We are headed to the book of Matthew today. We’re going to spend the last couple weeks of Advent looking at the Christmas story and looking at what we learn from the story for us today.
The last couple weeks I’ve been reading these chapters, the first couple chapters of Matthew, the first couple chapters of Luke, multiple times, looking at it going, “Where do we go? What is it we take from it this year?”
Listen – December 15, 2013 – Matthew chapter 1
Last week we talked about grace. Last week, we talked about grace in the Christmas story, specifically, where here was God dealing with mankind in this new way and all of the places that we saw grace at work and we talked about our response to grace. Today, I want to talk about our response to truth.
We’re going to talk for a few minutes about that ability to take things as they come and to get asked to, you know, conduct worship on 38 seconds’ notice.
I have been, in the last couple months, sort of exercising my ability to let God speak and to remind myself again of His sovereignty and His freedom to speak into my life and to say, “This is what’s happening now.”
I got that exercise again yesterday. We were supposed to have a guest speaker today. When I made the announcement two months ago that I was actively seeking a way to move back down to Douglas County, not long after that, I was approached by a man who said, “You know, if you’re serious about going to Douglas County and leaving Colton,” he said, “I’m interested in coming to Colton.” So, there was some discussion back and forth. He came met with me and Russel was there and a couple guys and we did some talking, and I invited him to come speak today.
I, for a variety of reasons, a: it’s appropriate to hear him and b: I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to be here today. There was some chance I was going to be gone today. That did not happen, I did not have to be gone today and, as it turns out, the guy who was going to come speak today is snowed in in Medford. And, his wife is ill and he said between the two, he simply couldn’t do it. The fun part of all of that is that he made that final decision – he warned me early in the day yesterday, “Man, I’m not sure, but I’m still going to try to get there.”
So, the word at 8:00 in the morning was, “I think I can still get there. I’m planning on leaving this afternoon.” The word in the middle of the afternoon, or late afternoon was, “There’s no way I can get there.” And at that point in time, I had stuff lined up for the evening and I had done no sermon preparation and I said, “Ok, God.”
I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe that He knows what He is doing. I’ve preached that over and over. I tell people that every chance I get. I believe that God knows what He is doing. I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes.
And there I sat on Saturday afternoon with nothing to say on Sunday morning. Now, those of you who know me well know that I am never really out of something to say but, that’s not my first choice of places to be. So, I remained calm and I began to pray and I said, “Ok, God, if this is what’s happening, if Johnny’s not going to make it and I’ve got to do something tomorrow, what are we going to do?”
So, we are headed to chapter five of 1st Timothy and I get to talk about Margaret. My family, of course, will not be surprised by this. Some of you will not be surprised by this because some of you know enough about my history. When we were at the church down in Lowell, there was an elderly woman in town who was suffering from dementia pretty badly. She was a believer. No one in her family was. Her family was mostly detached from her, not involved in her life. Somebody who called himself a “friend” sort of invaded her space and in the process of neglect and abuse managed to nearly kill her. She was diabetic and her diet was bad enough that she very nearly died. The friend/caretaker went to jail and she wound up as a ward of the court. She had, in the interim, begun to attend our church there in Lowell, where I was worship leader and would later begin preaching. We owned a business in the community and we were approached by an attorney after she became a ward of the state that – the church was approached by this attorney saying, “Is there somebody who can manage her care? Because she needs to be taken care of.”
I have no idea what that attorney’s theological beliefs were. I have no idea if he was a believer or not a believer. I know very little about the man. I didn’t have a great deal of contact with him but the long and the short of that was, I wound up conservator for Margaret and remained conservator of her estate through her prolonged illness and all the way up to her death.
I share that story because I found it very interesting that this attorney and the State of Oregon (Lane County, specifically) saw fit to do things in a biblical manner. I’m always flabbergasted when I see somebody with governmental ties doing something clearly biblical.
I do, indeed, have a lot to be thankful for. I recognize very much that I am very blessed.
Like I said, I’m not preaching Thanksgiving today, I’m continuing on with where we were. There’s a part of me that would just sort of close the notes and run with something else but I don’t really have anything necessarily driving me that direction, so let’s continue on in 1 Timothy 4.
You remember last week we talked about the faithful servant that Timothy was being and about that call on our own lives to be faithful servants. We acknowledged early on last week that we want to be that person. we want to, when we step across that gulf, to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and we should want to hear that. We should want that acknowledgement.
What I want to do today is I want to continue on from the same verse that we stopped in last week. I mentioned last week when we stopped there, that it was very much the beginning of this next paragraph, the rest of the chapter. And so, I want to look at the rest of this charge from Paul to Timothy, because that’s what’s going on here, right? Paul is giving Timothy instructions, “Here is what I want you to do, Tim. Go do this thing. This is your calling.” And as we look at more of Paul’s charge to Timothy, I want to consider that same charge in our life. That same calling that we have to respond to God’s grace.
All these things running around in my head as Shannon was talking. She took time to talk to the kids about sharing the gospel. I got to do that, yesterday.
I got the opportunity to preach a memorial service yesterday. A memorial service for a believer who specifically said that she wanted people to know Christ and who had underlined in her Bible a passage from First Thessalonians 4, which was just a gimme for preaching the gospel and so, I went in and did so with every intent of being faithful to the same call that Shannon was just putting on the kids here. That call that says you want other people to know this, you want other people to hear this message. And I do, very much so.
We talked last week about design. I had the ukulele and the Stratocaster up here. And we talked about the difference, a different tool for a different job. And we talked about the roles of men and women in their families and in the church and I got emotional and the computer crashed and we didn’t get that recorded and on the internet.
It seems that happens, by the way. I should warn everyone to pray for the computer when I have emotional Sundays.
That said, we’re going to continue with design. I’m going to talk about offices, and not the little room over there with my clutter in it or the rooms upstairs or wherever. I’m going to talk about the people who do certain jobs, certain things in the body of the church. That’s up next.
Remember that what the book of First Timothy is about is life together inside the church and Paul addresses the needs of that body and how he wants the younger man, Timothy, to go about directing that church, that body of believers. In this case, in Ephesus, but it applies well beyond the borders of Ephesus and makes it all the way here to Clackamas County.
I am pretty certain that everybody in this room (or nearly everybody in this room) has eaten a meal or two at the Colton Cafe. Yeah? Anybody not had a meal at the Colton Cafe? A couple of you, ok. Chances are that when you had that meal at the Colton Cafe, you got pretty decent service, yeah? And it’s not just because half my kids have worked there. I am a little biased, I guess. But the fact is that you’ve gotten good service and I discovered some things about that, recently. I was behind the counter at the Colton Cafe here, just a couple days ago. You know they’re doing a remodel, right now. And so, I was in there talking with people and I was standing back where their cash register goes and I looked on the wall and there’s a sheet of paper on the wall with instructions on it.
“Order up,” it says. The announcement that gets made when the plates hit the counter. And there was a list, right? Order up, you go get your plates, get them delivered to the table and you ask them if there’s anything else and then two- to three-minutes go by and you go back and you make sure everything’s ok, and on down the list it went. I got stuck at that one, actually, because I’ve seen them do it so many, many, many times.
There was this reminder on the wall, right there by the cash register. That staff is all seasoned, at this point, they all know that job, they’re all good at it, and here’s this reminder still on the wall.
So, we are going to turn the page to First Timothy and as we do so, we’re turning the corner from those general epistles into Paul’s pastoral epistles. The three pastorals being First and Second Timothy and Titus. A little change of pace, in some ways. These three books were written much, much later in Paul’s life, so as you read, you’re looking back on a couple decades of ministry, and looking at Paul as an older man sharing his thoughts with Timothy and with Titus, who are serving in a pastoral role in a couple different churches.
These books are addressed first to those people, to those two men, but they hold truth for all of us. If they weren’t written for all of us, they wouldn’t have gotten included in the canon. Paul certainly wrote personal letters that didn’t get recorded. These were kept in the canon because, while they are addressed first to individuals, they address issues for the churches where those men served and so, we are going to dive into them and see what they have to say to us.
There are about a zillion people out there in the world somewhere who think that some sort of great, cataclysmic, explosive, apocalyptic event is about to come to America or to the world generally. A zillion of them. And all but three of them are blogging about it, right? All but three of those zillion are writing things on the internet about it. If you doubt me, go google “apocalypse”, go google “collapse”. Google “prepper”.
There are ten zillion people out there who are really worked up about all the stuff they see going on in the world around them. And you heard me use the term “prepper”, right? That’s a fairly new term. Everybody understands prepper, right? They’ve got, you know, 50 gallons of freeze-dried protein bits on hand at any given time and probably a couple thousand rounds of .556 (The only thing wrong with having a couple thousand rounds of .556 is that I don’t have anything that shoots .556).
But we understand as we look at the world around us, that there are some scary things going on and there are lots of people out there with an opinion about how to deal with this impending crisis. And it usually has something to do with stored food and stored ammunition and water and an escape plan and how you’re going to survive out in the woods and on and on and on and on. And I understand some of their sentiment because I look out at the world and think, “Wow, the world is a scary place. I want to run away to the trees.” I do, sometimes.
I’d like to address rumor control because I’m already hearing back in the community. There’s no easy, gentle way to do this. I am looking for a ministry in Douglas County. I need to be close to my folks; it’s time.
It’s very difficult. I love this church and this community. I’m in no hurry to go. I want to be close to my parents, I want my children to be close to my parents. My parents worked very hard to invest in my kids and it’s getting more difficult for them to do and I want to be close so they can continue that. There are other things that have driven it but that has been the biggest issue. Are there other things in my world? Yeah, sure enough, there are. That was the deciding issue.
This is something that I began praying about sometime during hunting season last year. I talked with the deacons here the other day and I’ve talked with one or two other people who are kind of my spiritual go-to guys. Like I said, I’m already beginning to hear rumors in the community. I’m going to put it on the table. There it is. I’m looking. I don’t have anything lined up, I don’t have any plans, I have no departure date. I don’t have anything other than, I’m making phone calls and looking.
I am committed to a couple things: first and foremost, as long as God leaves me right here, I will stand in this pulpit every Sunday and I’m going to preach the word of God – period. I have no other plan. I’m going to continue doing what God has called me to do here, trying my level best to love people the way God has called me to, which I’m going to talk about a little here as we go on today. And I’m going to commit to helping with whatever transition process, whatever that winds up looking like.
Listen – September 29, 2013 – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21