Sunday Sermon Notes: August 14, 2022

1 Corinthians 12

  1. Introduction 12:1-3
  2. Many Gifts, One Spirit 12:4-6
  3. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (12:4-6)
  4. Many Manifestations of the Same Spirit 12:7-11
  5. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
  6. It takes many body parts to make one living body. 12:12-26

Using the human body as a metaphor, Paul describes how the manifestations of the Holy Spirit work together in His people to bring about a living organism; the Body of Christ.

  1. Every member of the Body of Christ is important, needed and inter-dependent. 12:27-31
  2. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

  1. Love is the ingredient that binds us all together in One Body. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (13:1-3)

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (13:8-10)

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Sunday Sermon Notes: August 7, 2022

Romans 12:3-8

Paul set out his proposition in verses 1-2, that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices and be transformed by the renewing of our minds as a response to grace− in verses 3-8 we have our first lesson on how to go about it: Serve the body of Christ in humility.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (12:3)

So, it would seem that the first step in the transformative process is that we adopt an attitude of humility. Right away, we can see that not being conformed to this world was something Paul was very serious about (v. 2) for in this age of “game”, “swagger” and “bling” humility is very much out of style. Verse 4 uses the metaphor of our bodies in the same way that Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 12, another spiritual gifts passage, as he shows that each of us has a unique part to play in the Body of Christ. While this is easy enough to grasp, he takes another shot at the attitudes of this world in verse 5 when he says each member belongs to all the others. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Christians bristle at that one.

In verses 6-8 Paul refers to spiritual gifts that each of us has received by the Holy Spirit.

I hope you will consider this carefully: In a context of humble service, a context that is not only counter-intuitive but also counter-cultural for most of us, Paul tells us to exercise our spiritual gifts in humble service to the Body of Christ. Think about the magnitude of the implication of this…

Not only are we to adopt an attitude of true and honest humility, not only are we to consider our positions as members of and belonging to the Body of Christ, but we are to serve the Body of Christ. Yet even more striking than that, we are to rely upon our spiritual gift from God in our service, which is to say that we are not to rely on our own strength, ability or talent, but on God’s grace alone.

How are we to live as Christians? We are to rely on God in all things to serve His purpose and not our own to build His Kingdom.

Romans 12:9-16

Paul continues in these verses with his discussion of our response to grace. Here, he sets the tone with verse 9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Our response to God’s grace must be one of love, both love for God and love for others, and this love must be sincere. It is interesting that Paul should modify this sincere love statement with the concept of hating what is evil and clinging to what is good; it would appear that in our sincere love, we are to maintain the highest of ethical standards, not allowing ourselves to misuse our new freedom.

So then, what does love in action look like in practice?

Paul begins shedding light on this question in the verses that follow, first of all with an emphasis on what we should do to put love into action:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves (12:10). Because our response to grace is that we love others, we should be devoted to one another, and we should put others ahead of ourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (12:11). Because our response to grace is that we love God, we should serve Him with enthusiasm always. Because our response to grace is one of love, our attitudes should reflect that love for God and other people: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (12:12). Since we have a whole new attitude because of the grace we have received, our love should result in generosity toward other people: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (12:13).

In the next three verses, his emphasis shifts slightly, but he is still speaking of sincere love:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:14-16

As we read these verses, notice that they are not things that are common in this world. I’ve never met someone who blessed their oppressors, for instance; have you? I don’t always see people rejoicing with their friends who are rejoicing, for all too often a person sees their friend rejoicing while harboring resentment because their friend was fortunate in an area where they hadn’t been as fortunate. Harmony is surely lacking in our world, while pride and conceit are commonplace; and so many decline to associate with the less fortunate. Real sincere love is a very rare thing in our world, but within the church, it is supposed to be a given.

Romans 12:17-21

In 12:1-16 Paul has discussed our response to grace with a series of short statements that stem from the theme of sincere love, but in 17 ff. he seems to focus on one particular subject: Revenge. While the previous section can be said to deal mostly with our relationships within the Body of Christ, this section would seem more (hopefully) to deal with those outside of the Body of Christ. Paul set up his new theme in verse 17:  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Our natural human inclination when we have been harmed or insulted is to strike back, to get even, to Tweet, but that is not the reaction of sincere love, and it has been rendered obsolete by grace.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (12:18). We are not to stir up trouble or carry on in a provocative manner with other people, we should not be tossing insults and unkindness around, nor should we be looking for disputes, for our response to grace makes that kind of living hypocritical. God has forgiven us, He has shown love and mercy to us; do we honor Him by stirring up trouble with other people?

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

Romans 12:19-20

If we are harmed by another, even if it is a violent attack; our response is to show God’s mercy and love to the other party, it is not for us to avenge the wrong we have suffered. If avenging or retribution or punishment is required, that is God’s job, and since God has been faithful in dealing with us, He can be counted on to be faithful in the final disposition of our having been wronged.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (12:21).

There, that’s the “official” lesson portion− now let’s get real.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2

This is not empty talk; there are serious implications in these words. These injunctions require a response to grace, a response that brings about a whole new way of living and thinking, and more than anything else, they require that we trust God like never before. Yet God has given us His Spirit, and through His Spirit in us, we have the strength and fortitude we need to live the lives He has intended for us to live as citizens of His Kingdom. As each of us uses his or her spiritual gifts for the benefit of the entire Body of Christ, we will have not only the Holy Spirit in us to help us through, we also have the Holy Spirit at work in all of the other members of the Body to encourage, console and empower us to do our parts, to God’s great glory.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 31, 2022

Introduction to Spiritual Gifts

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

The point of beginning in any study or discussion of spiritual gifts is this: All followers of Jesus Christ receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at the time of their baptism, thus, each of us has the gift, and the spiritual gift is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we speak of “spiritual gifts” we are really referring to the manner in which the Holy Spirit chooses to manifest Himself in our lives― if we understand this, we are halfway home. Now, let’s consider a few things…

  1. The first and last commands of Christ: Follow Me and Make Disciples
  2. Why you should care about spiritual gifts.

So, there you have it; you should care about spiritual gifts because an understanding of what they are and which ones you have will tell you a great deal about God’s plans for your life as a follower of Jesus Christ! Gone is resentment about why I do this and he gets to do that, and the baggage centering around holy obligation, duty and transactional love, for there is simply no greater joy in this life than to exercise our spiritual gifts to advance the building of the Body of Christ.

  1. . All Christians have a spiritual gift.

            Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

1Peter 4:10

Note that Peter uses the word “each” so that includes everyone.  It’s very important that we recognize that the spiritual gift that all Christians receive is that of the Holy Spirit Himself. What we commonly refer to as “spiritual gifts” are actually the ways in which the Holy Spirit is made manifest within each of us. The most important question is this: Are we using our gift in ministry?

  1. Here’s how we know that for sure:

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2:38-39

God gave us spiritual gifts to glorify Himself;

God has given us gifts so that we might exalt His name, that we might do things that will glorify Him.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:11

It is way too easy for us to get caught up in being busy or to build something up and forget that our purpose is to give glory to God.  When this happens, we sometimes get the idea that our ministry is ours and not His. The result is that we often come to resent anyone else becoming involved in it, and this is not how we make disciples, for making disciples always leads us to teach others to take our place.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 24, 2022

John’s last letter. So short, so telling. John is writing to his friend and brother Gaius.  He seems to have been a leader in the church, and even though there are other mentions of men with this name in Scripture, it was a very common name; we can’t be sure if he has other mentions or not.  Gaius was obviously serving others, and sharing God’s love with them. He was hosting a group of missionaries, apparently, and these workers were people he didn’t know.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

3 John 2-8

Gaius is the kind of Christian who is worthy of imitation.  He is serving in love, he is putting others first, he is doing the kinds of things we should be doing.  But there is another guy who comes up in the letter…

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

3 John 9-12

This dude Diotrephes is all too common in our time, and obviously they had this sort of nonsense going on even in John’s day.  Did you catch what John said about him at the beginning? He said that Diotrephes “loves to be first.” Well that about sums it up! Do you know others who love to be first?  They are the important ones, they are the ones who can’t be inconvenienced, they are the ones who always have the last word, who always get their way, and who must always be in charge− they want to be the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral.  No doubt you are reminded here of the words of Jesus when He said the first will be last and the last will be first.

This Diotrephes won’t welcome the Apostle to the church, and kicks others out for welcoming the strangers that Gaius has taken in. Diotrephes seems to have much to say about others. A bunch of nonsense (or gossip) is being spread about people like John himself, who should be given the respect they are due.  I wonder if Diotrephes is doing this because he must be in the spotlight, and just can’t handle it when someone else gets attention.

Maybe we’ll never know the exact motivation, but I think we recognize the person, and John is telling us not to emulate them or their behavior.  Who can argue with that advice?

Finally, another good guy is mentioned: Demetrius.  So, there you have it, two brothers who are serving faithfully, and one bad apple.  It seems that the bad apple makes the most noise, but the faithful servants are making a difference for the Gospel.  I’d say there might be a lesson in this for us to learn.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 17, 2022

This brief and rather curious letter begins by referencing its recipient as a “chosen lady” without ever mentioning a name.  Some have voiced speculation over the years as to who that lady might have been, but since the text doesn’t say, I will leave it alone.  The rest of the first six verses read much like 1 John, but verse 7 begins a particular warning that is the purpose of the letter.

John is warning the lady about antichrist! As in the previous letter, he describes the antichrist as one who “does not acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

2 John 8-11

This is a very stern warning indeed!  It seems to me that John is telling the lady that if we allow ourselves to be deceived by these antichrists, we run the risk of losing what we have in Christ. Now I realize that many may disagree with me, but that is how I read it.  You might recall John’s teaching about “sins that lead to death” as opposed to “sins that do not lead to death.”  However you might prefer to explain this passage, John is clearly talking about a danger of being deceived into “sin that leads to death.” He even goes so far as to say that we mustn’t welcome or allow into our homes such an individual, or we will share in their wicked ways.

You just don’t see things like this very often in New Testament Scripture.

Apparently, these antichrists bring with them a clear and present danger to a believer with their ability to deceive.  I think it’s particularly interesting that John notes at the end of the letter that he has more to say on the subject, but wants to speak to this lady in person.  He wants to do some disciplining, it would seem.

You might recall that in 1 John, we had assurances that by the Spirit within us, we can overcome this “spirit of antichrist.”  What I am taking away from all of this, is that as mature believers, we should have no problem identifying antichrist, but as less than mature believers, we might be vulnerable. I could be wrong of course, since John hasn’t said that explicitly, but it seems likely. With that said, what shall we do?  In discussing the first letter, much was said both in posts and comments about “making disciples.”  I’ve pointed out many times here, that there are a few facets of this making disciples business.  First, for the maker of disciples, there are two aspects: First is to lead the non-believer into relationship with Jesus Christ.  Second is to lead the new Christian to maturity in Christ so they may also make disciples.  But there is a third aspect, and that is for those of us who are not yet mature believers to make ourselves available to be led, nurtured and guided through this process of growth.

We must remember that Jesus’ first command to His disciples was to follow Him.  His last command was to Go and make disciples.  In between these two commands was three years of training, teaching, relationship and learning.  They didn’t skip from following to leading over night.  If you consider the example of Paul, he encountered Jesus of that famous road to Damascus, but he didn’t jump right in to a leadership role.  After that, he went home to Tarsus and remained for several years. It is likely that he grew into maturity during that time.

When I was a very young Christian, I was sure that if I ever ran into a demonic situation, or a face to face with the devil, that I could easily recognize and handle the situation.  Lucky for me, God knew better and kept me from such things: If He hadn’t, I would surely have been consumed by my immaturity and folly.  With some maturity and experience, not to mention growth in my faith, I’m not so easy to deceive as I once was.  Even so, John’s warning is one that I take to heart, and I hope the lady he sent the letter to, and all of you will do the same.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 10. 2022

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:13-15

These three simple verses are encouraging ones, for they assure us of two wonderful things.  First, we have eternal life.  Second, anything we ask for in prayer will be done, if we ask in God’s will. This is our focus here: God’s will.

The whole idea of tacking “in Jesus’ name, Amen” has always struck me as trying to work the system just a little bit.  Of course, we do that because Jesus is recorded three times in John’s gospel telling His disciples that anything they ask for in His name will be given them.  Never mind that all three times were firmly within the context of doing God’s will, all we need to do is tack on the magic words… Only it doesn’t work like that!

Yeah, I hate to be the one who has to tell you that God thought of that one already.

Our prayers that are outside of God’s will aren’t guaranteed to be answered, because God is all about His purposes, and we are His servants, not the other way around.  So, the question really is what is within God’s will? It isn’t always in God’s will that nice things happen, that the sick are always healed and that the bad guy loses the game.  In fact, it can be quite difficult to discern His will in some situations, especially when we are emotionally invested.  There are some things that are always within the scope of God’s eternal purpose, can you guess what they are?

Yep, that’s right, you got it!  Things that pertain to saving the lost and making disciples are always within His will.  Not things that just make it easier for us, or that make us look like heroes, but things that get those “Kingdom things” done. In this area, prayer is so powerful it can be scary… in a good way.

We must pray big prayers, with boldness, and with the sure expectancy that God will do great things with them, but we need to ensure that our prayers are to advance God’s priorities, according to God’s ways of doing things.

OK, here we go… big bold “God’s will” prayers and no more little “me” ones. Just watch and see what amazing things He can do!

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

1 John 5:16-17

As we move along through this letter, we think we have John all figured out, and then we come to these two verses, so near to the end of the letter. At first, they don’t seem to belong, what is John talking about?  Where did this come from?

So, let’s see if we can follow him… if a brother sins, we are to pray for him, and God will give him life.  OK, I think I get it; God will forgive the sin, and straighten the guy out.  Hold on, that is if the sin isn’t a sin that leads to death; but I thought death was the price of all sin!  John’s making it sound like any sin can be forgiven, except one; and this one sin can be committed by our “brother or sister.”  

John could have at least mentioned what that sin is… leaving that little detail out makes this hard to follow, at least for me− I wonder why he would do that.  Maybe he didn’t think he needed to mention it, maybe he thought he’d already covered that somewhere; could that part have been lost over time or something? Let’s think.

What was the letter about? Oh, yes, it was about false teachers, in fact it was about a certain kind of false teacher, Gnostic false teachers, who claimed that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh.  Hold on− John came up with a special word to describe them: Antichrist! Aha! Now this is beginning to make sense, the antichrist is not to be forgiven; you don’t need to pray for this. When your brother stumbles, pray for him, when you stumble ask God and He will forgive.  Stay away from the antichrist.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:18-20

John is winding up the letter now, as he recounts some basic facts of Christian life.  A follower of Jesus is not to continue in the old ways. He or she has been buried with Christ, and arisen again as a new creation, leaving the old behind.  The “One who was born of God” which is to say the Lord Jesus, keeps us safe from the evil one.  This is a pretty important statement for us to keep in mind, especially when we are looking for somebody to blame for our mistakes.  John points out that the whole world is under the control of the evil one, and you will no doubt recall that he has already warned us not to love the world, now you know why.

Now, John drops in a comforting and powerful thought: Jesus has given us understanding so that we may know who is true; it is Jesus who is true.  If we have the understanding to know who is true, we can also discern who is not.  Maybe this is why the arguments and understanding of this world can be so attractive to the world, and appear so idiotic to a follower of Jesus… and vice-versa.  Hmmm, might want to ponder that for a bit.  God is the one who is true, and the giver of eternal life.

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Calling Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

Luke’s account of the calling of Peter, James and John as disciples differs in many ways from the accounts of Matthew and Mark; I’ll let others speculate on the reasons for this and try to focus on what I see as the really instructive part of Luke’s account. Please read these verses, if you haven’t already, and let’s talk…

OK, now that you have refreshed your recollection of this account, did you notice Peter’s reaction when Jesus caused his nets to be so overloaded with fish?

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (5:8)

Doesn’t that remind you of Isaiah the prophet?

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Isaiah 6:1-5

This is from the passage that describes the call of Isaiah to prophesy to the people; do you see the similarity in his response to that of Peter when he saw how amazing and holy Jesus was, that He knew just where to cast their nets for a record catch? Isaiah was accepted for service and went without hesitation:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:6-8)

Like Isaiah, Peter was horrified at his unworthiness to be in the presence of the Son of God, yet in Luke 5:10 Jesus reassured him, and they dropped everything and followed Him without hesitation. You might also take a look at the call of Moses in Exodus 3 and Gideon in Judges 6.

It would be quite normal for any of us to realize that we are neither qualified nor worthy to serve our Lord; we are all sinners after all. Yet none of the “greats” of Scripture were any more perfect than you or I, and when reassured, they followed God’s call. Each of us knows that our sin has been taken away by the blood of Christ, and each of us has every right to seek His loving arms… and each of us has received His call to follow Him. Will we follow the example of Peter, James and John?

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One of “those” days

I’m sure you’ve had those days when it seems like everything is going wrong, when it seems like everyone is against you, and when it just seems like the deck is stacked and the fix is in. Yep, we’ve all had those days, and the funny thing is, even the guy who God Himself called “a man after my own heart” had days like that…

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

Psalm 3:1-2

I must admit that I have never had people trying to kill me before, and I certainly hope that you haven’t either, but I’ve had times when it seemed almost like that. So, it might be interesting to know how the man after God’s own heart responded, don’t you think?

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

Psalm 3:3-8

Happily for me, I’ve never needed to ask God to beat anybody up for me, but as I’ve gone through this life, I, like you no doubt, have had my share of challenges and obstacles to overcome. Sadly, I haven’t always responded to these things as well as David does in these verses.

God loved David, of that there can be no doubt.

God loves you and me too, just as He loved David. We know that God came through for David, that He forgave David for his shortcomings and for his sins, and so, He will do the same for us.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the biggest challenge of all is to remember these things at the time of crisis, rather than following my human tendency to despair first, and think later. Even so, when it takes us a while to see things clearly, to see that God is our strength, our courage, our sustenance and our hope, He is still right there beside us.

What a surety we have; what a strength we have!

God is always there; God is always faithful, even in our worst moments.

What a comfort we have; what a confidence we have!

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Luke 4:38-44

In these verses we see Jesus healing people of sickness and driving out more demons. The demons it seems all knew who He was, yet Jesus really wasn’t going to rely on the testimony of the agents of Hell to spread the good news; He ordered them to keep quiet. Even when He retreated to a solitary place, the people found Him and tried to persuade Him to remain with them, but Jesus couldn’t do that, for He had come to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God all over

Let’s just keep this short and sweet: When Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom of God, what happened?

First, people were amazed at the authority with which He spoke about it. Second, people were healed both of their illnesses and their spiritual oppression, both of which are things that came about as a result of Man’s falling away from fellowship with God. Third, Jesus gave practical confirmation of His authority; that it had indeed come from God. Yet there is another element in all of this, an apocalyptic element. Jesus demonstrated in physical terms what would soon happen in eternal terms after He had dealt with the sin of humanity and restored fellowship between Man and God, and if memory serves me, Luke also wrote a volume in which he told that story.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 3, 2022

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:1-5

As we begin the final chapter of John’s letter, John continues to tell us that we must love God and love each other. He’s been doing this for dozens of verses now, yet John is throwing us a curve in verse 2:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 

I’ve never heard anyone argue with the loving God part; that seems easy enough, but carrying out His commands is often a sticking point. As we have stated many times going through this letter, God’s commands can be summed up very easily.  We are to love God, and love one another… and make disciples. That’s the one many people get stuck on… There are all kinds of criticisms for this, as though I (or someone else) made it up or something, but that is simply not the case.  What was Jesus’ final command?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

No, dear reader, I didn’t make this up.  Since I have commented on this so many times already, rather than to explain it again, let’s just try a new approach. First, how can we ever say that we love God, but we won’t follow His command to share that love with others? How can we say we love others, and not share the love of God with them? That wouldn’t even make sense, would it?  God first loved us, so He sent His Son to die for our sins. If we don’t share God’s love with others who are lost, are we not sharing because God really didn’t love them as much as He loved us?

We share with the lost and they enter into relationship with Jesus Christ; now they are our brother or sister in the Lord: Will we just stand by and watch them struggle with their new faith, or will we help them along their way?  Which choice demonstrates love in action?

John goes on to mention that obeying His commands isn’t burdensome because in Him, we have overcome the world.  Ever wonder what that has to do with anything?  What is it that would hold us back from making disciples?  Go ahead and make a short mental list of what might hold you back.  Got it?  OK, good.  Does it have things like being afraid they’ll say no?  How about not wanting others to think you’re weird? Maybe you’re afraid that you won’t know all the answers. Yes, there are other possibilities, but in my experience, these are the kinds of things people usually say.  In Him, we’ve overcome the world, and these are thoughts of the world, not His thoughts.  Was Jesus ever afraid of rejection or embarrassment or afraid of anything this world could do to Him?  No.  Why would we be concerned about such things? We have overcome the world because of our faith: Sometimes, like you, I need to remind myself about that.

To carry out God’s commands is not burdensome, because it is a joy.  I can tell you from my own experience that there is no greater joy in this life than to see a person I have mentored, grow in their faith, and step up to serve God because of their love for Him− it is by far the greatest joy there is.

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