The Journey with Ron Moore

How do you live a victorious life for God during challenging times, on rough terrain?

Well on today’s broadcast, we interrupt our Revelation series as Ron Moore welcomes Men’s Pastor Tunch Ilkin to talk about following hard after Jesus when the path itself is hard.

God is good…all the time. All the time, God is good. We often say that in moments of joyful news and experiences. At other times it’s an expression of strong faith when the news is hard to hear and life is harder still.

On today’s broadcast, we interrupt our Revelation series as Ron Moore welcomes Men’s Pastor Tunch Ilkin to share a hard announcement. It’s a sacrifice of praise in a difficult season of life.

The word “image” means “to carve or cut out.” We are carved or cut out in the pattern of our Creator. God is spirit, so this pattern is not a physical representation. Rather, to be made in the image of God means that we share God’s nature, specifically his communicable attributes, such as life, personality, truth, wisdom, love, holiness, justice. Of course, all of God’s attributes are perfect and eternal. Because of sin, we experience each attribute in an imperfect and finite way. Genesis 2:7 gives more detail of how this came about.

…The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

-Genesis 2:7

The word formed is from the Hebrew word “yatzar.” It describes a plan and design. When the word is in the participle form, it means “potter” (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:1-4). Using the dust of the ground, God sculpted a body that would best house our spirit and is the best vehicle to carry out His purpose for us. Then he stooped down and breathed into the man the breath of life, “and man became a living being.” God’s breath brought more than just animation. He breathed into us spiritual understanding, functioning conscience, a moral capacity. God’s breath brought life to man and allowed him to stand up and live out that one and only life…generously given to him.

Now check this out—God gave man…think of this…the capacity to create…to produce a living soul. God generously gives us the gift of life, and then generously gives us the privilege of producing life with his enablement. Allen Ross writes,

For believers, childbirth is an act of worship, a sharing in the work of God, the one who created life.

-Creation and Blessing

Now, this is a critical point. Just as God was intimately involved in the creation of the first man, he is intimately involved in the creation of every person. The Psalmists writes:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

-Psalm 139:13-16

This is a beautiful picture of God’s work in every life from conception. That is why I am unashamedly Pro-Life. My belief is not based on a political platform, but on the Word of God. Our one and only life is a generous gift from God, filled with purpose and meaning.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

-Ephesians 2:8-10

We are not “accidental blobs…evolving from primordial sludge….” We are made in the image of the eternal God. God has generously given us a life with purpose and meaning. He has prepared works for us to do. God did not create us in his image to suck oxygen and take up space.  I do not know specifically what good works God prepared in advance for you to do, but I am 100% sure that they do not include filling your one and only life with temporal material stuff, building large portfolios without investing in eternal things, and being obsessed with career, hobbies, and recreational activities.

We are created in the image of God. Believers, the eternal Creator knows you by name and loves you with unconditional love. He has a purpose and plan for your time on this earth. How will you respond to the generous gift of life?

Does your job require you to speak a lot?  Do you like to talk a lot? Are you married or in a relationship? Then you are at high risk for Foot-In-Mouth disease. The Proverb says, “When words are many, sin is not absent…” (10:19). For sure, when words are many, something regretful or downright stupid is sure to escape your lips.

Here are three remedies for the dreaded disease.

  1. Don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind.

Researchers call this “editing.” It is the discipline of reflecting on what you say before you say it. Some people pride themselves for “speaking their mind.” But Scripture is clear that speaking is not something to be proud of.

            Everyone should be…slow to speak…. James 1:19

            …a man of understanding holds his tongue. Proverbs 11:12

            He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Proverbs 21:23

So, slow down…and think before you speak.

 

  1. Wrap what you need to say in kindness.

Researchers call this “leveling.” Scripture calls it “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  Communication must be clear, truthful, and transparent. Many spouses are afraid to level with each other for fear of expressing feelings in a way that will be hurtful. One way to speak the truth in love is to use the X, Y, Z approach.

            When you did (or didn’t do) X in situation Y, I felt Z.

            Instead of: “You jerk! You forgot Valentine’s Day, again!”

Try: When you didn’t buy me a gift (X) for Valentine’s Day (Y), I felt hurt and insignificant in your life (Z).

 

Instead of: “You really make me happy!”

How about: “When you held my hand (X) as we walked into your companies Christmas party (Y), I felt deeply satisfied and secure (Z).

 

Feeling can be expressed with words such as: glad, warm, nervous, frustrated, low, bad, angry, lonely, euphoric, sad, excited, irritated, happy, pleased, embarrassed, anxious, or agitate

 

  1. Timing is everything.

There is certainly a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Communication at the wrong time will not be heard or will be misunderstood more often than not. Communication will not be effective when the listener is preoccupied, tired, or stressed. That’s why “hallway” conversations at work and at home create confusion and misunderstanding. When you need to communicate something important, make sure the timing is right.

What does the Apostle Paul mean when he tells the believer to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)? There are two important things to know about this instruction.

  1. The word “filled” means to be controlled. Instead of being controlled by a substance like wine (Eph. 5:18a) be controlled by the Spirit who indwells you as a believer.
  2. Being controlled by the Spirit is not one-and-done. It is an ongoing prayer of the believer.

One writer puts it like this:

[Being filled with the Spirit] is not some high-and-mighty, once-in-a-lifetime moment where you experience the fullness of the Spirit and from then on you are on an all-time high that never wanes. Instead, we are regularly to pray, “Fill me, Lord, for the moment…fill me in this hour…fill me as I’m facing the challenge.”

Here’s a prayer I’ve written and use to ask God for His control of my life:

Father, this is your day on loan to me and I want to be used by you for eternal and lasting purposes. I submit myself, my plans, my activities, and my interactions with others to you. I thank you that I have been baptized and sealed by your Spirit. I thank you that your Spirit indwells me. Now I ask that your Spirit control every aspect of my life. Take control of my tongue that my words will reflect your love and grace. Take control of my emotions that I may respond obediently and calmly, Take control of my thoughts, that my mind may be quickly cleaned of those things that will not honor you and be full of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy. Control my actions in such a way that others will see my deeds and know that they have been influenced by you. Give me the strength to live this day in a way that pleases you. I submit myself to your control in Christ’s name. Amen.

Can you imagine a salesman who never sold a product … a surgeon who never performed a surgery … a trial lawyer who never tried a case … an interior decorator who never decorated the interior of anything … a teacher who never taught … a preacher who never preached … a congressman who never wrote one piece of meaningful legislation? Maybe that last one is a bad example, but you get my point. A profession demands evidence. And so does a profession of faith. Someone has asked, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That’s a great question, isn’t it? The purpose of this booklet is to show that true faith produces “convicting” evidence.

Does the Bible teach “faith by works,” “faith plus works,” or “faith that works”?

In the history of the church, there has been a variety of teaching regarding the issue of faith. Many have taught that a relationship with God must be earned by good works. You have to go to church, say your prayers, give a certain amount of money, take communion, be baptized and help little old ladies across the street. Then, when your time is up, God will take out his eternal balancing scales. He will place your good deeds on one side and your bad deeds on the other. With heaven and hell in the balance, you will stand before God and hope against hope that your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds by at least a nanogram. Talk about stress!

Others teach that a relationship with God is all about faith … plus the things you need to do in order to complete your relationship. It’s kind of like taking out a loan to buy a house. You can live in the house as long as you make the payments. But, if your missed mortgage payments pile up, you will risk foreclosure and losing your home. Talk about pressure to perform!

But faith is not by works or plus works. Scripture clearly teaches that an eternal relationship with the holy God is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There is nothing we can do to earn or complete our standing before God. Salvation is a free gift. The Apostle Paul made this clear when he wrote, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But God does not stop at simply making us his child. We are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). God has graciously gifted us with a faith that works. So, here’s the question. What does a faith that works look like in the life of a true believer? How can we know beyond any doubt that we possess such faith?

Saving Faith

Let’s make sure we are on the same page when it comes to a genuine relationship with God. A faith that works begins with saving faith. Let’s use the acronym “KAT” (Knowledge, Agreement, Trust) to help us understand what saving faith is all about.

Knowledge: Saving faith begins with an understanding of what the Bible says regarding my sinful state and God’s gracious remedy. Scripture says that I am a sinner and cannot save myself. My best effort on

my best day falls short of God’s holy standard. Because of my sin, I will be separated from God for eternity. So God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. He sent his Son to die on the cross as a perfect

sacrifice for my sin. The Bible says that I can trust in Jesus as the One who paid the penalty of sin for me and enter into a relationship with the living God. But this knowledge alone is not saving faith.

Agreement: Not only must I know what the Bible says about my condition and God’s remedy, but I must agree with what Scripture says. I must agree with God’s Word that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I must agree that Jesus came to pay the penalty for my sin. I must agree that my trust in Jesus places me into an eternal relationship with the living God. So far, so good … but knowledge and agreement are not saving faith. There is one more essential step.

Trust: I must place my trust in Jesus alone as the One who died for me and the only One who can place me into an eternal relationship with God. The Bible says that Jesus died for me. I agree that Jesus died

for me. I trust in Jesus alone as the One who died for my sins.

When you hear the word “hospitality” it is often in terms of a person having people over for dinner capped off with coffee and dessert. That’s a great thing to do, but biblical hospitality goes much deeper. Someone has well said:

Hospitality is not having someone into your perfect home; it is allowing someone into your imperfect heart.

The word translated “hospitable” is made up of two Greek words, philo and xenos. Philo means “love” and xenos means “strangers.” Biblical hospitality refers to a person who demonstrates acts of love to those who can’t pay them back. It is one-way giving.

In the Old Testament, God’s law instructed the Israelites to not harvest the corners of their fields so foreigners in need of food would have something to eat. God’s law instructed the Israelite to provide food to the hungry and clothing for the naked (Ezekiel 18:7).

In the New Testament, this characteristic of hospitality continues to be driven by one’s love for God and it takes on a very practical purpose.

The first practical purpose of hospitality was persecution. Christians were being captured and killed. Some were forced from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Others were forced to run for their lives. Those fleeing had no money so they couldn’t stay at the inns. Even if they had money the inns and taverns were immoral places populated by hardened, drunken men. Not a place you wanted to take your wife and children.

Therefore, it was critical for Christians to take in the persecuted and provide a room, food, clothing and needed staples to help them continue their journey to safety. Hospitality was a sacrificial and costly endeavor, and it was dangerous.

In 209 A.D. there was persecution under the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. A Christian priest was being pursued and was running for his life. For some reason, the priest was given shelter by a soldier in the Roman Army named Alban. In the next few days, the two talked at length and Alban became a Christian. When the officers were tipped off as to the location of the priest, Alban came to the door dressed in the priest’s clothes while the priest escaped. Alban became the first Martyr in Britain when he refused to renounce his newfound faith and was beheaded.

Another reason that hospitality was so important in the New Testament church was mission work. As Paul and others traveled around starting churches and sharing the Gospel they needed a place to stay. Again the inns of the day were out of the question, so Christ-followers housed traveling evangelists.

When the Apostle John was sending out missionaries to either start or support churches in Asia he learned of a certain man in one church who was wreaking havoc. He addressed this issue in 3 John and then praised Gaius for his kindness and support of the traveling preacher. Now certainly the kindness of hospitality can be abused. One early Christian writing—the Didache—says that the traveling preacher should stay one day, two days at most; and if he asked for money you knew he was a fraud.

Certainly, biblical hospitality can be costly and inconvenient. That’s why Peter reminds us to be hospitable without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). The writer to the Hebrews says that the strangers to whom we show hospitality may even be angels in disguise (Hebrews 13:2).

Here are a few ways to demonstrate biblical hospitality.

  1. Work with a local church or pregnancy resource center to house a pregnant girl who has no place to go.
  2. Give clothes to a local mission. I bet your closet is full of clothes you seldom wear.
  3. Prayerfully consider foster care or adoption.
  4. Get involved in prison ministry.
  5. Get involved in mentoring children from single-parent families.
  6. Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
  7. Get involved with international ministries committed to helping the needy.

Joshua, the Old Testament leader of Israel, was given a heavy assignment. Following the great leader Moses, God charged Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua knew the challenges and risks. Seven groups of people inhabited the Canaan and there would be many battles to fight. Right after crossing the Jordan when Joshua looked at the walled city of Jericho, he had to be asking: How in the world will we conquer such a fortified city? How would he lead God’s people to take the land? How many husbands, fathers, and sons will give their lives for what God has called us to do? Joshua asked the same question we do: Are the battles worth it?

You tell me. Our ministry is one of leading people—empty, hurting, broken, fallen—to inherit the eternal promises of the eternal God. Jesus has gone before, fought and won the battle. He is the One who leads us into the eternal promised land. And as those called to proclaim his message, we get to follow him and simply encourage others to come along and follow us as we follow Christ.

When we are following Christ we can be sure that every battle is worth it. We are leading people to an eternal inheritance. And one day . . . if we do this thing right . . . we will look into His face and He will say, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.” Yeah, every battle is worth it!

The great pianist Paderewski was holding a concert in a grand hall. A mother took her young son to the concert and, while she was talking to friends as the hall filled with people, he slipped down the aisle, crawled onto the stage, made his way to the piano . . . and started playing Chopsticks. The crowd, waiting for the great pianist, was aghast. From the wings, though, Paderewski saw what was taking place, slipped onstage behind the boy and whispered in his ear, “Keep playing . . . don’t stop . . . keep playing.” Paderewski accompanied the boy’s Chopsticks with a brilliant harmony that turned this simple piece into a masterpiece.

That’s what God does for us. When we are filled with fear, doubt, and discouragement, he puts his arms around us and says, “Don’t stop . . . keep playing . . . Don’t stop.” When we trust him, he strengthens our frightened hearts, bolsters our feeble efforts, and chases away the discouragement. He can turn a life of Chopsticks into a brilliant masterpiece.

Believers know that following Christ involves sacrifice. There will be battles to fight. We want to know if the battles will be worth it.

Joshua knew that they would not enter the Promised Land the next day or the day after that. There would be many battles to fight. Seven groups of people inhabited the Promise Land. When it was all said and done Joshua conquered thirty-five cities. Husbands and fathers, sons and brothers, would die on the battlefield. And he had to know if the sacrifices would be worth it. God answers that question with a rich theological truth.

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.

-Joshua 1:6

The inheritance of the Promised Land for the nation of Israel takes on a spiritual significance in the New Testament. Peter tells us that through Christ we have,

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade– kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

-1 Peter 1:4-5

Are the battles worth it? Every one of them! At the end of the day, they will pale in comparison to our great inheritance through Jesus.

Two men decided to build a house. Both dreamed of a room where their family would meet and watch movies, eat popcorn, play games, and have real family conversations in front of a blazing fire. With their wives they planned the kitchen—counter space, storage space, proximity of the sink and dishwasher, the best place for the oven, stove, refrigerator, and microwave. They wanted the eating area to be a special place because every family knows the important of eating together. So they took pains in planning a dining area.

Two men decided to build a house. One of the men was a bit impatient. He wanted the house…now. So he took some shortcuts and finished the house right on schedule. The family moved in and started doing life. It was beautiful and impressive home. One day the man was on his deck cooking burgers with his buddies. He looked down the road and chuckled out loud. “See that house down there,” he pointed to a lot 100 feet away.

“We started building about the same time. We’ve been in our house for a month but that poor guy is still building.”

Down the road the other man was still building. While his neighbor was building up…he was digging down. He knew that digging deep was most important. He knew that having his house grounded on rock was more important than the family room, because without the foundation…the family room wouldn’t last. But it takes time to dig deep. And digging deep is hard work. And it takes time to dig deep.

Finally both houses were finished.

One day, the families were sitting in their family rooms, when a weather advisory scrolled at the bottom of big flat screen television mounted on the wall. The alert warned that a super storm was on the way. Just as predicted, one day the clouds gathered and darkened and the heavens opened up. The rains came down, the streams and lakes and even the oceans rose. The winds blew at 100 miles an hour and beat against the houses.

You know what happened. The house built by the man who took the shortcut crumbled. The house build by the man who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock stood.

Sooner or later, a storm hits every life. The one thing you will have to have is a deep foundation laid on the Rock. That is, if you really want to stand firm in the storm.

When my family moved to Pittsburgh in 1989, one of the first men I met was Al.  Although twenty-five years my elder, we became friends. When our church went through a rocky time, Al and I became even closer commiserating over coffee at McDonald’s.

Al had owned a construction company, so when we broke ground for our first building, he was asked to be our on-site supervisor. Every Monday morning, I would stop by McDonald’s, buy coffee and meet Al at the building. He would walk me around and show me the progress. But it didn’t look to me like much was happening. Every week I complained, “What in the heck did they do all week?”

After a while, Al got a little irritated with my complaining. He said, “You know absolutely nothing about construction.” He walked me over to a deep trench and said, “Look down there. The reason you are not seeing the building coming up is that they are digging down. They are digging the foundation. If they don’t get the foundation deep enough if the foundation is not on bedrock if they don’t take the time to get the foundation right…then the building will not last. It may not look like they are making a lot of progress to you, but quit complaining. This is the most important part of the whole project. And next week I want my coffee black with two sugars instead of one.”

Al Schneider taught me that the most important part of a building is not what you see on top. The most critical part of any structure is the foundation…deep below the surface.

Jesus said the same thing in his conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount. He said that the wise builder “dug down deep and laid the foundation on the rock” (Luke 6:48). When life’s inevitable storms hit the wise builder’s house, it stood firm. But the foolish builder had not taken the time to dig deep. And when the storm hit, the house “collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:49).

So, I’ll admit…you are looking good above the surface. But here’s the question: is your spiritual foundation dug down deep and laid on the Rock?

If you are alive, sooner or later, you will run into the buzz saw of conflict. Some people visit the land of conflict occasionally. Others seem to make the land of conflict their permanent residence.

Let’s begin with a biblical foundation. What does the Bible say about conflict?

  1. My sinful nature is the source of conflict.

I always want to blame others for the clashes I have at home or work. And certainly it takes two to battle. But James reminds me that I am the source of conflict in my life.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

-James 4:1-3

Convicting, isn’t it? James says that whenever there is conflict I have skin in the game. Whenever there is conflict I have to own up to my part in it.

  1. I need to own up to my part in the conflict.

Remember Jesus’ “Plank in the Eye” story. He asked, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). He pointed out the hypocrisy of focusing on the issues of others (their sawdust) while refusing to deal with our personal issues (our plank). It’s kind of like pointing out a bread crumb on your wife’s lip when you have a long string of cheese dangling on your chin from your French Onion soup (that’s why I don’t eat that stuff). Here is an important conflict principle to accept: it is never entirely the other person’s fault.

  1. A worshiper in conflict is a conflicted worshiper.

Remember Jesus’ “Conflicted Worshiper” story. He said if you are in a significant act of worship and remember that you are in conflict with a significant person in your life, then you should stop worshipping. Jesus said, “First go and be reconciled to your  [husband/wife/child/parent/friend]; then come and offer your gift [of worship]” (Matthew 5:24). How our lives and our worship would change if we actually obeyed this instruction!

 

Remember, conflict starts with you. Until you are willing to deal with you…you can’t begin effectively deal with others.

The right thing to do is always to do the right thing. Obedience is always the path to take. The road of obedience always leads to the desired destination. But…let’s face it…obedience is hard. Even Jesus learned obedience “from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8).

I have listed below several life situations when obedience is hard. I’d love to hear your response to these and your stories of when obedience has been hard for you.

  1. Purity
  • When teenagers are suffering from exploding hormones and their minds (especially boys) are fixed on one thing, they are called to be pure.
  • When a single is following God’s path for purity and his/her friends are sleeping around.
  • When a spouse has saved himself or herself for the right mate and now the mate is not meeting his/her needs.

 

  1. Relationships
  • When a single is waiting (and waiting) on a Christian mate and is tempted to begin “Evangelism Dating.”
  • When a couple has vowed before God to be committed come hell or high water and now they are hanging on to a hellish relationship feeling like they are drowning emotionally.

 

  1. Parenting
  • When your kids think your standards are too strict.
  • When other Christian parents seem to be more lenient.
  • When you feel peer pressure to have your child overly involved.
  • When the child you have prayed for goes astray.

 

  1. Career
  • When others get ahead by cutting corners.
  • When you begin to wonder if honesty really is the best policy.
  • When you are tempted to “beef up” your resume.

 

Those are some of my thoughts. What about you? Have you experienced a time when obedience was really hard? I would love to hear your thoughts.

As Christians, we are going to be faced with doubt, fear and discouragement. We live in a culture of greed. There will be those who threaten us, intimidate us and try to distract us from following hard after Christ. How do we deal with these things that try to tear us down and paralyze us? Here are five things we need to do.

 

  1. Understand your position in Christ.

In times of doubt, fear and discouragement the enemy will try to distance us from God. If you are a Christian, understand that you are a treasured child of the living God. That is something you need to remind yourself of constantly. Every thought that contradicts the truth of God’s love needs to be corralled and aligned with the truth in God’s Word. Heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Doubt will come but, by God’s grace, you will not turn into a doubter. Things will come into your life that will cause fear but, through Christ, fear will not be paralyzing. As a human living on this earth, there will be times of discouragement but, by God’s grace, you will not lose your eternal perspective and will evaluate your heart to make sure discouragement has not been aided and abetted by spiritual compromise.

 

  1. Understand the power of prayer.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. Before he went to King Artaxerxes to ask permission to return to Jerusalem, he petitioned God (Nehemiah 1:5-11). Nehemiah continued to pray as he faced opposition from Sanballat and his men (Nehemiah 4:4-5, 9).

There are many things in our life that we cannot fix. But we can turn them over to God. Paul gave this reminder to the Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 4:6-7

 

  1. Trust God.

There are two questions that every believer must ask. The first one is, “Can you trust God?” emphasis on trust. The second question is, “Can you trust God?” emphasis on you. The first question is philosophical. The second is rubber on the road practical.

Fear will come. It did for David, the man after God’s own heart. But when anxiety came David made a decision. He said,

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

-Psalm 56:3-4

The prophet Isaiah made the same decision. He wrote,

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.                                                                                            -Isaiah 12:2

Fear will come. We must decide to trust.

 

  1. Be Prepared!

While we understand our position in Christ, prayer and trust; Nehemiah reminds us that we need to be prepared. Notice the details of Nehemiah’s preparation.

Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed

places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember

the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had

frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God

will fight for us!” So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside

Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.” Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

-Nehemiah 4:12-23

 

Here are some lessons we can learn from Nehemiah’s preparation.

  • They acknowledged the threat.

Acknowledge what causes your fear, doubt and/or discouragement. When we acknowledge the issue, we can begin to deal with it. Peter wrote,

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith….

-1 Peter 5:8-9

  • They stood guard.

Nehemiah’s men were ready for the battle. Whether day or night, they did not take off their clothes. Even when they went for water, each man carried his weapon with him. We must stand guard.

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

-Mark 13:22-23

  • They stood together.

There is nothing that weakens an army like division. Nehemiah and his men stayed together. And so must we!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

-Hebrews 10:24-25

 

  1. Read the Word of God daily.

God’s Word is the inerrant instruction manual for our life. It tells us the paths to take and the paths to avoid. It transcends culture. God’s Word is just as relevant today as it was when the ink was still wet on the parchment. But Scripture is more than just a manual; it is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). Through his Word, God teaches us, encourages us, inspires us and shows us how much he loves us. The Apostle Paul says it this way,

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

-2 Timothy 3:16-17

If we are going to be thoroughly equipped for the voices of opposition, we must read and meditate on God’s Word daily.

 

Do you hear voices? Voices of fear, doubt and discouragement? Voices of greed, distraction, threats and intimidation? It’s easy to allow these voices to turn up the volume and drown out the focus, peace and confidence that God desires. But from Nehemiah we learn that God always gives us the strength to do what he calls us to do. Whether riding high in success or experiencing failure, the Heavenly Father will always be present with you. His help was not unique to Nehemiah. He is ready and able to carry you today.

Everyone hears voices … voices trapped in our mind…voices of criticism…voices of ridicule…voices aimed to hurt. The voices you hear may have come from the lips of a parent, teacher, coach, spouse, child or friend. These voices spring from our memory when we least expect them and can knock us for a loop.

Sometimes the voices are not trapped in our mind but projected from the person standing next to us. They are words that pierce like a sword, as the Proverb says, and after the attack we are left emotionally bruised and bloodied.

Sometimes the voices come from Satan himself. He loves to remind us of our past sin—How do you think you could ever be worthy of God? He loves to bring up our past failure—See how you failed in the past? Don’t you dare try anything worthwhile again, don’t take any risk. See how God let you down? You’ll fall flat on your face again. And he loves to keep us focused on our weaknesses—How could God ever use you?

Do you hear voices of opposition? If so, keep reading. Let me introduce you to a man named Nehemiah. Let’s identify some voices of opposition that he heard. Through Nehemiah’s experience we can learn to deal with our voices of opposition.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes, a privileged position in the powerful Persian Empire. He pre-tested the king’s wine (If Nehemiah clutched his throat and dropped dead the king knew not to drink it). His responsibility also included keeping things merry and lively during dinner. But as Nehemiah’s story begins, he is having a hard time wearing a smile. Nehemiah was a Jew and had just been given a discouraging report about his homeland. Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish nation and religion, was in ruins. The people were living in disgrace. And the God he loved and served was being mocked. Nehemiah desired to return to Jerusalem to bring honor and dignity to God and his people by rebuilding the city walls.

By God’s grace, King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission to return and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But soon those working on the walls started hearing voices of opposition. Some of the voices were purposed to implant doubt, fear and discouragement in the hearts of those working on the wall. Other voices came to distract the builders from their great endeavor. Let’s consider these voices and Nehemiah’s response.

A man named Sanballat had a vested interest to keep the walls in shambles and the discouraged Jews under his thumb. Keeping the Jews down allowed him to maintain economic and political power. So, when the re-building began he pulled out all his verbal stops.

Sanballat questioned the builders’ strength—What are those feeble Jews doing? He questioned their ability—Will they restore their wall? He questioned their spiritual preparation—Will they offer sacrifices? He questioned their planning and wisdom to take on such a project—Will they finish in a day? He questioned their resources—Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble, burned as they are? Sanballat’s friend Tobiah joined in as well. He questioned the Jew’s ability to build a lasting final product—If even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!

Maybe you have a Sanballat in your life. Ignore him! If it’s a Janballat, ignore her.

Listening to voices, whether from the past or in the present, will paralyze our spiritual progress. Plug your ears to voices of doubt and keep building the wall!

 

Voices of Fear

Sanballat, Tobiah and their allies decided to join forces to attack Jerusalem. The fear of attack, they thought, would certainly take Nehemiah’s mind off the building project. The Jews in the area got wind of the attack and informed Nehemiah of the plans:

Also our enemies said, “Before they know it

or see us, we will be right there among them

and will kill them and put an end to the

work.” Then the Jews who lived near them

came and told us ten times over, “Wherever

you turn, they will attack us.”

-Nehemiah 4:11-12

 

Fear spreads, doesn’t it? Like a disease it is transferred to those around us. Moses knew this well. Once before a battle he gave the instruction, “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too’” (Deuteronomy 20:8).

How do you handle voices of fear? Are you listening to the rumors around you or the certain voice of God?

Some time ago, I was emailed a page of “wise sayings” … Well, sort of. A first grade teacher collected them over the years. She gave her classes part of an old “proverb” and let them fill in the rest. Following are some I thought you might enjoy. Remember these are first graders.

As you shall make your bed so shall you … mess it up.

Better be safe than … punch a fifth grader.

Strike while the … bug is close.

Don’t bite the hand that looks dirty.

A miss is as good as a Mr.

You can’t teach an old dog new … math.

A penny saved is … not much.

It’s always darkest before … Daylight Savings Time.

You can lead a horse to water but how?

Children should be seen and not spanked or grounded.

If at first you don’t succeed … get new batteries.

Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and … you have to blow your nose.

As much as we enjoy the wisdom of children let me encourage you to move beyond these first grade “proverbs” to a portion of Scripture specifically designed to give godly wisdom for godly living-the Book of Proverbs. At the beginning of his writing, the author, Solomon, clearly states that the purpose of his proverbs are: for attaining wisdom and for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life … for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young. Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs I:2-7).

In this day who doesn’t need wisdom, understanding, discretion, and prudence?

Eugene Peterson well says that the Proverbs give us the skills we need “in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes towards others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

I encourage you to read the Proverbs. Read them privately. The thirty-one chapters make for a nice chapter-a-day reading throughout the month. Before you read ask God to open your heart to the truth of His Word. Keep a pencil and paper close by. Some of the proverbs will jump from the page and attach themselves to a particular area of your life. Read them publicly. How about reading a chapter with your husband or wife at the beginning or end of the day? Looking something to read during your family devotions? Selected (and age-appropriate) Proverbs are great for family instruction and discussion. Read Proverbs and gain God’s instruction for down-to-earth godly living.

A text from my son Garrison was the first thing I saw when I turned off the alarm on my phone. Garrison is an avid Oklahoma Sooner football fan and receives all the OU news. The press release he sent me that morning, announced that Mickey Ripley, a former OU quarterback, had died. Garrison never met the man but knew all about him. Ripley was my hero growing up and later my high school coach.

I was traveling when I got the text. I sat up in the hotel bed and reflected on the man who had passed away. Memories flooded through my mind …

“Ripley under.” “Ripley back to pass.” “Pass complete to Sears for a fifteen-yard gain.” If I heard those words once, I hear them a hundred times from the public-address announcer at Daniels Field in Perry, Oklahoma. My six-year-old self sat in the stands in awe as Ripley threw passes for long gains and touchdowns. Ripley was an amazing high school athlete. Besides being an All-State football player, he was also All-State in baseball and a State Champion wrestler. He earned thirteen letters as a Perry Maroon.

Ripley was recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma by Head Football Coach, Jim Mackenzie. After one season Mackenzie died suddenly and was replaced by Chuck Fairbanks. With assistant coach Barry Switzer, Fairbanks instituted the wishbone offense. Ripley, a drop-back passer, didn’t see much action the rest of his career. Later he told us that he stayed at OU because he gave them his word. And, Ripley said, you keep your word even when things don’t work out the way you want them to.

You can imagine my emotions when I learned before my junior year in high school that Ripley was returning to Perry to coach football and baseball. I hadn’t played organized football since sixth grade, but one day after baseball practice that spring, Coach Ripley and a few of us went over to the football field. While I went out for long passes, Coach Ripley dropped perfect spirals right over my shoulder time after time. Mickey Ripley was throwing 50-yard passes to me!! After about an hour of catching passes, he said, “Moore, guess what you are going to do next year? You are going to play football. Wide receiver.” And I did…because Coach Ripley said so. Our field had a thick sandstone wall built around it. If Coach Ripley had asked me to run through that wall, I would have given it my best effort.

Mickey Ripley believed in me. After my senior year, I was selected second-team All-State in baseball because of Coach Ripley—his coaching and because he took time to send my stats and recommendation letters to those who chose the All-State players. I played baseball in college—a long-time dream—because of Coach Ripley. He sent letters to colleges throughout Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas telling coaches that I’d be a good fit for their squad.

Coach Ripley believed in me.

And you know what?

I never told him, “Thank you.”

That’s been bothering me since I read that early morning text from Garrison and learned that Coach Ripley had died.

Who’s your Mickey Ripley?

Write them a note. Send them an email or text. Give them a call. Don’t do what I didn’t do. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Imagine this scene. It is windy and hot with the temperature close to 100 degrees. There is the sound of horses and wagon wheels and loud voices of impatient men. The air is filled with dust and anticipation. All has been left behind for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Families in covered wagons and individuals on horseback are lined up, anxiously awaiting the sun to reach its zenith. At high noon the gun will sound and these 19th century pioneers will be off to stake their claims.

It was September 16, 1889. These pioneers were off to settle a piece of land in Oklahoma Territory known as the Cherokee Strip. Perry, my hometown, was packed with people, as it served as the headquarters for this Oklahoma Land Run. Each year this event is remembered with a weekend of activities known as the Cherokee Strip Celebration. After the Saturday morning parade, you can dine at the Cherokee Strip or the 89er’s Restaurant. Of course, you could go with me to our favorite, the Shady Lady. Yes, the Shady Lady is a family restaurant.

Funny thing about these pioneers that staked out the land around my hometown. They started out as pioneers leaving the past behind, and set out for unsettled territory. They endured the hot summer winds to stake new claims. But after their homes were built, they became “settlers.” Many would never move again. The very ones whose wagons bounced over the open plains became “stuck in a rut.”

In his book, Frontier, Louis L ‘Amour, describes the settler mentality.  He wrote: “Everything within you and me begs, Take it easy. Don’t rock the boat. Leave well-enough alone. Back off. Why run the risk? If you leave the familiar and venture outside your comfort zone, you’re liable to mess things up.” That’s settler talk. Safe. Secure. Predictable. Boring.

Here is some more settler talk you may have heard somewhere along the trail. “It has never been done. We’ve never done it that way. We’ve always done it that way. When you’ve been here awhile, you’ll realize … We’ve got enough on our plate. We tried that once before a few years ago. See, I told you it wouldn’t work. Change anything, but that. That’s not in your area (translated: Stay off my turf). Let’s form a committee, I’ll chair it.” Settler talk. Ineffective. Immobilizing.

In the same book, L’Amour also described the pioneer. “It is our destiny,” he wrote, “to move out, to accept the challenge, to dare the unknown. It is our destiny to achieve. If we are content to live in the past, we have no future. And today is the past.”

Our present generation is being built on the crumbling foundation of relativism. Our culture smirks at absolute truths, making up the rules as it goes. Singles are staying single longer and wondering if the church knows they exist. Single parents, trying to balance all the balls, wonder if the church cares. Teenagers, bombarded with pressure and temptation, wonder if the church understands. Children, accustomed to the electronic media, wonder if the church will ever catch up to the level of technology that communicates to them. There is no time to settle down.

It is our destiny to move out, to accept the challenge of proclaiming the unchanging message of Christ to an ever changing culture.

To attempt things for Christ that we have never attempted before. To achieve things for Christ that we have never achieved before. Today is the past. And if we are content to settle comfortably in the past, there is no future. We hold in our hearts and our hands the Good News. Let’s keep it moving through our lips and our lives.

So saddle up your horses! Grab the reins! Get ready for a wild and glorious ride. There is unsettled territory just over the hill. And once we have staked our claim, it will be time to mount up and move out again. Our destiny is to bring glory and honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Life is full of defining moments. Events take place and decisions are made that literally change the course of our lives. Sometimes these defining moments are uninvited. With battering ram force, they barge into our lives and leave us dealing with sickness, divorce, loss, and disappointment. Other times, we open the day and sound a rousing welcome. We are accepted to the college of our choice. We get the job. We get the girl or the boy. The baby is born! Life is full of defining moments.

Today is a defining moment for you; or at least an opportunity for one. God may be calling you into a personal relationship with Him. Will you respond? He may be calling you into a deeper level of commitment and service to Him. Will you submit? He is calling His children to come together and praise Him through music and preaching. Will you sing from your heart to God and following the call from His Word?

Today holds a defining moment that I encourage you to welcome wholeheartedly.  Are you ready for God to change your heart and life?

Prayer

Do you need prayer?

Email prayer@ronmoore.org.

RON’S SERMONS

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