Friday, August 31, 2007

August 26, 2007 "Living Life out of the Gospel Coffee Cup"

Aug26’07

Experiencing the full power of the gospel through your life.
John 20:19-22

Why in the world do we come to church, gather ourselves as members for meetings and eat food together.

In your hand you have a few coffee beans. Each person who names Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has been given certain gifts and abilities. In fact, I am fairly sure that each of us possesses numerous gifts, abilities and talents.

Let me review something I preached a couple of years ago.

Everyone is born with natural talents. These are the innate capacities of aptitude- how smart you are; your bent toward certain likes and dislikes; and the endowment of particular physical capabilities. Let’s face it: some are smarter than others; some like things others are so fond of; and some can jump higher and run faster.

Everyone has learned abilities. These are the skills that we have developed because of our childhood upbringing. Some of you know how to milk cows; I have never milked a cow. Some of you know how to take a motor apart and put it back together again; I have a hard enough time changing spark plugs. Some of us know how to shingle, shake and roll a roof; many of you wouldn’t be caught dead on a rooftop.

Then there are spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit chooses to give to us. Some are gifted with healing, helping others, doing church administration and an assortment of gifts as the Spirit deems necessary for the body of Christ to minister.

I want to add a fourth: Appointed Ministers. These are those appointed, first by God and then affirmed by the Church, to particular ministry duties. Some are called to be apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers. These have to do with God’s calling to a certain ministry over the talents, abilities and spiritual gifts that they may already possess. To be a pastor or teacher is not about the gift as much as it has to do with the call.

Here’s the skinny: you are a minister and my goal today is convince each one of us of the value of ministry. We are in this together and we need to get together and be about the business of our heavenly Father.

Jesus clearly understood his mission on earth. He realized early on that he had to be about his Father’s business. And, finally, at the age of 33 he breathed his last on the cross: mission completed.

But yet, Jesus mission was not completed. There was a lot of unfinished business on earth that the Father needed to have accomplished. Have you ever wondered why Jesus did not live forever and get all the work done in healing and changing lives? That is where you come in.

Jesus does live forever and is getting the work done in healing and changing lives. That is why we exist as a church: to heal and change lives. His mission now becomes our mission.

I would like us to notice some important aspects of your ministry within this church that parallels the disciples in those early days of the Church.

1. Ministering with Peace over Fear.

They were afraid. But Jesus, twice, says “Peace be with you!” They were scared for their life.

This peace that Jesus spoke was not simply a greeting from a friend to another friend. This was a peace that echoed the “Shalom” peace that recalled the grand vision throughout the Old Testament of the salvation and restoration of Israel. Furthermore, this peace that Jesus speaks of is to remind them that he is the giver of peace. Earlier, the Apostle John relates to them what Jesus said in 14:27- “My peace I give you… do not be afraid.”

But how many of us are afraid of life? Of the unknown? Of ministry? Of stepping out by faith? Of obeying the Holy Spirit?

Let me make a few suggestions for you to have peace over fear when you reach out and love someone.

a. Accept the peace that Jesus offers.

The peace Jesus offers is not the kind of peace the world gives. What kind of peace is that? A peace that is earned. A compromising peace: you do this, we’ll do that. The world’s kind of peace is really unrest. They are “…like the tossing sea,” Isaiah 57:20 says, “which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.”

b. Access peace through the Holy Spirit.

What is more, the blessed Holy Spirit fills us with this peace. Peace is not a frame of mind nor is it an attitude. This kind of peace is the fruit of the inner Spirit. This kind of peace stirs up, not mire and mud, but blessings to you and to those whose lives you touch by your inner, Holy Spirit filled peacefulness.

c. Abide in peace with your Heavenly Father.

This peace Jesus gives was the result of him bearing our punishment on the cross. (Isaiah 53:5) Job 22:21 reminds us of these words: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.”

The peaceful person who lives above fear abides in peace with God. The result is untold blessings as God the Father works in and through your life.

For our context today, God is calling on us to realize his peace as we reach out into the lives of other people. This ministry should be ruled- not by fear of what others may say or who might oppose- but be ruled by the peace that overcomes fear.

Have you ever been afraid to say something righteous? You don’t need to be afraid. Have you ever been tongue-tied when you attempted to witness to someone? Have no fear. Allow the peace of Christ to rule in your heart since you were called to peace. (Colossians 3:15)

Not only does Jesus speak of peace but he breathes power into the lives of those he is sending.

2. Reaching with Power over Weakness.
There is nothing worse as an employee than to be sent to work without the proper equipment. There is nothing worse than to try and work on a car without the right tools. There is nothing worse than to try and lead people to Christ without power.

Imagine if Jesus told these guys: “Peace be with you. I am leaving in a few days, so good luck to you in carrying out all that I taught you.” Are you kidding?

These guys were weak. These guys were sacred. These guys were hiding. These guys were wanted- dead or alive. And then Jesus breathes on them to receive the Holy Spirit. This breath is his power and it is the same power that breathes through our lives as it has been passed down from the apostles, through the hearts of believers for some 2000 years and into our hearts this morning. “I’ve got the power” is more than a song but a reality for you today.

So how does this work?

a. We have the power of the Holy Spirit.

I like Ephesians 1:19-20- We must realize the Holy Spirit’s “...incomparable power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his might strength which he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that raises us to new life.

Whatever your weakness or fear, God the Holy Spirit is there to work miracles through your life. You no longer are weak but strong through him.

b. We have the power of prayer.

There is nothing like the power of prayer. I’m not talking about some kind of comfort we get from knowing that people are praying but I am talking about the kind of praying that sees prayers answered. People are saved, problems are solved and Jesus is glorified.

c. We have the power of blessing others.

Our prayer life should be blessing other people. Too often we easily get caught up in praying for our own personal miracles rather than praying for miracles for other people. When we pray, we must pray for the deliverance of others.

d. We have the power to set prisoner free.

Jesus call to ministry is our call to ministry. Don’t think for a moment that our call as a church or as people is just to warm the pew and sing heart-warming songs. Our call is one of power to rescue people from drug abuse, broken marriages and their slavery to sin.

This denomination was built on rescuing black people from slavery. Today, this church has a part in rescuing Mexican people from the slavery of sin and abuses. Today, we have a responsibility to not only reach them but to reach anyone in our ministry circle in our community.

If we don’t who will?

e. There’s power in the blood of Jesus!

This power that is ours is through the blood of Jesus Christ. There is no other or greater authority than the shed blood of Christ. This blood saves you and me and others from our sins. This blood gives us access to the throne of grace. This blood sprinkles our consciences and cleanses our hearts. This blood opens the door for the Holy Spirit to move in and through our lives. This blood empowers us to set the prisoners free, the give food to the hungry and clothes to the naked. There is power in the blood!!

Not only does Jesus give peace over fear and power over weakness, but we can now…

3. Experience Passion over Apathy.

If we are going to truly be a church with a “Grande Passion for Jesus, Others and You!” then we need to exhibit a passion that gives us delight in seeing God move and work.

Too many Christians are apathetic Christians. What do I mean?

Let me ask you this: Do we care enough to make a difference?

Do you care enough to allow the Holy Spirit to take over your entire life? Your finances? Your motives? Your everyday living? Your attitudes about other people? Your hopes and dreams?

If we are to experience passion over apathy, what does this kind of passion look like?

a. It isn’t about you.
Following Jesus does not mean that your wildest dreams will come true. Following Jesus does not mean that life will be comfortable and cozy. In fact, following Jesus may bring the opposite.

But it isn’t about me or you…

b. It’s all about God.

God knows the plans he has for us as a Church. We may have missed out on some of his plans already… I don’t know. But starting today, we can determine as a body of believers that we will make our lives and this ministry all about God. Why? Because this church belongs to his Son. Jesus paid the price that could not be paid to redeem us. We now belong to God, this Church is his and whatever he decides to do with it.

I do have a sneaking suspicion of what God wants to do with this church.

c. It’s reaching the lost.

He wants us reaching the lost. This needs to become a priority. This needs to be the ministry work of everyone here- not just the pastors and a few others.

So how do with do this?

Conclusion- We make a difference TOGETHER.

In order for us to make a difference means that we will make that difference together. You cannot enjoy the essence of ministry unless you are in the ministry with everyone else and ministering in unison with the heart-beat of God and God’s people.

Your few coffee beans won’t make much difference for anyone else. You can enjoy them, but put them together with others and see a “holy brew” take place. This calls for you and to crawl out of the gospel cup and see the world around us and see each other through the lenses of the cross.

Your teaspoon of coffee beans will make approximately one cup of coffee. I know, I make coffee by the pot and by the cup. However, put your coffee beans together and see what happens.

The more coffee you make, the fewer beans you need per cup. Why? Because the beans are doing something together and when God’s people get together, work together and bring people to Christ together, there is a multiplicity of ministry.

In other words, together we make a holy brew.

I have on this table a coffee grinder. What God desires for us to do, is take our few talents, abilities, gifts and callings, and put them together with everyone else. Grind them up and allow him to brew through us his will for ministry.

The result? Not just rich, wonderful smelling coffee, but a sacrificial aroma that pleases God.

How about it? Are you willing to allow our God to use you through this church ministry in reaching our community for Jesus Christ?

August 19, 2007 "The Best Part of Waking Up"

Aug19’07

Living a life of Prayer, Praise and Peace
Daniel 6:1-28

[Outline- first 6 points- from Warren Wiersbe Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, Quick Verse 6]

Imagine awaking tomorrow morning, pouring a cup of coffee, opening your Bible and communing with the Lord in your own back yard when suddenly armed guards scale your fences and arrest you. You would wonder what country you were in!

Of course, this seems a bit far-fetched for us as Americans. However, we have brothers and sisters around the world who cannot worship as openly as we do, they hardly dare to carry their Bibles in public and certainly have to be careful as to how they display their faith.

However, the reality for someone such as Daniel was a clear and present danger everyday. He not only was kidnapped as part of a noble family in Judah as a fifteen year-old, but was forced to work for foreign kings and leaders- many of whom not only did not worship the God he worshiped but were spiteful and hateful towards him. For over 80 years he established himself as a man who stood firm not to be defiled with the king’s meat and to be a man of integrity and humility.

Daniel made the most of his exile to a foreign land. Sure, he harbored the hope and prayer of returning to his home city of Jerusalem. But in the meantime, he made the most of every opportunity to serve the Babylonian masters that were over him.

In this 6th Chapter Daniel experiences a twenty-four hour period that is perhaps the most eventful of any Old Testament character. (So I will be attempting to cram a 24 hour sermon into 30-40 minutes.)

In this chapter we spend a day in the life of the prime minister of the Medo-Persian Empire. Daniel is not a teenager in this chapter; he is a man in his eighties. Old age was not going to get him down anymore than it did in his younger years. Age is no barrier to serving Christ, nor is old age any protection against temptation and testing. Because Daniel started young as a man of faith and prayer, he was faithful to the Lord even in his old age.

My goal is to help us realize that the best part of waking up for the Christian is that nurturing relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. Your faith gets challenged everyday- certainly through temptation the devil brings and by other people who either despise the God we serve or misunderstand who we really are.

Daniel shows us that being faithful is the only way to live and that God honors the faithfulness of his people. Furthermore, God brings divine protection in times of hostility from the enemy of our soul.

1. A Dawn of Devotion
One of our people shared with the Wednesday Bible Study group that she was grateful for everyday that the Lord gives to her. I wonder if any of us- especially those of us under sixty consider the brevity of life enough to realize that each day that dawns is another opportunity to give praise to our Lord with our lives.

Daniel sets for us an example of how his day began.

How did Daniel begin each day? He prayed to the Lord. In verse10 we are told that Daniel prayed three times a day in a special “prayer chamber” on top of his house.

Psalm 55:17- “Evening, morning and noon, I cry out in distress and he hears my voice.”

Daniel started his day with the Lord and it’s a good thing that he did. Maybe that is a lesson for us to learn about our daily prayer habit. The enemy is always going to and fro seeking whom he may devour just as he was afoot against Daniel. And Daniel was going to face one of the greatest tests of his life.

Prayer was not an incidental thing in Daniel’s life nor was it accidental; prayer was the most essential thing in his life. And the same should hold true for us.

Notice a few things about Daniel’s prayer life:

a. He had special times of prayer.

You can be sure that he talked to the Lord all day long. The Apostle Paul speaks to the Thessalonians of praying without ceasing.” God certainly smiled on Daniel for his consistency in prayer by calling him “greatly beloved” or “highly esteemed.” (9:23; 10:11, 19), language that in the NT the Lord reserves for His own Son.

b. He had a special place for prayer.

It was Daniel’s faithful walk and consistent prayer life that made him one of God’s “beloved sons” (read John 14:21-23 carefully). How important it is to start the day with the Lord. Abraham had this habit (Gen. 19:27); so did David (Ps. 5:3) and our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:35).

c. He had special answers to prayer.

Over and over Daniel came before the Lord in prayer believing that God will answer. A great example of this is found in 2;18 when faced with an “answer or else” command to interpreting the kings dream. “He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”

d. He recognized his status in prayer.

Daniel realized that God was God and he was the child of God. He never lost sight of his status, if you will, with God. His prayer life was not one of treating God like Santa Claus but seeing God in his awesome power. Daniel was truly desperate for more of God and his prayer life showed this.

e. He assumed the same position in prayer.

Have you ever spent time on your knees praying before the Lord? Have you assumed the prostrated position on the floor before a holy and awesome God? Perhaps some of us would do well to not simply “kneel in my heart” but actually make it a truly physical act of an inward reality.

2. A Morning of Deception (6:1-9)
The Medo-Persian government under King Darius was governed by 3 prime ministers and 120 satraps- that is, provincial administrators. Darius realized that he was getting fleeced by some of these leaders so he reorganized his kingdom, making Daniel one of the top three “presidents” and then considered giving him the leadership keys over his whole kingdom. This shows us that…

a. A Christian does not have to compromise to succeed.

God had honored Daniel for his faithfulness, so that he was practically the second ruler in the land. There were actually 124 persons involved in the leadership of the land: Darius the king, the three presidents (with Daniel as #1), and 120 princes. We see that Darius was so impressed with Daniel that he was planning to make him the official second ruler. The promotions of Daniel in Babylon are proof that a believer does not have to compromise to succeed (Matt. 6:33).

b. The wicked are continually jealous.

The other 122 leaders were not too happy about Daniel’s success. For one thing, he was an alien and a Jew. Satan has always hated God’s people and always did his best to persecute them and eliminate them. The wicked always hate the just. Certainly godly Daniel was honest and kept careful watch over the affairs of state; the other leaders were stealing from the king and covering up their thefts with false accounts.

c. Sometimes opposition will not make sense.

The wicked lie about God’s people. In this case, they told Darius that all the presidents agreed on the plan to worship him (v. 7) even though Daniel had never been consulted. But Darius, in his puffed up pride and gullibility, agreed to sign the decree without first consulting with his best president. But history shows that Darius was easily influenced by flattery.

Sometimes opposition will come up against us and it just won’t make sense. It’s one thing to run into antagonism and know what the reasons are. And then there are those times when someone will oppose us that seemed like they were on our side.

d. The Christian always trusts God- no matter what!

But notice Daniel’s attitude in all of this: he trusted God (v. 23).

3. A Noon of Decision (6:10-13)
How many times have any of us received bad news? What do we do in those times? Do we stew in worry all day? Or do we hit our knees in prayer?

a. Daniel refused to altar his lifestyle to accommodate sin.

Daniel was one of the first ones to hear of the new decree, and he had to decide what to do. Of course, his godly character and spiritual walk had already decided for him: he would serve the Lord and pray to Jehovah just as he had always done.

b. Daniel refused to compromise his Biblical values.

Daniel could have made excuses and compromised. He was an old man who had served the Lord faithfully all his life. One little compromise at the end of his life could not do too much damage. Could he not be more useful to the Lord alive than dead? No. Daniel refused to compromise.

He chose rather to be eaten by lions than to miss one prayer meeting.

c. Daniel remained steadfast despite the peering eyes.

His enemies watched as Daniel went to his prayer chamber where the windows were always open (“Pray without ceasing”), and they could see him kneel and lift up his hands toward Jerusalem. Now they had him. But Daniel had peace in his heart. He was praying, giving thanks, and making supplication, and this is the formula for peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

d. Daniel had built a spiritual discipline that he was not about to break.

Daniel was used to praying and had been since he was a teenager. So to go to prayer in a time of distress was normal. He had built a spiritual discipline of prayer in his everyday life.

To our young people: It is important for you to see the wisdom in building spiritual habits when you are young.

4. A Sundown of Disappointment (6:14-17)

There are two very important realizations about Daniel’s predicament:
First,
a. King Darius was foolish and realized it too late. (v. 14)

Second,
b. Daniel’s Enemies reminded the king of the law. (v. 15)

The king realized what a fool he had been, but even his power and wealth could not alter the law of the Medes and Persians.

c. God did not want Darius to deliver Daniel; that was a privilege He was reserving for Himself.

Daniel was not depending on the king either. Psalm 146:3 tells us: “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in mortal men, who cannot save.”

Have we learned like Daniel the whole idea of trusting God no matter what circumstance we are in? When you are faced with a den of lions see what Daniel saw: God did not want to save Daniel from the lions’ den; He wanted to deliver him out of it.

And it may mean you go through a problematic situation, but in the midst of it- if you trust God- he will bring a deliverance that will blow you away.

5. A Night of Deliverance (6:18-23)

a. The contrast between Daniel and King Darius.

What a contrast between Darius in his palace and Daniel in the lions’ den. Darius had no peace, yet Daniel was perfectly at peace with himself, the Lord, and the lions. Daniel was in a place of perfect safety, for God was there.

Darius had labored all the previous day to save Daniel from judgment, yet he could not break his own laws. Daniel simply talked to the God of the universe and received all the power he needed. In every way, Daniel was reigning as king while Darius was a slave.

b. Daniel’s faith in God delivered him (6:23; Heb. 11:33).

It is amazing that he had any faith at all, after living in that idolatrous heathen land for so many years. His daily fellowship with the Lord was the secret: he had faith, and he was faithful. See Ps. 18:17-24.

Christians today face many temptations to compromise, and it often appears that the “safest” course is to go with the crowd. But this is the most dangerous course. The only really safe place is in the will of God. Daniel knew that it was wrong to worship the king and pray to him, because Daniel knew God’s Word. He would rather die obeying God’s Word than live outside of God’s will.

Satan comes as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8-9) and uses our enemies to try to devour us (2 Tim. 4:17). However, God can deliver us if it is for His glory. It is not always God’s will to deliver His children from danger; many Christians have given their lives in the place of duty.

Jesus tells the Church at Smyrna in Revelation 2:10- “Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.”

6. A Morning of Destruction (6:24)

Morning finally arrives. Coffee is brewing in the diners. People are beginning another day of business and life. But in the palace of the king judgment is coming.

But God came through. God delivered Daniel from the mouths of the lions. And the sin of the those opposed to him was truly revealed.

I’ve wondered what these guys were thinking the next morning? Fear certainly had come over them to see that Daniel had survived. The result of their sin- like any other sin- had huge ramifications

a. Sin is always a tragedy.

Sin- in any way or form- is a tragedy. This should be a lesson to any of us who strive to demean or bring down any of God’s people.

b. Reaping the whirlwind of what one sows.

Galatians 6:7 gives us this warning: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Hosea 8:7- “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

Sin out of control has it penalty that is usually far greater than the crime itself.

It’s frustrating to see the results of what sin does in a person’s life. Look at these jealous leaders who attempted to dispose of Daniel in a false way: death. They brought the wrath of the King upon them that not only affected them but their wives and children.

Let me interject this warning: there are those Christians who have tried to bring down God’s leaders- especially pastors that they have disagreed with. Things are inappropriately said, rumors are invented and spread. In fact, if a spiritual leader falls from grace they seem to take great delight.

Furthermore, in our community more recently, the Village Council has made a personnel decision that some people have vehemently disagreed with. Now I am not setting them up as “Daniels” in this case, but they are governmental leaders that we must respect as Christians.

Whether they have made the right decision, recently, or not isn’t the issue here. What is an issue to me is the backyard gossip and unfounded accusations about council members. This is thoroughly and completely inappropriate. The same holds true for any of the same being spoken about the person they dismissed. I would hope that we as Christians and especially members of this Wesleyan Church set an example of doing what is right.

For any of us that have been falsely accused, hang in there. Truth and God somehow win out in the end.

c. God will always be glorified.

Remember, God always vindicates His own. “The righteous is delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead.” (Proverbs 11:18)

God permitted Daniel to go through this experience (vv. 25-27). Why? Because it brought great glory to His name. When Christians overcome temptation, they always glorify the Lord, even if only the angels and demons are watching. May we, like the Apostle Paul, desire that Christ might be magnified in our bodies, as he wrote “whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20).

7. The Dawn of New-found Faith. (25-28)

King Darius discovered through Daniel’s unshakable faith the realization of God and seems to have put his personal trust in him.

So what do we learn from King Darius’ and his reaction the next morning?

a. Our actions do influence other people.

b. Do right when people are looking and when people are not looking.

c. Trust God to see you through the tribulation.

d. Know that God has a bigger plan than you can see.


Conclusion: Final Lessons from the Lion’s Den:

• Daniel exhibited a life-time of trusting and obeying.

What is your life-time habit going to be? Do you trust God? Are you obedient to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life?

• Prayer is the heart-beat of your relationship with God.
Is prayer a spiritual habit that defines your private life with Christ? I don’t ask this to build up guilt but to draw each of us into a necessary lifestyle. Prayer to the Christian should be like water and food to a thirsty and hungry man.

• There's no need to worry about today... or tomorrow.

Do you worry about the situation and circumstances you are in right now? Worry is a natural by product of being human. But God calls us to supersede worry with trusting him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wednesday Nite Bible Study- "Paul's Six Questions" Romans 8:28-39

PAUL’S SIX QUESTIONS
Romans 8:28-39


1. The Question that Affirms Our Faith.

What shall we say in response to this? (v. 31a)

There is no need to fret over what God will do. In times of frustration where is our faith? In times of rejection where is our faith? In times of hardship where is our faith?

What should our response be?

We have a confidence due to our faith in Jesus Christ. We have a sure salvation.
(Isaiah 12:1-3)

2. The Question that Reminds us of God’s Power.

If God be for us who can be against us? (v. 31b)

God is for us and not against us. The all-powerful, the all-knowing and all-seeing God is on our side. This should give us the security that we need in the face of insurmountable odds. (Psalm 91:5, Job 11:18)

3. The Question that Acknowledges God’s Faithfulness.

Will he not also graciously give us all things? (v. 32b)

The proof is that He gave His very best on the cross. Surely He will freely give us anything else we need. As God’s children bought by the blood of Christ, we have the riches of his grace at our disposal. (Philippians 4:19; Titus 3:4-7)

4. The Question that Ridicules the World’s Objections.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (v. 33)

Can anyone indict us for sin? No! We have been justified, and that standing before God never changes. (Hebrews 13:6, Psalm 112:7)

5. The Question that Mocks Satan’s Accusations.

Who is he that condemns? (v. 34a)

Can anyone condemn us? No! Christ died for us and lives now as our Advocate (lawyer) at God’s right hand. (Romans 8:1, John 3:18)

6. The Question that Confirms God’s Love.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (v. 35a)

Can anything separate us from God’s love? No! Not even the devil himself can separate us! (“principalities and powers”—v. 38). (John 10:28, Matt. 28:20)

God does not keep His child immune from trouble. Paul was not referring here to imaginary things, but to things that are dangerously real.

a. “Shall tribulation …?” Tribulation is never a grand, highly welcomed event; but whatever it may be—whether exhausting, irritating, or simply causing some weakness—it is not able to “separate us from the love of Christ.” Never allow tribulations or the “cares of this world” to separate you from remembering that God loves you (Matthew 13:22).

b. “Shall distress?” Can God’s love continue to hold fast, even when everyone and everything around us seems to be saying that His love is a lie, and that there is no such thing as justice?

c. “Shall famine?” Can we not only believe in the love of God but also be “more than conquerors,” even while we are being starved?

d. “Shall nakedness?” What about our Wesleyan brothers and sisters in foreign lands who were turned out of their homes at night, stripped of their clothes as they fled into the Sierra Leone jungle? Are they separated from the love of God?

e. “Shall danger or sword?” “Where does the love of God go when minutes are turned into hours?” (“Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot) What about those loneliest moments a person bears prior to death itself?

Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver, having deceived even Paul, or else some extraordinary thing happens to someone who holds on to the love of God when the odds are totally against him. Logic is silenced in the face of each of these things which come against him. Only one thing can account for it—the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Oswald Chambers)

August 5, 2007- "The Tim Horton's Gospel Message"

Aug5’07
THE TIM HORTON’S GOSPEL MESSAGE


Everybody is an evangelist. Every company is trying to give to you their good news.

Leonard Sweet aptly points out: “The best and brightest in the corporate world are proud to be known as evangelists. Why do you think the business world plugged into the power evangelism just as the church seems to have lost the vision?” (The Gospel According to Starbucks p. 15)

He goes on to tell his readers to listen to the following:
• Japan’s hottest phone vendor, Yasumitsu Shgeta, calls himself a “phone evangelist.”
• Larry Gibson is a former West Virginia mining maintenance worker who has done a turnaround. He calls himself an “evangelist of the environmental cause.”
• John Bates, cofounder of BIGWORDS.com and Redioner has a calling card that reads: “John Bates, Evangelist.”
• Karen Allen of the Recording Industry Association of America is known as “Internet Evangelist.”
• One of six questions asked by Russell Reynolds Associates to determine whether you have “Web DNA” is this: “Are you more evangelical than Matthew, Mark, Luke or John?”
• Business Week magazine selected as one of the greatest innovator managers of the past 75 years was John F. Welch of General Electric and bestowed him with the title “Management Evangelist.”
(Ibid., pp. 15-16)

There’s something terribly wrong when the business world recognizes something that someone else is supposed to be doing, but aren’t so they take the idea and make money off of it. They have hijacked our terminology and, yes, our very livelihoods as the Church to use for personal gain. At the center of what they do is not the living and holy Savior Jesus Christ, but the idea of making profit.

But rather than be distracted with what they are doing we need to take notice so that we can be doing what we are supposed to be doing Each one of you here is an evangelist. Your life is sharing some kind of so-called “good news.” The message of your life tells other people what is at the center of who you are and what is the most important aspect your life.

One of my favorite watering holes in Canada is a place you have heard me speak of time and again: Tim Horton’s. There is something special about their coffee and donuts on an early morning heading out to the lake to catch a full limit of bluegills. Who is Tim Hortons?

Tim Horton’s is what some might be tempted to call the Canadian Dunkin Donuts. Yes they sell coffee and yes they sell donuts. But don’t get them confused. After that, the comparisons fall apart. Tim Horton’s prides themselves on 20 minute coffee and one of the widest varieties of sweets you’ll find anywhere.

Let me share the a brief history about Tim Horton’s. Whether you have heard of them or not, I think you will see some important parallels for us as a church.

The Tim Hortons chain was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario by a hockey player named- well, you guessed it- Tim Horton. The chain’s focus is on top quality, always fresh product, value, great service and community leadership. This has allowed it to grow into the largest quick service restaurant chain in Canada specializing in always fresh coffee, baked goods and homestyle lunches.

The first Tim Hortons stores offered only two products – coffee and donuts. The selection of donuts to enjoy was highlighted by two original Tim Hortons creations, the Apple Fritter and the Dutchie. They became the most popular donut choices in the 60’s, and remain two of the most popular today.

But as consumer tastes grew, so did the choices at Tim Hortons. The biggest change in the chain’s product focus took place in 1976 with the introduction of the phenomenally successful Timbit (bite-sized donut hole), today available in over 35 different varieties. The chain’s growth into the 1980’s brought about a whole series of new product introductions: muffins (1981), cakes (1981), pies (1982), croissants (1983), cookies (1984), and soups & chili (1985). Sandwiches, which were originally introduced in 1993, were re-introduced as a new and improved line-up of 6 varieties, called “Tim’s Own”, in 1998. Also, in the 1990’s, bagels (1996), flavored cappuccino (1997), CafĂ© Mocha (1999) and Iced Cappuccino (1999) were introduced. In 2003, the Turkey Bacon Club sandwich and Maple Pecan Danish were successful menu additions. In 2005 Tim Hortons introduced, Yogurt & Berries, Cinnamon Roll and Hot Smoothee to the menu. Many new great products were added to the menu in 2006 such as the Chicken Salad Wrap and the hot Breakfast Sandwich (eggs, sausage or bacon, processed cheese on a toasted homestyle biscuit).

The chain’s biggest drawing card remains its legendary Tim Hortons coffee. They throw away their left over coffee every 20 minutes. You are always guaranteed a fresh cup of coffee every time.

In 1995, Tim Hortons merged with Wendy’s International, Inc. Tim Hortons locations can presently be found in Michigan, Maine, Connecticut, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York, with responsible expansion continuing in these core markets. Currently, there are more than 2,723 stores across Canada, and over 339 locations in the United States.

As I have compared the Tim Horton’s message of top quality, fresh product, value, great service and community leadership to 2 John I have seen some very important aspects of the Gospel Message for us as a church this morning. I pray that I have not stretched the scriptures where it should not be stretched or fall short of what the scriptures say to us in our 21st century padded pew church.

God wants our Church- Shelby Wesleyan Church- to all that it can be for the glory of Jesus Christ. He desires to see us have a grande passion for Jesus Christ in our everyday life, a grande passion for those around us and a grande passion for our community and world. So what is it about the Tim Horton’s gospel message that should shake us awake this morning?

1. Significant Qualities of the Gospel Message.

(Top Quality)

Stamping a seal on products is very important to any food item in the marketplace. When you get your cup of coffee in a Starbucks coffee cup, that cup is the seal that guarantees your coffee drink satisfaction. If you are not satisfied you can return it for another or get your money back.

Top quality is a goal for every company that is worth its salt in the marketplace. How much more crucial is it, then, for the Church to have top quality as its goal.

But there is something different about the Church. The difference isn’t that we make ourselves into being something- as though we were a Tim Hortons restaurant. The difference is what God the Father through Jesus Christ has already done in us.

The significant aspects of the gospel message includes these three key components that the Apostle John opens his letter with:

a. The Church. (1-2)

“To the elect lady and her children…” This is the church. John was not likely writing to another Christian lady with a family but to a church. The Church is key to the gospel message.

b. The Truth

He then goes on to speak about truth five times. He emphasizing the very fact that as Christians and as a Church the truth resides in our hearts. Jesus Christ is the very source of this truth. Every Church ministry must operate in truth and be accountable to that truth. Every Christian must likewise be held accountable for the truth that we are supposed to know and understand and live by.

Another component is referred to by way of the grace, mercy and peace that are found through Jesus Christ.

c. The Cross.

These three elements come only from God and they are evident in our lives when we live a life that is immersed in truth and love.

2. A Fresh Product found in the Gospel Message.

(Fresh product)

When I used to work at Publix Supermarket in Florida, I loved coming into our store early in the morning and smelling the bakery in full swing. Ahhh! What a wonderful way to start the day- a fresh baked donut.

As a Christian every day of your life must be lived liked the fragrance of a bakery- early in the morning. Unfortunately, too many of us let our morning breath get the better of day.

But God’s word calls us to something greater than ourselves because there is supposed to be someone greater who lives within us.

Christianity needs to be fresh everyday. But too often we would rather keep passing our day-old message rather than pray up a new message for today. Again, the Apostle John sets us up with some factors that effect the fresh product of our gospel message.

a. Walking in the Truth.
b. Loving One Another.
c. Obeying God’s Commandments.

How much simpler can this get? Walk in the truth- that is, tell the truth and let the truth lead your life; love others- not with a love that is of yourself but the love that God filled your heart with when he saved you from your death of sins; and then simply obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit.

3. The Value of the Gospel Message.

(Value)

We need to beware of deceivers who bark their wares from all parts of the world. I appreciate those of you who come to me with questions about books you’re reading or a television preacher’s comments. We need to constantly be aware of how Satan strives to trip us up with

In the days of the early Church there were a group of people who moved in and out of churches spreading dissension through false teachings. These were called Gnostics.

Gnostics were not simply an off-shoot of Christianity, but were around before Christ. They sought to undermine Christianity by just what John writes: “They do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” They deny the very essence of who God is, the truth of Jesus Christ and the real working of the Holy Spirit. They perceive themselves as religious people who receive mysterious and transcendent spiritual because they are open to truth coming from any source. But yet they reject the realities of Jesus Christ.

The core value of the gospel message is found first of all in Jesus Christ.

a. Jesus Christ as our Core Value.

At the very heart of who we are as Christians and the Church is Jesus Christ. We cannot get away from this. Jesus is our core value. And from this core value of Christ must emanate the whole ministry of the Church.

b. The Church representing that Core Value.

We represent Jesus Christ. When you as a Wesleyan pump gas at Wesco or Clarke’s or BP, you represent this church. The things your do and say in the restaurant represent this church- not just you.

Our message has value not because we are Wesleyans but because we are Christians. We represent the greater local church of Jesus Christ here in Shelby.

4. Christian Service is the Gospel Message.

(Great Service)

a. The Church as a Safeguard:
Keeping what we have worked for.

b. The Church as a Mission:
Teaching what our lives are all about.

5. The Impact of the Gospel Message.

(Community Leadership)

Let’s not kid ourselves about this gospel message that every Christian carries within their heart. That message must have some kind of impact in the world around us.

There is a key phrase found in verse 12: “our joy may be full.” The Apostle John writes to the church that he desires to meet them face to face so that they can both enjoy full impact of what Jesus Christ is doing.

Let me make clear that there is no room in this church ministry for jealousy of any other church ministry. It is not our place to become conceited about what we do nor is it our place to become bitter over what someone else is doing. We should glorify our Father in heaven for how God uses others to reach and touch lives.

There is something that is fulfilling to any church that is impacting its world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. What kind of impact is this supposed to have?

a. We influence our community.

If we don’t who will? God is calling on us to have an influence of holiness in our community. Last year during a meeting with other local pastors, one of them looked across the table at me and said these words: “Rob, your church has a history of holiness. Our community needs the holiness message that your church offers.”

The Holy Spirit spoke to me that moment. We have a rich heritage of holiness that most of us have a hard time grasping and yet it is the message that we have traditionally believed sets a person free from the tentacles of sin, the bondages of alcohol and drugs, and frees the sinner not only from the guilt of their sins, but frees them from their sinfulness and sets them free to serve the living God.

b. We inspire other believers.

Notice in verse 13: “The children of your elect sister greet you.” These words tells the church that John is writing to that they are not in the boat all alone. There is another church doing the gospel message through their lives just like them.

I firmly believe that we must recognize the importance of being in the same boat with other Christians. I love our times together with other Christians. At the crusade this week we have an opportunity to mingle with other Wesleyan type people like us. You need this. Our church needs this.

Conclusion.

Businesses such as Tim Hortons have figured out how to make coffee and donuts into money. Their good news is that fresh coffee and donuts are the very thing you need. And if your wife doesn’t think so, then she can have a bowl of chili and tea biscuit You see, their good news is a gospel message that they have something for everybody.

What is our gospel message?

Our role as a church in sharing the gospel message that Jesus saves. And this message is shared when we live this message.

July 22, 2007- "Being a Church with a Grande Passion"

July22’07
Being a Church with a Grande Passion!
Luke 9:32

TOP TEN RESPONSES IF YOU ARE CAUGHT SLEEPING ON THE JOB

10. "They told me at the blood bank this might happen."
9. "This is just a 15 minute power-nap as described in that time management course you sent me."
8. "Whew! Guess I left the top off the White-Out. You probably got here just in time!"
7. "I wasn't sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm."
6. "I was testing my keyboard for drool resistance."
5. "I was doing Yoga exercises to relieve work-related stress."
4. "Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem."
3. "The coffee machine is broken..."
2. "Someone must've put decaf in the wrong pot..."
1. " ... in Jesus' name. Amen."

If we are going to be a church with a grande passion then we need to be a church that is fully awake and fully engaged with the mission God has called us to.

If we are to be a church with a grande passion then we need Christians who have a grande passion.

What does this mean? There is something that happens when the Church is fully awake. We become a church of passion. We are fervent in our prayers, ardent in our worship and zealous in our outreach. Why? We have passion for God and his ministry.

On the contrary, our enemy works hard to lull us to sleep. Too many Christians and too many churches suffer from a slumbering spirit that keeps them from being all that God wants them to be.

One of the great joys of coffee is that the caffeine generally keeps people awake and makes their thinking sharper. Of course, for a small few coffee has no affect on their sleep habits and causes other issues. But by and large, people have used coffee as a way to stay awake during a sleepy afternoon or a long over-night drive somewhere. Obviously, too much dependence on coffee can create a whole host of other problems.

However, what we as the church need most is not a good dose of caffeine but the filling of the Holy Spirit. We need God the Holy Spirit to wake us up so that we can see the glory of Christ at work in our everyday lives and at work in the ministry of his church. We desperately need to wake up and be the church we are called to be.

What is this supposed to look like?
A Church with a Grande Passion is…

1. A Church that Looks with Eyes Wide Open.

There is an unusual illness that is called narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. At various times throughout the day, people with narcolepsy, experience fleeting urges to sleep. If the urge becomes overwhelming, individuals will fall asleep for periods lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. In rare cases, some people may remain asleep for an hour or longer. Other symptoms that go with this are hallucinations during sleep, temporary paralysis and loss of voluntary muscle use. (Narcolepsy Information Page) Some contributing factors to narcolepsy would be sleep apnea, shift workers who oftentimes do not have consistent sleeping habits and drugs or excessive caffeine- especially before bedtime.

I had someone recently tell me of a teacher they once had who would literally fall asleep for about 45 seconds during her lectures. And then pick right up where she left off without missing a beat.

To be a church with a grande passion means being a church that is fully awake. In order to truly see the world around us and for us to truly see the needs that our community has means for us to have the eyes of our heart wide open.

In 1 Chronicles 12:32, the sons of Issachar understood the times and knew what the nation of Israel should do. In the same sense, we as a Church need to have a fresh vision of our times so that we can have better understanding of what we should do.

There are three crucial factors that we need to be aware of:

a. We need to be Aware of our Surroundings.

What works in the inner-city of Grand Rapids or Chicago may not be the thing that works for us. And what worked for the cornfield church that I came from may not be the thing that works here. The point is that we need to be aware of the changing culture that is all around us. We need to be aware of the changing needs of the people of our church and neighborhood.

b. We need to be Aware of our Enemy.

Satan does not desire to see this church impact this community or any other part of the world. He goes “to and fro like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” When we face battles and frustrations we have to be aware that our enemy is not people but the devil and his forces of darkness.

c. We must always be Aware of our Power.

The devil cannot touch us as long as we trust in our Lord. He cannot thwart our plans or undermine our efforts so long as we are walking after the Spirit in all we do. Jesus said that “he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail.” In other words, hell itself cannot hold us back as a Church from achieving what God calls you and I to achieve.

Our worst enemy to evangelism, to outreach, to growing in numbers and seeing people’s lives change is us. We are our worst enemy. But the church with a grande passion for God, for God’s people and for those who need Jesus is going to be a church whose eyes are wide open and sees what needs to be done.

Furthermore, the church with a grande passion is a…

2. A Church that Loves to Love.

How do we keeping on loving even when we don’t feel like it?

Everyone gets sleepy from time to time, but if sleepiness of spirit is keeping you from loving others on a daily basis, you may be suffering from a slumbering spirit. A few years ago I spoke about this issue and challenged us to be awake in the Spirit. To do so means that we eliminate issues in our life that blocks the work of God. It’s like a river where the water is blocked by a dam of some kind. Too often our love for others cannot flow into their lives because we are asleep in spirit.

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What does it mean for us to be awake and fully engaged as a loving Church? Somehow I cannot help but believe that when we are awakened we will see the full glory of Christ at work in our lives and the ministry. Obstacles will not be seen as barriers to what God desires to do.

a. You will Love God with ALL of your Heart.

A fully awake Christian is one whose heart is totally and completely devoted to God. There is no holding back of anything. We have surrendered our hopes and dreams to our heavenly Father who has better hopes and dreams for us.

b. You will Love others as yourself.

Of course, it helps if you have the proper self-esteem that is drawn from Christ in order to truly love others as you should. A person who loves their neighbor as them self is one who is not intimidated by what they have, do or receive. We aren’t jealous of them or covet their things.

A person who loves their neighbor as them self is one who confidently walks by faith in their own salvation. They are not engaging in behaviors that undermines their position in Christ Jesus. They know that they are not their own- they’ve been bought with a price.

Get a church full of Christians like this and you have a “Bath Bomb” waiting to happen. And the result?

 Shelby Wesleyan Church Loves its community more than its status.

 Shelby Wesleyan Church Loves each other more than self.

 Shelby Wesleyan Church Loves anyone even when it hurts to Love them.

Are you a loving Christian? If not, then I challenge you to allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with love to over-flowing. Let God strip you down to where all you have is his love in your heart.

Are we a truly loving church? If not, then it’s high time we became one. Not because we are so determined to be a loving church but because we have opened our heart and soul to the revival fires of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s be the church that loves just because it’s the way we are.

The third important aspect of being a church with a grande passion is…

3. Church that Longs to see the glory of Jesus.

Like a lot of Americans, when I wake up in the morning I love a good cup of coffee. Even when its decaf, I still enjoy the warmth of the coffee mug on my cold hands and the taste of fresh brew on my tongue. And on especially cold fall mornings, there is nothing I long for more than to get my deer blind in the dark and pour a hot cup of joe and wait for the big one to show up and join me.

As a church, we should have a longing for something more and something better than what we enjoy here on earth. We should be a church that longs to see the glory of God.

“When they became fully awake they saw the glory his glory.”

Not only do we see with open eyes the needs of the community around us and we respond with a heart of love, but when we are fully awake we will see the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. What might his glory of look like for us?

a. We will thirst for more of God.

It’s easy enough to sing such songs as we have today: “Lord, lift me up and let stand on heaven’s tableland.” This song relates what it is live a life fully awake. In each verse, the Christian is testifying to new steps of faith, and a thirst for more of what God has for him or her. This Christian longs to catch a glimpse of “glory bright.” We can sing such things but can we truly live such things?

Is there a thirst in your life for more of God? If there is then your life will reflect a desire for what matters to God most. What is it that matters to God more than anything else in all of the world?

People. And so the result is that…

b. We pray to see others come to Jesus.

A longing church is a church that longs to see others come to Jesus Christ. It’s wonderful to talk about missions and missionaries and the need for people’s lives to be changed. But it’s quite another to get on our knees in prayer and fasting to see people experience the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their life. It’s wonderful to hear you sing of when Jesus came into your heart. But it’s quite another to pray that others sing with us of when Jesus came into their heart. How urgent is your prayer for those lost in sin?

Not only do we pray for others to come to Christ but we come alongside of those around us and…

c. We urge others towards heaven.

Within this very congregation there are all sorts of personalities and with that comes personality conflicts. In our community we at least ten different churches- two of them Wesleyan. There are certainly differences between each one.

Even though these things are going to exist, one thing we must do is heed Hebrews 10:24- “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” The writer prods us as Christians to look at ways that we can help each other along life’s journey.

He (or she) goes on to write that famous verse 25- “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Conclusion:

Somehow in the mix of these things, we will see heaven come down to earth. You see, to believe in Jesus Christ, to follow his ways and to participate in his ministry means that I am going to witness his glory taking place through the ministry of the Church.

Peter, James and John saw the glory of Christ. And when they did, they wanted to build monuments and stay in that place. But what did Jesus do? He urged them to move on; in much the same way that when experience the presence of Christ in ministry we move on to share what we saw.

As we begin to celebrate the Lord’s supper this morning I want to challenge us to be a church that looks at our world with our eyes wide open, to love loving God, one another and others and being a church longs to see the glory of Christ.

July 15 & August 12, 2007- "Living the Life You Would Gladly Stand in Line For"

THIS BEGINS MY COFFEE SERIES- BECOMING THE CHURCH WITH A GRANDE PASSION. This first sermon was actually preached in two parts- July 15 & August 12.

July15’07

Walking in the Spirit:
Living the Life You Would Gladly Stand in Line For

John 14:25-26, Galatians 5:16, 1 John 3:9, Ezekiel 11:19

One of the great frustrations is standing in line. I am a busy guy and I do not like standing and waiting for anything. In fact, you find me spending more time looking for a shorter line than standing in one. Standing in line is my pet-peeve about stores.

What I have discovered about the Christian life is that to grow means to wait. Over and over we learn through the scriptures that waiting is crucial to growth. The Old Testament saints had to wait for the coming Promise of Christ. The disciples were told at the ascension of Christ to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. And all new believers are told that we are to watch and wait for this same Jesus who will return to earth someday.

God has something better for us who wait. God has something far better for those of us impatient about his blessings or anxious for the next new thing. God has something for you today that makes waiting worthwhile.

When Naomi and I were dating we couldn’t wait for our wedding day when could finally tie the knot. Then after we married we couldn’t wait to have children. Then after children we couldn’t wait for them to go to school- all day. Then after they went to school we couldn’t wait for them to become teenagers and start carrying their wait around the house. (No laughter, please.) Then after they became teenagers we couldn’t wait for them to graduate high school. And now we are in waiting mode again: waiting for them to finish college, waiting for grandchildren and waiting for our final retirement.

Life is filled with waiting. But there is something far better than any of this. In fact, for the rest of the summer I want us to focus on the kind of life that is worth standing in line for. Like waiting for a good cup of Starbucks Coffee™ there is something far better for those who walk by faith. And today I want us to wrap our thinking around what it means to live our life by the Holy Spirit.

Let me be honest: I am tired of trying to build a church. I am tired of trying to make everybody happy- especially me. I am tired of trying to be all things to everyone and seeing no one saved as a result. I desire a fresh vision from God. I long to catch a wave of the Holy Spirit in my own life.

This past week, God gave me a fresh vision for ministry. The reality, however, is that it’s not a fresh vision but a revival of an old one. God gave me a vision of heaven during worship at campmeeting last week. “When with the ransomed in glory, I shall see his face. It will be my joy forever, to sing of his love for me!”

I long to go to heaven in a way I have not in years. I long to see my Savior, Jesus Christ, face to face. I long to sing with the heavenly chorus forever of what his sacrificial love has done in my heart and what his love has done for my life.

What does it really mean to be a Christian? What does it really mean to have Jesus Christ in your heart and the leading of the Holy Spirit in your daily life?

Where is the desire to stand in line and wait on God in prayer?

Where is the desire to stand in line at an altar of prayer confessing our sins and waiting for the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit to work through the blood of Christ?

Where is the desire to stand in line for the kind of life worth standing in line for? If I can stand in line at the Caribou Coffee stand at the Detroit Airport for a cup of black elixir then surely I can stand in line and wait on God!!

God has something better for you. And to him you’re always next in line. So what lessons does our Lord desire to teach us today?

1. There are Two Great Changes in the Christian’s life.

Remember that moment you got saved? Remember that day when Jesus became yours and you became his? Remember how he called you out of a life of sin?

It does not matter if you came from a life of crime and deep sin to Jesus Christ, or if you came from the house sitting next door to heaven. You were lost in your sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Just because some of you sinned real sins and some of you only thought about sinning real sins, you were all still sinners who needed Christ.

The first change is the…

a. Change from a perishing sinner into a saved believer.

I was once lost in sin- or as the old hymn goes, “I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore.” But then Jesus entered my life.

There is a great change that takes place. This is not merely switching sides or trading teams; this is a transformation of your life. You are no longer a sinner in rebellion against God but now you are a saint- one of God’s children.

The change that happens is this kind of quantum leap- from sinner to saint. The process of transformation begins at your new birth. God begins to clean up your life through the ministry of the Church and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The second change is the…

b. Change from a fleshly believer into a spiritual Christian.

God’s goal is not that you would receive Jesus Christ so that you can get into heaven, but his goal is that you would receive Jesus Christ so that he can bring heaven down to earth and into your life. In the words of Max Lucado: “He loves you just the way you are but he doesn’t want you stay that way; he wants you to be like Jesus.”

And this is where a lot of Christians get stuck. They desire to go on to maturity as a Christian, but they begin to flounder and fail. And what happens is that they settle into a life of ease. They soon forget the waiting game of faith; they forget the power that changed their heart; they forget that there is something beyond belief that God is calling them to.

And so when a pastor calls on people to evangelize or get more involved in ministry or give of your money or share your talents and gifts, people seem to be “…ever hearing but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Isaiah 6:9)

But there are windows of spiritual growth opportunities that every church at one time or another opens. We go through “Forty Days of Purpose” or “The Fruitful Life” or this past spring, “Spring Life.” We work hard at becoming more spiritual and more fruitful and more mature.

However, we struggle. Yes, I included myself in this statement. None of us are exempt. What is it that can truly change the fleshly believer who likes himself more than God and others and who just simply want a “Santa Claus” God to believe in? What is it that can truly make you a spiritual believer who trusts God so much that you will give up anything and everything to follow Christ?

There must be something that more to spirituality than going to church. There must be something more to spirituality than being nice to other people. There must be something more to spirituality than keeping the rules.

How do YOU become a spiritual believer? How do YOU become a spiritual person who pleases God in all that you do?

2. Only the Holy Spirit can make the believer spiritual.

During the American Civil War [I know it is supposed to be called the “War Between the States” but this is easier for people to grasp], the South started out of the gate winning battles and truly showing their courage and leadership. However, the North had a plan through President Abraham Lincoln. Say what you want about his struggles to find good generals, he had a plan and stuck to it. What was that plan? Win the Mississippi River and blockade the southern cities from doing trade with other countries. This was critical to winning the war- especially the imports. He knew that the South didn’t have the industry to keep pace with weapons and machinery to win a war. In the end, the Union achieved its goals and won the war.

One of the little known problems that exemplified the South’s struggle with winning was one item: coffee. More than tea, coffee represented whether they were successful or unsuccessful. Slowly but surely a good cup of coffee was becoming increasingly difficult to come by. So they found inventive ways to make coffee: chicory, roots and other non-coffee grinds mixed with coffee to make it last. And as the South began losing battle after battle, those of prestige and power felt its reality first-hand every morning.

Here’s the deal: coffee is coffee. You can’t make coffee out of anything else. Sure, you can add your flavors and cream and sugar, but you cannot get true coffee flavor out of anything else but coffee. The same holds true to the life of a Christian.

You cannot get true spirituality out of any other source. Only the Holy Spirit can make you, the believer, spiritual.

So how does this work? I’m glad you asked.

There are two sides to the cross that Jesus died on. These two sides make all the difference in the world for your spiritual life. You cannot live one side without the other side. Get them out of balance or ignore them- as many Christians do- and your life will be miserable. What are they?

a. The Destructive Side of the Cross.

This is the negative side of the cross. On the destructive side, the cross destroys everything that originates from the man in the Garden of Eden called Adam.

Through Adam, sin entered into the world. If you want to blame anyone for your sin problem you can blame Adam. It’s his fault. He in turn, blamed “that woman.” (Romans 5:12, Genesis 3:12)

As a sinner who comes to Jesus Christ, God begins to work in your heart. He may start by eliminating the really serious sins. I know a fellow in our church back in our college days who was in the process of quitting smoking. God was working through a process of destroying sin in his life but left this issue until later. And when later arrived, God began to work through the ministry of the church to help him come to victory over that area.

But too often, Christians want to hang on certain things. They come to a certain point of surrender but then back off. They give up certain sins like adultery but maybe they hang on to pornography. They give up certain sins like lying but they still like to gossip. They give up certain sins like stealing but then they think nothing of stiffing the paper carrier.


They fall into this “how bad can I be and still be okay” attitude.
On and on, we can go. People who call themselves Christians become poor examples of the Christ-life. Why? Well, it’s because they are not allowing the destructive side of the cross destroy the sin that so easily entangles them.

Are you free from sin this morning? Or are there some nagging sins that you have hidden in the floor of your tent? Are you truly allowing the destructive side of the cross to do the work of crucifying the sin in your life?

But wait, there’s more. There are people who have stamped out sin in their life. They have overcome every bad habit, paid their tithes and offerings and are now ready for heaven. But their lives seem to be void of power for daily living. Their faith is weak, they’re stuck in elementary issues and they have reduced spirituality to simply remaining victorious over past sin habits.

Pride is their problem. It’s a dangerous sin because it causes a subtle separation between the believer and the God he or she serves. Without realizing it they come to depend upon their self rather than the Holy Spirit.

But praise God in Jesus Christ there is another side of the cross:

b. The Constructive Side of the Cross.

This is the positive side of the cross. On the destructive side, the Holy Spirit is destroying our sinfulness and self. On that side, there is a full crucifixion taking place to sin and self.

On the constructive side, the Holy Spirit builds up everything from Christ so that you can be spiritual. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through the crucifixion blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in John 15:25- “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

It is the Holy Spirit who builds you up so that you can be spiritual. It is the Holy Spirit who brings power to your life. It is the Holy Spirit who takes your old life and gives you a new life. This was Jesus’ plan for his disciples and it is his plan for you now.

The Holy Spirit is the one who entirely sanctifies your life. As you submit your sin habits and your selfishness, God the Holy Spirit moves through your spirit, soul and body and sanctifies you wholly.

This is the life of the Spirit. This is the life I would gladly stand in line for. How about you? Do you long to have the Holy Spirit do a work in your life that cleanses you of that dirty, filthy sin?

Here’s the thing: You cannot be spiritual if you are drinking stuff made from the wrong coffee beans. And the world we live in can make all kinds of imitations but it cannot perform the true work of the Holy Spirit in your heart that then sweeps through your life. This is what changes you and makes you a truly new creation in the image of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

What this means then is…

Conclusion: To be the kind of Christian you ought to be means
belonging to the Holy Spirit.


The Apostle Paul knew what it meant to trust in God and not in our self. He warns the Galatian believers that the way of following the “Judaizers” was a way of following the power of the flesh- a person’s self-will and sinful nature. You cannot please God with sin or in your own strength. So he wrote these words: “So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” To live any other way is to live by the world’s standard. But to live by the Spirit- well, that’s a life worth standing in line!

When you belong to the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit is truly working in your heart there will be evidence. We call this fruit. What is your life supposed to look like when sin is absent and God is truly God in your life?

a. There will be fruit… But where’s the fruit?

An apple tree bears apples. A cherry tree bears cherries. Grape vines bear grapes. This is what they are supposed to do. And as a Christian your life should bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

b. There will be power for all situations… but where’s the power?

There will be a strengthening of your inner spirit.

We have too many Christians who are weak in spirit. Their spirit has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, but they have allowed too much of self and sin to get into the way of Holy Spirit work.

So how does you inner spirit get stronger? Through the preaching, teaching and study of the Scriptures.

c. There will be wisdom… but are we using it?

You cannot get smarter spiritually if the number one reading item in your life is the newspaper. You cannot get true spiritual wisdom from the things of the world any more than you can from godless horoscopes.

Only the Holy Spirit can give you true wisdom to know right from wrong. How does he work?

• Through the Scriptures.

• Through your Church: Pastor, discipleship, and ministry involvement.

• Through your spiritual friends.

• Through your inner spirit.


d. There will be victory over sin… but why do we seem to be losing?

When temptation comes your way you will have a power to resist the devil and he will flee from you. The Holy Spirit has come so that you might live the spiritual life not meant for just a certain few but meant for you.

The Apostle John wrote: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.” When you became a Christian

e. You will experience true worship… but why do we look to other means for spiritual nourishment?

Do you long to just worship God? Do you long to have worship in daily life that glorifies God and strengthens your heart? This comes by the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your heart.

What about you this morning? What is it that you need to let go off so that the Holy Spirit can move through your heart and into your life, spilling over into the darkened world around?

I met a fellow at camp who has become a recent Christian with his wife at one of our churches. One of the areas that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to him about is the computer. And so, by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, he has decided to turn off his computer for ninety days. That’s spirituality!

How about you today?

June 24, 2007 "Free to Rise and Shine"

Jun24’07
FREE TO RISE AND SHINE
Isaiah 42:1-9, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 1:4

People are a superstitious bunch. One of the areas of interest that all of us seem to have is what will happen in the future. Look at some of the ways we will go to find out about our future.

You can search through your newspaper and find the daily horoscope that will give you some direction for each day. Or you can go to a Chinese restaurant and after your California flower sushi you can crack open a fortune cookie and see not simply advice but a prediction for your good fortune. At the County Fair there is a booth where a soothsayer will read your palm and tell you about your future. You can pick up the telephone and call the Psychic Hotline.

All right, so you aren’t a superstitious person. But you still want to know what the future holds.

So you pick up the newspaper and read the financial page or you watch a cable news channel and get all sorts of Wall Street information to predict how well your investments will earn. Maybe you’ll call a Charles Schwab type.

My, oh my how we want to know what will happen to us. Not that we want to know if bad will occur but that something good will come to pass. We seek and look for something positive in our life. We long to know if this spiraling circle of pain and frustration will ever end and that good will come our way.

In Isaiah’s day the people of God were no different than we are today. They wanted to know what the future holds just like us. So they looked to other gods and idols. They sought after things made of wood and stone instead of the Living God. And so God speaks through Isaiah and makes his own prediction. He promises the coming of a Servant who will be God himself who will bring justice and mercy. This coming Servant will not break the bruised reed nor will he snuff out the flickering candle. Why is God promising this? Because he has called his people to righteousness and to be a light to a lost world. He has called you to something better and greater than just having an easy life.

1) Seeking Freedom from Corrupt Sources.

Everyone wants to be free. “Free to be me.” “Free to succeed.” Freedom is the anthem of the United States.

But where do we truly find freedom? The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian churches calling on them to “Stand strong in the liberty…” But too often we forget the liberty we have in Christ and look elsewhere.

The world of Isaiah’s day did much the same thing. People looked for hope and freedom from idols and things. These corrupt sources could not do what God can do. What is it that people back then and today take a hold of in order to bring some kind of freedom into their life?

a. Money.

18th Century author and poet, James Russell Lowell, once wrote: “Wealth may be an excellent thing, for it means power, and it means leisure, it means liberty.” For most people, to have money means for them to have more leisure and liberty. Throw in security for safe measure and you have pretty good picture of how money can become an idol real fast.

The sad thing is that those who relentlessly pursue money find their life lived in a vacuum. They miss the joys of life because they have centered all of their decision-making around money. They have a hard time giving to the Lord’s work because they don’t want to lose financial ground.

Don’t get me wrong; to be good stewards of our income is critical to good spiritual health. But if we allow the bottom line of our estate to dictate how we give then we have missed the whole issue of living by faith and trusting in God.

On the flip side of the coin, those without money can be just as guilty of making money an idol. The result? They short-change society by ignoring what they owe and stealing from God by not tithing.

God wants us to have a healthy balance when it comes to money and not make money an idol.

b. Health.

There isn’t a person who doesn’t want good health. But we must be careful that we are not setting up our doctors and nurses as “gods.” They do a lot of good, but what about prayer? Do we really believe that God cares and heals our hurts and pains?

c. Education.

I am a firm believer in knowledge. I think that the worst thing is for a Christian to not know the scriptures and thereby not know God very well. I also believe in college education- whatever the cost. But good intellect is not the answer to the deepest hurts in your heart if that education does not include God. I did not agree with the village sign that had the quote: “A good education is the foundation of our youth.” A good education is important but not the most important thing in life. Education should not be an idol.

d. Success.

We all love success stories. Like Elmer Doolin who bought the recipe for some corn chips from a Mexican man in Texas who wanted to go back to Mexico in the 1930’s. He parlayed that $100 purchase into Fritos® corn chips and started the Frito Lay company.

Success is wonderful, but we can be so focused on it that it becomes an idol for far too many people.

e. People.

I heard that Paris Hilton is getting out of jail soon and is going to do an interview with NBC, of whom will give her a million dollars for some childhood photos. While in jail, she has set a record for the most mail received of any inmate before her.

Look at how we set up celebrities and worship what they do, what they wear, what they eat and where they go. We even do this in the church.

Again, let’s keep some balance. I have certain people that I hold in high regard. But I must realize that their feet are made of clay. They are not God. They are people.

We cannot allow people to become idols.

f. Things.

And then there are “things” that can easily become idols. How would you respond if someone rammed your car? I have seen two examples of that in my lifetime. I slid into a dear elderly lady’s car in the Oakwood Wesleyan parking lot. She was mad at me for several weeks. I was crushed in my spirit that such a thing would be so important to her. I apologized, offered to pay for the car but she would not speak to me at all. Until my pastor talked with her.

This last winter, someone in our church got dented while in service. How did they respond? Had it fixed. I offered to talk to the neighbors and find out who did it but they said there was no reason to.

These things we have- our home, our nic-nacs, our vehicles and anything else important will of no value when we get to heaven so why should they consume so much of our values here on earth.

These needful things are really not so needful if we keep our focus on God. God says to us just as he spoke to his people back in Isaiah’s day: “Indeed they are worthless; their works are nothing; their molded images are wind and confusion.”

And in your desperation of living a full life with corrupt sources, we can still miss the boat if we are…

2) Searching for Love in all the Wrong Places.

You want to be loved. Don’t deny it, don’t hide it and don’t run from it. You and I want to be loved by someone else.

That is only natural. We were born that way. God built into our very essence as human beings to love and be loved. But somewhere along the way- probably beginning in the Garden of Eden, that essence has been hijacked by the devil. People are running and searching everywhere for true love and true happiness. And most, including a lot of Christians, never find it.

And so, their life becomes filled with pain and misery in relationships that God cannot bless. What are some of the wrong places that people search for love?
We all want to be told that we are loved. I love to hear the words, “I love you” from my wife and kids the most. These are important.

What is it, then, that keeps so many people including some of you sitting here from truly experiencing the love of Jesus Christ in your heart and life? I can’t get exhaustive but I believer perhaps three hungers of love that everyone longs for but many find in the wrong places.

a. Affirmation through sexuality and impurity.

This is a huge, huge problem in our society. Something happens in a wrong way for a lot of people. They short-change their sexuality to be loved or in the misguided idea of loving someone else. They give up purity for impurity.

Others, in their inability to have a true and transparent relationship with someone else, will engage in a private fantasy life neither affirms them as a person nor does it make them happy.

When a person seeks to be affirmed in a way that degrades their God given dignity, they become a hollow personality and cannot have meaningful relationships of any kind. This includes family, friends and co-workers. Something happens in the human psyche that breaks down a person’s ability to relate with others when they are engaged in immorality.

b. Acceptance in exchange for expectations.


Performance orientation is a term that is used to define the role too many people have to live in order to be accepted by family or friends. Basically it means that you have to perform to certain expectations. A classic example can be found in the statement: “Mommy won’t love you if you do that.” Or, “Daddy will love you if you do such and such.” These statements may not be spoken specifically but they are shouted loud and clear through dysfunctional parenting practices.

Far too many of us here today have lived trying to please our parents. To get acceptance we do things. What if I don’t do them? Then Mother or Father will be disappointed.

God has called you and I to freedom in Christ. However, we cannot truly follow Christ unless we put off following others. This is a fact of scripture. Jesus calls on us to give up these in order to put him first in our life. Then these other relationships fall into their proper perspective.

c. Acknowledgment of any kind and in kind.

“If she’s nice to me then I’ll be nice to her.” This is that classic golden rule reversal and it’s something that gnaws at one’s self-esteem. We think we are doing what’s right for our self by doing this. This tit-for-tat relationship never works in the end. Again, it is a hollow relationship that’s not real. If you want people to be nice to you then you be nice to them. No problem. But when we reverse that we become a slave to the negative.

Once again, God looks and sees people like you and I who long to have true relationships and give and receive true love. He sees your pain and frustrations with life. And he wants to rescue you.

Through Isaiah he says in verses: “Who has declared from the beginning that we may know? And former times, that we may say, ‘He is righteous’? Surely there is no one who shows, surely there is no one who declares, surely there is no one hears your words. The first time I said to Zion, ‘Look, there they are!’ And I will give to Jerusalem one who brings good tidings. For I looked, and there was no man; I looked among them, but there was no counselor, Who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.”

All around us there are no answers to love and acceptance. Who will be able to stand among us today and be the answer? Who will be able to hear and deliver truth to our hearts?

3) A Life of Significance in knowing Christ Jesus.

God looked among those in his holy city and saw no one. He saw that there was not going to be an answer among the people. They were hooked on idols and pleasure. So then he makes a promise. And that promise has vibrated through the centuries. He promises Jesus Christ. He promises someone who is a man but is also like him.

a. The Promise of Redemption.

And if you are sitting here with as a bruised reed or a smoldering flame, know that even though others may have given up on you or have kicked you while you’re down, the Suffering Servant has arrived to deliver to you justice through truth and to make you righteous.

i) The bruised reed.

All of us at one time or another was once a bruised reed. You can’t get through life without being bruised in some way. The question then becomes, “What do we do about the bruise?”

Jesus Christ comes to you as the suffering servant who does break the bruise reed. Reeds are those hollow cane plants such as cat-tails or sugar cane. A reed gets bruised by storms or animals or even people. And when a reed is bruised it begins to lose its vitality and eventually needs to be removed.

Do you feel helpless and maybe even worthless this morning? Do you sense that deep within your self, you are a bruised reed? Don’t be afraid, our Lord is very near to you.

ii) The smoldering wick.

Not only will the coming Servant Jesus Christ not break the bruised reed, but he will not put out the smoldering wick. The original Hebrew calls the wick “flax.” What causes a wick to smolder? Sometimes because it doesn’t have enough oil to keep it fresh, it will smolder and eventually flame out. Other times the wick may become wet and struggle to stay lit. And other times, someone may throw something over it to keep it from breathing.

A smoldering wick describes a lot of people. They want to trust God but their faith becomes weak. They want to believe but something struggles within them to grasp a hold of that for which Christ Jesus took a hold of them. They long to have a real relationship with the Living God, but so many things are going on around them and a lot of them aren’t good.

Jesus Christ does not come along to finish off your flame. There has been so many times in my life that I wonder how much longer the candle would stay lit. So many times I have searched within the darkness of my world for just a light.

Back in the late 80’s, rock band Scorpions recorded a hit song called “Send Me an Angel”. It’s a beautiful but unbiblical ballad that sings of the humanistic philosophy the operates for too many people. Hear the words:

“The wise man said just raise your hand
And reach out for the spell
Find the door to the promised land
Just believe in yourself
Hear this voice from deep inside
Its the call of your heart
Close your eyes and your will find
The way out of the dark.”


However, this is not a life of freedom. I remember the song in those dark rough days of my floundering faith. But I realized- with the assistance of some Francis Schaeffer writings and my own church family- that the words of this song might sound beautiful, the lyrics might ring with some truth but it held no real answers. Only in Jesus Christ- fully and completely surrendered to him, did I find true freedom and significance.

b. The Assurance of Faith.

Without Christ life makes no sense. But with Christ you may not know the answers or the future but you can know a few things that will make a world of difference in your everyday faith.




• With Christ you can know true love and acceptance.

• With Christ you can know the forgiveness of sins.

• With Christ you can know your purpose in life.

• With Christ you can know the future is in God’s hands.

• With Christ you can know the value of your new self.

Conclusion

Outside of the city of Ephesus there was a dump that held not only the city rubbish but also the imperfect babies that were born. For a family to not have children was a tragedy; but to have deformed babies was a curse from the gods. And so the parents who gave birth to such a child, would make there way there.

Like most dumping grounds, what is thrown away by one might be treasured by another. And on occasion you would see a childless couple seeking to have their own family, going to the dump in hopes of finding a child still alive- even though it would deformed in some way.

When the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4- “God loved us and chose us in Christ…” This is our adoption into God’s family. Before the creation of the world he loved you and chose you in Christ. You and I were in the ash-heap of life. We were crippled by sin, blinded by the devil and lost without any hope. But God in his great mercy loved you like no other could.

As we move into our time of communion, I invite you to partake of the elements as a celebration of your life in Jesus Christ. This is that wonderful time and opportunity for you re-dedicate your life to God. This is also that time when- through this means of grace- that the Holy Spirit comes down and meets your deepest need.

June 17, 2007 "A Man is a Dangerous Thing!"

Jun17’07

A MAN IS A DANGEROUS THING
Judges 13:8


And so here we are once again on Father’s Day, reflecting on who we are as men and what God is calling us to become.

Father’s Day is a little bit different in the church. In the church every man is a father and, for that matter, every woman is a mother. Each man here is to be a spiritual example of living the Christ-filled life in front of every child that comes into our ministry.

Today, we celebrate not simply our fathers but we celebrate men. We celebrate what it means to be a man. We celebrate the challenges that men face. We celebrate the strength of the Spirit that is supposed to drive a man.

I consider the challenges that face our families all around. I see these young moms and dads at Wal-mart and Meijers and wonder what they are searching for in life? Like the rest of us they are hoping to make a better life for themselves and their family. Like the rest of us they have bills to pay, jobs to go to and family problems. I see them walking down our streets, pumping gas at the gas station, putting up yard sales. Are they finding the right kind of fulfillment that will satisfy?

I see the state manhood in America and I am very troubled by what I see. I am bothered by the slow emasculation of boys as they grow up in our schools and communities and even our churches.

You see, being a man should be a dangerous thing. And when I say “man” I mean a man whose heart has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the cross of Jesus Christ. When I say “man” I mean a man who knows what it is to have Jesus as his life-giving strength so that he can then be the life-giving strength to his wife and children.

But sadly, we seem to be a world where a man- way too often- is a dangerous thing. You name the crime and 90% of the time a man is involved. I quote Edwin Louis Cole once again: the greatest problem with America is the fatherless home. The result? Children without proper male role models and mothers without a husband to strengthen them.

You show me a man, who loves Jesus with all his heart, loves his wife with all his heart and loves his kids with all his heart and I will show you a successful man of God, a fulfilled husband and a happy father.

Everywhere I see young men who are desperate for something real, something that not only makes a difference in their lives, but makes their lives make a difference. This something is what I believe every man longs for within his heart.

Every man here- from the youngest to the oldest longs for a fight to win.

You know me well enough to know that I love sports. I love my Kentucky Basketball, my Michigan football, my Detroit teams and, of course, Shelby High School. I want to see my team win. But God does not call us to be spectators in the fight for our wives and children and grandchildren.

I am convinced that John Eldridge was right in his book Wild at Heart when he speaks over and over of men longing for a fight to win. He goes on to quote a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called “Miniver Cheevy.”

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean when he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were
prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediaeval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking:
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Miniver Cheevy was a man who lived a life of a dreamer who could not see the reality around him. Here’s a man in a small town who longs for the fight of a man and yet dreams of years long past. He regrets being born during his time because there was something idyllic about the old days, the days of war stories and wished he could have been a part of them. He mourned the lost Romantic age when a knight in shining armor would fight to the death for his loved ones. He loved the Medici- an Italian family that not only controlled Florence, Italy for 400 years but also produced three popes, countless Lords and Dukes, and the wife of King Henry II of France. He cursed what he saw around him- the modern age and longed to see the suits of armor that showed men ready for battle. In his latter days, Miniver realized that, yes, without money you couldn’t do much, but with money it really came to mean nothing. And in the end…

“Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.”

I believe that way too often men find themselves longing for a return to the days of the big fight again only to find that the fight is done and over with. The days of leadership, the days of love, the days of battle are past. And even though as good Wesleyans we don’t cry in our beer about it, we may come to regret that we did not do more and that we did not fight harder.

Yes, Miniver Cheevy reminds us of life without something to fight for. Miniver’s problem is not that he is born in the wrong era or to the wrong family or even that there is nothing to fight for but that he refuses to see the cause in his present day.

What does it mean to be a man of God? I could have chosen a man such as Abraham, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Paul or John. But those seemed too simple and, quite honestly- who among us can really identify with these big shots? But tucked away in the midst of story about the strongest man in the Bible we find a humble, hard-working Dad who quietly sets an example of what it means to be a man.

The man’s name is Manoah. And the occasion is his barren wife who has had a visitation from the angel of the Lord. He is overwhelmed- not only by the prospect of having a newborn child come into his life, but the very idea that this child is to be raised quite a bit differently.

We find the people of Israel doing their own thing once again. They had no leadership and they were being oppressed. So God puts into motion a plan to rescue them.

Down among the troubled tribe of Dan we find a childless couple. They long to have children of their own. To not have children was a reproach not only for the wife but also for the husband.

There are some key concepts for the different aspects of manhood from this chapter that I would like to focus on this morning. Each aspect is critical to the fulfillment of most of us men here this morning. Let add to this: you can’t have only one without the other two. They stand together and grow together.

1. Manoah- the Man of God.

a. Peace with God.

Manoah’s name very simply means “rest.” And there is something about a man who is at rest. Being at rest with God means that there is peace with God. In fact, to have Jesus in your life means that you have ceased from your selfish works of righteousness and have taken a hold of Christ for your strength. Jesus becomes your “Sabbath-rest.” The very purpose of the Sabbath Day was to teach the Israelites that they needed to fully depend upon God to provide for their salvation. Read Hebrews 3 and 4 for more.

Manoah had this rest. He had peace with God. And it was expressed when he…

b. Sought God in Prayer.

As we have read, Manoah’s wife received a visit from the Angel of the Lord. Now when you read this very simply think “Jesus Christ.” Most scholars agree that this “Angel of the Lord” is none other than God himself incarnate.

God meets his wife, tells her that she is going to conceive a son, lays out the strict requirements of her pregnancy, and then the stipulations of his child-rearing.

What is Manoah’s response? He seeks God in prayer on how to raise this child.

What would our world be like if parents- and especially fathers- sought God in prayer over their children? I think we might have a far different world.

Furthermore, as a man of God, Manoah…

c. Experienced the Presence of Christ.

When was the last time you as a man experienced that face to face encounter with Jesus Christ? These encounters don’t just happen. But there is something about God’s grace and Manoah’s demeanor that allows him to see God.


Not only was Manoah a man of God but we see Manoah as the husband.

2. Manoah- the Husband.

A lot of us are husbands. I love being a husband. I love my wife and in 8 more days we will be married 24 years. Almost a quarter of a century.

Manoah shows us a couple of essentials when it comes to being a husband that are pretty basic to any marriage.

a. Faithful to his barren wife.

In a day when he could just as easily short-cut the system and fathered a child through another woman or concubine, or when he could have divorced his wife because she was sterile, he chose to remain lovingly faithful to her.

Guys: we have all sorts of challenges to our marriages. The internet porn is only 2 or 3 clicks away; the wrong relationship is only 2 or 3 chance meetings away; and what we say that kills a woman’s spirit is only 2 or 3 words away.

Be careful of what you watch on television or the internet; be careful of ANY woman you encounter; be careful of your words that can wound her.

But there is more: Faithfulness to your wife is about more than staying pure in the marriage bed. Faithfulness to your wife is about more than avoiding Proverbs 7 women. Faithfulness is about more than just saying the right words.

Faithfulness is about loving your wife as Christ loved the Church. Faithfulness is about bathing her in the Word of God, about praying over her and about showing her greater respect than we would show any other man, woman or child in the world.

Manoah was a not only a faithful husband but he was…

b. Supportive of his wife.

He was there for her. He cared about her. He listened to her. But there is one key element here:

• He was not intimidated by her spiritual insight.

I have met guys who seem to be intimidated that their wife knows her Bible, and prays often. Come on! That’s crazy jealousy. But rather than immerse themselves in prayer and Bible Study, they put her down.

Manoah was not jealous. He longed to see the Angel of the Lord as well. And so he prayed. How did God answer that prayer? By appearing to his wife first again.

Instead of jealously, “Manoah arose and followed her.” (v. 11) Guys there are times we need to follow our wife’s spiritual leadership on things. Just because we might be the spiritual leader of our home does not mean that our wife knows nothing. In fact, she might know a lot more than we do but keeps her mouth closed to keep the peace.

• His obedience resulted in a spiritual blessing.

Manoah invites the Lord to eat a special meal. Whenever someone of that time offered to prepare a young goat for the guest then it was a very high honor. This was a type of fellowship offering. But our Lord encourages Manoah to make a burnt offering to the Lord.

Manoah then asks him what his name is. The Angel of the Lord answers: “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” Some translations say: “It is wonderful.” It kind of reminds us of Isaiah speaking of the coming Christ as being wonderful.

They put forth the burnt offering and the Angel of the Lord is caught up in the flame. Manoah and his wife saw this and fell to the ground.

Manoah then declares that they are going to die because they have seen God. But his wife intervenes with more spiritual insight: “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.” (v. 23)

His wife gives birth to a strapping son and named him Samson. Manoah becomes a dad.

3. Manoah- the Father.

I like this David Thoreau quote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Too often men have not lived because they failed to learn the essential facts of life in order to live a purposeful life.

Manoah was certainly not a man who would look back and discover that he had not lived. Look at some of the highlights of his life’s actions as a dad:

a. He Understood his weakness.

This is why he sought God in prayer.

b. He Recognized his need for God’s help.

We can never be too proud as men to not seek assistance. Maybe as dad or grandfather you need help in dealing with your situation. There is nothing wrong with good Christian counseling. Begin with prayer as you seek God’s help.

c. He had the best interest of God and his son in mind.

Manoah was far from being a selfish father. If there was a situation he dealt with it even-handedly.

d. He Intervened with godly advice.

When he saw his son looking to marry an ungodly woman, he spoke to his son. He didn’t do so with a controlling anger. But he did so with godliness.

e. He was Supportive of his son.

When Samson married, he showed up to the wedding and stayed for the feast.

f. He Earned the respect of his son.

Samson was not an easy child to raise. However, Samson knew their faith. When he had touched the dead carcass of the lion to scoop out honey, he respected them enough not to brag to them at any time about it. I get very frustrated when I see kids- especially adult children- who disrespect the spiritual values of their parents but openly doing things. Sinner or not- it’s wrong. Samson had a respect for his father and mother.

And in the end, after his own death, they buried Samson beside his dad.

Conclusion.

I am always reminded this time of the year of World War II’s D-Day at Normandy, and what it takes to be a man. Yes, war is hell, but war reminds us of what history has told us about the historic role of men as defenders. I’m not trying to take anything away from women in the armed forces (I have a cousin who was in the military) but in the muck and the grime of life or death battle, we see the kind of courage that is needed not just to win wars but to win our families back home.

So, every year, I pull out “Saving Private Ryan.” I don’t recommend this R-rated movie but there is something fascinating about the plot line throughout the movie. James Francis Ryan is a soldier whose brothers have all died in conflict. A small group of rangers are put together to go into the outer country of France and bring him out alive so that he can be sent back home to his family. Slowly, one by one, various members die in various battles as they search for Private Ryan. Finally, in the end, he is found, they defend a strategic bridge at the cost of every other member save for two. Private Ryan is saved.

And men, it will cost us our lives many times over in order to save our family and our community. But are we willing to the pay the price in order that they might taste freedom in Jesus Christ?

Being a man of God is a dangerous thing. You should be a dangerous man armed with the armor of God.


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(corner of State/Oceana Dr. and Ferry St.)
Shelby, MI 49455

Contact information:
231-861-5375
robnaomi@charter.net