Sermon Notes

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 Samuel for the role of a King.  That preparation was a sign to Samuel 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 superintendent

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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