2017: Page 155

Today began early so I’m starting the writing of today’s page late this afternoon with the hope that I will not be awake too late tonight.  With a long day of mowing on Friday, I put off some of the building cleaning until this morning.  That really served two purposes; it kept Friday from being a very long workday and it made it so the building was fresh for Sunday morning without my work being undone before the church service gathering.  

After cleaning and taking out trash, I made my way home to pick up my family and head to Michigan where I preached at the North Wayne Mennonite Church this morning.  The sermon continued a series I’ve been doing on living as the Lord’s servant.  As I chose the Bible characters for this series some time ago, I looked for individuals who not only lived as the Lords’ servant but are specifically described as such in the Bible.  Out of all the people I considered, today’s character probably had more references to being identified as the Lord’s servant than anyone else in Scripture . . . except maybe Jesus.  The person we looked at today was David and through his character considered how a servant of the Lord needed to live with a guarded heart.

As with most of my sermons, I once again used a word from the title as an acrostic outline of five things we must guard as we guard our heart.  Here are the highlights from those five points:

  • Guard your Head:  As we live with a guarded heart, it is important to realize just how much our mind influences our emotions.  Pride has a way of knocking a hole in our armor that we build around our self.  There are times we become so invested in an idea simply because we thought it up.  We my even share the idea with people and they think it is such a great plan that it simply must be done.  There is a big problem with that, and the problem is it tends to leave God out of the picture.  Then when He puts a stop to our plan for reasons that are greater than our own, an unguarded head gets bent out of shape because our pride is damaged.  David got it into his  head that he ought to build a temple to house the ark of God as he didn’t think it was right that his own dwelling was nicer than the tent the ark was kept in.  In fact, it was such a great idea in his mind that he ran it by Nathan, the prophet of God, and Nathan agreed with him and told him to go ahead and do it.  But there was a problem.  Neither Nathan or David appeared to have gotten God’s input on this brilliant idea.  When God said David wasn’t the person to do this task, his guarded head allowed him to accept the word of God and continue to serve God in the role he was designed to have.  Too often, a “no” from God to something we consider a great idea results in us not only giving up on what we ought to give up, but also giving up on doing what God says “yes” to.  That is the response of an unguarded head that results in not living with a guarded heart.
  • Guard your Eyes:  Just as our head leads our heart into paths it should take, our eyes must be carefully guarded or they also will lead us into trouble.  David had a number of problems with his eyes, but the most famous is the sin of lust that came from unguarded eyes.  But it is not just sexual images that we must carefully guard our eyes from is we are going to serve the Lord with a guarded heart.  Greed and lust, and envy all have seeds in the things the eye sees and then wants.  Even seeing the social media posts and news that are filled with hateful, vulgar, or controversial words can cause our hearts to be filled with anger, bitterness, or a hate of our own.  At some point in David’s life, he understood the importance of guarding his eyes as he penned Psalm 101:3, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.”  As we guard our heart, we would do well to put that verse into practice on a daily basis.
  • Guard your Actions:  As we guard our heart, it is also imperative that we guard our actions.  While Jesus taught that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks, I think the same can be said about our actions.  David lived a life of contrasts just as you and I do.  He didn’t always guard his actions as he should have . . . but I know I don’t either and I’m guessing neither do you.  Yet when confronted with the knowledge of unguarded actions, David was always eager to agree with God about his sin and turn from it regardless of the consequences.  But David also knew about guarding his actions even when others encouraged him not to.  While Saul was still king of Israel and doing his best to hunt David down and kill him, David had different opportunities to do harm to Saul.  Even when those with David encouraged him to take Saul’s life while he had the chance, David chose to guard his actions and not harm Saul who was king at the anointing of God.  Whenever we think we have the right to do something that will harm another person, we would do well to guard our hearts by guarding our actions.
  • Guard your Responses:  As with all of the aspects of living with a guarded heart, guarding our responses is easier for some people than others.  Yet there probably isn’t any one of us that haven’t shot off an unguarded response at some time that we later wished we hadn’t.  It seems that especially in this era of social media, it is so easy to feel compelled to respond to things in a manner that would not be appropriate for a servant of the Lord.  A guarded response to the people around us means that we give careful thought to whether the words we are using will be beneficial to them, or destructive.  When God used Nathan to confront David about his sin, an unguarded response would have been to get very defensive and make excuses for why David did what he did.  Yet David guards his response both to Nathan and to God.  A guarded response means that we give a reply that is honest and useful, not only to the person we are responding to, but to us as well.  Proverbs 15:23 says, “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply.”  I think for a long time I thought the joy was in receiving a fitting reply, yet God says the joy is in giving one.
  • Guard your Time:  As I put this sermon together with the final point being about guarding your time, my first thought was about how we ought to use our time doing what is appropriate.  The introduction to David’s sin with Bathsheba begins by describing it as a “time when kings went off to war.”  Yet instead of guarding his time and doing what he should have been doing, David stayed home in his palace and sent others off to do what he should have been doing.  While that is an important aspect of guarding your time, I found an element of it in David’s life that I think is even more specific.  In 1 Kings, we read of David’s actions when he knew the time was drawing near for him to die.  He called his son, Solomon, to himself and charged him with the task of remaining faithful to God.  We guard our time not only by doing what we ought to be doing with it, but by using it to prepare those who will come after us to follow God as well.  

After the church service, we had lunch as a family and the rest of the day has been spent relaxing . . . and writing, which is also relaxing for me.  Today’s photo is of some of the roses that my father-in-law tends to.  Roses are beautiful flowers that can bring joy to those who grow them or receive them.  But they also have thorns which require an element of being careful, or guarded, to fully enjoy their beauty.

As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:

  • Not everyone does everything in the exact same way . . . and for many things, that is okay.
  • Preparing to preach continues to be like nothing else I have ever done.  I suspect if the process ever becomes like anything else, I ought to quit doing it or draw back into the spirit of listening.
  • Worship is a natural expression of a heart that has been surrendered back to God.
  • God has given us everything we need to live with a heart that is guarded against the attacks of the enemy.
  • Satan is very deceptive so vigilance is key in making sure we leave no aspect of our heart unguarded.
  • We are able to more fully enjoy the beauty of this world and of the people around us when we are aware of the thorns of life that we must guard ourselves against.

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A Prayer of FAITH (sermon audio)

 

This is the audio from the April 30, 2017 sermon, “A Prayer of  FAITH”, shared by Tom Lemler at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

Text: James 5:13-16

Praying with faith is all about believing that God exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.  Prayers of faith seek to honor God and pursue His will rather than demand He accomplishes our will.  We pray with faith as we pray with . . .

Focus

Acceptance

Insight

Trust

Hope

. . . and praying with faith is a growing process in our life that ought to result in good works that glorify our Father who is in heaven!

Praying With POWER! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the 2017 New Year’s Day sermon, “Praying With POWER!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

Text: James 5:13-18 & 1 Kings 17-18

Praying with power is all about recognizing and submitting to God’s power.  We pray with power as we pray with . . .

Purpose

Observation

Worship

Expectation

Repentance

. . . and praying with power means we keep on praying and never give up!

2016: Page 311

Page 311 was the first day of the “fall back” time change so the clock on the wall and my body clock aren’t quite in sync at the moment.  It seems like I slept well last night but even with the extra hour due to the time change, I still found it difficult to wake up this morning.  But wake up I did, as I headed up to Dowagiac, Michigan to preach this morning.  Other than the occasional scheduling conflict that brings about a change, I typically preach at the North Wayne Mennonite Church on the first Sunday of each month.  I always pray that I am an encouragement to them every time I share God’s Word with them and I thank God for the encouragement they are to me.  

I’ve been working on a sermon series on “Living as the Lord’s Servant” with a focus on Biblical character studies of individuals who are described as a servant of God.  Today’s message was “Living as a HUMBLE Servant” as we considered the life of Moses, of whom it is written that he was the most humble man that ever lived.  While there are a lot of stories about Moses in the Bible that  we could have looked at, the primary text this morning was from Exodus 18 where Moses is paid a visit by his father-in-law.  From that text and a couple passages from the end of Deuteronomy, we looked at six characteristics of a humble servant.  If it is our desire to live as a humble servant of the Lord, we would do well to learn from one who understood humility.

The first quality that I noticed in the life of Moses was that a humble servant Hears.  It was Moses who would sit each day, hearing the disputes and concerns of all the people as he sought godly solutions for them.  But not only did Moses hear the voices of the people under his leadership, he also took the time to hear the advice of his father-in-law.  But in all of his work in hearing the people and his patience in hearing advice, he sought most of all to hear God.  To live as a humble servant, we must take the time to actually hear the people around us and seek to hear God above all other voices.

But hearing isn’t enough.  Living as a humble servant also requires that we Understand what we hear.  Moses was effective as a leader not simply because he would hear what the people around him were saying, but because he sought God for the understanding necessary to do the right things about what he would hear.  We hear things everyday but do we listen to what we hear with the desire to understand, or simply with a desire to get to our turn to talk?  Moses not only heard the advice of his father-in-law but he sought to understand the right response to that advice.

Not only does a humble servant need to hear and understand, there also needs to be a time to Meditate, or think on the things that need heard and understood.  This is a time when we consider how God’s Word should impact our hearing and understanding.  It is so easy to apply our own wisdom and understanding to the situations we face and completely miss the way that is best.  Sometimes that time of meditation, or thinking, may be accomplished in a moment and other times it may need to cover hours, days, weeks, or even more.  Moses heard and understood the advice being given to him, and I believe he spent some amount of time with God meditating on the course of action he needed to take in response to the advice given.

The first three characteristics of a HUMBLE servant can be mostly internal and passive as we Hear, Understand, and Meditate.  The fourth characteristic, however, is where we are compelled to action as the humble servant Believes.  There are those who would argue that belief also is just an internal response, yet I contend that belief not acted upon is not real belief at all.  James puts it this way, “Faith without works is dead.”  There comes a point in time as we live as a humble servant of God that we must put our hearing, understanding, and meditation into action as our deeds reflect what we actually believe.  As a humble servant, Moses not only heard, understood, and meditated on the advice given to him by his father-in-law, he believed the advice was godly and solid — belief shown by his putting the advice into practice.

It is when we put our beliefs into action that the humble person truly learns to Live.  Moses lived as a leader but his life also shows that, in spite of many experts saying otherwise, it is possible to live as a humble leader.  As Moses neared the end of his life, he challenged the people of Israel to consider the choice that was before them — a choice of life or death.  Moses was able to look back over all that God had done in the 120 years of his life and conclude that he had chosen life.  The humble servant of God lives life to the full, keeping in mind that it is only in Christ that life can be lived completely to the full.  Being a humble servant does not always mean that we remain in the background.  It simply means that we view our life accurately in light of who God has created us to be.  We go out and live life in obedience to Christ in such a way that the people around us would know that there is a choice before them of life and death and they would be encouraged by us to choose life.

And that brings us to the final point of this morning’s message on living as a humble servant — the humble servant Encourages!  Not only does Moses seek to encourage the people of Israel to choose life, he spends considerable time encouraging the leadership that will follow him.  If people know anything about the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua, it is probably the rather forceful and repeated encouragement from Moses to Joshua to be strong and courageous.  In the midst of this encouragement from both Moses and God to Joshua, it is easy to overlook the greatest encouragement of all — it was the encouragement that could only come from a humble servant of the Lord.  Moses understood that he had never been the leader of Israel, he was simply a servant of the One leading.  As he passes along instructions to Joshua, Moses makes it clear that he will not be the one crossing the Jordan ahead of the people.  In fact, he encourages Joshua with the fact that it will not even be Joshua who will be the first to cross the river ahead of the people.  He says that God Himself will go ahead of you across the Jordan and will defeat your enemies for you.  The humble servant of God encourages the next generation by letting them know that God was always leading in the past and will always be leading them as long as they choose Him.

With the sermon and church service complete, we stopped for lunch on the way home and then the pace of the weekend caught up with me as I slept the afternoon away.  Eventually I woke up and headed out for a walk along the river in an attempt to get my blood circulating and to clear some of the fog from my mind.  As I shot a few photos, I was once again reminded of how it is the calmest waters that cause the most detailed and accurate reflections.  Living as a humble servant has the ability to bring peace and calm to our inner turmoil which allows us to reflect Christ with the greatest level of detail and accuracy.

I pray that you and I would desire to live as, and be known as, a servant of the Lord.  I pray that we would learn and apply the lessons learned from the life of Moses as we seek to live as a humble servant.  I pray that our humility would lead us to a life that reflects Christ with a great amount of detail and complete accuracty.  

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2016: Page 276

Page 276 was a Sunday and it was the first Sunday of the month so I was up early and headed north to preach at the North Wayne Mennonite Church near Dowagiac, Michigan.  I’ve been working on a character study series focused on living as the Lord’s servant and today I began with OBEY Like Abraham.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that when Abraham was called by God to go to a land that would become his inheritance, Abraham obeyed God and went, not knowing where God was taking him.  As we looked at the life of Abraham, I addressed four characteristics that need to be present in our lives as servants of the Lord in order for us to be able to OBEY Like Abraham.

The first thing we need to do is learn to Observe like Abraham.  Throughout Abraham’s life we find him paying attention to the messages, and messengers, that God sends his way.  Abraham’s life provides a great contrast between doing things out of his own wisdom and doing things according to God’s direction.  When Abraham would take the time to wait and watch for God’s direction, the results would always show the hand of God at work in his life.  When Abraham was called by God to offer his son Isaac, his response to all who would ask why they would go worship God without a sacrifice is that God will provide.  And when God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son on the altar, Abraham didn’t simply breathe a sigh of relief and walk off.  No, he took the time to observe a ram caught in the brush nearby and used it in worship as the sacrifice God provided.  How often do we miss obeying the word of God simply because we’ve not spent consistent time observing God’s Word with the intent of obedience.

The second point of the message was that we need to Believe like Abraham.  James tells us that Abraham’s believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.  It is unlikely we will make a serious attempt to obey someone we don’t believe.  The story of Abraham is filled with people that walked in close proximity to him yet chose not to believe or follow God.  I find it interesting that Abraham was not the first of his family to begin a journey to the land of Canaan.  Scripture doesn’t tell us why Abraham’s father left the land of Ur to begin a journey to Canaan and it doesn’t tell us why he stopped short and never finished that journey.  It does make me wonder if Terah had been called by God to inherit Canaan and simply gave up for one reason or another.  While that is unknown, what is known is that Abraham learned to not only believe God, but to trust Him.  When we believe God, we find that obeying Him just comes naturally.

Not only do we need to Observe like Abraham and Believe like Abraham, we also need to Enlist like Abraham.  Far too often, we begin to think we have life figured out well enough that we can do it on our own.  We see that in Abraham’s life.  There were times when he would come up with solutions to his problems on his own — those were the times that didn’t turn out too well.  And then there are the times when he would enlist the help of God in his efforts to obey the message of God.  It is with God’s help that he became the father of God’s chosen people.  God’s desire is that we would call out to Him and enlist His help to accomplish everything He has called us to do.  When we realize that complete obedience to God is a larger task than we can accomplish on our own, we find ourselves in a position to enlist the help of God and excel in obedience.  

The final point of the message is probably the one most identified with obeying, Yield.  The sooner we learn to yield to God in all things, the sooner we find ourselves living in a greater obedience to God.  Before we beat ourselves up too quickly for not always yielding to God as our first course of action, we would do well to understand while that is best it is not always the course we take nor always the course Abraham took.  There are times when Abraham understood the message God had given him yet tried to accomplish God’s plan on his own.  We know of those because his failure to yield to God’s timing and direction resulted in serious problems.  We also understand the consequences of failing to yield because we have chosen to do things our own way in our own time far too often.  

After the church service, we made our way home with stops for lunch and a search for a stuffed panda that Susan had her mind set on.  We managed to find both and made Susan’s day in the process.  After some time at home relaxing, we headed out to take a family hike at Potato Creek.  Today’s photo was taken during our walk and is a great reminder of the beauty of God’s creation.  Not only is the scene of nature beautiful, but the fishing pier appeared to contain a family that came out to fish together.  I value the time I can spend with my family doing the things we enjoy and it is always good to see other families spending time together in the great outdoors.

I pray that you and I would desire to obey God at all times.  I pray that we would pay attention to God’s Word as we observe His call to us in doing the things that lift up the name of Jesus.  I pray that we would believe God’s ability to accomplish all that He calls us to do in obedience to Him.  I pray that we would enlist His help as we realize His kingdom plans are greater than what we can do on our own.  I pray that we would fully yield to God in everything.  I pray that we would continue to value one another and the families that God has given us.

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2016: Page 248

Page 248 was a Sunday and being the first Sunday of the month I had the privilege of preaching at the North Wayne Mennonite Church this morning.  Before I could get there though, the day began with Susan having a night of recurring seizures.  While I’m sure these are the hardest on her, it doesn’t do her parents any good to combine a lack of sleep with having to keep her from hurting herself as the seizures come and go.  We all made it through the night and had dozed off one last time before it was time to get up.  As has usually been the case with these, Susan got up happy and ready to go while MJ and I were doing good to drag ourselves out of bed and get ready for the day.

As always, it was a good gathering at North Wayne and I shared a message titled, “WORK that Lasts”.  I was looking for something that would fit with the Labor Day Weekend holiday and the idea of work, so I built the sermon around the teaching of Jesus, as He addressed the crowds that were looking for bread, that we should work for food that lasts.  He went on to say that the work that God desires from us is to believe on the One He has sent.  With that in mind, I used the word “work” as my outline and we began by addressing the need for Worship that lasts.  When Jesus was questioned by a Samaritan women about worship, and who was doing it right, Jesus responded that the time had come when true worshipers would worship in spirit and in truth.  When we worship God at all times in spirit and in truth, we begin to experience worship that lasts not just for this life, but into eternity.

The second part of having work that lasts that we looked at was the need to have Obedience that lasts.  It’s one thing to obey God when we feel like it or when it is convenient, but to have obedience that lasts means that we do what God wants at all times.  There may be times when we don’t feel like obeying and there may even be times when we tell God we won’t obey, but more important than our words is a life that “comes to our senses” and obeys even when it goes against what we want and desire.  It is having this obedience that lasts which puts us in a position where we will be found faithful to the end.  When Jesus returns and finds us faithful, we can be assured that our obedience will last throughout eternity as the temptations of this world come to an end.

The “R” in our WORK outline was for a Repentance that lasts.  There seems to be two levels of forgiveness that the Bible teaches about.  On one level, Jesus teaches that we forgive in order to put ourselves in position to be forgiven by Him.  This type of forgiveness on our part has more to do with freeing our self from the hold that the wrong of another person has on us.  This level of forgiveness needs to be given whether a person seeks it from us or not.  There appears to be another level of forgiveness that I call a restorative forgiveness.  Jesus teaches that if a brother should sin (against us), we should rebuke or correct them with the intent that they would repent.  In this context, Jesus says that if they sin against us seven times in a day and they come back each time and repent, we must forgive them.  While many of us may question the sincerity of someone who comes to us and repents seven times in one day, we first better look at how many times in a day we repent, or ought to repent, when it comes to matters of our sin against God.  When we view repentance as a change of heart, mind, attitude and direction of life, it is easy to see why we need to have repentance that lasts.

The final point of the message was about having a Knowledge that lasts.  We live in a culture that is saturated with information but often seems to have very little knowledge.  When we seek to grow in knowledge, at least from God’s perspective, we are growing in an intimate relationship with Him.  The knowledge that lasts will only be found through intimacy with God through the power of His Spirit as we’re cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  While there will come a time that the pursuit of knowledge will end, knowledge itself will last because at that time “we will know fully just as we are fully known.”  As I closed out the message, I believe each one of us needs to examine the work we do.  Our we involved in WORK that Lasts, or is our work being done in vain?

I pray that you and I would worship God in spirit and in truth from now through eternity.  I pray that we would grow in our obedience to God so that we would obey Him now just as He is obeyed in heaven.  I pray that we would always see the need to repent whenever we stray from what God would desire.  I pray that we would grow in knowledge as we grow in our relationship with Jesus.

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2016: Page 185

Page 185 is going out with a bang as I sit down to write.  While the fireworks are plentiful as the nation celebrates Independence Day and the freedoms we love, a greater celebration of freedom was held this morning as I gathered with fellow believers in celebrating the freedom we have in Christ.  I greatly value the privilege I have in preaching at the North Wayne Mennonite Church, typically on the first Sunday of each month.  This morning I shared a message from Galatians 5:13-26 with verse 13 being the core of what God had me teach.  Paul writes about the freedom we have in Christ, but warns that we are not to use that freedom to satisfy our sinful, selfish desires.  Rather we are to use the freedom we  have in Christ in order to serve others.

This core thought of serving others formed the title and outline of my message, “Freedom to SERVE”.  As I unwrapped how we ought to be using our freedom, we found that in Christ I have a freedom to Share, a freedom to Equip, a freedom to Rebuke/Repent, a freedom to Visit, and a freedom to Encourage.  God gives us a variety of gifts — in fact, every good and perfect gift comes from God.  Most of the time the purpose of those gifts are not just to meet our needs, but so that we have something to share with others.  While it can be easy to use our freedoms to accumulate things for ourselves, God wants us to experience a freedom that allows us to freely share. 

In a world where we often make every attempt possible to get ahead and find any advantage we can over our “competitors”, God wants us to use our freedom in a way that equips others for the good work He created them to do.  When we crucify our selfish desires, we find the freedom to help other improve and get ahead in life — sometimes even ahead of us, at least by the world’s standards.  Our freedom in Christ reminds us that each person has a unique life that God has called them to live and as long as we remain faithful to our calling in Christ, we have the freedom to help equip them for their task.

Our freedom to serve also includes a freedom to Rebuke and Repent.  If you’re like most people, just reading that previous sentence makes you at least a little uneasy.  Not many of us are too thrilled with either of those words, let alone with the actions they imply.  Yet part of serving one another includes a freedom to lovingly rebuke a brother or sister who sins against us.  The flip side of this part of serving means that we need to fully repent when a brother or sister rebukes us in regard to our sin.  When we are in Christ and commit to doing everything in love, rebuking and repenting can be beautiful expressions of our freedom to serve.

One of the important ways we can serve others is often overlooked because it sounds so easy.  In our freedom to serve, we have the freedom to visit and are for those who are in need.  In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, God makes it clear that He has an expectation that we will spend time with people as we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and comfort the hurting.  Jesus said that whatever we do, or don’t do, for the least of our brethren, we do, or don’t do, for Him.  When we decide not to use our freedoms to serve ourselves, we discover we have the freedom to visit those in need.

The final point we looked at in considering our freedom to serve was the freedom we have to encourage.  If you haven’t noticed, life can be very discouraging — especially when we become distracted by the turmoil and evil present in the world.  When life isn’t all about us, we have the freedom to encourage those who are down.  Jesus warned that life in this world would not be easy and that it would become increasingly difficult as the day of His return approached.  His solution for us to overcome the temptations of discouragement was for us to meet together for the purpose of encouraging one another — and to do so all the more as we see the day of His return approaching.

I pray that you and I would value our freedom in Christ in a greater way than we value any personal or national freedom.  I pray that we would not use our freedoms to satisfy our selfish desires, but would instead live with a freedom to serve.  I pray that we would serve others as we share, equip, repent & rebuke, visit, and encourage.

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