July 1, 2001
Proper 8
From Misery to Ministry
1 Kings 19:15-16; 19-21
“Mary” sat across from me. Sadness and fear were etched in the lines of her face. The depths of her pain touched me. She had relocated to care for an ill and unappreciative mother. Leaving friends behind she cared for her mother faithfully. During her mother’s lengthy illness Mary continued to suffer indignities from the mother from whom she so desired to receive love. Now as she sobbed I heard these words. “I’ve always felt stuck. I don’t think anybody really cares.”
I was tempted to remind her that every great hero of faith has the “wilderness” experience. Remember Moses? Jeremiah? Paul? Yes, and of course, Jesus. We all know of those moments when we feel alone — separated from friends and support. We all know of those moments when we feel separated from God. But where are the words of encouragement for Mary?
Elijah certainly was well acquainted with those lonely hours. On the mountain alone and in despair, and God chooses just that moment to speak. And it is God’s lifting message that moves Elijah from misery to ministry. What is God’s message? In the midst of Elijah’s distress we learn some of life’s most profound truths.
I. God finds us
If we examine the context of our passage, we learn in the midst of Elijah’s distress “God finds” him. And in our distress when we are genuinely discouraged, while we might believe that we are exiled from God, we learn a great lesson of life. Whenever we seek God, God finds us.
Remember the story of Zacchaeus. He goes searching for a place to see Jesus, but there’s a twist in the story. Jesus already knows him and calls him by name. When we search for God, God finds us.
II. God aligns us
After finding Elijah, God broadens his reality. When we are “located” God then broadens our horizons. We learn we are not truly alone. Thousands of people have suffered as we suffer. We learn that God is still in control. God’s plan is still in effect. God lifts our view of ourselves and of our circumstances from the dark valley to the majestic mountain peak. God aligns us.
III. God assigns us
God then calls Elijah to an even higher task. God gives him a new commission; a higher responsibility. Elijah is sent to anoint kings for future political leadership. Elijah is sent to appoint his successor, Elisha, for future spiritual leadership.
What do we learn from our text? When the days are dark and lonely, when the darkness limits our sight, God still has a bright future. God still calls us to a task greater than we can imagine.
And how are we to trust this hopeful view of the future? What God affirms, God confirms. Elijah is told there are faithful thousands. Elijah finds the thousands who are faithful. Elijah is told that he has a successor. Elijah finds a willing apprentice, Elisha.
How does this passage speak to the “Marys” of life? When we allow God time and seek God’s will, God finds us in our distress, aligns us with Godly purposes and assigns us to a greater vision. (Earl J. Nichols)
July 8, 2001
Proper 9
Jesus’ Advance Team
Luke 10:1-21
In the summer of 2000, the city of Nashville hosted a Billy Graham crusade. Thousands of people came to hear the famous evangelist, and thousands came to faith in Christ. What a fantastic thing to see!
One of the most interesting features of the event happened behind the scenes. Billy Graham spent only a few days in Nashville, but months beforehand a small team from his ministry came to prepare the way. Without their efforts, Dr. Graham’s visit could not have had the same impact.
As we pick up the story of the book of Luke, Jesus has “set His face toward Jerusalem.” He then appointed a group of close associates, “and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He himself was going to come.” Participating in the Lord’s great evangelistic enterprise, we also serve as the Lord’s advance team. We proclaim the gospel, and we hope to find people who will welcome the Savior.
I. A Witness Lives in Dependence
The seventy did not choose where they would go, Jesus did. As witnesses, we depend on the Lord for day-to-day instructions. Through our daily, prayerful attention to scripture, the Holy Spirit gives the specific insight we need. For example, He may bring to mind a neighbor who needs to hear the words I’m reading. A faithful witness goes where he or she is sent.
Having selected the seventy, Jesus calls them to prayer. “There’s urgent work to be done,” He says, “pray that the Lord would send more workers.” Of course, the seventy are themselves the workers they are asking God to send. As we pray this famous missionary prayer, it ought to have the flavor of, “Here I am, send me.”
“Carry no money belt,” Jesus went on to say. Self-sufficiency is really an encumbrance for a disciple. We do not need to be detailed contingency planners. We trust in God’s direction and provision. His strength is perfected in our weakness.
II. A Witness Understands The Urgency Of The Message
When Jesus said, “greet no one on the way,” He was telling the disciples to violate the etiquette of their society. Like Alice’s Rabbit: “No time to say hello; goodbye!” They were to move quickly to locate receptive households. Then they were to stay there and proclaim the kingdom. When they were not welcomed, they were to move on — physically and emotionally.
We often do the opposite. When someone responds to the gospel, we move on, leaving our baby brother to fend for himself. When someone rejects Christ, we feel compelled to stick around and argue. An effective witness understands the urgency of the message and doesn’t waste time on fruitless arguments.
What makes the message urgent? Simply that it is the best news ever: Peace with God! (v. 5) The disciples validated the gospel with healing and exorcism, but as Jesus pointed out later, the greater miracle was their own redemption. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of the reality of the gospel is a Christian who displays confidence, hope and joy in the middle of opposition, persecution and adversity. Reconciliation with God makes us untouchable.
III. A Witness is Ready to Worship
Have you experienced the flow? The flow is when God employs you to do something you have no ability to do. When you teach the Bible and see the Lord turning on the switches in your students’ heads, or when you share the gospel and receive a positive response — that’s the flow. Having had a little of that experience, I can certainly understand why the seventy returned with joy! They had seen God at work — through them! Wow!
Do you ever complain of not getting anything out of church? Well, the simple explanation is that you are not available to God during the week. People who see God at work on Tuesday afternoon can’t wait to sing His praise on Sunday morning.
An additional benefit of that weekly gathering is the same reminder that Jesus gave the seventy, “rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Knowing God is better than serving God. Always rejoice in rescue. Our salvation is the trump card of all miracles.
Finally, I’d like to notice verse 21: “At that very time He rejoiced greatly.” The Lord sings when people come to know Him in simple faith. Lord, let us participate in spreading your fame. (Doug Searle)
July 15, 2001
Proper 10
What Really Matters?
Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians
Colossians 1:9-14
Are you a successful person? That’s a big deal in our culture, isn’t it? Yet nothing is so elusive as success. Even those who reach the pinnacles of accomplishment often find “success” to be empty. Someone asked best-selling author Jack Higgins what he wished he’d been told as a child. His reply? “When you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”
How about you? Do you ever feel unproductive — not accomplishing anything of value? Do you ever feel dumb — like you’re leaving certain critical factors out of the equation? Do you ever feel weak — ready to just give up and run away? Are you a happy person? Does your life matter?
The Christians in Colosse also wondered about these things. As in many of his letters, Paul begins with a prayer, and in this prayer he condenses and concentrates what is needed for the Colossians, and for us.
I. You need to know God’s will
Paul’s prayer includes only one request: “that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will.” In our day-to-day experience God fills us with knowledge of His will through interaction with scripture. The scriptures, Paul told Timothy, are sufficient to “thoroughly equip” us for “every good work.”
Knowing God’s will, however, is not automatic; it’s something to be prayed for. When you read your Bible, do you reduce the experience to religious duty? Going through the motions? Or do you give the Spirit an opportunity to personally teach and direct you? Paul prays that we would know God’s will “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Only as the Spirit illuminates the Word of God to us do we gain an accurate understanding of it’s meaning and a correct personal application.
But let me give a word of caution: Understanding here means seeing how things fit together. When reading the Bible, you need to know how the part you’re reading fits into the whole. Your confidence in your knowledge of God’s will, then, is directly related to your diligence in studying the whole Bible, “accurately handling the word of truth.”
II. Knowing God’s will is for doing God’s will
What is the intended result of being filled with knowledge of God’s will? “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” Knowing God’s will is for doing God’s will. Do you reserve veto authority in your relationship with God? Do you say, “Tell me what you want, Lord. Then I’ll decide if I want to do it.” Sorry folks, God doesn’t play that game.
You are called here to a life that measures up to the gift of the gospel. How’s it going? Are you “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord?” If not, you have one or both of these problems: 1) You do not know enough about what God wants, or 2) You are not really committed to walking in it.
III. Doing God’s will is the definition of success
Our problem with success is not whether we can achieve things but whether those things are worthwhile. We want to know whether the ladder we’re climbing is leaning against the right wall. Here is the ultimate happy coincidence: Living for the glory of God is the most satisfying way to live. In being filled with the knowledge of God’s will and walking accordingly, you become productive, “bearing fruit,” because you’re doing what God wants done — “every good work.”
You become intelligent, “increasing in knowledge of God” — the knowledge that matters. You become strong; God Himself shares His power with you — not to escape hard times, but to be steadfast and patient in them. Finally, you become happy, “joyously giving thanks,” because you understand the greatness of your position an your opportunity in Christ. This is the new life you have been given!
As the Lord told Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Doug Searle)
July 22, 2001
Proper 11
Glutton for Punishment
Amos 8:1-12
When I was a young boy I moved with my family to a new home that was located just down the street from a big water culvert that ran under the pavement. My Dad made it a point to tell me and my little brother that we were not allowed to go near the culvert because we could get swept away in the current if the water level rose in the creek. We heard the same sermon over and over again. However, one day we were riding our bikes with our friends, and we just happened upon something that was so alluring — the culvert.
As we were playing there I noticed that my Dad’s jeep was about to drive by so we tried to hide deep inside the culvert. He would not have seen us if it would not have been for my older brother who was in the jeep with him. When my brother spotted us he did what he was famous for — he told on us. When we saw the brake lights shine we knew we were in for it. Our father began lecturing: “I have told you several times to stay out of the culvert and you disobeyed me. You will get your punishment when I get home.” Daddy had pronounced judgement and now it was just a matter of time before we met the wrath of his big leather belt.
In Amos’ day the people of God were facing a similar situation only on a greater scale. They had been given the law of God so they knew what was right and what was wrong, yet they rebelled against Him and followed their own desires. Amos was sent by God to preach a message of judgement and condemnation upon the people. His message was simple, “God will punish those who constantly rebel against him.”
If you will, picture with me a basket of beautiful, delicious summer fruit sitting on this table. We have some nice, red, Washington apples. We have a few plump, juicy oranges. There are even a few dozen dark red strawberries. Sitting on top of all this fruit, I have placed a bright yellow banana. It has just been plucked and the ends of it are still green. In the first verses of Amos chapter eight, God shows Amos a similar basket of fruit. He uses this beautiful arrangement of fruit to explain to Amos that He is soon going to punish His people for their constant rebellion.
Since Amos was a fig farmer he understood what God was saying in the vision of the summer fruit. He understood that a basket of fruit that had been plucked at the end of the summer meant that the season for harvesting was finished. There would be no more fruit on the trees. The fields of trees and vines would be desolate and void of any hope for more fruit. Amos also understood from this vision that a basket of ripe fruit is evidence that God’s own people were ripe for judgement.
First, in verses seven and eight, we see that God will punish those who constantly rebel against him by removing His protection. The old children’s Christmas song that says about Santa Claus that he is making a list a checking it twice is also true of God. God says that he is keeping score. He says, “surely I will never forget any of their works.” Because they had rebelled against God, He decrees that he will remove His protection from them.
Second, in verse nine, God will punish those who constantly rebel against him by turning prosperity into poverty. The rich class in Israel was daily becoming richer. They were a nation of great wealth and expanding borders. Verses five and six tell us how they have become so rich. Those who made a living by buying, selling and trading in the market place had become professionals at cheating. They were charging an inflated price for things and decreasing the amount of the thing that was purchased by the buyer. The marketers were becoming prosperous by falsifying the scales of weight and-measurement.
God is pleading with you today. Do not place your trust and security in ill-gotten gains. God will judge his people for their sins. Beware of the judgement of God. If you continue to rebel, the things you trust the most will be the things that fail you most.
Third, in verse ten, we notice that God will punish those who constantly rebel against him by turning their religious practices into pitiful mourning. The people of Israel took for granted the opportunity and privilege to worship their God. They had become hypocritical in their worship. In verses five and six God describes their hearts in relation to their religious practices. God condemns them in their rebellion for not worshiping Him. God reveals through Amos in verse ten that there would be no more reason to celebrate. Their feasts would be turned into pity parties. Their temple songs would turn into screaming and wailing.
How is your worship? Are you being hypocritical in worship by harboring sin in your heart and being unrepentant? Do you see the Lord’s day as something to endure rather than something to enjoy? Are you misrepresenting your spiritual growth by using worship as a costume to cover your true self?
Last, in verses eleven and twelve, we understand that God will punish those who constantly rebel against him by withdrawing the proclamation of His word. In verses five and six we learn that the prosperous were making the poor to live in hunger. They had made a practice of selling “the bad wheat.” What an honest salesman would normally sweep up and throw away, the people of Israel were selling for the price of the best food.
Christians have been given the word of God for a specific purpose. He desires to speak to us, to lead us and to correct us. The scriptures are very clear in telling us that God is holy and God will punish those who constantly rebel against him. God is calling Christians to repent and follow after God. Turn from your evil practices and hypocritical worship and seek God. Put aside your distaste for the Word of God and feast at His table. (Matthew A. Brown)
July 29, 2001
Proper 12
Our Faithlessness, God’s Faithfulness
Hosea 1:2-10
A parishioner requested that I visit his personal friend in the hospital. In the visit the man identified himself by name. Locally the patient’s “whole clan” was assumed to be shiftless, dishonest, basically “low class.” Over the period of several visits, we became better acquainted. One day the man said, “You’ve probably heard of our family. There are times I wish I could change my name.”
Some names carry “so much weight.” So it was with Hosea’s three children. Hosea’s naming of his children suggests the displeasure and judgment of God upon the people of Israel. But as is true of so many biblical passages, there is hope. In verse 10 we read the turning point in this prophetic warning. The transition “Yet….” Just three letters, but we refocus from God’s judgment to the forgiving love of God. Here we learn of God’s unwavering “covenant loyalty.” “Yet…” How profound are those three letters — “Y-e-t.”
I The judgment
The people have been unfaithful. Hosea’s own marriage mirrors their sinfulness. As his wife has been uncommitted, unable to form a lasting loving relationship, so the people of Israel have been unable to remain faithful to the loving God. God has given them liberty from the oppression in Egypt. God has given them victories as they possessed the land promised to them. God has invited them repeatedly to live by the covenantal relationship He has offered and they have chosen. Now God again promises judgment, “yet…” God will be faithful to His covenant promises.
II. The Hope
Then as you read verse 10 you see the future hope of the people. 1) They will be unnumbered as the grains of sand on the seashore. 2) They will be “re-named.” Rather than “Not My People” they will be known as “Sons of the Living God.” If you continue reading you’ll also find an additional promise of future unity under one leader. And all of this transformation comes at the gracious initiative of God.
And the lesson for us today? Certainly Hosea offers a word of warning As we look around us we find significant reasons to believe that we too are not immune from God’s judgment. However, God is always a God of hope. God continues to “summon us,” to “embrace us,” and to offer us new beginnings.
Do these promises actually come to fulfillment for the people of Israel? History shows us that even the loving mercy of a forgiving God does not overcome the rebellion, the sin of the people.
Are God’s promises true? Absolutely! Does God overrule our choice to refuse His mercy? Absolutely not!
To the patient in the hospital I couldn’t say, “You can choose a different family.” I couldn’t say “You can change your family name.” But I could remind him that in the relationship with God he is offered new opportunities, new beginnings, a new start. He can be known as “a son of the Living God.”
Could there be any higher name given to us? Imagine that! To move from you are “Not My People” to being know as “Children of the Living God.” (Earl J. Nichols)
August 5, 2001
Proper 13
Don’t look down
Colossians 3:1-11
Stanley Frank has written a book on speed reading and learning utilizing the methods of Evelyn Wood. In his chapter on “subsonic” reading he shares the story of how instructors prove the effectiveness of the Evelyn Wood methods to parents of children enrolled in the program.
First the instructor teaches the students to concentrate using a few reading and learning techniques. After explaining how the students can improve their reading time and comprehension, he gives them timed tests.
During the final exam, the instructor does all sorts of visually distracting things at the front of the class — things like frolicking around like a ballet dancer. To the amazement of the parents observing from the back of the room, not one of the students notices the instructor’s behavior.
Most of the parents have never seen their children focus so intently on their assignments, and this is usually the point at which parents are sold on the Evelyn Wood methods, Frank observes that parents “realize that by encouraging these and similar study techniques at home, it’s possible to transform their children’s study habits, concentration and academic performance.”1 And all this just from learning how to focus!
Our text today encourages us to focus by directing our gaze towards heaven. With our eyes fixed on Jesus our minds, attitudes and behavior are transformed as we conform to the image of our Savior.
I. Lookup (vv. 1-4)
The apostle begins this chapter with a big “Therefore.” He has just written a large section encouraging the believers at Colosse not to be fooled by false teachings. Paul explains that our identity is in Christ not in some form of legalistic religiosity. He exhorts the Colossian Christians to look up — to keep seeking the things above and to fix their minds there.
We need a heavenly perspective. If our minds aren’t focused on the reality of our positions in Christ, then we open the door to all sorts of deception. We have died to sin and our rebirth is in Christ. We’re hidden with Him — safe and secure. We have the hope of one day being complete in Him and revealed with Him in glory.
II. Consider (vv. 5-7)
Because of this reality we also need a heavenly perspective on the kind of behavior that is pleasing to our Lord — an attitude that is characterized by one who’s been resurrected. Being alive in Christ is death to sin. Prior to our new life we were slaves to sin. And it is because of sin that God’s wrath will be poured out on those who never place there trust in Christ.
This is something we ought to consider regularly. How often do you meditate on what God’s word has to say about your lives before and after Christ? Like God’s chosen wandering around the wilderness, we quickly forget the miracle of salvation.
As John 3:36 reminds us, the wrath of God abides on the unregenerate, and we were all there at one time in our lives. But we’ve been freed from our bondage and made alive in Christ though we were dead in our sins and trespasses.
III. Quit living like the dead (vv. 8-11)
Lord, help us to quit living like the dead.
We don’t set our minds above and consider our new life in Christ so that we can return to our former lifestyles! We’re to put aside that which characterizes the old self; we are new creations in the process of “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created [us]” (v. 10).
God is calling us to set our minds on the things above, to consider the reality of our freedom in Christ and to live out that reality in the community of faith and before the eyes of a dying world. May we be careful to not look down. (Jonathan Kever)
1Stanley D. Frank, ED. D., The Evelyn Wood Seven Day Speed Reading and Learning Program (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1990), p. 33.
August 12
Proper 14
A Powerful Promise
Genesis 15:1-6
You’ve probably heard the expression: “I need this like I need another hole in my head.” Well, believe it or not, there are some who seek a cure for depression, mental illness or are just looking to enhance their mental faculties by getting a hole drilled in their heads. I watched a report several months ago on ABC’s 20/20 describing this practice.1
A small group, headed by Peter Halvorson, performs this procedure known as trephination in secret locations. Halvorson has no license or medical training qualifying him to perform surgery, and there’s no physical evidence that it produces any positive results. In fact, the operation is quite dangerous. Yet several “patients” place there hope and lives in the hands of Halvorson and his disciples as the surgical instruments penetrate their skulls.
Though there is a promise of success, Halvorson and his group are powerless to produce it. It’s an empty promise believed by those with empty lives. However, as we’ll see in our text today, there is One worthy of our trust. His promises are always fulfilled, and so are the lives of those who place their trust in Him.
I. Speaking the Promise (v. 1)
The scripture tells us that after Abram’s rescue of Lot’s household and after Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, blessed Abram, and after his rejection of the king of Sodom’s offer, Abram had a vision.
In that vision the sovereign Lord made a promise. Abram wasn’t to fear, for God was his shield. And God’s word was powerful to accomplish His promise, for it was His word that spoke the universe into existence.
What was the promise? God promised Abram a great reward.
II. Questioning the Promise (vv. 2-3)
Though Abram returned His promise with questions, he wasn’t doubting God. His first question was “What will you give me?” And He addressed God as Adonai Yahweh, his Master and Lord, the sovereign God.
Abram was simply stating the reality of his situation as he perceived it. What would God give this childless man? There was no heir to his house, and it seemed as though he would have to adopt Eleizer to be his heir as was the custom. “Since you have given me no offspring,” the text says, “one born in my house is my heir” (v. 3).
What will God do for us when we seem out of options, when reality as we perceive it is a dead end road?
III. Validating the Promise (vv. 4-5)
The Lord firmly answered Abram: “This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (v. 4). For God there are no dead ends. His power is infinite. Just as He created the stars in the sky, more than Abram could possibly count, God would fulfill His covenant with Abram. His descendants would be more numerous than he could possibly imagine.
IV. Responding to the Promise (v. 6)
Abram’s response to God’s promise of reward is as our response to God’s promises should be — faith. All of us have or will face situations that seem impossible from our viewpoint, but God sees so much farther. Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). And we can be assured that God will come through. As the scriptures give account, He always has, and that will never change.
Will you place your trust in the sovereign Lord? There’s no hopeless situation for the Christian, for if God is for us, who or what can be against us? (Jonathan Kever)
1Illustration taken from a report given on ABC’s 20/20 shown April 27 2000.
August 19, 2001
Proper 15
What Time Is It?
Luke 12:49-56
How often do we hear people saying, “We need to come together!” We gather each week, but the effect of the message from the church seems not to accomplish the mission of Jesus Christ. We say that but do we really mean what we are saying. Yes we do mean that! In other words, it’s time for us to focus on the One who is able to bring us into the oneness.
The gospel of John, in 17:21, remind us, that they all may be one. Jesus Christ all through His ministry stressed unity. The Father is in Him and He is in the Father, all that is the Father’s is His. Such a union is demanded of the disciples of Christ to carry to the world. We need to be available more in our witnessing to the world. In order for us to proclaim this message to the world, we must challenge the unsaved to make a critical decision. We must arouse the community around us! Jesus Christ came to bring us into a common relationship by bringing peace through opposition, division, persecution and conviction.
I. Jesus came to cast fire on earth.
First of all, Jesus’ coming brought a burning zeal upon the world. Fire means judgment by testing the deeds of the rejecters and unbelievers. His coming brought to the world a better interest and determination. This happened by arousing the attention of the unbeliever (v. 49). Jesus brought baptism to the Christian in the Spirit, identifying as bound over totally to the Lord. Fire either purifies or destroys. Salvation in Jesus will be purifying for the true people who accept Him as Messiah. On the other hand it is a destruction for those who reject Him.
However, Jesus coming only added more fuel to the fire. Luke says, “If it is already kindled” which means that conflict and persecution were already in the midst of the people (v. 49). Jesus’ coming completed the mission of seeking and saving that which was lost by offering a way out of destruction.
II. Jesus came to conquer peace.
What were the results of Jesus coming (v. 50-53)? One result of Jesus coming was to bring division in the family. This was not Jesus’ objective, but the effect. Faith in Christ separates the believer from the sinner and the world. The conversion of individual members of the family would cause division. In most quarrels, except those of religion, the members of the same family stand together, but in religious matters the family circle is often broken, and its parts arrayed against each other. In Matt. 12:46-50, Jesus teaches us that those who hear the Word of God and do it are His spiritual family.
Jesus’ mother and brothers thought He had lost His sense, or He was out of His mind. John too reports that His brothers did not believe in Him. They did not come to believe in Him until after His resurrection. Apparently Mary was mistaken about Jesus. She never forgot the incidents that took place in connection with His birth (Luke 2:51). Mary did not understand the reason for Jesus’ present ministry.
Another result of Jesus coming was to overcome evil that is in the way of peace. In other words, the preaching of the gospel of purity and peace will always arouse the opposition of the evildoer. Evil has to be put down before peace can prevail. The ultimate end of Jesus ministry brought peace, but the immediate result of His coming was opposition and bloodshed.
III. Jesus coming warns us.
Now Jesus shifts His message to the crowd instead of His disciples. There is a definite connection between what He has just said and what He now says. He previously spoke of the division brought by His ministry. Now He speaks of knowing what a serious time it is in life. It is a critical time in their lives, a time to make a decision. And this is the challenge of today.
Even thought the ancients did not have modern weather equipment, they did have the ability to predict weather activities by observing conditions in the sky. They learned weather changes emerge from the west. This gave them a warning that clouds coming from the west indicated rain. They knew that wind coming from the desert to the South would bring hot weather (v. 55).
Jesus called them hypocrites in v. 56. The reason is they applied an honest evaluation of the weather, but they would not exercise the same in determining who Jesus was and what His purpose might be. The challenge to us today is do we know what time is it? Do we know what’s behind us? (yesterday) Do we know what’s around us? (today) And do we know what lies ahead of us? (future)
We must make a decision. Jesus Christ came to give us everlasting life. In the midst of persecution and opposition, Jesus died for all of our sins. He did this to give us a chance to make the right, safe and secure choice in life. What time is it? It is time for you to allow Jesus to bring peace into your life.
There will be a deep division between the true followers of Jesus and the rest of the world. This division will continue until Jesus comes again. But you do not have to be on the world’s side. You need to make Jesus your choice. You need to decide today to follow Jesus! It is time for you to make the final decision of following Jesus Christ for the remainder of your life. (B. L. Jackson)
August 26, 2001
Proper 16
Facing Challenges
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Several months ago I noticed one of the youth in my church wearing a T-shirt on which was written: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” As an owner of a very aggressive Dalmatian, I can tell you that this statement is true. What appears to be at best only a medium size dog can put bigger dogs on the run. I can’t tell you why a little dog can be so tough in the face of large aggressors, but what I can tell you is that what people see in any individual is not necessarily what God sees.
You can face any challenge when you choose to follow God. You can face life’s challenges because God knows you and knows what you can do. These same challenges can be faced because God equips you with the tools to deal with them. Then, when all else fails, You can face challenges because God delivers you.
Like most people called to do a great task, Jeremiah seemed skeptical about being able to do what God had called him to do. God, however, had no reservations about calling Jeremiah to be a great prophet. He knew what Jeremiah was capable of. God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you.”
God built Jeremiah. No one knows a piece of work better than its builder. When you build something yourself you see what others don’t. God knows your innermost parts because He formed them.
Playwright Gore Vidal said that when his play, The Best Man, was cast back in 1959, Ronald Reagan was proposed for the lead role of the distinguished front-running Presidential candidate. He was rejected because he lacked the “Presidential look.” God knows you better than anyone. He formed you. Trust him to believe what you can and can’t do.
You can face any challenge because God knows you, and you can also face that challenge because God equips you. Let me first say that in almost anything you do, there is a need for equipment, Something is needed that you don’t possess in your person. Jeremiah tells God. “Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am youth.” Jeremiah was quick to recognize his real lack of ability. Our own experiences can’t always prepare us for what we will face in life.
I am reminded of an old joke that sums up how someone inexperienced with a new tool might act. Two woodcutters were friends, One bought a fine chain saw and made his life much easier and cut more wood. When meeting in a cafeteria one day, the friend with the chain saw encouraged the other to buy a chain saw to help him cut wood more efficiently. The other man quickly rushed to the store to buy one. About a week later the first friend asked the other, “Do you like your chain saw?” The other man replied, “No, it takes me forever to cut wood with it.” They both then inspected the saw, The first friend choked it, pulled the starting cord, and it immediately roared to life. The second friend said, “What’s that noise.” Our own experiences sometime do not prepare us for what we are called to do.
There are people, probably some among you that feel inadequate for God’s work. To tell you the truth, at one time or another most of us do. We must face the facts that we are not adequate to do God’s will, however, what we cannot do ourselves God can do with us and through us.
When God calls you He gives you the equipment to accomplish His will. Verse nine states, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” Though Jeremiah was young, God’s words were as ancient as time. Though Jeremiah was weak, God’s words were strong. Though Jeremiah was one young man, God’s words split and built empires through his service.
Jeremiah was equipped with God’s words, More than that, however, Jeremiah was equipped with God’s commission. God appointed him over nations to build and to destroy using God’s message. Jeremiah is a General in God’s army. Officers in an army are provided for. When they are given a commission of authority, they are supported by those in command of them. If worldly armies support their officers which follow orders, how much more will God support you? (William C. Garrett)
Sermon briefs in this issue are provided by: Earl J. Nichols, Garden Community Church, Brandenton, FL; Doug Searle, Community Bible Church, Nashville, TN; Matthew A. Brown, Rienzi, MS; Jonathan Kever, Preaching; B. L. Jackson, Boliver, TN; William C. Garrett, Poplar Bluff, MO.

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