Praying for Grace – Malachi 1:8-9

So Satan has once again come to you; this time through the portal of your conscience. For the umpteenth time you have committed that particular sin – that special weakness of yours. What was it? Pride over something you’ve done? Coveting something your neighbor has? Maybe it was seeing someone and remembering what she had done to you, and you resented her. Was it a lack of forgiveness? Was it another fit of unjustified anger? Some sort of lust? Maybe it was a more outward reaching sin: a lie, a small theft, something mean. Whatever it was, your conscience has been stirred and some ambassador of Satan has taken advantage. “Look what you have done. Once again you have brought shame to yourself and to your Saviour. How can you go to prayer now? How can you, with that filthy heart, call on the righteous name of God? Not only are your shoes unfit for God’s holy temple, but you can’t take off your shoes because your feet are unfit as well.” “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Has an evil spirit ever taken the righteous conviction of the Holy Spirit and turned it against you in an attempt to keep you from praying or serving God in other ways? That was the thought that came to me as I was reading verse 9 the other day. I mentioned in our last lesson that the experts are divided about the attitude or intent of the words: “Now, I...

Speaking Without Words – Malachi 1:6-14

Let’s say that I did something to offend you, and, as every Christian should, I came and apologized. What should I think, if you put your hands on your hips; your eye-brows narrowed; you raised your voice; and you crisply said, “I forgive you?” Should I believe your words, even though they were exactly what I was hoping to hear, but they were not expressed in a very forgiving way? What would you think if I said, with slumped shoulders, down-cast eyes and a mumbling tone, “I am really happy to be here?” or “I am delighted to meet you?” Should Brother Austin believe me if after a service I came to him saying, “That was a great message, but…” Words are an excellent means of communication. God has given to human beings tongues, throats, lips, lungs and minds in a combination which He has given to no animal in His creation. He has created in us the ability to communicate, not only our emotions, but also ideas, our imaginations and our hopes. But… the words we speak may not actually convey our true message. Words are not the only means of communication. What should I think of a dog which is wagging his tail, but the hair on it back is sticking up and its lips are pulled back showing a gallery of sharp teeth? Might it not be saying, “I am happy to meet you. What flavor is your hand?” Of course, we all have the ability to deceive and dissemble; to use words which cover what is in our hearts. And we may use body language...

The Lord will be Magnified – Malachi 1:3-5

Much of the Book of Malachi compares and contrasts God’s blessings to Israel’s whining. For example, as we have seen, the Lord reminded the nation that He loved them. But Israel retorted, “Wherein hast thou loved us, Lord?” God answered, “Haven’t you seen the difference in my blessings on Jacob and on Esau? After this introduction, the Lord took over asking the questions, and Israel whimpered their responses. Malachi 2:7: “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, WHEREIN have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” The word “wherein” is spoken in rebellion six times in this book. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, WHEREIN have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” Here in chapter one, God says, “If I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, WHEREIN have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, WHEREIN have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.” It is this childish, whining, rebellion which makes this book relevant today. Despite all our technology and toys, mankind is still saying, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” We want more. I know that we looked at this already, but consider once again the difference between Israel and Edom. For thousands of years now, God has blessed the children...

My Messenger – Malachi 1:1

What do you think it would it be like, if you were the last servant of God on the face of the earth? It will never be, and it could never be, because God’s Word forbids it, but just think about it for a moment. If it was true, how would you feel? After you, never again will the voice of God be heard through any individual; no sermons; no witness. Would the weight of that special responsibility empower or devastate you? How would you look on your neighbors, knowing the foundations of the great deep would soon be broken up, and the windows of heaven would soon be opened pouring down fire and rain? How earnestly would you plead with your family? What would you do to make the most of those last few days of service? I have been reminded several times recently, that Elijah believed he was the last true servant of God on earth. There is probably a psychological term for that, hidden away in some academic text somewhere. If there isn’t, there should be, because I don’t think Elijah has been the only one to fall victim to it. There seem to be a lot of fundamental Baptists who think there are none other besides themselves. If we were the last of the last, do you think God would tell us? Would that be useful knowledge? Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. At least according to Biblical information, he was the last prophet of God until John. In the margin of my Bible, I read that this book was written at...

God’s “Response” to Our Prayers – Philippians 4:4-7

I thought about starting this message at the same place we’ve started a dozen others in the last couple years – with Elijah the Prophet. Jezebel threatened the life of Elijah after he had been so blessed by God at the top of Carmel. He then ran for his life into the desert, eventually asking God to kill him before the wicked queen had a chance to torture him to death. Put yourself into the shoes of Elijah and then think about our scripture. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Even when being hounded and persecuted. “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” The Lord is nearby, Elijah. “Be careful (worry) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” Elijah is this prayer for death appropriate? “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Peace was exactly what Elijah needed. And how about you? In I Kings 19:4, Elijah prayed to God – to Jehovah – “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life.” I’ve suffered enough for one life time; I’ve served you more than most people in this world. I’m old and I’m tried. It is enough, take away my life from this cruel world. Elijah prayed, and what was God’s answer? God usually answers our prayers in one of three ways. Sometimes, He says, “No.” Usually when the Lord doesn’t give us what we desire, we say that He hasn’t answered our...

Questions that Only You (And the Lord) can Answer – Lamentations 3:40

  When I was in school we could expect to be tested at the end of the semester or at the end of the chapter. But sometimes the teacher would give us quizzes before the big final test. Those quizzes were not as important as the final, but they did become a small part of the grade. And at the same time they were important in preparing us for that big test. Yes, sometimes they painfully pointed out how ignorant we were, but their purpose was not to hurt us but to prepare us. I would like to give you a little quiz this evening for no other purpose than to prepare you for the final. I brought this lesson 18 years ago, and it was so popular, I thought to bring it to you once again. It is a good idea to periodically remind ourselves that as Christians we are going to have to stand before God and give an account of the way we have lived our lives. It is a good idea to test ourselves now and then, before we have to stand before the Bema of Christ. I can’t tell you that these will be questions on the final, but they could be. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” As David says, we need the Lord’s searching, but what is wrong with US getting personally involved in that search? Why leave it all up to the Lord?...

Submission: the Mission – II Samuel 12:15-23

  Paul Azinger was, for several years, a successful golfer in the Professional Golfers Association. He won 16 tournaments, including the 1993 PGA Championship – he was the best of that best that year. Then he was diagnosed with cancer – Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. (Perhaps the ground’s keepers had been spraying too much Round-up in and around the golf-courses.) Since then, for nearly 30 years, he has been trying to balance himself between his family, cancer treatments and the work which he plays. He says that people often ask him if golf is as important as it was before he discovered his cancer. He says. “Golf is still important, but whereas it was once his god, Jehovah is now his God.” Golf is now fourth on his list of priorities which begins with the Lord then goes to family and then friends. “Zinger” adds that since he began his treatments and before his retirement he played some pretty good golf. For example, he was named as the captain of the 2008 Rider’s Cup Team – a team golf tournament. During that tournament, when he missed a 4 foot putt, his reaction was different from before his cancer. He didn’t pull his hair out as if that miss was the end of the world. But neither did he say, “Woe is me; I missed that putt, but at least I’m still alive despite my cancer.” By the way, when his team won the 1993 Rider’s Cup, and they were invited to a reception at the White House, Azinger declined to go, saying that the didn’t want the accolades of such an...

Office of Deacon (#7 – Installation) – Acts 6:1-7

As you may have surmised, we began this study of the Office of Deacon based on the fact that our church doesn’t currently have any deacons. Amidst a number of questions swimming around in my mind, are these…. Should we have deacons? Do we need deacons? And does a Christian congregation have to have deacons in order to be a scriptural church? These have lead to several other questions, one of which I will approach this evening. I say, “approach” rather than“answer,” because I’m not fully convinced of its answer as yet. How were the deacons of Acts 6 INSTALLED into their office? Were they “ORDAINED?” Fifty years ago, I was ordained, but I don’t see much here to remind me of that Thanksgiving Day afternoon. The most recent ordination in which I participated took place four years ago this coming Monday. While there are some points of comparison with Acts 6, there was much more done that day than what we find here. Do we see in the Bible all which takes places in today’s Baptist churches when it comes to ordinations? I am very tempted to pursue the idea of “ordinations” in general, but I must restrain myself at this point. We will very likely come back to the bigger issue some time in the weeks to come. But our subject tonight is not the ordination of the bishop. I am primarily interested in these deacons right now. But to be honest I have never seen or been a part of ordaining a deacon, so in some ways I am restricted. But Edward Hiscox in his “New...

Office of Deacon (#5 – I Timothy 3) – Acts 6:1-7

Since beginning this series a couple weeks ago, I have a tiny, latent fear in the back of my mind. You’ve probably figured out that I would like to implement the Biblical principle and install two or three deacons in our church. I’d like them to look after our finances and a few other things, just as our treasurers are doing now. My fear is that when looking at the high examples of Stephen and Philip, you might say, “We don’t have any men which meet that kind of standard.” As we thought about the qualifications mentioned in Acts 6, and tonight even more closely in I Timothy 3, otherwise good men, might decline the opportunity to serve in this office, because they see imperfections in themselves. But in that regard let me ask a couple of questions. Did the twelve ask the membership of the church for volunteers? Did they tell the congregation, “Look into your hearts, and ask yourselves, Am I filled with the Holy Spirit? Am I wise enough and honest enough to wait on these tables?” The twelve addressed the church, telling the membership to look for men with these three qualifications. The people of the church were to look AROUND them – not WITHIN themselves. The twelve were looking for willing servants, but not volunteers, per se. And then, when Moses came off the mountain after speaking to the Lord…. As Moses returned to Israel he was, in a sense, filled with the Spirit. But did he know it or revel in it? Exodus 34:29 tells us “When Moses came down from mount Sinai...

Office of Deacon (#3 Solution) – Acts 6:1-7

I’m sure you remember the family of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. In Luke 10 we are told about a dinner hosted by Martha, which included Jesus and His disciples. I can just imagine the pressure Martha felt about feeding the Saviour and His disciples. Mary, Martha’s younger sister, wasn’t much help, choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet to hear His instruction. “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” – Luke 10:40. “Left me to serve alone” includes the word “diakonia” (dee-ak-on-EE’-ah). “I’m the only acting deaconess.” “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” I see a parallel between that dinner at Martha’s house and the work being done in the House of God. The Apostles were being expected to handle both the spiritual and secular responsibilities of the feast. And some of the Helenists in the church were complaining that their tables weren’t been serve properly. “Lord, dost thou not care that some of our widows are being neglected? Bid your apostles therefore that they help them.” In both Luke 10 and Acts 6 we see TWO KINDS of MINISTRATIONS or service. Somehow the TWELVE Apostles learned of the murmuring of the Grecian part of the membership. I know that some people don’t like the fact that Matthias...

The Office of Deacon (#1 Background) – Acts 6:1-7

This evening I would like to begin a lesson on the Office of Deacon. It will take more than one message, so it might be better to call this a series. And I’ll be up-front with you. There may be a need to have a few ordained deacons in our church. This lesson is a step toward a decision one way or another. Let me start just a little backhandedly. Will you agree with me that the Philippians is a wonderful book, full of great instruction and blessing? Paul says, “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is a principle for any Christian to follow. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” There is another. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “Brethren, I count not myself to apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reading forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace...

Words Matter – Psalm 119:89

I hope you are all aware of the praise, and importance, which the Holy Spirit places upon His word. “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in Heaven.” “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable…” “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.” “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” These, and dozens of other scriptures, praise and promote God’s word as a UNIT – as a “book” if you like. The people in Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received THE WORD with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” The Scriptures – are referred to in these scriptures as “THE Word of God” – singular. But tonight, I’d like to remind you that “the Word of God” is made up of the “words of God.” Just as often as it does of the “the WORD of God,” the Bible speaks of “the WORDS of God” in their variety and multitudes. And as stupid as my statement sounds – they are as equally inspired and important as the entire Bible. For example, elsewhere here in Psalm 119 David says, “Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy WORDS. “How sweet are thy WORDS unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” “The entrance of thy WORDS giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”...

Prophet, Priest and King – I Peter 2:1-10

If I had told you tonight’s title before I read our scripture, you might have jumped to the wrong conclusion. Our title is “Prophet, Priest and King,” which I hope would have made you picture our Saviour. But if you stop and think, there is a sense in which we are miniature reflections of Christ even in these things. We are to represent him as ministers of His word; prophets in the sense of people sharing His revelation. And then as the Book of Revelation tells us several times, Christ “hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” This evening I’d like to spend just a few minutes thinking about our roles as priests unto our God. The Bible contains a great deal of information about the Old Testament priests of Israel, and we have much to learn about ourselves from those references, but we aren’t going to go there. Also, especially the Book of Hebrews, there is information about Christ Jesus, our great High Priest. But as to our own priesthood I could think of only five references. And it’s to those references I’d like briefly to draw your attention. Let us start with I Peter 2. After exhorting his readers – primarily new believers – to forsake their old habits… Peter encouraged them to feast on and fill themselves with God’s word that they might spiritually grow. He was assuming they had been born again and had tasted of the Lord’s grace. Then speaking of the Lord, he mentioned that Christ had been rejected by the world, but to...

Aquila and Priscilla – Acts 18:1-3, 24-26

How often does Paul say, “Be ye followers of me?” – “Be ye followers of me even as I am of Christ”? Doesn’t he often say things like – “I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ENSAMPLE.” I find it quite curious that the words “example” and “ensample” are not to be found in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament they are found all over the place. “Now all these things happened unto them for ENSAMPLES: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” “So that ye were ENSAMPLES to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.” “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ENSAMPLES to the flock.” “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an EXAMPLE of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. These are just some of the examples of the use of the word “example” in the New Testament. What was Paul’s purpose in giving us Hebrews 11, mentioning all those godly people? Examples? A good example can be as contagious as someone’s bad behavior. Aquila and Priscilla were two people who followed Paul’s example, becoming examples themselves. In fact, as couples go there may not be many higher examples in the Word of God. There were certainly problems with, and between, Adam and Eve. Look at the home life of Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon – they were near disasters. There were problems between...

Whence Cometh Joy? – Luke 2:8-11

With this text, you might think I’ve lost either my mind, or my calendar, but my calendar is still on the wall behind my computer. What I’d like us to consider this evening is the joy of which the angel spoke the night of the Saviour’s birth. “The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of GREAT JOY, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Our theme for this evening is the SOURCE of joy. I know there is a difference between joy and happiness, but out of necessity, I’ll be touching on both. Years ago I read a little bulletin insert about the source of HAPPINESS: It said: Happiness not found in unbelief – Voltaire, the atheist, when dying, said, “I wish I had never born.” It is not found in money: Jay Gould, the railroad speculator who died in 1892 and was worth $71 billion in today’s money, called himself “a miserable devil.” Happiness isn’t found in pleasure: immoral Lord Byron who was described by one woman as “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” said of himself “My life is one of grief.” And it is not to be found in power – Napoleon said, “I have founded empires, but I’ve FOUND only sorrow.” Shelly texted Monday saying that the man who founded North Idaho Dermatology, took his own life. Why? You are aware that we live in world searching frantically something called “happiness.” It has been falsely declared to be one of...