Faith and pray in the Spirit (1:20)

1)     We don’t know what tomorrow will bring—we don’t know the trials that will come to beset us—so we must prepare in the spring, because winter is coming

2)     Now I may never be bestowed the faith of the 3rd dimension.  I may never have the faith to see what Noah and Abraham saw.  I may never be able to preach what God gave to Habakkuk preached—but I can proclaim what I do know: The Just shall live by faith

3)     So when the time comes when you don’t know whether to stand still or move forward, know that the just shall live by faith.

4)     II Corinthians (5:7) declares: We walk by faith and not by sight.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

3/20/22

Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13

Subject: Making Preparation to Meet God

Introduction

The key to achieving success to most anything that we do in life, is preparation.  The reason preparation is overlooked is because it requires planning, discipline and labor.  But here it is: Generally, preparation through planning and discipline will often yield a great reward.

Abraham Lincoln said: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.  The meaning?  We should view our humanity as a tool that gets the best from life by staying sharpened.

Solomon declared in Proverbs 20:4—The sluggard does not plant in autumn and seeks a harvest.  The meaning?  Per the NKJVThe lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.

Today’s Text Matthew 25:1-13

Today’s text is a parable that Jesus used to teach His disciples about kingdom principles.  He focused on what is necessary to go back with Jesus at His return. The theme of this parable is Personal Salvation because in it, Jesus distinguished the faithful who will meet God in peace vs. those who desire to meet Him, but fall short of the goal.  But to get the fullness of what Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 25, we must look at the other two parables in the chapter.  The other parables give us two additional principles that should accompany Personal Salvation

2nd Principle: Matthew 25:14-30—Principle of Faithful Stewardship

In the 2nd parable a landowner traveled to a far land but left his goods to his servants, expecting them to present him an increase at his return.  All but one gave an increase and that one was labeled unprofitable, lazy and unfit to enter the kingdom.

3rd Principal: Matthew 25:31-46—Principle of Benevolent Servitude

In the 3rd parable the Son of man entered into His glory and separated the sheep (believers who are faithful followers) from the goats (those that are in the community of  believers but are not faithful followers). As the parable unfolds, we learn that what really separated the sheep from the goats was the service that the sheep offered to humanity.  Out of benevolent service the sheep fed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave drink to the thirsty, and visited the sick and those imprisoned.

So in the composite text, Jesus taught not only on Personal Salvation, but also Stewardship and Servitude as prerequisites to meet God in peace.

Of all the 3 requirements that Jesus spoke of in Chapter 25, perhaps Personal Salvation should be given the greatest weight.  You see, even the “World” is fully capable of using resources to net an increase.  Likewise the “World” is more than capable of giving support to a destitute and marginalized people—but only the redeemed of the Lord

1)     Can say I have been redeemed (Psalm 107:2)

2)     Can love the unlovable

3)     Can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, (I Corinthians 12:3) declare that Jesus is Lord.

And so it is with that Power that we have fashioned a hope of being ready and prepared to go back with Jesus when He returns.  What does this first parable in Matthew Chapter 25 teach us about being prepared?

Point 1: In making preparation we cannot be smug in our walk of faith

Being smug is a definite pitfall to our faith because it engenders the thought that “we have made it.”  This is especially true for those that seem to be used mightily by God through the gifting of the Holy Spirit.  Gifting has been looked upon as a rite of passage into heaven.  And although we marvel at those who seem to minister in the High Profile Gifts: Preaching, Teaching, Tongues, and Prophecy–it does not necessarily mean that they are any closer to heaven than you or me.  Paul declared that although there are differences in gifts and ministries, they emanate from the same Spirit—and as the natural body has many members so does the operation of the Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:4-19)

Matthew 7:22-23 perhaps of those who are smug walk of faith–Many will say in the last day: “Lord, have we not prophesied in your name—cast out devils in your name—and done wonderful works in your name? And Jesus said His response would be, depart from me, I knew you not, you workers of iniquity.

I Corinthians 13 also put into perspective how Spiritual Gifts take a back seat to what Paul described as a more excellent way.

1)     If I (the universal I) have the gift to speak with tongues of men and angels

2)     If I (universal I) have the gift of prophecy

3)     If I (universal I) have the gift to understand all mysteries—to have the gift of knowledge and the gift of faith to remove mountains but don’t have love, I am nothing.

It would appear then that the 5 foolish virgins (believers) in today’s text became smug in their faith because of one thing that they did not anticipate.  The parable declares the bridegroom delayed his coming and in his delay, all of the virgins slumbered and slept. In other words, he came at an hour that they thought not, and they were unprepared.

Illustrative Story

There is a story about Satan having a meeting with his imps.  In that meeting Satan asked his demons what could be done to trick people into eternal damnation.  One demon said: I have a plan: Let’s whisper in people’s ears, there is not God.  Satan said that won’t work because creation declares the reality of God—a few idiots might fall for that but not the general masses.  Another demon said, I know: We can whisper will “there is no hell.”  Satan responded no–people instinctively believe that where evil persists, judgment will follow—they won’t fall for that.  A third demon said: I have a better idea: Let’s just tell them “No Hurry.”  Satan said: “That’s it”—and he sent his demons forth in the world whispering “No Hurry.”

Here it is Saints: In getting prepared to meet God we must maintain a sense of urgency—always being on the alert for His return.

 Point 2—Preparation requires having the tools to meet the Lord

In Jesus’ parable all ten virgins slumbered and slept—all ten were caught off guard when the clarion call went out at midnight: “The bridegroom is coming.”  When all of the virgins awoke they reached for the tools that were at their disposal:

1)     They had lamps–which remind us of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: We are the light of the world—for a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  We are to let our light shine so that men cannot look on our good “WORKS” and glorify our Father in heaven.

2)     They had the candle wicks–which remind us of a channel through which light illumines.  And notice all 10 virgins had their wicks trimmed.  A freshly trimmed wick gives a cleaner and brighter light because carbon deposits that reduce the brilliance of the light has been cut away.

3)     But only the 5 wise virgins had oil.  The oil reminds us the anointing that must rest with and upon us—but the anointing should also be active— providing the unction and desire to SEARCH OUT and DO the will of God.

Point 3—Preparation requires putting the oil to use

The oil in our parable flows from the Spirit of God.  This oil not only gives us an ability to do a work for the Lord—it also gives us a desire to help others along the way.

One thing that I have found out about the oil is: Oil begets oil—in other words, the more we use the gifts that God has given us, the more profitable we become for His kingdom.  It is the oil in our lives:

1)     That allows us to love one another

2)     That allows us to not just look AT a person in need but to also minister to that need.

3)     That allows the anointing to flow–that allows you and me to be a faithful stewards and show an increase from what the Lord has given us

Closing

So if we agree that preparation must be made to meet the Lord.  If we can agree that Matthew Chapter 25 sets before us 3 principles for readiness (1) Personal Salvation (2) Faithful Stewardship and (3) Benevolent Service—we should also agree that the time is at hand to move with a sense of urgency.  Even Paul said in Romans 13:11-12 [It is high time that we awake from our slumber—for now is salvation nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent—so let us cast aside darkness and put on an armor of light]

Well we are the lamps for God making preparation for His return.  But a lamp with no oil is of no use.  We need a constant flow of oil, which is the Holy Spirit.

Our bible declares in I Samuel 16:13 that Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David king of Israel and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.  But here’s the most salient point:  David would not become king for another 15 years.  Here it is: After the oil—after the anointing has come, we are just being primed for the assignment that will come at a later time.  In other words, the time between the anointment and the appointment is a period where God is developing us.  And how we respond determines how bright our light will be.

Well David was shaped and became a light to Israel by the things he endured.

1)     He faced Goliath when all of Israel feared him

2)     He was banished from the kingdom by Saul

3)     He had to hide in the desert and rely on others for provision

4)     He fought many of battles

And after 15 years of endurance, God knew he was ready to be king.  Saints of God: be not dismayed when people are envious of your place in God. In reality they just want you to share some of your oil.  But you cannot share YOUR oil because you went under the press in your Personal Garden of Gethsemane and your oil was squeezed from the pulp of things you have endured.

3/20/22

Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13

Subject: Making Preparation to Meet God

Introduction

The key to achieving success to most anything that we do in life, is preparation.  The reason preparation is overlooked is because it requires planning, discipline and labor.  But here it is: Generally, preparation through planning and discipline will often yield a great reward.

Abraham Lincoln said: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.  The meaning?  We should view our humanity as a tool that gets the best from life by staying sharpened.

Solomon declared in Proverbs 20:4—The sluggard does not plant in autumn and seeks a harvest.  The meaning?  Per the NKJVThe lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.

Today’s Text Matthew 25:1-13

Today’s text is a parable that Jesus uses to teach His disciples about kingdom principles.  He focuses on what is necessary to go back with Jesus at His return. The theme of this parable is Personal Salvation because in it, Jesus distinguished the faithful who will meet God in peace vs. those who desire to meet Him, but fall short of the goal.  But to get the fullness of what Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 25, we must look at the other two parables in the chapter.  The other parables give us two additional principles that should accompany Personal Salvation

2nd Principle: Matthew 25:14-30—Principle of Faithful Stewardship

In the 2nd parable a landowner traveled to a far land but left his goods to his servants, expecting them to present him an increase at his return.  All but one gave an increase and that one was labeled unprofitable, lazy and unfit to enter the kingdom.

3rd Principal: Matthew 25:31-46—Principle of Benevolent Servitude

In the 3rd parable the Son of man entered into His glory and separated the sheep (believers who are faithful followers) from the goats (those that are in the community with believers but are not faithful followers). As the parable unfolds, we learn that what really separated the sheep from the goats was the service that the sheep offered to humanity.  Out of benevolent service the sheep fed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave drink to the thirsty, and visited the sick and those imprisoned.

So in the composite text, Jesus taught not only on Personal Salvation, but also Stewardship and Servitude as prerequisites to meet God in peace.

Of all the 3 requirements that Jesus spoke of in Chapter 25, perhaps Personal Salvation should be given the greatest weight.  You see, even the “World” is fully capable of using resources to net an increase.  Likewise the “World” is more than capable of giving support to a destitute and marginalized people—but only the redeemed of the Lord

1)     Can say I have been redeemed (Psalm 107:2)

2)     Can love the unlovable

3)     Can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, (I Corinthians 12:3) declare that Jesus is Lord.

And so it is with that Power that we have fashioned a hope of being ready and prepared to go back with Jesus when He returns.  What does this first parable in Matthew Chapter 25 teach us about being prepared?

Point 1: In making preparation we cannot be smug in our walk of faith

  1. Being smug is a definite pitfall to our faith because it engenders the thought that “we have made it.”  This is especially true for those that seem to be used mightily by God through the gifting of the Holy Spirit.  Gifting has been looked upon as a rite of passage into heaven.  And although we marvel at those who seem to minister in the High Profile Gifts: Preaching, Teaching, Tongues, and Prophecy–it does not necessarily mean that they are any closer to heaven than you or me.  Paul declared that although there are differences in gifts and ministries, they emanate from the same Spirit—and as the natural body has many members so does the operation of the Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:4-19)
  2. Matthew 7:22-23 perhaps of those who are smug walk of faith–in their “Many will say in the last day: “Lord, have we not prophesied in your name—cast out devils in your name—and done wonderful works in your name? And Jesus said His response would be, depart from me, I knew you not, you workers of iniquity.

 

  1. I Corinthians 13 also put into perspective how Spiritual Gifts take a back seat to what Paul described as a more excellent way.

1)     If I (the universal I) have the gift to speak with tongues of men and angels

2)     If I (universal I) the gift of prophecy

3)     If I (universal I) have the gift to understand all mysteries—to have the gift of knowledge and the gift of faith to remove mountains but don’t have love, I am nothing.

It would appear then that the 5 foolish virgins (believers) in today’s text became smug in their faith because of one thing that they did not anticipate.  The parable declares the bridegroom delayed his coming and in his delay, all of the virgins slumbered and slept. In other words, he came at an hour that they thought not, and they were unprepared.

Illustrative Story

There is a story about Satan having a meeting with his empts.  In that meeting Satan asked his demons what could be done to trick people into eternal damnation.  One demon said: I have a plan: Let’s whisper in people’s ears, there is not God.  Satan said that won’t work because creation declares the reality of God—a few idiots might fall for that but not the general masses.  Another demon said, I know: We can whisper will “there is no hell.”  Satan responded no–people instinctively believe that where evil persists, judgment will follow—they won’t fall for that.  A third demon said: I have a better idea: Let’s just tell them “No Hurry.”  Satan said: “That’s it”—and he sent his demons forth in the world whispering “No Hurry.”

Here it is Saints: In getting prepared to meet God we cannot afford to get comfortable in our walk of faith. We must maintain a sense of urgency—always being on the alert for His return.

 Point 2—Preparation requires having the tools to meet the Lord

 In Jesus’ parable all ten virgins slumbered and slept—all ten were caught off guard when the clarion call went out at midnight: “The bridegroom is coming.”  When all of the virgins awoke they reached for the tools that were at their disposal:

 1)     They had lamps–which remind us of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: We are the light of the world—for a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  We are to let our light shine so that men cannot look on our good “WORKS” and glorify our Father in heaven.

2)     They had the candle wicks–reminds us of a source or channel through which light illumines.  And notice all 10 virgins had their wicks trimmed.  A freshly trimmed wick gives a cleaner and brighter light because carbon deposits that reduce the brilliance of the light has been cut away.

3)     But only the 5 wise virgins had oil.  The oil reminds us the anointing that must rest with and upon us—but the anointing should also be active— providing the unction and desire to SEARCH OUT and DO the will of God.

Point 3—Preparation requires putting the oil to use

The oil in our parable flows from the Spirit of God.  This oil not only gives us an ability to do a work for the Lord—it also gives us a desire to help others along the way.

One thing that I have found out about the oil is: Oil begets oil—in other words, the more we use the gifts that God has given us, the more profitable we become for His kingdom.  It is the oil in our lives:

1)     That allows us to love one another

2)     That allows us to not just look AT a person in need but to also minister to that need.

3)     That allows the anointing to flow–that allows you and me to be a faithful stewards and show an increase from what the Lord has given us

Closing

So if we agree that preparation must be made to meet the Lord.  If we can agree that Matthew Chapter 25 sets before us 3 principles for readiness (1) Personal Salvation (2) Faithful Stewardship and (3) Benevolent Service—we should also agree that the time is at hand to move with a sense of urgency.  Even Paul said in Romans 13:11-12 [It is high time that we awake from our slumber—for now is salvation nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent—so let us cast aside darkness and put on an armor of light]

Well we are the lamps for God making preparation for His return.  But a lamp with no oil is of no use.  We need a constant flow of oil, which is the Holy Spirit.

Our bible declares in I Samuel 16:13 that Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David king of Israel and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.  But here’s the most salient point:  David would not become king for another 15 years.  Here it is: After the oil—after the anointing has come, we are just being primed for the assignment that will come at a later time.  In other words, the time between the anointment to the appointment is, a period where God is developing us.  And how we respond determines how bright our light will be.

Well David was shaped and became a light to Israel by the things he endured.

1)     He faced Goliath when all of Israel feared him

2)     He was banished from the kingdom by Saul

3)     He had to hide in the desert and rely on others for provision

4)     He fought many of battles

And after 15 years of endurance, God knew he was ready to be king.  Saints of God: be not dismayed when people are envious of your place in God. In reality they just want you to share some of your oil.  But you cannot share YOUR oil because you went under the press in your Personal Garden of Gethsemane and your oil was squeezed from the pulp of things you have endured.  So you ought to tell your neighbor: “The juice was worth the squeeze,”

1) Because you had to work out your own salvation—

2) You made the best use of what God gave you—

3) And you helped others along the way.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

3/6/22

Scripture: Luke 18:1-8

Subject: Don’t Allow Stressors to Diminish Your Faith

Introduction

In today’s text Jesus used a parable–a simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle or moral lesson—to teach his disciples the importance of persistent prayer.

Octavia Butler Quote: “First, forget inspiration.  “Habit is more dependable, habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.”  “Habit will help you finish and polish your stories.” “Inspiration won’t.  “Habit is persistence in practice.”

Saints, there were many times on my 9 to 5 job where I was not inspired to be there—but since they made a habit of paying me, I made a habit of showing up. Now I would not dare relegate prayer to a mere custom (a passed down practice) but when we become accustomed (done out of familiarity) to prayer, it does not have to be done on a specific time table; it’s done whenever you want to communicate with God.

Why did our Lord give the clarion call to always pray? Why is important to be persistent in our prayers?

Observation

I heard a comment last week: When America faced the aftermath of 911 people flooded into the church house. Church attendance in some cases increased 33% but that increase disappeared within 6 months.   During the carnage of Covid-19 people left the church and it is believed many may not return when the threat of the virus is over.  What do these events say about the substance of our faith and trust in God—especially in our prayer life?  Perhaps what Jesus said in Luke Chapter 18 was a precursor for what is coming against the faith community.

Point 1—Our Prayers to God cannot be imposed by our vanity

Prayer defined in Nelson’s Bible Dictionary—Communication with God.  Everyone can offer prayer, however, sinners who have not trusted Jesus Christ for salvation remain alienated from God.  So while unbelievers may pray, they do not have the basis for a rewarding fellowship with God.  They have not met the conditions set forth in the bible for effective prayer.

I am thankful for Nelson’s view on prayer because all of us show remember:

1)  We should not take the position of the Pharisees in John 9:31 “that God does not hear sinners.”

2)   God indeed hears sinners who have repented of their sins out of their hearts—not just with their mouths

a)  He heard David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51

b)  He heard Zacchaeus’ petition in Luke  (19:8)

c)   He heard my prayers and yours when we repented of our sins and confessed Christ as our savior.

But Jesus also told us about the trappings of prayers laced with vanity.  In Matthew 6:7 we are told not to pray by using words to impress others (vain repetitions ) for although doing so will give you a reward from man—but when you pray, go into your closet and pray to the Father who is unseen and He will reward you.

Further, prayers must flow from a forgiving heart.  Mark 11:25 NIV) declares: “And when we stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Point 2—Keep line of communication open with God through regular prayer

Typically, you will communicate regularly with someone who is a good friend.  But you have daily communication with someone that you love.

Certainly this is true in the Eros (sensual love) type of love which is driven by pheromones.  But because this love is driven by pheromones it cannot always be trusted.  Sometimes what starts out as a love with a lot of promise ends in someone being Ghosted or Submarined:

1)     Ghosted is when there has been regular and consistent communication but one party to the relationship disappears.

2)     Submarined is when there has been regular and consistent communication but one party disappears and reappears later.

Here’s the point: There are those in the Body of Christ who pray to God consistently when they have a pressing need or threat.  When the need or threat is removed, the fervor and pitch of the prayer might diminished and God is ghosted

Then there are those who go back and forth (vacillate) in their prayer life—praying for a season and not praying for another—and thus God is submarined.

But as a slow and constant rain does much to maintain a rich and fertile ground—so too a constant and determined prayer-life does much to open the ear of God when we cry unto Him.

Point 3—Your Stressors can result in either an evolving or devolving faith

Saints: what are the things that stress you the most? Are you turning them over to the Lord in prayer?  Consider this parable on the value of a persisting petition.

The woman in today’s parable was stressed because she had been wronged.  Her faith or lack thereof has no bearing on the story because Jesus wanted to contrast the World’s System of Judgment with Judgment from the Seat of God.

This woman received justice from a worldly judge who did not reverence man or God—but her relief came by way of her persistence.  She worried him to the point that it became more convenient to grant her wish than to than to constantly hear her petition.

So Jesus said: If the unjust judge can grant justice, how much more will God do for his elect who cry unto Him day and night?  In other words, if the World’s System of Judgment sometimes gets it right, know that God, the only righteous judge will avenge His elect. But then Jesus posits a question:  ”Nevertheless when the Son of man shall he find faith on the earth?”

Why did Jesus put this question in the atmosphere?  No doubt the question segues from His prophetic description of the end-times (eschaton) in Luke Chapter 17.  In that chapter the eschaton is described.  Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God would come (17:20) Jesus said

1)  First the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected (17:25)

2)  One will be on the housetop and won’t have time to come down to gather his possessions—one will be in the field and not have time to return home (17:31)

3)  Matthew Chapter 13 describes it thusly: In those days affliction shall come as never before (13:19)  And unless the Lord shorten the days, no flesh shall be saved. (13:20)

4)     So I believe in Chapter 17 Jesus saw the afflictions that would come—not only for His disciples but for us as we draw closer to the end of this age.  He then surmised: If those that would follow me are not praying consistently now—how can they stand in the midst of the fiery trials that will come before I return.

So what is our answer to the problem? How do we deal with our stressors—our difficult afflictions—those present and those that are to come? Saints I believe our prayer-life and faith are either evolving as we trust God, or devolving from the cares of this life.  But I also believe the answer to building up our faith is found in the book of James.  James told us: (James 5:16) “The Effective Fervent Prayer of the Righteous availeth much.”

Paul used the word Effectual to describe a prayer that brings that is earnest and genuine to bring about a desired end.  He then gave us the example Elijah who was an anointed man of God—yet was subject to like passions (human feelings, emotions and frailties)  Elijah went to king Ahab (I Kings 17:1)  to let him know that in permitting the worship of pagan gods, it would not rain except at his word. And as James wrote: Elijah prayed earnestly and there was no rain for 3.5 years.

Fervent prayer—When it was time for the rain to return the bible says Elijah told Ahab, “I hear an abundance of rain (18:41b).” but the rain did not come immediately,  Elijah went to the top of Mt Carmel, bowed down on the ground and put his face between his knees—but the rain did not come.  Elijah sent his servant to the sea to search the clouds 6 times for evidence that rain was on the way, but the servant saw nothing.  But on the 7th time he saw a cloud about the size of a man’s hand.  There was no evidence of rain during the first, second or third prayer—no evidence after the 4th, 5th, or 6th prayer—but through fervent prayer the rain did come. Here it is:  Elijah prayed to God for the rain to stop and and the prayer was answer immediately.  But when he prayed for the rain to come again, God did not respond right away.  Yes, Elijah told Ahab I hear an abundance of rain

Closing

Saints let’s work to open the line of communication with God now as never before.  Opening the line of communication will do more than inspire us—it will become habitual to the point of building our faith and trust in God

And it does not matter

1)   how long the prayer

2)   how eloquent the words

The most important thing is not if you are inspired or touched by my  prayer—what’s most important is can my prayer touch heaven

Based on what Jesus told us in Matthew 24 that at the end of this age, lawlessness is increased and the love of many will wax cold, but he then said he that endures shall be saved.

So I must be about the business of creating an atmosphere for an evolving faith.

1)     One that holds me when I am being mistreated

2)     One that comforts me in suffering and sorrow

3)     One that gives me a hope beyond hope

4)     One that will allow me to say with conviction—”I will trust in the Lord until I die.”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

2/20/22

Scripture: Genesis 45:3-8

Subject: A Good God-Connection Brings Motives in Focus

Introduction

There is a motive for everything that we do in life.  We can have simple motives or motives that are more nefarious, where our carnal desires are displayed.  I believe that a strong connection to God will reveal if our motives are pure or unhealthy.  If our actions are motivated out of genuine love, God will be pleased.

As we review the story of Joseph the motives of all of the brothers come into view.

1)  Joseph suffered the jealousy and even hatred of his brothers (Gen. 37:4)

2)  He was left to die in a pit (well) (Gen. 37:24)

3)   A band of Midianites passed by the pit, rescued Joseph, but then sold him to the Ishmeelites for 20 pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28)

4)     He was taken to Egypt and sold for service in Potiphar’s house (Gen.  37:36)

5)     He was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of making advances (Gen. 39:14)

For which He was imprisoned for 2 years (Gen. 41:1)   

6)     All of these events transpired over a span of 13 years(See 37:2 and 41:46) so Joseph suffered a long time.

Suffering Put in Perspective

None of us would want to fall victim to the things that Joseph confronted but we can consider our own journey—those times when we endured sorrow for 3 or 4 years and wondered: “Lord when will I get my release?”  And in those times, no one could persuade us that we had not experienced the worst of the worst.  You see, a weight is always heavier when it is being borne on our shoulders rather than another’s.

In the context of today’s sermon the word Connected means being in a relationship with someone who not only cares for you, but can also effect change in your life for the better.

In this context it is clear that Joseph was connected to God.  The bible declares he was a dreamer and the storyline reveals his dreams were a gift from God. Through dreams, God revealed to Joseph he would reach a level of leadership and prominence that would give him rule over his brothers and parents.  The truth of this revelation set in motion an ungodly rivalry between him and his brothers.

Point 1—You can be God-Connected and yet act in a less than godly manner

Illustration: When I was around 16 years old I was given an opportunity to work at a fast food restaurant that was located on the west side of the corner of Bankhead Hwy (Donald Hollowell Pkwy) and Hightower Rd. (Hamilton E Holmes Dr)

The restaurant was run by a pastor in the COGIC who served in Northern GA Jurisdiction.  Fate would have it that my father was also a pastor who served in the same jurisdiction.  When I reached the restaurant and began completing the application the manager said something that altered my course of action:  “I don’t really need you; “I am just employing you because I know your daddy.”  Although my father was CONNECTED, and that connection would flow from the father to the son, the words of the manager revealed at least two motives.  Perhaps the first motive was to please an associate (my father). But telling me I was not needed portended an employment rife with disappointments.  In other words, the motive behind the manager’s words would likely be revealed in few hours assigned or doing the worst assignments  Well, call it pride (which no doubt was present in him and me) or an intuition that my worth, even at a tender age, would not be valued, I refused the job.

In today’s text we see several emotions in play.  Out of jealousy and hatred Joseph’s brothers left him in a pit.  When Joseph rose to second in charge under Pharaoh, the table was turned and he sought revenge—a psychological and emotional state borne out of anger.  What can we say about anger?

1)   Frances Bacon said: A man who contemplates revenge keeps his wound green.

2)   Isaac Burrow said: It is commonly said that revenge is sweet but to a patient and considerate mind, patience and forgiveness are sweeter.

3)   The Apostle Paul said: Dearly beloved avenge not yourselves but rather give place unto wrath.  For it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19-21; Proverbs 25:21-22)

Key Point: When hatred, jealousy and anger “uses us,” our connection to God is blocked—and only ungodly motives can flow from a blocked connection to God.  Look at the actions that Joseph took:

1)   He accused them of being spies (42:14)

2)   Put them in prison 3 days (42:17)—claiming it was a test—not truthful

3)  Removed them from prison and held Simeon hostage in bonds (42:24) until they returned with Benjamin

4)   At their return they were served dinner and Joseph gave Benjamin 5 times more servings of food than the other brothers (43:34) This favoritism was shown because he and Benjamin had the same mother—Rachel.

5)  He had a servant place his personal cup in Joseph’s bag alone with the money the brothers gave to purchase food.  The purpose was to later accuse them of theft— (44:2-4) a revengeful plot=false accusations are not of God.

Point 2—A Good God-connection will keep us on the course He set for us

Yes, the bible declares in Psalm 37:23 “the steps of a good man (or woman) are ordered by the Lord and he delighted in his way.” but this does not mean that we cannot falter or take an errant path.  If we read the very next verse this is made clear: “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly be cast down because the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

But although the Lord is upholding the righteous, the righteous can step off-course.  We are believers in free-will (Arminianism) where God extends grace for us to receive salvation but we have the choice to accept or reject it.  Therefore, although God has set a course for us, we have the ability to follow a different path.

It is clear that revenge is on Joseph’s mind in today’s text.  But I believe that God was working on him to stay course.  The bible declares:

Initially Joseph only spoke to his brothers through his interpreter (42:43).  This allowed him to remain unknown to his brothers but it also put him in a position to hear what they said in their Hebrew.  Not knowing who Joseph was, they did not know he knew Hebrew.  Rebuen began to speak to his brothers: [I told you we should not have killed Joseph—now what is happening to us here in Egypt is repayment for what we did to him—his blood is required at our hands] (42:22).  The bible declares Joseph understood them, saw the contrition, turned his back to them for a moment and began to weep–A sign that god was working in him to help him stay on course.

2)   After Joseph accused the brothers of stealing his cup and money Judah stood before him acknowledging their wrong—not for stealing but for the sin against their brother Joseph, whom they believed was dead.(44:16)  After Joseph’s cup and money was found in Benjamin’s possessions, Judah offered himself a slave in Benjamin’s place.  Judah’s confession and humility touched Joseph’s heart—another sign that God was working in him to stay the course.  I believe God helped Joseph through the humility that his brothers showed.  Joseph finally confessed that he was their brother that they left for dead.

Here it is Saints: Although we will have internal battles between the Spirit of God that wants to lead us and the spirit that abides in our carnal flesh, a good connection with God and his Word will keep us on course.  Psalm 119:105 declares—[His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.]

Point 3—We must labor to Maintain a good connection to God

Yes, I believe that God allows his Spirit to work in believers and makes it easier for us to follow his precepts.  But I must return to the doctrine of free-will.  God does not take control of our bodies and force us to make the right choices.

1) Saul was connected to God—he was chosen by God to be Israel’s first king. He had a connection but over time the connection was lost because of his pride and sin.

2) Samson was connected to God and was chosen before birth as a Judge for Israel.  When he prayed to God to help him fight against his enemies, God answered. Samson had a connection but it wasn’t a good connection because his lust for Philistine women made his connection weak.

3) James and John were connected to Jesus (part of the inner circle) but desired to kill the Samaritans who did not receive Him when he was in route back to Jerusalem to bear the cross. Jesus told them [you don’t have the right spirit—the Son of man did not come to destroy but save men’s lives] Luke 9:54

Here it is Saints:  It is impossible to underestimate the power of the Holy Ghost, but we can overestimate our strength in allowing Him to operate.

Closing

So even with God working within us and around us (through others) to make good decisions and to have the right motives, we must work to maintain a good connection to Him

Illustration:  Several years ago our church traveled to Greenville GA to be in service at New King’s Temple.  The closer we got to Greenville we had difficulty finding the building.  Members passed each other several times in the town-square, searching for the same place.  We began to laugh at the fact that basically, we were close to our destination, but somewhat lost. It was difficult to communicate by phone—in today’s language it would be said we had a weak signal.

Reality: The signal was not weak—the signal was as strong as it had ever been.  The reason we did not have a good connection is because we had move away the signal.

So the lesson today is: if we draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to us

1)  He will then help us in our weaknesses and infirmities—

2)  He will not suffer our foot be moved.

3)  His Spirit will help us see ourselves and know our motives—to help us make the right choices.

4)  They used to tell me: “If you call on Jesus, He will answer prayer.” But how can He hear if the signal has been blocked? The last thing that we want is to lose our connection when we need Him most.

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2/13/22

Scripture: Joshua 1:1-6

Subject: Victory is Mine

Introduction

In the first 6 verses of the book of Joshua we can see that the Lord has favor with Joshua.  Joshua showed faithfulness to God and Moses during the wilderness journey

1)     In Exodus Chapter 17 he led the victorious battle against the Amalekites

2)    Exodus 24:13 he accompanied Moses to the mountain of God

3)    Numbers 14:6-19—out of the 12 that were chosen to spy out the promise land, only Joshua and Caleb returned with a good report:

Num.14:7—“And they spake to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, the land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.” (14:8) IF THE LORD DELIGHJT IN US (a conditional clause) then he will bring us into this land, and give it us.  A land which floweth with milk and honey.” 

4)     Numbers 27:18—Joshua was indwelt by the Holy Spirit by Moses laying on hands and commissioned by God twice: First, to assist Moses (Num. 27:18-23), and again to succeed him (Dt. 31:23)

Now I have given you a brief sketch of Joshua’s preparation for leadership because it is good to know that a closer walk with God will always translate into a greater confidence and belief that He will be with us.   God encourages Joshua 3 times to be courageous  and assures him that what was promised is already his.   It is this theme of having a successful conquest that takes center stage in today’s  sermon.

Point 1—Victory is both a state of mind and state of action

When we look at the 40 year wilderness journey the first thing that stands out is the fact that God knew the Israelites lacked confidence.  Exodus declares God took them the long way around to Canaan (Exodus 13:17) rather than take them through Gaza because he knew they would faint at the sight of war and return to slavery in Egypt.

The state of mind of the Israelites was sub-par because they had endured 140 years of slavery.  A slave mentality—imposes the belief that anything you need must be provided by someone else because you lack the skills, ability and aptitude to move in your best interest.

Notice the complaints of the Israelites during the wilderness journey

1)   We want water

2)     We want food—so God gave them manna (and later quail) and tested their confidence.  God knew that the lack of confidence would translate into fear and inaction.   So God said:  “Only take what is needed to consume in one day (Exodus 16:16-20).”  The lack of confidence and faith caused some to gather more than was needed and so the excess rotted.

Here it is: The Israelites’ focus was Blessing Oriented, not Life Oriented.   Blessing oriented means I focus on what I need or want in the immediate.  Life oriented does not dismiss what is needed in the immediate but goes beyond that to see what is best for me throughout life.  A Life Orientation looks at the big picture—what the Lord would have us be and do in life.

Illustration: Have you had the opportunity to take a country drive past a field with cattle when the care-taker put feed in the trough?  The cattle will saunter over to the trough and begin eating without ever looking up to see from where the food comes.  As our blessings come—great or small—let us look up and thank our God because thanking him daily builds our confidence and guides our actions because we truly come to know Him as El Jireh.

Point 2—Victorious people sit at the feet of great influence

Sitting at the feet of someone means to be instructed by them.  Mentorship is just as important in our spiritual life as it is in the natural life.  In rearing our children we want them to sit before learned teachers in school.  We want them to have a wholesome and productive peer-group.  We should have the same concern with how our children and overall family are instructed on spiritual matters.

Here it is: If you want be part of those who are victorious in God, you have to do more than read your Word.  Align yourself (sit at the feet) with someone who is well instructed in the Word AND who has time and time again come out on the winning side against natural and spiritual battles.

Listen to what Jesus told all who “sat at His feet.”  Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke (teaching) upon you and learn of me……”For my yoke is easy and my burden (commands) are light.

Let’s look at how Paul distinguished the ways he was mentored 

In the book of Acts word went out that Paul had turned against the Law of Moses and was now preaching Christ (Acts 21:21).  In Acts Chapter 22 Paul was allowed to give his defense for his actions.  He first wanted them to know of his Jewish heritage (street credit in today’s vernacular):

1)     He spoke to them in Hebrew to acquaint them with that heritage.  IN that he continued to inform–

2)     I was a Jew born in Tarsus

3)     I sat at the feet of Gamaliel—the great instructor of the Law.

4)     I persecuted all that followed Christ and received letters permitting me to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

And after Paul gave them his background he then proceeded to give his testimony about Jesus:

1)     On the Damascus Road, about 12 noon, a great light shone all about me and I fell to the ground.  That light blinded me and from there I was led to a man named Ananias. Ananias was also a Jew and a devout man in the Law.  Ananias then said, “Brother Saul receive they sight” Know that God has chosen you to be a witness to all you have seen and heard.”

2)     Yes, Paul (Saul) was learned in the law for having sat at the feet of Gamaliel, but he moved from being a good man in the law to a great man in the Lord, after sitting at the feet of Ananias. For after receiving the word from Ananias, he also received the Holy Ghost

Point 3—Believers prepare for victory but ultimately must hear from God.

Yes with each battle, we are look for our day of victory.  To this end we make preparation by doing our best to follow the commands in God’s Word.

1)  David told us (Psalm 27:14) “wait on the Lord and be of good courage and he will strengthen our hearts”

2)  James told us (4:10) “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift us up.”

3)  Jesus told us (Luke 18:1) “always pray and not faint.”

But in all of our preparation we yet need to hear from God on what He desires for us.

 Proverbs 21:31 declares. “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the Lord.”  So in our desire for the victory don’t forget to go by heaven for what the Lord has to say.

Closing

Saints, as long as we live we will be in some type of struggle and some of our struggles might go on year-in and year-out.  But Paul declared: I Corinthians 15:57-58 Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.  For as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

There are battles that have hit me that I am yet to win—but I claim victory because of my street credit.

 1)  I was born into a family of saved people

2)   Mama and daddy kept me in church and before the Lord

3)   I am sure mama and daddy were praying for me when I didn’t want to walk upright

4)   Mama and daddy would have altar call and made sure I was at the altar.

But much more than my street credit, there is a far greater reason that I claim victory.  One day the Light from heaven found root in my heart and I claimed Jesus as my savior.

Yes there are things that yet attack me and my faith—things that have assailed my body and mind to the point of surrender.  But I’m claiming the victory because I haven’t let go of my weapon–the battle is not over because I have the—Sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.  And I believe the Word that says—If the Lord delights in me he will give me the desires of my heart (Ps 37:4).  I believe He will either take my assailant down, or lift me up.

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2/6/22

Scripture: Luke 18:18-26; 29

Subject:  Threading the Needle

Introduction

Let me see the hands of those who have sewn a garment or attached something to cloth using a needle.  Depending on your experience, getting thread through the needle can be tedious.  Well in today’s text Jesus uses the illustration of the camel and the needle.

Contrary to the belief of some, this illustration is not about a camel having to take a low posture to enter the city gates.  Rather, it was simply to express that a person’s reliance on his riches, instead of God, will always separate him from God.

We should take away 3 principles from Jesus’ illustration

1)     Being in in good fellowship with God does not necessarily correlate to having riches and a good title.  In fact, the book of Jeremiah (9:23) cautions us: “Thus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”

 2)  Strict adherence to written laws doesn’t necessarily make a person good.  Paul explained (Romans 3:20 NIV)  “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the Law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” 

 3)     If we “follow” God with insincere motives, our religion is in vain.  In other wordsIf we can only tie our faith in God to something tangible—our “faith” and “belief system” are woefully lacking.  Concerning the tangible, Paul told us in II Corinthians (4:18) the tangible things (things that can be seen) in life are temporary—the intangibles (things not seen) are eternal: Thus the songwriter wrote:…”Build your hopes on things eternal—hold to God’s unchanging hand.”

But In Today’s Text

The rich man is not the only one confused about having the right motive toward God; the disciples are also confused.  When Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, the disciples asked: “Who then can be saved?”  (here an association is assumed to exist between faith and wealth)  In Matthew 19:27 it is still clear that the disciples are confused on the requirements of the kingdom because Peter asked: Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee: what shall we have therefore?”  In other words, we are not rich and have given up all to follow you—therefore surely, plenty awaits us in the kingdom.  Again, Jesus brings them to the truth: The kingdom of God is not about possessions or the lack thereof—it is not about the tangible things in life—so Jesus said know this: “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time and in the world to come life everlasting.”

So here’s the question that I want you to ponder today.  Have you received your manifold inheritance in this present world?  From another perspective: Do you consider yourself as being successful in this present world?  If so, what is your standard of measure for that success?  There are at least 3 standards of measure: (1) Success is measured by your own standards, (2) By the world’s standards, or (3) God’s standards

Observations to help us see truth

1)     How is it that on one hand, a “follower” or God with all of the excesses that money can bring, cannot part with his riches to follow Christ—Christ the giver of life and provision? Yet another follower of God—a widow woman (Luke 21:1-4) can freely give two coins out of “her necessity” to the temple treasury?

2)     And on the world stage: How is it that a beautiful young woman (Cheslie Kryst) who was an accomplished attorney and a TV correspondent—a woman who on the outside seemed to be the epitome of success—viewed her life as unsuccessful?  She wrote in an essay months before taking her life:   “Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been TAUGHT BY SOCIETY (world standard) to want, when I continue to find only emptiness.” Let’s explore the undercurrent that drives such behavior.

Point One—Don’t judge success by the Standards of the Unqualified Self

Unqualified defined:  Anything that is unqualified has not undergone the rigors of testing for suitability. Until “self” has been tested and subjected to negative pressures of life AND from that pressure, has risen above it, it is unqualified to set a proper standard.

“Self” is only able to judge success through the lens of a spiritual eye. In other words, until self is qualified through the Spirit of God it will forever remain blind. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke to the Pharisees after healing a man that was born blind: “For judgment I am come into the world that they which are blind might see and they that see may be made blind.”  The Pharisees asked: Are we blind also? (Matthew 9:40)–Jesus said: “if you were blind, you should have no sin: but now you say we see, therefore your sin remains.”  The Pharisees were so entrenched in the written Law of Moses that it blinded them to the Law of the Spirit.

So “self” is qualified by the Law and the Spirit.

Illustration: When I prepared to become a licensed driver there were two tests that I had to pass.  The first was a written test which was designed to evaluate my knowledge of the laws associated with driving.  I could not advance to take the driving test until I passed the written.  Passing the written test did not mean I was a good driver; it only acquainted me with the laws of the land as relates to driving.  It took years for me to become a “good driver”—one that discovered possible options when another driver is approaching me from behind going 90 mph—one that instinctively knows what to do when someone darts in front of me with no notice.  You see after learning how to drive a car, I also had to learn the nature of those who drive recklessly.  Here it is: Until we know how to respond instinctively (or spiritually) we will fall victim to the ways of the Unqualified Self.

Proverbs 14:12: There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death:  The implication here man’s destruction and demise is not always from external forces, but sometimes comes from relying too heavily on our own “wisdom,” on our “self,” rather than turning to God in humility.

Point 2—Don’t judge Success by the World’s Standards

It has been suggested that the world has nothing to offer the saints but this is from the truth.  Although Adam and Eve were given all that they needed in the Garden of Eden, Satan was able to tempt them to go against God’s command by telling them—you will be like gods (Gen. 3:5) after eating the forbidden fruit.  James 4:5 declares, “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy”:  In other words, there is within humanity, an inclination to envy the success and possessions of others, which then stimulates a desire to make it our own.  To his point James wrote: [If you will be a friend to the world you will be an enemy to God] (James 4:4b)

This is why I John 2:15-16 declares: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1)     Lust of the flesh: refers to desires of sinful sensual pleasure.

2)     Lust of the eyes refers to covetousness or materialism

3)     Pride of Life: refers to being proud about one’s position in this world.

In this context “World” is the morally evil system opposed to all that God holds dear.  We must be look at what the world seems to offer with an eye of spiritual scrutiny.

Remember when the nation of Israel wanted to have a king (moving from a theocracy to a monarchy).  When Samuel was old he made his sons, Joel and Abiah, judges in the land.  The bible declares the sons did not walk righteously but lusted for lucre, took bribes and perverted judgment.  So the elders of Israel went to Samuel and complained: “your sons don’t walk in your ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.  Despite Samuel explaining it was against their interests to move from a theocracy where God was their provider to a monarchy wherein they would rely on man, they nevertheless wanted a king.  Here it is: The desire to be like other world nations was greater than their desire to follow God.

Point 3—Success is guaranteed when we move by God’s Standards.

God’s standards are clearly identified in His Word.  Furthermore, if we follow the Word of God we are guaranteed success. (See Psalm 1)

Consider the life of Solomon.  When God allowed him to become the King of Israel, he proceeded with a humble heart.  I Kings 3 declares he made a sacrifice to God and prayed: “Lord give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people—to discern between good and bad.”  God was so pleased with Solomon—that he asked nothing for himself but only want wisdom to lead and served—that God gave him a guarantee: (I Kings 3:11) Not only will I give you wisdom but riches and long life.

Consider the life of Hezekiah—a good king.  The bible declares in II Chronicles 32:30)  God prospered him in all his works.  God gave him wisdom to build a 1,700 ft long aqueduct under the city of Jerusalem.  In times when the city of Jerusalem was under siege they didn’t have to leave the city for water—water was redirected through the aqueduct to flow from the water of Gihon outside of the city and empty into the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.

But although both Solomon and Hezekiah please the Lord in many ways there were times when they disappointed him Solomon allowed the worship of pagan gods and Hezekiah was lifted up in pride in showing the temple treasury.  Put another way, there were times when both these men would not make it through the eye of the needle.

Illustration:  If you follow the process of sewing garments, certain things come in focus.

1)   The thread must be a good match for the garment it is being sewn into-so too we must be a good match for the kingdom of God.  Jesus said (Matthew 7:21) “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he that does the will of My Father.”

2)  Threading the needle can be difficult. The hole on the needle can be so small that it may take effort just feed the thread through the opening.

a) The condition of the thread when it was last used must be factored in the process of sewing. If the thread was broken or frayed from it last use it can be difficult to push it through the needle.

b)  Here it is: Like a thread that has been used, all of us have been broken and frayed from life.  Each of us has our own story and history on how life has caused our hearts to become weary along the journey.   But I have found that most any thread that is broken and frayed can be made useful by applying moisture to its end. There something about moisture that brings unity and wholeness to what has been broken.

As difficult as it may be to believe, sometimes God brings moisture to use, quickens us, strengthens and restores us by removing his hand.  Going back to the life of Hezekiah, the bible declares after he was lifted in pride (32:25) God tested him (II Chronicles 32:31) by withdrawing from Him that he (Hezekiah) might know all that was in his heart.

1)  When teaching my children how to ride a bike they felt secure because I was running alongside of them holding up the seat.  But the learning process required me to remove my hand so they could learn they were not as skilled as they thought and to have them gain a sense of balance

2)  In order for us to have the proper balance in life, sometimes God has to remove His hand that we can see when we are out of balance.

Closing

The rich man in today’s text could not become “small enough” “humble enough,” to enter the straightway to heaven because he was weighed down and enlarged by his riches.

Did not our Lord say in Mathew 7:13 NKJV– Enter by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction and there are many that go in by it. (7:14) Because narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Is there anyone here that is willing to live beyond the standards imposed by the unqualified self—to move beyond the standards of the world and rely on the standards of God?  Yes, in this life your will encounter opposition and haters that will try to make you look small—but I want you to consider your hardship as moisture that is being applied to get you through the needle.

You ought to encourage yourself in the Lord and say I’m going through—Encourage yourself with the belief: I started with Jesus and I’m going through. Encourage yourself with the belief that when I can’t feel His presence he is just trying my reins for me to see myself—but through it all, I’m going through.

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1/2/22

Scripture: Mark 2:1-5

Subject: Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures

Introduction

Saints, I want each of you to think back to a time when you were desperate for something to happen or not happen.  Without causing yourself undo stress, think of how your countenance changed as you contemplated the potential fallout from your ordeal.

Indeed desperation comes to all of us and leaves us with few options for resolution.  Consider the following desperate acts of known personalities.

Number 45

It was out of desperation that he used tactics to retain the presidency

1)     He pushed the “Big Lie” proclaiming the 2020 election was stolen by people that were dishonest—that republican ballots were destroyed and democratic ballots were dropped in receptacles after the deadline—

2)     He illegally asked the Secretary of State of GA-Brad Raffensperger to find him 11,780 votes so he could win the State of GA

3)     He asked Vice President Pence to reject the electoral votes, send the results back to the states, and in effect, declare Biden’s win null and void.

4)     He incited an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 at the capitol steps and in the halls of Congress.

Here’s the reality: The experts say Trump would have easily won a second term had he only been more genteel and forgiving in his dealing with the general public.

Kanye West or Ye (YaY)

It is out of desperation that he is trying to get his wife Kim to change her mind about severing their marriage

1)     He made a song to her called “Run Right Back to Me” –hoping the song would soothe Kim’s discontent.

2)     He put aside his girlfriend, vowing to be only with Kim

3)     He purchased the house across the street from Kim’s house and paid $400k above the value, to get closer to his family.  Out of all of this, Kim has been cordial but asked the judge to speed up the divorce.

Here’s the reality: It is much easier to “stay up” than “make up.”  Had he stayed current with the love and affection a relationship needs, he wouldn’t have to extend himself with acts of desperation.

Pastor Horace Dukes Jr.

I remember in the 90’s when all managers in my company were summoned to MN to attend a business meeting. There were 3 managers from Atlanta, including me, who were to be at the meeting.  When I got to the Delta gate, the passengers were already on board and I was told I was too late.  Out of desperation I begged to get on the plane.

1)     Yes I could have caught a later flight but I was concerned about how that would be viewed by those in higher authority.  You see sometimes nonverbal communication can set us back

2)     Arriving late might have been perceived by upper management as lacking respect and appreciation for my position.

3)     Not being in position before time could be viewed as a potential lack of leadership, which could negatively affect my career.

4)     Although I was allowed on the plane, my acts of desperation caused others to be inconvenienced

Here’s the reality:  Had I arrived in adequate time, my concerns and fears would not have existed.  

But today I want to explore the reality that all desperation isn’t bad.

In Today’s text

We have the story of Jesus entering the city of Capernaum.  He was in a house teaching and in the midst of engaging his audience, 5 desperate men interrupt the class.  On the surface one could argue, had they arrived early they would not have had to tear through the roof to get to Jesus.  But is this the reality? Stay tuned!!

Point 1—Yes, Sometimes Desperation Comes from Poor Planning

There is a saying by Bob Carter: Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine. In other words, don’t expect me to drop everything to help you when you did not properly plan.

I wonder how often we as believers go into fervent prayer, asking God to help us out of situations that we could have avoided with better planning.  Consider the following examples:

1)   The prophet Haggai (1:3) told the nation of Judah they would not prosper because while they worked and plannee the construction of their paneled houses, the Lord’s house remained in ruin.  Here it is: Whatever our plans, we cannot prosper without acknowledging God in the process.

2)     James 4:2 (NIV) declares: You desire but do not have, so you kill.  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

3)     Listen, I have been approached more by Christians with good jobs and fine homes for help with a bill than those with a more modest lifestyle.

So were the desperate acts of the brothers in today’s text the result of poor planning? Stay tuned!!

Point 2—Our Lord will make a way when we seek Him out of Desperation

Several things had to come together for the paralyzed brother in today’s text to be delivered.

1)  He had dedicated FRIENDS with a strong desire to see him healed.  Might I say that in life, it is difficult to find one or two real friends? Some people are just “hang-ons” who hand-on until you have a genuine need of them.  Proverbs 17:17 (NKJV) declares: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

2)  There had to be an OPPORTUNITY for deliverance.  Observe what scripture declares about two gentiles who received deliverance: In Matthew Chapter 8 (5-15) is the story of the Centurion whose servant was healed.  In Matthew Chapter 15 (21-28) is the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman whose daughter was delivered.  These two had something in common.  While many of the Jews were questioning Jesus’ power—his signs and wonders—these two gentiles did not question his identity.  No, they recognized His power and focused on the OPPORTUNITY for deliverance.

3)     There had to be an ACTIVE FAITH.  An active faith shows that you trust God by DOING.

James 2:17-18 declares: “…if faith does not have works, it abides alone

a) Noah’s faith was demonstrated by doing.  He built an ark for the rain that was to come, without even knowing what rain was.

a)     Abraham’ faith was demonstrated by doing. He followed God’s instructions to sacrifice his son and for his faith was given a ram substitute.

b)     Hebrews (11:31) declares even Rahab demonstrated faith by doing. She hid the Hebrew spies without fear of losing her life for the book of Joshua declares she made a pact with them (2:13) to save her family.

Point 3—Controlled Chaos, driven by Faith can be honored by God

So to the question on if the actions in today’s text were the result of poor planning, based on the end result, I would have to answer no.  There are things in scripture that are best described as “Controlled Chaos.”  This phrase is called an oxymoron, which is a phrase or words that seem to contradict each other. For example

1)     You are Clearly Confused

2)     Give me your unbiased opinion

3)     The sermon lasted for an endless hour

4)     We had wireless cable installed

Although there is a contradiction in the phrasing, we yet understand the meaning

Controlled Chaos means: Although actions and behavior suggest someone or something has gone unhinged, the acts are nevertheless measured, with a defined outcome in view.  

So then, although the paralyzed man and his 4 friends

1)     Could not get to Jesus because of the press

2)     Interrupted the class Jesus was teaching—causing others to be inconvenienced

3)     They went to the roof and began tearing the clay tiles (Luke 5:19) and brushwood to lower their friend to Jesus.

4)     Although their actions might be described as reckless and inconsiderate I refer to it as Controlled Chaos because it was all driven by faith

Consider the following examples:

1)     Mark 10:46 blind Bartimaeus is on the Jericho road begging but upon learning Jesus was passing by he cried out of desperation. “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”  And although Bartimaeus was told to be quiet, desperate times call for desperate measures—the bible declares he disregarded the sentiment of those nearby and called on Jesus even louder.  Jesus asked him what he desired and he responded—to receive my sight.  Notice: the man’s plans changed.  Being a beggar, he could have asked for material goods.  Here it is: Why ask God for your minimum need when He can pour out an abundance.  Jesus healed the man and said: “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” 

 2)     Matthew 9:21—the woman with the issue is an example of controlled chaos for given her condition, she was not supposed to be outside her house and definitely was not to be in contact with the man of God.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  This woman believed the opportunity to be healed was far more important than violating social and religious norms.  Chaos? No because Jesus told her, “daughter be of good cheer, your faith has made you whole.”

 Closing

Sometimes the world will review us and our actions as obsessive and fanatical.  But when we act out of faith, we are not trying to “fit in” to what the world deems as normal.

The men in today’s text were successful in their efforts because Jesus saw their desperation as a conscious act of faith.  Let me close by saying that their acts of faith were warranted because they knew Jesus was in the house—and if they could just get in front of Him, healing would take place.

Is there anyone here that believes

1)     Change takes place when Jesus is in the house?

2)     Deliverance takes place when Jesus is in the house?

3)     Healing takes place when Jesus is in the house?

4)     Peace of mind comes when Jesus is in the house?

Then if you have to get to Him through unconventional means, do it so you can get what you need.

 

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12/26/21

Scripture: Matthew: 2:1-2, 7-8, 12-13

Subject: The Hidden Christ

Introduction

The selected passages of scripture describe what happened from the day of Jesus’ birth, including a 2-year stay in Egypt.  In summary

1)      Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem but Wise men (Magi) from the east looked for Him in Jerusalem—some 26 miles from Bethlehem

2)     While in Jerusalem the Magi asked King Herod (a vassal-puppet king) “Where is He born king of the Jews?” “For we have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him.”

3)  Herod declared he too wanted to worship Jesus but in reality He viewed Jesus as a threat to His own limited power—and only wanted to kill Him.

4)   The wise men followed the star until it hovered over where Jesus was—they then worshipped Him and presented Him with gifts.

5)     The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to take his family to Egypt until further notice.  In other words, the angel knowing Herod’s plan, told Joseph to hide in Egypt until King Herod was no longer a threat.

Who Were the Magi

Like the wise men in Daniel’s day (Daniel’s 1:17-20) they were probably astrologers or magicians, who being familiar with Hebrew Scripture, knew of Daniel (5:11-12), his abilities—his wisdom, understanding and knowledge.  And although Daniel’s abilities flowed from God—knowledge of him was no doubt passed to successive generations.  Yes, these men from the area of Mesopotamia were not related to the Jews, but to the extent that they traveled to Jerusalem searching for the One born “King of the Jews,” and knew He was worthy to be worshipped—they at least flowed in the ilk of Daniel.

Point 1: Sometimes the Most Precious things in life are hid

If you are one that likes to keep a lot of cash around you will stash it away.  —you might hide it in your mattress or another place that you consider secure because, it is too precious to leave out in the open.

If you buy expensive Jewelry—you don’t leave it unattended.  If it is not on your person when you leave the house, you stow it away because it is too precious and might be an easy target for thieves.

But we know that some precious things bring most people pleasure when they can be displayed.  Who, for example, would purchase $100K car and keep in hidden away in my garage? Who would I purchase a $15k Rolex watch if I don’t plan to show it off?  We find comfort in displaying such precious things as long as they are within reach and CLOSE TO US

Likewise, Jesus was hidden in Egypt 2 years—for it was prophesied in Hosea (11:1) “Out of Egypt I called my son.” –a reference to enslaved Israel AND the Christ child.  Joseph’s family was called out of Egypt when Herod died. —Herod wanted to “steal” the life of Jesus, who would be called the Precious Lamb of God.  So God would not allow the life of His precious Son to be taken until He had completed his 3 year ministry.  And the question that we will entertain today is:  How do we value our Jesus?  I believe how close we are to Him is the determining factor on if we put him on display or hide him.

Point 2—What God has concealed (or hidden) is revealed through faith

During Jesus’ ministry much of his wisdom and sayings were hidden from those desiring to know more of Him.

Matthew 13:10—Jesus gave the parable of the Sower and the Seed and the disciples asked: “Why do you speak in parables?” Jesus said: For it is given to you the mysteries of the kingdom but not to them (unbelievers) In other words, the purpose of the parable was to both reveal and conceal.  Revealing truth to believers and concealing it from unbelievers would eventually be a form of judgment.  Much like Isaiah (6:13) who asked God how long would he have to prophesy (6:11) to the people. The Lord replied: “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant and the houses without man and the land be utterly desolate.  In other words, Isaiah you have a difficult assignment.  He will preach to a people whose hearts were fat and whose eyes were blind—and their condition would cause them to be lost—which is their judgment–but nevertheless, a remnant of the faithful would be preserved.

Jesus gave a total of 4 parables in Matthew Chapter 13 but listen to what was written about the parables (Matthew 13:34) “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables and without a parable spake He not unto them.  (13:35)  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying (Psalm 78:1-4), “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”

Let me suggest to you that many things concerning the handiwork of God are only revealed through what I would call an “infant-like faith.”

1)     As long as we wrestle with scripture to make it fit into our notion of who Jesus is;

2)     As long as we struggle with who He was and is in the Godhead—and as some do, relegate Him to one who was created by God;

3)     As long as we see Jesus as a means to an end—that He is primarily the benefactor of my possessions and holdings—he will always be the Hidden Christ.

Jesus knew this to be true.  The bible declares in Matthew 11:20 that Jesus rebuked the cities where he had done his greatest work because they did not repent.  So in Matthew 11:25 Jesus told His Father: “I thank thee Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things form the wise and the prudent and revealed them to unto babes—those whose minds have not been obstructed with man’s wisdom and are open to receiving the wisdom of God.

Point 3: Christians have the responsibility to put Christ on display

We have but to look around and see that even in this day that Jesus is still being hidden

1)    In the 60s and 70s and up to today–He was hidden behind the blessing plan

2)    Around the year 2000 His coming, His work, and His saving grace began to be hidden by removing references to Jesus in Christmas greetings.  There are fewer references to Jesus’ birth and more generic terms such as Happy Holidays.

3)   In more current times Jesus has been hidden with festivities, lights, trees, and gifts that totally miss the true meaning of His coming.

But I am persuaded that as long as the Holy Spirit is alive and active, the world cannot hide our savior.  Paul said that no man can call Jesus Lord without the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 12:3b).  So I am further persuaded that some that are connected to the Body of Christ have a limited association with Him, because a close association can been seen from afar–on full display

Closing

Now I understand the devices of the enemy and we that say we are saved need to take a stand against the move to hide Jesus

You know when we were kids and needed medicine, the company that manufactured some of the medicine would give it a grape or cherry flavor because flavoring would hide or mask the taste of the ingredient that they might reject

So it is in the modern-day church.  Some Christians cannot stand under the Word of God—especially if it comes against ungodly behavior that we might find ourselves in.  So when Jesus declared:

1)     Love that despitefully use you—and we refuse this command—we are hiding Jesus

2)     Love one another as I have loved you—and we only love those that love us—we are hiding Jesus

And when Paul declared:

Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13, Xref Joel 2:21) but we stop telling people they need to be saved—we are hiding Jesus

2)     Because at the end of the day, all of the things that are being used to hide Jesus shall fade away.

a)     The Christmas trees will go back in the closets in a few days but the Tree of Life will remain standing

b)    The lights will be taken down and placed back in storage but Jesus, the Light of the World will still shine

c)     And so it is this belief that we answer the question: Is Jesus on display?  If Jesus is our gift of great worth the world will know it if we put Him on display.  As long as we put Him first in all aspects of our lives, He will be displayed.

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12/12/21

Scripture: John 16:32-33

Subject: We are Overcomers Through Christ

Introduction

In John Chapters 14-17 Jesus addresses his disciples with a message of hope.  He begins Chapter 14 by telling them he is going back to the Father but they have no idea of what that means.  Thomas told Jesus: “We don’t know where you are going and we don’t know the way.”  Philip said: “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

Although Jesus’ words were not understood, He knew the day would come when what was said would register in their minds.  Much like it was when we gave our children advice and instructions—we knew some of it would not be understood but believed some of it would eventually register.

In life we have been confronted with many things that have caused us grief, disappointment, and suffering.  Although it may seem that many of those things are behind us, the truth is, the effects of some of them may still linger.  Rather than overcoming them, we may have surrendered to them.  To surrender here means (1) we revisit them and (2) submit to the triggers that they send to negatively affect us and others.  Triggers are sensitivities that arise from words or actions of others.  Our reaction to these triggers can cause us to “scatter” from the Word of God, take matters into our hands, and respond in an ungodly manner. 

So in today’s text Jesus knew tribulations would come as He drew nearer to the cross.  So He gave the disciples a prophetic warning.

You will have Tribulations

Jesus warned they would not only have tribulations but the sorrows of tribulations would cause them to scatter.  The scattering would come from fear and a weakened faith:

Point 1—Tribulations that saturate our minds overwhelm our spirit

The mind is a powerful tool but it can misfire in stressful situations.  There is a tendency to take a defensive posture when under attack and defensive posturing, without contemplative prayer, can lead us astray.

Further, anything that floods the mind will hold sway over the spirit and interrupt our connection with God.  For the bible declares we worship God in spirit and truth.  So to keep my spirit clear, I must constantly pray for the Lord to keep my mind whole.  For example:

1)  If I have sickness in my body and saturate my mind with negative thoughts: “What are my doctors not telling me?” “Maybe I won’t get better,” “What I have may be terminal.”  These thoughts prevent me from being an overcomer because they overwhelm my spirit and contribute to my ailment. The bible declares in Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV)  “The spirit of a man sustains him in sickness but who can bear a broken spirit.”

2)  If I saturate my mind wondering why certain people don’t like me, I may never overcome the thought that the failure is in me—which can weigh against my spirit.  But I have learned that some people don’t like others because of their own issues. Rather than impair my spirit with how they treat me, my responsibility is to show them love and keep it moving.

3)  If I saturate my mind wondering why I did not get a promotion on my job it could cause me to react negatively to the one who was promoted.  Having that reaction in my spirit is not of God.  Further, since the bible declares promotion (exaltation) comes from God (Psalm 75:6), who takes down one and puts up another—who am I to argue with God’s plan?  I must believe that if I am in the right place with God, He has something better in store for me.

4)  If I saturate my mind with thoughts that my marriage is at its end, it will cause me to reject my spouse and make the relationship spiral downward even more.  To avoid my spirit being overwhelmed, I must remember, even when the relationship is under an overwhelming strain, that I made a vow before God and dwell with my spouse in love.

All of these examples really point to how the enemy can use our minds to work against us.  If we allow him to get under our skin and set off triggers, we will never fully overcome his attack

Point 2–The bible gives good examples of those who struggle with triggers

Trigger 1: Anger and Envy

Genesis 3:5 Cain became angry because God did not respect his sacrifice.  His anger cause his countenance to fall and could not overcome his anger.

So while Cain and Abel were in the field rose up and killed his brother.  Here it is: When our mood and sense of well-being is low it initiates a trigger that can manifest itself against others.

Trigger 2: Hatred

In Genesis 27:41 Esau never fully forgave Jacob for his deceit in securing his father’s blessing.  In Genesis 27:41 he said: [My father will soon die and I will kill Jacob]

He did not kill Jacob but he never overcame his hatred of his brother. In Numbers 20:21 when Israel was in route to the promise land Edom—descendants of Esau–refused to let them go through their land.

Obadiah 1:10-11 God declared Esau would suffer shame and would be cut off for violence against his brother Jacob.  Some 1,000 years separated Genesis Chapter 27 and the writings in Obadiah—Can you imagine a hatred lasting so long? Such is the trigger of hatred.

Trigger 3: Need for Recognition and Power

 Numbers Chapter 12: Miriam and Aaron came against Moses’ leadership: The bible declares they did so because he had chosen an Ethiopian wife.  And so they argued: “Are you the only one that God speaks to—has he not also spoken to us.  They could not overcome their contempt for their brother.

The bible declares that God heard their insolence and disrespect.  Miriam was stricken with leprosy and although she is healed after Moses intercedes for her, both she and Aaron died some time later. (Miriam 20:1 Aaron 20:29)

Here it is: We don’t have time to argue against how God uses His people. God gives gifts and appointments according to his will and purpose. Therefore we should not covet what God has given others.

Trigger 3—Depression

 I Samuel Chapter 16 declares God rejected Saul and removed His Spirit from him.  Saul was distressed and went through depression.  And all of this was due to his disobedience to God.  And here it is: Saul sensed that God was putting David in position to succeed him, so he plotted to kill him.

Saul could not overcome the fact that God had rejected him.  He could not overcome the idea that God would replace him.  So the triggers of depression and a lost connection with God, pushed him to attempt murder

Trigger 4—Pain

Although King Pharaoh and the Egyptian nation as a whole were not followers of God, the treatment of the Israelites serves notice of what can happen to those who experience great pain.  After Pharaoh’s son died in the 10th plague he vowed to let the Israelites go.  But he could not overcome the pain of his son’s death and the idea that he had been defeated slaves and an unknown God.  The pain that he suffered was the trigger that caused him to renege on his vow and pursue Israel to the Red Sea.

Saints I don’t want you to concentrate on your emotional triggers but I do want you to recognize that until we identify them, they will continue to trouble our spirit and interrupt our connection to God.  So here’s our consolation today:

Jesus told His disciples: [But be of be of good cheer—I have overcome the world] 

Point 3—Jesus Set the Example of how we Overcome Triggers

  1. He overcame the lies of the Jews who labeled him a sinner for healing the blind man (John 9:24)
  2. He overcame the lies that said He was in league with Satan.  In Mathew 12 Jesus responded by noting a house divided against itself cannot stand—if then Satan cast out Satan his kingdom cannot stand.
  3. He overcame being accused of sedition—declaring He was against Caesar and Rome.  But when brought before Pilate he said (Matthew 23:14): I have examined Him and find no fault concerning your accusations.
  4. He overcame being beaten and whipped by his adversaries
  5. And after overcoming all of this, He then had to overcome the notion of dying for the same people that abused Him.  Yet He overcame what perhaps what many of us could not by saying: Nevertheless not my will but your will be done.

Point 4—Jesus Overcame that we Might Overcome

Please understand that we cannot overcome problems and hardships on our own.  I am a witness that when we try to take on these things with our own little strength, even when we think we are beyond them, they still return.

When Paul instructed us in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,”  he was letting us know that we will need a power that emanates from beyond our being—it must come from the Lord.

And so you might ask: How can what Jesus overcame make me an overcomer?

Closing

Remember in the 17th Chapter of I Samuel all of the nation of Israel was closed-in for fear of the Philistines.  King Saul was in fear—his soldiers were in fear.  But at the appointed time God appointed a little shepherd boy by the name of David to come to the scene.  With one stone to Goliath’s head, David overcame the Philistine army but ALL OF ISRAEL got the victory.

So here it is: God has looked on our battles and struggles

1)     He has seen our fears

2)     He has seen our anger—maybe even hatred

3)     He has seen our struggles–our pain—our tears

4)     He has witnessed our depression

And that’s why he sent us the Good Shepherd who is telling us to be of good cheer for He has overcome all our struggles and emotional triggers.  And if we are in Him, why are we fighting battles that have already been won?  If we are truly overcomers we must resist triggers from our past, lift up our heads, and declare “I am an overcomer through Jesus Christ.”  

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12/5/21

Scripture: Psalm 122

Subject: Erecting Landmarks for Church Worship

Introduction

We have come into this sanctuary to honor and give reverence to God.  We have been away from our sanctuary so long that some of us struggled with the idea of returning to weekly worship.  Indeed, some might even consider returning to this setting as an inconvenience.   But in today’s Psalm, David expressed gladness, not simply at being in God’s house (tabernacle) but at the idea of even approaching the central place of worship.

Psalm 122 is called a Song of Assents because as the people of God made the trek up to Jerusalem, the songs were sang in anticipation of being in the presence of God.

Notice in verse 4 reads: The 12 tribes would go up to Jerusalem because they were given an ordinance (the testimony of Israel), to journey to Jerusalem to celebrate feasts that would commemorate what God did for them in the wilderness.

Deut 16:16, (Exodus 23:14, 34:23) the men of Israel were obligated to journey to Jerusalem 3 times a year to observe feasts.

1)   Feast of Unleavened Bread—To Commemorate the haste with which Israel left Egypt

2)   Feast of Weeks—To Commemorate the first wheat harvest—to reverence God provision

3)  Feast of Tabernacles—Commemorate God’s protection as they lived in booths or tents in the wilderness

The feasts were landmarks for by definition a Landmark is an event, discovery, or change, marking an important milestone or turning point in life.

Doubtless, some of the excitement expressed by David in going to God’s house were the annual feasts.  But as I will express later, David had several other reasons to be excited about going to God’s house.  My task today is to explain how WE can get beyond the negative things in life, to be glad and appreciate being in the house of the Lord.

Point 1—We must realize (for believers) Life does not happen to us, but for us

We are programmed to separate events in our lives as “good,” “bad,” or “sad.”  In light of this, the “bad,” “sad” and disappointing events in life tend to sideline us, throw up our hands and say: “why me.”  But when we are sidelined with worry and disappointments, and then come to church with that weight on our minds, it is impossible to give God the honor He is due.

Author Byron Katie posited the sentiment that we should stop separating events and labeling them as good or bad, but instead believe that all events have been placed in our path as a means to get us where we are supposed to be.  Author Katie believes taking on such a perspective would uplift us because we will adopt the belief that our challenges are part of a bigger plan.

Here it is: We should view all events in our lives as happening by God’s design—so then:

1)     The events in our lives don’t come too soon or too late—

2)     Life’s pathway is not a series of ups and downs, but a continuum

3)     Sometimes our blessings will materialize at the end of our trials.

4)     And as Peter wrote (1 Peter 5:10): Trials don’t come to defeat us but to establish and increase us.  Peter wrote: After you have suffered for a while the God of all grace will perfect (complete) establish, strengthen and settle us.

Taking this perspective allows us to come to church with gladness, recognizing that whatever betides, God has designed it and purposed it to work for us.  That’s why Paul said (Romans 8:28)   ALL THINGS—work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.  And when God works it out, we should place a visual landmark for what He has done.

Point 2—Landmarks Help Us Reflect on God’s Faithfulness

Landmarks are memorials that enable us to constantly reflect on the favor of God. Placing a visual landmark on His loving kindness and tender mercies allows us to enter His sanctuary with a sincere praise.

Consider the physical and visual landmarks of biblical patriarchs

1)     Genesis 28:14 Jacob is in route to Haran and the God reveals Himself in a dream.  He told Jacob, I am going to give you this land and will bless and multiply your seed.  Jacob awoke, made a landmark of stones to commemorate what he witnessed. and called the place Bethel saying: Surely the Lord was in this place, and I knew it not.

2)     I Samuel 7:12—After the Lord allowed the Philistines to defeat the nation of Israel, they repented and the Lord gave them the victory.  Samuel then erected a landmark of stones between Mizpah and Shen and called it Ebenezer (the stone of help) and said: Thus far the Lord has helped us.

 3)     Joshua 4:18—as the nation of Israel came to the river Jordan, Joshua commanded the priest to cross the river bearing the Ark of the Covenant.  As they stepped, the river parted and they crossed on dry land. They then erected a landmark of 12 stones—one for each tribe—to commemorate how the Lord brought them through the Jordan River on dry land.

 4)     Visual Landmark—II Samuel 6:12—The Ark of the Covenant had been at Obededom’s house for 3 months.   Prior to being at his house, Uzzah put out his hand to prevent the Ark from falling but God killed Him for irreverence.  When David received the report that all of Obededom’s house had been blessed since the Ark was in his house, David knew this was a landmark moment.  The bible declares, he gave God the proper reverence by sending Levites (I Chronicles 15:25) to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.  And when they took 6 steps without being slain by God, David commemorated the event by sacrificing an oxen and fatlings.  Israel sounded the trumpet and David began to dance and danced even more when the Ark of the Covenant was placed inside the tabernacle.  This was a landmark moment because the presence of the Lord had returned to Jerusalem.

But there were other landmark moments in David’s life that

1)     God was with him when he killed a lion and bear with his hands

2)     God was with him by rescuing him from Saul’s assassination plot

3)     God was with him when he killed Goliath

So yes, we can understand why David was glad to enter the house of the   Lord

Point 3—Your Landmarks Create the Atmosphere for Worship

If you can grab hold to the concept that life is working for you and not to you—if you can continually set landmarks that reflect on His goodness—whenever you enter the Lord’s house, you will bring an atmosphere of worship

Notice that David was known for bringing an atmosphere of Thanks and Praise

1)   Today’s text (122:4) The pilgrimage to Jerusalem was made to give thanks unto the Lord—to commemorate How he made a way for them during the wilderness journey.

2)  Psalm 34—David was also known for saying he would bless the Lord at all time and his praise would continually be in his mouth.  He then invites corporate praise by saying: O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.

But how many of you know that although Praise is good, the Lord desires our worship.

Point 4—Praise is good but Worship should be the ultimate offering to God

We often praise God collectively but praise alone can leave us empty.   If in our praise we mechanically vocalize the same phrases and expressions week after week, they can become stale.  But if our praise is sincere and meaningful, it can take us to the greatest appreciation of our God

And the bible instructs us to be careful not to give empty worship.  In Matthew 15:8 Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites and said: [These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me—but in vain they worship me by teaching their doctrine as though they were my commandments]

Mark 5:6—Jesus cast demons out of a man who was described as a lunatic.  He made his habitation amongst the tombs.  But when he saw Jesus at a distance, the bible declares he ran and worshipped him.

How many of you know that it is impossible for the devil and his imps to truly worship the Lord?  The bible declares (II Corinthians 6:14) [there can be no fellowship with righteousness and unrighteousness—no communion with light and darkness—there can be no agreement between Christ and Belial].  So how did the demon-possessed man Worship Jesus?

The word worship means to genuflect or to bow down.  So what the demon did was not true worship.  The demons bowed down only to recognize they were in the presence of someone of greater authority.  Real Worship then, is a two-part occurrence:

1)   There is the physical part where our bodies—our physical posture sends the message that we are in the presence of El Shaddai—God Almighty

2)  Our hearts must be yielding to His Spirit—sending the message “Lord, here am I—Use me—send me—make me—mold me.”

Closing

The reason we need to enter worship is because worship is more a solemn and individual acknowledgment of God and it can take you where praise cannot. 

 1) There a conservative talk show host on Fox news named Erick Ericson. He  gladly lets his listeners know he is a born-again Christian.  Last week He said his supervisors cringe when he talks about Jesus the Christ.  When asked how he could believe in God when his wife has a rare lung cancer he responds—“How can I not believe.”  His wife’s well-being is one of his Landmarks that gives him the boldness to witness in an environment that might put his job in jeopardy.  Praise alone will not give us the boldness to witness in a hostile environment but Mr. Erickson probably believes if his job were taken away, God would have something better, because all things work together for good.

2)  Genesis 22: We again see worship being exhibited.  In obedience to God, Abraham told his servants to wait behind because he and his son were going up Mt Moriah to Worship.  This was a solemn worship between Abraham and God.  And when God supplied a ram in the bush the ram was his Landmark for worship.

3)  I Samuel 1—Hannah entered into worship—first pouring out here petition to God—lips moving with no intelligible speech.  When the preacher Eli thought she was drunk, she said I am a sorrowful woman pouring out of my soul to the Lord.  The bible declares the next day she worshipped God and He gave her the son Samuel.  Samuel was her landmark for worship.

Saints have you identified your Landmarks for worship?  If you do, you will be more than glad when you come in the house of the Lord.

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11/7/21

Scripture: Job 1:8-12

Subject: Life Beyond The Hedge

Introduction

The faith community is divided on the story of Job.  Many believe it is an accurate account of his life but some believe it is a fictional character or a parable portraying a moral truth.

While this polarization of thought between Christians is understandable, the truth of what happens in Job’s life becomes clear as we gain more insight into the purpose of the HEDGE.

In 1971 David Philip Vetter was born but he is better known by the moniker, “Bubble Boy.” David was born with SCID—Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which made most any germ-laden object a threat to his life.   Since his body could not fight for him, he spent most of his twelve years of life inside a germ-free plastic enclosure.  This plastic enclosure was in effect a HEDGE of Protection against anything outside of the bubble.

As parents or guardians of our children, we are their Hedge against the outside world.  Therefore, from birth to pubescence we protect them inside our hedge because their minds cannot contemplate or process imminent danger.  In effect, in their formative years, it is our job to prepare them for “Life Beyond the Hedge.”

In Today’s Text

Satan argues that Job was faithful because God had him hedged in under His protection.  So Satan declared, [Job’s fear of you is based on the Hedge that you have around him].  Satan argued:

1)     God, Job is inside Your Hedge

2)     Job’s house is inside the Hedge

3)     Everything Job has—his possessions are within the Hedge

Satan continued his analysis of God’s hedge by declaring “You have blessed the works of his hands and his substance is increased in the land.”  Then Satan concluded by saying, [But if the hedge that you have around him is removed, he will curse you.]  In other words:

1)  If Job senses that the hedge is no longer present

2)  If he witnesses a loss of possessions and cattle

3)  If he witnesses the “real world,” the world outside your bubble—the world outside the hedge that you have provided—he will no longer fear and respect You.

Point 1—God will prepare us for Life outside the hedge

God’s hedge around us should never be viewed as a hiding place or a place where the ills of this life can never touch us.  Yes, as babes in Christ the hedge of salvation is there to protect us from outside forces–but God desires that we grow in faith and knowledge of Him so that we can withstand the pressures beyond the hedge.

Monasticism (3rd-4th century AD)—through which the monastery was formed—came into existence through the belief that Christians should live a dedicated life to God by separating themselves from the influences of the world.  Monks and nuns were expected to make vows of celibacy, poverty, stability and obedience.  In other words, this ascetic life created a Bubble or Hedge that was designed to protect them from the outside influences of the world.

But 200 years before the monastery was formed Paul informed us of the reality of ungodly influences–to identify them and subject them to the godly influence within us.  So in I Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul clarified his writing in a former letter: [When I wrote you not to keep company with immoral people—fornicators, extortionist, idolaters—I did not mean unbelievers but those that do these things and are brothers and sisters in the church]

In this writing Paul understood that Christians—especially those that are strong in faith—were called to influence the world, not to run away from it.  The reason God prepares us and conditions us to live outside the hedge is to carry the light of Jesus Christ in dark places. The bible describes the Life of Christian outside the bubble

1)   Matthew 5:13-14—We are Salt and Light—Salt because we should be able to influence our contacts—Reflective Light to direct the world to our True Life Source—Jesus Christ

2)   Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)—Do all things without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Let me suggest to you that if the church is losing her influence, perhaps it is because there too many Saints inside the hedge/bubble looking for blessings and security.  It is time for the church to take her stance as an influencer.

Point 2—Some people that enter our life can make the Hedge seem Nonexistent

People enter our lives through one of two portals: By intrusion or invitation.  Those that intrude into our lives generally come in to disrupt our peace and connection to God.  Let me borrow from what Jesus told the Pharisees in the 10th Chapter of the Gospel according to John:Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate (the natural portal of ingress—a type of hedge) but comes in some other way, is a thief and robber.  “The one that enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him…”  So, in that we are God’s sheep, anyone with good intention toward us would not plot and scheme in approaching us.

Most people that enter our lives come in by invitation but some of them can shake our faith.  For example: No one contended with Job when his material goods were destroyed but when his body was afflicted, those inside the hedge with Job brought his faith and faithfulness into question.

 1)   Job 2:9—Job’s wife who entered his life by invitation said: Are you still maintaining your integrity?  Curse God and die.

2)   Job 2:11—Job’s friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar who entered his life by invitation went to him to provide sympathy and comfort.  But when they saw how his body was afflicted all they could do was cry. 

3)  Job 4:11Eliphaz, believing Job had sinned said: “Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same”  

4)   Job 8:6—Bildad, believing Job had sinned said: “If you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you.”

5)   Job 11:6—Zophar, believing Job had sinned said: “God has exacted from you less than your iniquity deserves.”

So yes, even those that have entered our lives by invitation—especially church folk who think they know the mind of God—can be inside the hedge with us—but bring us an ungodly perspective.  Notice in the last chapter of the book of Job God’s anger was raised against Job’s three friends (42:7) He told Eliphaz he and his two friends did not speak of God what was right.  God commanded that they make a sacrifice for their wrong and to let Job pray for them.  Saints don’t allow a perspective that is not of God to weigh on you because it can cause you to think: Where is God and where is the hedge?  But know that this is part of God’s conditioning, for He is preparing us for work outside the hedge.

Point 3: Our strength and faith is perfected beyond the hedge

Now we know that the hedge is not a physical but a spiritual protection.  This spiritual protection is especially vital to those that are babes in Christ but our development and growth hinges on what happens when we feel that the hedge is removed:

1) A child learning how to ride a bike cannot master control until the hedge (training wheels) are removed

2)  Peter’s ability to trust God could not be perfected until the hedge (Jesus’ bodily presence) was taken away.

4)  In II Corinthians (12:9) Paul asked God to remove the thorn from his flesh but God said: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  Saints, consider (1) Gideon and his 300 men (2) David going against Goliath. Through humility and our trust in God, His power reigns supreme and our confidence and faith in Him grows.

Saints, it may believe difficult believe, but some things—some people–have been appointed for our conditioning—and while that conditioning may make us feel like the hedge is gone, the fact is the experience during our conditioning is working for our good.

1)  I submit to you that Joseph the dreamer was hated by his brothers—all because he had a gift that neither his brothers nor father understood.  But notice that even when his brothers plotted to kill him, God protected him.  But bringing his gift to its full potential required being left for dead, being lied on, being imprisoned.  But all of this conditioning put Joseph in a position to save Hebrews and Egyptians (those outside the hedge)So what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.

2) It was Habakkuk that asked God (Hab. 1:12)  [Why did You appoint the Babylonians to bring judgment on us.  Why were they chosen to correct us?] The Lord answered although the enemy is puffed up and not upright the righteous must live by faith (Hab. 2:4)

Closing     

Saints of God let me conclude by saying that despite Satan telling God to remove the hedge from Job and he will curse You—despite God allowing Job’s material goods to be destroyed and his body to be afflicted—he was still under God’s protection.

From the beginning of Satan’s attempt to show that he could cause the  faithful to curse God—God knew what Job was made of and how much he could withstand.  God would later declare in Isaiah 46:9b-10 “I am God and there is none like me.”  “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.” In other words, God knows and predicts the outcome of a matter before it even begins.

It is because He knows the ending at the beginning, we have been called to believe that our Lord is working with us—working in us—and conditioning us.  Whether inside or outside the hedge—whether lifting us up or conditioning us through difficult times, He is yet our protector.

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10/24/21

Joshua 24:14-15

Subject: Life’s Abundance Comes from Life-Connections

Introduction

Few would argue the fact that what we get out of this natural life is connected to the people and things in our environment.  In other words, Affluence—having access to the better things in life– depends on Influence.

It has been proven:

1)     Removing children from crime infested areas increases their chance of success.

2)     Towns and neighborhoods that offer little in the way of jobs will have citizens with income below the national average

3)     Families that settle for government assistance have little incentive to move beyond getting a hand-out.

Now if we superimpose this natural phenomenon with our spiritual life, we will find that the truth remains: Affluence depends on influence.   Paul alluded to the effects of bad influence:

1)     Galatians 5:7—“Ýou ran well.”  “Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  In other words, you were on the right course but someone has persuaded (influenced) you to believe something contrary to the gospel.

2)     I Corinthians 15:33 NIV–Paul again speaks to negative influence. “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Therefore, it stands to reason that if we are influenced by positive role models (natural and spiritual) we can have better access to an abundant life.

Today’s Text

Joshua is at the close of his life.  As a follower of Moses he trusted his leadership and was faithful to God when it came time for him to lead the children of Israel.  But as it is in our lives today, Joshua understood holding on to anything not of God, will be a constant barrier to success.  So Joshua cautions Israel by saying (paraphrasing).  [You know God is real because he delivered you out of slavery in Egypt (24:7) and fought for you to give you the land of promise (24:11)]  [Nevertheless, some of you still worship idols of our forefathers and some worship the gods of those that inhabited the promise land (Amorites) before our arrival]  [But God is a jealous God who will not forgive your rebellion if you forsake Him and serve other gods—He will bring disaster upon you for such betrayal] (24:19-20)

In summary: Joshua wanted them to know there was an old influence in the camp that would block access to a bright future and lead to ruin.

Saints: Too often we blame Satan for our failures, tribulations, and lack, but much of it comes from poor choices and influence from the world.   So today’s message asks the question: Who is your influence and do you have a strong connection with and to that influence?

 Point One—We Should Strengthen Divinely Appointed Connections

The need for humans to connect was shown in the book of Genesis.  Eve was created and was described as a “help meet.” Now in the pure sense, God was the only HELP that man needed.  Psalm 121: declares I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from when cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord.  But man needed a connection with someone who was comparable and compatible.  In other words, although God the creator was all sufficient, Adam needed a creature to creature relationship, not just a creator to creature relationship.

In the day when the children of Israel left Egypt Moses would intercede for the people.  When his father-in-law questioned why he spent all day hearing complaints, Moses said, “The people come to me to inquire of God. (Exodus 18:15).” In other words, I am appointed to be their connection to God.” and when the task became overwhelming his father-in-law understood his calling but advised him to delegate some of the work. “Select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”

Even in the NT, as the church was being established, the apostles appointed the task of ministering to the needs of Hellenist widows to 7 men who were described as having a good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit. These men would minister material necessities and the apostles ministered the spiritual needs.

Saints the bible gives us good examples of divinely appointed leaders who through their experiences were able to keep God’s people grounded

1)   Moses and Joshua were divinely appointed to the nation of Israel to secure and maintain their connection to God

2)   Ananias was divinely appointed by God to minister to Saul that he might be spiritually connected to God through Christ

3)   Paul was divinely appointed to establish churches in Asia and Europe and having established them–kept them connected to God

4)  Phillip was divinely appointed to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch to let him know he too could have access to God

Saints, O if we could get back to the day when the church was our all-encompassing help meeta place where:

1)   The pastor was appointed by God and served the best interest of the congregation—not his own.

2)  Members could trust the pastor to preach a Word with conviction without favoritism to any.

3)  The church was looked upon as a family—much like what was exhibited in the OT with the 12 tribes of Israel.  In that family setting, the material and spiritual needs were met.  The people sang together as one, prayed as one, broke bread as one and even fought their enemies as one.

Saints: it is time for the people of God to have a greater connection to those that God has appointed to lead us—even in struggles.  For example, even if I don’t agree with everything that comes down from the District, State, and National platforms, I must follow the leadership if I want the Lord to grant me the abundant life

Point 2—Spiritual Leaders Must stay before the Lord to avoid Carnal Trappings

In reality, all born-again believers have a spiritual connection to God. However, since our spirit and soul are housed in human flesh—errant and lustful flesh, those that lead us should not just preach and teach the bible but also walk worthy of their calling. Luke 6:39 NIV Jesus declared—“Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?”  The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”  Now although the Word declares teachers are held to a higher accountability (James 3:1) the fact remains that if I follow  errant teaching, it can hinder me from gaining a fulfilled and productive life.

Example: Peter was divinely appointed to Cornelius the Gentile but I believe Peter gained the greater insight on how God works with those that are connected to Him.  Through his experience with Cornelius, he learned that God is not a respecter of persons.  God is not racist, not a xenophobe, does not practice classism.  Here’s the point: Although we might be divinely appointed to minister (and we are all ministers) —God will first minister to us in our weaknesses before he allows us to minister to others.   The question is: Will we listen when He speaks?

Point 3—Our Ability to Live Abundantly depends on our Connections

First, it is worthy of mention that living abundantly does not mean having access to everything I want and being able to do whatever I want.  Jesus was clear in His parable about the Rich Fool in Luke Chapter 12.  He said:  “One’s life does not consist in the ABUNDANCE of the THINGS he possesses.” (12:15). This man’s ground yielded him a bountiful crop, which caused much delight.  As he pondered the security from his harvest, his life came to an end.  To this Jesus said: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  In other words, the Creator (God) created the creature (us) not to simply enjoy His provisions but to first be connected to Him spiritually.  For Ps 29:2 declares: “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

Yes, God has given us earthly connections that were put in place to strengthen us.  And some of these can be likened to Solomon’s observation in Ecclesiastes 4:12“A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  For Example:

1)   To strengthen us in our earthly habitation, God has given us families consisting of Husband wife and children.  By design this threefold connection should be strong and thrive.  But too often the husband or wife fails in their responsibilities or the children fail in theirs, so the cord—the family connection is weakened and subject to disruption. And the disruption forces them outside God’s abundance.

2)     To strengthen us in our earthly habitation God has allowed us to have businesses consisting of employer, employee and customer.  By design, this threefold connection should be strong and the business should flourish.  But too often those that are party to the business fail or don’t respond as they should, so the cord—which is the business is weakened and subject to failure—And the strain forces those within the business outside God’s abundance.

3) To strengthen our bodies when they are weakened and laid bare from sickness God has given us  the field of medicine comprised of doctors nurses and patients.  Although the doctors and nurses are the professionals, to the extent that patients come with illnesses that must be examined, they too contribute to the field of medicine.  Nevertheless, the threefold cord of doctor, nurse, patient is weakened when doctors and nurses fail in their responsibilities and patients fail to follow a prescribed course.

Although these “cords” are necessary in our creature to creature connections and existent, there must be an infallible connection that can take us to the abundance of life.

Closing: The Strongest Three-fold Cord

But there is a threefold cord that cannot be weakened or strained because it is not of human origin.  And over the course of time this cord has been reinforced.  It began with the Eternal God.  Surely He was more than enough to lead and strengthen us but when man could not live according to the written law, a SECOND CORD was needed.  The bible declares when Christ came into the world He said (Hebrews 10:5): God you did not desire sacrifices and offerings but you have prepared a body for me and I am coming to do your will.

 Saints can you envision the process where the Lord said come here Mary—the one that was blessed and highly favored.  The one whose lineage was traced back to David (Luke 3:23-38) and since David was from the tribe of Judah, his descendant Jesus would be the lion from the tribe of Judah.  And the strength from this cord would do what the law could not.  And before He went to the cross He said in John Chapter 15, if we are connected to Him—not just on the vine but in the vine—we will be fruitful—bearing much fruit and living in abundance for He said: [if we abide in Him and His words abide in us we can ask what we desire and it shall be done] (John 15:7)

But not only that but when Jesus came to the conclusion of His ministry, He told his disciples the 3rd cord was coming.  And on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit—the 3rd cord—fell on all that were in the upper room and is available for all.  And so if we can appropriate the spiritual threefold cord and allow it to govern our earthly connections, the abundant life is ours.

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10/10/21

Scripture: Romans Chapter 8

Subject: Christian Benefits: Liberty, Hope, Power

Introduction

In any given marketing strategy, consumers are bombarded with all of the benefits of a product, in hopes of making a sale.  The idea behind the strategy is to make the consumer feel comfortable about the price and to ease any tension that may exist before releasing money.  Here’s another truth: Typically, the more expensive products have more “bells and whistles” or benefits, many of which are not even used.

Examples

1)     We purchase cars but don’t read the owner’s manual in full to learn all the benefits of the product—moreover we may not even read the manual until a problem occurs that forces us into finding a solution.

2)     We purchase TVs but don’t read the owner’s manual to learn all of the benefits and features

3)     And even when we do read the owner’s manual and learn of a product’s benefits, sometimes we don’t make use of them because we have grown too accustomed to the old and less effective way.

About 5 years ago I purchased a new washer.  Like our old washer, the new one had settings for the size of the load: small, medium, large, extra-large and super.  Unlike the old washer, the new one also had a setting: Precise-Fill—Auto-Load Sensing.  My wife did not have the comfort level to use this new feature and would gravitate toward choosing the size of the load.  I, however, preferred using the precise-fill feature because it took the guess-work out of how much water was needed.  Central Idea: Even if you read your manual and become familiar with the benefits, you must have the confidence that what has been promised in the manual can be performed.

Likewise: We do ourselves a disservice if read the benefits in our Christian manual (bible) and lack the confidence that what has been promised therein will be done.

Today’s Text

This is the substance of Paul’s address to the Christians at Rome.  The central theme throughout the book of Romans is salvation (soteriology)—moreover, the sufficiency of faith in Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ over the law.

At the beginning of Romans Chapter 8 Paul declared in clear and expressive language that the OT law was designed to keep people in good standing with God.  It was, however, weak through the flesh (flesh could not fulfill the law) which made it destructive: Romans 7:10 “And the commandment (law), which was to bring life, I found to bring death, For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.”

Illustration:

During this year’s commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy it was mentioned that Lt. Heather Penney, who was assigned to the 121st fighter squadron of the Air National Guard, was given a mission to prevent flight 93 from being used to destroy major US structures.   Given the emergency, there was no time to arm her F-16 fighter—the only option was to ram flight 93 with her own plane.  She knew she was on a suicide mission but reflected on the law or code of the military.  That code or law? Your assignment must be followed, even if it brings about your death.  Lt Penney was familiar with this code because her father was a fighter pilot before her and he too knew the code.  After she flew her mission it dawned on her that she could have been on a mission to kill her own father because on that faithful morning he was flying out of the same hub as flight 93.  So it is with a type of law/code that is passed on from generation to generation.  So although serving in the military is honorable, it carries a certain amount of bondage—a bondage that can result in death until and unless you are released with an honorable discharge.

Here in Chapter 8 Paul tells the Christians in Rome—You were under a law/code that had to be followed but it was impossible to do so without bringing about a spiritual death.  BUT NOW, through Christ you are no longer under the Law on Stones but under the Law of the Indwelling Spirit and you have been given an honorable discharge from the old law

First Benefit of Christanity: Freedom from Bondage

Many Jews that had accepted Christ had difficulty moving from the old way of worship to the new.  In other words, they could not readily accept salvation without tying it to old customs and laws.  So Paul told them there was no condemnation to those who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh.

It was also Paul, who in the Jerusalem Council in Acts Chapter 15, stood up on behalf of Gentiles who had received Christ.  The Pharisees believed it was necessary for the Gentiles to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses (Acts 15:5) but Paul stood up and said [God has given the Gentiles the Holy Spirit as he did for us and made no distinction between us and them.  Why do you test God by putting a yoke on them that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? (8-10)]

This liberty that we have been given does not disregard or overthrow the OT law.  Paul said the law was good to the extent that he (we) would not have known what sin was, except by the law (Romans 7:7).  Further, without the law, sin was dead (would not exist) (Romans 7:8)

I am so glad that I have a consciousness of sin without having to rehearse commandments and laws in my mind.   Hebrews 9:13-14 declares:  [If the blood of bulls and goats can purify the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ purge our conscience from dead works (rituals) to serve the living God?]

Second Benefit: Hope–The Expectation of God’s Future Glory

Paul recognized that despite being discharged from the bondage of old, sin was yet progressive in the world.  Therefore he sensed the need to comment on why we have the liberty of the indwelling Spirit but yet go through suffering.  I believe sin and its pervasive nature is the cause of all suffering in the world (This is not to say we suffer because we sin).

The Saints of God, however, would do well do understand that salvation does not exclude us from world chaos.  In fact, in verse 20 Paul references a known fact: “For the creation was subjected to futility (Perhaps a reference to God’s curse on humanity in Genesis 3:15-17) (emptiness and vanity), not willingly but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption.  Then Paul makes a distinction between the parts of creation that don’t know the Lord from those who do.  Verse 23: “And not only that but we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our body. 

Now we that have the first fruits of the Spirit—the gift of salvation—also have the HOPE or EXPECTATION that if we “hold out” and continue our stance in Christ, we will witness God’s glory and receive glorified bodies.  There are benefits from this hope/expectation that allows us to endure more than nonbelievers.

P1)   So yes, all of creation has been subjected to the evils of the material world but the Word declares (I Peter 1`:7) the trial of our faith…though it be tried by fire might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  Do you have this hope?

2)   Yes, all of creation has been subjected to the evils of this world but OUR suffering has a cleansing effect.  The Word of God declares, (I Peter 4:1) “Forasmuch as Christ has suffered in the flesh arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”  Do you have this hope?

3)   Yes, all of creation has been subjected to the evils of this world but hold to your faith and position in Christ, for the Word declares (I Peter 3:17) It is better, if the will of God be so, that we suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

4)   And even in the hour of departure of loved ones to be with the Lord Paul told us in I Thessalonians (4:13) [We don’t sorrow as those who have no hope--for if we believe God that Jesus died and rose again, those that are asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him]  Do y9u have this hope?

So yes, you have been through difficult times and suffered difficult losses but today’s text declares whatever you have been through and whatever you have lost—don’t lose your hope for a fervent hope/faith is your best benefit.  For what you have lost and what you have been through cannot begin to compare to the glory that shall be revealed to us.  Do you have this hope?

Third Benefit: Power for Present-Day Living

Paul did not leave us thinking that our only hope is in the life with Jesus at his return.  How many of you know that a Word that cannot quench our fears and anxieties in this present world is sorely lacking?  And so in verse 26 Paul declared: [Likewise the Holy Spirit also helps in our present day weaknesses].  Whatever our weaknesses might be—selfishness, jealousy, hatred, addictions, infirmities and afflictions.  The Holy Spirit groans with utterances that we can’t articulate, and intercedes to the Father on our behalf.

So we can access this power for present-day living.  Look at the character of the Holy Spirit

1)     He intercedes and groans for us (Romans 8:22)

2)     He directs and testifies to us (Romans 8:14)

3)     He empowers us and anoints for service (Romans 8:28-37)

4)     He searches and enables us to discern (Romans 8:26-27)

5)     He confirms and bears witness with us (Romans 8:14-16)

And after we Walk in LIBERTY, Lay-hold to a Saving HOPE, and Access the POWER of God, we can truly identify with Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord, to them that are the called according to His purpose.”

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9/26/21

Scripture: Isaiah 26:1-6

Subject: Perfected Peace: Our Defense Against the Enemy

Introduction

Have you ever wondered why after receiving Christ, we can yet have an uneasiness in this life?  In other words, if coming to Christ is the ultimate goal in having the Abundant Life, mentioned in John 10:10, why are some people in a revolving state of sadness—then happiness; worry—then easiness; emptiness—then fulfillment?  Although your own experience may not fit exactly into these categories, the fact remains that we will experience emotional extremes in life.  Many times these extremes emanate from stressors that keep us from real peace.

Stressors in life attack us and present themselves in the form of:

1)     Deadlines and Commitments

2)     Expectations and Criticisms from others

3)     Disappointments and Betrayals by others

4)     Emergencies, sickness, and death

When these things bombard the mind, our emotions can release chemicals that put the body under undue stress.  So let’s view this stress in light of God’s promise of Perfect Peace to the righteous.

Today’s Text

To better understand Isaiah chapter 26 we must read it in context with what is shared in chapters 24 and 25.  Chapter 24 (1-3) focuses on God’s overthrow of corruption in the earth (24:1-3)  and chapter 25 (1-5) focuses on praise to God for taking this corrective action.

As we move closer to today’s text a prophetic word comes forth about God making what is wrong, right:

1)     25:2—He will destroy the strong defended cities of the enemy

2)     25:3—He would be strength to the poor and to the needy in distress

There is even a reference that alludes to the last day (eschaton) or at least a time when Messiah will take His reign:

In the mountain, which is Zion or Jerusalem, the Lord will host a banquet (25:6) and on that day He will

1)     Vs. 7 He would remove the shroud that holds and entangles all people

2)     Vs. 8 He would swallow up death forever, and much like what is stated in Revelations 21:4, wipe away tears and remove disgrace from the earth

So then today’s text opens with this lofty, maybe even hyperbolic, speech in mind.  The reasoning behind Isaiah’s speech is twofold: (1) Despite the encouraging words in today’s text, the fact remained that the day of restoration would be far off.  For at this point (around 712 BC) Judah had not gone into Babylonian exile. Further, they would not exit exile until 538 BC under king Cyrus’ declaration (2) Like any people who are going a present-day crises, there was a need to tell them that a “brighter day” would come.

Peace Defined

In OT language peace (Salom-Strongs-7965) means wholeness, well-being, completeness, tranquility and security: So in context of today’s scripture Isaiah prophesied of a future day when the righteous would have all the benefits of this peace, IF THEY PUT THEIR TRUST IN GOD.  How then do believers attain this level of trust?

 Point 1—Peace Must be Perfected In All Relationships

  1. The most important relationship is that between us and God. But we cannot have peace with God and walk contrary to His Word.  In reality, at some point in our natural life we were all at odds with God and His Word because Romans 3:23 declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”   So then, before we surrendered our life to Christ, our carnal (fleshly) minds was enmity AGAINST God (Romans 8:7).  So here it is: We cannot be at peace with God and be against him.

But thanks be to God—after Paul told us all have sinned he returned in Romans Chapter 5 and taught us that the weight of sin and the corresponding alienation from God, has been removed with our faith:

“Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)”

  1. As satisfying as it may be to know we have peace with God, if that peace is to be perfected—if we want the Lord to keep us in perfect peace–we must also be at peace in our relationships with one another.

1)     Matthew 5:23-24 instructs us that the sacrifices/gifts/offering to God are in vain if we offer them knowing we have offended a brother or sister.  The Amplified Version of the bible declares: “first go and make peace with your brother” and then present your offering.

2)     Matthew 18:15 declares: If our brother/sister sins against us we should tell them of the offense in private to win them back.  But if they don’t listen, take one or two other believers who would stand as witnesses to what was said.  If they again refuse to listen, take the matter before the church.  If they continue not to be reconciled, the weight or guilt falls to them.

Still, there is an even higher level to attain as we move toward a perfected peace.  The bible instructs us not to just forgive in maintaining peace; we are to be purveyors of peace—those who see an opening or occasion for the enemy to enter as a peace-breaker and defeat him before his exploits  can take the advantage,

1)     Matthew 5:9—Jesus declared blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

2)     In Romans (14:17) Paul taught Christians to be careful with their Christian liberty.  Specifically Paul told them not to offend new Christians by telling them it is ok to eat certain meats and drink wine.  In effect, Paul told them the kingdom of God is not about what we eat and drink but righteousness, PEACE, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

3)     In Hebrews (12:14) takes it further–we are instructed to follow (pursue) PEACE with all men, and holiness, without which no man will see the Lord.  In attaining perfect peace there can be no: “I know what they did was wrong but since it wasn’t done to me I’m staying out of it.”  There can be no, “Well I know it was harsh and unfair but that’s just how that person is.”  It should bother the Saints of God to see the marginalized, the poor, and hopeless being done wrong.  It should disturb our peace to see the disadvantaged under attack.  Likewise it should bring us peace to show compassion when the least of these is offended.  In pursuing and following peace with all men, sometimes we have to call wrong–wrong and right—right so that our inner-spirit can be free.

Point 2—Peace is a State of Mind Perfected by our Faith in God

 Notice the very first verse of today’s text:

NKJ—In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks.”  “Open the gates that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in.”

NIV—“We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts.  Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter.”

Here it is: God showed Isaiah a future day where peace would abide with the righteous.  But this peace would not be found in the blessed City of Zion (Jerusalem).  Although that city, being 2,500 ft above sea level, provided a natural barrier of protection against the enemy—that city would pale in comparison to the city that would come.  Isaiah said the city that would come would be a strong city protected by salvation—for salvation would be its walls and salvation would be it ramparts.

Saints that city was made possible when the Prince of Peace—the only begotten Son of God came to us.  And we received salvation with a mind that is turned toward Him in faith.

Point 3—We Must View Peace Beyond the Traditional Meaning

If  we can agree that peace comes by feeling whole, complete, tranquil and secure, we should be able to identify what it is in our surroundings and experiences that bring on such feelings.

If we are honest with ourselves, traditional values is what makes us feel secure.  In other words, comfortable living gives us a sense of peace.

1)     Having a good shelter as refuge

2)     Having food, clothing, and transportation

3)     Having a good education and being able to provide the same for our children.

4)     These are the things that we value, and should value.  But here it is: From a broad perspective these things alone with not bring us a perfected peace.

Here it is Saints:  Perfected Peace cannot be found in the material world.

Some of the noise that disturbs our peace comes from fearing what the devil might cause us to lose:

1)     Yes we love our homes but the devil doesn’t want you home: He can’t live in it

2)     You love your car but the devil doesn’t want your car: He can’t drive it

3)     You love your 401K, Social Security, and Retirement, Benefits but the devil doesn’t want your money: He can’t spend it.

What the devil really wants is your mind.  For he knows if he can get in your mind, he can turn you against the truth, against others, and even against yourself.  Paul told us in II Corinthians (4:4) “If our gospel is hid it is hid to those who are lost: for the god of this world (Satan) has blinded their minds.”

This was made clear by Jesus who in John 14:27 declared:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the WORLD giveth, give I unto you.”  The world-order for peace is to:

1)     Run from trouble

2)     Eat comfort food—or reframe from eating due to low self-esteem

3)     To gossip—hoping to find satisfaction in the ills and problems of others

4)     Medicate—yet knowing that kind of relief is temporary

But Jesus wants His followers to know there is nothing on earth that can bring His peace.  Perfect peace is only found by being in union with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Closing

  1. So in our search for perfect peace, we understand that it is not just something that will fall on us; there is a work that we must do.  We must

1)     Build our relationship with our God and with others

2)     Build up our minds so that we can trust God in faith

3)     Understand that real peace is not tangible but intangible

Listen to what Paul told the churches about how to build our defense on   intangibles in Ephesians (6:13)

1)     Put on truth

2)     Put on a breastplate of righteousness

3)     Take the shield of Faith

4)     Take the helmet of salvation

But there is one more things that Paul included in our defense: We are to fit our feet with the Gospel of Peace.  Paul understood the need to keep the good news of the gospel to defeat the lies of the enemy.

Saints begin to know the stressors in your life.  As soon as they appear, identify them for what they are.  Then preach to yourself by saying I’m in a new city—a city called salvation and the walls of my city cannot be breached by the enemy.  And when you finish preaching to yourself, sing your song about the intangibles of life: “This joy (peace, love) that I have, the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away”

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9/12/21

Scripture: Psalm 42:1-5

Subject: What To Do When God Seems Absent?

Introduction

Most of us have had at least one experience where we wanted deliverance from a crisis.  The nature of the crisis could have been financial, marital, familial, or physical.  What makes life most difficult is when these problems do not have an easy-fix and they linger for months and years on-end.

People of faith believe we should turn to God in the time of our crisis but what are we to do when our problems continue and God doesn’t seem to answer?  Well before we address that question I believe it is noteworthy to know there were biblical “pillars” that suffered through feeling abandoned.

1)     In Psalms 13 David was in a desperate place and cried unto God: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?

2)     In Matthew (27:46) our Messiah cried out to God from the cross.  He quoted David in Psalms 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

So Saints, if these great men went through feeling abandoned and alone, think it not strange when such feelings come upon us.

In Today’s Text–Psalm 42

The Psalmist is identified as being from the sons of Korah who were temple assistants and musicians.  David appointed men from the Korah clan to serve as choir leaders (I Chronicles 6:31-38; II Chronicles 20:18, 19 ), and they continued in that capacity for hundreds of years.

But here it is Saints: We may have served the Lord for many years—we may have been faithful to our call and duty—but nevertheless, hardships will come.  If we believe our faithfulness should shield us form hardships, we will be at a psychological disadvantage when under attack.  In other words, if we believe our faithfulness has gone unrewarded, the resulting feeling of abandonment could be fertile ground for the enemy to attack.

As we read through today’s text we can see that the sons of Korah are in desperate need of a word or sign from God.

1)     Vs. 1—“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you O God.”  In other words, as natural life needs water to survive, the psalmist has a thirst for God’s presence, without which he believes his life is at peril.

2)     Vs 2b“When shall I come and appear before God?” He wants to again be in the temple–in God’s presence—t—and to enjoy the release that comes from true worship

3)     Vs 3—In describing his “tears as his food” is another way of saying he is in a continuous state of depression, which has been made worse by those that mock him—those that laugh at him and say: “Where is your God?”

Saints it is a sad and untenable position when you can no longer do what you have been called to do. Imagine

1)     A teacher whose memory has faded and can no longer teach

2)     A concert pianist who has developed arthritis and can no longer play

3)     In today’s text we have a praiser—one appointed to praise—gifted to praise—anointed to praise—but cannot praise because he feels separated from, and abandoned by God.  In verse 9 he asked God two questions.  “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”  So what are we to do when these questions occupy our mind?

Point 1—In Depressing Times Respond IN the season, not TO the Season

In any stressful or depressing situation it is human nature to focus on the immediate cause of our agony and pain.  But imagine if we could instead focus on the expectation that God will deliver and restore us.  For example:

In Matthew (14:29) is the miracle of Peter walking on water. Fate would have it that a “Season of heavy winds” ensued.  The disciples then saw Jesus walking on walking and initially thought He was a ghost.  When Jesus told them not to be afraid, only Peter asked Him to permit him to come.  As long as Peter’s mind was focused on Jesus and not the “season,” he was able to walk on the water.  But when he was distracted by the boisterous wind, he began to sink.  For a brief moment, Peter’s expectation of walking on water was greater than his fear of sinking.  He responded IN THE SEASON OF OPPORTUNITY—NOT TO THE SEASON OF AN IMMEDIATE STORM

In Mark (5:25) is the miracle of a woman who had hemorrhaged for 12 years.  She responded to her “season of sickness” as we all would—(a) she pursued physicians (b) spent all of her money (3) but only grew worse.  Now this is not an indictment against physicians—we should seek medical help when we are sick.  But the bible declares, “when she heard about Jesus, she touched His garment thinking: “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”  She reversed course and responded IN THE SEASON OF OPPORTUNITY—NOT TO THE SEASON OF SICKNESS.

Saints the bottom line is what is your expectation in your season of despair and depression? In your season of sickness?  I believe it is God’s desire that we look away from the immediate storm–the immediate sickness—the immediate affliction–and touch Him with our faith.  Further, touching God with our faith is much more than adopting a positive affirmation.  A positive affirmation is of little use without the Expectation of deliverance through an Active Faith.  Both Peter and the woman with the issue, exercised Faith in Action and seized their miracle.

Point 2—What you feed grows, what you starve dies

In our text the psalmist is depressed at the thought of being separated from God.  He longs to be in the temple where he can offer service and praise to God.  But since he is unable to do so, he is overwhelmed with grief and feeds on negative and unproductive thoughts.

The need to have good things enter our spirit being cannot be overstated.

If you are feeding on negative and unproductive thoughts, they can bring your spirit and inner being to destruction.  So we must feast on positive things and starve ourselves of the negative.  Think about it:

a)     If we feed our children good food, they will grow up healthy

b)     If we feed our marriages and relationships good vibes, they become more stable and wholesome.

c)      If we feed our occupations a good work ethic, we become more valuable to the employer and our chances for growth increases.

Further Analogy

If you have plants, they too must be fed good food to survive.  The interesting thing about plants is they draw nutrients from the soil.  Over time, as any potted plant grows, it must be transplanted into a larger vessel with fresh soil because the nutrients in the soil will become depleted.  Likewise, what we allow to enter our spirit—what we feed our spirit, can cause us to grow or wither.  Much like plants, our soil  (mind)  must be infused with nutrients (Word of God) for continued growth.  Notice what Paul told Timothy (I Timothy 4:12 NIV), who feared using his gift because of his young age

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  “Do not neglect your gift….”

Saints, Paul knew that the opposition facing Timothy could sideline him.  Paul knew the opposing forces could cause him to “starve” and die.  So the message to Timothy was:  As long as you keep your ground fertile through preaching, teaching, reading scripture, and showing love, you can live, thrive, and overcome your opposition.

Saints, feed on the positive and keep your ground fertile so that you can thrive, even under dreadful conditions.

Point 3—Begin to Follow the Pathway to Deliverance

Too often we will vocalize rather than internalize scriptures: For example:

1)     I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me: Philippians 4:13

2)     We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us: Romans 8:37

These are great scriptures when we are going through trials but we must read them in context:  There is nothing in these passages that suggest we can do anything.  If we read the scriptures carefully, what is really expressed is that we can do nothing until and unless God intervenes on our behalf.

Here it is:  Sometimes we cannot get the release from feeling abandoned by God—sometimes we are left depressed, tied-up and bound in a state of unrest because we are operating under the belief that somehow, we can work through our problem by ourselves.  But look at how those in the bible knew it was God at work in their lives that brought about a change:

1)     In Genesis 41:16 Joseph was called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  Joseph told Pharaoh: “The answer to interpreting your dream is not in me, God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

2)     Daniel 2:27—Daniel was asked to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  Daniel told the king: “Your wise men, astrologers, magicians and soothsayers cannot declare the meaning of your dream but there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known what will happen in the latter days.”

3)     I Samuel 17:14 David told Goliath: “the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”

Closing

Saints, to overcome the darkness and depression from thinking God is absent, must remove from thoughts, the notion that we can do anything by ourselves.  Thoughts such as:

1)     I shall overcome—

2)     I shall be the victor and not the victim: but rather say:

3)     This darkness, depression, evil doesn’t belong to me—this battle doesn’t belong to me–all of this is in the Lord’s hand

4)     And since I am His instrument–since I belong to Him, my deliverance is in His hands.

And so In verse 5 of our text the Psalmist moves from the negative and takes the path of the positive:

1)     Why is my soul cast down? (good food)

2)     Why are you disquieted within me? (good food)

3)     Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance (good food)

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6/13/21

Scripture: Acts 2:1-4 (Xref. Acts 1:12-14)

Subject: God Responds in the Proper Atmosphere

Introduction

The phrase “Proper Atmosphere” refers to the setting in which something favorable occurs.  It is the ideal environment for bringing about the best possible result.  We can list a number of things in the secular world where things would not flow if the atmosphere was not the best.

1)  As children our guardians cautioned us not to study with the television on because it would be a distraction—in other words children respond better when the atmosphere for learning is favorable.

2)  In some schools children have a standard dress-code because kids who could acquire designer clothes would be a distraction to those who could not.  The psychological struggle faced by kids who could not afford expensive wear would be a distraction to their learning

3)  As we grew to adulthood and attended social parties, even if the party was due to start at 10 pm, we would arrive after midnight because the party didn’t start popping until early in the morning—when the atmosphere was just right.

4)  Even in the area of romance the atmosphere has to be set with a nice dinner, with romantic lighting

Given these truths it should be no surprise that if we are to get the best response from approaching God, we need to set the proper atmosphere.  So Saints here’s the underlying question: If we are inclined to “worship” in a detached, dispassionate, and hurried fashion, should we really expect to hear from God?  I believe the answer is a resounding no.  If the proper atmosphere is needed for favorable results in a secular setting, surely the atmosphere must be favorable to receive God.

Today’s Text

We find the atmosphere was ideal for receiving the Holy Ghost, which was promised by God.  This leads me to conclude that even when God has given us a promise, sometimes there are things we must do to have it materialize in full.

Point 1—The Holy Ghost was Dispensed within a Favorable Atmosphere:

it was the day of Pentecost— the term Pentecost means 50.  The Feast of the First Fruits, which occurred at Passover—celebrated the first crop of barley bread.  The Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16), which celebrated the first crop of wheat harvest was celebrated 50 days after the Festival of Fruits.  Here’s the significance: Jesus was crucified and rose from the grave at the Feast of First Fruits. Following His resurrection, He spent 40 days teaching His disciples before ascending to Heaven (Acts 1:3).  Jesus told the disciples earlier—[“If I do not go away the Holy Spirit will not come.] (John 16:7)  So the atmosphere was right on the day of Pentecost because the festivals coincided with Jesus death, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Ghost.   The OT festivals and rituals foreshadowed a new beginning and connection to God.  On the Day of Pentecost,  (the Feast of Weeks) 3,000 First Fruits (3,000 believers) gathered and formed the church after hearing Peter present the gospel. (Acts 2:41).

But what is also important was the atmosphere surrounding the 120 disciples in the upper room.  Their being on one accord was the ideal setting for the Holy Ghost to come.  The bible declares:

1. They were on one accord in supplication (Acts 1:14)

2. They were on one accord in expectation—all in one place when the Holy Ghost was poured out. (Acts 2:1)

3) They were on one accord in communicationcontinuing daily in the temple—breaking bread from house to house. (Acts 2:46)

Point 2—Acknowledging God in Stressful times sets a favorable Atmosphere

Everyone has their own threshold for suffering—in other words the human body and internal framework can only take so much suffering before it begins to breakdown.  If, however, we take a positive reframe by acknowledging and praising God before our battles ensue, it sets an atmosphere for God to respond in our favor.  Consider the following examples:

1)   In the first Chapter Judges the 12 tribes of Israel are positioned to enter the promise land.  Although God promised to give them the land, it was still inhabited by the Canaanites.  The children of Israel acknowledged God as their leader because Joshua—the man God chose to lead Israel after Moses died—was now also dead.  In acknowledging God, the children of Israel asked the Lord: “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” The Lord told them: Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand.” We know that the name Judah means praise or thanksgiving.  Symbolically then, before our battles ensue we should send our praise and thanksgiving first.  The bible declares (Psalm 22:3) God draws nigh to us when we acknowledge Him in praise

2)   Gideon acknowledged God when he went into battle against the Midianites (Judges 7:19-21).  Gideon took his 300 men into battle sounding their trumpets and breaking jars.  They then shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”  The Lord caused the enemy to turn their swords on each other.

Point 3—Removing Doubt and Selfish behavior sets a Favorable Atmosphere

Mark 5:37—Jesus, along with Peter, James and John approached Jairus’ house.  Jesus hears the commotion and crying because Jairus’ daughter had died.  “When Jesus said: The child is not dead but asleep.” they laughed at him.  After Jesus put all of the doubters out—because they created an unfavorable atmosphere— He then turned to the daughter and said: “Little girl, get up.” She got up and began to walk around.

Mark 6:1-6—Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth, and began to teach in the synagogue.  The people were amazed at his wisdom and knew of the miracles that he had performed.  But when they realized He was just the son of a carpenter, the bible declares they were offended at Him.  In other words they could accept the POWER but not the PERSON.  Jesus knew this and responded: A prophet is not without honor except in his on town, among his relatives, and in his own home.  And since the atmosphere was not favorable for lack of faith, the bible declares:  “Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay hand on a few that were sick.”

Acts Chapter 15:36 Paul approached Barnabas suggesting they revisit the churches that were established during the first missionary journey.  Barnabas wanted to take his cousin John Mark on the trip but Paul was against it because John Mark did not show himself profitable during the first missionary journey.   John Mark left Paul and Barnabas at Pamphylia and in Paul’s opinion, he neglected the work.

Here it is Saints:  You can’t include everybody in your prayer group or ministry because:

1)   Some people only get inspiration from teaching, prayers and praise that are ushered forth from established and well known leaders.

2)   Some people won’t understand your call to minister to the infirm and incarcerated.  Some people might even believe that such people are the direct cause of their own problem.

3)   You cannot take them because they create a bad atmosphere.

Closing

So what about us Saints? Shouldn’t we examine ourselves to determine if we are bringing the right atmosphere to the body of Christ?  Do you know that

1)  Coming to church late creates an unfavorable atmosphere

2)  Coming to church in haste creates an unfavorable atmosphere—being in such a hurry can desensitize us to hearing from God because the mind is not at ease and is flooded with outside affairs.

3)  Being asleep in church is a devise of the enemy because any distraction from the praise or from the Word is a distraction from God

4)  Sitting in church with a critical eye on everybody but ourselves creates an unfavorable atmosphere.  Much like the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke chapter 18 who tried to give God praise for the wrong reason—he thanked God for not being like the tax payer that was standing across from him in the Synagogue.

Believing that everyone in the church, member or visitor, must be like you (dress like you, sit like you, talk like you, socialize as you do) creates the wrong atmosphere.  God is only asking that we be likeminded in our faith.  If the truth is told, God does some of His best work through diverse people—the kind of people that based on their appearance, might be despised and rejected in today’s church.  For example:

1)   Samuel overlooked David as Saul’s successor because he was ruddy, small in stature and the youngest of Jessie’s sons. (I Samuel 16:7, 12) But he was regarded as the greatest of all the OT Kings for the Lord declared: He was a man after His own heart.

2)  In today’s church we might look beyond a prophet who is a street preacher—but God chose a street preacher in the NT—one that didn’t dress in a 3-piece suit—but was clothed in camel’s hair and made his meal of locusts and wild honey.  Nevertheless, God used him to proclaim a simple message: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord(Mark 1:1-6).  This man was John the Baptist.

3)  Some religious institutions rejected another prophet based on His appearance.  He did not prophesy with a lot of pump and circumstance and was rejected partly because of his appearance.  Isaiah (Isaiah 53:1-3) declared His appearance would be a stumbling block to some when he posed the question: Who is going to believe our message about Him for He was like a delicate plant in dry ground and in looking at Him, there was nothing stately or majestic in His appearance?  This man, of course, was Jesus Christ.

So if God works through diverse people, let’s stop trying to manufacture homogenized saints.  Why not just give the people of God the Word, and allow that Word and the Spirit of God to shape their being?  So I am persuaded that when the true believers come together on one accord—touching and agreeing—the Lord will not only be in our midst—He will also bless us, bless His church and bless the ministries that are connected to Him.  We just need the proper atmosphere.

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5/30/21

Scripture: Exodus 3:11-17

Subject: Who is God to You?

Introduction.

If I would ask each of you who is God to you, I would get a variety of responses.  Some would respond with a rehearsed bible text:

1)     He is my Shepherd

2)     He is bread when I am hungry and water when I am thirsty

3)     He is my savior, Lord and protector

4)     He is my “all and all”

Now there is nothing wrong with these characterizations but the truth of them must reside in the internal conscience called “FAITH.”  Now faith is much more than just believing.  Hebrews 11:1 declares, “Now faith is the substance (assurance Hypostasis—to stand under as a foundation) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen.”    So then, two words properly describe faith: Assurance and Conviction (certainty).   The beginning point of faith is believing in God’s character and the end point of faith is believing in His promises.  Now this belief does not stand on its own—its foundation is the conviction that based on past experiences, God will fulfill what He has promised.

I have stated many times in the past that if we have not experienced God in our life, the Word of God—our bible—is relegated to a wish book.  It then becomes a compilation of stories and experiences so far removed from our own, that it is tantamount to a fictional read.

Today’s Text

We see Moses, a man who has been chosen by God as His ambassador to Egypt.  God wanted him to go to Pharaoh in Egypt to request the release of the Hebrews, who have been in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41), with the last 200+ years as slaves.  Moses tried his best to get from under the task because he did not know God.  Moses resided in Egypt for 40 years and the people of that land worshipped many pagan gods.  This no doubt influenced Moses when he tried to identify the “god” that was calling him.  Yes, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew of God but Moses did not.  So God had to first Identify Himself as a divine being because He knew that Moses had to overcome two obstacles:: (1) He did not have the assurance and conviction that this unknown God who summoned him was well-intentioned (2) He had a fear that in returning to Egypt, he will be put to death because he fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian.   But saints of God—I believe our Lord will not give us a task without giving us tools to succeed.  So God builds up Moses’ confidence through 3 attention-getting events–(the 4th sign would be revealed later) 

1)     The experience of the burning bush (3:2)-

2)     The experience of the rod turning to a serpent (4:3)

3)     The experience of leprosy/affliction and leprosy healed (4:6)

4)     The 4th sign—returning to Mt. Sinai to worship would come later (3:12)

After these signs, Moses wanted to know something about the character of God.  So God told him “I am who I am” or “I will be what (who) I will be”  This is a statement that means God is a self-existent being who causes all things to exist AND He has chosen to be faithfully present to those He has called to himself.

Point 1—God will Provide Evidence of His Existence and Faithfulness

Like God did for Moses, He will give us signs–the signs give us an experience with God and the experience builds our confidence.  The bible declares in Hebrews 11:6  [we cannot please God if we have no confidence in Him] but if we have confidence in Him He will reward us when we search for Him.

Here it is: Sometimes we may not feel equipped to trust God—to step out on His Word—to adventure into unknown territory–because although we may have and identity TO God, we may not have an identity WITH God.  .  “To God” implies a CONNECTION but “WITH GOD implies an ASSOCIATION.  Such as it was with Judas Iscariot who was connected TO God as one of the twelve disciples but was not WITH Him.  Consider two more illustrations:

1)     If you have ever ridden a roller coaster you know that everyone in 7 to 8 carts are connected: (1) moving under the same power (2) moving at the same speed (3) headed to the same destination.  Although they are connected TO one another, they are not necessarily connected WITH one another.

2)     The same is true of some marriages:  The marriage license shows the couple are connected to each other (at least on paper) but that doesn’t mean they are WITH each other.  In summary, there must be an  “Identifiable Association.”

God understood that Moses had no identity WITH Him—no identifiable association.  He knew that Moses still doubted what he was asked to do and feared going back to Egypt.  So God told him “Return to Egypt for all of the men who sought your life are dead.” (Exodus 4:19).  Listen Saints: This verse is confirmation that God understands our opposition and will select just the right time (the Kairos time—the season of opportunity) to move us to the next juncture and the next level.

Point 2: The Enemy will Attack your belief system, despite evidence and signs

God told Moses He would be with him, but despite God being with us, it does not mean the enemy—our adversary–will cease their attack.  God warned Moses when he returned to Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened (4:21).  Isn’t it just like God to give you a task—say “I am with you.”—and then tell you or show you that the task will seem impossible?

Here it is:  Many of us believe obstacles are a sign that God is not on our side, but the opposite is true:  If we are in the Lord—if we are WITH the Lord—He will make an example of our opposition in a way that says, “touch not my anointed.”  (Psalm 105:15)  Saints,  every born-again and spirit-filled believer is anointed of God.  And if we want a greater anointing we must stiffen our resolve and be willing to go through a greater suffering.  Illustration: Not long ago I was exercising in the park and I walked past a couple who were pushing their two kids in three-wheeled carriages.  As I passed by them I heard the little boy say to his dad, “I’m tired.”  The father replied, “So you’re tired huh,” “well I will tell you what we are going to do.”  “I am going to let you get out and walk.”  The son could not appreciate the fact that he was moving under the strength and power of the father, so the father chose to show him the real toil from having to move under his own power.  Here’s the lesson:  In the face of opposition, attack, suffering, and disappointment, don’t complain because God may say, “I’m going to let you walk so you can see that although your struggles have been difficult, you were still moving under my power.”

Point 3: Your Identity WITH God is a Pathway to Security and Increase

The reason your identity WITH God is a source of security is because you are in a relationship and the son does not fear asking the father for help and protection if they have a strong bond.  In John 15:7 Jesus declared: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it will be done for you.”

Saints most of us know God as a provider—He is Jehovah Jireh

1)     But do you know Him as a healer—Jehovah Rapha?

2)     If you know Him as a healer, do you know him as One who bring us victory—Jehovah Nissi?

3)     If you know him as the One who brings us victory, do you know Him as the God that brings us peace–Jehovah Shalom?

4)  If you know Him as the God of peace do you know He is the God that sits in the seat of righteousness—Jehovah Tsidkenu?

If you have not experienced God in but one area I invite you to extend your faith and watch Him show Himself large in ways that you have never seen before.  But be willing to move outside your comfort zone. Illustration:  You might remember me telling the story of what my mother told my father after he received salvation but was unemployed: “You are saved now—ask the Lord to give you a job.”  My father left the house in search of a job—not knowing that he would find anything.  But Saints, God rewards our efforts.  While he was walking a man pulled next to him in a truck and ask: “Boy, are you looking for a job?”  Now look at how God works—Dad was told where to go for the job—but had he continued to sit at home, the job would not have materialized.

Saints, don’t delay your inheritance by sitting down on God.  Whatever you need that is consistent with His Word can be provided when you place your assurance and certainty in Him.

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5/16/21

Scripture: Psalm 51:10-17

Subject: Working from a Broken Posture

Introduction

What is Brokenness?

When it comes to the people of God, brokenness is said to be a state of surrender and defeat when hardship and pain enters our life.  Sometimes brokenness emanates from the fallout of an abuse of power—from the weight of a lack of power or voice–from rebellion or unrepentant sin—or from the sin of someone else, who perhaps holds sway or influence over us.

Downside of Brokenness

I have sometimes heard men and women of God introduced as a “broken vessel” and this description means they have been tried, tested and have come out for the better.  But here’s the problem:  Sometimes preachers, teachers, evangelists and even the general laity, may have been broken and are yet struggling in their brokenness.  Unless a person’s spirit has been broken and they then become God-centered and God-focused, they will hurt others.  This is why broken people

1)     Have difficulty with relationships

2)     Have difficulty truly loving others

3)     Have difficulty trusting others

4)     Have difficulty accepting change

5)     Have difficulty accepting bad or negative news

6)     Have difficulty with addictions or addictive behavior

7)     Have bouts of depression

All of these are but symptoms of our attempt to block internal pain.  But understand that even in everyday life, pain medicine does not remove pain; most of it blocks pain and when the medicine is out of our system, the pain may return.  Likewise the human spirit will attempt to remove pain but release from it eludes us because we are trying to block it–and in our most desperate hour, it returns.  But consider this: An anti-inflammatory medicine, on the other hand, works on our internal vessels and hormone levels to actually remove pain. (Hold this thought in your mind because we will return to it).

In Today’s Text we see a Broken Man

Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba.  In II Samuel Chapter 12 the prophet Nathan approached David with the news that he had despised the commandment of God and had done evil in His sight.  And because of his sin, the sword would not leave his house.  In other words, there would be a perpetual struggle within his kingdom and in his own house.   And here’s an important detail. David was told his sin would give occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.  Here it is Saints: Going against the standards of God provides fodder for unbelievers to hold fast to believing there is no God.

So David offered sincere repentance to the Lord—he did not try to rationalize or make an excuse for his sin.  Several times through the Psalm he pointed the finger of guilt at himself by using the personal pronouns, I, me and my.

1)     51:1—Have mercy on me O God….blot out my transgressions

2)     51:2—Wash me from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin

3)     51:3—I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4)     51:7—Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow

5)     51:10-11—Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Then in verse 13 David acknowledged the end result of God forgiving and strengthening him: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

In verse 17 David realized external sacrifices (coming to church, giving an offering, visiting the sick, feeding the homeless) looks good on the surface but can be lacking in substance.  So such sacrifices are not what God desires—He wants a broken spirit and a contrite heart.

Point 1—Unresolved Brokenness can make us revengeful and vindictive

Yes, the bible teaches us in Romans 12:20 (also Deut. 31:35) “…Avenge not yourselves…Vengeance is mine and I will repay”  But despite this teaching, human nature wants to strike back with a more intense blow than was meted unto us.

In I Samuel Chapter 16 we see King Saul in a broken posture:

1)     16:14—The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.  Although the evil spirit could be assuaged by the sound of David’s harp, it would yet return

2)     28:7 –We see Saul fearful of the Philistine army that had gathered to fight against Israel.  And in his fear he sought the Lord and got no answer (28:6)—he got no answer from dreams—no answer from prophets—not answer from the Urim (stone of revelation).  So Saul searched for a woman with a familiar spirit—a medium—which was forbidden by the law.  So here it is: When we have unresolved brokenness and cannot get an answer from a righteous source, temptation will come and direct us to something or someone ungodly.

Point 2—Unresolved Brokenness can drive us to Isolation

Yes there are times when we all will desire to be in solitude for contemplation or prayer.–but when we have an aversion to being around people, or view being alone as a safe haven, it speaks to an internal struggle.  Proverbs 18:1 declares“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; “He rages against all wise judgment.”

In I Kings 19:3-8 we see the prophet Elijah going into isolation under the pretense of seeking the Lord for advice.  In reality he was running from Jezebel because he had her prophets killed—Jezebel then swore she would kill him within 24 hours. (I Kings 19:2)

So Elijah ran out of fear from Jezreel to Beersheba—over 100 miles—to get away from Jezebel.  He even isolated himself from his servant in Beersheba.  Elijah not only suffered with fear—he showed signs of depression:

1)     He asked the Lord to take his life (I Kings 19:4)

2)     He asserted all of Israel had rejected God’s law and he alone desired to keep it (I Kings 19:14)—

Yes Elijah had been broken by Jezebel and to block his pain he chose the path of isolation and self-pity.  But God told him he was not the only one keeping the covenant for there were 7,000 Israelites who had not bowed down to pagan gods.  Here it is Saints:  When we are in distress and can’t seem to get a Word from the Lord, we should not isolate ourselves from others.  Rather, we need to draw closer to His Word and to the Saints that can get a prayer through.  Don’t you know isolation is fertile ground for the enemy to speak to us?

Point 3—Resolved Brokenness can Catapult us to Greatness in God

Saints: if we can get resolution (proper direction) in the midst of brokenness we will find that the Lord is yet with us.  We have only to focus on the life of Paul, who was “brokenness” personified

1)     He was in a place of comfort as a Pharisee and he fought against the followers of Christ.

2)     But on the Damascus road, the Lord took him out of his comfort zone and broke him down.  The Lord blinded him that he might see because his blindness made him dependent upon the very people that he persecuted

3)     After he received the Holy Spirit he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God (Acts 9:20)

And after his eyes were opened to the truth, he was broken even more.  He testified to the church of Corinth that he was severely persecuted for his teaching (II Corinthians 11:23-29)

1)     He was placed in prison

2)     Severely beaten—receiving lashings from the Jews

3)     Beaten with rods—pelted with stones

4)     Shipwrecked

5)     Threatened by Jews and Gentiles alike

But through all of Paul’s brokenness he told the church at Philippi everything that he gained in this life he counted it as garbage in comparison to the knowledge of Christ.

Closing

So forgive me, if I’m not impressed with the fact that someone has been broken, because they could very well be carrying a yoke or burden upon their shoulders.  Brokenness is only useful after it has positioned us to be a better witness for God.  Yes, there are struggles, disappointments, and tragedies in life but unless we come out of all of this glorifying and testifying about the goodness of the Lord, our suffering is in vain.

And remember what the Word declares in Psalm 34:18:  “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”  “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  Saints, the Word of God, the promises of God and the Spirit of God are the best anti-inflammatory medicines we can find.

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5/2/21

Scripture: John 14:1-6

Subject: I’ll Be Back

Introduction

If you have been blessed to grow up, leave home, and secure a living for yourself and your family, there is one thing that you learned: Things don’t always turn out as planned.  Some of the biggest disappointments in life stem from getting an unintended outcome.  For example

1)     You did not get into the school of your choice

2)     The profession that you studied long and hard for did not materialized or it did materialize and you found it did not match your personality

3)     Your children whom you believed had star potential did not make the best choices in life

4)     Your, spouse—supervisor—employer—have not appreciated you for who you are and what you do.

5)     You lose a love-one

Despite these things not being planned, such outcomes are a part of life.

Robert Burns wrote this about our plans: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  In other words, no matter how carefully our plans may be thought-out, something may still go wrong.

King Solomon’s thoughts about plans can be found in Proverbs 16:1-2-NIV

“To humans belong the plans of the heart (KJV—preparations of the heart) but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue”—in other words the final answer to our plans is in God’s hands.  The truth of this saying is found in the midst of great disappointment or sorrow: if in these times we are unable to recover—we cannot rebound—it is because we relied heavily on our plan, but not on God.

So we enter today’s text with Jesus giving words of comfort to his disciples prior to going to the cross. John Chapter 14 came on the heels of  difficult news—news in Chapter 13 that was not in their plan:

1)     13:21—One of you will betray me

2)     13:38—Peter you will deny me

3)     13:33—I am going to leave you, and where I go you cannot follow

Yes, Jesus told His disciples no less than 3 times of his coming death

1)     Matthew 16:21-23—The Son of man will suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed and be raised again.

2)     Matthew 17:22-23–After the transfiguration: The disciples in the “inner circle” were told: The Son of man if about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him and on the third day he will rise up.

3)     Matthew 20:17-19–In route to Jerusalem Jesus told His disciples He would be mocked, scourged, crucified, and then rise again

Despite sharing this information, the disciples did not understand—or perhaps chose not to come to grips with the reality of His words.  Might I suggest that the same is true when it comes to us?  Sometimes God will give us several signs about something undesirable that is coming our way—something that we did not plan—something that our psyche chose to dismiss because we could not handle it.

Well, if we are unable to deal with certain things that come our way, we can be comforted, as the disciples were, by the promises of our Lord and Savior:

Promise #1–He would go away He would prepare a place for us

Remember what Jesus told said when the mother (Salome) of James and John asked to be seated at His left and right when He entered His kingdom: Matthew 20:23  “My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”   God is preparing positions of authority in the heavenly for those that are preparing for it in the earthly realm.  Yes, salvation is free, but position and rewards in God’s kingdom are dependent upon what we are doing right now.

Saints: Are you satisfied being passively saved?  Well, know that Paul understood the need to take a firm hold of our salvation.  In Philippians 2:12 he gave the church instructions to “Work Out” their salvation with fear and trembling.  He did not say “Work For” your salvation because salvation requires no work.  One author said the term Work Out was used in the first century to speak of digging silver out of silver mines.  So we should view working out our salvation as a gift that can only be fully enjoyed when it is worked to uncover and unwrap it.

Further, if we want the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10, know that it largely depends on what we are doing right now. Yes, we want larger and better homes, fine cars, a good bank account and successful children, but Jesus is constantly trying to move us from the temporal to the eternal–from the physical to the spiritual.  Scripture declares (Matthew 6:33) [if we properly develop our spiritual life, the natural things in this life will be provided.]

So in effect, what we do in this life is our preparation for THE preparation.  In other words—we are preparing for what God has already prepared.

Promise 2—I will send you a Comforter

Jesus realized that upon His death His disciples would be without a leader.  So in John 14:16-17, Jesus told His disciples: “And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever.”  “Even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but you know Him because he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.”

Saints, here’s the question: Are we making full use of God’s Spirit?  Too often we identify the Spirit of God in a limited scope:  We believe the Spirit is in play when we see ecstatic behavior in church.  Yes, such behavior was demonstrated:

1)     In Saul in I Samuel Chapter 10:6.  In that passage God was preparing Saul for the role of a King.  That preparation was a sign to him of his calling.  God told him “You shall come to the hill of God and encounter a company of prophets—there the Spirit of God will come upon you—you shall prophesy with them and turn into another man. Look at how this reads in the NRSV: “Then the Spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person.” 

2)     Ecstatic behavior was evident In the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost because they all began to speak in tongue

3)     Paul wrote of his own ecstatic behavior in II Corinthians 5:13 [If I demonstrate ecstatic behavior it is an experience between me and God but when I appear in sound mind it is my ministry to you]

Here it is: Too often emphasis is put on the Gifts of the Spirit, which God gives to edify the Body of Christ as a whole, and too little emphasis is given to the Fruit of the Spirit, which God gives to us individually.  It is the Fruit of the Spirit that allows us to grow and develop into the image of Christ.

So then: When the Comforter—the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2—the spotlight is placed on the signs but perhaps a greater emphasis should be placed on what happened afterwards

1)     Acts 2:41—Those who gladly received the word were baptized and 3,000 souls were added to the church

2)     Acts 2:42—They continued in fellowship, breaking bread and praying together

3)     Acts 2:43—People were in awe because signs and wonders were demonstrated through the apostles

4)     Acts 2:44—People came together having all things in common, selling their possessions

Saints:  It is good to experience the power of the Spirit but our actions after the Spirit has come upon us is much more important.  In the final analysis, the Holy Spirit comes to equip us to be effective at living “the life” and leading others to Christ.

Promise 3—I Will Come Again to Receive You

A movie was made in 1984 called “Terminator.”  The role of the terminator was portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger whose role throughout the movie was to go back in time to terminate Sarah O’Connor—the birth mother of a future antagonist.  Perhaps the most famous line out of the movie was from Arnold as he stood in the police station where Sarah was hiding and said: “I’ll be back.”

When these words were spoken in the movie they had no meaning to those to whom it was directed.  They had no idea that at his return there would be calamity and chaos.  So when he returned, they were not prepared for what would happened.  Saints: Are we subject to making the same mistake?  Will some of us be caught off guard at His return and miss the second coming?

On a personal level I can testify to a time in my childhood when my parents were at bible-study and I was outside the house past my curfew.  My parents returned earlier than I thought they would.  When I saw lights from a car entering our cul-de-sac I bolted toward the house, hoping that I would make it inside undetected.  Well, I didn’t make it in time because my father saw me.  Here it is: Like the 5 foolish virgins who were not prepared to meet the bridegroom—I was not prepared for my father’s return.  I thought I had time to play outside and get in before my parents came but they returned earlier than I thought.  Yes: I knew my father was coming back—I knew he would return—I knew the day he would return but I did not know the hour or the minute.  And so I was punished because I was not where I should have been–I was not in place.

Closing

Saints, each of us should ask the question: Are my daily actions a demonstration that I believe He is coming back?

1)     Is my house in order?

2)     Have I offered forgiveness to those desiring forgiveness?

3)     Am I able to humble myself, even in the most pressing times?

4)     Do I show compassion when it is needed?

5)     Do I owe anyone anything because Romans 13:8 declares we should owe no one anything, except to love one another?

Well this is just a small list but if we really believe that Jesus is coming back we need to work out our own salvation—and as we work it out, we do so with fear and trembling—understanding that failure to do so could cause us to miss heaven.

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4/18/21

Scripture: Genesis 28:13-21

Subject: Taking the Long Way Home: Recalibrating

Introduction

In all of humanity there are key points in life when we take inventory of where we are versus where we believe we should be.  With most of us, if there is a substantial divide between the two, we will make adjustments to obtain a better balance in life to reach a certain level of fulfillment.  Consider the following examples

1)     If our career fails to yield the income and/or enjoyment we might change jobs

2)     In our life before receiving Christ, if peer pressure confronted us, we might have experimented in behavior that was destructive, only to maintain friendships.

3)     If our marriage caused too much pain and agony we might have exited the relationship.

4)     If our children struggled in school, we may have changed schools or hired a tutor.

5)     If our neighborhood was in severe decline we might move.

6)     If our church mishandled the Word of God or taught what was contrary to the Word, we might have found another church

These are the type of issues that confront most of us in life.  How we deal with them largely depends on our personality because some of us are more yielding to conflict and can take more than others.  When we do make a change that we deem more suitable to our present way of thinking, however, I refer to this as a recalibration.  Recalibration is the recognition that something is out of balance and needs to be corrected: For example

1)     If your water meter in your yard is not properly calibrated it will not accurately measure your water usage–it needs to be recalibrated

2)     If you step on a scale to see your weight and it is not calibrated properly it will register an inaccurate number–it needs to be recalibrated

3)     If your blood pressure devise is not properly calibrated the pressure of the blood against your internal vessels will be give an accurate read–it needs to be recalibrated.

Imagine then if the Lord were to call us in question about our SPIRIT being out of balance.  In fact, this was exactly what happened in book of Daniel,

1)     In Daniel Chapter 5 king Belshazzar throws a banquet and gave orders to use the gold and silver goblets that his father Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple when he overthrew the Jews in Jerusalem.  During the banquet, King Belshazzar saw a human hand writing an inscription on the wall.  When Daniel was summoned to interpret the writing he told the King the interpretation in 5:25: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting” In other words, [because you have not humbled yourself and recognized that it was the Most High God that put you and your Kingdom in a position of power, God has numbered your days and your kingdom has come to an end]

2)     Saints, God knows every aspect of our humanity and He works around and in the midst of our frailties for our good.  But God DOES have an expectation of us, and when we move outside the margins of what He expects, recalibration must take place to stay in His favor.

And so today, we frame this message about Jacob with the belief that from the moment he left home to the moment of His return, he had to make adjustments that God superintended.

Today’s Text

Begins with Jacob headed to Haran, which is 400 miles from his home in Beersheba.  It was in the town of Luz (Bethel), which was 60 miles north of Beersheba that Jacob had an encounter with God.  During this encounter, God gives Jacob 3 promises (1) To give him the land where he was resting (2) To bless his children—they abound in number (3) To keep him wherever he went and bring him back to the land.

But as we follow the life of Jacob we can see that his weaknesses and mistakes were the reason behind him leaving home.  His mother approached her husband Isaac suggesting Jacob travel to Haran to find a wife.  The real reason she wanted Jacob to leave was to escape being killed by his brother Esau, from whom the right of the first-born was taken.   Understand that in OT times people did not leave home—rather they stayed in a given community.  Even when the land of promise was occupied by the children of Israel, each son was given their own land and for the most part, that is where they stayed.

So Where is Home?

It has been said: “Home is where the heart is”—meaning home is a place where you have an emotional connection—a place where you sense warmth, happiness and an emotional tie.  In this perspective, home is more a feeling than a dwelling.  Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I submit then that what Jacob treasured (1) Things that belonged to others (2) An abundance and accumulation of wealth—did not serve him well.   I further submit that Jacob’s journey to distant Haran, where he stayed in labored for some 20 years, was God’s way of humbling him and giving him a foundation so that he could learn to appreciate his return home.

Point 1—We can recalibrate (adjust) several times in life

After Jacob coveted his brother’s birthright (25:31) and took Esau’s blessing (27:35), Esau swore he would kill him after their father Isaac died (27:41).  From this, Jacob and his conniving mother knew an adjustment had to be made.  Jacob’s life was so “out of balance” that he had to flee. Indeed, when your life is threaten, adjustments need to be made because to stand still and do nothing leaves you vulnerable to a life that will be cut short.

But rather than correct what was wrong in the house, Jacob and his mother decided it was better for him to deal with the problem by removing himself and getting out of arms-reach from his brother.  Saints of God it is often better to confront our problems head-on in a godly manner than to run from them.  Furthermore, as children of God—as Saints of the Most High God, we should make every effort to set the proper example before our children, peers, and even our enemies.  I believe that we will be held accountable for any behavior that conflicts with God’s moral law.

When we fail to make the adjustments in life when needed, our struggle to get back in balance is prolonged.  But when proper adjustments are made, we achieve a balance and sense of accomplishment.

Point 2—God can give assurance of Security–even away from home

Saints if we keep it real, many of us may have wondered away from our foundation in our early years.  We were taught how to

1)     Respect others and their property

2)     Not to steal

3)     Not to covet another’s spouse

4)     Not to lie

5)     Not to be selfish, jealous, envious

6)     Not to get involved with riotous living

But nevertheless, some of us may have departed from our teaching and our foundation because our heart was in error—and home is where the heart is.  But despite the fact that we weren’t always where God purposed us to be, today’s text clearly shows that God does not totally abandon us when the UGLY in us is on display.

In our text Jacob had his first encounter with God in a dream.  God identified Himself as the Lord God of Abraham and Isaac and despite Jacob’s wayward heart, God told him, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”  After Jacob heard from God he knew he was “out of balance” with God and recalibration was in order.  Now Jacob was yet a work in progress, but he responded in worship by erecting a memorial stone and anointing it before the Lord.

Point 3—Sometimes you have to leave home to find home

Many of us imagined how good it would be when we finally left the home in which we were reared. We thought about not having to be accountable to a parent or guardian—to come and go as we pleased.  But this is not what I mean by leaving home to find home.  What then do I mean?  If you are the chosen of God and you know He has a call on your life, being at home means being where He has destined you to be.  And once your heart accepts His purpose, you have found your foundation—your comfort—your treasure—and the meaning of your existence.   In other words you have found home.  

But Jacob had to continue his journey because God had shape had to shape him even more.  Perhaps the greatest recalibration—the greatest adjustment–that Jacob made was from what he experienced at his father-in-law’s house.

He learned “What goes around comes around”—For Jacob was a man of deception who was in turn deceived by his father-in-law. Jacob worked for Laban 7 years, thinking he was earning the right to marry Rachel.  After 7 years of labor he was told Leah, the older daughter, had to marry first.  And so Jacob labored another 7 years for the right to marry Rachel

He learned “To some, your value is only in what you can do for them.”  Laban recognized Jacob’s gift for being a good herdsman.  Jacob not only kept the herd of goats, lambs and sheep—Laban’s herd grew under Jacob’s care.  Jacob had no cattle that he could call his own, so he gave Laban a proposition in breeding the cattle.  Over time Jacob’s herd grew more than Laban’s and Laban became angry with Jacob.  Jacob declared to his wife Rachel: [I have worked for you father with all my might but his countenance has changed toward me.  He has deceived me and changed my wages 10 times] But listen to what else Jacob said in Genesis 31:5: “But the God of my father has been with me.” This is a recalibration—an adjustment that was 20 years in the making because Jacob started his journey not even knowing who God was and now understands that all of his success in being a herdsman was by the hand of the Lord.

Let me suggest to you that Jacob’s 20 year journey was God’s way of helping him find his purpose—his home.  Jacob had to experience life in a way that would help him be a better vessel for God.

1)     He no doubt learned patience when things did not go his way with his desire for Rachel as his first wife.

2)     He no doubt learned to trust more in God when Rachel was barren and could not bear him a child

3)     He learned the value of hard work when he labored labor in a job that, based on the wage and work environment, was beneath him.  But he stayed there until the Lord said: “Return to the land of your father and family and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3)

But we find in the 32st Chapter of Genesis that although Jacob is a changed man—although he is returning home a much better man than when he left.  Jacob is now a praying man-a man who testified in Genesis 32:10—“Lord I am not worthy of the least of your mercies.  “When I crossed over Jordan I had nothing but my staff but now I have become two camps.”  In other words all that I have acquired in family and cattle came by your hand.  But know Lord I ask that you save me from my brother for I fear he will attack me, my wives and children.

And so the Lord quieted Jacob’s fears at the river Jabbok.  It was there that he struggled with the angel of the Lord till the breaking of day.  It was in struggle that weaken Jacob where he also found his strength.  For he told the angel I will not let you go until you bless me.

Close

Saints, none us have a particular liking for the struggles in life but it is in the struggle where we find our help:  Without the struggle

1)     We are no more than observers of what happens to us

2)     We have no say or input in what comes out of our life

3)     We are forever dependent upon something or someone else

But if we are willing to wade into the struggle

1)     We can have a say in how our tomorrow will be shaped

2)     We will learn not to leave things out of balance—to humble ourselves and to make adjustments when needed.

3)     We will stop blaming others when things are out of balance and ask the question: Lord is it me?

4)     We can see the hand of God moving on our behalf

5)     We can make a vow to the Lord:  Lord if you will keep me—Lord if you keep my children—Lord if you give me food when I’m hungry and water when I’m thirsty–Lord if give me food to eat and raiment for my back—you will be my God and I will be your servant.

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4/4/21

Scripture Matthew 26:26-32

Subject: The Crucifixion: The End Justified the Means

Introduction

The phrase: “The End Justifies the Means” suggests a given act, even if it crosses the line of what is ethically or morally good, is worth it if a desired goal is achieved.  Example: The United States has been known to make military strikes against its enemies and sometimes “Collateral Damage,” the death of innocent civilians, is anticipated.  Those anticipated deaths are considered incidental and our country is not ashamed because the desired end result was achieved.  So today’s text is presented to show that Jesus’ crucifixion—despite being morally wrong—the end result justified that wrong.

In the New Testament Era the Roman government was in power and they would use different techniques to maintain order: (1) Beatings, (2) Lashings, (3) Banishment from Rome and (4) Death

But death by crucifixion was considered the worst form of punishment because it was reserved for the worst offenders.  The body of the offender would be placed on a cross (wooden staves) on public display to deter others that might consider a similar offense.

How did Jews view death by crucifixion?

Deuteronomy 21:22  [If any man has committed a sin worthy of death and is hanged from a tree he had to be buried the same day to avoid the land being defiled—for such a man was considered accursed of God.]

This is why Paul declared in Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”  So as a sacrifice and substitute for our sins, Jesus was a curse for us.  Saints, it had to be O so difficult for an innocent man to suffer such a horrible death but Here It Is: Despite the fact that innocence was defiled and put on public display: The End Justified the Means

Today’s Text

Jesus has brought His disciples together one last time.  Reading the text closely we can see the discourse between Jesus and His disciples was prophetic, for He predicted both His death and resurrection.

Point One: Jesus’ Death was Justified in God’s Divine Plan

Now understand that God does not have to justify anything that He does.  Nevertheless, we can see God’s divine plan was in the Old Testament and secured in the New:

After God gave Moses the 10 commandments in Exodus Chapter 20, in Exodus Chapter 21-24 He followed with a list of laws and rules for everyday life.  After Moses gave these laws to the people they responded by saying: (Exodus 24:7-8) “All that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient.” Moses then took the blood from a sacrifice he made on the altar, sprinkled it on the people and said: “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you….”  This sacrifice placed the people in covenant and fellowship with God

So now comes Jesus in today’s text to show God was ready to usher in the New Covenant through Him.  At what is called the Last Supper, Jesus offers the bread and wine and says:  “For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

The disciples did not know that the bread and the wine that Jesus offered was a symbolic reference to His own sacrifice.  They did not understand that He would be the sacrificial lamb and the shedding of His blood would provide forgiveness of sins.  But there was another symbolic reference.  After the Last Supper, Jesus took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  Gethsemane was also a symbolic reference to His passion (agony).  Gethsemane means “oil press,” and it was there where olives were crushed for the oil.  Likewise, Jesus was crushed in agony as He prayed in the garden.

The symbolism continues because once the oil is extracted from the olive, the olive-pulp has little value, so it is discarded.   So it was with Jesus.  After He died there was no use for His earthly body because the glory in the body had been released.   All of this was a clear sign that His movement toward the cross was part of God’s divine plan but there is additional evidence OT evidence.

Psalm 110 is a messianic Psalm that pointed to the coming of Christ.  Vs 1 reads: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies they footstool.”  The second “Lord” is a reference to the Son of God in heaven in the presence of the Father. Sitting at the right hand position was given to the Son of God after His resurrection and ascension.

Isaiah 53 is another messianic rendering: Isaiah 53:3 captured the Jesus’ afflictions: “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…”  Isaiah 53:7—“He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter: and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”

Finally, we know the crucifixion was part of God’s divine plan from what Paul stated in Romans 8:31-33:  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also freely give us all things.  Who shall bring a charge against Gods elect?”  “It is God who justifies.”  This passage speaks to God’s love for the Saints.  It is a love so strong that He offered the life of His own son as a substitute (propitiation) for our sin.  Yes, all of this shows the cruelty that Jesus would endure but despite the cruelty—The End result Justified the Means.

Point Two: Jesus Death was Justified by the Scattering

In our text Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7: “Awake O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.”  This prophetic word not only showed Jesus’ death was divinely appointed; it also showed His death would intentionally bring about a scattering.

Although the disciples believed they would not disown Jesus—with Peter even avowing—even if everyone else disowns you I will never do so.  Yet within hours of Jesus’ capture (surrender), all of the disciples scattered.  The threat of the Roman sword—the sword that was prophesied in Zechariah was too powerful for the disciples to contemplate.  And so they scattered.

But though the disciples scattered, this was not the scattering that justified Jesus’ crucifixion.  But after the Holy Ghost had been poured out amongst the 120 in the upper room—the Holy Ghost that Jesus declared in Acts 1:8 would be the power needed to spread the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, and

The bible declares in Acts 6:8 Stephen did many wonders and miracles amongst the people.  But when he testified about Jesus, he was called a blasphemer.  And after that:

Acts 6:55-56  declares Stephen [being full of the Holy Ghost, he looked steadfastly into heaven saying Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God].

And after Stephen’s death as a Martyr of the Faith, Luke declared in Acts 8:1 Christians began to flee Jerusalem, taking the gospel wherever they went.  Acts 8:1 declares: “And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem:  and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria,…”

So in the case of Stephen—what the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good.—and so the great scattering brought a greater gathering. Yes, it was cruel for the saints to have been persecuted to the point of having to flee for safety—but since the gospel was spread throughout all regions–The End Result Justified the Means.

Point 3—Jesus’ Death was Justified by the Gathering

When Jesus was alive the disciples did not understand His mission and purpose for coming.  They could not understand, but Jesus told them in today’s text, “But after I am risen again, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Had they understood, they would not have returned to their daily occupations

Not only that, but the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant in John 12:32—“And I, If I be lifted up upon the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Despite them not understanding we can truly say today that the crucifixion was justified because it brought us a greater good.  It  was justified:

1)   Because: The bible declares in Hebrews justified: 9:22—without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins

2)  Because: The truth of William Cowper’s song rings clear: There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

3)  Because: After the crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father to send us a comforter.  God sent us the Holy Spirit—the Paraclete—which is His Spirit that stands beside us, comforts us, and instructs us in our time of need

4)  Because: God the Father did lose His Son and we are not serving a dead God.  His being lifted up on the cross was not the end but a call to action.  And when the clarion call was made by the Holy Spirit—the kingdom of God was established.

5)  Because: millions and billions have received salvation.  And so–The End Justified the Means.

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3/21/21

Scripture: Acts 8:26-40

Subject “Even Me”

Introduction

In 1860 Elizabeth Codner wrote a poem entitled “Even Me,” which two years later was made into a hymn.  Although the poem and hymn went public more than 150 years ago, the incessant nature of social bias will forever give the words of the poem prominence and meaning.

When the poem was put to song, each stanza focused on the marginalized—those that society, and even Christendom, might consider as unworthy of God’s grace, mercy and blessings—Such a people are extolled in the hymn in a manner that says: There is hope for everyone–“Even Me.”

Stanza 1

Lord I hear of showers of blessing, Thou are scattering full and free;  Showers the thirsty land refreshing; Let some drops now fall on me.  Even me, even me, Let some drops now fall on me.

Stanza 2

Pass me not, O God, my Father, Sinful though my heart may be; Thou might’st leave me, but the rather, let Thy mercy light on me. Even me even me, let Thy mercy light on me.

Stanza 3

Pass me not, O gracious Savior, Let me live and cling to Thee; I am longing for Thy favor; Whilst Thou’rt calling, O call me. Even me, even me, Whilst Thou’rt calling, O call me.  Even me, even me, Whilst Thou’rt calling, O call me.

Stanza 4

Pass me not O might Spirit! Thou canst make the blind to see; Witnesser of Jesus’ merit, speak the Word of power to me.  Even me, even me, speak the Word of power to me.

Stanza 5

Have I been in sin long sleeping? Long been slighting, grieving Thee? Has the world my heart been keeping?  O forgive and rescue me. Even me, even me, O forgive and rescue me.

Stanza 6

Lord of God, so pure and changeless. Blood of Christ, so rich and free; Grace of God, so strong and boundless magnify them all in me. Even me, even me, Magnify them all in me.

Stanza 7

Pass me not; but pardon bringing, Bind my heart, O Lord, to Thee; Whilst the streams of life are springing, Blessing others, O bless me, Even me, even me, Blessing other, O bless me.

Main Character in Today’s Text

The text describes the person of interest as an Ethiopian Eunuch.  We will get into more detail on the significance of this description but for now, we draw on the fact that he was a Gentile.  Before the coming of Christ, Gentiles were considered unworthy of God’s full blessings.  This was asserted by Paul when writing to the Gentiles in Ephesians 2:11-13  [Remember that formerly that you who are Gentiles by birth and called uncircumcised—(12) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ and excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.  (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were afar off have been brought near through the blood of Christ]

Paul wanted his Gentile audience to know that with the shedding of Jesus’ blood, they gained access to all of the promises that God gave to the Hebrews.  Though they had been marginalized and dismissed as not even being a “people,” yes, “Even They” were entitled to God’s promises.

But This Change was forced by God’s Power

Let me say that it is a difficult transition for a people who believe they have exclusive access to a certain acclaim, to do an about face and offer that acclaim to those that they considered unworthy.  So what did God do?  He used His Spirit to bring about a change that humanity may not have been ready to accept.

It is interesting that the Ethiopian Eunuch was a man of prominence—holding a high position by serving as treasurer under Candace of Ethiopia.  But we know that although he traveled to Jerusalem to worship God, he would not have been allowed to enter into the temple.  No, as a Gentile he could get no closer than the Court of Gentiles—an outer court for those that were not Jewish.  But in today’s text it is the administration of God Spirit and His angel that directed Phillip to the Ethiopian Eunuch that he, “Even he,” might receive Christ and become a part of the church.

In drawing a parallel between the Ethiopian Eunuch and the Spirit in the poem
“Even Me” we draw three similarities with important messages:

Similarity One: There’s a Message of a Conversion Experience

Much like the person speaking in the song “Even Me,” the Ethiopian Eunuch is in search of a spiritual connection with God.  The words in the hymn show a certain humility in the 2nd Stanza “though my heart may be sinful, and for such you might easily pass me by—but rather please extend your mercy and let you light shine on me.

Yes, this Ethiopian realizes his position.  While he holds stature and renown in his own land, he realizes his position can do nothing for him when it comes to becoming a member in the family of God

Notice that what happens in the life of the Ethiopian is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words in John Chapter 4.  John Chapter 4:23“The hour is coming and now is when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth:  But here’s is the most important part of that verse: “For the Father “SEEKETH” such to worship Him.” 

In today’s text it was the Spirit of God, in search of a true worshipper, that commanded Phillip to join himself to the Ethiopian.  For the Sprit knew the heart of this man.  The Spirit knew he was ready for more than a casual relationship with God.  Stanza 3 of our hymn “Even Me” echoes this: “O gracious Savior, Let me live and cling to Thee; I am longing for Thy favor; Whilst Thou’rt calling, O call me. Even me, even me, Whilst Thou’rt calling, O call me.  Even me, even me,”

Similarity 2—There’s a Message to transition to Actual Worship

When I use the term “Actual Worship,” it again speaks to what Jesus told the woman at the well in John Chapter 4.  We know that God’s chosen people in the Old Testament seldom offered true worship.  Yes, there were time when they:

1)     Went to the temple to pray

2)     Fast before the Lord

3)     Make sacrifices to God

4)     But these rituals were done with the body but not the heart

I have always said that rituals are good to follow but they do nothing toward our spirituality and growth until they are incorporated within our spiritual being.  Jesus echoed this sentiment in quoting Isaiah (29:19) in Matthew 15:8 (NKJ)These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (9) “And in vain they worship Me…..”  The reason Jesus quoted Isaiah is because the same empty worship in Isaiah’s day could be seen in His day.

Saints there can be no hope of transitioning to true worship without first realizing if what we are offering is real.  Remember Stanza 5 of the hymn “Even Me”: “Have I been in sin long sleeping? Long been slighting, grieving Thee? Has the world my heart been keeping?  O forgive and rescue me. Even me, even me, O forgive and rescue me.  Yes, saints, even born-again believers can get in a lull and fall asleep to the will of God and grieve Him.

All of this has caused me to review my stance in the Lord because I realize it is possible to have a theological and intellectual affirmation about God.  But if faith is not applied to the heart, we are positioned no better than unbelievers.   For example, I used to believe Simon, who the bible declares in Acts Chapter 8:18 was a believer, had really accepted Christ, despite desiring to purchase the Holy Ghost.  But then I read in James 2:19 where faith is extolled over works: “You believe that there is one God. You do well.  Even the demons BELIEVE—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” 

Knowing that believing is not sufficient unless it is mixed with faith—it behooves every believer to examine himself to see if he is in the faith (II Cor. 13:5).  We must make sure that our “religion” is more than a theological and intellectual assent that is not based on faith.  And so we find in Stanza 5 of the hymn “Even Me.” “Lord if I have been asleep in my faith and have slighted and grieved you—O Lord come and rescue me, “Even Me,” “Even Me.”

Similarity 3—There’ a Message of Inclusion and Restoration

Although God chose the family of Abraham as His own, the argument can be made that from the outset of creation, man was the crown of His creation.  Well if man was the crown of His creation before he fell into sin, we can reason that any man that comes to God through Christ is the essence of man restored.

Stanza 4 of our hymn declares God has the power to make the blind to see.  And so the hymn, which is addressed to the Spirit of the Lord says:

“Don’t pass me by—but rather release the power that can bring about a change in me.  Yes, “Even me,” “Even me”

So it was with the Ethiopian Eunuch who was wanting to connect with God so that he too could be included in the covenant of His promises.  Now to fully understand this we must go back to the OT to see the history of events that made the Ethiopian Eunuch such an outcast

1)     Duet 23:1—No one who was emasculated could be admitted to the assembly of the Lord

2)     Leviticus 21:20—Excluded eunuchs from participation in Temple rituals because they were considered blemished

3)     Being an Ethiopian—a Cushite—a man from the land called Sheba or Abyssinia—he was a person of color—a black man.  As Jeremiah 13:23 alludes: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots.”

4)     So this Ethiopian Eunuch was an outcast, not only by the condition of his body, but also from his blood-line and racial heritage

Now I know there are theologians that would deny that the Ethiopian was black but let me explain why this most likely true.  In the book of Isaiah God declared that there would come a day when the outcast of the world—the marginalized and disenfranchised would be gathered in.  In Isaiah 56:4, Isaiah declared: “Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant.  EVEN unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters.  I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Closing

So Saints of God, the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch was not included in the bible just to show the power in the movement of the Holy Spirit.  No, this  was God’s way of fulfilling His promises from days of old.

Now what does this mean for us?  It means that when we pray, we should do so with an “Even Me” prospective.  In other words, an Even Me prospective takes a position of humility—understanding that based on my background—based on where I have been—based on my indulgences and even my race, I might not be deemed worthy of your attention, but Lord I believe doors are being opened for me—Yes, “Even Me,” “Even Me.”

 Saints of God if you have ever been sidelined or passed over because someone was jealous or envious of the gifting that God has placed within you.  Stand up like Peter and John did in Acts Chapter 4 and say: “Lord you have seen how they are trying to hold me back from what you have given me to do.  “Now Lord show your hand with signs and wonders and grant me a boldness to do your will.”

Saints of God, if you have ever been held back because of your race—because of your gender—because of your stature, know that God is ready to open the door for “Even You.”

While I was in college and working during the day as a printer a manager of the company came to me and said Horace I know, you are pursuing your studies but even if you get your degree and are at the top of your class, I cannot hire you because our clients would not be comfortable with a black man doing their books.  When I think about that today I can say, Even Me, Even Me.

After I had become an Underwriting Manager, some 15 years into my employ, a marketing manager in TN told me in a telephone call:  “Horace I could not hire a black man in my rural TN territory because he would have to sell to a lot of red-necks and I wouldn’t’ want to put him through that.”  And when I think on this I know there will forever be those that will hold to their bias and high-minded acclaim.  But when I look over my life, I can thank the Lord and say, “Even Me Lord,” “Even Me,” I am so glad

1)     That you have saved “Even Me.”

2)     That you have provided for Even Me

3)     That you sustained me in sickness, Even Me

4)     That you have blessed  the children of “Even Me”

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3/7/21

Scripture: Jonah 3:10; Chapter 4

Subject: God is Found Beyond the Human Will

Introduction

What can be said of Human Will—the inner desire to satisfy self at the exclusion of all others?  The human will is good at promoting our cause—our desire—our aspirations and our dreams.  Now on the surface, the typical response might be: “What is wrong with self-promotion.” Well, the bible declares in Romans 8:5 (NIV)

(5)Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires: but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  (7) The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God: it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  (8) Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  (12) Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation –but it is not to the flesh.

Saints this does not mean that the desires of the flesh should not be met but it does mean that our desires should be subordinate to God’s will.  Psalm 37:4 declares:  Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  So our desires are sanctioned by God to the extent that He is the center focus in our lives. 

So today we look at the conflict of human will in context with the Jonah story.—Author M. A. Stuneck of the book, “Exploring the Old Testament” wrote of Jonah:  “The prophet, although he knew of God’s mercy, shared the prejudices of his nation and was taught this lesson that he might instruct his people in the ways of God.”

Here it is Saints: Sometimes God will expose us to a task where our skill and knowledge is needed to help others but in the end we will receive the greater lesson.  In other words, sometimes God will use others to show “us” “us,” so that the human will can be brought under subjection.

Jonah’s Call

Jonah was believed to possibly belong to a school of prophets and God chose him to preach to Nineveh—capital city of Assyria.  Every aspect of this mission went against human will for Jonah:

1)     Assyria was a great but evil empire and Israel’s most dreaded enemy

2)     The Assyrians flaunted their power before God and surrounding nations with extreme cruelty

3)     So when Jonah was told to go to Nineveh to call the people to repentance, he fled in the opposite direction

As we read through the story of Jonah we conclude that he was chosen and sent to help another nation but the end result would be a much needed lesson for himself.  We are advised to take Jonah’s lesson as our own:

Lesson 1—Beware of Internal Land mines

A land mine is an explosive device that has been concealed to disable or destroy an enemy.  The problem with human will is that it can have the effect of bringing about our own destruction.  If it is not properly restrained, at the least it can disable us and render us ineffective for God or man.

The bible gives us examples of the land mines of human will in Proverbs 6:16.  Here are a few from that passage that are more easily concealed:

1)     Pride or a proud look—Prov. 16:18 declares: “Pride goest before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Perhaps this was Jonah’s problem for his hatred of Nineveh wouldn’t allow him to humble himself to secure their repentance

2)     A heart that devises wicked schemes

3)     A person who sows discord amongst brothers and one that is akin to this is in Proverbs 26:20  “Without wood a fire goes out without a gossip a quarrel dies down”

Here are a few others mentioned in the bible.

Jealousy is a land mine that is more destructive to the bearer than it is to whom it is directed. James 3:14-16—If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts do not be arrogant and be in defiance of the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthy, natural and demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder…

Anger is a land mine.  Ecc. 7:9 (NIV) declares: Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”  In other words, although anger is directed at others, it takes residence in us and causes internal damage.   Further James 1:20 (NIV) declares: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” These are the ungodly traits that can be deeply concealed in the human will.  Since these are spiritual land mines, when they explode, they cannot be heard; their destructive nature can only be seen in the life of those to whom it is directed

So when Jonah disobeyed God and boarded ship in Joppa, headed in the opposite direction from where God called him—his first land mine explodes—Jonah has such a hatred for Nineveh that he cannot fathom the idea of preaching to them—let alone preaching with the possibility of them being forgiven by God.  So Jonah steps on his 1st land minea haughty spirit—Jonah’s internal explosion, triggered by his disobedience, caused God to trouble the ship.  Jonah is sleeping below deck as though he has done nothing wrong,    But Saints of God: The absent of guilt is not a measure of whether or not we are doing right. Remember now: Our land- mines are concealed and cannot be easily detected by us because of our human will.  So, we cannot measure what is right by how we feel but by the standard of godly living.

Lesson 2—God will work around our land mines for a common good

After Jonah preaches to Nineveh and they repent, God decides not to immediately destroy them (Read Nahum where destruction did come to them in 612 BC)—so Jonah steps on his 2nd land mine— envy and jealousy.

Saints, if God gives us a Word of knowledge or a Word of Wisdom to share with someone,—we cannot get upset if they change for the better because God can use us to turn an errant soul in the right direction.  And if they turn in the right direction and their ministry begins to out-shine our own, we should be excited and glorify God the more. (Illustration: As the first King of Israel Saul was a powerful king—but when he failed God, David was chosen to replace him—this caused Saul to be angry with, and jealous of, David—that jealousy brought about Saul’s demise)

Illustration: When Superintendent Dukes was a Deacon at Sims Street Church under Pastor Hornsby, we could see the power of God working in him.  When Pastor Hornsby stepped down as pastor in 1966 Mother Caine and other leaders of the church wanted then Elder Dukes to be the pastor.  But word began to circulate amongst established pastors in the COGIC that Elder Dukes was too young and should “cut his teeth” on a less established church out of town.  Yes, Jealousy and envy are insidious land mines but we must understand that when God has placed his hands upon his anointed, the anointing and gifting cannot be sidelined.

Lesson 3–God’s Mercy is Universal

After God spared Nineveh the bible (4:1) declares Jonah was displeased and voiced his displeasure to the Lord in a prayer.  Can you imagine praying to God with the attitude that He has done something wrong?

So Jonah steps on his 3rd land mine, which is “Anger.”  God, who sees and foresees has to teach Jonah another lesson—because God is excellent at showing “us” “us.”  While Jonah is sulking in displeasure and anger, God does something supernatural.  He provided Jonah a gourd to give him shade and then allowed a worm to devour the gourd at the hottest point of the day.  Jonah begins to complain and for the second time tells the Lord he would rather die than go through the discomfort.

God’s lesson to Jonah is revealed through the story of the gourd, the worm, and the sun: “Jonah you have pity for the gourd that you did not plant—did not water—did not cause it to grow—a plant that was here one day and gone the next.”  “Jonah you have much respect for this single plant but Nineveh is a city with more than 120,000 people not including cattle.  Should I not spare them as I have spared you?”  In other words, “Jonah my mercy is not specific to a race, culture, or nation—it is universal.”

Closing

Saints our proximity to God and thus our favor from Him cannot come to full fruition until we move beyond the human will. Understand now that moving beyond the human will is in and of itself supernatural.  We say it is supernatural because such a move goes against and beyond our nature.  We have scripture that showcases some that have exhibited this supernatural state.

1)     Esther 4:16—Go gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan and fast ye for me and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day.  I also and my maidens will fast likewise and so will I go in unto the King which is not according to the law: And If I perish I perish.

2)     I Kings 3:9Solomon’s answered the Lord on what he would have: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge the people, that I may discern between good and bad”…and what Solomon said pleased the Lord and the Lord granted him wisdom and riches.

3)     Matthew 25:37—“Then shall the righteous answer Him saying Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed thee?” “Thirsty and gave you drink” “When did we see you a stranger and took thee in or naked and clothed thee?” “Or when did we see you sick or in prison and came to see you?”  And the King shall answer, “in as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me.”

4) Luke 6:38–”Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.  For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measure unto you again.  This scripture has been used in a narrow scope to only apply to giving money.  Verse 38, however, is but part of a larger framework.  If we begin reading at 6:31, we can see that Jesus was teaching us to give of ourselves in our gifting and capacity–be it goods, kindness, love and mercy.

5)     Matthew 26:29—Is perhaps the greatest sentiment from a God-centered life. “Nevertheless not my will but your will be done.”

I think you can see the picture.  If we are able to go beyond our nature—if we go beyond human will to a God-centered focus, it will not only please Him but will return to us in manifold blessings.

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2/21/21

Scripture: John 20:19-20; 24-28

Subject: The Awakening

Introduction

Our natural sleep, which was ordained by God, is a state of rest.  Physical sleep is needed for the body but unless God uses it to communicate a spiritual message, it is a state of suspension where there is no consciousness of reality and no knowledge of our immediate surroundings.   Since physical sleep is a state where knowledge and wisdom is of no use, it has been likened to a state of darkness–even death.

In scripture we see the caution to wake from our spiritual sleep.  This is a call to reach beyond the physical world to attain spiritual growth and enlightenment.

I Thessalonians 5:6—“Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

Matthew 25:5—The parable of the 10 virgins who were waiting on the Lord to return.  “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”   Here the 5 virgins that were wise kept oil in their vessels so they could have light in darkness.   The 5 that were foolish ran out of oil and when the bridegroom (Jesus) came they could not meet Him because they were in darkness.   Here it is Saints: Being a Christian does not exclude us from the darkness in this world.  It is God’s Spirit or Oil that provides Light so we won’t be overtaken by darkness and be lost.  It is the Light of God that awakens us.

Looking at Thomas Didymus

We see a man who has faithfully walked with Jesus for more than 3 years but yet needed to be awakened.  This encounter that Thomas had with Jesus caused him to be dubbed the “doubting disciple.”  But let’s look closer at this encounter and the life of Thomas.

1)     John 11:16—Thomas was present when Jesus told the disciples Lazarus was dead.  It was Lazarus that said, “Let us also go that we may die with him.”    Thomas knew it was dangerous for them to go back to Jerusalem, but nevertheless was willing to return in following Jesus.

2)     John 14:5—Thomas, in search of understanding, asked Jesus, “Lord we know not where you go and how can we know the way?”

3)     Also, notice that the proof that Lazarus requested for Jesus’ resurrection had already been given to the other disciples:  John 20:20 declares: when Jesus approached the other disciples, “He showed them His hands and his side and they were happy when they saw the Lord.”  So it would be ill-advised to be critical of Thomas when he asked for the same proof that had already been given to the other disciples.  In fact, if we are honest, there are times when doubt will also cloud our minds.  I am so glad that the Lord did not cut me off from His grace in my moments of doubt.

Point I: In Being awakened God permits doubts that search for belief and truth

We often hear the phrase it is not permissible to question God.  But our Lord does not reject doubts that are directed toward truth and belief.   Jesus did not chide with Thomas because of his doubts.  Some people need to doubt before they believe.  If doubt leads to questions and questions lead to answers, then doubt has been profitable.  It is doubt that is left with no answers that causes stubbornness and then harms our faith.  This is why God showed patience in the face of doubt.  Consider these examples

1)     Moses who doubted his call to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage questioned God. “Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11)

2)     Gideon, who doubted his call to lead the people to victory over the Midianites, questioned God—“O Lord how can I save Israel, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my father’s house?(Jdgs 6:15)

3)     Jeremiah—the weeping prophet, doubted God and questioned His inaction in judgment.—“why do you allow the wicked prosper?” (Jere. 12:1-4)

So maybe we can understand the doubt that has taken residence in Thomas.  Yes, even the same Thomas that witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus.  Despite witnessing Lazarus being raised, doubt set in because he and the other disciples did not expect Jesus to be crucified.  And Thomas, as we sometimes do, could not imagine or comprehend the incomprehensible because he was looking at the matter through flesh and not the spirit

So then Thomas’ faith had to be awakened–brought from darkness to light—brought from sleep and quickened–to believe that Jesus was alive.

Point 2: Awakening Opens our Spiritual Eyes to HIS Will and OUR Purpose

Ephesians Chapter 5 speaks to the need for the people of God to move forward in their faith and knowledge of who Jesus is.  In this scripture Paul is perhaps concerned that if the church becomes stagnate they might she might be overtaken by the darkness in the world.

So in answer to this imposing darkness Paul declared:

(13) “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes light.  (14)This is why it is said: “Wake up sleeper, rise form the dead and Christ will shine on you.” (15) Be careful how you live—making the best of every opportunity—(This Is your Purpose) (17) Don’t be foolish but understand what the Lord’s WILL is (NIV)

 Saints His Will and Our Purpose is not just what we do in church or a particular religious setting.  No, His Will and Our Purpose is not limited to

1)     Praying at the altar or hearing a sermon

2)     Filling the spirit from ministry from the choir

3)     Partaking in communion or being baptized

4)     Exercising your spiritual gift

These things are done to edify the Body of Christ but we can do them and yet be in a state of sleep.

But notice that after Paul said: “That which is illuminated becomes light”–meaning once we have been awakened by the glorious light of the gospel, we should then become a light in our every walk of life.  So our purpose is not defined simply by what we do in church.  Our purpose goes beyond the sanctuary and encompasses being a light:

1)     In our homes and on the job

2)     Before our children

3)     Before our peers

4)     In the food market and in restaurants

5)     On the highways and byways

Point 3: God Awakens us with Infallible Proofs

I am persuaded that having a church home is good.  Having the Word of God imparted into our spirit is good.  Having the love for your brothers and sisters is good.  Being able to forgive those that abuse you is good.  But none of these things will truly awaken us in our relationship with God.  Luke began the book of Acts (1:3) declaring: [“Jesus showed himself alive after his passion (agony/crucifixion) by showing them many infallible proofs, being seen of them 40 days and speaking about the Kingdom of God]  I am persuaded that God also gives us infallible proofs to awaken us.

I truly believe that the disciples, save Judas, were men of good character as they walked with Jesus—but they had not been awakened.  It was this proof of his nail scared hands and bruises in His side that provided infallible truth. The post-resurrection Christ opened their eyes to ministry.  In Thomas’ absence, the others disciples first saw the wounds of the Jesus and believed—to wit Jesus breathed on them and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”  And after Thomas got confirmation through seeing Him he said; “My Lord and my God.”—confirmation that he too was awakened.  For I Corinthians 12:3 declares: “…No man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost.”

Just look at those who were awakened from darkness to light to do God’s will.

1)     I Samuel 3:7-11 was a man dedicated to the Lord under the vow of a Nazarite but the bible declares he did not know the Lord.  Can you imagine working as a servant in the house of the Lord daily but not having full knowledge of him?  But this is not a criticism—it simply lays out the fact that there is more to do than offering a service in church.  When Samuel began hearing a heavenly voice he did not understand what was happening.  So Eli told him, “the next time you hear the voice say speak Lord for your servant is listening.” After being awakened he did a mighty work for the Lord.

2)     Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah is awakened by a personal encounter with God.  When he saw God in a vision he said.  “Woe is me for I am a man undone—a man of unclean lips and I swell amongst a people of unclean lips for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”  Isaiah’s personal encounter with the Lord caused him to say: “Lord here am I, send me.”

 3)     In Luke chapter 5 Peter has personal encounter with the Lord before becoming a disciple.  He has fished all day, catching nothing.  Jesus came to him and said launch out into the deep and drop your net.  Peter began to catch fish that his nets could not hold and it was this infallible proof that opened Peter’s eyes for he fell to his knees before Christ saying, “O Lord depart from me for I am a sinful man.”

 You see, there is something about a personal encounter with the Lord that makes you want to clean up your life—not just a surface cleaning—but a deep down cleansing.

 4)     Paul was a man who was very dedicated to God and the principals of the law. But he was in darkness and needed to be awakened to the gift of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.  And when the scales fell from his eyes he would later testify before King Agrippa: [The Lord appeared to me and said I have appeared to you for this purpose—to make you a witness both of the things you have seen and the things I will show you]  Upon hearing this Paul told Agrippa, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” (Acts 26:14-19) So this infallible proof set the course for Paul to believe and to begin his ministry

 Well it might have taken a while for Thomas to sign-on to who Jesus really was, but his doubt went forth in search of the truth.  And when the truth was confirmed he said My Lord (YHWH) and my God (Elohim).  That is to say to you are the God that brings things into existence.  You are the God that causes things to come to pass.  And I put myself in subjection to you and your will.

Closing

I want to close by asking has anyone seen infallible proof—proof that there is a righteous God?—proof that He sent His son to redeem humankind?—proof that He could have chosen many others but He smiled on you?  Let me refresh your mind on some things that you might have missed.

1) Did He keep your mind when you were on the verge of collapsewake up—that’s an infallible proof

2)     If he has healed your body—when the odds were against you—wake up—that’s an infallible proof

3)     Did he keep your children when they were disobedient and could have fallen victim to the world—wake up—that’s an infallible proof.

4)     Did he move you from a job where you could barely make ends meet to a job that adequately provides for the family—wake up—that’s an infallible proof

5)     If you were unable to increase your income but the Lord has sent someone to your door in the time of needwake up—that’s infallible proof

If this has given you the right reflection, all that remains is for you to be like Paul and be obedient to His call for you to minister.

 

2/21/21

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2/7/21

Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

An Uncompromised Faith

Define Uncompromised Faith

Anything that has been compromised has been weakened.  Much like our politicians who have been elected to lead communities and the country, once they are compromised, they cannot stand in the full authority or strength of their office—The reason?  They are indebted to someone other than those they have been chosen to serve.

As children of God we will be tempted and the temptation comes to compromise us.  If we yield to this temptation and are compromised, we will be unable to stand in the full authority and strength that that God has granted us.   So then, an “Uncompromised Faith” is one that has not been diminished or weakened—it has not been divided into two factions by the cares of this life.

Examine the Example that Jesus left

Jesus came forth out of the essence of God—as God’s begotten Son.  Before Jesus’ ministry began, God saw fit to put the humanity of our savior on trial.  But this trial was put before Jesus for our benefit.  We can gain insight into resisting our own temptations by examining the temptation that Satan presented to Jesus.  They can be categorized as (1) Provision (2) Prestige or Pride (3) Power

Point 1–The Temptation of Provision or lack thereof

 The bible declares: After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist He was led of the spirit to be tested by the devil in the wilderness.  After Jesus had fasted 40 days, Satan came to tempt Him at His weakness point—the point of provision.  It is a fact that when we are hungry, the more we think about food, the hungrier we become. But science takes it further—Science says the mere sight of a tasty treat can tempt us, even if we are not technically hungry. We know this to be true because the pleasant aroma from food being cooked can trigger enzymes in our stomachs that perhaps would not arise, but for the aroma.

Well, Satan did not have to attend a science class to know our weaknesses.  And if our sensitivities (sight and smell) can increase our level of temptation, we can only imagine how Jesus’ senses were aroused when He was hungry and Satan said: “If you are the Son of God, command these stone to be made bread.”  This temptation from Satan was two-fold: (1) The obvious temptation goes out against Jesus’ need for the provision of food (2) The second temptation came to say: Prove you are the Son of God.  But instead, Jesus quoted Deut. 8:3: “Man shall not LIVE by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

So then, the lack of provision is a temptation that the enemy will use against us—he will use it to tempt us and diminish our faith.

Point 2—Temptation from Prestige and Pride

There is something in the DNA of humanity that drives us not only to be successful but to also bask in the accolades and recognition that others bestow.  Perhaps this was what Satan had in mind when told Jesus “If thou be the Son of God, cast yourself down, for it is written:  “He shall give His angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”  Well Satan quoted Psalm 91:13 because he knows the Word better than you and me.  But Jesus also knew the Word and quoted Deut. 6:16:—“Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God.”

So Satan’s attempt to have Jesus showcase Himself as a great wonder did not succeed.  Saints–greatness is already in us because we are the children of the Most High God.  We don’t have to let Prestige, Pride, and our Accomplishments turn us into braggarts.  John told us who were are in his first epistle.  In 4:4 he said God has given us the resistance needed to defeat false teaching:  He wrote “Ye are the children of God, little children and have overcome them (false teachers) because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”

Point 3—Temptation from Power

Satan returned to Jesus a third time and tempted Him by promising all the kingdoms of the world and saying: “If you fall down and worship I will give you all these things.”  Jesus responded: “Get thee hence Satan for it is written.  Thou shall worship the Lord thou God and Him only shall you serve.” (Deut 6:13)

Jesus could have also quoted Psalm 24 to let Satan know what he offered was not his to give: “The earth’s is the Lord’s the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”  Saints, all of God’s creation belongs to Him.  Not only that but whatever power or authority we hold, unless it is ordained by God, will come to naught.  This is what Gamaliel told the members of the Sanhedrin Council who were concerned that the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit through the persons of Peter and John would create a heretical sect.  Gamaliel said Acts 5:38—[keep away from these men and leave them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.]

Well Why Did Jesus Go Through This Temptation?

Hebrews 2:17-18 NKJV—“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren (humanity), that He might be merciful and a faithful high Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” “For in that He himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  Saints our Lord’s ability to show mercy is due to the fact that he can identify with the frailty of our flesh.

Hebrews 4:15 declares: For we don’t not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Closing      

So, Our Goal is to build up our faith, as instructed by Jude, and to build it by praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 17).  And the reason we need to build up our faith is because temptation is always lingering just around the bend.

We have several examples in the Old and New Testaments that show what can happen when our faith is weakened

1)     Samson was a Judge chosen BY God and separated TO God through the vow of a Nazarite (Review Numbers Chapter 6 to see qualifications under this vow–compare to I Sam. 1:9 where Samuel was also under this vow for life but was faithful to it).  The author of Hebrews includes Samson as one of several Patriarchs who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of Lions.  But despite the faith that he might have demonstrated faith, his faith was compromised.  Samson has been described as a man was lustful, volatile, moody, emotional and unpredictable.  And because he was unpredictable—no one would follow him and his compromised faith perhaps brought about an early demise

2)     In the NT (Mark 6:1-5) the Jews of Nazareth witnessed the Spirit upon Jesus, as he preached in the synagogue, questioned His value and worth simply because he was the son of a carpenter.  And the bible declares it was because of their unbelief, which is a compromised faith–that Jesus could not do mighty works.  I don’t know about you Saints, but if I witness the hand of God moving in the midst, rather than throw out words of derision, I would say instead: “Lord while on others Thou are calling do not pass me by.”

3)     Well on the other side of the equation there were those in the bible that had uncompromised and unwavering faith.  In Matthew 9:20 is the woman with the issue.  After exhausting her finances she looked to Jesus.  Saints: I am a witness that the temptation from financial ruin can lead to spiritual clarity, much the Prodigal Son, who in financial ruin, turned back to the father.

In such a time as this, the song comes to mind: “Where could I go but to the Lord?”  So, this woman, in receiving spiritual clarity, built up an uncompromised faith, and in her thoughts believed.  “If I can but touch his garment, I shall be whole.”  And after she was healed Jesus told her though faith has made thee whole.”

4)     In Matthew 9:27 Jesus is followed by two blind men who cried unto Him:  “Jesus thou Son of David, have mercy on us.”  Jesus posed a question but He already knew the answer: “Do you believe that I can do this?” and they replied, “Yes Lord.”  Jesus touched their eyes and said  According to your faith be it unto”  In other words, if you can supply the faith, I can supply the miracle

Closing

 I want to leave you with a final observation on building up our faith. .  Romans 10:17 comes by hearing the Word of God—now this hearing is much more than sound waves bouncing against the eardrum.  This is the preached Word that comes from God and becomes part of our spiritual being

Notice that with the 3 temptations that Satan presented to Jesus—Jesus responded by giving him the Word.   Well, Saints of God the time is far spent that we should meet every temptation with the Uncompromised Word of God

1)     The Uncompromised Believer has a Word when unemployment and hunger abound. Psalm 37:25—“I once was young and now am old– never have I seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread.”

2)     The Uncompromised Believer has a Word when overtaken by anxiety and distress.

a)     Matthew 11:28 Jesus said: “Come unto me all that labor and are heavy laden and I will I will give you rest.”  “Take my yoke (teaching) upon you and learn of me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

b)    Not only that but the Word comes in Hebrews 13:5—“I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 3)     In the time of lack The Uncompromised Believer can stand on Exodus 15:27—when there was no water to be found they saw that God provided an oasis in the wilderness.

4)      The Uncompromised Believer has a Word when sickness and affliction

a)     “Exodus 15:26 the Lord said: “I am the Lord that healeth thee.

b)    Not only that but Psalm 34:19 declares: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but God delivereth him out of them all”

c)     Not only that but Psalm 53: declares :–(Make it personal)) “He was wounded for MY transgressions, bruised for MY iniquities the chastisement of MY peace was His shoulders and with His stripes I am healed.”

d)    Not only that but say a Word from Psalm 118:17—“I shall not die, but live to declare the good works of the Lord.”

 

Saint: get a Word–but not just any Word–get the Word of God and in your time of temptation, give the Father back the same Word that he has given you.  

 

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1/24/21

Scripture: Genesis 35:14-20

Subject: How to Overcome Suffering, Pain, and Heartache

Introduction

Two weeks ago we presented the subject, “How to endure Suffering, Pain, and Heartache.”  In that subject we discussed two types of suffering: (1`) Suffering for Christ (2) Suffering from our own sin and faults.  We concluded that message by saying to endure suffering we must Wait Patiently, Wait Confidently and Wait Expectantly on the Lord.   But I believe enduring the weight and pressure from suffering, is but one part of what God desires for us.  He also desires for us to Overcome the suffering and pain that has been thrust upon us.

Working definition for Overcome.

This word means to prevail in such a way that the cause and source of our suffering and pain can no longer side-track us.  Once you overcome something it is under your subjection and is your footstool because it has been moved to an inferior position, and can do you no harm.

Understand that in in this context, overcome does not mean that the problem has been removed or vanquished.  What it does mean is, the problem will not hinder you from your God-given assignment and destiny.

Example

If you live in a neighborhood where crime has become so rampant that you fear for your safety, you might choose to move to another neighborhood.  But if you choose to move, you have not overcome the problem.  You can only be said to overcome something when it is yet present, but can no longer hold you hostage to your fears.  If, however, you remain in the neighborhood and organize a Neighborhood Watch—and from that effort the neighborhood is restored–you are then an overcomer.   Now having said this, there are indeed times when we might have to remove ourselves from the source of the problem—(1) Joseph fled from Potiphar’s house (2) David fled from Saul’s palace (3) David also fled from his son Absalom.   Yet in all of these examples, God was with them.

In today’s Text

Jacob is journeying from his father-in-laws house with his two wives, Leah and Rachel and his 12 children (Including Dina) in tow.  But there is yet one more child to be born because Rachel is carrying the last child and she gives birth during the journey.

But to fully understand how Rachel’s life is “suffering personified,” we have to go back to Genesis Chapter 29:31 which reads, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated He opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.” In other words, God saw that Leach was not loved so He endeared her to Jacob by opening her womb.  Observation: God has a way of leveling the playing field.  If he blesses us with children we are not to love one more than the other(s).  If he gives us a blended family, we should not show a special love just for those that came from our loins, because God is watching.

In biblical times a barren woman was considered contemptible and marked for scorn.  Consider the following examples:

a)     Genesis 16:2 Sarah told Abraham: “The Lord has restrained me from bearing, I pray thee go into my handmaid.”

b)    Genesis 20:18 declares: “God had closed all the wombs in King Abimelech’s family” because he sought to take Sarah as a wife.  This curse was not removed until Abraham prayed for Abimelech.

c)     In II Samuel 6:23 we are told that because Michal showed disgust for David dancing out of his clothes when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem that she had no children.

d)    So if in fact the standing belief was: any woman who was barren was cursed, imagine the mental anguish and suffering that Rachel had to endure.

But God is not insensitive.  Genesis 30:22 declares: “God remembered Rachel and hearkened to her.”  She conceived and bare a son, and said. “God has taken away my reproach.”   And Rachel called her first born son, Joseph, which is interpreted, “the Lord shall give me another son.” 

 As it was with Rachel, and so in our own lives, suffering comes in different stages.   All of our suffering can be categorized in the forms: Emotional, Physical and Spiritual.

Point 1–We can Overcome Emotional Suffering, Pain and Heartache through Release

When Rachel was barren, her emotional suffering and pain was so severe that she approached Jacob (Genesis 30:1) and said: “Give me children or I will die.” Jacob responded in anger: [Am I God who has kept you from bearing children?]

Perhaps the greatest disservice that we do to ourselves and the Body of Christ is to have endured suffering, pain and heartache and never release it.  If we never release the pain, we have not overcome it—and like Rachel, who passed her pain to her husband, what we don’t overcome will eventually show up and we will victimize some unsuspecting soul.

You might be surprised at how many people are born-again believers but are still carrying the weight over something that happened months and years ago.  Example: More than a year ago a pastor told me he attended a service where the Spirit was high.  The music was going, the people were shouting and dancing as though Jesus was ready to return.  But then a prophet stood in the midst and said: “There are some people here that are hurting”—so he opened the altar for prayer.  To the surprise of many, some of the people that were dancing were hurting.  One in particular, had recently contemplated suicide.  Here it is Saints: sometimes noise and commotion drown out the emotional pain that some people are still carrying.  And the devil does not care about your Physical Praise as long as your Emotional Framework is wounded.  Illustration:  If you install a new roof on your house and are not told that the timber supporting your roof has rotted, the new shingles will be placed on a rotting frame—and it will not stand.  So it is with our praise and worship when our soul is vexed—it can usher forth praise but will be lacking in substance.

There are two television shows that have gained some popularity: One is called the “Masked Singer” and the other, “The Masked Dancer.” The concept of the show is to determine the identity of masked celebrities by the clues that are given. Here it is: There are a lot of people singing in church choirs, dancing on church floors, even preaching in church pulpits, whose true identity is hidden because the truth of who they are has been masked.  But understand, that much like the TV shows, we will leave clues about who we really are—and some will see us, even behind the mask.

Point 2—We can Overcome Physical Suffering with the Right Attitude/Posture

Our posture/attitude in suffering—HOW we go through suffering factors greatly in our ability to overcome WHAT we go through.   I am persuaded that it is part of human nature to blame others for the problems that we suffer—

1)     The children of Israel suffering in their wilderness journey blamed Moses. Ex 14:11—“Did you take us away from Egypt to die in the wilderness?”

2)     When Moses tarried on Mt Sanai the people fashioned a god out of gold.  When Moses confronted Aaron, whom he left in charged he blamed the people. Ex 32:21—[you know these people are given to evil.” “They wanted to fashion a god so I told them to bring me the gold.”

3)     And when we are really tried by fire with no relief, we might be tempted to blame God.  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed God.  “The woman that YOU gave to be with me gave me of the tree and I did eat.”

In today’s text we can see Rachel blaming her suffering and pain on her son before he even entered the world.  Yes, it is sad that Rachel died during childbirth but perhaps a greater wrong was how she labeled her son.  Imagine, every time Jacob would look upon his last born his name would be a constant reminder of pain and suffering.  Here it is again: Rachel not wanting to suffer alone, decided to pass it on to her son and every generation that proceeded out of him. Indeed. “Misery loves company.” 

So Jacob changed his name from Benomi—“son of sorrow” to Benjamin,—“son of my right hand”—giving him a regal posture and removed a label that would have saddled him with a defeated destiny.

So, rather than blame others for our plight—rather than victimize others because of what we have endured–our posture and attitude should be: “Search me Lord—turn the light from heaven on my soul.” “If you find anything that shouldn’t be take it out and strengthen me search me.  “I want to be right I want to be saved, I’ve got to be whole.”

It is this posture that will allow us to overcome (prevail) during suffering—the knowledge that we are in good standing with God gives us peace.  For we know that there is nothing within us that is hindering the Lord from moving on our behalf.

Point 3–We can Overcome Spiritual Suffering, Pain and Heartache Through Prayer and Faith

Saints, we have saved the best point for last. The bible declares in Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV)  ”The spirit of a man can sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?  Yes, if I am to survive my storm—if I am to be the victor and not the victim—if I am to not just endure, but overcome (to make my suffering my footstool)—I must keep my spirit-man above the fray.

I am persuaded that God gave us a spirit to:

(1)  Have knowledge of Him: John 17:3 in Jesus’ prayer to God He said: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

(2)  He gave us a spirit to Worship HimJohn 4 Jesus told the woman at the well, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.

(3)  He gave us a spirit to Praise Him: Hebrews 13:15—“Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

And we come to know who Jesus is through prayer because prayer is our direct line of communication to God. But prayer alone without faith is just a ritual.  We have got to reach a point that when we pray, even in the midst of our storm, we must believe and expect that He will deliver.

1)     In Luke Chapter 18 is the parable of the widow who sought justice for having been wronged.  She went to the unjust ruler who relented simply because he grew tired of her persistence.  Jesus then tells His disciples, in considering the justice that the ruler granted the widow Jesus said. ”And shall not God avenge His own elect who cry unto Him day and night” But as we read on Jesus further stated; “Nevertheless, when the son of man cometh, shall He find faith in the earth?”

2)     James echoed the words of Jesus in James 5:16: “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much.”

3)     But in your praying don’t forget what Paul told us in I Thessalonians 5:18:  “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you.”

Lastly, Jesus told us in John 16:33,   “…In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Jesus overcame everything the world threw at him

1)     The political system of Rome

2)     The hatred from the Jewry

3)     The betrayal of Judas

4)     Death on the cross

And because he overcame we too are more than conquers through   Him that has loved us. (Romans 8:37)

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