“The Backslider In Heart” (Proverbs 14:14 sermon)

It’s about 380 A.D., and Monica was at church, praying for her son. This was nothing new for her. She had been praying for her son for over ten years. She’d brought him up to know the Lord. He was an extremely sharp young man, who “knew” a lot, but he “backslid” from what he had been taught. Now he was living in Italy, drinking, carousing, and dabbling with pagan philosophies. So Monica was in church that day, weeping at the altar, and praying for her son. 

That story may sound very familiar to some of you today. Maybe you are a mom like Monica. If not, you probably know someone like her. Or maybe you would say today: I am just like her son, or daughter. I am a backslider. 

Some of the most common prayers Christian mothers pray today, are for their children who are not walking with God. Like Monica, they brought them up with Christian teaching, but they have “backslidden” from it like Monica’s son Augustine did. 

This week we read Proverbs 14:14, “The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways.” Let us look at what a “backslider” is, how we can pray for them — and how we can keep from becoming a “backslider” ourselves! 

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“Walking in the Fear of the Lord” (Proverbs sermon)

As we started reading the Book of Proverbs in our daily Bible readings this week, one of the first verses we came across was 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” a famous verse in this book. 

— Then at the end of the first chapter, :29 talks about the downfall of those who “did not choose the fear of the Lord.”

— Then Chapter 2:5 says of those who cry out for wisdom: “Then you will discern the fear of the Lord.”

— and by the time we get to chapter 3:7 we find yet again: “Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

So FOUR TIMES in just the first three chapters of Proverbs we find this expression: “The fear of the Lord.” And it will be found many more times in this book as well, a total of at least FOURTEEN TIMES. “The fear of the Lord” is obviously a key theme in Proverbs. It is important that each of us today know just what “the fear of the Lord” IS, and how it should affect literally every area of our lives. 

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“Grace That Is Greater Than The Inexcusable” (Mark 14:32-42 sermon)

C.S. Lewis once wrote “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” That is a great statement, and it can very convicting about our attitude and practice towards others — but it really all depends on whether we really understand those words: that “God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  Our passage for this morning helps us understand what it means that God has “Grace That Is Greater Than The Inexcusable.” 

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“Jesus ‘Calls’ His Resurrection” (Mark 8:31-38 sermon, Easter 2022)

Jesus “called” the Resurrection, didn’t He? I say that because it’s one thing to “accidentally” happen do something, and another thing entirely to do it on purpose, and “call it” in advance.

For example, we watched the “Final Four” NCAA basketball championships at Orlando after David & Ashley put the kids down, and I remember at one point, in the middle of what was a very good game, one of the Kansas players hit a big 3-point shot — but he banked it in off the backboard. I think my son David said, “He didn’t call it!” He said that because guys will often “accidentally” hit a shot like that, not really meaning to hit it off the backboard — so when folks are playing HORSE, you have to “call it” it if you are going to use the backboard; in other words, you’re saying, “I’m calling this in advance; I am planning to do this. This didn’t happen by accident!”

And that’s how it was with Jesus and the Resurrection, wasn’t it? Jesus didn’t “just happen” to rise from the dead; He “called it” in advance. This is what He PLANNED to do, from the very beginning. And this week in our daily Bible readings, we came across actually THREE places in the Book of Mark where Jesus “calls” His resurrection, in Mark 8, 9, and 10. This morning we’re looking at the first of them, Mark 8: 31-38, where Jesus not only “calls” His resurrection, but tells us several important things about it:

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“The A-B-Cs of Salvation in Leviticus 1:1-4”

One of the most difficult things for me on my recent mission trip to Bulgaria was the language. I am typically fairly good at languages, and when I go on mission trips I can usually speak some of the language by the time I get home. But this time in Bulgaria I wasn’t as successful — I’m afraid some of it may be age! — but I also think also some of it is that they have a different alphabet. They use the Cyrillic alphabet, in which some of the letters are the same as ours, some of the letters are the same as ours but mean something different, and some of the letters are different altogether. And I just never did get the hang of it. I was so relieved when we went to Philippi and I could read the signs, because they were in Greek!  

So the alphabet is so important. That’s one of the first things our kids, and our grand kids, had to learn, to be able to read. The letters of the alphabet are the building blocks of reading, and all the big words and concepts in our language won’t make any sense to us until we learn the basic concepts of those A-B-C’s first. 

As we come to Leviticus in our Old Testament reading, I know that a lot of people get “bogged down” in this book, reading about all the sacrifices and the laws of uncleanness. (By the way, that’s one reason why I’m glad we do the three different readings each day; if you have a difficult one like we did in Leviticus today, you still have a Psalm and Mark to get some more accessible spiritual “food” from for the day!). 

But what we find here in Leviticus IS important, because here God was giving His people the building blocks; the “A-B-C’s” of faith. Before the people would be ready to hear the message of a Messiah who died for their sins, they first had to learn the “A-B-C’s” of theological language: they had to learn about sin, and sacrifice, and forgiveness. Once they had learned that, then later when Jesus came later and John the Baptist said “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” people knew what sin was, and the forgiveness that the sacrifice of a lamb can bring. So in Leviticus God gave His people the “spiritual A-B-C’s”, that would help us understand what Jesus would later bring us when He came.  

So this morning as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, let’s look back at some of these “A-B-C’s” in Leviticus, and see what it teaches us about the sacrifice Jesus made, that brings about the forgiveness of our sins and satisfies God.

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“God-Given Skills For God’s Kingdom Work” (Exodus 31-18 sermon)

I’m sure many of you life-long Texans are familiar with Jack Sorenson, the Texas artist, known for his western paintings, including this one of Santa Claus riding a horse. W.F. Strong, in his book, Stories From Texas, tells us that Sorenson once said: “I’ve always been able to draw, sketch and paint anything I put my mind to. I didn’t just discover it one day. I’ve always had it. God blessed me with a gift, and I try to honor that gift as best I can, in every painting.’” (p. 119)

Sorenson is not wrong. The artistic gift that he has, came from the Lord. That’s one of the things we have seen in our daily Bible readings in the second half of Exodus, where it repeatedly refers to Bezalel, a man to whom God had some given skills in craftsmanship. 

Monday morning in staff meeting, as we shared from our Bible readings, we talked about how the second part of Exodus is not always the most exciting of scriptures to read through — but there ARE some rich truths to be found there. And one of them is what we are going to talk about today: that God is the source of all the different skills that we possess, and we need to realize that we are responsible to Him for what we do with the gifts He has entrusted to us.  

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“Who God Says He Is” (Exodus 34:6-8 sermon)

Years ago, in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer wrote:  “What you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”

What do you think about when you think about God?  And where did you get those ideas?  This is important.  We all have ideas about God – but the important thing to ask is: are they the RIGHT ideas?  Where did we get them? 

In our passage for today, we see GOD giving us the right ideas about Himself, who He is, and how He relates to us. The verses that we read just a few moments ago are some of the most famous in all of the Old Testament. They are quoted throughout the rest of the Scriptures, and form the basis of our knowledge of God:

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“A Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:6 sermon)

This week I read an article about a Boston (Catholic) University student named Robert LeBlanc, who went to college, like a lot of young people do, with dreams of one day getting married, having children and setting up a family. But at the same time, he said he felt a growing desire to become a priest. Of course, in the Roman Catholic Church, you have to choose between being a priest and being a family man, and LeBlanc decided to become a priest, and that the Church would be his “family.” That’s a laudable desire — but according to scripture, it was an unnecessary sacrifice, because the Bible teaches us that ALL of God’s people are priests. This is what we find in our passage for today in Exodus 19:6, where the Lord tells Israel: 

“and you shall be to Me a Kingdom of priests”

I don’t always do this, but I am going to go ahead and give you my “thesis” for today’s message in a nutshell, up front. I’ll explain it as we go along, but here it is:

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“A Divine Appointment” (Acts 8:26-40 sermon)

In 2014 Cheryl & I were living in Norman, Oklahoma while I was recuperating from illness that had caused me to resign my pastorate in Louisiana. One winter afternoon about 4:00 I suddenly had a strong urge to go out and check the mail — in the 26 degree weather, and the mailbox was 60 or 70 yards across the parking lot from our condo. When I got to our mailbox, there was nothing in it!  I started back to the condo, puzzled, and wondering, “I had such a strong impression to go. Why would God lead me to walk all the way out there in this cold, only to find an empty mailbox?” I had not taken two more steps when I heard a voice: “Excuse me!”  I looked and there was a young lady, with no jacket on, who said that she had just locked herself out of her apartment, and could I help her make a call. I told her my wife was at home, and we could call from there. Cheryl & I ended up taking her to her work, which was not far, where she had a key. On the way we were also able to talk to her about the Lord, and mentioned that the church we attended was just a couple of blocks from her job. We gave her my card with my blog address, and Cheryl put her cell number on it, in case she ever needed us again. But all of the sudden, that “empty mailbox” sure made a lot more sense! It was a “Divine Appointment.”

Have you ever had a Divine Appointment: a time when God put you at just the right place, at just the right time, to witness or minister to someone, and you looked back at it later, and thought, “God arranged that!” It was a Divine Appointment. 

Our story from Acts 8 today is the story of a “Divine Appointment”  God gave the deacon Philip with the Ethiopian Treasurer. There are several things in this passage we need to apply to our lives today:

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“Jesus Directs His Church” (Acts 1:1-8 sermon)

Steve Jobs was one of the most unique CEO’s in history. He had a lot of quirks, but he led Apple computers to become what is now THE largest company in the world, worth over 300 BILLION dollars. But among the things Jobs did well, was keep his company focused on what they were supposed to be doing:  know what people want;  produce quality products that will appeal to them;  and eliminate all unessential activities, and focus on doing your best at your most important priority. He constantly kept these directives in front of his people, to keep them on track.

As the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we too have been left some directions by our “CEO,” who left us some specific directions about what He wants us to be doing as His people, His church. We find some of those directions here in our passage for today in Acts 1:8:

I. Accept the Challenge of Waiting

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