Category Archives: Sermons & Talks

Hurt in the Church

I love my church family.  Always.  But I have had more than my share of hurtful experiences from the church as well.  Some of the most hurtful people that I have met and known have been leaders in churches (though I have also had my share of wonderful leaders as well!) and I wonder how can that be when we are meant to love each other.  But people are not our God.  God is our God.  So I have kept my eyes on Him at hard times.  My kids fight a lot.  They do not always reflect my values.  But they are still part of my family…I am not kicking anyone out of the family!  That is how it works.  We don’t usually blame mom and dad because our sister hit us.  Blaming God for hurts from Christians isn’t the best way, either.  They are growing and learning just like we are.

What has been your experience in the church?

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Keep It From Falling

“He is Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes,” said Eli.

Doesn’t this seem like a good response to what the Lord says?

Eli was priest over Israel before the kingdom was established and when judges ruled over the nation. We perhaps only hear about his story because his life intersects with a young boy named Samuel, whom God set aside as a prophet, and one of the most influential people in Israel’s history. Eli was ministering in the house of God when Samuel was given by his mother to stay and minister for all of his life before the Lord, and Eli raises and shapes the life of this young man as well as having raised his own sons who served before the Lord.

You might think that, with the same person raising them, Samuel and Eli’s sons would have had a similar regard for the Lord, but that was not the case. Eli received a prophetic warning that his sons would die for their great sin before the Lord, and that his family line would not continue to prosper. After this warning, God gave another warning to Eli—this time through the boy Samuel.

Even after a second warning, there was no repentance from Eli in the matter, and no recorded discussion Eli had with his sons. Eli seemed only to fear the people and not God. (Eli’s only rebuke to his sons came after he heard what people were saying about them, not after what God had said!) Eli’s response to Samuel’s revelation of God’s heart and of the upcoming disaster of his family’s lives was,

“He is Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes,” said Eli.

Though this may seem like a godly response to the Word of the Lord since it does regard the Lord’s sovereignty, it lacks any sort of response or responsibility to what the Lord says. There is a verse in the New Testament that says in James 1: 22-25,

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.   (NIV)

Eli had a mirror placed before him, saw the sin, and then failed to respond to what he saw. His response recognized God’s sovereignty, but he did not honor the Lord by responding!

To put it into an every-day context, I have told my kids that there was a big mess in the living room, and if they didn’t clean it up, they would not receive their full allowance. But what do I really want them to do? Do I want them to fail? Of course I don’t. I want them to clean up the mess and receive their full allowance. I don’t desire their punishment. Neither does God. I believe God just wanted them to clean up the mess of sin.

So, if Eli’s response was not the best way to handle God’s rebuke, what IS a good response to the word of the Lord? Well, let us look at another man who received a rebuke and a judgment from the Lord. King David was known as a man after God’s heart, but he, too, sinned in a way that brought devastation to others. What was his response to the Lord’s correction? On both of the occasions, when he was confronted with the sin, he repented before the Lord, and begged, prayed and fasted humbly for God’s mercy on those whom his sin was affecting. No matter what God’s response was to his pleas, he took God’s words very seriously, and did not let the prophetic words from God he received fall to the ground. He did not look just to his own fate, but loved those around him enough to ask God for mercy on them, unlike Eli.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba was one of those instances. David had sinned, and then seemingly went on with his life, unaware of God’s grievance against him until the prophet Nathan came and gave David God’s words of rebuke and judgment on the sin. The word was that the son born to David would die because of this. David looked into the “mirror” of God’s word and saw himself as God saw him, and David repented. It was a very similar word as what Eli had been given about his sons, and yet the response was so different. David fasted and prayed up until the time that his son died in hope that God would change his mind. David showed concern for the next generation, and fear of the Lord. In another instance where God judged David for a sin, when David repented, God did take action in showing mercy. No matter what the outcome, God wants us to be changed when he gives a rebuke.

Eli’s response is similar to King Hezekiah’s, when the prophet Isaiah told him that everything in his palace and some of his own descendants would be taken away to Babylon because of his sin. Hezekiah’s response was like Eli’s, “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” and it goes on to tell why he responded that way: “for he thought, ‘will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” Did this response take any responsibility for HIS actions? Did it look to the well-being of others around him? And though Hezekiah had walked most of his life in good relationship to God, he grew lazy toward the word of God at the end of his life.

God’s rebukes are not a bad thing.

Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My (child), do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a (child). It is too much work to discipline those you do not care about. I put effort into my children, because I want to see them grow to have good character, and sometimes this requires rebuke. I take time to discipline them because I love them and care about who they are to become. Do not be discouraged by the Lord’s correction. This is how we grow to be like Him.

How does the word of God come to us? Is it always a rebuke? No! I believe God would rather be talking to us about his plans and what he is doing, not having to correct us. But remember, we will always be corrected as long as we are children of God.

The next sentence in the Bible after Eli said his final remarks of “He is the Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes”, the bible says in contrast that Samuel, however, feared the Lord and “didn’t let any of his words fall to the ground.” Samuel loved the Lord and knew that what God said was precious. He treated what God told him with honor and respect. Samuel walked with the Lord and obeyed him so that the Lord trusted him with many important tasks that were to be done in this important time in the history of Israel. Because of Samuel’s obedience to the Lord, Saul was established as first king over Israel, and then later, David was anointed by Samuel to be king. Samuel had to give some difficult words to individuals and to people of Israel, but he had the joy of a close walk with the Lord, an the opportunity to be in the middle of what God was doing.

Don’t we want to be there too? So let’s look at the words that God gives us, and make certain that we, like Samuel, do not let God’s words fall to the ground.

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Be Visionful


“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he”

Proverbs 29:18  21st Century King James Version

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” 

–Proverbs 29:18  The Message

What is vision?  Vision can be seeing ahead to some future time, sometimes by imagination, sometimes by logic, and at other times vision is a God-given thing.  So much of the Bible was written down because God had given people some vision or promise of their future, the future of Israel or the future of the world.  That is what God is up to—showing us where to go and  what he is going to do–something to hold on to in the middle of the confusion of the world around us—vision for His plans.

In one of our often-told Old Testament stories, a young man of seventeen, named Joseph had a dream.  He was given a vision by God that Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain in the field when suddenly his sheave stood straight up, and his brother’s sheaves bowed down around it.  He had a second dream that the sun, moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him.  These dreams were God-given, about a future time when God would raise up Joseph to power over the nation of Egypt as well as over his brothers and family.

Joseph believed these visions, so he did not lose sight of God’s plans in the middle of the circumstances around him.  Even at the beginning, Joseph’s dreams were not based in the reality of what he saw around him.  He was one of the least of his brothers (the second youngest), and would not naturally have authority.  They were nomadic, and were not a settled people of influence.  How could his dream be true?  It was not based in the natural.

And yet he did hold on to the visions God had given.  He did not lose sight of it in the middle of the circumstances around him.  How do we know that?   Joseph did not let go of the vision he received from God, or he would not have continued to be righteous while the world set him up to fail.   Joseph’s family—those closest to him—brought his greatest opposition and his betrayal into slavery.  Then, after being sold as a slave, and working well for his new master and gaining his owner’s favor, Joseph was wrongly jailed by his this man for his master’s wife’s false accusation of rape.  If Joseph had lost sight of God’s vision, he would have given up hope and living righteously, since it had only gotten him in trouble so far, but he did not.  God does not care about people’s plans, he makes even the things meant for destruction into something he can use to bless the righteous person.  God even used what Joseph’s brothers meant for destruction to bless them through their brother!

Things do not always look like we think they should when we are in His will, but, as Romans 8:28 assures us,

“…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God fulfilled the vision he gave Joseph that one day he would rule over his brothers and parents and the land when Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt gave favor to Joseph, and made him second to Pharaoh in Egypt.   God fulfills his purposes despite how circumstances may look.  Remember Proverbs 29?

Joseph had vision and kept God’s law until the vision was fulfilled. Vision requires tenacity and godliness.

What is the vision God has given here?  We are blessed with the problem of many people who want to follow the Lord and a small building in which to do it.  What happens when we have so many capable members of the body of Christ ready to serve?  It is time to commission them to move out like the apostle Paul did, into the world, and reach even more people with the awesome love of God so that all people here can be empowered to do what the Lord has called them to do.

We can choose to stay comfortable, but that is rarely where God wants us to be.  I can think of no heroes from the Bible who made comfortable decisions.  Vision requires faith that God will do what we cannot entirely see.  There is little faith needed when we are comfortable.  The joy comes when we press into the excitement of the unknown—which can sometimes be a little scary; it is then that we get to see what God is capable of.  Rarely did God show his strength or miracles when people were comfortable…

Let us look at the apostle Paul.  It is ironic, in a way, that he is known for his visions from God, because he began having no sight of what God was doing at the time.

Paul began with knowledge of God—he was well trained in the word of God—and a zeal for God as well.  He was so zealous, that he was ready to persecute and have killed those who were following what God was doing—those who had the vision of what God was doing in that time—those following Jesus.  But Paul lacked God’s vision despite how religious he was and how well-intended were his motives.  God had to take away Paul’s physical vision when God encountered him in a blinding light on the road to Damascus, so that he could see with his spiritual eyes what God was doing.

After God gave him new vision (spiritually and physically),Paul was ready to be zealous for God’s true purposes.  This would not come easy.  God assured Ananias, the man who prayed for Paul’s vision to return, that Paul would suffer for his faith, and he certainly did.  But Paul had the joy of the vision set before him—that God wanted him to bring the good news to people who had not heard.  Seeing things through the eyes of God is so rewarding! Paul and his friends took joy even when persecuted because they could see that God was working and bringing people into the kingdom…what excitement and what a treasure!

Paul was commissioned by God to bring people into the kingdom, and then establish groups of believers who would gather together.  He would empower them to be who they were called to be, calling out their gifts God had given them, not to be used purposelessly, as they had done before, but to use them for the kingdom of God, together as a body of Christ, all different parts—different giftings that needed each other.

A church can rely too much on their pastor to do all the different jobs and make the church happen.  That is not God’s intent, however.  The pastor is to pray and give the church the heartbeat of what God is doing and pump this blood to the parts of the body that is the church (as Acts 6:4 implies as the apostles passed on work to others so that they could “give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word,” and we, together, fulfill the vision of God by serving in the areas which God has gifted us in service, teaching, sharing, administration, the arts, etc.  When we each take part in this, we are a healthy body of Christ, and have the joy of seeing God’s vision fulfilled.

I Corinthians 12 is a chapter where Paul describes the church as the body of Christ. When we are not doing our part, the body is not healthy, because its liver is not doing its part and the left leg may be waiting for someone else to be the left leg and the person filling in that void is really an eye.  And maybe the ear is trying to be both the foot and the lungs since the foot and lungs have not stepped up to the plate.  Do what God has called YOU to do.

the people who had visions from the Lord. Israel might not have seen it themselves, but they knew the character of those who told them what God was up to.  Even Paul and Peter were given visions that the other apostles had to trust, but the apostles did so since they knew the characters of these men.  What counts is that we hold on tightly the vision God sets.

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” 

–Proverbs 29:18  The Message

Jesus said “blessed are those who do not see and still believe”

Let us choose to be blessed.  You may be one who sees the vision of this church plant or you may not be seeing it with your own eyes, but only relying on those here who do see the vision.  Let us step out in faith, and trust that God is calling this body to plant a new ministry.  We may not have the vision ourselves, but we know the character of those who see it and believe it is a vision from the Lord.  When we follow the Lord in faith, it does not mean we will not have difficulty—likely we will find much opposition as both Joseph and Paul did, but it means we will see the fruit of what God is doing in a very special way, and the joy of partnering in God’s kingdom work.  Let’s keep the vision before us, because, as Proverbs 29:18 says “those who attend to what he reveals…they are most blessed.”

Let us be most blessed!

Lord, God, give us Your vision for this place, for our lives and for each other.  We release to You our love for what we know and are familiar with, to grab on to Your awesome plans.  AMEN!

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