One Heart at a Time

Red Stone Ministries

Transforming Lives

Red Stone Fellowship meets on Sundays at 10:00 am.
236 Hollis Rd. Lexington, SC 29073

(803) 351-2503
Hope you can make it. Blessings!!


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And then Jesus told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone." Mark 16:15


April 28, 2019     The Evidence Of Salvation

April 21, 2019     Today, You Will Be With Me In Paradise (Easter Sunday)

April 14, 2019     The Stones Will Cry Out (Palm Sunday)

   Opening passage - ​Luke 19:28-40 (NLT) - Jesus’ Triumphant Entry - 28After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. 29As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. 30“Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
   32So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. 33And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?”
   34And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.
   36As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. 37When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
   38“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
   39But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”
   40He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
   Children’s Church is dismissed
   What a celebration! Crowds were excited! Jesus was thrilled to see the response of worship. We see vs.39 & 40 that some party-poopers were there. Don’t you just love Jesus’s response? Let them celebrate, don’t shush them. If they keep quiet the stones will cry out ... Oh God wants us to celebrate! Partying in His presence! He loves the praises in loud voices. He enjoys the gladness of the people! That’s Palm Sunday. (Grand Entrance (source: www.Christianitytoday.com)
   Palm Sunday celebrates the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But let’s test how much we really know of that day’s events, recorded in all four Gospels, with these true or false statements.
   1. According to the Gospels, the people waved palm branches when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
   False (Matt. 21:6, Mark 11:8, Luke 19:36, John 12:13). None of the four Gospels say the people "waved" branches but that they spread garments and branches in Jesus’s path. Only the John 12 passage mentions palm branches, apparently, a tree not native to Jerusalem. In our Luke passage, it only mentions the spreading of cloaks. Palm branches usage signifies “victory.” But I guess, there must be some waving too as cloaks and branches are pretty big, and when you spread it around, it’s gonna wave a bit, don’t you think?
   2. The date of Jesus’s triumphal entry, five days before Passover, was a special holiday in his time.
   True. It wasn’t called Palm Sunday in Jesus’s day, but each Israelite family chose the lamb they would sacrifice for Passover on the tenth day of the month. As the people shouted "Hosanna," they didn’t realize they were choosing the Lamb of God as their sacrifice.
   3. By their actions, the people were publicly proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.
   True. When Solomon was anointed king, he rode into the city on a mule, to the shouts and praises of the people (1 Kings 1:43-45). Zechariah prophesied the Messiah would arrive the same way "gentle and riding on a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9).
   4. The fact that Jesus rode a donkey portrayed him as a warrior king.
   False. Conquering kings would ride war horses; the donkey symbolized peace and humility (Zechariah 9:9, 10). Jesus’s entry was a stark contrast to the war-like Romans, whose military presence was very visible. We rather have this imagery: “The stallion stood on its hind legs, neighed loudly, and pawed the air with its front legs. When it stood as tall as it could stand, Jesus leaned forward in the saddle. Holding the reins with one hand while lifting his white hat in the air with the other, He shouted with a loud voice, "Hi Ho Silver!! Away!!"
   5. The shouts of "Hosanna!" meant "Praise the Lord!"
   False. The Hebrew word Halleluia means "praise the Lord;" Hosanna means "save us!" The Palm Sunday crowd falsely assumed that Jesus would bring them political liberation.
   6. The route Jesus chose for His triumphal entry was down the side of Mount Zion.
   False. Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives offering him an excellent view of Jerusalem, which is built on Mount Zion. According to Zechariah 14 (4), Jesus will again stand on the Mount of Olives at his second coming.
   7. When the people spread branches and garments in Jesus’s path it was to pay him honor.
   True. The people were boldly declaring that Jesus was their king, an accusation eventually written in condemnation above his cross. It was common in Bible times to spread garments in the path of princes and kings, especially at their coronation (2 Kings 9:13).
   8. The shouts of "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" were words of a Jewish hymn.
   True. The phrases "Hosanna" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" both come from Psalm 118 (25-26), one of the "Hallel" (Ha′ lel) or praise psalms (113-118) were used every Passover. These Jewish hymns would be as familiar to the Jewish people as Christmas carols are to Christians.
   A. Question — Are we clueless?
   Thank God qualifications for heaven is not based on getting a score of 100% on a quiz about what you know or don’t know about Palm Sunday. Thank God that there is no one in heaven scary lady like that lady on that TV quiz show, saying “Dooley, you’re the weakest link, goodbye!”
   Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, because we remember that Jesus chose this road to Jerusalem … even though it meant death. Even though this road meant death for Jesus, it was the start of what would become everlasting life for us. If He didn’t get on that donkey and fulfil the OT prophesy … we would all be snuffed out, for we’re all the weakest link in every shape and form.
    Look at humanity’s record … it is not pretty. Ever since history’s been recorded there is no peace … somewhere on earth there’s evidence of violence, war and death. Even sitting and watching an NHL game, if you are not careful, you can get killed as we saw in 2002 in game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames where 13 year old Brittanie Cecil was struck in the head by a puck and died.
   As you examine his entry into Jerusalem in Lk.18 (31-34), you’ll find Jesus is thinking about the events that will lead to His awful death on the cross. But we need to understand that Jesus’s disciples were clueless to what was actually happening around them (18:34).
   And I wonder today, if any of us here are clueless. Are we as clueless as the crowd that spread their cloaks and cut branches were on that day when Jesus rode in on that donkey! They would not have celebrated if they knew that their Messiah would be killed very in just a few short days. As the people shouted "Hosanna," or “save us” … they didn’t realize they were choosing Jesus, the Lamb of God, as their sacrifice for the Passover. They didn’t know that Jesus would be killed so that their sins could be forgiven. Yes, they would be saved, but saved from their penalty of sin … not from political powers. All they wanted was instant gratification, all they wanted was a political Messiah. They want to rid themselves of the hated Roman Empire and the vicious iron-grip rule of the offensive merciless Jew hating Gentile Pontius Pilate.
   Are we just as clueless to what God is doing here with us? It’s sad to say, but most of us are. So, we go for instant gratification. Drowning in our current misery, we are oblivious to what God is accomplishing thru out history. Are we too missing out on what God really wants to do for us? Just as Jesus’s disciples missed out and were out of tune with their Master, are we missing out on the fact that God wants more than anything else to work out the ultimate saving event while they were bogged down with the Romans.
   Just as we are today, we’re bogged down with what the Government of Mexico or Canada or the US is doing. Bogged down by our worries if the US will get that wall built or not … and who’s going to pay for it. Bogged down in all the “investigations” brought on by the opposing side. Bogged down by society’s pollution. Do we not live in a world where there are continuous problems galore right here … right now?
   Just as the Roman empire declined and their glory became a blip in history, so shall our concerns for the day in comparison to the on-going story of eternity that God is weaving for us. With all the current problems in our lives, our eyes seldom have the perspective of the things eternal.
   You see, our eyes are fixed on this distant dry land that we call home ... and it sure feels like we’re the weakest link, just waiting to be snuffed out by a careless driver who believes he is a Michael Schumacher, or by disease or a terrorist plot … or by a hockey puck. We visualize a world that will be safe … but the realism of history teaches us … that no matter where you go … there is no such place.
   There are folks who are building panic rooms with the latest high-tech computers and camera surveillance equipment in their houses just in case bad guys or home-invaders come. There are folks who buy old army bunkers to prepare for the end of the world. There are folks who pin their hopes that a political system called “democracy” will save them. There are folks who are doing big-time business maneuvers as if the whole world is hanging on it and then things like the bank failures in 2008 shatter their confidence. We feel totally victimized, helpless, looking for a Messiah. So, we cry like the crowd in Jerusalem … “Oh God!!! Save Us!!!”
   Thank God, Palm Sunday reminds us that we’re not the weakest link in the history of this world. Somehow through the events triggered by Palm Sunday leading to Good Friday and then to the Resurrection victory of Easter Sunday, we are soon to be restored to become the sons and daughters of God … co-heirs and co-rulers of the earth with the Lord Jesus, as we were meant to be, as we were created to be. You see, we weren’t created to be insignificant pawns of history, manipulated to pop out our tax money to support a government that is so self-absorbed that it isn’t working for the people. You see folks, we were created to be significant world changers.
   Palm Sunday reminds us that there is victory … that there is a celebration … a party that will be thrown by God for all who gets it. Palm Sunday reminds us that God has not forgotten us. He remembers that our deepest problem and deepest need is to get rid of the root of our problems. He’s not like most doctors are today … content with just treating the symptoms … He’s going all out to get rid of the cancer. And the cancer, that fatal disease of humanity is sin. That’s why when Jesus set out to ride that donkey, He’s setting things up for us because God has heard the cry to save us.
   Even if that means suffering the humiliation of what seemed like defeat and the pain of death on the cross, crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Imagine the God who could snuff out the universe with a word, going all the way to be born of woman, living some 30 years on earth, patiently enduring the misunderstanding of His own family members, the mistreatment from the religious folks who should have known of His coming as prophesied in their Bible. Who should have known that Jesus would be here to be the Suffering Servant, seeking the lost, wooing people to God’s love, to His kingdom, not with force but by the power of His deep concern and love.
   But there will be victory!!! Palm Sunday is about one of the events that eventually led to the Good Friday event, where Christ died for all sinners, so that all who believe in Christ’s substitutionary death are forgiven, freed from the clutches of death and sin and ushered into eternal life through the resurrection victory of Jesus.
   Yes, there will be a victory!!! But it’s a victory not shared by all who spread their cloaks and branches that day. For a few days later, the ones who praised and worshipped the ground on which Jesus rode on, would shout “crucify him”. They should have known the moment Jesus used the donkey and not a stallion … that he would save them … not from their momentary problems, but from the problem of sin which is the root of all their problems, the cause of wars, violence, broken families, everything that’s filthy and broken in this world. They desired a political Messiah, but what God will give them is a Messiah who loved them enough to go for a more permanent solution, even if it meant suffering and death.
   Lest we be too critical of Jerusalem, ask yourself this question: What city, even today, would not be shaken by Jesus’s entry into it? Imagine Jesus entering New York, London, Tel Aviv, Vancouver or even Washington.
   Oh, I’m sure we’d welcome Him with our “Hosannas!!!” … at first, anyway. We’d line the streets and strike up the band and have a grand parade right down Main Street. But I’m equally sure that, by the end of the week, we’d have him nailed to a cross, too. Why? Because the Kingdom Jesus came to establish still threatens the kingdoms of this world -- your kingdom and mine -- the kingdoms where greed, power, and lust rule the day … instead of grace, mercy, and peace. And who among us really undersatnds that?
   B. The Colt
   I am sure the owners of the young donkey colt didn’t really understand what was going on. They probably didn’t understand the world changing implications of that ride on the donkey that would lead to the salvation of the world. But they gave up a valuable mode of transportation and means of making a living because the Lord needs it.
   People today often speak of donkeys in belittling terms. You may have heard the expression, "I’m just someone who has to do all the donkey work." Or "So-and-so is as stubborn as a mule" (a mule is part donkey).
   These sayings overlook the contributions of a truly valuable animal. Donkeys have served the human race for thousands of years. They were once prized as symbols of humility, gentleness, and peace. So, for the owner of the donkey, it was a sacrifice to give up the animal. It’s like us giving up not only our wheels … but a source of income as well.
   Apparently, in Bible days, donkeys that had never been ridden were regarded as especially suitable for religious purposes. So, it was most fitting that Jesus sent for a colt to perform the royal task of carrying Him into Jerusalem.
   As we reflect this Easter season, what are we giving up so that others could celebrate the coming of God’s kingdom? The Lord would love it if you and I would think of others today, so that they could get into the kingdom.
   There is a guy named Bill Wilson who pastors an inner-city church in New York City. His mission field is a very violent place. He himself has been stabbed twice as he ministered to the people of the community surrounding the church. Once a Puerto Rican woman became involved in the church and was led to Christ. After her conversion she came to Pastor Wilson and said, "I want to do something to help with the church’s ministry." He asked her what her talents were and she could think of nothing---she couldn’t even speak English---but she did love children. So he put her on one of the church’s buses that went into neighborhoods and transported kids to church. Every week she performed her duties. She would find the worst-looking kid on the bus, put him on her lap and whisper over and over the only words she had learned in English: "I love you. Jesus loves you."
   After several months, she became attached to one little boy in particular. The boy didn’t speak. He came to Sunday School every week with his sister and sat on the woman’s lap, but he never made a sound. Each week she would tell him all the way to Sunday School and all the way home, "I love you and Jesus loves you."
   One day, to her amazement, the little boy turned around and stammered,
   "I---I---I love you too!" Then he put his arms around her and gave her a big ole hug. That was 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. At 6:30 that night he was found dead. His own mother had beaten him to death and thrown his body in the trash ... "I love you and Jesus loves you." ... Those were some of the last words this little boy heard in his short life---from the lips of a Puerto Rican woman who could barely speak English. This woman gave her one talent to God and because of that a little boy who never heard the word "love" in his own home, experienced and responded to the love of Jesus Christ.
   What can you give from yourself? What is your "colt". You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the colt, move Jesus and His message further down the road.
   A missionary in China calls herself "the Lord’s donkey." She’s a humble believer, "carrying" her Lord faithfully into town after town and training others to do likewise. The Lord has need of many such "colts" in today’s world, humble people who will carry Him into their Jerusalem and make Him known.
   I want you to understand something this morning … before Jesus could use that donkey … the donkey had to be untied. We too must be untied from worldly attachments if we are to serve Christ. What’s got you all tied up that you can’t fully trust and serve the Lord? That you can’t fully give yourself to be a humble servant of God? What in your life are you willing to get “UNTIED FROM” to be the Lord’s colt?
   A 19th century Sunday School teacher named Kimball led a shoe salesman named Moody to Jesus Christ. Dwight L. Moody became a famous evangelist who influenced Frederick B. Meyer to preach on college campuses. Meyer led J. Wilbur Chapman to the Lord. Chapman, while working with the YMCA arranged for Billy Sunday to come to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend revival meetings. Community leaders in Charlotte scheduled another revival with Mordecai Hamm. Under Hamm’s preaching Billy Graham gave his heart to Jesus Christ. Billy Graham has preached to more people than any man in history.
   I am sure, on that day, this Sunday School teacher in Boston named Kimball had no idea what would happen from leading a shoe salesman to Christ. Kimball didn’t have a clue. He was just trusting in the Lord and being His faithful servant by sharing the story of the Gospel.
   As we examine this passage of Scripture, let me encourage you to look at the owner of the donkey and his response to the king who entered into Jerusalem that day. “Hey!! Why y’all messin with my donkey??” … “The Lord needs it.” … “OK.”
   What is God calling you to do for Him today? Are there ties to this world and its concerns that you need to untie? What is God asking you in your heart to do?
   C. The Crowd
   The crowd’s response was great! Jesus said “I like that!”
   Let me remind you of 1 Peter 2:5, 9 “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
   Psalm 150:6 says “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”
   Worship can change us.
   Jeremiah 2:5 tells us “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”
   In a round-about way the Bible teaches that if you lay down with dogs … eventually you’ll get up with fleas. Other words … you become what you worship.
   If you worship superficial things … your life becomes superficial.
   If you worship perverted things … your life becomes perverted.
   If you worship evil things … your life becomes evil.
   (pause)
   If you worship the One True God … you become godly.
   You see, praise and worship ushers in the manifested presence of God.
   Psalm 22:3 (KJV) says “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.” That’s because praise defeats our enemy.
   Psalm 8:2 NIV tells us “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
   Psalm 149:5-6 “Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand.”
   We need to understand that our praise during the storms is what puts evil to flight.
   OK? How do we Praise God?
1. With loud voice.
2. With my body.
3. With music.
4. With the way we live our lives.
   1 Corinthians 10:31 instructs us “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
   Palm Sunday teaches us that Jesus would love such a response. So, let’s not keep quiet just because we’re clueless. I trust, by the end of this lesson you will be clued in with God’s eternal purpose to win us back to Himself with the message of Easter.
   You are no longer the weakest link, but the crown of His creation, which you were meant to be from the very beginning, made in His image! You are valuable enough that Jesus would go to Jerusalem and endure through the suffering of the cross.
   So, God invites us to humbly serve Him like the colt. Get untied to this world, let Jesus in your life, let Him ride into your life, and celebrate!!
   Matthew 4:10 “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
   Psalm 95:1 “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”
   John 4:23-24 “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.”
   Expressions of WORSHIP:
Singing (Ephesians 5:19)
Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20)
Submission to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
Noise (Psalm 100:1)
Gladness (Psalm 100:2)
Knowledge of God (Psalm 100:3)
Acknowledgement of God’s love and faithfulness (Psalm 100:5)
Praying (Ephesians 6:18)
Body movement (Romans 12:1)
Baptism (Romans 6:3-4)
Celebrating the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:23-26)
Meditation (Hebrews 3:1)
Giving (1 Corinthians 16:1,2)
Hearing the Word (Colossians 3:16)
A heart that is clean (Hebrews 10:22)
… just to name a few.
   Do y’all remember the song “Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman?
I’ll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship.
And it’s all about You.
It’s all about You, Jesus.
   Pray with all your heart for BOLDNESS!!! Don’t keep quiet about your faith anymore. Get out there and let people see that you’re a Christian by the way you live your life. Get out there … tell people about what Jesus has done in your life. … because if we don’t … the Bible says that the rocks will cry out!!

April 7, 2019     Hindrances Of Salvation

   Opening passage –- Acts 24:17-27 (NLT) — Paul writes … 17 “After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God. 18My accusers saw me in the Temple as I was completing a purification ceremony. There was no crowd around me and no rioting. 19But some Jews from the province of Asia were there—and they ought to be here to bring charges if they have anything against me! 20Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of, 21except for the one time I shouted out, ‘I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!’”
   22At that point Felix, who was quite familiar with The Way, adjourned the hearing and said, “Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case.” 23He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs.
   24A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. 25As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” 26He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.
   27 After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.
   Children’s church is dismissed.
   Today we start a 4 part Easter Series
Today - Hindrances To Salvation
Next week - The Rocks Will Cry Out
Easter Sunday - Today, You’ll Be with Me in paradise
And the last Sunday in April - The Evidence of Salvation

   I pray you’ll make plans to attend the next few weeks as we explore the whole purpose of Easter and how this time of the year is such a special time if you’re a Christian.

   Salvation – why do people refuse to receive Salvation? Why do people refuse to choose Salvation? It’s a choice, ya know. God doesn’t force His way on anybody. You have to choose to let Him in … or not. The biggest question most people ask about Salvation is a question of fear … “What do I have to give up?” If I do this … look at what I’ll loose!!! Instead … they should be asking the question “What will I get out of this?” And, of course, the answer is heaven … an eternity with Jesus and the Father.
   I would like to be able to say that everyone here today is saved and on their way to heaven. It breaks my heart to have to say that according to the scriptures, it’s highly unlikely that everyone here today or reading this on the website is gonna make it. Now it’s not because God doesn’t want you to be saved – He does! The reason so many people are not saved today is because there is something in their life that “hinders” them from being saved.
   If you’re not absolutely positive … if you’re not quite sure that you’re going to make it heaven or not … what’s keeping you from it … what’s keeping you from KNOWING if you’re saved … or not? You’ll be shocked to see what sins are keeping people right on track as they ride down that long, dark road that’s headed towards hell!
   As we enter into the Easter season … I’d like to ask you … what do you think Easter’s all about? Most people will say it’s about the resurrection of Jesus … and it is … but there’s more to it than that. It’s also about His death and burial … about repentance, forgiveness and salvation. You see, if Jesus hadn’t died on the Cross and was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to be forever with the Father … there would be no such thing as repentance, forgiveness or salvation. I mean, you can’t have one without the other, right? What good would it do to have repentance, forgiveness or salvation if Jesus hadn’t died on the Cross and was raised from the dead? Without the cross, it would be impossible because, in the Old Testament … it’s already been tried … and it didn’t work.
   Look at what happened in Noah’s day … God drowned and destroyed every living person … except for eight people … because it didn’t work.
   Through the average individual’s life, the Bible teaches they’re offered God’s free gift of salvation at least once – for some it’s more than once … but for one reason or the other they reject God’s gift and go on about their merry way … headed down that highway to hell.
   Here in the book of Acts, we see that several times Paul stands in judgment for what he believes and for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
   Now what I want to do with this lesson today is simply point out 3 different types of people in 3 different situations and show you what it was that kept them from ever being saved – and then we’ll make it applicable to us today.
   1. I begin my lesson this morning with a man by the name of Felix.
   Here in chapter 24, Paul has already testified before Felix of the false accusations that were against him. He was accused by the high priest and the elders for stirring up trouble in the synagogues and among the people. Several days has passed by and Felix, along with his wife Drusilla, had sent for the Apostle Paul to hear him concerning the faith. In other words, they called Paul … and Paul preached to this man and his wife a message that brought deep conviction in the man’s heart.
   In v.25 as Paul preached of righteousness, temperance and judgment, the Bible says that Felix trembled. as he heard Paul preach the Word of God –
· his heart began to melt
· deep conviction set into his soul
· the Holy Spirit of God was really working him over
· Felix knew that everything that Paul was saying was true.
   Here was a man –
· who was married to another man’s wife
· his very name means “pleasure”
· who was immorality is uncontrolled, his passion went unrestrained!
· he lived his life with the attitude – get all you can while you can! eat, sleep, drink and be merry!

   Here was a poor depraved lost sinner who had an opportunity to sit and listen to the one of the greatest men of God that ever lived – yet when all was said and done … Felix allowed his love for sin to keep him from getting saved!
   In vs 25 Felix tells Paul to “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.”
   What a dumb move!! How stupid could he have been!
   Let me be clear by saying this:
· you can’t get saved in a time of your convenience
· you can’t get saved when you think you’re ready
   I’ve had many people say to me –
· I’ll get saved God when “I” get ready
· I’ll get saved when “I” get my life straightened out
   Hebrews 3:13 says “You must warn each other every day, while it is still called "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” … “While it is still called “today!!!” Think about that for a second. You see … in the very near future … “today” will be forever.
   In 2 Corinthians 6:2 God said “I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I helped you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, today is the day of salvation.”
   Isaiah 55:6 tells us to “Seek the lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Remember a few weeks ago we talked about the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids? They didn’t bring enough oil for their lamps, so left to get more. When they got back the Bridegroom had already come … and the door had been locked and they couldn’t get in for the wedding.
   Listen folks, if you ain’t saved – do it now because 30 minutes from now may be too late! 3 minutes from now may be too late!!!
  Check this out … sitting beside this man was his wife Drusilla. It’s interesting to note that the Holy Spirit saw fit to tell us that she was a Jewess. Even though she was by her first marriage a me mber of the Herodian family – she was still a Jew, but she had forsaken her Jewish beliefs! She knew her lifestyle was wrong, she knew according to the Old Testament Law that she was living in sin!
   Now here’s what I want you to see. When Paul preached to BOTH of them, the Bible says that Felix trembled … but it says nothing about his Jewish wife! I think that this dear woman had hardened her heart against the Truth for so long that Paul’s preaching had little or no effect on her at all! … Oh, what a tragic situation she was in!
   My friends … if you ever come to the point (or if you’ve already come to the point) that your heart is no longer convicted when the Word of God is being preached … Brothers and Sisters … you’re in BIG trouble! REALLY BIG TROUBLE!!!
   Dr. George W. Truitt many years ago had a friend who was a lawyer in Dallas Texas. He came to Dr. Truitt one day and said, “George, you and I came here to Dallas at the same time. You were a young preacher and I was a young lawyer. I must confess that when I first heard you, I was moved a great deal by your sermons. Very frankly, there were nights where I couldn’t sleep. But as the years wore on, I could listen to you and it didn’t disturb me anymore.” He chuckled and said, “and you are a lot better preacher now than you were then.”
   How tragic is that? You see folks, the more you knowingly live in sin and the longer you reject God’s free gift of Salvation … the less and less the Truth will be able to convict your heart.
   In Ephesians 4:19 we read “They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” You see ... the Bible says that God is going to call you ONLY so long … then the door will be closed and locked … and He will leave you to yourself … to perish.
   2. Our second gentleman this morning is a man named Festus – it was his fear of man
   In Acts 25:19-20 we can see that during the time he had spent with Festus he had surely witnessed to him. In verse 19 the Bible says Paul had affirmed Jesus to be alive, who Festus knew was dead. Paul told Festus that Jesus was the Christ who rose from the dead. In verse 20 we see the reply of Festus to the Gospel. Felix used procrastination as his ticket to hell and now Festus uses unbelief. The Bible says in verse 20 that he doubted of such manner of questions.
   I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that this man doubted his way to hell with all the rest of those who have died in unbelief of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus indeed rose from the dead and this shows his rightful place as Lord.
   I’d like to share this video with you this morning. Let’s listen.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8KjVU2-18o
   They put Him in a tomb over 2000 years ago thinking Him to be dead forever but I want you to know I talked to Him today. The Bible says that whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). Whether you believe it or not … He is the risen Lord and you will submit to Him now or you will answer to him later when He judges your sin and cast you into hell.
   Acts 4:12 says "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
   Philippians 2:10-11 says "At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
   3. Our third gentleman is the man Agrippa – finally, we see a third rejection of the Gospel of Christ by a roman politician … it was his attitude toward time that sent him to hell.
   When you read Acts 26 (1-26) you can see that Agrippa had a decent knowledge of the scriptures and the religion of the Jews. Paul tells him that he will gladly tell this high platform politician his testimony. Paul proceeds to tell Agrippa how he personally met the Lord on the road to Damascus. He then tells Agrippa that Christ was supposed to suffer and die and that He would be the First that should rise from the dead. Again, Paul presents a risen Lord and Savior for all mankind to see, including the Gentiles. Paul then asks Agrippa the magic question and says, king Agrippa, “Do you believe what the prophets have said?”
   Agrippa gives a sad response that is shared by many people of all kinds today. He says, “Paul, you almost persuaded me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)
   We all know that almost isn’t good enough except in hand-grenades and horseshoes. Almost saved … is all the way lost. Almost saved is definitely a trip to hell. Agrippa no doubt was also under conviction of the Holy Ghost just as Felix was and instead of procrastination, he just flatly rejects the Gospel of Christ with … “You almost persuaded me.”
   Today … all three of these men are crying out in the midst of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the place we know as hell. They’re suffering eternally for procrastinating salvation, not believing salvation, and flatly rejecting salvation. If you could talk to these men right now as they fry like a piece of bacon … I’m sure that you would say to them, “Why didn’t you just get saved?”
   There they are … burning and totally depraved of hope and they never will they know anything of God … eternally separated from His aid. Why didn’t they just get saved?
   I ask the same question of many of you here today and reading this on the web. Why don’t you just get saved? What’s holding you back? What are you holding on to that would be worth an eternity in hell?
   I want to give you 5 things I believe people are holding on too that has kept them from accepting God’s free gift of Salvation. Many, many local church members as well as those that are in the world will go to hell because they reject the gift of God for one or more of these 5 things.
   1. Pride: If you look at any sin, pride is the underlying cause. Pride is “All About ME!!” I believe that pride is the biggest sin that people have that keeps them from being saved. They are simply too proud to bow. To proud to submit to the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
   a. Pride is a characteristic of Satan. Isaiah 14 (12-23) says that Satan was thrown out of heaven because of pride. The Bible teaches that those who are not saved or born again are the children of Satan (John 8:44). We all know that children often share the characteristics of their father … so this is no surprise. You and the devil have something in common and that’s your stinking pride. You’re worried about your reputation or what people will think and you will end up in hell because of it.
   b. The Bible calls you wicked. Listen, if God says you are wicked because of pride then you are wicked. Psalm 73:3 talks about the prosperity of the wicked and then in verse 6 we see their main characteristic. It is the same as yours and the same as Satan’s. "They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty." The Bible says that your pride has you bound up like a chain and Jesus said that if you will get in Him that he will set you free.
   c. Pride will keep you from getting saved. The Bible says in Psalm 10:4 "The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead." Even if you are not seeking God because you are too proud to get saved … I want you to know that He is seeking after you anyway. The Bible says that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). You are lost and if you will drop that chain of pride and turn to Him … He will save you. Just get saved. Don’t hold on to your pride, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth an eternity in hell and then the lake of fire.
   2. Pleasure: a lot of people love the pleasures of this world so much and what this world has to offer ... that they are not willing to live for God and get saved. I’ve heard people say too many times that they don’t want to give up all the fun they are having to become some kind of Jesus freak. Well, the Bible says your pleasure won’t last because there is coming a pay day when you will suffer an eternity in hell for rejecting the Son of God and His righteousness as your ticket to heaven. It’s not worth it.
   a. Pleasure will not satisfy you. Have you ever noticed how even your best of times enjoying the pleasures of this world have to be repeated. The pleasure you got from doing something will not last and is forgotten before you know it. Ecclesiastes 2:1 says " I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless."
   Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says that pleasures of this world are meaningless. Let me say that I can proclaim with no ill to my conscience that since I got saved, born again, I am satisfied with Jesus. Pleasure will not satisfy … but Jesus will.
   b. Pleasure is short-lived. As we said before, pleasures of something you have or have done in this world will not last. They are soon forgotten. Hebrews 11: 24-26 says that "It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward."
   c. pleasure will seal your fate. 2 Thessalonians 2:12 says "Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth." The Bible says that the pleasures of sin and of this world will only last for a short season and then comes judgement day (Hebrews 11:24-26). You may be having pleasure in unrighteousness now but in eternity, while you are suffering the torments of hell, you will wish you could come back and receive the free gift God is offering through his Son. This gift is eternal life. Just get saved.
   3. People: The Bible says in Psalm 118:8 that "It is better to trust in the lord, than to put confidence in man." A lot of you who are hearing or reading this message are going to end up in hell because of the influence you allow people to have on your lives. You may have confidence in a minister who is telling you that your works are going to get you into heaven or that your works are the reason you’re saved. You may have confidence in a church and what it teaches. You may have confidence in yourself. People are a big reason that others will not receive the free gift of salvation.
   a. Friends- some of you are afraid that you will lose your friends and you’re right. You will lose a LOTS of friends when you get born again, but you will find that they were not really friends anyway. James 4:4 says " You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God." I’d rather have God on my side than all the friends this world could offer. Just get saved and you will get some new friends. Some real friends. You will have Jesus and the Bible says that He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). you will have some church folks that will become your friends and edify and encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
   b. Family- I have witnessed to many people who shrug off the Gospel by changing the subject to some family member or group in their family who goes to this church or follows this belief. The people they are closest too are there excuse for not getting saved. They say well my grandfather was a preacher or my uncle preaches down at that big church on Main Street.
   There are others who have tight nit families and they know if they get saved that they will be an outcast to the family. They have family reunions and parties that any saved person would not fit in. I say DROP EM!!! Praise God and just get saved. Nobody on the face of this earth is worth going to hell over. The Bible says in Matthew 10:37 "If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine." Just get saved and win your family to God. Then you can all enjoy that sweet reunion with the Lord in the by and by.
   c. Foes- a lot of people think that if they get saved that it will lend their adversaries more ammunition against them. They want to hold up their reputation to their enemies. the Bible teaches that our real enemy is Satan and that we fight not against flesh and blood but against his powers. Ephesians 6:12 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Your real enemy is Satan who roams about seeking who he may destroy (1 Peter 5:8). He wants you to continue living for him and fulfilling his lust and by doing so you will end up in the place that was originally prepared for him (hell).
   4. Past: a lot of people in our day seem to think that the sins they have committed in the past and are committing now are too severe for them to be saved. They think that they are beyond saving.
   a. Past sins- the Bible says that Jesus’s blood paid for all our sins; past, present, and future. Ephesians 1:7 says "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Jesus blood did not just pay for small sins but all sins
   b. Past failures- a lot of people think that because there track record is filled with failures that God cannot use them and that there is no reason to get saved and live for Him. I say just get saved and God will make a winner out of you. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new." That’s right friend. if you will give your life to the Lord and get saved he will make you a totally new creation and all your past failures will be gone that he can make you new.
   c. Past commitments- there are others who have even made pacts and vows with and even sold their souls to Satan and because of this they think they are beyond saving. I will say that there is no doubt they are in danger of condemnation … but it may not be too late. Any pact with the devil (or anyone else for that matter) that would cause someone to pass up on the gift of salvation is overruled by the word of God. The Bible says in 2nd Peter 3:9 "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent."
   5. The price: first of all, let me say that Jesus paid it ALL. When Christ bled and died on the Cross he paid the sin penalty for all who will come to him. He was the propitiation for the whole world is what the Bible says. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
   Secondly, there are many people who are not willing to repent and get saved. The Bible says in Luke 13:3 and again in Luke 13:5 "except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Yes, Jesus paid the price for us to get to heaven but you must be willing to let it all go and turn to him. Surrender your life to him and He will take care of you. it’s a promise. Just get saved. You’ll not regret it. It’s the greatest thing by far that has ever happened to this old country boy and it will be the best thing that ever happens to you … no matter who you are.

March 31,2019     Lord, How Am I Supposed To Love This Woman?

   Opening passage — Ephesians 5:21-33 (NLT) — Spirit-Guided Relationships: Wives and Husbands — 21And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
   22For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
   25For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30And we are members of his body.
   31As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
   Summary:Women learn to submit to their husbands by watching their husbands submit to God. If a husband is not submitting to God, more than likely there will be a problem of submission in his home.
   Before I get started, I want to say something about this lesson. Every lesson that we talk about on Sundays may not apply directly to a situation that may be going on in your life at this particular moment … I pray it doesn’t happen … but one day it might ... better yet I’ll tell you exactly what will happen.
   God is going to send someone into your life that needs the knowledge that you have gained from our lessons on Sunday mornings. Remember, you never really understand what you have learned until you can teach someone what you know.
   With that I want to look at 2 verses from the passage of scripture I read earlier. Let’s look at verses 22 and 25 … 22For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 25For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.
   Let’s look at what Paul is saying here. Now most women don’t have a problem with the second phrase of verse 22 … they have no problem with submitting to the Lordship of Jesus.
   But looking closer at this passage, Paul is saying that the woman is to submit herself to her husband in the same manner as she would submit herself to Jesus. Now that’s a powerful level of submission. That’s giving a significant level of authority to the husband.
   Now let’s read verse 23 & 24 … 23For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
   So that in a manner similar to the way that Christ is the head of the Church, the man is to be the head of the wife. The obvious meaning of headship in the New Testament and the Greek language is to be in a position of authority and a position of leadership.
   And what I understand this passage of scripture to mean is that the husband is to be the head of the home. This is not a license for tyranny; this is not a license to demean the woman or to treat the woman as a slave … but the responsibility for final authority and for leadership in the home is vested in the husband. And if the woman resist that, she is resisting God, it is God who gives that directive.
   Now there has been teaching that I have heard that men have bought into the idea that the only way that God could tell women to submit to men is if men are naturally superior to women.
   This is so very not true. Subordination in terms of the division of labor in the Bible never carries with it the idea of inferiority. Even our Biblical doctrine of the Godhead says that the Son is subordinate to the Father and the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Son, and no way do we waver from that, the idea of inferiority or there is any less dignity to the Holy Spirit than there is to Jesus Christ. So, Biblically, there is no less dignity, no less value to the woman than to the men.
   Submit is not one of those dirty four-letter words. God is telling you that you are to submit to one another in reverence of Him. Anything you do for God is not shameful or degrading and should not be looked upon or thought of in that manner.
   We hear constantly in our society now days the myth of the 50/50 marriage. I can’t think of anything worse because in a situation of a 50/50 marriage there is no final authority … because both parties are equal. You see, what these 50/50 marriages tend to do is to be locked in a perpetual power struggle to gain that 1% to make them not equal to the other.
   Let me tell ya something … God settles that because He’s got final say … and the Word says that the leadership in the home is vested in the man. And, gentlemen, before that grin gets too big on your face, I’m not so sure that’s as much a privilege as it is a heavy responsibility.
   It’s God who has ordained the man as the leader, the head of the church and the home. Understanding this statement leads me to another revelation that most men will not be comfortable with. “Every problem in the home or in the marriage is the responsibility of the Man.”
   Now I did not say that it was the fault of the man, but as the leader, as the head of the home, it is the man’s responsibility to do something to make it right. To many times men want to just wait and see what happens, and all the while complaining about this not being right or that not being right, there is no peace around here. Well … as the leader of the home … what are you going to doing about it? It may not be your problem … but it is your responsibility to make sure it is resolved and peace is restored.
   If a company has a problem with a product it’s producing, do you think the president is going to sit back and just wish it gets better or hope it works itself out? NO!! The president is going take some action to make it right.
   We’re losing too many marriages to the enemy with these wishing and hoping husbands. It’s time out for wishing and hoping … it’s time for action … and God teaches that action is initiated by the man because ultimately, when that Great Day comes, the man will be held responsible for what goes on under his leadership.
   Wife unhappy, what are you doing about it? Kids not acting right, what are you doing about it? Family doesn’t what to come to church, what are you going to do about it?
   Listen men, you don’t want to answer God’s question of “Why was your family such a mess?” with “Well God, You see, I was hoping and I was wishing it would get better.”
   Now when you bought your motorcycle, you want that motorcycle to perform the way it was designed. You want that motorcycle to last. Therefore, in order to make this happen, the first thing we do is we pull out this book called the “Owner’s Manual” and we look in a section called the manufacture’s recommendations.
   And we understand that following the recommendations of the people who made the motorcycle about how the motorcycle should work; will give us our desired result.
   In that same vein, if we understand that God instituted marriage, then you must understand that if you are not following His recommendations, His guidelines … you cannot expect your marriage to work like it was designed to.
   So, with that, the question before us today is “Lord, how am I supposed to love this woman.” Well let me tell you first, that if you don’t love the Lord, you cannot love your wife the way she needs and deserves to be loved.
   I’m going to tell you that my wife gets more love from me as number 2 in my life than she would ever get at number one. Let me make it clear for you, with God as number one in my life, pleasing Him is synonymous with loving her.
   The God I serve is the same yesterday today and forever, He never changes (Hebrews 13:8), but our spouses do. If we put our spouses in that number one position in our life, then as she changes, your love for her changes. There are no governing rules for a marriage where your spouse is number one in your life. God says in his most basic commandments, “Have no other god before me” (Exodus 20:3).
   You see, when God instituted marriage, it was a secondary relationship to Himself. So, if your spouse is number one in your life your marriage has no boundaries, no standards and is just an endless roller coaster of heart ache and heart break, frustration with nowhere to turn and no light at the end of the tunnel.
   Because if God is number two, you are not going to use the standards of what is number two in your life to govern number one.
   But the Word of God screams the command to the men, “love our wives, as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25-29)
   What God is telling us husbands is that if we don’t know Jesus Christ, then we don’t know how much Jesus loves the church; then we won’t know how we are suppose to love our wives. If we don’t know how much Jesus loves the church we won’t have a clue how to love our wives the way God intended for us to.
   We already talked about men being the leader’s in the home, but verse 22 talks about submission of the wife to their husbands. As I stated earlier, this has been a sore subject for a lot of women for many years and I always wondered why, why is it so hard for some women to submit to their husbands as God has commanded them to do in His Word, and then the Lord revealed it to me.
   Let me ask a question, if women are supposed to submit to their husbands, where do they learn to submit from? I have held several pre-marriage classes from several different instructors. Each one of those classes were very much different in the layout and presentation, … submitting to your husbands was in every one of those classes. But I didn’t see any instruction telling wives how to submit to their husbands. I only saw the command to do so.
   Let me tell you guys something this morning … our wives learn to submit to their husbands from watching their husbands submit to the Lord. How fascinating is that, we submit to God and our wives watch us and learn to submit to us by watching us submit to God … and we turn around and love them like Christ loves the church.
   So, then it was clear to me, it made sense. If a man is not submitting to the Lord, then there will be problems with his wife submitting to him. Why? It’s because if a man is submitting to Jesus Christ as his leader, guide and Lord, then his wife doesn’t have to worry about being physically or verbally abused, being neglected or being led into an ambush. She doesn’t have to worry about if its late … and you’re not home and where you are and what you may be doing … because she knows that Jesus would never do that to the church.
   Therefore, a wife would have no problem submitting to the Godly leadership of her husband because there are boundaries, standards and morals set by God where she can live free from worry. If God in His Word tells us not to worry, then, gentlemen, we should not create situations of worry in the marriage because if she is spending a lot of time worrying, that is less time she can spend finding ways to further express her love to you.
   Men are not just generic leaders, but they are the pastors of their home, they are the spiritual leaders and the prayer leaders of their families.
   So, men to love our wives, we must first love Jesus, and follow His direction for your lives.
   Jesus also tells the church that he loves it. The Bible is an endless love story of the Lord telling us how much he loves us, the same way we must tell our wives that we love them.
   The Bible tells us that what we believe in our heart, we confess with our mouth; therefore if you love your wife, you need to tell her. Don’t just tell her privately … tell her publicly ... not only with your words but also by your actions.
   One of the greatest things you can do for your children is let them know that you love their momma. And don’t stop there … express your love before family members and coworkers. Let the world know that this is the woman God gave me, my queen, the mother of my children and the love of my life.
   Don’t be like the man who’s wife was complaining to the pastor that she has been married for 20 years and her husband had never told her that he loved her. The pastor could not believe it. So he confronted the husband with this information and the husband replied, “That’s right. 20 years ago I told her that I loved her and if I change my mind, I will let her know.” Guys … that’s no way to live.
   Now Jesus also showed the church that He loves it by giving his life as a sacrificial atonement for sin on Calvary. Now many believe that John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” is the greatest verse in the Bible because it shows the sacrificial love of God toward us. Our wives must feel that beyond the shadow of a doubt that we are prepared to die for them.
   Does the calendar dictate your love for your spouse? Is the only time she receives special treatment; flowers, cards, candy, etc. is Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries? Do you compliment her enough to keep her self-esteem high? Do you show her that behind Jesus she’s the most important person to you on earth?
   Now Jesus shows that He loves me daily, giving me life, giving me answers to my problems, giving me strength the endure in the storm. He feeds me daily with His Word, He hears my prayers, He is there with me when I am at my highest and he picks me up when I am at my lowest. OH yeah!!! He shows me daily that He loves me.
   Is love a stranger in your house?
   One day after work a man was invited over his Christian friend’s house for dinner. He was amazed and how nice his Christian friend treated his wife … he said please, thank you, he told her he loved her and he noticed how happy they were so he said “I am going to try this when I get home from work tomorrow.”
   The next day when the man got home from work he opened the door and smothered his wife with kisses and told her that he loved her and she immediately burst into tears. Confused he asked what was wrong. She replied, "Your son got into a fight at school, the refrigerator quit working and the food spoiled and I had to throw it all out … then to top it all off you have come home drunk."
   Is love a stranger in your house?
   Many men get so caught up in trying to provide monetarily for their family that they forsake what they need most … and that’s love and leadership. And you cannot provide love and leadership if you’re never home.
   Listen very carefully men, your family needs your presence more than they need your paycheck. There have been many deathbed confessions of “I wish I had been a better husband” … “I wish I had been there more for my children.” Well you don’t have to wish any longer, start showing your love for them today.
   As men, we need to adopt the phrase for our life of something like “Good is not good enough.” If you consider yourself a good husband, that’s fine, but are you content? Have you reached your plateau? Do you think where you’re at right now will last … will it sustain your marriage?
   A marriage relationship is never stagnant, you’re either growing closer or you’re growing apart. Just as our relationship with Christ is never stagnant, we are either growing closer to Christ or we are growing apart from Christ.
   The world will tell us that a good husband just consists of paying the bills, cutting the grass, keeping the motorcycles serviced and running, working on the cars and the house.
   Let me tell you something … if we can be replaced as a husband by our wives with her getting a better paying job, a car with and extended warranty and a lawn care service, then I’m sorry men we’re missing the boat.
   But as Christian men we’re not going to settle for a worldly view of what constitutes a good husband. Our goal will be set on becoming the husbands God calls us to be and our wives need us to be.
   If you don’t take an active role in showing your love for your wife, she will seek love somewhere else … primarily from the world. What have we said about our children? “If you don’t raise them the world will,” and it is no different when it comes to your wife, if you don’t love her and take care of her, the world will.
   Let’s for a moment explore the type of wife the world turns out.
• She Puts career before family needs.
• She Refuses to submit to her husband as a result of listening to her single and or divorced friends telling her that she don’t need a man, don’t need to depend on a man, get your own checking account and don’t put his name on it.
• Don’t spend all that time in the kitchen, if he wants something to eat, fix him a TV dinner.
• Constantly asking you, what have you done for me lately?
• She is going to start arguments every chance she gets because that is the only way she can get your focused attention.
   A worldly praised wife is miles apart from a Godly wife. So what are we going to do about it?
   We need to praise her and not criticize her.
   Pay attention to her; let her know she is special.
   Let her know she is appreciated for all the things she does that we tend to take for granted
   Tell her you love her
   Make time to take her on a get a way vacation
   Make your marriage a life long date. Do you remember how excited you felt about her when you were dating? Well the same things you did to get her are the same things (and more) you need to do to sustain her.
   And finally, to love this woman we as men must pray, and pray and pray some more. Our wives need to see the source of your strength; your family needs to see the source of your strength. If your wife and your family think YOU are your strength, you have failed them, because what if something happens that takes you out of the picture?
   Where is your family going to turn for strength? Your family needs to see you praying, you need to lead your family in prayer. In times of trial and times of tribulation everyone needs to turn to Christ in prayer.
   Let me tell that MaryLu and I have never had an argument ... and never will. But we have had a few minor disagreements and not one of those disagreements could not be solved without prayer.
   You will be amazed at how calm the situation gets when you say “Hang on a minute. Let’s pray about this first … then we can talk about it.” As I used in the analogy with the motorcycle and the owner’s manual.
   Our manufacturer has given us 24 hour 7 day a week access to Him. But our God is a God that cannot be pleased without faith. You must believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the situation in your life right now, the situation in your marriage right now can and will be fixed by God. You must believe that there is power in prayer and turn that problem over to God, turn that situation over to God. He can fix it, if you just submit and let Him.

March 24, 2019     If Noah Were Here

   Our opening passage is Genesis 6:1-8 (NLT) A World Gone Wrong -- “1Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. 2The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives. 3Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
   4In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.
   5The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8But Noah found favor with the Lord.”
   Our second passage this morning is Matthew 24:37-39 (NLT) — “37When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.”
   Summary: What would the message of Noah be like in today’s society?
   Nearly 6000 years ago there was a great man of faith called Noah. Noah lived in a time of great turmoil and much confusion. It had all began so beautifully as God had created man and placed him in the paradise known as the Garden of Eden. But, oh how quickly the beauty and peacefulness began to disappear as sin entered into the picture.
   From the lives of Adam and Eve, who knew the pristine innocence and beauty of God’s perfect creation, mankind had quickly fallen to the corrupted world of immorality that Noah lived in. In fact, things had become so bad that God was sorry that He had ever created man. Genesis 6:5-6 says, "5The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart."
   Genesis 6:2 tells us what happened to bring about this fall into absolute corruption when we read the words, "2The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives."
   The term “Sons of God” refer to those who, for a time, had chosen to have a form of religion where they would still recognize the Lord God, Jehovah. Over a period of time man began to multiply and to fill the land. As the number of people grew and each successive generation began to get farther and farther into sin, there was soon a large majority of the population who had totally forsaken God. They had gone so far from God that there was no reaching them any longer. They had no thought of God. Their heart was only growing more corrupt with each passing day.
   Living in a world of corruption had its toll upon those who considered themselves religious also. Little by little, day by day, their religious beliefs were compromised, their faithfulness to serve God became weaker and weaker, their love for God was replace by a love of the things of this world.
   Reading this passage (Genesis 6:2) gives us a picture of absolute immorality in the hearts of men. "2The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives." Prostitution became the norm as Satan did his best to destroy the very design of God for one man to have one woman for life and create a family that would serve the Lord.
   The depths of corruption, sin and immorality that man can ever reach down into are without bounds. Satan’s purpose is to drag every man, woman and child into those great depths of sin so that they will no longer have any thoughts of our Holy God and the great Creator. Satan’s ultimate goal is always to destroy all of God’s creation, but his greatest hatred and absolutely worst attacks are designed to come against all of mankind that is created in the image of the God that Satan hates.
   His plan seemed to be working all too well. At the rate that man was becoming more corrupt, it would not be long until Satan would realize his dream of stealing man from God … the one thing in all of creation that God loved. You see, God created all things and called them good, but it was only man that God really loved … for man was the only part of God’s creation that had the power of choice to love God in return and the only part of creation that possessed an eternal soul.
   But God has always had a plan of redemption for a remnant of those who will serve Him faithfully!
   Into this sin blighted world of immorality was born a man who would be faithful to God in the midst of it all. That man was Noah.
   Noah came from a godly family. His family is recorded in the Book of Genesis:
   Enoch was his great-grandfather! At the age of 65 Enoch had a son and named him Methuselah. When he was 356 years old, Enoch was taken up into the very presence of God without ever having to die.
   Methuselah, when he was 187 years old, had a son named Lamech. Methuselah lived longer on this earth than any other man in the Bible, leaving this world at the ripe old age of 969.
   Lamech, at the age of 182, had a son and named him Noah. Then Lamech lived to the age 777.
   Noah was a patient man and a godly man, staying faithful to the God of his fathers and did not have children until he was 500 years old. That’s when he had 3 sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth.
   The problem was that the longer that man lived, the greater their moral corruption became. God finally put a limit on the life of men when he stated in Genesis 6:3, "3Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years."
   God had built this body to live forever and never die. His design was so perfect that it took the power of sin to destroy God’s creation. Even so, the body’s design would allow it to live for centuries if God would not have placed a limit on man’s lifespan.
   As you know, the average lifespan in our time is about 70-80 years. God’s had to continually place limitations upon the lifespan of mankind because the heart of man is still set upon every evil imagination (Jeremiah 17:9-10) and the world only grows more immoral and corrupt with each passing day.
   The sin in the heart of man had finally reached a place that God would not tolerate it any longer. So, God determined in his heart to utterly destroy man from the face of the earth lest all flesh would destroy itself. God loved man too much to allow man to destroy himself in such fashion.
   In the midst of this great melting pot of sin, immorality and corruption, there was only one man who still placed his faith in God and made an attempt to serve God.
   Genesis 6:8 tells us "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD."
   Noah – the man of faith – heard from God and began to build an ark. Using crude tools, wooden hammers, crude saws and forming every part of the ark from wood that had to be cut, hewn and hauled from miles around, Noah built an ark, a ship, that measured 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and approximately the same height as a 6 story building of our day. It wasn’t until the 20th century when we began to build large metal ships that a ship could be built this large again.
   While he built this ship, God also instructed Noah to begin to preach to those around him that the flood was coming. God was going to make one final plea to the people He loved so much. God knew that they wouldn’t hear Noah. Noah found grace in God’s sight but not one person would give him the time of day. They were too busy having their “good times,” remembering the “good ole days” and living their lives of self-indulgence. They had no time for a “crazy old prophet”. After all, it’s never rained before. There’s never been a flood before.
   Adam was created over 1650 years ago and all things have been like they are for many centuries. Why would we believe this old gray-haired preacher now? Besides, don’t ya think it would take someone TOTALLY off their rocker to build a boat out in the middle of the desert??
   BUT … no matter what came and went … Noah just kept on working and preaching – being faithful to the call of God upon his life. He withstood all of the taunts of the crowd, as they would gather to watch Noah and his family building this monstrosity of a building that would be the salvation of mankind and God’s plan for starting all over again.
   People could not and would not accept God’s plan and … as a result … not one of them, except for those 8 people in Noah’s family who obeyed God and built the ark … survived the judgment of God. Every living thing that walked the face of the earth drowned as a result of their sin and stubbornness. Every one of those people is in hell today and, after Judgement Day, will be in the Lake of Fire forever. I wonder, if they could do it all over again, would they help Noah built that ark? But that chance will never come – their eternal fate is sealed and there is no coming back and no second chance to make it right.
   What do you think that Noah would be doing right now, if he were living in our time?
   He would be doing just what he did 6000 years ago. He would be doing what you and I had better be doing also.
   Matthew 24:37-39 says " 37When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes."
   These words are given in response to the Disciples asking Jesus the question found in Matthew 24:3, "What shall be the signal of your return and of the end of the world?"
   After giving a list of the things that would come, Jesus warned us that the heart of man would yet be ever after immorality, corruption and sin, and that not many would hear the message of the gospel. The same condition would exist and the ears of those who are wholly sold out to sin would still be deaf to the call of God and preaching of His Word of warning to repent.
   What kind of things did Jesus say were coming that would give us warning of His soon return to judge the world again?
1)"For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
2)“… Wars and rumors of wars”
3)“… For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”
4)“… Famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in places too many to count."
5)“…You shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”
6)“…Many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.”
7)“…Many false prophets will rise, and deceive many.”
8)“…Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow wax cold."
9)“…This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
   Can there be any doubt that we are living in the days that Jesus spoke of? If there was ever a time when all these things are happening … it’s now!
   Our daily newspapers are filled with news that carry shock waves that God is using to try to wake us up!
   The preaching of the gospel has spread around the globe to every nation through the power of satellite broadcasting. There is no place on the face of the earth that cannot be reached with the gospel at any given moment that a man will turn toward God and tune in to what is being said.
   All of these other signs are visible as well. There are battles begin fought all over the globe as nations, religions, ethic factions and races rise against one another to commit genocide of those who are different.
   Famines have been and continue to sweep across the third world nations as 90% or more of the world’s population goes to sleep hungry every night.
   Earthquakes and other natural disasters are more intense and more frequent than any other time in the history of man.
   Pestilences, like aids, venereal diseases that are resistant to any drugs, viruses that don’t respond to treatment and then things like chemical and biological warfare (anthrax) that threaten to destroy people by the millions are a constant topic of discussion and concern.
   False preachers, false religions, false prophets and false, self-proclaimed saviors abound as men try to gain power and influence over the lives of others.
   Christians are becoming more and more the target of all the world’s religions as they attempt to lay the blame for fear and guilt upon the teaching of the truth of Christ’s Word.
   Sin has caused love to disappear as mothers kill their own children; children kill their classmates and their own parents, our children call the cops on us when we try to discipline them. Families have fallen apart because love has grown cold and we are more concerned about what we want … we are more concerned about what makes US happy … instead of what is right and good for everyone involved.
   Mothers turning their kids out to fend for themselves as they chase after immorality that makes them feel good no matter what the costs.
   Fathers who refuse to accept their responsibility for the children they bring in to this world and, instead of being the Biblical head of the household, they become soft and even turn to homosexuality and perverseness with those same children.
   In the midst of this sin and corruption there is still a voice in the wilderness crying out for man to turn back to God, but these days … that voice is seldom heard anymore!
   Noah would say to us – get in the ark! Judgment is coming! Death lurks at your very doorstep and he waits for no one! The floodtide of sin is rising! The rain of God’s judgment is already falling and will soon become greater! Listen and obey for there is little time left!
   Each passing generation since Noah has only gone deeper and deeper into sin. Each passing generation looks upon the next to wonder just how bad can things get and man still survive!
   God has already promised that He would come back after a remnant just as He did for Noah and his family.
   I have heard it time and time again where some have said that they don’t believe such a loving God would condemn every sinner to the Lake of Fire forever. Tell that to those who drowned in the flood!
   Every living soul except for 8 people died and went to Hell because of their unbelief and their way of life. What makes us think God’s holiness and His justice won’t do the same thing again?
   If Noah were here, he would be shouting to the top of his lungs – Repent – Get Ready – God’s judgment is coming and it won’t be long! Don’t wait – there is no promise of tomorrow! Jesus could return to catch away His remnant this very second … then where will you be? What will happen to you if you missed that boat?
   We don’t have to drown in our sin! We don’t have to spend eternity in Hell with those drowned victims of the flood! We can accept the invitation into the Ark of Salvation through Jesus Christ! We can enter in because the door is still open but I fear it has begun to close.
   Once the last soul has come in that Jesus knows will accept Him … like the parable of the “Ten Virgins” … the door will close and there will be no more chance for salvation (Matthew 25:1-13)
   All of us have to listen, hear and obey the message of the gospel (James 1:22-25). There was only one door into Noah’s Ark and there is only one door into salvation today.
   That door is “Jesus Christ”. He is the way; the truth and the life and no one can enter except through Him (John 14:6). There is no life that is “good enough”, there is no sacrifice that we can make that can “pay the price”, Jesus is the ONLY way and His blood is the ONLY sacrifice that is good enough.
   1 Peter 3:20-21 says, "20… those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. 21And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
   There is your way into the Ark of Safety. There is your door into the Kingdom of God – it is only by having a good conscience, a personal relationship with the Father and His Son and by having a clean heart before God by believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
   Be part of the remnant, not part of the crowd that will suffer eternal death. Be a part of the remnant that will live eternally in Heaven!
   Accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior!
   Surrender your heart to Him!
   Repent of your sin today!
   Jesus will bring you in through His blood and make your life count for something good!
   Do it today while there is yet time to enter in – the door is open but it won’t be long until it begins to close forever.

March 17, 2019     Imitate God

Ephesians Series Part 4 of 4

   Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)
   Someone once said, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Any parent knows this is true. You’re out in the garage, carefully pounding some nails in that dresser you’ve been refurbishing. As anybody with any wood working sense knows, you must be very careful pounding those finishing nails in lest you put a gaudy dent in your final product. Suddenly, you hear pounding next to you. There’s your son with the same expression of deep concentration as you have on your face, tongue out the side of his mouth, with a hammer in his hand. He’s beating the tar out of your dresser. He says, “Look, daddy, I’m just like you.” Dents all over your masterpiece! You’re furious, yet flattered, because he wanted to be just like you. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.
   The same is true when it comes to God. If you want to flatter God … worship him … there is no better way than imitating him. And, looking back over Ephesians, we can’t help but wanting to flatter God. Remember, he blessed us with every spiritual blessing; he chose us to be his children from before time ever began; he bought us back for himself in Jesus’ blood; he sealed us for heaven in Jesus; he made us alive when we were dead in sins; he saved us by grace; he made us citizens of heaven; he welcomes you into his presence at any time; he does immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine.
   Last week in our lesson, Paul used the world as an example of what we should not do. In our passage this morning, Paul gives us examples of what we should do to imitate and flatter the God who has done so much for us.
   Our lesson this morning is telling us not to do things that we know dishonor the Holy Spirit. We are to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. We’re to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
   The chapter 5 starts out with “Be imitators of God” and “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.”
   A pastor shared this story. “She was a girl with endless possibilities. She was great with people. She was beautiful. She was kind-hearted. She played the piano perfectly by ear. But she gave it all up. As my sister drifted away from God and my parents, it filled their heart with ache. As she slept around, refused to get a job, lived with her boyfriend and married him without so much as an invitation to her family, it brought torrents of tears. When she got divorced after her baby was born, as she wandered around aimlessly without a job, as she told lies about her family and her past, my parents put on a brave face, but the grief only grew.”
   In our lesson, Paul tells us not to grieve God like that. You see, our disobedience, our bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and our refusing to forgive … all grieve God. They grieve him because a good Father hates to see his children hurt themselves and others. He knows how these awful attitudes destroy us and the ones around us. These type of attitudes ruin his church and get in the way of his work.
   I doesn’t matter what anyone says, because we all struggle with it. Are you harboring bitterness and unforgiveness in your life? Maybe it’s family. Families sometimes seem to bring out the worst in us. I’ve said horribly insulting things to some of my family members I wouldn’t dream of saying to others. Familiarity often does breed contempt in this sinful world. Maybe it’s bitterness over a personality clash from years ago or differences of opinion. Maybe he talks about you behind your back; maybe she rubs you the wrong way or intimidates you. Maybe he sabotages everything you do. Maybe she doesn’t respect you. Maybe they have something you don’t like, maybe popularity or money.
   Max Lucado writes, “Doesn’t someone owe you something? An apology? A second chance? A fresh start? An explanation? A thank you? A childhood? A marriage? Stop and think about it (which I don’t encourage you to do for long), and you can make a list of a lot of folks who are in your debt. Your parents should have been more protective. Your children should have been more appreciative. Your spouse should be more sensitive. Your preacher should have been more attentive.” (Great House of God, Lucado, p. 121) If we chew on it long enough … there’s always something to make us bitter.
   That bitterness grieves God as we hurt ourselves and others. Yes, we hurt ourselves. Max Lucado goes on to write, “Ever notice that we describe the people who bug us as a “pain in the neck”? Whose neck are we referring to? Certainly not theirs. We are the ones who suffer.” (The Great House of God, Lucado, p. 123).
   You see, bitterness and unforgiveness shackles us, it consumes us and it eats up our conscience. We suffer; we sin; we sabotage our relationship with the loving, heavenly Father and those we love.
   It reminds me of this guy in Tennessee who saw a water moccasin in the bottom of his row boat. In panic, he pulled out his pistol and began blasting at it. Can you guess what happened next? The bullets tore holes in the boat, the boat sank and he rested on a nest of water moccasins. Blasting away at others in bitterness sinks our boat. It destroys us in the end.
   Thankfully, we have a God who lets go of our bitterness. Psalm 25:6-7 says, “Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord…For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.”
   That’s a repentant request that is always answered. The Bible says that IF we confess of sins with a repentant heart … God doesn’t remember them anymore, not a one. In fact, he doesn’t even remember your rebellion from yesterday because he let it all go when Christ “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” God lets go of every sin, even our bitterness.
   So … what are you hanging onto it for??? If God forgives and forgets our shortcomings … why can’t we do that for others???
   Now, Paul tells us to imitate God by letting go. Start by saturating your life with Scripture and the power of prayer. Ask God to help you do the impossible with someone who is impossible. Consider writing down the name of that person who is the object of your bitterness. Write down the things that makes you angry. Get it all out, how they hurt you, how they get on your nerves, how they make gagging noises in your presence. Then, crinkle up the paper, throw it in the fire pit and burn it up. Then … with a true heart … ask God to burn up your bitterness and consume you with love. Imitate him, and let it go!
   Having let go, now what do we do? How do we imitate God once bitterness has been banished? I saw an article on Britney Spears. It reads, “Spears, now cutting an image-shifting, comeback album after an 18-month hiatus, said she now realizes ‘I need my single time’ to learn to ‘be self loving.’ Now that she has let go of a relationship with her boyfriend she needs some time to love herself.
   OOOPS!!! Sorry Britney … but … God says something different. In verse 32, He says to “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” and in verse 1,he says “and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”
   Having let go of bitterness, God tells us be “others-loving,” not “self-loving.”
   Martin Luther once wrote, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord, subject to no one; a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” God set us free from guilt and sin when he let our sins go, but now he calls us to serve others, to imitate God’s service and to imitate to others His love to us!
   Looking at that word “compassionate.” Literally, it means “having good bowels.” What in the world does that mean? What do bowels have to do with compassion? Well, the Greeks believed your insides represented your feelings. That’s why your stomach hurts whenever you’re nervous, anxious, disgusted or sad. The Bible often says that Jesus “had compassion” on people. They were so spiritually sick and helpless that it made him sick to his stomach. But, more importantly, it moved him to action. He healed the blind, the lame, the demon-possessed. He preached God’s good news to the poor. He clambered up Calvary carrying THEIR cross.
   God tells us to imitate him by hurting for those are hurting. But more importantly, he tells us to imitate him with compassionate action. 1 John 3 (16-20) says, “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. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity (compassion) on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” You see, the Bible teaches us that compassion leads us to action as we imitate God.
   It’s awful tempting for us to say, “I don’t want to butt my nose into their business. It’s better not to meddle.” Nice excuse ... BUT … when we see people who are sick, who are struggling to hang on to their faith, whose world has been shattered by death, who have been through abuse and failure and rejection—God wants us to take compassionate action. Send a card, buy some food, stop by—give them some time. Can the TV show wait? Can the house be cleaned another time? Someone needs to see God’s helpful hands in your hands, God’s comforting voice in your voice, God’s sympathetic eyes in your eyes. Let’s love with compassionate action.
   This is where we find real significance, real fulfillment, in imitating God, in copying his compassion, kindness and love (James 1:27).
   Pastor Rick Warren writes, “What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it.” (Warren, Purpose-Driven Life, p. 233)
   Let go of the bitterness barrier by forgiving and forgetting those things of your past because the Bible teaches that if you never let go of the past (and all the junk that comes with it) … you’ll never have a future. How can you have a truly Christian life if you’re all bogged down with all the guilt and shame of you past.
   LET IT GO!!!! Stop wallerin in all the stuff that is dead and gone … and start living!!! Live your life like you have a future with Christ … live your life like you have a future with your spouse and your children. Stand up firmly … take compassionate action in your life. Imitate God, and give him the highest form of flattery. He deserves it, don’t you think?

March 10, 2019     Be Different

Ephesians Series Part 3 of 4

   Ephesians 4:17-24 (NLT) — Living as Children of Light — 17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles [other words Live no longer as the unsaved] do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
   20But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
   Summary: God calls us to be different. He doesn’t want us to be anything like the vile, unbelieving culture around us. He offers us power to do that. He said in 60th chapter of Isaiah “1Rise up and shine, for your light has come. The shining-greatness of the Lord has risen upon you. 2For see, darkness will cover the earth. Much darkness will cover the people. But the Lord will rise upon you, and His shining-greatness will be seen upon you. 3Nations will come to your light. And kings will see the shining-greatness of the Lord on you. (Isaiah 60:1-3) (NLV)
   It’s not easy to be different, is it? You see a young lady with pink hair spiked up like a porcupine at Pizza Hut. Her clothes are black, her eyes are black, her fingernails are black. All is black except for the silver glint of her countless metal accessories. You say to yourself, “She’s different.” No one else in Pizza Hut looks anything like her.
   Now, you run into the same girl on Friday night at the coffee shop. She looks the same—hair still pink and spiked. However, the girl next to her has pink hair, and so does the one behind her. The one next to her has purple hair and the one over there has green hair. The one in the back corner has fire engine red hair. Wow!!! You’ve haven’t see so much head color since you went to the parrot convention at the zoo.
   Now, as you sit in the Pizza Hutt, you realize how different you look in your kaki pants and button-down shirt … while she looks like everyone else. The reality is that we all like to be accepted, even in our differences. We don’t mind being different as long as someone else is different with us. It’s not easy to be truly different.
   During this past week where were you different than anyone else? Did anyone notice that you did not belong? Did you stand out in the crowd? Did you go against the flow?
   Whether you like it or not, the Bible says that you are different. Sure, we’re just as foolish, frail, and faulty as the next guy. Different sins, but the same sinful weakness. Just because people can’t see the lust or hatred struggling in our heart doesn’t make us better than the adulterer and the murderer. But, you’re different … because God chose you as His child from before time ever was. You are loved, forgiven and saved. You’re a Christian, a follower of Christ. You are different than the world around you.
   So, were you different this week? Did you stand out? Did you go against the flow? Today God is telling you, “You are different, so be different!” That’s who you are, so act like who you we called to be! He talks about this in our lesson:
   Let’s read our passage again from a different translation. Ephesians 4:17-22 17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; … (NIV)
   1-The command
   A pastor told this story. There was this guy in college who was sort of wild. For instance, he once had some friends tie him in between two mattresses and launch him off the balcony of the auditorium. That was just one of the times he had to be rushed to the hospital for a concussion. Years later, I ran into him, dressed nicely, sitting on a couch talking in a quiet and gentle voice. Surprised to see him I said, “Nice to see you, Matt!” The first words out of his mouth were, “I’m sorry. For what? For what you remember me as.” He was trying to put his old self behind him.
   As we see here in vs 22 Paul writes something similar in our lesson today: “Put your old self behind you. Be different than what you once were; be different than the vile, unbelieving culture you came from.” You have to remember that most of the people Paul wrote to came to faith when they were adults; their old life was still very real for them. Those of you who learned about Jesus as adults can understand Paul’s thought more easily. Those of us who have been Christians from infancy have a tougher time relating.
   Either way, his point is clear: God commands us to be different than the vile, unbelieving culture around us. Again, in verse 19 he says, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.”
   “Indulge” literally means “busy-ness” or “diligence.” The culture around us diligently seeks one thing … self-satisfaction … at any cost … constantly craving the next self-indulgent experience, the next thrill-filled roller coaster ride. If it feels good, do it, no matter how it affects anyone else.
   How many of you have seen the movie called “The Family Man?” It’s about this selfish guy who abandons his fiancé for a career and a self-indulgent life. An angel gives him a glimpse of what life would have been like if he had married his fiancé. He shows him how wonderful she would have been and how great his kids would have been. He falls in love with that life, realizing how much more fulfilling it is. There was an interview with the actor who plays his character. He basically says, “Either life was great; he just had to pick which was right for him.” In other words, as long as you’re happy, you’re doing great, whether you’re living as a family man or a self-indulgent, money-grubbing sexaholic! That’s the way the vile, unbelieving culture around us thinks!
   Our culture believes that your happiness is the most important thing in the world. So, if you want to ruin your marriage because you crave porn, good for you. If you want to mess around and play house before you get married and actually have one, good for you. If you want to sit around all day watching worthless shows while the world turns, good for you. If you don the religious mask on Sunday but live the way you want the rest of the week, that’s fine. Inconsistency is fine, so long as it makes you happy. If you want to retire from serving God and others when you retire from work, great. If you want to max out your credit cards on new clothes and motorcycle chrome while sickly children starve on our streets or in your own homes, go ahead. If you want to spend all your time playing games and warming bar stools while your children grow up without you, you go right ahead; it’s OK because it’s your life, right???
   But, you see … we’re not supposed to be like that. God commands us to be different. We don’t exist to indulge ourselves at the expense of everyone else. Paul adds to this thought in the 3rd chapter of Colossians where he says: “This means that you must try to kill everything in your body which belongs to this earth, things like sexual sins, and unclean thoughts and actions, sinful sexual urges and desires and greed, which is idolatry (worshiping something other than God). It’s because of these things that God’s holy anger is coming…now you must also try to get rid of all such things as anger, bad temper and hatred. And there must be no insulting or shameful words coming out of your mouths. You must stop lying to one another, since you have stripped off your old self and all the things it does and have put on your new self.” (Colossians 3:5-15) You see … God commands us to live selfless lives of sacrifice, compassion and care.
   By the way, this brings me to a topic that has been burdening my conscience for some time. Lately, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I know that my brother hasn’t been to worship in months or he is living a completely selfish life, but he still believes in God.”
   Belief, or trust, in God is not the mere acceptance of his existence. It’s relying on him COMPLETELY!!! Even the devil believes that God exists. But the devil nor his demons rely on God for anything. How can you rely upon Jesus when you won’t have anything to do with Him? How can you rely upon Him when your entire life is consumed with your own happiness? How can you be His child if you refuse to be different than the world?
   I’m often afraid that more of these loved ones have turned their backs on Christ than we realize. Psalm 2:12 says, “blessed (happy) are those who trust is in him.” But it also says, “Kiss the Son (Jesus) lest he be angry and you be destroyed.” (NIV)
   You see … membership at Red Stone (or any other church) won’t hold any water with God at the pearly gates. These loved ones need our encouragement and prayers. Pray that God would take them out of the world and make them different again. We ALL know someone who needs to be in church. Help them to become different by helping them back into the fellowship of God’s children. If they’ve never been to church, help them to understand the importance of being in fellowship.
   2-The power
   After thinking about it, it seems really difficult to be different, doesn’t it? Selfishness says it’s no fun to live for others; sinfulness says it’s boring to obey the rules. But look at verses 23 and 24, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds: and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
   This ever happen to you? (have keys in left hand) “Where are my keys? I just had them here in my pocket.” (put pencil in ear) “Where’s my pencil? I just had it.” It’s right there in front of us, any closer and it would bite us.
   So God tells us today that the ability to be different is right in front of us. While we still have a rebellious sinful nature (our old self) to contend with, God has given us something right here: a new self, a new person, created to be like him in true righteousness and holiness.
   You see, when Jesus triumphantly said with His last breath “It is finished,” from a crimson cross, he accomplished two amazing things. First of all, He finished paying the punishment for every rebellious romp in your life. Second, He completely conquered the power of sin in your life. When it comes to being saved, Jesus did it all for you; forgiveness and peace with God are yours. And when it comes to living godly lives, he has given you the power over sin. That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 6:14, “Sin shall not be your master.” God has given you a new self who has the power to be different, a new self who says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). You are not stuck in your sin; you are not clamped to your culture; you’re not helpless or hopeless. You have the power to be different through Jesus Christ and his life-changing Word.
   So, how will you be different this week? Will you put the video game down and give your wife and kids some of the time they need? Will you take on a ministry in your church or your community? Will you pass up that top or that skirt you don’t really need to help someone in need? Will you fight that addiction to lust, angry outbursts or self-indulgent living? How will you be different?
   Sesame Street had some great songs. Remember the “different” song? “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” They showed you four different men, three dressed up as firemen, one dressed up as a policeman. You were supposed to point out which one was different.
   My friends, you are different. You’re not like the others. That’s because our merciful God chose you as his child from eternity past. You’re forgiven and loved beyond measure. You’re different. Now, let the world see that you are different!

March 3, 2019     Restoring Unity In Our Community

Ephesians Series Part 2 of 4

   ​Ephesians 2:13-22 (NLT) — 13But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
   14For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
   17He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
   19So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
   Summary: It’s essential that Christians be unified if we are going to glorify Christ, build each other up and share his message with the world.
   The Early New Testament church was known for its love. That’s why it grew so incredibly fast. People were attracted to the love which changed Christians so much.
   Now, Satan knew that thousands of people were being drawn to Christ through this love, so he attempted to destroy the church. At first, he tried to splinter it from the outside. In A.D 64, he moved the Roman Emperor Nero to blame the Christians for a terrible fire in Rome. Hundreds of Christians were arrested, covered in animal skins and torn to death by dogs; some were crucified, coated in tar and lit on fire. Satan incited many other powerful men to persecute, imprison and murder Christians for years. Thousands died for the faith, but the Church continued to grow; more and more people joined the church when they saw the love and dedication of Christ’s followers.
   So, Satan tried another tactic: splinter the Church apart from the inside. If he could get Christians to fight with each other, to stab each other in the back, not only would the Church fall to pieces, but unbelievers would smell the hypocrisy from 100 yards away and steer clear. He has had much more luck with that tactic: Destruction through Disunity. Leveled through a Lack of Love.
   How successful has Satan been with Red Stone? Has he caused Destruction through Disunity? Has he Leveled us through a Lack of Love? Well, think of it this way: What is Red Stone known for in our community? a. Teaching b. A building c. Rigidity or d. Love? When people say “Red Stone” do they picture a family of believers bonded together in Christ, working together in love to bring Him to a dying world? Or, do they see an assembly of spiteful squawkers who love to tear each other down behind the back?
   I’m not entirely sure what they think, but it’s a very important question. If we cannot lovingly unite, we cannot do Christ’s work of glorifying God and reaching the lost. We’re wasting our time! We must make sure that we are united as a congregation, as families, as friends. If not, God will take his work elsewhere regardless of what we do.
   The Church in Ephesus faced a similar challenge, to stay united so they could do God’s work. Satan had already started to divide them. Let’s listen to Paul’s words to them to help us Restore the Unity in our Community.
   We start with verses 13 & 14 …
   I. The Conflict
   “13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,”
   Paul talks about the hostility between two groups of people in the Ephesian church. Those two groups were the Jews (those who were near) and the Gentiles (those who were far away). The Jews were the physical descendants of Abraham whom God had delivered from slavery in Egypt and given the Promised Land (which is now modern day Palestine). They were God’s chosen people.
   The Gentiles were everyone else, those who were not descended from Abraham. These would be people like the Romans, the Greeks and the Egyptians. Most of us are Gentiles, descended from Gentiles of European descent.
   At the time Paul wrote this letter, the Jews and the Gentiles did not get along very well. The Jews had the Ten Commandments and the special laws of God. They prided themselves on the stress and strain they went through to keep these precious laws. And they loathed the ignorant Gentiles who mostly lived self-indulgent lives.
   The Gentiles, on the other hand, got sick of hearing the Jews preach on and on about their law, especially because many Jews dreamt up clever ways to sidestep God’s laws. It annoyed the Gentiles that such people called themselves “God’s favorites.”
   The reality was that both were guilty of sin and both needed Jesus. The Gentiles because they lived how they wanted to live and rarely cared what God wanted … and the Jews because they knew better and disobeyed God anyways … the Gentiles because of their self-indulgence … the Jews because of their hypocrisy. Like Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!” Two guys jump out of a plane; both of their parachutes fail. It doesn’t matter if one lands high up on a mountain, the other way down in a valley; both are going to splat.
   How it burns God’s ears to hear us dividing because we think that we are better than the lady two rows in front of us. How it annoys Him to see us rating our ministries as though one person’s work were more important than another’s. How it annoys him to see us exploiting the mistakes of others so that no one will notice our own faults. How quickly we, in an attempt to satisfy our own demonic cravings for blood, devour gossip or cling to one side of a two-sided story. How arrogant to ignore the fact that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This foolishness divides the church, and the stench of hypocrisy drives people away.
   In 1917, when the Russian revolution was rocking the streets of Petrograd, leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church were meeting a few blocks away from the fighting, having a heated debate over what color vestments (stoles, etc) the priests should wear! (From When God Builds a Church, Bob Russell, p. 167) When we battle with each other, we forget the real battle, to win souls for the glory of God. The church will never grow when it is driven by disunity and lovelessness.
   We must unite to glorify God and to reach our community, and there is only one place to do that—in…
   II. The Resolution
   Listen to verse 15-20: “15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body (Christ’s body) to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
   When we were kids and guests came over, there were two tables: the adult table and the kid’s table. The kid’s table was always a bummer. When the adults were pulling sirloin steaks off the grill, we would ask, “Do we get steak, too?” My dad would reply, “Yeah, tube steaks. Ha, ha.” And throw hot dogs on our plates at the kid’s table. All the cool conversation took place at the adult table; we got stuck talking about Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Masters of the Universe. We weren’t welcome at the adult table.
   These verses tell us that God welcomes us all to his table through trust in Jesus; no one is turned away … not one.
   Look at verses 16-19 with me: verse 16 says no matter who you are, Jew or Gentile, blue-collar or white collar, man or woman, child or senior, you have been reconciled to God through Jesus’ blood on the cross. In other words, God has been turned from your enemy into your friend, from your judge to your Father.
   Verse 17 is saying No matter who you are, you are at peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1).
   Verse 18 … No matter who you are, you have access to God. God always welcomes you into his presence whether you are coming for protection, promises or prayers.
   And verse 19 … No matter who you are, you are a member of his household. Membership has its privileges and heaven is yours.
   But remember something else…the guy next to you, yeah him, the one you don’t like because he thinks Greenbay quarterback Brett Favre is a putz, or, worse yet, because he thoughtlessly slammed you in front of your friends … yeah … that guy is also God’s child.
   Remember verse 16, “Jesus reconciled both of them to God…” And verse 18, “through Jesus we both have access to the Father.” As much as you may not care for that guy, he is your brother in Jesus, and Jesus has made you one. You are loved; he is loved. You are forgiven; he is forgiven. You are blessed; he is blessed.
   Pastor Bob Russell of Southeast Christian Church writes something interesting about this: “The twelve apostles were a diverse group. Simon the Zealot was a patriot—a kind of redneck who hated the Roman government. Matthew was a tax collector—a collaborator with Rome. That would be like Rush Limbaugh and Ted Kennedy serving on the same committee! They’d about slit each other’s throat! But Jesus united them.” (Russell, p. 197).
   Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Man were both forgiven and loved by Jesus. All of us here today are forgiven and loved by Jesus. We all have peace with Him; we all have access to Him; be all belong to Him. We are united in Him.
   And if that is the case, then it will certainly change…
   III. Our Response
   In verses 21&22 we read “21In [Jesus] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV)
   I’m sure that many of you have heard of Ladan and Laleh, the Siamese twins from Singapore. Ladan and Laleh were joined together at the skull but had individual brains and. In June 2003 the doctors attempted to surgically separate the 29 year old twins. Unfortunately, they did not survive. They were joined together so closely that it couldn’t be done.
   Interestingly enough, Paul tells us we are “joined together” like that in Jesus, wholly dependant upon each other, brothers and sisters for eternity. And in Jesus we find the strength to build each other up until we become a marvelous temple that projects His loving face to a dying world.
   When that world sees us so closely joined together and building each other up … they see Jesus … and they are drawn to him!
   They’re turned away by hypocrisy and dissention; they see enough of that in the workplace and government. But when they see unity and love, they are drawn to Jesus.
   So, Galatians 5:13 Serve one another; Romans 15:7 Accept one another; Colossians 3:13 Forgive one another; Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens; Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another; Romans 12:10 Honor one another; Romans 15:14 Teach one another; Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another; 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage one another; James 5:16 Pray for one another and Confess your sins to one another.
   Take the time to listen to both sides of the story; take words and actions in the kindest possible way; be patient. Do everything on your part to restore the unity and the love. That way, our families, our friends and our community will be drawn to the love of Jesus who welcomes us all!

February 24, 2019     We Are The Wealthy Children Of God

Ephesians Series Part 1 of 4

   Ephesians 1:3-14 — (NLT) — Spiritual Blessings — “3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
   9God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
   12God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.”
   Summary: Sometimes it seems like we don’t have much, but in reality, we are wealthy in God, past, present and future.
   How many of you know the story of the Munity on the Bounty? The Bounty was a British ship that set sail in 1787, bound for the South Seas. The crew was sent to plant fruit trees and make some of the islands more habitable for colonization. And they did just that for the first six months on the islands.
   When it came time to leave, however, the sailors rebelled. They liked the native girls and the warm weather. So, they set Captain Bligh and a few loyal men adrift in a tiny boat. Soon after, the British government sent an expedition to punish the mutineers. Fourteen were captured.
   Nine mutineers, however, along with the Tahatian men and women who accompanied them, found their way to Pitcairn (pit’karen) Island, a tiny dot in the South Pacific only two miles long and a mile wide. Ten years later, drinking and fighting had left only one man alive--John Adams. Eleven women and 23 children made up the rest of the Island’s population.
   Around this time, Adams discovered the "Bounty’s" Bible in the bottom of an old chest. As he read it, God’s love and forgiveness transformed his murderous heart forever. He began to teach the children from the Bible until every person on the island was transformed. And that transformation still takes place 200 years later. In 1988, with a population of slightly less than 100, nearly every person on Pitcairn (pit’karen) Island was a Christian.
   (pause) The Bible is powerful; it transforms people. It answers those hard questions of life: Who am I? Why am I here? It changes our perspective and gives us direction.
   Now, I know that that we are headed into the riding season … things are fixin to start getting really busy. With spring around the corner we’ll all have a bunch of stuff going on. But I want you to remember … none of those things is as important as our connection with God.
   So, as we begin this Bible study of Ephesians, I ask you to pray with me and commit yourself to studying this life-changing message with us. Go out to our website and re-read these lessons. Act like the Bereans … go home and read and study the things you hear here today.
   PRAYER FOR GOD’S BLESSING.
   First of all, the Bible changes us by reminding us who we are. And Ephesians starts right there. It reminds us that we are the wealthy Children of God.
   “What?” you say, “I’m not rich!” I’ve got more bills than bumps on a pickle. I’ve got a mortgage that I will still be paying when my great grandchildren pass away. I’ve got car payments and motorcycle payments, insurance … and I’ve got a job that could disappear tomorrow.”
   Unfortunately, we so often measure who we are by what we have or don’t have. We’re really something if we have the hottest car on the block. We’re “all that” if we are advertising Abercrombie and Fitch on a nappy looking t-shirt. We have something if our garage is packed full of junk. We’re somebody if we can travel the globe.
   And … to some of us … if we don’t have these things, our lives seem so empty. Even when we have it, it’s not all we want or think we need. How short-term and shallow we can be!
   The people in Ephesus (the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote) probably had similar faults. You’ll notice that Ephesus was on the coast of Asia Minor (what now is modern-day Turkey). It was a thriving port town of over 300,000 people. It was the most important trade center in that part of the world. It was a city of culture and proud history. Money was everywhere. People talked about it, dreamed about it and prayed for it. Making money was their life.
   That’s probably one of the reasons Paul starts his letter to the Ephesians this way in verse 3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
   He wants to remind us that, no matter what we have, we are the Wealthy Children of God. We are richer than we could ever imagine – past, present and future.
   First of all,
   1. We are rich because we were chosen by God in the past.
   Look at verses 4-6: “For he chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
   We were never the kind of kids who planned ahead. We were always clambering to put cards together on Father’s Day; we were in our bedrooms right after worship coloring, cutting and pasting desperately before dad could get in our room. And there was definitely something missing, especially when dad got wet glue on his hands while opening his card.
   God’s different. He’s the kind of God who plans ahead. He’s never spontaneous about you. Paul says that he chose you before the Creation of the world. Billions upon billions of years ago, he planned for your arrival. Knowing everything you were going to be and do, knowing about that about that blurry year of college and that rotten relationship and that turbulent temper, He planned to love you anyway, adopt you and take care of you the best way His infinite mind could dream up.
   In other words, the captain of the eternal baseball team chose you first, long before the bases were even plopped on the field. You weren’t the last one left after all the good hitters were picked. God didn’t say, “I guess we’ll take her.” You were part of his eternal, loving plan from the very beginning. You were first on his mind before the birth of the stars. NOW!!!! That’s rich!
   But you’re even richer yet, because Paul says,
   2. We are “in the know” right now
   Look at verse 7-9, “In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, …”
   We’ve all been there. Last Halloween, you assumed everyone would be wearing costumes to the party. So, you showed up as Speedy Gonzalez, complete with sombrero and whiskers only to find everyone else in casual clothes. Or, you drive all the way to the zoo, only to find out they’re closed on Sundays. Or, pulling into the parking lot at a Braves game in Atlanta, your spouse asks, “You got the tickets, right?”
   How many of us have said … “It would have been nice if someone had told me.” There are certain things it would be nice to know, certain things … it’s comforting to know, certain things … it’s necessary to know.
   Our passage today puts us “in the know”. God has lavished complete forgiveness on us through the blood of Jesus. The word “lavished” literally means “given us an abundance.” In other words, God has given you more forgiveness than you will ever need! You cannot out-sin God’s undeserved love. After one of those days when you got nothing right, when every good intention of faithfulness got flushed down the toilet, when you were more crabby than a Christian should be, you are still forgiven as you climb into bed at night. And you know what?? There’s still enough forgiveness left over for tomorrow.
   2 Corinthians 5:19 puts us even further in the know: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”
   God reconciled whom? The rich? The well-dressed? The good-looking? People with white beards? No, God reconciled the world. That means you and me and everybody else in the world.
   Someone once wrote, “Isn’t it great to be included? Universities exclude, businesses exclude, sports exclude. But God? … Never!”
   The whole world has more forgiveness than it will ever need. The whole world has more forgiveness than it could ever fathom. But most people don’t know that. They’ve heard a few rumors that “God is love”. But they wander around thinking they’ve done such bad stuff that they’ve ticked him off enough that He can’t forgive them. Then hope they can do enough right stuff to make him happy … but they’re never quite sure.
   Not you. Our loving God has put you “in the know,” … a mystery that brings eternal joy: You are totally forgiven today. And you will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day too. That’s rich!
   But you’re even richer yet. Why? Because…
   3. We are sealed for the future in Christ.
   Look at verses 13 & 14: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Jesus with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.”
   You ever heard of a “Movie Mangler?” Me neither. I heard a pastor use that term. He said a “Movie Mangler” is someone who gives up the ending to a movie you would like to see. He says things like, “I really cried when Shelby dies in Steel Magnolias.” Or, “I didn’t realize Darth Vader was Luke’s daddy.” It stinks to know the end of a movie before you watch it, doesn’t it?
   But when it comes to life … it stinks not to know the ending. Its nerve wracking not to know if you will be carried off to heaven or thrown in hell when you die.
   And God knows that. And He loves you too much to keep you hanging. So, He gives you assurance for the future.
   Remember, Ephesus was a trade city. The people were constantly talking about deals, steals, agreements and contracts. They knew all about sealing a deal ... and through this example God is reminding you, that through faith in Jesus, your deal with him is sealed. You are guaranteed heaven. Although you can always jump out of his hand, but remember, in John 10:28-30, Jesus himself said, “Nothing can snatch them from my hand.” Trouble, trials, tribulations and tormentors can do nothing to take you away from Jesus or snatch you out of heaven. Your future is guaranteed in Him if you choose for it to be.
   In fact, God has even put a deposit down on you — the Holy Spirit, who lives in your heart. He is the down payment for your spot in heaven. The word which Paul used for deposit is arrabon. In modern Greek, an arrabona is a deposit — it’s like engagement ring —, a guarantee that a man is going to marry a woman. When someone gives his fiancé an engagement ring, it’s his deposit, his guarantee, that he’s going to marry her. It’s the warning that if she wanted to run, now’s the time to do so!
   MaryLu and I had been talking about getting married for about 6 month or so. One day out of the clear blue sky one of her sons asked me when I was going to get her a ring. I looked at him and said “I did. As a matter of fact, I got her two. A front tire and a back tire. I figured she would get more enjoyment outta those two rings than that one ring.”
   Folks, it’s ONLY through faith in Jesus, and it’s ONLY by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord has made a guarantee that He will take you to heaven. You need not be afraid. Don’t let your past haunt you … don’t ever let the present scare you … but rest assured that you have a future waiting on you in heaven.
   Are you starting to catch on yet? Do you know who you are? You’re the Wealthy Child of God! You’re rich! You may not have all you ever wanted or desired, but, above all, your Father desires to have you in heaven with Him. That’s why He chose you in the past, put you in the know and sealed your future in Jesus.
   You’re rich! Let that wonderful message about who you are transform you into the person God needs you to be. Let it change your perspective as it did for John Adams all those years ago on Pitcairn (pit’karen) Island. And make plans to come back next week as we learn more about why we exist.​