Relationships

Scripture Text: Malachi 2:10-16

10 Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors?
11 Judah has been unfaithful, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. The men of Judah have defiled the LORD ’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols.
12 May the LORD cut off from the nation of Israel every last man who has done this and yet brings an offering to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
13 Here is another thing you do. You cover the LORD ’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because He pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure.
14 You cry out, “Why doesn’t the LORD accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the LORD witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.
15 Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are His. And what does He want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.
16 “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty, ” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

INTRODUCTION

The post-exilic Jews were having a difficult time of things and their attitude had grown sour. Instead of blaming themselves for their predicament, they blamed God and this irresponsibility turned into a bad attitude.


The thing about a bad attitude is that it permeates everything in life. It is hard to isolate a bad attitude. One bad attitude can have a determental effect on an entire family or a congregation for that matter. Right now, our country is suffering from a small minority of people who have a bad attitude.


We have already seen in our study in Malachi, that a bad attitude affects worship, it also affectsw our ministry and witness. Today, we will talk about how it affects RELATIONSHIPS. A bad attitude can destroy a marriage or a friendship.


Due to the time it takes me to do a three point sermon, I don’t do many these days but this message has NOT three but four points.

I. THE PROBLEM

The problem was lust. The Jewish men, including the priest were divorcing the wives of their youth [the mother of their children] and marrying younger women. They were not just marrying younger women, they were marrying pagan women who worshipped idols. The Apostle Paul gives us clear teaching on this matter:

14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil ? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?
16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?
This is not just a problem with older men looking for a younger wife: this is a major problem for young people who have never been married. My mother taught me three basic rules:
  1. Never date someone you would not marry.
  2. Never date an unbeliever.
  3. Never date someone you would be ashamed to be seen in public with.

Walter K. Ayers was a country boy from Arkansas. His dad abandoned him and his sister when he was nine and his mom had a stroke when he was 19. Before her stroke, she worked 16 hours a day trying to provide for the two children. Walter did what he pleased. This means he went to school rarely and he failed consistently. He finally dropped out completely in the 8th grade. He got into trouble again and again and was on the verge of being sent to prison at age 19. Due to his mother and the high school football coach, Walter was given one last chance. A part of his probation was to return to school which was a bit of a problem since Walter was 19 and in the 8th grade. Walter thought to himself, I will do good to stay out of trouble for two weeks but a couple of positive things happened. First, some teachers took an interest in Walter and went out of their way to help him and then a new girl moved into town. He fell for her hook, line and sinker. There was one problem, she was a devoted Christian and Walter hated church: he thought it was for sissies and old folks. The only way she would date Walter was at church. He didn’t like that so he laid down the law, “It either church or me.” She told him quickly, “It will be church.” Then she said “Buy Walter.” Long story short, through his relationship with this uncompromising girl and her pastor who was an all state running back in high school, Walter came to know Jesus. Four years later he answered the call to preach and became a Southern Baptist Evangelist. You can hear his testimony as he preached at First Baptist Dallas with Dr. Wally Amos Crisswold doing the introduction.

II. THE PROMISE

Malachi said, You cry out, “Why doesn’t the LORD accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the LORD witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.

Vows are more than a promise. We make promises to each other but vows are made to God. It is one thing to promise to be faithful in sickness and health, poverty or wealth, the good times that brighten you ways and the dark times that saddened your days. But the vow you made was for better or worse. We all have our better side but we also have that worse side.

I don’t think there is a close second, the most frightened I have ever been was during our wedding. I was shaking so bad when June and I kneeled on a little iron alter, that I thought it was going to come a part. Wedding vows are a commitment to God as well as to your mate. It is or should be one of the most sacred moments of your life. I make those I marry repeat vows. They are important. They are holy and sacred and don’t you dare forget it.

III. THE PITFALL

15 Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are His. And what does He want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.
16 “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty, ” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”


I use the NLT. Joe David uses the NIV and I have been tempted to switch myself but the NLT has such of way of making things clear. Twice you see the phrase, “guard your heart.”

guard the heart. The NIV reads, “guard yourself in your spirit.” The NASB reads, “take heed in your spirit.” But the NLT is so clear, so simple: the biggest pitfall in the martial relationship is the unguarded heart.

The most dangerous thing you can do is take your spouse for granted; to take your marriage for granted and let down your guard. The moment you begin to think that your marriage is invincible, you are in trouble. Most couples get married, settle down, start raising children and in the process, they quit dating, romancing each other. I heard one man put it this way: “My wife is like an old hound, laying on the front porch, you couldn’t run her off if you tried.” I cringed when I heard him say these words. Eros {Romantic love} is very conditional. It is a fire but it will go out if it is not nurtured. You have to stir the embers, fan the flame and put a stick of wood on from time to time. Once you reach a state of indifference, you let down your guard and you make it possible for someone else other than your mate to get into your heart. Despite what some say, “Intimacy” is the number one problem and the lack thereof is the leading cause of divorce.

When we take our spouse and marriage for granted, we cease to meet needs and unmet needs lead to loneliness and loneliness looks for company. Extra marital affairs begin with this desire to fulfill unmet needs and they usually begin with talking, sharing and listening. In time, an emotional bond is formed which often times leads to a sexual relationship which can be very destructive to all persons involved.

If you are struggling with unmet needs–guard your heart. Open only to Jesus. Get involved with Jesus in an intimate relationship. Share your loneliness with Jesus. If you open your heart to a friend of the opposite sex, you are going to get emotionally involved and then you are going to hurt any way you go. There is no easy way out of an extra marital affair. GUARD YOUR HEART.

IV. ONE LAST THING: THE PAIN

16 “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty, ” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

Verse 16 is one of the most difficult passages to translate in the bible and scholars are divided. The NLT, NASB, AV all… The LORD says, I hate divorce.” but the NIV reads…

  • NIV–“The man who hates and divorces his wife does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORDAlmighty.
  • ESV–“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts.
  • Holman–“If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

[Unfinished]

 

 

Listen, You Priest! Who Me?

Scripture Text: Malachi 2:1-9, NLT

1 Listen, you priests—this command is for you!
2 Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.
3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile.
4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”

INTRODUCTION

Chapter two of Malachi is an indictment against irresponsible priest: they were not doing their job. They were not living up to their call. They were accursed in the Mosaic sense. The word Moses uses in Deuteronomy 28 f0r curse is kel·ä·lä’ and it comes from the root word kä·lal’ which is a very interesting word. It means to treat lightly, to triffle, to water down, to lightly esteem, to treat something holy as common. The priest were taking worship too lightly, they were triffling with holy things and in so doing, they were dishononing God’s name.

Dr. Page Kelly, whom Joe David knows personally, who wrote the Broadman Laymen Commentary on Malachi says: “Humanity’s highest duty is to hallow God’s name.” Needless to say, these levitical priest were not treating God’s name with reverence and respect.

I imagine someone in the congregation today is asking this question–“What does the irresponsible levitical priest have to do with me, I am not a priest.” My answer would be, yes you are. If you are saved and under the blood Jesus Christ has made you a priest. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.{I Peter 2:9}


 Jesus has changed everything. Even though the Levitical priesthood is history, Jesus transformed the Levitical Priest into Royal Priest. Every believer is a priest but we do not go back to Levi, we go back to Christ our High Priest. We do not serve a patriarch, we serve the King of kings, thus we are Royal Priest.

The GOOD NEWS is– Jesus made us priest and we have all the priviledges of a priest. Actually we have much more than the Levitical Priest: we can approach the throne of grace any time day or night. BUT the BAD NEWS is–we also have all the responsibilities of a preiest. About now, you are thinking, “Oh no, I thought he was going to be preaching to himself.”


In verses 8-9, Malachi levels five complaints against the priest. Let’s look at those and then draw some parallels.

8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”
  1. They had strayed from the path. The ESV reads, “You have turned aside from the way.” [The way being God’s way] When we turn aside from His way, we turn to our way.
  2. They had become a stumbling block–They caused man to stumble into sin.
  3. They had corrupted the Levitical Covenant by violating it. They were not living up to their call.
  4. They had not obeyed the LORD.
  5. They were showing favoritism.

One other thing before we get to the heart of the message….What are the inherent responsibilities of the priest? They are listed in verses 5-7…

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered Me and stood in awe of My name.
6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from Me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with Me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
  1. They were to convey life and peace.
  2. They were to reverence and stand in awe of God’s name.
  3. They were to pass on God’s instructions.
  4. They were to live lives of integrity [no lying or cheating]
  5. They were to walk with the LORD.
  6. They were to embrace right and turn away from sin.
  7. They were to turn others from sin.
  8. They were to preserve the knowledge of God before the people.
  9. They were to be people you could go to for help and instruction.
  10. They were to be God’s messengers.

I am going to simplify things for you: our basic responsibility is two-fold: [1] We stand before God in behalf of men [2] We stand before men in behalf of God. The first responsibilty has to do with prayer and worship and the second involves our witness and ministry.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, let me ask you some questions:

  1. Are you walking daily with the LORD. Are you on His path or your path?
  2. Have you become a stumbling block. People are watching you and me. Who do we need to appologize to today? {Because we’ve been a bad example}
  3. Are we living up to the responsibity of our calling, or are we shirking our responsibilites as a PRIEST?
  4. Are we obedient? Will you be willing to OBEY God during the next five minutes?
  5. Are we loving our neighbor as we love ourself… we cannot be instruments of life and peace unless we love each other and treat each other fairly.

    I close with a story to illustrate the point:

In the book, “A Promise Kept”, is the story of Robertson McQuilkin, a former missionary and seminary president who gave up his post because his wife Muriel had Alzheimer’s disease. He dedicated himself full-time for as long as the Lord deemed necessary to take care of his wife. He wrote of traveling with his her:

Once our flight was delayed in Atlanta and we had to wait a couple of hours. Now that’s a challenge. Every few minutes we’d take a fast-paced walk down the terminal in earnest search of what? Muriel had always been a speed walker. I had to jog to keep up with her.

An attractive woman executive type sat across from us, working diligently on her computer. Once when we returned from an excursion she said something without looking up from her papers. Since no one else was nearby I assumed she had spoken to me, or at least mumbled in protest for our constant activity. “Pardon?” I asked. “Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?'”

McQuilkin turned to the woman and said, “Oh yes, you can find a man like that. You can find a man like that, because I’ve found a man like that. The only reason I love my wife the way you see me loving her is because the man Jesus first loved me. The only resources I have to draw upon to love my wife the way I do are the resources he gives me. Mirrored in my relationship here with my wife you can see the faithful love of God for me.”


We share live and peace in our love and ministry to others: it is the strongest aspect of our witness. May God help us to be responsible priest who share life and peace with others.

The Bottom Line

Scripture Text: Malachi 1:6-11, NLT

6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

11 But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.


INTRODUCTION

A little background is necessary for understanding the message tonight. Malachi was speaking to the post-exilic Jews. These are the Jews who spent 70 years in Babylon and now they have been back in the home land for about 80 years. When they returned, they expected some hard times. The infrastructure of the country had been destroyed. The land was occupied by several ethnic groups and none of them like Jews. Plus they are forced to pay high taxes to Persia and their is oppression going on within the Jewish community. The rich Jews were taking advantage of the poor. 


I had someone say to me a few weeks back, “One thing about it, the Jews look out for each other.” I gently corrected him: nothing could be further from the truth. The Jews are notorious for taking advantage of each other. Read the book of Nehemiah if you want proof or do a study of the Temple activity during the time of Christ. It was a corrupt money making scheme that profited wealthy Jews like Annas and Caiaphas. There have always been poor Jews. Even today, there are poor Jews, many of them in Eastern Europe and there are middle class Jews. It is a small minority who are extremely rich and when I say extreme, I mean extreme. This very small group of Jews control the gold in the world today. They owe all nine banks in the Federal Reserve system.


So what we have is a group of Jews who are disillusioned and disappointed. They thought things would improve with time but they were actually getting worse. They were focused on their circumstances {which we are prone to do} and they were blaming God. The fact that they blamed God for their circumstances lead them to have a “Bad Attitude.”


It is hard, if not impossible to isolate a bad attitude. It affects everything we do and say. It permeates our entire life. It affects relationships. A bad attitude can destroy a marriage, a family or a church. We will save that discussion for a later date: tonight we want to talk about how their BAD ATTITUDE affected their worship.


You cannot have a bad attitude and good worship. Our attitude has everything to do with our worship. Before God accepts an offering, He examines the heart. Motive is everything.


That is my sermon tonight: a bad attitude destroys worship but we are going to do two more things {LORD willing} before we go: [1] Look at the example in Malachi and [2] Tell you a life story that illustrates the same problem.


How do we know the Jews had a bad attitude? We look at their offerings. You can tell everything you need to know about a person by looking at what they give to God.

7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices? ’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the LORD deserves no respect.
8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.


As you can see, the Jews were bringing God contemptible offerings. They were bringing blind, cripple and diseased animals. With the diseased animals came a defiled or unclean sacrificial meal which was a part of their worship.


Years ago, some 25 years or so, back when most of our furniture was early attic, it came out of someone’s attic, a man called me and invited me to his home, a new home. He said he knew that I had mentioned using used furniture and he had some if I wanted it. I assumed it was stuff in good condition. I admit that most of our furniture at that time was used. We either bought it second hand or someone gave it to us. But it wasn’t ratty, you could see the springs in the couch. When I got to his house, he was gone, {how convenient} so one of his daughters took me to the garage and showed me the furniture. I was shocked. You could see the springs in the couch. Everything there was a piece of junk and ready for the dump. I was embarrassed because his daughter must have noticed the shock on my face and I lost it. I said, “You tell your dad, he can get someone else to dispose of his junk, I am not interested.” There is a long story behind this story but I’ll save it for another day. My question is: would you offer junk to your preacher? Would you want to insult the man who had feed you spiritually. I baptized his wife and two of his daughters. I visited his parents and grandparents up until their death.

Would you give your pastor a shoddy, worthless gift, something you would not have in your house. Malachi ask the Jews if they would give their sick animals to their governor?Of course not! My question is why?

The answer is obvious: they had more respect for their governor than they did for God. The bad attitude comes from a lack of respect and without deep reverential respect, there is no worship. This is why the LORD says in verse 10…“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!


But I want you to look at the next line, this is the BOTTOM LINE…10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.

Folks, if our worship is displeasing to God, we have failed and failed miserably. There is no use in our congregating and going through the motions if our aim, our goal is not to PLEASE HIM. Once again, it all boils down to respect or lack thereof.


I got a job in the 7th grade. I didn’t find the job, the job found me. A man in our church hired me to ride a 4 row planter. My job was to pull the markers and watch all the seed hoppers, to make sure the seed was dropping properly. It was a dusty job but I loved it. My employer was a big man in more ways than one. I guess he was about 6’1″ or so and weighted about 230. He was the Tax Assessor at the time and we didn’t see him much. I worked with his dad and his two sons. The oldest son was our supervisor. I worked for him throughout my school years and loved every minute. Not one time did I ever talk back to him or even speak in a disrespectful tone. The only bad thing about this story is that it reveals my sin. Mr. James was a respected man in the community: everyone thought highly of him and that included me. I don’t know what it was about him, but I wanted to please him. When he talked, I listened. When he gave a command, I obeyed.


What’s strange about the story is such behavior was out of character for me. I didn’t listen to my dad. When he gave me a command, I argued. What’s worse, he allowed me to argue. It brings me emotional pain to be honest with you and it has taken years for me to be honest with myself. The difference was in the matter of respect: I had great respect for Mr. James and very little for my own daddy. I am not saying this is a good thing, I am just saying this is the way it was. You might say I feared Mr. James but not daddy. It was not a cringing fear. I was never afraid that Mr. James would hurt me or abuse me but never the less, I didn’t take any chances. I didn’t want to give him a reason to take a limb to me. I wanted to please him. I worked hard to please him.


THIS IS THE BOTTOM LINE

Our bad attitude, our pitiful and self-centered worship all stems from a lack of respect. We do not fear God. Our greatest aim is not to please HIM and it should be. Give me a penny for your thoughts: what were you thinking when you walked in here tonight? Did any thought of pleasing God cross your mind?

 

Dealing With A Tragic Death

Scripture: Job 1:18-22

18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home.
19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.
21 He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD !”
22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

INTRODUCTION

Death, in and of itself, is hard to deal with. I try never to make light of death. It marks the end of our life here on earth and it constitutes a separation. My parents are no longer in this world of death and sin: they have moved to the world beyond. I miss them and the longer I live the more I miss them. 


As difficult as it is to deal with sickness, cancer and prolonged illness, I think tragedy is harder to cope with. First of all, tragedy strikes with no warning. Our love ones are suddenly snatched away from us and usually the tragedy that took their lives is unexplainable. It is impossible for us to make sense of tragedy.

A few months ago, I couldn’t not have told you I know how you feel but last August 15, I had beautiful niece get killed in a tragic automobile accident in Ardmore, TN. The worse thing about the whole affair is that it made no sense. She was a good kid but she was riding with a boy who was showing off: She begged him to stop and let her out but he refused and then he hit a tree: she was killed instantly and he barely got a scratch. I was very upset. I am still upset. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of Kaley who was only 16 years old.


Job understood that LIFE is a GIFT. It is God who gives us life and breath. Everything we have is a gift from Him. He satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. “His purpose was for the nations to seek after HIM and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us.

For in Him we live and move and exist. Job understood this, life is a gift from God, the LORD gives….


But Job also said, …The LORD takes away. We don’t know why some die tragically, or young but far beyond our ability to comprehend, there is a plan, a purpose and although life here ceases, life itself does not. John Newton’s last words were: “I am still in the land of the dying, but I am going to the land of the living.” God is not the God of the dead but of the living. He who dwells in eternity knows no death. God is not surrounded by death: everything in His presence is alive. He simply takes life from the clay body, from the mortal and puts it in the immortal.


The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD. The one thing we know for sure is, “We are not in control.” There is someone above us, someone far greater than we ourselves. He is the Eternal One, Yahweh is His name. He is the self-existent, eternal, unchanging God. The same yesterday, today and forever and He deserves our worship.

COLS Mrs. Minnie Mae Payne

David said in Psalm 116:15, Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones {saints}. The NIRV reads, “The LORD pays special attention when His faithful ones die.” Of course Mrs. Minnie Mae is not dead, it appears that she is but that is an illusion. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Matter of fact, Jesus said, Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. There is no death in His presence. He is the resurrection and the life. The only death in eternity is the second death which is a result of rejecting Jesus. It is an eternal separation from God, otherwise, there is no death in eternity. Jesus told the Sadduccees, 

37 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’

38 So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.”

So, we are not mourning Mrs. Payne’s death, we are celebrating her life. Her life on earth has passed as will ours but she is more alive today than ever. I love John Newton the author of AMAZING GRACE. His last words were: I am in the world of the dying but I am going to the world of the living.” We have funeral homes here on earth but there are none in heaven, it is the land of the living.

When I think about Mrs. Minnie Mae’s life here with us, the one word that comes to my mind is LOVE. In honor of her, I want to read a portion of I Corinthians 13 from the New International Readers Version:

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud

5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Mrs. Minne Mae epitomized this love that Paul so eloquently describes. With the one exception of Jesus, there is nothing in this world like a mother’s love. I’m going to have to be honest today. There are a lot of things that I don’t remember. I do remember Daddy Bob. I remember his kindness, his gentleness. I remember that he was always at Melonie and Jamie’s ball games. He never missed. I remember that he was like a father to Judy. I also remember that he loved to fish. BUT…

I do not remember his COLS. I do not remember what I said at that service. I do not remember writting a poem about Daddy Bob but the girls remembered and perhaps Mrs. Payne did also. I don’t know. For some strange reason that I do not understand, Mrs. Payne loved me much more than I realized. As a matter of fact, I had no idea that this woman loved me unconditionally until Bro. Steve started picking at me in front of others which he should not have done. He said, “We have a lady in our church who loves Bro. Jack. She tells me that he is her favorite preacher.” He said that in front of a group of men but he would not tell me who he was talking about. It was probably a year later, on a Wednesday night that Jan and I figured it out.

Children, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your mother’s love. You would have to be a preacher to understand. Preachers don’t have a lot of friends, not when it comes to defending your integrity or honor. Jan gave me the deiciding clue when she said, “No one had better critizise you around my mother.”Do you know what most Baptist do when their pastor is critizise, they pile on. CHILDREN remember, your mother was special to me and I can say that, I am retired. She was special simply because she loved me unconditioally just like she loved you. I FILL BLESSED. 

Before I sit down: I want to wash Bro. Steve’s feet although he did me wrong by keeping me in suspense and bringing this up in front of a group of men. Bro. Steve is a great pastor as his people know. He went above and beyond with Mrs. Minnie Mae. He used his vacation time to look up one of her all friends and then he brought back pictures for Mrs. Payne. He made her day. Mrs. Minnie Mae loved him too, she seemed to have an infinite supply of love, just like her SAVIOR

Doubting God’s Love

Scripture Text: Malachi 1:1-5

This is the message that the Lord gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi. “I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”

Esau’s descendants in Edom may say, “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins.” But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies replies, “They may try to rebuild, but I will demolish them again. Their country will be known as ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people will be called ‘The People with Whom the Lord Is Forever Angry.’ When you see the destruction for yourselves, you will say, ‘Truly, the Lord’s greatness reaches far beyond Israel’s borders!’”

INTRODUCTION

If we have a firm conviction that God loves us, we can bear any burden and endure any storm but if we begin to doubt God’s love, our faith begins to falter. Remember, a strong or healthy faith must be maintained. In a way, faith is like a muscle, it must be nurtured and exercised or it atrophies.

Growing up I was a bit of a rebellious child. Not mean but a kind of a dare devil and very hardheaded. My mother was very strict, daddy not so much. I got whipped more than my seven sibling combined. A got a beating on a weekly basis. As a kid, I had doubts about my parents love. I seriously doubted Mother’s because of the beatings. In today’s culture, my mother would be arrested for child abuse.

I had a special place I would go after a whipping. I would sit on the ground with my face on my knees and cry. There were times when I prayed, “LORD, why don’t my mother love me?” Then I grew up. By the time I was 17, I had decided not to give my mother anymore grief. I began being nice to her and showing her respect. I discovered something shocking: My mother was very fond of me. She did love me and became my best friend. When I left home at age 22, I knew my mother loved me. Through the years I have battled some storms, some of my own making, but I never doubted [during those bad times] that my mother loved me.

As we will see tonight, the Jews had a childish faith. There were going through some difficult times and they were doubting God’s love.  If you are doubting God’s love, I want to give you some tips on how to overcome that doubt.

I. FOCUS ON THE PERSON OF GOD

Sometimes we focus too much on Gods activity but our first focus should be on WHO HE IS

GOD is first and foremost Holy. Everything else about God is predicated on His holiness. God is also a God of love. I John 4:8…But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4:16…God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. John 3:16…For God so loved the world…Romans 5:8…But God showed {demonstrated, synistēmi, to stand side by side, along side, with} his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

  1. God loves us with an eternal love, He has always loved us.
  2. God loves us with a sovereign love...it is His choice, prerogative.
  3. God loves us with a super natural love…The N.T. writers created a word to distinguish God’s love from all human loves. The word is Agape. 

Peter loved Jesus but not completely, not perfectly. Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” [Jesus reply] “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Who loved who the most? Did Peter love Jesus more than Jesus loved Peter? Of course not!

We are talking about two different brands of love–one is human and the other divine. Jesus does not love us the way we love HIM. His love is perfect, complete and totally unconditional. His love can never be earned or deserved.

II. FOCUS ON THE WORD OF GOD

In the book of Malachi, the LORD speaks more than Malachi; we see God speaking twice in verse 2. Reading, studying, ingesting and obeying God’s word is paramount to our faith. Our faith grows when we feast on God’s word.

Every believer is tempted to doubt. The Jewish Religious leaders knew that they knew they were saved. One huge problem, they rejected Jesus. Even Jesus was tempted with doubt but we cannot allow doubt to become a stronghold; the devil will use it to cripple our faith. I read the word of God daily. My goal is to spend more time in the word than in any other single activity. I read the bible much more than I do books and I rarely read a news paper or fiction. Most news papers are fiction. I am not guilty of wasting time watch fake news. I love to read and study God’s word. This passion did not happen over night. You might not believe it but 25 years ago, I only read the bible to preach and teach. Today, I study the bible for pure enjoyment.

Let me remind you that Eve’s first temptation was to doubt the goodness and benevolence of God, to doubt that He loved her. Remember this passage in Genesis chapter three:

1The serpent was more clever than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. The serpent said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God did say, ‘You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. Do not even touch it. If you do, you will die.’ ”

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “God knows that when you eat fruit from that tree, you will know things you have never known before. Like God, you will be able to tell the difference between good and evil.”

Notice what the devil is doing: he is impugning the integrity of God’s word. It was a calculated and malicious attack on the God’s spoken word. In so doing, he cast doubt not only on God’s word but upon His essential goodness. Eve made a tradgic mistake, she put more stock in the devil’s word than she did God’s.

Remember, Satan tempted Jesus with doubt and how did Jesus respond? With the word of God.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

So if you are having doubts about God’s love for you, get into the word.

III. FOCUS ON WHAT GOD HAS DONE

The Jews were focused on their circumstances which were not good. They had been back in the homeland for 70 years and things were no better than when they first returned. Taxes were high, the economy was bad, they had to mortgage their farms and some had to sell their children into slavery just to survive. They were surrounded by folks that despised them and they were being oppressed by wealthy Jews within the community. It was not suppose to be this way. Their disappointment in the circumstances had changed to cynicism and apathy. They continued to go through the motions of worship but they were not focused on God, they were focused on themselves. Actually, they were being intellectually dishonest with themselves.

  1. They had not put God first as was indicated by the offering they were bringing. The offering lame, blind and even stolen animals. They were offering things that cost them nothing.
  2. They were singing but they had no real enthusiasm, they giving lip service. Their hearts were far from God.
  3. They were not being obedient to Scripture and the priest were setting a horrible example.
  4. They were not living by faith as was indicated by their refusal to tithe.

To top it all off: they are angry with God for not blessing them with prosperity and power. There attitude toward God was very selfish…“What have you done for us lately?”

For just a few moments; I want us all to focus on what GOD HAS ALREADY DONE. Let’s stop thinking about what He has not done and focus on what He has already done. For the Jews of Malachi’s day the list would look something like this…

  1. God had miraculously preserved the Jews in bondage. He saved the Hebrew children from the fire, Daniel from the Lions den and the entire population from Haman who planned to exterminate the Jewish population.
  2. God moved the heart of a pagan king to release them from bondage and give them back the articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple and to fund the rebuilding of the temple.Wow!
  3. God gave them a safe trip home. A 900 mile journey through dangerous territory.
  4. God gave them leaders to rebuild the Temple.
  5. God sent Nehemiah to rebuild the wall.
  6. God sent Malachi to confront them with their sins.

When God miraculously delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh and they crossed the Red Sea with God parting the waters for their safe passage, they sang praises on the North bank when they saw the Egyptian army floating in the water but three days later they are angry with God and Moses because they have no water. They had a three day faith.

All they had to do was stop and think about what God had already done for them but they were too immature and could not look back and give thanks.

CONCLUSION

Right now, I want you to bow your head and close your eyes. I want you to think about who God is and what He has already done for you. Primarily, I want you to go back 2,000 years to the cross. I want you to think about what God did for you in Christ.

  1. He paid for your sins, all of them.
  2. He broke the power of sin in your life.
  3. He conquered death and the gave in your behalf.
  4. He gave you peace.
  5. He gave you hope.

Because of what Jesus did for you: [1] you can’t die [2] you cannot go to hell [3] and you will never be alone or forsaken. Stop focusing on all the things that are going wrong and focus on Christ and His great love for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Mavis Fitzgerald

SCRIPTURE: 2 Timothy 1:16-18

The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.

INTRODUCTION

Onesiphorus was a friend of the apostle Paul, who Paul mentions twice in his second letter to Timothy. Onesiphorus whose name means “Profit bringer” was a dear freind from Ephesus who made the long voyage to Rome to visit Paul while he was in prison. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains. He risk his life in more ways than one to get to Paul. [1] Travel was treacherous and [2] Nero was persecuting Christians. Onesiphorus took the risk and came to Paul.

His visit and presence was a huge encouragement to Paul who says of his friend, “He often refreshed me.” This word refreshed is a compound word that I think Junior Hill has translated well, Onesiphorus was a “breath of fresh air.” He had the gift of encouragement. He had the ability to make you feel better about yourself and your circumstances. This means he was positive and up beat, a happy fellow.

MAVIS FITZGERALD WAS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR: SHE WAS A PROFIT BRINGER

  • Most Danvillites are introverted: very introverted but Mavis and Hugh were the exception. They would not allow you to stay a stranger. They were meeters and greeters. Mavis was a ball of sunshine. She had an radiate personality, she had a glow of joy, she sparkled with hope. No matter what the circumstance, when you asks Mavis how she was doing, her patented answer was W O N D E R F U L.
  • Mavis was a positive thinker: encouraging others seemed to come natural to her. Just a few months into our ministry hear, I became very discouraged and Hugh invited me to come eat super with them after church. That night, he and Mavis had a talk with me and I will never forget the kindness they used to correct my negative thinking. MAVIS WAS AN ENCOURAGER.
  • The only problem with eating with Hugh and Mavis was her continual encouragement…she would say again and again…EAT…like I need encouragement in that area.
  • She was also a joker: she had a great sense of humor. For years Mavis was one of my two designated laughers {Joe Eaton was the second}. When I said something remotely funny, Mavis cackled. I love folks who laugh at my jokes. I love my children in spite of the fact they don’t laugh. You can spot my children, they are the ones whose face is buried in their hands. MAVIS WAS UNASHAMED TO LAUGH at my jokes.
  • Mavis worked with me as we planned our Centenieul Celebration. She pulled a good one on me. She talked me in to calling a former pastor who had been dismissed. His wife answered and she gave me a good old fashing chewing out. Mavis was on the other side of the room laughing. I think she knew what would happen.
  • Mavis was a school teacher and she was very intellectual. She had an expansive knowledge of the facts. She could work a cross word puzzle with an ink pen. She would work the Sunday puzzle. She had an unbelievable vocabulary. I have never heard one of her fomer students speak ill of her. When I was growing up, school teachers were not popular. MAVIS WAS THE EXCEPTION BECAUSE SHE WAS EXCEPTIONAL.
  • Mavis was a fun person to be with: she knew how to have a good time. I thank God for all our memories of good times with Mavis.
  • Mavis was a huge Alabama fan. Even though Bradley graduated Florida State, Mavis was a tide fan. Of course Bradley is a tide fan also. She loved Nick Saban and had an autographed picture of him. Up until a year ago, she watched all the BAMA games, even the late Saturday night games that I don’t watch. SHE WAS A ROLL TIDE ROLLER.
  • There is no way I can do justice to the memory of MAVIS FITZGERALD. Each one of you has a story about Mavis. If we had the time, we could spend days talking about this sweet and precious lady. When God calls a man to preach, it often means that he leaves his mother and father. June and I married in August and left for New Orleans in October. Danville is as close to home as we have been in these last 48 years BUT in each church, GOD GAVE US PARENTS. Someone who took us in and loved us. Some one who made us feel like family. Hugh and Mavis were those people here in Danville. I spent a lot of time with these boys when they were in their 20’s [playing ball]. Then Bradley moved to Florida and that really hurt our Basketball Team.
  • My family [wife and children] love the FITZGERALDS. Joe is an icon at our house. I miss Hugh as much as I miss anyone but when I see Joe, I see Hugh, just a kinder, gentler version. Boys I want you to know in behalf of the BAILEY’S we love your mom and dad. We appreciate all they did for us.
  • Last but not least: MAVIS LOVED JESUS. She has been promoted to a far better place. We did the best we could to care for her here but she is under better care than we could ever give her.
    • Mavis understood that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
    • Mavis understood that selfishness is the essense of sin
    • Mavis understood that Jesus died because of our sin and for our sin.
    • Mavis is in heaven because she trusted Jesus as her savior.
    • Have you trusted HIM? She would want you to do so.

Psalms 116:15

Scripture: Psalms 116:15

Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints.

INTRODUCTION

In Hebrew, this verse contains 5 words but they are five powerful words. O that I could put so much substance into five words.

The first word Precious in yaqar [ya’car] and it is in reference to the value of a gem, a precious stone. God places great value on the death of His saints. I normally use the NLT and it reads…The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die. God places great value on the life of a saint. The blood of the martyrs is precious to God. The blood of Able still speaks, after 6,000 years, the blood of Able is still precious to God. God cares about our life. He cares when innocent life it taken by violence and brutality. God also cares when one of His saints departs this world from natural causes. Blondie promotion is precious to Him.

Whatever is precious to Him should be precious to us.

Note secondly: THE DEATH OF THE SAINT IN PRECIOUS IN THE LORD’S SIGHT. The world does not value the death of a Saint but God does. It is very important that we look at Blondi’s physical death from God’s perspective.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:11… If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Here Jesus compares earthly fathers to our Heavenly Father. This is the key, we must remember that God is not some distant deity, some impersonal force way out there who doesn’t care, someone who has no feelings or sympathy for our condition, He is our heavenly Father. He cares infinitely more about us than our earthy parents. My mother and father loved me: I know they did but my heavenly Father loves me more.

So lets look at the death of a Saint from our Heavenly Father’s perspective.

[1] THE DEATH OF A SAINT IS A HOMECOMING. I came from a family of 7 children. Actually, there were 8 but my oldest brother died as an infant. Of the seven, I was the only one who lived away from home. When we were in Seminary at New Orleans, we came home every time we got a chance but that wasn’t often. Our arrival at home was precious to my folks. Our heavenly Father rejoices when one of His children comes home. It is precious to Him. We don’t see Blondie as a child but to God, she is a child come home.

[2] THE DEATH OF A SAINT IS A PROMOTION. Paul said in Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I like to translate it like this, For me to live is Christ and to die is a promotion.

[3] THE DEATH OF A SAINT IS A GRADUATION. Our earthly sojourn is done. Our boot camp is over. Blondi’s sorrow and suffering are over. Watching a love one suffer is never easy. The precious thing about Blondi’s promotion is no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more disappointment, no more heart break.

[4] THE DEATH OF A SAINT IS A CORONATION. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4…For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give [award] to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. Blondi is getting her crown of righteousness.

[5] THE DEATH OF A SAINT IS A CELEBRATION: Paul said, “I have finished the race.” Blondi has crossed the finish line. I have participated in a lot of races and the finish line is always a wonderful place of celebration. I still remember my first marathon: it was a very cold day. The conditions were miserable and I was struggling but as I neared the finish line, I heard crowds cheering, my grandson who was five came out and ran the last 100 yards with me. There were people waiting to to take hold of me as soon as I crossed. A PA system was calling out my name. It was a big deal but nothing compared to what Blondi is experiencing. What a celebration. We sorrow today but not as those who have no hope. In light of our faith and this promise, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints,” we join the heavenly celebration.

CONCLUSION

Note the text: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Death in and of itself is not precious. There is nothing precious about the death of an unbeliever. Death is precious only for the saints. Blondi was a believer in Jesus Christ, she could say…

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

Can you make this affirmation today, THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD?

If not this is how the Psalm would read for you…

1 The Lord is not my shepherd; I do what I want.
He does not make me to lie down in green pastures; He does not lead me beside the still waters.
3 He does not restore my soul; He does not leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will walk alone; I don’t need the LORD in life or death; I don’t need His word nor His Spirit to comfort me. I am on my own.
5 He is not preparing a table for me and He will not anoint my head with oil; My cup will never run over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy will not follow me and I will not dwell in the house of the Lord ever.
 

Surely, this is not your affirmation today. If the LORD Jesus is not your shepherd, make Him your shepherd today by repentance and faith.

 

Closing Remarks

Scripture Text: 2 Corinthians 13:1-14

1. This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
2 I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone,
3 Since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.
5 Test yourselves to see if you are in thefaith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?
6 But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.
7 Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what isright, even though we may appear unapproved.
8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.
9For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.
10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the LORD gave me for building up and not for tearing down.
11 Finally, breathren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss {hug}.
13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the LORD Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

INTRODUCTION

In this final chapter of 2 Corinthians we are going to divide the material into four parts:

  1. Paul’s Warning
  2. Paul’s Advice
  3. Paul’s Prayer
  4. Paul’s Exhortation

I. FIRST, PAUL’S  WARNING [13:1–4]

  1. Paul reminds them this will be his third visit. The second was the painful visit; perhaps this is Paul’s way of saying, “You don’t want another like the last, do you?”
  2. Every fact will be confirmed by two witnesses. Paul is assuring the Corinthians that a confrontation lies a head. The hearsay and inuendo will not hold up in court. Paul is going to find the source of the criticism and it will be dealth with according to Mosaic law {Deut. 19:15}.
  3. Evidently one criticism has been that Paul does not speak for Christ but he assured them that he will give them proof. I am not sure what that proof was to be.
  4. Paul refers to Christ weakness on the cross which of course is explained by the fact that Christ made Himself weak. Jesus did not have to die on the cross. He choose to die on the cross. We are to follow His example: there are times when we are to make ourselves weak. Times when we refuse to defend ourselves but there are times when we are to arise, to stand, to exercise power as did Christ in cleansing the Temple and the resurrection. At times we are to be like a worm, at others like a lion. This was Paul’s way of saying, “The lion is coming.”

NOTE ONE: Some are for peace at all cost but not Paul. Peace is very important but truth is more important.There comes a time when man must stand for truth’s sake. Some physical problems can be dealth with by thearpy and medication but some require surgery. We can not bury our head in the sand and pretend things are fine when they are not.

NOTE TWO: Paul had something I don’t have, Apostlic Authority. He is not blowing smoke. He means to excommunicate some folks if they don’t get right. This concept of ecclestical authority is foreign to Baptist but it is practiced by other denominations. I have a friend who is an Assembly of God pastor. He has a regional supervisor who has real authority.

II. PAUL’S ADVICE {Verse 5}

Paul challenged the Corinthians to “Examine their faith.” Test yourselves to see if you are in thefaith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?

There is nothing wrong with introspection and self-examination so long as you don’t spend all your time examining yourself. It can become an obsession and a sin. It is like doubt. Some doubt is healthy but if we give in to constant doubt, it becomeas a sin.

Litmus test:

  1. Do you recognize your sins?
  2. Do you live in a state of repentance?
  3. Do you have a desire to please Christ?
  4. Do you have a burden for those who do not know Christ?
  5. Do you rejoice when someone comes to know Christ?
  6. Deep down, do you really want God to get the glory?
  7. Do you love the word of God?
  8. Do you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit?
  9. Do you love this world more than Christ?

III. PAUL’S HOPE AND PRAYER [2 Cor. 13:6-10]

  1. Verse 6–“I hope you will discover that I haven’t failed the test.”
  2. Verse 7–“I pray to God that you will make the right decision. I pray that you will understand that it’s you I am concerned with and not myself.”
  3. Verse 8–“I can’t do anything to stop the truth.” Truth is objective, it stands alone. It does not require man’s approval and it is absolute.
  4. Verse 9–“I pray that there will be no more problems among you.”
  5. Verse 10–Paul prays that he will not have to use his authority. His goal is to build the Corinthians up not tear them down.

IV. PAUL’S EXHORTATION {2 Cor. 13:11}

Five exhortations:

  1. Be Happy–chairō, rejoice or be glad
  2. Be Mature–katartizō, fit, sound or complete.
  3. Be Helpful–parakaleō, to call along side of, to console, comfort, encourage and strengthen
  4. Be Together–autos phroneō, one or the same mind
  5. Be Peaceful–eirēneuō, to make peace, to cultivate or keep peace, harmony; to be at peace, live in peace.

I love to compare translations:

NIRV

  1. Rejoice
  2. Work to make things right with one another
  3. Help one another
  4. Aree with one another
  5. Live in peace with one another

Holman

  1. Rejoice
  2. Become Mature
  3. Be encouraged
  4. Be of the same mind
  5. Be at peace

 

The Loving Father

Luke 15:11-32

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.
23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.
32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

INTRODUCTION

This is definitely the Parable of the Loving Father. Jesus mentions the Father 11 times, the prodigal 8 and the elder brother 3 times. I love this story and I love to tell it over and over. Each time I tell it I discover something wonderful that I had missed previously. Each time I study this passage, I discover new truths. I am amazed at the depth of this story. It cannot be exhausted in a life time.

There are some wonderful truths about the FATHER that I want to share with you: these things have come to me one at a time over the years and then 5-6 years ago, I put them into a message and I have been preaching since…

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE FATHER NEVER CHANGES

It is a wonderful truth: in this story, the FATHER remains consistently the same, he never vacillates, he never changes. From beginning to end: He is the same, a loving Father. There is no question: Jesus is painting a portrait of our heavenly Father who is, by the way, immutable. He never changes. He does not need to change because He is perfect. We live in a changing world. Everything about us, around us is changing. Einstein said, “The only constant in the entire universe is the speed of light.”

Light travels at a constant, finite speed of 186,000 miles per second. A traveler, moving at the speed of light, would circum-navigate the equator approximately 7.5 times in one second. By comparison, a traveler in a jet aircraft, moving at a ground speed of 500 mph, would spend 50 hours in the air to circle the globe once.

Everything else is subject to the law of thermodynamics: it is in a state of constant change. The sun has less energy, the moon is inching toward the sun and away from the earth every day and it has nothing to do with global warming. Everything is changing. The United States is evolving into something a lot of us are uncomfortable with: we are certainly not like colonial America. The world is changing and everything in it. The Southern Baptist Convention is changing: the millennials are taking over and one out of five are into Reform Theology which is not good. What can we say, things are changing and they are changing fast. Yes, it can be a bit unnerving. We desperately need something to stay the same. We need a ROCK, something we can lean on, something stable and we have that in Jesus.

Hebrews 13:8 comes to mind….Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

Our God, Yahweh is immutable; it is declared in His name YHWH, “I AM”. God choose a verb for His personal name. It is the Hebrew verb for being. It contains every tense in the Hebrew language. Not only can it be translated “I AM” but I WAS…I WILL BE…I AM BECAUSE I WAS…I AM SINCE I WAS…I WILL ALWAYS BE BECAUSE I AM. You can go on forever parsing this verb, the translations are almost infinite. But I can sum it all up with the story of the Black Preacher doing the 23rd Psalm. He never made it past the first three words…THE LORD IS….HE ALWAYS HAS BEEN IS AND HE ALWAYS WILL BE IS. He is the eternal, self-existent, immutable God and He never changes.

Illustration:

I was in a lock down unit of a Nursing Home some years ago. There were 20-25 people in the room and all were making wierd sounds. It was chaos. I was trying to visit one widow from our church but the noise, the confusion was stifling. Some of the patients were even hollowing. A black attendant came up to me and said, “You are a preacher aren’t you?” I said “Yes mam, I am.” She said, “start preaching.” I looked at her in shock and said, “Are you kidding, in this racket, I can’t even carry on a conversation with my friend in this chaos.” She said, “You open a bible and go to preaching and they will get quiet.” I said, “I don’t have a bible with me.” She left the room and returned in a minute with a Gideon bible and said, “Here, preach.” I opened the bible to Psalm 46 and read it....God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the seaI read the entire Psalm and they got quiet long before I finished. I was amazed. Astounded would be more like it.

I preached the worse and shortest sermon of my life that day. It was horrible. I wish I could say the Spirit fell and I waxed eloquent but that is not what happened. I stumbled through the Psalm and then I talked about keeping the faith in the midst of a changing world. David said, “I will not fear even though the earth is changing.” How could David make such a statement? Because his faith was in an unchanging God who is always there in our time of trouble.

Our God is immutable: let’s praise Him!

II. THE FATHER IS WISE

Legally, the Father was not obligated to divide his estate. The sons actually had no claim until the Father’s death. But when the younger son rebelled, the Father did not try to force him to stay, not did he refuse his request. He basically allowed the boy to have his own way. The Father had the upper hand, he could have used force but he wisely choose not to. Evenutally, he gets his son back safe and sound but the son is a new man. One who loves and appreciates his father. One who is ready to obey every command and do it for love’s sake. As Paul reveals in I Corinthians 13, the highest motive of service is love. The elder brother had served for many years but not out of love. He served for duty sake. He served for the sake of his own reputation.

By allowing the younger son to exercise his free will, the Father gets a son in return who loves him.

God could have made us puppets on a string. He could have made us robots. He could have programmed us so that we would be perfect but He choose to make us in His own image and a part of that is the freedom to choose. You don’t have to trust Christ. You do not have to repent of your sins. It’s your choice. You cannot get into heaven without repentance but no one will force you to repent. If you choose to repent and return to the Father, you will love the Party and you will love the Father. When labor for duty sake, it can be like slavery. When we labor out of love, it is a privilege.

Illustration:

I grew up on a small farm. We had cows, pigs, chickens and even goats when I was very young. There were plenty of chores to be done but like all boys, I preferred playing at the creek to doing chores. Daddy was not a slave driver but he did expect us to work. Mother was a slave driver. I preferred working for Daddy. I worked as a kid but in those days, practically all kids worked. I did not work because I wanted to and I did not work because I loved my father. I worked for one reason, they made me. If you didn’t work, you did not eat and I liked to eat.

{Fast forward 35 years} My father had a series of strokes before his departure. He got to a point where he was helpless and it bothered him. I stayed with him one day and one night a week and he was always telling me to go back home to my family. He didn’t want me to take care of him; he wanted me to take care of my children and grandchildren. I always assured him that they were fine. Finally, I had a talk with Daddy. I told him the truth: “Daddy this is not my duty, this is a privilege. I am honored to be able to take care of you. I could never be happy in this world if I did not.”

That’s all any father wants: to be loved, honored and respected by his children.

III. THE FATHER IS BENEVOLENT

The Father in this story was a giving man, a benevolent man. Every time he appears in the story he is giving something. He gives the younger son an early inheritance. Then he gives him a hug, a robe, a ring, and a party. He gave two thirds of his plantation to the older son, it was already in his name. He gave him godly advice. He told him, “Everything I have is yours.” Wow, what a generous man? He gave and gave and gave again.

Our heavenly Father is benevolent. He loves to give. You are not going to out give God. It is like trying to out give a rich man: your pockets aren’t deeper enough. June and I are trying to be a little more careful this Christmas because I am about to lose most of my income. We have talked about who we will give to this Christmas. We know that the more we give, the less we will have. Our giving diminishes us, that is because we are human but giving does not diminish God: the more God gives, the more He has to give. What I said doesn’t make sense, but it is true…God is not diminished in any way by giving. In a spiritual sense, it will work the same way for us. The more we give, the more we get. The way to increase your eternal stock is to give now. But we humans can give sacrificially. We can give until it hurts. It never hurts God to give, other than when He gave His son.

I love the poem by Anne Flint…

  1. He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
  2. When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
  3. Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
    Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
    Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
    The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
  4. His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
    His power no boundary known unto men;
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

IV. THE FATHER IS GENTLE, PATIENT AND KIND

He never loses his cool. He never becomes impatient. It is absolutely amazing how kind he is to these boys. I am more amazed at his kindness to the older than I am the younger. The older son needed a good kick in the rear. He had a horrible attitude and was so disrespectful to his father. Yet his father gently begs him to join the party.

After a very intense 30 hours of travel, I returned home last night very thankful for God’s infinite goodness, grace, and mercy. The Bailey’s are blessed beyond belief and we do not deserve it. How can God be so good, so kind, so patient and so gentle? Every time I go off with my kids, they tell these far fetched stories that I don’t remember. I’ll tell you this: I enjoy being a granddad a lot more than I did being a dad? Is this because my grand kids are better than their parents? No, it is because I have changed over the years. When I was younger, I put too much emphasis and sometimes too much pressure on my children–especially in the field of sports. Yesterday, our Son {Joe David} graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the same Seminary I attended 45 years ago. I am very proud of my son. Growing up, I wanted him to be a great athlete but now I want him to love Jesus and he does. I want the same thing for my girls and grands. I have almost made a 180 and it’s all due to God’s grace. I would like to take credit but the gentle Savior has nudged me along. He has patiently destroyed my idols one at a time. How could anyone be so patient.

V. THE FATHER LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN

I guess this is one reason I love the story. It contains the heart of the Gospel. The Pharisees were despicable people. They were rich, aristocratic, snobs who thought they were better than everyone else. I can see how God would love a sinner like a prostitute or a tax collector, {State trooper} but how could He love these despicable Pharisees who were plotting the death of His Son.

In this story, the Father loves both sons. Unfortunately, only one joins the celebration. The older son stood outside his Father’s generous grace and pouted. He was outside because he choose to be outside. The sheep got lost by wandering, the coin got lost by accident but this son is lost by choice. He chooses to be outside the sphere of grace. His father begs him to come in and he will not.

I Timothy 1:15–This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

CONCLUSION

The Pharisees couldn’t believe that God loved sinners. I sure that the sinners wondered how He could love the self-righteous and arrogant Pharisees but the truth is–He loved both. I am so thankful for the word ALL…

  • Romans 8:32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
  • Romans 10:11-13–As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one {Christ} died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

The Pharisees believed that God loved some {some lives mattered}. Jesus taught us that all lives matter.