Saturday, August 1, 2020

CHEATERS NEVER WIN Part 2

THE LAST CHAPTER

Cheaters Never Win, Part 2

Job once declared, “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job 3:25

Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote that God brings every man to a crisis point in his life where he must decide who he will worship: himself or God. 

We see both manifested in the man, Jacob. God is orchestrating events in his life to bring him to the end of himself and to the reality of a life fully surrendered to God. 

The truth is that God is working to do the same thing in all of us. He is breaking us so that He can bless us. The great revivalist G. Campbell Morgan called Jacob’s experience “The Crippling that Crowns”. 

PRAYER

Back story: As we saw last week, Jacob had deceived his father and cheated his brother. Fleeing from the revenge of Esau, Jacob journeyed to his extended family home in Haran. On the way he had his first encounter with God. He saw an open heaven, angels on a ladder, and God appeared to him and renewed the promise of Abraham to him. Jacob built and altar and called the place “The House of God”.

In the chapters that would follow, Genesis 29-31, Jacob works for his uncle and future father-in-law, Laban, a man just as devious as Jacob. He meets and marries two wives, has several children, manages to effectively steal Laban’s livestock through some unusual breeding techniques, and then sneaks away in the night to return home under God’s direction and protection. 

Laban and his army pursue him. Esau gets word he is coming to meet him and Esau pursues him with his 400 mighty men. Jacob is stick “between a rock and a hard place.”

God intervenes and Jacob and Laban make peace, but the fear of Esau fills Jacob and he is terrified Esau will kill him and his family. In this context Jacob has his second encounter with God at the Jabbock.

TEXT Genesis 32

1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 

2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. 

God is letting Jacob know that that He has not deserted him. He is with him on this difficult journey.  

Jacob takes all his goods and divides them into two camps, hoping to preserve at least some of his treasures. He then takes his family to a place of safety and retreats alone to the Jabbock, a tributary of the Jordan. Jabbock means “emptying” and God tonight will empty Jacob of all his self-sufficiency and replace it with His divine power. 

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 

Being alone is often the prayer room that brings us in God’s Presence. British essayist Walter Savage Landor said that “Solitude is the audience chamber of God.”

We will see that this is Jesus Himself. They wrestled all night. How many times have we wrestled with God, sometimes all night?

25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 

26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Jesus is quite capable of crushing Jacob physically. This is a spiritual battle for Jacob’s soul. Jesus will not wrestle with us forever. 

Genesis 6:3a And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh...” 

Jesus sensed no change in Jacob, but then, a cry of desperation. “I cannot make it without you.”

Psalms 34:6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 

God wants us to see who we are, what we are and where we are. He asked in the Garden, “Adam, where are you?” He wanted Adam to know where Adam was! Jacob admitted, maybe for the first time, that he was a schemer, a scoundrel, a wicked man who sought to do things his own way.

He had struggled against man from the very day of his birth. Now he realizes it was God he was fighting against all the time. 

In salvation God deals with our sin. Here, God is dealing with our self. Paul: O wretched man that I am. Isaiah: I am a man of unclean lips. 

But there is good news coming!

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 

The ‘tricky one’ is now a ‘prince with God’!

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

Jacob knew it was Jesus. We see that on the next verse. I don’t know why he asked. Perhaps he needed assurance and confirmation. 

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 

31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 

Everyone that had been touched by God walks with a limp. We have been broken by God to be used by God. God crushes to powder those He chooses for great things. God crushes us through weakness. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Pastor Warren Wiersbe of Moody Church observed, “During that dark night of the soul, Jacob discovered that he had spent all his life fighting God and resisting His will, and that the only way to victory was through surrender.” A. W. Tower said, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” 

Have you been wrestling with God? W. E. Vine writes, “The circumstances of your life and the complications of your life are nothing more than God wrestling with you. Hold on to God and He will bless you!”

CLOSING Jim Standridge story

Sunday, July 26, 2020

CHEATERS NEVER WIN Part 1

Cheaters Never Win! Part 1

 

CONNECT Nobody likes a cheater. There have been many recent allegations of cheating in professional sports; the Patriots and Astros come to mind most vividly, and I was a fan of both. The idea is that ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’. If you take shortcuts to winning, you will do it in every area of life. Whether it’s a team sport, an individual sport, or wealthy parents cheating to get their kids into prestigious universities, it goes against the rules of fair competition. You skew the outcome to your advantage; You cannot be trusted.

 

Jacob was such a man. He was cheating from his very conception and birth. The difference is that Jacob had a call on His life. His last chapter would be different that his beginning. He would be changed into another man. The process was arduous, but the result was magnificent. The good news is that Jacob is not the exception. He is the rule for everyone who will come to God and cry out to Him for a change in life, a new last chapter.

 

His story is told primarily in the book of Genesis, chapters 25-35. He is also mentioned later in Genesis and in various other books of the Old and New Testament. He is the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. He is the father of the sons who will become the twelve tribes of Israel. He is the father of Joseph, who would become the prime minister of Egypt and save the people from famine and starvation. He is one of the patriarchs of Israel by whom Jehovah is identified to His people, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 

Jacob’s life can be seen like chapters in a book or episodes in a miniseries. Central of these are his encounters with God. We will look at the first of these this morning. 

 

Episode 1: His birth was miraculous.

 

Genesis 25:21-26 (NKJV) Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

 

Esau means ‘hairy’. Jacob mean ‘supplanter’ or ‘heel grabber’, ‘deceiver’, literally ‘the tricky one’. Today we would simply call him a cheater. Jacob’s name became a prophecy of his character. But overshadowing it all was the Lord’s word that Jacob was a man of destiny. God had a plan!

 

Episode 2: Jacob cheats his brother out of the birthright. 

 

Genesis 25:27–28 (NKJV) So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

 

Here the character of both men is revealed.  Jacob is jealous for the birthright.

 

James 4:1-3 (NKJV) Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

 

Esau is a carnal man of the flesh.  He sees no value in spiritual things; he only wants what he wants, and he wants it right now. He is controlled by whatever passion or desire engulfs him at the moment. 

 

 Hebrews 12:16–17 (NKJV) lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

 

Episode 3: Jacob lies to his father and steals the blessing. 

 

Genesis 27:28-29 (NKJV) “Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!”

 

Esau has been cheated. Isaac did give him a blessing. 

 

Genesis 27:34-36 (NKJV) When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me—me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.” And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

 

Genesis 27:39-40 (NKJV) Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

 

What was the result? Hatred and vengeance. 

 

Genesis 27:41 (NKJV) So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

 

Episode 4: Jacob’s first encounter with God. 

 

Jacob flees from Esau and goes to find a wife in the family home in Haran. Along the way he stops to spend the night. He pulls a rock up for a pillow, goes to sleep and has a dream. 

 

Genesis 28:12 (NKJV) Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

 

Then the Lord appears to him and gives Jacob the same promise that He has given to Abraham and Isaac. He is renewing the covenant with a new generation. Why Jacob? Because God saw his end, the finished product. God looks at us the same way. We must go through process, but our worth is judged by how we finish. 

 

Genesis 28:16-19 (NKJV) Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it. ” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 

 

God is often working when we don’t realize it. God is there when we don’t recognize it. 

 

Bethel, house of God. Have you had a Bethel? Have you come to a place where God met you? Geography is important in the Bible; places and names have meaning. Jacob has some important stops to make along the way: Bethel, Manaheim, Jabbock, and Bethel again. They are all significant. But it all begins at Bethel. 

 

Where does your life begin? Jacob was running. In fear and solitude God met him. Where will He meet you?

 

Jacob speaks to God the only way he knows, “Let’s make a deal!” Have we ever done that?

 

Genesis 28:20-22 (NKJV) Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

 

That’s as far as we will get this week. Let me make some applications for from these beginning chapters. Let’s go back to verse 12, the angels going up and down the ladder. 

 

Jesus refers to this experience and applies it to Himself. 

 

John 1:43-51 (NKJV) The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

 

The context is the calling of Nathaniel to be one of His disciples. Phillip has found him and took him to Jesus. Jesus called him “An Israelite who has no guile”, literally no Jacob. All Jacob knew was guile and trickery and deceit. God would break it from him in the years to come. But Jesus said this was the beginning of an open heaven, where earth and heaven meet and God speaks to us and we speak to God. 

 

Jesus said we would see it, an open heaven. What a promise! Do we live with an open heaven in our lives?  T. Austin Sparks describes it this way in a chapter called “An Open Heaven” from his book “The School of Christ”. 

 

I know this thing as the greatest reality in my history. I know what it is to have been laboring with all my might for God and preaching the Gospel out from myself for years. Oh, I know; I know what hard labor it is with the dome over your head. How many times have I stood in the pulpit and in my heart have said, “If only somehow or other I could get a cleavage through this dome over my head, and instead of preaching what I have gathered from books and put into my notebooks, and having to study it up, I could scrap the whole thing and, with an opened heaven, speak out what God is saying in my heart!” That was a longing for years. I sensed there was something like this, but I had not got it until the great crisis of Romans 6 came, and with it the open heaven. It has been different ever since then, altogether different. "Ye shall see the heaven opened"; and all that strain has gone, all that bondage has gone, that limitation; there is no dome there. That is my glory today. 

 

Pastor Austin-Sparks was frustrated until his breakthrough. I have been frustrated with the Christian life. The heavens are brass and God seems a million miles away. Why can’t I get it right? Why is it such a struggle? He would go on to write…

 

'Lord, why is it that I am always caught out, always making a blunder? Somehow or other, I always say and do the wrong thing, I am always on the wrong side! Somehow I never seem to come right in line with You; I despair of ever being right!'

 

I have felt that way. Haven’t you? Paul felt it; others have felt it. Only God can live this life; we cannot!

 

The key to an open heaven is the death of the self sufficient life, to come to the end of ourselves, our goodness, our ability, our strength, our resolve, our duty and dedication. To see Christ as our only hope, our entire life and set all of our affections on Him.

 

2 Corinthians 4:10-12 (NKJV)

always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

 

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

 

Have we come to the end of ourselves? Have we seen the fruitlessness and frustration that comes by serving God on our terms? We have to die to what we want, what we desire, our ambitions. We must lay everything on the altar and submit our selves completely to God. 

 

Closing: Abraham and Isaac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

THE LAST CHAPTER

THE LAST CHAPTER

CONNECT One of the greatest basketball players of all time was John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics. He played 16 seasons, won 8 NBA championships, Finals MVP, was a 13 time All-Star. He holds Celtic records for games played and points scored. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984 and in 1997 was honored as one of the top 50 players in NBA history. The amazing thing is that we was not a starter. He was probably the greatest 6th man in basketball history. Havlicek didn’t mind the sixth-man role. “It never bothered me,” he once said, “because I think that role is very important to a club. One thing I learned from Red Auerbach was that it’s not who starts the game, but who finishes it, and I generally was around at the finish.” It’s not who starts the game, it’s who finishes. 

PROBLEM Many feel that they cannot accomplish what God wants them to do because of some mistakes in their past. I want to tell you today that your past does not determine your future.

Isaiah 43:18–19 (NKJV) Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.

SOLUTION The lesson for us to learn today is that it doesn’t matter how we start; all that matters is how we finish! That’s why we call this talk “The Last Chapter”. This is the beginning of a series that has been on my heart for several years: “The Last Chapter Hasn’t Been Written!” I hope that it will become a book some day. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women who had a bad beginning, but had a glorious ending. There are multiple stories of men and women around us who had a bad beginning, but had a glorious ending. You may have some strikes against you from your beginning, but your can still have a glorious ending. Your last chapter has not been written!

INSTRUCTION

Principle #1: How we finish determines our entire life.

Ezekiel 18:21–24 (NKJV) But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “ and not that he should turn from his ways and live? “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.

Ezekiel 18:26–28 (NKJV) When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

You may say, “I thought we believed in ’Once saved, always saved’?” We do. If someone is genuinely saved, then he cannot lose his salvation. However, those who walk away from their faith were never saved in the first place.

Jesus described it. 

Matthew 24:12–13 (NKJV) And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Mark 13:13 (NKJV) And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Jesus wasn’t saying that you have to endure to the end in order to be saved. He was declaring that those who are born again will endure to the end!

The Apostle John speaks directly to this issue. 

1 John 3:6 (NKJV) Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

The idea is sin as a lifestyle. We all have momentary lapses in obedience, but we who are saved live a lifestyle of holiness. If we have a lifestyle of sin, living in sin and not wanting to change, then John says we are not saved!

When John wrote to the 7 churches in Revelation chapters 2–3, he said God reward those who endure to the end. How we finish matters!

The gods news is that if we finish good, then all the bad stuff we did doesn’t deter God’s plan for our life. It is a testimony that we have been saved, our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus and we stand righteous before Him, just as if we had never sinned!

Principle #2: Satan tries to take you out early!

Many of the great men in Scripture were threatened with death as children. Moses was born under a death sentence. During their time in Egypt, the Hebrews were multiplying more than the Egyptians. The Pharaoh was afraid they would outnumber the Egyptians and rise up and conquer them. He ordered all male children to be killed and cast into the Nile River when they were born. Moses was born during this time, hidden by his mother, then floated down the Nile in hopes of being found and saved. That is exactly what happened!

Jesus was born under a death sentence. Herod was King, but the Wise Men came looking for a child who was born King of the Jews. The Wise Men tricked Herod and did not reveal the location of Jesus’ birth. 

Matthew 2:16 (NKJV) Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

In both cases, God intervened and their lives were spared.

Satan knows what your destiny is. He will seek to destroy it before it can ever begin. He may try to kill you or deter you or corrupt you or defame you in order that your future impact for God would be weakened. In recent days we have seen the integrity and impact of men and women compromised by things they did in high school and college. Choices we make in early life can have lasting consequences.

I know I’m not anything special to the Kingdom of God, but I can testify to the enemy’s work in my life to quiet my future ministry. My life came close to death on three different occasions. At 3, I tumbled off the back of a cotton trailer and fell some 20 feet to the ground, no injury. At 6, I was diagnosed with leukemia and rheumatic fever, only to healed by a simple tonsillectomy. At 7 I was run over by a pipe trailer filled with irrigation pipe, only suffering a concussion. I’m sure you can tell similar stories. 

As I grew older, opportunities for sin came by regularly. Although I wasn’t perfect, God protected me from making a life altering decision that would destroy my future. 

Principle #3: God can redeem your past and restore your future!

Joel 2:25–26 (NKJV) So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

God is the God of restoration. When we surrender to Him, He makes even the mistakes of the past a launching pad for ministry in the future.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

We mentioned that the enemy tried to kill Moses as a baby, but God protected him. He grew up as the grandson of Pharaoh. He had the best of everything; he was a man of great privilege. But he discovered his heritage and made a decision to identify with his birthright. 

Hebrews 11:24–26 (NKJV) By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

Then Moses made a critical mistake. Trying to save a Hebrew who was being abused, he murdered an Egyptian and his his body in the sand. His crime was soon discovered and he fled for his life. Feeling his call to deliver his people was finished, he cared for sheep for the next 40 years. 

Perhaps you are there today. You felt a call to something great, but a wrong choice earlier in your life made that call seem impossible. Can I tell you today that God is able to bring that call to pass, if you respond with humility and repentance. 

Moses was on the backside of the desert when God appeared to him again and called him to fulfill his original call. Why?

Romans 11:29 (NKJV) For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

God’s call in your life is still valid. It may come differently than you imagined. It may be delayed while God humbles you. It may not be as large but will shine just as brightly, perhaps even more because it will all be of God and not from you.

INSPIRATION My good friend, Dudley Hall, was preaching one day and told the story of a man who thought he had been left behind. A small church in North Central Texas needed a pastor and an elderly lady from the church asked Dudley if he knew anyone who would come and preach for them. He replied that he knew a guy who would love to come, but he had been divorced. Now in some churches, a man cannot pastor if he has been divorced. He was a non-person to many churches. What a shame. He wanted to preach and the church needed a pastor. The lady said that was not a problem and to make the contact. The man went out and begin to preach and God fell on this little church. 

One night, my friend went there to preach. There was a prayer meeting before the service and the church was almost full of cowboys, older folks, young couples, singles, youth, and town people. A cowboy was praying loudly and said, “Devil, we want you to know that the Lord Jesus is taking names and kicking butts!” Dudley thought the new pastor would be in trouble, but then a loud “Amen” came from a little old lady near the front. His job was safe!

So many people started coming to church that had to build a sanctuary to sit 1200. Today upwards of 1000 people worship every Sunday. A man who was considered an outcast by the church in general was a success beyond his wildest dreams.

You see, the last chapter in his life was had not been written. Just like the last chapter of Moses’ life had not been written. Just like the last chapter of your life has not been written. 

There was man in Illinois who lived a rather unremarkable life. 

Lost job, 1832

Defeated for legislature, 1832

Failed in business, 1833

Elected to legislature, 1834

Sweetheart died, 1835

Had nervous breakdown, 1836

Defeated for Speaker, 1838

Defeated for nomination for Congress, 1843

Elected to Congress, 1846

Lost renomination, 1848

Rejected for Land Officer, 1849

Defeated for Senate, 1854

Defeated for nomination for Vice-President, 1856

Again defeated for Senate, 1858

Elected President, 1860

Who is this man? Abraham Lincoln!

Most of his life was a failure. But his final success made us forget about all his previous failings. His last chapter brought meaning to the rest.

APPLICATION How can you apply this to your life?

1.    Your last chapter has yet to be written. 

2.    Admit your past mistakes and put them under the blood of Jesus. 

3.    Don’t quit! Keep moving on!

MINISTRY TIME

 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

REVIVE US AGAIN

REVIVE US AGAIN

Years ago, there was a commercial where a man takes his car in for an oil change and when the mechanic removed the oil plug, no oil comes out!

Have you ever felt that way: empty, no oil? You pull your spiritual dipstick out and it comes up dry. You are not alone. Everyone has felt that way at times, even great spiritual leaders. Keith Green put the feeling into a song;

My eyes are dry; My faith is old. My heart is hard; My prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be; Alive to You and dead to me.

There are times I feel that way. It seems that there is no Presence of God or Power of God. I wonder where it went. The pandemic has fed that feeling in many that I have talked to; being locked in with very little diversion. Some have been very productive; others not so much. One pastor, Juan Sanchez, described it this way; We’ve all heard of the term “cabin fever.” In 2020, not only have we experienced it, we’ve updated our cultural dictionary with a new phrase: “Zoom fatigue.” The coronavirus has worn us down.

There is a solution; we call it revival. The cry of our heart becomes, “Lord, when will You revive us again?” That is our focus this morning. “Lord, revive us again!”

The Psalmists knew the cry. In Psalm 85 the Sons of Korah cry out for revival. The Psalm is about the return of Israel to the land of Canaan after their captivity in Babylon. They returned physically, but their spiritual lives were less than stellar. God has blessed them, but they had slipped away into ungodly practices, selfish attitudes, and pointless diversions.

Our country is the same way. we have been incredibly blessed by God but we have “turned everyone to his own way.” Every man is doing what is right in his own eyes with no regard for what God would require. I want to take this Psalm about Israel and apply it to our country and our lives in the hope that God will send revival in our time.

Psalm 85:1–13 (NKJV)

1 Lord, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.

2 You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. Selah

3 You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.

The Lord has been favorable to us. If you watched the musical “Hamilton” during this last week, you saw the veritable miracle of our nation’s victory over the British crown. Although our attempts at a “more perfect union” had some flaws, the mere fact that America grew into the most powerful nation in the earth is in no small part to God’s blessings.

Through the Great Awakenings the Gospel of Jesus rang in every city, town, and hamlet. Multitudes came to Christ and had their sins forgiven. America has produced more missionaries that any other country and has taken the message of the grace of God to the four corners of the earth.

But much like ancient Israel, when we grew fat with the abundance of God’s favor, we turned away from Him to embrace other Gods. Our eyes bulged with wealth, excess, and pride. We felt we didn’t need God anymore and summarily removed Him from public life and the curse of Romans 1 fell on us.

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

God brought judgment upon us. Many do not even see it. But God has always had a remnant who would see and hear and cry out. The Psalmist prayed. We can pray.

4 Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease.

5 Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?

6 Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?

7 Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation.

Where is the remnant today? Noah has the 8; Jesus has the 12; Gideon had the 300. David had 400 mighty men and Elijah has 7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal. The end times will see 144,000 Jewish evangelists speaking the coming judgments of the last days.

Where is the remnant today? I’ll tell you where they are. They are hidden away out of sight and fame. Most of them you have never hear of. They are not on TV or radio or any broadcast media. They do not have millions of followers on social media. They are not attending luncheons with political leaders. That is not to say that those that do those things are not part of the remnant; many of them are. Those that are hidden are shut in with God, only listening to His voice. They are not moved by what they read or hear on the news; they are moved by the Word and Will of God. The book of Hebrews speaks about them.

Hebrews 11:35–38 (NKJV) Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

What are they doing? They’re praying and believing and watching.

Will you revive us again? We cry for it. We long for it. We will obey you for it. 

8 I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.

9 Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.

11 Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

Lord, what do You want me to do? Where do I need to change? Your glory only comes on those who fear you. I don’t want to turn back to foll, a dog returning to its vomit. You desire grace and truth.

John 1:16–17 (NKJV) And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If we repent, if we change, God will hear and heal. 

12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness will go before Him and shall make His footsteps our pathway.

APPLICATION!

How does revival come? Can we make it come? Or is it a move of God, initiated by God, for God.

I have seen revival. To live in revival is something many dream about, but few see. Long before Toronto, Canada or Smithton, Missouri, or Pensacola, Florida, God dropped down in a place no one had ever heard of and showed Himself mighty. I know I will see revival again. I thirst for it all the time. People who have lived in revival can never, ever again be satisfied with just ‘church as usual’. Their hearts cry out, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come! Come, Holy Spirit, we need Thee! The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who is thirsty come. Whoever desires, let him come and take of the water of life freely.”

As I close, I want to go back to Keith Green’s song. I read the verse earlier. Here is the chorus.

But what can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine. The oil is You, Your Spirit of love. Please wash me anew with the wine of Your blood.

Psalms 92:10 (NKJV) But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.

MININTRY TIME