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Stories Jesus Told - Part 1: “Great Mistakes”:
Is Your Ladder Against the Wrong Wall?
Expert bible teacher, John Ortberg tells the story of a successful businessman. He worked 14 hours a day, even on weekends. He thought the 40-hour work week was such a good idea he would often do it twice a week. His goal was to be the best businessman he could be. Even when he wasn’t at work, his mind drifted toward his work so that it was not only his occupation, it was his preoccupation.
His wife tried to get him to slow down. She knew that they weren’t as close as they used to be. But because of his work, he hardly ever gave her any time. He gave at the office.
In the back of his mind, he knew that his kids were growing up, and he was missing it. His kids complained about the ballgames he missed, the meals around the table he missed, the school concerts he missed. After a while, they stopped complaining because they figured he was never going to change.
The businessman told himself, “I’ll be able to spend more time with them when things settle down. Besides, they will have a nice house and nice clothes and cool video games because of my job! Everything I do, I do for them!” Deep down, he knew that he would be living this way even if he didn’t have kids. But it made him feel better to say it anyway.
He also knew he wasn’t taking care of himself the way he should. His doctor told him he had some serious warning signs-high blood pressure, high cholesterol. The doctor told him to cut back on the sweets and the fast food.
But instead, the businessman stopped going to the doctor. He said; “There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”
His wife tried to get him to attend church. But he said “Sunday is the one day I get to crash! It’s the one day I get to sleep in! I don’t have room in my life for God and the church. There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”
One day, the president of the company said “We have a new account with the Kohler company! We’re going to be rich! We have a lot of work to do over the next year or so. But it will be worth it!”
Later that night, the businessman tells his wife “Do you realize what this means? We can relax! We can take life easy! We’ll be able to take that vacation you’ve been talking about!”
But his wife said; “I’ve heard this speech before.”
Besides, there was one small detail the businessman had overlooked. An artery that had once been as supple as a blade of grass was now as dry as plaster. The blood cells could barely squeeze through. Each day, while the man anxiously watched the stock market and stressfully did his work, the artery accumulated more and more plaque.
Later that night while he was hunched over the computer, his heart skipped a beat. Then another. Then another. He gasped for air. He clutched at his chest. And he fell asleep.
His wife woke at 3am wondering; “Where is he? Why isn’t he in bed yet?” She sees him slumped over his laptop. She says; “Figures. He’d rather sleep at his desk than come to bed.”
She touched his arm, and she realized how cold he was! She panicked! She called 911. They came to the house. They told her that he had a massive heart attack and that he’d already been dead for hours.
People came from all over to attend the funeral. His work buddies said; “He was a great leader! A dedicated worker! A good man!”
The company paid for the business man’s headstone. It said; “Here lies Barry: A visionary! An innovator! An entrepreneur!”
But later that night, God sent an angel to the headstone. There, the angel traced with his finger the word God had in mind to describe the life of this wealthy, successful businessman. Fool. God said; “You fool! This very night, your life will be demanded from you. Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
This is a modern version of the story Jesus tells in Luke 12. Jesus was very frank in his diagnosis. He didn’t say the man was wicked. He didn’t say the man was evil. He simply says; “You fool.”
Why does Jesus use this harsh word? The man didn’t deliberately set out to alienate his wife and kids. He didn’t deliberately choose to become a self-centered, greedy man. He never said that he didn’t believe in God. He simply devoted his life to the wrong things. He became too self-absorbed and too busy for the things that matter most.
Let’s look at the story Jesus told in Luke chapter 12
Luke 12:13-21 - 13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” 16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
Let me re-emphasize this last verse – “…a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.!”
Do we even know what a rich relationship with God looks like?
Two weeks ago, we talked about building our lives on a firm foundation, the foundation that began with this relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at a few verses before that and see how to build this “rich relationship” with God.
45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. 46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Without having good things in our heart, we cannot have a rich relationship with God.
1. We must have and keep good things in our heart.
a. First, put Jesus Christ there – that takes care of our sin up to that point.
b. Secondly, allow God continual access – that takes care of anything that would keep us from having a rich relationship with God, i.e. sin, distractions, poor choices relating to our appropriations of our time, energy and resources. Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
2. Once Christ has dominion over our heart and we have given God continual access, we can then begin to understand how to invest our time, talents and treasure into the obedience of God’s commandments.
a. Matthew 22:37-40 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Simply put – love God, love others.
b. Matthew 28:19-20 – “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Simply put – tell others how to have a rich relationship with God.
3. It seems simple – just love God, show love to others and tell others about God. And, for most of us, we would agree those three things are good, even great. But the stark reality is we never take time to develop the ability to truly do any of them because we just don’t take the time.
a. Hebrews 9:27-28 – “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
I would like us all to accept a challenge. Let’s ask ourselves this question: If we were perfectly honest, how much time do spend preparing for eternity? This passage in Hebrew should tell us that our first priority in life should be to prepare for this appointment! How much time do you spend in things with eternal value?
It doesn’t take a genius to see that most people get it wrong – they spend all their time pursuing the things this world has to offer and miss the joy of preparing for eternity.
Jesus illustrates in our story for today, the futility of the farmer who gathers more and more so he can live the good life only to find out everything he’s gained - so one day he could live that life ends up being completely worthless because his earthly life was to end the next day!
There was a king who had all his world could afford. The thing he loved most, however, was to laugh. Once while being entertained a jester came along wishing to join in the festival of activities and also wishing to perform for him. His opportunity came and he put the best comical show together he had ever done and the king never laughed so hard.
Once the activity was all over the king wanted to hire this jester to be his personal jester. Once hired the king in humor handed him a small stick and said, "You are the most foolish man alive. When you find someone more foolish than you, then you give them this stick," and the king laughed heartily.
After many years had passed by the king lay sick on his death bed ready to go at any moment. He called for his jester, for he wanted to laugh one more time before he died. When the jester was through he asked to speak to the king personally. Once alone with the king the jester asked, "king where are you going?" The king responded, "on a far journey." The jester asked again, "and how do you plan to get there?" Again the king responded, "I don’t know." Then the jester pulled the stick from his back pocket and handed it to the king. The king was stunned and asked why he had given him the stick. The jester replied, "King, today I have found a more foolish man than I. For you see, I only trifled with the things of life, but you have trifled with things of eternity!"
What is your Relationship Status with God??
Determine to live your life developing a rich relationship with God!
Stories Jesus Told
Part 1: Great Mistakes
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9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Let’s take a look at the Pharisee…
Matthew 6:1-7 - “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Let’s look at the tax collector…
Let’s look at you…
1 John 1:5-10 - This is the message we heard from Jesus[c] and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
Steve Gladwell, from Longfeet Baptist Church in the United Kingdom gives us an interesting perspective on humility and repentance: Think of a husband and wife in a car, the wife tells her husband to turn right at the next junction and by mistake, he turns left. When he realizes what he has done, he says to his wife “I’m sorry love, I went the wrong way.” But if that is all he does, it isn’t enough. His saying sorry isn’t getting them any closer to where they want to be; it isn’t even stopping them getting further away. To get where they want to be, he needs to stop the car, turn it around and go back on to the correct road that his wife told him to take in the first place.
That is humility, that is repentance.
Stories Jesus Told - Part 1: Great Mistakes
“You Built Where?”
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Luke 6:46-49 (The Message) “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on. 48-49 “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.”
Foundation: the underlying base or support upon which a structure is built.
How important is a good foundation and what makes a good foundation? In an article on “Foundations” by Max Alexander in the popular magazine, This Old House, Max says: A proper foundation does more than just hold a house above ground. It also keeps out moisture, insulates against the cold, and resists movement of the earth around it. Oh, and one more thing: It should last forever. No wonder builders like This Old House general contractor Tom Silva take foundations seriously. "Without a good one," he says, "you're sunk." A foundation is forever, so it makes sense to pay attention to the details that ensure it will remain dry and crack-free for as long as it has a house to hold up.
For Tom, "good" means steel-reinforced foundation walls and footings made of poured concrete. But a good foundation requires a lot more than digging a hole and pouring some concrete into forms. It must be tailored to its site like a custom suit, taking into account soil conditions, water tables, even the quality of the backfill. And as with a custom suit, every detail must be perfect: the base properly compacted, the formwork set up right, the concrete free of voids. Neglect even one of these, and the most carefully poured foundation can fail.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa - The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower located in the city of Pisa in Italy. Like its name suggest, it actually does lean to one side. The tower started to lean during construction because the foundation was built on soft ground that had difficulty supporting the weight. The lean became worse as construction continued for several decades. The Leaning Tower of Pisa took 344 years to build, beginning in August 1173. It began to lean in 1178 once construction on the second floor had begun. The lean was due to one side sinking into the ground. Interestingly though, the people of Pisa said they would rather see it fall to the ground than to make it sit right – after all, why would people come to the the Leaning Tower of Pisa if it wasn’t leaning?
People are like that – maybe their foundation is solid enough to keep them upright and they know their foundation Is weak but they’re okay with leaning.
Other weak foundation examples:
What happens to you when the winds of adversity blows and challenges apply pressure to your life? Here are some possible scenarios:
Why are there so many people who don’t have a strong foundation?
Simply put, they have their life “ladders” leaning against the wrong walls. They believe that if they have the things the “world” deems as necessary for happiness, that everything will be great. So, they pursue the possessing of those things at all costs. Their foundation is determined by the world’s standard. The problem is, that when the winds of adversity howl, they lean and often fall. Why?
People don’t have the proper foundation!
I Corinthians 3:11 (NLT) “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 2:20 (NLT) “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.”
Where are you constructing your life’s building? You basically have three choices:
Ravi Zacharias told about doing a lectureship several years ago at the Ohio State University. As he was being driven to the lecture, they passed what was then the "new" Wexner Art Center. The driver commented, "This is a new art building for the university. It is a fascinating building designed in the post-modernist view of reality." Zacharias described this fascinating building. He said, "The building has no pattern. Staircases go nowhere. Pillars support nothing. The architect designed the building to reflect [the post-modernist view of] life. It went nowhere and was mindless and senseless. Zacharias said, "I turned to the man describing it and asked, 'Did they do the same thing with the foundation?'" And the man laughed [and answered]: "You can't do that with a foundation."
A Lady named Brenda Warner had this to say: “As a young girl I put God first in my life, when my biggest concern was how to fix my hair. As I grew into an adult my concerns became much greater. I lived through my oldest child’s severe head injury, a broken marriage, poverty, and both my parents’ tragic deaths in a tornado. Although I do not understand it all, I have held onto my foundation- Jesus. I continue to realize that God IS faithful. He loves me and I need him to be first in my life.”
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.”
Stories Jesus Told
Listen to this Sermon here
Part 1: “Great Mistakes”
“Excuses, Excuses, Excuses” - Luke 14:16-24
We live in a word of excuses. Here are some complied by the Readers Digest that have been offered for not showing up for work:
This, from Sheila Crowe, Pastor of the Collins Memorial United Methodist Church here in Atlanta:
"No Excuse Sunday." Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, "Sunday is my only day to sleep in." Murine will be available for those with tired eyes... from watching television too late on Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, "The roof would cave in if I ever came to church." Blankets will be provided for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who think the church is too hot. We will have hearing aids for those who say, "The pastor speaks too softly," and cotton for those who say I preach too loudly. Score cards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. For those who wish to spend time with family on Sunday we assure you that your Father will be in attendance. There will be T.V. dinners for those who cannot go to church and cook dinner also. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Finally, the sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who have never seen the church without them
The Greatest Dinner Party Ever – so great – it lasts forever! This is eternal life – in heaven – with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit – with no sickness – with no pain – with no tears - with no disappointments – with a continual party in honor of the God head (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit).
A great list given from a sermon by David Burns:
This is the place where you will be re-united with everyone you know who has qualified and you’ll always get along, without any conflict.
This is a place where you can eat without fear of weight gain or bringing on diseases of multiple affects.
This is a place that never ends, but never grows old – it is a place of complete satisfaction – a place that needs no perspective, because it will need no explanation.
This is a place where you can go. You, yes you can go. Why can you go? Because Christ has extended the invitation.
You’re invited – period… That’s it! You breathe air and you’re a human being? You’re invited!
22 So Paul, standing before the council,[e] addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man[f] he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your[g] own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. 30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”
The door to heaven is Jesus Christ. You must enter through Him. That’s your choice – through Christ or… not…
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
I Timothy 2:1-6
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.
The Choice… It is one everyone must make. Even Kings and Presidents.
Let me illustrate with an example of former President Ronald Regan: Dr. D. James Kennedy, of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, relates this encounter with President Regan. “In 1980, I and several other evangelical leaders met with him when he was running for president. ‘Governor,’ I said, ‘I would like to ask you a very important spiritual question and that is: If something were to happen to you and you were to die and stand before God, and God Almighty said to you, “Why should I let you into my Heaven?” What would you say?’ “He was silent for a long time. Finally, after about 30 seconds he answered in somber tones that I shall never forget, ‘I don’t deserve to go to Heaven. The only thing that I could say would be, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” ‘(John 3:16).
Dr Kennedy then relates this: “Now this great man has discovered the truth of those words of Christ. He has ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth,’ and now gazes in the face of God.”
John McArthur says it like this:
“There’s only one reason why people who know the truth of the Gospel are not willing to repent and believe. It is because they will not see themselves as the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed. It has nothing to do with the style of music your Church offers, the drama and skits you stage, or the quality of your laser light show. It has everything to do with the “spiritual deadness” and “blindness of pride.” God offers nothing to people who are content with their own condition, except judgement. If you don’t think you are headed for hell, don’t’ think you need forgiveness, you put no value on the Gospel of Grace.
Your life, God’s way instead of Your life, your way. Yes, that’s right! It has to be God’s way. Unfortunately, that’s a deal breaker for some. They cannot bear the thought of not having control – at least, partial control.
Luke 9:22-26 – Jesus Speaks!
22 “The Son of Man[e] must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.
John McArthur again…
If you’re into self-love, and self-esteem, and making sure all your little needs are met, making sure you’re indulged with all your fantasies, dream, hopes & ambitions, you’re going to lose your life in eternal hell. If you love yourself so much to hold on like the Rich Young Ruler described by Jesus in Luke 18:18, you’re going to go away without eternal life. But if you hate yourself then you’re going to receive eternal life. You either save your life now and lose it forever, or lose your life now and save it forever.
God has invited us to partake of eternal life… in heaven.
Revelation 22:17 - “Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride. Whoever hears, echo, “Come!” Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink, Drink freely of the Water of Life!”
How about you?
There is a continued epidemic of people who ignore the God’s invitation to the Great Feast without a real excuse. When you die, His invitation is cancelled.
Accept the invitation today – and exercise faith and you will live eternally. See you there!
The purposes of God often develop slowly because His grand designs are never hurried. The great New England preacher Phillips Brooks was noted for his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, even he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing the floor like a caged lion. "What's the trouble, Mr. Brooks?" he asked.
"The trouble is that I'm in a hurry, but God isn't!"
Haven't we felt the same way many times?
Bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
Manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
Not hasty or impetuous
Steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
Why is having patience so difficult?
Random answers might be: it’s no fun, it is uncomfortable, it requires character and maturity, it is opposite of our culture – and it’s true! We live in an “instant” society. We can have things “instantly.” We have a great need for “Instant Gratification.” Patience is difficult to develop when we live in such an “instant gratification” world. In “The Psychology of Instant Gratification and How It Will Revolutionize Your Marketing,” an article published June 24, 2014, in Entrepreneur Magazine – we find this definition:
Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it's when you want it; and you want it now.
Instant gratification is the opposite of what we've been taught and try too hard to practice —
The article goes on to talk about: “Instant gratification and the ‘pleasure principle.’”
“In most psychological models, humans are believed to act upon the “pleasure principle.” The pleasure principle is basically the driving force that compels human beings to gratify their needs, wants, and urges. These needs, wants, and urges can be as basic as the need to breathe, eat, or drink. But they can be as complex as the “need” for an iPhone 6 or some other cool new product.”
When we, as human beings, can’t gratify our needs, wants, and urges… quickly, we experience stress. Listen to this next statement from this article:
“When we don’t get fulfillment, our psychological response is anxiety or tension.”
And, who wants to worry or be uptight?
David – a man after God’s own heart! David would often complain and be moody and be very impatient – after all he was human! But always, in the end, for David – he trusted and obeyed – end was forced to be patient!
Psalm 37:7 – “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”
In the presence of the Lord there is peace. Patience brings understanding… Patience allows you to hope!
Psalm 27:14 – “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”
As you develop this very important characteristic in your life, remember… God is patient with you.
Be Patient With God
2 Peter 3:8-9 – “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”
Why be patient with God? God has patience for you. God waited for you to accept His Gift. If you haven’t accepted it – He is still waiting.
And, as far as God not operating within your time table? Remember, time is irrelevant to God, but a relationship with you is completely relevant to Him.
Patience with our fellow man? Wow – how hard is that? Let’s look at one of our O.T. heroes to see an example of extreme patience!
Genesis 29:16-20 -
16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. 17 There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes,[a] but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.” 19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
Be Patient With Your Circumstances
Most generally, when we are impatient with our life – our circumstances – with the “cards” we’ve been dealt, it’s because we are pursuing selfish desires instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us. Living life and allowing the Holy Spirit to be the “agent” of patience gives us a chance to have the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” alive and well in our lives.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Patience – what a wonderful thing to possess…
Ask the Lord for help with your patience quotient – He loves to give good gifts to His children!
“George Mueller, the founder of a great Christian orphanage work in England in the 1800’s, was a powerful man of prayer. He knew the importance of keeping at prayer even when the answer seemed delayed. When he was young he began praying that two of his friends might be saved. He prayed for them for more than sixty years. One of the men was converted shortly before his death at what was probably the last service Mueller held. The other was saved within a year of his death.”
What do you think would have happened had Mueller given up?
Source: James Montgomery Boice. The Parables of Jesus. Chicago: Moody Press, 1983. p. 158
Back to Old School: Elisha
Elisha's work within Israel involved two areas: personal and political. As a man easily accessible to the people, he frequently interceded in the ordinary events of life that bring anguish and crisis.
But these stories within the larger context also show the power of God over all aspects of nature,
Let’s look at an amazing story found in II Kings 4:1-7
One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” 2 “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. 3 And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. 4 Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” 5 So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. 6 Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. 7 When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”
This woman who came to Elisha knew him. Her deceased husband had been part of Elisha’s group of prophets who served Elisha. She, obviously through her husband knew how God’s power was unleashed through Elisha, thus she came to him desperate, but optimistic. It was a common practice for poor people and debtors to pay their debts by selling themselves or their children as slaves to the creditors.
The Widows’ Resources (what she did have): A far as anything of value, she had only some olive oil. A much-needed commodity in that time period. However, she didn’t have much – in fact just one small container called a “flask.” This would only be enough for limited cooking or lighting a lamp for a short period of time.
Elisha’s proposed solution: Grab as many empty containers (jars) as you can find – even borrow as many as possible from friends and neighbors. Then, close your doors – and empty your flask into the jars. As one jar is filled, set it aside and fill the next jar and the next, and the next, etc.
What did the widow do? She did as she was told by the man of God. How I wish sometimes, as a pastor, when consulted by someone as to what to do… and I share an answer from God’s Word – that folks would actually do what the Bible is telling them to do!
What happened? The oil continued to flow from the flask until every jar was completely filled. The widow and her sons now had a prodigious amount of olive oil! When the widow told Elisha what had happened, he confirmed what she probably already knew – sell as much olive oil as needed to satisfy the creditors, then sell the rest as needed to live on.
What’s significant about the use of olive oil to meet the widow’s needs?
God will meet all of your needs. Philippians 4:19 – “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
What is our part in securing God’s provision?
Elisha helped people see the all-powerful God. Do you see His ability to provide all you need?
Back to Old School: Elijah – “Choices”
Marketing products totally online - Amazon USA offers over 488 million products on its website. Last year Amazon had 136 billion dollars of net sales. This equates to 100’s of items being sold every second of every day. Every day people choose items to buy from these 488 million products. You prefer a brick and mortar store? There are close to 40,000 items to choose from in one normal sized grocery store alone. We have choices!
What is a choice?
“To select freely and after consideration.” Or “to have a preference for.”
Choices are something each of us has in common. Every single day... every single moment we make choices. What to eat. What to wear. What to say. What to do. How to act. To be non-religious. To be religious. To be a Christ-follower. To be double-minded. To be single-minded.
Literally, you’ve made a thousand choices before you arrived here this morning! You had a choice whether or not to come to Legacy Church today. To argue with your spouse. To yell at your kids. To shower. To not shower. To eat breakfast. To not eat breakfast. To smile. To frown. To judge. To hate. To be indifferent (or at least act indifferent). I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Going back to the Old Testament we find an incredible story about choice.
This story is found in I Kings 18.
Let’s look at the three main characters of this story: Ahab (and wife Jezebel), Elijah and 850 prophets of the gods Baal & Asherah.
Ahab.. How can one describe such a character. Let’s ask Jeremiah and some of the other prophets who more than likely combined to write the history of the Kings describe him:
I Kings 21:25-26 - “25 (No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. 26 His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.)”
The two main idols who were the subject of Ahab and Jezebel’s worship? Baal & Asherah. What did these gods stand for? Baal was the god of supreme power – his name is derived from a word meaning “lord.” He had the power to create and grant fertility. Asherah was the goddess of fertility – worship of her stone figure, obviously made her follower party to all types of aberrant sexual practices for the sole purpose of supreme sexual satisfaction.
Elijah – A prophet of God – a “mouthpiece” of the One True God – capable of not only accessing God’s power in his own life, but asking God to perform acts on earth that could only be attributed to an all-powerful God.
Prophets of Baal & Asherah – They were the principal purveyors of these gods built of man-made materials for the purpose of worship and practicing a self-gratifying religious set of beliefs.
It is true that Ahab was the king of Israel – God’s chosen people, and… He did worship God, however, even though he did – he also worshiped other gods and promoted others to do the same. He didn’t choose.
Father of Modern Psychology, William James: "When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice."
I Kings18:16-24 - 16 So Obadiah (Ahab’s facility manager) went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” 18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.” 20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it.24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.
Someone once said: "The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created - created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating."
One may suppose the choice to support one or more gods or to try to worship both Jehovah God, the God of Israel and Baal and/or Asherah is one you can make on the spur of the moment, or when presented with various opportunities that might benefit from a multi-faceted view of whom to worship. However, Elijah has drawn a line in the sand – a line I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt is a line that today also determines our eternity. This is not a choice we make depending on what’s convenient or personally beneficial at the time, but rather one that is a result of a lengthy rumination period in our minds which eventually comes out as our own personal will. Our daily, ongoing behavior then is a result of days, weeks, months, years of this “formulation.”
Pastor Bill Hybels gives his perception of how this “rumination” occurs.
Every single day we make choices that show whether we are courageous or cowardly. We choose between the right thing and the convenient thing, sticking to a conviction or caving in for the sake of comfort, greed or approval. We choose either to take a carefully thought-out risk or to crawl into a shrinking shell of safety, security and inactivity. We choose either to believe in God and trust him, even when we do not always understand his ways, or to second-guess him and cower in the corners of doubt and fear.
Elijah was no stranger to his king’s and queen’s choices regarding the object (s) of their worship. Nor was he naïve of his people’s spiritual condition created by their followership of their rulers. Elijah was convinced that this confrontation on the mountain would once and for all re-establish the power of God and subsequently turn the Israelites back to the God of their heritage.
Billy Graham once said, "The strongest principle of life and blessings lies in our choice. Our life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of our life. So start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.”
So… what happened with the confrontation between the 850 pagan prophets and Elijah?
Let’s check it out:
I Kings 18:25-39 - 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” 26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. 27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[a] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” 28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response. 30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[b] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[c] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[d] Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[e] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” 38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”
Concerned about popular opinion? Consider the spot Elijah found himself in. 850 prophets of the most popular objects of worship of nearly everyone present and one wild-haired, simply dressed, dusty, bedraggled pastor trying to uphold to the chosen Israelites, a simple message of a single, all-powerful, yet obviously un-popular, Deity. This Deity was the God who once inflicted plagues of epic proportions upon their forefather’s oppressors, a God who had parted the Red Sea and when listened to and obeyed had rendered powerful opponents completely powerless at their hands. This Deity who now shared a small place in the worship of His own people.
An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, "What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?" The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad. Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, "They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice." The aide said, "What lies beyond the big door?" "Freedom," replied the general. "I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it."
King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and most of their loyal subjects had chosen to add the prophets of Baal and Asherah to their worship practices. It was a practice that literally tore their people apart, yet they continued in the practices, not knowing it was really the firing squad they were facing. They wanted results to their worship – the pleasures of sin the pagan gods encouraged. The intangibles of a life lived in the faith and worship of the One True God were not satisfying enough for them at the time. No matter what happened that day on the mountain, Elijah was brave enough to choose the big door… and opened it and found freedom.
Choose – what will your choice be? Will you choose the known pleasures the world offers – or will you choose the Big Door? The result of a worldly choice is the firing squad. The result of entering the door will be Life Eternal. Jesus Christ is the door. Come to God through Him today.
"If you don’t make a decision, then time will make it for you, and time will always side against you."
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Back to Old School: Abigail "Truthsayer"
Truthsayer: A person who speaks the truth, especially when the truth is contrary to conventional wisdom and goes against the norm. In the 14th century, a "soothsayer" was a person who spoke truth.
Today our central “Old School” character is Abigail. Her story is found in I Samuel 25. It is a story of three main characters, each with very distinct characteristics. Nabal, a materialistic, self-absorbed, egotistical, insolent business owner. David a champion warrior – Godly most of the time, but also a tendency to be vengeful. And Abigail, a beautiful and sensible woman – full of wisdom and discretion, and most definitely an aggressive “truthsayer.”
Read I Samuel 25
Abigail is a true representation of Christ – beautiful and full of grace and truth couple with the wisdom of knowing what to say and when.
David & Nabal are representative of two responses we can have to Christ:
Nabal is arrogant and self-centered to the point he doesn’t recognize or acknowledge his sin, nor does he even thank his wife for saving his life.
Inversely, David’s reaction to Abigail shows a tender and repentant heart coupled with gratefulness toward Abigail for her concern for his reputation and future.
The result? Nabal bears the consequences of his sin and unrepentant heart and loses not only his wife, but his life – dying in his sin. David is spared the consequences of his initial vengeful spirit and the sin he had planned – saves his reputation, preserves his leadership position and enjoys a life together with the Abigail who became Nabal’s widow to become David’s wife.
In the case of this story, the main theme of both men’s sins is pride and selfishness. Nabal showed his character by spitting in the face of David and rejecting his request for return favor. David’s character began with a murderous vengeful heart toward Nabal’s response. Nabal didn’t change his mind to make much-needed adjustments – David did.
John 8:31-32: Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
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Back to Old School: Ruth "Redeemed"
Redeemed: to buy back, to purchase ones freedom, to free from bondage, to regain ones property
In the beautiful true story of Ruth, we see the beautiful story of her being "redeemed" and through God's master plan, Ruth becomes an ancestor of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ!
As you study the story of Ruth, you will enjoy the elements and themes carried out in a most beautiful love story. Orchestrated by God you will see loss and loyalty, a return to a homeland with a special guest, a covertly planned midnight meeting, a public transaction, an unlikely marriage, a child and most of all love.
All of us need to be redeemed - to be saved from our sin and the guilt that our sin produces.
The word redeemed is translated from the Greek word "lytrosis" meaning literally "a ransoming" "deliverance" or "a rescue."
That is exactly what Christ did on the cross over 2000 years ago.
Our lives are doomed from the beginning to a life apart from God, a life that does not involve heaven. Until we are "redeemed" from sin, our fate is sure.
God hates the sin that is in us - and cannot allow us into a holy and righteous heaven. But He loves us and sent us a "Redeemer!"
Romans 6:8 - "God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."
Christ literally became our "lytrosis!"
Furthermore, we see in Romans 6:9 - "and since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's condemnation."
In our story today we find Boaz as the "Redeemer" for Ruth. God is in the business of redemption - and Boaz was conceived as part of this plan to show this mega-theme! Boaz's mother was no other than Rahab, the prostitute who hid the Israelite spies and gained her freedom from her city's destruction by means of hanging a Scarlet Rope from her window. Rahab was redeemed from a life of sin to also become an ancestor of Jesus!
Boaz and Ruth miraculously had son named Obed who was the father of King David- one who also experienced redemption from God and a key figure in the earthly ancestry of Christ our redeemer!
Just like Ruth - we all need a redeemer! Are you part of "the redeemed?" If so, have you sufficiently thanked God for being your "lytrosis?"
Ruth went from being a foreigner to being redeemed to become a redeemed herself. The earthly grandmother of David - the ancestral line of Jesus Christ our Lord!
Once you have been redeemed, you too can share about the Redeemer with everyone everywhere so they too can experience "lytrosis" through Christ!
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