Sunday Sermon 8.21.21
It seems like in every arena of life we see people seized with passionate resolve to walk a path they are conviced is right, and yet, somehow, in the broader picture with added light and insight that path was horribly wrong.
Whether we look to politics, or the heated issues of the day involving what our children are being taught, or the traditions within our religious communities, or across the seas to a nation under seige by a violent sect of extremists, we cannot help but be gripped with the zealous threatenings and assaults on what is right by that which is wrong.
I am reminded of a man who’s zeal for his God put him on a path with authorization to capture and imprison all believers of The Way. He is described this way –
“____________, (his name) full of angry threats and rage wanted to murder the disciples of the Lord.”Acts 9:1
This man, was zealous for his God, and had lived a pretty blameless life, according to his religious beliefs. He was a Roman citizen, raised in the strictest Hebrew teachings, and was well respected within his community of religious adherents.
He was on a manhunt for believers and followers of The Way. He believed what he was doing was pleasing to his God. He was firecely passionate, so much so, his passion turned to rage. His anger boiled over and in it he believed He was doing the right things.
But he was oh, so wrong.
The Passion Translation notes in Acts 9, where his story is told:
“The conversion of Saul the legalist into Paul the grace preacher has a significant lesson for us. We can be amazingly wrong while thinking we are doing right.”Acts 9:11-12 TPT notes
So, what’s the lesson?
This man Saul, was a passionate persecutor of believers. This man Saul, was the one who was in agreement with the stonning of Stephen and watched it happen as he guarded the murders’ clothes. This man Saul, was on a mission that he thought was right. And this man Saul, gets knocked off of his high horse by a blinding light and booming voice.
A voice from heaven spoke to him, as his entourage listened, and told him his passion was misdirected, his efforts off course, and his beliefs out of whack. So, for three days, he blindly waited without eating, for more clarity and direction. He had heard the voice of The Lord, and he would wait for further instruction from that powerful voice.
It came via a messenger, sent by God. Ananias went to find this blind, angry man, and delivered God’s message to him.
” Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me to pray for you so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately he got up and was baptized… and within the hour he was in the synagogues, preaching Jesus is the Son of God. Those who heard him were astonished, saying, “Isn’t this the Saul who furiously persecuted those who called on the name of Jesus?”Acts 9:17-21
Saul was amazingly wrong but God spoke to him redirecting his passion, re-charting his course, and realigning his beliefs. Giving him light, inspiration, revelation and boldness, God took this man who was so passionately off course and set him straight. There on Straight street, Saul was shown the right, true way.
Friends, this account gives me such hope!
God sees our heart. If that heart is desirous of pleasing Him, faith-filled, and honestly willing to change, He will show up in that life/heart. He will speak and knock us off our high horse, to realign us with what is right in His eyes.
There is hope!
Whether in the political arena, educational, international, or personal, God is able to reveal what is truly right in His eyes to those who are so amazingly wrong today.
Within an hour God can open blind eyes, change the passions of a man, and the course of history.
Let’s not give up hope on any situation or person.
If God did this for Saul, who was so amazingly wrong, there is no one beyond His reach.
Go with God,
Sunday Sermon 12.12.20 This is the 2nd of a four part series from Isaiah 40 on Comfort
Look no further, here you will find COMFORT, encouragement, help and hope.
Regardless of the previous voices that you have been hearing, this voice, right here, is speaking comfort – freedom from pain or constraint and ease of grief or distress.
Busting into your world of distress, weariness, and discouragement is a resounding voice calling – “Make room for the Lord! Get ready. Give Him space.” Isaiah 40:3
Keep reading and I will show you how He comes to bring you comfort from:
- mountains of trouble
- rough places
All of these situations are spoken of clearly in Isaiah 40.
Isaiah 40 represents a dramatic shift in the book and that shift starts with a comforting voice speaking into these obstacles in our life. Check it out.
To begin with, the comfort offered here comes from the arrival of the Lord. By that we mean, God’s presence actually showing up in your life and situation. Make space for Him, make way for Him, prepare for His presence in your life. He’s coming to bring you comfort.
Are you prepared for His presence to overwhelm you, right now, as you sit there? Make yourself ready, prepare your heart to receive the provision that comes with His presence. Stop, focus, breathe deeply, soak Him in.
When He arrives He promises to do several things. The first one mentioned in Isaiah 40:4 is –
“Every valley will be raised up”
Valleys are low places, depressions in the landscape. Many times surrounded by mountains and covered in shadows. Valleys can be lonely places, dark places, isolating places. Psalm 23 tells us there is a valley of the shadow of death.
These valleys represent depression. In the low places of depression, His presence will overshadow you. His presence will comfort you. His presence will raise you up. EVERY VALLEY WILL BE RAISED UP.
He wants you to be free of depression and hopelessness. He has a plan for you and a future. He knows your path and will walk with you through the valley to the other side. Make room for Him. Prepare for His presence. Place you hand in His and allow Him to lead you through your depressed valleys and raise you up.
Next He promises –
“Every mountain and hill will be made low.”
Those mountains of troublesome ideas, thoughts, and plans that are so big they can be scary… He will bring them down to size!
Mountains are huge obstacles and sometimes the thoughts within our minds are huge obstacles. Other times, the obstacle is a mountain of seemingly unsurpassable roadblocks. No matter what, whether facing the mountain and even the smaller sized hill, we can find His comfort.
In scripture mountains represent governments. So even when government seems like an obstacle, God promises to bring them down to size.
Remember Jesus told his disciples, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move.” Matthew 17:20
I’m still working on that kind of faith. I guess I still don’t have even a tiny mustard seed worth yet, but I’m not giving up, and I am still believing. I will exercise my faith, to see His presence and comfort in the face of my mountainous obstacles.
The third promise He gives us is that He will make –
“the rough places plain”
Haven’t there been excessive rough places in your life? Rough situations, rough expectations, rough disappointments, rough relationships, rough, rough, rough. Geesh, we sound like a dog.
Bumps here and ruts there. Rough storms and issues to deal with.
Our comforting God assures us that He will make those rough, bumpy places smooth.
Just like He did for the disciples, in that boat, in the storm, He will stand next to you and speak to the storm, “Peace, be still”, and you will see smooth water where there were rough seas.
His comfort, peace and safety come when facing the rough obstacles.
Lastly, His comfort is promised when facing the obstacle of corruption. Look at what Isaiah says:
“and the crooked places plain.”
“Crooked” always represents twisted, and corrupt ways, ideas and people.
Scripture is full of judgment being called down on corruption. Corruption is never blessed or honored and even though it’s judgment may not come until the next life, it will surely come.
But it is satisfying here, in Isaiah 40, amidst this dramatic shift for the Israelites and thereby for us, that we are comforted by the fact that corruption will be made plain. Corruption will be exposed. Corruption will be judged.
These four obstacles have wormed their way into our lives: depression, mountains of trouble, rough patches and corruption. Yet, we are not without hope, consolation and comfort.
Make room in your life for the presence of the Lord. Prepare a place for Him to reside and in doing so you will find the comfort, strength and victory over these obstacles that you crave.
Don’t delay. This can be immediate and permanent.
And should you face these or any obstacles, keep exercising that faith muscle, so that you can reach the mustard seed size.
In the face of all of your obstacles, there is a voice calling to you, offering you peace and comfort.
In fact, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”.
Go with God.
Sunday Sermon 10.17.20
Spoiled foods can be beyond hope. A totaled car can be beyond hope. A fire’s destruction can be beyond hope.
But for people there is always hope. There is no situation so bad, no sin so grievous, no distress so deep that hope is inaccessible or change not possible.
Some of you may need to reread that last sentence. Go ahead. I know it is bold, but I also know it is accurate.
To support that statement and encourage you today, I want to take a deep dive into the bible king Manasseh, of Judah. You will find his story in 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21.
As we look at his life, notice his situation, sins and distress. Compare across to your life, draw comparisons and gather your takeaways.
Here we go.
Manasseh was the 14th king of Judah and the oldest son of Hezekiah, the previous king. He was born during the 15 years that God added to Hezekiah’s life. Hezekiah was a really good king who followed God’s ways. (that is why in his sickness he prayed and asked God’s help, to which he was granted 15 more years of life.)
Manasseh’s name means “one who forgets”. That’s important.
Manasseh reigned over Judah for 55 long years. In those years he totally undid, disgraced, rejected and demolished all the good that his dad had done in the kingdom. He was one who forgot the ways of his dad the ways of his upbringing.
Not only did he forget, he willfully, actively, passionately and nationally followed these evil practices. These practices were not only a regular part of his daily life, but he had them instituted as national norms in Judah. The entire nation followed these “detestable” practices.
From 1 Chronicles 33:3-10:
- he rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed – these were sex and religion shrines scattered all over the nation. The sexual perversion involved here is astonishing and involved phallic statues in abundance.
- he bowed down to the starry hosts – he worshipped cosmic powers and took orders from the constellations.
- he built altars in the Lord’s temple – cosmic altars, altars to Baal and Asherah, altars to many secular gods.
- he practiced child sacrifice – Molech was worshipped by offering children in the fire. He offered his own sons and perhaps even his grandsons in this ritual sacrifice.
- he practiced witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums – he gave full way to Satanic rituals, seances and the underworld.
- “he did much evil in the eyes of the Lord” – bad dude!
- the last straw, he had built and erected a statue to Asherah in the Lord’s temple – this sex goddess, was now worshipped in the Lord’s temple
- Manasseh led the people astray – what he did privately was put into national practice and legislation
- “they did more evil than the nations” – now that’s saying something, that’s alot of evil
One last sad note to Manasseh and the nations evil practices-
“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”2 Chronicles 33:10
Not only was he one evil practicing, sex maniac, proud, idolatrous, killer, but when the Lord spoke to him, he ignored the Lord’s voice.
Manasseh is considered the most wicked king in Judah’s history. There was none worse. Ahab was the worst in Israel and Manasseh the worst in Judah. Now you can see why, right?
Tradition and scholars tell us that Manasseh is probably the one who had the prophet Isaiah cut in two. Now that’s no way to treat your Grandfather. Geesh.
His tyrannical reign lasted for over half century!
So Manasseh’s situation is pretty dire. He is in deep, needless to say. His sins are pretty insurmountable as well, cuz these are “big time sins”. So how is his distress? Let’s check it out.
First, we must continue the story.
The Bible tells us that because Manasseh and the people paid no attention to the Lord, (forgot the Lord and His ways), the Lord allowed the Assyrians to overthrow the city and capture the King. He was taken to Babylon as a prisoner, bound in shackles, and a hook in his nose. 2 Chronicles 33:11
Here is where we identify Manasseh’s distress.
“In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.” And he prayed to him.2 Chronicles 33:12
While a prisoner of war, in prison, in a foreign land we see his distress. While he is powerless, alone, overwhelmed, outnumbered and empty his distress is evident.
What does he do in this state?
He sought God’s favor, humbled himself greatly and prayed.
Now that is a turn around!
Somehow, in his distress he remembered the spiritual training of his childhood. The training of his ancestors. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I’m sure Hezekiah was looking over the balcony of heaven finally cheering on his once evil son.
So we have the most vile, perverse, corrupt, person & political leader crying out to God. He needed his own experience with God, not his dad’s. He was calling out for it.
“God speaks to us in our pleasures but he shouts to us in our pains.”
God had been shouting to Manasseh but now Manasseh was shouting out to him.
How did God respond?
“And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”2 Chronicles 33:13
This is mindboggling to me.
After life long practices of gross and despicable sins, once Manasseh humbled himself and sincerely presented himself before the Lord – THE LORD WAS MOVED!
His humility, laying down his pride, and seeking God’s blessing and favor actually moved God to the action of restoring Manasseh to his kingdom.
In the Apocryphal book of “The Prayer of Manasses” he says, “I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea.”
There is always hope.
Our God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, just, strong, engaging, and ever present.
The story doesn’t end there tho’. Manasseh made a drastic and remarkable change when he returned to Jerusalem.
Side note- Do you think the citizens of the city were glad to see him return or scared for their lives? You see, personal repentance brings forgiveness but the influence of sin lingers and abides.
When he returned, he:
- rebuilt the city wall & made it higher- reinforced the city defenses
- stationed guards around the city
- got rid of foreign gods
- removed all the idols and altars in the temple
- restored the altar of the Lord
His personal experience with God, “knowing that the Lord is God” motivated his change in behavior, word and deed. He took action nationally to undo what he had done. He took action personally. He had truly met God and was changed.
The amount of evil he had done was totally forgiven and covered because he humbled himself, sought the favor of the Lord and prayed to Him. His sins were forgiven, his distress was lifted and his situation changed.
God heard. God was moved. God responded to Manasseh’s humility and entreaty. God changed him. his situation, his sin, and his distress.
There is always hope.
If there is hope for Manasseh there is hope for all.
“No mortal man hath excuse to perish is despair. No one is justified in saying God will never forgive me.”Spurgeon
Let’s return to our opening – There is no situation so bad, no sin so grievous, no distress so deep that hope is inaccessible or change not possible.
There is always hope for those who in humility make their entreaty of the Lord.
There is always hope.
Go with God.
When you receive “a bad report”, when you are feeling the walls closing in on you, when circumstances go from bad to worse – how big is your God?
When you see no way possible, when funds are low and stressors are high – how big is your God?
When you have prayed and see no “answer”, when you read and see “no answer”, when your faith is all but gone – how big is your God?
How big is your God? Does your God even care? Is He listening?
Is He bigger than your situation? Bigger than your problem? Is He bigger than you can imagine? What are His limitations? How big is your God?
Is your God made by man? Ideas prescribed by human thinking? Is your God based on the philosophies of man and man’s wisdom?
What God is it that receives your praise? Your strength? Your time? How big is your God?
This is a simple call to all who will listen, how big is your God? Because in these days, the god you lean upon, should be the One you trust in, invest in and be the One who saves, strengthens and uses you. So, how big is He?
Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…Isaiah 40:12
Think of it, visualize it… God, holding up his thumb and little finger in front of him and using it to measure the expanse of the skies, from one end of the universe to the other. On my hand, that span barely measures 7 inches. The God of the universe measures that very universe as a master navigator or chief contractor with his thumb and little finger.
That’s a big God!
That is a God who’s power is limitless. Who’s attention to detail never misses even the slightest change or move. That is a God who not only cares about every detail in his creation’s life but is big and powerful enough to provide the very answer to every need that his creation has.
That’s a big God. That’s our God.
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out all the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”Isaiah 40:25-26
That is the very God who cares for you; is able to provide for you all you need. That is the God who has the answers, wisdom, strength, and is always listening to prayers. He will never, ever leave you on your own to figure it out by yourself.
That is a big God, yet that is a personal, loving and all sufficient God, who simply asks for your devotion. That’s a deal I’ll take any day!
Our God is limitless, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and best of all loving. He will not be confined, limited, shut down, or locked up. He is the Great “I AM”, who will be there for you in every situation.
So, how big is your God?
Cheers to you
Sunday Sermon 5.3.20
” Hope deferred makes the heart sick”Proverbs 13:12 NIV
This phrase/verse has been weighing heavily on my heart lately.
” When hope’s dream seems to drag on and on, the delay can be depressing.”Proverbs 13:12 The Passion Translation
The loss of hope is debilitating. Paralyzing. Depressing for sure. Today, we want to talk about the importance of hope and offer you some solid examples of those who had hope in difficult situations.
A study of the original Hebrew words used in this passage from Proverbs would reveal that this is a much better transliteration of Proverbs 13:12:
” When a prophetic vision or expectation from the Lord is delayed, prolonged or removed; feelings, will, and intellect are all worn down, and worn out, making one sick and weak.”Proverbs 13:12 original Hebrew meaning
You see, when hope is removed from the equation, our mind, will and intellect become worn out and weak.
Let’s be honest, it has been really tough to watch the news and read the latest reports without emotions rising up within us. Each day we hear restriction updates, business expectations, state revisions, financial concerns and add the family realities chiming in, we are definitely being worn out and rubbed down by the news.
Just today, I had to cancel our flight and accommodation reservations to Honolulu in mid-May for our son’s wedding! Vacations are being cancelled or postponed, graduations are not receiving the honor they are due, workers are still unemployed, travel has been suspended, schools have been closed and morphed into online, distance education, church meetings are virtual, gatherings are forbidden and freedoms have been handcuffed.
Hope has definitely been deferred!
Today, I’d like to submit to you stories of people who also faced a deferment of hope so that “hopefully” we can be encouraged and keep us from allowing our will, feelings and intellect from becoming “sick”.
Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman (Psychology.com) tells us from his studies, that hope is a “cognitive motivational system.” It starts in the emotions and follows to the cognitions (mind). Lord knows, our emotions have been stirred enough and pressed upon enough to affect our thinking. Right?
But your hope, is more than a cognitive or emotional reaction.
Dr. Jerome Groopman, in his book, “The Anatomy of Hope”, tells us that belief and expectation are key elements of hope and they can block pain by releasing endorphins and enkephalins because they act like morphine in the brain and body.
So hope, in and of itself, has a powerful effect in the human body, mind, intellect and emotions. And hope triggers a virtuous cycle.
We are told that there are 4 types of hope. Let’s look at each of those and then look at those stories of biblical characters who demonstrated that kind of hope. Ready?
These are the four types of hope that psychologists say we have:
- 1. Realistic
- 2. Utopian
- 3. Chosen
- 4. Transcendent
In reality, if we are struggling with having hope, who cares that there are four kinds??! But here goes, anyway.
1. Realistic hope – this is the hope that says in a cancer situation, if we take these meds it will help. It is realistic in and about the situation.
Abraham and Sarah, in Genesis 15 were given a promise of a son of blessing and yet 60, 70, 80 years passes before Isaac, that son of promise was born.
They lived a normal family life for years with that hope and without it’s fulfillment. They tried to hurry the hope and Ishmael was born, but he wasn’t the son of promise. The hope of a son of promise had been rubbed down and worn out as Ishmael grew to the age of 13. Their hearts could haven been sick. Their hope could have escaped.
And yet, in Romans it says in chapter 4, verse 18, ” Against all odds, when it looked hopeless, Abraham believed the promise and expected God to fulfill it. He took God at His word…”. Hope was deferred for at least 13 and maybe 60 years, and yet Abraham and Sarah had hope in the God of their circumstances. They were realistic in their circumstances.
2. Utopian hope – is a collective hope, negating the present and driven for a better future.
Joshua and Caleb, in the book of Joshua would be a great dipiction of this type of hope. They held out for the collective victory of Israel and their entering Canaan for 40 years. Do you think that after 40 years of hoping, they may have been a little worn down? A little heart sick? Was their hope deferred? You betcha!
Yet, after a 40 year wait, their hope was strong and Caleb said, “So here I am today, 85 years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle as I was then. Now give me this hill country…” Joshua 14:10-12 NIV
Joshua and Caleb hung onto the Utopian hope of a better future of fulfillment for Israel.
3. Chosen hope – chosen hope helps us live in a difficult, present situation with an uncertain future. It helps us to regulate negative emotions.
Joseph, in Genesis 37, who dreamed at age 17 of his brothers bowing before him, had that dream burning in his heart and thoughts for 13 years! In those 13 years he was betrayed and sold as a slave by his brothers. Imprisoned in Pharaoh’s palace, yet favored and set as a leader there. Falsely accused of sexual assault, thrown into prison again. Joseph’s dream, still burning in his heart, fighting off deferment sickness, he hoped until he finally became the Prime Minister. And then, his brothers came and bowed down before him. His chosen hope was finally fulfilled.
David, at a young age of probably 15, was anointed to be the next King of Israel. (1Samuel 16) That anointing, held him and his hope, through so many discouraging circumstances. He was literally searched for as an enemy of the king and his life was in danger, sought after, and chased down for 15 years. He did not become king until he was 30 years old. 15 years of hoping… 15 years of deferment. Yet he chose to “be strong and hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24
4. Transcendent hope – a general hopefulness that something good can happen.
Romans 8:28 – In all things, God works for the good of those who love him…
Psalm 38:15 – Lord, I hope in you
Lamentations 3:21 – This I recall to mind, thereore have I hope
These verses are just a few of the many we are given assuring us that something good will happen to those who put their hope in the Lord.
Yet, the best example of transcendent hope would be Jesus, the epitome of transcendent hope. His hope was fixed not on the now, but on the future… “Who for the joy set before him endured the cross..”. Hebrews. 12:2
And yet, even Jesus hoped. As a 12 year old kid, stumping the Rabbi’s until he entered his ministry in AD 26, he hoped. He hoped as he called the disciples and built the Kingdom of God inside them. He hoped as he taught the crowds, healed the sick, and raised the dead. He hoped in the garden of Gethsemane and he hoped hanging on the cross. He hoped in that empty tomb, he hoped as he ascended from that hill.
He hoped for them, he hoped for us, that we would hope without growing weak, tired, worn out or rubbed thin. He hoped that we would hope in Him, His promises and His Word.
Jesus’ hope transcended every limit.
Our hope can be secure like these heroes of hope, when it is anchored to God’s promises, (Hebrews, 1 Peter, Acts 26), when it is anchored to Jesus (1Timothy. 1:1), and when it is anchored to the Word. (Romans 15:4.)
Those three, God’s promises, Jesus, and The Word of God make for us a three-fold cord, that will not be easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) When our hope is built upon these, we are anchored, secure with an UNSWERVING HOPE. No matter the length of wait, wearing, or rubbing.
When our hope is anchored in Jesus, His Word and His promises we are secure. Our mind, emotions, will and intellect are strong and stable. We are not sickly. Our hope is in Him and our emotions will follow our will.
That kind of hope motivates. That kind of hope is congious. That type of hope can be learned. That type of hope is healthy and promotes healthy behaviors.
Hope deferred does NOT have to make your heart sick when it is anchored God’s promises.
But if it does, please allow Abraham, Sarah, Joshua, Caleb, Joseph and even Hannah, Simeon, Anna to encourage you to not allow the constant rubbing away of freedoms & strength in your situation to make you sick, weak, and depressed.
Hope deferred, may make the heart sick, but may it not be your heart, because you are anchored into Jesus, His Word and His promises.