Most of us look upon the late Dr. Billy Graham as a hero of the faith. … Most of
us have followed his ministry for many years. … Dr. Graham once said; …
“There are no perfect Churches … but if there were, … I couldn’t join because
they wouldn’t be perfect anymore.”
I agree. … The Scriptures are filled with stories of individuals who walked with
God … yet they made mistake after mistake. … All of them were imperfect.
God made a powerful promise to a woman named Sarah. … Her response: … she
laughed at Him.
Jacob deceived his Father and stole his brother’s birthright.
Jonah ran from God.
Martha worried too much
When Jesus asked the disciples to pray with Him, … the disciples all fell asleep.
Jacob, Jonah, Martha and the 12 disciples all shared at least two commonalities: …
1. They all loved the Lord … and
2. they were all imperfect.
You and I fall into that same category. … All of us are far … from perfect.
What we Christians overlook sometimes; … the Church is not for people who are
never disobedient. … The Church is not for those who think they have it all
together. … The Church is not for those who have arrived.
We are like “AA”: … We are basically, … Sinners Anonymous.
We’re the only organization besides Hell’s Angels … that you have to bleed in
order to get in; … Get my point?
Every growing believer I know has, at one time or another, said these words; …
“I’m struggling. … I’m making progress but I’m struggling.”
Look at these two passages with me; … Philippians 3:12a and 15a: …
12a “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature”
15a “Therefore, all who are mature should think this way”
Ephesians 2:8-10 (this should be our focus for the morning): … “For you are
saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not
from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation, created in Christ
Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in
Look at these three truths with me today: …
1. When we show grace to others, … we are doing what God does.
God saved you by grace when you believed … and you cannot take credit for this;
… it is a gift from God.
Think about this; … when you came to God and you first believed, … when you
were searching, … how would you describe your spiritual condition at the time?
Think about this; … the Bible call us to be fishers of men (people). …
We share something in common with fish. … The first step we have to make with
fish when we catch them, … is to clean them.
Did you ever clean a fish? … It’s a messy process most people don’t really enjoy.
It is messy … but it’s necessary. … When we catch fish, they’re not ready to eat.
When we first come to Christ, … we’re not quite ready to be used.
So Jesus begins the cleaning process. … Now He accepts us just as we are; …
that’s why we still sing the song … “Just as I Am” … because that’s the way we
come to God; … sinners, … messed up; … we were nothing without Christ …
and we need to be reminded of that: … We are nothing without His righteousness.
So we have to be careful that we never send out wrong signals to an unbeliever.
Because here is the problem; … There are many people who believe they are
simply not good enough to come to Christ. … They believe they have to get their
life “together” first … and then they can come to Christ … but nothing could be
further from the truth.
Here is the truth: …
The truth is, we are NOT good enough when we receive Christ … but it is only
when we realize we are NOT good enough … that we CAN come to Him.
This is a barrier that we need to tear down. … Here’s the process; … We come to
God Just as we are, … then God starts us in the process of what the Bible calls
sanctification. … I am being sanctified … but I have not been completely
sanctified. … It is progressive. … I am saved … but I am still in the process of
being cleaned up.
Here are a few things we need to allow unbelievers to do: …
1. Allow unbelievers to question our faith. … “Always be ready to give a defense
to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15b)
In-other-words, … if someone asks about your hope as a believer, … always be
ready to explain it.
Show interest in their opinions; their doubts; their questions. … Even if we don’t
agree. … I never want to present myself as someone who thinks I have arrived or
have it all together.
Allow unbelievers to question our faith.
2. Allow unbelievers to wrestle with their unbelief. … A good example of this is
found in the 9th chapter of Mark. … A man brought his son to Jesus. … His son
was demon possessed … but even as His father brought his son to Jesus, … the
father was still struggling with his belief in who Christ really was.
Maybe he had never really seen God’s power for himself. … Jesus told the father;
anything is possible to those who believe; … this is what the father said: …
“I do believe! Help my unbelief.”
I have beliefs but I also have doubts.
Unless we are prefect, … we should be able to identify with that statement.
As a Church, we must always allow people to come here and search, … to ask
questions; … that is how we came to Christ … and we should allow others the
same privilege. … When we show grace to others, … we are following in the same
steps as Jesus.
3. Our attitude should be one of humility, … especially in connection with an
unbeliever. … Paul said salvation is not a reward for the good works we have done
… so none of us should brag about it or look down our noses at others.
The Bible is crystal clear on this subject. If we have been saved, … we have no
right to brag / boast / be prideful … about it. … We haven’t saved ourself!
Now this kind of attitude is very contagious. … People find humility to be
attractive and they find pride to be repulsive and unattractive.
Look at what the scripture says: … James 4:6b: … “God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble”
In this I think we usually have the same attitude as God. … We will go out of our
way to help someone who is humble … and we will also go out of our way to
avoid someone who is proud.
Karen and I enjoy watching AGT … where the judges and America get to vote as
to whether the individual is allowed to stay in the competition … and it is not rare
that a contestant is eliminated because of their proudful and holier than thou
attitude toward the judges and the American audience. … Confidence is one thing,
… Pride is another.
As believers, … you and I have to understand that it is not our goodness that has
earned us a place at the table with Jesus … and there are two practices we need to
take up … if we want to really understand this.
1. We must learn humility: … Ego can get the best of us. … This is what EGO is:
Edging God Out.
Instead, … we have to learn to act with humility. …
We find a great promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14: … “If my people will humble
themselves and pray.” … That word “humble” … translates literally as “to bend
the knee.” … To humble ourself means, … that you and I must take the
responsibility for being humble. … We have a choice. … We can humble
ourselves … or we can let God humble us.
Wanna take a guess as to which is the most painful?!!!
2. We must become childlike. … Look at Matthew 18:4: … “Therefore, whoever
humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Why would Jesus say that? … What is it about children that Jesus is telling us to
imitate? … Well, for one, … children don’t wear a mask. … They just say what’s
on their mind. … They’re real; … Genuine. … As adults, … we’re too afraid that
if people see us as we really are, … they might not like us. … So we fake it.
We exaggerate our abilities and sometimes this carries over into adult life /
People marry … and then one says; … “you’re not who I thought you were.”
It’s because they never really knew them. … They were never real with each
other. … Those relationships take time.
As believers we need to be willing to allow people to see us for who we really are.
We don’t have to wear a mask. … We don’t have to be perfect. … We don’t have
to appear to be happy all the time. … We have struggles … but if we are HONEST
about them; … it can be contagious.
People love transparency in other people. … Unbelievers need to understand that
we are on a journey together; … we are broken people on a journey together
toward someone … who IS perfect.
We are God’s masterpiece. … Ephesians 2:10: … “For we are His creation,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that
we should walk in them”
God is crafting a great work of art out of every life that is committed to Him.
Paul said we have been created anew in Christ. … When we read the book of
Ephesians, … we really need to keep one word at the forefront of our mind: …
“GRACE”. … “Grace” wasn’t offered to us AFTER we came to Christ. …
“Grace” was offered BEFORE we came to Christ. … Paul instructed the Romans
in Romans 15: 7: … “Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also
accepted you, to the glory of God”
So how do we do this? … Again, two reminders: …
1. Put on a face of grace. … Be grace with skin on. …
Ever heard that expression?: … Flesh it out, in-other-words. … Be grace to others.
If you have ever been to an art museum, … you know what it’s like to stand and
look at the great works created by master artists. … Some of those paintings are
worth tens of millions of dollars. … Others are considered to be priceless.
Now who gets the credit for those paintings? … The one who painted them; …
Michelangelo?, … Rembrandt?. … You or I wouldn’t walk in and begin to take
credit for them … and neither should we take credit for what God is doing in our
lives. … We accept others by grace … just as God accepted us by grace. He
didn’t wait for us to become perfect before he established a relationship with us. …
Now don’t confuse these two words; … “Accept” and “Approve”. Just
because I accept someone … does not mean I approve of their lifestyle or actions.
… There is a difference. … This is how grace came to us. … This is how it should
go out to others: … “Acceptance”.
2. Do “good works.” … So you have this beautiful work of art. … What do you do
with it? … You put it on display. … You put it in a prominent place for people to
see. … You and I need to be a living, … breathing trophy of God’s grace.
WE need to be God’s masterpiece on public display for others to see.
Ephesians 2:10: … “ For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good
works, which God prepared ahead of time.”
I think Paul got this idea from Jesus. … Jesus taught us to let our light shine in
front of us so that they will see the good things you and I do … and will honor our
Father who is in Heaven.
It takes grace to: …
• Love others when they act unlovable
• To accept others who are different
• To forgive others when they have wronged us
• To treat others right, when they have treated us wrong.
This is not a perfect Church. … We are not a perfect people … but we do serve a
A lady who apparently was a bit desperate decided to write a letter to Dear Abby.
It read like this: … Dear Abby, I am 44, unmarried and would like to meet a man
my age with no bad habits. … She signed her name, “Rose.”
Abby replies: … “Dear Rose: … So would I.”
I suppose everyone has wanted that at one time or another … but that person
doesn’t exist. …
I’ll tell you what I am thankful for: … The only one who is perfect, … ever has
been … and ever will be. …. Jesus Christ accepts us exactly as we are.
With all of our sin, … our imperfections; … He accepts us … just as we are.
You can come to Him, … just as you are … so that He can help you become all
that you can be. … Most of us never reach our potential in Christ. … Let’s try to
turn that around, … starting today!
There is an old story that tells of a man who was traveling on his donkey when he
came upon a small fuzzy object lying in the road. … He dismounted to look more
closely and found a sparrow lying on its back with its scrawny legs thrust upward.
At first he thought the bird was dead but closer investigation proved it to be very
much alive. … The man asked the sparrow if he was all right. The sparrow replied,
"Yes." … The man asked, "What are you doing lying on your back with your legs
pointed towards the sky?" … The sparrow responded that he had heard a rumor
that the sky was falling and so he was holding his legs up to catch it.
The man retorted, "You surely don’t think that you’re going to hold it up with those
two scrawny legs, do you?" … The sparrow, with a very solemn look, replied,
"One does the best he can."
Have we demonstrated faith at any time this week? … Have we been called to
show faith to someone … or in something?
I am positive that all of us have not just demonstrated faith this week … but even
since we got up this morning.
Did you have faith that your alarm clock went off at the right time? … When you
reached for the light switch were you surprised when the light came on?
How about the car starting … or that I showed up this morning?
Were you personally surprised by any of those little details of daily life?
So in the last few hours and this week, … you have exhibited faith that the realities
you know about our world are true most of the time … and by faith, … you went
through the week using the phone, turning lights on and off, … heading for a red
light in the car that the breaks would work … and any number of other automatic
responses, hundreds of times.
We often talk about how hard it is to exhibit our faith … but we ignore all the other
times that we do, every day. …
How is it that we can divide faith into different categories; … the stuff we depend
on every day … and the faith that there is a God and a judgment to come.
In our scripture today, we hear from James. … He is said to be the half-brother of
Jesus. … Some believe that Paul and James relay different conclusions about faith
… but I believe that if we read the text, … we will find that they actually agree; …
They just say it in different ways.
Today we will just look at what James says.
He starts with a question: … “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has
faith but does not have works?”
As a kid, … did you have someone ever claim to be your friend, … because they
wanted something from you?; … but rarely, if ever, wanted to do something for
you? … Politicians claim to be this or that … or for or against … and we later
learn that it may not have been true, … perhaps even a plane old lie.
Then James gives another more biting question; … “Can his faith save him?”
What is James saying about faith and works? …
James gives an example of peoples actions. … He talks about a Christian meeting
up with a brother or sister (Christians) that are in trouble. … They are having
difficulty with the bills, … normal basic needs. … We aren’t talking about the
Cable TV or cell phone. … We are talking about food and clothes.
Perhaps something happened with the job … or a health problem that wipes out
their energy and money. … A fellow Christian sees their need when they see each
other, … listens to the problems and says: … “I’ll pray for you” … and wishes
them “good luck”.
They don’t do anything to help beyond visual concern and kind words.
What good is it?
Then he says that faith is like that, … if there is no action then it is dead.
What good is it? … If there is not activity in faith … then there is no life.
He is pointing out that people who would do this … have missed the basic
principal. … Their faith is dead because they are not responding to obvious need.
They are not responding and allowing the Grace of God to be generous and caring,
… through them.
James continues as if he is in a verbal discussion, … indicating what some people
might say: … “You have faith, … I have Works”. … Then he gives his response: …
“Show me your faith without works, … and I will show you faith from my works”
What are the works he is talking about here? … Is it taking care of the poor and
needy in the Church? … I think it is more than that. … That was already
established years before, especially for those within the Church.
Remember the distribution of food to the widows early on. … I really feel that
James is using an accepted work of the Church to bring the understanding of the
Christians to a higher level. … James’ letter is being written to the Christians who
are dispersed into all the nations. … These are the people that wanted to avoid
persecution and moved to get out of the way of trouble. … They carried their faith
with them … but I suspect that wanting to avoid trouble, … they just met up with
friends … and did not share the message.
When James is defining the different types of faith, … the easiest one to define is
the dead faith. … It’s a faith that thinks “everything’s okay.” … It is faith that says,
“I believe in God,” … but never thinks about how that might affect life.
What has happened is that the one who ignores the need of others has taken the
name of Christ … but failed to adopt the character of Christ, … thinking to
themselves; … “I want the benefits of being a Christian … but I don’t want any
responsibility that comes with it.”
According to James, … “It doesn’t work that way. … If you have faith, … it
changes you through and through.” … Dead faith is nothing more than words on
your lips. … It is a statement of faith … without a lifestyle of faith.
What James is warning us about here … is that kind of faith is no faith at all.
Don’t be content with dead faith.
So is James talking about losing your Salvation? … Not exactly.
It seems to me that James, in this open letter, is addressing several problems.
He is pointing out to the Christians that they are far from perfect and they are
living to the same policies that the Jewish authorities have lived by.
Some are exhibiting a misplaced pride … and they look down their noses at other
Christians and non-Christians.
I think that we are talking about the difference between head knowledge …
and heart knowledge.
Head knowledge is when we think we know how to make a living growing fresh
vegetables. … You just put the seeds in the ground and harvest when it is time.
Heart knowledge knows when to plant, … what to plant, … to be watchful of
trouble … and knowing when to harvest for the best results.
Understanding the basics of how … and actually knowing how, … is very
This letter contains several examples of the kinds of deeds that James is pointing
to. … Caring for the less-fortunate is one aspect but there is also controlling of
one’s tongue, … avoiding favoritism, … loving your neighbor as yourself … and
James is telling the readers that the faith that gives salvation … involves more
than just a little lip service. … More than a minimum giving … and physical work.
It is living as your life choice … because you have faith, … you will constantly
show it with deeds and works!
He gives another example to help people understand that action is absolutely
required. … He says, … “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith
without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19 You believe that God is
one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder”.
It appears that James is desperate to get these people’s attention. … He is using
tough words to do so.
Have you ever gotten scared just by thinking about something?
“IRS” is one that makes me sit up and pay attention. … Have you ever been sitting
around the campfire and someone was telling a scary story? … How about a ghost
story, like the Man with the hook at the end of his arm.
I remember my dad telling that story on a scouting trip. … As he got close to the
end, … he spoke softer … and everyone was leaning in to hear the story … and he
shouts: … “THE HOOK HAS YOU!”
The reaction from us boys was screams and shouts and maybe even a few steps of
running. … For a brief moment, … we believed that we were GOT!
The demons that we read about in scripture knew who Jesus was and that he had
power over them. … They followed His instruction … because they knew He was
Demonic faith is the faith that believes in the existence of God … and that belief
affects the emotions … but not the will. … James says if we have dead faith, …
even the demons are one up on us. … They believe and shudder.
If our faith is dead, … quite honestly, … we ought to be scared to death that the
ones whose eternal destiny is hell … are affected more by their belief in God …
than we are.
There are many Christians who say we are saved by “Faith Only.”
Much of Christianity believes Paul and ignores James, … when in reality, …
both James and Paul are looking at the same prospect … from two different sides
of the coin. … Paul is saying “You can’t work your way to heaven; … it takes faith
to please God.”
James is saying; … “You have to have faith to please God … but the only faith that
is pleasing to God is faith that does something!”
God wants us to have an active faith, … not a dead faith!
James offers two examples as a proof of active faith which yields action.
I am sure you are familiar with the story; … God promised Abram and Sarah that
if they followed Him they would have a child that would be the father of a great
nation. … Abraham waited and waited and waited until he was 100 and Sarah was
90, for the promised child. … Finally amidst laughter and I’m sure a few tears, …
the child of promise comes. … It was a miracle of God for those two Senior Saints
to have a child born to them … but an incredible situation develops: … Now that
they finally have the Son promised by God, … God tells Abraham to do something
outrageous. … God speaks to Abraham and tells him to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.
Literally that meant to offer him up like a bull or a sheep in that sacrificial system.
To kill him on a stone altar. …
Abraham loads up the stuff, … travels with his only son to the altar … and with
every ounce of energy he can muster, … raises the knife to be obedient to God.
God stops the sacrifice and provides a ram for an offering.
Abraham proves he is totally submissive to God; … “and it was credited to him as
righteousness.” … In-other-words, … Abraham was justified by his willingness to
trust God completely.
On the opposite end of the social scale was Rahab. … Abraham is the most
respected person in all the history of Israel; … Rahab is not very high on that same
scale. … She was not an Israelite … but a member of a pagan nation that God
commanded Israel to wipe out. … She wasn’t even wealthy like Abraham. … She
was a prostitute; … financially and morally she was a poor person. … Yet when
the spies went into the land to scope out what they were up against, … Rahab was
there to help them, … to hide them from their enemies. … In the end, Rahab was
saved from the destruction of the city. … James says that in God’s eyes, … Rahab
was justified by what she did.
James is using scripture as his proof which is always a good starting point.
James is trying to teach the readers that Faith and works are connected.
That because Abraham was willing to follow through with the sacrifice, … he was
made completely righteous by God. … God even called Abraham, … friend.
Rahab Believed in God and helped his people. … Her faith proved by her actions
allowed her to be saved. … He is teaching that faith is made complete and visible
by our actions. … These actions are a response to our environment, … people’s
needs … and our response to the pressures and attacks of this world.
So where does all this lead us today? … Do we show our faith in God through our
daily lives … as easily as our faith in the power company or the breaks on you car?
Is our faith better described as … dead or active?
Here’s a few of ways to check our spiritual vital signs: …
1. How do we feel about worship? … Is it a priority with us … or is it an
insignificant ritual that we just go through because we know you should?
2. What kind of thoughts and goals do we have for life? … When we think about
what we would like to do for the next year, … are we … at the center … or / are
other people and God in the middle?
3. How do we feel about giving? … Is it a painful experience … or / are we the
cheerful giver Paul talks about in I Corinthians?
4. How often do we read our Bible? … Is it something that gets no attention in our
life … or are we actively pursuing a greater knowledge of God and His will for our
The Church is too often populated with Spiritual Zombies, … people who think
they are living by faith … but who know nothing about what it means to be excited
and challenged by the joy of active faith.
A living faith is visible … and it attracts people because it includes joy and
excitement with activity that is satisfying. … When faith is dead, … people outside
the Church recognize that and it keeps them from wanting to become part of
Dead faith believes in God … but it does not trust Jesus. … Dead faith never tries
something new … and only shows up on Sunday.
James is attempting to pass along a simple way to identify our spiritual condition.
Are we only giving lip service, … only holding Head knowledge … and no Hear
The actions that James is calling for, … is to walk with Jesus, … to listen and learn
from the master … and to be His hands for service … and His presence in time of
Active faith is expensive because we must be willing to risk ourselves … in our
He is still calling all of us to be active and follow Him.
Do you trust Jesus?
All Glory Be to God!
The scripture just read is one of the Bible’s prescriptions for worry. …
How often we are told not to worry … but worry we do, … about our health, …
job, … family, … some personal problem, … world in crisis, … whatever.
It’s one thing to read: … “Your heart must not be troubled” (John 14: 1) … or
“Don’t worry about your life” (Matthew 6: 25); … but it only takes a phone call
with bad news, … an unexpected dismissal from work, … or the wrong results on a
lab test … to make us mock or think ridiculous, Paul’s words to the Christians in
Philippi: … “Don’t worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6).
To remind us just how severe a problem worry can be, … on April 5, 2002, we
read or heard in the news of a priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in
Parma, … Rev. Donald Rooney, … took his own life worried about the
repercussions of past sins. … Closer to home, … October 3, 2002, Ralph Glenn,
President and General Minister of the Christian Churches of the Southwest, …
committed suicide, worried and concerned about financial discrepancies in the
If the clergy have trouble not worrying, … it should be a reminder to me this
morning that even talking about a solution to worry can be more like; … “Spitting
in the wind”.
What is it about this story on the sea that should help us with our worrying?.
It’s a rather simple episode told in only four verses. … Jesus was asleep on a boat
with His disciples. … A storm came up and the boat was being swamped; …
a situation that would cause most of us a lot of anxiety and worry as it did for the
disciples who woke up Jesus saying: … “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”
(and they weren’t kidding).
Jesus said to the disciples: … “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?”
That’s like me saying: … “What are you worried about? Then He got up and
rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm”
If we were to look at this incident as an analogy for you and me today, … we could
compare our life to a boat; … you and I are a boat on the sea of life … and as we
well know, many storms come up that cause us to worry and feel anxious.
Some of those storms, … some of our problems, … can really start to swamp us,
… we get discouraged or depressed, … sometimes to the point of wanting to take
our own life.
In this story, … Jesus is on the boat and to follow the analogy, … Jesus is on your
boat and my boat, … in your heart and my heart … and if I can call upon Him and
tell Him what’s happening, … He can rebuke the violent wind and sea … then you
and I will be safe.
We should not forget that even though Jesus was on the boat … the disciples were
not excluded from having problems; … the storm still came.
What made all the difference were two factors: … Jesus … and having faith.
It was not only that Jesus was on the boat … but that the disciples thought He
could do something about the terrible storm.
The question often asked by traveling evangelist: …
“do you have Jesus in your heart … or … have you accepted Jesus Christ as your
personal savior?”, … may not be as important as: … is He asleep … or active in
That was the key here. … Jesus became active on this boat; … He calmed the
Maybe the reason we worry too much … is because Jesus is asleep in me …
instead of active.
We don’t like to think it or say: … “I prayed to Jesus; … I asked Him to heal me
… or … to help me but nothing happened”. … “It was like He didn’t answer my
We could make that argument after reading about another storm that came up.
This time the disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus and out of the
night came men carrying clubs and swords. … The disciple Peter was ready to
fight; … he drew his sword, but Jesus said “No” … and before they knew it; …
the bad guys had taken Jesus away … and the disciples were scattered like sheep
without a shepherd. … Now the disciples really had something to worry about; …
this time Jesus did not calm the storm … but got swept away by its mighty force,
…imprisoned, … beaten and mocked.
That’s why I mentioned there were two significant factors in this story on the sea:
… the one, of course, is Jesus, … who was on the boat … and the second is faith,
… why are we afraid, O men and women of little faith.
Jesus wanted these men to have faith. … He used almost the very same words
another time on the sea when He came to His disciples at night; … they saw Jesus
coming out of the darkness and thought it was some kind of ghost or apparition
walking on the water until He spoke to them; … talk about being worried again.
Peter said: “Lord, if it’s You,command me to come to You on the water.”; so Jesus
said: “Come” … and the next thing you read is Peter is walking on the water
toward Jesus … until Peter felt the wind and saw the rough sea and began to sink.
Jesus saved Peter but you remember His words to Peter as He lifted him into the
boat: … “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
There’s Jesus using that word faith again and how important it is throughout His
ministry of healing and teaching. … Perhaps it’s not so much a case of Jesus being
asleep in our hearts rather than active; … possibly, our faith is too little in
believing what Jesus can and will do for you and me!
Well He didn’t do anything about those bad guys who took Him away … and now
we are left without anything; … how are we supposed to have faith in Him?
Don’t even pretend that some of the disciples weren’t thinking that … because we
know Judas was so depressed and discouraged, … he hung himself.
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus for three years; … walking, talking, living with
Jesus, day after day- going through one storm after another with Him and then
finding yourself still wondering, … doubting, … questioning, … when this last
storm seemed to take Jesus out.
Before we know it, … whatever faith we thought we had is gone; … “I’m going
back home to my fishing business said Peter …”
What can be even more embarrassing to us as Christians with little faith, …
is when we look around to see who does have faith … and the search leads to our
A three or four year old child, when told that daddy can fix that, … stops crying
and takes the broken toy to daddy. … And; … “where has grandma gone now that
we put her body into the ground” … the small child asks? … “Jesus has taken her
to Heaven to be with Him there”, you answer … and the young child of faith is
No wonder Jesus said: … “unless you are converted and become like children, you
will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3)
He was not talking about acting childish; … Jesus was saying; … look at the faith
the child has, … look how the child believes in God, the Father, without hesitation
To remind us how important is having the faith of a child, … we read in 1 John 4:4
the words: … “little children”; … a phrase the author, John, … used to speak to
“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One
who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Here, the writer, John, … is taking us back to our first point about Jesus being in
our boat … or as we said in the analogy; … “in my heart”; … He, … Jesus, … is in
us … and that this Jesus is greater than the evil one in the world about us …
but do we really believe that in faith, … when the results facing us are negative and
there aren’t any more options to try. … What we need to realize here, … is that this
is not a religious thing or a Church thing.
People are always blaming or accusing “the Church” or “some religion” as not
meeting his or her needs … but the real issue for the Christian is not the
Minister … the people of the Church … or the “Christian religion”; …
the real issue is Jesus Christ. … Do we have Him in our boat (in my heart) …
and do I believe in faith … that He really is greater than all these disappointments
and sufferings I face. … Sure, … it’s easy to blame this person, … that Church …
those people … or this unfortunate turn of events … but the more honest answer as
to why we are worried and anxious: … “they have taken my Jesus away and now
my faith is less than little.”
The challenge facing us as Christians, … is how to keep Jesus alive in you and me
… plus to build such a close personal relationship with Him … that my/your faith
in Him is increasing … instead of decreasing, … especially when it all gets crazy!
Most of us are here this morning, … for just that reason; … to know Him and the
power of His resurrection in our lives.
So in worship to Him we pray and sing, … read and hear His spoken Word to us,
… give our offering … and at least for this hour … have a sense that yes, …
Jesus Christ is alive … and I/you … do have faith in Him.
But we have only to leave this Holy House … and be tossed into the sea of life,
ravaged by storms and calamity, … to find out that Whom we thought we had, …
seems to have vanished.
To meet this challenge the Catholic tradition offers mass every day …
and protestants are told to have our daily devotions with the Lord.
They are both worthwhile answers … but there is one answer out of the many
others we have heard so often that I would like to repeat it now … and that answer
is the parting words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 28:18: … “All authority
has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
If we can believe in those words by faith, … knowing at the same time, … Jesus is
alive in our hearts, … surely some lessening of our fears and anxieties will come.
It’s like knowing the boss who has all the power … and knowing that the boss is
on our side.
Of course problems come up at work … but we never have to worry because we
know the boss … and he’s in our corner.
Remember in grade school the kid in the class who was the teacher’s pet; … he or
she could get away with practically anything; … never had to worry about grades
or homework, … why … because that kid was “in” with the teacher who had all
The next time a storm starts blowing your ship around and you are getting
swamped, … maybe it wouldn’t hurt or scare you and me so much if, … in our
heart , … we knew and really believed that Jesus is on our boat … and all
authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him.
I just know that however great the mess is … or however long it may take to get it
straightened out, … that He will rebuke the winds and sea and there will be a great
One Christian woman tried to put this kind of believing faith in Jesus Christ into a
prayer that went like this:
God give us your perspective on sickness, on loss, on death, on healing.
I don’t want to change Your mind, Lord. … Your thoughts are perfect; … I want to
think Your thoughts. … I don’t want to change Your timing, Lord. … Your timing is
perfect; … I pray for the grace to accept Your timing, … Your plan … and to see
You glorified through my life.
Some men on a boat in a stormy sea remind us this morning, that against all odds,
… we have a Savior who is able and willing to save us.
All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him … and to any of us
who will live by faith more and more in Jesus Christ, … to him, … to her, … will
come the calm sea.
It’s hard to believe but the “Back-To-School” ads have already started. Where has this Summer
gone. Many might say it burned up in the Texas heat. Well, that could be but not likely. If you’ve
lived in Texas very long, you are well aware of what happens here every July and August.
With the start of a new school year upon us, it is a good time to think about what else can be
new. Here at First Christian – Mt. Pleasant, we are beginning with new activities, starting off
with catfish at David Beards. We have a new Sunday morning group gathering kicking off
Sunday, August 5 th – 9:30 AM, amply named “Donuts & Discussion”. There is a new
Wednesday night study launching August 8 th at 6:30 PM. This will be an involved examination
of the Holy Spirit (that oft forgot third Person of the Godhead).
There’s nothing wrong with “NEW”; … “NEW” can be a good thing! Put some thought to it and
we realize that “Christianity” was new 2000 years ago. This Church building was new in 1953.
March 2015, this congregation got a new pastor (some of you might be thinking; … “Well, some
things new are good, … some, not so good”).
We should ask ourselves more often: … “What is new in our life?”.
What new book are you reading?
What new words have we learned to expand our vocabulary?
What new food have we tried?
What new friend have we made?
What new witness have we effected for our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ?
In this chaotic world we live in today; … in this society of loneliness; … in this realm of pain; …
in this land of plenty but seldom shared, … in this populace of hunger, both spiritually and
physically: … have we shared the healing salve for every wound in creation, … that being the
good news of salvation trough Jesus Christ!
Every morning and evening, we look to “NEW” news on the TV. Hoping for word that our
leaders have a NEW level of comradery. NEW programs to help us all out. NEW peace
initiatives: … and how is that working for us?
If we haven’t already, something NEW we can turn to is picking up our cross and depending
upon our Savior for not only our “answers” to life but also turn to Him for our leadership!
Jesus is the ANSWER, … always was and always will be. He TRUMPS the Republicans and
Democrats along with anything that is mortal or manufactured!
Your servant in Christ,
This Wednesday we will celebrate the birthday of our nation plus the signing of
the Declaration of Independence. … It was a momentous decision for each one of
the men who placed his name upon that Declaration.
As John Adams signed, he said; … "Whether we live or die, sink or swim, succeed
or fail, I stand behind this Declaration of Independence. … And if God wills it,
I am ready to die in order that this country might experience freedom."
It was that kind of patriotism which led men, … armed with little more than
hunting rifles, … to engage in battle with what was the most powerful nation in the
Many of our forefathers paid a terrible price in the Revolutionary War …
but finally they won the victory so that you and I might be citizens of this; …
"land of the free and home of the brave."
What we often forget is that in declaring their independence from England, …
our forefathers made an equally strong … “Declaration of Dependence” …
upon the great God that we all serve and love.
THEY DECLARED THEIR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence begins with these
words: … "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that
among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The closing words of their Declaration solemnly states: … "With a firm reliance on
the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives,
our Fortunes & our sacred Honor."
It is important that we remember this declaration of their dependence upon God,
… for in a time of world unrest, … the United States, today, is rapidly forgetting
the God of our fathers, … the God who gave this nation its birth … and its
I dare say, … all here know the name, … “Patrick Henry” … but I’m afraid many
of our school children know almost nothing of him at all.
Patrick Henry was a famous statesman of colonial Virginia. …
In 1764 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses where he became a
champion of the frontier people, … supporting their rights against the arrogant
exercise of power by the aristocracy.
In 1774 he was a delegate to the First Continental Congress. …
In 1775, … before the Virginia Provincial Convention, … which was deeply
divided between those who supported England … and those who desired freedom,
… he uttered his most famous words; … "Give me liberty or give me death!"
During the Revolutionary War he became commander-in-chief of Virginia's
military forces. … Henry was a member of the Second Continental Congress.
He helped draw up the first constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia …
and was the key principal, … responsible for drawing up the amendments to our
Constitution … known as the Bill of Rights.
Patrick became Virginia's first governor … and was re-elected three more times.
He then retired from public life … but despite his strong objections, … the people
went ahead and elected him Governor for the 5th term.
But Patrick meant what he said, … so he refused to take the office.
He was offered a seat in the U.S. Senate, … posts as ambassador to Spain, …
then to France. … President George Washington asked him to join his cabinet and
become Secretary of State; … later, Washington wanted to appoint him the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court … but he refused all such honors and recognitions.
So why do I bring up all of this about Patrick Henry?
It is because I want all of us to realize that he was an important and respected
leader in those days when our nation came into being.
Now listen to his words; … "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that
this great nation was founded not by religionists, … but by Christians; …
not on religions, … but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
His Last Will and Testament was filed in the Brookneal County courthouse in
Virginia. … Read his Will … and you'll discover that he bequeathed everything to
his children, … just as most people do … but the last paragraph in his Will is
He wrote, "I have now given everything I own to my children. There is one more
thing I wish I could give them and that is Christ. … Because if they have everything
I gave them … and don't have Christ, … they have nothing!"
I love to read about courageous men like Patrick Henry, George Washington,
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson … and John Jay … plus many of the other patriots
who gave of themselves so valiantly … that we might enjoy the freedoms we have
At the same time, … we also need to be reminded of the solemn warning that God
gave to another nation which was experiencing the thrill of independence after
centuries of slavery in Egypt. … Although it was written over 3,000 years ago, …
this caution could very well apply to the United States today.
In Deuteronomy 8:7-14, … Moses tells the people: … "For the LORD your God is
bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep
water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat, barley, vines,
figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat
food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron
and from whose hills you will mine copper. 10 When you eat and are full, you will
praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you.
11 “Be careful that you don’t forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His
command—the ordinances and statutes—I am giving you today. 12 When you eat
and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, 13 and your herds and flocks grow
large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases,
14 be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your
Do we today, … have a reason to be concerned about this warning?
WATCH OUT THAT WE DON'T FORGET GOD
The testimony of history has made it abundantly clear that not only nations …
but also individuals, … need to be mindful of that warning!
The greatness of a nation is not measured by its military power, … technological
advancements … or national wealth: … Righteousness and justice are the
Solomon, … at one time, … the wisest person alive, wrote: … "Righteousness
exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Proverbs 14:34)
A clip I read some time back went like this: … “What in the world is happening
with our kids today? Let’s see…I think it started when Madalyn Murray O’Hair
complained that she didn’t want any prayer in our schools, and our Supreme Court
Then someone said “You had better not read the Bible in school” – the Bible that
says, “Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal,” and “Love your neighbor as
yourself.” And our nation said, “Okay.”
Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave
because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-
esteem. So we said, “Okay, we won’t spank them.”
Then someone said that teachers and principals better not discipline our children
when they misbehave. And our administrators said, “No one in this school is to
touch a student when he misbehaves because we don’t want any bad publicity. And
we surely don’t want to be sued.”
Then someone said, “Let’s provide our children with birth control so they can
have all the ‘fun’ they desire.” And our nation said, “That’s a great idea.”
Someone else said, “Let’s provide abortions for underage girls, and they won’t
even have to tell their parents.” And our nation said, “That’s another great idea.”
Then some of our top officials said that it doesn’t matter what we do in private.
And we said, “As long as I have a job…, it doesn’t matter to me what anyone does
SURPRISE, SURPRISE; … now we’re asking ourselves why many of our children
have no conscience, …why they don’t know right from wrong … and why it
doesn’t bother them to kill.
Probably, … if we think about it long and hard enough, … we can figure it out.
My opinion (for whatever that’s worth , today); … it has a great deal to do with, …
“We reap what we sow.”
Wow! … What a concept!
This week leading up to our Nations birthday, …if we are truly are concerned
about America; … if we earnestly want God to bless her, … then live a life that
reflects the will of our Lord and Savion, … Jesus the Christ.
Only then does one truthfully have the right to sing: …
God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her,
Through the night, with the light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam;
God bless America, my home, sweet home.
The title of this Sunday’s sermon may be a little confusing to some. It is “Mercy; … Me?”.
Am I referring to the contemporary singing group, “Mercy Me” … and just don’t know how to
put that into print?; … it is about “Mercy”?; … is it about “Me”?
Well, sometimes, I believe we all get confused about the meaning of “Mercy” and just how Jesus
Christ intends for each of us to apply that term to our life. Here’s what He had to say: … “The
merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7).
Who will show us mercy?; … how will that affect us?; … who are we to be merciful to?; …
what’s that to me?!
Here’s what it is to us: … If we got down on our knees every night and asked, … no, begged for
God to have mercy on us and forgive all of our sins for that particular day, … we would be on
our knees for quite some time … yet we EXPECT that forgiveness from God.
Okay, … next day, … we are driving through the Walmart parking lot and see that perfect space.
As we start to approach it, … someone pulls into it in front of us causing us to have to park some
distance away. Or how about this; … we are in a restroom at a local dining establishment and go
to wash our hands. Water is all over the counter top, … used paper towels are also scattered
about and on the floor … and a soap puddle has collected under the dispenser. Another
possibility, at work, we get the “word” from a colleague that another coworker said they saw us
washing down our lunch at the local diner with a beer.
NOW what is our response to any of these situations or something similar? Did we cuss the
person that got our parking space … or do we look at the extra walk as needed exercise? …
Did we storm out of the restaurant’s bathroom and raise-a-stink about the horrendous conditions
that we had to suffer through just to wash our hands … or did we grab some extra paper towels,
wipe off the counter top, then pick up the other discarded towels and put them in the proper
receptacle, being all too aware that no public place can remain in perfect cleanliness … as long
as the public is using it and leave with the knowledge that we left it a better place for the next
person? … As far as the coworker telling stories about us, did we plot out a plan to get even …
or (assuming the accusation is false) did we sit down with that person (alone) and ask if they had
actually said this, … if so, why … and what could we do together to improve our relationship?
The point is, expecting eternal forgiveness and mercy from God, … do we extend that same
forgiveness and mercy to others in our daily lives?
So the next time the word “Mercy” comes into your mind, … simply ask our self, how do we
apply that in our day-to-day living and encounters? Are we Christ like?
“The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy”
Your servant in Christ,
The operation was the largest single-day military invasion in all of history.
Just under 200,000 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel delivered over
130,000 troops along a stretch of the Normandy coast in France.
They were supported by 12,000 aircraft flying 14,000 sorties. … The Allied
invaders’ goal was to get past the well-entrenched German army that was 250,000-
June 6th, 1944, … 74 years ago, this last Wednesday, … “D-Day” as we now refer
to it, … was a pivotal day in the Second World War. … It opened the way for the
destruction of the Nazis …
and the deliverance of Europe.
As many bombs fell and bullets that were dropped and fired on the D-Day of 1944,
… that day will pale in comparison to the Divine D-Day that is coming.
This D-Day will not just lead to … but be a day of destruction for unbelievers …
and a day of deliverance … for believers.
Divine D-Day is just another name that I am attaching to Judgment Day.
In our scripture this morning, … the prophet Joel, … who lived about 830 B.C., …
gives us three word pictures of Judgment Day.
In the first picture, … God summons the peoples of this world to do battle with
Vs. 9-10: … Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for holy war; rouse the
warriors; let all the men of war advance and attack! 10 Beat your plows into swords
and your pruning knives into spears
Vs. 12: … Let the nations be roused and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
for there I will sit down to judge all the surrounding nations
What might strike us about this section of Scripture … is how confident God is!
Our Lord sounds like an action figure, provoking His enemy to come and put on
God is so confident of victory, … that He doesn’t even allow for a defensive
position in preparation for this battle. … He doesn’t even stand up to meet the
invading army. … He just coolly sits on His throne of judgment!
Is God overconfident?; … Not at all.
He’s whopped these kinds of armies before. … By calling His enemies to the
Valley of Jehoshaphat, … God seems to be making reference to a battle He fought
during the reign of King Jehoshaphat, … the fourth king of Judah.
One day, … word reached King Jehoshaphat that the Moabites, … Ammonites, …
and Edomites … were coming to attack with what was described as … “A vast”
army (2 Chronicles 20:2). … Although Jehoshaphat had a capable army at his
disposal, … he first ordered his people to fast and then he prayed for the Lord’s
God answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer by giving a Levite this message: …
“Listen carefully, all Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King
Jehoshaphat. This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged
because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles
Since this battle was the Lord’s, … King Jehoshaphat and his army marched to the
battle site simply to observe what God would do. … As they marched they sang
words familiar to us: “Give thanks to the Lord, for His faithful love endures
forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21).
That doesn’t sound like a proper battle cry … but it was … and is!
Jehoshaphat and his men were already giving thanks for the victory they knew God
would grant. …
When they arrived at the battleground, … they saw the dead bodies of the enemy
… all around them. … Not one soldier from the invading army was left alive …
and Jehoshaphat’s men hadn’t fired a single arrow!
God had caused the enemy to fight one another in mass confusion and hysteria!
This just goes-to-show … how God allows testing into the lives of believers …
so that they get to see His grace and power at work.
The result; … we are stirred to praise God all-the-more!
So give thanks to the Lord, … no matter what you’re battling, … for the fight
really belongs to the Lord … and His merciful love for you … endures forever!
Just as God single-handedly dispatched the vast army of the Moabites, Ammonites,
and Edomites, … He will, … one day, … forever, … dispatch all those who dare
fight against Him.
Could that be us? … How can it? … We’ve never taken up arms against the Lord;
… have we?
We may never outwardly curse God and seek to destroy His Church …
but Divine D-Day may end up being a day of destruction for us … if we’re not
To explain, … let’s take a look at Joel’s second picture for Judgment Day.
Joel writes: “Swing the sickle, because the harvest is ripe” (Joel 3:13a).
Comparing Judgment Day to harvest day … is an illustration that Jesus also used.
It’s so familiar that we may fail to see ourselves in the picture.
Visualize this: … A farmer noticed that every autumn a tragedy played out in his
cornfields. … All summer long families of field mice had made their homes among
the growing plants. … They ate and slept, … they worked and played and raised
their families. … The mice imagined that those green fields belonged to them.
But then one day, at the end of the summer, … the mouse community got an awful
shock. … The farmer entered the fields with his harvesting machinery and all of a
sudden those comfortable summer homes and food pantries that the mice had
enjoyed … came crashing down on their heads!
Can you see any similarity here between field mice and people?
Do we look upon this world as our home … and so day after day go off to work, …
earn money, … play, … fall in love, … get married and have children, …
imagining that this world is our home … and will always be our home?
Thinking of the mice, … we might want to ask our self: … “Am I forgetting that
this world is not mine … that it’s just a temporary place to stay … that harvest day
is nearly upon us?” (John Jeske “Connecting Sinai to Calvary” p. 179)
Knowing that a day of judgment is coming, … is not the same as being ready for it.
German intelligence knew that the Allies were going to invade on June 6th, 1944.
How is it explained, then, … that many German officers, … including the
commanding general, … went on leave the weekend of the attack?
It’s because they underestimated the strength and the resolve of the Allies … plus
being duped into believing the main invasion would be elsewhere.
They figured that even if the Allies did attack, … they would have time to get back
to the front line to sort things out.
It was a fatal underestimation.
Are we making the same fatal underestimation … in regard to Judgment Day?
Do we treat our faith like a weekend hobby, … leaving it on the shelf, … Monday
through Saturday, … thinking that if Judgment Day happened on one of those
days, … we’ll still be able to talk our way into Heaven?
If so, … Joel has news for us.
Listen to his third description of Judgment Day: … Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision! For the Day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will cease their shining.
16 The LORD will roar from Zion and raise His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and
earth will shake. (Joel 3:14-16a).
The Valley of Decision is another name for the Valley of Jehoshaphat that Joel
This valley is not so much a place, … as an event: … The Divine D-Day.
It’s described as the Valley of Decision because that is what’s going to happen on
Judgment Day: … God, … not man, … will make a decision.
This decision will be clear cut. … In fact, … the Hebrew word “to judge” comes
from a word that means “to cut.”
On Judgment Day, … God will cut … or divide human kind into two groups for
eternity. … Those who have put their faith in His Son for forgiveness … and
endured to the end, … will be saved.
Those who rejected Jesus … or even made their personal life … more important
than their life of faith, … will be expelled from God’s loving presence … forever.
There will be no pleading or bargaining with God on this day. …
Who would even dare to speak … when Joel describes God as roaring so that earth
and Heaven shake?!
Even the sun, moon, and stars won’t dare show their face on this day.
It will be a day of darkness; … same as when Jesus was crucified.
What do you say to that; … “golly-gee”, … “oh-my-gosh!”
Sounds quite scary, … doesn’t it?
It will be a frightening day for those who have rejected Jesus … but for those
whom the Holy Spirit has kept in the faith, … D-Day … will be a day of …
We can be certain of this because Joel describes it this way; … “the LORD will be a
refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites” (Joel 3:16b).
The pillboxes the Germans had constructed on the Normandy coast were a refuge
for the German soldiers. … In spite of the all the shelling (The Battle Ship Texas
amongst it), … these structures continued to stand and protect the soldiers.
The only reason the pillboxes were captured is because the soldiers inside
eventually ran out of ammunition.
God, of course, … is an even better refuge than German-built pillboxes.
They were stationary structures on the Normandy coast; … God is with us
everywhere. … That’s why King David referred to God this way; … “who is
always found in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
So with God as our refuge, … the darkness of the Divine D-Day … will not be
frightening or scary for believers; … conversely, … neither will the dark days of
this life; … the loneliness, … the guilt of our sin, … that pending blood test or
biopsy, … the frustration over lack of adequate housing; … these are nothing …
for the believer … because: … “The LORD is good, a stronghold in a day of
distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1:7)
He surrounds us with His love and protection. … He envelops us with the
cleansing blood of His Son.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like on that D-Day of 1944.
I’ve seen all the John Wayne, Gregory Peck and Audie Murphy movies and I’m
sure they don’t even come close to the drama …
but a D-Day even more dramatic and awesome than the one of 1944 is coming!
Are you ready for it?
If not, … it will result in: … “the outer darkness. In that place there will be
weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). … For those that preach Jesus
was only about happiness and love, … those are His words!; … cut off from God’s
love … but not from His hatred for our sins.
That doesn’t have to be what Divine D-Day is like for you and me, … for this day
will also be a day of deliverance … for all who continue to trust in Jesus as their
May that describe each of us … as we march towards the Valley of Jehoshaphat
(Judgment Day) singing: … “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful
love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16: 34)
While flipping through the channels a few days ago, just trying to find something
worthwhile to watch, … I came across the Chevy Chase movie produced by
National Lampoon, … Vacation. … I didn’t watch it … but I have seen it in the
The premise: … A family goes on vacation … and if anything can go wrong, …
Much like most real life vacations.
How many of you have been on a vacation with a child? … No matter how long
the trip is, … be it 5 minutes, … 5 hours … or 5 days, … we are bound to here that
wonderful question; … “Are we there yet?”
Here’s one for us; … Have you ever asked that same question in terms of your
Maybe things are going right for us spiritually … or have been for a little while,
now … yet do we still ask our self; … “Hmm, … am I there yet?”.
Is it possibly, … the opposite extreme, … nothing is going right for us spiritually,
… our walk is more like a crawl, … we feel like your prayers are stopping at the
ceiling … and instead of saying; … “Good morning Lord”, … we wake up saying
“Good Lord, … it’s morning!”
In the midst of all of this, … are we wondering; … “Are we there yet” … and …
“will I EVER be there?”
Here are the facts; … the Christian life is a journey … and it takes time.
When we feel like it may never end, … to some extent, … that is true.
The life we now have is eternal, … so it will never end … but the life in this body,
… it will come to an end … and at that time, … the struggle against the flesh will
cease … and we can become what Christ had always intended for us to be.
So, where do we turn when we want to know; … “Are we there yet?”
The best place to turn is to God and to His Word.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit,
soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
(Pray) Dear Lord, … let us become prepared … for Your coming … AMEN
Thessalonica was the capital of a Roman province … and known as a city of great
commerce. … The Church in Thessalonica was known for its faith and charity …
but was also known for focusing too much on one tenant of Church doctrine: …
Christ’s return … (this is a theme touched on in both letters by Paul to this
Paul’s purpose in writing this book was to confirm the young believers in the
foundational truths, … exhort them to live in holiness … and to comfort them as
“sons of light”, … without pains of death … and Christ’s return.
We can see traces Paul’s purpose in our passage today.
First Paul tells us: …
1. God is at work in us.
Paul tells us that the Lord is working to sanctify us.
What is sanctification?
A. T. Robertson (noted Southern Baptist Theologian of the early 20 th Century)
defines it as: … “to render or declare holy, to separate from things profane”.
It is presented in the text as a wish for the future.
Something taking place and continuing to take place … (open ended)
Accordingly, … what is the difference between sanctification and justification?:
… Justification occurs at salvation: … We are made just by the blood of Jesus
Christ; … our sins are wiped clean.
Sanctification begins at Salvation: … It is the process of becoming more like
Christ … and ends when we reach the other side, … that is, … our eternal reward.
We are being sanctified … “Through and through”, the entire Spirit, … Soul …
and Body. … (What is reborn is His, … what is eternal is His … and what is
temporary is His).
What does God want from us?; … EVERYTHING.
When we release control our lives for God to move and work, … wonders will take
In Genesis 4, … Moses questioned God on whether or not the people would listen
to him. … God asked Moses what was in his hand. … Moses replies; … “A staff”,
… God tells him to throw it down and it becomes a snake … (that’ll make them
God is at work in us from day one of our salvation, … taking us as clay and
molding us into what He desires for us to be. … The biggest and only obstacle we
have is ourselves.
Is God at work in your life?
If not, … why not?
Have we trusted Him for our salvation? … If so, … are we not willing to let go of
So, … we know that God is at work for us … but we also find that: …
2. We are preparing for eternity.
Spirit, … Soul … and Body … are listed.
Once again, … the Spirit is indwelled in us at salvation; … the body is a temporary
shell or home … that we use to relate to this world … but the soul is eternal.
Billy Graham often preached on the value of the human soul, … the eternal part of
who we are.
What are we becoming here on earth; … what God is doing in our lives …
is preparing us for eternity.
John 10:10: … “may have life and have it in abundance” - life eternal.
Notice, … Paul also mentions Christ’s return, … so we need to be ready for the
event that may bring us into eternity with our Savior.
Today, there seems to be a lot of interest in eschatological issues; … the end times.
With never ceasing war, comes questions about the end times. … Issues in Israel
The Left Behind books have raised a lot of interest.
Are you pre, mid, or post millennium … in terms of the rapture of the Church.
Some people are willing to die for their point of view related to this topic.
Don’t misunderstand me, … I’m not saying this is not an important issue, because
it is; … it deals with our Savior … but ultimately, … the debate over tribulation
should play second fiddle to … being ready for it.
The important question is, … should Christ return today, … would I, … would you
… be ready?
What do we need to do to be ready?; … Salvation and walking closer with Him.
Finally, … when wondering: … “Are we there yet”, … always remember to: …
3. Keep the faith.
God is going to do THIS.
From Eugene Peterson’s, … The Message: …
5:23 May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you
holy and whole, put you together - spirit, soul, and body - and keep you fit for the
coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.
5:24 The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!
2 Timothy 2:11-13: … This saying is trustworthy: For if we have died with Him,
we will also live with Him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He will also deny us; 13 if we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself
God will remain faithful, … not matter what we may do.
When Adam fell, … He didn’t just scratch the project to start over.
The history of Israel; … God always restored them!
Peter denied Christ before a slave girl just months prior to proclaiming the gospel
to 1000’s and the authorities!
God continues to work in my life … in spite of my failings and short comings.
God has continued to use this church for over 65 years in spite of anyone …
or anything that may have happened in the past.
That is just the type of God we serve; … He is holy and just … but He is also full
of mercy, … compassion … and grace … and He will never ever give up on any of
When God Ran - by Benny Hester
Almighty God, the great I am
Immovable rock, omnipotent, powerful, awesome Lord
Victorious Warrior, commanding King of Kings, Mighty Conqueror,
and the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run
is when He ran to me, took me in His arms
held my head to His chest, said "my son’s come home again"
looked at my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
with forgiveness in His voice he said "son, do you know I still love you?"
it caught me by surprise, brought me to my knees when God ran
Much like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, … our Heavenly Father sits
and waits for us to make a move toward Him … so that He can run out to meet us.
He will do it, … He can … and He will.
It is His promise … and we have His Word (The Bible) that He will do it.
So, … are we there yet?
Sadly and thankfully, … we are not.
Sadly, … because we are still going to face the struggles and hardships that come
with living in this body and on this earth.
But thankfully, … knowing that God is at work in us, … He is preparing us for
eternity … and we can trust Him to do what He promised.
It starts with knowing Him; … do you know Him?
If we are a believer, … what are we doing to prepare for eternity?
Keep asking: … “Are we there, yet?”
Mother’s Day isn’t a very happy day for women who are unable to have children.
Occasionally they have to deal with thoughtless comments like; … “How long
have you been married—and you don’t have any children yet?” … or how about:
…“Don’t you like children?”
Karen and myself had our difficulties; … three miscarriages before Lindsey. …
We had decided to adopt … but tried once more … and God put His blessing upon
Hannah bore the imposed shame of this plight, … living in a culture where having
children was especially important, … where the stigma of childlessness was very
Every Jewish woman hoped to be the one to give birth to the Messiah.
Hannah’s grief is amplified by having to live with Peninnah (her husband’s second
wife) … who was able to have children. … So Hannah knew the problem wasn’t
with Elkanah, … their husband.
These two wives did not get along. … You can imagine Peninnah taunting; …
“Maybe God knows you wouldn’t make a very good mother.”
Peninnah became Hannah’s rival, … often mocking and provoking Hannah, …
bringing her to tears (a good argument against polygamy!).
In contrast, … we’re told that Hannah’s husband went out of his way to show his
love. … He compensated her for her loss, … doubling her gifts.
He tells Hannah that with or without children, … she was still precious to him, …
simply for whom she was.
Nonetheless, Hannah is “troubled” (vs 8), … which could be translated; …
Hannah is one of several women in the Bible who waited a long time before being
able to have children. … For example, Sarah was promised a son … but after
waiting for a very long time, she encouraged her husband Abraham to have a child
(Ishmael) through a surrogate (Hagar) … and if you know the story, … you
recognize this lapse of faith produced the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the
Middle East: … A few thousand years later … and it is still going on!
In our culture, … women are no longer defined and valued by their ability to bear
children. … Yet childlessness continues to be a painful reality for many.
Eugene Peterson writes; … “We read ‘no children’ and are immediately in a world
of longings, frustrations, tears, and prayers.”
I’d like to offer a few Scriptural principles this Mother’s Day, … especially for
women who haven’t been able to have children. … If yourself or someone you
know is bearing up to this, … you might want to write them down with a few
First off, … God is in control. … He is sovereign. … His timing is different from
ours, … which means His plan may not agree with how we may think matters
ought to be.
God decides when, … where … and to whom children will be given.
He has His reasons.
We can be comforted in knowing that there is a “why”, … even though we may not
be able to figure out God’s purpose. … We also need to recognize that if God gave
us all the reasons, … we still might not be able to grasp them.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the LORD’s declaration. (Isaiah 55:8).
Next, … children are a blessing … but just because a woman may not have
children, … it doesn’t mean she’s not blessed. … God blesses us in many ways.
It’s easy to incorrectly assume that since children are a blessing, … not being able
to have children is a curse.
When people marry, … they often feel that they are “supposed” … to have
children. … The only path that we are “supposed” to follow … is to seek and
accept the will of God for our lives (repeat).
A key principle of life is that personal fulfillment is found in our relationship with
Christ. … True happiness is not conditional on our circumstances. … We can
experience contentment, … regardless of what direction our lives may take.
Seeking fulfillment in anyone … or anything else than in the will of God, …
will only leave us longing for the trappings that will not satisfy us.
When we make people or possessions the criteria of our happiness, …
we’re dangerously close to idolatry.
Longing for something is not a sin … but refusing to be happy without it …
leads to bitterness.
Are you familiar with The Serenity Prayer?
You’ve likely heard it many times … but probably only the first part.
I’d like to read to you the prayer in its entirety:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to
change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at
a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will: So that I
may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the
How do we get through the week?; … By being convinced that God has a plan for
our lives. … As we try to determine where we fit in, … God leads us.
He does so through circumstance, … the Bible, … the counsel of others …
and by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We do not wander aimlessly when we are relying on God; … we find our calling.
We may not see a burning bush or hear His voice … but God impresses us within
… and confirms His plan through many fine means.
Augustine declared; … “Faith must hold … what it cannot yet behold.”
The scene shifts to Shiloh, a place of prayer and worship, in verse 9. …
Elkanah and his family made an annual pilgrimage to Shiloh, 20 miles from their
hometown of Ramah. … The nearest modern city would be Tel Aviv. … It was the
most important place of worship during the (approximately) 200-year period from
the end of the Jewish conquest under Joshua, … to the establishment of the
monarchy under King David. … During David’s reign, … the Tabernacle was
replaced by the Temple. … The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were at
Shiloh. … Levite priests led devout worshippers in this holy building.
Hannah turns to prayer. … Though her husband is loving, … accepting … and
compassionate, … Hannah has needs he cannot meet.
When he asks; … “Am I not better to you than 10 sons?”, … She doesn’t answer.
Her prayer is provoked by pain and accompanied by tears. …
She makes a vow before God, … that should He grant her a son, … he will be
dedicated to serve as a Nazarite. … Her prayer anticipates both getting and giving.
The Nazarites were a holy order of men who were devoted to serving God. …
Their commitment was marked by abstinence from alcohol and haircuts. …
The most famous Nazarite was Sampson.
Hannah prays in solitude and silence … but she is not unobserved.
Eli, … the presiding priest of the Shiloh sanctuary, … is at his post and is watching
her. … He surveys the soundless movements of her mouth and wrongly concludes
that she is drunk. … He’s sure that this is not the way normal people pray.
Pagans were known for their intoxicated worship. … Eli doesn’t appear to be a
gifted psychologist; … he does not recognize piety.
Rabbinical scholars later regarded Hannah as a model of authentic prayer. …
Hers was “a prayer of the heart.”
Eli rebukes Hannah, accusing her of violating the decorum of the sacred place of
worship … but Hannah is not intimidated by Eli or his authority.
She is more attentive to her heart than to the Tabernacle liturgy and hierarchy.
She dismisses his charges and asserts her right to pray without a script, … in her
own way, … in her own words, … laying out the pain of her life before the Lord.
Hannah firmly responds; … “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any
wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD (Vs. 15-16).
Eli is struck by her boldness; … to his credit, he accepts Hannah’s explanation and
blesses her, … adding his prayers to her own.
Hannah graciously accepts the blessing from Eli, … who had previously
She departs with renewed faith; … we’re told she, vs 18, … “no longer looked
despondent.”; … yet at this point nothing has happened; … she is still barren.
All we’re told is that, “after some time” (vs 20), … God created new life in her.
That new life was the prophet Samuel.
You may have heard: … “Faith is confidence in God’s faithfulness to us, … in an
uncertain world, … on an uncharted course, … toward an unknown future”.
Sometimes faith means living with “No” … as the answer to our prayers.
We try to accept that God’s answers are wiser than our prayers … but we struggle
with many situations we can’t understand. …
God doesn’t owe us an explanation … but He loves us and wants us to trust Him,
… even when He is silent.
Motherhood is a blessing … but couples without children are blessed in other
ways. … We honor motherhood … and we appreciate all our moms have done for
us … but we know that fulfillment in life does not hinge on the ability to procreate;
God has a plan for us all.
I have a tendency to daydream. … It’s something I’ve done since I was very
young, probably longer than I remember. … I remember a Boy Scout Softball
game when the winning hit from the other team rolled past me in right field, …
while my mind was somewhere in the middle of toy soldiers.
In elementary school it was a mistake to seat me by the windows where I could see
the different shapes of the clouds and pretend they were rockets, tanks, dogs,
airplanes or whatever; … that is if the teacher ever wanted me to know what was
going on in the class.
It’s something I still do, even to this day; … whether staring out the window of my
office when I’m trying to write a sermon … or gazing off into space when I’m
tired, my mind often wanders. … If anyone happens to be around, … they might
find themselves waving their hand in front of my face or saying; … “Get your
head out of the clouds!”
For centuries, … artists have made great efforts to depict the Ascension of our Lord
in paintings. … Some of those paintings have been rather comical, with images of
Jesus’ feet dangling from beneath a mass of clouds. … In all of those paintings, the
disciples are looking up; … one or two of them might have even been thinking to
themselves; … “Come on, Jesus, get your head out of the clouds!”
Truth –be-known, … Jesus’ ascension was about much more than His vertical
locomotion to the heavens! … Out of the ten verses we read this morning, …
only half of one tells us about Jesus going up into heaven. … The importance of
the Ascension lies in the words that Jesus says to His disciples before He goes
anywhere. … He knows that if anyone needs grounding, … it’s them.
Jesus is very much aware that if there’s anyone that needs to get their heads out of
the clouds, … it’s the disciples.
After His Resurrection, … Jesus spent 40 days with His disciples … and after
those 40 days, the disciples were starting to get a little restless. … They were
wondering what was going to happen now that Christ had been resurrected, so they
started asking questions. … They wanted to know what the next step was. …
They were wondering when Jesus the Messiah would restore the kingdom of Israel
as God had always promised His people He would do. …
So, as Jesus prepares to ascend to Heaven, … He gives the disciples some
Our reading this morning tells us that: … “[Jesus] opened their minds to
understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The
Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for
forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning
at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
As the disciples were waiting for Jesus to do something great, … He pointed right
back and them and said … it was their turn.
He said, “You are witnesses.” … and that includes us; … that incorporates where
we are right this minute! … Right here in Mount Pleasant, Texas! …
This Church, … this congregation, … is included in Jesus’ commission!
We are to be God’s witnesses right here!
The promise of the Holy Spirit, … the “empowered from on high” … as Jesus
calls it, … is a promise for this community … a promise for this time …
and a promise for this Church!
Just when the disciples were busying themselves with wonder about what would
happen next, … when it would have been so easy for them to get distracted by all
that was going on around them, … when they could have spent the next several
hours with their heads in the clouds wondering where exactly Jesus disappeared to,
… Jesus’ words bring them … and us, … back down to earth again!
“Get your head out of the clouds! You’ve got work to do!”
The terrible temptation that disciples of Jesus face is that it is so easy to get lazy
thinking that Christ will sort everything out when He returns. … We even go to
great lengths predicting when exactly Christ will return; … perhaps so we don’t
have to do any “real” work!
It’s hard to believe it was just a few years ago that the head of …The Family
Radio Broadcasting Network, … Harold Camping, … predicted with the media of
2,000 billboards worldwide, … that on May 21, 2011 … the righteous, …
which totaled 3 percent of humanity, … was to be whisked away to Heaven, …
leaving the rest of us to weather five months of extreme natural disasters until
October 21, 2011, … whereupon God was to destroy the entire universe and
everyone in it.
Camping claimed to have “infallible, absolute proof” … that this was going to
happen … and that there was no point in making plans for Memorial Day
Weekend. … Sadly (or better yet, … STUDIDLY), … quite a number of people
bought into it, … selling their possessions and paying big money for billboards.
Of course, … predicting exactly when Christ will return is nothing new.
For example, … Preacher Samuel S. Snow predicted Jesus would return on
October 22, 1844. … Thousands of people gave away all their possessions, …
only to be surprised when the world did not end. … That day came to be known as
“The Great Disappointment.”
In 1806 news of Christ’s return came by means of a hen in Leeds, England,
who had been laying eggs that bore the message: … “Christ is coming.”
Keeping with the theme, … the chicken was named, …
The Prophet Hen of Leeds.
Apparently, … great numbers of people came to visit the spot where this hen was
laying these eggs. … Many people suddenly became extremely religious as they
prayed fervently and repented of their evil ways … but, as it is recorded, …
“some gentlemen, hearing of the matter, went one fine morning and caught the hen
in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. Close by was a young lad
inscribing the words on the egg with a pen and ink.”
Moving forward in history, … in his 1996 book The Planet Earth 2000 A.D., …
Hal Lindsey, … who has been making big money predicting the end of the world
since his 1970 best-selling book, … The Late, Great Planet Earth, … wrote that
Christians should not make any plans after the year 2000 … and Pat Robertson
said on a broadcast of The 700 Club; … “I guarantee you by October or
November of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world!”
Robertson later acknowledged; … “I have a relatively good track record,” …
But … “sometimes I miss.”
Jesus knew the disciples’ concerns. … Jesus knew they would watch in wonder as
He ascended into Heaven and then begin to worry about when He would return in
So He had one last conversation with them: … “This is what is written: The
Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for
forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning
at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
In a legal sense, … a witness is a person who, … because of some experience they
have had or something they have seen, … is in a unique position to tell the truth
about some important matter … and Jesus commissions His disciples to witness to
God’s mighty acts in history, … to proclaim Christ’s Good News in an empire that
has crucified good news.
They’ve been called into a proverbial courtroom to witness about Jesus Christ
amid the competing testimonies, … testimonies that promise peace through
violence, … fulfillment through wealth … and power through exploitation!
Yet they aren’t to do this on their own; … they are only to do this through the
power and the prompting of the Holy Spirit living inside them.
Luke’s Gospel makes it clear that the Holy Spirit’s work is made manifest in the
life of Jesus Christ. …
Jesus gave an outline of the Holy Spirit’s work in Luke Chapter 4 when Jesus read
from the scroll: … “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the
captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim
the year of the Lord’s favor” … and here, … at the end of Luke’s Gospel, …
Jesus promises that same Spirit of God to come upon us!
Jesus is no longer physically here to heal the sick and to feed the hungry, …
so the mission of Jesus now falls to the disciples.
Jesus tells his disciples, immediately before He … “left them and was carried up
into heaven”, … that it is their job to take His message global; … “ proclaimed in
His name to all the nations.”
This is the mission of the Church, of which each of us is a part. … Hearing this can
be staggering, … even frightening. … Bearing witness to Christ in a world that
suffers is overwhelming. … How can our community, … let alone the world, …
ever be free from poverty and hunger?; … but that’s exactly what Jesus is
preparing His disciples for; … it’s as if He anticipated their question: …
“How will we do this, Lord?” … when He said, “And look, I am sending you what
My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on
Christ’s disciples have a clear mission, … He’s given us the power of the Holy
Spirit … and Christ tells us to get going!
A prayer that is attributed to Teresa of Avila goes like this: … “God of love, help
us to remember that Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours,
no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world. Ours are the
hands with which to bless everyone now. Ours are the feet with which [Jesus] is to
go about doing good.”
We are to be the hands, … the feet, … the eyes … and the voice of Christ … as we
reach out to a lost, … broken … and dying world.
There is no bigger job to be done; … there is no more important commission in all
the world … and there is no greater privilege to which we can be called!
It would be a strange sight to see a man ascending toward the heavens … and it can
be more than intimidating to think about telling a scared and unbelieving world
about the love and mercy of God which defies even the greatest powers …
but we need to get our heads out of the clouds, … we need to stop wondering and
worrying because events seem to not be looking up.
Like those disciples so many centuries ago, … we are to go from this place with
joy; … worshipping, praising, and preaching good news to the poor, … release for
the captives, … recovery of sight to the blind … and liberation to the oppressed!
We are to do this here in Mount Pleasant, … in Texas, … in all of the United
States … and to the ends of the earth.
May we indeed be witnesses to all nations, … beginning right here!