Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

What IF Our BLESSINGS Come Through RAINDROPS

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Romans 8: 28 – 29

(This recording had sound difficulties)

Earle Dickson was the cotton buyer for the Johnson and Johnson Co. back in the 1920's. So, he was out on the road quite a bit, and he worried about the welfare of his wife while he was away. You see, Josephine was very accident prone. It seemed like she was either cutting or burning herself almost every day.
When Earle was home, he would take the dressings and rolls of surgical tape that his company made and carefully bandage her wounds.

But you see, with the 3-inch-wide rolls of surgical tape and large bandages available in the 1920's, two hands were required to apply them properly. And he was sure that Josephine wouldn't be able to do that by herself.

One day, he had an idea. He cut part of a 3-inch-wide roll of surgical tape into 1"-wide strips and laid them on a kitchen counter, sticky side up. Then he put some small squares of gauze in the middle of each one, leaving sticky tape showing on both ends.

Now, should Josephine injure herself while he was gone, all she had to do was to take one of those strips and apply it to her injury herself.

Earle's idea worked so well that he began to leave these self-applying bandages every time he left town. Sometime later, at a party, Josephine mentioned Earle's idea to the company president, James Johnson.

Johnson liked the idea, and in 1924 when he added Band Aids to their product line, their company's sales increased by 50%.
And ever since then, Band Aids have been one of Johnson and Johnson's major products.
Many inventions that have simplified our lives today would never have been invented if there had not first been a problem that needed to be solved. And I'm convinced the same thing has happened in the spiritual realm, too.

Now we would prefer not to have any problems. But God often uses problems to produce good in the lives of His children. In fact, isn't that what Paul is saying in Romans 8:28-29? Listen to these familiar words:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son... "

God wants us to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son”, to become more and more like Jesus. And the problems we face and overcome in life are a part of this process.
So... let’s look at 4 specific blessings that come into our lives through our problems. For as we see how God has used problems in the past to bring about great blessings, it will help us in the problems we face today.

First of all, sometimes God uses problems to direct us. We see this in one of the earliest problems the church faced. It's found in Acts 6:1-7. Vs. 1 says:

"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food."
In those days there weren't any government welfare programs. Your welfare depended almost entirely upon your family.
When you were a child your parents took care of you, and when they became old, you took care of them.
But if an older woman lost her husband and her children, or didn't have any children in the first place, she was in dire straits. Unless someone took pity upon her, she ended up having to beg for food just to stay alive. And it was here that the early church showed its love by distributing food to widows and orphans and those in need among them.

But evidently there were some widows whose needs had been overlooked. And they just happened to be Grecian Jews. Now here is where the problem arose.
Some Jews who had lived all their lives in Jerusalem considered Grecian Jews as "immigrants" or 2nd-class citizens because they had lived most of their life in other lands, had grown up speaking other languages, and many of their customs seemed strange and different.

You can imagine the suspicion, the jealousy, and the division in the church that might have resulted from this neglect of the Grecian widows. But there was no division. Why?
Because, through the apostles, God used this problem to lead the early church into making some very important decisions.

Listen to vs's 2-6, "So the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.
‘We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.' This proposal pleased the whole group.
“They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them."
And you see the results.
1, Instead of arguing, or trying to figure out who to blame, they set out to solve the problem.
2, Instead of resenting the Grecians for complaining, they actually chose 7 Grecian men to take charge of the Jerusalem church's entire food distribution program to both Hebraic and Grecian widows alike.
AND 3, Instead of the apostles being burdened down with even more worries and responsibilities, now they were able to concentrate on their main task - preaching the Gospel.

And besides that, there were 7 more men, full of the Holy Spirit, taking part in the leadership and ministry of the church.
And what was the ultimate result?
Vs. 7 tells us, "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."
You see, sometimes God uses problems to direct us, to show us what is best.

GOD USES PROBLEMS TO CORRECT US
Secondly, God can also use problems to correct us. There are times when we're stuck in a rut, and God uses problems to change us. It isn't that we're doing anything wrong - it's just that we need to go in a new direction.

But there are other times when we are definitely wrong. We have strayed into sin, and we need God's correction, His discipline, in order to have our fellowship restored with Him. So God will use some problem in our life to stimulate us to think about the sin that we have fallen into and to correct our behavior.

A perfect example of this is one of the most familiar parables in the Bible, "The parable of the prodigal son," found in Luke 15:11-20.
Jesus tells of a young Jewish man who squanders his inheritance in a foreign land. And when a famine occurs the only job he can find is feeding pigs.

Now it just doesn't get any worse for a Jew than to sink so low as to end up feeding pigs. Yet the pigs were better off then he was, and it says that he longed just to be able to eat the food that was being given to the pigs.

Finally, his problems got to be just too much for him, and he began to correct his attitude and his actions. He admitted his sins, repented of them, and turned his steps toward home once again. And his father received him with open arms.

By the way, do you realize that when we deliberately stray from what we know is right, God has promised to correct us? Hebrews 12:5,6 says: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves..."

God knows how devastating sin can be. So, when we yield to temptation, He has promised to correct us. And God has used problems as a tool to do just that.

So when we're having problem after problem, maybe we need to ask our-selves and God if there is some area of our life that God is trying to correct.
Not all problems are allowed for the purpose of correcting us - but some are!

Thirdly, sometimes God uses problems to protect us. And we see that clearly illustrated in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament.
Joseph was obviously his father's favorite son. And as a result of this favoritism, his brothers hated him.
Then one day their hatred boiled over and they seized him and sold him as a slave to a caravan travelling to Egypt.
It all happened so quickly. One moment he was the favorite son, getting anything he wanted. And the next, he was in chains and sold into slavery.

But God had a purpose and plan for his life, and He was watching over him, protecting him, even though Joseph didn't realize it then.

The story of Joseph's life is a remarkable one, and only the miraculous hand of God could have accomplished it, taking him out of slavery and making him a ruler in Egypt, second only in power to Pharaoh himself.

And then years later, during the time of severe famine in all the area, Joseph saw his brothers once again when they came to Egypt to beg for the privilege of buying food.

At first they had no idea that this Egyptian ruler standing before them was Joseph. But finally, Joseph revealed himself to them. When that happened his brothers were petrified with fear and begged Joseph not to kill them.

Joseph knew how much his brothers had hated him, but he also saw the hand of God working in his own life, and how God had protected him through it all.
So Joseph said to his brothers after he had made himself known to them (Genesis 45:4-8).

"... do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.
“But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt."

You see, God had not only protected Joseph from death at the hands of his brothers, but He also used Joseph to protect his whole family.

They were the chosen people of God, descendants of Abraham, the lineage from which the Messiah would come. And realizing that God had used his problems for his protection gave Joseph the wisdom and courage to continue on.

So we must learn to trust God - even when problems come. He will direct us, and correct us, and protect us, for He has promised to work out all things for the good of those who love Him.

Finally, God sometimes uses problems in our lives to perfect us, to make us complete, to help us become what we can and should be.
Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, "...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

How is God accomplishing this? What process does God use to complete this good work that He has started in our lives?
Romans 5:2-4 says, "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope."

Did you hear that?
God can take the problems, the heartaches, the suffering that comes our way, and use them to produce perseverance and character in us. And as our character grows and develops, it gives us hope.

We have tangible evidence that God's grace is working in our lives, and this gives us confidence for the future. But the process all begins with how we handle the problems that come our way.

A great musician once said, "The richest chords require some dark colored keys." Well, I'm not a musician, but I think I understand what he was saying. And it's that way in life as well. If we're to have the richest character, we must have some problems as well.

But if we love Him, God will use those problems for our good to Direct, Correct, Protect, and Perfect us.

A missionary in New Guinea tells the following story:
It was back during the Great Depression, and his grandfather was a carpenter. But one particular day his grandfather was at the railroad station, sealing up crates filled with clothes his church was shipping to an orphanage in China.
On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to get his glasses, but they were gone.
When he mentally retraced his steps, he realized what must have happened. His glasses had slipped out of his pocket and fallen into one of the crates while he was nailing it shut. And now his brand new glasses were heading for China!

The Great Depression was at its height and Grandpa had 6 children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning and was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair. "It's not fair," he told God, "I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this."
A year later, the director of the orphanage was on a leave in the United States, visiting all the churches that supported his work in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at the grandfather's small church. The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage.

"But most of all," he said, "I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists, on their Great March to the North, had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses.
"I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was no way of replacing the glasses in my part of China. Along with not being able to see well, I had terrible headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this.

"Then your crates arrived. When we removed the covers, we found a pair of glasses lying on top." The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then he continued,
"Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I don't know why you included those glasses, but I want to thank you for doing so from the bottom of my heart!"

The people listened, happy for the miraculous coincidence of the glasses. But they thought that surely he had confused their church with another. There weren't any glasses on the list of items they had shipped.
But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an old man, my grandfather, just an ordinary carpenter, suddenly realized that the Master Carpenter had used him in an extra-ordinary way.
INVITATION

Based on Sermon
By Melvin Newland

Loyalty versus Compliance

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Luke 12:1-34

 

INTRO:  Good morning.  This morning our text is found in Luke chapter 12.   In this chapter Luke gives us the words spoken by Jesus Christ shortly after He walked out of the Pharisee's house.   Here Jesus gives them and us a warning and as examples He uses the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the lawyers and the scribes who were going about religion the wrong way.   This is a warning against what they were doing but also transitioning into discipleship.  In other words we are being warned of the things that can befall us.

 

In Luke 12 we find a series of nine warnings spoken by our Lord on one occasion.   What we'll find as we go through the chapter, and we will just consider verses 1-34 today, is that to be a true disciple of Christ we must not just have compliance, but loyalty.

 

Thinking about that we realize there's a difference between compliance and loyalty.   Compliance says: These are the list of rules I've got to keep.   I'm going to do the bare minimum to make sure I don't get in trouble.   I'm just going to follow them and be compliant with those rules.  That in itself is not bad.   If I have an employee that follows the rules I know they are going to show up on time.   They will do what it takes to keep from getting in trouble, for them to retain their jobs, or maybe to get the Christmas bonus at the end of the year.   They're going to do their jobs, and that's all fine and good in and of itself.  Yes, they are they're going to punch out right when it is time to leave.  But they will follow the rules of the company, the rules of the road and the laws of the country.

 

Loyalty goes above and beyond that.   Loyalty says I buy into the vision.   I buy into the mission, the overall mission.   I'm even willing to go above and beyond to accomplish the ultimate goal.  They're the ones that show up early.   They make sure they have everything squared away before the day begins.   They might even stay late, not even getting paid for it, but they want to finish up some stuff that they had going on during the day.   

 

As Christians, it should be that we are not just compliant, but loyal to Christ.   I suspect there are too many Christians who are just concerned about being compliant.

I went to Church on Sunday—check.

I said my prayers—check.

I read the Bible once this week—check.

 

Their whole approach to the spiritual life is just a checklist.   They just want to do what they believe they need to do to get to heaven.   As long as I’ve got that squared away, then I'm good to go.  What Luke in chapter twelve is going to teach us is that discipleship goes above and beyond that.   It's not about, I want to do just enough to make God happy so that I can go to heaven.  It's about being loyal, it's about being dedicated to Christ.

 

What is your relationship with God?   Think about your relationship with your spouse for those who are married, what’s better, loyalty or compliance?   You want your spouse to say they love you, so each time they go somewhere they are careful to declare their love.   You expect certain things from them so they do those things.

 

Or do you want a spouse who loves you, is devoted to you, loyal to you, would die for you if the occasion called for it?   They would go above and beyond to make sure that your life is better because of them.    Obviously, we want that, right?

 

Our approach to Christianity should be based on a relationship where, yes, I want to follow the expectations that Christ has for me, but more important than that, I want to dive into the relationship.    I want to give my all to Christ, I want to be committed to Christ.   I want to be dedicated to the vision, and I give myself wholly to Christ, even if that means adverse conditions.

 

  1. Now lets take a look at our text Luke 12:1-7 – “1. In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.     "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.  3.  "Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.  4.  "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  5.  "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!  6.  "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  7.  "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

    1. This is a time when Jesus’ ministry is pretty popular and if we look at the last two verses of chapter 11 we see that the Pharisees were plotting against Him. A great many people came together, so many that they're stepping on one another just to get a glimpse of Jesus, to see what He is doing, and to hear Him.    While this is happening Jesus said to His disciples beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

      1. We know that hypocrisy is a literary term used in connection with Greek drama and means `play-acting'. Usage of the word in a Christian context connects it to insincere pretensions of religious piety.   The person practicing hypocrisy will put on the air of being sophisticated, dedicated, and committed to God, but in reality, they're not.
      2. Jesus combines two terms here, leaven and hypocrisy. Leaven is the emblem of every active principle, good or bad, which possesses the power of assimilation.  In this case the leaven refers to the Pharisees teachings and the hypocrisy of their actions.   As one put it;  "The essence of their doctrine was hypocrisy and that combined with the leaven of their teaching had its inevitable effect to make hypocrites, to reproduce itself."    
    2. Why would Jesus warn the disciples to "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”? I suspect there are two warnings in this simple phrase.  
    3. First, that a successful teacher can end up being a hypocrite and by doing so spread hypocrisy. Can that happen today?   Of course.   In the business world there is a saying “nothing breeds failure like success”.  
      1. That is something even Christian leaders need to be watchful for. Hey, we are having an influx of people coming to the building, popularity is growing.  That can lead you to the temptation to become a hypocrite like the Pharisees, because in popularity, there's a temptation to play to the crowd.   You want to increase your popularity, to want people to come, not for the Kingdom of God, but because you're trying to build up “your Church”.    Maybe your goal is to build a mega Church or something, or you're all about just pleasing the crowds.   You're acting like you're working for the Kingdom, but you're really working just for popularity. 
      2. The Apostles would experience this possibility in Acts chapter two. After one sermon preached, basically, 3000 people are saved, and then that number increases by 5000 later on.    However the Apostles kept their focus on the Kingdom. 
    4. Second, the warning told them that as they went out to proclaim the gospel, when they were preaching and teaching, they would come across Pharisees. They were not to take at face value what the Pharisees said.  Those Pharisees are likely to deal with you in a hypocritical way.   
      1. They even did this with Jesus. How often do we have a Pharisee or a lawyer or a scribe coming to Jesus and saying, oh, teacher, we know that you teach things rightly, and they butter him up and they act like they're really genuine in the questions that they're asking.  
      2. They were asking him questions to try to entrap him and to try to get the crowds to split over Jesus.
    5. In verse 2 Jesus says; "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.”
      1. The connecting word “for” tells us that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees will one day come to light and their true motives will be exposed. There's a warning here for us as well, because if we become hypocrites, if we are just play acting, if we are just putting on a show, that will come to light.  

        1. You can only pretend for so long. You can only put on a show for so long and then people are going to recognize the fact that you are not consistent.   If you are or have been a parent you are probably well aware that children will notice when you are not consistent. 
        2. When you're just putting on a show, that will come to light. It would happen with the Pharisees and it could also happen with us as disciples of Christ.   The idea is that we should be loyal to Christ through and through and be careful not to put on pretense.
      2. In verse 3 He says; "Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” Another connecting word “therefore”.  It is to no purpose to hide things, for, sooner or later, truth will come out; and a lying tongue is but for a moment. If you speak in darkness that which is unbecoming and is inconsistent with your public professions, some way or other it shall be discovered.   Ecclesiastes 12:14 says; “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.”   First Corinthians 4:5 tells us; “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one's praise will come from God.”   In other words, spurn the leaven of worldly praise and wait for the true praise from the Father.
      3. In verses 4 and 5 Jesus says; "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”   
        1. The disciples are not to fear people because the only thing that people can do to you is affect you in a temporary way. They might hurt you physically, or they might slander you, try to injure you emotionally.   
        2. They might even put you to death, yet all those things are temporary because the God we serve is the eternal One and with Him are the eternal consequences. It is Him we need to respect and put first.
      4. I suspect that from time to time we may run into situations where we might hide our commitment to Christ for the sake of other people. We can call it fear, or we can call it being made uncomfortable.   “If I show my stand on this I don’t know how they will respond.”  “It might make things difficult at work, maybe cost me my job.”   “I do not want to alienate my relative.”   “My friend will take serious offence.”   Do we lay off the throttle a bit because of fear of other people?   Again, we're going back to commitment, loyalty, right?
        1. The good thing is, if you fear the Lord, if you respect Him above everything else, He's got your back. He's going to take care of you and provide for you.   Jesus says in verses 6 and 7; "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.    "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. D o not fear therefore; “you are of more value than many sparrows.”   
        2. In other words, you don't have to fear in connection to these temporary things because you've already made the commitment and put God first in your life. Therefore God's going to honor that by providing for you.    He knows what you're going through and even a small Sparrow is not forgotten by God.
        3. “you are of more value than many sparrows.” We are like that little bird.   We're not the highfalutin, internationally acclaimed preachers or televangelists or anything like that.   We're just normal people going out and trying to serve the Lord.   Probably forgotten by the rest of the world.   You know what?   We're not forgotten by God.  God sees everything that we're going through.   
  • Go with me now to the next section of our text, Luke 12:8-12 – “8. "Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.    "But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.  10.  "And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.  11.  "Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  12.  "For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.''”   

    1. In verses 8 and 9 what is meant is more then just saying the words, “Jesus is Lord”. Obviously, when we come to the Lord, we confess Him as Lord, as Christ, as the One that we're committing our lives to.    However if we just say, I confessed Him way back when I was baptized and that’s it, we have an incomplete understanding of the confession Jesus is talking about here.

      1. This is an ongoing confession, living a life of confession if you will. Each and every action that I take, every word that I speak, every intention of my heart proclaims Jesus is Lord.   We are reminded of this in Colossians 3:17 where it says; “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” 
      2. When you do everything in Jesus name you are confessing He is Lord before men. If everything you do or say is in Jesus name, you are loyal to Christ, and He will confess that loyalty before the angels of God.   Of course if we deny Him, if we shy away, then we are not really Christians, are we?   Jesus says, then I’ll deny you.   That’s only fair, right?  
      3. When we confess Christ, when we're living Christ in our lives, we're demonstrating the fact that we are truly committed to Christ, it's done through the strength of and the power of the Holy Spirit. Now look at verses 10-12.   It says that when a person speaks a word against the Son of man it will be forgiven him but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.   Christ instructed that people should confess him, the converse of that being that some would deny him.
    2. Go back to the Old Testament and we will see people rejecting God. They rejected the prophets and then in the New Testament when Christ came, they rejected Him.   Israel had the habit of denying God through ages, and now of denying the Christ Himself.   
      1. Here He gives the warning that there was a final and irrevocable sin about to be committed by them in denying the gospel that would be launched through the apostles, under the power of the Holy Spirit. This warning here was brief, but Matthew and Mark both repeat it in Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:29.
      2. "The Holy Spirit with his teachings is the last that God has to offer man; and, if one blasphemes the Holy Spirit by rejecting the New Testament, the gospel, there is no chance for forgiveness." Jesus is God's last word to men.
      3. Someone may think, “Are there times that I've blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and now can I not be forgiven?” I would suggest that because that person knows they have sinned they have not rejected the Holy Spirit in their heart. 
    3. Why is that the unforgivable sin? Because in such a state, repentance is impossible.   If a person does not even realize that they are sinning, if goodness no longer has any appeal to them, then they cannot repent.    God has not shut them out; by their repeated denial of God they have shut themselves out.  That means that the one person who can never have committed the unforgivable sin is the person who fears that they have, for once a person has committed it, they are so dead to God that they are not conscious of sin at all.
  1. As disciples we should know that when we confess Christ, we will receive adversity. Jesus continues; "Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  "For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.''  

    1. I wondered why in this chapter we are shown loyalty in the midst of adversity? I believe that it's in adversity where our true loyalty is manifest.   Going back to our job analogy, I have found you can tell the difference between the people who are just compliant and people who are loyal when things start to go awry in the company.  

      1. The ones who are just compliant are going to be looking out for number one, and they will jump ship as long as they believe it's advantageous to them.
      2. That's what they're going to be concerned about, but the loyal employees are going to be the ones who stay aboard, even when the ship seems to be sinking, because they're loyal to the company, they believe in the company's vision and they want to see it through, even if it means hardship and trials.
    2. The same thing is true in our dedication to Christ.   It's when the fire comes, when the difficulty comes, that the sheep are divided from the goats, the ones who are truly committed versus the ones who are just trying to be compliant.  
      1. Here in America, and I pray that this doesn't happen, but if it does happen, if we really, truly begin to become persecuted in a very real way and a very harsh way, I think that's when this division is going to start taking place.
      2. We are already kind of persecuted you might say. Certainly not like in some places on earth where our very lives may be forfeited.   If that happens here we will certainly see the division take place between the sheep and goats.  If that happens we will see which of us are really committed to Christ, and which of us are playing Christian just enough to be compliant in order to benefit ourselves.    
    3. Yes, to a degree we are persecuted here, and John explains this in John 3:19-21 – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.   "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.''”   In our loyalty to Christ and His word, we are going to be a light that will make many uncomfortable and even some that think themselves Christians.
  2. Jesus explains that our loyalty plays into the way we deal with the worldliness around us, including possessions and money. We pick that up starting at verse 13Luke 12:13-15 – “Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.''   But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?''  And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.''”    
    1. Under Jewish law, the older brother would have inherited two-thirds of the estate, and the younger brother one-third; since the older brother would have been executor of the estate, the appeal here would seem to be that of the younger brother, implying either of two problems: (1) either the elder brother had not given him his share, or (2) the younger brother was thinking of breaking the ancient custom which gave the double portion to the oldest son. We are not told. 

      1. Jesus refused to be involved either way. As the commentator Boles viewed it, the man "probably thought he had a just claim," or he would not have taken it to Jesus. 
      2. These verses teach that Christ's kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world. Christianity does not intermeddle with what we call rights.    It is too often that the church is asked to step into disputes, but the Master knew that would not solve people's problems as long as their biggest problem, sin in their heart, was within them.   Christianity is not an arbitrator, it is a light. 
      3. There was no fault with this man's request, but Christ absolutely refused to accede to it. Jesus did not approach the problems of social injustice by an assault upon established institutions. He did not take the man's part against those who had wronged him.  Just as Jesus refused to accept criminal jurisdiction in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11), or take sides in a political problem, as in the question regarding the tribute money (Matthew 22:17).  He carefully avoided the snare and the rock upon which so many Christians have stumbled.  
    2. Yet, Jesus did answer him. Jesus showed that young man, and us, that there is a higher standard, a better way of approaching life.  We are surrounded by materialism and we can end up thinking our happiness, our self worth, and indeed our very life is connected to our possessions.  That is not so, and though material things may be used to accomplish some purpose or goal, that is all they are.  What we have in Christ is spiritual, it is eternal, it is our heart and soul.   It fills our deepest needs. 
      1. Jesus explanation continues now in the parable of the rich man starting in verse 16. He uses this to amplify the point that material possessions will never be enough for us and they are not that important when compared with the things of God anyway.  
      2. What Christ has to offer are things that are eternal, things that will bring you into an abundance of spiritual wealth, eternal life, immortality. That will happen whether you die today or if you die 50 years from now, it will still be valid.  It will still be good, and it will go beyond this life.   Material possessions are just temporary.  They may put a smile on our face for a moment, but in the end they won’t.
    3. At verse 22 and He said to his disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. "Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”
      1. Here we are in the first month of this New Year and as we go into this New Year let us implant that into our brains, into our minds, into our hearts. Life is not about food.   Life is not about clothing, even the most basic necessities.   They temporarily may brighten your life a little bit.   

        1. You might live another day because you ate or you might live a little bit longer protected from the elements. Yet, that's not where your true life comes from.
        2. Even the most basic things, He says, “24. "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?    "And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  26.  "If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?  27.  "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  28.  "If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  29.  "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  30.  "For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  31.  "But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  32.  "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
      2. Jesus is not saying we should not do the things that are needful. For indeed 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 says; “… If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  And 1st Timothy 5:8 admonishes; “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
        1. Jesus wants us to keep our focus, our perspective. Do not lay awake nights worrying, planning and scheming.   Use your energy to do the things of life, working, providing, all those things—in the name of the Lord. 
        2. Jesus is pointing that out here in these verses to look at nature. Nature isn't stressed out.   Nature isn't worried about this or that, but God is always constantly supplying what nature needs to continue.
        3. Notice in verse 34 Jesus says; “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” He is focusing on our heart and our loyalty.  Jesus wants us to be loyal to Him from the heart, even when it comes to worldly goods and possessions, the things that we often desire the most.   Where is your heart? 

 

CONCLUSION:

We realize that loyalty is what Christ is seeking from us, not checking off a list.  Lists are good reminders but they can become a trap when we think that is all there is.   One negative thing that a list can do to us, is tempt us to desire to adjust it to fit our desires in life.   Many religious organizations fall into this trap.   Remember the lawyer in Luke 10:25 asking about eternal life?  Jesus asked him what was written in the Law and the lawyer responded “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and `your neighbor as yourself.”   Jesus told him that he was correct.   Then the lawyer asked “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Loyalty means that even when we're in adverse conditions, when people are coming out against us, whoever they might be, we stand firm, confessing Christ, living a life that declares Christ as Lord.

It means living a life that is not caught up in material possessions and the things that this world has to offer.   I want to tell you, this is a good life.    How much less stressful is it when you realize you don't have to follow after the world, you don't have to spin the wheels that the world is spinning.

 

We can live our life to the heavenly Kingdom which transcends this world.   It really puts your mind at ease to realize God's taking care of you and the basic necessities.   You focus on the Kingdom and everything works from there.

 

It's a life that we invite you to this morning.  If you want to give your life to Christ, yes.

He's going to ask some things of you… maybe to put away some things in your life.   That's what repentance is all about.   That's definitely a part of coming to Christ.

What He's really asking from you though, is your heart, your loyalty.  Are you willing to give your heart to Him today?  He doesn’t say to confess Him yesterday, but confess Him for the rest of your life and to give your life wholeheartedly to Him…be committed to Him, committed to His cause, dedicated to the Kingdom and living your life with that in mind.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church. 

 

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ and be buried with Him in baptism, or to ask for prayers on their behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.

 

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Reference Sermon: Joseph Vaughan

Facing the New Year

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Philippians 3:12-14

There is an old story about a happy little boy who went out into the field wearing a baseball cap. In one hand he carried a baseball, & in the other a baseball bat. His face bore a look of tremendous confidence.

Cocking his bat, he tossed the ball into the air, saying, "I’m the greatest batter in the world!" Then he swung & missed. "Strike one," he said.

He picked up the ball, examined it, & then threw it into the air again. As he swung, he repeated, "I’m the greatest batter in the world." Once again he missed. "Strike two," he said.

This time, he stopped to examine his bat to make sure there wasn’t a hole in it. Then he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, & tossed the ball into the air for the 3rd time.

He repeated again, "I’m the greatest batter in the world," & swung with all his might & missed for the 3rd straight time. "Wow" he cried, "What a pitcher. I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!"

A. Today is the 2nd Sunday of a new year, & as we look back over the last 12 months, I’m not sure whether most of us would be considered pitchers or batters. One thing for sure, at times we have all struck out.

So, I guess it’s good to be able to start over afresh. This past week most boys & girls will be home from school. A lot of young people are home from college for the holiday season. And most of us are recovering from the activities of the Christmas season & are getting ready for the activities of the new year.

What do you anticipate for this upcoming year? Are you full of enthusiasm, looking forward eagerly to what each day will bring? Or are you filled with a sense of dread, worried that this year will be worse than last year was for you?

B. Like the little boy with the bat, may I suggest that your attitude, your frame of mind, your reaction to its events will largely determine whether this year is a year of victory or a year of defeat.

The Apostle Paul was never one to let circumstances conquer him. Rather, with the help of God, he was determined to win the victor’s crown. Listen as his attitude, dedication, determination shine through in these words found in Philippians 3:12 14.

"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind & straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

With Paul’s words fresh in our minds, here are some suggestions to help us be all that we can be this year.

First of all, recognize the value of time.

How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.

How do we value ONE MONTH? Ask a Mother whose baby arrived prematurely.

How do we value ONE WEEK? Editors of weekly newspapers know.

How do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who lies terminally ill waiting for a loved one who is late.

How do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who missed a plane, a train, a very important engagement that would never be rescheduled.

How do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic Medalist, or someone who just missed having an accident, or someone saying “goodbye” to a loved one they will never see again.

Of course, we know that time is a human invention. I’m convinced that God doesn’t wear a wristwatch or use a calendar. The Bible says, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, & a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8) God deals with eternity, & therefore time is not an important factor with Him.

But time is important to us because we live in a limited time frame. We begin with infancy, then go on to adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age, & to everything that follows. We measure life in segments of time.

Now, what makes something valuable? Oftentimes it is scarcity. If there is a scarcity, then that product quickly escalates in value.

So, if something is rare, it is usually valuable. But if we have a lot of it, it loses its value. Now, the same is true with time.

Maybe that helps explain the generation gap. Young people feel that they have plenty of time, therefore time loses its value, & they aren’t too concerned about wasting or squandering it.

On the other hand, as we get up in years a bit, we begin to realize that our time is becoming rare & therefore more valuable.

So those of us over 60 tend to look at those under 20 & say, "Don’t squander time, because it’s valuable." They reply, "No, it’s not. We have lots of time. So we can waste it any way we want."

And the wider the age gap, the wider the generation gap because of the different values that we place on time.

The Bible often speaks of the brevity of life. It compares life to the weaver’s shuttle rapidly going back & forth to the shadows of summer that quickly disappear to grass which grows up, dies, & then is burned.

No wonder the Psalmist asks God, "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4)

Statisticians tell us that the average life span is now around 76 years. If you’re under 30 then you think that is a long time. But if you’re nearing that age, you’re beginning to realize that’s not really very long at all.

I ran across some interesting statistics a few years ago. Someone went to the trouble to research what people do with their time, & came up with these results:

If we live to be 75, most of us will have spent 3 solid years, 24 hours a day, acquiring an education grade school, high school & college.

We’ll have spent 7 years eating, 24 hours a day, some less, & some more, obviously. We’ll have spent 14 years, day & night, working. We’ll have spent 5 years riding in automobiles or airplanes.

We’ll have spent 5 years talking with each other again some more & some less. We’ll have spent 1 year sick or recovering from sickness. And get this, we’ll have spent 24 years of our life sleeping!

We’ll have spent 3 years reading books, magazines & newspapers. And 12 years amusing ourselves watching TV, going to the movies, fishing, etc.

That totals up to 75 years & that is what the researchers say, on the average, most of us will have done with our lives.

As I looked at these statistics I began thinking. Let’s suppose that you spent every Sunday of your life, for 75 years through infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age in God’s house worshiping during the Church Service.

Now if you did that, how much time would you have spent worshiping God? Figure it out the answer is less than 5 1/2 months.

But let’s double that, because you’ve always attended Bible Study. You’ve never missed Bible Study in all your life. That makes it 11 months.

Think about those 5 years in an automobile & just 11 months in Church & Bible Study! Twelve years amusing ourselves in front of a TV, & just 11 months in Church & Bible Study And that is just if you always attended Bible Study & Church, & never missed!

That tells us a little bit about the brevity of time, & it also tells us something about our priorities in life.

The Bible also teaches us that life is uncertain. Time is like a valuable commodity in a very precious & delicate vessel. It might break at any moment & we might lose it all. So we have this moment. We don’t know anything about the future, but we have this moment & that is all that we really have.

Because of the uncertainty of life, the Bible says, "Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Hebrews 3:15 says, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." Because life is uncertain, we must take advantage of the time that we have.

Secondly, don’t be in bondage to the past.

We are special beings in that God has given us the ability to remember. Your memory may be your friend or your enemy. When you remember, hopefully you’ll remember some very pleasant things about this past year, but chances are that you’ll also remember some negative things.

In fact, sometimes we dwell upon the negative & begin to feel sorry for ourselves. Maybe this past year was a time of transition in your life the kids grew up & married & left home & you’re now trying to deal with the empty nest syndrome.

Maybe your job came to an end & you’re having a tough time making ends meet. Maybe a loved one died & you’re trying to deal with the lingering grief & loneliness you feel.

Maybe it was a time when sin got a real hold in your life, & you now feel the burden & guilt of that sin.

You see, those things can cripple us & hold us in bondage to the past. That is why Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind..." Paul had a lot to forget. Paul had a very shaky past.

He persecuted the church. He used his authority to kill Christians. By his own admission he said, "I am the chief of sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

He could have walked around all his life with this tremendous burden of guilt crippling him & he would never have become the great apostle we know & love today.

But Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind..." In other words, "God, I commit it to you. I seek your forgiveness for all the sins of the past, & I look forward to what lies ahead. And right now I’m going to live today the best I can."

I believe that is good advice for us as well.

Finally, I think that we need to establish a priority in our lives.

Paul says it this way, "This one thing I do." Now Paul obviously did more than one thing. He made tents. He preached sermons & established churches. He healed the sick. He wrote books. He did a lot of different things.

But he said, "The top priority in my life is to ‘press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ “

A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students.

After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a one-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks & carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top & no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he said. Then he reached under the table & pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel into the jar & shook it, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled & asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them said.

“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table & brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in & it filled all the spaces between the rocks & the gravel.

Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water & began to pour in the water until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked back at the class & asked, “What is the point of this illustra-tion?” One eager beaver raised his hand & said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the big rocks of your life? - They should include these: Each day drawing nearer to God, spending time with Him in prayer, & seeking His guidance for your life through reading His Word. Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

It was Jesus who said, "Seek first His kingdom & His righteousness, & all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

We’ve just gone through another Christmas season in which the world was reminded again that "God so loved the world that He gave His one & only Son." In His love, God offered us the most wonderful gift that we could ever receive.

An old beggar woman ran out of money. She couldn’t pay her rent. She couldn’t pay any of her bills. The landlord had threatened to throw her out if she didn’t soon pay her rent.

She had only a candle to keep her warm, & on Christmas Day she warmed her hands over the candle. There was a knocking at her door & she was afraid to answer for fear that it was the landlord coming to kick her out.

She blew out her candle & sat quietly in the dark & waited for the intruder to leave. Two weeks later she found out that the knocking on her door was the knock of a friend who had come to bring her enough money to pay her rent & pay her debts.

I wonder how many have from time to time heard the gentle knock of the Savior who wants so much to come in & free them from the burdens of their sin? But they have ignored His knocking.

This morning God’s invitation is offered to any & all who would accept Him and be baptized for the remission of their sins. He came as a baby in the manger. But He also came as the Redeemer, & this morning He patiently waits for you. Whatever your need may be; whether to be baptized or to ask for the prayers of the congregation, will you come as we stand & as we sing?

Sermon Contributor: Melvin Newland

Follow Me

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Matthew 4:17-22

INTRO: Good morning. The ministry of Jesus began in the Judean countryside. So today our text will be Matthew 4:17-22 and we will start by reading verse 17 – “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.''” That sounds familiar doesn’t it? Jesus’ first preaching has a ring similar to that of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was teaching about the coming kingdom and baptizing people in the Jordan River. Repentance was the prime need of that generation. People had grown hard and indifferent to spiritual values. John's great call to repentance had been heeded by many and he had many disciples and developed what you might call, well I guess “notoriety” might be the right word.

He had built a huge following already of what the Bible often simply calls his disciples.
They saw John as a great Prophet of God, as someone that they wanted to be like.
But John had one purpose, and that purpose was to prepare people to receive Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus was in Judea at the time when John was teaching. One day when John was teaching, he saw Jesus walking and he said, to those near him, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. That wasn't some little off-hand statement, it was a powerful statement. It was a statement that really is... it was beyond anything anybody could have imagined.

John is saying, Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus replaces the atoning sacrifice. Jesus replaces the entire sacrificial system that the Jewish people have based their hope in God on. That tiny statement carries a tremendous weight behind it. Sometimes we just read through and gloss through that statement like, that was a nice thing to say. John’s statement is prophetic and powerful and life changing. It was a profound revelation that Jesus would do what no animal could do, take away sin.

The next day the Bible tells us that John was again standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and he said, Behold the Lamb of God. Again, that second day, he's there with his disciples, and we get that phrase, “Behold the Lamb of God”.

I want you to notice what God’s word says happens next. John 1:37-39a – “The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, "What do you seek?'' They said to Him, "Rabbi'' (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), "where are You staying?'' He said to them, "Come and see.''”

A couple things I want us to notice from this reading. Number one is we are still in Judea, and I want you to keep that in mind because that's going to be important in this lesson.
Number two, these two disciples are disciples of John, but because of what John has said, they literally leave John, and they followed physically after Jesus. They want to understand, what is it that John meant when he said, Behold the Lamb of God.

Jesus sees them and says What do you want? What are you seeking? What are you looking for? They want to know; Where are you staying? Interesting question—Where are you abiding at this time? Where are you living? What's going on? They had called Jesus “Rabbi”, and by the use of this title, and by their inquiry as to where the Master lived, the two disciples clearly indicated a desire to know more of that Person of whom their beloved teacher had made such amazing statements. Jesus just simply says, “come and see”. Jesus then rewarded the two disciples by inviting them home with him. We are told “...They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day...”

The Bible continues. John 1:40-42 – “40. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, (that is followed after Jesus), was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah'' (which is translated, the Christ). 42. And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas'' (which is translated, A Stone).”

When Andrew, who goes and gets his brother Peter, first meets Jesus and first really feels like Jesus is something greater than just a Prophet, that He is the Messiah, they are still in Judea.

Fast forward. Not very long after this, Jesus is now in Galilee. John the Baptist has been put into prison, and we know he's going to be executed. At the same time as John is in prison, Jesus is going around throughout Galilee preaching the exact same message that John was preaching in Judea. That is the Kingdom of heaven is at hand and that there is this call for repentance.

It is in Galilee that we continue with scripture. Matthew 4:18-20 beginning with verse 18, “18. Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'' 20. Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

Remember they had met Jesus down in Judea. They were disciples in the sense that they believed, but committed followers? Not yet. Now they're in Galilee and life is going on.

I. Follow Me.

A. Here we are the beginning of a new year. It's 2022. To be honest with you, I'm really glad 2021 is done and behind us. It was a year that I believe brought division amongst many of us, even families in some cases. I've seen that. A year that left some people feeling lonely. I know that. Isolated, hurting, and some in such disparity that they even took their own life.

1. It was a year in which some believed that Christians were tested and failed to act like Christ. A year when even some Christians put themselves before their fellow man. It was a year that when we look back on it, we say, I just want things to go back to being normal.
2. We hear that phrase. We may have even said that phrase. I just want things to go back to being normal. But I ask you, what does normal mean?

B. Here in Matthew we see what was normal for Andrew and Peter, and normal for the two brothers, James and John, the Sons of Zebedee. These four men are back in Galilee fishing. That's normal for them. Normal is life goes on.

1. Normal for many people is “I love the time that we come together on Sunday. I love the singing, the fellowship, the learning”. These things we do indeed love. But then eventually you’ve got to get back to life. For some getting back to life just simply means “I love Jesus, but following Him?” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell this same story.
2. When you have time look up every single instance the phrase “follow me” in the Old and New Testament, and then read the verses where it was used. When you come to this particular one, the calling of these original Apostles, ask your self, what does it mean to follow Jesus?
3. Normal is; I come to Church and I worship and then I go home and I do my thing. Monday comes around and life begins and you go to work and you get everything done. You might have a few spiritual highs during the week, and then Sunday comes back around and we have our wonderful fellowship and worship. We say okay, that's normal.

II. Responding to the call.

A. As I listened to God speak to me in this scripture, I had to ask myself how I respond to the calling of Jesus to “follow him.” I needed to really examine what that phrase means and what my response should be, and what my response is in reality.
B. These disciples, what do they do when Jesus said, Follow me? Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the same story. Luke gives us the most detail. Matthew and Mark make a statement that is almost identical. In Matthew 4:20 – “Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:18 – “And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Luke 5:11 – “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”

1. When Luke gets done with his story, it's a longer story, they left their nets and followed Him. It does not make a difference what translation you use, the response is the same, immediately, at once, their life changed. They gave up being “normal”.
2. Peter says in Luke 18:28 and in Matthew 19:27- “See, we have left all and followed You.” They left everything to follow Jesus,... they just left.

C. How do we make this real? How do we make this applicable? How do we take what God is saying in Scripture and say, that wasn't just a good story, it wasn't just a calling of those disciples. It is the calling of every single Christian—follow me. What does that phrase mean to us today?

1. For them, it wasn't to get back to normal. For them, it was leave everything that they trusted as normal. Are we ready to consider that?
2. For them it was, I'll walk away from the nets, I'll walk away from my livelihood, I'll walk away from everything that I know. I don't even know where I'm going to sleep tomorrow night. I'm going to follow Jesus.

D. We are very quick to say, Well, that was the original twelve Apostles, and that's not life today. I suggest we are being a little too quick if that is our thinking. Perhaps we are dismissing something we should not dismiss.

1. Do I have to give up my job to follow Jesus? No. Do I have to give up believing that my job is what makes my life? Yes. I have to make sure my job doesn’t interfere with making Jesus the Lord of my life.
2. Do I have to give away everything that I have in order to follow Him? No. Do I have to give up believing that the things of this world are what satisfies my deepest needs and brings me the joy that I have been seeking? Yes I do. The things of this world are simply gifts from God as I walk with him in humility, obedience, and surrender.

E. It's a mindset change that brings about a change of my life because I start thinking differently. Following Jesus is more than calling myself a Christian on social media. It is giving up everything, not because I have to, but because I believe that what I gain is far more valuable than what I give up to get it.

1. It's not okay when we do Sunday, but tomorrow we get back to life. Monday comes for each of us and our routines kick in. Many of us love routine, I know I do. Routine is safe. Routine means I know what's going to happen next. I don't worry about it. I don't have anxiety over it because there is a routine.
2. If you have Jesus in your life, really in your life, what do you do? I want Jesus, but I want Jesus to fit my routine. I want Jesus on my Sundays. I want to talk about Jesus at the times and days that fit my routine. Am I following Jesus to the point of wherever He leads me, I will go?

III. The response.

A. Do you recall the parables in Matthew 13 about the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price? Matthew 13:44-46 - “44. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46. "who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” The kingdom, the church, Christians, our following Christ is what is being talked about. It is giving up everything, that is, as in my reliance upon those things, in order to rely upon Jesus. That doesn't mean I quit my job. What it means is Jesus becomes my focus, even in my job. Do I let Jesus lead me?

1. Jesus says, I'll make you fishers of men. I enjoy fishing. Not so much anymore perhaps but there was a time in my life when I so looked forward to going fishing. I admit I love fair weather fishing. I love fishing when it's easy. Sitting on the bank of a lake, or on a dock and just relaxing with a rod and reel.
2. When Jesus called those disciples to come and follow Him, what were they doing? They were fishing. But they were not relaxing in the fresh air and sun, not caring if they caught something soon or not. No. Luke tells us that they had fished all night long and caught nothing.
3. In Luke 5:4-5 Jesus says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”. Peter really didn't want to and said, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing”. Then he said “nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net”.
4. What happened? Luke 5:6-7 - “they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” They caught such an enormous amount of fish they had to call their business partners, who we learn from verse 10 were James and John, and have them come over and help them to bring those fish in. What happened was a miracle, and they knew it.

B. I would have to say that that would have been the best day of fishing ever. And then... on the best day of fishing ever, Jesus says, Stop, quit your life. The best day you ever had. Come and follow me. Really?

1. How do we translate that into 2022? I have the best day of my life, and Jesus is saying, I want to enter it, blow it out of the water and tell you what I'm offering you is even greater than what you think you have. You just come follow me.
2. Jesus challenged them. Challenged them to make a decision which they did immediately. Their lives were forever changed from that moment. They had to make a decision; Do they leave the safety, comfort and stability of their life to follow this Jesus or do they just enjoy the spiritual times and keep their life their own? They chose to leave their nets and follow Jesus.

CONCLUSION:
Boy, that's a tough thing to do. I like normalcy. I like routine. I want Jesus to fit my life, not me fit His. That's what I want, but that is not what God wants. Jesus is saying to us; “I want to change you so much that you're going to be radically different from what you were before, because following Me will change you like nothing else”.

Again I ask, What about us. Here we are in 2022. With limited stability in this life and limited security of finances, we have to decide, do I just want Jesus on Sunday and days that bring me spiritual joy; or am I willing, am I willing, to give up my belief of security in this world to gain the reward of being a follower of Christ?

You have to decide. Am I willing to follow Jesus?

Am I willing to leave everything... the assurance, the knowledge, everything that is life as this world defines it, and say, God, whatever you want from me, not just today, not just tomorrow, but whatever the day brings, just lead me.

One more scripture I would like us to read this morning, Colossians 3:16-17 – “16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Then Paul says; “17. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus ...” We are to respect the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in everything. The parts of our life this applies to are: (1) that of personal morality and conduct; (2) the things done in public assemblies of Christians; (3) in the whole area of thought and action (word or deed); and (4) even in the secret purposes of the soul. In short, "do all" in the name of the Lord.

In just a moment we will sing what we call “the invitation song.” I hope you will sing this song with meaning in your heart. I hope you will truly consider the words and truly count the cost of what it means if you do not make your commitment to Jesus.

____________________________________________________________________________________

We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ and be buried with Him in baptism, or to ask for prayers on their behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.

# ???

Reference Sermon: Jeffrey Dillinger

Slower Than Christmas

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

II Peter 3:8-9

INTRO: Good morning. It is good to have all of you in attendance today, and I trust we are enjoying the holidays. It is more difficult these days with the pandemic for folks to get together. We often need to adjust our approach to protect the most vulnerable in our families.

Mark has told us of Moses and his service to God in the past lessons. One of the parts of the scripture I could relate to was when Moses said he was “slow of speech”. Whether that was because Moses stuttered or whether it was because it took him a bit longer then a younger person to get his words out, we are not told.

I recall a story from many years back, probably in the 1980’s, when there was a family gathering mid year, about Independence Day I believe. Anyway several of the children along with their spouses and children gathered at the grandparents to celebrate. At some point after lunch grandma was trying to gather everyone up to go to the festival and then the fireworks that evening. In her frustration, she said, “Let's go. You all are slower than Christmas”. I had never heard that one before. I’m sure that many of us have heard “slower than molasses”. My dad used to say I was “slower than molasses in January”.

Up until that point of the story, I had never heard the term “slower than Christmas”. You see this grandma was a sharp cookie and she knew that the grandkids would not relate to something they had not experienced like “slower than molasses in January.” However Christmas was a different matter and as youngsters they could relate. I recall that as a kid, it was true that Christmas took forever to arrive. As it got near we would count down the days. The days would take so long. It was such an exciting time and I think a lot of that excitement was because we knew what was going to happen.

Okay, so we didn't know every detail. We didn't know what the gifts were. We may not have known what all the food would be, but we knew it was going to be a great day of gifts, a great day of family and a great day of food and more gifts and more food.

It was going to be a great day. We knew that it was coming on December 25, and the anticipation would build as each day got closer and closer.

Today is December 26th and Christmas 2021 is passed. I hope you had a wonderful time. Today though, I want to talk about another day, another great day that is coming.

I would argue that this is probably the most anticipated, talked about, predicted, prophesied, debated, doubted, scoffed at, laughed at, and perhaps the most feared day in the history of mankind. As you can probably guess, that would be the Judgment day, the second Coming of Christ.

It's called many times in scripture, the day of the Lord. Yes, the day of the Lord has been, and is slower than Christmas in so many ways, but while it is looked forward to, anticipated, and longed for, there is reason to thank God it is slow.

I. Our scripture for today is found in 2 Peter 3:8-9 but first I want to back up a little bit and go to the beginning of the chapter. 2 Peter 3:1-7 - “1. Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2. that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3. knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4. and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.'' 5. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6. by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”[NKJV]

A. Now lets go to verse eight of Second Peter, chapter three – “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” That is what we consider this morning, God’s longsuffering, God's patience. Every day that we wake up is just another example of God's patience.

1. When we think about this, that passage was written roughly 30 years or so after Christ had gone back into heaven and made the promise to return. Only 30 years later there are many people anxious for that day, and also there were many people scoffing and doubting, disbelieving about that day.
2. Here we are, some 2000 years later and God's patience is still intact. God's patience still affords us more time to do things right. We can see His patience all throughout the Scripture. Psalm 145:8-9 says – “8. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” You see God's patience, His long suffering if you will, affords us more time, another day, to do more for Him.

B. This morning I want to look at three things that I think are the most important for us to turn our attention to in this great time of God's patience. Number one is to be reconciled to God. Number two is to do good works, and number three is to persuade others to obey the Gospel.

II. The first priority, as we await the day of the Lord is to be reconciled to God.

A. Let us look at Saul as an example when Stephen was stoned. We read in Acts 8:1-3 – “1. Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”

1. Saul, even though he thought he was doing what was right, was working against God. As his story continues, we know he's headed to Damascus and he's blinded on the road, and he heard a voice say, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It was the voice of Jesus.
2. Next a man named Ananias was sent to find Saul. Ananias immediately responded in Acts 9:13-19 – “13. Then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14. "And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.'' 15. But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16. "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.'' 17. And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'' 18. Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. 19. And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus”.
3. Saul was working against God and His Kingdom, and he needed to be reconciled to God. Jesus had plans for Saul to be an instrument. We know that Paul would go on to be used as that instrument, to reach the Gentiles, to reach Jews, to reach many people, and to reach us through letters that he wrote which have been preserved.

B. No matter what life you are living, God's patience is giving us time to obey the gospel and to be reconciled to Him, to believe, repent, to confess, and to have our sins washed away in baptism.

1. Once we've been added to God's family, we continue to strive to get our lives right... to leave sin behind. Every day that God gives us is another day to do better.
2. Whatever our struggle is, God is patient. You may not be like Paul working deliberately against the Kingdom, but we all have struggles. We all have something that we're working on—and praise God that He gives us another day to try to get it right.
3. Philippians 3:12-14 reads; “12. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Whatever is behind us, whatever we've done, we need to continue to move forward. God's patience has given us more time to do that each and every day.

III. The second thing that I want to point out this morning is that we can spend our time doing good works. Turn with me if you will to Ephesians 2:8-10 – “8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9. not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Good works. That's what we are created for in Christ Jesus. We are His workmanship and we are His hands. God worked in us to create these opportunities and for us to fulfill these good works.

A. Each and every day is another day to do that. When there's good being done, we, as God’s people, the Church, should be doing it. I know that this congregation engages in doing good works for the community here and in communities far away. These are the things that the Church should be known for.

1. Titus 3:8 says; “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”
2. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 says; “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,” God's love should motivate and inspire us to do good works.
3. Matthew 5:14-16 says; “14. "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15. "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
4. We want our good works to have a positive influence on others, but there is a warning that we must heed. In Matthew 23:5 Jesus warned against doing works to be seen of men. Our good works need to be seen by others so they can be influenced for good, but we must not do good works for the purpose of our own glory. Let your light shine, don’t shine your light.
5. You see, the whole purpose of good works is not for us, and it's not even just to do the good thing for the people we're doing it for. The whole purpose of good works is to show people the goodness of God and draw them closer to a saving relationship with Him that they may see your good works and give the glory to God.

B. How great is God's patience to that end, I can only imagine how many days in my life I've wasted doing nothing good for God. Yet God still says, here's another day, try again. Another day, go on, continue. Oh, you didn't do it yet? Here's another day. Try again... Praise God for His patience. There are good works to be done—many good works. We just need to remember to direct all glory and praise to God.

IV. That brings me to the final thing that I want to talk about this morning. In this time of God's patience, once we've been reconciled to Him and we spend our time and effort doing good works to glorify him, there's one more urgent matter that we need to tend to, and that is to persuade others to obey the Gospel.

A. Every day that isn't judgment day, every day it isn't the day of the Lord, every day that the clouds haven't opened up and we have yet to hear the trumpet, is another day for somebody to fall in love with Jesus.

1. It's another day for somebody to find the truth in God's word...a day for somebody to give their life to Christ...a day for somebody to submit to God's will, to be reconciled to God, to be adopted into God's family.
2. It's another day to be added to His Kingdom. It’s another day for someone to have their sins washed away, another day for someone to return to the faith that they once knew.

B. Every day that isn't judgment day is another day for somebody to be saved. Who is it? Who is it that needs another day?

1. Well, it was me at some point. I needed another day and there are likely others here who need one as well. We all needed another day in order to come to Christ.
2. This morning, I don't know who it is. It might be your mom. It might be your dad or your sister or your brother, your cousin, your niece, your nephew, your coworker.
3. It might be your boss. It might be your best friend. It might be your girlfriend or your boyfriend, your husband or your wife. It could be your barber, your beautician or your bus driver.
4. It could be your teacher, your student, maybe your doctor, your mechanic, your waitress, your waiter, or the cashier at the checkout.
5. Whoever it is, every day is another day where God can use us to make a difference in somebody's life.

C. Paul was preaching about Jesus before Festus in Acts 26:24 – starting in verse 24. It says, and he was saying these things in his defense, “24. ... Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!'' 25. But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26. "For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27. "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.'' 28. Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian.'' 29. And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.''”
D. Paul took every opportunity to try to persuade someone to obey the gospel. I think that as God affords us more time, as He keeps bringing the sun up, it's another chance for us to reach somebody and share the good news with them and persuade them to be part of God's family.

CONCLUSION:
In closing, I suggest that we need to make the most of this time that God has given us before that great and glorious day when Christ returns.

It will also be a very sad and a very somber day when those who God sacrificed for, sent his son for, and has waited patiently so long for, are going to have to give an account of why they chose not to accept the free gift of Salvation.

I don't know about you, but the older I get, the faster time seems to go. When I was a child Christmas was super slow and now it seems like it's here, just like that.

Perhaps you too have on your phone, one of those photo apps. One which does a one year ago today reminder or two years ago, or five years ago. I look at these pictures. I think wow, that was a year ago, that was five years ago. I'm wearing the same clothes. It was five years ago. Time goes like that. It goes fast.

For me Christmas isn't so slow anymore. What I wanted to bring to you this morning in the lesson is kind of in the spirit of this last scripture I'm going to read, which is Hebrews 10:24-25 - “24. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25. not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We look at this scripture a lot, as the one that tells us to meet regularly and not miss worship services.

That's what we should think about this morning as we see the day approaching. We don't know when, we don't know how much longer it will be. But we see that day approaching... and it's getting closer. It's closer now than it was before. Let's make the most of this time that God has given us. Let's not waste another day of His great patience, of His long suffering.

Be reconciled to God.

Do good works.

Persuade others to obey the gospel.

Perhaps some of you attending may need to respond to the Gospel. If you do need to respond to that, please don't hesitate.

Please do not hesitate. If you are ready to have your sins washed away in baptism, I implore you today is that day. For there is no better day than today.

God has been waiting nearly 2000 years for some people to make that decision. So please do not hesitate.
____________________________________________________________________________________

We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ and be buried with Him in baptism, or to ask for prayers on their behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.
# ???

Reference Sermon: KC Branson

I Am The Lord’s Servant

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Luke 1:26-38, 46-50

Christmas time is upon us. When asked to name something about Christmas... many people will mention gifts or presents. It’s always exiting to receive a gift! This morning we are going to see how the Lord would provide Mary with a very special gift within her womb, the gift of a son. He would not be just any child though, but the very Son of God and Savior of the world! Something interesting about her gift is she would not be able to unwrap it until she submitted and believed the Lord’s promise to give it to her.

I want to ask you how you would feel if someone promised you a gift, but then said you could not receive it until you believed in it and asked for it. First of all, many you would think that’s ridiculous, and secondly you would have to make a decision to do what was necessary to receive that gift. Would you believe in it, and ask for it, as you were told, or would you walk off in pride thinking, “I am not going to humiliate myself by asking for a gift.” God offers each of us the greatest gift in all the world, but in order to receive it... we will have to believe in it and ask for it!

ILL. He was an impressive man in his 50's, vice-president of a multinational corporation. He had a great family, & was by all accounts a success in his career & in his life. He was raised in a small town in the Midwest, where he had been active in sports, a good student, & attended church services.
He went on to college where he had also been active in many clubs & programs. Then came his first big job, & marriage, a child, traveling abroad, promotions, a new home, another child, & finally promotion to his current position as vice-president of a large corporation.
But he had a problem. Listen to his own words:
"The problem is that my life is full of good things - a fine house, nice cars, a very good job, & a busy life, ...but as I began to think about what really matters most to me, I realized that over these past years, that feeling, that sense of purpose, has gotten lost.
"I've been lulled by a sense of security. My life really hasn't made much of a difference. I've just been watching life go by through the windows of my country club."
By popular standards he was a successful man, but when he looked at the bottom line of his own life, he concluded that he was not making any noticeable contribution to God, to others, or to the world. Something was missing in his life.

As the wise King Solomon looked back on his life he came to the following conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 - 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

A second person description... She was a young girl, living in an obscure village in a humble, farming area. And she was pregnant - a scandalous situation for a young, unmarried teenager.
Compared to the rich executive I just mentioned, she had no wealth or position, no obvious security, & the stigma of society's disapproval. Yet she had something far greater.

Listen to her words found in Luke 1:46-50: - "46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation."

Well, as you know, this young girl's name was Mary. And we're going to be looking at Luke 1:26-38 this morning to see what we can learn about her.

I like to learn from people. When I see someone admirable, I try to learn from their example. And when I see someone make mistakes, I like to learn how to avoid what went wrong. So let's look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.

PROP. I think Mary is well worth our study because, although the events that take place in her life are unique, her character & attitudes seen in this passage are worthy of praise. So let's try to learn from her.
The first lesson is that God can use us despite our lack of special abilities.

ILL. When I was a kid in school, we would go to the playground during recess & at lunch time. If we wanted to play a team sport, two captains would be picked. These captains would look over the rest of us, & then take turns picking their teams, based on strength, agility, & skill.
They picked the best players first, & those who were picked last were very aware of their place in the opinions of the captains.

But God is not like that. Some people think that God picks only the brightest & the best. But that’s not necessarily so. He sometimes picks those who would seem to have little to offer because that's the sort of people God often uses to accomplish His purpose.

The apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:26-29 - 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.
Listen to verse 28 again, “What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used...”

As we look at Mary, the Bible doesn’t mention that she has any special skills or abilities.
Luke 1:26-28 tells us, 26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; [e]blessed are you among women!”

I want you to notice several things from this passage.
First of all, Galilee was not a particularly respected region of Israel, & the village of Nazareth itself had a very poor reputation.  In fact, years later, when Nathaniel, who later became one of the 12 apostles, first heard about Jesus, he asked, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

Nazareth would hardly seem to be a desirable location to find an earthly mother for God’s promised Messiah!
Secondly, Luke identifies her as being a virgin, engaged to Joseph. At that time, a Jewish engagement involved two steps: a formal betrothal, which included a contract & exchange of a bridal price, & then some time later, the actual wedding.

To break off a betrothal would actually be the same as going through a divorce.  But yet, while they were officially betrothed, or married, they would still be living apart & would remain so until the wedding ceremony took place, even though legally they were considered to be a husband & wife.

Thirdly, Mary's age is not given, but in that culture she would almost certainly have been a teenager. God is entrusting the King of Kings & Lord of Lords to a teenager in a despised village located in a remote area of a little nation that had been conquered & ruled by Rome.

And yet, the angel calls her "highly favored." You see, God often chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things so that everyone knows that it's not the person who's responsible, it's God.

A 2nd thing we learn from Mary is that The only thing we can really offer is our willingness to do His will. Luke 1:38 tells us 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

God's servants have the right attitude to accomplish great things for God when they say to Him, "I'm available. Use me as you will"

ILL. Imagine yourself being responsible to hire someone for an important task. You receive resumes & arrange for interviews. You notice that the resumes list the education, experience, & qualifications of every candidate - except for one.   In this one resume, you notice that under "Education" it says: "None." Under "Experience" it says: "None." But the resume does say: "I'm willing & available." You & I probably wouldn't hire such a person, but God often does.

What Mary was agreeing to was no simple matter. She was being asked to bear a child without being married.

In her obedience to God, she probably was the object of much doubt & ridicule. Who could possibly believe her story about the angel & the virgin birth?

But Mary knows she is God's servant. So she lets God work through her as He willed. God could place her in whatever difficult circumstance He desired, for she knew that God was with her.
You see, serving God can be costly. I don't know what it may cost you. It might be your income or security. It cost Mary her reputation. But she was willing to pay the price. Are you?

One final lesson: Mary trusted God in spite of her limitations.
Mary's response is one of trust. She “rejoices in God my Savior for He . . . the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name.”
With God's grace upon her, Mary didn't exhibit an inferiority complex, nor did she argue with God as Moses did, telling him that she was underqualified. What she did was realize that God would help her overcome whatever her limitations might be.
Mary is a portrait of going wherever God leads, knowing that He will supply whatever is lacking. She had an attitude that trusted God’s direction.

Think again of that executive I mentioned at the beginning. He had wealth, prestige, & influence; he had everything a person might ask for that the world has to offer. He was a picture of success as the world defines it. And yet, he felt a terrible emptiness inside his soul.
Now think of Mary - a pregnant, unmarried teenager. She had nothing. But God used her to present the greatest gift that man has ever received.
Are you willing this morning to put your total trust in God?

ILL. There’s an old story about a man who was lost & wandering in the desert, dying of thirst. As he stumbled along in the terrible heat, he came upon an old shack.
There wasn’t much left of it, but it might provide a little protection from the burning sun. Coming very close to collapsing he made his way through the doorway & then fell upon the dirt floor.
Lying there, & looking around, he saw an old water pump. He crawled over to it & grabbed hold of its handle. Almost frantically he began pumping up & down – squeak, squeak, squeak, but nothing came out.
He fell back to the ground, & as he did, his hand landed on something. It was a large glass jug half buried in the dirt. He dug it out & to his amazement saw that it was full of water. And there was a note attached to it.
Wiping the dirt off the note, he was able to make out what it said. The note read: "Pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it. If you do this you will get all the water you need. P.S. Be sure to fill the jug again before you leave."

Wow! Here’s a jug filled with water. If he just drank that water, he could at least prolong his life a while longer. After all, could he really trust a note that was no telling how old?
But if he poured all the water in to prime the pump, & it didn’t work, he would soon die. However if it worked, he would have access to fresh water - as much as he needed. So he decided. He popped the cork & poured all the water into the pump.
Grabbing the handle he began pumping - squeak, squeak, squeak. But nothing came out. Squeak, squeak, squeak. Then a trickle of water appeared.   Squeak, squeak, squeak. Suddenly, water was gushing out - cool, flowing, wonderful water – all that he could possibly want.  He filled his canteen & drank it. He filled it & drank from it again. He was marvelously refreshed. Then he remembered the note.

After filling his canteen once again, he filled the jug, put the cork back in place, & added his own words to the note: "Believe me, it really works. But you have to give it all away to get it back."

CONCL. God isn't going to come to any of us with the same job that He gave Mary. But God is calling us to His service. Ephesians 4:7-16 teaches that God has called all believers to minister within the body of Christ – the Church.

‘I am the Lord's servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ (Luke 1:38)
Now what is your response? Are you available for God to use you? Or do you have excuses? Are you willing to let God lead you? If so, will you come forward as we stand & as we sing?
INVITATION

Heavenly Healthcare

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Psalms 103: 1 – 12

This morning we will be spending a little time in Psalms 103. Not only is it one of the most encouraging books of the Bible, its truths will completely transform your life into a more blessed life than you could ever imagine.

Psalms 103:1-5 (New King James Version)
Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Intro: A young minister was about to deliver his first sermon, and asked a retired minister-friend for advice on how to capture the congregation's attention. "Start with an opening line that's certain to grab them," the older man said. "For example: 'Some of the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman who was not my wife.'" He smiled at the younger man's shocked expression before adding, "She was my mother."
The next Sunday the young preacher gets up there and nervously clutched the pulpit. Finally he said, "Some of the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman." He was pleased at the instant reaction—then he became all tongue tied and panic-stricken and said. "But for the life of me, I can't remember who she was!"

Forgetfulness can be a tremendous problem, often getting us into terrible predicaments. How many times have you been embarrassed by forgetting someone’s name? How many appointments have been missed or opportunities slipped by simply because we forgot about them?

Entire industries are built upon the manufacture and sale of memory aids. My life has been saved numerous times by my calendar and sticky notes ... as long as I remember and write stuff down.

I once read of a man who went to a training conference where a course was being taught on how to improve one’s memory. He spent nearly $200 on the books, tapes and worksheets for the course and then brought them home, stored them in a convenient location, and then he forgot where he put them.

No matter how hard we try, our memories sometimes fade with time. The treachery of memory is that while it treasures the past, it permits priceless treasures to decay. The painful words from a family member are constantly replayed, but all too often the important truths that should transform our lives leak from us like the water from a rain gutter.

Forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning is inconvenient, forgetting a name is embarrassing, and forgetting the anniversary troubling, but when we forget all God has done for us, that is frightening.

This is the reason Scripture shows that the opposite of forgetfulness is not just recalling truths like the grocery items you need from the local grocery store. Rather, the opposite of forgetfulness is the activity of renewing our minds.
Psalm 103 tells us to worship the Lord because of all the benefits he has given us.
So, there are two little words I would like to talk about today. The first word is “Remember.” The second is “Benefits.”
When it comes to the concept of remembering, there is something we all want. We want God to remember us.

Actually, there is quite an inner cry in the heart of every person; a desperation if you will, that God would not forget us. Because we know that if God will just remember us, he will not abandon us and will do something about whatever we are facing.

Here are three scriptures dealing with God remembering us. The first concerns the thief that was crucified next to Jesus. Luke 23:42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
In his most desperate hour, understanding that his sin nailed him to the cross, this repentant thief cried out for Christ to remember him. You see, when God remembers, he does more than just recall information. For God to remember something, means for God to act on someone’s behalf, and to be favorable to them.

Sampson was blind and enslaved by the Philistines. Yes, he had sinned and had fallen from grace. But now he is asking God for one more touch, one more moment of anointing, and one more opportunity. He does so by asking the Lord to Remember him; and that by remembering him, the Lord would allow his strength to return.

Judges 16:28 And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
Hannah was in a fix and wanted a child really bad. In the affliction of her inner struggle, she asked the Lord to remember her and not forget her.

1 Samuel 1:11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life,
Also, here are three scriptures that deal with the importance of us remembering the Lord.

Psalms 42:5-6 NLT “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and 6 my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.

Psalms 63:5-7 NKJV “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. 6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. 7 Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
And, here is one for the young people....

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
The Bible actually has a lot to say about remembering and about not forgetting.
And now back to Psalms 103:2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:” I want us to now spend a little time looking at the importance of that second word.
This morning, instead of forgetfulness, we are focusing on this verse to remember all we have.
That word “Benefit” is a very interesting word.

According to Dictionary.com, the word “Benefit” means something that is advantageous or good; an advantage: a payment or gift, as one made to help someone; an act of kindness; good deed; benefaction.
When a person gets a job, they want to know what benefits come along with the job. You know, things like health insurance, paid vacations, retirement investments, and scholarships and so forth.

That’s something I want to bring out today. What are the benefits or the advantages of being a dedicated Christian?
what are the benefits of having Christ in your life?

Ephesians 2:12-13 NLT “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.”

When King David was writing Psalm 103, he was telling us not to forget all the benefits, all the advantages, all the special things that go along with being a child of God. But for many of us, it’s far too easy to forget, or to get our eyes off the potential blessing because of distractions or sometimes by simply not knowing what is ours to start with.

The lesson here is that we need to spend more time looking into the direction where God wanting us to go rather than spend all our time looking where we are not going.
The Bible says is this way, Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:”
and 2 Timothy 3:7 “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Folks, there is a big difference between amassing knowledge and putting that knowledge to work. I know a lot of people who are filled with useless information; or maybe I should reword that and say; I know a lot of people who do not use or apply the knowledge they do have.
the Bible is stuffed full of blessings, promises and the goodness of God. And lots of people know it’s true ... but.

Remember the Parable of the Sower?
Mark 4:13-20 NLT “Then Jesus said to them, "If you can't understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God's word to others.
15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.
16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word.
18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God's word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.

20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God's word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!"

The thing about all this is, we choose. We do have a choice about what kind of seed we are.
We can choose to be footpath seeds that allow the devil to steal the Word from us.

We can chose to be rocky soil that doesn’t have the Word deeply rooted and fall away as soon as the pressures of life comes your way.
We can chose to be thorny soil that can have the Word crowded out or choked out by the worries of this life, or the desire for other things so that no fruit is produced.
Or, we can chose to be good soil that hears the Word, chose to buy into God’s alternative life style and way of living; and produce a huge harvest.

There are hundreds of benefits I could point out to you as you navigate your life down God’s path. And as we continue to walk down the Psalms 103 path, we will pick some out and talk about them.
But I want to end this by speaking about God’s personal promises to you.

2 Corinthians 1:20 says “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
2 Peter 1:4 “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Conclusion: Every one of us has personal promises which the Lord has spoken over our lives based on our individual purposes and destiny. Those promises are consistent with the way God wants to bless and interact with us along the way.
I am here to tell you, don’t give up on God.
Don’t settle for second best
Don’t sale your birthright

I know it’s hard but you can do it
It may be too big for you, but is it too big for God?

Yes, I know we have to deal with setbacks
Yes, I know we have to deal with disappointments
Yes, I know we have to deal with reversals
Yes, I know we have to deal with heartache
Yes, I know we have to deal with storms and uncertainties
Yes, I know we have to deal with even our own failures, mistakes and sin issues.

But God is seeing us through and is setting us up on a solid rock.
God has not given up on you
God hasn’t fallen asleep
God hasn’t made a mistake by making a promise to you
God wants to remember you
He wants to remember you in your sickness
He wants to remember you in your poverty
He wants to remember you in your weakness
He wants to remember you in your troubles
He wants to remember you in your confusion
He wants to remember you in your struggles
He wants to remember you in your failing fight with sin
He wants to remember you in your storms of life.
He Remembers You!

God also wants you to remember him!
God also wants you to remember his benefits
God wants you to remember his benefit of Mercy
God wants you to remember his benefit of Forgiveness
God wants you to remember his benefit of Grace
God wants you to remember his benefit of Healing
God wants you to remember his benefit of Empowerment
God wants you to remember his benefit of overwhelming Joy
God wants you to remember his benefit of Everlasting Peace
God wants you to remember his benefit of Supernatural Fellowship
God wants you to remember his benefit of Spiritual Wisdom
God wants you to remember his benefit of Renewal
God wants you to remember his benefit of acceptance
God wants you to remember his benefit of power and purpose
And I am just getting started........

INVITATION

Sermon Contributor: Jeff Strite.

Healing the Slow of Speech

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Exodus 4:10-12

Kathy and her husband Paul ran a day care in their home. Since Paul was a teacher, he spent the summer at home. One day while in the basement, he heard Kathy tell one of the day care kids to go to the bathroom and wash their hands to get ready for lunch. A little while later, he heard Kathy say: Reese! Reese...how many squirts of soap do we need to wash our hands? Reese said, “one.” Kathy said, “How many squirts of soap do you have on your hands?” Reese explained: “26” Kathy had been teaching Reese to count. And apparently, she’s gotten very good at it!
I tell you that story to help you understand WHY God asks questions. He asks questions to help us reflect. To help us see truth!
Last week, we looked at God’s Miracles for Moses that we find in Exodus 4:1-9 This week I would like to focus on the 10th thru 12th verses of Exodus 4. So, please open your bibles to Exodus 4 verses 10-12 where we see God ask the question: Who Gave Man His Mouth?
10 Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
11 So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? 12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

BACKGROUND OF MOSES:
To help you better understand and appreciate this story, let me give you a glimpse into the life of Moses.
--Moses was a miracle child. He wasn’t a miracle child like Isaac, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptizer or Jesus, but the fact that he survived was a miracle.
--He was born to Jewish parents in Egypt during Israel’s enslavement and in the middle of when the Egyptians were killing ALL of the Jewish baby boys. Moses’ parents successfully kept Moses hidden until they couldn’t hide him anymore.
--That is when they came up with a plan to to put Moses in a basket, place him in the Nile and let God take care of him. And God looked after Moses, and brought him to the princess of Egypt. So, this son of a Hebrew Slave grows up in the Palace of Egypt.
--He benefits from an Egyptian education and learns the way of the Egyptians royal court. For 40 years, Moses has the benefits of Egyptian royalty.
--But somewhere along the way, Moses learns that he isn’t an Egyptian, let alone a physical descendent of Pharaoh, and that he is in fact the descendant of slaves.
--Moses begins to believe that he was meant to help his people. This comes to a boiling point one day when he sees an Egyptian task master beating a Hebrew slave. Moses kills the Egyptian to help the slave.
--In the desert, he meets a girl, becomes a shepherd and has a family. For the next forty years, Moses is a nomadic shepherd learning the ways of the wilderness. His thoughts of power, prestige and heroism vanish and he is taken over by the day to day duties of life. That is, until one day he sees a strange sight:
--Moses and his flock of sheep are all alone at the base of Mt. Sinai when he sees a bush that is on fire! But it never burns up.
--Moses turns aside to see this sight and God calls to him from within the flames of that burning bush.
--Moses is told that God will strike the Egyptians and that Israel will plunder Egypt without a fight. And that Moses was going to be the face to this amazing operation! What an amazing task set before this now humble shepherd: to face the most powerful man in the world!

HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY? The job is too big that you are asked to achieve? That you are under-qualified and not ready?
And Moses responded to God with these words: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

WHO AM I? I’m just a nobody. A has-been. A failure. You don’t want me. I’m not worthy of your attention. At one time I could have made a difference. At one time, I might have led a mighty army into battle. But now... now I’m just an old man who can’t seem to do anything right. You need to find someone else.
Years ago there was a comedian named Milton Berle who wrote this poem:
“I'd rather be a could-be
if I cannot be an are;
because a could-be is a maybe
who is reaching for a star.
I'd rather be a has-been
than a might-have-been, by far;
for a might have-been has never been,
but a has was once an are.”
Someone once noted that Moses spent forty years in Egypt thinking he was somebody; And forty years in Exile learning that he was a nobody.
Moses was a nowhere man - going nowhere, doing nothing, being nothing... but then he meets God. And God tells Moses I want you to do something for me! “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

A few years ago a man named Jens Overson was fishing for salmon in Norway’s Gaula River. But he apparently wasn’t ready for the strong current of the river, and was swept swiftly downstream. There was another fisherman named Wilhelmsen who saw him struggling and he knew exactly WHERE the current would carry the man. So, this 2nd fisherman ran across a bridge, and waited as the current carried Overson downriver. He later told a newspaper. “He seemed paralyzed. Only his face and the tips of his boots were above water. I decided to start casting.” All he had was homemade lure and a light line, but he hooked Overson’s rubber waders on the first cast of about 10 yards. The biggest problem was that Overson weighed nearly 250 pounds which is a lot of weight for a light fishing line. He used every trick he knew, knowing that if that line broke Overson would continue downstream... and he would die.
(LONG... PAUSE)

In our text today, we find Moses standing before God at the burning bush. And God says to Moses “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10
The problem was, Moses didn’t want to go and he’s given excuse after excuse as to why he shouldn’t have to do what God wants him to do. And now we come to one of the most basic of his excuses: “I’m not able to speak well” he says. He implies that has a speech impediment and there’s some scholars who think Moses stuttered. “Moses said to the LORD, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Exodus 4:10
Did Moses stutter? It’s possible! According to Mayo Clinic “Speech difficulties can appear after an emotional trauma (psychogenic stuttering).” That phenomena is rare, but it does happen.
So did Moses experience an “emotional trauma” that could have caused him stutter? Well, yeah.
Forty years before he’d been a man of power and prestige. But he lost all of that when he tried to defend a Hebrew slave and ever since that time, he’d been a fugitive with a price on his head. That might have been enough to make Moses stutter, or at the very least – it might have made him withdrawn and unsure of himself.

ILLUS: And Moses’ excuse about “public speaking” – it’s NOT a new thing. Jerry Seinfeld once said “According to most studies, people’s No. 1 fear is public speaking. No. 2 is death. So, for the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

There’s people who have trouble talking about certain things. And this is especially true about Christians sharing their faith with others. There’s lots of church goers who feel unsure of themselves. They might not stutter... but they feel “slow of speech.” And yet, sharing our faith seems to be the core of what Jesus wants of us.
In one of His parables, Jesus told the story of a King who said to his servants, (Matthew 22:8-10) “The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Who was the King? GOD;
What was the King’s request of His servants: INVITE ANYONE YOU FIND;
What did the King want? THAT THE WEDDING HALL BE FILLED.
So, one of the things Jesus was teaching us: Inviting others is a high priority.
In fact, one the last things Jesus told His disciples was this found in Mathew 28: 19-20: 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
This was such a driving force in the early church, that Peter declared: “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20
Really? Why? Why is it so important that we invite people to come to Jesus?
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes unto the Father except by me.” (John 14:6) Peter echoed that: “Salvation is found in NO-ONE ELSE, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
The Bible is very clear that we can’t get to heaven by being a “good” person. We’ve ALL sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t deserve heaven. You and I can’t be good enough to be good enough to get into heaven.
BUT, Jesus died for your sins so that we COULD gain heaven. I recently saw a graphic that pretty much sums it up:
“Good people don’t go to heaven. Forgiven sinners do.”
This means that – without Jesus – we don’t have a promise of heaven. If people were to get what they (and we) deserve, we’d ALL be condemned. That is why it is so important that we invite people to Jesus, because – without Jesus – they’re lost!

So, let’s go back to our story of the fisherman. We had a man who was moments away from drowning, and there was only one man could save him. And all that one man had to work with was a home-made lure and some light fishing line.
A less determined man would have given up, after all he wasn’t prepared to haul in a huge man like Overson. But did that man give up? No. He took what he had and he used it to the best of his ability. His lure caught on the drowning man’s rubber waders and slowly but surely, the rescuer pulled Overson into shore. That day he caught something much more important than a salmon. He caught a man... and he saved that man’s life.
God has given us the same kind of marching orders He gave Moses. God told Moses to go and bring the people of Israel out of their slavery. And God says to you and I - “I want you to go and help bring people out of their sin.”
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that I have commanded you.
It’s called the Great Commission because God is commissioning us to do our part to give people hope. To change their lives; To bring them to Jesus.
But, how do we do that?

First, we need to realize that it’s not about US - it’s about God. You see, that was Moses’ problem. Moses said: “I have a speech impediment... therefore you can’t use me.” Now, you could ADJUST that excuse (modify it) by saying – “I don’t know enough”; “I’m not smart enough”; “I’m not important enough”; “I’m not... enough.” And you’d be right. You’re not enough! I’m not enough.

In fact, that’s the kind of person God likes to use. Paul (one of the most powerful Christians who ever lived) was told by God “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore (Paul wrote) I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
But WHY would God make his power “perfect” in Paul’s weakness? In I Corinthians 1:27-29 we’re told “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Someone once said “If you really WANT to do something, you'll find a WAY. If you don't, you'll find an excuse.” But that’s not what God said to Moses. God told Moses – “If I want you to do something, I’LL find a way, and I’m not interested in your excuses.”

Moses tried saying “I can’t speak well” and God replied “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:12) Do you think God is big enough to do that for you? Can God be with YOUR MOUTH and teach you what to speak? If you do... just open your mouth once in awhile and tell others about what Jesus has done for you, and let God take care of the rest.

The power is NOT you, it’s the power in the message. Do you realize Moses only had one message “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5:1; 7:16; 8:20) He repeated that to Pharaoh OVER AND OVER again: “LET MY PEOPLE GO!” There was no deep theology; No clever dialogue; No eloquent sermon. Just 4 simple words. “Let my people go.”

You see, God doesn’t want you to impress people, or out-argue them, or quote large sections of Scripture. Someone once noted that “Jesus never sought to win an argument. He sought to win the individual.”
People only want to know if Jesus works for you; that He’s made a difference in your life; and all they want to know is that you care for them;
Invitation

Sermon Contributor Jeff Strite

Miracles For Moses

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Exodus 4: 1 – 9

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls,
a flower grows.
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night,
a candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray,
someone will come to show the way.
I believe, I believe.
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer
will still be heard.
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
hears every word.
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
or touch a leaf
or see the sky,
then I know why I believe!”

I like that song. I always have. It’s been sung by Frankie Vale, Frank Sinatra, The Lettermen, and many others. And what appeals to me (and the millions that have loved it like I have) is that it declares that there is hope in this world. And the reason there’s hope is because we believe in a God ... who does mighty things. In fact, as Christians, that’s the power of what we believe: we believe in a God who does stuff. A God who does mighty stuff.
And, that brings me to our story this morning. Moses has been commissioned by God who tells him Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

The problem is, Moses doesn’t want to go, and he’s been trying one excuse after another to get out of it. But this morning’s scripture I believe gets to the heart of why Moses doesn’t really want to go.
I don’t think Moses believes... anymore. He might have believed once. He might have felt he was ordained by God to save the people of Israel. I mean, that’s probably why he struck and killed the Egyptian who’d been beating an Israelite. But God hadn’t rewarded him for stepping up and defending His people. And so Moses had become a fugitive from justice and an exile for the last 40 years.
Now God has come to Moses and asks Moses to believe in Him. And Moses is saying “Thanks... but no thanks.”
Our text for today is found in Exodus 4: 1 – 9
Moses says in verse 1 But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ”
They WILL NOT BELIEVE! And under his breath I can sense Moses saying: “I don’t either. I don’t believe... either.”
Moses is struggling with unbelief, and so I think these 3 miracles are as much for Moses’ benefit as they would have been for the Israelites he was being sent to. The miracles are there to give Moses confidence. It’s something he desperately needs.

Now, before we get to these 3 miracles, we need to understand the nature of miracles.
1st - when God does something miraculous ... He always has a reason. In the Bible (for example) there were 5 seasons of miracles where God used numerous miracles to establish something He wanted done. At the CREATION He did miracle after miracle. He spoke and the Sun appeared. He spoke and the dry ground appeared. He spoke and there were Fish and Birds and numerous Animals. Then, when God FLOODED THE EARTH there was miracle upon miracle - God brought the animals to Noah and He flooded the earth. When MOSES LED ISRAEL out of slavery until they settled. There were the 10 plagues God brought upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, the miraculous giving of water and Manna in the wilderness. When God used PROPHETS LIKE ELIJAH AND ELISHA He again used numerous miracles to try to draw His people back from paganism. And, of course, during Jesus’ ministry up thru the establishment of the church there were numerous healings, raising people from the dead and casting out of demons.
One person noted that “If these miracles were happening every day, they wouldn't be called miracles, they'd be called regulars.”

But when God did miraculous things... there was always a reason.
A 2nd thing to remember about miracles is that God does them when He’s ready. If God does something spectacular in your life
it will be on HIS timetable... not yours. And that can be frustrating.

ILLUS: There was once a famous preacher who was known for his great faith. But one day a friend of his saw him pacing the floor obviously agitated. His friend asked him “What’s the problem?” The Preacher replied “The problem is – I’m in a hurry... but God isn’t.”
God’s not always in a hurry to do things on our time-table. That’s why the Bible repeatedly tells us – WAIT!
Psalms 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him...!”
Psalms 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage...!”
And Isaiah 40:31 “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
The key thing for us to remember us that God commands us to WAIT! God will do mighty thing when He sees the need and when He’s ready to do them, but not until then.
Now, I believe in a mighty God who does mighty things.
Don’t you? Great. You wouldn’t want me up in this pulpit if I didn’t believe that.
In Matthew 13:58 we’re told “(Jesus) did NOT do many mighty works (in His hometown), because of their unbelief.” Their lack of faith robbed them of God’s power in their lives.

HOWEVER, there was one instance in Jesus’ ministry where that wasn’t completely true. In Mark 9:22-24 we’re told about a man who came to Jesus to have him heal his child. It was a desperate situation and the father pleaded with Jesus: “IF you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
And Jesus healed the boy!!!
For me, that’s one of the most comforting verses in scripture. The very idea that I could say to God “Help my unbelief!!!” and He’d have mercy on me (as He did for that father) is mindboggling.
And I think that’s kinda where Moses is at right now. I think Moses WANTS to believe, but it’s been a long time since he thought God even cared about him or even gave him a 2nd thought. And so (in his unbelief) God has mercy on him, and shows Moses his power! God does the Miraculous in Moses’ life because that’s what Moses needed at that time.
Now, what I find interesting about these 3 miracles God allows Moses to do is that they’re all kind of... parlor tricks. You know what a parlor trick is, don’t you? It’s a minor magic trick that it’s simply meant to entertain you, but isn’t all that impressive.
But this is Moses! This is the man that God used to bring the plagues down upon Egypt; to part the Red Sea; to bring water rock when the Israelites were wandering/wilderness;
and to feed those same Israelites with Manna every day. By comparison, these 3 miracles aren’t really... all that impressive.
So, I got to thinking that maybe there might be more to these 3 miracles than first meets the eye. I believe there’s something about these miracles that teach us something special about our God.
Let’s take them one at a time.

What is the first miracle Moses is told to do? (His staff turned into a snake) “The LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ And God said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.
But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Put out your hand and catch it by the tail’ — so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand. (Exodus 4:2-4)

ILLUS: A preacher once noted: Why would God turn that rod into a snake in the 1st place? Couldn’t He have made it a mouse, or a dog or cat, or some less frightening animal? I think God turned that rod into a snake because the serpent was the symbol of power that was worn on the crown of Pharaoh. It was as if God was saying to Moses, “I created the power and glory that Pharaoh claims as his own... and I can... take that power from him at will”
So this preacher felt the serpent represented Pharaoh, and God turning Moses’ staff into a snake – was God’s way of declaring that He had power over Pharaoh. And that got me to thinking... who else is symbolized by a serpent? MIGHT BE SATAN!
That’s what Revelation 12:9 says “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient SERPENT, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
In Scripture we’re told God has power over Satan. You don’t have to be afraid of him because when God takes hold of your life Satan can’t harm you. In 1 John 5:18 we read “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”
Now, there is a caveat there. If you continue to sin, if you allow bitterness or lust or greed (or some other sin) to rule your life, you might be giving Satan an opening. You’ll be giving him an opportunity to harm you and set up camp in your life. You don’t want that.
But if you give that sin to God (like Moses gave his staff to God) God can use your repentance as a way to destroy Satan’s power. And that was the first miracle – God showing His power over Satan.

Now, what was the 2nd miracle Moses was asked to do? (Put his hand in his cloak/leprous) “Again, the LORD said to him, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, ‘Put your hand back inside your cloak.’ So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.” (Exodus 4:7-8)

ILLUS: One scholar noted that leprosy was the scourge of the ancient world. Nothing evoked more fear, dread, and revulsion than the sight of the walking dead. The smell of decaying flesh would announce their coming long before you could hear their rasping cry of "Unclean! Unclean!" The disease slowly destroyed their bodies, and made them untouchable to society. Most scholars explain that leprosy was a vivid and graphic picture of the spiritual defilement of sin. Like leprosy sin is an ugly, loathsome, incurable and contaminating disease and it separates us from God and makes us outcasts.
Leprosy was a horrible picture of what sin does to us.
And so, as the serpent represented God’s power over Satan, the miracle of the leprous hand represented God’s power over sin. Moses was being sent into Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. And in the same way Jesus was sent to free us from the leprous slavery of sin.
In Romans 7, Paul goes to great lengths to describe the power that sin can have over us and then he says “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this BODY OF DEATH? (Just as leprosy made its victims be the walking dead, so also sin made us the walking dead). Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!... There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 7:24 - 8:2
We are freed from the power of sin by the blood of Jesus. We’re no longer the walking dead. The leprosy-like destructiveness of sin has been washed away. Now there is no more shame and no more guilt. We are free because of God’s power over sin. That was the 2nd miracle.

Now, what was the last miracle that Moses was to perform?
“God said ‘You shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’” Exodus 4:9
The Nile brought LIFE to Egypt. It was literally - the lifeblood of Egypt because without the Nile, Egypt would die. Thus as the serpent represented God’s power over Satan, and leprosy represented God’s power over Sin, so also the water of the Nile represented God’s power over life and death.

ILLUS: In our Sunday evening Bible Study on ZOOM we talked about a man named Jairus – the leader of the synagogue where Jesus was at. Jairus came to Jesus because his 12 year daughterl was terribly sick and he wanted Jesus to come to his home and heal her. But as Jesus and the father were walking to their home, they’re about ½ way there when a servant comes and tells Jairus “Don’t bother the teacher anymore... your little girl is dead.”
The first time I ever heard this biblical account in the life of Jesus I was in shock! We had to feel that this isn’t the way the story is supposed to turn out. If Jesus had been there in time... that little girl wouldn’t have died! And death seemed so final! This part of the story disturbed me.
I paused for a moment before I read the rest of the story. Jesus told Jairus it would be alright, and then went on to the home. When he entered the room where the child lay dead, Jesus took her hand in his and say “Child arise!” And the girl came back to life.
Many are asked if they feared death... and most . That’s not surprising - the Bible tells us everybody fears death, but that’s why Jesus came.
Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through FEAR OF DEATH were subject to lifelong slavery.”
You see, when we belong to Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of death. Jesus conquered death in order to give us life and the promise of eternal life.

ILLUS: One day in a Sunday school call a 10 year old girl asked the minister if death would be a time of eternal blackness. She was serious, and it deeply bothered her. The minister smiled and said “Oh no. When we become Christians, death has no power over us. That’s the imagery God uses in baptism.
When Jesus died for us He was buried in a tomb... but He didn’t stay there. He ROSE from the dead!
In baptism, the Bible says WE “DIE” to our sins. And what do you do with dead people? You BURY them. That’s why baptism is a burial in water... you’re being buried with Christ. But you don’t stay buried. Just as Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb... you don’t stay in the water. You literally rise from the dead to walk in newness of life
That’s why Romans 6:2-4 tells us: “How can we WHO DIED to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.”
INVITATION

Sermon Contributor: Jeff Strite

Keep Your Focus

Posted by Chardon in DefaultTag

Proverbs 4, Matthew 14

Good morning. It’s good to see everyone out this morning. We didn't plan this, but that particular song goes very well with what we're going to talk about this morning. We just sang about how “evil allurements” cannot prevail.

There are a lot of evil allurements around us, and we do well to keep our focus on Christ, upon God, upon their promise of a glory land that we will go to if we are obedient to God's Holy Word. There are a lot of allurements in this world. We're going to talk a little bit about that. One of those is being “smart”. Researchers tell us people want to be smart. We don't know exactly why, but probably it was one of the reasons why Eve committed that first sin. Why she ate the forbidden fruit. Satan told her what it “will make you wise”. Of course he lied. It brought her grief. There is no smart food.

If you're like me, you get these ads on your phone that say; eat this to increase you're IQ. This food improves your brain function. Of course, they wouldn't advertise this sort of thing if some people at least, didn't pay attention to it. There is no smart food to make you smart.

There's no brain game to make you wise. I get games on my cell phone that say playing this game for ten minutes a day makes you smarter, raises your IQ. If it was that simple then educators such as myself and others in this room, would have jobs that would be very different. True wisdom, of course, comes from God. Let's turn over to, of course, the book of wisdom—Proverbs.

Proverbs chapter four, wisdom is what this book contains, and, of course, it's what the entire Bible contains. Solomon is the wisest man who ever lived who was only a man. Christ was fully man and fully God. He received his wisdom from God.

Returning to Proverbs 4, I will begin with verse 25. It says, Let your eyes look straight ahead (or directly forward in the English standard version), and your eye lids look right before you ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil, (or the ESV puts it do not swerve to the right or left). Simply put, stay focused. Do not be distracted. Stay focused on doing what is right. We're all aware of the dangers of being distracted at the wrong time when we're using machinery.

We've all been there. You see them on the highway. What do we see? These people who are not driving the right way, and you manage to get alongside them or pass them. What are they doing? They're on their phones.

They're on their cell phones. Distracted driving is a very real problem. Studies have shown that being on that phone is just about as bad as being drunk on the interstate. The news reported that a man had a car accident because he was driving with his window down and a cicada flew in and landed on him. He was greatly distracted and wrecked. No one was injured fortunately.
Think of all the things that happen in this world because of distractions. Food is ruined. I'm an incompetent cook. I can ruin microwave macaroni and cheese. Things are spilled. Money gets sucked up in a sweeper. You all know what I'm talking about here? Solomon here warns us not to be distracted by evil. Satan uses distractions because they work so well.

We're entering into what we call the holiday season. What are they? Almost nothing but distractions. I ask you, what's the day we've designated as Thanksgiving for? Most Americans now seem to believe that Thanksgiving is for stuffing your face with Turkey and then passing out on the couch watching football. How much thanks is there anymore in a Thanksgiving?

I can't really drive home until Wednesday. I’m just waiting for the joys of that commute on the road as people act like they're so full of thanks and goodwill. Then after that, what are the other holidays about? Getting together with family and friends. Are they, as Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts always used to say, the gift getting season?

We get distracted by things, and of course, distractions work. That's why Satan uses them. Some are mentioned in this book. Of course, we don't have the time to go through the entire book of Proverbs, but the idea of, easy money, is directly addressed almost immediately in the book of Proverbs, easy money through robbery or through, as we talked about when I was with you a few weeks ago, the things that we would not say, I haven't held a bank or anything, but maybe I pocketed that piece of candy and nobody knew about it. So you might save $0.50 in this dishonest way or you say, okay, well, I commit crime, but don’t I really have time to study the Bible? There's work or there's play, or there's a ball game or there are hobbies or there is I'm just so tired or there's a temptation.

These are the evil allurements that we just sang about. Turn over to Matthew chapter 14 we get an example here of distraction that we're all familiar with, I'm sure, but it's good to remind us ourselves of these things. Matthew chapter 14 and we see how we get distracted by all the things around us. And when do we get distracted? We get distracted when we take our eyes off of Christ.

Matthew, chapter 14, beginning with verse 22, says immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Now evening came. He was alone there. But the boat was down the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves. The wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were trouble saying, It is a ghost, and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is, I do not be afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.

So he said, Come. When Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But of course, what do you do? He did not do as Solomon had said, do not turn to the right or left ponder of the path of your feet. As we read in Proverbs 4, what did he start to do? He started to look around. At the very least he started to notice other things other than Jesus. He saw, in verse 30, that the wind was boisterous. He was afraid and beginning to sink. That's when of course he started to sink. He cried out, saying, Lord, save me.

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him, oh, you little faith, why did you doubt? And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those who were in the boat came and worshipped him, saying, truly, you are the Son of God.

Peter was distracted. He took his eyes off Jesus, and then he let his fear distract him.
We're distracted by things that allure us. We're also sometimes distracted by fear. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions that we have. We talk about this when I teach politics, we talk about the media.

And how does the media, I don't care if it's the Internet or the newspapers or television stations. How does the media get and keep our attention by scaring you? I’ve got a political cartoon that I put up on my PowerPoint that has a couple of newscasters. It says; we'll be back and after the commercial break with ten more reasons why it's not safe to leave your house. The point being, fear grabs people's attention.

Yes, we need to be cautious, and we need to avoid putting ourselves in risky situations. As both Testament say, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. You shall not tempt the Lord your God. However, sometimes we let fear keep us from doing what we need to do. We let fear keep us from living our lives for Christ.

To give you an example; sometimes we just don't talk to someone about Jesus because we're scared, because we're afraid. Sometimes we go along with what someone is doing, even though we know it's wrong. Proverbs talks about that. Romans talks about that because we're afraid of losing a friend. We don't want to be unpopular.

Teenagers get a lot of criticism for this, but you can be 18 years old or you can be 108 years old and be subject to peer pressure and be afraid that well. Somebody isn't going to like me anymore if I say anything or if I won't go along with whatever it is they're doing that's not right. Peer pressure can work on us regardless of age. This, of course, can be a serious life changing mistake.

Turn over to the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter twelve, Hebrews chapter twelve and we'll see a simple but yet, of course, very often neglected yet simple to say, but not so simple to do solution to these problems.

I'll read this one from the English Standard, as it's a bit more directly clear. Hebrews chapter twelve, Hebrews Chapter twelve, verses one and two, it says. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, the witnesses being the most faithful listed in Hebrews eleven, so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely.

The New King James says it easily besets us, but it clings so closely trying to get rid of it, and let us run with endurance or patience, the race that is set before us looking to whom? Verse two, looking to Jesus, who the ESV says is the founder and protector or, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Keep your focus upon Jesus. It's very simple to say, but we don't do it. People, of course, in the coming months are very concerned. We're taking Christ out of Christmas. Well, we should be most concerned about, I suppose, is taking Christ out of our lives.

We shouldn't worry about that in December only. We should worry about taking Christ out of January, February, March and April all the way through December. We need to be looking to Jesus. Too much of the world, of course as we're all familiar with, looks to Jesus maybe twice a year on the holidays we've designated at Easter and Christmas. We need to be looking to Jesus 365 or 366 days out of the year. Looking to Jesus, keeping our focus on Jesus, because there are evil, alarmists and distractions all around us.

Let's look at actually a physical example all the way back to Genesis.

Genesis chapter 39 gives us an actual biblical, physical example of someone who faced evil alarms and certainly physical allurements. They faced trials and temptations and problems and see how he dealt with it. I'm talking about Joseph, Genesis chapter 39.

I'll read this in the English Standard. I'll begin with verse one. This, of course, is after Joseph has just been sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt.

It says here in verse one. Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

Let’s stop there for just a moment.

Joseph is separated, of course, from his home, from his relatives. They all just sold him into slavery in the first place. Too often people act like different people. There are a lot of concerns, of course. I know that at least one person here is going to go off to College soon. I hear that, of course, as I teach in College and have been in College, there are a lot of concerns that, well, what happens when the kids leave? When the kids leave home, they'll turn away from God. Well, hopefully, of course, that won't be the case. Hopefully, we and the kids, regardless of whether again, we're 18 or 108, will not turn away from God.

What's the way that we don't turn away from God? We have a good foundation in God's word, and we're dedicated. We dedicated ourselves to fall in Christ. We keep our focus on Christ. We keep our focus on God and what God wants.

Let's see what Joseph does here in verse seven. After a time, it says, his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, Lie with me. But he refused and said to his master's wife, We'll get caught. I'll get in trouble. That breaks Egyptian law. Can't do that.

No, of course, that's not what he said. He said, Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife.

Where was Joseph's focus? How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

We've been through a lot, haven't we? In the last almost two years, I hope and trust, none of us has ever been sold into slavery, been rejected by our own brothers. None of us has ever gone through what Joseph had gone through to this point. Of course, if you're familiar with the story, you know what happens to him later.

You see, throughout Joseph's life, he never did what? he never lost his devotion, his dedication to God. His focus was on; not I'll get in trouble, I'll get caught, I'll go to prison, I'll get my head chopped off. It was always—how could I sit against God? He never forgot that. Who is he ultimately accountable to? He's accountable to God, and so are we all. Joseph made God central to his life. He did not act like many people do. Many people, of course, excuse their evil behavior, their wallow in self pity. He didn't say God has abandoned me. He let me be sold by my own brothers to foreigners, who can blame me if I copy their ways? After all, I'm in Egypt. We often hear when in Rome do as the Romans do. Well, there wasn't Rome yet, per se, but I'm surrounded by pagan Egyptians. Why not just act like (I almost said walk like an Egyptian) act like an Egyptian. My father, Jacob will never know what I'm doing down here anyway. He saw His heavenly Father, trusting God that God would preserve him, preserve his soul, would bring a blessing at this difficult time.

Many children behave for their physical fathers. It's less common than it used to be, but you might have heard “you have disgraced the family name”. At least some of us have heard that. Apparently, maybe we're told that you have disgraced the family name. By the way, my father has the same name as me, and my grandfather had the same name as me. We all had different middle names. So the name of Robert Sidwell is a long one in the family. We behave for our father's sake, our physical father's sake, or, of course, to avoid a whipping.

Older people sometimes try to keep the family name and some of younger people, too. Shouldn't we even more want to keep God's name than others? To behave like we are children of God, to bring glory to his name by a manner of living. The Scriptures tell us to do this over and over again.

That was Israel's Job. Ancient Israel's job was to represent God's people to the world. And if you read the Old Testament, you see that they completely and utterly failed at that. And the question, of course is, do we? We know that Joseph eventually, if you know the story, went to prison because, of course, Potiphar’s wife accused him of, well doing what she wanted him to do anyway. But we know that God did not desert Joseph in the tough times.

We see later, when Joseph testifies as well as prophesy in front of Pharaoh, he confesses that it was God. God does not change. There are a lot of evil allurements and distractions out there.

Turn to First Corinthians chapter Ten and it seems like we get overwhelmed. It seems like we get positively overwhelmed. I am not a computer person. I teach history and politics. I teach political science, not computer science. I know that I've seen some of these videos about the worst computer malware on the Internet. Much of what it does is it actually floods your computer with ads. It absolutely bombards you with ads so it is hard to do anything else because it's so busy. There are just these ads popping up all over the place and you can't stop it. It seems like that's what our physical lives are like. There are just so many distractions, both good and bad.

Family can be a great thing, but when family is distracting you from reading God's Word, from attending services, from serving God as you should, and then it can be a bad thing. There are good and bad things in this world, but none of them, of course, can compare with Christ. It seems like we just can't resist.

That's what you often hear in the attempted defense and sometimes the successful defense of criminals. “Well, he just couldn't help himself, your Honor, he just didn't have a choice. Overwhelming urge came over him. Just couldn't resist.” Well, if you ever said that as kids or adults and thought, quote, the devil made me do it, really? Can the devil make you do anything?

I Corinthians 10:13 says; “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;” In other words, no temptation ever takes you that is not common to man. It's not just you. Different things tempt different people. Some people are more attempted by fleshly things. Some people are more attempted by money. Some people are more attempted by power. Some people are more tempted by their reputation, some people more attempted by sports. It goes on, and you can list all sorts of things that tempt different people. There are all sorts of temptations out there and whatever you're attempted most by, you're not alone. No temptation is overtaking you except that is common to man.

Continuing, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” or “beyond your ability” from ESV, beyond your ability. So we are assured right here that you will not be overwhelmed if you do what? Keep your focus. Keep your eyes upon God upon God's word upon Christ and continues to finish the verse says; “but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Let's not be distracted by trials and temptations to leave the path of righteousness. Some of us are from rural areas, originally from Tennessee and such, of course, Geauga County counts as rural, but not compared to where I'm from. It's not. The path of righteousness is a whole lot more. It’s like, probably most of you know this road. I used to take it from Kent to get here and it was fun—Diagonal Road and that nice little road through that swamp in Northern Portage County, where there's a huge drop off on both sides, which is probably the most terrifying road that I've ever been on. Anyway. That's more like the path of righteousness, actually, it's really straight and it's really, really narrow and getting off of it is dangerous. It's not like I-271, where there are three express lanes and three local lanes.

That's not the way that life works. That's not the way righteousness is. It's hard to find, but it's easy to wander off. We've all heard this. Matthew seven, and of course we should.

Matthew 7:13-14 need to be reminded of these things because of just how easy it is to leave the road. Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,” ESV here says the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. “And those who and there are many who go in by it because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life. And there are a few who find it.”

To begin to wrap our thoughts up here, Jesus, what's He doing now? Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. Stephen saw him and there are other references to this. After He did what he did, He finished, as He said on the cross, He finished what He came here to do. He is interceding for His children with God.

He is helping them. He's helping us as we are His children, from our high and He is waiting that day, which of course, God alone knows when He will come back. When He comes again. As we sang - to judge the Earth in final victory, He will reward the faithful. But there are a lot of people, of course, who, as another song we just sang, for that will be a sad day.

Another old song found in this book sings truthfully, and I quote everybody’s talking about heaven that ain't going there. God is indeed merciful to those who are obedient. If you turn to Revelation 21, we'll see that the list of those for whom that will be a sad, sad, sad day is a long one. Those who will hear their doom as we sang.

Rev. chapter 21. It's human nature for us to start doing a checklist of this. Revelation chapter 21 verse eight, people say, Well, let's see. I haven't done this or this or this and they go through the whole list. It says that the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars.

You ever lied in your life? Have you ever sinned in your life?

They shall have their part in the lake which burns the fire brimstone, which is the second death. The next chapter, if you turn to Revelation 22, verse 15 says, ESV here, outside of the gates, outside of heaven, in other words, are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters. (I'm not any of those. Look at the last phrase.) Everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

New King James—practices a lie. There are so many people who think that they're living right and they're not. They live in practice a lie. They live and practice a falsehood.

A couple more references here and we'll wrap our thoughts up. Roman chapter two. Here we see that not only is this list a long one of things that can keep us from heaven, but it applies to everybody. It applies to all human beings.

Romans 2:6 again, for clarity sake I'll do this from English standard. It says He, God or Christ, will render to each one according to his works, to those who, by patience and well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and Fury. There will be tribulation and distress or tribulation and anguish (New King James) for every human being who does evil, every human being, the Jew first and also the Greek, the glory and honor, peace for everyone who does good for the Jew first and also the Greek for God shows no partiality or is no respecter of persons.

The whole nation was consumed this week with the trial that went on across the country of the person who's accused of shooting people, if you will wrongfully if you are legally not in defense or whatever. Of course it's not and wouldn't be my place to pass judgment on him. It is ultimately, God’s. Is what he did justified or perhaps not. God assuredly knows.

You think of anybody else, any sort of level of physical trial, not just those are put on trial in our criminal court system. Take each of us. What have we done? How are we living? God knows. Criminals of all sorts, and I'm not singling him out, criminals or accused criminals of all sorts can get away with a lot. Look through history, they've gotten away with a lot, but we will not escape God's wrath.

One more reference here. Turn to Second Peter, chapter three for our final reference here Second Peter 3:9-, he says here by inspiration. Peter says, the Lord is not slack or slow concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is long suffering or patience toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Both the Earth and the works are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be in Holy conduct and Godliness looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new Earth and with righteousness as well. Therefore beloved looking notice, we have a lot of looking here looking forward to these things. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.

Be diligence. Put some effort into it. Continue to stay on the narrow gate and we do that, of course, by fixing our focus, fixing our lives upon Christ. I ask you, what road are you on?

Many of us will hit the road, the physical road this week, going to visit relatives. They're expecting travel to be basically at pre pandemic levels. So busy, busy road. Personally, I hope everyone stays safe in the physical sense out there.

Even more important question then are you going to be on I 271 during rush hour, is what road are you on Spiritually? Are you on the straight and narrow, literally, road? Or are you on the wide path that leads to destruction?

We turn on to the interstate physically, but how do we get on straight and narrow road? We hear the Word of God. We hear that Jesus is the Christ for the loving God. Then we believe that and are willing to confess our faith in Him before men.

Then we're willing to repent of our sins and be buried with Him in baptism. Then we continue to live lives focused and built upon Christ. Always looking to Jesus, the founder and professor, the author and the finisher of our faith. And don't get distracted, not during the holiday season and not during the non holiday season. Keep Jesus at the center of your life, whether it is as the world defines it, whether it's time to give thanks, whether it's time to think more about Jesus than people usually do.

I'm talking, of course, about the other holidays. Keep Jesus as the center of your life in October, in August and every other month of the year. So if Jesus is not the center of your life, we're inviting you to make him that. If you've never put him on a baptism, we're giving you a chance to do that. If you have put him on baptism, but you've swerved, you swerved off the straight and narrow, your in danger falling into the ditch.

Of course, you became distracted. You became distracted by what Jesus described in the parable of the soil, by the cares of the world, the thorns that can choke the seed of the Word. We are also giving you a chance to make that right by praying with you and doing what we can for you. So if you need to come to Christ to be baptized, if you need to come back, if there is anything we can do for you, come forward while we sing this song.

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