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My Help Comes from the LORD October 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Psalms, Shepherd.
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THE CAVALRY IS COMING
Psalms 121

“Six thousand men under the command of General French were detailed by [the Confederate general] Hood to take the [supply post of Altoona Pass, Georgia protected by fifteen hundred under General Corse of Illinois]. The works were completely surrounded and summoned to surrender. Corse refused and a sharp fight commenced. The defenders were slowly driven into a small fort on the crest of the hill…At this moment an officer caught sight of a white signal flag far away across the valley, twenty miles distant upon the top of Kennesaw Mountain. The signal was answered, and soon the message was waved across from mountain to mountain: ‘Hold the fort; I am coming. W. T. Sherman.’ Cheers went up…and under a murderous fire, which killed or wounded more than half the men in the fort…they held the fort for three hours until the advance guard of Sherman’s army came up [and] French was obliged to retreat” (from Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories).

A. There are often times when we need help. Remember that your help comes from the Creator of the universe (verses 1-2). These people on their way to the temple, perhaps from outside of Jerusalem had begun in Psalm 120 by calling to each other expressing confidence that God would answer their prayer. They recognized that they were surrounded by trouble and that they needed help. They looked at the hills that surrounded Jerusalem and recognized that the God who created those hills was their helper.

1. Hills were often associated with gods. When you read of high places in the Bible it is often associated with local gods. It was in such places that sacrifices were made and these places were often associated with idolatry.

2. A great God makes a little hill great. “Persons who travel to Israel are often disappointed to find that Jerusalem is not located on the highest mountain in the area…In the ancient world mountains were considered to be the homes of the gods. So Mount Olympus [for example]…was felt to be an especially holy place. Here God is saying that there is really only one ‘holy mountain,’ the place where he, the sole Creator of the universe, has chosen to place his name” (from John Oswalt’s commentary on Isaiah).

B. Remember that He watches over you all the time (verses 3-6). Sometimes I ask myself if I really believe this. Sometimes I act as if God is out to lunch, that he is asleep.

1. There is, however, evil all around us in the form of temptation and persecution. It does not matter whether it is day or night, sun or shadow, heat or cold, there is in this world all matters of danger and we need to be aware that we desperately need the Lord watching over us.

2. He never leaves you or forsakes you. “Around the year 1870 the song ‘O How I Love Jesus’ was new and very popular. It seemed that wherever folks sang, you would be sure to hear it at least once in a service – sometimes several times. At the time, [Philip] Bliss was compiling his first Sunday School songbook which he entitled ‘The Charm.’ Because of its popularity, Mr. Bliss wanted very much to use [the song] but when he wrote the owner of the copyright, he was refused permission to use it, for the owner felt it would hurt the sale of his own books…In the days that followed, Mr. Bliss often thought of the incident and then one day the thought suddenly dawned upon him. ‘It is important that I love Jesus, but it is a greater and a more wonderful truth that He loves me!’… When he came to the breakfast table he said, ‘Lucy, the Lord gave me a new song early this morning and here’s how it goes, ‘I am so glad that the Father in Heaven tells of His love in the book he has given…’” (told by George C. Stebbins to Al Smith, Treasury of Hymn Histories).

C. Remember that He not only handles our day-to-day and material lives but also that which is more important, the eternal and our spiritual lives (verses 7-8).

It is interesting that our shepherd provides for us in a dry and thirsty land spiritually. Philip Keller in his classic, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, writes, “It is not generally recognized that many of the great sheep countries of the world are dry, semi-arid areas. Most breeds of sheep flourish best in this sort of terrain…But in those same regions it is neither natural nor common to find green pastures…Green pasture [do] not just happen by chance…Green pastures were the result of clearing rough, rocky land; of tearing out brush and roots and stumps; of deep and planting special grains and legumes; of irrigating with water and husbanding with care the crops of forage that would feed the flocks…green pastures are essential to success with sheep…”

The word we live in is a dry and thirsty land. It is lacking in truly spiritual nourishment. Wherever you turn there is nothing spiritually or eternally satisfying in this world. We need the green grass of heaven here on earth. How do we get it? We can’t. We need help when in danger. We need eternity when in this temporary land. Did you come looking for something eternal this morning or did you come looking for an emotional or religious fix? That will not satisfy. You need to turn to the one who will never leave you or forsake you and depend on Him for the spiritual and eternal help you need. He may or may not bless you physically and temporally in this world. That will depend on His will. All, however, who trust in Him will be helped, kept, and preserved in this world and into the next one forever.

Next in series: Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122)

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The First Song of Ascent: Psalm 120 October 16, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Peace, Prayer, Psalms, Temple, Testimony, Worship.
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GOD HEARS
Psalms 120

This is the first of the Songs of Ascent, psalms that were sung or recited as the Jews made their way to the Temple of Yahweh to worship the LORD their God. This psalm seems to be a strange one to begin with since it certainly seems to be a downer. There is no denial here of the difficulties of life, however, almost half of the psalms, over sixty of them, are like this psalm, a lament.

Often when times get difficult people don’t go to church. They have the idea that you have to feel positive about life to worship God. This psalm reminds us, however, that even when life is miserable you can worship God. Perhaps you are going through a rough time this morning. If so, then this psalm is for you now. The rest of us will need it next week, so we will listen also.

A. Did you begin your morning by testifying to someone that you are anticipating God’s deliverance (verse 1)? These people are on their way to celebrate the Lord’s blessings or perhaps to have their sins from the past year atoned for. The first phrase here is something like, “Nobody knows the trouble I see…nobody but my Jesus.” He is going to deliver. I’m not sure how but he will deliver.

One of the reasons we have a greeting time is so that you can express your relationship with God to each other. Do you take advantage of that opportunity? When you check your email in the morning, do you drop a note to someone expressing joy that God will answer prayer in your life? Does your family hear you sing or listen to songs on Sunday morning that express confidence in God’s working?

Jack Hayford gives four reasons why we should be expressive to each other in our worship of God.
a. “It challenges the culture.” The world believes that religion is a private matter. To openly express your faith to others “….[is] one way to witness to the world about the new and full life that Christ offers.”
b. “It nurtures humility. Many times our emotional reserve is but a fearful quest to retain control of our lives…Expressive worship prevents spiritual arthritis…in the body of Christ.”
c. “It creates a climate of warmth and acceptance. When you develop an expressive atmosphere, you cultivate the spirit of fellowship, which creates a climate for evangelism.”
d. “It fosters commitment. Rather than encouraging people to be placid observers, passing judgment on what is said and done, expressive worship demands participation and , therefore, commitment” (quotes from Hayford’s “Strategic Reasons for Expressive Worship,” Leadership, Spring 1994).

B. Did you spend time yesterday asking for the Lord’s deliverance (verse 2)? This prayer is quite specific, “Deliver me from lying lips and deceitful words.” There are some of you this morning that are being attacked by the spoken word. Perhaps you know this to be true or perhaps you merely suspect it to be true. Either way, you fear the arrows of the wicked word, being burned by the hot coals of the lie. Turn to God in prayer.

C. Are you wondering about how God might deliver you from the situation (verse 3-4)? Steve Harper of Shepherd’s Care in Lexington, Kentucky tells of “a student in [his] theology of prayer course stopped [him] after class one day. ‘My cancer has come back,’ he said. He was a young man who had undergone treatment for a brain tumor four years earlier, and the therapy appeared successful. The tumor had disappeared. ‘I’m in seminary to become a preacher,’ he said, ‘and it looks like I’ll never get to be one.’ He asked me to tell him if he had heard God’s call correctly.’ Prayer is often linked with profound questions about the will of God and the mystery of suffering. Such issues force us into a position of humility. I could not answer his question with any final authority. Nevertheless we talked that day about how deeply the will to live is ingrained in all of us, and I prayed with him for his complete healing” (Leadership, 1994).

D. Are you longing for God to make all things right (verses 5-7)? The Psalmist was not among friends. He was dwelling among pagans from Meshech (in Asia Minor) and Kedar (in Arabia). He was longing and waiting for God to deliver him from this situation. What can you do while waiting for the answer that you know is coming to arrive?

a. If someone is shooting arrows at you or throwing hot coals at you avoid that person if possible.
b. In extreme situations if you can find someone to help, go to them. David went to Jonathan for help against Saul. I’m not talking about revenge but rather legitimate help.
c. Don’t take it personally and don’t shoot arrows and throw coals back at your enemy. “Never wrestle with a pig. For one thing you will become dirty; second, the pig will love it; and third, he plays be a different set of rules” (from When You’ve Been Wronged by Erwin Lutzer).
1. Your character must correspond to that of God’s, a lover of peace (verse 7a)? A lover of peace is not threatened when others have more influence, control, or power than they have. A lover of peace does not seek revenge when removed from a place of power or position. A lover of peace does not desire for someone else to “get what’s coming to them.” A lover of peace does not go around seeking for sympathy or seeking to make another person look bad.

2. Your actions must correspond to those of God’s, a maker of peace (verse 7b)? We need to be strong in the Lord and stand against falsehood. That was the point of 2 Timothy; yet that book reminds us that we should be gentle. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The last phrase of this psalm makes it clear that the one being slandered desired peace and spoke words of peace to those who wanted to war with him.

E. When you cannot make peace, turn to Him who can. “Few preachers have experienced the kind of criticism that Spurgeon did…More than one writer expressed doubts that Spurgeon was even converted? His sermons were called ‘trashy,’ and he was compared to a rocket that would climb high and then suddenly drop out of sight!…Hearing slanderous reports of his character and ministry week after week could have led him into defeat; but he fell to his knees and prayed, ‘Master, I will not keep back even my character for Thee. If I must lose that, too, then let is go; it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil, and am mad, or, like Him, I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber’” (from Walking with the Giants by Warren Wiersbe).

This Psalm teaches us two things: have confidence that God will hear and act according to the character of God. Neither is dictated by the circumstances. Both are necessary not just when going to church but every day of our lives.

The Importance of God’s Word and God’s Servant October 8, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Bible, Second Timothy.
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GOD’S WORD AND GOD’S MAN
2 Timothy 3:10-17

Many believers are fearful today. They look at the moral and political situation in our country and fear that we are fast approaching the end (and they may be right). About 225 years ago, however, there was a similar situation in our country. “There was, for a season, a woeful want of Bibles in America, caused partly by the prevalence of French infidelity, and partly by the general religious apathy which followed the Revolutionary War. In that period a man went into a book-store in Philadelphia and asked to buy a Bible. ‘I have none,’ said the bookseller. ‘There is not a copy for sale in the city: and I can tell you further,’ said he (for he was of the French [infidel’s] way of thinking), ‘in fifty years there will not be a Bible in the world.’ The rough answer of the customer was, ‘There will be plenty of Bibles in the world a thousand years after you are dead and gone to hell’” (The Christian Age quoted by C. H. Spurgeon).

A. We must learn God’s Word (verses 14-17). Why did America not go the way of French infidelity? Because there were backwoods preachers and small town pastors who preached the Word of God resulting in the Second Great Awakening that transformed this country into what later became known as Christian America. Why then today’s decline? Because too many believers lost confidence in and knowledge of the Word of God. Whatever strength there is in the church today can directly be related to God’s Word and what it is capable of doing.

1. God’s Word is capable of producing faith in Jesus Christ (verse 15b). “The Rev. James Wall, of Rome, relates the following [instance] of conversion through the reading of the Scriptures: – One… when first presented with a New Testament, said, ‘Very well; it is the very size for me to make my cigarettes,’ and so he began to smoke it away. He smoked away all the Evangelists, till he was at the Tenth Chapter of John, when it struck him that he must read a bit of it, for if he didn’t, there would soon be no more left to read. The first word struck home, and the man read himself into Christ” (C. H. Spurgeon).

2. God’s Word is capable of producing wisdom to salvation (verse 15a). W. A. Criswell tells of a man in his church who had been a wicked man married to a good Christian woman. She brought him to church where he heard the word of God and was saved. “He became a new and a different man. He loved to come to church where we read the Holy Scriptures together and where I preach the Bible. Both at home and in his business office he constantly read the Book … [One day] he was stricken with a heart attack and died immediately… I went to the memorial service…To my great surprise, his right hand pressed his Bible against his heart. I turned to his wife in astonishment. ‘What an unusual thing,’ I exclaimed, ‘that he holds his Bible in his hand! Why?’…’[Because], she replied, …he loved it so. We read the Bible at church; we read it together at home. He read it at his business office. It seemed appropriate that his Bible be in his hand as his last testimony to the saving power of the Word of God’” (Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True).

3. God’s Word is capable of producing life transformation (verse 16). Sometimes that transformation is instant. Sometimes it is progressive. Sometimes it is progressive and just appears instantaneous. God’s Word will, however, produce life transformation. It determines how to think, what to do, what to avoid.

4. God’s Word is capable of equipping you for every good work (verse 17). You don’t have to be mature to work but there are certain types of work that demand maturity. The problem sometimes is that those who are mature forget that there is no retirement in the Christian life.

B. We learn from God’s people (verses 10-13). It is true that Paul is writing about his relationship to Timothy but he also seems to be referring to Timothy’s mother and grandmother and perhaps to the elders of the church in Lystra who recommended Timothy to Paul for training. This, however, should be true of all of us. Other churches (see First Thessalonians 1-2) should be learning from us how to impact others for Christ. It is not that we don’t know how, it is that we don’t show how and I’m afraid the reason we don’t show how is because we don’t do it.

1. We learn from God’s people what to believe and how to live (verses 10-11a). We talk about a Christian heritage and about passing down a Christian heritage but it seems it is easier to pass down our political heritage than our religious heritage. It is easier to pass down our passion for our sports team or for hunting or for cooking or for a hundred other things but we need to pass along, intentionally, what we should believe and how we should live.

2. We learn from God’s people about our relationship to Jesus Christ (verses 11b-12). LeRoy Eims tells how after he and his wife became Christians they “met Waldron Scott…I asked him why there seemed to be such an obvious difference in our Christian lives…He came over that night and asked me some questions. Did I read my Bible regularly? No, hardly ever. Did I study it? Again, no. Did I memorize it? Aha, here I had him. The previous Sunday our pastor had preached on Matthew 6:33, and I had been so impressed by the verse that I memorized it when I got home. ‘Great,’ Scotty said, ‘Quote it for me…’ I couldn’t remember it… ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Well, yes,’ I told him. ‘At meal times I repeat a prayer I have memorized.’ …Scotty taught us how to read the Bible and get something out of our reading. He taught us how to do personal Bible study and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, apply its lessons to our lives. He taught us to memorize the Word…He taught us how to assimilate the Scriptures into the spiritual bloodstream of our lives through meditation on the Word. He taught us how to pray and expect answers from God… The next year I began my sophomore year…Midway through the first semester, a classmate came up to me and said, ‘You know, LeRoy, I’ve been watching you. Your Christian life is sure on a different plane than mine.’ …I smiled and asked, ‘Well, do you read your Bible regularly?’” (The Lost Art of Disciple Making). Eims then tells how the next year he got a letter from that classmate telling how he had met a fellow who noticed something about his life. He began to ask some questions like “Do you read your Bible regularly?”

When was the last time you taught someone how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to study, how to use Scripture to fight temptation? We impact other believers most when we show them the keys to our Christian life. Otherwise we are just letting them struggle along on their own.

Vessels in the Master’s Household October 1, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Second Timothy.
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VESSELS FOR THE MASTER’S USE
2 Timothy 2:17-26

Paul uses vessels in a household to clarify something that Jesus himself made clear in the parable of the wheat and the tares. Not every person who says, “I’m a Christian is a Christian.” Even worse, not everyone who says they are teachers and preachers of the truth, teach and preach the truth. It is one thing to identify this as a fact. What do we do about it as the church of the living God?

A. Paul indicates that we need to identify what type of vessel we are (verses 17-21). This seems to contradict what Jesus taught in the parable of the wheat and tares. In the parable the tares are to be left until harvest time but in this passage we are to separate ourselves from those who do not teach the truth.

This underlines for us the importance of taking a passage in its immediate and biblical context. Jesus was addressing the Jewish nation and Matthew was writing showing the authenticity of Jesus as the King of the Jews. Paul was dealing with a local church situation in Ephesus. In the one, Jesus is referring to a future event when it would be shown who was following the true Messiah. Paul is referring to false teachers who are in the church overthrowing the faith of some.

1. What does this mean for us? It means that we must make sure that our core beliefs are approved before God. Are our beliefs presentable as approved before God (verse 15)?

• Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, without any error?
• Do you believe in the Trinity, one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who created this universe out of nothing?
• Do you believe that God the Son became the virgin born son of Mary, Jesus the Christ, being 100% God and 100% man?
• Do you believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, died for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to His Father to take His rightful position as the Lord of the universe?
• Do you believe that all humans are sinners, guilty before God and condemned to hell unless they trust Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation?
• Do you believe that total forgiveness of sin is by grace alone without good works?
• Do you believe that we the Church are the people of God left here to proclaim the message of Christ until He returns to set all things right for all eternity?
This is what you must believe in order to present yourself acceptable to God.

2. Is your belief presentable as shameful before God (verse 15)? There are a lot of false beliefs and always have been. Which false beliefs are the biggest danger within the church?

In an older survey taken about twelve years ago (Source: Barna Research Group, Ltd. Based on national surveys of 1,000 or more randomly sampled adults 18 or older, conducted July 1999 through July 2000)…
• 40% of Christians did not believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teaching;
• 38% of Christians did not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living entity, that is in the Trinity;
• 37% of Christians did believe that Jesus Christ committed sins when He lived on earth;
• 40% of Christians did believe that Jesus did not return to life physically;
• 47% of Christians did not believe that people who do not consciously accept Jesus Christ as their Savior will be condemned to hell;
• 51% of Christians believe that if a person does enough good things for others during this life, that person will earn a place in heaven;
• 54% of Christians did not believe that we have a personal responsibility to tell others about our faith in Christ.
This is what happens when we do not separate the vessels of honor from the vessels of dishonor.

B. Flee sin and pursue righteousness (verses 19, 22-23). It is interesting that Paul writes in verse 22, flee youthful lusts. Timothy was a younger man than Paul and susceptible to youthful lusts. Paul recognized that even a man of God must guard himself against youthful lusts. Perhaps he would have agreed with “Ramsey McDonald, [who while prime minister of Great Britain] once said in an address to a gathering of British young men and women, ‘Youth is a terrible thing. It can be used to build heaven or hell’” (Cited by Morgan P. Noyes in The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 11, 1955 p. 494).

Verse 19, however, reminds us that not just young people should flee from iniquity but rather that all who put their trust in Jesus Christ should depart from iniquity.

Not only should we depart from iniquity and cleanse ourselves from sin but we need to run after righteousness. As we know, what we believe not only causes us to flee from sin but also to produce the fruit of the Spirit, some of which are mentioned here in this verse.

C. Oppose iniquity with humility (verses 23-26). This is the attitude with which we are to deal with vessels of dishonor, with humility. Name-calling and derogatory jokes are not to be a part of our toolkit. We must remember that we are vessels of honor because of God’s grace and not because we have made ourselves to be something special.

1. Know the truth (verses 15, 24). Do you know what the Bible teaches? One of the reasons a Bible is valuable is because it allows us to search the Scriptures for ourselves. If you don’t spend any time in your Bible, reading, asking questions, trying to find out exactly what our core beliefs are and what they mean for our everyday lives then your may be in danger of having your faith overthrown.

2. Know yourselves (verses 19, 22b, 24a). Are you saved? Being saved is more than simply knowing the truth but rather it is a commitment to Christ based on the truth that you know. Have you trusted Him as your Savior, are you part of the family of God?

3. Know the vessels of dishonor (verses 20, 25-26). I’m not talking about a witch hunt. I’m talking about recognizing where one stands in relation to the truth. When I look around the kitchen for a dish to put in the microwave I don’t reach for a Styrofoam plate. That is a vessel of dishonor. If I put a vessel of dishonor in the wrong place there will be negative results.

How many people never hear the gospel because we assume they are okay. They say enough of the right things for us to give them a free pass. Remember, not making a judgment about someone is a judgment. Not recognizing someone as sick may result in their death. We do it gently, humbly, with compassion and even tears but we dare not let the vessels of dishonor sit on the shelf.