Out of the Darkness

I’m talking today about coming out of the darkness. The passage of scripture I’m using today is talking about one of the six miracles that John use to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

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The man asked to be tied to the helm.

Before I get into the Scripture, I want to tell you about a man who was strapped to the wheel of the ship. The wheel guided the ship and he was at the helm. He was strapped there because a great storm had come up. It had just blown a man overboard.

He asked to be taken to the helm and tied to the wheel, where he hoped he would be able to at least try to keep the ship from capsizing.

As we look at this passage of Scripture together, you will see that this is about a man who was born blind and was healed by Jesus.

I’m talking about coming out of the darkness. All the man in this story had ever known was darkness. So John chapter nine tells the story of this man who was born blind.

I’m going to talk about the doubt. Then the investigation, the fearful confirmation, the troubling testimony, and a great follow-up event to this man being healed.

Today's Scripture
Today’s Scripture

John 9 (MEV)

 As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But it happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. I must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva. He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he went away and washed, and returned seeing. The neighbors and those who had previously seen that he was blind said, “Is this not he who sat and begged?” Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” But he said, “I am he.” 10 So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “A Man called Jesus made clay, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath day.”Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” So there was division among them. 17 Then they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?”He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of the one who had received his sight. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees, we do not know, or who opened his eyes, we do not know. He is of age. Ask him. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this, because they feared the Jews. For the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed that He was the Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age. Ask him.” 24 So again they called the man who was blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this Man is a sinner.” 25 He said, “I do not know if He is a sinner. I know one thing: I was blind, but now I see.” 26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” 28 Then they insulted him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered, “Well, here is an amazing thing! You do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began, it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were completely born in sin. Are you teaching us?” And they threw him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

The Event

First of all, let’s look at the event, found in verses 1-12,

There are two things related to the fact of Jesus being the Son of God.

One of the last things He says is “I am the light of the world.” But the other world talks about doing the work to stay. If you have someone that you want to introduce to Jesus Christ, don’t put it off until it’s too late

Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with saliva. He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”

Jesus healed a man who had spent his life in physical darkness
Jesus healed a man who had spent his life in physical darkness.

Now in earlier miracles, He just spoke the Word and the person was healed. In this case, He made clay with dirt and saliva, put it on the man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool.

Maybe He just wanted to see if the man would be obedient. I really don’t know why He didn’t just speak the word in this case, but He didn’t. He told him to go to the pool.

So the man went and washed and returned.

There was the miracle.

The neighbors and those who had previously seen that he was blind discovered that he could now see. They said, “This is not he who said.” While some others said, “This is he.” and still others said, “He is like him, but it is not him.”

Finally, the man spoke up and said, “I am he.”
They asked, “How were your eyes open?”
He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went away and washed and I received my sight.”
Then he said to him, “Where is He?”

You’ll see that we’re going to move into an investigation.

The Investigation

Sometimes investigations are for the real purpose of trying to find the truth. Sometimes they’re fishing around to see if something can be found to bring an accusation of wrongdoing. An investigation into the healing of this blind man was about to begin.

In verses 13-18, we see the Pharisees begin to investigate Jesus.

The man who had been healed was taken to the Pharisees.

You see, it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Therefore, the Pharisees also asked how he received his sight.
He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I was blind and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God. because He does not keep the Sabbath day.”

The Pharisees felt compelled to investigate.
The Pharisees felt compelled to investigate.

They didn’t realize that they were talking to the man who created the Sabbath day. Jesus said He created the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Jesus gave us some instructions about the Sabbath day. He said you are to do good on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:12) It was good to heal a man who had been blind from birth…it was good to do that.

But the Pharisees came and were being very legalistic about the Sabbath day, They were actually just using that as an excuse to accuse Jesus, so they said this Man was not from God, because He did not keep the Sabbath.

As I said, Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

Jesus asked them, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” See, they were looking at Jesus as being just a man.

A division arose among them and then they asked the (formerly) blind man again, “What do you say about Him since He opened your eyes?
He said, “He is a prophet.”

Well, the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and received his sight so they needed to confirm that this indeed was a man who was blind from birth and they were going to get the confirmation even though it was a fearful confirmation.

Fearful Confirmation

This part of the event is found in verses 19-23.

The Pharisees spoke with the man’s parents to confirm that it was indeed their son.
They asked them, “Is this your son, whom you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
The parents answered, ” We know this is our son. But how he now sees, we do not know. Who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age. Ask him. He will speak for himself.”

The man's parents were nervous.
The man’s parents were nervous.

His parents answered this way because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had said that if anyone would say that Jesus was the Christ, that person would be put out of the synagogue.

There was confirmation from the parents, who knew better than anyone else, that this indeed was their son. They also knew that he was blind from birth. They knew that he was not a con man going around begging, but they knew about him being blind. Now he could see.

What a wonderful miracle they had experienced! But because of the Pharisees, they feared that if they said too much about who Jesus was, they would be put out of the synagogue.

We need to be bold in our witness for Jesus and in standing up for Him.

So we’ve had the events, the investigation, the fearful confirmation here.

Troubling Testimony

Now we’ve come to a troubling testimony in verses 24-34.

You saw that his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”

So they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man Jesus is a sinner.”
He said, “I do not know if he is a sinner. I just know one thing. I was blind, but now I see.”

There can be a lot of things that people can bring up and try to trip you up about your faith in Jesus Christ, but there is one thing you know: Jesus Christ came to you and restored you.

Maybe you were spiritually blind and in darkness, but you came out of your blindness. You came out of your darkness into His marvelous light.

The Pharisees continued to question the man. They asked again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?
He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” (I don’t know if he knew that he was playing with them a little bit here but it’s kind of like he was) “Do you also want to become his disciples?”
Well, that infuriated them, so then they turned on him, insulted him, and said, “You are his disciple. We are Moses’s. We know that God has spoken to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.

The Pharisees had some questions for the healed man.
The Pharisees had some questions for the healed man.

Some of them knew that he was from Nazareth. Some of his disciples had said “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” (John 1:44-46)

The man answered, “Well, here is an amazing thing. You do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners but if anyone is a worshipper of God, and does His will, He hears him.”

This man turned their words back on. He said, “You’re saying that this man is a sinner, but we know that from your teaching that God does not listen to sinners. But He listened to this Man’s prayer because my eyes are now open. He hears Him. Since the world began it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of someone blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were completely born in sin. Are you teaching us?” and they threw him out.

That troubling testimony was the man who said “I know one thing I couldn’t see and now I can.”

Salvation and Spiritual Healing

Next, I’ll discuss a true conversion, which is found in verses 35-41

You see, the man received his sight, which is good. That was a glorious day for him – he was no longer in physical darkness. But he needed something else: He needed his sins to be forgiven. He needed to be brought out of that spiritual darkness that we are all in until we receive Jesus.

He needed deliverance from spiritual darkness.
He needed deliverance from spiritual darkness.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out. When He found him, He asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
He responded, “Who is the Lord that I believe in Him?”
Jesus said, “You have seen Him.” (So it had to be recent because he hadn’t able to see, physically, for very long.) “You have seen Him and it is He who speaks with you.”

You may see a TV documentary about Christianity and some so-called expert religious will make the statement that Jesus never claimed to be God, or that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, or never claimed to be the Messiah.

You can just bring them right to the ninth chapter of John, and tell them that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Remember, if they don’t know what they’re talking about in that regard, then you don’t need to pay attention to the other stuff they’re saying, like trying to downplay the miracles of Jesus or His divinity.

Jesus made the claim here though, that “I. It is He who speaks with you.”
In other words, He’s saying, “I am the Son of God.”

God or Man?

God or just a man?
God or just a man?

Either He made a false claim or a true claim. If He made a true claim, and it was really true, then that’s fine. But if He made a false claim, there are some problems here with people who want to say, “Well, Jesus was not God, but He was a good teacher or a good moral man.”

Let me tell you some problems with that. If Jesus said, “I am the Son of God.” and it was a false statement, you have two possibilities. Either He knew He was making a false statement, or He didn’t know He was making a false statement.

If he claimed to be God and was not, He didn’t know He was not.

Then there is a problem with saying that He was a great teacher. If He didn’t even know who He is. then He didn’t know that.

The other one is that if He truly thought he was God but He was not, people would say that He was crazy.

If He made a false statement, He would have known that it was false, so He would be a liar. A liar would not be a great teacher or a great example of morality.

You can’t have it both ways, saying that Jesus is a good teacher or a good man, but He was not God.

CS Lewis put forth this argument: He said He was either Lord, liar or lunatic. It had to be one of those since He claimed to be God.

If it was true that He was God, He was the Lord.

If He claimed to be God, and it was false, but He didn’t know it was false, then He was a lunatic.

If He claimed to be God, and He knew that His claim was false, then He was a liar.

He was indeed the Lord God.

Out of Darkness

So the man who had been healed had the opportunity to hear. He had come out of physical darkness into the light, and now he had the opportunity to step out of spiritual darkness and to the light of salvation-the light of Jesus Christ.

The man said, “Lord, I believe.” and worshipped Jesus.

Freedom from spiritual darkness.
Jesus offers freedom from spiritual darkness.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who do not see may see.”

So those who are walking in spiritual darkness, when they hear the words of God from the Bible, or hear the teachings of Jesus, have the opportunity to see and to have those spiritual highs.

But He also said that those who see may become blind. There are none so blind as those who will not see. The prophet Jeremiah made a statement similar to that. (Jeremiah 5:21) .

But here were the Pharisees. They were choosing to be blind. They were going to become blind because they would not see the truth.

Jesus knew, though, that they were claiming that they could see. He told them that if they were doing this in ignorance, then that would be one thing.

Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words and said, “Are we also blind?” and of course they were, because they were not accepting Jesus.

But He used their words when they claimed that they had great spiritual insight. He said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin.” ( In other words, it would not be a conscious sin. on your part) “But you say you see, therefore, your sin remains.”

So you’ve seen the event, the investigation, the fearful confirmation, the troubling testimony, and the true conversion of the man who was born blind.

Let’s go back to the sailor who was strapped to the wheel that was trying to steer the ship. He was born in the 1700s. Both his mother and father were present in the home, although his father had to be gone quite often because his father was a seafaring man.

Now his mother was a Puritan. She was a Christian. She had songs that were children’s songs. She talked to her son. He was young, and she also had him memorize some Bible verses, but the father had to be gone for a month, two months, and, on one occasion, three years. The young boy did not see his father often but his parents were married, not separated. When the father wasn’t traveling for work, they were both present in the home.

Once, when the father was away during one of his voyages, the boy’s mother got tuberculosis, and the mother who loved this boy so much died.

After that, the boy started getting resentful. Then his father got remarried. So then he has a stepmother. History doesn’t tell us if the stepmother was evil or kind.

She just was not the one that he loved, the one that had raised him.

Then he was sent off to boarding schools, so his resentment continued to grow. He became rebellious and caused problems wherever he was.

By the time he was 11 years old, his father decided to pull him out of boarding school and take him to sea with him.

So this 11-year-old boy started on the sea voyage as well. He spent time around men who were not a good influence and their language was terrible. He picked that up quickly and could cuss with the best of them.

Through all of that, he started drifting away from his mother’s earlier teachings. In addition, he was resentful that his mother had been taken away from him.

Well, this went on for years, until the father retired. THe son had learned the art of sailing, and he was conscripted to be a sailor in the Royal Navy. He didn’t like it. He disliked it so much that he wanted to desert but when he tried, he couldn’t get away with it.

He spent a lot of time at sea.
He spent a lot

Then he got the thought to ask for a transfer to another ship. Now there was a problem with this other ship: It was involved in what we today would call human trafficking. They were going to other countries, buying people, and bringing them back and selling them. We call that slavery. So, he was put on a slave ship.

Well when he got on the slave ship, again, he was rebellious against the captain. He started writing and found that he could write poetry. Well, he wrote derogatory poems about the captain. The problem was that some of the crew picked those up too, and started reciting them.

The captain wasn’t happy with that, so took him and gave him to a slave trader He was put in with the rest of the people that he had trafficked to his country. While he wasn’t a slave himself, he stayed in the situation for two years, until his father heard what was going on and sent a friend to try to rescue him.

I don’t know if the friend was able to negotiate his release, or how he got him released, but he was indeed released.

He then became the captain of a couple of those slave ships but was a crew member at another time. and that’s where we were when I started this post.

He had time to think during the storm
He had time to think during the storm.

He was a crew member, the storm was going the sails had been ripped to shreds, and they were having to manually pump the water out of the ship. They were all exhausted. He saw people swept overboard, and so we asked to be tied to the wheel that would steer the ship.

They complied with his request. The storm went on terribly, and he was there for eleven hours. During that time, he got to contemplate his life. He thought about what his mother had taught him. Some of those scripture verses that he had memorized as a child may have come back to him. Even though he was one of the most profane crew members, in recent weeks, he had read some Christian literature.

He realized that they were not going to survive the storm unless it were for God’s mercy. Somebody cried out for mercy to the Lord. Later on, he pointed to this as his time of conversion.

Some of the cargo in the ship shifted and blocked the hole so the water could not come in with such force, and the pumps began to work better.

Finally, the storm subsided and they were saved.

His spiritual growth was not instantaneous, though. Even though he called upon the Lord, he was still involved in human trafficking.

He was the captain of a couple of more ships that were involved in this, but he became more and more convicted about this not being the proper way to treat other human beings. In fact, even though he was taking people to be delivered, he instructed his crew members to treat them more kindly than he had ever instructed anyone before.

Then he had a stroke and could not return to the sea.

The man’s name was John. John married his childhood sweetheart whose name was Mary, but ent by the nickname Polly.

The two became more and more convinced that the slave trade was wrong. He was no longer captaining those ships, and didn’t know what he could do about it.

He had started studying Latin and Hebrew and Greek. He then felt that maybe he should be a minister, but since he didn’t have a college education, he couldn’t be appointed to one through the official channels.

But remember, his mother was outside of the official channels anyway. She was not part of the Church of England.

John Newton
John Newton

John talked to someone who appointed him to be in charge of a local congregation. In other words, he became a preacher. He met some of the great preachers of that day. John Wesley, George Whitfield, and some of the other great preachers of that day.

Then he met a man who was a high official and the government named William Wilberforce. John Newton told William, “You know, I was not involved in the proper thing. In fact, what I did was terrible. It is legal here in England, but it ought to be outlawed.”

Year after year, Mr. Wilberforce tried to get laws passed that would make slavery illegal. Finally, before John died at 82 years of age, England outlawed slavery.

Let’s back up a little bit though, to 1772. While John Newton was going about this, he met a song leader. He realized that those poems that he could write earlier, he could write for the Lord now, and started writing poems that became songs.

He became friends with a man named William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) You may know him. He is the one who wrote the song “There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood”

He and Mr. Newton started writing poems that became songs, and they had a songbook compiled that had hundreds of their works in it..

I was blind but now I see.
I was blind but now I see.

In 1772, in preparation for their midweek prayer service, John Newton wrote a poem:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost,
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.”

John Newton had personally come out of that spiritual darkness into the glorious life of Jesus Christ.

If you are walking in darkness and have never come to Jesus, you can escape the darkness today. You just need to call upon Him. The Bible tells us that if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved. (Romans 10:9) The Scriptures further solidify it by saying that if you call upon the name of the Lord, you shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

I urge you to find a place to get alone with God and call upon the Lord and ask Him to save you and to bring you out of that spiritual darkness and to His glorious light.

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Walking on Water

Walking on Water
Sermon Video

Fishing

Recently, I went fishing with a couple of my friends.  While on the boat, one of my friends said he was thirsty and would go get himself something to drink.  He stepped out of the boat, and, looking very tall, walked to the shore to get his drink. 

Fishing story
Fishing story

The second friend decided he was also thirsty and going to go to shore to get a drink.  He, too, stepped over the edge of the boat and walked to the shore. 

I decided I would step off of the boat too.  I promptly sunk up to the bottom.  The two friends on shore turned to one another and asked, “Do you think we should have told him where the stones were?”

Half Full or Half Empty?

I was thinking about the pessimist and the optimist.  They were both farmers.  One day it was raining.  The optimist said to the pessimist, “Look at the wonderful rain.”  The pessimist replied, “It may be good for now, but I hope it quits before too long, or it will drown my crops.”

A while later, the sun was shining.  The optimist said, “The sunshine is just fantastic!”  The pessimist said, “I hope my crops don’t burn.”

The optimist decided he was going to do something to get the other man to be positive.  

He was always seeing the negative!
He was always seeing the negative!

A few days later, the pair went duck hunting and the optimist saw his opportunity.  He brought along his special dog.  One of the men shot a duck, and the dog took off, just skipping across the top of the water!  He got the duck in his mouth and skipped back to the men across the top of the water back to the shore.  

The optimist thought, “I’ve got him now!” and he turned to the pessimist and asked, “What did you think about that?”

The pessimist answered, “Your dog can’t swim, can he?”

Solid Faith

A missionary was visiting a tribe in Africa.  He told the chief the story of Jesus walking on the water.  The chief told the missionary that it was impossible and he wouldn’t believe until he could find proof, although he didn’t know how he would be able to find proof.  

The missionary called for his assistant to bring a refrigerating device to the village.  They had the chief pour water into a container and they put it into the device and it froze.  The missionary told the chief that was the same water that he had poured into the device.  He took the ice and put it on the ground and stood on it.  The chief then had to admit that man could walk on water.  

A Brief Recap

Today’s scripture is from John 6.  It comes just after Jesus feeding the 5,000.  The Bible tells us that the disciples hadn’t fully comprehended who Jesus was.  It says that their hearts were hardened.  (Mark 6:52)

Could that be like us sometimes?  Could our hearts be hardened?

Jesus discerned that the people were going to try to make Him into the king that they wanted: a king who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman government and just take care of things for the moment. (John 6:15)

But when Jesus appeared before Pilate, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

He had not come to just take care of that one moment in time.  He came as the Messiah, as the Savior of the world.  He came as the Great Miracle Worker and He was indeed God in the flesh.

He performed many miracles including turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and feeding the 5,000 with two fish and 5 loaves of bread.  

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus perceived that they were going to try to force Him to be an earthly king.  He instructed the disciples to go down to the boat, and He told the gathered crowd that the day was done and it was time for them to go home. 

Once He gave those instructions, He turned and was quickly gone from their sight.  

He went up into the mountain to pray and the disciples went down the mountain and got into the boat.  (Matthew 14:22-23)

The Sea of Galilee

The Bible tells us that some of the disciples were very experienced with boats.  Peter, James, and John had all worked as fishermen. (Matthew 4:18-21)  They had fished the Sea of Galilee and knew what it was like and what storms were like on that sea.

The Sea of Galilee isn't always this calm.
The Sea of Galilee isn’t always this calm.

That day, a storm did come up.  The disciples were in the boat about 3-4 miles out from shore.  Jesus saw them and walked out on the water to them.  Of course, they were startled when they saw Him and thought they were seeing a ghost. Had they not noticed Him, the Bible says He would have passed right by. (Mark 6:47-48)

How awful would it be if He passed us by?

Sinking

When they realized that it was Jesus, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water.” and Jesus said, “Come.”  and Peter stepped out onto the water. 

Focused on the storm instead of the Savior, Peter began to sink.
Focused on the storm instead of the Savior, Peter began to sink.

Peter walked on the water, for a little bit.  Then he saw that the storm was raging and got his eyes on the waves and he began to sink.  He cried out to the Lord and the Lord reached down and saved him.  (Matthew 14:28-31)

Now, I don’t know if they both walked back to the boat, if Jesus carried him to the boat, or if He dragged Peter through the water, but they both got back to the boat, and immediately they went to the other side of the sea.

John 6:16-21

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea. 17 They got into a boat and went across the sea toward Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat. And they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” 21 Then they gladly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going

The Lord performed a miracle.  He can do that if He wants to.  `

Face Life

Jesus had fed the 5,000.  They enjoyed that and were astounded.  Then Jesus sent them down to the boat and went off by Himself.  He was not physically in their presence.  They had to go to the boat and get out on the sea.  They had to face life.  They had to face it without the physical presence of Jesus.

We have to face life without the physical presence of Jesus near us.  His spiritual presence is always with us.  

Remember what He said to Thomas?  “Because you have seen Me you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.”  (John 20:29)

That includes you and me.  

We have to go through life without having Jesus’ bodily presence with us like He was in that time; Just like he wasn’t physically present when the disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee.  

We have to face life.  We have to be aware of His spiritual presence and by faith realize that He is with us.  

Sometimes it seems like He’s not around, and we wonder what’s going on.  

The Bible tells us that we are to occupy until Jesus comes. (Luke 19:11-27)  We need to be about life and face it as it comes.

Call on The Lord in the Storm

Storms of life come.  It’s not always sweetness and light.  Sometimes there are difficulties.  

The prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a well by evil men who wished him dead.  There was mud and silt at the bottom and he sank down.  

Another man heard about his situation and asked the king to free Jeremiah.  The king agreed and the man took some of his staff and lifted Jeremiah out of the mud and saved him.

Call on the Lord in your storm.
Call on the Lord in your storm.

During the dark times of life, you can call upon the Lord.  

The disciples called on Him when they were in the midst of that great storm on the Sea of Galilee.  

Call on The Lord When You Are Sinking

Peter’s lack of faith caused him to sink just after he witnessed a spectacular display of God’s power.  

Depression can often come just after a great victory.

When Peter began to sink, he knew to call out to the Lord.

Elijah the prophet had a great victory over the prophets of Baal.  Fire came and consumed the altar that had been soaked with water. (1 Kings 16:18-40)  Many of the false prophets were eliminated.  But after that, Elijah was concerned and the depression set in.  (1 Kings 19:4-8)

Peter was on top of the water but began to sink.

You’ve probably had ups and downs in your life.  Perhaps in some of the low points, you’ve begun to sink a little bit.  

I’ve got good news for you. God still loves you!  You can still call upon Him and He will reach down and pull you up.

Call out to God when you are sinking.
Call out to God when you are sinking.

God is powerful, and He cares about everyone. We do need to face life as it comes and do the best we can.  

But when the storms of life come, call on Him.  If you have begun to sink in your spiritual life, call on Him.  

Trust God and His Timing

God's timing is always perfect.
God’s timing is always perfect.

When Jesus and Peter got back in the boat, Jesus decided that it was immediately time for them to get to the other side, so they arrived there immediately.  

Sometimes, God will make the change just that quickly.  Not always.  Sometimes we have to go on through the storm.  

Trust God and His timing.  Sometimes he does things quickly and immediately.  

We know this: we struggle in this body of sin and death, but one day we will pass from this life and when we do, we will be changed immediately, in the twinkling of an eye!  Mortal will put on immortality and death will be swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

Face life.
Call on God in the storms of life.
Call on God when you’re beginning to sink.
Trust His timing.

What To Do When You Are All Alone

What to Do When You Are All Alone

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine. 
Then I wrote about Jesus healing the nobleman’s son and how you can be a noble person.

This week I’m covering another miracle of Jesus, and what to do when you feel all alone. It’s found in John 5.

Sermon video

John 5:1-18

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water. After the stirring of the water, whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. 5 A certain man was there who had an illness for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition now a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked. That day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath day. It is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  11 He answered them, “He who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in that place.  14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have become whole. Sin no more lest something worse happens to you.” 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 So the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day. 17 Jesus answered them, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” 18 So the Jews sought even more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

The Sick Man Healed…and Scolded!

The sick would wait for the waters to stir to get a chance to be healed
The sick would wait for the waters to stir to get a chance to be healed

Verse 2 talks about a pool of water.  Invalids would gather around it waiting for an angel to stir the water.  Some people think the water had medicinal properties, but I don’t think it did.  If that was the case, it would have had healing properties no matter what.   

The man mentioned here had been laying by the water for years. He watched closely and when he saw the waters stir, he tried to get there first. But because he had no one to help him get to the water, someone always beat him to it. 

Then Jesus came and asked if he wanted to be healed.  The man didn’tr realize who Jesus was and explained his situration.  He was still looking at what earthly people were able to do.  

Jesus told him to get up, pick up his bed, and walk.  The man may have doubted.  But he did as Jesus saidf and he had been healed!

This healing took place on the Sabbath.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his bed and told him it was unlawful for him to carry his bed on that day.  He told them about the man who had told him to do it.  The man had broken the Sabbath.  

Jesus had already moved on, so the leaders spoke to the man.  There he was, all excited about being healed, and he was scolded.

But Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.  He said we are to do good.  What’s better?  Keeping some rules or following Jesus’ lead.

Of course it’s important to set aside a day for rest and worship.  It’s good for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.  In Luke 14:5, Jesus said, “Which of you having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

After the man was scolded by the Jewish leaders, Jesus found him again. He told the man to go on his way and “sin no more.” 

The Jewish leaders were angry at what Jesus had done.
The Jewish leaders were angry at what Jesus had done.

So the man left and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. This angered them even more because He had healed (done work) on the Sabbath. Not only that, He had also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  They wanted Him dead. 

Jesus IS the Messiah

As I’ve said before, John 20:31 says, “But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  

Then in 1 John 5:13 he writes, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

So the Gospel of John shows us who Jesus is.

We’ve seen some near disasters in the story so far, then the resolutions, and then persecutions coming again. 

I think there are four applications we can make in our lives from this.  

When You’re All Alone, Look to Jesus for Help

Think about the three Hebrew children (Daniel 3).  They were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down and worship a false god,  which would break the second commandment; no idols. The three,  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused. 

The whole nation complied, with the exception of these three.  The king had ordered that anyone who disobeyed his decree would be thrown into the firey furnace. 

Three went in, but the king saw four.
Three went in, but the king saw four.

After they had been thrown in, the king went and looked inside.  Instead of three inside, there were four. 

The Bible says the fourth was “like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:25) I believe it was the Son of God. 

When the time came to open the door of the furnace, they came out, their clothes weren’t burned, their eyebrows weren’t singed, and they didn’t even smell like smoke. 

They came out unscathed, and God took care of them.

Then there’s Daniel.

The order was given that no one was allowed to pray. Daniel made the decision that he was going to continue to pray just like he always had. Three times a day, he went into an upper room, left the doors and windows open, and talked to God.

Daniel was thrown into the lion's den alone.
Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den alone.

The punishment for Daniel’s defiance was to spend the night in the lions’ den.

He was thrown in with no man to help him.

The next day, the king called down to Daniel and asked if his God had been able to save him. Daniel looked up and said, “O king, God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths so they have not hurt me.” (Daniel 6)

God took care of him.

We have the story of Jonah.

He was swallowed by a great fish or whale. The animal had been prepared to do something unusual.

Jonah was in the belly of that fish alone for three days. There was no man to help him.
But while in there, Jonah prayed. After three days, the fish “spit him out” on dry ground.

Jonah spent 3 days alone in the belly of a big fish.
Jonah spent 3 days alone in the belly of a big fish.


Jonah went on to Nineveh, preached, and there was a great revival.

God took care of him.

When you feel like you’re all alone, look to Jesus for your help.

People have had loved ones pass away for one reason or another. Maybe a father dies while serving his country, leaving behind a wife and kids. Maybe a mother suffers from a terminal illness, and she leaves behind a husband and children. Single parents. It’s difficult to raise children all alone.

But the Bible tells us that God will be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widows. (Psalm 68:5-6) and God is our comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3)

All over the world, persecuted Christians are facing death seemingly alone. But they aren’t alone. God is with them.

When You Sense God is Prompting You to Do Something Unusual, Act on It

My son and daughter-in-law (Rusty and Brenda) are missionaries in Japan. Something that all missionaries have in common is that it takes money for them to get where they need to go. It takes money for them to be able to survive.

My son and his family are missionaries in Japan.
My son and his family are missionaries in Japan.

Most countries that missionaries go to will not allow them to take other jobs in their country because it will take jobs away from their citizens. They go to the country under a missionary visa and they have to have that support that comes to them.

Rusty was raised in southern Illinois and Brenda was raised in Oklahoma. Neither were familiar with big cities. God spoke to each of them independently about becoming missionaries. After discussing it together, they understood that He wanted them to go to Japan.


So Rusty, from tiny little Thompsonville, Illinois, and his wife, were told that they needed to secure $108,000 a year.

Many people thought that was an excessive amount and it would make Rusty and Brenda rich.

However, Rhonda and I went to visit them in Japan. While there, we went to the grocery store and decided to buy them a watermelon. When you translated the Japanese amount into American dollars, that watermelon was $40!

So, $108,000 a year was not an excessive amount for them to live on in Japan.

Before leaving, they had to go out to various churches and raise money and get sponsors. They’d go out, and when they came home I would ask how it went. They would say it went great, someone had given them $30. Next time it was $50, then $400. But, those were all one-time offerings.

They just kept going, though.

They started coming back with the news that a couple people had committed to giving them $25 a month, then some people committed a little more.

After about 10 months, they had gotten so much support that they were up to 80% of what they needed. That was a miracle to me!

They made the plans and were able to go.
When God calls you to do something that seems hard or even impossible, do it!

He will bless you for it.

Get to Know Jesus

When the Jewish leaders asked the man who had healed him, he didn’t know. Then Jesus found him. (Aren’t you glad that Jesus comes to us?)

It only takes one offer of salvation for us to turn down, and then it’s on us. I believe that every person, at some point in their life, will have some type of encounter with Jesus.

What about those who have never heard?

Study the Bible to get to know Jesus better.
Study the Bible to get to know Jesus better.

Here’s what we know:
If they look up at the stars and realize that there’s a creator, God is going to send them some way to have more light.

What about those that live in countries where they could be killed for converting to Christianity? People have had dreams. In those dreams, Jesus came to them. You may think that it was just a dream, but it was the real Jesus and they accepted Him!

How do I know it was real? Because after they woke up, they tell people that they met Jesus in a dream. They face the loss of their own lives. That’s how I know it’s real. They met Jesus.

I believe that in every person’s life, Jesus, the Savior of the world, will come to them with an offer of salvation. It’s what you choose to do with Jesus that will count when you come to the end of this life.


But it goes beyond that single act of salvation. Get to know God. The man who was healed didn’t know who Jesus was. Jesus came to him, and he got to know Jesus.


How do we get to know Jesus?

One of the ways is through studying the Word of God. You may not have read a book since high school. Reading may be difficult for you.


When we lived in Georgia, we interviewed some parents who wanted to enroll their child in the Christian school we had. Sometime after evening, the pastor asked the father about his salvation experience. The father confessed that he had been intoxicated the night we had visited. But the pastor had shown the man the scriptures and told him how Jesus wanted to save him. That night, he believed.

After that, he became a Bible scholar. He would read a passage of scripture, and see the number at the bottom of the page that represented a corresponding or related verse, so he’d go read that. He told me once that he’d done it for three hours the night before. If he had trouble understanding some words, he would get a dictionary and look them up.


The Word of God is different than any other book. It is a living Word. I believe that if you take it and read just a little bit, search and meditate on it, the Bible says you will have good success.


That’s one of the ways to get to know God.


Another way is to talk to God. You don’t have to use flowery King James language.

Talk to God.
Talk to God.


Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Lutheran priest. He lived in a Communist country and was imprisoned because of his faith. He founded the organization called “The Voice of the Martyrs.”


He sat in a prison cell after having undergone an extensive time of torture. The physical suffering had devastated his mind. 
He started trying to pray.

 
“Our Father, Which art in Heaven. Hallowed be Thy ….” Then he could not remember anymore. 

Richard Wurmbrand
Richard Wurmbrand


I thought how disheartened I would have been if that had happened to me. 
But, then he said, “Suddenly it came to me that it was what we call ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ I was so happy I could remember what prayer it was. It was like the glory of the Lord came down and filled the prison. 

A young boy found a young girl’s name on a messaging site. After looking over her profile, the boy thought she sounded interesting and began to send her messages.

She replied and they chatted back and forth for some time. The more they talked, the more they wanted to know about one another. Finally, the boy asked if he could just call her.

They wanted to know each other better.

Tell Others About Him


An old friend, who has since passed away, often told me that in the past, he didn’t give God credit. Then he got saved and got to know God in such a way that he wasn’t ashamed and didn’t’ care what others thought.

Tell others about Jesus and what He's done for you.
Tell others about Jesus and what He’s done for you.


That’s what we all need to do. We need to tell others about Jesus.


There was a football player who would kneel down and pray after getting a touchdown.

Controversies aside, here’s the point. If you know God, if you know Jesus, and you know you’re saved and that your life has been changed, and there’s someone who needs help, they may just need you to tell them where that help is.

They can turn to Jesus.

If you’ve never called upon the Lord, I would say that you need to do that today!

Call upon Him.

Do you feel like you’re all alone? You’re not. Jesus is present. Call upon Him. He can help you in your time of need.

Turn the World Upside Down

Turn the World Upside Down

Our Nation needs a stirring. It needs to be turned upside down!

Sermon video

Acts 17:1-10

17 When they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. According to his custom, Paul went in, and on three Sabbaths he lectured to them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I preach to you, is the Christ.” Some of them were persuaded and joined with Paul and Silas, including a great crowd of devout Greeks and many leading women. But the Jews who did not believe became jealous and, taking some evil men from the marketplace, gathered a crowd, stirred up the city, and attacked the house of Jason, trying to bring them out to the mob. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers to the city officials, crying out, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They troubled the crowd and the city officials when they heard these things. When they had taken a bail payment from Jason and the rest, they released them. 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 


What was it like for the men who had the report given that they had turned the world upside down? Sometimes you make a statement and don’t think it will have any effect on someone, but it does. It can cause a turnaround in their life.
What were these men like? What had they seen in their lives? What did they see and face?

The apostles turned the world upside down!
The apostles turned the world upside down!

They Saw Jesus’ Miracles, Opposition, and Deliverance


When speaking of the 12 apostles, Jesus called them and they started following Him. They saw Him do many miracles. At least 4 of them saw the water turned into wine. They saw the healing of the nobleman’s son. There are 5 more miracles recorded in the book of John.

These were ordinary men. Some were professional fishermen, but they weren’t like the teachers of the Law who had studied it in depth.

But they say the miracles. They saw blind men receive their sight. They saw lame men walk.

They also saw the growing opposition toward Jesus.

They also saw deliverance. Early in Jesus’ ministry, there was a group that wanted to capture and kill Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus stepped into the midst of the crowd and just disappeared. His enemies couldn’t find Him. The apostles witnessed that.

They saw Jesus overcoming the opposition that was coming to Him.

Then it got worse, and Jesus was captured. He was taken before Pilate with a series of false accusations. Even Pilate could find no fault in Him and said He was innocent. But, He was crucified.

The apostles saw the persecution and the death.

They witnessed Christ's ultimate victory.
They witnessed Christ’s ultimate victory.

But they also saw the greatest victory of all. Three days after His crucifixion, he rose from the dead. Mary told them she had seen the risen Jesus, He was alive. Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty.

He is alive!

The apostles were ordinary people like you and me. When the soldiers came and arrested Jesus, they feared for their own lives. All of them forsook Him and fled. But after they saw Jesus alive again after He had been dead, they saw that what He had preached about was true. They saw that because He lives, we, too, can live. They saw that He was the first fruits of the resurrection, and when we go through the valley of the shadow of death, we come out on the other side.

Life After the Ascension

Jesus ascended and went to Heaven. The apostles began to see God working without the physical presence of Jesus. He was there spiritually, and the power of the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost.

Peter preached and 3,000 souls came to the Lord. (That was just counting the men.) Many came to Christ.

They immediately had a space problem. They had nowhere to meet. They considered the temple, but it was the Jews’, and these people were Christians.

They began meeting in people’s homes daily. They broke bread together, they remembered the Lord as they had communion, and would go to the temple for larger gatherings when they could.

These were the people who saw God moving and it turned their world upside down.

Eighteen centuries after the words about these men that turned the world upside down, according to 100 Verses that Shaped America by Robert Morgan, this verse was one of them.

William Tennent

There was a man named William Tennent who came from Scotland to America in 1718, 58 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Like many who came to the New World, he was a man of faith and had a prominent role in the founding of the country. Many of them were well educated. William Tennent graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1695.

The Log College
The Log College

Also, like the others, he saw a need for training new preachers. He built a log cabin. It was a seminary. It became known as The Log College. Men who felt called to preach attended and studied at the college. They studied the Bible, and then they would be equipped to go out and pastor churches.

It was during this time that “The Great Awakening” began in America, and it was all because of the people that came seeking God, not gold, and wanted to evangelize the people who were already here.

George Whitfield

There was another man named George Whitfield who came from England. He was quite an evangelist. He heard about the Log College and offered to come and preach. William Tennent gladly accepted the offer. However, he didn’t know what time George Whitfield was to arrive.

Word spread around the community that he was coming, and a large crowd began to gather at the 20×20 cabin. It turned out to be around 3,000 people!
Since he didn’t know when his special speaker was going to arrive, William Tennent took the opportunity to preach a sermon himself. It’s said that it was very powerful.

These men were instrumental in being used by God for the Great Awakening in the fledgling nation.

A recent Gallup poll said that, in the years since they’ve been keeping records, church attendance has been steadily declining. It’s the lowest that it’s ever been.

We need another Great Awakening in the United States. It will not be by our might or power, but by God’s spirit.

These were people who turned the world upside down.

The 12 apostles saw the beginning of the church and the ministry of the church.

They Saw Their Own Miracles, Opposition, and Deliverance on Occasion

Then they began to experience opposition.

Peter was thrown into prison. Prayers for his release went up. That night, an angel came and released Peter from his chains and he was free. He went to the house where he knew the group was gathered and knocked on the door. A young girl went to answer the knock and recognized Peter’s voice. She was so excited that she didn’t even open it but instead ran to tell the others. They thought she was insane. They said it couldn’t be him, it was probably his ghost. Peter continued to knock, and when they finally opened the door, they were astonished. (Acts 12:6-16)

Some of the apostles were imprisoned.
Some of the apostles were imprisoned.

They saw God’s deliverance.

Paul and Silas faced opposition as well. But they also experienced miracles, time and time again, just like they did when Jesus walked the earth. There are stories about it all throughout the book of Acts.

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison in Philippi. At midnight, they were singing praises to God. The other prisoners heard them. Then, an earthquake came and all the doors of the prison were opened and their chains fell away.

Now, the other prisoners were smart. They figured they could just walk out, but they knew they would be recaptured and it would be worse than before.

The jailer came and found the door open and thought all the prisoners had escaped. He was so afraid of the consequences that he pulled out his sword with the intent of killing himself.

But Paul called out to him and told him that they were all still there, and no one had escaped.

The jailer took them out of their cell and took them to his house. He asked what he had to do to be saved. They told him he had to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and he would be saved, as well as anyone in his household who believed. The jailer and his household believed and were saved. (Acts 16: 16-40)

So the apostles had seen deliverance from opposition too.

Just as it was in the life of Jesus, their ministry went on, and they would be delivered time and time again.

The Bible doesn’t tell their whole life stories, the book of Acts just ends, and their lives went on.

They Experienced Ministry, Death, and Ultimate Victory

Many of them were crucified. According to tradition, the Apostle Peter said he wasn’t worthy to be crucified like Jesus was so he was hung upside down on the cross.

Another one was crucified on a cross that was shaped like an “X” as opposed to the traditional one. On a traditional cross, one wouldn’t last very long. This man was in agony for 3 days before he died.

These were some of the same men who had run away before. They were capable of having human fear just like you and me. But they had seen Jesus die and had seen him risen, and knew that it was real. They knew that if they passed from this life and if they knew Jesus, they would pass on to Glory.

It changed their lives. It changed their boldness. They preached time after time, and many souls came to the Lord.

Boldness is needed now!
Boldness is needed now!

It didn’t end after that first century. It’s gone on and on and on and is still going on today. Millions have believed because their message was passed on.

They turned the world upside down because they had been with Jesus.

What part of your world needs to be turned upside down? Your school? Your job? Your family? Your nation? Let it happen because you know Jesus and you’re not afraid to talk about Him.

Since 1973, over 60 million babies have been killed. We didn’t stand up! The other side made their voices heard and continues to.

We need to be bold and radical for the Lord.

Your Personal Relationship with Christ

If you have never accepted Christ as your savior, I urge you to find a place to get alone with God and ask Him to come into your heart and your life.

The apostle Paul wrote that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved and whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:9-13)

The most important prayer.
The most important prayer.

You may have prayed many times in the past. You may have prayed for safety on a trip, or for the health of a loved one. But have you ever talked to Jesus and told Him that you believe that He is who the Bible says He is and you’re willing to submit your life to Him? Have you ever called upon Him and asked Him to save you? If you’ve not done that, I urge you to do that.

The Noble Man

Sermon video

Before I begin, I want the ladies to know that while I’m referring to this person as the “noble man,” I really mean noble person,

Last week, my sermon and blog were on John 2, when Jesus turned the water into wine.  I mentioned that the wine in the Bible was nothing like the wine we have today.  You can read that here.

That was the first of seven miracles that John used to prove that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and by believing in Him you could have eternal life.

This is the second one.

John 4:46-54 (MEV)

46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick in Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, pleading that He would come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way. Your son lives.” And the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 While he was going down, his servants met him and told him, “Your son lives!” 52 When he inquired of them the hour when he began to heal, they answered, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 Then the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galilee.

The Noble Person

I have titled this “The Noble Man”.  The above scripture reads “nobleman.”  What does being a noble man (or woman) look like?  I’ve been thinking about it.  I want to encourage everyone to be a noble person.

What is a Noble Person?

Being noble means having a good reputation. The man in the verses was looked up to in society.  The Bible says that a good name is rather to be desired than great riches. (Proverbs 22:1)

Nobility makes me think of royalty.
Nobility makes me think of royalty.

Also when I think of nobility I think of royalty.  I think back to the fairy tales when the young lady desires her prince to come, marry her, and take her to a place of bliss.  

This particular noble man may have been related to Herrod.  Not the Herrod that was king when Jesus was born, but some descendant down the way.  He may have been related to him and that’s why he was a noble man.  In those cases, the babies were born into royalty.  

You also think of reputation when you think of nobility.

Nobility also has with it the idea of having high and lofty thoughts.  I think of William Carey who went to India.  He made the statement, “Expect great things for God.  Attempt great things for God.” 

While William Carey was in India, it wasn’t all sweetness and roses.  While there, his wife suffered some troubles.  In spite of that, and other difficulties, he was able to translate the Bible into the language of the people there.  Some people call him the father of modern missions.

I also think a noble person carries with him or her the idea of righteousness. Of course, it’s not perfect righteousness. 

The man in the scripture showed that he cared for his son.  He was a man who knew where to go to find answers for his son: He went to Jesus for the answer.

Jesus sort of rebuked him, and the crowd, when He said, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  Jesus was happy to show the signs and wonders, but He didn’t want people relying on that.  

Think about Thomas, one of the apostles.  He missed “church” and didn’t see the risen Jesus the first time He appeared in front of the rest of them.  The rest of the apostles tried to tell him that Jesus had been there, but he refused to believe them.  He said, “Unless I see the nail prints in His hands, and put my finger in the nail prints, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe.” 

Thomas needed visual proof.
Thomas needed visual proof.

Eight days later, all the apostles, including Thomas, were together again and Jesus came.  Thomas didn’t have to put his finger in the nail prints to believe.  He looked at Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God.”  

Jesus said, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have yet believed.” (John 20:25-29)

You go through life on a matter of faith.  Sometimes, you just have to believe.  Sometimes, God will do amazing and wonderful things. Sometimes it’s your faith that carries you through.

This nobleman was undeterred in his mission, though.  He had heard the statement Jesus had made.  But he told Jesus that his son was sick and pleaded with Him to go to the boy and heal him.  Jesus told him to go home, that his son was alive.  Then he believed and did as Jesus told him to do. 

He went home without Jesus accompanying him because it wasn’t necessary.  As he was traveling home, his servants came to meet him and told him, “Your son lives!”   He asked when he got better, and they told him the fever broke at the seventh hour, and the nobleman realized that was the exact time that Jesus had said, “Your son lives.”

Why Should We Aspire to be Noble People?  

When we think of righteousness, it is required, in a certain form, to enter into Heaven.  There is a barrier to getting into Heaven.  The barrier is that sin can not come in.  The problem is we have all sinned.  So righteousness is required to enter into Heaven.  It has to be 100% full and complete. 

We should aspire to figure out how to get this “credited to our account.”

Then we have the example of Jesus.  He was 12 years old and He and His parents had gone to the temple and they lost Him.  They went back and found Him in the temple, talking, asking and answering questions, and astounding everyone who heard Him. He went back with His parents and the Bible says He found favor with God and man.  (Luke 2:41-52)

His time for ministry was going to come later.  The opening chapters of the book of John show Him coming into that ministry. 

Half of the book of John goes through these seven miracles, but the second half goes through the last week of Jesus’ life; the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

One of the reasons to aspire to be a noble person is because you can find favor with others. You can find your relationships improved. If you are a noble worker, your employer will probably take notice of that.  If you’re a business person and you are a noble person, word of mouth will spread and people will come to you.  

How Do You Become A Noble Person?

Since we aren’t, we’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) is there any hope for us at all?  Of course there is!

When we think about nobility, we are a “Kingdom of Grace.”  When you accept Jesus as Savior, you are born into God’s family and become royalty.  You are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.  All the inheritance of His Father is ours, too.   

The Kingdom of Grace is on earth.
The Kingdom of Grace is on earth.

If being born into the family is too difficult to comprehend, the Bible also says that He adopts us as sons and daughters. (Ephesians 1:5)

How Do You Get Adopted By God?

The Bible says that Jesus came to this earth in the flesh.  (John 1:1-5)  Whoever puts their trust in Him has the power and authority to become the sons of God. Come to Christ.  Believe, and by doing that you become a child of God.  

Isaiah says that our own works of righteousness are as filthy rags because of sin. (Isaiah 64:6)  But we come to Christ, realizing that we need a Savior, and we call on Him.  He comes into our hearts and we are born again, born into the family of God.  We become children of God and Jesus puts His robe of righteousness on us.  When that robe is put on us, the other robe disappears and we put on the righteousness of Christ. That’s how we’ll be able to enter into Heaven.

Bible study is critical.
Bible study is critical.

We need to study the Word.  One place where the word “noble” is mentioned in the Bible is in the book of Acts.  Paul was preaching at Thessalonica and they didn’t like his preaching.  They tried to kill him and they ran him out of town.  He went to a place called Berea and preached the Word of God to them.  The Bible says that these people were nobler than the Thessalonians because they searched the Word daily to see if what Paul was saying was true. (Acts 17:1-12)

We should study the Word.

Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite authors.  She once said,

“I received a letter from a single mother who had raised a son who was about to become a dad. Since he had no recollection of his own father, her question to me was “What do I tell him a father does?”
When my dad died in my ninth year, I, too, was raised by my mother, giving rise to the same question, “What do fathers do?” As far as I could observe, they brought around the car when it rained so everyone else could stay dry.  They always took the family pictures, which is why they were never in them. They carved turkeys on Thanksgiving, kept the car gassed up, weren’t afraid to go into the basement, mowed the lawn, and tightened the clothesline to keep it from sagging. It wasn’t until my husband and I had children that I was able to observe firsthand what a father contributed to a child’s life. What did he do to deserve his children’s respect? He rarely fed them, did anything about their sagging diapers, wiped their noses or fannies, played ball, or bonded with them under the hoods of their cars.
What did he do?
He threw them higher than his head until they were weak from laughter. He cast the deciding vote on the puppy debate. He listened more than he talked. He let them make mistakes. He allowed them to fall from their first two-wheeler without having a heart attack. He read a newspaper while they were trying to parallel park a car for the first time in preparation for their driving test.
If I had to tell someone’s son what a father really does that is important, it would be that he shows up for the job in good times and bad times. He’s a man who is constantly being observed by his children. They learn from him how to handle adversity, anger, disappointment, and success.
He won’t laugh at their dreams no matter how impossible they might seem. He will dig out at 1 a.m. when one of his children runs out of gas. He will make unpopular decisions and stand by them. When he is wrong and makes a mistake, he will admit it. He sets the tone for how family members treat one another, members of the opposite sex, and people who are different than they are. By example, he can instill a desire to give something back to the community when its needs are greater than theirs.
A father has the potential to be a powerful force in the life of a child. Grab it! Maybe you’ll get a greeting card for your efforts. Maybe not. But it’s steady work.”

Fathers, I encourage you to be noble men.  Mothers, I encourage you to be noble ladies,  We can’t do it on our own, but aren’t you glad that you can come to Christ and you can be born again and you can receive the righteousness of Christ.  It’s put into your account. You’re born into a royal family.  You become a noble person.  If you’re a Christian, you’re a noble person. 

The word “Christian” means to be like Christ.  We sometimes have a little bit of a problem trying to live up to that.  But I want you to understand that if you’re a Christian, you’re in a royal family, and you ought to live like it. 

Being a noble person requires prayer.
Being a noble person requires prayer.

You can be a noble person.  Do your best and commit the rest to God. The more you do that more you’ll realize that it’s not your best that does it, it’s when God takes over. 

You can be a noble person.

The First Miracle

The First Miracle

John 2:1-12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there. 2 Both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Six water pots made of stone were sitting there, used for ceremonial cleansing by the Jews, containing twenty to thirty gallons[a] each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 Then He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water that had been turned into wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who drew the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 and he said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and after men have drunk freely, then the poor wine is served. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of His signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He, and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples went down to Capernaum. They remained there a few days.

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The Great I AM

This passage in the Gospel of John is the first of seven miracles that Jesus performed that help us know that we have eternal life.  

It’s also organized around 7 statements, called the “I AM” statements.  When God told Moses to go get the children of Israel from Egypt, Moses asked God, “Who should I say sent me?”  God responded, “Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you.”  So we know God as being the Great “I AM.”

God told Moses He was "I AM"
God told Moses He was “I AM”

In the Gospel of John, there are seven times when Jesus says, “I am…” and concludes with seven different things. This is the first of the seven miracles that are mentioned there.  

The Event

It was a wedding.  Weddings then weren’t like weddings today.  They were very long, drawn-out events. It all started with a betrothal.  That lasted for a year. During that time, the groom went and prepared the home for his new wife. 

Weddings in Jesus' time were much different than they are today.
Weddings in Jesus’ time were much different than they are today.

Then on the day of the wedding, he would go get the bride.  A group went with him.  There was a procession as the bride was brought to the wedding.

Then there was a feast.  If the family could afford it, they would have a master of the feast.  

I know this one was a big wedding based on the number of water jugs that Jesus had the servants fill.  It was between 120-180 gallons.  

So, the bride and groom had a problem. They were out of wine.  Mary said, “If you have a problem, go to Jesus.”  Good advice.

At the time of this miracle, Jesus’ ministry had not yet come to its fullness.  At first, only the servants knew about the miracle.  The celebration continued and none of these events took away from the couple’s time together. 

Of course, the servants didn’t keep it quiet for long.  Maybe some of the disciples were watching, or maybe Mary was.  I don’t know who was looking on, but many people knew that this miracle had taken place, and word got out.

So as Jesus got ready to come into His ministry, there was already a foreshadowing of the miracles to come.  

The Substance

There has been much debate over the “wine” mentioned here.  Even the Old Testament sometimes mentions wine as an intoxicating beverage. Noah drank some and became drunk. (Genesis 9:21)

But I want to make clear that the wine here is not like we think of wine today. The word wine in the Bible is the word “oinos” which means fruit of the vine.  Modern-day wine comes from distilleries. Those did not even exist at the time this wedding took place.  When they distill the wine, it becomes more concentrated and the alcohol content is much higher.  The wine at this event was not like that. 

Fruit of the vine did mean the “wine” they had then, but it can also be grape juice.  Many churches, including mine, use grape juice for the Lord’s Supper.  

It wasn't wine like we think of it today.
It wasn’t wine like we think of it today.

Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach. (1 Timothy 5:23)  This was not so he would become intoxicated, but for medicinal reasons.  A little wine for health reasons is OK.  I know of a lady who was a strong Christian.  Her doctor advised her to drink a small amount of wine daily to help with her blood pressure.  She did do that.  Again, that was fine for medicinal purposes. Some church covenant agreements among members might rule out even this. Be faithful to your particular covenants.

Some churches I’ve attended have their covenant hanging on the wall.  These covenants often include a phrase like, “refrain from the sale and use of alcohol as a beverage.” That’s probably the position of many churches, whether they have that hanging on the wall or not.  

In Biblical times, there was another designation for a diluted drink that was still called, “wine.” That was a mixture containing the wine (whether the grape juice or the fermented product that could intoxicate) mixed with five parts of water–on part wine, five parts water. This mixture was still called, “wine.”

We’re told to be filled with the Spirit and not drunk with wine.  (Ephesians 5:18)  Those who are drunk with wine act differently than they would otherwise.  When we are filled with the Spirit we act differently than we would otherwise.  We ought to be bolder. 

It’s possible that in Biblical days, they had issues with the purity of the water.  Mexico is a good modern-day example.  When you visit there, you’re told not to even brush your teeth with the tap water, but to use bottled water instead.  Many countries have this problem.

In Biblical times, they had a process where they would take an amount of wine, and 5 equal amounts of water and mix it with the wine.  You can see how that would help avoid drunkenness by diluting the wine and the alcohol content. 

It’s possible that any of these drinks were what they had at the wedding.  I just want to be sure you understand that the word “wine” has a much broader meaning than what we think.

Whatever it was, they had wine and then ran out.  Then they filled the water jugs to the brim and Jesus caused it to become the wine, and it was the best.  The master of the feast said it was the best.

The Reason

Why did this miracle take place?  The New Testament is not the only place where miracles appear in the Bible.  

Mary knew who Jesus was.  She knew that he was the Son of God.  She knew that He could take care of this problem.  

There are seven miracles recorded in the Gospel of John.

Why?

To show that Jesus was more than just a man who was considered to be a great teacher.  He was a man who went about doing good.  But He was more than that.

He was the Divine Son of God.  The Bible says that He was God in the flesh.  He was God and He was with God.  That’s beyond our human comprehension, but I believe it as fact. 

Jesus was fully God but also fully human.  He got tired.  He had flesh.  When he was whipped by the Romans, His flesh was torn from His body so that He barely looked human.  He experienced physical suffering. He even knew what it was like to die.  He also rose from the grave.  

Many miracles are recorded in the Bible.
Many miracles are recorded in the Bible.

These miracles show who He was.  

After Jesus ascended into Heaven, there were more miracles.  Peter, John, and Paul all witnessed miracles.

Why were they so prevalent then?  First, it was to show that Jesus was truly God.  Second, it was to show that the disciples, who would write down the words that became the New Testament, were genuine Gospel writers, and that the writing was coming from God.   Once God decided everything He wanted to be recorded was written down, there was no need for the abundance of miracles.

That doesn’t mean that there are no miracles anymore.  The miracles in the Bible are there to show us that He’s a miracle-working God.  

We aren’t Gospel writers and we aren’t God in the flesh, but we are people who can pray. We can pray and God will come and answer prayers.  

At the end of His earthly life, He was put in the grave, but the grave could not hold Him.  That gives us hope. Some of us have faced death.  We’ve been in car wrecks and survived, or had a serious illness.  But there was a peace from God that passes all understanding.  For those of us who are Christians, that’s so encouraging.  If you’re a child of God, Heaven is what awaits you.

There is a story about an old evangelist named John Rice. A man pulled out a pistol, pointed it at the preacher, and said, “I’m going to blow your brains out.”  His reply was, “Son, you can’t scare me with Heaven,” 

Heaven is for real!
Heaven is for real!

Some people say that we talk about Heaven so much that we’re no earthly good.  I say that we talk about Heaven so much that we ARE earthly good.  We talk about Heaven so much that we know we have a miracle-working God, we can pray and sometimes see unusual miracles take place. We know that the grace of God is sufficient for us and that even if we don’t get the answer we want when we want it, Heaven is for real.  We know that when this life is over, we’ll go into eternity and this will just be like a drop in the bucket.  

If you don’t know Jesus, you ought to.  You can call upon Him today.  I can help you find the way.  Contact me here and I’ll be happy to talk to you about your relationship with Christ.

Serving God Under Difficult Leaders

Serving God in DIfficult Times

Have you ever wondered how to serve the Lord when you have someone over you who’s not a committed Christian?

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Maybe it’s a college professor trying to challenge your faith.
It could be in grade school or high school with difficult teachers.
Perhaps you have a difficult boss at your job.
Maybe your company is going to be taken over by another company, and it has a bad reputation.  You may worry about restructuring and new management.  

We don’t know how all these events will turn out.  What we do know is that no matter where we are or what circumstances we find ourselves in, we are to serve God to the best of our ability. 

In Jeremiah chapter 27, Jeremiah had the difficult task of telling the kings that they were going to come under the rule of another nation.  

Jeremiah 27 (MEV)

 In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Thus says the Lord to me: Make bonds and yokes and put them on your neck, 3 and send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyre, and to the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 And command them to go to their masters, saying: Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: Thus you shall say to your masters: 5 I have made the earth, the men, and the beasts which are on the ground by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed good to Me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant. And also I have given to him the beasts of the field to serve him. 7 All nations shall serve him and his son and his son’s son until the time of his own land comes; and then many nations and great kings will make him their servant. 8 It shall come to pass that I will punish the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, says the Lord. I will punish that nation with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. 9 Therefore do not listen to your prophets, or to your diviners, or to your dreamers, or to your enchanters, or to your sorcerers who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10 For they prophesy a lie to you in order to remove you far from your land. And I will drive you out, and you shall perish. 11 But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those I will let remain still in their own land, says the Lord, and they shall till it and dwell in it. 12 I spoke also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying: Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live. 13 Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, “You will not serve the king of Babylon,” because they prophesy a lie to you. 15 For I have not sent them, says the Lord, yet they prophesy a lie in My name, so that I might drive you out and that you might perish, you and the prophets that prophesy to you. 16 I also spoke to the priests and to all this people: Thus says the Lord: Do not listen to the words of your prophets that prophesy to you, saying, “The vessels of the house of the Lord will now soon be brought again from Babylon.” For they prophesy a lie to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live. Why should this city be laid waste? 18 But if they are prophets, and if the word of the Lord is with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of Hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not go to Babylon. 19 For thus says the Lord of Hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the rest of the vessels that remain in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem. 21 Indeed, thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem: 22 They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day that I visit them, says the Lord. Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.

Jeremiah was a prophet in the Old Testament.
Jeremiah was a prophet in the Old Testament.

The Prophesy

Jeremiah prophesied judgment on God’s people who had been disobedient.  It had already happened to the northern kingdom.  

He told the kings that the world was going to come under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  He advised them to cooperate and live.  He told them not to listen to the lying prophets, and that even the vessels of the temple that hadn’t been carried away before would be taken away.  They were going to stay until the Lord delivered them.  It turned out to be a period of 70 years, so there were going to be 2 generations who lived most of their lives under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar.  

Timing is Important

Now, before I get into the “meat” of this, let me say that there are times to fight and times to stand.  Not always do you acquiesce to those that are coming against you. You need to know when God is telling you to act.  Fight when it’s time to fight and resist when it’s time to resist.

When the Roman soldiers captured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He allowed it to happen.  But another time they came for Him, He walked into the crowd and just disappeared. (Luke 4:30)  All of the apostles were imprisoned for taking a stand for their faith, but there were times when they didn’t allow themselves to be captured.  Acts 9 tells of Paul being lowered over the city gates in a basket to escape capture.  

I’m talking here about when God tells you to give in.

As we look at Jeremiah’s message to the kings, let’s think about three considerations that may be applied to us today.

God’s Judgment

Time and time again, God’s people had been warned that they needed to repent,   They had been turning from the Living God to idols.  They were disobeying God.

Life is sacred.
Life is sacred.

The United States has been warned time and time again.  The U.S. has turned away from God many times.  For example, over 63 million innocent lives have been lost to abortion since 1973.  There are consequences for sin. 

I believe that we are under judgment already.  Empty store shelves are similar to a famine.  The recent outbreaks of disease can be compared to pestilence. There are consequences for sin. Just because we are in the United States of America, it doesn’t mean we’re immune from those things. 

But we also need to realize that the bondage is not always of our own making.  There were people who were faithful to God in Jeremiah’s time; not everybody had turned away from the Lord. There were those who wanted to serve Him.  However, they were still going to be facing the same consequences as everyone else. Not all bondage is of your personal doing, but we all have to suffer the consequences of national sin.  

In years past, we had the national sin of slavery and racism, and we’re still making up for it. 

In Jeremiah’s day, there was no United States.  There was no nation that had the type of freedom that we have.  The nation of Israel wanted a king.  God gave them what they wanted, but had a warning.  He told them that the kings would take their livestock, much of their goods, and a lot of their riches.  Sometimes they had a good king, but sometimes the king was wicked.  

My point is life under Nebuchadnezzar may not have been any worse than under a local rule that was wicked.

They were there because of the judgment for their past sins.  Now God was telling them He was going to add to that.  

Serving God in Difficult Times

You can serve God in captivity.  You can serve God when you’re under foreign rule. 

There’s an example of that in the Bible. Joseph, in the Old Testament, was very loved by his father.(Genesis 37-50)  His father gave him a special coat of many colors.  That caused jealousy among his brothers.  One time when they were out tending the flocks, the brothers conspired to capture Joseph.  They took him and put him in a pit. Then they took his coat, tore it, and put animal blood on it,  They took the coat to their father and made it appear that Joseph was dead.  

When the brothers returned to the pit, rather than kill him, they decided to sell him to a group of Midianites that was passing by.  They then sold Joseph to a high-ranking official in Egypt named Potiphar.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers.
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers.

Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, taken from his homeland, and sold into slavery.  He did the best he could in those circumstances.  Over time, he was given positions of responsibility.  The slave became like a chief administrator over Potiphar’s house.  

Then, Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph.  When he refused her advances, she became angry and falsely accused him of assault.  

Faithful Through the Trials

The roller coaster of Joseph’s life continued.  After the accusation, he was thrown into prison.  But he was a cooperative prisoner and became a trustee of sorts.  He organized the other prisoners and together they cleaned up the prison.  

Before long, Joseph became high in authority in the prison.  

Then, a couple of Pharoah’s officials were put into prison.  While there, they had some dreams and Joseph told them what the dreams meant. He said one would be released and the other executed.  It happened just the way Joseph said it would.

The one who had been released forgot all about Joseph…until the Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could explain.  When he heard about the dream, he remembered Joseph and said he was in touch with God and could interpret dreams.  

Pharaoh sent for Joseph and God revealed to him what the dream was and its meaning.  Joseph told the king that famine was coming and that he should build storehouses during the plentiful years so there would be food when the famine came.

The king was so impressed that he put Joseph in charge of storing up the grain for the coming famine.  The man who was once a prisoner was now in a place of high authority in Egypt. 

Even in captivity, you can serve the Lord.  

Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego

Think of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel 3:16-28)  The king had erected a statue of a false god and ordered everyone to bow whenever they heard the music.  The king commanded that anyone who would not worship be thrown into the fiery furnace.  

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not do it.  Their refusal was reported to the king.  The king had a dilemma because during their captivity, the three had found favor with him.  He didn’t want to execute them.  

The king confronted them and asked again if they would bow.  They all said no.  The king asked if their God was able to deliver them.  They said they knew He was able, but even if He chose not to, they still wouldn’t worship the false god.  

So, the three were thrown into the furnace.  When someone looked inside, they did not see three people…but four!  The Son of God was in that furnace with them.  They were delivered.  

Even when faced with execution, they were faithful to God.
Even when faced with execution, they were faithful to God.

During Daniel’s captivity, the king decreed that no one was allowed to pray for a period of time.  Daniel defied the order and prayed three times a day, as he always had.  He was thrown into a den of hungry lions.  The lions’ mouths were shut and Daniel was delivered.  (Daniel 6)

Naaman

In 2 Kings 5, we find the story of Naaman. He was a great warrior, but he had leprosy.  A slave girl who was serving his wife talked about the prophet Elisha in her homeland.  Naaman trekked to Jerusalem for healing.  Elisha didn’t even come out to greet him.  He sent word that Naaman should go wash in the Jordan River 7 times.  He was healed.

You can serve the Lord in captivity.  You can serve the Lord when things aren’t going well. You can serve the Lord if your government becomes corrupt.  

We still have a responsibility to serve God to the best of our ability.  We still have a responsibility to do that which is right and to be honest.  

Our treasures are not on earth.
Our treasures are not on earth.

Do things for God, and your treasures will be laid up in heaven.  We need to make sure that our friends and family have the promise of heaven, regardless of what the future holds.  Remember, we’re just passing through.

What to Do When Life Gets Hard

What To Do When Life Gets Hard

The year was 1635.  John Elliott had just finished a long day riding his horse in the rain.  Just as he had the past few days, he removed his boots and socks. He wrung the water out of his socks only to put them back on again.  He was concerned about his health after the trip. But he had a mission.

John Elliott
John Elliott

John Elliott was born in England in 1604. Like many others, he had attended Cambridge University.  

He came to America and after a couple of years, was sent to Boston, Massachusetts, which, at the time, was a rural and wooded town.  He became the pastor of Roxbury Church. 

Why America?

Why did people come to America?  It certainly wasn’t for an easy life.  Many had to learn how to farm, something they had never done before. Indians taught them how to farm.  

Some new settlers came seeking gold.  We’re told that’s why the Spaniards came. But the ones that came from England were escaping religious persecution.  They wanted to worship God in the way they felt they should according to their hearts.

Many that came over were already pastors.  John Elliott was one of them. 

A New Mission Field

He had a heart for the Native Americans.  He wanted to share the Gospel with them.  There was a problem, though: they didn’t speak the same language.  So John decided to learn their language.  He discovered what a difficult task it was going to be when he learned that a two-syllable phrase in English translated to a 12-syllable phrase in the Wampanoag (the local Indian’s) language.  He began learning the language, but also had an interpreter who knew enough English so they could converse back and forth.  

The apostle to the Native Americans
The apostle to the Native Americans

There were a few stumbling blocks in the process of sharing the Gospel because the two had to sometimes clarify what the other was trying to say.  But they eventually got the message out.  

They began telling them that all people had sinned and come short of the glory of God. That Jesus Christ had come to this Earth as the Son of God, He lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin.  Then He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 

John went on to tell them that Jesus was coming again and it will be as a Judge.  But the ones who accept Him as Savior will escape the judgment.

That is the message he presented to his neighbors.  They were open and many of them wanted to receive Jesus as Savior.

In fact, there were so many that they decided to start their own village.  They called them Gospel Towns.  

In Europe, he was known as the man who printed the first complete Bible in the United States.  It was a Bible written in the language of the American Indians he was ministering to.  

He had preached to so many Native Americans (Algonquins) who then began preaching to their tribes themselves that he wound up with 24 villages.  They weren’t small, either.  The villages had populations of 2,50 – 4,000.  

Endure Hardness

John Elliott was traveling to these various towns when the relentless rain hit and he had to wring his socks out each night.  He may have gotten some shelter in a tent for a time, but again and again, went back out into the weather.  He wondered if he’d develop pneumonia or something worse and wind up dying from it.  While having these thoughts, he was reminded of the verse 2 Timothy 2:3 which says, “ Endure hard times as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

It had been raining for days.
It had been raining for days.

What do you do when hard times come?  There’s your answer.  Endure hardness.

That’s what many of the people who came to America decided to do in those early days.  

There’s a book by Robert J. Morgan called “100 Verses That Made America: Defining Moments That Shaped Our Faith.”  I’ve gotten several stories from it, including the one here.  I would recommend you take a look.  

John Elliott said that when things got hard, Jesus stepped in and brought to his mind the verse in 2 Timothy: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

Why Endure Hardness?

Why should we endure hardness?  Because hardness is going to come.  The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust alike.  (Matthew 5:45)  Sometimes it doesn’t rain enough, sometimes it rains too much.  It’s just a fact of life.  Some things are hard. It’s not all easy.  

I think of newly married couples.  The hard times are bound to come.  It’s so important that you endure the hard times and stick it out.  It’s not always you causing trouble with one another, sometimes it’s just the difficulties of life.  

Disappointment comes.  It could be illness, the sudden death of a loved one, financial hardship, or something else.  If you make it through the hardness together, when you come out on the other side, somehow, you’re stronger.

Of course, you wouldn’t ask for those difficult times to come to make you stronger, but you can be thankful that you have become stronger.  

We’re to endure hardness. It will come.

Preparation for battle
Preparation for battle

When a soldier goes into the service, they start off in basic training.  They have a drill sergeant who is usually pretty tough.  One person said, while he didn’t remember his drill sergeant’s name, he did remember that he was always there. At first, he didn’t like that he was always there, but then he grew to appreciate that the officer was always around when he was needed.

The training is preparing you for the hardness of battle. 

The soldiers are sometimes given a backpack to carry.  It may weigh as much as 50 pounds.  Then they’re told to go on a run or hike.  They’re being prepared physically, pushed beyond their limits.  

I once took a class called “physical fitness” at a local community college.  When we started, they brought us all in and had us do different physical tests.   We did pushups, situps, and chin-ups.  They didn’t tell us why we were doing them, so we all did our very best.  

In the next class, they told us that they were going to take our best and cut it in half.  We were all happy with that.  Then they said we were going to do each exercise three times.  We weren’t quite as thrilled then. But we went on, and at the end of the semester, we did the same tests again and found that we had gained in all the areas we had been working on.

We were pushed to our physical limits and grew as a result.

Endure Hardness as a Good Soldier

Endure hardness as a good soldier.

Soldiers are required to make their beds daily.  An officer once said that it’s to establish a routine and develop good habits.  It’s part of being disciplined.

What is a follower of Christ called?  A disciple, which comes from the word discipline.  In Luke 14:26, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

The part about hating family members is by comparison.  Your love and devotion to Jesus should be so much more than that for your family that it isn’t even close!

Discipline

To be a disciple of Jesus.

A Good Soldier

Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

The verse says to be a good soldier, not one that goes in and destroys the countryside.  A good soldier doesn’t go in and pillage and plunder.  

We're called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
We’re called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

A while back, I heard that many people in Afghanistan were coming to Christ. Why?  Because of the good soldiers that were sharing the Gospel. 

Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

We have Jesus as our great Commander.  He’s the greatest leader ever.  Our Earthly leaders will do the best they can but they can only do so much. They have to deal with their limitations.  But when you have Jesus Christ as a leader, He is the Lord of the universe.  He knows everything.  He will make the best decisions.  So as a good soldier, you follow Him.

Even if you don’t understand what your leader is doing, a good soldier completes the mission and sees in the end how it all works out.  That’s how God works with us sometimes.

Joni Eareckson Tada

You may have heard of a lady named Joni Eareckson Tada.  In 1967, she misjudged the depth of a river and dove in headfirst.  She suffered a fracture between her fourth and fifth vertebrae which left her paralyzed from the shoulders down.  She has very limited use of her hands and is able to lift a little bit, but that’s all.  

Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni Eareckson Tada

But she’s painted beautiful pictures by holding a paintbrush in her mouth.  She’s given speeches all over and has been an inspiration to many.  She has endured hardship and come through it. 

Sometimes God allows us to endure hardness so we can help someone else.  

Unbroken

The prisoner could not be broken!
The prisoner could not be broken!

A group of soldiers had been captured and were prisoners of war. One of the camp guards did everything he could to break their spirit.  It was hard to break the spirit of one of the soldiers, though. He had such determination.  At one point, this solder was about at his physical breaking point.  The leader of the camp ordered him to lift a log.  Even on his best day, the soldier couldn’t have lifted it, and now he was ready to drop.  But somehow, he managed to hoist the log over his head.  The camp leader who was trying to break this man wound up the one who was broken and defeated.  

We’re to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

One day, Jesus is coming back.  One day, there will be a war.  All the forces of good and evil will come to battle. Jesus’ forces, including those of us who are Christians, will fight with Him.  It’s called the battle of Armageddon.  (Revelation 16:16)

How will it end?  God, The One who spoke the world into existence will win the battle!

Whose side will you be on?

Armor of God

The Bible tells us to put on the whole armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17)  You begin with the helmet of salvation.  If you don’t have the helmet of salvation, the rest of the armor is useless.  But the verses also talk about the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, and feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.

Ephesians 6:11-17
Ephesians 6:11-17

I want to encourage you, as John Elliott was encouraged, to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

If you have never put on the helmet of salvation, or even if you’re not sure.  You need to be sure!  Feel free to contact me here and I can help you and answer any questions you may have. 

Payday, Someday

Payday is coming

Proverbs 26:27 “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will return upon him.” (MEV)

I picture someone digging a deep pit or moving a huge boulder when I read this verse.  Perhaps a stone-like those used to seal graves.  It took many men or an amazing feat of engineering to get them moved into place. 

Sermon video

That’s why the women who were going to Jesus’ tomb wondered who would move the stone for them.  Of course, we know that their concern wasn’t necessary.  The angels had already moved the stone.

The verse above shows the negative side of how things happen sometimes.  There’s a positive side found in the New Testament.

The Golden Rule

Going back to my youth, a positive side was presented to me by none other than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  At the end of their program, they would sing, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”  They were Christians.  Dale Evans went around the country talking about the Bible.  My wife and I actually heard her speak in Kansas City, Missouri.  

Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

One of the things they would say before singing their signature song was, “Remember, boys and girls, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  You probably know this as “The Golden Rule.”  It’s actually Biblical.  The verse can be found in Matthew 7:12. 

Jesus said that there were two commandments.  The first one was the greatest, which is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

Pressed Down, Shaken Together, and Running Over

That’s the positive side of the verse in Proverbs.  The Bible says that what you sow, you reap.  (Galatians 6:7)  If you sow good things, you will reap good things.  If you give, it will be given to you with good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. (Luke 6:38)

Running over
Running over

We had a friend who told of how he had moved to a new community and they arranged for a trash pickup.  The first week, something went wrong, and the trash wasn’t picked up. 

My friend checked and figured they could get by another week until the pickup came.  He looked around to make sure no one was watching, and he climbed on top of the trash pile and began to jump on it to compact it and make some more room.  

However, the following week, the trash service forgot again.  He climbed up on the pile and began to jump to compact it even more.  It was then that the verse, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” came into his mind.

Haman

On the negative side, if you try to dig a pit to bring harm to someone else, you will fall into your own pit.  If you have a boulder set to ambush someone, be careful because it may roll down on you.  

The story of Haman, beginning in Esther 3, tells how Haman was jealous of Esther’s cousin, Mordecai.  Haman had a gallows built with the intention of seeing Mordecai hanged on it.  

Through a series of events, it was discovered that the wicked one was actually Haman.  The king was so enraged that he ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows he himself had built!

Be careful what you do.  It can come back to you.  Good can come back good, but evil can come back evil.

Payday, Someday

Dr. R.G. Lee (1886-1978) was the pastor of Bellview Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.  Dr. Lee was a very well-known Southern Baptist preacher and preached all over the country.

Dr. R.G. Lee
Dr. R.G. Lee

He had a sermon that was very well known.  It was often requested that he preach it.  I read that he had preached this sermon over 1,000 in his lifetime.  It was called “Payday, Someday.”  (I borrowed the title.)

I’m going to share some ideas from that sermon with you, but I’m going to put my own take on it.  

I’m going to tell you about 2 modern characters, 4 Biblical characters, and the day to come.  

Nick

There was a man named Nick who lived in the 1960s.  As he was growing up, he wasn’t doing well.  In fact, his parents had a difficult time raising him.  It was so hard, in fact, that they sent him from Puerto Rico, where he was born, to New York City to stay with relatives.  

While living in NYC, he began to run with crowds that were similar to the ones he ran with when he lived in Puerto Rico.  He discovered the street gangs in New York. Before long, he had become a member of one of them.

It wasn't long before Nick joined a gang.
It wasn’t long before Nick joined a gang.

The gang was involved in all sorts of illegal activities, including drugs.  The gangs would fight one another. They made homemade guns.  They killed members of rival gangs.  Nick had killed people and narrowly escaped death himself.  

At the same time, there was a ministry in New York that wanted to try to help the gang members and drug addicts, and other youth in crisis.  They decided to rent out a building and have a church service. They used school buses to go around and pick up the various gang members. They didn’t realize that they were putting together two gangs that fought against each other.  At least two rival gangs were at that church service that night.

The kids were making a mockery of the service.  During a solo, some of them began to dance in the aisles…not in the Biblical way!  But they heard the Gospel.  

 Nick was one of the people in attendance that night.  He had heard the Gospel and had a decision to make.

Tom

Next, we have Tom.  Tom wasn’t involved in drugs or gangs.  He just lived a regular life.  But Tom needed Jesus just as much as Nick did. How do I know?  Because everybody needs Jesus that much!  Seven years old or seventy years old…everyone needs Jesus.

Tom had been invited to church and he occasionally went.  He had heard the Gospel.  He even understood the Gospel.  He was like the man that Paul spoke to in Acts who told Paul to go away and he’d call for him later. (Acts 24:25)

"Tom" could be anyone.
“Tom” could be anyone.

Tom didn’t want to change his life or his friends at that time.  He said he’d do it later.  

Those are the two modern-day people.  Now I want to talk about the four from the Bible.

Naboth

The first is Naboth. His story is found in 1 Kings 21:1-16.  Naboth owned a vineyard.  He was a good man.  He had been schooled in the law of the Hebrews.  The law said that they could not sell land with the idea of it being a permanent sale.  The land would come back to them after a period of time.

Naboth was committed to upholding that.  

Ahab and Jezebel

At that time, Ahab was the king of Israel.  He was the son of Omri, one of the most wicked kings that Israel had ever had.  Ahab was actually worse than his father.  

Ahab’s summer palace was located right next to Naboth’s vineyard.  The king asked to buy the vineyard, but Naboth refused, as a permanent sale of the land went against scripture.  Ahab was very upset and returned to the palace. 

Ahab’s wife was a woman named Jezebel. She was not of Jewish descent.  She was a foreigner and worshiped Baal.  She was very dedicated to her religion and would do anything she could to take out the competition.

Upon his return to the palace, Ahab went to his bed and pouted and refused to eat.  His wife went to him to find out what was wrong.  He told her about his conversation with Naboth and his refusal to sell the vineyard.  

Ahab wanted Naboth's land.
Ahab wanted Naboth’s land.

Jezabel said, “Aren’t you the king of Israel?  Get up and eat something.  I’ll get that vineyard for you.  I just need to borrow your ring.”

So Jezabel, pretending to be Ahab, wrote a letter to the elders and nobles in Naboth’s city.  She instructed them to proclaim a fast on a certain day.  On that day, they were to bring Naboth to the seat of judgment for a trial.  The charge was blasphemy, which was punishable by death.    

The day arrived and the elders and nobles did as they were instructed.  Naboth was put on trial.  Jezabel had hired two “sons of Belial” to bear false witness against Naboth.  (Belial is another word for the devil.)

Before he even had a chance to defend himself, he was taken out of the city and stoned to death.  

Elijah

The fourth BIblical character is Elijah.  He was a spokesman for God and had said that it wouldn’t rain until Elijah said it would. (1Kings 17:1)  So, Ahab already hated him.  Because of that, Elijah had gone into hiding, which further enraged Ahab.  When Elijah, alone, went up against 450 prophets of Baal and won, that angered Jezebel.  (1 Kings 18:16-40)

Elijah heard what had happened to Naboth and he met with Ahab.  He told Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood in the place where he killed Naboth.  He also said that dogs would consume his wife, Jezebel.  

Ahab returned to his palace. He and Jezebel would sometimes eat food that came from Naboth’s lands.  After a time, when nothing happened to them, Jezebel began to mock what Elijah had said.  She believed nothing would happen to them.  

Payday Always Comes

With God, there’s always a payday.  It’s just not always on Friday.

Ahab and Jezebel lived on happily for 3 years. 

Then the king of Judah came to visit Ahab and the two decided to go to war in an effort to claim some land. Ahab planned to go into battle in disguise; wearing the disguise over his royal armor.  

The captain of the opposing army instructed his men to only go after Ahab, no one else.  Because Ahab was in disguise, no one could find him.  Finally, a soldier shot an arrow randomly into the air. It went into an opening in Ahab’s armor and wounded him.  They made their way back in the direction of the palace. Ahab’s blood was pouring from the chariot, and, just as prophesied, dogs licked it up in the very place where Naboth died.

It happened exactly as Elijah had prophesied
It happened exactly as Elijah had prophesied

Jezebel, however, still lived.  She lived through many kings. Then, King Jehu came into power.  He came to the wall of the palace where she was and asked if any within were on his side.  There were some, and he ordered that Jezabel be thrown from the wall. He trampled her with his horse.  

When they later went to bury her, all that remained was her skull, feet, and palms of her hands.  The dogs had eaten the rest.

There’s always a payday.

Chief of the Kangaroo Court

Dr. Lee said that he would sometimes receive hate mail.  One of the letter-writers would sign the letters “The Chief of the Kangaroo Court.”  

One day while sitting at home, a nurse from a Memphis hospital called Dr. Lee and said that a man was requesting his presence.  He refused to give his name to the hospital, but said to tell Dr. Lee that he was the “Cheif of the Kangaroo Court.”

When he arrived at the hospital, Dr. Lee encountered a young man with the wildest, weirdest eyes he’d ever seen.  The man may have been large at one point, but his boy was ravaged by disease. 

He said to the man, “Hello.” 

“Howdy do?” he answered. 

“Is there something I can do for you?” Dr. Lee asked as kindly as he could. 

“No. Nothing! Not a thing. Nothin’ ‘tall! — unless you throw my body to the buzzards when I am dead — if the buzzards will have it!” he said.

Then his voice lost some of the snarl — and he spoke again. “I sent for you, sir because I want you to tell these young fellows here something for me. I sent for you because I know you go up and down the land and talk to many young people. And I want you to tell ’em, and tell ’em every chance you get, that the Devil pays only in counterfeit money.” 

R.G. Lee would have loved to lead that young man to the Lord, but it wasn’t to be.  He sat by the bedside and two hours later, the young man died.

There’s a payday coming someday.

Eternal Consequences

Back to Tom.  He had said, “Someday, I will come to to the Lord.  I will get saved someday when I’m older.” Before that “someday” came, Tom had a stroke.  Pastors came to visit, but Tom was unresponsive, unconscious.  Payday had come for Tom.

David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz
David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz

Nick, better known as Nicky Cruz, heard David Wilkerson preach and gave his life to the Lord the night of that service, as did another gang leader.  Several members of the gang followed in their footsteps and became Christians,

Payday is coming someday!

If we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, at the end of our life when that payday comes, it won’t be a bad one, it will be a wonderful one. All wrongs will be made right. Maybe not in our timeline, but it will happen. 

What will your payday be?
What will your payday be?

What is the way out for us as humans?  It’s simply the fact that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to this world to be crucified. Jesus had the weight of all the sins of all the world, past, present, and future, put upon Him.  The answer for your payday is what you have done with Jesus.  Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior?  Or, like Tom, are you putting it off until a more convenient time?

Payday is coming.  I hope you’re ready. If you’re not, I invite you to come to Jesus.

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Jay Austin was, on the surface, a successful used car salesman. Unfortunately, his sales techniques were less than honorable.  He made promises he couldn’t keep, cheated people, and said whatever was necessary to make the sale.  

Sermon video

Jay’s Problem

Two of his employees had learned well how to use those same dishonest techniques.  

Jay needed money!
Jay needed money!

As I said, it looked like he was doing well on the surface.  He was moving a lot of cars and bringing in a lot of money.  But he was buried in debt.  

One day, the bank called him and requested a meeting.  Jay was told that he had 30 days to pay off his loan or the bank was going to foreclose on the business.

Not only were there problems with the business, but there were struggles going on within his family as well.  He was too proud to admit it was his fault.  He wanted to blame others for his problems, 

But his wife and son both knew that they could not trust his word when he said he was going to do something.  They knew about his dishonesty.  He pridefully tried to cover it up.  Occasionally, he would attend church with them, but not often.  Other times, he mocked the idea of going to church.  

But the bottom was dropping out.  It looked like he was going to lose his business.  But his wife had been praying for him. 

On the Right Path

A televised sermon changed his life.
A televised sermon changed his life.

One day, he saw a church service on TV.  He decided that his way of doing things wasn’t working, so he confessed to the Lord.  He admitted his dishonesty, and his lack of support for his family, and told God that he wanted to change.  

He thought he was done, that God would be merciful and he could move forward from that point. 

But something happened inside of Jay because he really had changed.  He realized that he couldn’t continue with his dishonest business practices.  Would the Lord rescue him?

Psalm 37:1-5

(KJV) Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. 3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Scriptures for the blog.
Scriptures for the blog.

Proverbs 3:5-6


(KJV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Lean Not on Your Own Understanding

So Jay started off by following the steps in the passage in Proverbs.  He told God that he didn’t know how, but he was going to quit cheating people and instruct his employees to stop as well. 

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  The Bible says that the greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(Matthew 22:37)  With everything within you.

You can come to Christ just as you are, but if you really meet Him, you don’t leave the same as when you arrived.  Something starts working in your life.  

The Bible says that there’s a change and we start to bear fruit.  It also says that some do better than others.  Some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold.  

Sometimes the change is obvious and immediate.  People see the change and want to know what’s happened.  Other times, depending on past challenges, the fruit takes longer to ripen.  

Lean not on your own understanding.  

Trust God

Jay was trusting God with all his heart.  But he didn’t know how to glorify God in bringing in money. His former practices of lying and scheming weren’t going to work anymore.  

His employees were doubtful.  They knew that there wouldn’t be as much money coming in as before. They also realized that they’d be losing money on their commissions.  That was a big concern for them.  They didn’t want to go along with this new plan, but Jay pushed for them to be honest.  

If it happened that they were not honest, Jay would go to the customer himself and make it right. He continued his new practice of being honest.  In some cases, he realized he had to go back and return money to some former customers. 

Even though he had 30 days to come up with the money for the bank, he continued in his new course of honesty.  He had made a commitment to God and intended to honor it.  He decided to not lean on his own understanding.

That’s something we all need to do.  Our understanding is shaped not by the Bible, but by the world.  That’s why it’s so important to study the Scriptures.  It ought to become a part of our lives.  We need to get away from our own understanding and into God’s understanding.  

Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.
Study the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ.

When you become a parent, you have this tiny human who has been given to you, and it dawns on you that this is an enormous responsibility.  Where’s the instruction manual?  What you do is fall back on what you know, what you have seen, or how your parents raised you.  That can be good.  Your parents may have been instructed in the ways of the Lord and had the mind to follow Him.  

But maybe you had parents who didn’t follow God’s leading and just muddled through and didn’t make good decisions.  

Then there are parents who the world may say that they have no business being parents. Then your resolve will be not to be like your parents.  The problem there is that you keep focusing on them and whatever you focus on affects you.  So lean not on your own understanding but lean on the promises of God.

Good News/Bad News

A local news outlet decided to do an undercover investigation of used car dealers.  They sent a reporter in to pose as a potential employee.  The employees who weren’t happy with Jay’s new system got fed up and left and began working for a competitor.  

The news outlet went and interviewed the two and they told stories of how Jay used to run his business and how dishonest he used to be.  

So the report came out.  It wasn’t good.  Jay told God, “Lord, I’m trusting you.  I’m changing my life.  I don’t understand how this is going to work.”

How to Know That You Are Making Good Decisions

Years ago, in the first decade of our marriage, we were living in Georgia.  We had several decisions to make.  Our desire was to always be in God’s will.  

A flyer came to our house about a conference that was going to be in Atlanta.  One of the bullet points was “how to know you’re in the will of God.”  While I was looking at the new material, that one point really stood out to me.

That one session was the main reason I went.  It was a week-long conference.  Day after day, they didn’t cover that one topic.  Finally, Thursday night was the day for the “Will of God” session.  He spoke for 30 minutes or so on most of the advertised topics, but when he came to this one, he was running short on time, and he only spoke on it for a few minutes, probably only two or three; however, it was long enough and I got the answer I was seeking.  It was the verse, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)

Make Christ Known

The speaker said to make Christ known in every area of your life.  Acknowledge that He is the Miracle Worker, the One who cares for you and loves you. If in all your ways, you are trusting Him, He will direct your paths.  

That may not seem like a very “deep” answer, but it’s served me well for 40 years. When you continue to do this, you begin to develop a sense of when God is speaking to you.  You’ll feel a little tug on your heart, mind, or spirit.  It may not be thunder and lightning, but there’s that little tug you feel and know that it’s Him speaking to you. 

If you acknowledge Him in all areas of your life, you can trust that He will direct your paths.  

Does that mean that you’ll always make perfect decisions?  Probably not.  But the Bible covers that as well.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

Results of Change

So, the report had been released.  In it, Jay’s former employees talked about how unfair and dishonest he had been in the past.  It didn’t look good.

Then, people started speaking out.  They talked about how Jay had come to them, admitted his dishonesty, and made things right.  They told of how he’d given money back and apologized to them.  

Jay's commitment to God was successful.
Jay’s commitment to God was successful.

Psalm 37:4 says that if we trust in God, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Sometimes, though, we don’t get what we want.  One clue may be in James 4:3 where it says, “you have not because you ask not.”

Another reason we don’t always get what we want is that what we want may not be good for us.  We ask amiss, and God, in His wisdom, says no, because He knows what’s best for us.

Good Things

I believe that God delights in giving us good things.  

When we lived in Georga, I was the principal of a Christian school and we had weekly staff meetings.  They were different from any I’ve been in before or since.  We’d start off by spending up to 15 minutes strategizing what we could do to make things better.  We then went around the table and each prayed.  I remember one particular woman who was a prayer warrior.  She and another lady decided her son needed a good wife.  They began to pray and that son now has a wife and children.  

Another time, I recall her praying that God would meet the needs of my family.  The school wasn’t able to pay much, so she prayed that our needs would be met. She prayed that God would give us something that would simply bring us joy.  Her prayers were answered time and time again. 

Prayer warrior
Prayer warrior

Her husband was a dairy farmer, and they were audited by the IRS.  While most people would have been nervous, they were completely at peace.  They got their tax professional, went to the audit, and wound up getting money back!

Around that time, Rhonda was expecting our second child (Ralanna).  We had decent health insurance, but it didn’t pay everything.  We were going to have to pay some of the medical expenses out of our own pocket.  Those people got that money back from the IRS and paid those bills for us. We say that Ralanna is their baby as well as ours. 🙂

God will give you miraculous things.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him.  Trust in Him.  Delight in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart.

I mentioned that sometimes we ask God for the wrong things.  Once you get closer to Him and get to know Him better, the things you ask for begin to change and you start asking for proper things.  

Delivered!

I recently heard a man testify that God was blessing him in his business.  But, he was a functional addict.  Like Jay, it looked like the man was doing well on the surface.  But he was an alcoholic and was addicted to cocaine and ultimately to crack cocaine. 

He really wanted to serve God.  One night he prayed for deliverance from his addiction and that the desire for the drug would be taken away.

When he woke up the next morning, the desire was gone!  Many years later, it has not returned. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart.  If your desires are wrong, He’ll tell you as long as you acknowledge Him in all ways.

Back to Jay.  The negative news report had come out, but then so many people came and spoke about all the good things he had done.  Because of the positive reviews, more and more people started going to his business to buy their cars.  By the end of the month, enough money had come in that Jay was able to pay the bank the money he owed them. 

Jay’s Story

A little disclaimer: The story of Jay is based on a movie written by the Kendrick brothers.  You may recognize their names from movies like Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, and several others.  The story of Jay Austin can be found in their first movie, Flywheel.  (You can Google some interesting trivia about the movie.)

Flywheel Movie
Flywheel Movie

Flywheel is actually my favorite of all the movies they’ve made.

In Closing

How do you know that you’re making good decisions?  Are you acknowledging Him in all your ways?  If you are, you can trust that you’re making good decisions. You can also trust that if you aren’t, God will let you know.