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05-May

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Suggested Preaching Program for

May

•   Sunday Mornings

This month we will begin a series using the theme “Practical, Probing Questions for Serious Consideration.”

•   Sunday Evenings

The guiding theme for the Sunday evening Services this month is stewardship. Stewardship concerns every area of life. In the background of each suggested message is the basic philosophy of Jesus expressed in the beatitude “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

•   Wednesday Evenings

The Wednesday evening messages will deal with the theme “Modern Messages from the Book of Jonah.”

Sunday Morning, May 3

Title: What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?

Text: “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

Hymns:  “More Like the Master,” Gabriel

              “Take the Name of Jesus with You,” Baxter

              “Living for Jesus,” Chisholm

Offertory Prayer: Our Father, we sit at the feet of Jesus and hear him say that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Help us to believe this truth to the extent that we determine to become a giver in every area of our lives. Today we give to you our tithes and offerings. Bless us with a spirit of generosity as we do so. Grant to us the excitement of seeing good things happen through the wise and consecrated use of these funds for the advancement of your kingdom. In the name of our Savior. Amen.

Introduction

The title Christian is a fallen term. It has been cheapened by common usage. It is now an expression that covers a multitude of religious ideas, error as well as truth, paganism as well as the revelation of God’s divine truth. This term Christian has been stretched to the extent that it covers rationalistic modernism on one hand and a frothy sentimentalism on the other. It is ascribed to that which in some instances is gross worldliness and in other instances to that which is anything short of pharisaic self-righteousness. The term Christian is used to describe that which is coldly ritualistic and also that which is nothing more than heated emotionalism. Is it possible that Christianity is failing to make a distinctive impact due to our failure to understand what it means to be a Christian?

Some apply the term Christian to all who have high moral standards and believe in the existence of God. Others claim this title simply because they are members of a church. Still others claim the privilege of wearing this title because they have had a conversion experience. Ideally, they have a right to do so. However, the great test comes in what others think of our witness. When they see our lives, are they able to call us Christian? Do they see the evidences of the presence of Christ in our lives? If so, only then should we apply or claim this title for ourselves.

The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. This was probably a term of derision because they were followers of the crucified Galilean. Evidently they thought and talked and acted in a manner that reminded their contemporaries of the Christ. What would your neighbors say about you? Is it possible for them to see features and characteristics in your life that resemble Jesus Christ? A government official in India once said to some Christian leaders, “If Christians would act like Jesus Christ, India would be at his feet.” It is time for us to cease being satisfied with a low level of Christian living. We must demonstrate that genuine Christianity is something more than cushioned pews, enjoyable music, a comforting sermon on Sunday, and business as usual during the week.

I. To become a Christian, one must be saved.

It is absolutely impossible for one to be a Christian who does not have a personal redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). A person must repent — change his or her mind about the nature of God, sin, self, and others. Inseparable from genuine repentance, sincere faith must be placed in Jesus Christ as the Lord of life (Acts 20:20 – 21). As a person responds to the gospel with repentance and faith, the Spirit of God brings about the miracle of the new birth within the soul. The believer becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26). He or she is now a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

The new birth alone does not produce Christlikeness. The new birth makes possible a growth and development into Christlikeness. It is impossible for one to be genuinely Christian who has not had an experience of commitment and conversion.

II. To be genuinely Christian, one must be surrendered.

Jesus was surrendered completely to the will of God. “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). His surrender led to Gethsemane and Calvary. He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus said to the Galilean fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:19 – 20). As they forsook their nets, they began the journey that would lead them to the place where others would be able to bestow upon them the title of Christian.

To be considered Christian, a convert must be identified with Christ through baptism. This is a visible symbol of an institutional relationship to Christ in which the individual accepts the demands and discipline of his lordship. To be genuinely Christian, the convert must be sincerely committed to the task of living the teachings of Jesus Christ. There will be a deep concern about keeping God’s holy law. The Sermon on the Mount will be something more than just a beautiful passage of Scripture.

Commitment to the will of God will express itself in the home, throughout the community, within the business, and in every other area of life.

III. If a person is genuinely Christian, he or she will serve.

Jesus said, “My father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (9:4). Someone has said that the best biography of Jesus is that which describes him as one “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). There are many inactive church members, but an inactive Christian is a contradiction of terms, for when we cease to serve, we cease to be truly Christian.

Genuine Christians deliberately give themselves to doing good and do so with humility and gratitude and without display. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

Conclusion

Who is sufficient for this ideal? It is impossible for the convert to be fully surrendered and graciously serving without the leadership and the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God. A part of the wonder and the miracle of the new birth is the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell within the heart of the believer (Gal. 4:4 – 6). The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart to produce the fruit of a Christlike spirit and a Christlike life (5:22 – 24). An old spiritual expresses the sincere desire of every believer:

Lord, I want to be a Christian

  in my heart, in my heart,

Lord, I want to be a Christian

  in my heart.

We must become Christlike within our hearts and minds before we can be called Christians.

A Definition of a Christian

A Christian is born of God, engrafted into Christ, and an inhabitation for the Holy Spirit. His nature is renewed, his mind illumined, his spirit changed.

      He is not what he was, for grace hath made a difference; he is not what he desires to be, for grace is not yet perfected; he is not what he shall be, for grace shall be consummated in glory.

      The knowledge of Christ is his treasure; the mind of Christ his evidence; the love of Christ his song; conformity to Christ his life; to be with Christ his preeminent desire.

      By faith he rests on Christ, receives Christ, and looks to Christ. He heareth Christ’s words, treadeth in Christ’s steps, and seeketh Christ’s approbation.

      He speaks the language of the Savior’s kingdom, reveres the Savior’s statutes and laws, obeys his ordinances, wears his costume, and lives to his glory.

      The life of Christ within him is the principle of his being, and because Christ ever lives, he shall live also. In the Christian, Christ lives and speaks and acts.

      He is Christ’s representative on earth, his witness before men, and his follower before God. The Christian hearkens to Christ’s teachings, rests on Christ’s sacrifice, avails himself of Christ’s meditation, and cheerfully obeys Christ’s royal laws. He inquires what would Christ have me know, what do, and what enjoy.

      To know Christ, is Christianity intellectual; to obey Christ, Christianity practical; to enjoy Christ, Christianity perfected. As bread to the hungry, as water to the thirsty, as the rock in the sultry day, is Christ to the Christian.

      The Christian is in the world but not of it, among the world yet separate from it, passing through the world but without attachment to it.

      The Christian is a man and may err, an imperfect man and may sin, but a renewed man and shall have his fruits unto holiness and in the end everlasting life.

      The Christian is a warrior and must fight; but he is a conqueror and must prevail.

      The Christian sojourns on earth but dwells in heaven; a pilgrim in the desert but an enrolled denizen of the skies.

      The Christian is the impress of Christ, the reflection of the Father, and the temple of the Holy Ghost.

      Contrast him with the infidel in his faith, with the profligate in his life, with the merely moral in his heart, and with the Pharisee in his spirit. His pedigree, from Jehovah; his nature, from heaven; and his name, from Antioch. O Christian, great is thy dignity, refulgent thy glory, interminable thy blessed hope. All things art thine; thou art Christ’s and Christ is God’s.

Author Unknown

Sunday Evening, May 3

Title: Extravagant Devotion Needed

Text: “And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (Mark 14:6).

Scripture Reading: Mark 14:1 – 19

Introduction

Jesus was a welcome guest in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany (Luke 10:38 – 42). John 11 tells us of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Immediately following the raising of Lazarus a feast was prepared where Jesus was the guest of honor (John 12:1 – 8). It was during this supper that Mary demonstrated her lavish, extravagant devotion toward the Christ.

I. Extravagant devotion seeks an appropriate means of expression.

      A. Love will find a way.

      B. Gratitude will manifest itself.

      C. Christ recognized Mary’s gift as a lovely work done in view of his coming death and burial (John 12:7).

          1. Love.

          2. Gratitude.

          3. Worship.

      D. Christ had confidence in his kingdom’s progress and permanence (Mark 14:9).

II. Extravagant devotion leads to extravagant loyalty.

      A. The sinful woman (Luke 7:4447).

      B. John 15:15.

III. Extravagant devotion blesses the lives of others.

      A. Mary’s act of devotion blessed the heart of Jesus as he faced death.

      B. Mary’s precious spikenard continues as an endless living stream to inspire the hearts of others.

      C. The fragrance of Mary’s spikenard still fills the room of those who read and listen.

      How long has it been since others have been blessed by some fragrance from your life?

IV. Do you have the Judas mind or the mind of Mary?

It could be said concerning many of us that we measure our devotion to the Lord and his cause with a medicine dropper. A medicine dropper is normally used to administer limited dosages to those who are sick.

Instead of permitting the devotion of our hearts to flow with the vigor of an artesian well, we continually restrict it and almost completely choke it off. Such was not the case with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Her kind of love is the need of the kingdom at this time.

Judas was a shrewd businessman who knew the price of things. He was completely practical about everything. He disapproved of Mary’s act as a foolish waste.

Conclusion

Jesus disagreed with Judas and commended Mary. Jesus loved people extravagantly to the extent that he gave his life for them. God loves us extravagantly. He gave his Son to die on the cross for us.

The measure of our sacrifice is the measure of our worship. The measure of our sacrifice is the measure of our concern for others.

Wednesday Evening, May 6

Title: “Arise, Go to Nineveh”

Text: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:2).

Introduction

The prophets of the Old Testament were the spokesmen of God to his people. They were men who received a unique call to a high and holy task. While certain similarities characterize these prophets, each of them was unique in the particular emphasis of the message he delivered to the people.

The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books in that it is all in the third person. The entire book takes the form of a short story and describes God’s dealings with one of his spokesmen. Many have missed the main message of the book because of their curiosity and speculations concerning the size and type of the fish that swallowed Jonah. Instead of being concerned about whether God is able to make a fish big enough to swallow a man, we ought to concern ourselves with the message of the book both to the prophet as an individual, to the nation as a people, and to our present generation.

Before we consider our text, we should note several great truths concerning the book. This book reveals the necessity of God’s people putting forth an effort to bring about the salvation of the whole world. It also contains the greatest revelation of God’s love to be found in the Old Testament. In its emphasis on concern for others, the book of Jonah is more like the New Testament than any other Old Testament book.

Several great truths in the text have significance for each of us.

I. The fact of divine communication is revealed.

The book of Jonah declares that the great God of Israel communicates with his creatures. In one way or another, the Word of God can come to us. God spoke to people in the past, and he continues to speak to people in the present.

II. The possibility of the human reception of divine communication is revealed.

Jonah had no question at all concerning the divine communications. With all of his mind, he perceived what the will of God was for him. He would declare to us that each of us has the capacity for two-way communication with God.

III. The divine authority to command is assumed.

God took the initiative and issued the command to the prophet. God is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. On the basis of these three claims, he has the right to command our person, our energies, and our time. He issued the command to Jonah, and he issues commands to us.

IV. A spirit of urgency characterizes this command: “Arise, go,... cry against it.”

      A. Jonah was given a revelation of the compassionate heart of God. Jonah’s main emphasis was to be primarily of the coming judgment, and yet even this message contained an element of hope.

      B. Jonah discovered that God’s love reaches out to all people. It was revealed to him before the coming of Christ that God’s love is all-inclusive. With God there is no favored group or party. The circle of his love included the cruel citizens of Nineveh.

      C. Jonah discovered that all people have the capacity to receive and to respond to God’s grace. This is a truth that we need to face up to today. We need to let this truth grip our hearts and command our energies.

V. Jonah’s response was unworthy.

      A. His was an opportunity to turn the entire city to God.

      B. His was the opportunity of becoming the city’s greatest benefactor.

      C. His was the opportunity of being a vital part of the greatest enterprise on earthGod’s redemptive program.

      D. His was the opportunity of earning a great spiritual inheritance.

Conclusion

What has your response been to the call of God on your life? Have you made a worthy response? Have you obeyed gladly? May God help you to arise immediately and do that which the Lord would have you to do.

Sunday Morning, May 10

Title: Are You a Real Christian Mother?

Text: “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Tim. 1:5).

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1 – 12

Hymns:  “Great Redeemer,” Harris

              “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” Dwight

              “Faith of Our Mothers,” Patten

Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, on this lovely Lord’s Day we are reminded of the lavishness of your generosity to us. We praise you, and we respond to you with the glad commitment of our lives to your purpose for us. May your blessings be on the use of our tithes and offerings in preaching the gospel to those who are spiritually poor, in binding up the brokenhearted, in proclaiming deliverance to those who are the captives of sin, and in bringing sight to the eyes of those who are blind. Bless these offerings to the end that the world might better know that it can be saved by your grace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction

Sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, law enforcement officers, educators, and social workers are reminding us repeatedly of the importance of the home. The influence of the home for good or bad has been the subject of many books, countless articles, and innumerable speeches.

While the family unit is made up of a man, a woman, and children, the woman is at the center, and the lives of others are good to the degree to which the woman takes her calling seriously, making their welfare her major concern. In the twenty-first century, mothers face myriad complex problems and challenges. Although the mothers of yesterday faced some problems that are practically nonexistent today, the modern mother faces problems undreamed of a short time ago.

I. If you would provide for your children a Christian mother, consider motherhood as a Christian calling.

      A. There is a call to the ministry of preaching. There is a call to the ministry of religious education. There is a call to the ministry of sacred music. And there is a call to the ministry of missions at home and abroad.

      B. Let us recognize the high call to Christian motherhoodthe fulfilling of God’s plan and purpose for you. With Paul, press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).

      C. Eunice and Lois are still recognized today because they did an outstanding job in training a son and grandson.

          1. The Christian mother should be a leader in worship.

          2. The Christian mother can be a professor of biblical knowledge. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).

          3. The Christian mother should be a teacher of Christian ideals.

          4. The Christian mother should be an example of Christian graces. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14).

II. If you would provide your children a Christian mother, recognize your need for help.

      A. You need the help of God.

          1. Make much of the Bible in your personal life.

          2. Be familiar with the closet of prayer. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6).

          3. Walk by faith, claiming the promises of God.

          4. Follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

      B. You need the help of your husband.

          1. He should be a Christian.

          2. He should be a good steward.

          3. He should be a servant of Jesus Christ.

      C. You need the help of the church.

          1. There is no substitute for public worship.

          2. Yours should be a wholesome and enthusiastic participation in the church’s program of education, training, missionary activities, and worship.

III. If you would provide for your children a Christian mother, dedicate yourself to God.

      A. Eunice and Lois sent Timothy forth as a servant of Jesus Christ.

          1. He was a man of immeasurable unselfishness.

          2. He had the capacity for gentle devotion.

          3. He was warmhearted and loyal (1 Cor. 4:17).

          4. He possessed charm and gentleness with tenderness and patience.

          5. He was willing to sacrifice himself without reservation to the cause of Christ (1 Cor. 16:10).

      B. These qualities are such that only a consecrated mother and grandmother could bestow them upon a son.

      C. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God ...” (Matt. 6:33).

Conclusion

Perhaps the greatest contribution that you as a parent will make to the kingdom of God will be in the child or children you raise for his glory. May God bless you with the faith and grace that you need for serving him day by day through the years at this post of duty.

There can be no question concerning a mother’s need for Christ as Savior. If you have not trusted him, then today would be a good day to decide to let him come into your life. And there is no question that for a mother to be the best possible mother, her husband needs to be a devout Christian. As the husband of your wife, you are the only man who can bestow this blessing upon her and upon your children. If you are not already doing so, then let today be the beginning.

Probably some here today have forsaken the devout teachings of a godly mother. The best way you could honor either your living mother or your departed mother is by renewing your vows to her Lord and begin serving him. Today would be a good time to begin.

Sunday Evening, May 10

Title: Two Things God Needs

Text: Matthew 28:18 – 20

Introduction

The Great Commission is a New Testament statement of God’s great eternal plan of redemption. It has always been his purpose and always will be.

Jesus issued the proclamation: “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” This authority is the authority to command and to issue orders to his disciples. He has the authority to request, even demand, our total resources.

In our text the Lord reveals his worldwide, agelong program. He tells his disciples that in their going about from place to place, they should make disciples, and he promises to be with them if they obey his command.

The title of this message is a paradox. In one sense God is not dependent on us for anything. He is all-sufficient and could ignore us completely if he wished. On the other hand, and I say this with humility, God is completely dependent on us. He has chosen to limit himself to utilize our talents and our resources. The title of this message could be “The Helplessness of God.”

For the accomplishment of God’s great redemptive purpose, he needs two things: manpower and material resources.

I. God needs manpower for the accomplishment of his purpose.

      A. God needs converted people.

      B. God needs consecrated people with dedicated minds, hearts, and hands.

      C. God needs consistent people.

      D. God needs compassionate people with warm hearts and tender hands.

      E. God needs courageous people. Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matt. 9:37). Paul challenged the Corinthians with the opportunity of “laboring together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9). The church has been and continues to be plagued by the curse of insufficient manpower.

II. God needs material resources for the advancement of his kingdom.

In a very real sense, God does not need anything we have. He is no pauper. He is no beggar. Poet Harriet E. Buell has written:

My Father is rich in houses and lands,

He holdeth the wealth of the world in his hands!

Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold.

His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

If this is the case, then someone is certain to say, “Why does God need my financial resources?” We need to understand that our lives and our material resources are wrapped up in the same package. It is impossible to think of a person in total isolation from his or her material resources. People who separate God from the economic realm of life automatically place their hearts in material things rather than in the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:19 – 21).

From the beginning of time, God has commanded people to be givers — not because God was a pauper, but to save people from the tyranny of the material. By the commandment for people to be tithers, God was seeking to enter into the economic activities of people and to show them the sacredness of this area of life. By commanding his tithe, God was seeking to guarantee that we would invest our lives in spiritual rather than material things.

      A. The teaching of the tithe is as old as the Bible (Gen. 28:2022).

          1. The giving of the tithe is based on divine ownership.

          2. The giving of the tithe is based on human stewardship.

      B. The giving of the tithe works today.

          1. Tithing helps spiritualize that which is considered secular.

          2. Tithing brings a new reality and vitality into worship as the tither brings a specific portion of his or her time, talents, and efforts in the form of a tithe.

          3. Tithing greatly helps in evangelizing a lost world through the support of missionaries both at home and abroad.

          4. For the members of a given church to begin tithing will revolutionize both the worship and witness of that church. Real spiritual renewal is experienced when people begin to bring themselves with their resources into the work of God.

III. God needs people and money because people need God.

God loves and labors to bring his mercy and grace into the hearts and lives of lost men and women. He has given his Son to be their Savior. He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to work within the hearts of both the saved and the unsaved. God needs every believer to be a messenger of his love and power to save.

Conclusion

Give yourself and your substance to the Service of God. God needs you, and he will use you if you will permit him to. Commit yourself to him now.

Wednesday Evening, May 13

Title: A Mighty Tempest

Text: Jonah 1:1 – 15

Introduction

The Devil will always have a ship ready when people want to sail away from God, but it will be the most expensive trip they ever take, for the trip will always cost far more than they thought when they began the journey.

In Jonah 1:2 we find the prophet’s commission: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” In Jonah 1:3 we find the prophet’s resignation. Because of his great concern for the welfare of the people of Nineveh, God refused to accept Jonah’s resignation.

The storm that swept across the sea and caused Jonah and his traveling companions so much trouble was no accident; it was a providential event designed to teach a rebellious prophet the futility of attempting to flee from a divine assignment.

I. Are you in a disgraceful flight from duty?

      A. Has God called you to some place of duty and responsibility?

      B. Has God revealed to you some great need that he would like to supply with your help?

      C. Have you declined some position of responsibility in your church without an honest, legitimate excuse?

      D. Have you neglected to render a ministry of mercy that is greatly needed by someone?

      E. God has a work for each of his children of one sort or another. He does not expect from any of us exactly the same as he does from others.

II. The chastisement of God upon Jonah.

We should recognize the divine strategy that thwarted the plans of the disobedient prophet. By his disobedience the prophet also thwarted the plans of God. For Jonah’s good, as well as for the good of the people of Nineveh, the chastisement of God came upon the wayward prophet.

The chastisement of God will come upon modern-day Jonahs if they flee from the task to which God calls them. This truth may explain some of the turmoil that may exist in your life. The writer of Hebrews discusses God’s chastisement of his children.

      A. We are not to despise the chastisement of the Lord (Heb. 12:5).

      B. Divine chastisement is motivated by love (Heb. 12:6).

      C. Chastisement is a proof of sonship (Heb. 12:7).

      D. Chastisement is to be taken very seriously (Heb. 12:9).

      E. Chastisement is for our profit (Heb. 12:10).

      F. We are not to permit chastisement to overwhelm us, though it may be painful as it was in Jonah’s case (Heb. 12:1112).

III. God’s storms follow every sinning saint.

      A. God may send the storm of sorrow into your life.

      B. God may send the storm of suffering into your life.

      C. God may send the storm of financial stress into your life.

      D. God may send the storm of spiritual insecurity into your life. Have you lost the joy of your salvation? Has your religion become a burden instead of a lift? Is it a cold duty rather than a joyful privilege? If so, it may be that God has sent a storm into your life because of a disgraceful flight from duty.

Conclusion

God never delights in sending storms into our lives. He much prefers that we sail the ship of life on a calm and peaceful sea. Because of his love for us, we can be assured that the storms will come if they are necessary. Instead of disobeying like Jonah, let us volunteer like Isaiah (Isa. 6:8).

Sunday Morning, May 17

Title: What Grade Will You Make?

Text: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:27 – 30

Hymns:  “We Would See Jesus,” Warner

              “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Robinson

              “More about Jesus,” Hewitt

Offertory Prayer: Dear Father, you have given us the rich gifts of your grace. We thank you for the peace that passes understanding. We thank you for the assurance that we are your children. We thank you for the hope that cheers our hearts. We thank you for the blessings that come to us through family and friends. We thank you for the privilege of work. Today, out of the gratitude of our hearts, we offer to you our tithes and offerings. Bestow your blessings on these gifts that your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Introduction

Exam week is often a painful experience for both parents and pupils. I would suppose that the grading of papers is at least sometimes painful for teachers. A time of testing reveals something not only about the learning achievement of the pupil, but also about the effectiveness of the teaching methods used by the teacher. Let me challenge the students of the congregation to face up to the question of grades. What kind of grades are you making in school? Your grades will be determined by how you respond to the teacher and by how you apply yourselves to your learning opportunities.

Today I challenge each of you to think of Jesus Christ as the great Teacher for your life. We think of him as the divine Son of God, the Redeemer who came to die on the cross for the sins of the world, the conqueror of death and the grave, the coming one who will raise the dead and judge the wicked and reward the righteous. But today let us consider Jesus as heaven’s infallible, inherent Teacher, who came to teach the truth about God, life, and eternity. As we think of a teacher, we must also think of students. We must recognize learning opportunities and responsibility. Let us disturb ourselves with the question, “What grade will I make in the school of Christ?”

As we study the life of Christ, we may be surprised to discover that Jesus was generally recognized as a teacher. His disciples and his contemporaries considered him to be a teacher. He was called Teacher, Master, or Rabbi. All of these titles contain the idea expressed by Nicodemus when he said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Jesus is never addressed as a preacher, but at least 45 times in the four Gospels he is called “Teacher.” The title “Master” occurs 66 times in the King James Version, and in 54 of these instances the Greek word means teacher or schoolmaster.

Jesus said, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13 NIV). Jesus’ choice of the term “disciple” to designate his followers indicates that he considered himself a teacher. They were not called “subjects,” “servants,” “retainers,” or “comrades.” “Disciple,” meaning “pupil” or “learner,” is used 243 times.

How have you responded to the Teacher? Have you been listening attentively? Have you given attention to reading the text from which he would instruct you? What grade are you making?

I. The invitation to enroll.

In the gracious words of the text, Jesus would invite the entire world, one by one, to experience conversion. While he may have been referring to the yoke worn by oxen, it is more likely that he was thinking in terms of himself as a teacher with a group of students. To accept the yoke or to bear the yoke was to describe the teacher-pupil relationship. The gracious words of the invitation and the text must not be limited to a simple call to conversion, for these words of invitation include the opportunity to learn and to grow and to experience the fullness of God’s great salvation. This will be the experience of each person who interprets the Christian life as an opportunity for continuous growing and serving.

      A. Learning must not be limited to listening. While it is important that we listen attentively, it is a proven fact that one can hear and grasp all that a speaker says by using only 20 percent of his mental capacity. If the rest of the intellect and the emotions are not concentrated on the subject that is being considered, the potential learning experience is almost completely nullified.

      B. Learning must not be limited to looking. Priceless, indeed, is the capacity to see. One good picture is said to be worth more than a thousand words, but one can look and observe without reaching the highest level of learning. We need to observe the Christ in every phase of his life, but if we do nothing more than look, we will not be fully responding to his gracious invitation to enroll in the school of Christian discipleship.

      C. Learning must not be limited to a pleasant emotional experience. Many of us go to church or to a Bible class and thoroughly enjoy the songs or the sermon or the lesson. We experience a spiritual uplift. This type of experience is of great value, yet we may not learn anything of real significance from it.

II. The invitation to continue in learning.

Luke, the writer of Acts, comments that the enemies of the early church “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Jesus’ personality and teaching had placed a distinguishing mark upon them. Later on in the book of Acts, the enemies of Christ again observed conspicuous results in those who enrolled and then continued in the school of Christ, for the record says, “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:25).

      A. We learn through identification. Parents have a profound effect on every facet of a child’s life because of their identification with each other. The family is the first school that the child knows anything about. Here there is an identification between the teacher-parent and the child-pupil.

      In high school a boy learns how to play football, not by reading a textbook, but by identifying with a coach in a learning-working relationship.

      The crowd with which we identify, whether we are young or old, creates a learning experience.

      If we would respond to Jesus Christ, heaven’s Teacher of the heavenly way of life, we must be solidly identified with him. This requires more than a confession of faith and church membership. A regular exposure of our mind and heart to him in worship is essential as is careful, attentive listening to his words of truth and wisdom.

      We need to observe and contemplate both the character and conduct of Jesus Christ in his relationship with others if we would truly consider ourselves his disciples, his followers, students in his school. What grade are you making?

      B. We learn through participation. Not only in the public school system but in the church school as well, hands-on, activity-based teaching is recognized as an effective method for communicating truths to the minds of children.

      When Jesus said, “Come unto me,” he was inviting us to participate in a learning experience. He instructed the man out of whom he had cast a legion of devils to “go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee” (Mark 5:19). This was an invitation to a laboratory experience in which the man would relate what God had done. In so doing he would discover also what God could do with him in the lives of others.

      If we are to learn, we need both to identify and participate. What grade are you making?

III. The invitation is still open.

College catalogs contain a paragraph that gives the time limit for enrolling in courses of study. They specifically state that beyond a certain date the opportunity to enroll is closed. Today we can thank God that the opportunity to enroll in the school of Christ continues to be open to those who are among the living. You do not have to wait until next semester; you can come to Christ today and begin to learn.

Conclusion

A tragic mistake made by many is that of assuming that conversion automatically produces spiritual maturity, but Jesus tells us that we need to learn. You must not delay coming to Jesus Christ because of immaturity or fear of failure. You must come as one admitting your spiritual poverty and ignorance and your desire to learn and become rich in spirit.

Neglecting to enroll in the school of Christ is costly. Enroll today. Let him be not only your Savior and Redeemer but your Coach and Teacher too. To do so is to make a wise decision that you will never regret.

Sunday Evening, May 17

Title: Is It Possible to Be a Hilarious Giver?

Text: 2 Corinthians 9:7

Introduction

The word that is translated “cheerful” in our text is the Greek word hilaron. It is the word from which we get our English word hilarious. Paul declared that “God loves the hilarious giver.” Webster defines this word as “noisily merry, boisterous.” Some people seriously question whether it is possible for any except the rich to be hilarious givers. Hilarious giving is not, however, to be restricted to the affluent.

I. Under certain conditions hilarious giving would be impossible.

      A. Hilarious giving is impossible if life is considered only in terms of an abundance of things (Luke 12:15). Jesus warned us against considering the acquiring of an abundance of material things as the primary objective for living. He declared and people have affirmed that an abundance of material things does not guarantee happiness.

      B. Hilarious giving is impossible if life is lived in only one dimension (Luke 12:21). The rich fool lived as if he were a creature of time alone. He completely ignored eternity. Paul commended the Philippians because of their investments in his missionary work. He affirmed that by these contributions they would reap spiritual dividends of eternal significance (Phil. 4:17). He who has no faith in eternity will find it impossible to invest his resources or energies in that which is not tangible and visible.

      C. Hilarious giving is impossible if God is considered as an untrustworthy cheat. Malachi, God’s prophet, indicted the people of his day for stealing from God. They had refused to bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse of God. In the final analysis their refusal to tithe was an indication of their lack of faith in the goodness of God. If faith in the generosity of God had filled their hearts, they would have joyfully brought their tithes into God’s storehouse.

      Today the primary reason for the failure of some to tithe is found in their lack of faith in the good God who has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out an abundant blessing upon those who tithe. God does not lie. You can trust him to keep his promise.

      D. Hilarious giving is impossible if you do not have faith in the generous provisions of God (Matt. 6:2630). One of the excuses that is most often given for stinginess is that of personal need and a fear of failure to be able to provide the necessities of life in the future. Jesus encouraged his disciples to avoid worry by exercising faith and putting forth an honest effort.

          1. Jesus would encourage the worrier to listen to a sermon from the sparrows (Matt. 6:26).

          2. Jesus would encourage the worrier to listen to the lecture from the lilies (Matt. 6:28 – 30).

II. Why does God love the hilarious giver?

Is it because he is poor and his treasury is empty? Does God love the hilarious giver because he is hungry and in need of our generosity? These are foolish questions.

      A. Hilarious giving indicates a growth in godliness. God is a hilarious giver. Lavishly he has given his blessings to us. Extravagantly he has been merciful to us. As the heavenly Father, he would be delighted by a similar attitude on the part of his children.

      B. Hilarious giving is an indication of gratitude. The beloved apostle said, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

      C. Hilarious giving indicates a deep concern for a lost world. God so loved the world that he gave his Son. Christ so loved the world that he gave his life. We should so love this world that we give of our time, talents, testimony, and treasure in a cheerful manner.

III. Hilarious giving insures an abundant harvest (2 Cor. 9:6).

It is a law of nature and it is a law of the spirit that we reap in proportion to the quantity of the seed that we sow.

      A. He who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly. No wise farmer will be stingy with his seed. According to his best wisdom, he will use a sufficient amount of seed to reap the greatest possible potential from his field.

      B. He who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. The farmer who plants a full measure of seed into the soil can normally expect an abundant harvest. This is a law that works not only in farming but in every area of life. We reap according to what we sow.

Conclusion

God sees the hilarious giver as one who will enjoy the privilege of reaping a full harvest in life. God sees the hilarious giver as one who is investing in time with the interest of eternity in mind. May God give each of us the grace, the faith, and the wisdom to be hilarious givers.

Wednesday Evening, May 20

Title: The High Cost of Disobedience

Text: Jonah 1:1 – 17

Introduction

It is unfortunate that the remarkable teachings of the book of Jonah have been lost in the constant wrangling over the story of the great fish, which is but an event mentioned and soon dismissed. The book of Jonah is one of the least understood books of the Bible, yet it is so simple that a child can understand its profound truths. Although Jonah lived many hundreds of years ago, his book has a message for our day that is as fresh as the ink on this morning’s newspaper.

The book of Jonah reveals the great redemptive purposes of God for all peoples of all nations. It rebukes the narrow spirit of nationalism, of racial hatreds, and of contempt for alien peoples whenever and wherever found. It discloses that the hearts of the most depraved and degenerate can be touched and cleansed by the power of God’s Spirit. Moreover, the book of Jonah is a striking indictment of our sin of disobedience to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18 – 20). Christ launched a world conquest of righteousness and meant for each of us to have our lives invested and deeply involved in winning a wicked, wayward world back to God.

I. As God commanded Jonah, Christ has the right to command us.

      A. He is the Creator (John 1:3).

      B. He is the Sustainer of this universe (Col. 1:17).

      C. He is our Redeemer.

      D. He is Lord of Lords (Phil. 2:11).

      E. “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh.”

          1. Nineveh was a great, sinful city (Jonah 1:2).

          2. Nineveh was the object of God’s loving concern (Jonah 4:11).

      Jesus’ great commission contains his will for each of us. As we go about from place to place in our personal world, we are to invest our time, talents, ability, and resources in a manner so as to persuade all to become believers in and followers of him. He would have each of us live a devout life, and he would challenge each of us to be a student of the Bible and to live for others. Also, he would encourage us to be completely Christian in our home life and in benevolent ministries in our community. Finally, he would challenge us to be a part of world missions by means of our tithes and offerings.

II. The cost of disobedience continues to be high.

Jonah paid a high cost for being disobedient to the great commandment of his God.

      A. The cost of disobedience to Jonah.

          1. It cost him the joy of cooperating with God.

          2. It cost him the joy of participating in the highest possible Service that can be rendered to a city.

          3. It cost him the joy of receiving God’s approval.

      B. The cost of your disobedience to you.

          1. The way of disobedience is always down.

          2. One always “pays the fare thereof.”

          3. God will cast a storm upon your sea.

          4. It will cost you fellowship with God and his blessed protection.

          5. It will cost you the joy of a clean conscience before God.

      C. The cost of your disobedience to God.

          1. You limit his love.

          2. You limit his power.

          3. You limit the spread of his kingdom on earth.

      D. The cost of your disobedience to others.

          1. You withhold from them the Savior.

          2. You withhold from them a challenging example.

          3. You withhold from them a blessed memory.

Conclusion

The way of obedience to the loving commandments of God is the high road of happiness. God’s commandments are not grievous and galling. They may appear to be such, for at times they involve difficulties and hardship, and we cannot see ahead to the joy that will come to us as a result of obedience. May God give to each of us the wisdom and grace to be obedient.

Sunday Morning, May 24

Title: “Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?”

Text: “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6).

Scripture Reading: Acts 9:1 – 16; 2 Timothy 4:6 – 8

Hymns:  “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned,” Stennett

              “Fairest Lord Jesus,” Anonymous

              “Wonderful, Wonderful, Jesus,” Russell

Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, today we thank you for the beauty of springtime and for the glory of growing things. We thank you for the hope of a harvest that shall come as a result of planting seeds in the soil. We thank you for the privilege of being able to work and for the joy of receiving an increase. In this time when seeds are being planted and there is an evidence of new life on all sides, help us by means of both our efforts and our gifts to sow the seed of divine truth in the hearts and lives of people. Bless these offerings to the end that there might be an abundant increase in your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Introduction

The passages of Scripture that we are considering today contain Paul’s first recorded statement as a child of God and one of his last utterances as a veteran soldier of the cross.

Paul’s ability to make the triumphant statement in his letter to Timothy is a direct result of his making the earlier statement, at the beginning of his discipleship, in utter sincerity. The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” not only expressed the sentiments of Paul at the moment, but it is a description of his continuing attitude throughout the balance of his life.

Paul’s question is appropriate for each of us under all circumstances and all times.

I. The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” acknowledges the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ.

The term lord does not have the meaning today that it had during the days of Paul. For a man to be lord meant many things. Lord was the normal address of respect in everyday Greek during those days. It was also a title of authority that distinguished between a master and a slave.

Lord was also used to describe absolute possession or ownership. It could refer to ownership of a house, a piece of property, an animal, or a slave. It was also used in legal terminology to designate one who served as a guardian for those who had no legal rights, such as women and children. This term was also the standard title of Roman emperors. The highest use of this term is found in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible where the Greek word Kurios, translated Lord, was regularly used as the name of Israel’s God. It was in this context that Paul addressed the risen Christ who confronted him as he pursued his mad career of persecuting the church.

      A. During his earthly ministry nature had recognized and responded to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The winds and the waves obeyed his command.

      B. The animal world recognized and responded to his lordship. In Mark’s gospel there is a statement in the account of Jesus’ temptation experience that is often overlooked. Mark says, “He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him” (Mark 1:13).

      Why did Mark call attention to the fact that Jesus was “with the wild beasts”? The passage implies that Jesus was in their favor and that their normal fear of man was absent. It is also significant that when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem that he rode on a colt that had never been ridden before (Luke 19:30 – 37). Those who have had any experience with riding colts know that this would have been unusual. Is it possible that even the colt recognized the lordship of Jesus?

      C. The demons recognized the lordship of Jesus. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, we observe Jesus commanding evil spirits to surrender their sovereignty over the lives of those who had been enslaved by evil. They recognized him and resented him, but they also obeyed him (Mark 5:7 – 13).

      D. Jesus accepted recognition as Lord by his disciples. He said, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13:13). On another occasion he rebuked them because they did not assume the responsibilities of his lordship. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

      E. In writing his epistle to the Philippians, Paul declared that everyone should recognize and respond to the lordship of Jesus. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9 – 11).

II. The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” was the expression of a surrendered heart.

      A. By this question Paul was giving voice to his inward repentance toward God and the beginning of his faith toward Jesus Christ as Savior. While there are many factors that contributed to this change of attitude toward God and new openness to Jesus, there came the decisive moment when Paul responded with the surrender of his heart to Jesus.

      B. Henceforth the will of Christ was to be sovereign and supreme in every area of Paul’s life.

      C. Unreserved and unfaltering allegiance to the will of God as he understood it was to be the dominant passion of Paul’s life.

III. The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” was the beginning of a great career.

      A. Paul actively identified himself with the greatest person and with the greatest cause on earth. The person was Jesus Christ, and the cause was the kingdom of God, which was to find spiritual visibility in the establishment of churches in many different cities and countries between this moment and the moment of Paul’s martyrdom in Rome.

      B. Have you found some great person with whom you can identify? We cannot live our lives in isolation from others. Life is made up of relationships, and relationships are created by choice. Each of us would be wise to choose to identify with persons who can challenge us to become what God would have us to be.

      C. Have you chosen a cause in which to invest your time, energy, and financial resources? Life is made up, not only of relationships to persons, but to institutions. What place have you given to the church? Dr. M. E. Dodd once said, “A dollar invested in a New Testament church will rise higher, sink deeper, spread wider, go farther, and last longer than a dollar invested in any other institution on earth.”

      If this is true concerning dollars, it is also true concerning energy, effort, and time. Many are making the sad mistake of giving first-rate loyalty to third-rate causes and giving third-rate loyalty to the church, which is a first-rate cause. Because Paul was responding to the will of his Savior, the church was foremost among all institutions in his concern and in his effort.

IV. The question “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” opens the door so that the will of God may be known.

The will of God is not something to be feared. It is something to be discovered and grasped. The will of God is not that which a cruel, compassionless fate would impose upon us; rather, it is the high and holy plan of the loving God.

      A. Our life is at its highest and best when it is lived in the circle of the divine will.

      B. Paul described the will of God as good and perfect (Rom. 12:2).

      C. If we are willing to do God’s will, it is possible for us to know God’s will.

          1. God’s will can be discovered by reverently reading the Word of God.

          2. God’s will can be discovered in the closet of prayer.

          3. God’s will can be discovered through worship.

          4. God’s will can be discovered by counseling with devout and mature Christians.

          5. God’s will can be discovered through serious, prayerful thought.

Conclusion

“Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” is everyone’s question, and it should be your question. It is urgent because you need to know what the Lord would have you do today.

If you do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, it is the will of God that you be saved. If you are here as a negligent follower of Christ, it is the will of God that you rededicate your life and become a devout follower and servant. Let his will become your will today. Let his way be your way today and always.

Sunday Evening, May 24

Title: Try Giving Yourself Away

Text: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Introduction

The title of the message tonight is the title of a book by David Dunn — Try Giving Yourself Away (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1956).

In this book David Dunn tells us how he found the secret of happy living. He had been brought up, as most of us have, believing that success and happiness were to be found in getting. In the first chapter he tells how he discovered the secret of happiness by accident. One night while lying awake in his berth on the Twentieth-Century Limited between Chicago and New York, he began to wonder about where the eastbound and the westbound Centuries passed each other during the night. It occurred to him that this thought might have advertising potential, so he wrote a letter expressing the idea “with no strings attached.” He received an expression of thanks, and a second letter followed that revealed that his idea was to be used as the subject for the New York Central calendar for the coming year.

That was in 1924. During that year he had the privilege of seeing again and again the night picture of the oncoming engine of one Century and the lighted observation platform of the other, passing on a curve. Each time he saw this picture, it brought joy to his heart. It was his picture, and he had given the idea away “with no strings attached.” This was but the beginning of a life of giving that brought supreme happiness to the giver.

Have you discovered the joy of giving? Jesus did. He believed in giving to the extent that he gave his all.

I. Try giving yourself away: become a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

      A. Jesus came into the world that he might be a giver. He gave health to the sick, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, hope to the despairing, forgiveness to the guilty, strength to the weak, courage to the fearful, and life to the dead.

      B. Jesus lived to give.

      C. Jesus died to give.

II. Try giving yourself away and be obedient to the teachings of Christ.

      A. “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8).

      B. “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).

      C. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

      D. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

III. Try giving yourself away if you want to discover the way of abundant living.

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This abundant life is not found merely by receiving him as Lord and Savior. We must move beyond and think as he thought and act as he acted. Jesus found happiness in giving himself completely to the purpose of God and to the well-being of humankind.

      A. First, we need to give ourselves completely to God.

      B. We need to recognize and to accept giving as a way of life.

      C. We will discover that if we give lavishly we will live life abundantly (Luke 6:38).

Conclusion

Do you look upon your life as a goblet to be filled? If so, most likely your goblet will never overflow. Do you look upon your life as a channel or a conduit through which the blessings of God may flow to bless the lives of others? If so you may never be rich in the eyes of people, but you will possess an inward joy that brings true satisfaction to the heart. Live each day determined to be a giver.

Wednesday Evening, May 27

Title: Sitting under a Gourd Vine

Text: Jonah 4:1 – 11

Introduction

The book of Jonah has many lessons for today’s Christians. The principle truth of the book is that God’s compassion for souls is universal in its range and all-inclusive in its concerns (Jonah 4:11). Because of God’s deep concern for all, there are other truths that we need to recognize: (1) God has a redemptive purpose for each of us; (2) God has the right to command each of us; (3) it is foolish to disobey or to ignore the will of God for our lives; (4) and God will give the disobedient a second chance if they are willing to cooperate.

The book of Jonah is a most uncomplimentary biography of one of God’s prophets. We are safe in assuming that someone other than Jonah is the author of the book, for it would be almost impossible for a man to describe himself as Jonah is described in this book. The book closes with Jonah in disgrace. The picture of the prophet we see in the final chapter is indeed pitiful.

I. Jonah sat under a gourd vine.

      A. Jonah was very angry with God because Nineveh had been spared, for he had hoped that it might be destroyed. Nineveh was the archenemy of his country. His people had suffered greatly because of the cruelty of its people.

      B. Jonah had placed limits on the love of God. He found it impossible to believe that God could love the hated Ninevites.

      C. Jonah had absolutely no concern about the spiritual welfare of the people of Nineveh. In fact, he would have been delighted if God had rained fire and brimstone down on the capital city of Assyria.

      D. The Lord said to Jonah during this fit of anger, “Doest thou well to be angry?” To try to communicate the divine concern for the people of Nineveh, God provided a gourd vine that shaded the prophet from the sun and wind. Jonah was grateful for the vine and enjoyed it because of the comfort that it brought to him. When the vine was destroyed by a worm, Jonah was again upset, and God rebuked him for being more concerned about a vine then he was about the people of Nineveh.

II. Are you sitting under a gourd vine?

      A. If we consider ourselves as the sole object of God’s love, we may be sitting under a gourd vine with Jonah.

      B. When we fail to respond to God’s divine purpose for us as individuals, we may have taken our seat with Jonah.

      C. If we have no sense of personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of others, we may discover that we are enjoying the shade of Jonah’s vine.

      D. If we are not diligently seeking to be genuinely Christian in all of our conduct, it may indicate that we love the shade of the gourd vine.

      E. Are you enthusiastically evangelistic? Are you seeking to share your faith with others? Are you concerned about the need of the world for Christ?

III. Do you, like Jonah, love the gourd vine?

      A. Have the sinful pleasures of the world caused you to compromise your Christian convictions to the extent that you have no testimony?

      B. Does your love for comfort and ease prevent you from rendering Service for the Lord and his church?

      C. Have you let the love of money capture your heart to the extent that you have no time for the work of God?

IV. The results of sitting under the gourd vine.

God was greatly displeased with Jonah, as he was displeased with the nation of Israel. The book does not describe the final consequences of Jonah’s life. Today we can only grieve about Jonah’s failure.

We should be even more concerned about the consequences of our sitting under a gourd vine.

      A. We can miss the true purpose for our being if we refuse to follow the wishes of our loving Lord.

      B. We will deprive God of the glory due him if we neglect to communicate to others his universal and specific concern for them.

      C. Unsaved people will perish if we neglect to proclaim the gospel.

Conclusion

May God save each of us from the sad destiny of Jonah who loved the comfort of the gourd vine more than he did the Ninevites.

Sunday Morning, May 31

Title: Do You Have an Excuse?

Text: “Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11).

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1 – 13

Hymns:  “We’re Marching to Zion,” Watts

              “Jesus Calls Us,” Alexander

              “Living for Jesus,” Chisholm

Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, help us to recognize that our money is stored-up energy and that by means of our monetary gifts we can render Services of kindness to those who suffer both physically and spiritually. Help us to recognize the necessity of our participating in the work of your kingdom by means of our financial contributions. Help us not only to bring dedicated hearts and helping hands but to bring of our financial increase and present it as an act of worship upon your altar. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Introduction

People are born excuse makers. They have been such since the beginning of time. Adam blamed both Eve and God for his fall into sin (Gen. 3:12). His descendants have followed his example by blaming someone else when things go wrong.

While some excuses are perfectly legitimate, it should be recognized that the development of the habit of making excuses is very dangerous. Most excuses contain an element of dishonesty. If we develop the habit of always making excuses, we can rob ourselves of the habit of correcting our mistakes, which always leads to further failure. Making excuses is a form of escapism in which we refuse to accept responsibility for either our actions or our decisions.

When you are brought face-to-face with an opportunity to render some Service to God or to be helpful to others, do you instinctively seek an excuse to avoid, postpone, or escape?

If you find that you have developed the habit of making excuses, you can be both comforted and disturbed. You can be comforted by the fact that you are not alone, but you should be disturbed, for this habit can prove to be extremely dangerous to yourself and detrimental to others.

Our Scripture reading for today concerns a man who at first traveled the road of excuse making. Moses repeatedly offered excuses as to why he was not the proper person to do what God was calling him to do. Are we imitating his example? It would be wise for us to reexamine our excuses. Are they acceptable to God? Are they acceptable to us personally when we give them serious thought? Would they be acceptable in the eyes of friends?

I. God needed the help of Moses to set his people free.

      A. God appeared to Moses at the back side of the desert in a bush that burned with fire but was not consumed. When Moses approached, God spoke to him:

     I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exod. 3:68)

      Not only did God declare his intention of delivering the oppressed Israelites who were being treated cruelly as slaves, but he revealed the role that Moses was to play in this deliverance. “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10).

      B. The words of God to Moses reveal the intention that the Lord Jesus had for his disciples as he commissioned them to serve as his witnesses in a sin-enslaved world.

          1. Jesus needs the cooperation of his disciples to deliver people from the slavery and waste of sin.

          2. Jesus continues to look to his followers in leading the unsaved out of the slavery of sin and into the freedom of sonship and faith.

II. Moses began to make excuses.

      A. Moses replied to God as many modern people respond to their spiritual opportunities and responsibilities. In today’s language he said, “You can just count me out. I have sheep to care for. I have my own family to consider. What you are proposing would be exceedingly difficult and inconvenient. I am not at all disposed to do this thing at this time.”

      B. Moses knew his own limitations. He carefully evaluated his own abilities and provided a list of his disqualifications.

          1. He first pled his lack of fitness for the task: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11). Moses was saying, “Anybody but me. I am just not cut out for that job. It’s just not my cup of tea.”

          2. Moses next pled his lack of an exhaustive knowledge of God: “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Exod. 3:13). Moses was declaring that he had not been to Bible college or seminary. He had no experience as a Sunday school teacher or deacon. He was pleading inexperience and immaturity.

          3. Moses next pled his lack of authority and prestige: “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee” (Exod. 4:1). Moses was forgetting God as he offered these excuses. He was assuming that his success was going to be determined by his own human ability rather than by the power of God. Many people today make this same fatal mistake and offer the same silly excuse that Moses offered.

          4. Moses also pled a lack of speaking ability. “O my Lord, I am not eloquent. . . . I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exod. 4:10). Many people today offer the excuse that they are not public speakers. They declare that because they do not have the ability to sweep an audience off its feet with their oratory, they are automatically eliminated from responsibility as the servants of the Lord.

III. Moses’ excuses provoked the anger of God (Exod. 4:14).

      A. Moses’ excuses were an insult to the truthfulness of God, for in each instance God promised to make him adequate for the task to which he was being called. Moses’ excuses were actually declarations of his lack of faith in the promises of God.

      B. God was angry for Moses’ sake. God was just as interested in Moses achieving his greatest possible potential as he was in delivering the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God was unhappy with this man who was staggering back in unbelief and depriving himself of the opportunity to achieve his divine destiny. God is angry with us when we make excuses, for we also stagger around in mediocrity and nothingness when we could achieve something really worthwhile in the Service of God.

      C. God was angry with Moses for the sake of the suffering Israelites. Moses was uniquely equipped by virtue of his personal knowledge of the court of Pharaoh and by virtue of his forty years in the wilderness to be the deliverer of these downtrodden people who were so dear to the heart of God. A loving God could not stand by in impassive unconcern toward a man who was refusing to assist in a noble venture. Neither will God be happy with us if we refuse to become involved in meeting the needs of our present world.

IV. Moses finally, rather grudgingly, faced up to the responsibility and opportunity.

“And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send” (Exod. 4:13). In modern terminology Moses was saying, “If there is no one else to do it and if I can’t get around it, then I’ll go.”

There are at least two truths from this early example of Moses that can be inspiring and challenging to children of God in today’s world as they face up to the fact that God needs them and that God wants to use him in delivering others from the slavery of sin and leading them to the promised land of abundant living.

      A. The first truth is that one does not have to be perfect to serve God effectively. Moses was far from perfect, yet God used him in a mighty way. God can use each of us and will, particularly if we voluntarily commit ourselves to cooperative activity with him.

      B. The second thrilling truth is that God uses those who are available. While one’s ability is of tremendous importance, one’s availability is the matter of supreme importance to God. God has chosen the simple things to accomplish mighty and wonderful things (1 Cor. 1:26 – 29).

Conclusion

One of the most powerful parables that fell from the lips of our Savior concerned those who made excuses. He tells the story of a man who prepared a great supper and invited guests (Luke 14:16 – 24). One offered the excuse that he could not come because he had to attend to a piece of property. Another offered the excuse that his occupation stood in the way of his coming to the banquet. A third declared that he could not come because he had an obligation to his family. If a man develops the habit of making excuses, he can always find an excuse for saying no to God.

It would be wise for us to quit making excuses. We should be honest with our Lord, with ourselves, and with others. Let us cooperate with God. Let us face our responsibilities and quit blaming others for our failures. Let us quit living under a list of excuses.

Sunday Evening, May 31

Title: Generous Sowing Means a Generous Harvest

Text: “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6 RSV).

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6 – 12

Introduction

In 2 Corinthians 8 – 9 the apostle Paul is writing to the disciples of our Lord in the city of Corinth regarding a generous offering they have made plans to provide for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He has commended them for their generosity and their eagerness to be a part of providing relief for those who were in genuine need.

The apostle was particularly interested in this being a generous and worthy offering because it would not only relieve the conditions of distress in Jerusalem, but it would also serve as a bridge to unite Jewish believers with those who were converts from paganism and idolatry to the Christian faith. Paul knew that if a generous offering came from Gentile converts, this would be very helpful in breaking down the cultural and religious barriers that separated Gentile believers from Jewish believers (cf. Acts 6:1; Gal. 2:9 – 10).

In these two chapters Paul deals with the subject of the proper motivations for generous giving, and he also discusses the principles of proper giving to God and for the needs of others.

This section of the epistle contains pleas for generosity and for enthusiasm in the giving of the offering. Furthermore, it contains a plea for a great faith in God, and it also has a word of encouragement concerning their entering into a real partnership with God and others in relieving the needs of those in poverty.

Paul encourages his readers to be generous by reminding them of one of the basic laws in agriculture. The gardener or the farmer will reap in direct proportion to his using a proper amount of seed for the planting of a garden plot or field. He emphasizes that it is foolish to be stingy with the seed in sowing time. He who is stingy is robbing himself of the potential harvest in the future. The apostle applies this to the practice of giving for the glory of God and for the good of others. This principle works in every area of life.

I. We reap in the measure that we have given ourselves to Bible study (Josh. 1:8).

Many people are not even acquainted with biblical characters, much less the great events of biblical history. They have no knowledge of the provisions of God’s great salvation, which is offered through the ministry of Jesus Christ and through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Their lives are greatly impoverished because they have never given themselves to the study of God’s Holy Word. If we neglect to feed ourselves on the truth of God’s Word, we cannot possibly grow up in the salvation God has provided (1 Peter 2:1 – 3). The psalmist describes the happy and successful person as one who delights in and meditates on the great truths of God’s Word (Ps. 1:1 – 3).

II. We reap in the measure that we have given ourselves in prayer (Matt. 6:6).

Jesus dogmatically declared that spiritual rewards come to those who develop the habit of going apart into the private place for communion with the Father God. These rewards and blessings are too numerous to list, but many people miss them because they never give themselves to prayer. James writes in his epistle, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (4:2 RSV). This does not mean that we can get anything we ask for. It does mean that God has many things for those of us who ask. On the other hand, those who neglect prayer miss the blessings that come from prayer. We reap according to the measure in which we have sown.

III. We reap in the measure that we give voice to our Christian testimony (Ps. 126:6).

One of the greatest sins that we are guilty of is being silent about the goodness and grace of God revealed in and through Jesus Christ. It appears that some of us are either ashamed of our relationship with Jesus Christ or afraid to speak about his presence in our lives. The Holy Spirit can use our personal testimony to impart the gift of faith to nonbelievers about us. When we neglect to “plant the seed” of our personal testimonies concerning what God has done in our own lives, we are depriving others of the blessing they could receive. At the same time, we are robbing ourselves of the joy of the harvest God wants us to experience.

IV. We reap in the measure that we give of our material resources in the service of God and for the good of others (2 Cor. 9:8).

The apostle Paul did not believe that God was a beggar or that God’s treasury was in danger of going bankrupt. He did not believe that God became richer because of the gifts of his people. Instead, he encouraged these people in Corinth to become generous givers because God is a generous giver. The apostle declares, “God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7 RSV). God does not love the generous giver because the gifts enrich the heavenly treasury; God loves the cheerful giver because that giver is becoming like God. When we give out of a heart of love and meet the needs of others, God sees in us those character traits that remind him of his own nature. To be generous is to be godly. To be stingy is to be ungodly.

Paul declares in verse 8 of this chapter that God responds to the generosity of his children by blessing them in the manner in which they have given of themselves into his Service and for the good of others. God blesses not just by addition, but by multiplication. Paul declares that God will bless the generous person with divine generosity and that his or her needs will be met.

As noted previously, the Greek work translated “cheerful” is the source of the word “hilarious”. One cannot be a hilarious giver if he or she has a great feeling of insecurity. Those who find their security in the possession of material things can never be hilarious givers, because they can never accumulate enough to be totally secure. Paul is encouraging the people to find their security in God, and then, out of the resources with which he blesses them, to be hilarious helpers of others.

Conclusion

It is never wise to be stingy with seed at planting time. A farmer is very generous with his seed because he recognizes that if the seed is not planted, there can be no harvest. This law works in the realm of the spirit exactly as it does in the realm of nature. We can become hilarious givers of ourselves and of our substance if we will trust God to give us an abundant harvest.

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