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Wisdom at Work.  Proverbs 6:6-11.
September 3, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Responsive Call to WorshipPsalm 57:7–10 (CSB)
My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing; I will sing praises.
Wake up, my soul! Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your faithful love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

      Wisdom is not about how much knowledge you have stuffed in your head.  Some of the wisest people I’ve known never finished Junior High.  That wasn’t because they didn’t have the ability – some lacked the opportunity, others felt there was more important matters to attend to, like helping support their families or fleeing dangerous situations.

      Wisdom involves applying Godly knowledge, what you’ve learned and seen working, in ways that honour God and promote those things that God has commanded us to be doing.  Wisdom starts on the inside, yet becomes visible in our day-to-day decisions.

      Today being Labour Day Sunday, we are going to consider Proverb’s wisdom regarding work. “30I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. 31I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. 32Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: 33A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 34then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Proverbs 24:30–34 (NLT).  The slide from a functioning vineyard to weed covered rubble, occurred one delayed moment, day, and month after another.  Eventually it became too much trouble to bother with.  One of the traits of a wise person is that they pay attention and learn from life, especially noting the consequences of actions.  In other words, the wise learn from the experiences of others, rather than the fool who says, “yes, but that won’t happen to me!” 

      The father figure in Proverbs wants his children to learn that consistency and effort in work will bring benefits throughout their life. Yet he doesn’t expect them to just take his word for it, he calls them to observe how life works.  In Proverbs 6:6-11, he uses the little ant as an example of the value of discipline and hard work, finishing with the same ode to procrastination that we saw in Pr. 24:33-34.  “6Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! 7Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, 8they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. 9But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? 10A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Proverbs 6:6–11 (NLT).

      We are being called to learn common sense from the ant. Without the need of prodding from manager or boss, it understands the value of hard work by preparing for the coming winter!  The lazy person, on the other hand, lacks initiative, prioritizes comfort, procrastinates and ends up with nothing, at the very time hard work produces the greatest rewards!  It is not that the person who enjoys leisure doesn’t want a better life, they just don’t want to follow the ant’s example: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Pr. 13:4 (NLT).  “Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.” Pr. 21:25 (NLT).

      Jim Newheiser in his commentary “Opening up Proverbs” says: “God disciplines sluggards by allowing them to experience the consequences of their folly with the desire that they will learn wisdom through their poverty: ‘A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on’ (16:26). You subvert God’s purpose and ultimately hurt the sluggard by enabling his sin. The same issue is raised in the New Testament when Paul says, ‘If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either’ (2 Thes. 3:10b). Sluggards who live off the labour of others are thieves (20:4; Eph. 4:28). Old Covenant charity was given to the deserving poor who generally had to work for what they received, as in the case of Ruth, who gleaned (Ruth 2).”[1]

      The wise father of Proverbs wants his children to realize that hard work is not bad.  As you work to provide for your family you also earn respect for your efforts. Proverbs 22:29 says:Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired;they don’t take a backseat to anyone.” (The Message). The Good News Bible translates this passage as: “Show me someone who does a good job, and I will show you someone who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings.” Proverbs 22:29 (GNB).

       A young fellow was overheard making a phone call: “Sir, could you use a hardworking, honest young man to work for you?” After a pause he said, “Oh… you’ve already got a hardworking, honest young man? Well, thanks anyway!”  The onlooker was so taken aback by the young man’s smile after he hung up, that they had to ask: “How can you be so cheery? I thought he told you they already had someone and didn’t want to hire you?”  The young fellow answered, “Well, you see, I am the hardworking young man. I was just checking up on my job!”  If you called your boss, disguised your voice, and asked about your job, what do you think would be your boss’s answer? [2]

      As important as a healthy attitude towards work is, it must not become your sole focus, you must maintain balance.  Your work must be placed under God’s lordship, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord,and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One.” Proverbs 9:10 (NCV). “Depend on the Lord in whatever you do,and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3 (NCV).  As you place your work under the lordship of Almighty God, see him as your true boss.  If the Apostle Paul could expect Christian slaves to adopt this mindset, then we. who are paid or volunteers must choose this attitude as well: “22Slaves, you must always obey your earthly masters. Try to please them at all times, and not just when you think they are watching. Honor the Lord and serve your masters with your whole heart. 23Do your work willingly, as though you were serving the Lord himself, and not just your earthly master. 24In fact, the Lord Christ is the one you are really serving, and you know that he will reward you.” Colossians 3:22–24 (CEV).

      Our lives, including our work, is an opportunity to glorify God through what we say and do (Mt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12).  Today we gather to remember the extraordinary, underserved gift which our Lord Jesus gave us, in coming, not for what he could get out of life, but to give, give his life for ours!  “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” Matthew 20:28 (NIV).

Hymn: #333 “His way with thee” (vv. 1-3)

Benediction: “Death’s power to hurt is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But we thank God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.So my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted.” 1 Corinthians 15:56–58 (NCV).

[1] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (p. 111). Day One Publications.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Active Spirituality. A non-devotional guide, pp. 108-109.Word Publishing ©1994.

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Aug 27, 2023 Podbean

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Proverbs 4:20-27. “Guard your heart”.

August 27, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


      How many of you have changed your diet from when you were in your twenties?  Why? Many of us added or eliminated things from our diet to improve the health of our heart.  Stats Can says heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, 20% of all deaths (cancer is #1 at 30%).

      Since our physical heart is essential to life, it needs our protection.  Proverbs 4:23 also tells us to protect our heart, and as we have seen in the Bible, the heart refers to our mind, will and emotions.  It is referring to all that makes you who you are.  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Pr. 4:23 (NIV).

I.    Why do I need to guard my heart? 

      Two of my mom’s siblings lived in the Catskill Mountains of New York state about 17 km apart near the opposite ends of a man-made lake.  Although it is a large lake, motor boats aren’t allowed on it.  You also need a public access permit to boat or fish on it, and there are security patrols!  Why all the caution?  This “lake” is the Ashokan reservoir and it provides 40% of New York City’s drinking water!  No wonder there is security, they are protecting a vital source of water to NYC.  When did the permits & patrols start?  After Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks.

      Like NYC before 2001, we can be a too causal about protecting our heart.  The writer of Proverbs however is very clear about its importance: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Our heart is where ideas are processed and decisions are made which then become actions. The heart is also where split second responses originate, when you respond to a situation “without thinking”. 

      Clearly the “heart” is important; it is your command centre.  So, who is going be directing it?  Are you going to let passion for pleasures run your life? That will ruin you!  Are you going to let the worries of life run things?  That will incapacitate you!  Are you going to let hatred run your life?  That will kill you!  Will you let other people’s responses to you, decide matters?  That will make you crazy!  Proverb’s answer is to let God’s wisdom guard and direct your life.

II.   How can I guard my heart? 

      Proverbs 4:20-27 answers this question in two ways.  First, vv. 20-22 tell us what I am to let into my heart; and second, vv. 24-27 tell us what I must keep out. How can I guard my heart?

1st By what I let into my heart (vv. 20-22).

20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. What is this wonderful life-giving thing the father is telling us to let into our hearts?  Look at how chapter 4 begins.  Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” Proverbs 4:5–7a (NLT).

      This is talking about Godly wisdom.  Making our core decisions based on godly principles will bring health and life to our whole body!  I guard my heart by filling it with Godly wisdom.  How else do I guard my heart?

2nd By what I keep out of my heart (vv. 24-27).

24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Evil speech reflects an evil heart. Matthew 12:34a How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (NLT).  I am to keep out deceitful speech that distorts what is true. 

 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Have you ever been so distracted by your surroundings that you are not watching where you are going? You can bump into things and hurt yourself. This verse reminds us to guard our heart from things that attempt to distract us from looking at the world through the lens of God’s wisdom.

         26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. 27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Be thoughtful and God guided in your steps.  Don’t even take the first step onto slippery slopes and detours that lead to compromises.  Sin always promises to give you something appealing, but by using short cuts which disregards God’s wisdom. “You can have the financial security you want: just don’t report all your income; or just bring a package back from Mexico from my friend, he “forgot it”. 

      Guard your heart by refusing to veer off the path of wisdom.  Plan to remove the obstacles, hold yourself accountable and submit to God’s wisdom. 


      We can be far too causal about what we let into our hearts, what or who we allow to influence us.  The wise father advises his children, “guard your heart, nurture it with wisdom, protect it from foolishness.”

      In Luke 6:43-45 Jesus said: “43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:43–45 (NIV).

      What comes out of your mouth reflects the state of your heart.  So, what is the condition of your heart?  You can tell by the fruit your life is producing.  Yet remember, a change of heart can only be done by God.  Only the Holy Spirit can change us from the inside out.  The Lord promises in Ezekiel 36:27I will put my Spirit inside you and help you live by my rules and carefully obey my laws.” (NCV)

      If you haven’t asked Jesus to forgive you of your sin and lead your life, that is where you need to start, ask him today.  If you have asked Jesus into your life, be sure you are daily allowing him to reign on the throne of your life.  If he is, you will be able to identify the fruit of his presence in your life, the result of the Holy Spirit of God working in your heart.  Galatians 5:22-23 describes what to look for: “22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22–23a (NIV84).

      23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV84).  If you’re struggling in life, it’s a sign you have spiritual heart trouble.  Spend reflective, prayerful time with the Lord God.  Evaluate the condition of your heart.  Have you been paying attention to and following God’s wisdom or your own?  Above all else, have you been guarding your heart from the temptation of swerving from the path God would have you walk with him?  Don’t be casual about protecting your heart, mind and soul from those things that will hinder your walk with God.

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“Wisdom starts with realizing how much you need it.

Proverbs 4.1-19.  August 13, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to worshipPraise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever! Psalm 111:1,2,9,10 (NLT).

      We are continuing our look at the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs is a collection of wisdom from a variety of authors, with King Solomon being the principal contributor.  Today we are looking at Proverbs 4:1-19, in which a father (possibly Solomon) addresses his sons.  In these verses there are two main sections starting at verse 1 & verse 10, each beginning with the word “listen.”

      Although in the Hebrew text the father is addressing his sons, these words are for all of us, regardless of gender, so I don’t mind those translations which address the students as “children.”  However, having taught boys in Sunday School, club and as a camp counsellor, I can hear the father attempting to get the serious, full attention of a group of boys: Listen! Pay attention! Gain understanding! Proverbs 4:1–2. “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.” (NIV). 

      In verses 3-9, the father shares lessons on wisdom he learned from his father.

I.   Wisdom, a family treasure, Prov. 4:3-9.

A.  Teaching about wisdom began at an early age, vv. 3-4.

For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.” Proverbs 4:3–4 (NIV). 

      The father now explains that the wisdom he is teaching them, is what he was taught when he was a child.  The father is stressing the importance that what he is about to say has been guiding him since childhood, making himself a living illustration of what he is now teaching them about wisdom.  “What I’m teaching you is what your grandfather lived and passed on to me, and what I live and now I pass on to you.”  Wisdom is not a collection of facts in your head; they are life values which impacts your choices in how you live and respond to the world around you.

B.  The value of fully committing to wisdom, (vv. 4b-9).

““4b Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.” “5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. 6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. 9 She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”” Proverbs 4:5–9 (NIV).  

      Verses 4b & 5 contain the urgent plea to get or acquire wisdom, and verse 7 says that it gaining it is worth all you have – sounds like Jesus’ parable of finding the pearl of great price!  Verses 6, 8 & 9 highlight the value of fully committing to wisdom.  

      Verses 6, 8 & 9 move back and forth between us making the effort to get, keep and walk in wisdom; and the dividends that will result if you do.

–      6a Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

–      6b love her, and she will watch over you.

–      8a Cherish her, and she will exalt you;

–      8b embrace her, and she will honor you9 She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.

      We have seen wisdom personified in Proverbs 1 as a woman, calling out to the simple, mockers and fools.  Once again wisdom is feminine, but the relationship described is very personal: do not forsake, love her, cherish her, embrace her.  Why do you think that might be?  Who was the original audience of this proverb?  Sons, likely teens, and what gets teen boys’ attention?  Women!  This wise father knows the temptations his sons will face.  He has touched on the adulterous women in chapter 2 and will soon deal in depth with the dangers of sexual temptation in chapter 5 & 7.  In chapter 4 the father is presenting wisdom as a partner to look for, stay with, and trust completely. As you do this you will not be let down or disappointed.  Wisdom is both devoted and rewarding to those who fully commit.

      In these verses we see the value of fully committing to wisdom is:

-1- Life.  “You will live” – 4b.  Wisdom brings life with all its blessings.  In Deut. 30 we see that following the Lord’s commands brings life, not death.

-2- Security.  Protection and safety – v. 6. 

-3- Honour.  vv. 8-9.  This is especially due to the character that wisdom produces. These are virtues that are recognizable by the community.  Marty Wagantall shared that at the funeral of his son-in-law’s brother, that he was described as a vibrant Christian.  Marty remarked that a non-Christian colleague, used everyday words to describe qualities we would recognize as being the result of the fruit of the Spirit of God living within him – virtues recognizable by the community.

      In the second section, verses 10-19, we see:

II. The walk of wisdom, contrasted to the path of the wicked, Prov. 4:10-19.

A.  The walk of wisdom, vv. 10-13.

10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. 11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. 12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. 13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” Proverbs 4:10–13 (NIV).

-1- Extends life – v. 10.  The path of wisdom is a lifestyle that avoids the things that lead to an early death.

-2- Avoids the obstacles of foolishness – vv. 11-12.  Fools don’t see the connection between their foolishness and the consequences. They do not see that their laziness has led to them not having a job. They think their employer mistreated them. The fool does not see the connection between his porn problem and the train wreck of his marriage. He thinks his wife wasn’t as responsive as she should have been. The fool doesn’t see how his actions led him to stumble.[1]”  Warren Wiersbe says: “When you receive God’s truth into your heart, God renews your mind (Rom. 12:2) and enables you to think wisely. This helps you make right decisions and experience the guidance of God day by day.”[2]

-3- Gives life – v. 13.  Walking in wisdom is life itself, and therefore wisdom must be guarded and maintained. 

B.  The path of the wicked, vv. 14-19.

14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. 15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. 16 For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. 17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. 18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” Proverbs 4:14–19 (NIV).

-1- Avoid it – vv. 14-15.  The father tells his sons do not even take one step down the path of the wicked, “for you may not be the master of your destiny thereafter.”[3]  One can clearly see the urgency in the warnings of the father in verse 15, he wants to be sure his boys truly hear him: Avoid it!  Do not travel on it!  Turn from it and keep walking right past it!

-2- It is enslaving – vv. 16-17.  One can clearly see the urgency in the warnings of the father in verse.  The wicked can’t find rest until they’ve done evil to someone.  Wickedness is as normal and vital to them as food and drink. It is enslaving.

-3- It is dangerous – vv. 18-19.  Verse 18 describes the way of the righteous as visible, discernable and navigable.  I’m reminded of Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (NLT).  In contrast, verse 19 shows the path of the wicked, as being dangerous and insecure.  This lifestyle is pictured as being like walking in deep darkness and not even knowing what you have stumbled over.


      As Christians, we have come to see that the wisdom described in the book of Proverbs is the Lord Jesus, himself.  The Monday, August 7, Our Daily Bread, drew our attention to Ephesians 5:8-20, which sound like a version of Proverbs 4.  Here, the Apostle Paul uses the image of walking in darkness to describe our life before accepting the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our life, and walking in the light as choosing to please Jesus with our life.  Ephesians 5:8–20

8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. 10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” 15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) 

      Did you catch what Paul said in verses 15-17?  15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.  So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Christian, this is describing a deliberate choice each of us must make.  The Lord has brought us out of darkness, into the light, but I must choose to walk in a way that is wise and honours him.  I will close with a paraphrase of Titus 1:6-8, may it be your prayer as well: “I want to be above reproach, blameless as your steward, O God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not fond of dishonest gain, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sensible, just, holy and self-controlled.”  Amen.


[1] Akin, J. (2017). Exalting jesus in proverbs (D. Platt, D. L. Akin, & T. Merida, Eds.; p. 61). Holman Reference.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Skillful (p. 43). Victor Books.

[3] Ross, Allen P., Proverbs, The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol. 5.  ©1991 Zondervan Pub.

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Aug 6, 2023 Podbean

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“The marvelous love of my Saviour!”

August 6, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour was revealed, he saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us. God poured out the Holy Spirit abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour,” Titus 3:4–6 (GNB).

      We have been looking at the book of Proverbs and seeing the value of the Lord’s wisdom.  As this wisdom is God’s wisdom, it would follow that we will see this wisdom in the actions of God.  Since we are celebrating communion today, I was thinking about passages in Proverbs that reflect what Jesus has done for us.  A verse we looked at last week came to mind, Proverbs 3:27: Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27 (NIV84).  Here we see wisdom counsels us not to be selfish with our time or things, but to be willing to help when we see a neighbour is in need.  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27. Yet what this passage calls us to do, pales in comparison to what God the Father did for the people of this world in sending Jesus: John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV).  It was in God’s power to act, and he did not hold anything back, not even his own son.  As if this act of love wasn’t already immense, God did this out of love for us, even when we did not deserve this mercy! 

      Jesus knew this is why he had come when he told his disciples: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 (NLT). This verse recalls the Angel’s message to Joseph, Mary’s fiancée: She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”” Matthew 1:21 (NIV).  The passage in Matthew 20:28 also anticipates Jesus’ words to his disciples during the Lord’s supper: This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28 (NIV). As the hymn “And can it be” says “emptied himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race! ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free…amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God, shouldst die for me!” 

      When the Pharisee Saul, who later came to be known as the Apostle Paul, confessed Jesus as his Lord and Messiah, his former colleges were enraged and many Christians were so stunned that they wondered if he was faking it.  Yet Paul’s commitment to Jesus Christ was 100%.  Paul came to understand that the Lord Jesus was calling him to be His Apostle to those he had once scorned, the Gentiles. 

      Paul lived his life as a testimony to having received God’s unmerited favor.  Previously, Paul had criticized, harassed and persecuted the Church of Jesus, and yet, received forgiveness from the Lord Jesus. In this he had experienced Proverbs 3:27 and more: Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”  In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul states he was a sinner, not deserving of God’s forgiveness: This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” 1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT).   Paul goes on in verse 16 to celebrate that God used him to illustrate that his marvelous grace is far greater than our sin: But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16 (NLT).

      Jesus’ willingness to give all that was necessary in order to secure our redemption motivated Paul to hold nothing back in his service for Jesus. Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV).

      Paul also pointed to Jesus’ example to motivate us to action.  In 2 Corinthians 8:9 he writes: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (NIV).  Paul expanded on this thought in Philippians 2:5–8In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (NIV)

      Philippians 2:5-8 reminds us how Jesus, being God (was rich), yet set aside the glory of heaven and took on human flesh (became poor), so he could bear the penalty of death (his poverty) on the cross and save us from sin (so we might become rich).  Remember Proverbs 3:27?  Do not withhold good… when it is in your power to act.”  Today we remember with thanksgiving, that Jesus did not withhold anything to save us, because it was in his power to act, even as it cost him everything!  He paid for our redemption with this death on the cross, show your thankfulness to him by the life you to live.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20 (NIV). The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Is there anything you need to start doing or stop doing to make this statement true in your life today? 

      We began this message looking at Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good… when it is in your power to act.  The Lord Jesus didn’t hold ANYTHING back for us, and with communion we remember and rejoice in his precious gift. If you will confess your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you, then you can experience the joy of his salvation as well.

      The Apostle Paul gave up trying to save himself through good works as a Pharisee, and rejoiced in receiving Christ’s mercy saying: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…”  He then devoted his life to inviting others to meet this Jesus who gave himself for us so we could be forgiven.

      Proverbs 3:27 calls us to do what we can do to help a neighbour in need.  Today as you reflect on what Jesus has done for you, remember this: As Jesus saved Paul for ministry on his behalf, so also, he saved you to represent him by telling others what the Lord has done for you.  Look at Proverbs 3:27 again, not just from the perspective of the physical help you can offer your neighbour, but also in the spiritual help you can show them.  Tell them about priceless treasure you have received through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Salvation is a gift that is meant to be shared!  Prayerfully ask the Lord to show you how He wants to his gift of salvation through you this week.

      Do not hold anything back for the one who gave his all to save you for an eternal relationship with himself.  “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow” [#210 Jesus paid it all]. Do not withhold good… when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27.

Benediction: “5 May kindness and peace be yours from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness. Jesus was the first to conquer death, and he is the ruler of all earthly kings. Christ loves us, and by his blood he set us free from our sins. He lets us rule as kings and serve God his Father as priests. To him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6 (CEV).

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Proverbs 3.13-35 – The value of wisdom

July 30, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to worship: “Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies. Your goodness is as high as the mountains. Your justice is as deep as the great ocean. Lord, you protect both people and animals. God, your love is so precious! You protect people in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:5–7 (NCV).

      We are continuing our study of the Book of Proverbs.  Today we are finishing chapter three, looking at verses 13-35, which highlights the value of wisdom.

      The first section, vv. 13-26, gives three answers to the question, why wisdom matters.

I.   Why Wisdom Matters (vv. 13-26).

1.  because, Wisdom Enriches Those Who Find it, vv. 13-18.

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. (NIV).

      This paragraph begins and ends with the same word – blessed.  Who is promised a blessing?  The one or those who find and take hold of wisdom.  In these verses we are again told (Pr. 2:4) that God’s wisdom is more profitable than the things most people would consider treasures, such as precious metals and gems.  Wisdom is not impulsive or self-centred.  Wisdom measures value according to God’s standards, and God values humility, compassion and generosity.  As we treat others, as we would appreciate being treated, we are encouraging people and building community, things that give life lasting pleasure and blessings.

The second reason why wisdom should matter to us is…

2.  because, Wisdom matters to God, vv. 19-20.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; 20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

      The universe didn’t just happen given enough time, the wisdom of God brought everything into creation, including what science calls “the laws of nature.”  The phrase “and the clouds let drop the dew” draws our attention to the water cycle or the hydrological cycle. This describes the movement of the earth’s water from the snow pack, to rivers, to the sea, which through evaporation gives us rain which starts the cycle again. 

The third reason why wisdom should matter to us is…

3.  because, Wisdom protects us from sins snares, vv. 21-26.

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; 22 they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. 23 Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared. (NIV).

      In these verses the father wants his son to understand the blessing of peace of the heart, which following God’s wisdom brings.  When the Lord God spoke through Moses, he warned the people against deceit – telling them to use honest scales, to not move the boundary markers, and not to accept bribes: Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.” Deuteronomy 16:19 (NIV).  I hear the father saying to his son, in those quiet moments, as you are trying to sleep, walking according to God’s wisdom will assure that you won’t be worrying about your secret sins and schemes being discovered and revenge exacted on you! 

      In addition to a regret free sleep, is a growing, living relationship with the Lord, where you have seen him work on your behalf: “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.” As a result, your first response is to trust him to be at your side in a difficult situation, rather than panicking and trying one of the devil’s “quick solutions” which always turns out to be a sin trap, a snare.

      The second section, vv. 27-35, shows us three results of walking in wisdom.

II.  What Wisdom creates (vv. 27-35).

      This section looks at three different situations where applying God’s wisdom will impact, not only yourself, but others, your community.  In all three cases wisdom counsels us not to be self-centred or self-serving.

1.  A Willingness to Help A Needy Neighbour, vv. 27-28.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you.

      Verse 27 says when it is within your ability to help someone who needs it, don’t be selfish and think only of yourself, help, them, do not withhold good.  In addition, v. 28 says don’t let personal inconvenience or a desire to exercise control over them lead you to make them wait until tomorrow, if you can, assist them immediately. 

A second result of walking in wisdom is:

2.  An Openness to Protect An Innocent Neighbour, vv. 29-30.

29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. 30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason— when they have done you no harm. (NIV).

      As long as we live in a sinful world there will always be people who treat life like the board game “Risk.”  Their attitude is when you see an opportunity to enrich your belongings because someone is weak or too trusting of you, take it!  God’s wisdom says do not take advantage of your neighbours’ trust in you; this is foolish.  Jim Newheiser in his commentary “Opening up Proverbs” says: People who live together in a community need to be able to trust one another. We ought to be careful to pursue the good of our neighbours. Don’t slander them with gossip (20:19). Don’t cheat or take advantage of them financially (20:10, 14). Evil men live by the laws of the economic jungle and prey on the naive and weak. The standards of Scripture go beyond cut-throat capitalism. It is unacceptable for one who fears the Lord to take advantage of the weak by charging an inflated price or hiding product defects. Nor should we contend with others needlessly (v. 30).[1] 

      We have been looking at some of the results of walking in wisdom.  What kind of community do you want to live in?  Wisdom calls us to be helpful to a neighbour in need, seek to be worthy of their trust in us, and finally, not to copy those who use self-serving bullying tactics to get their own way.

3.  A Refusal to Imitate A Wicked Neighbour, vv. 31-35.

31 Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. 32 For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. 33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. 34 He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. 35 The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.” Proverbs 3:31–35 (NIV).

      The wise father here seeks to warn his son and us from a common temptation.  To believe that might makes right, that the only way to get ahead in a dog-eat-dog world is to play by their rules.  After all, look around, who has the power?  Who’s driving the expensive cars? The crime bosses, the scammers, and the drug dealers.  It would appear that crime does pay!  This was the struggle the author of Psalm 73 faced: 1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. 2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. 4 They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.” Psalm 73:1–5 (NLT).  Finally, beginning with verse 17, he realizes what Proverbs 3:31-35 is teaching us: the wicked do not go unnoticed or unjudged by the Lord.  He may not deal with them immediately, but he will.  Do not let their seeming success cause you to envy them or become bitter (Ps. 73:21-22) towards God, for God is still in control!

      We began by asking why wisdom matters, and saw that it pleases God and that it blesses and protects those who live according to God’s wisdom.  The second section reinforces that conclusion by showing us that living according to God’s wisdom will create a better, caring, more trusting community.  It is Jesus’ intent that his church be the prime example of what a community, dependent upon him for their wisdom and direction looks like.  When Jesus was asked which was the keystone of the commandments, he gave two, to love God with all we are and secondly from Leviticus 19:18. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (NIV).  This wisdom to not selfishly care only for ourselves is repeated in the letters to the churches (Romans 13:10; 15:1,2; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). 

      Of all the blessings we have seen in this chapter, that walking in God’s wisdom brings, one of the most precious is in verse 26: “for the Lord will be at your side…”  No matter what you are going through, joy or sorrow, knowing the Lord is with you makes ALL the difference!  How can you be sure you have the Lord at your side?  By not letting his wisdom “out of your sight” (Pr. 3:21).  Listen to Jeremiah 9:23–24 as it tells us, that what the Lord does on this earth, are the things he delights us doing.  The wise know this, know the Lord and imitate his actions: 23 This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. 24 But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (NLT)

      Walking in fear, love and respect for the Lord, revealed by walking in wisdom, enriches both the individual who does it, as well as the community he or she interacts with, because of the Lord, with us, at our side!  Thank you, Lord!  What kind of community do you want to live in?  Now that you know how to make a difference in Your community, what are you going to do next?

Hymn: #349 “Trust and obey” (vv. 1,4,5)

Benediction15a Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, 16a Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly. 17 Everything you do or say should be done to obey Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.” Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NCV).

[1] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (pp. 66–67). Day One Publications.

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Proverbs 3.1-12 – Acting wisely towards God.

July 23, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NIV).

      A little boy once asked, “Why is it that when I open a marigold it dies, but if God does it, it’s so beautiful?”  Then he said, “I know! It’s because God always works from the inside.”  That’s God’s wise way of working with us – from the inside out.[1]

      God has a natural process for the flower to take in what it needs, process it, and when it is ready, the flower opens, in preparation to make seeds so the process of growth can continue.  God’s wisdom with us also is amazing. He doesn’t force wisdom on us, he does his work from the inside out.  Wisdom is not just a collection of cute sayings for us to memorize and quote to somebody else.  The wisdom we have from God’s word is to be read, reflected upon, considered in the light of other choices we could make, and then acted upon.  These words of wisdom haven’t had an impact on you until you choose to follow their advice, and allow them to work from the inside (your thoughts) to the outside (your actions).

      Today we are looking at Proverbs 3:1-12.  The format used in this chapter is a father continuing to explain the benefits of wisdom to his son. The father is likely King Solomon and the son may be the future king.  The first four verses introduce the subject of wisdom with a call for the son to not just hear these words but to integrate them into ones’ life, for true success.  The second section, verses 5-12, highlight four ways to act wisely towards God.

      As we prepare to move on to the first section, I want to draw your attention to something interesting in Proverbs 3:1-12.  Because Proverbs often likes to use contrast to teach, the odd numbered verses (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) in this passage describe how we should respond and apply wisdom in our lives.  Then notice how even numbered verses (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12) describe God’s response to our choice of applying his wisdom into our daily lives.

I.  How to benefit from Wisdom (Prov. 3:1-4).

A. Internalize it. (vv. 1, 3)

1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (NIV).

      An old proverb says, those who know not and know they know not, teach them. Those who know not but know not they know not, shun them.[2]  Sometimes to cover our foolish choices we use the excuse, “I forgot.” However, we remember what is important to us, and what we have reviewed in our minds.  This chapter begins with a call to remember and internalize the father’s wisdom, to take it to heart and “write on them on the tablet of your heart.”  This is done as one is humble enough to realize their need for wisdom outside their own limited experience.

B. Why should we internalize Wisdom? (vv. 2,4)

2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

4 Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (NIV).

      We are told there are great benefits to taking the application of wisdom seriously.  In general, it adds both quality and quantity to your life.  Living wisely also results in favour with God and people.

      A minister filling in for a teacher of a young boys’ class asked, “What do you think Jesus was like?”  Doubtless the pastor expected an answer like: He was a good man; He was a poet; He was a carpenter; He was like God. But no.  One little fellow raised his hand and replied, “I think Jesus was like my Sunday School teacher.”  Has anyone ever compared your demeanor and deeds to those of Jesus? [3]  The one who takes living wisely seriously, like Jesus, will be noticed.

II. Four ways to act wisely toward God (Prov. 3:5-12).

A. Trust in the Lord (vv. 5-6).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

      There are four verbs (action words) used in these two verses.  The first three are commands for us to follow: trust, lean, & acknowledge. The fourth verb – make straight, tells us what God will do in response to our actions.

“What is it that am I to do?”

1.  Trust God entirely.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart (v. 5a).

      Trust expresses complete dependence. “Heart” describes all that makes you, you – your intellect, your emotions & your will.  We are told that living wisely begins with trusting God with our whole life.

2.  Trust God exclusively.  Lean not on your own understanding (v. 5b).

      “Lean” means placing one’s weight upon something, like relying on a crutch.  What is it we are not to lean on?  “Our own understanding” – that means trying to figure life out ourselves. This is our “go to response” so we must make the choice NOT to respond this way.  Without choosing daily to submit to Christ Jesus as Lord, we only give lip service to Proverbs 3:5.  What does wisdom tell us to do instead of leaning on our understanding to deal with the things of life?

3.  Trust God completely.  “In all your ways acknowledge him” (v. 6a)

      Living wisely means submitting every aspect of my life to God.  There is no division between religious and secular, you’ve vowed your whole life to Him!

“What is it that God will do”:

4.   The Lord will get fully involved on your behalf.   Verse 6b tells us God’s response: “he will make your paths straight.”  The Hebrew word used means to remove obstacles that are in the way, and contains an intensity that suggests that God is not entering into this effort for us half-heartedly.  In other words, when we depend upon the Lord to help us with a situation, He gets fully involved on our behalf! 

B. Fear the Lord (vv. 7-8).

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7–8 (NIV).

      What does it mean to be “wise in your own eyes”?  That you think you have the answer, your way is best, possibly arrogance and a lack of humility.  Realize that the author is not comparing your wisdom to that of your friends or even your instructors, but to the Lord, the source of all truth and wisdom!  We are being warned not to let our wisdom trump that of God’s, rather, we are to humbly acknowledge God as our authority and accept his wisdom as supreme.  Obeying the Lord’s commands brings health and strength into our bodies and our relationships.

C. Honour the Lord with your resources (vv. 9-10).

9 Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9–10 (NIV).

      The father’s wise words to his son includes wisdom in use of finances.  Giving the first of the harvest to God demonstrated thanks and gratitude to God as the source of the harvest, as well as showing trust that the Lord will continue provide for their needs throughout that harvest season.  Those of us today who don’t earn our living through agriculture, following the principle of first-fruits, by tithing a regular amount from our salary, rather than hoping there is going to be something leftover at the end of the month to give.  In doing so, we are acknowledging that all we have comes from God, and also demonstrating that we trust in the Lord to provide for our needs.

D. Embrace the Lord’s Discipline (vv. 11-12).

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, 12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11–12 (NIV).

      Discipline and correction are often seen as negative.  In the USA you do not what to be in the care of the department of corrections.  However, in Proverbs 3:11-12, the wise father is encouraging his son not to resent the Lord’s discipline, because the Lord corrects us for our good, not to harm us.

      Have you ever questioned why an Olympic level athlete would submit themselves to indignity of letting a coach tell them what to do?  Again and again, they run, jump or twist under the critical eye of their coach.  Stop doing that, try this, good, now do it more, faster, harder, and on and on it goes!  Why do they put up with the correction and repetition?  Because they know their coach is on their side, and is focused on helping them, using discipline, to be the best they can.  This is what the Lord intends for us, and why he disciplines us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be like Jesus, because he loves us!

      The Tuesday, July 18, 2023 Our Daily Bread, focused on 2 Chronicles 33:10-16, King Manasseh, and had me thinking of Proverbs 3:1-12.  In Proverbs 3 a kingly father gives wisdom, advice for Godly living, to his son, the future king.

      Manasseh’s father was Hezekiah, a king who was faithful to the Lord, and I’m sure he tried to teach and model Godly wisdom to his son.  However, Manasseh was one of Judah’s most ungodly kings, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Ahaz, rather than his father Hezekiah.  Manasseh placed altars to other gods in the temple and throughout the land, sacrificed his sons and practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft (2 Chron. 33:1-6).  When the king and country ignored the Lord’s warnings to turn from their evil ways, God allowed the Assyrians to attack the land.  Manasseh was taken as a prisoner to Assyria bound in shackles with a hook through his nose (2 Chron. 33:10-11). 

      While in captivity Manasseh humbled himself, repented and called out to the Lord.  The Lord heard him, and in an amazing act of mercy, restored him as king of Judea.  Manasseh destroyed the foreign altars and restored the daily sacrifices in the Lord’s Temple.  However, he could not undo the evil he had planted in the hearts of his country men (2 Chron. 33:12-17).

      I imagine that Hezekiah would have taught his son Manasseh the Lord’s wisdom especially because of the evil his own father had done.  However, Manasseh chose to ignore his father’s wisdom on following the Lord, until his own wisdom almost killed him!  I think when he was chained like an animal in prison, he remembered the proverbs he had been taught as a child and so called out to the Lord.  Parents, mentors, Sunday school teachers, club leaders, keep teaching God’s wisdom!  And for all of us, we all need to remember, hearing wisdom, even memorizing it isn’t enough, we must live it, making it part of our daily lives!

Benediction: “24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25 NKJV).

[1] #328 “God’s way” in Illustrations of Bible truths AMG Publishers ©1995

[2] Hobbs, H. H. (1990). My favorite illustrations (p. 265). Broadman Press.

[3] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 49). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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How to Grow in Wisdom. Proverbs 2:1–22 

Esterhazy Baptist Church.  July 16, 2023


Call to Worship: “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145: 18–19, 21 NIV)

      Last week we talked about the value of wisdom and that it is not only available; wisdom is looking for us, and calling out for us to find it!  Today in Proverbs chapter two we want to learn how we can grow in wisdom.  Chapter two takes the form of a father teaching his son how to grow in wisdom, and the benefits of doing so.

I. The call to grow in wisdom (2:1-4):

1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,

      These first four verses make it clear that you aren’t born with wisdom.  Growing in wisdom is the result of deliberate choices, it doesn’t just happen. Three times in four verses in the NIV translation we see the phrase “if you…”.  If you accept, if you call out, if you look for it. Obviously gaining wisdom doesn’t just happen, you need the humility to admit you need it! Parents can teach it to you, but you need accept it and then start to apply it to your life’s choices.  Take time to ponder its value.  This means observing and reflecting on the lives of those who accept and those who reject wisdom’s advice. Call out for wisdom and treat it as a treasure worth expending time and effort to search for.  In other words: The attitude necessary in your quest for wisdom is a receptive and searching spirit.  How important is wisdom to you?  Are you open to wisdom or do you think you already have all the answers to life you need?  Are you on the hunt for more wisdom?  Are you curious enough about how others have managed to successfully navigated life’s challenges to listen to their story?  What does your life say about how valuable is wisdom to you?

      There’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.” Socrates recognized his arrogance but agreed to help. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, “What do you want?” “Knowledge, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. “Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.” Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Knowledge, O wise and wonderful…” Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. “What do you want?” “Air!” he screeched. “I need air!”

      At that point Socrates said: “When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge.” Proud Young Man. M. Littleton in Moody Monthly, June, 1989, p. 29[1]  This story demonstrates an important point.  To get serious about growing in wisdom, we must see it is essential to our survival!  So, we need a receptive spirit and we also need a searching spirit!  How vital is wisdom to you?  In verses 5-19 we are shown the results of the three “if you” statements in the verses 1-4:

II. The results of growing in wisdom (2:5-19):

The first is:

A: Theological discernment: Understanding God & his ways.

5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

      The first result of being receptive to and searching for wisdom, is a greater understanding and appreciation of God and his ways.  In other words, theological discernment!  This is so important to understand.  When you seek wisdom, you find God.  The fool sees no evidence of God’s care for his people.  The wise come to see that God is the source of wisdom and knowledge, and it is he who gives success and protection to his people. 

      The second result of being receptive to wisdom & searching for it, is: 

B: Moral discernment: Proper & careful behavior in life

9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

      Allow wisdom and its accompanying fear of the Lord to enter your heart. As you do, it will guard and protect you from behaviour that will lead you to moral harm and personal destruction.  Wisdom will help you discern that if it seems too good to be true, it is!

      The writer of Proverbs 2, now gives two situations that following the path of wisdom will save you from, the schemes of wicked men & women.  These schemes promise wealth and pleasure, common life goals, but without the wait, work or usual commitments.

-i- The Two Tempters (2:12-19):

a: Violence, crime and the feelings of power that way of life offers.

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

      The adjective “wicked” (ra’) describes what is unpleasant, and brings pain and misery.  This occurs through perverse words and things contrary to what is right & proper.  Following the way of wisdom protects us from those who seek to turn the Lord’s way upside down and draw us into their rebellion by creating ethical chaos and delighting in doing wrong.  Proverbs warns us against this type of man, but this sin is not limited to men, and neither is the next limited to women.

b: Easy & seemingly uncomplicated sexual pleasures.

16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.

      God’s wisdom protects us from those who would seek to bring us to moral ruin through a more subtle enticement, giving in to sexual temptation outside God’s boundaries in marriage.  Seductive, flattering words are spoken to urge one to ignore God’s covenant at the altar of pleasure.  Wisdom tells us beware, that this type of relationship does not lead to the happiness promised, but to emptiness, sorrow and destruction.

Summary (2:20-22).  These verses sum up the two choices we are presented: The way of the righteous is contrasted with the twisted path of the wicked.

20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

       Contrary to what some people will try to tell you, in life, we only have two choices, the path that leads to life or the path that leads to death.  The way of the righteous or the way of the wicked.  It is either one or the other, there is no middle way, there is no sometimes righteous and sometimes wicked.  Which way will you choose, the path of life or the path of death?  To follow the path of life, you must pay attention to God’s wisdom – search for it, learn from it, obey it.  Jesus says to us: “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6).  If you want to reach God the Father, you must go with Jesus – the way, the truth, the path to eternal life!  Choose wisdom, walk in the way of Jesus, the Son of the living God, and receive life everlasting.

Closing Song: Ancient words

Benediction: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.”   (Psalm 67:1-2 NRSV)

[1] Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

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“The walk of the wise.” Proverbs 1:1-33

July 9, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: “Because of your great love, I can come into your Temple. Because I fear and respect you, I can worship in your holy Temple. Lord, since I have many enemies, show me the right thing to do. Show me clearly how you want me to live.” Psalm 5:7–8 (NCV).

     Have you heard Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer?  O God, give us serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed, and Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.  Oh, how we need such wisdom!  Are you looking for wisdom?  The place to begin is the book of Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings and instructions for living a useful and effective life.

     A proverb is often an object lesson using comparison to help make the best choice.  Proverbs 1:1-3 tells us: “1 These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. 2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. 3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.” (NLT).

One definition of wisdom is, “Doing the right thing without precedent.” That means you know what to do in a situation even though you’ve never experienced it before. [1] How can this be possible?  By being willing to admit you don’t know everything and so draw on the experience of others.  A town in New England experienced a prolonged electrical failure. The best engineers at the power plant were unable to restore the power. Someone suggested that a former engineer, now in retirement but living nearby, might be consulted. He was brought in. He inspected the plant, the generators; then he took a wooden mallet and tapped in several places. Instantly the lights came on, whereupon he submitted this itemized bill to the town fathers: “2¢ for tapping; $1,000 for knowing where to tap.”[2]

The Book of Proverbs teaches us where to “tap” in life, by showing us how to navigate life by following God’s guidance.  Doing this, we don’t have to personally experience everything in life to know what is right and wrong.  Proverbs is written by people who observed those who followed God’s ways, and those who didn’t. Then they made conclusions based on the best results, and that was through following God’s way.

     For who was the Book of Proverbs written?  Certainly, it is valuable to the inexperienced in life. Proverbs 1:4-6 tells us it will benefit the young, the wise and also the discerning; in other words, it is for all of us!


  1. What is the starting point for wisdom?
  2. The Lord.

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7 (NLT).

     The phrase “the fear of the Lord” is found 14 times in Proverbs.  It means to respect God’s power & holiness. He must be reverenced for who He is.  God is to be served, worshipped, obeyed, and loved.  He is our final authority, the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge!  

    Guidance for growing in wisdom is also available to us from our childhood from:

  1. Our Parents.

8 My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. 9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.” Proverbs 1:8–9 (NLT).

There is great wisdom in listening to those who have invested themselves in our lives and know our strengths and weaknesses. They know the challenges we will face in acquiring wisdom because they know our character and also because they faced these same temptations themselves.

    Novelist Pearl Buck told her 16-year-old daughter that she wouldn’t allow her to attend a party of mixed teenagers where there would be no adult supervision. The girl wailed, “You don’t trust me!” Mrs. Buck’s reply was, “Of course, I don’t trust you. I couldn’t trust myself at 16, 17, 18, or as much farther as you care to go!” When you face the fact that you don’t trust yourself in a situation, the only wisdom is to be careful not to put yourself into that situation.” [3]

  1. What do we learn about wisdom from this passage?
  2. Wisdom is accessible to us.

     Wisdom impacts all areas of life (work, justice, play), and is present in these areas.  Notice the effort wisdom makes to get people’s attention: “20 Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square. 21 She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in front of the city gate” (NLT)

     Wisdom is looking for you if you are willing to listen.  No one can say that it is hard to find, in fact, it goes out of its way to speak to us through God’s Word, creation, and daily life.


     The second thing we learn about wisdom is that even though it is available,

  1. Wisdom can be ignored.

     We may claim “I didn’t know that” but the truth is often we don’t want to listen to wisdom’s advice! Proverbs 1:22 shows three kinds of people who ignore wisdom: “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge? ” (NLT)

  1. Simpletons are the naive who lack discernment and judgment (like a 16 yr old).
  2. Mockers are the defiant & the cynical. They disagree with anyone or anything that disagrees with them.
  3. Fools are those who twist reason to reach morally wrong conclusions.

    If we won’t listen to wisdom’s call from God’s Word or our parents,

  1. How does Wisdom get our attention?

Proverbs 1:23 says “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.” (NIV).  Have you been stopped while doing something dangerous, harmful, or wrong?  What was your response? Anger? Frustration? A plan how not to get caught the next time?  Or did you realize your actions could lead to terrible consequences and decide to change?

    Correction is a messenger that God often uses to teach us wisdom.  Proverbs 3:11-12 says: “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” (NLT). God’s rebuke can be direct, through His Word, or indirect, through parents, friends, children, mates, employers, neighbors, police, a teacher, or a coach. 

     The fourth observation we can make about wisdom in this passage is that,

  1. Ignoring Wisdom has serious consequences.

29 For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord. 30 They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. 31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. 32 For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” Proverbs 1:29–32 (NLT).  

     Why is it so hard to us to follow God’s guidance? What’s the root of our problem?  Our pride.  In our stubbornness, we want to be right even if it kills us!  We are declaring that we believe our wisdom is superior to God’s and will provide us greater pleasure, peace, security than his!  That is a lie that leads to separation from God.

     Ignoring Wisdom has serious consequences, you destroy yourself, so don’t ignore God’s wisdom!  Choosing to follow wisdom’s instructions might not immediately reverse months of bad choices, but it is the best choice.  Remember, wisdom must be consistently followed, or trouble will certainly come looking for you. 

     Where are you looking for wisdom?  What’s stopping you from following God’s wisdom? Stubbornness, insensitivity, indifference, pride? How can you become open to God’s wisdom?  It begins with changing your basic goal in life from pleasing yourself, to pleasing God? How? By surrendering your life to Jesus as your sin forgiver and your life leader, and then committing yourself to becoming like Christ?  “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.” (v. 23 NIV)

     Finding wisdom in following God’s Word is not about rule keeping. The result of listening to correction is the deepening of our relationship with God – a greater sense of His heart and deeper understanding of His thoughts and His love for us.  Trusting in God’s wisdom is the only way to lasting peace.  This begins by accepting His forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. Have you done this? Proverbs 1:33 says “But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”” Proverbs 1:33 (NLT).

Hymn #271 Standing on the promises (vv. 1,3,4)

Benediction:  “To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of, to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (GNB)

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2002). Powerful principles from proverbs: Study guide (pp. 12–13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 340). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

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Humility toward one another.

1 Cor. 11:18-34a; Phil. 2:5; 4:2.

July 2, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


      Today we will be sharing in communion and earlier we read a responsive reading together from 1 Corinthians 11:23-28.  Verses 23-26 are familiar, for it is often read during our celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  Verses 27 & 28 caution us not to treat this memorial we share together lightly, or else the Lord may correct our behaviour. 

      What was the problem within the Corinthian church that the Apostle Paul needed to address with this passage?  Divisions had formed among them and as a consequence, some showed little care for those outside their group, and this only enlarged the divisions.  Division is an offense to the Body of Christ Jesus, who gave himself to bring us together; and because of this Paul is very direct in correcting them as we hear in 1 Corinthians 11:18-34a from the Message Translation, The Apostle Paul writes: 18 First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. 19 The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth into the open and confirm it. 20 And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, 21 you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! 22 Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing. 23 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. 24 Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. 25 After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me. 26 What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. 27 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? 28 Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe. 29 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. 30 That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. 31 If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. 32 Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later. 33 So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another. 34 If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich. But by no means risk turning this Meal into an eating and drinking binge or a family squabble. It is a spiritual meal—a love feast.” 1 Corinthians 11:18–34a (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language).

      Paul is reminding them, and us, of what we are coming together to remember, and that is the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus for the sake of our salvation!  The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. 24 Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. 25 After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me. 

      This was not the only instance where Paul dealt with divisions among church members.  In Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he includes a plea to two women to settle a disagreement which had divided them.  Both of these women had worked hard with Paul & his team in spreading the Gospel of Jesus.  Listen to Paul’s appeal: Philippians 4:2 2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” (NIV).  That phrase “be of the same mind in the Lord,” reminded me of another verse, which also happens to be in Philippians: Philippians 2:5. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” (NKJV) or as the NIV translates it: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:5 (NIV).  Here we have an additional “one another” phrase.  What is the mindset of Christ we are to have in our relationships with “one another?”  It is humility.  Philippians 2:3–4 says: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV) It is said that humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.  This is the thought behind C.S. Lewis’ description of a humble person:  Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. (Mere Christianity, 128)[1]

      I suspect that when Paul called on the two feuding women to “be of the same mind in the Lord” he was calling them to humility, the same mindset of their Lord Jesus Christ.  This is what Paul calls us to do in another “one another” passage which also calls us to follow Jesus’ example: Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV).

      As we prepare to celebrate communion together, remember Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice on our behalf, so we receive forgiveness, and in humility and kindness extend that unconditional forgiveness to others.  5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5–11 (NIV).

Benediction: 15a Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. 16a Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NLT)

[1] Merida, T., & Chan, F. (2016). Exalting jesus in philippians (D. Platt, D. L. Akin, & T. Merida, Eds.; pp. 86–87). Holman Reference.

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“Praying with and for one another.”

June 25, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Our LORD, everything you do is kind and thoughtful, and you are near to everyone whose prayers are sincere. You satisfy the desires of all your worshipers, and you come to save them when they ask for help.” “I will praise you, LORD, and everyone will respect your holy name forever.” Psalm 145:17–19, 21. (CEV)

     We are continuing in our “One Another” series today with an “one another” phrase which is implied but not specifically found in the NT, and that is prayer.  Before we consider how we are to pray together, let us first review what we mean by prayer.  What is prayer, why is it important, and why do we need to pray?

     Prayer is communicating with God, which explains why prayer is important.  The Praying Church sourcebook says: “Jesus told his disciples, ‘Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these’ (John 14:12). This statement no doubt astounded the disciples, until Jesus went on to explain: ‘I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it’ (John 14:12-14 NIV84). In other words, the disciples would be powerful in ministry because Jesus Christ was on the throne of the universe. His response to their prayers was the key to the “greater things” they would do… Prayer clearly had a high priority in Jesus’ life. Luke tells us that ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (Luke 5:16) …and on occasions he even spent the night praying to God’ (Luke 6:12).”[1]

     We may wonder: “If God knows what we need, why do we need to ask him, why doesn’t he just give it to us?”  I think our tendency to forget who is serving whom, and our inclination away from humility and towards entitlement, answers that question for us.  God in his wisdom has decided to act in a number of cases only in response to our request.  James 4:2 suggests that if we are lacking something, it is because we are not asking for God’s help, but rather attempting to fulfill our longings ourselves in ways that are not God guided.  In the parable of the friend who calls at midnight, Jesus urges persistence in prayer as the way to receive God’s blessing (Luke 11:5-9).  Are you persistent with your requests before God, or do you tend to give up soon after, left wondering if your prayers really make a difference?  James 5:16 teaches us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  It is prayer, from a heart right with God, that is powerful and effective.  Prayer is important because, in prayer we express our dependence on our Almighty God, and also become part of his work on earth.

     “The great South African Reformed theologian Andrew Murray wrote in his book The Ministry of Intercession: that Christ actually meant prayer to be the great power by which his church should do its work, and that the neglect of prayer is the great reason the church has not great power over the masses in Christian and in heathen countries. And: that we have far too little conception of the place that intercession …ought to have in the church and the Christian life. In intercession our king upon the throne finds his highest glory; in it we shall find our highest glory too. Through it he continues his saving work, we can do nothing without it; through it alone we can do all work, and nothing avails without it.” [2]

     “God has called us to pray not only so that we may obtain a blessing but also so that we may be a blessing.  The focus of our prayer should be petition, ‘Your kingdom come.’ In the last days of his ministry, Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance of prayer (Matt. 7:7-8; 18:19; 21:22; John 14:12-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24). He was concerned that his disciples realize they could build the church only if strengthened by his hand.”[3]

Matthew 7:7–8. ““Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (NLT)

Matthew 18:19. ““I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.” (NLT)

Matthew 21:22. “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”” (NLT)

John 14:12–14. ““I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (NLT)

John 15:7. “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (NLT)

John 15:16. “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” (NLT)

John 16:23–24. “At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” (NLT)

     Let us now look at:

  1. Praying with one another as followers of Jesus.
  • Acts 1:12–14.12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (NIV)

     Prior to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension there is no indication that Jesus’ followers prayed together.  Now, as they obey Jesus’ command to wait in Jerusalem, they pray and examine the scriptures together.  The unity of heart and purpose prepares them for the ministry to come at Pentecost.

  • Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NIV)

     Praying together was one of the essential activities the early church devoted themselves to, and Luke concludes chapter two with a summary of that period: “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:47b.

  • Acts 4:24. “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” Acts 4:24 (NIV).

     After Peter & John were released by the Jewish leadership with the threat of severe punishment if they ever talk about Jesus being the risen Messiah again, they gave a report to the believers.  The church’s response is to pray together declaring the Lord’s sovereignty and power over the situation and asking for his help to give them the strength and courage to “speak your word with great boldness” Acts 4:29.

  • Philippians 4:6–7 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV).

     In these verses, believers are encouraged to join together in presenting their anxiety causing situations to God in thankful prayer and petitions, knowing he will respond!  I trust you have, or will soon, come to experience the heart guarding peace of God which replaces anxious emotions, as believers join together in prayer to the Lord, rejoicing in his presence and care for all that concerns us. 

     I trust we all pray as individuals, yet there is encouragement, solidarity, and opportunity for spiritual growth when we pray with others.  Do you pray as a couple?  Do you pray as a family?  Do you have someone you encourage and are encouraged by, as two or three of you bring your requests to the Lord together? 

  1. Praying for one another.

     Acts 12 begins by telling us about a time when King Herod saw he could gain favor with the Jews by executing Christians.  Apparently, he saw his popularity grow after he had James, the brother of John put to death, so he had Peter arrested with the intent to kill him after the Passover.  Acts 12:5 describes this time: “5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Acts 12:5 (NIV). The night before his execution, the Lord sent an angel to free Peter, from otherwise certain death.  Verses 12-15 tells us there was a group praying for Peter at that very time. The Lord answered their prayers, even though at first, they didn’t believe it was really Peter.

     Paul’s letters to the churches are filled with references of he and his team praying regularly for the churches and individuals in the churches (Romans 1:9–10; Ephesians 1:16; 3:14; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 1:3; 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:2).  Yet, you might be surprised to hear that the Apostle Paul, asked the churches to pray for his ministry team, as well as for himself, that he would share the Gospel clearly: “3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Colossians 4:3–4 (NIV).  If the man God called to bring the good news about Jesus to the Gentile world, would ask young believers to pray that he would proclaim the message clearly, why should any of us feel embarrassed to ask for prayer to share the Gospel clearly?  We can see Paul’s priorities in his prayer request; he isn’t asking them to pray for his release from prison, rather that he will share the message about Jesus as clearly as possible!   It’s good to examine the focus of our own personal prayer requests, and ask the Holy Spirit to direct our hearts to the mind of Christ for us, rather than solely on my comfort.

     Praying for and with one another.  Most of us would agree it is God’s plan for us and that it is a good idea.  The question each of us needs to answer personally, is how am I going to be a part of doing this?  Do you take regular time in your schedule to pray?  Do you keep a record of your prayers, it will help you’re your persistence.  Look at your recent prayers, where are your prayers focused – do you need to work on a balance between yourself and others?  Do you seek to encourage others through praying for them and with them?  Do you allow others to join you in prayer for matters which are on your heart?  Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered in his name, he will be there.  Ask the Lord to guide you in your prayer journey with him.

Hymn: #435 What a friend we have in Jesus

Benediction: “14 I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bless you and be kind to you! May God bless you with his love, and may the Holy Spirit join all your hearts together.” (2 Corinthians 13:14 CEV).

[1] Vander Griend, Alvin J. (1997). The praying church source book (pp. 14-15). Church Development Resources, Grand Rapids, Michigan

[2] Ibid. (p. 17).

[3] Ibid. (p. 18).

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June 18, 2023 Podbean

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Encourage One Another.  1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25.
June 18, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”” Psalm 34:3, 122:1 (NIV) Words” – sung by Hawk Nelson (Official lyric video): Verse 1: They’ve made me feel like a prisoner. They’ve made me feel set free. They’ve made me feel like a criminal. Made me feel like a king.  They’ve lifted my heart to places I’d never been, and they’ve dragged me down, back to where I began. Pre-Chorus: Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out. Chorus 1: Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You. Verse 2: You can heal the heartache, speak over the fear, God Your voice is the only thing We need to hear. Pre-Chorus: Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out. Chorus 2: Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You (back to You) Let the words I say (let the words I say), Be the sound of Your grace (sound of Your grace), I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You (back to You). Bridge: I wanna speak Your love, not just another noise, Oh I wanna be Your light, I wanna be Your voice. Ending: I don’t wanna say a word unless it points the world back to You, Oh, Oh. CCLI Song # 6437497 Jonathan Steingard | Matthew Hammitt | Seth Mosley © 2012 Birdwing Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CentricSongs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Toledo Tomorrow Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Atlantis Underwater Music (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Fair Trade Tunes (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394 Introduction: We are continuing our “One Another” series today with an “one another” appropriate for Father’s Day: Encourage One Another – Happy Father’s Day, Dads.  WORDS are powerful, as the song says: They’ve made me feel like a prisoner. They’ve made me feel set free. They’ve made me feel like a criminal. Made me feel like a king. They’ve lifted my heart to places I’d never been, and they’ve dragged me down, back to where I began. Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out.  Let my words be life. Let my words be truth. I don’t wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You. Dads, as your children mature, your role may change from a rule enforcer and protector to cheer leader and financial advisor, but your family will never outgrow their need for you to be their encourager!  I trust today that we will all be reminded of the value of being encouragers.  First, let’s look at speaking an encouraging word:
  1. An Encouraging Word.
As a group of frogs traveled through the woods, two of them fell into a deep pit. The other frogs peeked in and told these two that they were as good as dead as it was impossible to come out. Ignoring the discouragement, these two frogs tried to jump out any way. A while later, one of the frogs, lost its spirit in the constant discouragement and gave up…and died. The second frog kept on jumping. The more the others commented, the harder he tried. Finally, to their amazement, he jumped out of the pit! “How did you do that? Didn’t you hear us telling you it was impossible?” asked the frogs.  “I am a little deaf. I thought you were cheering me on”, answered the frog. We live in a world that tends toward negativity, focusing on what’s wrong rather than what’s good and right.  If we start to talk about how wonderful the weather is now, the conversation will likely shift to talk about how bad it’s been or how bad it will be.  We complain when service is slow, but often say nothing when our line moves quickly.  While the internet has massively increased the power of a complaint to be heard around the world, our tendency to be meager with our encouragement is nothing new.  This is why the Book of Proverbs highlights the value of a positive word: Proverbs 12:25 says: “25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” (NLT). Proverbs 16:24 reminds us that: “24 Kind words are like honey— they cheer you up and make you feel strong.” (CEV). While it is vital that we as individuals give careful, prayerful thought to the words we use, because of their ability to build up or tear down (remember James 3:1-12 on taming the tongue); much of what the New Testament says about encouraging one another is given in the context of the church family.  Remember, the New Testament church was the people of God, and the “we” and “us” included the local church as well as Christians throughout the world. So speaking an encouraging word also includes:
  1. Encouraging each other in our Christian Walk.
How can we do this?  How can we encourage each other as sisters and brothers in Christ?  Let’s look at three ways.
  1. With our resources.
In Acts 4:32 and following, we are told that the believers were one in heart and mind, and as a consequence of this, shared their possessions with each other as was needed. Verses 36 & 37 tells us about one of these individuals, Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus.  He sold a field and gave the money to the Apostles to be used by the Church in Jerusalem to help those who had needs.  This greatly encouraged the church.  A second way we can encourage other believes is:
  1. With our gifts.
In Acts 4:36 We are told that Joseph, whom we just mentioned, was such an encouragement to the apostles that he was given the nickname “Barnabas” which means “Son of Encouragement.”  Barnabas was not just an encouragement because he gave of his finances, but also because he encouraged through how he invested his life in the lives of others. The next reference we have of Barnabas in the book of Acts is when he sought out the newly saved Saul/Paul in Jerusalem, and vouched for him in front of the Apostles, when many feared Paul was just trying to trick them about becoming a Christian (Acts 9:26-30). Later, when news reached the Jerusalem leadership that Gentiles were being saved in Antioch, Barnabas (Remember, he was a Levite from Cyprus so he had lived among Gentiles) was sent to investigate what was going on.  When Barnabas saw that God was truly at work among them “he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 11:23).  As the Church in Antioch grew, Barnabas went and found Paul and brought him to the city to help with the ministry there.  Later, Barnabas and Paul were commissioned by the Holy Spirit and sent out by the church in Antioch.  Barnabas also mentored John Mark, the believed author of the Gospel of Mark. A third way we are to be an encouragement to fellow believers is:
  1. With God’s Word.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 says: “18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (NIV).  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: “11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (NIV).  If you turn to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 & 5 you will see that Paul is addressing this church’s concern over what will happen to Christians who die before Jesus returns – do these people miss out?  Paul explains that they haven’t missed out and will be the first to meet Christ when He returns. He concludes by telling them: “18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”  We are to encourage each other by reminding one another of God’s promises.  This is what the writer of Hebrews says in: Hebrews 10:24–25 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV). We are to encourage with our words, and encourage believers using our resources, gifts, and God’s Word.  Although this is essential for us to do, it is huge task – how can we ever hope to be the encouragers we are called to be? III.   The Promised Encourager. In John 14, Jesus’ disciples are troubled upon hearing that he is leaving them.  Jesus comforts his disciples by assuring them his absence is not permanent, he is preparing a place for them to be with him.  Jesus then assures his disciples “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—” John 14:16 (NIV).  Jesus is telling us about the Holy Spirit.  The word the NIV translates as “advocate” is the Greek word Paraclete, which meaning includes the idea of counselor, helper, mediator, and yes, encourager! We are not left alone to grow in our Christian walk or to help others in their walk, for we have the Holy Spirit of God, who Himself is our encourager!  He is helping us, encouraging us, and teaching us as we grow and learn to encourage others. How are you doing at being an encourager?  It begins as we meet Jesus as our sin forgiver and life leader and grow in our appreciation for all He has done for us.  Next, we need to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to guide our words, for: “The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.Proverbs 25:11 (CEV).  Finally, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, use your resources, gifts, and personal time in God’s Word to encourage others. Hymn: #275 How firm a foundation (vv. 1-4) Benediction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

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“Honour One Another.” Romans 12.10b
May 21, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14, 16 (NIV).

      Today we are continuing our look at the “one another” passages in the New Testament.  Today we are looking at the second half of Romans 12:10: “honour one another.” So how do we do that?  Call them, send them a card, or give them a gift?  Those are nice ideas, but I missed something, verse 10b in whole says: “Honor one another above yourselves.” (NIV) or “outdo one another in showing honor.” (RSV) Romans 12:10b

      Honouring others above ourselves sounds great, but it is much easier to say the words than put them into practice.  As we try to honour some people, our minds fill with all the reasons they don’t deserve honour, but we do!  Why is it we do that?  Why are we, as Christians, nitpicky, critical of others, and not able to forget their faults?  At the root of our problem is that we take too lightly how fully the Lord has forgiven us, even though we did absolutely NOTHING to deserve it!  Christians, do not minimize God’s wonderful gift of grace which was shown to you; rather, be quick to extend the grace you have received to others (In other words, don’t be an unforgiving servant, Matthew 18:21-35)!  This is the journey the Apostle Paul is taking us on in his letter to the Romans.  David Seccombe, in his commentary on Romans says: Christian life begins with a vast act of mercy on the part of God. The content of that mercy has been spelled out for us in chapters 1–11. At the cost of his own Son, God has lifted us out of the prison house of sin and placed us in his own presence, there to remain in enjoyment of myriad blessings forevermore. A life is not a Christian life if it is based on anything other than the mercies of God.[1] 

      He goes on: Now that the Son of God has offered the last blood sacrifice God ever wishes to see, the appropriate offering of forgiven people is the surrender of our whole bodies to his service. The Greek word for body (soma) means not just our physical flesh, but our whole person including mind, personality, emotions and spirit. Such a demand comes as a shock to those who are used to pleasing God by giving him some thing. Something is neither holy nor acceptable, nor an appropriate response to the mercies of God. Only everything will do.[2]

      In Romans 12, Paul begins by calling us to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, then he proceeds to give examples of how to do that.  Starting in verse 9, Paul gives us a list of how we are to live in relationship to others, beginning with: 9a Love must be sincere” (NIV) or 9a Let love be genuine” (ESV, NSRV).  The Greek word translated “sincere” (anupokritos) means “without deception or hypocrisy.”” [3]  Why would Paul start this way?  Anders Nygren suggests: “Since conduct in love is the outer expression for the hidden life ‘in Christ,’ there is always the danger that men clothe themselves in the outer garment of love, without really having love in their hearts.  Therefore, Paul’s first admonition says, ‘Let love be genuine.’” [4] This is to be real, from the heart love.  

      Not surprisingly, the Greek word translated as ‘love’ in Romans 12:9 is, ‘agapē’ – a giving, sacrificial love.  What may be surprising here in Romans 12:9 is the first time in the Book of Romans that Paul uses agapē to describe our love.  Up to this point in Romans, Paul has only used agapē love to describe the love shown to us by God!  John Stott says: “So far in Romans all references to agapē have been to the love of God—demonstrated on the cross (5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)), poured into our hearts (5:5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5 (CSB)) and doggedly refusing to let us go (8:35, 39 35 Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? Romans 8:35 (CEV). 39 and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:39 (CEV)). But now Paul focuses on agapē as the essence of Christian discipleship. Romans 12–15 are a sustained exhortation to let love govern and shape all our relationships.”[5]  We must remember what Jesus told us in John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV).  “As I have loved youso you must love one another.  God’s love for us is the model, the standard we are to follow in showing love to each other!

      It is suggested that since the Greek phrase in Romans 12:9a, doesn’t have a verb, it literally reads: “the love sincere,” that this may be seen as a heading for the list which follows, and in 12:9b-13 we have a list of “The many facets of sincere love.” 

       Let’s now turn our attention to Romans 12:10b “Honor one another above yourselves.” (NIV). 

1.  What is meant by “Honor one another above yourselves”?
      The word honour, used here means “respect” or “value.”  It doesn’t mean that some people in God’s family are less important than others.  In Romans 12:4 and following, Paul writes that as Christians, we are all members of the body of Christ, with differing gifts and functions, yet belonging to each other, all working together for God’s honour.

      Our example in choosing to humbly honour and value others above ourselves is Jesus – Philippians 2:3–8Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (NIV)

2.  What is required for me to be able to “outdo one another in showing honor”?
      Mark Twain said: It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them. [6]  Outdoing one another in showing honour requires humility, and this begins with my being secure in my salvation and confident in God’s love for me.  Understanding that God loves me so much that He gave His only Son Jesus, to die in my place, so I would be forgiven and have a renewed relationship with Him.  Do you have this confidence?  Have you accepted Jesus as your sin forgiver and do you follow him as the leader of your life? – this is essential.  If you have made this decision, celebrate that you are a child of God and proclaim with your life that: “I serve Him because I love Him, He who first love me, and gave Himself for me.  My worth and my value comes not from how others see me, it comes from my King, my Lord, my Heavenly Father!” 

      To be able to honour others above myself, I need to be grounded in the certainty that my value is not dependent upon what we receive credit for, are praised for or compensated for.  Jesus makes it clear that those most esteemed in His Kingdom are those who are willing to honour others through their service to them do in love and compassion (Matt. 23:11-12; Mk. 9:25; 10:42-45)

      In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46, those whom the Lord invites into His kingdom are those who served people who were hungry, thirsty, alone, needing clothing, sick, and in prison.  In humbly serving these individuals, whom the King cares greatly for, the King says they are really serving Him.  This parable pictures selflessly honouring others above yourself – something which pleases our God, and therefore should also please us to do it.

3.  What does honouring others above ourselves look like? 
      Thomas Carlyle said: Show me the person you honor and I will know what kind of person you are. [7]  Practically speaking, honouring others above ourselves begins with having empathy. Matthew 7:12 says “Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.” Matthew 7:12 (CEV).  Ask yourself, “How would I like to be: treated, spoken to, corrected, helped, encouraged in this situation?”  Then honour others by doing that for them.

      We also honour someone when we listen to them so that they feel understood and heard – even if we do not agree; we show them the respect of listening and interacting with their thoughts to understand them better.  We honour someone when we pray with and for them with genuine concern.

      We honour someone when we encourage them to use their God given gifts.  The gifts of the Spirit have been given to individuals for the benefit of all of us.  Honour others by helping them develop their gifts.  Enjoy seeing others succeed for the benefit of God’s Kingdom.  Fight the urge to exalt yourself, and instead make it your goal that God would receive all the praise. And thank him for his constant love and care for you.  In the end, may all that matters to you be to hear the words from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).  Jesus showed us through his actions how much he loved us.  For us to love others, as Jesus loved us, the love must be seen in action, so: honor one another above yourselves, under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit.

Hymn: #451 O master, let me walk with Thee (1,2,4)

Benediction: “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.” “Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:15, 17 (The Message).


[1] Seccombe, D. (2013). Romans: Dust to Destiny (P. Barnett, Ed.; pp. 205–206). Aquila Press.

[2] Seccombe, D. (2013). Romans: Dust to Destiny (P. Barnett, Ed.; p. 206). Aquila Press.

[3] Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 236). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Nygren, Anders (1983). Commentary on Romans (p. 425). Fortress Press, Philadelphia.

[5] Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (p. 330). InterVarsity Press.

[6] Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

[7] Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.

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May 14, 2023 Podbean

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“Let us love one another, part 2.”


May 14, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to worship:“How good it is to give thanks to you, O Lord, to sing in your honour, O Most High God, to proclaim your constant love every morning and your faithfulness every night,” “Your mighty deeds, O Lord, make me glad; because of what you have done, I sing for joy.” Psalm 92:1–2, 4 (GNB)

      Last week in preparation to celebrate communion, we reflected on God’s love for us, expressed in the death of Jesus for our sins (Jn. 3:16), as the foundation of our love for each other.  John 13:34–35. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV).
      You may have noticed that our society is quite divided.  We see divisions politically, religiously, racially, economically, regionally; there’s disagreement over the environment and even over our dietary choices!  As sad as all this animosity is, it not surprising given the fallen, sinful world we live in.
      What is disheartening is that divisions exist among those who claim to be followers of Jesus, we who are to love each other.  Google your favorite internet pastor or church, and among the good comments, you will likely find Christians who are critical of them.  There are disagreements over church structure, the role of women in the church, politics, race, the gifts of the Spirit and countless other things.  Is this just a reflection of the turbulent times we live in?  Yes, the tone of our society can influence us, however the first century church struggled with similar divisions.  The good news is that we have the record of a biblical response to church divisions written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.
      Today we are looking at the Apostle Paul’s response in chapter 13, to problems including the use of the Spiritual gifts, and in doing so learn more about the love that we are to show towards one another.  1 Corinthians 13:1–13 “1If 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. 2If 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. 3If 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. 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love 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. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (NIV)
      You may think of 1 Corinthians 13 as a passage on love to be read at weddings. While it is appropriate to remind couples of what real love is, 1 Corinthians was written to a church in conflict.  Paul’s remedy was to tell them about God’s love.
God had blessed the church in Corinth with Spiritual gifts, yet disagreements over which gifts were most important, led to conflict rather than harmony.  It reminds us of Jesus’ 12 disciples arguing amongst themselves over who was the greatest, when Jesus had chosen each one of them! Paull, in verses 1-3 says that no matter how amazing a spiritual gift might be, it becomes just noise to the listeners and meaningless for the one exercising the gift, if the action is not done in love.
      The logical question in response to these verses is, “Paul, what do you mean by love?”  The word Paul uses for love is the Greek word “agape”, which was chosen in the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible to describe God’s covenant love and loyalty, and in the New Testament describes God’s self-giving love.  This is love as we experience it from God (JN 3:16)! This is the love we are to show others.  In the following verses, rather than define love, Paul describes love, by showing us what love is, and what it is not.


·        4 Love is patient, love is kind.” 
     Paul begins with two positive examples of what love.  Paul says love responds to a situation with kindness – an encouraging word, or a helping hand.  Isn’t this the way you like to be treated when you are having a “bad day” – “Please be kind, please give me the benefit of the doubt.”  Is this how you respond when someone snaps at you, with a smile or a frown?
     Love is patient.  Most of us would call patience a virtue.  However, not everyone does, and neither did the Greeks (the culture the Corinthians were in!). It is said: The Greeks thought you were a strong man when you wouldn’t let anybody get by with anything. They felt it was a manly characteristic that if someone wronged you, before the sun went down, you got even with them (usually with a little extra added in). Aristotle, the great Greek writer, taught that the great virtue was to refuse to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation at the slightest offense. To the Greeks, vengeance was a virtue.[1]  This response sounds sadly contemporary, but it is NOT Biblical!  Proverbs 14:29. “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” (NIV).Colossians 3:12. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (NIV).
     Love is patient and love is kind.  It’s easy to be kind when the kids behave, and your spouse isn’t grumpy, and your boss praises you for a good job.  But our relationships aren’t perfect, and those stress filled moments call for us to respond with loving patience, just like we receive from God ALL THE TIME!  Is my love patient, or do I expect a quick change of behavior when I exercise moderate patience?  Sometimes I may use kindness to get what I want, this is manipulation, not loving kindness.  Patient love keeps at it, not giving up, just as God does with me.
     Next Paul describes us what love is not by mentioning some of the things those Corinthian church was doing.  These are behaviors which we also may want to ignore or excuse, but which must be stopped, because they are anti-love.

·        Love does not envy – this is resentment towards others for what they have – better things, job, relationships or abilities; and wishing not only that you had them, but also that they didn’t.  You’ll catch it in your thoughts & conversations about the person or persons, when you enjoy when they slip up, “They had it coming to them!” Christian, your envy does not reflect the love of Christ.  Only you can choose not to allow envy to take root in your heart, by asking for the Lord’s help!

·        Love does not boast – Yes, we can congratulate ourselves for successes. Boasting is promoting ourselves over others as if our accomplishments were based on our own ability.  This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:7. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV)

·        Love is not proud – Pride & arrogance sees you as superior to anyone else. Paul says: Romans 12:3b “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Romans 12:3b (NLT).

·         Love does not dishonor others – Some translations say: Love is not rude.  William Barclay’s translation say: “love does not behave gracelessly.”  The Greek word for grace is the same word we translate as charm. I choose my behavior.  Love does not choose rudeness.

·        Love is not self-seeking.  The temptation is to “look out for yourself, because no one else will” but this results in selfishness. Jesus says love your neighbour as you love yourself, like I did for you.

·         Love is not easily angered. Wm. Barclay says: The real meaning of this is that Christian love never becomes exasperated with people. Exasperation is always a sign of defeat. When we lose our tempers, we lose everything.[2]

·        Love doesn’t hold a grudge – “keeps no record of wrongs.”  This word is an bookkeeper’s term, used for keeping items in an account book. Do you keep a record of those people who have hurt or wronged you?  If so; you are damaging your ability to love as Jesus loved you.  One of the great arts in life is to learn what to forget!  It’s not a question of being incompatible with someone; it comes down to you being willing to let God direct your choice to love!

·        6 Love does not delight in evil – love gets no satisfaction over the misfortune of others. How thankful I am that God the Father loved me enough to come looking for me when I was at my worst.

·         But rejoices with the truth – love has no wish to veil the truth, even when it is expressed by those whom ‘rub you the wrong way.’

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

·        It always protects – This doesn’t mean love ignores problems!  Instead, love would rather quietly work on mending things than opening the faults of others to public display.

·        Always trusts – love trusts God’s promises and believes the best about others, not the worst.  Remembering not only gives us hope, but this can give hope to those who have given up on themselves!

·        Always hopes – love never ceases to hope. Jesus believes no man is hopeless, and I hear that in your prayers for your loved ones!

·        Always perseveres – Love bears all things not with resignation, but with triumphant fortitude. Paul explained: “Christ gives me the strength to face anything.” Philippians 4:13 (CEV).

     This is what Jesus commanded us to do!  This is One Another Love!  This is the love Christians are to demonstrate to their community, by practicing on each other, within our church and our homes!  Love is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling, it is a choice you make to do what is best for someone else, even at the expense of your own comfort. Wow, did anyone think it would be so challenging to love?  Don’t panic, we as Christians are in a growing relationship with the EXPERT on love – our God!  Believe it is worth the effort, and in doing so you will be more like Jesus and bring glory to God!  I’ll close with an email I received this week for Pastors from – it speaks to all of us in the church:

       Your church can be healthy, but it will never be perfect. A group of imperfect people will never be able to create a perfect community.

Psalm 119:96 says, “Nothing is perfect except your words” (TLB).

       Everything on this planet is broken—the weather, the economy, our bodies, our relationships, our minds. Nothing here works perfectly except God’s Word. To expect perfection in a church is to set yourself up for massive disappointment.

       When pastors read books about the ideal church, they can become cynical. Why? Because they’re hoping for something that doesn’t exist. When you discover what God intends real fellowship to be, it’s easy to get discouraged by the gap between the ideal and reality.

       Jesus passionately loves his church, even with all its faults and failures—and he wants us to do the same. If we’re going to be Christlike leaders, we must love the church despite its imperfections.

       Longing for the ideal while criticizing the real is evidence of spiritual immaturity. On the other hand, settling for the real without striving for the ideal is complacency. Maturity is living with the tension of what you know the ideal could be and what reality is. Sometimes we can look around at other churches and become disillusioned by the church we’re leading. [or in].

       In parenting, you don’t wait for your kids to grow up before you love them; you love them at every stage of their maturity. In the same way, you need to learn to love people at every stage of their growth, and you need to learn to love your church in every stage of its growth. Your congregation will disappoint you—love them anyway.

“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults

because of your love.”(Ephesians 4:2 NLT).

Hymn: #284 They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

BenedictionLord, send us out today as Your children, as those who care more about loving and serving You than exalting ourselves. May You keep us from filling our lives with religious ritual rather than a relationship with Jesus Christ. Bless us in Jesus’ name, Amen.


[1] Jeremiah, D. (2004). The power of love: Study guide (p. 21). Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1975). The letters to the Corinthians (p. 122). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.

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Love One Another. John 13:34-35.

May 7, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.



Call to Worship: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble“Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!  For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:1-2, 8–9 (ESV).

     Why do we have communion?  Yes, Jesus told us to remember his death.  But why did Jesus die?  Yes, the Jewish religious and political leaders pressured the Romans to crucify him, but Jesus could have evaded their grasp, but made the deliberate choice not to.  He chose to go to Jerusalem and spend a very public week teaching and debating.

     So, why DID Jesus die?  It was part of his plan, part of the Triune God’s plan, Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s plan to free us from bondage to sin, if we accept His gift.

     The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 2, verses 14 & 15 tells us why God the Son became human: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.Hebrews 2:14–15 (NIV).

     The Apostle Paul in Romans 6:23 tells us why Jesus’ death was necessary: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23 (NIV).  Which one of us is impacted by sin? “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.Romans 3:23 (NLT). We are all sinners!  So WHY would Jesus die for sinners?  Why would he give us, fervent sinners, such a gift at the cost of his life?  John 3:16 explains it clearly and simply: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 (NIV).  LOVE.  God the Father, sent His Son Jesus to die in our place, because He loves us.  For humanity, this act of Jesus is the ultimate expression of love: “16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16 (NIV). 

     Jesus’ expression of love to us, if we accept him as our sin forgiver and follow him as our life leader, saves us from eternal slavery to sin and gives us new life and new hope.  We are now children of God.  As members of his family, we are, through submission to the Holy Spirit’s leading, to grow to reflect the character of Jesus.  This includes, as 1 John 3:16 says, Jesus’ love shown in his willingness to not, ignore the needs of others, even at our own expense.  Listen to 1 John 3:16-19 from the NLT: “16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.1 John 3:16–19 (NLT).  Jesus showed us his love, through his actions.  So must we!

     The Apostle John (who wrote the Gospel of John and the three letters of John) is reflecting on his time with Jesus in his writings.  John 13, the chapter where John’s Gospel describes Jesus giving us communion, begins this way: “1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.John 13:1 (NIV84).  The next major event is Jesus humbly washing his disciple’s feet, as an example of servanthood; but John is likely thinking of everything which happened that evening, culminating with Jesus’ death on the cross. 

     During their time together in the upper-room, after Judas left to betray Jesus, Jesus says to his remaining disciples: “34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34–35 (NIV) [cf. Jn. 15:9-12, 17]. 

     We know that Jesus has already taught his disciples that loving God and loving our neighbour is the foundation of all the commandments.  Here he tells us that showing a practical, visible love to each other will identify us to ‘outsiders’ as Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus commands us to love one another because this identifies us as being one of his disciples.

     Next week I want to spend time considering what loving one another as Christian brothers and sisters looks like, using 1 Corinthians 13 as our framework.  Today, I want us to appreciate that the foundation of our love for one another, and our ability to love each other, comes from God’s love for us.

     The Apostle John reminds us, that not only is God’s love seen in His actions, but love is the essence of His character AND He is the source of love! “7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 John 4:7–8 (NIV).   What is this passage saying to you?

     I hope you are hearing that to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus is to love one another.  It is a choice we make (“let us love one another”) BECAUSE, having been overwhelmed by God’s saving love for us, we seek his grace and power to learn to love others that way!  Loving one another is the “emblem” which truly identifies us as a follower of Jesus. 

     When you participate in communion, remembering Jesus’ death until he returns, remembering that he gave his life for you; remember too that Jesus wants to see you emulating his sacrificial love towards one another.  Thank him for his selfless love and ask him, through your submission to the Holy Spirit’s guiding and prompting, to teach you how to love as he has commanded you.

Hymn: #281 “The bond of love” (vv. 1-2)

Benediction: May the Eternal God whose name is Lord give you His Spirit, and may the Holy Spirit pour into your heart God’s love, through Jesus who said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

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Forgive one another.  Col. 3.12-13; Eph. 4.2-3; Matt. 18.21-35

April 30, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: What offering should I bring when I bow down to worship the Lord God Most High?” The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”” Micah 6:6a, 8 (CEV).

Prayer time, ending with the Lord’s Prayer, then “forgiveness” YouTube. Matthew West: “Forgiveness”


Verse 1.  It’s the hardest thing to give away, and the last thing on your mind today, it always goes to those who don’t deserve.  It’s the opposite of how you feel, when the pain they caused is just too real, it takes everything you have to say the word.  Forgiveness, forgiveness.

Verse 2.  It flies in the face of all your pride, it moves away the mad inside, it’s always anger’s own worst enemy.  Even when the jury and the judge say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge, it’s the whisper in your ear sayin’ set it free. Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness.

Chorus 1.  Show me how to love the unlovable, show me how to reach the unreachable.  Help me now to do the impossible; Forgiveness, forgiveness.  Help me now to do the impossible, Forgiveness.

Verse 3.  It’ll clear the bitterness away, it can even set a prisoner free, there is no end to what its power can do.  So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace, the prisoner that it really frees is you!  Forgiveness, forgiveness.  Oh forgiveness, forgiveness.

Chorus 2.  Show me how to love the unlovable, show me how to reach the unreachable, help me now to do the impossible, forgiveness.  I want to finally set it free, show me how to see what Your mercy sees, help me now to give what You gave to me, forgiveness, oh forgiveness. Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness.

CCLI Song # 6423944.  Matthew West.  © 2012 Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing (Admin. by CURB | Word Music Publishing).  Songs for Delaney (Admin. by Downtown Music Publishing, LLC).  Highly Combustible Music (Admin. by Ole Media Management LP).  Remaining portion is unaffiliated.  For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI Licence No. 1348394

      “Imagine losing EVERYTHING?”  That was the question printed on the outside of an envelop from a charity this week.  There has been so much loss lately.  Earthquakes, floods, tornados, and typhoons are horrible in their affects and randomness.  However, loss of everything because of hatred and malice is even more horrible!

      Can you imagine losing everything you own – your money, your furniture, clothing, and personal effects.  Worst yet is losing your reputation in the community as rumors spread of the terrible things you are alleged to have said.  Close friends pull away, and your family is even divided over what to think of you.  How would you feel about those who have done this to you?  How would you feel towards those who have ruined you?  … As he hung from the cross they had nailed him to Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”” Luke 23:34a (NIV). 

      Perhaps you have already surmised that our “one another” theme for today is forgiveness.  Colossians 3:12–13 says: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV). 

This Wednesday’s Our Daily Bread devotional took us to Psalm 118 verse 22, reminding us that Jesus is our cornerstone.  The “insight” section available in the app, says: What is a “cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22)? Since early times, it’s been the principal stone placed at the corner of a building that formed its base. Once it was set, it determined every measurement in the construction of the edifice. Everything was aligned to it. As the chief cornerstone, Jesus is the foundation on which the church is built, and His people are to align with Him. He’s “a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16).[1]

Colossians 3:13 calls us to forgive one another as the Lord forgave us.  I want us to start our thinking about forgiveness, with the realization that, not only does Jesus tell us to forgive as we have been forgiven by the Lord, but to remember that Jesus lived what he taught, he did this himself, he forgave those who ruined his reputation and brutalized his body.  Jesus is the cornerstone we are to build our forgiveness on in order to be properly aligned.

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  This is the message Jesus had for Peter in Matthew 18:21-35 in answer to his question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matt. 18:21b (NIV).  Jesus’ response of “No, seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven)” is jarring, until we understand Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant.

A king discovered that one of his servants, likely a governor, had pilfered ten thousand talents from him. How much is that?  According to the historian Josephus, in 4 B.C., the taxes collected from Judea, Idumea, and Samaria amounted to six hundred talents. One talent was equal to a laborer’s pay for 6000 days of work, almost 20 years of salary!  If you multiply that by ten thousand, how is anyone going to pay that off in a lifetime?  The money owed the king is mind boggling, yet the guilty servant falls to his knees and begs the king to give him time to pay off his enormous debt.  In a staggering act of mercy, the king forgives ALL of the man’s debt and allows him to away free.

      Then, this man who had just been spared having he, his family and estate sold to play his debts, meets someone who owes him the equivalent of 100 days’ work.  As he demands his money, he hears virtually the same plead he gave the king as he begged for mercy: “be patient with me, and I will pay it back.” But instead of giving him time to pay it back, he has him thrown into prison!  The person who had been forgiven of so much, was unwilling to forgive another of a vastly smaller debt.  When the king heard about what this man had done, he had him thrown into prison until he paid everything back.

Jesus concludes with this application: This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:35 (NIV).  If you have asked Jesus to be your sin forgiver and life leader, to forgive you of your sins; you have been saved from hell and freed from a debt you can NEVER repay.  You are now a child of God and are to reflect your heavenly Father mercy in your conduct.  This includes forgiving those who sin against you.  Forgiveness is the only hope for mending a relationship broken by sin.

How do we learn to forgive? There is no easy formula, but here are five suggestions to help:

1.  Make Certain You’ve Received and Experienced God’s Forgiveness Yourself.  The only way we can hope to learn to forgive as Jesus asks, is to first experience God`s forgiveness through Christ. When we receive Christ as Savior, we receive His forgiveness, and our sins are cast as far from us as east from west (Ps. 103:12). It isn’t enough just to mentally receive this forgiveness; we must experience it. We must realize how fully we’ve been freed from guilt, shaking off our shame and leaving it behind us. Until you appreciate how much God has forgiven you, you will struggle to forgive others.

2.  Write Out Your Feelings of Resentment and Bitterness. We can deal with spiritual problems better when we write them in a journal. This compresses angry-red, envious-green, and depression-blue emotions into black-and-white words that can be identified and dealt with. Offer your list to God in prayer, asking Him to flush these feelings from your system by the living waters of His Holy Spirit.

3.  Choose to forgive the person who wronged you, asking God to help you. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling you float into, it is a choice you make, an act of your will.  You must draw on God`s strength and grace to do so!

Corrie ten Boom is one of the most remarkable Christians of the twentieth century. She and her family paid a high price for sheltering Jews in their home during the Nazi persecution. She and her sister were imprisoned at Ravensbruck, where her sister died; her father died in another concentration camp. When she was released, she had no family. She decided that the world would become her family. The atrocities of the Germans had been tragic enough—but in Corrie’s estimation the sin of resentment on the part of the survivors would only perpetuate the tragedy through generations to come. Somewhere it all has to end; someone has to say, “No more.” So she set out to travel everywhere she could and preach grace, forgiveness, and voluntary forgetfulness.

One Sunday morning Corrie ten Boom was speaking in Munich. She quickly recognized the man who was walking to the front of the auditorium to greet her. How could she forget such a man? He was the very guard who’d made the women shower as he watched, ogling and taunting them. He had also been savagely cruel to Corrie’s sister, Betsy. He had played a part in her death.

Now that very man stood before her, but he clearly didn’t recognize her. He said, “Fraulein, it is wonderful that Jesus forgives all our sins—it is just as you say. You mentioned Ravensbruck. I was a guard there, but I have become a Christian since those days. I know that God has forgiven me, but I would like to hear it from you as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?”

Corrie stood there, paralyzed by that word forgive. In her mind, this man was a monster. Something within her said that she couldn’t forgive. He had filled her with shame and misery every day; he was the instigator of a lengthy, unthinkable nightmare. Betsy, her precious sister, had died at his hands. Yet now she felt deep remorse about herself and her faith. How could she preach so fervently about something that, right here on the spot, she couldn’t practice herself? She could think of only one thing to do. She looked up to heaven and prayed silently, “Forgive me, Father, for my inability to forgive.”

Immediately things began to change. She began to feel the powerful sensation of God’s forgiveness moving through her. She couldn’t remember later how it happened, but she felt her hand surge forward to clasp the hand of the old guard, and she clutched it firmly and said, “You are forgiven.” The man was set free. But even more, on that day, Corrie ten Boom herself was set free. She felt the burden of resentment fall away from her shoulders.[2]

4.  Keep on forgiving. Forgiveness means not bringing up the issue again. When you forgive someone, you’re saying, “By the grace of God, this matter is gone. I will never bring it up again.” Some people bury the hatchet but keep the map showing where it lies. When Jesus told us to forgive our brother seventy times seven, He wasn’t necessarily implying that the person had sinned against us 490 times. Perhaps they have only sinned against us once, but we may have to get on our knees 490 times, because the old resentments keep popping into our hearts.

5.  Continue growing in Christ. It takes maturity to learn the fine art of forgiveness. It can’t be accomplished apart growing in God`s grace. The older we grow in age, the deeper we should grow in Christ, and the higher we should grow in Calvary.

Corrie Ten Boom toward the end of her life, shared that some of her most difficult challenges were to forgive Christian friends. Speaking to this issue she wrote:

I wish I could say after a long and fruitful life traveling the world, I had learned to forgive all my enemies. I wish I could say that merciful and charitable thoughts just naturally flowed from me and on to others. But they don’t. There is one thing I’ve learned since I’ve passed my eightieth birthday, it’s that I can’t store up good feelings and behavior—but only draw them fresh from God each day.

Maybe I’m glad it’s that way, for every time I go to Him, He teaches me something else. I recall the time—and I was almost seventy—when some Christian friends whom I loved and trusted did something which hurt me. You would have thought that, having been able to forgive the guards in Ravensbruck, forgiving Christian friends would be child’s play. It wasn’t. For weeks I seethed inside. But at last, I asked God again to work His miracle in me. And again, it happened: first, the cold-blooded decision, then the flood of joy and peace, I had forgiven my friends; I was restored to my Father.

Then, why was I suddenly awake in the middle of the night, rehashing the whole affair again? My friends! I thought. People I loved. If it had been strangers, I wouldn’t have minded so. I sat up and switched on the light. “Father, I thought it was all forgiven. Please help me do it.”

But the next night I woke up again. They’d talked so sweetly too! Never a hint of what they were planning. “Father!” I cried in alarm. “Help me!”  Then it was that another secret of forgiveness became evident. It is not enough to simply say, “I forgive you.” I must also begin to live it out. And in my case, that meant acting as though their sins, like mine, were buried in the depths of the deepest sea. If God could remember them no more—and He had said, “[Your] sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17)—then neither should I. And the reason the thoughts kept coming back to me was that I kept turning their sin over in my mind.

And so, I discovered another of God’s principles: We can trust God not only for emotions but also for our thoughts. As I asked Him to renew my mind, He also took away my thoughts.

He still had more to teach me, however, even from this single episode. Many years later, after I had passed my eightieth birthday, an American friend came to visit me in Holland. As we sat in my little apartment in Baarn he asked me about those people from long ago who had taken advantage of me.

“It is nothing,” I said a little smugly. “It is all forgiven.”  “By you, yes,” he said. “But what about them? Have they accepted your forgiveness?”  “They say there is nothing to forgive! They deny it ever happened. No matter what they say, though, I can prove they were wrong.” I went eagerly to my desk. “See, I have it in black and white! I saved all their letters, and I can show you where….”  “Corrie!” My friend slipped his arm through mine and gently closed the drawer. “Aren’t you the one whose sins are at the bottom of the sea? Yet are the sins of your friends etched in black and white?”

For an astonishing moment I could not find my voice. “Lord Jesus,” I whispered at last, “who takes all my sins away, forgive me for preserving all these years the evidence again others! Give me grace to burn all the blacks and whites as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to Your glory.”

I did not go to sleep that night until I had gone through my desk and pulled out those letters—curling now with age—and fed them all into my little coal-burning grate. As the flames leaped and glowed, so did my heart. “Forgive us our trespasses,” Jesus taught us to pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In the ashes of those letters, I was seeing yet another facet of His mercy. What more He would teach me about forgiveness in the days ahead I didn’t know, but tonight’s was good news enough.

Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. The forgiveness of Jesus not only takes away our sins, it makes them as if they had never been. [3]

Video: Forgiveness – Part 2, the rest of the story:

Conclusion: Ephesians 4:31–32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Perhaps, you need the forgiveness of God today. Perhaps you need a forgiving spirit. Christ wants to forgive you of an uncountable debt of sin towards Him, and He wants you to forgive the far smaller debts against you.

Hymn: 387 “O to be like Thee (vv. 1-2).

Benediction: 11 Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” “14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:11b, 14 (NLT)


[1] Kieda, Alyson. Our Daily Bread, Apr. 26, 2023, “Insights.”

[2] Jeremiah, D. (2001). Slaying the giants in your life (pp. 132–133). W Pub.

[3] Story as recorded in Family 101, “Forgiving one another” by Gene A. Getz.

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Serve one another.

April 23, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are his— his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” Psalm 100(CSB)

      From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he had people around him and invited people to follow him.  On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus, they were together in Jerusalem.  Acts 2 tells of the birth of the church, and the chapter concludes in vv. 42-47 by describing how the believers shared together, prayed together, learned together, praised together, and enjoyed meals together.  Over the next number of weeks, we are going to look at some passages in the New Testament which include the phrase “… one another.” 

      The decision to submit your life to Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader is one each person must make for themselves.  However, God’s plan for us is that we learn and grow in Him together.  The church is described as sheep with Jesus as our head shepherd, a building of which we are each a part, one body with Christ as our head and a family that we are each adopted into with God as our Father.  Clearly, we are to be together, to learn, grow and help each other.

      Today we are going to look at “serve one another” used in Galatians 5:13 and 1 Peter 4:10. Last week we looked at John 21, where Jesus reinstated Peter by getting him to think about his relationship with Jesus.  Jesus’ question “Peter, do you love me more than these?” has multiple possible meanings which are thought provoking for us as well.  Is anything coming between Jesus and me?

      What we didn’t look at last week was Peter’s answer to Jesus’ thrice repeated question and Jesus’ subsequent command to Peter’s pledge of love.  What did Jesus tell Peter to do in response to his confirmation of love?  Tell him to pray harder, study more, or worship longer?  Interestingly, the response Jesus’ desired from Peter to express his love for Jesus was not for him to look inward, but to look outward, for Jesus’ sake, and not just in the sense of evangelism, but all of the Great Commission, make disciples: baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).  “Feed my lambs.”  “Take care of my sheep.”  “Feed my sheep.”  The lesson for us to learn here is that our love for Jesus is demonstrated through our service to others.  In John 13:12-17, during their Passover celebration, Jesus shocked his disciples by washing their filthy feet, a job the lowest servant was usually assigned.  He did this to model what he expected from them. How are we to serve one another in Jesus’ name? 

Let’s begin by looking at -1- Our Attitude of Service:

      Paul writes in Galatians 5:13–14 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” (NLT) The motivation for our service is not to be obligation, manipulation or self-advancement, rather our service is to flow from an attitude of LOVE.  In Philippians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul calls the Christians to love each other and work together in humility by having the same attitude of Christ Jesus.  3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3–8 (NLT).

      Our attitude of service is to be one of love and humility.  What is to be our motivation for service?

-2- Our Motivation for Service:

      In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats.  Those identified as goats destined for punishment are condemned for not providing the king with the most basics of human need and compassion.  They responded by asking: 44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’” Matthew 25:44–45 (NLT).  In Hebrews 6:10 we read For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” (NLT).  Remember what Jesus said after Peter said, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you”?  Feed and care for my lambs and sheep.  We are to serve others as our way of loving Jesus.

      The Greek word used in Galatians 5:13 translated serve, has the meaning of slave.  Paul called himself a slave of Christ Jesus, as he wrote and served the church.  When a slave is sent to do something, their concern is not the results or the response, but did they do what they were told to do.  When we serve others in love, as the Lord directs us, our concern is not their response, but our Lord’s response to our actions – did we please Him?  This is hard.  It can be tough to serve when it seems no one notices, or cares or especially when it becomes expected that you should serve, when it remains your choice.  So, how do we serve when our efforts are not acknowledged or appreciated?

-3- Our Strength for Service:

      The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 4:10–11 says we are to serve using our spiritual gifts: 10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (NLT).  We offer these gifts of service, with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.  The strength we need to serve is supplied by God and brings Him glory was we serve in Jesus’ name.  This is essentially what Jesus says in John 15:5: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV).  Our ability to be fruitful, our strength to serve comes through remaining in Jesus, being in fellowship with him and drawing the strength you need each day to serve, from your time with your Lord.

      Serve one another, in love.  What does this look like for you?  Whatever you feel the Lord is leading you to do today, it comes from an attitude of humility, motivated by your love for Jesus, which is refreshed and strengthen by your relationship with him.  Are you too tired or discouraged to serve anymore?  Check your attitude, is your focus on you or Jesus.  Examine your motivation for service, is it driven by your love for Jesus?  If not, look at your means of connecting with Jesus – are you spending time with him in the Word, in prayer, in praise, listening and growing in your love and appreciation for him?  Hymn #446 that we sang earlier says it well: I will serve Thee because I love Thee, you have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me, you have given life to me.  Heartaches broken pieces; Ruined lives are why You died on Calv’ry.  Your touch was what I longed for, you have given life to me. 

Song: I am not my own

Benediction: Thank God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  So, then, brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone move you off the foundation ⸤of your faith⸥. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord. You know that the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless. ” 1 Corinthians 15:57–58 (GW)

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John 21:1-17.  “Do You Love Me?”

April 16, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to WorshipI will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.  Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.” Psalm 89:1–2 (NLT)

John 21:1–17 1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. 3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. 4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. 5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. 6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. 7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. 9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. 10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. 12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead. 15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” (NLT)

      How many of you here, daily have to choose not to sin?  Let me see your hands.  Now, how many of you have wished at some time or another that you didn’t have to make this choice anymore, that the temptation to sin would just go away?  Any hands?

      Before we become a Christian, we have no choice, everything we do will ultimately be coming from our sinful nature, driven by its selfish and sinful motives. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Have you ever wondered, why, after we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we still have to choose not to sin?  Why doesn’t God just take away our will to sin?

      In Colossians chapter 3, we read that we are to choose to leave the old sinful ways behind, and choose to put on the new nature which is given to us in Christ.  There it is again!  The burden of choice.  In Christ, we have the freedom to choose between our old nature and our new nature.  Why does God give us a choice?

      Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend in their book “Boundaries in Marriage” give 10 laws of boundaries to marriage and say this about the 5th law,

the law of motivation states that we must be free to say no before we can wholeheartedly say yes.  No one can actually love another if he feels he doesn’t have a choice not to.  Giving your time, love or vulnerability to your spouse requires that you make your own choice based on your values, not out of fear.

      Having to do anything is a sign that someone is afraid. . . Fear always works against love.  The “have to” destroys the “choose to”.  Conversely, love drives out fear (1 Jn. 4:18).  When we are freely choosing to love, we are no longer driven by …fear.  We are driven by affection. (p. 49)

      As I read what Townsend & Cloud said about love in marriage, I realized that this is the answer to our question. Why doesn’t God just take away our will to sin? God doesn’t make us love Him, He loves us and wants us to choose to love Him – not because we must (by design or pressure {obligation, fear of reprisal, alienation}).  Love must be given freely as a choice, as a gift, free from fear which drives away true love.

      We here today may all realize the scope of God’s love for us – what does John 3:16 say?  But do you realize that what God wants from you more than anything is that you would choose to love Him.  That you would love Him with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:4,5).  God doesn’t force us to love Him, but He gives us the opportunity to choose to love Him, to grow in our love-based relationship with Him.

      We just finished an overview of the Gospel of Mark, which is believed to be based on the preaching of the Apostle Peter.  Peter had claimed he loved Jesus enough to die for him. Yet the night Jesus was arrested, Peter swore on three separation occasions that he didn’t even know Jesus! To add to his grief, the sound of a rooster crowing that morning reminded Peter that Jesus had warned him this very thing would happen – and Peter had said NO WAY!  Now, Peter was ashamed; he had disappointed himself; he had disappointed those who looked up to him as a leader, and surely, he had disappointed his master Jesus.  He might as well go back and make a living the way he did before he met Jesus.  Perhaps he thought at least he could be good for something that way by being able to give them something from his fishing business!

      In the passage we read this morning from John 21, Jesus in verse 15 asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (NIV).  This is a very serious question, and Jesus uses Peter’s formal name not his nickname, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  Since the term “these” is not defined, the question is ambiguous.  We are not exactly sure what Jesus is referring to when he asks Peter “do you truly love me more than these?”  It could be any of the following three possibilities:

1)  Do you love me more than these men love me?
2)  Do you love me more than you love these men?
3)  Do you love me more than these things?

      Let’s look at each one more closely.

 1)  Do you love me more than these men love me?
      At first it seems strange to think that Jesus would ask Peter this question. However, before Jesus’ death Peter did claim to be more devoted than the other disciples: Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Matthew 26:33.  “Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’” John 13:37

      It may be that Jesus is asking Peter, if he still feels this way?  At one time Peter, you expressed such devotion to me, do you still feel this way about me?

      It may also be that although Peter had made these bold statements, his subsequent actions suggested that he did not want to follow a crucified Lord.  Now the crucified Jesus stands before Peter.  Was Peter ready to love Christ as He was, not as Peter wished Him to be?

      How about you and I?  What is my passion for loving Jesus?  How does it compare with the love of other Christians?  NOW, PLEASE LISTEN, we are not to enter into a competition with our fellow Christians as to who is the best servant, but use these thoughts for some self-evaluation.  You see, it is very easy for us to get comfortable in our relationship with God and maybe even to think, that we’ve learned and do all we need to!  I find that I am encouraged to keep growing in my Christian life as I talk with believers who are growing, or read their stories (Christians present and past).  When I read of Christians today, who risk their lives to follow Jesus, I am encouraged to examine my own devotion and to keep growing in my love for Jesus.  How about you?

      A second possible meaning to the question: Peter do you love me more than these,” could be, Peter…
2)  Do you love me more than you love these men?
      It could be that Jesus was asking Peter how his love for Him compared to his love for his friends.  Peter was a man of influence and a leader second only to Jesus among the disciples.  We see here in John 21 that when Peter decided he was going fishing, 6 others men wanted to go with him.  But what would happen to Peter’s determination to follow Jesus if his friends stopped following?  Previously, Peter’s resolve to identify with Jesus had crumbled when asked by strangers about his relationship with Jesus. What would happen if these men with him fell away?  Who would he choose, Jesus or his friends?

      How about you and I?  Are you leaning on others to support you in your faith in Jesus, or will you stand firm in your faith even if you are the only one?  In the hymn, “I have decided to follow Jesus” (#454) the second verse gives the writer’s answer to this question: “Tho no one join me, still I will follow . . . no turning back, no turning back” – how about you, have you made your faith in Jesus your own or it it still dependent on your spouse, your parents or your friends?

      Jesus is asking us today, do you love me more than you love your friends, more than you love your mother or father or husband or wife?  Do you truly love ME so that you will stay with me no matter what, no turning back?

      A third possible meaning to Jesus’ question: “Peter, do you love me more than these,” could be, Peter…
3)  Do you love me more than these things?
      It could be that Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him more than he loves what he had just been doing before they saw Jesus on the beach – Fishing.  Peter, do you love me more that this fishing business – the boats, the nets, the water, the money, and knowing what tomorrow will bring.  Jesus is essentially asking Peter, and us, “Where are your priorities now?  What is most important to you?  Is it me or the stuff you have gathered around you?

      To be clear, nowhere does the Bible condemn us for earning the necessities of life.  Paul in 1 Timothy 5:8 speaks very strongly against those who refuse to provide for their family: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”   The Bible does, however does warn us against allowing material things to take priority in our life over serving God.

      Do you love Jesus, or is there a tug-of-war between devotion to Jesus and devotion to your things and the time required to do them?  If you are not sure how to tell, your use of time and use of your resources will help you to determine who is winning that tug-of-war! 

      Someone said, in comparing Abraham and Lot, that Abraham was the kind of man who, if his business interfered with his religion, gave up his business, while Lot was the kind of man who, if his religion interfered with his business, gave up his religion.  Which are you more like, Abraham or Lot?  Do you love Jesus more than the things that are constantly around you?  They offer you temporal comfort, but what about your eternal comfort?

      The three questions are self-explanatory.  We need to look at ourselves realistically and honestly face the question of our love for Jesus.  Jesus does not force us to love him.  He has shown his love us for on the cross, what is your response to him going to be? When all is said and done, the true motivation for service is love.  If we love, we serve.  If we do not love, we do not serve.  If we are not serving Jesus, it is because we love something else!  The question Jesus is asking each of us is, “Do you love me?”  What answer is your life giving?

Hymn: #364 “My Jesus, I love Thee” (vv. 1,2,4)

Benediction:  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Revelation 1:5b,6

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Mark 16.1-7.  The Victories of Easter.

April 9, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship &

opening prayer: 

L: Run from fear and darkness! Hope is on the move!
P: Run to tell the world, Christ is risen!
L: Do not be afraid. Jesus has conquered death!
P: We can proclaim with great confidence that God’s love rules.
L: Christ is risen!

Mark 16:1–7. “1 After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James bought some spices to put on Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on Sunday morning, just as the sun was coming up, they went to the tomb. 3 On their way, they were asking one another, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” 4 But when they looked, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. And it was a huge stone! 5 The women went into the tomb, and on the right side they saw a young man in a white robe sitting there. They were alarmed. 6 The man said, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who was nailed to a cross. God has raised him to life, and he isn’t here. You can see the place where they put his body. 7 Now go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter, that he will go ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” ” (CEV)

       Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council had the means & connections to get Jesus’ body released from Pilate and give it a respectful burial.  Some of the women who supported Jesus, were at the cross, followed Joseph and saw the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed, a left as dusk neared and the Sabbath was about to begin.  The Sabbath would have been a day of mourning for Jesus’ followers. 

       On Sunday, some women went to the tomb as early as the Sabbath laws would allow, to add some burial spices and perfumes to Jesus’ tomb.  They may have been restless and wanted to properly prepare their Lord’s body.  Other followers of Jesus, including the 11 disciples gathered in a common place and for some, it was for a final farewell before leaving Jerusalem (we know 2 people left from here in the morning and walked to Emmaus).  The Passover was finished; it seems there wasn’t much point in staying any longer.  Then news began to spread about incredible encounters, Jesus is alive!

     We know that as we continue reading in the other Gospels that Jesus appeared in the flesh to his disciples, confirming to them that he had indeed risen & was alive. That fact changed everything!  Gloom, hopelessness, mourning and sadness were turned to wonder, amazement, joy and praising.  The sadness of Friday had been replaced by the Victory of Easter!  God the Father raised Jesus the Son back to life, confirming the truth of Jesus’ words and teaching. Over the course of the next 40 days Jesus appeared to his disciples and helped them understand the scriptures.  He explained why he had to suffer, die and rise again to make salvation available to all. This is what Peter said in his first sermon recorded in:  Acts 2:22–24 (NLT)22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him.24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.

The first victory of Easter is:

  1. Victory over death! Remember what the angel said to the women at the tomb: “You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who was nailed to a cross. God has raised him to life, and he isn’t here. Mark 16:6 (CEV)

            Jesus is alive because death could not keep him in its grip!  He has won the victory over death by defeating it. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 6:9. “We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word.” (The Message)

       Christ’s victory over death doesn’t end with him, it is only the beginning!  Jesus’ resurrection has life changing implications for all who accept Him as their sin forgiver and life leader.  Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 says “13 And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. 14 Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 (The Message).

       Death is no longer something we need to fear as Christian, because it cannot separate us from our God (Romans 8:38-39). 

The first victory of Easter is victory over death.  The second is:

  1. Victory over sin!

       Jesus’ resurrection has confirmed that Jesus has met the requirements of the law for sin on our behalf and defeated death; therefore, sin no longer has any control over those who accept Jesus as their sin forgiver and follow him as their life leader.  Victory over sin results in the freedom of God. Listen to the promises of God’s Word: 

1 Peter 2:24 “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (NLT)

1 Peter 3:18. “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” (NLT)

Revelation 1:5 “And from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us.” (NLT)

The victories of Easter include: victory over death, victory over sin and:

  1. Victory over meaninglessness.

       When Jesus’ disciples began to realize that Jesus was risen, just as he had said he would, their lives were changed completely.  They now had a reason to live.  They began to study what the scriptures said about him and then began to teach others what Jesus had taught them.  Life was no longer meaningless.

       So many people today are looking for a purpose in life.  This is because we are created with a need to have purpose.  Responding in belief to Christ’s death and resurrection puts our life and its purpose in perspective.  Our loving God created us for a relationship with himself and loved us so much as to die in our place that the relationship could be restored and our purpose renewed.  Listen to what victory over meaninglessness sounds like from Romans 8:1b-2, 9-15 (The Message):

        “1b Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” Romans 8:1b–2

        “9 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. 10 But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. 11 It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

            12 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. 13 There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14 God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”Romans 8:9–15 (The Message).

       The Apostle Paul says it so powerfully, the victory of Easter, Jesus’ resurrection is that those who choose to ask Jesus to be their sin forgiver and life leader have been freed “from a lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death into an adventurous expectant life with our loving God!

Closing Song: In Christ alone

Benediction: To the one who loves us and released us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5b–6 (LEB)

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Mark 11.1 – 14.11. The rejection of Jesus.
April 2, 2023.

Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Psalm 9:1–2. “I will give ⸤you⸥ thanks, O Lord, with all my heart. I will tell about all the miracles you have done. I will find joy and be glad about you. I will make music to praise your name, O Most High.” (GW)

I want you to think about the answers to some questions: What drives and motivates you? What energizes you? What gets you up in the morning and keeps you going day after day?
Now, think about these questions: What drains you? What shuts down your joy and energy? Disappointments (unfulfilled expectations) criticism, opposition, mockery, being misunderstood? It is hard to keep going under these circumstances, isn’t it?
How did Jesus do it? As we’ve looked at the Gospel of Mark, one can see the opposition and misunderstanding that Jesus faced daily, how did he keep going? Three times in Mark, Jesus has told his disciples of his coming suffering, death and resurrection, and yet they do not understand (Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34). Immediately after Jesus shared with the Twelve, we read: “35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”” Mark 10:35–37 (NIV). Obviously, they didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them about his upcoming death and resurrection. Neither did the other disciples since they were upset at being upstaged by James and John: “41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.” Mark 10:41 (NIV). Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them all about servant leadership, yet even his closest followers were still not tracking with him, wouldn’t that be discouraging at the very least!

This Sunday in the church calendar is celebrated as Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem while those with him shouted: “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”” Mark 11:9b–10 (NIV). Yet before this week is finished, crowds in Jerusalem will be shouting “crucify him, crucify him.” Why does Jesus keep going?

Over the next few days in Jerusalem, Jesus is challenged by the Chief Priests and teachers of the law, the Pharisees and Herodians and the Sadducees – all trying to trick him into saying something they can use against him. Each time he turns the tables on them, leaving the crowds in awe and his opponents all the more determined to put him to death (Mk. 12:12; 14:1).

Two days before Passover, Jesus is in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper when a woman comes in and pours very expensive perfume over his head. “Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.”
“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.” Mark 14: 4–8, 10–11 (NLT). Is Jesus’ team disintegrating? How frustrating would that be two days before Passover?
What keeps Jesus going, he seems undeterred by setbacks and opposition? It is because he knows his purpose; he knows why he has come! The first words Mark records of Jesus for us is in Mark 1:15. ““The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”” (NLT). When Jesus’ followers were asked why he associated with known sinners, Jesus said: ““Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”” Mark 2:17b (NLT). As Jesus finished teaching his disciples about servant leadership, he said of himself: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” Mark 10:45 (NLT).
Jesus was undeterred by misunderstanding or rejection because he knew why he had come and the importance of his successful mission for us. During their Passover meal we read in Mark 14:22–25. “As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”” (NLT)

After Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection, his disciples began to understand for themselves the scope and importance of Jesus’ mission. On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ followers, we see that Peter now understands who Jesus is and joins him in his mission: Acts 2:36. ““So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”” (NLT)

Acts 2:38. “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (NLT)

When Peter & John are brought before the same council that orchestrated Jesus’ death, the Sanhedrin, Peter boldly declares to them: “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”” Acts 4:12 (NLT). Peter had come to understand his purpose, and he passed it on to God’s elect, the Church, you and I, to share that there is forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus, and him alone! 1 Peter 2:21–24. “God called you to endure suffering because Christ suffered for you. He left you an example so that you could follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Christ never verbally abused those who verbally abused him. When he suffered, he didn’t make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly. Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God’s approval. His wounds have healed you.” (GW)

Hymn: #359 Jesus is Lord of all (vv. 1-3)

Benediction: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! Revelation 5:12-13

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Mark 8.27-38.  Following Jesus: The choice a disciple must make.
March 26, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV)

      As we turn our attention to the third major section of Mark, chapters 8:27 – 10:52, Jesus now focuses on instructing his disciples.  After healing the blind man in Bethsaida, Jesus and his disciples travel 25 miles north, near the Gentile city named after Augustus Caesar and the area’s ruler Herod Philip, Caesarea Philippi.

      We are reading the Gospel of Mark, knowing Jesus is the Son of God, and so we are watching his disciples, and wondering when they are going to understand who Jesus is.  They have seen Jesus heal many, yet they are terrified when Jesus calms the waves (Mk. 4:41), amazed when he walks to them on the water (Mk. 6:51-52), and don’t understand the meaning of Jesus’ ability to feed thousands of people with a few loaves: 17b Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” Mark 8:17–18a (NIV).

      Finally in Mark 8:27-30, they tell Jesus who they believe he is – with Peter speaking for all of them: Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” Mark 8:27–30 (NIV). 

      One might think that after this eureka moment Jesus would send them off to tell everyone, but instead he tells them to keep it to themselves, why?  Because, as we see in the following verses, the Jewish understanding of the Messiah was very different from Jesus’ mission.  Their Messiah had political goals – he would free them from servitude to the Gentiles.

      After Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, we read of Jesus that: He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31 (NIV).  Peter then took Jesus aside and “began to rebuke” him.  Perhaps Peter thought Jesus was discouraged and need to be encouraged that the Messiah was a winner, not a loser –this won’t happen to you… Peter likely didn’t get finished before Jesus looked at his disciples and corrected them all! But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”” Mark 8:33 (NIV).    

      Jesus then called to all who were near, and began to explain that to follow him means denial of self and sacrificially following him.  Did the disciples understand?  It doesn’t appear so; Jesus repeats this twice more (9:30-32; 10:32-34).  It is suggested that Mark highlights the mystery of Jesus as the Messiah because Jesus’ mission can not be fully understood without the crucifixion and resurrection.  The transfiguration gives Peter, James and John are given a glimpse of Jesus’ glory, but it is not until they meet the risen Jesus that they begin to understand that as Messiah, Jesus’ mission included the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.  I think many of us struggle with who we think Jesus should be and who he really is.  To call him “my Lord” and then want him to do what we think is best, is misunderstanding the meaning of “my Lord,” to say the least!  Let’s now take a closer look at what Jesus says is required of his disciples.

1.  Disciples must surrender ourselves completely to Jesus.

Mark 8:34: Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (NIV)

      Disciples of Jesus are called to choose to submit their will to that of God’s, let Him have His way with you.  Tim Gustafson told this story in an Our daily bread devotional: “A weed is any plant that grows where you don’t want it,” my father said, handing me the hoe. I wanted to leave the corn plant that had “volunteered” among the peas. But Dad, who had grown up on a farm, instructed me to pull it out. That lone cornstalk would do nothing but choke the peas and rob them of nutrients.  Human beings aren’t plants—we have minds of our own and God-given free will. But sometimes we try to bloom where God doesn’t intend us to be. [1]

      Our selfish nature wants to be where we are comfortable and get our own way, we even think we know better than God!  Sometimes we argue with God, sometimes we just ignore him: I don’t want to: forgive them, help them, go there, do that…

      Disciples must submit their will to Jesus, and NOT part-time or when it suits us!  We say to our Lord Jesus: “Not my will but yours be done.” I must be willing to give up selfishness and preoccupation with self in order to discover my true self in Christ.

2.  Disciples must identify with Jesus in suffering and death.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34b: (NIV)

      Part of the purpose of the Roman crucifixion was the fear and public humiliation it generated.  This served as a warning and deterrent to others.  Jesus calls his disciples to a denial of self which includes a willingness to give up their physical lives, rather than give up their faith in him!  Believers are still doing this today! 

      Those who wish to be Jesus’ disciples must die to self-centeredness and self-absorption daily.  We need to die to any plans and dreams that do not align with God’s plans.  The Bible tells us that our ways lead to harm (Prov. 14:12), but God’s ways always lead to true life. What do you need to die to? 

3.   Disciples must follow Jesus obediently, wherever he leads.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:35-36 (NIV) This is a call to humility.  A disciple of Jesus does things God’s way.  The only way to be a disciple of Jesus is to follow him and his example. 

      After Jesus’ resurrection, the Apostles came to understand Jesus’ words.  In Acts 5:40b-42 we read: They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”” Acts 5:40b–42 (NLT).

      During Lent, as we prepare to celebrate Easter, consider the choices Jesus made.  Think of what he did and gave up for our sake, in obedience to His Father.

      I am called to bear the image of the Creator. The image of the Redeemer. The image of God himself. Far too often, however, the image that the world sees reflected in me is . . . well, me. It is my own pride, arrogance and greed.  Reflect on your walk with Jesus who said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  How are you doing?  Spend time with your Lord and examine your heart – are their areas in your life where you won’t give up control? “No leave that corn stock there!”  Trust that He knows best for you and wants what’s best for; to become more like Jesus.  Let Him have his way with you!

Hymn # 371 “Have Thine own way Lord” (1,2,4)

Benediction: Let the wonderful kindness and the understanding that come from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help you to keep on growing. Praise Jesus now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 (CEV).


[1] Our Daily Bread, Feb. 24, 2018 “Blooming in the right spot” by Tim Gustafson.

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“How do we please God?”  Mark 2.1-8.26
March 19, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “God our Savior showed us how good and kind he is. He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning. God sent Jesus Christ our Savior to give us his Spirit.” Titus 3:4–6 (CEV).

      The Gospel of Mark is anonymous, but church tradition says it was written by John Mark from Rome.  Mark was a follower of Jesus from Jerusalem who was an associate of both the Apostle Peter and Paul.  The Gospel explains Jewish traditions and language when they are mentioned, which suggests it was written for a Gentile audience.  It is believed to be based on the preaching of the Apostle Peter.  Compared to the other Gospels, Mark focuses more on what Jesus did, then on his teaching.  So, let’s watch and learn by observing Jesus’ actions.

      Mark 2:1 – 8:26 summarizes Jesus’ public ministry and can be divided into 3 general sections.  Chapters 2 & 3 deal with the initial opposition to Jesus, chapters 4 & 5 have parables and miracles of Jesus, and chapters 6, 7 and first half of chapter 8 show the opposition to Jesus increasing. 

      Why did Jesus face opposition in his ministry? Was it, like in our situations, from people who don’t want to think of themselves as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness?  Actually, no.  Jesus was criticized by religious people, because he spent time with sinful people, like tax collectors, and also for not following the accepted practices of religious Jews.  Jesus’ followers didn’t follow the practice of fasting, weren’t corrected for working on the Sabbath and Jesus himself broke the Sabbath by healing someone who wasn’t in danger of dying.  Jesus also didn’t insist that his disciples follow the practice of ceremonially cleansing themselves and their utensils. 

      In answer as to why he associated with sinners, Jesus replied that it is the sick who need a doctor and that he hadn’t come to call the righteous but sinners (2:16-17).  Jesus is responding to the people who realize they need his help and come to him.  When asked why he didn’t require his disciples to fast, Jesus said the day would come, but wedding guests don’t fast at a wedding, that would be insulting (2:18-20).  The implication is that now is a time to celebrate, not mourn & fast. Is Jesus the bridegroom here? It seems so.

      Regarding the keeping of the Sabbath by his disciples and Jesus himself, the controversy arose from Jewish tradition which listed what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath.  William Barclay explains: “…the Sabbath was hedged around with literally thousands of petty rules and regulations. All work was forbidden. Work had been classified under thirty-nine different heads and four of these heads were reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. By their action the disciples had technically broken all these four rules and were to be classified as law-breakers.[1]” (Mk. 2:23-28).    Darrell Bock in his commentary on Mark says: Jesus defended his disciples with two arguments. First, the Sabbath was never intended to create a situation in which basic human needs went unmet. Jesus made this point with the example of David, who also “broke” the law to obtain food. The second, more fundamental point was that Jesus, as Son of Man, had authority over the Sabbath.”[2]  The Sabbath was given as a day for the benefit of humanity as a day of rest and not to enslave us.

      In Mark 3:1-6 Jesus knows he is being watched to see if he will heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  To make sure the Sabbath command of not working wasn’t broken, it had been decided that medical attention could only be given if a life was in danger or to keep an injury from getting worse; however, making it better was considered working![3]  Since this man’s injury wasn’t life threatening, Jesus should have ignored the man until Sunday, but he didn’t!  Before he healed the man, he asked a question: Mark 3:4. “Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.” (NIV).  Again, Jesus frames the Sabbath as a day intended to be for the benefit of humanity, and of course of all days, it is a day to do good.  Ironically, Mark tells us the Pharisees present went out and began plotting, on Sabbath, how to kill Jesus.

      Why were the Pharisees so offended and so concerned about Jesus that they were plotting his death?  Does it matter to us, after all, we know they had Jesus killed, and that was so long ago?  I think we will see it does matter to us. 

      The Pharisees fasted twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays as an expression of mourning over the sins of Israel and over the fact that the longed-for salvation of prophetic hope had not appeared[4]  Concerning the keeping of the Sabbath, Some later rabbis said that the Messiah would come if all Israel kept the Sabbath! [5]  It would seem that one of the reasons behind the Pharisees strict enforcement of their regulations was a belief that doing the right thing is how to get God to act.  This is a human tendency which has not changed!  We are still looking for the best ways to influence God and get him to respond as we want: If we stop doing this… God will…  If we give this… God will give us … 

      Jesus’ message was not, this is what you need to do to get God to come, but rather, the time has come, kingdom of God is near, right now.  Through his teaching and his actions Jesus showed that God wasn’t waiting for us to get our act together, He had come in grace to save us now, as He promised.

      In Luke 7:1-23 Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees and teachers of the law for allowing his disciples to eat food without doing all the expected ceremonial washings – why doesn’t he keep the traditions of the elders they asked?  Listen to part of Jesus’ response in Mark 7:6–8. “Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”” (NLT).  Jesus then condemns the tradition which allowed someone to ignore God’s command to honour your father and mother, by vowing to God, what you would have spent to support your parents.  The Pharisees had fallen into the same trap we face, to try and honour God with externals actions, rather than with what comes from our heart.  It’s easier to look righteous that be righteous in our heart, this was God’s criticism of his people through Isaiah, and continues to trip us up today.

      Josh McDowell is a well-known Christian apologist. A former agnostic, his two-volume apologetic work Evidence that Demands a Verdict has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In Volume 1, Josh McDowell shares his pilgrimage from agnosticism to Christianity. While he was a university student, he went and sat down at a table in the student union with six other students and two faculty members. Josh had noticed this group that met regularly at this table, and he was intrigued by something he saw in their lives. He sat down and began visiting with the female student next to him, “Tell me, what changed your lives? Why are your lives so different from the other students and professors? Why?” Josh said that woman looked him right in the eye and said two words he never thought he would hear as part of the solution to any problem, especially at a university. She said, “Jesus Christ.” McDowell said he responded, “Don’t give me that garbage. I’m fed up with religion; I’m fed up with the church; I’m fed up with the Bible. Don’t give me that garbage about religion.”

      She shot back at him, “Mister, I didn’t say religion, I said Jesus Christ.” McDowell summarized the remainder of their discussion that day: “She pointed out something I’d never known before, Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through good works. Christianity is God coming to men and women through Jesus Christ, offering them a relationship with Himself.” [6]

      How do we please God?  It is not in religion, that is trying to manipulate God through our actions.  We please God by accepting His invitation to enter into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

      Doesn’t our good behaviour please God?  Of course, it does, but it is not what saves us.  Our good behavior is a response to His saving grace.  Then, we, under the control of the Holy Spirit, as we surrender our will to the Lord Jesus, we will seek to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence within our life: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  As we live this way, we may choose to add somethings to our life (e.g.: devotions, fasting, tithing, etc.) and remove other things (i.e.: behaviour that harms my relationship with God & others) – however, that doesn’t mean that these things are now what everyone around needs to be doing to please God – they’re for me.

      The Pharisees in wanting to please God with their actions saw this as a way of influencing God.  We need to guard ourselves from pride and trying to manipulate God through our “righteous” behaviour.  Remember, God sees our hearts, He knows our motives.  We may fool people for a while, but we cannot fool God – and why would we try, unless we are not fully submitted to Him.  Psalm 139:23–24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (NLT)

Closing song: “I am not my own.”

Benediction: Lord, send us out today as Your children, as those who care more about loving and serving You than exalting ourselves. May You keep us from filling our lives with religious ritual rather than a relationship with Jesus Christ. Bless us in Jesus’ name, Amen.


[1] Barclay, W., ed. (1976). The Gospel of Mark (p. 63). The Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] Turner, D., & Bock, D. L. (2005). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (p. 424). Tyndale House Publishers.

[3] Barclay, W., ed. (1976). The Gospel of Mark (p. 67). The Westminster John Knox Press.

[4] Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark (p. 45). Baker Books.

[5] Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark (p. 47). Baker Books.

[6] McDowell, J., & McDowell, S. (2017). Evidence that demands a verdict: life-changing truth for a skeptical world. Thomas Nelson.

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Mar 12, 2023 Podbean

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Part 1 – The introduction of Jesus.  Mark 1:1-2:12.

March 12, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “1 Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you. I will praise your name, for you have accomplished wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Isaiah 25:1 (CSB).

      According to the Church calendar, we are in the season of Lent.  This is a time of personal self-examination in preparation for Easter, a sort of spring cleaning for the soul.  Lent can be a time to reflect on what Jesus did for us on Calvary’s cross and how we have been living for him the past year.  Over the next five weeks, we are going to be spending our time in the Gospel of Mark.

      The Gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, a follower of Jesus and close associate of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul.  After Peter was miraculously released from Jerusalem prison by an Angel of God, he stopped at a prayer meeting to let them know God has freed him (Acts 12:12).  We are told the prayer meeting was at Mary’s home, the mother of John Mark.  Later John Mark travelled with his cousin Barnabas and Paul during part of their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:5,13; Col. 4:10).  When Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, John Mark was again helping Paul. In the last letter we have from Paul, he asks Timothy to get Mark and bring him along “because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).  As the Apostle Peter closed his first letter to the churches, he included greeting from John Mark, whom he called a “son” (1 Peter 5:13).  It is believed that in the Gospel of Mark we have Peter’s account of Jesus’ ministry. 

      Today we are looking at Mark 1:1-2:12 which introduces us to Jesus.  Mark begins his Gospel with the statement: 1 This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began 2 just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. 3 He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ ”” Mark 1:1–3 (NLT).  “Gospel” means “the good news” translated from the Greek word “evangelion”.  Beginning with the first century, Christians have associated the word Gospel, with the story of Jesus.  However, the average person of that day, the word “evangelion” meant an important public announcement, in today’s terms it would be like a press release.  Rowan Williams says: An euangelion, a ‘gospel’, a good message, is a message about something that alters the climate in which people live, changing the politics and the possibilities; it transforms the landscape of social life.[1]  Mark’s writing “…is meant to be an official proclamation… about someone called ‘Jesus the anointed, God’s son’… The very first verse of Mark’s Gospel would tell you that this was a book about ‘regime change’; someone’s new reign has been inaugurated.[2]

      Mark is announcing something dramatic happened with Jesus.  Who is Jesus?  How does he fit in with God’s plans explained through the Hebrew prophets?  In 1:2-3, Mark, quotes from the prophets that God’s promised one will be revealed by a fore-runner (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3).  Then Mark tells us that the well-known John the Baptist was that preparatory messenger (1:4-8).

      As John the Baptist was calling people to repent and prepare for the Messiah’s arrival, he was told to watch for the Holy Spirit to come down (Jn. 1:32-34).  Mk. 1:9-11 tells us, that as Jesus’ was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descended upon him, like a dove and a voice spoke from heaven which said: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  Here we have the testimony of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, as to whom Jesus is – the Son of God.  But what did the people around him think?  Who is he?

      The rest of chapter 1 is full of action.  Following 40 days in the wilderness 14 …Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” Mark 1:14–15 (NIV).  In Verses 21-28 people are amazed at Jesus’ authority – heard in his teaching and seen in his command of an impure spirit to leave a man: 23 Suddenly a man with an evil spirit in him entered the meeting place and yelled, 24 “Jesus from Nazareth, what do you want with us? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are! You are God’s Holy One.” 25 Jesus told the evil spirit, “Be quiet and come out of the man!”” Mark 1:23–25 (CEV).  In Genesis 50, after their father Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared that he would take revenge on them for selling him into slavery; verse 19 records his reply: 19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?” Genesis 50:19 (NLT). Who is Jesus that demons fear him? 

      Mark 1:29-34 records Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. Word of this spread quickly and after sunset many people in the town of Capernaum came for healing. Who is it that has power over human ailments?  In Genesis 30, Rachel begged her husband Jacob to give her a child, and in his frustration, he asked how she would expect him to do: “what only God can do?” (Gen. 30:2b, NCV). 

      Then in Mark 1:40-45 Jesus is approached by a man sick with leprosy, an incurable, contagious disease in those days. The man begged Jesus to heal him saying: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Mk. 1:40b). What makes him think Jesus can help him?  2 Kings 5:7 tells of a king of Israel who received similar requests: 7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”” 2 Kings 5:7 (NIV).  Jesus responded to the man’s request: 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.” Mark 1:41–42 (NLT).  Are you seeing what’s happening here?  Jesus is doing what no ordinary humans can, who is he?

      Mark continues to introduce us to Jesus as he begins chapter 2, verses 1-12:

1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” 8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” 12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”” Mark 2:1–12 (NLT).

      Once again, we see that Jesus can heal, yet with this paralyzed man, we learn even more about Jesus.  Jesus’ miracles were a sign, a demonstration that he was sent by God, that the Kingdom of God was nearby.  As the man was lowered in front of Jesus by his friends, we read: 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”” Mark 2:5 (NLT).  Sickness was seen as a result of sin, and indeed, sickness and death entered the world because of our first parent’s sin (Adam and Eve).  The paralyzed man, like some people today, may have gone over in his mind, which of my sins caused this?  Jesus saw the faith of his friends, expressed through their determined action, and spoke the words which bring spiritual healing: “My child, your sins are forgiven.” 

     The teachers of the law, immediately question this statement, and Jesus is aware of what they are thinking.  They are investigating the claims that Jesus can heal, now they hear him stating with assurance that God has forgiven this visibly sinful man. This sounds blasphemous to them, because only God can forgive sins!  So, Jesus asks them, which is easier, to say I can do something which can’t be seen (forgive sins) or confirm that his sins have been forgiven by healing this paralyzed man?  To show that he does have authority on earth to forgive sins, he tells the paralyzed man to stand up, take his mat and go home – and he does!  If any of you have had your leg in a cast for a while, you’ll know that if you don’t use your muscles, it takes time to build them back up – but this man is immediately able to walk!  The Kingdom of God has indeed drawn near.  What’s the message Mark want us to learn about Jesus by watching and listening to him?  1 This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Mk. 1:1, NLT).

      As Jesus looked up at the hole in Peter’s roof and saw the paralyzed man being lowered by his four friends, we read that Jesus saw their faith.  The faith of those who knew Jesus could help their friend wasn’t stopped by a crowded house.  I think they paid to repair the roof; such was their determination to give their friend an opportunity to meet Jesus.  They believed Jesus could heal their friend.  Do you have friends and family that would benefit from meeting Jesus?  We can’t force anyone to follow Jesus, but we can bring them to meet Jesus through prayer.  N.T. Wright says: “This story is a picture of prayer. Don’t stay on the edge of the crowd. Dig through God’s roof and find yourself in his presence.”[3]

      Read through the Gospel of Mark as if you are there watching Jesus for the first time.  What stands out for you?  Who is Jesus to you? What will you share with others about Jesus?  It can change both of your lives!

Hymn: #89 “Our great Savior” (vv. 1,2). 

Benediction: “24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25 NKJV).



[1] Williams, R. (2014). Meeting God in Mark (p. 6). SPCK.

[2] Williams, R. (2014). Meeting God in Mark (p. 7). SPCK.

[3] Wright, T. (2004). Mark for Everyone (p. 18). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

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Titus 3:1-8.  “Do this to remember me.”

March 5, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: “The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them.”  “I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.” Psalm 145:18–19, 21 (NLT)

     Today is communion Sunday.  Jesus took bread, broke, passed it around, ate it, the took the cup, blessed it, drank it, passed it around and told us to do this in remembrance of him.  We celebrate communion to remember his sacrifice, in love, his body broken and blood shed for us.  In the context of the events of that final supper, there are other things which Jesus left for us to remember.

     John 13:1-17 records that Jesus, saw the need and washed his disciples’ feet.  John 13:14–17 records what Jesus wants his followers to remember: “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. I did this as an example so that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, a servant is not greater than his master. A messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (NCV).  We are to remember, in humility, to serve one another.

     John 13:31-35 says that after Judas departed, Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them soon, and gave them important instructions: John 13:34–35. ““I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”” (NCV).  As we remember Jesus, we are to remember to love one another.

     John 15:1-17 contains Jesus’ words to us regarding the vine and the branches.  We are to show we remember Jesus by remaining in relationship to him and drawing the strength we need to live as he has told us, by depending on him: John 15:5. ““I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing.” (NCV)

     We have been learning from Paul’s letter to Titus, and what the church in Crete was to do, and what they were to remember.  Paul’s assignment to Titus was to ensure that these churches would represent the Lord God well.  To do so, they needed:

  1. A) Godly leaders who understood, taught, and could defend sound doctrine.
  2. B) The congregation, in submission to Christ, was to serve one another and to live godly lives among non-believers, including those who opposed them. Titus was to guide them to this – trust and a desire to change would be needed. To be this salt and light in their communities (Titus 3:1-2), Paul wants them to remember three things:

1) Where they came from.

2) What God did for them.

3) How they were to respond.

     First, to act in humility towards other people, these Christians needed to remember where they came from, meaning their condition before accepting Jesus as their sin forgiver.  Titus 3:3 describes the heart condition of all of us: “We used to be stupid, disobedient, and foolish, as well as slaves of all sorts of desires and pleasures. We were evil and jealous. Everyone hated us, and we hated everyone.” Titus 3:3 (CEV).  We may not have outwardly acted out what was within, but it was a power keg of sin within us, just waiting for a spark to be made visible.

     Second, we are to remember what God did for us, Titus 3:4-7.  “4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.Titus 3:4–7 (NIV).  When we were helpless to save ourselves (v. 3), “the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” – what is this describing?  John 3:16 – God so love the world that he gave – who – his only son.  The kindness and love of God which has appeared is Jesus!  Why, because of God’s mercy, not our righteous lives – we were helpless to help ourselves.  God the Father, sent Jesus the Son, who sent the Holy Spirit to wash and renew us – here is the Trinity!  The triune God’s purpose in our salvation was so we who have accepted his grace would become heirs, confident of eternal life.

     The third item we are to remember concerns our response to the good news of God’s grace: Titus 3:8. “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (NIV).  Titus 3:1& 2 gives specific examples of what this behaviour will look like as it is lived out: “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.” Titus 3:1–2 (NLT).

     Jesus calls us to remember his body broken and his blood shed.  We show we remember as we reflect on our past life, rejoice in what God did for us and respond by living to give him glory and honour.  We do this by humbly serving one another, loving one another and drawing the strength we need to do these things through depending solely on our Lord Jesus Christ.

     As we close our study of the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus and prepare ourselves to celebrate communion, join me in a responsive reading that touches on some of the themes in Titus:

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty.

I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds.Psalm 145:4–6. (NIV)

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.Micah 7:18–19. (NIV)

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.Psalm 40:2–3. (NIV)

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3. (NIV)

The Love we have from You, O Lord “is patient, it is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:4–8a. (NIV)

Hymn: #406 – My hope is in the Lord (vv. 1-4)

Benediction: 1 Corinthians 15:56–58. “It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (The Message)

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“As a follower of Jesus, devote yourself to doing good.” Titus 3.
February 26, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: “God our Savior showed us how good and kind he is. He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning. God sent Jesus Christ our Savior to give us his Spirit.” Titus 3:4–6 (CEV).

Titus 3 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.

     We have been looking at Paul’s letter to Titus, because, like Hebrews chapter 11, it deals with faith.  Faith, not just in the sense of a belief system, but faith that impacts my behavior, how I think, act and what I long for.  For those listed in Hebrews 11, their faith in God led them to trust God and do what He told them to do. 

     In the Epistle to Titus, Paul has assigned Titus the task of teaching the churches in Crete how to choose in their leadership and how to live out their faith.

     Chapter one deals with what to look for in a godly leader and how to respond to those who oppose sound doctrine, the God entrusted Gospel Paul and Titus had taught them.  It is important to see that an elder was to be a good loving leader first of their own family.  This is because since giving leadership to a church was being a steward of God’s household, God’s family!  Since the church is God’s family, we are brothers & sisters and therefore responsible to and for one another!

     Chapter 2 instructs Titus on what to teach the different groups within the church.  Just as in chapter 1 where we can use the requirements of an elder to measure our own spiritual development, in chapter 2, we can use these verses to evaluate our spiritual maturity and activity in the church body.  Most of us have been raised in a very individual focused culture: we are told to look out for ourselves because no one else will.  Yes, we need to have a personal relationship with God, accepting Jesus as my sin forgiver and my life leader, however, let’s remember God designed us to flourish within a community of believers.  Within this community we are taught and we teach, as we grow up in Christ, together.

     Paul’s instructions to Titus in chapter 2 remind us that we are part of a fellowship.  We are a family of believers, at different points in our physical and spiritual journey, and our choices can help or hinder others.  There is no place for boredom or self-centredness as we live out our faith within the family of God, as He intended.

     Titus chapter 3 continues to remind us that the impact of our faith is to be seen beyond our church family and include our community.  Titus 3:1 & 2 says: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:1–2 (NIV).    The Greek word translated “remind them” literally means: “keep reminding them.”  By the way, verses 1 & 2 are one sentence, so Titus is to keep reminding them to do all these things.  Why do you suppose they needed to be constantly reminded?  Because this response wasn’t something that came naturally to the people! It seems not much has changed in 2000 years, yet remember, this attitude was expected from them, even though their situation was much more difficult than ours today. Crete, like most countries around the Mediterranean Sea, was an occupied land.  They were ruled by the armies of the city of Rome, lead by the emperor.  Rome picked the governors, magistrates, made the laws and collected the taxes; the Crete’s obeyed and in doing so, lived.

     Some Christians today struggle with respecting government leaders they disagree with.  Jesus told his disciples that when ordered to carry a pack one mile (a Roman law to assist their army) they were to carry it two miles (Matt. 5:41).  Jesus paid the temple tax (Matt. 17:27) and said to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Matt. 22:21).  Peter echoes Paul’s words to Titus, in 1 Peter 2:13-14 by telling Christians to submit to every established authority for the Lord’s sake. In Romans 13:1, Paul says everyone must submit to the governing authorities, because they have been established by God.  In Acts we see the authorities are only challenged when they demand Christians stop preaching about Christ (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29).

      What’s the unspoken question which follow Titus 3:1–2?  It’s one parents often hear?  WHY?  Why do I need to be considerate and gentle towards everyone, have you met my neighbour?  He is so inconsiderate, hostile and sometimes downright evil?  Why are we told to be peaceable & considerate?  Because once we weren’t any different from the hostile world around us.  Verse 3 lists 8 sinful ways people act, things that at one time we were doing.  The behaviour listed in vv. 1 & 2 that Christians (under the control of the Holy Spirit) are to display, includes those who ARE HARD TO LOVE – as we once were – yet, God chose to love us!

     Why am I to show love & grace to those who don’t deserve it?  Verses 4-7 tell us, that as God’s children, as members of His family, His character is to be visible in our lives.  How did God treat us, when we were sinners?  Verse 4 – He loved us.  Verse 5 – He saved us – not because we were good, but because of His mercy.  Verses 7 & 8 tell us why God did this, as well as the results of His mercy: God’s saving grace ensures that we will be with Him forever, we inherit eternal life!  This certainty is to motivate we who have put our trust (faith) in God, to devote ourselves to doing good.  This is the 2nd time we are called to do this in chapter 3!

     Verses 9-11 give the antithesis, the opposite of doing good, and that is getting caught up in foolish speculative opinions that sound spiritual, but are time wasters and unproductive, because they cause arguments and divisions.

     Verses 12-15 contain Paul final remarks and greetings.  It is interesting to see that Paul continues to be the administrator of his team even in the conclusion of this short letter.  Titus is to prepare to depart Crete when Artemas or Tychius arrive and to proceed to Nicopolis, where Paul plans to spend the winter.  In verse 13 Titus is encouraged to help two Christian brothers get all they need to for their trip.  Presumably this includes financial assistance as well as logistical support.  Verse 14 suggest that v. 13’s “do everything you can” includes encouraging the believers in Crete to the goal of working to support these men, literally, as a way of learning “to devote themselves to doing what is good”  – here is the 3rd time we are reminded to do good!  Verse 14 calls them, and us as well, to keep doing what is good, in order to meet the urgent needs of others, and therefore protect us from living unproductive lives. 

     Our faith in Jesus isn’t to remain just a belief system.  Our faith is to impact how we live.  The maturity of our faith is measurable through our behaviours and actions: Our actions & attitudes within our families.  Our actions & attitudes within our Church family.  Our patient actions & considerate responses within our community and our world.  Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, and because He loved and forgave us our sins, we are to devote ourselves, for Jesus’ sake, to doing good!

Hymn: #366 “I surrender all”

Benediction: Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice. Romans 15:5–6 (CSB).

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“Living a God-filled life within the family of God.”  Titus 2.
February 19, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: (based on Psalm 25)

We lift up our souls to you, Holy God. We trust the Lord with our past, present, and future. Teach us, Lord, that we may know your ways.  Guide our every move, Holy One, that we may walk in your paths of love and mercy.  Let us worship the One who leads us in what is right. Together, let us worship God!


      For the next couple of weeks, we are going to continue our look at Paul’s letter to Titus. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to his younger colleague, Titus, whom Paul had left on the Island of Crete to assist the churches in choosing Elders and to help the Christians understand their mission.  It is generally felt that the letter to Titus was written during the time between Paul’s first and second imprisonment in Rome, this would place it after the events recorded in the Book of Acts.  While this letter is often seen as a handbook for new pastors, is it also a guidebook for all Christians on how our faith in Christ is to change our behaviour.

      Last week as we looked at Titus chapter one, we concentrated on verses 5-9, a passage intended to give guidance in the selection, from within the congregation, of elders / overseers, those today whom we call pastors and deacons.  We also saw that this list of behaviors and character traits should also be used to help us to evaluate our own walk with Christ, “Am I maturing as a Christian?”.  

      Chapter 2, verse 1 says: “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1(NIV).  Why does Paul say this to Titus?  If we look at chapter 1:10-16, we see that the churches in Crete where being influenced by false teachers who tried to lead the Christians away from sound doctrine of the Gospel.  They were adding laws and myths to the Gospel.  Paul was especially disturbed that whole households were being disrupted by these self-serving teachers (1:11). 

      Paul was concerned about the breakup of families, not only because they are the foundation of society, but also the church at that time, often being house churches. Notice also that the church is described as family.  In Titus 1:6-7, Paul desires that an elder/overseer be committed to his wife and children, because they “manage God’s household,” this is how the church is described – God’s household.  God is our Father, and fellow Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul described his co-worker Titus, as a true son in our common faith.  As we look at chapter two with its lists of appropriate and inappropriate Christian behavior directed at various groups found within the church, keep the image of the church as the family of God in mind.  Society says faith is to be personal and private, and yet for the Christian, my saving faith must be having an impact on my behavior. Paul states this in Titus 2:11–12: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” (NIV).  Your behaviour not only impact you – but your family and also your church family, to the benefit or detriment of its testimony to the community. 

      Paul begins chapter 2 by telling Titus to “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.”  The Greek word here translated as “teach” in this and the following verses doesn’t limit it to a preaching or Bible study setting, it also means to promote or to encourage, which can be done informally in daily interactions.

      Interestingly, Paul doesn’t begin with general statements for the whole congregation, but gives “assignments” to the already established groups within society and the church.  The older men, those over 40, were looked to as the leaders, and Paul tells Titus to encourage them to be examples, worthy of respect, not merely due to their age, but because of their self-control and growing spiritual maturity.  Titus 2:2. “Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.” (NLT). 

      The older women are the next group of leaders Titus is to encourage to honor God with their lives, through their choices to abstain from what society likely saw as the norm for them – gossip & alcohol dependency.  These maturity women, were to teach/promote/encourage what is good, and to be responsible the third group identified in the congregation.  It is the responsibility of the older women to mentor the younger women in their congregation on how to be a godly wife and mother.  Being understood, prayed for and encouraged that with the Lord, you will make it, can make all the difference in a fellow believer’s life!  Be open to developing inter-generational relationships, you can be an encouragement to each other.

      Paul instructs Titus to encourage the young men to be self-controlled – something which can be challenging at that age, but also something all the previous ages groups were also told to do.  Being a young man himself, Paul tells Titus to show them how it’s done: Titus 2:6–7. “In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” (NLT).  Titus is to be an example to the young men in each congregation, and also to model to the church how we all are to reflect Christ Jesus in our life.

      In verse 9 & 10 Paul addresses another group which was present within most homes and therefore within the church, slaves.  Listen to these verses from the Message Translation: Titus 2:9–10. “Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.” (NLT).  Some slaves did live in miserable conditions, others were apprentices or domestic workers, and as we see here, were considered a part of the household, and also a house church.  No doubt a question owners had about Christianity was, “what happens if my slave becomes a Christian?  Will she/he rebel?” 

      Paul, who began this letter by identifying himself as a slave of God, tells slaves to respect and obey their masters.  Here is a quote from the Preaching the Word Commentary. In doing this: “The slaves become the Savior’s representatives, responsible for conduct that can lead to their masters’ salvation. This perspective makes a master’s ultimate welfare dependent on his slave and makes a slave the master of his superior’s future.  This inversion of master/slave roles makes Paul’s statement in the following verse all the more striking: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (2:11).[1]  In the context of verses 9 & 10, verse 11 “encourage slaves to remember that even societal superiors who have been corrupted by their worldly privileges are objects of the grace of God and thus should not be denied the message of salvation by slaves who already possess the higher privileges of eternity.” [2]  It takes mature faith, love and endurance to remind yourself that demonstrating Christ’s lordship in your life through obedience to your master, gives credibility to the teachings of Christ, which may lead to your master’s salvation.

      Titus 2:11-15 summarizes what Paul calls Titus to teach / encourage (2:15).  It tells us what behavior to reject, accept, what to do while we wait and reminds us of why Jesus came:  Titus 2:11–1511 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (NIV). 

      This chapter is not just about evaluating our spiritual maturity, but reminding us that we are part of a family, God’s family.  As family, we learn and teach one another, grow and help, cry and laugh and pray together, through all that life brings.  Look at Titus 2:11-14 and notice all the “us” and “we” – we are in this wonderful family of God together!

      I will close with a storyJohn Buchanan writes of a person trying to do ministry. She is an elderly woman shut into her home by age and blindness.

      She lost her husband early in their marriage. With two daughters to raise, the menial jobs that she could get would not provide enough income. So, she supplemented her small salary by baking wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth sourdough bread. When the daughters grew up and left home, the baking did not stop. The woman who had given herself so much for others was simply in the habit of putting others first. She kept baking bread and giving it away to friends.

      Then something began to affect her sight. She progressed from weakened sight to total blindness very quickly. With so much against her, and so much pressure simply to survive, no one would have blamed her for calling it quits on everything except what was needed to take care of herself. But instead of submitting to the darkness, the elderly woman made an important decision. Baking bread was what God had given her to do to express her love and care to others. She would not give it up simply because she could not see.

      So she mixes the flour and water she does not see, finds the dials on the oven in the dark, bakes the bread by instincts long developed in the light, and gives the loaves to people whose faces she can only imagine. She cannot tell you entirely why she bakes blind—only that God has given her love to share with those whose future and present need the yeast of her selfless love in order to share the bread of life with others.

      Whether we are attending church or a Bible study or offering fellowship to another family or are baking blind, we do not physically see the spiritual effects on others. But what we share with each other in these settings is spiritual life, nourishment, and protection more sustaining than earthly eyes can estimate. Still, Heaven sees and blesses through such selfless sharing that prepares us for the future, protects us in the present, and shapes hearts forever.[3]

Hymn #366 “I surrender all” (vv. 1,2,4)

Benediction: 1 Thessalonians 3:12–13 12 May the Lord make your love grow more and multiply for each other and for all people so that you will love others as we love you. 13 May your hearts be made strong so that you will be holy and without fault before our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (NCV)

[1] Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (pp. 333–334). Crossway Books.

[2] Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 334). Crossway Books.

[3] Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (pp. 335–336). Crossway Books.

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Feb. 12, 2023 Podbean

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“Sharpening my focus.” Titus 1:1-9.

February 12, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16–17 (NIV).

Titus 1:1-9 1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, 4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

       5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (NIV)

       One day Victoria Pierce of Nashville opened her front door and her dog raced in, yelping and covered with skunk spray. With Victoria chasing him, the dog ran through every room, rubbing himself against every cushion, rug, and piece of upholstered furniture. The whole house had to be decontaminated.

      The stench of sin is worse than all the foul odors of earth. When we dishonor the commands of Scripture, it’s a stench rising to heaven. …Only the Bible tells us how to rid our life of the foul effects of sin. We must confess and turn from them, letting the Lord bathe us in grace.[1]

      The stench and stain of our sin is beyond our ability to remove, but God has a plan.  This is the message of forgiveness offered in John 3:16 – “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” John 3:16 (CEV). This is the first verse that the AWANA children learn when they come to club, it is where our renewed relationship with our God begins.

      We recently finished looking at Hebrews chapter 11, which highlights those who did incredible things by putting their faith in the Lord God.  How does one go from John 3:16 to Hebrews 11?  The writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to grow up in their faith, how do we do that? In other words: The Lord has removed the stench of sin from our life, how do we mature in our faith?

      For the next few weeks we are going to focus on Paul letter to Titus. The content of this letter is like 1 Timothy, but briefer. This letter has only three chapters, with a total of 46 verses, but it is packed with wisdom on what living and walking by faith looks like.

      Titus was written by the Apostle Paul to his younger colleague, Titus, whom Paul had left on the Island of Crete to select Church Elders in the churches.  While this letter is often treated as a handbook for new pastors, this was not the first time Titus was asked by Paul to aid congregations.  Titus was sent by Paul to help the troubled churches in Corinth a couple of times, and he did help them.  Titus is not mentioned in the book of Acts, but Galatians 2:1,3 says that Paul took Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile Christian to Jerusalem and was not compelled to have him circumcised.  This is believed to be the events described in Acts 15.  Acts also does not record Paul going to Crete to plant churches.  It seems that this letter to Titus was written during the time between Paul’s first and second imprisonment in Rome. 

      We’ve already heard Titus chapter one from the NIV translation, here is Titus 1:1-4 from the Message Translation: “1 I, Paul, am God’s slave and Christ’s agent for promoting the faith among God’s chosen people, getting out the accurate word on God and how to respond rightly to it. 2 My aim is to raise hopes by pointing the way to life without end. This is the life God promised long ago—and he doesn’t break promises! 3 And then when the time was ripe, he went public with his truth. I’ve been entrusted to proclaim this Message by order of our Savior, God himself. 4 Dear Titus, legitimate son in the faith: Receive everything God our Father and Jesus our Savior give you!” Titus 1:1–4 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language).

      Mark Twain, is usually thought of for his wit, but I appreciate the wisdom in this quote of his: “The two most important days in your life are… the day you are born… and the day you find out why.”  Mark Twain.

      Paul had met the Risen Jesus and he had come to understand why he was born.  We can see this in Titus 1:1-3.  He identifies himself as God’s slave, an Apostle, agent, a sent-one of Jesus Christ, whose purpose is to strengthen their faith & knowledge of the truth, leading to godliness and assurance of life eternal.  Paul saw the wonder of his relationship with the Lord Jesus as something to be shared!  Is this to be any different with us?  Our efforts may be different in scope from Paul’s, but all Christians have been bought from slavery to sin by God and are sent by Jesus Christ (the great commission) to tell others, baptize and disciple.

      I suspect that in this letter, Paul is not telling Titus anything new to him, and that this letter is intended to support Titus’ authority and teach the Crete believers what godly characteristics to look for and develop in.  In verse 5 we see that Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders/overseers in every town which has a congregation.  As we saw in vv. 1-3 Paul had come to understand “why he had been born” and he wants Titus to choose leaders who will do the same in the communities of Crete. The terms elders/overseers refer to pastors or bishops, and what follows in verse 6-9 lists what to look for in these individuals.  Please refer to these verses when you are selecting leaders, but also don’t ignore them when you are evaluating your own relationship with Jesus Christ!  Remember, at this point in church history, there were no seminaries, the leaders being considered for pastors and bishops were like you, people from all walks of life that accepted Jesus as their sin forgiver and life leader.  Keep that in mind as we look at the qualifications mentioned in Titus 1:6-9.

Titus 1:6. “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” (NIV)

Titus 1:6. “As you select them, ask, “Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?”” (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

      Blameless means that no charges can be brought against him – he has a good reputation in the community – remember in a small town, there are no secrets!  At first glance, one might conclude that an elder must be someone who has a firm grip on his wife and children.  However, you do not achieve the desired results by being a drill sergeant.  Husband, you are to be faithful & committed to your wife!  Parents, you must live your faith and pray that your children will want to follow in your footsteps.  Fathers, live with consistency in your life so your children will grow to respect you and want to imitate your behavior.  This is not describing someone who is controlling, but someone who’s life inspires others to imitate them!

Titus 1:7. “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” (NIV)

Titus 1:7. “It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry.” (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

      Verse 7 begins by reminding us that we who give leadership to the church, and a Baptist church uses a congregational form of leadership, are doing this as a manager on behalf of God.  In other words, people, this is God’s church not the pastor’s or the membership’s – we are responsible to God for how we manage His household!  This is why being a good manager of your own household is a pre-requisite for managing God’s household.

Blameless: Again, this is stressed – meaning unaccused. 

Not overbearing: Not one who is self-pleasing, self-willed, or arrogant.  Ask yourself, “do I always have to be right or have my own way?” 

Not quick-tempered: This describes someone who does not have their anger under control.  As Christians we are, with Christ’s help to be humble & gentle as Jesus is (2 Cor. 10:1).

Not given to drunkenness: How do you relax and relieve stress?

Not violent: Describes a quarrelsome person.  How do you handle frustrations and confrontations? 

Not pursuing dishonest gain or being greedy for money: Some questions to ask yourself is – What drives me? Am I tempted to cross the line if it is profitable or is my clean conscious worth more to me than wealth?

      In verses 8 & 9 Paul now list qualities we want in our lives and in our Christian leaders.

Titus 1:8. “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” (NIV)

Titus 1:8. “He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself,” (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

Hospitable: This literally means “a lover of strangers.” In the 1st century hospitality was a very practical expression of love – you took strangers into your home.

One who loves what is goodPhilippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)

Self-controlled: A balanced view of yourself. Self-controlled is listed four more times in chapter 2, and in 2:11-12 we are reminded that it is a result of God’s grace.

Upright, righteous: A call to be fair, equitable and honest in how you deal with others.

Holy, reverent: The word used here carries the meaning of pure and unpolluted – a life reflecting Christ Jesus.

Disciplined: Control over oneself and being in control of one’s strength. “This kind of self-control is only possible for the person who is mastered by the Word of God and led by the Spirit of God.” [2]

Titus 1:9. “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (NIV)

Titus 1:9. “and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it.” (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

      An elder / overseer must be devoted to the truth of God’s Word so to: 1) Encourage others by sound doctrine, 2) Be able to refute those who oppose it.  Those assigned to detect counterfeit money first become experts by handling genuine currency.  To detect false doctrine, you must understand sound doctrine, what and why you believe.

      I trust you are seeing how you an use these verses not only to evaluate a pastoral candidate, but as a check list to check your own heart and ask: How am I doing Lord?

      The Exalting Jesus in Titus Commentary concludes its study of Titus 1:6-9 with a quote from Richard Baxter directed at pastors: “Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine, … lest you unsay with your lives what you say with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labors”[3] I think these words serve also as a reminder to all Christians – to submit all our behaviour to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whether in our work place, church or home – Jesus needs to be Lord of all!

Hymn: #387 “O to be like Thee” (vv. 1-3)

Benediction: “11 Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” “14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:11b, 14 (NLT)

[1] Jeremiah, David. Today’s Turing Point, Thursday, February 9, 2023.

[2] Platt, D., Akin, D. L., & Merida, T. (2013). Exalting jesus in 1 & 2 timothy and titus (Tt 1:8). Holman Reference.

[3] Platt, D., Akin, D. L., & Merida, T. (2013). Exalting jesus in 1 & 2 timothy and titus (Tt 1:5–9). Holman Reference.

Sermon podcasts
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Jan. 22, 2023 Podbean

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Next Sunday, Jan. 29, we will have a guest speaker, therefore no message will be sent out, recorded or posted next Sunday.
Hebrews 11:35-40. “Does living by faith guarantee a trouble-free life?”
Jan. 22, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: (based on Psalm 25)

We lift up our souls to you, Holy God.

We trust the Lord with our past, present, and future.

Teach us, Lord, that we may know your ways.

Guide our every move, Holy One, that we may walk in your paths of love and mercy.

Let us worship the One who leads us in what is right.

Together, let us worship God!

      Last week I explained that we are back in Hebrews chapter 11 to answer a couple of questions that this chapter deals with, which people have.  The first question, we looked at last week: Do I have to be perfect for God to accept me?  This is an important question to consider how you would answer, because many people, when they become open to accepting God’s love, struggle with the likelihood Him accept them because of all the bad they’ve done.  A look at the “Hero’s of the Faith” listed in Hebrews 11 shows us that God uses a wide variety of people and loves to use broken people to demonstrate His grace and forgiveness.

      The second question, which we will consider today is another common one that you will hear expressed in a variety of ways.  Recently I was talking with someone who had experienced a string of unfortunate circumstances and they were asking if I thought it was God judging them or the devil attacking them?  During times when someone is going through sickness or loss, I hear people saying things like: “I don’t understand why this happened to them, they are such good people.”  So, the second question, which is also answered in Hebrews, is Does living by faith guarantee a trouble-free life?  When I finally bend my knee to God and admit that I am wrong and He is right about my sin, and ask for His forgiveness and help, some of us expect our troubles to be over.  Is that a realistic expectation?  Is it biblical?

      Reading of the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11:35-40 makes it clear that walking by faith in God doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life. 

Hebrews 11:35–40.  35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (NIV)

      These verses describe Old Testament and Intertestamental people who faced persecution and death rather than give up their faith in God.  Because they were willing to die for their faith, rather than recant, the Jewish faith continued and was present when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  The writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of their history; persecution of those who walk by faith is nothing new!

      Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer, die and rise again: 31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31 (NIV).  In his final hours with his disciples, before his crucifixion, recorded in John chapters 14-16, Jesus repeatedly prepared his disciples to expect persecution:

      John 15:18–20 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (NIV). 

      Hebrews Chapter 12 challenges us, in light of the examples of faith we have just read about, to get serious about our own race of faith.  Get rid of everything that would hinder you from completing your race of faith, looking to Jesus as your example and guide.

      Hebrews 12:1–3 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NIV)

      In Hebrews 12:4-13 the readers are reminded that God disciplines those He loves, using hardships as training in righteousness, as a parent uses discipline to train a child.  Does this mean that trouble in my life is God disciplining me?  We live in a sinful, fallen world.  Our own sin cause trouble, bodies get sick & things break – causing trouble, other people’s sin impact us – causing trouble.  If the Lord is disciplining you to get rid of your love of sin in your life, you won’t have to guess.  Walton & Longman in their book, “How to read Job” address the question of God’s discipline this way: We know that God, like a good parent, disciplines those whom he loves. After all, the author of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines us like a father disciplines his son (Heb 12:4–13). But as we have learned in the book of Job, we must not be too quick to conclude that when things go wrong in our lives, God is disciplining us. Discipline is not very instructive or effective if sufferers do not know why they are being disciplined. As parents, we would not make such a mistake, so we should not think that God would be so opaque in discipline.[1]

      Does living by faith guarantee a trouble-free life?  No, it doesn’t, because Jesus said His followers would not be treated better than he was treated.  How are we to handle all that life brings us?  Follow Jesus’ example and remember His words: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV).

Closing Song:  #371 Have Thine own way Lord” (vv. 1,3,4)

Benediction: God is always with you. Even when times get difficult and the way is not clear, God is truly by your side. Rest in God’s strength and love. Serve God with joy. Go in peace. AMEN.

[1] Walton, J. H., & Longman, T., III. (2015). How to Read Job (p. 181). IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.

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Jan. 15, 2023 Podbean

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“What does it take to become a faith walker?”  Hebrews 11.1-2, 30-34.
January 15, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Call to Worship: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

      This morning I would like to return to Hebrews chapter 11.  Last November I thought we were finished as we got to verse 29 – focused on Moses, then we moved into the Advent season.  This week as we shared in Bible study, I sensed the Lord saying to me that there were still a couple of unanswered questions which needed to be answered by completing Hebrews chapter 11.  The title of today’s sermon “What does it take to become a faith-walker” touches on the first question to be addressed.  But before we get into that, let’s do some review.

      The book of Hebrews doesn’t identify the author or to whom it was written.  For many years it was assumed to have been written by the Apostle Paul, but the style and Greek vocabulary have led scholars to doubt this assumption. The many quotations from Hebrew Scripture, references to the Temple and the sacrificial system suggest it was written to people with a Hebrew background, hence, its title, Hebrews.

      The letter seems to have been written to Hebrew Christians who had once endured persecution for their faith, but were now beginning to waver in their commitment to Christ Jesus.  As chapter 10 concludes, the author reminds his readers of the importance of our faith, that is placing our trust in God to pleasing Him: 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 10:35–11:2 (NIV).

      Hebrews chapter 11 goes on to show the readers how faith was active in the lives of significant people in their history.  In fact, we see a heritage of faith laid out for us 2 This is what the ancients were commended for”.  The writer then proceeds to highlight examples of those who walked by faith, including giants in Israel’s history like Abraham and Moses.

      By the way, those of you who are feeling like getting old will or has side-lined you, a reading of Hebrews 11 will remind you that some of these giants of the faith did their best “faith work” in the latter years of their life!  For some Christians, realizing that they likely have fewer years ahead of them then behind them, helps them depend more on the Lord and focus on what is most important to them, especially sharing about their relationship with their sin forgiver and life leader, Jesus!

      Hebrews 11:1-29 is encouraging and enlightening as we see the impact of those who followed God by walking by faith: Humanity was preserved (Noah), the nations were blessed (Abraham), people to represent God received His law and became a nation (Moses).  Verses 31-32 names a few individuals who did amazing feats of faith detailed in vv. 33-34: 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.” Hebrews 11:33–34 (NLT). 

      As encouraging as these examples are, I wonder if some of us look at these verses and this walk of faith as something for ‘others’ – for someone other than me.  Why might we feel this way?  Perhaps we don’t feel our faith is big enough, or we feel we’ve blown our chance to be useful to God.  In a sense, we are asking: “Do I have to be perfect for God to us me?”  If you grab a Bible dictionary look up the life individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11:4-29, you should conclude that the answer to the question, “Do I have to be perfect for God to us me?” is no!  Looking at the individuals in today’s passage (11:30-34) should further confirm the answer is no, when wondering if you have to be perfect to be used by God.  Patsy Clairmont’s book “God uses cracked pots” comes to mind!

      How can this be, you might ask?  The strength of faith lies in the object upon which our faith is placed.  Rahab had not lived a good life among a sinful people.  She was secure within the thick walls of the fortress of Jericho.  Yet she chose instead to stake her life and that of her family on trust the God of Israel and His people.  She demonstrated her faith through her choice to hide the Hebrew spies and misdirect the soldiers who were hunting for them.  This choice to trust God, to place her life in His hands, changed her life.  She and her family were the only survivors from Jericho’s defeat, and she became part of Hebrew nation and a descendent of King David, and therefore Jesus Christ, the Son of David.

      Hebrews 11:32 mentions Gideon, Barak, Samson & Jepthah – all Judges God chose and used to lead Israel out of times when they had turned their backs on God and become oppressed by conquerors.  They are remembered for great victories, yet none were perfect, all were flawed sinners.  David, Israel’s second King is also mentioned.  He was a remarkable man of faith, composers of many Psalms, yet committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed to cover it up.  However, when God’s prophet confronted him with his sin, he did repent, acknowledging that he had sinned against God.  As he continued in his walk with God, the Lord promised David that a king from his line would reign forever, the Messiah would be a descendant of David!

      I am so glad that God is willing to use cracked pots – after all, aren’t we all crackpots?  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, yet God has reached out to us while we were still sinners (Romans 3:23-24; 5:8).

      The 12 apostles gave up everything to follow Jesus, but still struggled among themselves to be seen as Jesus’ favorite.  Brother’s James and John earned the nickname “Son’s of thunder.”  Peter was, outspoken, he corrected Jesus and then denied he even knew Jesus – yet Jesus trusted him to lead the young church after His death.

      In 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul remained amazed that God was willing to forgive and use him, the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:12-14).  He considered himself a poster child to demonstrated the depth of God’s grace.  Paul in essence is saying, if God can forgive and us me, He can use anyone who is willing (1 Tim. 1:15-16).

      You may be asking, “I’ve messed up – can God still use me?”  Yes, if you will trust Him (faith), believe His Word (more faith), and with His help, obey Him (faith in action).  Believe that if God has said He will do something, He is trustworthy and He will do it – you do not have to see it to believe it will happen – because God never lies!

      What does it take to become a faith-walker?  Put your trust (faith) in the Lord’s ability to save you and follow Him.  2 Corinthians 4:6–7 says: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (NIV).  Our God, who spoke light into the darkness and created all that was good in the Garden of Eden from nothing, is able to make His light shine within our dark sinful hearts, making them new, through the saving work of Jesus Christ.  This is the treasure now within us clay pots, cracks and all, to the glory of God!

      Why does God use cracked pots?  Listen to the words of encouragement the Lord gave the Apostle Paul when he struggled with the weakness of his thorn in the flesh: 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)  

      What does it take to become a faith-walker?  Put your trust (faith) in the Lord’s ability to save you, and lean on Him to provide what you need to follow Him and serve Him.

Hymn: #405 “My faith has found a resting place” (vv. 1-4)

Benediction: And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy. All glory to him, who alone is God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to him, in the beginning, now, and forevermore. Amen.” (Jude 24-25 NLT).

Sermon podcasts
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Jan. 8, 2023 Podbean

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Matt. 7:7-11; Neh. 4:1-6; 1 Cor. 11:23-26.  “Power.”
Jan. 8, 2023.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens.  You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!” Psalm 68:34–35 (NIV).


·     Why do we pray, doesn’t God know what is going on in our life?

–      To help us realize these things are bigger than us.

–      That we would deliberately ask God to be involved.

–      Most of all, because Jesus tells us to approach God in prayer.

·       Read Matthew 7:7-11.

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks.  Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread?  Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish?  As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.  Matthew 7:7–11 (CEV)

      Why do we pray?  Because Jesus invites us to prayer, but he does more than that, he persuades us to trust our heavenly Father with our very real concerns.  Ask, search, knock, Jesus says; don’t be afraid to tell your heavenly Father what you need.

      Prayer often begins with the focus on what concerns us, as we ask, seek and knock.  But once we stop depending on ourselves and begin to realize that God’s power is at work in prayer, our focus shifts to our Father’s will in our concerns.  Jesus reminds us, that weak as we are, we do not ignore our children when they are hungry and asking for food.  Weak as we are, the demands of love make us strong.  Obviously, our heavenly Father, with goodness and power far beyond our own, will do much more for us, his children when we ask.  Why do we pray?  The power of prayer lies in the love of our God.  Let us pray, knowing that He hears us.


      We have already seen that there is power in prayer.  This comes as we acknowledge our weakness and recognize God’s power, as well as his eagerness to be involved in our lives. 

      The Bible tells us there is also power in the people of God agreeing together.  Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (NIV).  There is power in commitment.

      The book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament takes place after some of the Jews have returned from 70 years exile in Babylon.  Those who arrived first were overwhelmed by the work and opposition.  The book of Nehemiah highlights the leadership Nehemiah, who reminded the people that since God had brought them back to their land, He would help them secure it.  The work was not hindered by their weakness, but success would come as they trusted together in God’s strength.  Listen to two of passages from Nehemiah: 2:19–20 When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about this, they mocked and despised us, and said, “What is this you’re doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” I gave them this reply, “The God of the heavens is the one who will grant us success. We, his servants, will start building, but you have no share, right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”” Nehemiah 2:19–20 (CSB).

Nehemiah 4:1–6 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious. He mocked the Jews before his colleagues and the powerful men of Samaria and said, “What are these pathetic Jews doing? Can they restore it by themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they ever finish it? Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble?” Then Tobiah the Ammonite, who was beside him, said, “Indeed, even if a fox climbed up what they are building, he would break down their stone wall!” Listen, our God, for we are despised. Make their insults return on their own heads and let them be taken as plunder to a land of captivity. Do not cover their guilt or let their sin be erased from your sight, because they have angered the builders. So we rebuilt the wall until the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had the will to keep working.” (CSB).

      Whenever a great task is undertaken, it seems there will always be those who harass and criticize the workers.  “It can’t be done; or if it is done, it won’t be good enough!”  If the workers listen to the ridicule, then the job will probably be abandoned. However, if the people determine that what they are doing is according to the will of God, then nothing can stop them.  This is because the tasks that God assigns are always beyond our own strength to accomplish.  This is so that we learn to rely on His strength, as we work together for His glory.

      This is the power of commitment.  When we follow Jesus’ prompting and agree together in His name, we work together; and when we work together, God is with us.  There is power in commitment together to accomplish the will of God.

      This morning, I would like us to review the purpose we have agreed to as a church.  A condensed version of our purpose statement is on the front of our bulletin every Sunday.  Today, on the back of the bulletin is the full purpose statement as it appears in our church’s procedures book.  Listen as I read it.

PURPOSE:  We believe our church exists to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ in Esterhazy and Area, in Saskatchewan, and among all people, as our Lord commissioned us (Matt. 28:18-20)

     We shall seek to attain this goal through:

1.     Winning people to Christ through personal witness and corporate evangelism.

2.     Building believers up in Christ through Bible instruction, fellowship and example, private devotions and public worship.

3.     Equipping believers to serve Christ in committed service to the church and the communities in which it exists and serves.


      There is power in prayer, so we bring our requests to the Lord daily.  There is power in commitment, in dedicating ourselves to God’s work, in His strength to accomplish his purposes for us as a church family.

      Lastly, there is also power in remembering, and so we celebrate communion.  We remember that our Lord, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, willing laid down his life in our place.  As we accept his forgiveness, we are forgiven, made whole, and have a renewed relationship with God, as His adopted child.

Closing Song: #370 “I’ll live for Him” (vv. 1,3)

Benediction: Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (NLT).

Sermon podcasts
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Dec. 18, 2022 Podbean

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Today’s message begins with an advent devotional from the North American Baptist Conference, followed by a monolog sermon about Joseph, the husband of Mary.


“Embracing the difficult manger.” Action/Reaction
Advent Devotional for December 18, 2022
     “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
     As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [. . .] When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18–21, 24 NLT)
      Even if we don’t grasp the whole of the mathematics behind it, most of us understand the basic truth of Isaac Newton’s third law of motion with as much ease as kicking a ball across a field: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
      Actions have consequences. Every choice we make (action) results in some sort of consequence (reaction). Sometimes the reaction is perfectly in line with what we expect: we pay the barista and in return receive a hot cup of coffee. Other times, the results are entirely beyond our expectation. Such was the case with Joseph.
      Joseph had a decision to make, and the most prudent and righteous course of action seemed to him to be breaking off his engagement with Mary. After all, she was now pregnant, and he knew he was not the father. He might have been thinking that this course of action meant the man who got her pregnant was now free to take her as his wife and be a father to his child. Or maybe he was simply allowing her the freedom to fade into the background rather than go through the spectacle of a wedding while visibly pregnant. Who knows what might have been if Joseph had followed through on his decision to quietly break their engagement. The unintended consequences of his decision are thankfully a mystery because, due to the intervention of an angel meeting him in a dream, Joseph chose instead to stay the course, to take Mary as his wife and to be the earthly father to Jesus.
      Fred Rogers once said, “There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.” Choosing the easier way, even when it seems to be righteous, is not always the best way. Joseph was privileged that an angel came to him in a dream to redirect him; the rest of us must instead rely on the difficult process of discernment. We must learn how to set aside what we want and be open to wherever God, through the Holy Spirit, leads us. This is not a skill that is easy or even one that can be mastered; anyone who says they are an expert at discernment is fooling themselves.
      Yet when we put in the hard work to learn how to hear the quiet whispers of the Spirit and ignore the thundering shouts of our own wants and desires, we are sowing seeds in our soul that will flourish and bloom in magnificence and splendor.

Joseph reflects.” A monolog sermon based on Matt. 1:18-24; 2:1-2, 11-13, 19-23.

        Hi, my name is Joe Davidson.  My wife Mary calls me Joseph, son of David.  Perhaps you’ve heard of us, or at least Mary.  An angel of the Lord was sent to her with the message that she would become pregnant with the Messiah, through the work of God’s Holy Spirit.  All of this happening while we were engaged.  If God’s angel hadn’t appeared to me in a dream, telling me not to fear going ahead with our marriage, I would have released Mary from her obligation to me.  Instead, assured that Mary’s pregnancy was the work of God’s Holy Spirit, we got married.

        Mary’s faith was simple, yet so strong, it was grounded in her trust in the Lord God.  She refused to accept human opinion over God’s Word.  This for me, was something easier said than done, and I needed God’s help!  You see, I struggled with my worthiness for the task.  I’d just gotten used to the idea of become a husband and providing for a wife. Now I learn that not only I am soon to be a father, but I am to father the Son of God!  How am I going to do that?

        Honestly, at first, I wondered if Mary would be better off without me and my doubts.  Yet Mary would have nothing of that idea!  She firmly reminded me that God’s Angel could have been sent to her before we were engaged, if I wasn’t to be involved.  “Also remember” Mary said “That God also sent His angel to you in a dream to assure you to not be afraid to take me as your wife and to assure you that I have remained faithful to you!”  I remembered, he said: The child Mary carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  “Joseph” Mary would say “God intended that we are in this together, we are both to raise His son!  God chose you to father this child.  Put your full trust in Him to help you.  He will provide what you need!” 

        After that, Mary and I spent countless evenings talking and thinking.  We recalled the Lord’s work in the lives of our fore-fathers.  Moses wasn’t saved from being drowned in the Nile River by his own strength or that of his family, but through the work of God.  The Israelites didn’t walk out of slavery in Egypt because of their efforts, it was all a work of God. 

        I needed to remember; this was God’s plan.  We didn’t have to figure out how to this on our own.  We simply had to follow God’s directions, just like our fore-fathers did when God protected them for 40 years in the wilderness.

        Jesus’ birth was an incredible experience.  Once again, Mary was so brave and strong.  But I saw the events surrounding Jesus’ birth as a disaster!  It didn’t go at all like I had planned.  I had hoped to arrive in Bethlehem sooner, and when we got there, I couldn’t find a private room for my wife to have her baby.  As a result, God’s Son was born in barn, an enclosure meant for sheep!  Honestly, I kind of thought that God would have made things a little easier for us, and wondered why He hadn’t.

        While Mary held Jesus, she listened to my disappointment over my failed expectations and plans, then she reminded me that babies don’t care about our plans – only theirs!  As she snuggled baby Jesus and smiled at me, I knew she was right.  Let the disappointment go, and be thankful for what we have, I told myself.  As I was assuming that we’d gotten through the worst of the night, our stable started to fill up with shepherds!  Oh great, the only empty place I could find for my wife and child now has to get used as a working barn!!! 

        But the shepherds hadn’t brought their sheep, in fact, it turned out they had come looking for us – what?  “How did you know we were here?”  I asked?  Then they told us their incredible story.  They too had been visited by an angel.  It turned out, God had not let His Son’s birth go unnoticed after all.  The heir to the Shepherd King, David’s throne, had his birth announced to working shepherds, out in the same fields David had once walked.  They had come to see the child, the Saviour who is Christ, the Lord!  The look of awe on their faces told me how deeply they had been touched by this moment.  And when left, everyone they met heard about the angel’s message and the baby they found in a feeding trough. 

        After some time, I began to relax.  I found work and was able to afford a small place for our little family.  Maybe raising God’s son wasn’t going to be a tough as I had feared.  When the foreigners arrived, wise men, Magi from Eastern lands, things got even more interesting.  The whole village was curious as their caravan passed by, and the gifts the Magi presented to Jesus were worth more than years of my labour; yes, I can get used to this, I thought!

        The night the Magi left, I woke up with a jolt, and started shaking Mary awake.  “Get up, get up – we have to leave this place now!”  “What?  Why?”  Mary asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.  “I had another dream, a visit from the same angel – he told me Herod is going to try and kill Jesus.  We have to leave for Egypt right now!”  That’s all Mary needed to hear, and she was gathering clothing and household items for the trip.  I ran to prepare the pack animals and shelter.  In a few hours we were on our way, out of Bethlehem, headed for Egypt. We stayed there for a couple of years, until Herod died and the angel told us to return.  I was heading back to Bethlehem until the angel warned me Herod’s son ruled that area, so we returned to our little home town of Nazareth to raise our family.

        The Magi’s gifts had been a life saver, providing for our needs.  Any time I started questioning God’s care and concern for us, I would remember the blessings those gifts had been to us while in Egypt.  It was like when the prophet Elijah was fed by Ravens when he hid from King Ahab; we also had been blessed by an unexpected source.  God was at work in ways I least expected and could have missed if not for Mary’s gentile reminders.  David spent years hiding for his life from his father-in-law, Saul, yet he had been chosen by God to be the next king.  Why should we expect any better treatment for David’s son, the future King of Israel?

        As Jesus got older, He took an interest in what I was doing, I taught Him my trade. As He grew in wisdom and in statute, I knew He had greatness waiting ahead for Him. I didn’t get to live to see Him reach His greatest hour. But I do know the rest of the story of His life. He began to preach that the the Kingdom of God had come. He upset some people with His preaching and claims about Himself. Finally, the leaders of the people had enough, and they had Jesus crucified, just like He said they would. They thought they had rid themselves of the one who claimed to be the Messiah. But three days later, Jesus took His life back. He rose from the grave, proving He was the Son of God, the Messiah. He is the Saviour, the one the angel announced to Mary, to me and to Bethlehem’s shepherds.

        That little baby which I held in my arms so many years ago was God Himself. He wasn’t my Son; He was God’s Son.  He is MY Saviour.  He came into this world to deliver ME from MY sins, and He lives today.  He came so that you and I might have eternal life.  This Jesus came to be your Savior, too.  Two thousand years ago I saw God come down to earth.  He lives today. He can be your Messiah. He can be your Savior. You just need to trust and believe. He can save you today.

        It is so easy to get all wrapped up in our own little world, and think that this is all that matters, all that you need to be concerned with.  And then God reminds you, that not only is He at work in this world around you, but he has a part for you to play in His eternal plan.  A part that is far greater than your “important stuff” like your to-do list, sports team, hobbies etc. 

        When the Lord told our childless Father Abraham to look up at the stars and count them, because his descendants would out number them, he was reminding Abraham that he was part of the Lord’s plan which was beyond his ability to comprehend.  Abraham simply needed to trust God and live faithfully, and God would work out His plan.  This certainly doesn’t mean your life becomes trouble free.  In fact, all who determine to live a God-fearing life will face opposition, this is to be expected.

        How about you?  Yes, you need to look after your day-to-day responsibilities.  But are you conscious that you are also part of God’s greater plan.  God created you for a relationship with Him AND to represent Him in this world!  He desires that your trust in Him grows and matures, becoming an example to others.  This means facing situations where you have to decide – am I going to handle this with my wisdom or lean on God for the wisdom and strength I need to do it His way?  I marvel that God chose me to be part of His plan for reaching humanity, and I certainly do not regret it.  How about you?  What is your response to God’s invitation to trust Him and join Him in the plans He has for your life?  What will you do?  Will you trust Him with your life?

Benediction: Let us go from this place proclaiming that we have seen the glory of God.  Believing that there is a light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness shall not overcome.  And may the love of God the Father, the joy of the Holy Spirit, and the peace of the Christ-child be with you this Christmas season, and evermore.  Amen.

Sermon podcasts
Esterhazy Baptist Church Podbean

Dec. 11, 2022 Podbean

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 (Note: this is a Regina number and long distance charges may apply)

Why celebrate Jesus’ birth?  Philippians 2.5-11
Dec. 11, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:1, 2, 5 (NIV)

      Christmas is a busy time for most people.  There are cards to write, decorations to put up, gifts to buy, parties to plan & attend, school events, community events, church, and family events – busy, busy, busy – Happy Holidays!!!  “Merry Christmas” you reply, “after all it is Jesus’ birthday!”  {Yes, we don’t know when Jesus was born, but Dec. 25 was picked to celebrate it.}

      Now, after explaining to someone that you’re not just happy about the holidays, but in celebrating Jesus’ birthday, do not be surprised if someone asks you why Jesus’ birthday is worthy of celebration.  What would you say?

      In today’s message we are going to answer that question with four points based on a familiar passage concerning Jesus, Philippians 2:5-11.

      “5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5–11 (NIV84).

– Why celebrate Jesus’ birth?

1st Because of who Jesus is – God who came to earth. Phil. 2:5-6a.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God…”

      In Paul’s letter to the Philippians Christians, he is calling them to humility by imitating Christ Jesus’ humility and self-denial for the benefit of others.  Since it is so easy to for us focus on ourselves, Paul points to Jesus’ example of selfless giving.  Although He is God, He is willing to set that aside to save us!  Jesus is God who came to earth!  In John 8:58 Jesus said “…before Abraham was born, I am” (NIV) – this is God revealed to Moses as His personal name! 

      Jesus often referred to God as His Father, and taught His disciples to pray to God by praying, “Our Father…”  In John 14:8-11 when Philip asked Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father…”  Jesus responded by saying: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (v9b, NIV84).  “11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” John 14:11 (NIV84).  The New Testament writers confirm that Jesus is God.  Colossians 1:15–16a says: “15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.” (NLT).  Jesus is God, He has made the invisible God visible to us – to see Jesus is to see God the Father!  Wow, Christmas celebrates that God came to earth – that is Big News!

      Now some may argue that the Greek gods sometimes came down to earth and interacted with humanity, that’s not such a big deal – but wait there’s more!

– Why celebrate Jesus’ birth?

2nd Because of what Jesus has done – God became man. Phil. 2:7-8a.

7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man…”

      Yes, Jesus is God coming to earth, but He also took on human flesh and blood, being born as a baby, to a poor, displaced couple – that is humility!  Jesus can identify with us, and help us, because He is one of us!  How did Jesus become like us?  Christmas celebrates his birth – he was born like every one of us.  He grew up, through childhood and adolescence like every one of us.  He faced temptations, like each one of us.  However, as Hebrews 4:15 tells us, he was tempted, but he did not give into sin.  In Matthew 26:38, just before Jesus was arrested and crucified, we read He said, “My soul is crusted with grief to the point of death.” (NLT).  Jesus suffered grief, tears, and pain; He is human, He understands us.

      Jesus is God and man, so why did He come?  It must be for something important!  It is, this is the third reason we celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas:

3rd Because of why Jesus came – Jesus came to die. Phil. 2:8b.

“…he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

      This seems shocking!  Why would God go to all the trouble to come to earth, to become human, only to die?  The Bible says Jesus did this for two reasons:

1)   To demonstrate God’s love to us.  John 3:16 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT).  This is what Paul says in Romans 5:8 “…God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT).  To see how deeply God loves us, look to the cross, that is how far He would go to save us from eternal separation from Him.  But why is it necessary, you may ask, that’s the second reason Jesus came to die:

2)   To pay for my sins.  The angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds with the words: 10 “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke 2:10b–11 (NLT).  Who needs a Saviour?  Those who are in trouble. When you break a law, you have to pay a penalty. When you break man’s laws you pay man’s penalties. When you break God’s laws you pay God’s penalties. The Bible says “we have all sinned” (Rom 3:23a) and that “The wages of sin is death.” But “… the gift of God is eternal life.” (Rom 6:23)   John the Baptizer understood that God had given him the role to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.  When he saw Jesus, he announced: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jn. 1:29b (NIV84).  We need a Saviour; this is why Jesus came. 1 Peter 2:24 says of Jesus that “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (NLT). 

Our passage in Philippians 2:5-11 gives us a final reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth:

4th Because of the results of Jesus’ coming – His life, death and resurrection show that Jesus is LORD. Phil. 2:9-11a.

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…”

      Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself, took on flesh, died on the cross for humanity’s sins and rose from the tomb.  Because of this God did two things:

1)  Gave Him the place of highest honour in the universe.

2)  Gave Him a name above every other name: LORD.  Jesus is LORD.

      These days, we may fail to understand the significance of proclaiming that Jesus is LORD.  The Greek word Lord can mean master, ruler, king.  However, in New Testament times, the word Lord came to be used for Caesar, and the Roman Emperor was to be treated as a god.  The Romans would say “Caesar is Lord” as a test of loyalty.  Christians refused, saying only Jesus is my LORD, and many were put to death. 

What does it really mean to say Jesus is LORD?

a)    It means I acknowledge that He really is God. He’s more than a man or a prophet. He really is God. He is the LORD. It is a test of my commitment to Him.

b)   It means I believe that He has everything under control. To say Jesus is Lord is a statement of comfort and encouragement. Although everything looks bleak, Jesus is Lord and I know He’s got everything under control. Nothing escapes His care or concern. To say Jesus is Lord is to say I don’t know what the New Year holds but I know and trust Him, my LORD, who holds the future.

c)    It means I commit all of my life to Him. He is God, has come to earth, died for me and rose again. As my LORD, He has the right to determine what’s right in my life and to direct me. As my LORD, I desire to live according to His plans.

      Don’t use the word LORD lightly.  Philippians 2:10-11 says that one day every being will acknowledge that Jesus is LORD – that He is supreme over all, because of His humble obedience to God the Father in becoming our Saviour.  The real issue is not if you will call Jesus LORD, but when will you call Jesus LORD?  The Bible says: “If you confess with your mouth, `JESUS IS LORD’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9. This is why we celebrate Christmas, and remember Jesus’ birth!

      What does it mean to be a Christian, to be a believer, to be saved? It means to say, Jesus is my LORD in this life. I acknowledge the fact that He is God, I believe that He has everything under control, I commit everything I have to Him.

      Remember that when you are discouraged: Jesus is LORD.  When you are tired, worried, afraid: Jesus is LORD.  When you are grieving, when you are alone, when you think you can go on: Jesus is LORD.  Remember it is why you celebrate Christmas: Jesus is LORD!  “If you confess with your mouth, `JESUS IS LORD’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9.

Closing Song: “Glory to the newborn king”

Benediction: The one who is God, who was born as a Babe that long-ago night reflects the light of his Father’s love to you now.  Receive the love – and pass it on!  And may God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless you all with a very Merry Christmas.  Amen

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2 – Celebrating the peace of Christmas – Lk 1.67-80
Dec. 4, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Start with Chris Rice Video: Peace on earth

      Peace on earth – did the angel’s waste their words?  Many people still equate Christmas as a time of peace, with a desire to seek peace.  However, where we tend to look to find this longed for peace (gifts, trips, excitement) at best are only short term.

      For Israel, during the time of the Priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, externally, there was ‘peace’ in the land – but it was Roman peace.  The Roman’s only gave a country peace when you submitted to their rule.  As for inner peace, Zechariah & Elizabeth had been unable to have children, and so for years dealt with this peace robbing emptiness and the question – had they offended God?

      When Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the temple of the Lord to burn incense and then received a personal message from an angel of God, the answer to their question was clearly – No, they hadn’t offended God, he had a special role for them.  However, the angel’s message that Elizabeth would bear a son, to be named John, who would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord, was more than Zechariah could comprehend (Lk. 1:11-18).  The answer to his request for certainty was that he would not be able to speak again until the child was born.

      When the baby was eight days old, the townsfolk gathered together for the monumental circumcision and naming ceremony of Zechariah junior.  When Elizabeth broke protocol by insisting the boy be named John, Zechariah was consulted.  As he took a tablet and wrote “His name is John” his tongue was loosed and he began to speak again (Lk 1:59-64).  Luke 1:67-79 records Zechariah’s Holy Spirit filled prophecy – this is our focus today.  God in His mercy is revealing His salvation, have peace, be at rest, our God is at work.

1st we see The Plan of Salvation unfolding (1.68-73).

Luke 1:68–73. ““Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham.” (NLT)

      God’s long promised plan of salvation has been revealed, “he has visited and redeemed his people;” “he has sent us a mighty Savior from the mighty line of David…”  The book of Deuteronomy records Moses’ final words to Israel, warning them of what would happen if they turn away from serving the Lord.  He also includes these words of hope: Deuteronomy 4:30–31. ““In the distant future, when you are suffering all these things, you will finally return to the Lord your God and listen to what he tells you. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the solemn covenant he made with your ancestors.” (NLT) God will not forget the solemn covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.

      As John leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Mary as she carried Jesus in her womb, so now Zechariah rejoices that the Lord’s promises through David, the prophets and all the way back to Abraham is unfolding.  Jesus will be born soon, but Zechariah celebrates that God, our redeemer is here

2nd we see The Purpose of Salvation (1:72-75).

Luke 1:72–75.  72 He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— 73 the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. 74 We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. (NLT)

      Verse 71 celebrated that salvation meant they would be saved from their enemies and from all who hate them.  Verses 74-75 shows the purpose of salvation: to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness.  Another way of saying this is we have been saved so we may worship our God and Savior.  This is the New Testament version of what God had Moses tell Pharaoh: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”  God saves so that we might worship, freedom to worship Him for the salvation He brings.

      In verses 76-77 Zechariah prophecies regarding the role his son John will play in God’s salvation plan.

3rd we see The Prophet of Salvation (1:76-77).

Luke 1:76–77. ““And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.” (NLT)

      John will be known as the prophet of the Most High, because he will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord, telling them how to find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  John will soften the soil of Israel’s heart for the coming of the Messiah.

      Thabiti Anyabwile in his commentary “Exalting Jesus in Luke” says: Zechariah’s prophecy defines John’s life in relationship to Jesus’s life and mission. Beloved, all lasting meaning is found when we define our lives this way. Greatness comes from serving the Lord, not from serving ourselves. Greatness comes when we, like John, say, “We must decrease; Jesus must increase” (see John 3:30). The prophet of salvation never replaces the bringer of salvation.[1]

4th The peace of Salvation (1:77-79).

Luke 1:77–79.  77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”” (NLT)

      Finally, Zechariah describes the effects of the Lord’s salvation on the people.

1.  v. 77, salvation is spiritual and personal, since it involves the forgiveness of sin.  Sin separates us from the sinless God.  The Saviour has come so we may be forgiven and experience peace with God rather than eternal condemnation.  Have you accepted Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader?

2.   v. 78, salvation is a result of God’s tender mercy.  This is the only way anyone is saved from sin!  We cannot earn forgiveness, demand forgiveness or buy forgiveness.  If we try, we then worry is we have done enough, or were strong enough or had paid enough to ensure we are truly forgiven.  Forgiveness is an act of God’s tender mercy, which means it is free and underserved.  The only way we can receive it from God is to ask for it.  As we read in 1 John 1:9, confess you sin and God is faithful to give your sin.

3.  vv. 78-79, salvation comes through Christ Jesus.  The NLT says “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us.”  This is a picture of the rising Sun at dawn pushing away the darkness.  This is what Jesus has come to do with the sin in our life and the hope that gives us.  We are reminded of Isaiah 9:2 and John 8:12

2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2 (NLT).

12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”” John 8:12 (NLT).

      Have you experienced the peace that comes through accepting Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader?  He is, as John the Baptist would say “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

Hymn: #147 “Silent night” (vv. 1,3)

Benediction: May kindness and peace be yours from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness. Jesus was the first to conquer death, and he is the ruler of all earthly kings. Christ loves us, and by his blood he set us free from our sins.” (Revelation 1:5 CEV).

       Though the night is dark, the Light of the world goes before you. God guides your steps and surrounds your life. Go in peace, ready to serve the One who has always loved you. AMEN.

[1] Anyabwile, T. (2018). Exalting Jesus in Luke (Lk 1:76–77). Holman Reference.

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The Hope of Christmas.  Isaiah 9.2; Mathew 1.22-23
Nov. 27, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to worship: “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:8, 15 (NIV).

          We have been looking at Hebrews chapter 11, and some of the heroes of the faith highlighted there.  Their faith and trust that God would keep His promises to them and their descendants guided their choices during dark difficult times.  Hebrews 11:1-2 explains faith in our God this way: 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1–2 (NIV).  The Apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of studying the scriptures in Romans 15:4 “4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (NIV).

      Our faith, our hope is not based on wishful thinking, rather it is based on the assurance that our God does not lie and has the power to do what He says.  When He says He will do something, it comes to pass.  Hebrews 11 reviews the faith of the ancients who were commended by God for their faith.  They believed God could act without having to see it happen in their lifetime, and they passed on the promises to their children as blessings. 

      As we heard earlier, the first candle of Advent represents hope.  There is a lot of hope present around the Christmas season.  Children may spend some serious thought making a list of what gifts they hope to get at Christmas.  Adults hope for their family’s happiness and also for some peace –within themselves and among their family and friends.

      However, the reason Christmas is a time of hope is because of Jesus the Christ.  His birth was the fulfillment of many prophecies and the confirmation of more fulfillments to come!  The song, “O come, O come Immanuel” summaries Israel’s hope as they waited for God to fulfill His promise to send Messiah, the anointed one, Emmanuel.  The prophet Isaiah was called by God to speak during some very dark days in the history of Judea and Israel.  The people of Israel had turned their hearts from the Lord God to consult mediums & spirits (Isa. 8:19) and Assyria would be God’s instrument of judgment.  Yet God’s judgment would pass and in the future the Lord God offered the promise of hope in the midst of their darkness. 

      Listen to Isaiah 8:19-9:7 19 Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? 20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.

      1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. 4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. 5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” Isaiah 8:19–9:7 (NLT).

      This passage makes two things clear. The darkness engulfing Israel was due to sin and corruption.  Yet there is still hope, because of God’s promise – the coming of a child, no ordinary child, will be as light dawning after a dark night.  This child, the Messiah who would reign on David’s throne forever, was watched for, longed for and hoped for, because the Lord God had not forgotten them!

      Matthew’s Gospel saw in the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promises, including those from Isaiah.  18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”” Matthew 1:18–23 (NLT).

      The child would be named Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  Jesus would be the fulfillment of Israel’s hope that God would send light into the darkness of this world.  One of the reasons Christmas resonates in our hearts is because we also live in a world which is dark and corrupted by sin.  Violence, deceit and pain is all around us.  Christmas reminds us that those things we hope for: healing, restoration, forgiveness and a fresh start are available to us now through Immanuel, God.  This hope is not the result of the absence of conflict, difficulty, struggle or trial, rather it is due to the presence of the living God within us.

      One lesson we learn from Hebrews chapter 11 is that hope can take time to be fulfilled, and therefore requires patience.  Isaiah saw that one day in the future, God would bring a great light and salvation through the birth of a child.  It was not until hundreds of years later that Matthew recorded Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.  Matthew saw Jesus’ Galilee focused ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:2. 12 When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 13 He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”” Matthew 4:12–16 (NLT). Jesus also saw his ministry as a fulfillment of this prophecy as we see in John 8:12 12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”” John 8:12 (NLT).  Jesus is the very presence of God on earth.  He offers forgiveness of sin, destruction of evil, and the promise of eternal life.

      Advent is not only a celebration of Jesus’ birth but is also a reminded that we await Jesus’ second advent, his second coming.  May this hope encourage you to live your life ready for Jesus’ return, as you seek to honor him with your thoughts, actions and plans.

Closing hymn: #124 “Come thou long expected Jesus”

Benediction: 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5–6 (NIV).

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Hebrews 11:23-29. Moses’ Faith in God.

Nov. 20, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


Call to Worship: I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:1–2 (NIV)

     We are continuing our look at examples of those who walked by faith as highlighted in Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were questioning their decision to follow Jesus as their Messiah, had they made the right choice.  The writer of Hebrews wants to assure them that they have made the right choice and encourage them of the importance to live by faith.

     Today we are looking at verses 23-29 which focus on Moses.  Moses was considered the most important figure in Israel’s history. The book of Deuteronomy ends with this summary statement: “10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.Deuteronomy 34:10–12 (NIV).

     Judaism considered Moses their greatest prophet, he was the great lawgiver and Israel’s greatest historian (authoring Genesis to Deuteronomy). He was also Israel’s greatest deliverer, bringing Israel out from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Because of Moses’ standing among the Old Testament figures, seeing that he lived by faith rather than adherence to the Law was a powerful argument to show the Jewish people that God’s way has always been the way of faith.  The writer to the Hebrews begins his look at Moses by reminding us that:

  1. Moses had a heritage of faith (vv. 23)

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.Hebrews 11:23 (NIV).

     The faith of Moses begins with the faith of his parents. To stem the population explosion among the Hebrew slaves in Egypt the Pharaoh gave an edict that all male babies were to be drowned in the Nile. Amram and Jochebed felt lead by the Lord that their newborn son must be protected so they first hid him for three months (Ex 6:20).  Then put him in a water-proofed basket and placed him in the Nile near the place where the Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. Moses grew up knowing the faith his parents had exercised in the Lord had saved his life. 

     The parents of Moses were willing to risk their lives to follow God’s will. Their decision was clear: save the child, whatever the consequences. It was no light thing to defy the royal decree, but their faith drove out fear.  They placed him in a specially prepared basket and place him in the reeds by the bank of the river.  From a human perspective, his parents had no way of knowing that his life would be spared, much less that, for all purposes, he would be given back to them. Yet they willingly let him go, entrusting him to God.

     As we know, Pharaoh’s daughter “found” the baby Moses, adopted him as her own son, and even hired his own mother, Jochebed, to nurse and raise him. Scripture infers that she and Amram took care of him well past the age of weaning. They probably had him into the mid-childhood years — certainly long enough to firmly establish his Hebrew roots and teach him of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  Their patient instruction built a faithful son. The best thing in life that you can give your children is not possessions, not even an education, but to show them a life of faith, one that leads them to thirst to use their uniqueness to serve God.

Moses not only had a heritage of faith … but

  1. Moses, in faith chose to believe God’s plan (vv. 24-26)

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.Hebrews 11:24–26 (NIV).

     There are three words in these verses that I want to pay special attention to, in verse twenty-four circle the word “refused.” The word literally means “to reject, to deny or to totally disown.” Next in verse twenty-five circle “he chose” this literally means “to select or decide.” And the finally circle “he regarded” in verse twenty-six, this means “to weigh in the balance, to evaluate the worth or to consider the value.”

     When Moses came of age, he faced a crucial decision. He had to decide whether to identify himself as an Egyptian with absolute loyalty or join himself with his enslaved people, the children of God. The deciding factor was his faith in God.

     Think about the immensity of his decision. It is hard enough for us to choose not to live for worldly things. It is harder yet to give them up when we have grownup with them. Moses, living as a son of Pharoah’s daughter had access to the best of Egypt.

     However, by the time he was forty, Moses had come to see that doing God’s will was of more value than Egypt’s riches. Moses realized the land of Egypt was not his home.  Faith in the Lord enabled him to see the sinful pleasures of Egypt for what they really were: a temporary source of pleasure that separates us from God and eventually leads to pain and death.  He believed that eternal riches in God are to be valued above what the world can offer.

Moses, Had the faith to believe God’s plans and…

  1. Moses in faith endured when he could not see. (v. 27)

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.Hebrews 11:27 (NIV).

     Hebrews 11:27 reminds us of how this chapter started, verse 1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV) or as the NLT says: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.Hebrews 11:1 (NLT).

      Moses did more than simply leave Egypt; he abandoned it, he turned his back on Egypt and its gods; all Egypt represented. He renounced it permanently. Like Peter, James and John in the New Testament (Luke 5:11) Moses left everything to follow the Lord.

Moses had the faith to endure when he could not see and…

  1. Moses in faith trusted God when he did not understand. (v. 28)

28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.Hebrews 11:28 (NIV).

     Next the author focuses our attention on the Israelites last night in Egypt. The tenth and last plague that God sent on Egypt was the death of the first-born living in the land (Ex 11:5).  The only hope of protection was to trust God’s instructions.  A lamb without blemish was to be slain, and its blood sprinkled on the doorpost of the house (Ex 12:7).  The lamb was to be eaten by the household that evening, yet each person was to dressed ready to leave.  They were to stay in the house while the angel of death passed through the land of Egypt.  Moses and his people had never done this before, yet they believed that God’s way to avoid death was the only way.  Moses also believed God’s promise of freedom and repeated God’s command that the Passover be an annual observation.

Moses had the faith to trust when he did not understand and…

  1. Moses in faith trusted God would save them. (v. 29)

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.Hebrews 11:29 (NIV).

     The story of the crossing of the Red Sea is told in Exodus 14. In obedience to the command of God, Moses led and the people followed. God performed a miracle in nature that enabled them to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground. Through putting their trust in God and His plans, the faithful find themselves doing that which otherwise would be impossible.  In attempting to follow where God had led the Israelites, the Egyptian armies were destroyed, and Israel escaped to realize God’s appointed destiny for them.

     William Barclay in his commentary on Hebrews says: Moses had the faith he had because he knew God in the way he did. When we come to it straight from God’s presence, no task can ever defeat us. Our failure and our fear are so often due to the fact that we try to do things alone. The secret of victorious living is to face God before we face men.[1]

     The life of Moses is a dramatic example of the difference faith makes in one’s life. Are you living the life of faith? Are you deciding against that which may be enticing but would lead you away from God’s will?  Moses is remembered because his eye was on Him who is invisible, and he had access to spiritual resources.

     Moses knew God. He trusted God, obeyed God, and proved God to be dependable and trustworthy. If you will trust God and obey God, you will find Him to be dependable and worthy of your trust!

Hymn: #517 “I’d rather have Jesus”

Benediction: 24 Offer praise to God our Savior because of our Lord Jesus Christ! Only God can keep you from falling and make you pure and joyful in his glorious presence. Before time began and now and forevermore, God is worthy of glory, honor, power, and authority. Amen. Jude 24–25 (CEV)


[1] Barclay, W., ed. (1975). The letter to the Hebrews (p. 159). The Westminster John Knox Press.

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Hebrews 11.22 – The Message in Joseph’s burial arrangements
October 30, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Psalm 57:5, 9-11. “God is supreme over the skies; his majesty covers the earth.” “Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing songs of praise about you to all the nations. Your great love reaches to the skies, your truth to the clouds. God, you are supreme above the skies. Let your glory be over all the earth.” (NCV)

      Today we are continuing our look at Hebrews chapter 11 at those who are listed as living by faith in God.  Our focus is on Joseph in verse 22, but I will read from Hebrews 11:20-22 from the NIV Translation.  20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.” Hebrews 11:20–22 (NIV).  These verses give us a brief summary of the faith of Abraham’s son, grandson and great grandson.  As each neared their death, they demonstrated that they believed God’s promise to their fore-fathers, by passing God’s blessing on to the next generation.  They believed God would continue to work out His plan, as shown to Abraham, in the following generations.

      As Joseph was close to death, he reviewed his funeral arrangements with his brothers and made them promise, with an oath, that they would carry them out.  Joseph was highly regarded in Egypt as the prime minister who helped prepare the country to survive a devastating drought, which lasted for 7 years. After he died, he was embalmed.  The Egyptian’s expertise in embalming is still evident today as new discoveries of ancient mummies are made each year.  Yet what Joseph required his family to promise was greater than just funeral plans; his casket, containing his bones served as a reminder to his descendants of the promises God had made to them.  Listen to verse 22 from the New Living Translation: 22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left. Hebrews 11:22 (NLT). 

      In refusing to be buried in Egypt, Joseph is showing his confidence that God WOULD keep his promise – Joseph’s funeral plans declare his faith in the Lord God!  The Message Translation emphasises this: 22 By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.” Hebrews 11:22 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language).  We read in Hebrews 11:4 that “by faith, Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”  So also, Joseph in death, through his casket spoke to his descendants about the Lord God.  We see…

1st Joseph’s casket served as a reminder that they were the people of God.

      Joseph could have had an elaborate burial in Egypt and encouraged his relatives to blend in, stop being different and adapt to the new culture around them.  But He didn’t do this himself in life, nor in death.  Instead, his funeral plans declared that Egypt was not his home, “My final resting place will in the land our God promised to us through our fore-fathers.  When He leads you there, you MUST take my bones with you!” 

      As the people of God, they were different and they were to live different and not forget their relationship as God’s people.  We also have been invited into a relationship with God.  In Ephesians chapter 2 we see that God through Christ, chose believing Gentiles to join with believing Israelites to form a new people, to become His people in Christ Jesus.  We are to remember that we are the people of God, imperfections and all, journeying with the Lord to be come all He intends for us to be as his people.  Joseph’s casket reminded them they were the people of God.

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left. Hebrews 11:22 (NLT).

2nd Joseph’s casket served as a reminder of the promises of God.

      Perhaps, at the time of his death Joseph’s remains could have been interred in Canaan as his father Jacob’s was when he died (Gen. 49:29-50:14).  However, it seems Joseph wanted his remains to be a reminder to his descendants of what God had promised all of them, that their time in Egypt would eventually come to an end.  Then and only then would Joseph allow his body to be buried, when Israel’s children could bury it in the land the Lord had promised to them.

      God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) continued to unfold as the generations of Israelites walked with God – sometimes feebly, sometimes faithfully, until the time when Jesus the Messiah appeared.  All who respond to the invitation to accept Jesus as their sin forgiver and life leader are welcomed into God’s family, a new creation of Jew and Gentile, the church.  The Apostle Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:9–10 how God sees His church: 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (NIV).  We are the people of God, His special possession, with the privilege of declaring the praises of Him who brought us out of darkness into His wonderful light!  As the Lord sends us, He promises to be with us, even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)! 

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left. Hebrews 11:22 (NLT).

3rd Joseph’s casket served as a reminder of the presence of God.

      The descendants of Israel, though slaves, could look at Joseph’s ornate casket and remember his story.  He had also been a mistreated slave, but the Lord God had elevated him to a position second only to the Pharaoh.  Joseph had experienced suffering, but the Lord never left him; and the Lord remains with us through our pain and suffering.

      The writer of the letter to the Hebrews was reminding his readers that these heroes of the faith, not only serve as examples of how to walk by faith, but also that they in faith looked forward to God fulfilling His promises beyond their life times, looking for the very things the readers of Hebrews were now experiencing.  God’s plan was unfolding, the Messiah had come!  Therefore, he calls his readers, this is a time to live by faith and not shrink back (Heb. 10:37-38), no matter what life brings!

      Joseph’s casket was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and a call not to give up hope – “God will lead you to the land He promised – take me with you when He does!”  We too have a casket of sorts in our midst, reminders of God’s work, promises and faithfulness.  The cross is a reminder of God’s love and the lengths He will go to offer us salvation from our sin, as we humble ourselves and accept the gift of His Son, Jesus.  The communion table and the elements are a reminder of the sacrificial love of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus said to let the bread and the cup remind you of what He has done, until He returns.  We are reminded of the cost of our sin.  We are reminded that sin’s price has been paid!  We are reminded that one day He will return and take us out of this “Egypt” here to the place He has prepared for us, the place we belong, at home with Him! Remember you are the people of God.  Remember to trust in the promises of God.  Remember you have the presence of God, lean on Him and not your own understanding. 

Hymn: “Wonderful, merciful Savior”

Benediction: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b-6 NIV).

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“Faith lessons from Abraham.”  Hebrews 11:8-19.

October 23, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: I will thank the Lord with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous works. I will rejoice and boast about you; I will sing about your name, Most High.” Psalm 9:1–2 (CSB).

      We have been learning about faith as we look at Hebrews chapter 11.  This is not simply a theological exercise of trying to define faith.  We are observing the lives of individuals and how they responded to God’s invitation to join Him.  For example: Faith caused Abel to worship God.  Faith led Enoch to walk with God.  Faith moved Noah to work for God. 

      Let’s also not forget that we are not looking at these individuals primarily in the Hebrew scriptures (OT), but as they are mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews.  The Letter to the Hebrews contains the words of wisdom from a Christian leader to a group of Christians struggling in their Christian walk.  Each of the individuals in Hebrews chapter 11, along with specific moments in their lives, were chosen to challenge, encourage and inspire the recipients of the Letter to the Hebrews, and those who would read it later. 

      In faith, Abel worshipped God in a way which pleased Him, even though it increased animosity with his own brother who then killed him.  The first readers of Hebrews were experiencing rejection, even from those closest to them.  Enoch walked with God for 300 years, and God took him.  A possible lesson is that even if it seems your walk of faith doesn’t seem to matter to anyone else, it pleases God!  Noah is an example of faith which doesn’t give up even when you are the only one walking with God.  God was pleased with Noah and preserved him and his family from destruction.

      Today, we will learn from Abraham’s example of faith, and how not to lose hope when our faith is stretched.  Abraham is mentioned in Hebrews 11:8-19.  As we read through this passage, our focus will be on references to what was done by faith.  Today I am reading from God’s Word Translation.

Hebrews 11:8 (GW) Faith led Abraham to obey when God called him to go to a place that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham left his own country without knowing where he was going. (GW)

1.  Faith in God, led Abraham to put his hope and trust in God.  God’s call to Abraham was to leave his past life behind and trust Him.  Abraham’s faith is seen through his actions; leaving his country and traveling until God told him he had arrived at his destination.  He didn’t know where God was leading him, but he trusted the Lord when He promised a country as his inheritance.  Faith trusts God and His promises, and is confirmed through my actions.  Do I trust God?  Does my life demonstrate trust in my God or in myself?

Hebrews 11:9-10 (GW) Faith led Abraham to live as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. 10 Abraham was waiting for the city that God had designed and built, the city with permanent foundations.

2.  Faith in God, led Abraham to endure patiently, as a foreigner in the land God had promised him.  Abraham and his descendants lived in tents as nomads in the land God repeatedly promised them.  They stayed because they believed in faith, that one day they would receive what God promised.  The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were growing wearing of the waiting and persecution – had they made the right decision in following Jesus?  We are quick to accept God’s many blessings, but can get cranky and start to waver in our faith when the blessings don’t come as quickly as we hoped.  Does this mean God is unfaithful?  No, it means we must trust His timing is best, and learn the lessons along the way.  

Hebrews 11:11-12 (GW) 11 Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise. 12 Abraham was as good as dead. Yet, from this man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.

3.  Faith in God, enabled Abraham to trust that God would do the impossible.  Abraham and Sarah were reproductively as good as dead.  Yet because God promised they would have descendants, Abraham continued to trust God would do what He promised.  One lesson is not to look at your situation based on your capabilities, but on God’s.  I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 18:25-27: 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”” Luke 18:25–27 (NIV).  We are tempted to give up when we don’t see results as quickly as we expected.  Faith in God focuses on who is making the promise, not on what your eyes can see!  What is impossible with man, is possible with God! 

Hebrews 11:13-16 (GW) 13 All these people died having faith. They didn’t receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. 14 Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for their own country. 15 If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they could have found a way to go back. 16 Instead, these men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.

4.  Faith in God, led them to trust God would fulfill His promises even after their death.  Their faith in God enabled them to be comfortable with unfulfilled promises in this life, because they trusted the certainty of God’s promises in the place, He was preparing for them.  Since they did not turn their back on God even when having no permanent earthly home, God was not ashamed to be associated with them!  Here is a lesson for the recipients of Hebrews, questioning the validity of faith in Jesus because of difficulties they were facing.  Difficulties and disappointments do not mean God has forgotten you.  How about you and I?  How do you respond when things don’t happen as you expect?  Review God’s promises, review and recommit to your response to God’s call on your life.  Believe His promises that He will never leave you or forsake you and that He has gone to prepare a place for you.

Hebrews 11:17–19 (GW) 17 When God tested Abraham, faith led him to offer his son Isaac. Abraham, the one who received the promises from God, was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18 God had said to him, “Through Isaac your descendants will carry on your name.” 19 Abraham believed that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead in a figurative sense.

5.  Faith in God, led Abraham to trust God with his dream.  Abraham had longed for a son. God had promised and then provided a son, Isaac, in virtually impossible circumstances, yet now He wanted him back as a sacrifice.  What is going on?  God never puts one of his children to a test until that child is ready for it, now Abraham was.  As Abraham was in the very process of offering his son to God, God stopped him and provided a Ram as a replacement.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed since God promised that Isaac would be his heir, that God could bring Isaac back from the dead.  Abraham’s faith in God led him to trust God even with what mattered most to him. 

      Generations later, when Abraham’s descendants were preparing to enter the land God had promised them, Moses warned them not to let the blessings of the land cause them to forget the Lord.  What is most important to you, the gift, or the giver?  Am I following God for what I can get from Him, or for who He is?  God blesses us with so many things, but if they were removed, would our faith falter?  Is my faith dependent on the gifts or a relationship with the giver of those gifts?  If the gifts are withdrawn, will I still trust the goodness of the giver, of the Lord?

      Abraham was the father of the Hebrews, the one through whom the promised blessings from the Lord began.  The readers of the letter to the Hebrews are reminded that faith, walking by faith in God, is what distinguished Abraham from everyone else.  And so, they are called to continue to walk by faith, for this is what pleases the Lord.  Christian, put your trust, your faith in the Lord and daily walk in relationship with Him.  Spend time reading and meditating on His Word, talk and listen to Him in prayer.

2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”” Isaiah 12:2 (NIV).

4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4 (NIV).

Hymn: #461 “He leadeth me” (vv. 1-3)

Benediction: “Now I am putting you in the care of God and the message about his grace. It is able to give you strength, and it will give you the blessings God has for all his holy people. Acts 20:32 (NCV)

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What are you building?  Hebrews 11.7

October 16, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.


     We are continuing our look at Hebrews chapter 11, sometimes called the Faith Hall of Fame.  The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were being tempted to return to Judaism. The author of Hebrews has been reminding them of the superiority of Jesus, the Messiah, over everyone else.  Jesus is our great High Priest who has opened the way for us to approach God the Father without fear.  As he ends chapter 10, in v. 38 he quotes from Habakkuk 2:4b, reminding them of the need to live by faith.  Then, in Hebrews chapter 11 we see what living by faith looks like, as we are given a sample of those who lived by faith.  Their lives were not easy or uncomplicated, but their choices to obey God’s Word, in faith, pleased God and serves as an example to us.

     Before we continue, we should answer the question: What is faith and why is it important?  When we speak of faith, we are thinking about trust, and where we place our trust makes all the difference.  People have lost thousands of dollars putting their faith in individuals who proved to be untrustworthy.  Hebrews 11 is talking about putting our trust in the Lord God, who is faithful to His Word.  When He promises something, we can “take it to the bank,” it is trustworthy.  Hebrews 11:1-2 from the Message Translation says: “1 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2 The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.Hebrews 11:1–2 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language). 

     Why is placing our faith, our trust in God so important?  Hebrews 11:6 puts it plainly: “6 It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.Hebrews 11:6 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language).  Why is faith in God important?  It is the only way to please God, because faith demonstrate you believe He exists and that you believe He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him.  Faith in God is the foundation of a trusting relationship with God.

     Today we are looking at Noah who is mentioned in Hebrews 11:7. Noah lived at a time when he and a few family members were the only people on earth who cared enough about God to respond to His warnings about their sins and a coming judgement.  Hebrews 11:7. “Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family. Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith.” (GW).  Noah spent years building the ark, possibly 100!  It’s likely he built it on the plains of modern-day Iraq, far from the sea.  Can you image how many times Noah must have been asked “What are you building?”   When he answered their question, he likely also told them why – God is sending a world-wide flood, only those within the ark will be saved.  Will you join me? 

     How is Noah an example of faith?  I see two ways based on Hebrews 11:7.

  1. Hebrews 11:7a. “Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family.” (GW).

     Faith may begin as a response in the heart, but it is confirmed through one’s actions and choices.  Faith in God, trust in God’s Word, motivated Noah to ignore what his eyes could see as well as the “advice” his ears heard from those around him, and instead he acted on what God had told him.  Day by day he built the ark according to the specifications that God had given him.  How about you?  What determines your choices and your actions?  Is it what you can see and hear or is it by faith in what God’s Word directs?

     Faith acts on what God says and what you know of God through His Word.  The ESV translates Heb. 11:7a as: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Hebrews 11:7 (ESV).  Noah acted “in reverent fear.”  The NRSV says “respected the warning” and the NIV says “in holy fear.”  Noah appreciated God’s mercy, yet took His holiness seriously – he built the ark!  God is just and will judge sin, yet He is merciful, thus He warned the world through Moses and his 100 years of ark building!

  1. Hebrews 11:7b. “Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith.” (GW).

     Noah, what are you building?  The finished ark, sitting on the dry plain showed that God had spoken in a way that humanity could hear.  Noah did, and built the ark according to God’s plans.  The question was, do you trust God and take His Word seriously?  For Noah, building the ark was a demonstration of his faith in God’s Word shown through his action.

     The ark, bobbing on the water covered earth, confirmed that God kept His word to act against humanity’s sin, and also save those who had faith in His Word.  Noah got the message and prepared for the flood.  The others may have also heard the message, but didn’t believe it, or else they too would have prepared!

     What are you building?  Why did Noah spend so many years of his life building the ark?  He believed and obeyed God’s warning, AND therefore, he built the ark to save his family!  Hebrews 11:7. “Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family. Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith.” (GW).  God revealed to Noah what He would do, and what Noah could do to save his family.  God showed him how to save what was of highest importance to him, and that is why he invested years of his life in doing so!  Why didn’t the others?  Didn’t they care about their families as well?  Of course, they did, but they did not have faith in God, they did not take God’s warnings seriously enough to turn from their sin!  They seemingly listened to the serpent’s question: “Did God really say?” and his response “you shall not die!” 

     We need to ask ourselves, “Who am I listening to?”  You can determine the answer by looking at what you are spending your time on.  Ask yourself, “What am I building?  What will be my legacy?” 

     Let me ask you, are you putting your trust in your own efforts or are you building an ark for yourself and inviting your family and friends to join you in?  Building an ark?!  Pastor, are you losing it?  I’m not talking about building a ship, I’m asking about where you are placing your faith for eternal protection. God has made it clear, He will judge sin, and that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.  Place your faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and Him alone!  Noah’s ark is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins will be saved (cf. Acts 16:31; Jn. 10:9).  All who refuse to come to Jesus as their sin forgiver and life leader will perish (Jn. 3:18).

     Noah is someone who believed God’s Word without needing any addition evidence that a world-wide flood was possible.  His faith is evident to us in the building of the ark.  The Lord God saw his heart and his righteous choices at a time when everyone else was making sinful choices.  We also have a daily choice to make.  As 3 John 11 says: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.” (CSB).  What am I building?  What are you building?  May I fear You, O Lord, and serve and obey You and not rebel against Your commands. (cf. 1 Sam.  12:14)

Hymn #358: “I am thine O Lord” (vv. 1-3).

Benediction: God did not say that it would be easy to bring the good news to all people, but God did say that God would be with you. So go now in peace, walking humbly with God. Bring the good news of hope to all the people. AMEN

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Hebrews 11.6 – The faith to remain thankful.
Oct 9, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord.  Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation.  Let’s come into his presence with a song of thanksgiving.  Let’s shout happily to him with psalms.  The Lord is a great God and a great king above all gods.” Psalm 95:1–3 (GW).

      This morning in our Responsive Reading we read from Deuteronomy 8, where Moses spoke to the descendants of Israel, as they were soon to enter the land the Lord God had promised to their forefathers.  In verses 6 and following, He encourages them to obey the commands of the Lord their God, by walking in obedience to him and revering him.  Moses’ concern is that once they enter their new land and experience its abundance, that they will forget the Lord and his guidance.  But how could that ever happen to a people saved from slavery in Egypt by the hand of the Lord?  They had such an incredible experience, what a testimony!  How could they forget?  In time, pride in their accomplishments could lead them to take for granted the bounty the Lord had provided for them in the land, hills and sky.  They would stop appreciating that what they had was a fulfillment of the covenant the Lord God had made with their forefathers’.  In other words, they would stop being thankful to the Lord God for what He had given them!  This lack of thankfulness to the Lord would then lead to a lack of faithfulness, as a failure to acknowledge the Lord would lead them to stop observing his commands for them.

      How is our attitude of thankfulness to God and our faith on God linked?  We have been looking at Hebrews chapter 11 the last few weeks.  We’ve seen that the faith, the trust we express in God is a response to the certainty of his truthfulness and faithfulness.  Those who believe what God says, make their life’s decisions based on his guidance, thus expressing their faith in God’s Word through their choices and actions.

      In Hebrews 11:4, Abel was commended by God as a righteous man.  Genesis 4 records that he presented to the Lord an offering of a choice lamb from his flock, which the Lord accepted.  In this action Abel showed his heart attitude towards the Lord.  He was willing offered the best he had, even as others might have argued it would weaken the genetics of his flock.  Abel was demonstrating his gratitude to the Lord, and acknowledging the lamb was gift from the Lord all along.  Abel trusted that the Lord could provide more quality lambs if he so chose. 

      This is what Moses reminded his listeners of in Deut. 8:18 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV).  Moses is calling them, and us, to remember, the ability to produce wealth is a gift from the Lord, AND also a fulfillment of his promises.  Meaning, when you are counting your cash, be thankful, may it remind you that the Lord is being faithful to his promise to provide for you, as you express your faith in him.  Let’s return to Hebrews 11.

      Hebrews 11:6 says: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).  The Message translates this verse as: It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 (The Message).  Moses warns us not to let pride seep into our hearts so we take credit for what God has blessed us with.  Instead, as Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, that those with faith in God are thankful because they acknowledge his presence and his blessings.

      How does the Lord God bless those who seek him?  What are you thankful for?  Yes, we are thankful for material things, which Jesus told us not to worry about because our Heavenly Father already knows we need them!  What else are you thankful for?  Have you experienced the forgiveness of your sin?  Are you thankful for your salvation?  If you have called upon Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader, you have been redeemed from sin by the priceless, precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Are you thankful for the Lord’s presence, guidance and watch care?  He reminds you; I will never leave you or forsake you; I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you…  Are you thankful for his indwelling Spirit, and the fruit of his presence growing in your life?  Are you thankful for God’s faithful love towards you (Romans 8:38-39).  We place our faith in God because we trust him.  He keeps his promises, he IS faithful.  What are you thankful for?

      Saying grace before a meal is a “simple” action, but if done with the proper attitude it can be an expression of Hebrews 11:6.  You believe that God exists, therefore you acknowledge him both as present and as the source of the meal you are about to eat.  The Lord provides for us; it all has come from him.  Giving thanks is a way of expressing your faith in God, and acknowledging that he is faithful and true to his Word to provide for you! 

      The prophet Habakkuk lamented the wickedness rampant in the land and he was overwhelmed when the Lord declared he would use Babylon as his instrument of judgment.  The Lord responded that the time would come when he would also judge the Babylonians for their brutality.  Habakkuk’s final response is one of faith based on his trust in the character of the Lord, rather than on what he saw with his eyes.  Similar to what we read in Hebrews 11:1 regarding faith: 1 Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (GW).  Habakkuk does not give up, for his hope was grounded in his trust in the Lord God, his word and his ways.  Listen to Habakkuk’s expression of faith in God, which is not based on sight: 17 Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle— 18 even then, I will be happy with the Lord.  I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.  19 The Lord Almighty is my strength.  He makes my feet like those of a deer.  He makes me walk on the mountains.” Habakkuk 3:17–19 (GW).

      Habakkuk continues to find joy in the Lord and to give thanks because He remains his strength and salvation.  How about you?  What do you have to be thankful for?  Are you thankful for your salvation?  Are you thankful for the Lord’s presence, guidance and care?  Are you thankful for his indwelling in your life?  Are you thankful for God’s faithful love towards you? If so, what are you doing to show your thankfulness?  For those recorded in Hebrews 11, their thankfulness to God was then seen in their walk of faith.  Is your thankfulness firmly rooted in the assurance that the Lord is with you and working for your good, the good of those who love him and walk with him?  Join with the Psalmist and this Thanksgiving share what the Lord has done for you!  Psalm 66:16–20 16 All who worship God, come here and listen; I will tell you everything God has done for me. 17 I prayed to the Lord, and I praised him. 18 If my thoughts had been sinful, he would have refused to hear me. 19 But God did listen and answered my prayer. 20 Let’s praise God! He listened when I prayed, and he is always kind.” (CEV).

Benediction: 15a Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. 16a Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NLT)

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Hebrews 11.5.  Enoch – faith brings God pleasure.
Esterhazy Baptist Church. Sept 25, 2022

Call to Worship: “Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, can say to him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.”” “He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.” Psalm 91:1–2, 4(GNB)

      The book of Hebrews was written to discouraged, wavering Christians.  They had begun with strong faith, for they endured persecution and helped others to do the same.  Yet doubts were now creeping into their minds – had they made the right decision in accepting Jesus as Messiah? 

      The author of Hebrews reminds them of Jesus’ sufficiency to represent us before God as our true High Priest.  It is only by placing our faith and trust in Jesus’ redemptive work on our behalf that we can enter God’s presence with confidence.  He then calls his readers to not give up, but to live by faith.  Chapter 11 shows us what it looks like to life by faith. 

      Hebrews 11 begins by introducing us to two pre-flood individuals we know little about.  We may overlook them when studying the heroes of faith, but God does not over them!  Why?  He was pleased with their faith, and therefore we need to learn lessons from their lives.  Abel (v. 4) is the first person we encounter as we enter “faith’s hall of fame.” That Abel had faith is repeated three times in one verse!  Abel’s act of giving the best he had to the Lord, in love and worship, not concerned with the reaction of anyone but the Lord, gained him God’s approval and first mention in Hebrews 11.

      Today we are looking at a man named Enoch.  Hebrews 11:5 says, 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5 (NIV). 

      Why is Enoch included among the heroes of the faith?  An amazing act of faith?  Faith the size of a mustard seed?  We are simply told that he pleased God, so he did not experience death!  Three times in this verse we are told we was taken (NIV) or ‘translated’ which means conveyed from one realm to another.” [1] He was transferred by God from earth to heaven without passing through death. The only other biblical record of anything like this is the prophet, Elijah.  Let’s to Genesis chapter 5 which tells us about Enoch.

      Genesis 5:18–24 “18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died. 21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (NIV) 

      Our reading at verse 18 with Jared the father of Enoch to get a taste for the rhythm that is repeated again and again in Genesis chapter 5.  A man lived a certain number of years, became the father of … then lived …years and had other children, altogether he lived … years and then he died and the next one lived and died and on it goes.  God’s Word is proved true and the serpent’s “you shall not die” a lie!  Yes, they live long lives, but eventually everyone succumbs to death.  Enoch’s obituary stands out because it is missing his death announcement! Instead, we are told then he was no more, because God took him away.  This would have shocked people because he was only 365 years old!  People in those days didn’t die that young of natural causes.  Adam had died only 57 years earlier and his son Seth was still alive when God took Enoch!  This was to remind them that although death comes, it does not the final word; God still has His say!

      A little girl who came home from Sunday school, and her mother asked, “What did your teacher tell you about today?” The little girl said, “She told us all about this man Enoch.” And the mother said, “Well, what about Enoch?”

      So the little girl told her mother this story: “Enoch lived a long time ago, and God would come by every afternoon and say to him, ‘Enoch, would you like to take a walk with Me?’ Enoch would say, ‘Yes, I’d like to take a walk with You, God.’ And so every day God would come by Enoch’s house, and Enoch would go walking with God. One day God came by and said, ‘Enoch, let’s take a long walk today. I want to talk to you.’ So they started out. Enoch got his coat—even took his lunch, and they started walking. They walked and they walked and they walked, and finally it got late. Enoch said, ‘My, it’s getting late, and I am a long way from home. Maybe we’d better start back.’ But God said, ‘Enoch, you are closer to My home than you are to your home, so you come on and go home with Me.’ And so Enoch went home with God.”

      Why did God take him away?  Because “Enoch walked faithfully with God”.  To walk with God in the Hebrew means being in close relationship with God, and this only happens with those who “pleased God” (Heb. 11:5b).  When Enoch “was no more, because God took him away”

      We are told in Genesis 5:22-24 that Enoch’s walk with God began after he became the father of Methuselah.  The arrival of a child does call for parents to examine their priorities and life’s direction; this may be what led to Enoch’s decision to walk with God.

      James Boice in his commentary suggests there may have been something more.  The name Methuselah, is usually understood to mean: “Man of the javelin.”  Boice feels a second option is: “He dies, a sending forth” which he understands to mean: “When he is dead, it shall come.”  Boice suggests that: Enoch had a revelation at the time of Methuselah’s birth of the destruction to come on the earth by flood. God said that the flood was to come after the death of that son. So, either at God’s explicit direction or as an act of his own faith, Enoch named the child Methuselah – “when he is dead, it shall come.” While Methuselah lived, the flood would be held back. But when he died, it would come.” [2]  This may explain Enoch’s decision to walk with God following the birth of his son Methuselah.

      Methuselah lived the longest of any human being recorded in the Bible, with his son Lamech, Noah’s father, dying 5 years before him. The flood came the year Methuselah died.  Boice sees his long-life as a gift, a demonstration of God’s mercy, offering the people of Noah’s time opportunity to return to Him: “Methuselah… was a testimony to God’s grace. For this is why Methuselah lived longer than any other man on earth. His longevity was no accident.” [3] 

      Boice’s speculation that God gave Enoch some insight into His coming judgment on the earth may explain his decision to walk with the Lord.  However, before we use this as an excuse to say that’s why he had such faith, and we struggle, let’s remember that we also have many revelations that judgement is coming!  Continuing a walk of faith for 300 years (3½ – 4 of our lifetimes) is no easy task!  How can we develop a faith that brings God pleasure?  Hebrews 11:5–6 says: “5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV) 

      The writer of Hebrews is urging his readers to keep their faith in the Lord, because it is impossible to please God without faith.  All the good works or offerings in the world, done without faith, will not please God!  At the heart of faith in God is a belief in God’s existence and His goodness, that leads a person to live their life to please God as their chief priority no matter the situation.  This is what we will see in upcoming examples of faith in Hebrews 11. 

      This week I have been encourage by passages of scripture which have been turned into prayers by Kenneth Boa:

May I not be like those who draw near to You with their mouths and honor You with their lips, but whose hearts are far from You, and whose reverence for You is made up only of rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13)

I desire not only to call You Lord but to do what You say. By Your grace, I will come to You, hear Your words, and put them into practice. Then I will be like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock, and when a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. (Luke 6:46–48)[4]

      Faith, believing that God exists and rewards those who seek Him, is something which grows and deepens as we grow in our friendship with God.  Like any friendship, you must spend quality time with your friend for the relationship to develop.  You walk through good times and bad times together, and as you do, your appreciation for your friend (the Lord) grows.

      I was reading in Daniel 7 and marvelling at the vision Daniel had been given of the Lord coming with the clouds of heaven to receive all authority.  I thought, wow, how does one come to the point where God is willing to trust them with such revelation?  Then I reflected on Daniel’s story.  It began as a youth, with a small but deliberate choice not to be swept up in the pagan culture surrounding him.  So, he and some friends refused to eat the Babylonian food, since it did not meet the dietary laws of the Jews and instead ate grains and drank water.  They also continue their practice of daily prayers to the Lord God, even as pressure to conform grew, yet they saw glimpses the Lord was pleased with their faith in Him.  They were entrusted with more responsibility and known as people of integrity, even as others hated them! 

      Join with Abel & Enoch in the walk of faith.  Believe that God exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him!

      I will close with personalized versions of Jeremiah 9:23-24 & Lamentations 3:24-26:

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the strong man boast of his strength, and let not the rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I will wait for Him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good to hope silently for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24–26) [5]

Closing Song: “Jesus strong & kind.”

Benediction: Go forth joyfully. God is with you. Bring peace and hope to all you meet. And may God’s eternal love shine through you always. AMEN.

[1] Hagner, D. A. (2011). Hebrews (p. 185). Baker Books.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (p. 292). Baker Books.

[3] Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (p. 295). Baker Books.

[4] Boa, K. (1993). Handbook to prayer: praying scripture back to God. Month 1, day 19. Trinity House.

[5] Boa, K. (1993). Handbook to prayer: praying scripture back to God. Month 1, day 24. Trinity House.

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Hebrews 11.4 – The message of Abel.
Sept 18, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: Teach me your way, Lord, and I will live by your truth. Give me an undivided mind to fear your name. I will praise you with all my heart, Lord my God, and will honor your name forever. For your faithful love for me is great, and you rescue my life from the depths of Sheol.” Psalm 86:11–13 (CSB).

      We are continuing our study of Hebrews chapter 11.  Last week we were reminded that the certainty of our faith lives wholly on who or what it is placed.  Our faith is in the living God.  He made all that is from nothing.  He spoke it into being and there is no one who compares with Him.  Our faith/trust in God is the firm foundation which gives us confidence, that what our powerful & truthful God has said, will come to pass.  Why is this important to emphasize?  The recipients of this letter were becoming discouraged.  Persecution and doubt were causing them to waver in their faith.  The writer of Hebrews, in the first 10 chapters has shown that Jesus is the one we have been waiting for, He is the perfect High Priest.  Now in this chapter, he draws on those whom in chapter 12 he calls “a great cloud of witnesses” to testify of the value of trusting in God by living a life of faith.  These witnesses are not spectators watching us, they are cheerleaders whose lives testify to the dependability of God to meet the deepest needs of life.  Their lives call us to us, “Trust God and don’t give up, He will see you through!”

      Our text today is Hebrews 11:4. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” Hebrews 11:4 (NIV).  It speaks of the immortality of influence.  Abel was the second generation of humanity, a son of Adam & Eve.  Although he is long dead, his life of faith still speaks!  This should remind us that our lives speak to those around us, and they will continue to speak even after our tongues have grown silent.  What message is your life communicating?  Is it good news that blesses or it that which brings harm & pain to others?



1.  Abel speaks of a life of faith.

      When we think of faith in God, especially in the context of Hebrews chapter 11, we may conclude that the most faithful are those who did great things, even impossible things.  Whether this is deliberate or a sub-conscious, accepting this definition of faith gives most of us a “pass,” allowing us to think: that’s just not me, I don’t have that ‘gift’.  Yet the very 1st person you meet as you enter the Hebrews 11 faith hall of fame is Abel.  What great act of faith did Abel accomplish, remember it led to his death.  He expressed his faith in God, he responded to God in faith!

      Faith is a response to God and to his will for our lives.  Genuine faith is more than our mental agreement with biblical truths.  It is more than saying “Yes, I believe in one God.” James 2:19 tells us that even the demons, fallen angels who reject God’s authority over them, agree with that statement, that is not faith!  Genuine faith is responding in accepting trust to God’s revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ and the testimony of those who have known Him and lived with Him.

      Saving faith is a believing response to the Good News of Jesus.  1 My friends, I want you to remember the message that I preached and that you believed and trusted. 2a You will be saved by this message, if you hold firmly to it. 3b Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say. 4 He was buried, and three days later he was raised to life, as the Scriptures say.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2a, 3b–4 (CEV).

      Faith is a gift of God which we then respond to.  We show our faith, our trust, our belief in God’s promises through our actions, and that is what Abel did through offering the best of his flock.

2.  Abel speaks of a life of faith & worship.

      Abel’s faith was deeper than a concept or ritual.  His faith in God longed for a way to express heart felt appreciation to Him, and this was expressed in personal worship.

      Genuine faith, like genuine love, longs to find a way to express itself.  Because of the faith in his heart, Abel sought to worship the Lord through the means available to him.  Worship of God is the offering of worth to the one who is of supreme worth. 

      Do you worship the God of Abel, Abraham and Paul, or have you allowed the god of success or leisure to take first place in your goals and activities?  Heart-felt worship of our God is a natural result of genuine growing faith.  Our faith grows as we daily put our trust in God to lead and direct us.  How are you doing this?

3.  Abel speaks of a life of faith, worship & excellence.

      Genesis 4:4 says: Abel also gave an offering to the Lord. He killed the first-born lamb from one of his sheep and gave the Lord the best parts of it. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering,” Genesis 4:4 (CEV).

       Abel’s worshipful attitude is seen in that he brought the best of what he had to the Lord as an offering.  While those with a heart which matches Abel would say, Of course, what else would you do?  Those with shallow or no real faith are looking for loopholes, for this level of faith & worship is costly to continue for a lifetime and it takes away from what I have for myself!  The prophet Malachi relayed the Lord God’s sorrow that the people had so little respect for Him that they were sacrificing blind, crippled and diseased sheep, animals they would never dare present to their Persian governor (Malachi 1:6-8)!

      Abel was thoughtful about what he offered, presenting to the Lord the best he had.  Like King David, Abel also refused to give to the Lord that which cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).  The value of the gift to the giver, expresses the value placed by them on the recipient of their gift.  This is what Howard B. Grose expressed in his poem: Give of your best to the Master, Naught else is worthy His love; He gave Himself for your ransom, gave up His glory above; Laid down His life without murmur, you from sin’s ruin to save; Give Him your heart’s adoration, Give Him the best that you have.

4.  Abel speaks of divine approval.

      Genesis 4:4 says: The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but not with Cain and his offering. This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.”  Genesis 4:4b-5 (CEV).

      There is much discussion over why Abel and his animal offering was accepted by God, while Cain and his offering of crops were rejected.  Both types of offerings became part of the Hebrew sacrificial system.  It seems to me that the attitude of the giver lies at the root of the issue here. 

      This is the attitude Jesus highlighted in his comments recorded in Mark 12:41-44 – 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”” Mark 12:41–44 (NIV).

      It would seem Cain’s offering was not given in faith, as a genuine love response to God.  When God didn’t respond as he expected, Cain was mad, then jealous of his brother for receiving God’s approval.  Still today there is the danger of simply “going through the motions” of worship and giving and not responding from a heartfelt relationship with God.  Sometimes God is offered a gift in the hope of off-setting sinful behavior, it won’t work.  A gift may be given to receive the praise of people, but the wrong motive of the heart is clearly seen and disapproved of by God.  Gifts presented grudgingly, out of a feeling of obligation or simply to attain tax benefits also fall short of divine approval.  What’s missing?  Our love for God.  Paul tells us that even the greatest gift or sacrifice if not given in love is ultimately meaningless: 3 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.” 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV). 

      Abel’s simple act of giving the best he had, in love and worship to the Lord, gained him the Lord’s approval.  That’s it!  No begging. No manipulation, and no need to bargain with God.  Come to God the Father, through the saving work of Jesus the Son, and offer Him in love, your heart, body, mind and spirit.

Hymn: “Give of your best to the master.”

Benediction: Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you” 1 Chronicles 28:20b (NASB 2020).

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Hebrews 11.1-3. The full assurance of placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
Sept 11, 2022 Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)

Hymn: “Faithful one”

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10:19-23; 10:32-11:2,6

Hebrews 10:19–23 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (NIV).

Hebrews 10:32–11:2, 6 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV).

      Yesterday morning (Saturday), I opened my email and saw the heading “Today is an important mental health day.”  It was from a Christian site and I thought, oh, it must be in preparation for the anniversary of 9-11 in the states.  Instead, the email stated that Sept. 10 is “World suicide prevention day.”  It went on to explain that the CDC has found that almost half of all adults experience mental illness in their life time.  Mental health is something Christians need to be compassionate and caring about for those within and without our churches. 

      There is still the terror from abroad represented by 9-11 and terror from within, witnessed at the James Smith Cree Nation here in Saskatchewan.  We were looking forward to “getting back to normal” after the covid-19 health restrictions; however, war, weather, air port chaos and inflation has popped that balloon!  Most churches have been slower to return to their pre-pandemic vibrancy and the graying of our congregations seems to be growing.

      Good mental health is vital, and so is our spiritual health.  What can we do to maintain our spiritual health, especially when we are facing difficult times?  Periods of problems, stress and pain seem to stretch us to our spiritual limit and all the while, voices within and around us are telling us to look for help in places other than the Lord God.  What are we to do?

      Rather than giving into the urge to walk away from Lord, we should run to Him, clinging to Him and seek His wisdom found in His word.  Do not be embarrassed to ask Him for help, His greatest victories can be seen in our toughest trials!

      The pressures and feelings we are experiencing today were not unknown by 1st century Christians, and so, help is found in God’s Word.  Today I want to begin a study of Hebrews chapter 11.  Turning to a chapter which is seen by many as being the Biblical Hall of Fame, may seem counter productive when trying to help the discouraged, yet this is what the writer to the Hebrews did.  We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but it was written to discouraged, wavering Christians, likely converts from Judaism.  They had started with strong faith, enduring persecution and helping others to do the same.  Yet some had grown weary, relief was not coming and doubts were creeping into their minds – had they made the right decision in turning to Jesus? 

      The writer of Hebrews has reminded his readers of Jesus’ uniqueness and sufficiency to represent us before God as our true High Priest.  Through placing our faith and trust in Jesus’ redemptive work on our behalf we can enter into God’s presence with confidence, because Christ has made us clean.  He has reminded us repeatedly of God’s faithfulness to us (faithful one so unchanging), and then calls us not to give up, but to hold on and live by faith.  Then he begins chapter 11 with an explanation of faith in verses 1-3.  Some may think of faith similar to a young girl who defined faith as: “Having to believe in something you know ain’t so.”   Yet expressing faith is something we do everyday.  Every time we turn on a light, sit on a chair, drive a car or bank, we are exercising faith.  Without exercising faith our economy would collapse.  Yet when Christian talk of faith they are sometimes mocked.

      Our Christian faith is based on a relationship of trust in God, not our abilities!  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV).  Hebrews 11:1-2 is a description of our faith, rather than a definition of faith.  1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1–2 (NIV). The Contemporary English Version says: 1 Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. 2 It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God.” Hebrews 11:1–2 (CEV). The Message Translation says: 1 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” Hebrews 11:1 (The Message).  Our faith in God, our trust that He will do what He says because He does not lie, is the bedrock, the firm foundation we can count on when everything is unstable.

      F.F. Bruce in his commentary on Hebrews says this about Hebrews 11:1-2: In Old Testament times… there were many men and women who had nothing but the promises of God to rest upon, without any visible evidence that these promises would ever be fulfilled; yet so much did these promises mean to them that they regulated the whole course of their lives in their light. The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future; but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfil what he had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith.[1]

      Those listed in Hebrews chapter 11 “Hall of Fame” are not people who experience a life of ease without hardship or challenges.  The point for us to grasp is that because of their faith in God and His promises to them, they were faithful to Him and have become examples to us of those who walk by faith and not by sight.  Their voices call out to us today, “God is faithful! Trust Him and don’t give up! He will see you through!”

      When we are anxious, Noah’s life speaks to us: “Patience! I had to wait 120 years to see God’s plan fulfilled in my life; a few more weeks of waiting will do you good!”

      When we run the race and begin to doubt, Sarah shouts, “Keep going! God is able to do the impossible!”

      Joseph faced one hardship after another: sold into slavery by his brothers, imprisoned on false charges, forgotten by those he helped. Yet his life testifies to us, “Trust God in spite of your circumstances!”

      Faith in the Lord God produces faithfulness, this means our faith is seen in our choices, our action, because we believe God’s promises.  Let people see your faith through the life choices you make, because faith in God will bring victory!

Hymn: #486 “Faith is the victory” (vv. 1,2)

Benediction: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:56-58 (TNIV)

[1] Bruce, F. F. (1990). The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed., p. 276). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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Psalm 118 – The Lord’s hand has done mighty things. 

Sept. 4, 2022.  Esterhazy Baptist Church. 


Call to Worship: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14, 16 NIV)  

Psalm 118 (NIV) 

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.” 5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. 6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? 7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! 16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” 17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. 18 The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. 19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. 25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  

Today we are looking at Psalm 118, the last of 6 psalms known as the Egyptian Hallel (praise) psalms (#113-118), which were sung during the Passover celebration.  One can understand why this psalm would be including in a collection for use remembering Israel’s Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  The Exodus was a time when the Lord demonstrated that human, including princely power is no match for His.  The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! 

As we have seen with the other psalms in this collection, we don’t know when, where, why or by whom this psalm was written.  It is so beautifully general in its description of the troubles faced that it applies to many incidents in Israel’s history.  The form of this psalm invites its use in both large and small gatherings as well as allowing for an individual to testify to the Lord’s goodness and enduring love.   

The Psalm begins in vv. 1-4 with a call for communal praise, using the response: “His love endures forever.”  In v. 2, the community of Israel is invited to respond, in v. 3 it is the priest, and in v. 4, it is likely everyone.  It is possible that by the time of Jesus “those who fear the Lord” included God fearing Gentiles.  Thinking of the book of Proverbs, I wonder if this is another way of call for those who are wise to respond – 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdomProverbs 9:10a (NIV).  

Verses 5-13 contain an individual’s testimony on how trusting in the Lord made the difference between victory or certain defeat.  Some scholars feel we are to hear a Davidic king testifying to the Lord’s faithfulness.  Psalm 118 begins and ends with the call to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 118:1, 29).   This is the same refrain King Jehoshaphat had sung by those leading his army out to watch the Lord defeat an invasion force (2 Chron. 20:21b). 

By the way, here is an interesting observation from James Boice’s commentary: It is reported by people who count such things that there are 31,174 verses in the Bible, and if that is so, then these verses, the 15,587th and the 15,588th, are the middle verses. That position should be reason enough to give them prominence. 

What do you suppose a middle verse should say? Shouldn’t the middle verse of the Bible be John 3:16, or its equivalent? Or something from Psalm 23? At least it should be about God’s love, perhaps “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Actually, the middle verses of the Bible are none of these or anything else we might naturally expect, though in their simplicity they are of vast importance. Significantly, they are about putting our trust in God rather than in mere human beings. 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes (Ps. 118:8–9).1  Amen, Christian, put your trust in the Lord rather than in people, no matter how influential! 

Verse 14-19 continue the testimony of praise to the Lord, now including some of Moses’ song of praise found in Exodus 15, after Pharaoh’s army was swept away by the sea.  Psalm 118:14 quotes directly from Exodus 15:2 The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.Exodus 15:2a (NIV).  Exodus 15:6 6 Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy.” (NIV) is paraphrased in Ps. 118:15b-16 15b The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! 16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!Psalm 118:15–16 (NIV).   

Verses 20-29 end the Psalm with thanksgiving and worship.  Some feel that the gates referred to are describing the special entrances designed for the king and his entourage to access the inner courtyard (Ezek. 44:3; 46:1-8). 

Verses 22-24, referring to a rejected stone becoming the cornerstone, was from a Hebrew proverb expressing the transition from humiliation to honour.  Some say this was a picture of Israel, God choosing the people and bringing them out of slavery in Egypt.  One can also see David, rejected by King Saul, then most of the tribes, until he is finally made king of all the tribes (2 Samuel 5:1-5).   

By Jesus’ time Psalm 118 was considered a Messianic psalm.  As we read this psalm, did you hear some familiar passages?  Verses 25 & 26 were shouted by the crowds on “Palm Sunday” and is recorded in all 4 Gospel accounts (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:39; Jn. 12:13).  The words from Ps. 118:25, “Lord, save us” literally mean, “save us now,” which is the Hebrew word hosanna.2  Now we know not only where this phrase comes from, but why it would have been on the people’s minds as they approached Jerusalem to celebrate Passover!  Jesus confirmed that this messianic passage referred to himself, when speaking of Jerusalem’s rejection of those the Lord had sent when he said in Matthew 23:39: For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”” (NIV).  

Psalm 118:22-24 is another passage that we hear during Jesus’ final week in Matthew, Mark & Luke (Mt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10-11; Lk. 20:17) In Matthew 21:33f, as Jesus finished His parable of the Tenants, we read: 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.Matthew 21:42–46 (NIV).  

The nation of Israel was rejected by the Empires of the World, but God chose it, and through Jesus, a descendent of King David, would build a new people.  Jesus was rejected by Israel’s leaders, but chosen by God, demonstrated through His resurrection.  This is what Peter told the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:7-12 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:7–12 (NIV).  

  This great truth is what we remember and celebrate: Salvation is found in no one else, there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved than Jesus Christ!  It is through a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ that we can enter into the Lord’s presence – Thank you Lord! 

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. 25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.Psalm 118:19–29 (NIV).  

Benediction: 18 Lord God of Israel, we praise you. Only you can work miracles. 19 We will always praise your glorious name. Let your glory be seen everywhere on earth. Amen and amen.Psalm 72:18–19 (CEV).