Sermons

One of the things we have come to realize around here is – Our perception of God greatly affects our pursuit of Him. For instance, if I think God is mean and grumpy and condemning and always in a bad mood, then I will not very likely want to know and fellowship with Him, and spend my discretionary time with Him.   

Well not only does our perception or knowledge of God affect our pursuit of Him, it also affects our modeling after Him or our becoming like Him.  It affects the way I embrace and live out my life in Him.     You see He created each of us in His image, expecting that we would increasingly become like Him as we walked with Him. The apostle Paul explained it like this, “ But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”            

But if our perception of His image, of who He is and what He is like is skewed, then there is little chance we will become like Him.  For instance if I deep down believe God is not fair, and that He is partial to some, then it is very unlikely that I will grow up to be an impartial person, because my ability to become like God (who is impartial) can only come out of a relationship with God where I see Him as He truly is, and He begins to rub off on me, and impart His impartiality to me.

I have known theologically since I was 20 years old that God delights in our knowing Him deeply and intimately.  But not until the last few years have I come to know Him in the way I’m going to try to describe to you this morning.  And while the transformation in my life has been substantial as a result of seeing this, sadly not seeing it for so many years kept me (along with other sins) from being the husband, father and leader God called me to be.

I submit to you that one of the primary reasons for the general depression and gloom that many on planet earth experience in life is because of the effect being around grumpy, scornful, uptight, rigid, snarky, critical, negative people has on all of us. And if we have become one of those kind of people, all the more reason why our glass is mostly half empty, and the joy of the Lord continues to be illusive to us.

The great majority of older men that I grew up around, whether they were men who lived in our neighborhood, or men in our church, or men who taught and coached in the schools I attended, were grumpy, scornful, uptight, snarky, critical men – especially when under stress or when under pressure.             

Now the problem I am trying to describe is not just relegated to men. I could say the same thing about many of the older women I grew up around. But because on the most part men lead churches and schools and governments and businesses, and thus their demeanor and character have great influence on the general psyche of those under their influence – I’m focusing my analysis on the male gender this morning.

You see, somewhere along the line, the men I grew up around had learned that their job in life (when not busy performing their real job) was to analyze and criticize pretty much everything their lives touched, all the while ignoring the gaping holes in their own lives.   So that whether it was in the foyer of the church before or after church, or the men’s restroom, or in a break room at work, or in the T.V. room where all the men in our clan gathered while the women cooked the big Holiday meals (and then cleaned up afterwards) – – the said men gave themselves to analyzing and criticizing our government leaders, our church leaders, our coaches and athletes, our bosses, etc., etc.  The fact that these conversations were laced with pride and arrogance and scorn and a significant lack of the knowledge of God was not at all on their radar.  This was just what men did, and I suppose it made them feel more “manful or manly” as they did it.

So whereas God always intended from the foundations of the earth that men would walk with Him and know Him and thus become like Him, and thus their attitudes and conversations would emit His fragrance and His peace, His calm and gentleness, and His righteousness and His mercy, etc., and thus the wives and the children of such men would always know that all is well, and God must be good, because of the way their husbands and fathers and uncles and grandfathers handled life and treated them,….because these men did not walk with God and pursue an intimate knowledge of Him and His attributes and His ways – – they never learned the value of biblical, God like traits like: gentleness, kindness, patience, forbearance, graciousness, honoring instead of objectifying or scorning women, etc.,.. and thus their wives and children and grandchildren reaped the pain of a  life without a knowledge of God among those who were supposed to love and lead and cherish and protect them.

So that brings me back to June 5th2017. This beloved congregation recognized that their pastor of 21 and a half years at that point was spent, and running on empty due to a variety of factors – some out of his control; some of his own making; they also recognized God had raised up my son for such a time as this; and they by faith appointed Joshua as our new lead pastor; and then sent Anne and I on a three month Sabbatical.  So on June 5thAnne and I headed out on a five and a half week road trip, wherein we first made a beeline for Bethel church in Redding, CA.  We stayed in a hotel nearby and availed ourselves of their Friday night service, their Saturday morning healing rooms, their 24/7 prayer chapel at several different times during the weekend, and finally their Sunday morning service. Throughout that weekend at Bethel, which was mostly renewing and refreshing, I heard repeatedly this curious phrase spoken by various people in leadership, “God is in a good mood.”  

The more I heard it, the more I squirmed; as passages that I had memorized or at least was very familiar with begged to differ, such as: Psalm 7:11, “God is a righteous judge; and a God who has indignation every day.”  Or Hebrews 10:26,27, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”  Followed later by vs. 31, which says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Well God let me squirm with this phrase “God is in a good mood”, and while I didn’t totally throw it out, I did not warmly embrace it.  

Fast forward to January 2016. For the first time in my 22 years of ministry at that point here at The Well, I started teaching the World Changers class of elementary children once a month, and my new boss was Alisa Sharp, whom God raised up for a time to lead our children’s ministry.  

My precious wife had wonderfully led our children’s ministry up to the time of our Sabbatical. But it was time for new wine and new wineskins, and Alisa was clearly the woman for the job.

So around May of that year, Anne and I had our monthly meeting with Alisa; and she handed me a curriculum from Bethel church in Redding for the month of June that had this main idea: The most important thing we need to know about God is that “He is in a good mood.”

While I didn’t outwardly react, my insides were not in a good mood for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I am not one to follow someone else’s notes. In my 21 plus years of preaching sermons, I rarely ever preached someone else’s material.  And second as I read over this curriculum it had all kinds of activities and creative things to do with the kids around this idea, but minimal Biblical material to support this interesting contention that the most important thing anyone can know about God is that He is in a good mood.

So I am back in a significant inner wrestling match with the Holy Spirit re: this idea, and somehow during that next week He led me to I Timothy.  Now I am no stranger to this book. It is the first of three pastoral epistles in the New Testament that I have leaned on heavily over my 35 years or so in ministry – trying to make sure I was about the things God was about. Or that I led His church in the way He wanted it to be led.

Some scholars refer to I Timothy as the “handbook of church management”. It is a crucial book for church leaders to grapple with as it helps us understand the gospel message, the purpose of the law of God, how to handle those who come against this message and the law that supports it, the biblical roles of men and women in the church, the role of prayer in the church, qualifications for and the ministry of elders in the church, the personal life of the minister, etc., etc.

But in all my years of studying this book I had never once noticed or given attention to how the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to bookend this book with an attribute of God that only this book reveals.  Look with me at I Timothy 1:11, “according to the glorious gospel of the blessedGod, with which I have been entrusted.” Now listen to ch. 6:15, “He who is the blessedand only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” 

Bear with me as I talk about this word that only appears in the New Testament these two times when referring to God.  It is translated “blessed” from the greek word, “Makarios”, which is the same greek word that is translated “blessed” in the sermon on the mount – when speaking of the life of the kingdom that Jesus was introducing His disciples to: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”etc.

Now if you have studied the sermon on the mount, especially these beginning Beattitudes as they are often referred to, you probably know that scholars and commentators generally agree that the idea behind this word “blessed” is “happy”. Not giddy or silly happy. But happy as in “it is well with my soul and life is full and God is good” kind of happy.

Well when I discovered back in May of 2016 that the Holy Spirit wanted we church leaders to know – that as we studied and analyzed and dissected this “Handbook on Church Management” – that the Head of this church was a Happy God, and that we dare not try to shepherd His sheep and teach His truth without knowing and embracing Him as the Happy God that He is, ….well I was absolutely dumbfounded! How could I have missed this over all these years?!

You see if we leaders of the church only know our Triune God and the Head of the Church as the One who flooded the whole earth because of the rampant wickedness of mankind early on as described in Genesis; and who destroyed two whole cities after that because of the rampant wickedness that had already morally destroyed those two cities from within;  and if we only know Him as the One who will some day judge the living and the dead; if we only know Him as Holy, but do not know Him as Happy, we cannot and will not lead His church in a way that is pleasing to Him.

But if we are convinced that our God – the living God – the God of the Bible is intrinsically happy. If we are convinced that nothing can get under His skin. If we are convinced that He thoroughly enjoys life. And that as I told the children on that Sunday in June – – “while we may sometimes be sad because we said something we shouldn’t have said, or didn’t do something we should have done; or while we may be offended or discouraged because someone mistreated us or spoke ill of us – – God never says something He shouldn’t; He always does what He ought and should do. He never has a lapse in judgment. He has no regrets whatsoever. He doesn’t even have senior moments!!

He laughs when the nations and leaders of nations devise wicked plans against Him and His kingdom rule and reign according to Psalm 2. His emotions are not dimmed in the least when wicked men and women say wicked things about Him.  

He delights in His creation; and He delighted in the creating of His creation. He delights in exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness throughout the earth. He delights in answering the prayers of His sons and daughters.  And when He starts something, He finishes it and finishes it well. 

We all live in some level of confliction because even when we are on top of our game, we fall short, we are easily distracted, and while we can experience the blessing and happiness of God when we walk in poverty of spirit and when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, none of us consistently walks in these things. We tend to ebb and flow don’t we?

God never experiences this kind of confliction or inconsistency or flakiness.

Back when I believed it was part of my calling to daily stay on top of current events and social issues and politics, and try to help you have a Biblical worldview concerning these things, the things that I knew were displeasing to God and ultimately harmful to society ate my lunch.  Nothing ever eats God’s lunch.

I used to go to bed every night feeling like no matter how hard I worked and prayed and studied, I had merely spit in the wind at what needed to be done and at what I was called to do.

I used to leave pastors meetings and elder meetings mostly focused on the ground we hadn’t covered and the progress we hadn’t made.  When I prayed for our town, I focused mostly on all the people we hadn’t reached, instead of the people we had touched and influenced for the kingdom.

So you might be able to imagine what living with me was like, and especially as I became more aware of more needs over the years, and got involved in more ministries, and embraced more responsibilities – all the while knowing God only as a Holy God, not a Happy God.  

Now I’m certain there are people in the body of Christ that know God as a Happy God, but don’t really know Him as a Holy God.  We can talk about that another day.

But this morning I believe God wants to reveal Himself to those of us who have struggled to know Him as a Happy God, because while He is certainly Holy, He is also equally Happy. And it very well may be that one of the reasons some of us are not walking consistently in the joy of the Lord is because our perception of God is skewed in this regard.

Listen folks, the Jesus who cleansed the temple with significant anger and passion because of its religious corruption on two different occasions , is the same Jesus that turned a whole lot of water into a whole lot of excellent wine, knowing that many of the attendants at this wedding would probably drink to excess – – and this is the first miracle the Holy Spirit led John the apostle to record in his gospel. I’m just saying…..

“according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” 

God never meant to entrust His glorious gospel to men and women who did not know Him as the blessed or happy God that He is!

((By the way if you are here this morning and you are not absolutely sure that you are a child of God; that He has adopted you into His family and saved you from your sins; and justified and covered you by His blood – – – Jesus Christ – the Son of God died so that you could know that beyond a shadow of a doubt. He died as an acceptable sacrifice to God the Father, so that your sinful slate could be wiped clean. ))

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” 

Time of prayer and ministry 

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INTRODUCTION – If you have ever wondered what God does in a given day, one place you could look is Jeremiah 9:23,24, where the prophet states, “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty many boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

The living God, who never sleeps or takes a vacation, is constantly throughout the earth exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness. And much of this work He chooses to do through people, and if possible – families. 

Ideally every family on the earth would not only be a place of support and training and provision for its own family members, but it also out of its relationship with the living God – would have an overflow of love and compassion and service for those in need around them.

Sadly in many cases that is not the case. In fact one of the reasons God has to exercise justice on the earth is because some families are so ridden with evil that instead of extending love, compassion and service to those around them, they actually extend hatred, violence, murder, and who knows what else to those within their reach.

One of those families actually shows up in the book of Esther, the family of Haman and Zeresh. And had God not acted through another family, mass destruction of Jews would have taken place over a very large region.

We know very little about Haman and Zeresh. Pretty much only what we’re told in the book of Esther – starting in ch. 3.  For reasons we are not told by the author of Esther, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman to a position similar to Vice President in our nation. It is very possible that one reason he was promoted was because of how he brown nosed the King throughout the six plus months of celebrations, they had just had.   From chapter one we know the King’s purpose for all these celebrations and lavish banquets was to display his glory and power. And it is possible Haman took every opportunity during those days to agree with the King that his majesty and glory was indeed stupendous and like none other.

What we know for sure is if he was promoted because of his character or leadership skills or sacrificial service, the author chose not to mention it.

So in chapter 3 we find Haman was not only promoted to this 2ndhighest position in the kingdom, but we also learn in vs. 2 of ch. 3 that the King had commanded that everyone in the kingdom should bow down and pay homage to Haman every time they were graced by his presence.  Everyone gladly obeyed, except Mordecai.  This refusal absolutely ate Haman’s lunch! vs. 5 tells us he was filled with rage, when he walked by Mordecai and unlike everyone else around him, Mordecai neither bowed nor payed homage. 

You know the story – Haman decides instead of just having Mordecai killed, why not have every Jew living in the 127 provinces from Ethiopia to India that King Ahasuerus ruled over killed?  He talks the King into a strategic plan for this to happen. And everything seems to be moving in that direction; and then one day after enjoying the first of two banquets Esther threw for him and the King, he walks by Mordecai again; and Mordecai – being a man of principle – again refused to bow and pay homage; Haman again was furious; and Haman goes home and summons his wife and friends and recounts to them “the glory of his riches” and the number (literally multitude) of his sons (not their names, but their total number, as so many notches in his belt), and an opportunity arises for his wife and friends to speak some sense into this maniac, but sadly the opposite happens. Zeresh and his friends, though Zeresh is mentioned first, which probably means she took the lead, and they followed her lead – – she (and they) totally enabled him to fulfill the evil in his heart, by encouraging him to build a gallows and hang Mordecai at the earliest opportunity. 

Family at its worst! I mean even Pilate’s wife warned him with great sobriety to not have anything to do with the mob efforts to crucify Jesus.  

Nothing sucks the life out of the God given destiny on every family to be an instrument in God’s hands than this prevalent practice of turning a blind eye to obvious sin and evil and unrighteousness in one’s family or extended family.  Sometimes wives do it in a marriage where their standing in the marriage and in the home is far from secure; Sometimes adult children try to keep peace with their parents (especially if there is an inheritance in the wings) even though they know what their parents are saying or doing or planning to do is wrong and unrighteous.

I’m working on a study on every thing Jesus ever said about family. He invented families and He is thus highly invested in them. But listen to these words about what is sometimes necessary in a family, “Matthew. 10:34-37 – “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

Mothers in the room, many of whom are also wives, …. The living God yearns to use you to see His very personal and specific destiny for your family and even extended family realized; but it has to be on His terms, and you will need to trust Him that if He tells you to speak truth, or to walk out the truth, He can handle the initial fallout from doing so, especially if you are in a family or clan where speaking truth is rarely practiced or not acceptable from the women in the family.

Well,… enough focus on hatred filled Haman and his enabling wife Zeresh. 

As you know if you have read the book of Esther or if you have been tracking with us in our preaching series through Esther, God used Esther and her older cousin Mordecai to avert the total destruction of every Jew living under King Ahasuerus’s reign.

God knew before the world began that wicked Haman as Esther called him would seek to wipe out the Jews. God could have just struck Haman with lightning to protect and defend His people, but instead He chose a family – of sorts to be His instrument.  

I say “family – of sorts” because this was not a model family.  Not a family that any of us would have on the front end chosen to be the family of the year.   Mordecai was evidently a widower or perhaps never married, which if that was the case would mean he had no experience whatsoever raising a child.  Esther never had the opportunity to be raised by a mother and father. Both died we are told in chapter 2. And if it was necessary for Mordecai to take upon himself the responsibility of raising her, she must have been young enough to not be able to be on her own.  Not only did she not have the identity and security that God meant for a set of parents to impart to their child as they layed their lives down for their child year after year, but she also probably had some trauma from losing her parents at such an early age, though again we do not know how old she was when they died.  Were they murdered, died in a fire, both died of pneumonia…???  We just don’t know.

Whether Mordecai had parenting experience – again we don’t know. But I find it interesting in ch. 2 that twice the author mentions that Mordecai took the initiative to raise her as his own. First in vs. 7, “….when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.”  And then in vs. 15, “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as hisdaughter…”   Mordecai took this responsibility very seriously, which can be seen by his practice of daily checking in on her status while she was in the king’s harem, vs. 11, “Every day Mordecai walked back and forth in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and how she fared.”  

We don’t know for sure what Mordecai’s job or daily responsibilities were, but one thing we know – one way or another – he found a way and a time to check in on his adopted daughter. 

Now Esther was in the King’s harem with a whole bunch of other young virgins. My guess is most of them were ecstatic about the possibility of becoming the next queen. They also might have been glad to finally be free from the shackles of their parents and to be able to be doted on with lavish foods and all the make up they ever dreamed of.  They very likely had lots of conversations with their fellow virgins, and were more and more influenced by those relationships, than the fading memory of parents that they do not see anymore.

But even though Mordecai was not Esther’s parent, she highly respected him and gave great attention to his counsel and instruction. We see this first in vs. 10, where we are told she didn’t make her Jewish ethnicity known “for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known.”  Then it is more significantly emphasized in vs. 20, “Esther had not yet made known her kindred or her people, even as Mordecai had commanded her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.”  Heeding his counsel was  a way of life for Esther. 

Both Esther and Mordecai were principled people; people who practiced respect and honor of each other whether they were in each other’s presence or not.

And it was that mutual respect and deep care for one another and commitment to truth that enabled them to work together to make the plot to assassinate the king known to him as seen at the end of chapter 2.  Mordecai after learning of this plot, easily could have decided, “Hey this guy’s an arrogant pervert. Have at him!! I’ll just pretend like I didn’t hear that.”  Or Esther after hearing of this plot from Mordecai could have concluded the same thing, and just kept it to herself. But both of them knew somehow that all authority is to be honored, and God is the one alone who holds the right to raise one up and put down another.

What I really want to emphasize about this family of two is this:  After Esther was crowned queen, and she had had some time to see how the King dealt with those who crossed him or dishonored him, she could have lessened her aspirations to simple self preservation and self preservation alone. But she had cultivated a lifestyle of respect and honor for Mordecai. She had seen God’s blessing time and time again on her life as a result of heeding Mordecai’s counsel, and as a result of choosing the way of truth and righteousness in the midst of the heat of battle and crisis.

I love the way Mordecai, who loved this young lady as his own daughter, picked up on this huge temptation of self love and self preservation that she was wrestling with when he was trying to help her see her destiny in chapter 4.  Esther as a young lady had overcome so much, and now God had clearly exalted her to be Queen over this vast empire, and now Mordecai is asking her to risk being executed to keep the Jews from mass destruction?  Easy for him to say!  But this wasn’t the first time they had to wrestle for truth and righteousness together, and when she pondered Mordecai’s famous words, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”   For such a crisis as this?  Esther knew she had to lay her life down for something far greater than her own security, hopes and dreams.

Listen folks, the families and clans in America are in desperate need of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even sons and daughters who will echo Jesus’s words, “ For what shall it profit a man (or a woman) if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?”   Or Jesus’s words where He said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

Who cares if your son daughter or grandchild makes straight A’s, and has a great job waiting for them upon graduation, and has this or that honor, and they are not daily bowing the knee to Jesus who gave them those abilities?

Who cares if your father or grandfather just earned another career notch in his belt and het he doesn’t bow the knee to Jesus?

You know what’s great about Mordecai?  Right after he exhorted Esther to die to her right to self preservation and risk it all for a greater cause, she then commanded him to  “Go assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. ….”  And how did he respond?  Vs. 17 “So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him.”

Their relationship wasn’t a one way (my way or the highway) relationship.  They wrestled with the call to truth and righteousness and fulfilling one’s calling together and both were sharpened by the other’s insights and zeal and obedience.

So if we women are supposed to speak up more and not sweep things under the rug, what do we do with Peter’s command in I Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior….”

The key ladies/wives is that you make your priority your inner growth in holiness and purity. Jesus was very clear that the only way we can see clear to remove the splinter in another’s eye is that we give daily due attention to the massive beam in our own.  A husband knows if he is being respected by his wife or not.

I know of a couple who used to watch a movie most every Friday night in their living room together as a way to “relax” and get their work (mainly the husband’s) off their minds. Over time the wife began to feel more and more uncomfortable with some of the things that would crop up in some of the movies. Eventually she would put her hands over her eyes if it was too violent or too sensual. Finally she began at times to just walk up stairs and let her husband finish the movie. Eventually they quit watching movies all together.  Now she never told her husband while walking away that he was a loser (or worse) for watching some of those movies. But he got the message.

I know a family whose grown daughter loves and respects and consistently honors her Dad. She and her husband decided to get a puppy. Nothing wrong with that. Her father and mother had obtained a puppy from a local friend and litter when their children were young. And then a year after it died, they got another puppy from the Humane Society in their region. The first one was free and the next one was under $100.00. And thus should everyone in the kingdom of God obtain their puppies, this father subconsciously believed.    “So where and how are you getting this puppy?” the dad asked his daughter.  “From a breeder in Palm Springs.  And the price is ______. Which was way over $100.00. The dad’s eyes bulged. The daughter caught the bulge, and said, “Dad, don’t judge us!”  The Dad knew he was guilty as charged.  Should she have not said that?  I believe she had every right to.  Ultimately righteousness is more important than a man’s feelings.

I do think there are times where we need to be careful that we do not do the Holy Spirit’s work. This will become clear to us as we grow in “walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh.”

Closing time of intercession for the moms and ladies in the room.

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Some months ago our teaching team made up of Joshua, myself, Elizabeth and Mark decided that we should preach through the book of Esther.       In the 25 plus years I have been here, no one has ever preached even one chapter from the book of Esther that I can remember. No one has ever led a Bible study on Esther that I can remember either.

We knew jumping into it – this series would come with some unusual challenges re: interpretation and application. But because Paul says in Romans 15:4, “For whateverwas written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And then later in II Tim. 3:16, “Allscripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” We knew God would make it worthwhile, and that He had sovereign reasons for leading us to wade through it. 

It may be that one of the reasons we needed to wade through this book together is the Holy Spirit wanted to highlight the dangers of undue veneration and undue minimizing. Let me try to explain: 

In the body of Christ – some of us have had a tendency to venerate both Esther as an individual and the book of Esther. This veneration is a result of many influences. One for sure is a movie a fairly well known itinerant preacher and author helped produce some ten or more years ago that unduly romanticized the story of Esther. Other influencers have been books written or sermons given that have put Esther and Mordecai on pedestals they were never meant to be on, and that made much of things like Esther’s relationship with King Ahasuerus that was never meant to made much out of.

So what does it mean to venerate someone? Well the dictionary defines it like this:

To regard with great respect; revere. Synonyms: reverence, worship, adulate, hallow, deify, idolize, hold sacred, exalt, etc

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New Testament writers often refer to certain Old testament men and women as models to us of godliness or faith or righteousness. None of them ever refer to the characters in Esther. In Hebrews 11, not so godly folk like Gideon, Samson and Rahab the harlot are held up as examples to us for their faith. No mention of Mordecai or Esther in that long chapter. 

It is my conviction that God chose Esther and Mordecai primarily because they were available and useable in a time of history where the bar of spiritual vitality among the Jews was very low, but the stakes for their survival was very very high. 

Now I’m certain Esther and Mordecai are heroes to the Jews, as are many others down through their long history who have risked their lives for the survival and protection of their people.  That’s all well and good.   

The primary hero of Esther is God.      Even though never mentioned, He is the one orchestrating the various turns of events for the protection of His people, whom He has never forgotten, and whom He will never forsake.

That being said, and back to the Teaching Team – the apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth in his second letter, chp. 2, vs. 17, “For we are not like many, peddling (or corrupting) the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.”  Paul’s preaching and teaching was not merely a product of sound communication, great education and Bible exposition skills. He never had ulterior or unclean motives for what he taught or preached.  He feared God, and was very aware that Jesus the Head was listening to every word that came out of his mouth.

Our teaching team covets your prayers as we try to follow his example. So why don’t we pray right now before we jump into chapter 5 of Esther. (pray)

While it is unclear to what degree Mordecai and Esther loved God with their whole hearts, souls, strength and minds,  they did show some level of faith and desperate dependence upon God in chapter four. Once Mordecai learned of Haman’s edict to destroy all the Jews in all the king’s provinces he, instead of trying to organize some kind of resistance or perhaps trying to flee and hide – Mordecai humbled himself before God and man with sackcloth and ashes.  Once Esther learned from Mordecai of this horrible edict to destroy all the Jews, and after wrestling with his exhortation to her to consider her providential placement as queen at this pivotal time in history, she also turned to fasting for three days and ordered that her maidens and all the Jews do the same – after which she promised she would approach the King regardless of whether that resulted in favor or her death.

Yes it is true God was never mentioned in chapter four as the object of their fasting. But why else would they fast for three days?  Who but God could or would respond to their fasting and mourning? Who but God could turn this dire situation around?  The very purpose of fasting down through the ages is to demonstrate our weakness and our desperation for God to do what only God can do. 

Well one of the things that often results from times of sincere fasting and waiting upon God is revelation, hearing God’s voice or at least receiving a strong sense of guidance. Joshua spoke to that last Sunday when he pointed to Mordecai’s insight after he had humbled himself with sackcloth and ashes in ch. 4.  into why Esther was appointed as King Ahasuerus’s Queen at this specific time.

Now after everyone’s three days of fasting, Esther has a plan – perhaps also from revelation from God.  Let’s read about it in ch. 5, starting with vs. 1. (read vs. 1)

Before this three day fast started – Queen Esther was focused on the fact that King Ahasuerus could have her immediately executed if she dared enter his court without invitation. I mean after all this is a King known for his extreme behavior as a result of his drunken binges. He was known for his arrogance. And when Haman suggested he make an edict to authorize destroying every Jewish man, woman, young person and child in his whole kingdom, many of whom probably contributed greatly to his kingdom’s prosperity, the King said yes without batting an eyelash!    He was given to impulsive actions – giving no consideration to the consequences of such actions.  So before fasting, the last thing in the world Esther dared to do was enter the King’s courts uninvited.

So the author of Esther by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit brings our attention to the third day of this three day fast in vs. 1.  Something has changed in Esther’s spirit. Now she puts on her royal attire and walks right in to the inner court of the King and stands there courageously.  The King is the same king I’ve just described. But she is different.

And now all of a sudden she receives one of the most precious gifts any of us can obtain in this earthly life. Let’s see what it is in vs. 2 (read it)

Favor – especially from a King or someone in significant authority over us when a crisis is looming is a wonderful thing.  Proverbs 16:15 speaks to this, “In the light of a king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.”  Proverbs 19:12 says, The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, But his favor is like dew on the grass.”

In arid lands like where much of the Old Testament is played out, clouds that bring much needed rain and dew on the grass when the rains have stopped are precious indeed.  Favor is like that.  Favor can literally turn one’s life and destiny around and open doors that would have never opened without it.

This is not the first time we have seen Esther receive favor. In chapter 2, after Queen Vashti was banished and all the virgins in King Ahasuerus’s kingdom began to be rounded up to select a replacement for Vashti, vs. 8 tells us that Esther was among those brought to the palace of the King and placed under the care of a eunuch called Hegai. After being under his care for a while, vs. 9 tells us, “Now the young lady pleased him and found favor with him.”  A little while later we are told in vs. 15 that her favor was expanding, “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised.; And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.”  Then in vs. 17, we see she even found favor with the King, “The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”  In chapter four,  Mordecai instructed Hathach – one of the king’s eunuchs to go back and instruct Esther to “go in to the king to implore his favorand to plead with him for her people.”

Now in chapter five we see that favor being granted to Esther. After this initial favor was granted to Esther, we are going to find her several times reminding the King of this favor and basing her requests of him on that favor. Let’s look at the first instance of this in the next six verses (read vs. 3-8).

Basically what we are seeing in this book is the very destiny of the Jews in Ahasuerus’s kingdom depended upon whether favor would be granted to a young woman named Esther. If favor was granted to her, the Jews would live. If not, they would be slaughtered. So while we do not want to unduly venerate Esther, let’s be careful that we do not minimize her value and contribution either.

Favor truly is a wonderful thing. Most of us in this room do not need it from a King or President or even a Governor. But we need it in the marketplace; we need it in our neighborhoods; we need it with the merchants we deal with; we need it with the IRS; we need it with financial institutions; we need it with strained relationships with members of our families or extended families; we need it in the midst of overwhelming responsibilities that seem almost unbearable at times, etc.

So what was it about Esther that marked her as one whom so many people in King Ahasuerus’s kingdom including the King himself granted favor?

Well the only thing that is really emphasized about her character in these first five chapters is her submission to or respect for the authorities in her life. First and foremost we see it with Mordecai, and I think it is important to realize that if she had not submitted to and respected Mordecai’s authority over her, she probably would not have succeeded in bringing about a change in the king’s edict. 

Let’s look at a couple of passages that bear that out:

First in ch. 2 vs. 10, “Esther did not make known her people or her kindred, for Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make them known. “  Now once Esther had been in the palace and began to feel secure with Hegai the eunuch over her, she easily could have let down her guard, and in the right (or wrong) moment revealed her ancestry and ethnicity. I mean everyone likes to be understood and appreciated for who they are. But she chose to honor Mordecai’s instruction and keep it a secret.

Vs. 15 – “Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised.”  Now she is under the authority of another and she seemingly gladly and fully follows his instruction or advice.

Now let’s look at vs. 20 of ch. 2.  “Esther had not yet made known her kindred or her people, even as Mordecai had commanded her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her as she had done when under his care.” Esther evidently for all of her growing up years lived under Mordecai’s roof and care. He was not her real father, but she respected and submitted to him as if he was. And the author in this verse emphasizes her obedience to Mordecai’s orders.

In vs. 22 of ch. 2, it could be implied that when Mordecai learned of the plot to assassinate the King, and told Esther, he also told her to tell the King, which we know she did.

So while Esther is never held up to us in the New Testament or anywhere else in the Old Testament as a model to emulate, in this regard, she is in the same company as young Joseph in Egypt or young Daniel in Babylon, both of whom God granted favor due to their godly character, and their unwillingness to be corrupted by the godlessness around them. 

Easily once Esther got out from under Mordecai’s roof, and was daily around all of those other young ladies in the King’s harem, she could have longed for their approval more than Mordecai’s. She could have listened to their opinions, more than Mordecai’s or Hegai’s.  But she appears to have withstood the peer pressure that I’m sure was thick in that harem. 

Only people who have learned to submit to authority can be trusted to exert authority over others. 

I find it very interesting that even with Jesus as a young boy, Luke tells us in Luke 2:51 that after his parents found him in the temple, he gladly returned home with them, “and He continued in subjection to them;”  and then in vs. 52 Luke adds, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Jesus, though fully God, was also fully human, and thus in need of favor from God to accomplish His mission and fulfill God’s purposes for Him.  In His early years, it was His willing subjection to His parents among other things that opened a door for the favor of God to be poured out on Him.

One thing I know from tracing the theme of favor in the scriptures this past week, is God wants to pour out favor on His people. There are huge problems in our society to solve; huge needs to meet; huge chasms or divides to bridge; and God’s favor in many cases will be the deciding factor on whether we see breakthrough in these areas or not. 

Do you ever ask for favor? Hosea ch. 12 says Jacob wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord for it.      Moses in Exodus 33 & 34 and Numbers 11 prayed for it.   Moses in Psalm 90 prayed for it.

Paul in II Corinthians 1:10, 11 says this, “And He (God) will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.” 

(waiting on God for words, prayers, testimonies)  







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March 10th, 2019 – – This is the gist of a sermon I gave today on the first three chapters of Esther.

INTRODUCTION – One of the great challenges we face in the church in America is the lack of true intimacy with our God.  He has called us to that. He wired us for that.  But for a variety of reasons, we find it illusive at best.

One of the reasons I believe we find it illusive is we have not understood the cumulative effect sin has on we believers.

The apostle Paul in Galatians 6, writing to believers, explains it like this, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Galatians 6:7,8

While I am very thankful for the encouragement and healing that has come from all of the emphasis on our position in Christ in the church in America over the last however many years, I fear that we have misconstrued some things that have set us back, and actually prevented our healing. One of those things is the belief that once a man or woman or young person is born again, all of that corruption of our former life is forever gone.  I wish that were true.   

When the Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”   – wonderful, supernatural, instantaneous things happen when you or I finally admit we are a sinner – much in need of a Savior, and Jesus Christ is that one and only Savior, and we ask Him to be our personal Savior and Lord.   

Immediately upon that faith response to Him, He with resurrection power breaks the power of sin over our lives and gives us a new capacity to know and love Him and hear His voice and serve Him.  New creatures indeed!  Praise God!!

But the corruption we have sown still lingers until it is incrementally cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  That’s why Paul instructed the believers in Corinth in the first verse of chapter 7 – just a little more than a chapter after He proclaimed our newness in Christ – “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”   This is an ongoing work – largely dealing with the fleshly or carnal thought patterns, attitudes and motives that we have often unconsciously developed –  that we believers are to aggressively pursue by the power of the Spirit and by the precious blood of Christ until all of that corruption or defilement is cleaned up, and we are increasingly holy as He is holy. 

One of the aspects of corruption or defilement that I believe is very prevalent in the church – especially among those of us who have known the Lord for a long time, and yet have failed Him many times and not “perfected holiness in the fear of God” like we should have is that of performance mentality.  We know we have not walked with God as we should have. Deep down, though intellectually we know He loves us, we are convinced He is angry at us. And thus we just have to work harder or sacrifice more to get Him to ease up on His anger and overlook our many failures. In this vicious cycle shame and regret get a stranglehold on us; and the thought that the living God of the universe who never knew sin, and who is holy and pure through and through – could love us unconditionally and long for intimacy with us and enjoy our fellowship– well it’s just beyond our comprehension.

So what in the world does that have to do with the book of Esther?    Ahhh, Esther.  

Though Esther never mentions the words –  God, prayer, lovingkindness, mercy or grace; though the book of Esther never gives us a prophetic portrait of the coming Messiah like the Psalms and so many of the prophets do – – some of them like Isaiah – multiple times;……….  Esther – through the power of story – if we have eyes to see – gives us a wonderful example of the mystery of God’s sovereign choosing of someone (in this case a people – namely the Jews), and thus (because He chose them) we see His undying, unbreakable, covenant love toward that people, even when they foolishly rebel against Him, and worship idols, and make friends with the world that has so brazenly rejected Him.               

Does He discipline and chasten them for their sin?  Absolutely. Does He sometimes severely judge them for their rebellion and idolatry? Absolutely.  But never once did He stop loving and pursuing them, as evidenced by many passages throughout the Old Testament and by Romans chps 9-11 in the New Testament. Listen to His words to His people in Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”  Isaiah 49:15 And then His words through the prophet Jeremiah, “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3

While the book of Esther does not have one occurrence of the wonderful word, “lovingkindness”, that shows up 176 times elsewhere in the Old Testament and is translated from that rich Hebrew word, Hesed, which has the idea of covenant, unbreakable, undying, everlasting love, that can only be found in God,…. While Hesed doesn’t’ once appear in Esther, it is God’s lovingkindness that is operative behind the scenes in this great book.  It is God’s covenant love for a people that He chose and formed and destined to be a demonstration of His love to the world around Him, that is lurking behind the many turns of events in the book of Esther.

With that introduction, let’s dive into the book of Esther together. My assignment is the first three chapters, which I would at least like to read with you.

Vs. 1 – 4 – – King Ahasuerus’s Reign and Grand Celebration – –   Some translations like the NIV call this King Xerxes. They are one and the same. He ruled over a vast territory as described here – from the years 486-465 B.C.  

Some scholars believe that King Xerxes was using this banquet as a means of preparing his military leaders for an eventual invasion of Greece, which we know happened about four years later, though it was a failed invasion.

Vs. 5 – 8 – The banquet for the common folk – –  .  This 7 day banquet is a separate banquet for the common folk in which wine flowed in abundance and the King’s glory and splendor were again on display.

Vs. 9 – Queen Vashti’s banquet – – .  Separate banquets for the women were not unusual for that culture. 

Vs. 10-12 – – Vashti’s response to King Ahasuerus’s Command – –     “merry with wine” is another way of saying King Ahasuerus was sloshed, and not operating in good judgment.    Perhaps it was his example and perhaps the example of other foolish Kings with their lack of restraint because of their alcohol that caused King Lemuel’s mother to exhort him with these words as recorded in Proverbs 31:1-5 “The words of King Lemuel. The oracle which his mother taught him: What, O my son? And what, O son of my womb?  And what, O son of my vows?  Do not give you strength to women, Or your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink,   For they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”  

Vs. 11 – God wired husbands to rave over their wives’ beauty. But it was never meant for anyone else to gaze upon or enjoy.  It was never meant to be used as a trophy to parade in front of others.  

Vs. 12 – Vashti’s refusal sent the King into a fit of rage, I’m sure helped by his drunkenness.

Vs. 13 – 15 – King Ahasuerus turns to his counselors for advice.

Vs. 16 – 20  – His counselors advice  

Vs. 21,22 – The King’s response to their advice (read it)    He ok’d this plan, and evidently added to this announcement was that all men/husbands should be the master in their homes.

Chapter 2

Vs. 1- 4 The Search Begins;  Some time later when the King had calmed down and was reflecting on what had happened with Vashti, his attendants and counselors encouraged him to get on with the search for her replacement, which he then authorized. 

Vs. 5-7 – Introduction of Mordecai and Esther  

Vs. 8-10 – Esther’s placement into Ahasurus’s harem   

Vs. 11 – Mordecai’s monitoring of her welfare

Vs. 12-14 – the process of coming before the King for these virgins  

Vs. 15-16 – Esther’s turn to be with the King     Can you imagine what that trek into the King’s bedroom must have been like for Esther?

Vs. 17-18 – The King’s response to Esther  

Vs. 19-20 – Re-entry of Mordecai’s influence on Esther to the story  

Vs. 21-23 – Mordecai’s exposing of the plot on the King’s life    

Chapter 3

Vs. 1-2 – Haman’s promotion and Mordecai’s refusal to bow before him  

Vs. 3-4 – The King’s servants’ response to his refusal  

Vs. 5-6 – Haman’s response to his refusal   

Vs. 7-11 – Haman’s appeal to the King to wipe out the Jews   

Vs. 12-15 – The decree is declared in all the provinces    

CONCLUSION – God promised His people through the prophet Jeremiah that their Babylonian captivity would only need to last 70 years, and then they would/should return to their homeland. Listen to His words, “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. “  Jeremiah 29:10

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel and Judah to return to their homeland as can be seen in passages like Isaiah 48:20 and Jeremiah 50:8 and 51:6. Some obviously did which you can read about in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. But many didn’t -like Mordecai and Esther. 

Perhaps they got comfortable in the greater Persian empire; raised their families there; made some friends; established themselves in the marketplace.           Some scholars believe the reason the author of Esther never mentioned God or prayer or some of the other missing words I spoke of earlier in my sermon, is because the spiritual life of the Jews in this empire that Ahasuerus ruled over was at an all time low.  

But regardless of all of this, as you will see as we continue the study of Esther, God never lost sight of His people.  

Nor has He lost sight of you.  (Spontaneous bringing the message home).

May the Lord use the reading of this book in these next weeks to bring that home to you in a fresh way. 

Prayer and ministry time. 

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INTRODUCTION – Over 40 years ago Billy Graham wrote an article called  “Challenge for a Floundering Church”. He cites about seven or so major changes he believed needed to happen in the floundering church in America. These observations came from all of his travels and interactions with church leaders throughout our nation over many years. Here’s his third suggestion for change:

“Third, I would teach the necessity of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were nothing before Pentecost. They were everything after it. When we read about famous Christians down through the centuries, we cannot escape the tremendous emphasis of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The church today has all the tools for conquest—money, edifices, organizations, education and methods. But we lack the God-given spark to ignite these things into a spiritual fire that could sweep the world and help bring peace to our desperate world. That spark is the personal infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, without which the church has no spiritual power.”

A.W. Tozer impacted the church in America like few others in the first half of the 20thcentury. He pastored in Chicago for 30 years and then in Toronoto until he somewhat retired. He wrote 40 books including the classics “The Pursuit of God” and “The knowledge of the Holy”. Some called him a modern day prophet. He said re: the church and the Holy Spirit, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference”

Samuel Chadwick, one of the greatest ever Methodist preachers and a champion for revival in the late 1800’s said re: the church and the Holy Spirit, – “The root-trouble of the present distress is that the Church has more faith in the world and the flesh than in the Holy Ghost, and things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power.”

Francis Chan in an interview in March of 2018 said, – – “There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today. In many modern churches, you would be stunned by the apparent absence of the Spirit in any manifest way. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problem.”

So that’s a bit about our problem. But here’s the thing. If the lack of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power is our problem; then His realized or manifest presence and power is our solution!  Throughout church history there have been times where the problem seemed insurmountable, but a remnant of sons and daughters of the king didn’t give up, and kept crying out for more of the Holy Spirit, and God the Father granted them their request. 

Isn’t that what we see in the book of Acts?  Thousands of people had been following Jesus – absolutely awed by His miracles and His teachings as seen in the four gospel accounts. But when He was unlawfully arrested and then ruthlessly crucified, the movement He had started seemed all but over. But the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead after three days the scriptures tell us. And He appeared over a forty day period to about 500 people helping them all understand that it was always part of God’s plan for Him to die for our sins and then to rise from the dead to continue to lead His disciples forward. Before He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven He gave final instructions to His closest band of disciples – the 12 minus Judas and some women who often traveled with them and some other disciples. He instructed them to gather in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which they obediently and somewhat fearfully did for days before the Holy Spirit invaded their room and supernaturally enabled all of them to speak in foreign languages they had never learned, which drew a huge crowd, which caused formerly fearful and timid Peter to stand up and preach a sermon so bold and so powerful that 3,000 people repented of their sins, and embraced the risen Christ as their personal Savior and Lord, followed by baptism.

If you’ve read the book of Acts you know almost every page speaks of the mighty works of the Holy Spirit through a group of people who used to argue among themselves about who was the greatest,  and who dissed children and who dissed women and who dissed emotional displays of worship and who fell asleep when they were asked by Jesus to pray, etc.   It is an amazing and thrilling story of what the Holy Spirit can do in and through His people, and probably the primary reason why these leaders I quoted to you earlier said the things they said. 

My contention this morning is the Holy Spirit is yearning to do even greater works than these in and through you and me.     So to pave the way for that I would like to review with you who He is and what He is like.  Because as Joshua taught us last week, the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force or a vibe or an energy field, or a cosmic genie; rather He is a person; a person that Jesus Christ went to great lengths to reveal to His disciples in those last hours He had with them.

We are going to look at four aspects of His person this morning rather quickly, because I want us to spend some time in prayer afterwards. And the first one is this:

He is fully God – The Holy Spirit is equal in deity with God the Father and God the Son – 

Jesus said these words to His disciples, after He had risen from the dead and right before He ascended to heaven,   “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19,20

Clearly new believers in Jesus were meant to know God as the triune God that He is. Clearly their new identity as disciples was to be grounded in the knowledge and experience of God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit.

When Peter rebuked Annanias and Sapphira for lying and pretending to be someone they were not in the early church in Jerusalem, he said these words, “…Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spiritand to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God?”  Acts 5:3,4; 

In Peter’s mind, the Holy Spirit and God were one and the same.

So this means that when the Bible says “Nothing is too difficult for You” this is true of the Holy Spirit; and when the Bible says “Nothing will be impossible with God” – this is true of the Holy Spirit; and thus when the Bible says He will convict the world of sin and judgment and righteousness, no amount of post modernism or central coastianity or new age fluff or any other ism will prevent Him from accomplishing His convicting work.  Or When the Bible speaks of His sanctifying work in the lives of we believers, no amount of sin or corruption or defilement in our past will keep Him from accomplishing this precious sanctifying work – making us more and more like Jesus.

Well not only is He fully God; He is also HOLY.

The Spirit of God has a number of names or titles in the scriptures, but by far the most prevalent one in the New Testament is He is the Holy Spirit. 92 x’s He is referred to as such in the New Testament.

So what does it mean when the scriptures say He is the HOLY Spirit?

Well the greek word translated Holy has the idea of “distinction” or “apartness”.  One theologian spoke of Him as “Wholly other”.  Another scholar put it this way: “God the Holy Spirit is apart and distinct from all that is impotent and impure. He is distinct and separate from all created beings and false gods; there is no one like Him in any way or in any place.  The evidence for this is found in His righteousness and His power; He is not sinful and impure as man or gods, neither is He impotent as man or gods.”  

Thomas Watson, the prolific Puritan writer of a few centuries ago spoke of the holiness of God as follows: “Holiness is the glory of the Godhead. It is primarily and originally in God as light is in the sun; you may as well separate weight from lead, or heat from fire, as holiness from the divine nature; God’s holiness is that whereby His heart rises against any sin, as being most diametrically opposite to His essence, “You are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” Hab. 1:13  

Thus when the apostle Paul commanded the Corinthian believers to “Flee immorality” in I Cor. Ch. 6,  He supported that command with two reasons. First we should flee all forms of sexual immorality because of the destructive effects this sin has on one’s body.  And second because of the reality that the Spirit who dwells within us is the HOLY Spirit, and our body belongs to Him now.

“Flee immorality.  Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” I Cor. 6:18, 19

Were the Holy Spirit merely a force or energy –  what you do with your body probably wouldn’t matter. But because he is a person who is holy through and through, and because He lives inside of you, what you do, what you think, what you say matters greatly.

I’ve had to come to grips with the reality in recent years that a major reason we believers struggle to experience the power and vibrancy and reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives is because we are blind to His holiness, and thus very weak in our own holiness.  This was certainly true in my own life.

And I think one of the reasons we so struggle with this is because we see the Holy Spirit use unholy people – even ourselves, and we therefore conclude their lack of holiness  (or ours) is no big deal.  One of the things I used to justify my own lack of holiness was the fact that God was using me in people’s lives. Therefore He must have been pleased with me. 

One of the men God used in a powerful way in my life 30 or more years ago when I began to get acquainted with the Holy Spirit was John Wimber – the founder of the Vineyard movement. God used the Vineyard in a huge way in our nation in the late 70’s and 80’s and early 90’s to help the evangelical non charismatic arm of the church in the West rediscover the gifts of healing, prophecy, tongues, and rediscover that our God is a supernatural God who has always performed signs and wonders and always will. But He could have used them in far greater ways if they had known the Holy Spirit as the HOLY Spirit.

Listen to John’s own words, “…If the time of the Lord’s return is close (and he believed it was), doesn’t He expect us to prepare ourselves with righteous acts, so that we might be a bride fit for the wedding with the Lamb of God (Rev. 19:7-9)? If His return inaugurates our being in His presence forever, shouldn’t our highest priority today be seeking God’s face?

Perhaps this is why I have sensed God saying, “Get ready; Get ready; Get ready.” Call the people to account. Prepare them! They must be clean. They must be holy.” I’ve never known such urgent leading from the Lord.

I’m particularly sensitive to the call to righteousness, because for years I have been aware that few people in the Vineyard are truly holy. Very few lives are set apart – set apart from sin and impurity, and set apart to God.

When the Holy Spirit first came on the Vineyard I shook my head and said, “Wait a minute. I’ve been taught all my Christian life that God doesn’t use an unclean vessel, yet look at this thing: it’s unclean.” I knew our church was unclean, because I was pastoring it. I couldn’t’ understand how the favor of the Lord could be on a people like us.

In the early years of the Vineyard (and this was after it was known nationwide for miracles of healing and other miracles taking place) people asked me, “Do you and your people have a strong prayer ministry in your church?” “No,” I’d say, “only a few people pray. Very few.”

Then they’d ask, Surely your people endeavor to be holy, don’t they?” 

“Well only a few are. Many of them could care less. They’re more interested in the cares of the world than in God’s affairs.”

Oh we responded to the Lord and had some great meetings. But there was very little consecration on the part of the people. During this time a brother in the church prophesied, “We’re riding on someone else’s credit card.” Looking back, I believe that’s accurate; …” I assume someone else prayed for us….. And we received the blessings.” (end of quote)

One of the Holy Spirit’s passions is to prepare the bride of Christ to meet her groom without spot or wrinkle.  The great revivalist – Leonard Ravenhill said it best, when he exclaimed, “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back in to that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”  I firmly believe He is going to do that increasingly with our congregation, and with His church in this region as we get to know Him as He truly is!

He is God; He is the Holy Spirit; and thirdly He is Spirit.

Jesus said of God and thus the Holy Spirit, – “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24

The Holy Spirit is not confined or limited to a body like Jesus was while He walked and ministered on the earth. Thus He can minister to millions of people at the same time. Thus when Jesus said to His disciples in John 16:7, 8 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;”  The advantage the Holy Spirit had and has is He is Spirit. He can be everywhere at once. He has no time or space limitations.

Finally He is the Spirit of Truth

Jesus said to His disciples, “ I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:16,17

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spiritof truthwho proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” John 15:26

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”  John 16:13

The apostle John goes even farther in his first epistle and states, “…..It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” I John 5:6

Do you want to be intimate with the Holy Spirit?  Do you want to filled with all His fullness?  Do you want to be the kind of vessel or temple or instrument that the Holy Spirit can do those greater works through that Jesus promised?

Then we are going to have to allow Him to purge and cleanse us from all the rationalization, and minimizing and embellishing and stretching the truth and falsehood that we have walked in for most of our lives.  I don’t know about you but I learned to lie and stretch the truth and beat around the bush and divert attention from my sins as a child and really got pretty good at it. It sadly became a way of life for me.

But even David knew as he prayed in Psalm 51;6, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,….” Perhaps that’s why a little later in that passionate prayer he pleaded, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”  

Now thankfully in this New Covenant relationship we believers have with and through Jesus Christ and through what He has done for us on the cross, we do not have to plead with Him not to be taken from us.  But we should be pleading for Him to purify us of all of our corruption and defilement and falsehood so He can fulfill His highest purposes in and through your life and mine.

Being a temple of the Holy Spirit and a temple of the Spirit of truth is a great privilege and honor. It means each of us has the potential to be used by Him beyond our wildest dreams. But that doesn’t happen automatically. 

Perhaps that’s why the great church father Augustine, prayed prayers like this re: the Holy Spirit – “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.”

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.”

Jesus’s promise for His church is this: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”    Let’s ask Him now!

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INTRODUCTION – We are jumping into chapter two of Paul’s letter to Titus this morning if you would like to turn there in your Bibles.     As Elizabeth taught us last week – this letter is considered to be one of the pastoral epistles – which are epistles or letters that were more specifically written to help the church know how to how to be the church in the midst of the darkness and perversion all around her. 

While this letter to Titus is one of the three pastoral epistles, I do not believe Titus himself should be seen as a pastor. Pastors or elders or overseers are called to shepherd the sheep in a given location. They are to dig their heels in a particular city or region and do their part to see the saints equipped, and the sheep in that given city or region shepherded, and the lost saved. They are to lay their lives down to see Christ’s kingdom come and His will done in their region until Christ clearly leads them elsewhere, if He ever does.  

An apostle on the other hand, tends to not be confined to one locale or one congregation.  An apostle typically oversees a number of churches and/or ministries and is given more to travel and to equipping equippers – and pastoring pastors. 

While Titus is never called an apostle in scripture, he functioned more like an apostle than a pastor. Paul calls him his “partner and fellow worker” in II Corinthians ch. 8. Titus ministered in Corinth for some period of time. He traveled with Paul to Jerusalem at one point in Paul’s journeys.  He traveled to Dalmatia for ministry at one point.  And now we see him appointing elders in every city in the island state of Crete.

Now,  one of the aspects of church life that is designed and intended to give God glory in every place where the church has been established is that its members look more and more like their Savior.

For young churches like these newly planted churches in Crete, there were not many – if any seasoned, mature believers to learn from and to model after; so Paul gave Titus in this letter some specific character targets to shoot for in the various age groups and stations of life.

He starts off as he should with Titus himself.  vs. 1 & vs. 15

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” Vs. 1

“These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Vs. 15

Please note the intended contrast in vs. 1 with the divisive men in 1:10,11 that the phrase, “But as for you” tips us off to.  Paul warns Titus in that passage, “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.”

Titus, on the other hand is to teach these new believers and try to ground them in sound doctrine.  His every word in any context – official meeting or casual conversation – should help establish whomever he is talking to in sound doctrine, sound thinking, and thus sound behavior all centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is to do it faithfully and firmly, knowing it is crucial for the health and well being of Christ’s church, regardless of opposition or resistance.

One of the greatest responsibilities any apostle then or today has over any church is that it be grounded in sound doctrine.  That’s why Paul brings up doctrine four times in this short letter. And he also speaks of it in the other two pastoral epistles – I & II Timothy.

What is doctrine? Well doctrine is basically the body of truth given to us in the scriptures.  It is everything the King would ever want you to know about His kingdom, again as communicated in the Scriptures.  

One of the many expressions of God’s goodness to mankind is that He hasn’t left anything to chance or doubt.  He could have just given us one book instead of 66. But He loves to share His secrets with His people. He loves to tell us about Himself.  He loves to reveal His ways and His deeds or works.  He wants us to know how He has dealt with mankind since the very beginning. And He wants us to know what can be expected of and from Him in the now; and He wants us to know how things are going to end up (generally speaking) in the future.

Sound, Christ like, and God pleasing behavior rides on the back of sound, Christ centered doctrine. Sound doctrine protects Christ’s church from confusion and deception. It helps her rightly examine the more subjective aspects of kingdom life like prophetic words, dreams, visions, trances, etc.  It provides guard rails for the life of the Spirit.

Satan knows this better than we do sometimes I’m afraid. And that is why one of his main weapons against the church is raising up false teachers, false prophets and false apostles, who like him seek to deceive and spread false doctrine, but who are very cunning and seemingly religious or spiritual in the way they do it. 

How we are to be grounded in sound doctrine in the church is a whole other discussion that our teaching team is beginning to grapple with. One thing we know for sure is it was never meant to be confined to one man doing all the talking and teaching. All of us can and should play a role in the building and preserving of sound doctrine. I find it interesting that the believers in Berea – even after hearing the teaching of the greatest theologian (other than Jesus) ever to live, still “examined the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”;  and the Holy Spirit through Luke calls them noble minded as contrasted with the believers in Thessalonica. You can read about that in Acts chapter 17.  But again – more on that perhaps in the near future.

After giving Titus specific instructions for his life and ministry there in Crete, Paul now turns to the older men there in the church. vs. 2   “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.”

I want to make a few comments on this characteristic of being Sensible. We were told in ch. 1 that elders are to be sensible; as are old men in vs. 2, young women in vs. 5, young men in vs. 6, and then all of us as seen in vs. 12.  This characteristic is obviously of great concern to the apostle Paul.

Translated “sensible” in the New American Standard version; the NIV & NLT = self controlled;  It has the idea of being in control at all times of our passions and drives or lusts.  

Why is this quality necessary for older men in the church?  Well possibly because older men tend to think they’ve put in their time; they’ve worked hard all their life; so now they are entitled to sit back in their easy chair and enjoy their favorite shows or sports or both on their wide screen T.V.’s ; while enjoying a big bowl of ice cream to boot – every night!                 Now I’m not saying thou shalt never as an old man watch t.v. or eat ice cream.  But if you as an older man are going to be sensible or self controlled, which is a fruit of the Spirit by the way, then entitlement to the American way has to go. Older men if they are born again and thus baptized or placed into the church by the Holy Spirit; are therefore temples of the Holy Spirit; and therefore He the Holy Spirit would prefer to make the judgment or determination on how His temple spends their time, and what they eat or drink, or how much they eat or drink, and what they watch, etc.

The lie of the evil one, besides this entitlement lie, is that older men are washed up and cannot bear any significant fruit in their old age.  The good news of the kingdom of God is that our fruit will only get riper in old age as we learn to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Psalm 92:12-15 has been a guiding light for me as people sometimes ask me these days if I have retired, or if I am soon planning on retiring:

“The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”   This is normal kingdom life and expectation for older men (and women).

Speaking of older women, let’s read Paul’s instructions for them – vs. 3,4a 

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women….”

Older women likewise are notto see themselves as “retired” or having earned a life of ease and pleasure after years of hard work raising children, and perhaps grandchildren, and/or working in the workforce. Nor should the church see them as such. Older women in the kingdom of God are the key to seeing younger women thrive.

As long as there are younger women around, older women can bear fruit by imparting to them the life of Christ and the life of the Spirit that they have learned over the years, and are still learning hopefully.

Please note the first of four “So that” purpose clauses in this chapter that shows up in vs. 4       “so that they may encourage the young women….”

In the kingdom of God, this is what older women were designed to do.  But as some of you older women (and men) might have learned – this doesn’t just automatically happen does it?  

Older women and we older men have to cultivate the kind of spiritual life and character that causes younger women (or younger men) to feel safe with us and therefore dare to open their lives to us.

And that first of all requires that we learn to listen and not react, not unrighteously judge, and not preach.  

The more an older woman gives herself to becoming the kind of godly woman vs. 3 describes, the more she will see doors open to impart this life to younger women.

Sometimes there is a tendency in older women (or men) in the church to want a platform to teach the younger women (or men), rather than taking the time to cultivate the piety that ultimately opens more doors than any platform ever could.  Piety ultimately bears far more fruit in terms of generational transfer than platforms (even organized men’s and women’s ministries) ever will.

OK. What about younger women? – vs. 4b, 5

“…to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

Here is the second “so that” purpose clause in this passage: “so that the word of God will not be dishonored.  When younger women are known to be Christians, but are not known to be Christlike, God’s word is mocked, and the lost who know them chalk this up as one more hypocrite to add to the long list.  But of course the converse of this is when younger women walk in this kind of godly character, the word of God is honored and respected even among the lost.

Titus has a few words for younger men – vs. 6-8

“Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”

Here’s the third “so that” purpose clause: “so that the opponent will be put to shame…”  godly young men can actually cause the opponents of the church to shut their mouths.

What about Bondslaves? – vs. 9,10

“Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”

Here’s the fourth purpose clause:  “so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect”.  Doctrine can actually be adorned or beautified and magnified by the behavior of slaves.

Why should older men and older women and younger men and women and slaves give themselves to the pursuit of godliness and holiness? Because when they do – 

  • younger women will receive the encouragement from older women they so desperately need
  • the word of God will not be dishonored in Christian marriages
  • the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about the church
  • the doctrine of God our Savior will be adorned and wonderfully displayed

All of this of course is only possible by the empowering grace of God

Paul wants to make sure we know that, so he is now going to speak of four wonderful things the grace of God does in the world and in the church in vs. 11-14.

First of all it brings salvation to all men – vs. 11 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,”

God has always been a God of grace.  A God who gives lavishly to men what they could never deserve or earn.  Jesus Christ, as John the apostle tells us in his gospel – – walked on our planet in plain view as one “full of grace and truth”.  Those who met Him and knew Him John says received “grace upon grace”.  Grace exploded on planet earth in and through the Savior Jesus Christ, and it is extended or freely offered to every man, woman, young person and child – regardless of ethnicity, or privilege or economic status, etc.

Second, the grace of God instructs those of us who have been born again by the Spirit of God to deny ungodliness and worldly desires – vs. 12a 

“instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires…”

When we begin to see how unworthy (not worthless) we are; when our eyes are opened to how utterly sinful in our flesh we are; and when we see how great His grace is towards us – – when we see and begin to taste how great His love and unconditional acceptance is; when we begin to experience His favor and power poured out on us all because of the goodness of His heart – – we gladly deny all matters of ungodliness and worldly desires.  They lose their grip on us. Praise God!!

Third the grace of God instructs we believers to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age – vs. 12b 

“instructing us to ……live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

   The grace of God, defined by some as unmerited favor and blessing, but also defined as enabling power to please God and become like Him – – this amazing grace teaches us how and motivates us to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the midst of the perversion and corruption that surrounds us.

Finally the grace of God instructs us to look for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus – vs. 13 

“looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

  The grace of God as we begin to taste it and experience it, enables us to break all illicit ties with this world, and look forward to and anticipate the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Death is no longer feared, but rather embraced as our pathway to unhindered intimacy and fellowship with our great Savior.

What is so “great” about Him?

Well first of all He gave Himself for us. vs. 14 a

“who gave Himself for us….”

He willingly walked back into Jerusalem on that fateful day, knowing the Jewish religious leaders were going to capture Him and unlawfully arrest Him and unlawfully try Him; and unlawfully and brutally beat Him, and finally crucify Him on a criminal’s cross. He did that for you and me. And He did that to accomplish a number of things, two of which Paul emphasizes in this passage: – 

First to redeem us from every lawless deed – vs. 14b 

“who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed,….”

 Before Jesus invaded our lives and saved us from our sins and made us new creatures, we were slaves to sin and lawlessness. By that I don’t mean we necessarily broke major laws of our land; but we broke God’s laws – on a daily basis – – the greatest one being to love Him with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind.  Jesus died to set us free from this awful bondage to sin – – a bondage that was more awful than most of us realize.

The second reason Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood was to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds – vs. 14c 

“who gave Himself for us ….to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

The most wonderful  purifying and cleansing agent in the universe is the blood of Jesus.  There is no sin, no bondage, no addiction, no generational long time sin pattern that it can’t cleanse.  The blood of Jesus can take a Corinthian church and turn it into a Philippian church. 

You know, God’s strategy for reaching the whole world with the wonderful news of His saving grace has never really changed. He has always been about forming a people among whom He could dwell and manifest Himself, so that His manifested presence in our midst first purifies us of all defilement, and then spills out on all those within reach with God appointed and Spirit directed good deeds. 

Do you sense Him calling you out of the world, or rather calling the world out of you in these days brethren? 

I know some of you do. Oh the joys that are ahead of The Well – Los Osos  – – when we get serious about breaking our friendship with the world.  Oh the zeal for doing every good deed that is going to be increasingly ours – – as we finally begin to hate the things He hates and love the things He loves, and therefore find ourselves free from all the things that used to trip us up.

Jesus said in the sermon on the mount to a crowd of disciples, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they (plural) shall see God.”  (Matthew 5:8).  There is no greater happiness in this earthly life than allowing our great Redeemer and Savior to clean us up from the inside as a people so we can see Him as He is, and experience Him in our midst, and thus have His intended impact on the outside watching world.

Can we pray into this some as His people this morning?  

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INTRODUCTION – The author of www.evilbible.com says this re: the Bible and the scourge of slavery: “Except for murder, slavery has got to be one of the most immoral things a person can do. Yet slavery is rampant throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible clearly approves of slavery in many passages, and it goes so far as to tell how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves.”

Psalm 145:8,9 says this about the God of the Old and New testaments – the same God who wrote the Old and New testaments through the minds and pens of men: “The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” Later in vs. 17 it says, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.”

So who should we believe? Well one of the passages evilbible.com uses to make its argument just so happens to be the one we are going to look at today in our ongoing series through I Timothy. So please turn in your Bibles if you will to I Timothy 6:1,2 Continue reading Slavery & The Kingdom of God – I Tim. 6:1,2

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INTRODUCTION – This morning I hope to help broaden and strengthen your perspective on how life works, & how the kingdom of God intersects this fallen world; because that is what I believe Solomon – the preacher – is after in chapter 10, if not in this whole book called Ecclesiastes. Even back then, I think Solomon knew that people could place their faith in God to escape hell and judgment and to find much needed forgiveness for sins, but never really learn how to live like God meant for us to live.

You see perspective pretty much more than anything else determines whether we thrive or just survive. Perspective determines whether we see the glass half full or almost empty. Perspective – that is wise and godly perspective – shields us from the onslaught of lies that constantly come our way from the father of lies, and from this corrupt world system that is well oiled and crafted by the father of lies, and from our own sinful flesh. Continue reading Truths for Thriving – – Ecclesiastes 10:1-20

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INTRODUCTION – Ecclesiastes is a great book for those of us who tend to be too black and white, too anal, too uptight, too dependent on formulas, or just too unlike Christ!

I want to confess that it is not the easiest book to understand, much less apply or heed. Parts of Chapter 8 are especially challenging. One of the things that helped me this week was my reading on Wednesday in Thomas a Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ” re: the study of scripture and how to handle difficult to understand portions. Here’s what he said,
“Our curiosity proves a hindrance to us, for while reading the Scriptures we sometimes want to stop to debate and discuss, when we should simply read on. If you wish to derive profit from your reading of Scripture, do it with humility, simplicity and faith; “ Continue reading Overcoming sternness with Wisdom – Eccl. 8:1

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June 17, 2018
INTRODUCTION – As we jump into Ecclesiastes ch. 4 today, I want to direct my thoughts primarily to the working folk among us, because that is what most of this chapter is about.

Thinking back to Genesis ch. 2 if you would for a moment, soon after God created Adam and Eve , He set them to work in this beautiful and most likely quite expansive garden in a place called Eden.
The living God is a God who loves to work. He never dreams of retiring. He enjoys and takes great delight in working and creating and accomplishing and healing and redeeming things on the earth. And part of being created in His image is having a mind and capacity to not only work, but to enjoy it. Continue reading Four Maxims for the Marketplace – Ecclesiastes 4

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INTRODUCTION – I was grieved this last week to hear from a dear friend of yet another local congregation (not anywhere near here) being torn apart because of ungodliness and worldliness among the elder board or elder team.

Another friend wrote me this last week telling me of his grief in learning that a good friend of his had quit walking with the Lord.

God’s will and full intention is that the elders of His church – wherever in the world a corporate expression of Christ’s church finds itself – thrive in the carrying out of their ministry, and that they end their race strong and well, and that Christ’s church is safe and secure under their leadership and care as a result.

God’s will and full intention for every believer in His church is that they also thrive in the fulfillment of their calling, that they experience the fullness of Christ and the Holy Spirit in ever greater measure, and that they end their race strong and well. Continue reading How to Thrive and End Well in Christ – – I Peter 5:1-14

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Rom. 8:32 – Before I started my sermon, I expounded the thought that if the living holy and sinless God was willing to deliver His Son over to all the evil and suffering and finally taking our sin upon Himself that He did, then how much more will He give us spiritual gifts!?

INTRODUCTION – – Most of you know that a few months before my 20th birthday I rather abruptly moved from Knoxville, TN to San Jose, CA – desperate for change and breakthrough in my personal and spiritual life and journey with Christ. That first year in San Jose I devoured the Bible like never before; and then I believe in my second year met my wife – Anne, who through similar life circumstances and desperation for change was also becoming a beaver for the Bible. The combination of our daily quiet times and scripture memory, involvement in small group Bible studies, and attending a very strong Bible teaching church brought a much needed stability to our lives. Continue reading Our Journey Out of I Corinthians ch. 14

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This last Sunday my wife shared some thoughts before I preached – – both of us commenting on aspects of I Corinthians 14. Below is the gist of what she shared. Mine will follow.

Last week as Joshua preached on 1 Corinthians 14 he ended briefly addressing verses 34 and 35 “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” And I thought, I would like to say something about that, because if you are anything like me, initially it seems that this is restrictive and unequal. Continue reading Women & the Washing of the Word

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INTRODUCTION – In our ongoing series of sermons through the 16 chapter book of I Corinthians, we come this morning to the 13th chapter, affectionately known by many as “the love chapter”. Even some unbelievers, who know little of the treasures of the Bible, know this chapter exists because of usually having heard it spoken of at a wedding. I myself have chosen to speak from this chapter at some of the weddings I have done. Though I want to say this morning, its intended purpose was not for marriages as much as it was for congregations.

Because the 66 books of the Bible were written as whole units with great strategic purpose, every placement of a chapter or verse in a given book is strategic and intentionally placed. So that begs the question, Why did Paul choose to deal with the subject of loving one another after chapter 12 and before chapter 14, both of which deal specifically with the subject of the spiritual gifts that Jesus – the Head has given to His body? Continue reading The Primacy or Supremacy of Love – I Corinthians 13

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INTRODUCTION – One of the books I’m reading right now is the 2nd book written by Rosario Butterfield, entitled “Openness Unhindered.” Rosario became a Lesbian in her early college days, and then as she went on for her PhD and then into a very influential tenured teaching post at Syracuse University – she became a widely known and very vocal lesbian activist and apologist. Her first book is entitled “The Secret Thoughts of an unlikely convert”, and a highly unlikely convert she was. So unlikely that most believers who knew her or knew of her didn’t even try to help her come to know Jesus Christ. Most, if they dealt with her at all, sent her condemning letters of the judgment that awaited her – especially after she dared trash the Promise keepers movement in one of her columns in the late 90’s. Continue reading Freeing Up the Fragrance – – I Corinthians 9

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July 16, 2017
INTRODUCTION – As we have been walking together through the pages of the apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, we have noted several times that the social context into which this church was planted was one of extreme sexual immorality, and thus significant relational damage. Sexual immorality always results in emotional and relational damage to all involved – whether in first century Corinth or in 21st Century Central Coast of CA communities.

Josh dealt with this when he preached on chapter 5. Elizabeth dealt with it last week in chapter six. And we are going to deal with it again today in chapter 7.

The good news of the kingdom of God – this wonderful supernatural realm that the risen Christ rules and that we all have begun to operate in and experience – is that there is a far superior way of living life and handling our sexual passions and needs, and walking out the marriage covenant with our spouse than that which the world system offers. Continue reading Marriage, Oneness & Sex – – I Cor. 7:1- 5

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June 18, 2017
My mother’s phone call – my files – Dave Barry on Fatherhood

Prayer for Holy Spirit power and revelation

INTRODUCTION – One of the disciplines the Holy Spirit led me to practice many years ago is daily praying through a portion of our church directory . So for instance this morning I prayed for all of our individuals or families whose last name starts with T-Z.

And one of the many things I pray for each of you every week is that you will grow in the joy of being a co laborer for the harvest with Jesus. One of the things Jesus promises to do in and through the life of every person who is born again by the Spirit of God is to make them what He calls a “fisher of men (or women)”. Continue reading Faith in The Power of God – I Cor. 2:1-5

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May 14, 2017

INTRODUCTION – Lucille Ball – one of the great female comediennes of my early years on this planet, and of all time really – said of wisdom, “In life, all good things come hard, but wisdom is the hardest to come by.”

One of the primary reasons true wisdom is so hard to come by is because Satan – the father of lies and the god of this world – has created a world system of belief and thought patterns and attitudes that operates on a false or corrupted sense of wisdom – a socially acceptable wisdom if you will. And he (that is Satan) has succeeded in getting most of our cultural influencers to embrace this worldly wisdom. The apostle James, who was never one to mince words, refers to this wisdom or way of seeing and doing life as earthy, natural and demonic in chapter 3 of his epistle as contrasted with divine or heavenly wisdom. (We will look at that passage later on) Continue reading The wisdom of God vs. the wisdom of man – I Cor. 1:10-25

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INTRODUCTION – Around the end of April of 2015 – our son Joshua called Anne and I and asked if he could come over and sit down with us. That conversation started the ball rolling that eventually (after many hours of meetings with our elders) led us to install Joshua as lead pastor as of June 1st of 2015, and then send Anne and I off on a three month sabbatical for those summer months to get rested up and re – envisioned for the years ahead.

When I jumped back in the saddle in early September of that year – our elders began to process together over many hours the changes that the Holy Spirit — primarily through Joshua was wanting to bring about.
One of the questions we wrestled with in some of those meetings (and I believe Steve Sharp joined us in some of those discussions) was what tag line or motto would best characterize who we are becoming, and what we are most pursuing as a people. Our eventual choice was: “People encountering Jesus.” We knew there were safer more acceptable words to use rather than “encounter” – but we all eventually concluded this was the word that best summed up what God wanted us to pursue, and what God wanted us to expect of Him. Continue reading Encountering God – Only One Thing is Necessary

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An address I gave last night (9/25/16) at the Opening Rally for 40 Days for Life in San Luis Obispo.

INTRODUCTION – One of the most fruit producing, justice establishing, church purifying, darkness piercing and life preserving ministries or movements on the planet today in my opinion is the “40 days for Life” campaign – – – especially when the said campaign is carried out by united, loving, humble, God dependent, Christ centered, Spirit led and Spirit empowered – women, men, young people and children.

My objective tonight is to share a few foundational truths that will enable you and I to be that kind of people as we begin together on Wednesday – the 40 days for life campaign in San Luis Obispo in front of Planned Parenthood on Pismo Street. Continue reading Preparing to Remove Mountains

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INTRODUCTION –
Read Col. 3:21
I. The Negative Command: – Do not exasperate your children

A. Definition – “to excite or inflame the anger of; to cause irritation or annoyance to; syn = irritate” Lightfoot translates it “show no bitterness, behave not harshly.”

B. Ways that we exasperate:
1. neglect through work and/or play (golf, fishing, watching sports on t.v., watching movies) Continue reading Fathers – Encouragers, Not Exasperaters!

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I don’t really remember how I found out about the “40 Days for Life” campaign, but I looked back through my pro-life file on my laptop this last week, and discovered that I signed up to receive the emails from Shawn Carney last fall – a year ago – on Sept. 24th. I remember reading them with great interest and I also checked my sent file for that 40 day period a year ago, and it looks like I forwarded them all to our congregation each day – asking them at the beginning of the 40 days to join in this prayer and fasting effort with me.

I never participated in the on site praying at Planned Parenthood and thus didn’t really encourage our congregation to do so either. This “40 days for life” thing was all new to us, but it grew on me with each passing day. Then I got a hold of the book, read it, was thrilled by it. And ordered some copies for our elders and wives and our church library. Continue reading Closing 40 Days for Life Rally Address – 2014 or 2015?

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INTRODUCTION – In a nation full of bad news, surely one of the few fronts on which we consistently hear good news these days is that of advances in the pro-life movement. Recent polling shows the majority of Americans (58 %) view abortion as morally wrong. The majority of young people (ages 18-29) self identify as pro-life; 83 % of Americans endorse significant restrictions on abortion.

One of the reasons I believe why the tide is turning is because more and more people are learning how God feels about life in the womb. And that is where I want to begin our discussion this morning. Six principles – four about how God sees and feels and is involved with life in the womb; the last two about how He wants to use us to help protect and fight for the life He has created in the womb. Continue reading Foundational Principles for Life January 19, 2014

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(This was my 40 Days for Life kick off address)
INTRODUCTION – One of the most powerful, fruit producing, justice establishing, church purifying, and darkness piercing ministries or movements on the planet today in my opinion is the “40 days for Life” campaign – – especially when the said campaign is carried out by united, God dependent, Christ centered, Spirit led and Spirit empowered men, women, young people and even children.

So my objective tonight is to share some thoughts and steps that will enable you and I to be that kind of people as we begin together tomorrow – the 40 days for life in San Luis Obispo in front of the Planned Parenthood Clinic on Pismo Street.

What I am going to share with you tonight is based on several presuppositions or convictions that I would like to lay down first, and they all come from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ – the Son of God. Continue reading Fasting, Prayer, & the 40 Days for Life Campaign – 2/17/15

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INTRODUCTION – Angels in bookstores and gift shops this time of year;

The portrait we saw in Sierra Madre – – my frustrating search for a portrait

Kids’ quotes about angels

The truth is – Angels are an integral part of the Christmas story and an integral part of our lives and ministry until the Lord returns.

This is evidenced by:

I. Christmas carols and angels:
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Angels from the Realms of Glory
Angels we have heard on high
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Silent Night (“Heavenly hosts sing alleluia”)
O Holy Night
What Child is This
O Come All Ye Faithful
The First Noel
Go Tell it on the Mountain
Continue reading Angels, Demons & the Supremacy of Christ; their Preoccupation with Christ

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