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 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. 

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.

The Surprising Foundation for America

Thomas had to prepare another sermon for another midweek service. He had the intimidation that came with having to do something at least once a week, and sometimes more than once weekly.

Sermon video

Every preacher will know what I’m talking about. Sometimes the hardest thing to discern is what God wants us to talk about.

There’s an old joke that says every preacher knows what it’s like to be sitting on the front row on Sunday morning, flipping through a songbook, trying to find a sermon.

First of all, that’s the wrong book to be flipping through. Although, I have gotten a sermon from a song sometimes.

Thomas' dilemma
Thomas’ dilemma

But Thomas was working on the sermon and was able to go to the guide. The guide of course is the Scriptures. Like he had done many times in the past, Moses was going to guide Thomas. God called him to apply the scripture for the midweek service, not the (as we think of it) big Sunday service.
Thomas probably thought, “I just have to try to get through it.” So, he spoke on Deuteronomy chapter 1.

The Surprising Foundation for America


But what came as a result of this was the surprising foundation for the United States of America. Not only did he find something that would help him have the midweek sermon, but he also found something that would affect the United States of America.

The surprising foundation for America
The surprising foundation for America

As you read on, you’ll realize that Thomas was going to be instrumental in the establishment of a town. You’ll also see the significance of the scripture from Deuteronomy that he spoke on in that midweek service; not only in Moses’ time but also in Thomas’ time and our time. The fact is that this sermon that he came up with contained the surprising foundation for America.

So Thomas went into the book of Deuteronomy, the first chapter, and focused on verse 13.

The Significance in Moses’ Time

Before getting into the scripture, let me give you the back story.

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, had asked what Moses did all day. He went on to observe the day-to-day work that Moses did. He would go to a tent, and the people would line up and, from morning to evening, bring him their problems and disputes that they had with their brethren. Moses spent all day judging those matters.

Jethro was able to tell Moses that what he was doing wasn’t good. He said Moses was going to wear himself out. (Exodus 18:13-18) I’ve heard people say, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” But, either way, you’re out.

God will give you discernment in learning how to balance your life so you can continue to minister for another day.

That’s what Jethro advised Moses to do. He told Moses that he needed to get some help. That’s exactly what Moses did. (Exodus 18:19-26) He wasn’t able to bear all the complaints and problems, so he chose wise people to come and help. If the matter was more difficult, the people would be sent to Moses. He heeded the word of his father-in-law, and God allowed it to be good.

That’s what Moses was talking about beginning in verse 9 of Deuteronomy chapter 1.

In verse 10, Moses makes mention of the number of Israelites. Conservative estimates say that there were between 1.5 and 2 million people making the trek through the wilderness.

Although he doesn’t yet know it, Moses is coming to the end of his life. He may have felt it but didn’t know it. He knew that Joshua was going to be his successor, and wanted the situation to be good when he handed it over to him. In verses 11 and 12, Moses says, “May the LORD, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times more numerous and bless you, just as He has promised you! How can I myself bear your load and your burden and your strife?”

When Jethro first suggested that Moses get some help, Moses was able to choose the people on his own, because he knew them all. Now, the Nation had grown so large that he wasn’t able to make the decisions on his own. That’s why, in verse 13, he said, “Choose wise, discerning, and knowing men, among your tribes, and I will appoint them as leaders over you.”

Deuteronomy 1:13
Deuteronomy 1:13

This is something that has become the foundation for the United States. It has made us one of the greatest countries in the world. It has made us one of the happier countries in the world because we focus on freedom: The freedom of people being able to choose our own leaders.

So Moses told the Israelites to choose “wise, discerning, knowing men” and he would confirm them as leaders.

In verses 14-17a, Moses goes on to say, “You answered me, and said, ‘The thing which you have said is good for us to do. So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and well-known men, and appointed them as leaders over you, leaders over thousands, and leaders over hundreds, and leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens, and officers among your tribes. I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the issues between your countrymen and judge righteously between every man and his fellow countryman, and the foreigner that is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment, but you shall hear the small as well as the great. You shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s.’”

This is how it works when you have a proper judge. He (or she) seeks the wisdom of God. We know that there are unjust judges because, in the New Testament, Jesus spoke of one. (Luke 18:1-8)

But here, Moses said how they are to be great. Verses 17-18 say, “’ You shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring it to me, and I will hear it. At that time, I commanded you all the things you should do.’”

Moses was going to wear himself out. His father-in-law told him he needed to divide up the responsibility and have the other leaders find capable men to take care of things. Then, it was getting too large for Moses to go himself and pick out men from the different tribes so he spoke to each of the tribes and said, “You get together, you choose people; honorable and noblemen, and then I will appoint them (so he still had final say) as leaders over you.”

Moses led the children of Israel through the desert for 40 years.
Moses led the children of Israel through the desert for 40 years.

What you see here in this passage of scripture is the basis of a phrase that’s used in the U.S. and not much anywhere else in the world. It’s called the consent of the governed.

In the United States, we have the privilege of being able to choose our leaders. We have the privilege of being able to elect representatives who are supposed to represent us and make good, righteous, Godly laws. That doesn’t always happen, but we can at least make an attempt.

We have the choice to allow people to stay in power or not.

Moses was setting up the system of government with instructions for judges. He did that to help himself and also to help Joshua, who would succeed him.

The Significance in Thomas’ Time

Thomas Hooker
Thomas Hooker

Let’s go back to Thomas. He is an actual person in American history. His name was Thomas Hooker. He was a preacher. In fact, he was deemed to be one of the best preachers of the 17th century.

Thomas’ background was: he was born in 1586 in England. He went to Cambridge University. Many early leaders of the United States went to Cambridge, came over to the US, and were preachers who formed the basis for the United States of America.

Some people want us to forget that. Some people want us to cancel that out of our minds. Some people want to shout about the separation of church and state. Well, the phrase separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.

In fact, the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion. It gives us the freedom to exercise our religion. If someone were to say you could only meet together during church services, that is a violation of that right. That is not free exercise.

Perhaps I want to go visit a Christian friend at his home and have a Bible study. That’s free exercise. But if someone tells us we can’t do that, it’s not the free exercise of religion.

Thomas Hooker became a pastor. If you recall, the Church of England had pulled out of the Roman Catholic Church. Many preachers and Bible scholars saw that as an opportunity to return the church to the principles of God’s Word. It was called the Reformation during that time. They were trying to reform the Church of England.

Some of them thought it would take too long, so they began to form small congregations in different areas. It was like forming several small independent Baptist churches, or several Churches of God. There was no hierarchy dictating what they could and could not do. Those people were called Separatists, but they were part of the Puritans.

Puritans
Puritans

There was another group that decided to be patient and change the church from within. The ones who tried that often ran into trouble.

Both groups began to get pressure from the government. They didn’t want them to be out from under their control, so they had to flee.

In the case of Thomas Hooker, he fled to Holland. It’s said that he had to disguise himself in order to leave. But, he and his family, like many others, got on a ship and came to America.

They came to a place where they had the opportunity to worship God according to the dictates of their hearts. It was a blank slate, a new land. It was a time of opportunity to figure out new ways to do things and ways to govern fairly. Aren’t you glad?

Now, I may have fictionalized the part about Thomas having the consternation about the sermon, but it absolutely was a midweek service. It absolutely was based on Deuteronomy 1:13. That verse, again, says, “Choose wise, discerning, and knowing men, among your tribes, and I will appoint them as leaders over you.”

Hartford, Connecticut today
Hartford, Connecticut today

In 1633, Thomas became a pastor near Cambridge, Massachusetts. Three years later, he, his wife, and 100 men from their congregation went south to establish a town. You’ve probably heard of it: It’s called Hartford, Connecticut.

The midweek service was in 1638 and he found the passage of scripture. I don’t know if he had a manuscript of the sermon, but if he did, it did not survive the passage of time. There was a man who took notes and had 13 short paragraphs. It is said that he took notes in shorthand. The note taker was Henry Wolcott, Jr. He wrote out the key points of Thomas’ sermon.

The first one was, “The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.”

The second one: “The privilege of election which belongs to the people must not be exercised according to their whims but according to the blessed will and law of God.”

Number three: “Those who have power to appoint officers and magistrates have it in their power also to set the bounds and limits of the power and places unto which they call them.”

Four: “Because the foundation of authority is laid firstly in the free consent of people.”

So, they decided they were going to establish the government of Hartford, Connecticut, and use the above principles in doing so.

Just a year later, in January 1639, they began setting up the constitution for Connecticut. These principles, “the consent of the governed:”, and the subsequent constitution paved the way for other colonies as they were establishing their constitutions.

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

Later, those same principles were the foundation for the establishment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Today, Connecticut is known as “The Constitution State.”

That midweek service changed the course of history.

The Significance in Our Time

This is not only a piece of our history. It’s significant in our time as well.

We have the importance of free and fair elections. No one has to know how you vote. We still have secret ballots.

While some in power may overstep their authority, we do still have the consent of the governed.

We vote for judges, among other offices
We vote for judges, among other offices

During a mandated business shut down, one of the local restaurants where I like to go for coffee shut down for a brief period. The next time I checked, they had a sign on the door stating that they were going to remain open and gave the number of their attorney. I’m thankful that they chose to stand their ground against over-reaching governmental interference.

You may be thinking, “Aren’t Christians supposed to be good citizens? Aren’t we supposed to be obedient to authority?”

YES!

We are supposed to be obedient to legitimate authority over us. We do not have to be under the hands of tyrants or tyranny. I hope that we have the strength of character to stand. The Bible says, “…having done all to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13b)
We have the freedom to be able to disagree. We should have the freedom to be able to disagree and debate.

There is the force of medical things. It’s amazing to me that I can turn on the TV and see an advertisement for some drug. The commercial will begin to expound on all the benefits of the medication being advertised and that will go on for about 30 seconds. Then, all at once, a laundry list of possible side effects will begin playing.

It should be a choice.
It should be a choice.

Now we have a drug that is authorized for emergency use, and we ought to have the right to decide whether or not we want to take it. There are a plethora of problems with this drug that we’ve not been told about.

The CDC website says that people have been permanently disabled, over 150,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,000 miscarriages as a result of this new medication.

It all comes back to the consent of the governed.

We live in a free land, and a free country

I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’m concerned about what we allow to start happening.

A man was camping in the Arabian desert. After he got set up and started to relax, he heard a noise outside the tent. He looked and saw a camel loitering outside. He shooed the camel away, but soon it was back. He did this again and again but finally got tired of getting up. He allowed the animal to just put his head inside. He patted the camel’s nose, and before long, the whole camel was inside the tent.

To keep the camels out of the tent, it’s going to take people who have the courage to stand.

So, let’s stand for freedom. Let’s stand for the Constitution. It’s not a perfect document as it was written by imperfect men, but notice the foundations from scripture that were put into the early constitutions. Let’s be careful when our liberties are in danger.

Corrie Ten Boom had her liberties taken away and spent time in a concentration camp. She was freed as a result of a clerical error. Later on, she came face to face with one of her captors.

Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie Ten Boom

She had gone to church after church speaking about forgiveness. The man approached her and she recognized him and knew she had said that she had to forgive. He told her that he had been a guard where she was imprisoned. He said that God had forgiven him, and he asked if she could as well. Fighting her personal will, she reached out her hand to shake his, and she felt the forgiveness come.

I hope that we never get to the place where we would be taken captive. We have the consent of the governed. It’s been said that we’ve been given a republic, it’s up to us to keep it.

The fundamental ideas of Connecticut, inspired by the words of Deuteronomy 13:1, preached by Thomas Hooker, said in it’s opening preamble, “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess…”

The Most Important Consent

You and I may debate some topics, and we may not always agree, but there is one area where it’s important that the consent of the governed takes place: That is, that God loved us so much that He gave His Son so we could be forgiven of our sins. He gave His Son so that we could experience salvation.

When we accept that free gift of salvation, we accept Jesus as One who is the Lord and Ruler of the universe. He has the right to rule and reign in all our lives. When we become His child, we consent to be governed by Him.

The most important consent to being governed is to consent to be governed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Allow yourself to be governed by Christ
Allow yourself to be governed by Christ

If you’ve never accepted Him as your Savior, I invite you to come to Christ today. As I’ve mentioned before, the gift is free. You can receive it by faith. When you do, you will become a new creature. Your life will be changed. The former things have passed away.

Some of the things you liked before, you won’t like anymore. Some of the things you didn’t like before you will begin to like. Some of your friends may not like the changes taking place in your life and you may lose some of them. It’s OK because the best friend you could have is Jesus.

The best decision you could make is to place yourself under His authority and allow your life to be governed by Him.

If you want to know how to accept that free gift, please use the contact information on this blog page to reach out to me. I would be thrilled to help you.

Tragedy to Triumph to What?

Many good stories tell of someone going to a high point, then plummeting to a low point. Hopefully, they rise again. A lot of times, they rise even better than before.

Sermon video

You may have heard of Dave Ramsey. He became a millionaire at a young age, but then he lost it all. He managed to claw his way out and once he did, he made a vow that he would never be in debt again. Since then, he’s become a financial advisor and helped many people overcome financial struggles. He has a book called “The Total Money Makeover,” and has a course called “Financial Peace University”

Not all stories have happy endings, however. That’s a tragedy.

Today, I want to discuss three such stories today. The first one is from history, the second one is about our Nation, and the third is about our own personal history.

Matthew 21:1-11

21 When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go over into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them.’ And he will send them immediately.” All this was done to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion ‘Look, your King is coming to you, humble, and sitting on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their garments on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their garments on the road. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him cried out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He entered Jerusalem, the entire city was moved, saying, “Who is He?” 11 The crowds said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

In Luke, this account says that some of the Pharisees were angry at what the crowd was saying and told Jesus to rebuke them. Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you, if these should be silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:28-40)

Jesus accepted the praise of the people, as was His right. He was God in the flesh.

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Triumph

The triumphal entry as it is sometimes called, or Palm Sunday, was a great day. But we know that it wouldn’t continue. The celebrating would end. The week would go downhill after that.

Tragedy

One of Jesus’ disciples betrayed Him, and He was falsely accused and arrested. He was taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and accused of blasphemy. Caiaphas didn’t have the power, legally, to put Him to death, so He was taken to the Roman authorities, a man named Pilate. Even though Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he allowed himself to be swayed by the crowd.

First Pilate thought that the crowd would be satisfied if he had Jesus scourged with an instrument called a cat-o-nine tails. He did so, and the flesh was ripped from Jesus’ body. The Bible says it was unrecognizable as human flesh.

That was not good enough for the Jewish leaders. They continued to incite the crowd. Pilate said he would release Jesus to the crowd, but, at the urging of their religious leaders, they said, “We have no king but Caesar. Give us Barabbas!”

The death of Jesus was seen as a tragedy by his followers.
The death of Jesus was seen as a tragedy by his followers.

Barabbas the murderer was set free, and Jesus was taken to Calvary and crucified. The wages of sin is death, and on the cross, Jesus truly died for our sins. He took our penalty upon Himself and He paid it.

All of His disciples, not just Peter, forsook Him and fled. It was a dark time in history.

Glorious Victory!

It was a dark Friday, but Sunday was coming! We saw the triumphal entry, the tragedy of death, and then what? The victory of the resurrection. Death could not hold Him and He rose on the third day.

The tomb is empty!

That is history. The two other stories are still being played out.

The United States of America

God brought our forefathers to this Nation and has protected us. Many good things have happened throughout our history.

In my sermons, I’ve been referring to a book called “100 Bible Verses that Made America” by Robert Morgan. One of the verses I spoke about was John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

In the 1630s, many people were fleeing England and the Church of England. The church had already separated itself from the Catholic church. Many people wanted to reform the church as it had become abusive.

Reforming the Church of England

There were two schools of thought on how to reform the church. One group said it was too far gone, and they needed to, more or less, start over with new people. The group wanted to gather like-minded believers together and practice Christianity as they felt the Scriptures instructed.

The other group was reluctant to leave the main church. For whatever reason, they wanted to stay and reform it from within.

Both groups angered some people and were persecuted. The ones that pulled away from the Church of England were persecuted for doing that, and there were power struggles with the group that chose to stay. But both were persecuted by the government.

Then they heard about a New Land. A place where there weren’t a lot of set traditions. A New World where they could explore new possibilities.

Religious freedom awaited
Religious freedom awaited

So, in the 1630s, they began arriving in America by boatloads. Many of those who were coming were the descenders and the ones who had been forced out of the church. Many of these new arrivals were pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars. Once they arrived in America, they decided to establish a school.

As explained in the 1643 booklet, “New England’s First Fruits,”
“After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the city government; one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

One of two tablets flanking The Johnston Gate, an entrance to Harvard Yard
One of two tablets flanking The Johnston Gate, an entrance to Harvard Yard

They wanted to establish education. They wanted to establish it for the ministry. They wanted to start a Christian school. But they also felt it was very important to educate the children.

This is good! This is a triumph. However, we also have tragedy within our education system.

John’s Triumphs & Tragedies

John was born in 1607. He was the son of a butcher and a restaurant owner. By the time he was 18 years old, the bubonic plague had destroyed many members of his family. Only John, one brother, and his mother survived.

Somehow, his mother was able to gather enough funds to send him to Emmanuel College, which was part of Cambridge University. After studying, John was ordained as a dissenting minister. So, he’s had some tragedy and now some triumph.

In either 1636 or 1637, John married a woman named Ann Sadler. The next year, they made the decision to go to America. After arriving in the new country John became an assistant pastor in Boston. He had the excitement of being in a new nation but still had some perils. It was discovered that he had tuberculosis, and he died in 1638. He was young; just over 30 years old.

John Harvard
John Harvard

Although young, John did something that would have a lasting impact on America. In fact, it still has an impact today. He left half of his property and his library of 300 books (my kind of man) to a new college that was going to be developed. They were so grateful that they named it for him. John’s last name was Harvard.

About 100 years later, there was a fire that destroyed all but one of those books. One student had checked a book out of the library. The title was, “The Christian Warfare Against the Devil World and Flesh and Means to Obtain Victory.”

Harvard University’s History

The college was named after John Harvard in appreciation for his generosity. The doors were opened, and a student handbook was published.

“Laws and Statutes for Students of Harvard College” read in part, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, (John 17:3)
“Seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him.” (Proverbs 2:3)
“Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of the language and logic and in practical and spiritual truths as his tutors shall require according to his ability. Seeing the entrance of the Word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130)

Harvard Today

That is how Harvard University was established. It began with triumph, but it’s gone to tragedy. Today, Harvard stands for universalism. Back then, it was for Jesus Christ: the only way to Heaven, the only One who gives true Light of the World. Scriptures used to be found all throughout the handbook. Today, they describe themselves as being very inclusive, having diversity of all types, and “, especially religions.”

That means that Christianity is good. But so are Hinduism, Buddhism, and all other religions on the same plane. Sometimes Christianity is criticized for being exclusive by saying there’s only one way to Heaven. However, Judaism is also exclusive; they say (correctly) there’s only one God. Muslims are very exclusive as well.

Leture hall
Lecture Hall

But, Harvard says they’re all alike. They have an inscription that says, “Facing death without religion.”

I have news for you. If you face death without a certain “religion,” Christianity, there’s no Heaven for you.

The term religion has gotten a bad reputation in past years. While Christianity is a religion, what I’m talking about is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s the one who died for our sins and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

Harvard would do well to return to its roots, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Education Today

Even in the lower levels of schools, like grade school, junior high, and high school, references to God are not allowed.

In a city not far from me, Carbondale, Illinois, a substitute teacher once wrote a question on the board. I can’t recall what the question was, but the answer was “God.” Even though he didn’t write it out, even the suggestion of God was enough to get him into all kinds of trouble.

Then there’s relativism. It’s almost a crime to criticize or condemn a group of people who adopt a certain lifestyle or adhere to a certain belief; unless it’s Christianity. At Harvard, you can’t say anything about any particular group, unless it’s Christians.

Secularism is also rampant in schools. Critical race theory. Now, critical race theory is something that, as an idea, is a good thing. Racism in any form is bad and should not exist. But it takes things too far when it says that people of a certain background should be ashamed and need to apologize for something done hundreds of years ago. Everyone should understand that they have worth to God, regardless of their ethnic background.

There is sex education in schools today. While I have not seen any of the materials myself, I have heard that they are nearly pornographic in nature.

Confusion in the Land

Thanks to the great educational institutions of today, we can’t even decide what is a boy and what is a girl. You may doubt this is true but we have a new Supreme Court Justice who says she can’t define what a woman is because she’s “not a biologist.”

There is a school where some students are “identifying” as dogs and cats. People who tell them they are not a dog or cat can get in great trouble. It’s crazy! It’s a tragedy.

Public education is not what it used to be.
Public education is not what it used to be.

To What?

Will the morality and common sense of yesterday be recovered? I don’t know. Will Christian schools, such as Harvard once was, revive? Will there be a return, in the educational system, to Christianity?

These issues have, however, caused some parents to pay more attention. Some families have made the decision to home-school their children. I do realize that’s not an option that everyone has. That’s a bright spot in all this mess.

But our school system began with Christianity. It’s gone downhill since. Which way will it go? Will it continue its decline or go back to the way it was? I don’t know. It’s up to each individual family to decide, and figure out what sacrifices they want to make.

Our Personal Story

Now we come to the third story: our own personal one. We’re all members of the human race. When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, the human race was condemned to live in sin. With the first brothers, Cain and Abel, there was a murder, because sin had entered the world. It has been passed down from generation to generation ever since.

But, each one of us since has chosen to sin. At some point, we decided we wanted to go our own way and disobey God. That’s a tragedy. But, a tragedy, and then what?

It's your choice.
It’s your choice.

If you ignore the message in the first story, where Jesus went to the cross, died, and conquered death, it will be an eternal tragedy. Revelation 20:14 says that Death and Hell will be cast into the lake of fire.

But, if you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, the tragedy turns to triumph and you will end up in Glory! Jesus made triumph possible for all of us.

Janet’s Story

I asked a member of my congregation to give a testimony during a recent service. You can watch it at the end of the video above. Her name is Janet.
“Good morning. Brother Randy asked me to give my testimony about our life before Christ, during Christ, and after.
“I’ll tell ya, before Christ, you know, you’re going along and you think everything’s wonderful because you made the plans, you designed your life. It was going pretty good, I thought, and Roger thought.
“I was 27 years old, and we had a baby. We had Adam, and he was 3. Neither one of us were really raised in church, and so you can see where that’s going. But, anyway, we decided that we would split our ways because I lived in a house with a lot of alcohol and a lot of fighting and a lot of, not really abuse, but it was abuse. It would, these days, be considered abuse. Anyway, we lived through that and we ended up agreeing that we would get a divorce, and that would be best.
“Well during the divorce, I had a good year. I thought, ‘I’m sailing through.’ I’m not thinking about the Lord, I’m not thinking about Jesus, God because it wasn’t in me. I didn’t have the Holy Spirit. I didn’t have any guide but my own self.
“About a year went by, and I was in a movie theatre, I was dating someone. Very nice man, he didn’t drink. That was my number one thing – he couldn’t drink. So, we were sitting there and I thought, ‘Everything’s wonderful. It’s great. I’ve got this really nice man.’ and all of a sudden, a voice spoke to me in that movie theatre in Carbondale. It was God.
“He said, ‘Get up and go back to your husband.’ I looked around because I thought, ‘Somebody is talking to me. Who is it? Somebody knows me here.’ I looked around but nobody was standing looking at me.
“I’m giving you a short version of this, but God – once again, I’m a hard-headed person Roger will probably “amen’ to that – but I have to be told twice sometimes. So if you ask me to do something I might forget or I might not do it so you have to tell me twice. But God, in His great mercy, said it again. Just a little bit more bolder, but not mean or anything, He said, ‘Go back to Roger. I want you to get up and go back to Roger.’
“And I’m telling you, my body lifted out of that seat without my hands pushing my body up, I stood up, I ran outside and I began to cry. The person I was with came out there and said, ‘Are you ok?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m really not. I need you to take me home. I need you to not talk to me. I’m going to look out the window and I don’t ever want to talk to you or see you again after today. And he just was beside himself.
“You know, you can’t explain God. God is God and He will do what He wants to do in your life. And it’s best that you surrender if you’re fighting something. It doesn’t have to be what I went through but, you know, don’t fight it, because He knows best.
“So, he took me home – it wasn’t the end of him – him and Roger had to have a little talk. He thought he was the man for me, Roger thought he was the man for me, and God knew Roger was the man for me, so you see the point.
“But, anyway, during the time after I accepted…I went home, knelt by my bed, and cried my eyes out all night long. And these verses are the ones I had marked in another Bible that I had read when I calmed down from crying. It’s in Jeremiah (29). It says, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not evil. To give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you.’
“Well I had already cried and I had already prayed for hours. I didn’t think my body could do that. ‘And you will seek me and you will find me when you search me with your whole heart.’
“And I’m telling you, I never searched for something so much in my life. I’ve lost a ring before with a diamond in it. I’ve lost a watch before. I’ve lost things that doesn’t even touch the value of Christ.
“But that day I cried out to Him, I prayed and He heard me and He listened and He kept His promise to me.

Janet's prayers were answered.
Janet’s prayers were answered.

“Well the next day I woke up and I said, ‘I’ve got to go see Roger.’ And he was living in his own house in town and I was still in the country and I went, knocked on his door and I think he seen me that he didn’t come to the door.
“Anyway, don’t blame him. Anyway, I went in and I said.’Roger, I really need to have a talk with you. This is serious.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy. And we went to the kitchen table and we sat down and I said, ‘I want to tell you something. The Lord grabbed ahold of me last night and He told me to come back to you.’ I go, ‘Now in my own self, I didn’t want to, but when He spoke to me, I wanted to. And I’m here and I want you back, and I want a marriage that God wants and I want what He wants.
“Well, you know, it don’t happen like it does in the movies. He said, ‘No. I don’t know. I’ll have to wait.’ He kept saying no and I wouldn’t leave until he said maybe. So, the maybe was ok and I left and prayed and prayed and prayed.
“I think a couple of weeks went by and it was around Christmastime and he showed up. And we had a pot roast and stuff together and God began to work and to mend things.
“In that time I had gotten saved and I went to the church down the road and I gave my heart to the Lord. I didn’t tell Roger nothing about that, but I just began to give my heart to the Lord and just cried out for Roger.
“I went to the altar every Sunday and then, I don’t know, you can ask him, maybe it was a year, he showed up. He sat on the back pew with knuckles gripped – he was not going to the altar. I was just thankful he was hearing the Word of God.
“I went down and prayed even though he was there and I cried out and I said, ‘Lord, it’s got to change. I want him back and I want him in my house but I don’t want this same life. I don’t want to go back to the old ways. I want You and I want to move forward for You.’
“So I was down there crying, and crying, and crying, and the preacher’s wife put her hand on my back and whispered, kind of like God did, and said, ‘Janet, you don’t have to pray no more.’ I looked at her like she was crazy and I said. ‘What?’ She said, ‘You don’t have to pray no more. He’s here”
“I looked over there and he was squalling like a baby.

Praying together.
Praying together.


“I’m telling you, I had an experience with God I’ll never forget. It changed my life. I was in captivity. I mean, I was in a bad place and I thought it was a wonderful place. But the devil deceived me. He made everything look good. So if I’d had my way I’d be in Hell, if not now, sometime down the road I would be. My kids probably wouldn’t have been saved, I wouldn’t even have Shelby. You know, I just give God all the glory today because He does know what path He wants for us. He does know what’s best for us. We’ve got to get ourselves out of the way and let Him do His work in us. And listen to that still, small voice because He does speak. He still speaks to people, I know,
“I love you all and I just wanted to share that with you.”

Tragedy?  Triumph?  What?
Tragedy? Triumph? What?

Which way will it be for you? There’s tragedy because we’ve all sinned. But will it be continued tragedy for you, or will you choose to live in Glory?

A Word Fitly Spoken

Today I want to talk about a word fitly spoken as found in Proverbs, Chapter 25. Verses 11 through 13.

Sermon video.

First, I want to tell you a little story from my own life when I was looking for a word to be fitly spoken.

A Personal Story of FItly Spoken Words

I was student teaching in Benton, Illinois and my supervising teacher told me that they were going to have a prom and told me I had to go. He also told me I could bring someone if I wished.

I had met Rhonda (my wife) a few months before and decided maybe I’ll see if she would go to the prom with me.

I was afraid, however, that if I called her, it would be too easy for her to say no over the phone. So I had a strategy: I was going to go in person and be standing right there and see what happened. She would have to tell me no right to my face.

So I talked to the supervising teacher he said it would be fine. I could go up to Rend Lake College, and if I ended up being late coming back, that would be all right. He understood what was happening. I was so thankful for that.

I had my plan to go and talk to her face to face. The first problem, once I got to the campus, was how to find her. There is a place there called the “South Oasis.” and I thought they may be hanging out there, so I headed that way. Sure enough, there she was, along with all our friends and many folks that I knew from Ten Mile Baptist Church.

It had occurred to me that somebody would say, “Well, hi, what are you doing here? I did not want to say in front of everybody that I was there to ask Rhonda out. I don’t know what I said. I waited for some time, but I never could get Rhonda by herself. Then I heard the bell ring and I thought, “There goes my dream.” But, fortunately, Rhonda was the last one going inside. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” She said yes and we went over a little way where nobody was around.

Looking for an encouraging word.
I was hoping for my own encouraging word.

Finally, I stammered and out that there was going to be a prom and would she go with me. I was waiting for that word to be fitly spoken which would have been, “Yes.” But instead, there was this little pause. I’m sure it was just a second, and then her mouth dropped open and she said “I’m shocked!”

I asked, “Well, does that mean yes or no?” I wanted to make sure. She said “Yes, yes.”

There it was, a word that was fitly spoken!

Encouraging Words and Discouraging Words

Have you ever had someone who believed in you? It could have been a teacher or a family member. Have you ever had someone say something that just discouraged you? Maybe someone even kept you from trying to do something that you should have done?

Apples of gold in settings of silver
Apples of gold in settings of silver

Proverbs 25:11-13 (MEV)

11 A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
12 As an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold,
    so is a wise reprover to an obedient ear.

13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest,
    so is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
    for he refreshes the soul of his masters.

I want to talk to you about a loving example of God’s words, correcting words, refreshing words, and words fitly spoken in general.

God’s Words

First of all, think about God’s words. We open the Bible up and it says, “In the beginning,” (Genesis 1:1) we move over to the New Testament and we go to the fourth Gospel, and it starts with, In the beginning.” (John1:1)

The Gospel of John says “In the beginning was the Word {capitalized}, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

Go down to verse 14 and it says “The Word {again capitalized} was made flesh and dwelt among us, {This is talking about the Living Word, not just letters on a piece of paper.} and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father full of grace and truth.”

There’s the clue, “the only begotten Son of the Father,”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” This is a story about Jesus. The word “words” represents other things.

The Word is the divine expression of the Father. Jesus said, “If you want to know what the Father is like, look at me and you’ll find out.” (John 14:7)

The Words of Creation

At the beginning of the Bible, we read “In the beginning, God created the heavens of the earth.” (Genesis1:1) Then he started the sentences with the words “Let there be.”

So you have let there be light, let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let us separate the waters from the waters. Then God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear, and it was so. Then God said Let the earth produce vegetation, plants, and so forth. And God said, Let there be lights in the heavens, to separate the day from the light and it’ll be for seasons. Then He says, Let the waters swarm was swarms of living creatures and then God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures. And God said, “Let us make man in Our image.”(Genesis 1: 2-26)

Let there be...
Let there be…

In all those earlier ones. He just said, “Let there be” and it was. “Let there be light,” and there was light. Let these things happen and they happened.

It didn’t take billions of years to happen, either. I believe He spoke and it immediately happened.

So you have the words of God.

Word of God

We also have the Word of God. We have the Bible. As we read, we read the story of God’s workings with people.

We have the story that goes out to the people in the Old Testament. There is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the 12 sons of Jacob. Much of the Bible is about that.

In the New Testament, it tells us holy men of God spoke as the Holy Spirit moved upon them (2 Peter 1:21), and they wrote it down. Moses wrote, so we have the writing way back there in history. We have the words.

The ultimate fitly spoken word
The ultimate fitly spoken word

The Bible says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, we have the words of God-The Word; the Bible. As apples of gold, you have a Word that is fitly spoken.

Precious Words

We have the illustrations mentioned in verse 11. It says, “A word fitly. spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Other translations may say in pictures or it may say that it is in a basket.

In trying to figure out what the “pictures” are they said it was like an engraved picture, and the picture can be engraved in settings of silver. Then another said it was like an ornamental basket that was made out of silver that had representations of apples fashioned out of gold. Sometimes the metal was sort of like silver lace you could see through as it said on the table.

A beautiful image
A beautiful image

The passage talks about precious things like silver and gold. Wherever people get married they have a wedding ring that represents the union between a man and a woman. The ring does not have to actually be gold, of course. It represents a commitment.

When you get ready to buy those wedding rings, you want to get the best. It’s something that’s precious.

“As apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word that is fitly spoken.”

Correcting Words

There are also correcting words, as it says in the next verse. “As an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover to an obedient ear. “

A wise reprover, rebuker, or one who gives correction.

Sometimes, correction is necessary
Sometimes, correction is necessary

That works well when you have somebody who has an ear to receive the correction. There are some people that, if you try to correct them, you might have a fight on your hands. You might experience that with children.

But it works best both for them and for you if they have an ear to hear the correction. They have to have an obedient ear to receive that.

Billy Graham’s Words

Billy Graham was a famous evangelist. He preached all over the world and had an audience with at least five presidents, maybe more. He was flying one time and there was a salesman sitting next to him. The salesman was using what some people would call “colorful” or inappropriate language. It seemed like he couldn’t help himself; everything that came out of his mouth was either vile or swearing. Even after he found out that Billy Graham was a minister, he just continued to spew it out.

Reverend Graham asked him, “Do you get paid for all that swearing that you do?” The salesman replied, “No. I do it for nothing. Why?”

The Reverend responded, “Well, you work cheap. You throw away your character, you bring pain to your friendships, you hurt your family, you break the Lord’s commands and you even put yourself in danger. You work really cheap.”

I don’t know if this man heard with an obedient heart or not, but he did receive a correcting word that day.

Words for a Young Basketball Player

There is a gentleman named James Malinchak who is a public speaker. He’s well known for public speaking and he’s written some books. After a while of public speaking, he became a millionaire. He was chosen to be on an episode of ABC’s show “Secret Millionaire.”

When Mr. Malinchak was in high school, he was a basketball player, and actually got a scholarship to go to college. He had to quit due to an injury.

Be receptive to instruction.
Be receptive to instruction

But, back in his basketball days, he was working really hard. He had a basketball goal in his yard. One day, his neighbor came up to the fence and was standing there watching.
James was missing a lot of baskets and his neighbor said, “I can help you with that.”
James thought, “Who is he?” and asked, “Did you play basketball when you were in school?”
The neighbor said, “No.”
“Are you a coach or something?”
Again, the man said, “No.”
So James shot a couple more times, and then, out of curiosity said, ” Okay. Tell me how you can help me.
He said, “You’re putting your elbow way out. Pull your elbow down and you’ll have the better straight shot at the basket.”
Well, James tried it and he started making more baskets.

When you get a correcting word you need to have an obedient ear for it to really work.

Words for King David

We know the story of how King David fell into sin. The Bible tells us that he was a liar, an adulterer, and he was responsible for a murder. He’s often called a murderer, but he actually set it up for a man to be killed.

So here’s David, and he’s God’s king, and he’s done all of this. Of course, he thinks at least hidden but he hasn’t. A course of people in the palace knew about it, and I’m sure the word spread through the countryside.

The prophet Nathan received word from God telling him to go talk to David. King David could have had Nathan put to death, but the king had an ear to hear.

David's correction.
David’s correction.

Nathan came and snuck up on David with a little story about a lamb. He told a story about how somebody took this person’s only lamb. David was angry about that! Then Nathan turned it around and said, ” You are the man.” Then David realized he was talking to him. He had violated another man’s wife. But he could be forgiven, and he was forgiven. (2 Samuel 12)

But suppose he hadn’t had an obedient, willing ear. If he had rebelled against Nathan, there’s no telling what the rest of the story of the life of David would be. But he repented of the sin and God forgave him, and his kingdom forgave him.

David is known as being the greatest earthly king of Israel. (We all know that in the spiritual aspect Jesus is the greatest king) He was forgiven because he was willing to hear.

Refreshing Words

Then there are refreshing words, according to the next verse.
As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters.

The time of harvest could be hot times, especially in the Summer harvest, but even in some of the Fall.

Snow can be refreshing
Snow can be refreshing at times

The cold of snow at harvest. They had ways of preserving the snow. Of course, now we have refrigerators and actually even make ice now. But they were able to bring the snow.

When you’re out working hard on a hot summer day, and you wipe the sweat from your brow and you’re a little bit parched. Then somebody brings you a good cold glass of ice water. Snow at harvest was for refreshing.

A faithful messenger refreshes his masters. So we have refreshing words.

You may go throughout your day and you may come across 30 people. Several of them may just talk about the weather and other things that are not of much consequence. There may be 19 people who come along and really compliment you on something. That makes you feel good when they do that and it motivates you. Then you may have one person give you some harsh criticism.

That night when you go home, what do you remember? You should remember the compliments but it’s awful hard to because of that one word of harsh criticism.

Well, we should have words that are refreshing words.

There’s a sign at a local restaurant that reads: We do not repeat gossip. And then it finishes: So listen closely the first time.

A man named James L Sanders said his mother could be really exasperating. Sometimes when people are upset with other people they will vent about something. Sometimes they will do it in a criticizing way and put the person down. He said his mother is really good. When somebody was doing that, she would listen to the conversation, just waiting for her moment.

When there was a lull in the conversation, then she would be empathetic, she would say “I understand that…. ” But then she would say, “But are you aware that (the person being criticized) makes pies and takex them to the other ladies in the neighborhood?

There wsa a critical conversation about some man. and she said, “I understand what you say. But are you aware that he took a day off from work to go help a neighbor?”

Refreshing
Refreshing

She had refreshing words to say.

There was a lady who was known for being positive all the time. She would always manage to work the word “yes” into the conversation. One day her daughter came over to her house and they were getting ready for lunch. Her daughter looked in the freezer and she said, “Mom, do you have any ice cubes? ” The mother replied, “Yes. They’re not frozen yet.”

She was positive. Always be positive as much as you can.

I’m told that in the Civil War, there was a general his name was Jeb Steuart. Toward the end of the war, Jeb Steuart was preparing for a charge by forces that were several times greater than his. The captain looked to general Steuart and saw a smile on his face. General Steuart realized that the captin was wondering what was going on and so he answered the question he saw in the captain’s eyes. He said, “When you fear God, you don’t have to fear anything else.” A refreshing word to that Captain that was in battle.

So we have we have these words that are like apples of gold in settings of silver. We have correcting words that we ought to be willing to hear when they come our way – when it’s true. If it’s not true, ignore it. If it is true, do something about it.

Concluding Words

Do you realize you have sinned? Do you wonder if there’s any hope that God will forgive you?

The Bible tells us that even though we’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23)

Redemption is within reach.
Redemption is within reach.

If you’ve never accepted the gift of salvation, you can do that today. You can reach out to me, and I will show you how.

God bless you . Have a wonderful day.