Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday morning Rewind 10/28/2012

We had a great time in service at Macedonia on Sunday. I was excited to be back in the pulpit preaching as I have been off the past two weeks. Two Sundays ago, we celebrated our Annual Seniors Day and Rev Lawrence Levine from the Bethlehem Church preached and last Sunday was Ordination Sunday and Rev. Edward Denny III preached before we ordained him Sunday evening. Both men did an excellent job.

Two weeks out of the pulpit caused me to be a little off rhythm and not as tight as I would have liked with my delivery but the Lord helped me stumble through. We started a four week look into I Kings 17.

1 Kings 17:4 (ESV)
4  You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
Our overall look was vs 1-6 with the specific look into verse 4. I am amazed listening to members comment on not knowing the will of God: what it is, what it looks like, what it means for their life, not knowing how to find it. People seem to think it is this magical, mystical, mysterious place that only the super holy, Jesus junior people can obtain.

I am not smart like most preachers but vs 4 made me shout all day Sunday and still makes me shout now because it explains the will of God, the way of God and the work of God all in one verse. The will of God is found THERE!

I passed over that word all week in studying. THERE. Saturday, while cleaning it hit me, THERE is where God's will is for you. Are you where God wants you? You may ask, Where is that Pastor? There is wherever God tells you to be, for Noah "There" is an ark, For Daniel "There" is a lion's den, for Ruth, "There" is Naomi's God and Boaz' field, for Jesus, "There" is a cross.

The unique thing about "There" is you can't fully realize your provision or your potential until God does some preparation on your life. God can't pour some things into your life until he has cut some things out of your life. Some things block your blessings from showing up so God has to cut some things away in order to make room for the blessings he has for you.

God sends Elijah to Cherith. Cherith means "a cutting place." God had this in store for Elijah. God puts us through those cutting times to prepare us for future service. Cherith comes before the Mt. Carmel's of our life. The cross comes before the crown. Trials come before blessings. At Cherith Brook God will cut off the rough edges of Elijah's life. Cherith was the place of loneliness, uncertainty, waiting, and hardship. God uses these elements to develop our character and knock off our rough edges.

Cherith teaches us that wherever He leads us, He provides for us!

Now that the preparatory work has been done, God can begin to provide and He used a brook and a bird to bless Elijah's life. God used the lowest form of each of these elements to achieve this blessing. God doesn't use an ocean, Sea, lake, pond, river, stream or a creek! HE USES THE LEAST COMMON DENOMINATOR--A BROOK AND A BLACKBIRD!

God doesn't need to use great things in order to accomplish great blessings because whatever He touches and whatever He uses becomes great.

Cherith teaches us God uses ordinary events to achieve extraordinary results!

Brooks are nor planned events or intentional phenomenons, they are accidental adventures of the water system. Brooks are the most shallow of water surfaces providing the least amount of water possible from any water source. Because they are accidental offshoots of the overflow from the water system, they are unpredictable to where they will show up and how long they will last.

It shouted me when I realized that Man's or Nature's accident is God's providence. He arranged Elijah to be in the right place at the right time to receive a "purposed, providentially arranged, so-called accidental blessing".

A raven is a naturally selfish animal that won't even provide for its own children, Job 38:41. Ravens were considered bad omens. They were believed to be the messengers of tragedy or death.They are fierce birds, picking out the eyes of men or animals and mauling the sick and dying. Their fierceness fashioned one of our most forceful English words... "ravenous." As fierce as they are, God used these birds to meet Elijah's needs.

It shouted me when I realized the bird that was blessing Elijah should have, by nature, been attacking Elijah. Sitting by the brook, the raven should have looked at Elijah as a potential food source. Ravens attack the sick and injured but God changed the DNA of the Raven and instead of looking at Elijah as a food source, the raven saw Elijah as the person God said to supply.

As you can tell, two weeks out of the pulpit had me too long and not tight enough in flow from idea to idea but one final thought ran through my mind, "If God could use an accidental brook and an adversarial bird, what could he do if we gave him an able body?


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Keep on Keeping On

There is a Chase commercial that I have seen countless times but for some reason it arrested my attention this morning. The ad details Chase's new quick deposit function of their mobile app. It features a man sitting in a chair, who then puts one a coat and hat as if he's going to take his check to the bank, but instead decides to make use of the Chase app. He snaps a shot of the check and sends it to Chase.

I am sure I am supposed to be impressed by this capability but that's not what rung my bell today. It was the song behind the commercial. "Keep on Keeping On"! I hear those words today. What does that mean to Keep on Keeping On?

A snail was going up an apple tree. A worm came out of the crevice of that apple tree and said to that snail, "No need going up there. There are no apples left up there." The snail said, "There'll be some when I get there." We just need to keep on keeping on, just day by day, week after week enduring.

It gave me hope for today, keep pushing, keep making it, keep preaching, my blessing may not be here yet but by the time I get to where I am going, it will be waiting on me.

Not much, but it hoped me today!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Courage to Speak, Acts 6:8--7:2a, Sunday School Lesson

In our Sunday School lesson this week, we are moving to our second unit which will ask the question "Who Understands Faith" moving out of the unit where we just discussed "What Faith is"?

Why is this transition necessary? When you began to understand what faith is, you should also learn what faith does? Right living ought to turn into right doing, or when you know/learn better you ought to do better.

Throughout the ages the church has been blessed to have men of courage who not only preached the gospel but provided spiritual leadership and Christlike examples. Stephen was one of those men. God allowed and used the death of Stephen to fulfill his ultimate purpose found in Acts 1:8.

Stephen means "a crown" or "a garland." The Greek word was used for the reward given to a civic leader or to the crown of glory received by a victor in the Olympic Games.

Stephen was thus a key figure in the early history of the church. But apart from his historical role, he was significant because of his character. He was proof that the impact of a man's life and ministry has nothing necessarily to do with length. His ministry, though brief, was essential to God's plan for world evangelism. He showed that the efforts of one courageous person, though of short duration, can have far-reaching effects.

A devotional outline to Chapter 6 is:
  1. He Was Greatly Esteemed (Verses 1-7)
  2. He Was Graciously Endowed (Verse 8)
  3. He Was a Gifted Expositor (Verses 9-10)
  4. He Was a Glorious Example (Verse 11-15)
Acts 6:8-15 presents three further evidences of Stephen's spiritual nobility: his character, his courage, and his countenance.

His Character

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (6:8)
Verse 5 described Stephen as "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." Full both there and in verse 8 translates plērēs, which means "to be filled up." Stephen was totally controlled by faith, the Holy Spirit, grace, and power. His sermon before the Sanhedrin reveals the content of his faith.

Sadly, many Christians today could not be described as full of faith. Like the father of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, their cry is "I do believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). While trusting God for their eternal destiny, they find it difficult to trust Him with the concerns of their everyday life. Stephen, however, was not like that. He trusted God fully and concentrated on doing what God wanted him to do. The consequences he gladly left in God's hands.

Taken together, verses 5 and 8 give both the Godward and manward sides of Christian character. A man full of faith toward God, and yielded to the Spirit's control, will be gracious toward others and manifest great spiritual power.

His Courage

But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. And they put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us." (6:9-14)
Men from all three synagogues came together and argued with Stephen. Argued is from suzēteō, which refers not to a quarrel but to a formal debate. Luke does not give us the content of the debate. Some of Stephen's arguments can be inferred from the charges brought against him (6:13-14) and his speech before the Sanhedrin.

The debate no doubt centered on the death, resurrection, and messiahship of Jesus, and the inability of the Mosaic law and temple ritual to save.
Whatever the precise issues of the debate were, Stephen won. His opponents were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Their human reasoning was no match for Stephen's God-given wisdom.

The phrase the Spirit with which he was speaking probably does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the energy, zeal, sincerity, and fervency with which Stephen spoke. He thus had the two requirements for effective public speaking and triumphing in debate: unarguable truth and potent delivery. The impact of those two was more than his opponents could handle.

Unable to defeat Stephen in a fair debate, his opponents changed tactics. Resorting to an ad hominem argument, they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." Secretly induced is from hupoballō and means "to suggest or prompt" with an evil motive. They recruited and coached false witnesses to accuse Stephen, the same tactic used at Jesus' trial (Matt. 26:59-61). Even the trumped-up charges of blasphemy were like those against his Lord.

His Countenance

And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel. (6:15)
This entire trumped up ordeal has been nothing but false words and accusations flying left and right. Emotions of anger and frustration are running wide open. Hatred and animosity is dripping from every word and action. All of directed toward a Spirit-filled servant of the Lord who is simply preaching Jesus and pointing men to God.

Then, all of a sudden, everyone's attention turns from what they are hearing to a sight like they have never seen. "And all that sat in the council...saw his face as it had been the face of an angel."

Doctor John Phillips suggests that after hearing all the charges and arguments that the "council" probably turned to see how Stephen was reacting to these deadly charges. And when they did, man were they surprised! It reminds us of another incident in Acts 28:1-6 where Paul was snake bit on the island of Melita and everyone looked when he should have swollen or died, but he didn't!

Much to the surprise of the council they "saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." What does an angel's face look like? Who knows? Some think this refers to a heavenly glow or brightness so brilliant they couldn't stand to look upon him. Others interpret it to means Stephen had a heavenly peace and serenity that was out of this world. 

God is being magnified in Stephen's courage to speak and His presence is all over the place. God doesn't forsake us when we courageously speak for Him. In fact, those who hear us speak will be able to sense His presence around us and upon us.

God Himself answered their false charges by putting His glory on Stephen's face—something experienced by no other person in history except Moses (Ex. 34:27-35). He thus showed His approval of Stephen's teaching in exactly the same way He did that of Moses. Paul writes,
If the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. (2 Cor. 3:7-11)
By putting His glory on Stephen's face, God showed His approval of the New Covenant and its messenger.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pigpen Psychology

Luk 15:17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
The prodigal son had wandered afar from home, he was in a strange land, he was in a strange place, he was doing a strange task. As he looked around he wondered how his life had came to this, he could smell the stench from the pigpen, he was famished, literally pressed to consider eating with the pigs.

As he looked around, all of his friends had left when his money was gone, those that had housed him had forsaken him, the night life had ended a long time ago. As he looked down he saw his bare feet, he saw that his clothes were full of holes, he saw the pigs, and the pigs reminded him of how low his life had sunk.

In the midst of this horrible, odorous, foul pigpen something wonderful happened, something that his father could not do for him, something that his mother's tears could not do for him. In the muck and the mire of that pigpen, the prodigal came to himself, he had a jarring experience, his mind was jolted, his memory was jolted, and his mandate to move was jolted.

Often times a father's prayer for his son to return home, gets answered in the pigpen, the pigpen can do what nothing else can do
The pigpen counseled this boy, it stirred his mind, it stroked his memory, he realized where he was, and he remembered where he used to be. The pigpen was the best psychology session that this young man would ever have, the fathers prayers were about to be answered, the boy was about to be heading home.

Often times we want God to bring our loved ones home safely, we want the prodigal to return but we ask God to take it easy on them, my friend often they need the pigpen, often they need the psychology that only a pigpen can offer them.
  1. The Pigpen Loudly Called the Prodigal
  2. The Pigpen Literally Captured the Prodigal
  3. The Pigpen Lovingly Counseled the Prodigal
  4. The Pigpen Legitimately Changed the Prodigal
The pigpen is often neglected in our prayers, but the pigpen is often needful in our progress, that is the progress of a prodigal. As we journey through life, we may drift to the pigpen, we may see our friends drift to the pigpen, always keep in mind, the pigpen done more for this prodigal than even his fathers love could do for him.

Cantrell's Jewels for the Journey.