"The First Fruits"
The Lord God said; … “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you
as an inheritance, and you take possession of it and live in it, 2 you must take some
of the first of all the land’s produce that you harvest from the land the Lord your
God is giving you and put it in a container. Then go to the place where
the LORD your God chooses to have His name dwell.”
As we gather this morning to celebrate the day of Thanksgiving which comes upon
us this coming Thursday, … our thoughts turn to the Pilgrims who came to
America and celebrated what we have regarded as the first Thanksgiving … but as
you heard the first lesson read from Deuteronomy, … the first Thanksgiving was
really celebrated by the Israelites as they moved into the promised land.
God told them, as they came into this land flowing with milk and honey, …
they were to take the first fruits of the ground, … place them in a basket and take it
to the priest. … There, they were to relive through the words of that speech which
begins, "My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt with a few
people and lived there. There he became a great, powerful, and populous nation,"
(Vs. 5b); … God’s deliverance in their lives.
Because God had delivered and blessed them, … God asked them to return to Him
the first fruits of the ground, … to give thanksgiving to Him for this act of
deliverance in their lives.
For the Israelites, … their thanksgiving was seen in the action of God as He
delivered them from Egypt and brought them into this land flowing with milk and
The Pilgrims gave thanks for the deliverance which came to them during their first
year on the North American shore. … They were delivered from hunger by a good
summer crop, … they were delivered from war by peacefully living with the
Native Americans, … they were delivered from cold by building strong sturdy
homes … and we could go on and on.
Deliverance brought thanksgiving into their hearts.
Can we think of Thanksgiving as deliverance for us??
Think about that for a moment. … Usually, when we think of this time known as
Thanksgiving, … we list all those possessions we are thankful that we have …
or been blessed with. … But what about being thankful for all those occurrences
we have been delivered from; … that we don’t have to experience?
Maybe this story will clarify the point:
"There was a man who lived with his 6 children in the suburbs of Philadelphia. …
Just before school was to start, all of his children were in need of new shoes.
At the same time the washing machine wore out. … To top it all off, because of bad
weather, … his work as a carpenter, had dwindled to almost nothing.
He was able to scrape together enough money to buy the children shoes … but he
ran an ad in the paper wanting to buy a used washing machine.
One day the phone rang … and it was someone who had a used washing machine
to sell. … He went to the home and noticed they had all the goodies he wished for
his family. … After talking to the man of the house concerning the washing
machine and how he would get it home,… the conversation got around to
children. … Claude, … the out of work carpenter, … began complaining about
how expensive it was to raise six children. … Especially when they all needed
shoes at the same time.
The woman of the house then left the room crying.
The poor carpenter asked had he said something wrong. … Her husband explained
that they had only one child who had been paralyzed from birth … and he had
never needed a pair of shoes.
When Claude got home, … he picked up the worn-out shoes; … worn out from
skipping rope, kicking rocks, and jumping puddles, … then went off to be by
Kneeling by his bed, he gave thanks to God for the worn-out shoes in his house."
Claude was thankful for the deliverance he had been granted! … His children
could walk, run and skip rope. … They could wear out a pair of shoes.
Claude had been delivered from the pain of the other family who could not watch
their child run, kick rocks, jump and wear out shoes.
Have you been thankful for the deliverance which has been granted in your life ?
Think about all the food each of us will consume Thursday. … Are we thankful we
have been delivered from the pain of hunger, … the sickness of malnutrition when
countless men, women and children around the world are now dying a slow and
painful death because of the lack of food?!
A housewife as she worked around her house, began to think about all those
situations she had been delivered from, … even as she tackled all the household
chores many get tired of doing.
Listen to her thoughts: "Lord, … thank You for this sink of dirty dishes, … we have
good food to eat. … Thank you for this pile of dirty laundry, … we have nice
clothes to wear. … I’d like to thank You for these unmade beds, … they were all
comfortable last night."
She was thankful in the midst of her work … because she knew in her heart,
she had been delivered from hunger. … She was delivered from the extremes of
the elements with the clothes waiting to be washed. … She was delivered from a
fitful night … as she slept in a warm house and a comfortable bed.
Thankful hearts develop as we recall all those acts of deliverance which God
brought into our lives. … We can and should be thankful for these acts.
I would venture to say, … most people take their good fortune, … their health,
their wealth, … their warm clothes … and abundant food for granted …
or see them as their due (the word “Entitled” comes into play, here).
They are not thankful … but expect this as something owed to them by life …
or by God.
It is not owed … but given freely from God.
When we realize that everything in life, … those life-acts we have been delivered
from … and all of our possessions, … all come from God, … we have a very
difficult time being thankful ..;. because we realize we depend on God for
everything … and most of us, … even if we don’t want to admit it, …
are self-centered enough not to want to be depend on anyone, … let alone God.
Paul Tillich, a famous theologian of the 20 th Century, … has this to say about
thanks and thanksgiving: … "The reason most of us do not respond to ‘thank you’
or do not say ‘thank you’ … is because we instinctively realize that it makes us
somehow dependent on that person. … If I thank you, … I am saying that I am
dependent on you … and I am publicly affirming it before God and people. …
Gratitude is an action that has its roots in grace, … the free undeserved love-
action of God. When we are truly grateful, … we become starkly aware
that we are wholly dependent for everything upon God and upon our fellow human
beings who are made in His image. … When we are truly grateful, … we recognize
that God has favored us, … whether we deserve favoring or not."
Thanksgiving is our acknowledgement that we are dependent on God for all His
acts of deliverance … and all His blessings in our lives.
Thanksgiving is a twofold time for us. … We are "thankful" for being delivered,
… and we are “thankful” for the blessings we have.
Our thanksgiving to God is an action commanded by God. … In our reading today,
… He commands the people to put the first fruits in a basket and take it to the
priest. … God wants our physical act of response, … a physical movement on our
part. … Thankfulness toward … is not a self-conscious attitude dutifully displayed
in response to the demands of religious custom. … Neither is true thanksgiving just
something we say or a gift we bring.
True "thanksgiving" is simply the quality of life that we live.
Thanksgiving is a daily attitude of gratefulness toward God who delivers us from
painful situations … and who grants to us many blessings.
Thanksgiving is an attitude which acknowledges God is indeed in control of life.
… Without God nothing would be possible.
We are a people who have been delivered and blessed.
As we look around this world, … let us see our deliverance and blessings …
and not be jealous, … selfish, … or self-centered.
Let us truly be a grateful people, … dependent on God for all of life!
I close with the following poem: …
Today upon a bus,
I saw a lovely girl with golden hair...
I envied her, … she seemed so young
I wished I were one-half so young
I wished I were one-half as fair
When suddenly she rose to leave
I saw her hobble down the aisle;
She had one leg; she used a crutch
As she passed, she flashed a smile
O GOD, FORGIVE ME WHEN I WHINE!
I HAVE TWO LEGS, THE WORLD IS MINE!!
In many Churches, just like ours, … there stand two flags; … the American Flag
and the Christian Flag. … These two flags represent two types of freedom. …
One is a freedom that allows us to go where we want to go, … say what we want to
say, … to live where we want to live, … to dream big dreams and pursue them.
You’ve heard this many times … but it bears repeating: …
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.
It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
Veterans, over the centuries have sacrificed so much to obtain and preserve this
precious freedom … which includes the God-given right to worship our Creator
anytime, … anywhere.
That leads us to the other type of freedom, represented by the Christian Flag; …
a greater freedom that can only be found in Christ, … who died as a ransom to set
us free. … This is a freedom from a life of futility , … freedom from the enslaving
power of sin, regret, hate and bitterness. … It’s the freedom to love God … and
love our neighbor.
To serve either of these flags (and the freedoms they represent) faithfully and
effectively, … we must meet certain requirements. … Before one can become a
Veteran, … we must first be a good soldier.
So my question for you today is; … what does it take to become a Veteran?
Not just a military Veteran … but a spiritual Veteran?
The Apostle Paul knew a little something about that.
Having enlisted in the Lord’s army after encountering Jesus on the road to
Damascus and enduring countless dangers, labors … and snares as a result, …
Paul was a Veteran Christian, … if there ever was one.
Toward the end of his life, … while facing execution for his commitment to Christ,
… Paul sat in a cold Roman prison, cut off from the world, … with just a quill and
some parchment. … Paul knew that he would soon be executed, … so he wrote his
final thoughts to a young pastor named Timothy, … passing to him the torch of
leadership, … reminding him of what was truly important … and encouraging him
to keep the faith.
In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 (and for this, I prefer the New King James Translation), …
Paul states: … “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus
Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life,
that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”
In these two short verses, Paul uses four “e”-words: … endure, engage, entangle
and enlist; … each representing a different aspect of what it takes to become a
Veteran soldier of Christ.
I will start with the last “e”-word, which is, … “ENLIST”
You can’t become a Veteran if you don’t enlist. … As Paul says in another
translation, “A soldier wants to please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:3-
Thankfully, … our country no longer uses the Draft. … Recruitment officers are
sent out to encourage people to volunteer … but men and women have the freedom
to choose whether or not they serve in the American military today … and people
make that choice for different reasons.
Many enlist so that they can go college, … others out of a sense of patriotic duty,
… some were raised in military families … and still others … because they’re
looking for some sense of direction or purpose for their lives.
No matter what the reasons are, … it’s a tough decision; … life changing, …
to simply leave everything behind.
God does not force anyone to join in the service of His Kingdom, either.
He does send out recruitment officers, … that’s you and me, … to encourage
people to serve in His Army … but it’s our choice to enlist.
Following Jesus is a life-altering commitment that requires full devotion.
When we make the decision to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, … our life
must change. … No longer are we able to be the commanding officer and general
of our life. … We’ve given that over to Christ. … He is now the leader of our life.
The first step to becoming a spiritual Veteran is enlisting.
The next step is ENDURING
American soldiers in every branch of the military have a lot to endure, … not the
least of which is the grueling nature of basic training. … If ones not ready for it, …
they will be worked harder than they have ever worked. … Not only does the
soldier have to endure the physical aspect of the military … but there are the
mental and emotional stresses of being away from their families. …
In order to be successful in the military, … one has to endure the different
situations and circumstances which come their way.
Likewise, … if one wants to be a veteran Christ follower, … they also have to
As Paul told Timothy; … “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier
of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV). …
In our country, … we are so thankful that we don’t experience the kind of
hardships they do in other parts of the world; … hardships like the ones Paul
experienced. … During his missionary journeys, … Paul was flogged, stoned,
shipwrecked and more … but I need to tell you, religious persecution is not only
happening in foreign lands, … it’s also happening right before us … and we need
to be ready for persecution (Sermon for another day).
We will be challenged in ways we could not imagine, … we will have trials, …
temptations … and tribulations in this life which we never thought would come our
way. … It’s not the sicknesses and illnesses Paul is talking about; … he’s talking
about persecution for being a follower of Jesus Christ. … As soldiers of Christ, …
we have to endure. … We have to keep the faith. … We have to trust God’s plan is
better than our plan, … even in the middle of our struggles.
We enlist, we endure. … The next is: … “ENGAGE”: …
While I’ve never experienced war, … mush less, a soldier’s uniform, …
I have great respect for those who have experienced war. … Every soldier goes
through basic training, … so that when the day of battle occurs, … they will be
ready for the war. … They go through that, so they will be prepared to engage the
enemy. … Through training exercises and combat practice, … the soldier is
prepared to always be ready for battle.
As Christians we need to do the same. … Paul explains; … “since the weapons of
our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of
strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised
up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
In-other-words, … as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, … we have to be prepared to
engage in spiritual warfare. … We battle temptation. … We stand opposed to false
religions and worldviews that are hostile toward Christianity. … We are called to
defend our faith with reason and precision. … We can’t be afraid to stand up for
Jesus in public or in our personal relationships. … God is counting on us to “take
captives,” … which means surrendering our own thought and beliefs to Christ …
but also leading others to do the same, … with gentleness and respect.
In the Lord’s Army, … we don’t kill our enemies; … instead, … our goal is to
make them our allies.
In the Lord’s Army, … we aren’t fighting alone. … Just as soldiers in a squad,
platoon or company, depend on each other, … Christ followers rely on our Church
family to support us and stand beside us.
In order to be a Veteran, … we must enlist, endure, engage … and finally, …
we have one don’t; …don’t get ENTANGLED
Paul teaches: … “ 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of
I’ve used this one in a previous sermon … but it applies here also; …
A new recruit, shortly after joining the Navy, … asked his C/O for a pass so he
could attend a wedding. … The officer gave him the pass … but informed the
young man he would have to be back by 7 p.m. Sunday. … The recruit said; …
“You don’t understand, sir, … I’m in the wedding.”
The officer shot back; ... “No, … you don’t understand, … you’re in the Navy!”
When you serve this (American) flag, … you are expected to be completely
committed to your country and to allow nothing to prevent you from performing
your duties and serving faithfully.
When you serve this (Christian) flag, … you are also expected to be completely
committed to Christ and His Kingdom. … You are expected to serve Him
faithfully, … not allowing anything to keep you from doing His will.
Unfortunately, … countless Christians, … after coming to faith in Christ, … do get
entangled in the affairs of this world. … They let other concerns become more
important to them than Jesus. … In fact, Jesus told a story about that very thing.
He talked about a farmer who scattered seed everywhere he went. … Jesus said, …
“A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some fell along the path; it
was trampled on, and the birds of the sky ate it up. 6 Other seed fell on the rock;
when it sprang up, it withered, since it lacked moisture. 7 Other seed fell among
thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 Still other seed fell on good
ground; when it sprang up, it produced a crop: 100 times what was sown.” As He
said this, He called out, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!”
(Luke 8: 5-8)
If we are entangled in the concerns and pleasures of the world, … we need to
bookmark Luke 8: 5-8!
We need to be careful about what we let distract us from Jesus.
“More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing
value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of
all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3: 8)
So, … we ENLIST, … we ENDURE, … we ENGAGE … and we don’t get
I carry this still, from a sermon Rev. Mike Baldwin gave at Bethel Christian
Church several years ago; … a single piece of a puzzle. …
We are a piece of the puzzle … and we need to believe that. … We may start out
as a simple recruit, … we might begin as a lowly private … but we have a role to
play in God’s kingdom. … The goal, … in the Christian life, … is to become a
veteran; … one others can look up to, … someone people can look to and say “he
or she is a great example of living the Christ-like life.”
Be someone people witness about as to how you made a huge impact on their life
… and how it gave them a new direction and purpose in life.
Does anyone here today want to give testimony about someone who filled that
place in their life?: … How that person made you a “Piece of God’s puzzle”, …
fulfilling a part of God’s Kingdom!
HALLOWEEN; … GOOD OPPORTUNITY! 10-28-2018
Romans 14: 1-9
This time of year is unlike any other in many respects. … Every shopping center
and grocery store is filled with all sorts of candy, costumes and colorful
decorations. … Children have and will be parading up and down the streets
disguised as their favorite characters voicing; … “Trick or Treat” and hold out
plastic bags or molded plastic pumpkins in hopes of collecting vast amounts of
candy. … This, of course, will result in many stomach problems the next day.
For Christians, … Halloween is perhaps the most difficult holiday to deal with.
Its darker side is disturbing yet it holds a bit of charm for us as we remember our
own childhood experiences this day. … Countless questions surround Halloween;
… Should we participate?; … Accommodate?; … Or vigorously denounce
When I researched Halloween, I discovered hundreds of web-sites with articles, …
sermons or editorials, … condemning the observance of this holiday.
In fact, … many Christians have taken a very strong stance in opposition to
Halloween on the grounds that it supports Satan-worship and pagan gods.
This places many of us, … especially those with children or grand children, in an
uncomfortable position. … How should we, as Christians, respond to this holiday?
Is it sinful and evil … or just fun and games? … Is it a problem … or a potential
To answer such questions, it’s helpful to look at Halloween from the viewpoint of
history. So let’s begin this morning with a: …
*HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF HALLOWEEN: …
First, … we should recognize that the American celebration of Halloween draws
heavily from Scottish and Irish folk customs that can be directly traced to pre-
Christian times and is rooted in the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain (sah-ween).
Although modern Halloweens can be viewed as nights of backslapping fun and
eerie games, … its pagan beginnings were not so innocent.
Originally, Halloween was a celebration of the Druids in honor of Samhain, whom
they believed to be the Lord of the Dead and whose festival fell on November 1st.
The Druids believed that on the eve of this festival, Samhain, … the Lord of the
Dead, … called together the wicked souls that within the past 12 months had been
condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals. … The veil, they believed, …
between the present world and the spirit world was pierced, … releasing demons,
witches and hobgoblins in mass to harass the living.
Curiously, … they thought that the cat was sacred because they thought that cats,
… especially black cats, … had once been human beings whose spirits were
transferred into the cat as a punishment for their evil deeds, … which makes us
wonder why they were sacred.
There was a dominant belief among many cultures that at death, … the souls of
good people were taken by noble spirits and carried to paradise … but the souls of
the wicked were left to wander in the space between the earth and the moon …
or consigned to inhabit animals. … Typically, … the Druids believed that on this
one night of the year, … the eve of the Samhain festival, … the spirits of the dead
returned to their original homes along with other ghosts and goblins.
In order to protect themselves or make themselves immune to the attacking
demons, … people disguised themselves as witches, devils, and ghouls; …
therefore, we derived the custom of wearing costumes for Halloween.
They also attempted to ward off evil spirits by carving scary and grotesque faces
on various gourds (including pumpkins) illuminated with candles.
In order to pacify the evil spirits, … they offered a variety of treats; … fruits,
vegetables, and other types of food. … If the demonic hordes were satisfied, …
it was believed they would leave the home in peace … but if they were not
satisfied, … if household didn’t offer any treats or the offering wasn’t good
enough, … the ghosts would trick you by casting a spell on you and wreaking
havoc in the home: … Thus the tradition of “trick or treat” was born.
Despite its sinister origins, however, … I think we can learn a lot from how the
early Christians responded to this Samhain festival. … As Christianity spread
throughout the Roman Empire and Europe, … many pagans and even Druids
converted to Christianity … but they were still very superstitious. … They didn’t
have Bibles back then and most were illiterate anyway. … So, … without proper
education, … many of these new believers brought their old superstitions with
them into the Church, … including their belief in ghosts and goblins.
In order to establish a rival celebration and to better educate new believers, …
the Church designated November 1 st as All Saints Day. … Rather than fearing the
onslaught of evil spirits who had been condemned during the course of the year, …
All Saints Day celebrated and honored all the saints, or martyrs, who had died that
year. … The mass held the evening prior to All Saints Day was called …
All Hallowmas … and October 31 st itself became known as All Hallow E’en
(Halloween). … Literally, … the word Halloween translates Holy Evening.
All Hallows Eve was an attempt on the part of Christianity to overwhelm the
tradition of ghouls with the truth of the gospel! … So, with this historical
perspective on Halloween in mind, let’s get a: …
*BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE OF HALLOWEEN: …
Obviously, we can’t look up the word Halloween in a concordance and expect to
find a Scripture reference to it … but there is one passage of Scripture that applies
and that is the scripture of our earlier reading, … Romans 14: 1-9.
The Apostle Paul addresses two specific issues here, that are relevant to
Halloween; … meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods … and holidays.
First, … there were many new Christians who, … as I mentioned earlier, …
brought their old superstitious beliefs with them when they became Christians.
Some, … who had converted from paganism, … even though they had accepted
Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, … still believed in the gods of Roman and Greek
mythology. … That being so, … they refused to eat any meat that had been
sacrificed to those gods because they saw it as a form of worshipping those old
gods. … Other Christians, … who were more mature in their faith, … realized that
gods such as Zeus, Hermes or Athena didn’t really exist; … they’re just myths and
fairy tales. … As a result, … they had no problem eating meat that had been
sacrificed to those gods because they weren’t even real.
Also, some Christians wanted to celebrate special days or holidays, … such as the
Passover, … Hanukah … or other Jewish celebrations, … while other Christians
believed that every day was the same and there is no need to celebrate a holiday (or
holy day) … unless God specifically commanded us to do so.
To all of these Christians, Paul says; … “Therefore accept one another, just as the
Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7).
Now, if we take these two examples and put them together, … we get a clear
Biblical perspective on the controversy over Halloween. … Halloween is a holiday
(holy day) that was once dedicated to a pagan god. … Some people understand
there is no such thing as ghosts or goblins and have no problem participating in the
modern celebration. … Others believe that Halloween’s dubious origins make it
something in which Christians should not be involved. … I believe Paul would tell
us exactly what he told the Romans; … if it bothers your conscience, then don’t
participate; … if, on the other hand, … you can celebrate Halloween in a way that
honors and glorifies God, like the early Christians did, …then go for it!
Whatever you do, … do it for the glory of God.
Don’t forget that both Christmas and Easter have their origins in lustful pagan
festivals as well. … That doesn’t, however, … prevent Christians from captivating
their children with tales about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. …
Halloween is no different. … Just because it centers on witches and warlocks
rather than furry woodland creatures and jolly fat men doesn’t put it in some other
category, … as long as we understand the difference between reality and fantasy
… and we communicate that difference to our children.
Pastors and preachers are always encouraging Christians to use holidays, such as
Easter and Christmas, … as opportunities for outreach … and personally, …
I would suggest the same thing for Halloween. … So, … understanding the
historical and biblical angle, … let me share a …
*PRACTICAL ASSESSMENT OF HALLOWEEN: …
In my opinion, … the unhealthiest path Christians can take on Halloween is turn
off the lights, … lock the door … and pretend no one is home. … Jesus said that
His purpose in coming to earth was to “seek and save the lost.”
That’s our mission also!
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, … “In the same way, let your light shine
before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in
heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
So let’s follow the words of our Lord and Savior and let our lights shine, …
both our spiritual lights … and porch lights, … on a day that is typically known for
its darkness. …
Here’s some suggestions on how to use Halloween as a way to glorify God: …
1. Don’t turn out the lights and ignore it. … Halloween won’t go away. … So if
you don’t support this holiday, … determine to turn a negative into a positive.
2. If you’re staying home: … buy some candy, … answer the door … and when
you put candy in the children’s bags, … include some information about the
3. If you have children or grandchildren depending on you, … don’t take fun away
from them; … go “Trick-or-Treating” with them. … Again, this is an opportunity
to take some Church info or maybe the Church cards to hand out along the way.
Think about it: … how often can you go door to door on a day when almost
everyone will answer the door with a pleasant attitude?
4. Instead of playing scary music, … play Christian music really loud.
5. Dress up as a Bible character.
6. Buy a pumpkin and carve a cross in it, … placing a candle inside to symbolize
that Jesus is the light of the world.
7. PRAY! … Pray for the safety of the children who will be out on that night …
but more importantly, … pray that the Gospel will go out that night as well … and
that through God’s word some lost soul might come to know Jesus.
There will always be those who use special events like Halloween for pranks; …
teenagers who toilet paper houses, … soap a window screen … or experiment with
ouji-boards and witchcraft. … Those isolated events doesn’t make Halloween
inherently evil; … it just reveals the sinful nature of the human heart.
Shoot, … we’ve read about riots in Chicago streets just because the Bulls lost a
basketball game; … even sometimes because they won!
Anyone ever attempt to drive through downtown Dallas during Texas / Oklahoma
weekend back in the 60’s and 70’s? … If you were a stranger and didn’t know
better, … you’d believe you were in the middle of a riot!
People will use any excuse to practice evil; … it’s our job to overwhelm evil with
good; … to overwhelm the tradition of ghosts and goblins … with the truth of
God’s goodness and love. … In the end, … the trick … is to treat … Halloween as
a strategic opportunity, … rather than a time of satanic oppression.
To conclude: …
I like a story about Halloween that Laurie Beth Jones tells in her book, Grow
Something Besides Old. … She talks about one Halloween night when she had
underestimated the number of children who would come to the door to trick or
treat … and she ran out of candy. … In desperation, she began giving out quarters,
nickels, and dimes.
One little girl about 5-years-old, dressed as a fairy princess, … came to her door.
She had the little crown and wand and spangled dress. … Jones dropped two
quarters into the child’s sack and said to her: … “I’ve run out of candy but
tomorrow you can take these coins to the store and turn them into real candy.”
The little girl stepped back, … looked up at her and said: … “Lady, … this isn’t a
We know that Jesus died and was raised again so that He might be …
“the Lord both of the dead and of the living.” … So our obligation is to make Him
Lord of our lives.
Jesus is calling—softly and tenderly, He’s calling …
“Trust”: … A firm belief in the honesty and reliability of another; … faith: … That’s what
Webster’s New World Dictionary has to say about it.
Trust is good to have. When we have trust, there is much less stress. We trust that the sun will
come up tomorrow, our coffee will be brewed, our job will still be ours when we get to work, our
Nation will protect us … and the list goes on and on.
That’s all good!
But if it is so good, … why do we have so much trouble extending trust to those around us.
I’ve recently caught myself not trusting those close associates that have been put in charge or
called to manage projects of interest. I think to myself; … “What are they doing!” – “What are
they thinking!” – “Why didn’t they listen to me?!” – “My idea is much better!”.
I find myself needing to look in the mirror and say to myself: … “What are YOU doing?!” –
“What are YOU thinking?!”
Am I the only one guilty of this sin? Some reading this might need to find a mirror for
This world and all of its activities have been functioning just fine for a few million years before I
screamed as the doctor held me by my ankles and swatted my behind (now try to get that image
out of your minds). If I was a betting man, I would place a wager that this planet will continue to
function pretty good on its own after I’m pushing up Daisies.
We can’t all be the head of a committee, … we can’t all be in charge … and if two of us have
different ideas, … how can we both be right?
I guess what I am getting at is to trust those around us to do their best job, … to be creative in
ways that you and I just might be able to learn from … and remember, … “The meek shall
inherit the earth”.
I’ll leave you (and myself) with this: … “The one who trusts in himself is a fool,
but one who walks in wisdom will be safe.” – Proverbs 28: 26
Your servant in Christ,
“Grace moments”; … if we think hard enough, we can remember some of them.
These are the times when we either received grace from some gracious person, …
known or unknown … or times when we extended grace to others.
I remember a grace moment when Karen had got a flat tire. … She couldn’t get a
hold of me (this has been a good while back when cell coverage wasn’t as good as
it is now); … money had been tight and her tires weren’t in the best of shape. …
She had started to struggle with the job of changing the tire herself when a
Hispanic gentleman stopped and handled the repair for her. … It took about 15
minutes of his time … but he extended grace to my wife … and I was grateful he
had been so handy. I’m sure Karen was grateful, also!
I also remember a grace moment when I helped an elderly man change a tire on his
car. … It only took about ten minutes but I was glad to help … and he and his wife
were glad that he, with a weak heart, didn’t have to wrestle with a tire.
Grace can come in so many ways, … helping the person in the grocery line pay for
groceries when they are short on cash, … the needed chore or fix-it job, …
baby-sitting for a couple that really needs a break, … helping someone to celebrate
a special event, … relieving a burden, … sharing grief or pain, … jump-starting a
car; … these are all ways that grace can be infused in to the mundane monotony of
life. … It always arrives like a breath of fresh air on a stifling hot day or like a cool
drink of water to parched lips.
Then there is … Lack of Grace:
On-the-other-hand, … As we all have, … I’ve also lived through graceless
moments … and I can testify that they have a way of sucking the life right out of
us. …These are times that put clamps on our spirits and make us feel like we are
suffocating. … Inconsiderate, disrespectful, out to hurt, Graceless events always
seem to come at the worst possible moment. … They attempt to snatch all sense of
faith, hope and love right out of us … and replace them with doubt, suspicion and
The apostle Paul knew about graceless moments. … Even though he was the
trailblazing pioneer of the Corinthian Church, … this particular group brought him
loads of heartache. … Despite the fact that he had been the first to bring the gospel
to Corinth, … the Christians, there, had fallen prey to more than one smooth-
talking critic during his absence. …
The Corinthian Christians frequently ran high on expectations and low on grace for
anything which concerned their founding pastor. …
In fact, … a closer look at Churches today … or even this congregation, …
reveals much about what happens when we choose to live without grace.
Without grace, … labels thrive: …
Oh how the Corinthians loved to label.
Strung hard around Paul’s neck were long-distance labels that read, “poor
speaker,” “Unpopular,” “Pushy letter writer,” “Bold in print - weak in presence.”
Let’s face it, … labels can be powerful … and powerfully painful.
We tend to place all kinds of labels on people every day; … even in Church.
Think about these labels: … “legalistic,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “stingy,”
“worldly,” “prideful,” “pushy.” … We hurriedly slap the tag “wild” on motivated
teens, … “selfish” on those who disagree with us, … “show-off” on people who
prosper … and “uncommitted” on those whose agendas differ from ours.
The younger people say the older ones are “stuck in their ways,” … while the
seasoned citizens say the “young-uns’” are “immature.” and lack experience.
And the real tragedy is that either side rarely takes the time to befriend and
honestly inquire enough to truly know the other side.
When we label a person, … we combine two devastating forces: …
In spirit, we judge and we measure according to our own set of scales and
balances! … Matthew 7:1-2: … “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For
with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it
will be measured to you”.
In addition to judging, … we give up on hope. … In effect, we say to the person
we label; … “This is the way you are and will always be. I have no hope for you to
change. I will view you through this label forever and always think of you in light
of it. … I have you all figured out. … Any questions?”
Without grace, … comparisons emerge: …
Early in the history of the Church, … her members drew lines in the sand and
began to choose sides. … Instead of being in awe of the person of Christ, …
they chose to be awestruck by the personalities who sought to represent Him.
Playing favorites, some said; … “I am on Paul’s side, He is our founder.” (Paul,
Paul, He’s our man ....).
Others cheered; … “Apollos is our man. He can really preach!”
Still others, seeking to out-awe them all, would moralize; …
“Well, I am of Christ!”
One of Paul’s written confrontations with the Corinthians was over this very
matter: … 1 Corinthians. 3:1-6: … “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as
spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to
drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not
ready, 3 because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you,
are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers. 4 For whenever someone says, “I’m
with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people?”
Comparisons breed competition. … One competitive struggle most pastors face …
and yet are probably reluctant to acknowledge, … is fueled by our media-drenched
culture. … Not only do we feel responsible to have a fresh word from Heaven for
God’s people each week … but we often think we must be as engaging as Chuck
Swindoll, … as practical as Charles Stanley, … as authoritative as John
MacArthur, … as picturesque as Max Lucado, … and as evangelistic as Billy
Comparisons, … whether imposed by ourselves or others, … create pressures God
never intended for us to bear. … Meanwhile, grace says; … “You are what you are
by the grace of God. I accept you completely. I thank God for who you and what
you are becoming.”
You see, … without grace, … we tend to see issues only on the surface.
Paul sees through the Corinthian’s shallowness … and in his second letter, offers
gracious counsel: … “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some
who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and
comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.”
(2 Corinthians 10:12)
Without grace, … expectations increase: …
The Corinthians lack of grace was saying to Paul; … “You don’t meet our
expectations! You fall short of what we had hoped for! We’re not sure you can
meet our needs!”
A primary cause of stress in our lives is unrealistic expectations, … both others
impose on us … and those we place on ourselves.
The chasm that exists between our realities and the expectations we expect, …
creates stress (a major cause of illness in our society, today).
I remember my first few months after assuming the pastorate in Tatum (my first
Church). … I had an image of what a “Senior Minister” should be like and should
do … that was so far beyond reality, … that it added to my sleepless nights!
It took a while to settle into facing the realities of my abilities … and my
limitations. … My extreme expectations for my new position were causing stress.
When all we give people are our expectations, … while withholding our
understanding and listening ear, … we achieve the opposite of grace.
Instead of encouraging and empowering those around us to reach their potential, …
we discourage them. … We put on their brakes, … so-to-speak.
Despite the Corinthians graceless treatment of Paul, … he refused to write them
off. … He would not label them … or ridicule them. … He would not fight fire
with fire … and refused to live out his anger. … Instead, he imparted grace and
love to their potential, … again and again.
The Presence of Grace: …
This brings us back to those “grace moments”. … We can’t live without them …
and when we extend grace to others, … despite our flaws and weaknesses, …
we reflect the very nature and character of Christ. … In fact, … we are never more
like Christ, … than when we extend grace to others.
With grace, … sin becomes the enemy, … not people!
What was it that enabled Paul to endure such sinful opposition and rotten attitudes
from a group of people he risked his life to reach for Christ? … What was it that
kept him coming back and writing, … instructing, … teaching; … even when it
seemed like nothing was sinking in?
Well, … this is precisely where grace comes in, … for grace believes the best of
people and draws it out of them. … There is nothing cowardly about a gracious
person. … Grace is the most courageous of virtues. … It enables a person to face
up to ridicule, … slander, … un-forgiveness, … hatred … and to do so much more
than just react to it.
Grace empowers a person to see beyond the sin of their enemy … and love the
person, … to look beyond an angry brother or sister’s faults … and see their needs.
Nicky Cruz (Evangelist, author and the subject of the movie; The Cross and the
Switchblade) …came face to face one day with the power of grace on the streets of
New York City, in the form of a skinny country preacher. … In the “60’s”, …
when Dave Wilkerson was responding to God’s call to reach out to drug addicts,
… he came in contact with Nicky. … Crazy with hate, … Nicky pulled a switch-
blade and said; … “I’m gonna’ cut you preacher man!” … and Wilkerson quickly
replied; … “Nicky, you can cut me into a thousand pieces … and each of them will
say, ‘I love you.’” … On that day, … grace gave anger something it couldn’t
penetrate … and the rest is history.
You see folks, … love is the fuel of grace. … The gracious person is one who is
convinced that love conquers all. … No wonder that Paul penned the classic love
chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 … and addressed it to the grace-deficient Corinthians.
The gracious person has a boundless tool at their disposal. … In the face of
conflicts and challenges, … they choose to overcome them, … instead of being
overcome by them. … Their way of working is the deep conviction that the
“storms” they face go deeper than the people who bring them grief.
The root cause is sin itself … and for this they know … and freely extend, …
a great remedy; … grace!
Understand, … giving grace doesn’t mean we excuse sin. … Graciousness is not
the same as mere tolerance. … The gracious person sees sin for what it is but
chooses not to repay kind-for-kind. … Instead, … in the face of bitterness, … they
exhibit thoughtfulness; … In the face of greed, … generosity; …. In the face of
anger, … calmness of spirit; … To words of wrath, … is offered affirmation …
and to hurt … is extended a listening ear … and a kind heart.
Rather than striking at the sinner in anger, … they confront the sin with the
antidote of grace.
With grace, … we give people space: …
What Paul wanted from the Corinthians had nothing to do with their graceless
suspicions of him. … His gracious heart and concern are easy to detect in a few of
his last words written to them; … “Now I am ready to come to you this third time. I
will not burden you, for I am not seeking what is yours, but you. For children are
not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will
most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”
(2 Corinthians 12:14-15)
The attitudes of these Corinthian believers would have drawn a sarcastic lecture
from many other leaders. … Paul chose, however, … to speak the truth in a spirit
of love … because the Christ he had come to know was full of …
“grace and truth.”
Therefore, … Paul extended to them what he had already received from God.
He gave them grace … and he also gave them space.
We all need grace, in virtually every relationship and event in life. … We need
grace for forgotten appointments, … broken promises, … thoughtless and abrupt
words, … missed deadlines. … We need great doses of grace to live for a perfect
God … in such an imperfect world.
The best part about grace is that we have been given a wonderful promise from
God about grace to live graciously. … The promise is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8
which reads; … “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in
every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work”
Think of it, … God is able to supply enough grace to us so that in all things, …
at all times, … having all that we need, … we will overflow in grace toward others.
Now there is the power for ministry!
This is the reservoir for generosity! … This is how gracious people are able to be
gracious! … Remember, … we are never more like God … than when we give
grace to someone.
To Conclude: … How can we become grace givers like the apostle Paul? … we
can start by asking some problem-solving questions: …
*What am I living out of; … grace or anger?
*What fuels most of my actions or reactions toward people?
*What is behind the words I use or the tone in them?
*Do I believe the best about people … or expect the worst?
*Do I expect too much of the people in my life?
*Do I look beyond the obvious faults … to see the desperate needs within?
*Do I endeavor to make people comfortable … or uncomfortable?
*Do I know how to give grace?
It’s so easy as Christians to get caught up in the idea of a grace that makes a way
for us to enter Heaven … but there is another aspect to Christ’s work on the cross;
… something He wants us to see today. … Christ wants to use my life and yours to
bring some of Heaven to earth, … into the lives of people on this planet, … in the
spheres of our relationships … and in the form of a gift … called grace!
Let me tell you a story: …
The governor’s daughter was getting married. … The governor had planned an
elaborate wedding and reception. … The reception was more than cake and punch.
It was a seven-course meal. … The governor rented a massive hall in which they
would have the reception.
The governor, … who was quite popular, having been involved in government and
politics for a number of years, … made a lengthy guest list.
Mayors from all over the state were invited, along with senators, congressmen,
judges … and even former presidents.
Dignitaries would be there like never before.
The governor carefully planned the seating arrangements. … With the amount of
officials and dignitaries there, egos could easily be bruised if the pecking order
wasn’t followed closely. … It proved to be a little difficult as the wedding
approached because some who said they could come, backed out.
Others didn’t respond until the last minute.
As the reception was beginning, … the name cards got all messed up.
It was confusing … but everyone had a good idea where to sit.
The mayor of Capitol City was in attendance. … In all the confusion, he saw an
opportunity to get close to the governor. … After all, the governor would not be
seeking another term. … The mayor thought it would be a great chance to
schmooze the governor and get his personal endorsement to be the next governor.
He pushed his way through the crowd and slid into the chair right next to the
governor. … Just as the mayor was ready to chat up the governor, a former
president came into the room. … The governor had been a cabinet member during
the administration of the former president. … The governor jumped to his feet to
greet the former president.
The mayor glanced around. … All the other seats were now taken.
The governor asked the mayor to move so the former president could sit there.
With everyone looking on, … the mayor, … red-faced, … slipped to the other side
of the hall and sat down at the table with all the kids (That is the equivalent of
sitting at the card table with the kids at Thanksgiving dinner).
What had begun as a political power play by the mayor of Capitol City …
turned into a colossal embarrassment for him.
Can you imagine what the mayor was feeling? … The mayor of Capitol City was a
very honored guest … but an even more honored guest, in a former president,
There was also something else going on at the reception that went virtually
unnoticed. … The mayor of a small town also came. … He had known the
governor while they were both in college. … The small town mayor, though, knew
his place in the political hierarchy. … He knew he was not a big player. … He sat
down with the less distinguished guests.
Before everyone else had taken their seats, … the governor noticed his old friend
sitting in the corner. … The governor rushed over to him and said; …
“Old friend, why are you sitting here? Come with me.”
The governor ushered him to the seat next to where the mayor of capitol city was
sitting (This all occurred before the former president came in).
As the events with the mayor of Capitol City unfolded, … the small town mayor
watched in astonishment as the former president was seated next to him.
Can you imagine what the small town mayor was feeling? …
Because of his humility, … the small town mayor was ushered to a seat of very
Does this story bare any resemblance to our Gospel reading of Luke 14:7-11.
The story that Jesus told was based on a Proverb.
Don’t brag about yourself before the king, and don’t stand in the place of the
great; 7 for it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here!” than to demote you
in plain view of a noble (Proverbs 25: 6-7)
What does all this mean?
Is this just a lesson on table manners?
What implication does this have on our lives?
All of this contradicts what values we often hold; … what this world we live in,
admires. … We assign worth to the pushy politician who climbs the ladder on the
backs of the little guy. … We value people who are assertive. … Seminars are held
to help people become assertive. … How many seminars have you seen advertised
to help people become humble? … “Come to the Humble Seminar and learn how
to be more humble.”
I did a search on the Internet for “humble seminar” and “humility seminar”. …
Guess what?: … Got nothing.
Do a search on “assertiveness seminar” and you get hundreds of hits.
Humble, … non-self-promoting effacing people … are seen as weak.
They are often stepped on by upwardly mobile people.
Even the Hindu spiritual prophet, Sivananda Saraswati, teaches; … “Humility is
Humility comes from the realization that … we can’t do it on our own.
We can’t save ourselves.
Are we learning that acting humble will get us the seat of honor or whatever we
want? … No!
Acting humble, … or even being humble, … is not a shortcut to glory.
Here’s one for you: … A man was given a medal because of his humility.
Later, it was taken away because he wore it everywhere he went.
It’s hard to ask someone if they are humble. … If they say “yes” then it looks like
they’re proud of their humility. … If they say “no”, … maybe they’re right.
The path to humility starts with the realization that we are dependent on Jesus for
There is not, … nor has there ever been … a self-made man (or woman, for-that-
Every mother would dispute that.
Beyond our indebtedness to our mothers for life, … is our indebtedness to God for
We are running a race on a treadmill, never getting anywhere … and in no way
ever crossing a finish line, … if we try to live a life apart from God’s grace.
Even those who give no thought to God are indebted to God. … so that you may be
sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the
good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5: 45).
Being humble is not a shortcut to earthly success. … People won’t get a job
promotion just because they’re humble. … On the contrary, … they’ll probably be
Remember that God’s social economy is quite different from our social economy.
God values humility … while our values seek the proud. … “But He gives greater
grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud,but gives grace to the humble”
(James 4: 6).
Again, … humility isn’t the path to earthly success. … God cares more about
having a relationship with us … than he does with making sure we have a
Mercedes or a Lariat 4X4 to drive.
The true reward of humility is a close relationship with Jesus Christ; … not a big
house or large paycheck.
Yet, have you ever noticed how pride can get in the way of relationship?
I have argued with people for the sake of arguing. … After a while it doesn’t really
matter what the argument was about. … I’m only arguing so I can win the stupid
argument. … It doesn’t really matter who’s right … because I want to win.
I’ve even argued on my behalf when I knew I was wrong!
I’m sure no one else here today has ever been that petty.
The quickest way to turn a friend into an enemy, … is to argue about something all
Always making sure that we are right … letting our pride get the best of us.
Jesus is telling us, in today’s reading, … that pride will lead to a downfall. …
Pride leads to arrogance. … Arrogance leads to the thought that we’re invincible!
That means we are depending on whom?; … Ourselves!
If we are depending on ourselves, … we aren’t depending on Christ.
If we aren’t depending on Christ, … what happens to our relationship with Him?
It’s damaged … or destroyed!
Following Christ is about having a relationship with him.
One of the characteristics of a good marriage (or any relationship), … is the
realization by both parties, … that they are interdependent.
A husband is dependent on his wife: … A wife is dependent on her husband.
One friend is dependent on the other friend. … When that interdependency
vanishes, … the relationship or marriage comes to a crashing halt!
When we trust in Christ, … our relationship is strengthened.
When that trust diminishes, … the relationship is weakened.
Is pride getting in the way of our relationship with others?
Is pride defeating our relationship with Jesus Christ?
Esther 4: 13-17
I decided to speak on Esther for a number of reasons: …
1. Part of this scripture in dear to me; … “Who knows, perhaps you have come to
the kingdom for such a time as this.” (verse 13b)
2. One of the Sunday School classes is studying the Book of Esther.
3. It’s one of the least read books in the Bible.
4. Disciple Women of the Northeast Area are having a rally at Central Christian –
Winnsboro, next Saturday.
All-in-all, the message to me … was that my sermon topic this Sunday needed to
be directed toward the women of the Church.
That is not to say that the men of the Church get to take a nap for the duration.
Much of this can and should be applied to our lives, also!
To begin: …
This was the day that Esther would either end up a hero … or end up dead.
Yeah, … I’m pretty sure I would have been tempted to crawl back into bed, …
pull the covers over my head … and desperately pray that God would find some
other woman or person; … some other way; … to save His people.
Why me? … Why here? … Why now?
These are questions we often ask God when He calls us to be brave in less-than-
ideal situations. … When we wake up one morning and realize it’s time to take that
step of faith … and move from the preparation stage … to actually doing the hard
works for God. … Oh we’re bold in the preparing … but when it’s time to take that
next step?; … “Isn’t there an easier way, Father? … Surely there’s someone else
who’s more qualified, … more available, … more; … I don’t know; … ‘built’ to
handle these kinds of projects?”
But Esther saved the doubt and the drama … and instead responded with: …
“I will go.”
How do we effectively respond to: … “The hand we are dealt”?
We Must be Empowered; … Fearless!
“The king loved Esther more than all the other women. She won more favor and
approval from him than did any of the other young women. He placed the royal
crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. 18 The king held a great
banquet for all his officials and staff. It was Esther’s banquet. He freed his
provinces from tax payments and gave gifts worthy of the king’s bounty.”
Thousands of years ago, a woman's worth depended on how she looked. …
Esther was a metaphorical slave of her culture.
Has it really changed for girls and women today? … In my ministry, I’ve meant all
kinds and ages of women who are enslaved by the culture surrounding them, …
which reworks their true identity. … As a result, … they are blinded to God's
purpose for their life.
We live in a media-saturated world which is communicating thousands of
messages every day, … consciously and unconsciously, to us.
Advertisements, magazines and music videos teach girls that they are to be 'living
dolls'; … that their worth lies in their physical appearance. … The result?: …
Girls see their bodies as projects to be worked on … as they strive to meet an
unrealistic standard of beauty. … A teenage girl once confided in me after
watching the cheerleaders perform at a pep rally: … "I am not enough."
God expects courage from his daughters. … The book of Esther is clear evidence
of this. … Her courage has echoed through generations of Hebrews … but it ought
to influence all women who call the Lord their Father. … Our God is the same
Messiah. … When we live a life of fear, … we are not pursuing God’s “best” for
Whether it’s fear of rejection, … fear of judgment, … fear of being alone …
or fear of suffering, … we must set it all aside and keep our eyes fixed on our
Where would we all be if Esther had chosen to stay silent? … What if she had
made her decision based on her fears rather than on her faith in God. …
She heeded the advice of her uncle Mordecai and recognized that God had destined
her for such a time as this. … Though she must have been terrified, … she obeyed.
Her courage … was her obedience!
There is a greater message that God is trying to communicate to His daughters
through the story of Esther. … I believe He wanted future generations of women to
have this story to look back on … to spur them on to courage. … Women need a
matriarch of valor to affirm the warrior that lives inside of all of us … once we
have the Holy Spirit’s power. … Esther’s legacy is one that says that fulfilling our
God given purpose … means that we cannot listen to the Enemy when he tells us
that we aren’t strong enough, … influential enough … or valuable enough to be
used by God.
There is a time that you … have been made for! … You have been placed in your
job, … in your marriage … and in your family for a purpose. …
You have been given royal status in the Kingdom of God for such a time as this;
… for such a time as now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! …
Listen to His leading and be ready to respond with courage when He calls.
Esther, the Jewish slave, … was chosen as the new queen which put her in a
position to petition the king for mercy on her people … but, … Esther was only
chosen as queen … AFTER someone else refused to obey. …
This position was entrusted to her because someone disobeyed … and Esther was
willing to obey the King! … She went a notch higher by even preparing herself to
come into the presence of the king.
Are you willing to obey your King of all kings … and at the same time, … prepare
yourself to come into His presence?
If you claim the title “Christian” … You must stand up Boldly for Christ
Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape
the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at
this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another
place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you
have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
15 Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be
found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and
my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king
even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” 17 So Mordecai went and did
everything Esther had ordered him. (Esther 4:13-17)
From a traditional standpoint, … some may consider that Esther was indeed too
bold and acted in a way that was not appropriate. … Those with traditional mind
sets believe that Esther should not have stood up to the king as she did.
This was an inappropriate move for the day and age she was living in and out of
line. … Some may also think that this act was disrespectful, in some way, to her
husband. … Traditionalists today still do not think that it is right to stand up to
your husband so boldly. … They believe that women should listen to their
husbands … and not interfere with what it is they want or believe, … because it is
Esther’s first step is to pray and fast. … She fasts for three days and asks everyone
in her community to fast with her. … She knows that standing up to evil and
fighting injustice is no small matter … and that she can accomplish nothing in her
own strength or by herself. …
Even though scripture does not say this, … it can be implied she can only succeed
if the Lord gives her great favor and wisdom. Just as Mordecai
inferred, … the Lord is the one who will bring deliverance … and she must act
according to His will. How
often do we act … before praying! … How often have we prayed a quick prayer
for protection and blessing … instead of spending hours, … if not days, … in
prayer and fasting!
As “Esthers”, … you must learn to begin every action with prayer … and to rely
on the Lord when bringing hope to the hopeless.
After three days of prayer and fasting, … Esther acts with courage and boldness.
She does not delay to act or hope God will send someone else. … No, … she steps
forward in courage and faith, … risking her life, … believing that God will
Once given entrance to the king, … she is wise and bold in her requests. …
She does not hesitate or lose courage … but she continues to walk as a courageous,
… faith-filled … Esther.
Esther is the perfect mix of waiting on the Lord … and also walking in faith.
Where is God calling you to bring His Hope? … Where has He placed you so that
you might fight against injustice … and protect His people?
Where are you confronting Evil on a daily basis? … Have you spent time in prayer
and fasting? … Have you sought the Lord’s will for your life and the situations He
has called you to?
Or maybe you have spent time in prayer but are hesitant to act?
Are you waiting for more signs or for God to send someone else?
How can you step out in faith today?
How can you live out your calling with courage and boldness?
Esther was a highly intelligent, yet a brave woman that we should look up to.
Her great courage and confidence saved many lives. … She was a woman who
followed God and was unafraid to do what was required of her, … even though she
was facing great trials. … Her abundant faith shows us that we can accomplish
anything when we believe and set our minds to it. … She has also showed us that
we need not be afraid when serving the Lord.
Esther was put in a position that could have cost her life, … yet she followed
through with God's plan and stood up to her husband. … Esther is the ultimate
example of whom women should look to for inspiration in their lives, …
for she was truly bold, … beautiful … and brilliant.
Through your bold actions and courage, … the lives of a community, … if not a
Nation can be saved!
That same day King Ahasuerus (uh hash-yoo HER uhs) awarded Queen Esther the
estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Mordecai entered the king’s presence
because Esther had revealed her relationship to Mordecai. 2 The king removed his
signet ring he had recovered from Haman and gave it to Mordecai, and Esther put
him in charge of Haman’s estate.
3 Then Esther addressed the king again. She fell at his feet, wept, and begged him to
revoke the evil of Haman the Agagite, and his plot he had devised against the
Jews. 4 The king extended the gold scepter toward Esther, so she got up and stood
before the king.
5 She said, “If it pleases the king, and I have found approval before him, if the
matter seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let a royal edict be
written. Let it revoke the documents the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the
Agagite, wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how
could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people? How could I bear
to see the destruction of my relatives?” (Esther 8:1-6)
In verses 8-14 and 16-17, the edit is given, … the Jews are allowed to protect
themselves … and God’s people are saved; … not only saved but their numbers are
increased because many converted to Judaism after witnessing God’s hand at
Esther’s people, … the Jews, … were in danger. … Due to an evil scheme by the
king’s adviser, … all of the Jews in the Persian Empire had been sentenced to
death. … The king was unaware that Esther was Jewish. … When her cousin
Mordecai told her of this news, he challenged her to view herself as uniquely
placed in a position of influence so she could save her people.
Esther could remain silent and most likely her life would be spared, … as long as
the king didn’t learn that she was Jewish. … If she chose silence, … she would
lose her family and her people; … she wouldn’t be used by God.
Or she could choose to act. … She could put her life on the line and stand up
against injustice! … That’s the path she selected … and God rewarded her
faithfulness by protecting the Jews through a series of miraculous events.
Making a decision to follow Christ is a defining moment … because we become a
part of something bigger than ourselves. … Being a Christ-follower … gives us a
purpose that is bigger than our own.
Esther had lived her life as one of God’s chosen people. … She believed in God
and knew that he cared about his people … but it wasn’t until she chose to act on
what she knew was right in the eyes of God, … that she was able to witness
firsthand His mercy and love. … Challenge your family and friends this week to
discover and experience the joy of putting their faith into action by helping
someone in need, … whether physically … or Spiritually!
Stand against the injustice of this secular and pagan world!
You know our nation desperately needs individuals like you and me to be willing
to follow Esther’s example and stand in the gap for God. … Our culture grows
more corrupt and sinful every moment that passes … and I think much of the
blame falls on those of us who hesitate to speak up and act for God’s truth.
Remember, all it takes for evil to prosper, … is for good people to do nothing …
and these days, … many good people ARE doing nothing.
The people in your sphere of influence, … that little “congregation” that God has
given you, … needs you to be salt and light.
They need you to speak the truth in love, … to guide them to faith in God.
This morning, … many of us may need to make a commitment to God to be as
courageous as Esther.
Accept the new position that God is giving you. … If the opportunity is the result
of another’s disobedience, … allow your obedience to take you to another level in
Remember that your obedience is connected to so many other people’s destinies!
Prepare yourself to come into The King’s presence; … You have come to the
Kingdom for such a time as this!
This last Sunday during the service at First Christian Church – Timpson, TX., the pastor, Larry
Stegall gave his message, then informed the congregation that he had preached his last sermon.
Larry turned, walked away from the pulpit, sat down … and died at the age of 79.
Larry was, what is recognized in our denomination, as a Commissioned Minister. Larry was
mostly self-taught in theology but did take ministry classes offered through the Northeast Area of
the Christian Church and also attended a certificate program at Jarvis Christian College.
I was friends with Larry but never real close. We took some classes together and later, when I
became a member of the Area Committee on Ministry, sat in on several of his interviews. For
more than the 20 years that I have known Larry, he served mostly small Churches that could not
afford a full time minister. He did this service at little to no pay. He was also a volunteer
chaplain at Bradshaw State Jail, where the inmates he ministered to greatly appreciated his
Larry was stubborn and hardheaded. I mean that in the best of ways. Larry had a stubborn
determination for ministry and was hardheaded enough that he would let nothing get in his way
or discourage him from this mission our loving God had directed him to. There are many Saints
with their Lord today because of his preaching of salvation; … too many lives to count that have
Larry’s mark of ministry on them. There was no place for nonsense in the sermons Larry
delivered and believe me, … he was not shy about his method of delivery.
Larry had his faults as all of us do but my admiration for him was based on his willingness to
offer a message of LIFE and HOPE, … regardless of how little reward and recognition was in it
Did I say, “little reward and recognition”?
How many of us, when we leave this earth for eternity with our Lord, will be able to say: …
“God arranged it so I could leave this earth from His House”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What a celebration it must have been when Larry took the nail scared hand of His Savior and
heard the words: … “Well done, oh good and faithful servant”!
Your servant in Christ,
I want you to put on your imagination cap. … Picture this; … if on a Sunday
morning, I came into this sanctuary and a stranger was sitting in this chair …
and then at 10: 30 AM, proceeded to get up, … lead the worship … and preach the
These thoughts could easily pass through my mind: … why is he / she … sitting in
my chair; … why is he / she … preaching from “my” pulpit?
It would be something like the feeling you may have when Sunday after Sunday
you come and sit in the same pew … and then one Sunday, … you come and some
new person is sitting … “in your pew”.
When reality settles in, … we realize that is not your pew at all; … that pew
belongs to the Church … and the only reason you can sit in it … is because the
Church makes it available to whomever is preaching the message … and by-the-
way, … this is not my pulpit. … this pulpit also belongs to the Church; … not to
me … and if I really want to get it right, … that pulpit belongs to God … and
whomever He would choose to put in it.
It’s the same when we go to work. … If we are a truck driver or a machinist, …
our employer hires us to drive a truck to make deliveries and pick-ups … but not
very long, after driving that truck day after day, … we develop the feeling this is
our truck … and if we come into work and find someone else driving “our” truck,
… we want to know why!
Just as I would if we worked the same machine every day … and then months later
came in to find somebody else working “our” machine … when all the time the
truck … or the machine … or whatever it is; … the desk, the computer, the
company car, … they are not ours at all … but are, … so-to-speak, … “on loan” to
us while we are employed by this Church … or … that company.
I raise this point of ownership with you before this Thanksgiving Season coming
up in November, … to makes us conscious, once again, … that if we are truly to be
thankful NOW … or in any season for that matter, … the question of ownership
must be clearly settled in our hearts … and when it comes down to who owns
what, … the Word of God is very clear: …
Psalm 89:11: … The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours. The world and
everything in it—You founded them.
Psalm 24: 1: … The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the LORD
You and I are surrounded everyday by possessions we think we own: … our car,
our home, our children, our clothing, our money, our hidden away collections of
coins, guns, dolls, family heirlooms.
“Hey, … who owns that white F150 in the parking lot, … they have me blocked
“I own this land free and clear … and here’s what I’m going to do with it.”
Sometimes we joke about the bank owning the car or house … because the bank
holds the mortgage or title … but beyond the joking is this daily mental perception
we have … and especially after the loan is paid off, … this is really ours!: …
I earned it; … I bought it… ; I paid it off with my money!
What I am trying to say this morning, … is that until we truly believe it all belongs
to God; … He owns it all; … until that perception is clear … and we are really sold
on it, … come November 22 nd , … Thanksgiving will only be a good meal on
Thursday with the family.
Now I know some of you may be thinking this is a little early to be considering
Thanksgiving … but for some of us, … it might just take this extra time for this
reality … to sink in!
Think about when you are truly thankful. … Is it not when you’ve had something
very valuable or useful; … lost it … and then recovered the lost item?
Maybe it was your health … or suddenly you lost the use of your hand to some
type of paralysis or numbness; … possibly you were in such pain you couldn’t
walk … but then by medicine, … an operation … or therapy of some kind, … your
health was restored; … how thankful were you?
We see it, from time to time, … in the news when a child is lost or kidnapped …
and then found safe and unharmed, … then returned to the parents.
Tears of joy and thankfulness flow easily.
Whether it’s our health, … a child, … our job or home; … whatever is lost or
harmed, … amidst all the other issues that can erupt, … ownership (control), …
customarily rampages through our mind: … “I thought I took good care of myself”,
… “my health was fine”; … “my child is seldom out of my sight; … I just glanced
away for a moment, … besides, I thought Bill was watching also!”
Do we really own our health, … or our child, … any more than we really own our
job or our house?
Psalm 24: 1-2: … The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the LORD; 2 for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the
Psalm 104: 14: … He causes grass to grow for the livestock and provides crops for
man to cultivate, producing food from the earth,
Psalm 104: 27 - 28: … All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right
time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are
satisfied with good things.
The contrast of what I am talking about is the kind of pride we see in King
Nebuchadnezzar. … He was the king of a great empire and fell easily into the
temptation of believing he was the owner and master of many lands, property, and
peoples. … Daniel, the Lord’s prophet, … had warned the king that the Lord God
Almighty would humble him for his sinful self-preoccupation.
So we read in Daniel 4:29-33: … “At the end of 12 months, as he was walking on
the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, 30 the king exclaimed, “Is this not Babylon
the Great that I have built by my vast power to be a royal residence and to display
my majestic glory?”
31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: “King
Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared that the kingdom has departed from
you. 32 You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals, and you
will feed on grass like cattle for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that
the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He
33 At that moment the sentence against Nebuchadnezzar was executed. He was
driven away from people. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with
dew from the sky, until his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’
So much for King Nebuchadnezzar and how important he thought he was with all
“his” possessions of land, property and kingdoms. … He is only an extreme
example of each of us who have failed to settle in our hearts who is truly the owner
of my paycheck and the very air I breathe. … It’s all on loan to us … from Him, …
the creator, … for another moment, another day, … by His grace, … even for a
When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works.
Do we, … like Nebuchadnezzar, … have to keep losing what we treasure and think
we own, … before we realize the truth that every day and possession of that day …
is God’s gift to us?
Most likely the answer is “yes”; … pride will continue to shackle our thankfulness
until we have accepted this truth!
I’ve heard so many times; … “we are born again.” … Listen, … until God greatest
gift of all to us, … His Son, Jesus Christ, … becomes our Lord and Savior …
and His Holy Spirit takes charge of our heart and mind; … until that conversion
takes place daily; … the precious black star sapphire gold ring my dad gave me for
graduation, … will always be mine instead of His … and the money I have will
remain under my control instead of His.
Who are we to think we can change ourselves? … Who am I to think I could ever
be grateful for anything I have made and accomplished?
Let us not be blind; … thanksgiving will come with an inner divine transformation,
… when God in His creative power … takes hold of our selfish and sinful heart; …
and with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ … washes away the old self … and
gives to us a new self in Christ Jesus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then you and I will have that new and true understanding of who owns the cattle
on a 1000 hills (Psalm 50:10). …
We see this inner divine transformation take place in who of all people but King
Nebuchadnezzar. … Remember we left this boasting and prideful ruler struck
down by God living like an animal, … eating grass like an ox, … his body wet
with the dew of heaven, … his hair growing out like a madman’s, … his nails like
And then we read Daniel 4: 34-37: … But at the end of those days, I,
Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I
praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever: …
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation
to generation. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and He
does what He wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, “What have You
done?” 36 At that time my sanity returned to me, and my majesty and splendor
returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and my nobles sought me
out, I was reestablished over my kingdom, and even more greatness came to me.
37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of heaven, because all
His works are true and His ways are just. He is able to humble those who walk in
Have we gotten the point? … Nebuchadnezzar did. … The earth and everything in
it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD. (Psalm 24: 1)
When we truly give thanks, … it is more than a meal; … it is a tribute to Almighty
God, … our owner and keeper, … our Savior and friend. …
Did you notice that when God gave the king a new heart, … that He restored the
fortunes of the king just as He restored Job’s fortunes when he too received the
inner divine new birth; … and in the restoration came even greater fortunes:
“…and my majesty and splendor returned to me for the glory of my kingdom .”
So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first (Job 42: 12)
Real thanksgiving comes when we accept and live out the truth God has given to
us in His word and in His Son. … So let us pray for a rebirth of self from our old
way to God’s new way, … a rebirth that occurs, not once, … but daily … as God
continues to transform (change) us from one degree of glory to the next.
Then when someone else is sitting in our pew … or Hudson becomes lost at
Walmart … or worse, … our most treasured possession … or person is taken, …
there will still resonate within us from the very depths, … the bedrock expression
of thanksgiving: … “because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded
that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
(2 Timothy 1: 12)