Sunday, November 06, 2011

Holy Ground

Holy Ground

Intro.: Sandra and I have done a bit of camping over the last 37 years.

  1. I think that one of the best times at camp is sitting around the campfire and eating marshmallows or making smores.

  2. The fire can bring heat and light.

  3. But the one thing I never wanted to see was a fire burning with nobody caring for it.

  4. And that is what Moses found one day as he was caring for his Father-in-Law's sheep, as well as his own.

Read: Acts 7:30-34


Trans: Moses lived almost 1500 years before this section of scripture was written.

  1. We are in the midst of a young man's testimony – Stephen is describing his faith in Christ.

  2. In a few minutes, after he is finished, Stephen will become the first martyr of the Christian church when he is stoned to death of giving a clear statement of his faith in Christ.

  3. Though there will be more to say about Moses' call to ministry, this passage does a good job of summarizing the parts I am interested in discussing this week.

T.S. In Acts 7:30-34 we see four key events that Moses had to face and focus on as God called him into being His servant.

  1. A Burning Tree

    1. I expect it was a strange sight. A burning bush would be strange enough – sitting there by itself aflame. No one around to set it on fire – no evidence of a storm with lightening that could have started it. Yeah, a burning bush out there in the middle of the desert would be a startling sight.

    2. But something else was strange – the bush was burning, but it wasn't being burnt up. Stephen doesn't tell us this in his sermon, but Moses makes it clear that this burning bush remained intact as he saw it that day.

    3. God used that burning bush to get Moses' attention that day so long ago -

    4. Moses first reaction was “amazement”. The greek word used here actually has many meaning – amazement, wonder, marvel, astonishment.

(Ill.) I doubt that we would be astonished. If the bush had been burning in that way in our day, do you know what we would do? In 2011, we would probably call the fire department. Then we would pass a resolution to build a fence around the area containing that miraculous desert bush.

         A. W. Tozer suggests that we would advertise a great Bible conference. We would spend tens of thousands of dollars promoting an international “retreat.” We would eat up all the ham and sweet potatoes in the area while we talked and gossiped.i

(Appl.) Would we be willing to let God talk to us? Would you mind God redirecting your steps? How does God catch your attention? It might be a rainbow, a song on the radio, or the kind word of a friend. But when God does get our attention, are you willing to pay attention.

  1. A Holy Place

    1. That burning bush was an amazing sight. But Moses would be shocked about what else is to be revealed.

    2. As Moses approached this amazing sight the most remarkable thing happened. He heard a voice.

    3. If he was not amazed by the burning bush, the voice coming out of that bush must have been even more remarkable, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.”

    4. Stephen says Moses trembled at that sound.

    5. Moses knew two things at that point. First, he knew his own heart – it, like everybody else's, was corrupt. And he knew that he was standing before a holy God. His reaction – he could no longer look at that burning bush, he could no longer look at the source of that voice.

    6. But God did not stop. He went on, “Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

(Ill.) M. Colley wrote a short poem to put this in perspective for us:

It may be on a kitchen floor,

Or in a busy shopping store,

Or teaching, nursing, day by day

Till limb and brain almost give way;

Yet if, just there, by Jesus thou art found,

The place thou standest on is Holy Ground.ii

(Ill.) In January, 1995, according to Gary Thomas in an article, J. Robert Ashcroft had fewer than forty-eight hours to live, but he was holding on to life, hoping to see his son, John Ashcroft, sworn into the U.S. Senate the following day. As family and friends gathered in Washington for a small reception, J. Robert Ashcroft asked his son to play the piano while everyone sang, “We Are Standing on Holy Ground.”

After the song, the frail old man spoke some powerful words: “John, I want you to know that even Washington can be holy ground. Wherever you hear the voice of God, that ground is sanctified. It’s a place where God can call you to the highest and best.”

(Appl.) Let me ask you one question, “Where has God pulled you aside, where is your holy place?” The next time you walk into your apartment, ask Him, ask God, where is your Holy place? Is it right there? Or maybe when you come to the lobby, that will be your holy place? Or maybe it is as you take a walk around the gardens? For those of you that still attend church, maybe it is your sanctuary where you worship. Wherever it is – acknowledge God's presence. Be amazed that he has met you right there – whenever or wherever it may be. Let God speak to you on Holy Ground this week.

  1. A Divine Call

    1. God was not finished with Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.”

    2. Moses had been away from Egypt for 40 years – now God was sending him back. He was ready to serve – God had prepared Moses for the last phase of his life.

    3. There are some amazing calls of young men and women in the scripture. Moses was early, but we could also mention Joseph, which was even earlier, Samuel, David, Isaiah, the apostles Matthew, John, Peter, and, of course, there was Paul. Each of these is a remarkable story in its own right and could have their own sermon or two. But today we look at Moses.

    4. It was at Sinai that David was first called. It would be a few weeks later that Moses would again come to Mt Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments for God.

    5. We will have more to say about God's demand of Moses – in fact Moses will have some things to say about it.

    6. But for now, let ask one more question: What is God asking of you? To what are you called? Are you willing to obey?



iTozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (1998). Vol. 1: The Tozer Topical Reader (236). Camp Hill, PA.: WingSpread.

iiMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (796). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Moses Makes A Stop (Part 2)

Moses Makes A Stop (Part 2)

- Moses Makes A Stop -

Intro.: Have you ever known a famous person?

  1. Have you every been privileged to know or even to meet someone famous?
  2. I suppose there are two ways to understand a famous person
  1. We could focus on what they did
  2. Or we could focus on who they were – what made them tick
  1. Last week we began to look at what made Moses tick.
  2. I want to continue those thoughts today.

Read: Exodus 2:15b-22


  1. Let's begin by remember ing that Moses was afraid
  1. There seems to be an unwritten rule that the really strong person is not afraid. No one who wants to appear strong will want to talk about being afraid.
  2. But then we have Moses – here is a strong man. A man brought up in Pharaoh's home, probably had the best education possible, but at the end of the day scripture says “Moses was afraid.”
  3. Fear is something we will be living with – but it is not an uncommon feeling.
  4. Before I move on, we also need to remember the words John wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
  5. Solomon once wrote, “The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom.”

(Ill.) I don't know a great deal about Thomas Cramner – a vocal pastor who was a leader in the English reformation. But I do think he knew something about the Fear of God – listen to his what he wrote in the early 1500s, “...every man that cometh to the reading of this holy book ought to bring with him first and foremost this fear of Almighty God, and then next a firm and stable purpose to reform his own self according to what is written therein.”

  1. Fear is a common feeling, but it does not need to paralyze us.

  1. Moses seems like a fixer

  1. Moses is afraid – so he runs. He runs to Midian. The actual location of Midian is not known, but most scholars think of it as shown on this map..
  2. But when he gets there, he begins acting just like he did in Egypt:
  1. He began by trying to protect a Hebrew man who was being beaten by an Egyptian – killing and hiding the Egyptian.
  2. The next day he sees two Hebrews fighting and steps in – and it is in this context that he discovers that his murder was not really a secret.
  3. Now he steps in when he sees a group of shepherds bothering a group of young women who had come to get water for their own sheep. Moses drives the shepherds away and then waters the flock that the young women had brought to the watering hole.
  1. You see, running from a problem does not change the problem. Moses is the same person who left Egypt.

(Appl.) There is a principle here that is also true for our lives – running from our problems, hiding from our problems, kidding ourselves about our problems – does not solve the problems. Our problems are really only solved when we have a change in heart. Our problems are really only solved when we get to the point of saying “Here God – you can have them.” Not always easy, you see

  1. It would take another 40 years for God to finish the reshaping of Moses' life before he would be ready to lead the people of Israel.

  1. Moses appreciated
  1. Though Moses behaved very similarly to how he behaved in Egypt, the results were certainly different.
  2. The seven women were daughters of a priest – and they got home early. Dad (his name here is called Reuel here, later we will be told his more familiar name of Jethro, but not yet) is curious – why?
  3. They tell him of this man who drove the shepherds away and helped them. His response was, “Why did you leave him out there?” They eventually brought him home for lunch.
  4. And he eventually married one of those women – Zipporah. Her name meant “little bird” - we don't know much about her, but it was the woman that would see Moses through his tough times.

(Ill.) Love stories are kind of special – it isn't hard for Sandra to get me to a date movie. Let me let you into a little secret – I met Sandra, or rather Sandra met me about 40 years ago at a meeting on our college campus. She will tell you she was sitting on a sofa and in walked this guy who she did not know – but, as she tells it, she had this thought go through her head, “He would be neat to be married to.” She would eventually become the Social Chairman, he would become the President of that organization. When I first proposed to Sandra, it was a mistake – it slipped out. Oh we had talked about it, but it was not planned. I had not bought a ring, Three and a half years after we first met, she was – married to him, that is.

  1. Moses was 40 years old when he met Zipporah. He would live in Midian for another 40 years before returning to Egypt. And 40 more years before he would complete the task that God was going to give him. God would be patient as He took Moses from this broken individual, full of flaws, angry, wanting to solve everyone's problems , to one that God could use to lead His people from slavery to the promised land.

(Appl.) God would be patient with Moses – but he is also patient with us as he transforms us. Let me ask a question – a hard question – are you willing, are you willing today, tomorrow, to allow God to transform you?



Sunday, October 09, 2011

Moses Makes A Stop (Part I)

Moses Makes A Stop (Part I)

Intro.: I like to travel.

  1. Where are some of the places you have lived or

  2. During my career, I have been privileged to travel to places I never would have been except for my career. Places like:

    1. Chicago

    2. New York

    3. Charlotte, NC

    4. Nashville

    5. New Orleans

  3. I expect that when Moses' parents placed him in that basket, they thought that was the end. But, like my life, his life would take him many places.

  4. Today we begin to look at the beginning of his travels.

Read: Exodus 2:15b-22


  1. Moses afraid

    1. There seems to be an unwritten rule that the really strong person is not afraid. No one who wants to appear strong will want to talk about being afraid.

    2. But then we have Moses – here is a strong man. A man brought up in Pharaoh's home, probably had the best education possible, but at the end of the day scripture says “Moses was afraid.”

    3. Fear comes from a lot of sources -

      1. For some of us it may be noises at night

      2. For some it may be the uncertainty of our future health

      3. For some it may be a fear of falling.

      4. For others it may just be the future – either ours of that of a loved one

      5. Now it may surprise you that these are not made up – they are some of the fears that I have in my own life.

(Ill.) USA Today's Weekend Edition printed the result of a survey a number of years ago. It gives us a glimpse of the range of fears that 21st century America carries around:

• 54% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of being in a car crash.

• 53% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of having cancer.

• 50% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of inadequate Social Security.

• 49% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of not having enough money for retirement.

• 36% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of food poisoning from meat.

• 35% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of getting Alzheimer’s.

• 34% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of pesticides on food.

• 33% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of being a victim of individual violence.

• 32% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of being unable to pay current debts.

• 30% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of exposure to foreign viruses.

• 28% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of getting AIDS.

• 25% are “afraid” or “very afraid” of natural disasters.

Other findings:

• Is the world a safer place than when you were growing up? No, say 9 in 10 Americans.

• 4 in 10 people feel unsafe taking a walk alone at night within a half-mile of home.

• 1 in 4 women thinks she has been followed by a stranger in the past year.

• 1 in 5 fears being caught in a bombing in a public place – and that was prior to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001.i

    1. Fear is something we will be living with – but it is not an uncommon feeling.

    2. Before I move on, we also need to remember the words John wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

    3. Fear is a common feeling, but it does not need to paralyze us.



iMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (295–296). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ready For Change

Ready For Change

Intro.:I don't know if any of you were able to see the movie Amazing Grace.

  1. It was the story of John Newton, a former slave trader and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”, who was converted to Christ and spent his final years fighting slavery in England.
  2. We grew up hearing the story of how America ended slavery with the fighting of a civil war and the death of what could arguably be called America's favorite President. During our childhood, our teen years, and even now, we watched the descendents of those former slaves still fight for equality – occasionally even in our own communities.
  3. But the fight for freedom from the constraints of slavery predates our civil war and the fight to end slavery in England nearly a century earlier. One of the earliest fights is recorded in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.
Read: Exodus 1:1-22
Trans: I like a good story.
  1. And so did the author of Exodus.
  2. And like any good story, it has an introduction
  3. Exodus 1 serves as the introduction the rest of the story:
  4. It introduces us to some of the people and situations which the people of Israel with need to deal with as we move through the book of Exodus.

T.S. In the next few minutes I want to look at the circumstances that defined Israel as God began to prepare them for freedom from slavery.

  1. God did bless the people in Egypt. (Exodus 1:1-7)
    1. When I think of Israel in Egypt, I think of slavery, I think of abuse, I think of mistreatment.
    2. But that was not always so.
    3. Joseph had led 70 people (his father and brothers and their families) into Egypt. They fit well in the Egyptian culture. They were blessed -
    4. But blessing came not only in how they did, but they began to grow, they became not just a family – in the 400 years between when Joseph brought his family into Egypt and when Moses would appear on the scene – they became a people. They became a nation within a nation.

(Appl.) It was not home, it was not where they wanted to be, it was not what felt comfortable, at least at first – but God blessed them. Just as God blessed the Israelites in a strange land, he can bless us when we find ourselves in places we do not want to be, he can bless us when we do not feel comfortable.

(Ill.) Let me give you an illustration. How many of you like to be out in a rain storm. I don't – I get wet, I get cold. But you know something, unless there is a rain storm, I cannot see a rainbow. God can, God does, bless us when things seem most out of hand. I was reminded of a picture I received of some relatives this week with the kids dancing in a Texas rain. Why? Because it had not rained for months - God can bring blessing even in the midst of difficult times.

    1. The Israelites began their journey to Egypt – both to receive a blessing and be a blessing.
  1. People can change (Exodus 1:8-14)
    1. But thing change –

(Ill.) Someone has said, “The only constant is change.”#

    1. it started with the people, specifically it was a new King or Pharoah.
    2. Scripture says it was a King “who did not know Joseph” - that is only half the story – this same King also did not know God.
    3. And that is the real problem that the Israelites will be facing.
    4. The King begins to restructure society – he begins to impose slavery – and descendents of Jacob become his slaves. The build cities Pithom and Raamses are mentioned in particular. Raamses is Pharaoh Northern home – located on one of braches that form the Nile River delta as it pours into the Mediterranean Sea.
    5. And it was hard work – making the mortar and bricks.
    6. They still were a part of the community – but they now were outcasts from the culture. They were now given the brunt work of the community. They were forced to the jobs that nobody else wanted to do.

(Ill.) I think it interesting, as the Jews begin to prepare to move to the promised land they are forced into SLAVERY. 1500 years later, there would again be a new King and they would again be required to become slaves. But not with human masters this time – listen to Paul, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God's good news --” Or James, the brother of Jesus Christ, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ ...” When we give our lives to Christ, we too become slaves of Jesus Christ. As believers we are slaves of Jesus – we are expected to obey. Jesus is our Lord

    1. A new King brought the Israelites into slavery.
    2. But slavery was not the worse of their problems.
  1. Situations can change (Exodus 1:15-22)
    1. This same King put new rules in place – the midwives who were helping the Jewish women have children were now expected to kill every male child.
    2. But they refused to do so -
      1. They just couldn't do it – the life of a child was too precious, too important. They let the male children live
      2. But they went one step further, they also told the Egyptians that the Hebrews women gave birth faster – after all they were hard working slaves, they were in good shape, and when it came time to give birth – well they did. (Hey, I didn't make that up – it's right there in scripture.)

(Appl.) Over the last few weeks, I have heard you discuss the changing situations you find yourself in here at Royal Gardens:

  1. New fire alarms
  2. New roofs
  3. New bathrooms
  4. New windows
And for some the transitions have gone smoothly, for some it has been a challenge. Changing situations are a part of life.

Conclusion: God was preparing to meet the challenges that were facing this young Jewish nation.

  1. He would deal with the people that did not know Joseph, that did not know God.
  2. He would deal with the changing situations that faced this young nation.
  3. And he will step into our lives and meet our needs as well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

World's Apart

Worlds Apart

Intro.: Two significant events contributed to much of my thinking this week.

  1. The first, in some ways, was uniquely mine. It may have been shared by some others, but I doubt if it was anyone here.

  2. One of the books I have been reading this week was a short one entitled “Kisses From Katie”. Now, you probably have not heard of “Kisses From Katie” - in fact it will not be published until October 4 – I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-publication galley proof so I could write a review of the book.

  3. The book is the story of an 18 year old high student. Katie Davis is the Senior Class President, the Homecoming Queen, and the Class Valedictorian. She makes a week long mission trip to Uganda during her Christmas vacation of her senior year – in the process she begins to fall in love with the country and its people.

  4. Her parents are planning for her to go to college, but she convinces them to allow her delay her education for a year while she works in a Kindergarten in Uganda.

  5. Over the course of the next year, she find more and more of her life being integrated into the African culture in which she lives.

  6. Now, four years later, as she writes, she has adopted 14 Ugandan girls. She is known as “Auntie Kate” to a couple of hundred other girls.

  7. She feels herself torn between her old home in Tennessee and her new home in Uganda. “Kisses From Katie” follows her life as she makes that transition.

  8. She finds herself living out the words of Matthew 28:

Read: Matthew 28:18-20


Intro: But there is another event that captured my thoughts this week – an event that has probably captured much of your time this past week.

  1. It was ten years ago today that four planes were hijacked with the purpose of destroying our country.

  2. Two of the planes hit their targets, the twin towers that defined the New York skyline and accomplished their task. I cannot but think that the plane that hit the Pentagon did far less damage than was desired. And the passengers of Flight 93 were able to overcome the hijackers – and minimize the damage that occurred.

  3. The assumption on all the news networks is that we each remember where we were when we heard of those events. I know I do – I was sitting in my office at Roberts Wesleyan and could follow the events of September 11, 2001, throughout the day. I helped set up TVs in our classroom building so students could also keep current with the news as they moved from class to class.

  4. I expect the same would be true for each of you.

  5. The church's response at the time ran the gammit – there were those preachers who condemned the US of its sin – we deserved whatever evil we got.

  6. There were those who pointed out the evil of the Muslim faith.

T.S. In the next few minutes, I would like to spend some time thinking about how God might have us respond to the events of 9/11; and, more importantly, how he would have us respond to a world that does not know God.

  1. Whatever our response, it must begin by trusting Jesus

    1. There is a stark contrast between these two events.

    2. The one is rooted in hate and had generated a great deal of hate.

    3. The other has come from the love that a young woman has for and has felt from God.

    4. We each have choices to make – bad things will happen to us, as a country, as a community as a family, and as individuals.

    5. David understood the response – he suffered under Saul, because of his sin, and because he was human – but in the end he got it right:

      Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

      (Psalm 37:3-4 ESV)

(Ill.) D. L. Moody put it this way: "Trust in yourself, and you are doomed to disappointment; trust in your friends, and they will die and leave you; trust in reputation, and some slanderous tongue may blast it; but trust in God, and you are never to be confounded in time or eternity.”i

(Ill.) We need only remember the words of the hymn:

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

and to take him at his word;

just to rest upon his promise,

and to know, "Thus saith the Lord."

  1. Whatever anger we may feel for the wrong that is done to us, our response will need to be rooted in God's love.

    1. Do you ever wonder why the church is often teaching its children over and over the words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

    2. Let me suggest two reasons -

      1. First, because every bit of theology has this as its foundation. God love us. God loves this world. God loves you. On my shelves, back before the advent of computers, I have an 800 page theology textbook. But it gets worse – it starts each section with normal size font giving some principle. Then using a smaller font, it explains that principle. Finally, it brings in illustrations and quotations in tiny, tiny fonts. That even 37 years ago I had to use a magnifying glass to read. It was written by a Baptist, but that does not matter. What does matter is that those 800 pages of theology are not just theology, but they are an explanation of how God demonstrated and showed His love for you and me.

      2. But there is another reason that we begin teaching our kids with John 3:16 – it is because that is what God expects from us:

  • You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

  • And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    1. We tend to think of love as something tender and sweet – but God asks us to love, even when we don't feel so sweet, even when we are angry.

    2. You know this world that God loved when He sent His Son – it is the same world that tortured His Son with whips, that put a crown of thorns on His Son's head, that spat on him, that made fun of Him as He was dying on the cross. This was the world that God loved – the world that he wants us to love. “For God so loved this world, the one that killed His Son, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in should not perish but have eternal life.”

    3. If God loved this world, can we do any less?

  1. We need to tell this world of God's love, we need to show this world God's love.

    1. God did it on a cross, we need to do it with our lives and with our words.

Read: Matthew 5:13-16



iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, September 04, 2011



Intro.: Rochester has a unusual historical note in its history – is the place where Super Glue was invented. Earlier this year we purchased a small tube of Super Glue

  1. Now, I mention this because earlier this year we purchased a small tube of Super Glue.

  2. Nothing major broken – in fact our need for the Super Glue was a stupic mistake on my part.

  3. I was trying to dig a shirt out of the clothes hamper and kicked box on the floor.

  4. In that box was a mug from our mug collection. And when I looked in the box, I found I had broken the handle off side of the mug.

  5. Now the amazing thing is that though we were quick to buy what we needed to in order to repair the mug – but we still have not completed the repair.

Read: Romans 3:21-26


  1. If there is one thing true throughout scripture, it is the brokenness of all mankind.

    1. With the exception of Jesus, there is not one person, man or woman, in scripture that is even pictured without evidence of his or brokenness.

    2. Think of the great men of scripture – starting with Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets – and the apostles: each of them fell short.

(Ill.) It has been said that Peter was the most important disciple – the rock upon which the church was built, but he had some of the greatest failures on the way getting there. Peter fell into the water when his faith wavered. Even after calling Jesus to task telling Peter that he would do it, he denied Jesus three times. And Paul, he called himself, “the chief of sinners.”i

    1. Really nothing new – I have said it before. It is as true for these men as it is for you and me.

    2. And it is where we have to begin – admitting that we are broken, admitting that we are fallen.

    3. David understood when he wrote: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

    4. It was what David had to do, it was what Peter had to do, it was what Paul had to do.

(Ill.) If you have ever been part of a twelve-step group, this is also where they start. I am powerless, I have no control over alcohol, drugs, gambling – or sin.

  1. Though we are broken, God offers restoration

(Ill.) When we purchased the Super Glue, our goal was to repair the broken mug. There are all kinds of ways to repair those things that are important to us – it might involve glue, varnish, tape, wires – anything that will restore some of the value of an item.

Yet I am told that if you or I restore an antique, we might also be decreasing its value. You see, we may know something about restoration, but we don't have the whole picture.

    1. But God has the whole picture – regardless of how we are broken we are God is the one who is in total control

    2. Restoration comes in many forms

    3. For some it will be physical healing – but, as a writer recently said, “What good is an arm or a leg that is healed when the mind is still broken.”ii

    4. Somewhere in each of us there is a broken part that needs healing – healing that cannot be touched by a carpenter or electrician, healing that cannot be touched by a doctor or nurse. Healing that cannot be touched by a dentist or a nutritionist.

    1. We each need a restoration of the heart

    (Ill.) And that gives two points –

    1. First, we want to get healing from the one who can cure us – I won't go to a carpenter for a broken leg. I won't go to a doctor to get an upgrade to my bathroom.

    2. Second, we each have a heart that needs to be healed.

      1. And God is in the business of healing hearts.

      2. Restoration begins with Rest – both literally and figuratively.

      3. Remember the words of Jesus: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

      4. Paul put it this way: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

    (Ill.) Fresh out of Oxford, John Wesley was perplexed over England’s complicated social problems: slavery, economic uncertainties, corruption, drunkenness, gambling, and prostitution. This deeply religious, sensitive soul became a parish minister and, subsequently, a missionary to American Indians along the coast of Georgia. His ministries were far from successful. Disappointed and discouraged, he returned to Britain.

    During the voyage, his ship was raked by a raging storm. Wesley was unashamedly frightened. In fact, the only calm persons aboard were Moravian missionaries. Noticing their behavior, Wesley asked if they were not afraid. “Why should I be afraid,” one answered, “I know Christ.” Then, with disarming directness, he asked, “Do you know Christ?” Wesley was uncomfortable, for in his heart he now realized he did not know Christ.

    Back in London, on Wednesday evening, May 24, 1738, John Wesley attended a society meeting and worship at Aldersgate Street and listened to a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Book of Romans. The rest is history. According to Wesley, “About a quarter before nine.… I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation.”

      1. Here is a man whose heart was healed.

      2. Each of us here has a heart that needs to be healed.

        1. A heart that has baggage that we have been holding

        2. – baggage that we need to give to God

        3. baggage that God is ready to carry.



    iDavis, Katie with Clark, Beth (2011). Kisses From Katie: A Young Woman's Journey of Faith. Howard Books: New York.

    iiRubart, James (2011). The Chair. B & H Publishing Group: Nashville.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A God Who ...

A God Who ...

Intro.: I remember a pallor trick.

  1. A bag with two parts.

  2. The first part has something simple in it – child's blocks, or marbles, or some checkers

  3. The bag is passed around members of the party – each given a chance to figure out what is in the bag. No one is to say anything – but to keep their guess to themselves.

  4. But then the bag gets passed to the person who has been chosen to be IT. When that happens,, unknown to everyone but the chosen few, the first part of the bag is closed and the second part is exposed.

  5. When the person who is IT places their hand into the bag, they don't feel the blocks, or marbles, or checkers, but they place their hand into a bag of catsup or some similarly messy substance.

  6. John does not want God to be that kind of God – he wants us to know what God is like.

Read: I John 5:13-15


T.S. In I John 5:13-15, John introduces us to three characteristics of God that will better prepare us to live our lives for Him.

  1. John shows us a God who gives us life

    1. John's audience was not a world of unbelievers.

    2. John wrote to those who believed in Jesus Chrsit

    3. And he wanted them to know something - “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

    4. You believe in Jesus – you have eternal life.

    5. John quotes Jesus, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

(Ill.) One hymn writers puts it this way:

I know that my Redeemer liveth, And on the earth again shall stand; I know eternal life he giveth, That grace and pow’r are in his hand.

I know His promise never faileth, The word He speaks, it cannot die; Tho’ cruel death my assaileth, Yet I shall see Him by and by.

I know my mansion He prepareth, That where He is there I may be; O wondrous tho’t, for me He careth, And He at last will come for me.

I know that my Redeemer liveth, And on the earth again shall stand; I know eternal life he giveth, That grace and pow’r are in his hand.1

    1. Do you believe in Jesus – you have eternal life.

    2. This is called “assurance” - we can know that we have eternal life.

  1. John shows us a God who hears us

    1. We can be assured of eternal life

    2. But there is more -

    3. Listen again to John, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

    4. We can not only be confident in the gift of eternal life; but when we take the time to pray according to His will, when we pray according to God's will, he will hear us.

(Ill.) Over the years I have been privileged to hear a great many preachers, some good, some not so good. I was sadden to hear that one of the best passed away this week. His name was John Stott. Rev. Stott was English – very English. I heard John Stott preach twice – both times I was a part of a congregation of nearly 17000 college students gathered from around the United States and the world to hear of God's love. This week as I was working on today's message, I stumbled on something Rev. Stott said that helped me to understand what John was saying. You see, Rev. Stott reminded me, Prayer is not designed to impose our will on God. Rather, prayer is designed to get us in agreement with God's will.

    1. In some ways, we really are not praying until our prayers are in accordance with God's will. Jesus said it in his prayer - “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Every true prayer is a variation on that theme: “Thy will be done”

    2. Charles Wesley understood it when he wrote:

To do or not to do; to have or not to have,

I leave to Thee:

Thy only will be done in me;

All my requests are lost in one,

“Father, Thy will be done!”2

(Ill.) But perhaps it was little five year old Jessica who understood it better than any one. Jessica became a bit frightened as lightning flashed and thunder cracked just as she was stepping out of her evening bath. The lights began flickering as she was getting into her pajamas. She remembered the other times the electricity had gone out and they had lit candles. Now she asked if she could “please sleep in Mommy’s room” because of the storm. Before kissing her parents good-night, Jessica prayed: “Dear God, I hope it doesn’t thunder and I hope the lights don’t go out.” After a brief pause she continued, “But I thought it over, and you can do what you want. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” What better way to say, “Thy will be done”?

  1. John shows us a God who responds to us

    1. But there is more – you see if God hears us, he also gives what we need.

    2. I remember a time many years ago, when I was either still in high school or just starting college. I needed somebody to desperately understand me. It was before I knew what it meant to be a believer – and I felt so alone.

    3. I did not know it – but there was someone who understood. There was someone who would meet me where I was.

    4. I suppose some of you might expect me to say that I meant Sandra – but that is not true. She is good for me, but she will be the first to admit that even she does not always understand me. I confuse her – even when she wants to understand.

    5. The one who understands me, the one that will see that my needs are met is not Sandra, but it is God.

    6. John writes, “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

    7. When life gets tough, the only one I can rely on is God Himself.

    8. Oh, I am glad that my wife is there – oh, I am glad for friends, but in the end, it is God that will meet my very needs.

    9. Will you let God meet you needs today? Tomorrow? Whenever?



1Eckert, P. (1998). Steve Green's MIDI hymnal : A complete toolkit for personal devotions and corporate worship. (Electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

2Hobbs, H. H. (1990). My favorite illustrations (124). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

3Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It Ain't Over Yet

Intro.: Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain't over till its over.”

  1. or, “It ain't over till the fat lady sings.”

  2. or “Don't count your chickens till they're hatched.

Trans: John is coming to the end of his letter.

  1. He has said a lot.

  2. But now he is ready to close the book.

  3. His work is finished – now he does two things.

  4. The first, the topic of today's message, is to restate the most important lesson for his listeners.

  5. The second, which I will postpone for another day, is to review many of the topics which he has discussed.

Read: I John 5:11-12


T.S. In I John 5:11-12 John restates the most important lesson that his audience is to draw from this letter

  1. God gave us eternal life

    1. There are many ways to say, “I love you”

    2. Gary Chapman has written a fairly well-known book entitled, “The 5 Love Languages”. In that book he identifies five ways that we say and hear “I love you.”i:

      1. Words of affirmation – Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

      2. Quality Time - In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

      3. Receiving Gifts - Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

      4. Acts of Service - Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

      5. Physical Touch - This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

    3. Chapman goes on to say, “There are really two questions each of us has to ask”:

      1. How do I best hear “I love you.” ? - now I don't know your answer, but I know mine, “receiving gifts”

      2. How does the one I want to say “I love you” to best hear “I love you”? We tend to use our prefered method to communicate to others. For example, I will buy Sandra flowers, I will buy you knick-knacks – why, because that is how I hear “I love you.” But if I really want to tell Sandra “I love you”, I need to know how she will best hear it. And I don't always do that as well as I should.

    4. Now the reason I said all this is to tell you, that the best way for someone to communicate to me their love is through gifts – for example the Payday candy bar Sandra brought home on Friday afternoon.

    5. And I think it is why I appreciate God's gift that allows me to experience eternal life.

  2. This life is in his son

    1. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    2. God's gift was His Son.

    3. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

    4. There is no other way – and God gave us that way. It might be a bit harder for some to hear the message – but it is important to realize that God was showing His love when he sent His Son. It was not arbitrary, it was not unplanned, it was not a random act of kindness (as some say); but it was an act of love. It was God saying, “I love you so much that I will provide a way for you live eternally in my presence.”

  3. Whoever has the Son, has life;

  4. whoever does not have the Son of God, does not have life.

(Ill.) Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, was asked if those who died in the explosions of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, but had not confessed Christ as Savior would go to heaven. She replied:

In my little book Heaven: My Father’s House, I tell about people who want to visit my father’s home in western North Carolina. They drive up the long drive and come to the gate. They knock on the gate and say, “Billy Graham, let us in. We’ve read your books, we’ve watched you on TV, we’ve written to you, and we want to come to your house.”

And my father says, “Depart from me, I don’t know you. You’re not a member of my family, and you’ve not made any arrangements to come.”

But when I drive up that same driveway and knock on the gate, I say, “Daddy, this is Anne, and I’ve come home.” The gate is thrown right open, and I go inside, because I’m the father’s child.

Because heaven is God’s house, he has the right to decide who comes in and who stays out. He says he will welcome anyone inside his home, but they have to be born again into his family through faith in Jesus Christ.

That gives us a wonderful hope that when the time comes—whether death comes as a thief in the night, as it did for those in the [World Trade Center] towers, or as an angel of mercy after a long illness—we can be assured that at the end of the journey, we’ll step right into our Father’s arms. We’ll be welcomed there because we are our Father’s children.ii

    1. One of the reasons it is so difficult to share our faith is that we don't like this big thick line that separates the believer from the unbeliever -

    2. - but it is not our line. It is a line that God has put down. And it is only a line – it is not a wall. One merely needs to say “yes” and cross over that line.

(Ill.) A common expression today is to “draw a line in the sand”. According to ledgend, the phrase is most commonly associated with Texas history surrounding the Battle of the Alamo, as it is attributed to Colonel William Travis, commander of the Alamo defense forces.[1] In the waning days of the Battle (somewhere between March 3–5, 1836), with Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Annahaving the Alamo completely surrounded, Santa Anna sent a messenger to Travis demanding surrender, or else everyone in the compound would be killed. According to the legend, Travis called the Alamo defenders together, explained that defeat was almost certain, and read the letter of surrender; Travis then (having chosen to die instead of surrender) reportedly pulled his battle sword, drew a line in the sand of the Alamo, and asked for volunteers to cross over the line and join him, understanding their decision would be irreversible. The legend states that all but one of the defenders (including Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett) joined Travis on his side of the line; Moses Rose being the only holdout. Travis then responded to Santa Anna's letter with cannon fire, whereupon Santa Anna replied by playing El Degüello. iii




iiLarson, Craig Brian and Phyllis Ten Elshof. 1001 Illustrations That Connect. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008.