By: EthicsDaily Staff
Howard Batson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, is a featured columnist for EthicsDaily.com. He cites Joshua 1:9 as an assurance of God's presence no matter where life's journey carries us.
The journey of despair away from Jerusalem ends in a journey of joy back to Jerusalem. And before they could even speak about their experience of seeing the risen Lord, the disciples go ahead and declare, “Simon has seen Jesus.” They were not the only ones to see the living Lord that day.[ ]“We were hoping” turns into “We are hoping.” Death turns into life.
We’re afraid God will change us. We want to live as we want to live. If we spend time alone with God, He just might shape us and mold us as a potter shapes and molds the clay. You need to be cautious. You need to be fearful about spending time alone with God.
When you are interrupted by Jesus, you have to rearrange your whole life. Your priorities have turned upside down. If you want to come to Christ, if you want to follow Jesus and leave everything the same in your life, you’re not going to follow Jesus. It’s a radical interruption demanding a radical response. Get ready to re-order your life if you try to follow Christ.
The Old Testament longs for the day of peace, the day of the Messiah. And Zacharias and the angels declare with the coming of the Christ child, “peace has arrived.” What do we know about peace?
[K]nowing the power of the crucified and resurrected Christ, [Paul] forgot everything that was behind and looked to the front. There are some of you who need to get back in the race, to quit looking to yesterday and look toward tomorrow, so that you can press on today. You can’t run the race with the chains of the past shackled your feet.
Our message today is a message of hope, and worry robs us of that hope. When you borrow tomorrow’s problems, you rob yourself of today. Worry distorts our thinking. We begin to look at life through a magnifying glass that makes things bigger than they really are. When we worry, our molehills become mountains.
What if we lived as people intent on one purpose – that is, living and telling the good news of what God has done in Jesus? What if next week in the office, at the bank, in the hospital, in the school, in the church – what if we did nothing out of selfishness and did nothing out of empty conceit? What if – this is a hard one – what if we regarded each other as more important than ourselves? It would change the world, wouldn’t it?
Two vivid terms here: shame and boldness. “I will not be put to shame.” There will be no failing. There will be no shrinking back. You know, the good news is that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the gospel will never disappoint you. Whether things go with ease for you or with great difficulty, Christ will always see you through to the end, to eternal salvation. Therefore, in boldness, we can exalt the Christ. “Out in the open” is a good translation. Living or dying, waking or sleeping, we belong to Christ. And that’s what we’re living for, and that’s what we’re dying for – to be devoted to Christ.
Good friends are friends at all times. You let a tragedy strike – I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “Pastor, because of this I found out who my true friends are.” Sin, embarrassment, discouragement, shame – and watch the people run. But those who are our true friends stay by our side. Good times and bad times. Joy and sorrow. Riches or poverty. Sinlessness or shame.
So what about you today? Playing hide and seek with God? The reality is God is there. God is here. Wherever you find yourself today, there is no place, as a child of God, that you can go and be away from God’s presence. God is with all His children.
The writer of Proverbs says when you are slow to anger, you show you are wise; when you are quick-tempered, you show yourself to be a fool. If you want to have a vibrant body, then have a tranquil heart, but if you’re going to be a hothead, you’re going to have some rotten bones. Those aren’t my words; those are the words of a wise man written so many eons ago. And how you respond to those words, how I respond to those words, will determine a lot about the rest of our lives.
We need to stop focusing on our own wounded egos. Rather, we need to express genuine concern for others – communicating comfort, love, joy, understanding, encouragement, and peace. Building up our spouses, our children, our parents, our co-workers with words of encouragement. You will never know what the right word of encouragement can do when it comes during a much needed time.
Hebrew wisdom is the art of success. Stay with me this summer – we’re going to learn how to be successful. A guidebook for successful living. By showing positive and negative rules for life, the wise sages are going to tell us what to do and how to do it. We’re going to know the difference between right and wrong in a whole host of situations. Just the stuff you want your kids to know.
The gospel message concerning Jesus is the fulfillment of everything that the Creator had ever planned for His creation. I know most of you have had a lot of disappointments in life. I know that I have, and I know that you have, disappointed others. But we serve a God who never disappoints those who follow the big IF – call Jesus Lord, confess with the mouth that God raised Him from the dead, and you shall be saved.
What Paul is saying is simply this: The world is groaning. We are groaning. And the Spirit is groaning with us, and God will bring it out for the good. Another way of saying that God causes all things to work out for good is to say that God redeems all that God permits. God didn’t break our world, and God doesn’t cause all our suffering. But if He allows it, He will eventually redeem it.
The greatest gifts of all come from God – the giver of all good things. And the two good gifts today are joy, which no one can take away from you, and peace despite tribulation, because He has overcome the world.
Good news for the troubled heart. Christ has not abandoned us. He has gone to prepare a place for us.
Put plainly, everything we have comes from God – not just to our hands, but through our hands as we, like God, continue to be givers.
When we are spiritually awake, we are focused on the resurrected Christ. We are focused on the kingdom of God.
Like Peter, we must tell the story with all that we have – all openness, honesty, and courage. We must say, as he said, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
“What’s it all about?” the crowd asked. “It’s the story about the crucified and resurrected Jesus,” Peter answered. A story that changes everything and calls you into a new community.
Is your own life arranged in such a way that telling the story of Jesus by the empowerment of the Spirit is top priority for you?
Some things are so important, so foundational to our very being that they should always be remembered.
All our experiences of pain and suffering and fear and confusion and discontent – all of those experiences from which we would love to be freed – prepare us to accept Christ’s ultimate solution.
Sometimes it’s when we lose our health and lose our wealth and lose our pride – as David did, humbled before a nation, humbled before the prophet of God – that we really receive the benefits.
We can’t quit doing life for fear of what might be around the next corner. We can’t cancel the journey. We can’t even pause at the rest stop for very long. We must plunge forward. We must not withdraw and hide.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We all want to be forgiven, don’t we? Whether we’re sons or daughters, mothers or fathers, friends or colleagues. And no relationship can be mended without forgiveness, including our relationship with God.
My call is to be a preacher of the gospel of orthodox theology. I don’t get to rewrite the stories. I just get to tell them.
The people of God have the sure anchor of hope – Christ has died; He’s emerged victorious; He sits at the right hand of the Father; and He holds the cable and He waits – He waits for us to join Him. Christians are the only people with the anchor of hope – the crucified and yes resurrected Christ.
Because Jesus is here, because our sins are forgiven and heaven is our home, all the other waiting can be endured with the patience and grace of God.
No matter how much we’ve accomplished, no matter how much we have in the storehouse, there’ll be a time when we all need some help.
There is no hidden meaning to the word of God. There is no numerology, or gematria that will reveal to you some hidden truth in scripture. The Bible is written in clear, revealed truths. There are no mathematical computations needed to understand the word of God. The message is clear. It’s the message of Jesus.
We have difficulty, sickness, financial stress, hardship in every form and shape. But we know that God is with us and that ultimately, although we may despair – as the Psalmist often does – in waiting, weary from the waiting, God will deliver us in this life and in the life to come.
Do you realize that today changes everything? Grieve if you must, but you cannot grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Because Easter, Easter says “hope has won the day.”
It’s the great paradox of Paul. Paul’s independence is based upon his dependence on the Christ. He really isn’t self-sufficient at all when you look at it from the perspective of the gospel. He calls Christ the one who continually infuses power.
Today we’re going to follow Paul’s lead. We’re going to have three sermons. RELAX! They’ll be brief, but because of Paul’s disparate ideas, we’re going to have space between our topics. It will allow you to ponder each individual idea from the apostle’s pen.
There is such a disease, you know – a strange one at that. It’s been around ever since Plato, who observed that people of real ability and leadership, people who do extremely well in life, will sometimes go through a period in which they lose all appetite and interest for what they are doing.
Does being the child of someone who is famous, or having a famous name, even though the name is not based on your own abilities, help or hurt in life?
Have you ever been afraid of doing the right thing for the wrong reason? Put another way, your outward behavior was the right choice, but inwardly you made that choice for reasons that were less than completely noble.
We continue to leave our children with a passion for the story of Jesus, a center for missions. Together, we declare that the Creator has redeemed His creation through the death of His Son and the glorious resurrection. And we’re all called to go and tell. As our forefathers have given us a passion for the Great Commission, we must pass that passion to our children.
Paul makes it clear that many of the myths we have about money are misguided. Paul’s emphasis is not that we should give because of guilt – because we have to. Not with a grudge – because we ought to. But with grace – because we want to.
Nobody can tell your story but you. No one is called to tell it but you. Who needs to hear what you have to say? Who needs hope?
So, if you’re happy and you know it...you’re content. If you’re happy and you know it...you’re not the usual fare. If you’re happy and you know it...you’ve learned to rely on Christ, to be dependent upon His grace and His love, and to measure all things by His all-sufficient grace and not by comparing yourself to your neighbor.
There are a million fears in this room. There are a million reasons to be faint-at-heart – to give up, to throw in the towel, to let down and let it go. But God says, “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
God didn’t give Abraham the luxury of hanging around his home town, the town of his father and family. God calls this moon-worshiping Mesopotamian to get on the move to a new, promised land.
What monuments are you building to satisfy your own pride? What monuments are we building as a church to satisfy our own pride?
A true worshipper, saved by God’s grace, realizes he has escaped catastrophe because of God’s goodness. Such a worshipper comes as Noah did, to declare dependence upon God thorough sacrificial worship.
Cain and Abel were brothers. They played together as children. They built forts. They swam together. They had carved into the same tree. They’d always been racing and competing with one another. They were brothers – they were rivals and friends.
The word in Hebrew for naked is ’arummin. And the word for clever is ’arum. Clearly a play on words in the original language. We might read it something like this in English: The man and his wife were both nude, and they were not ashamed. Now the serpent was more shrewd.”
Christ himself was resurrected. Our resurrection is just as certain as was the resurrection of Jesus.
The church in Corinth was running a three ring circus in worship. And Paul tells them to stop it. It was a circus that was infiltrated with the gift of speaking in tongues, speaking a Holy Ghost language.
Love, for Paul, is not a feeling. Love, for Paul, is a name for specific actions of patient and sacrificial service (with pure motives) to others in the church.
Paul was not into one-man-bands or church situations where one individual tries to possess and express all spiritual gifts. Paul says that the church is comprised of many members with a variety of gifts, all working together to strengthen God’s kingdom.
Each of us needs to think about the body of Christ more than we think about our own rights. And sometimes when you win, you lose because when you hurt the body, all are injured. Remember who you are, Paul is saying. If Jesus really is the Messiah, and you really are the people of the Messiah, why on earth would a civil court have jurisdiction between you.
You see, we really don’t have a choice. And we do it because of the cross. It always comes back to the cross, doesn’t it? If it weren’t for the cross of Christ Jesus, I would want to keep account of every wrong that I ever endured from everyone. I’d want to make them pay not once, but twice for the wrongs they inflicted upon me. In fact, I would feel duty-bound to hold everyone’s feet to the fire, to overlook no wrong and to refuse to forgive. But God didn’t treat me that way.
Jesus is the Messiah, even in the midst of our suffering. No, Jesus is the Messiah especially in our suffering. Jesus is Messiah even when we are down in the dungeon, even when we have lost our joy.
Howard Batson is pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas. He holds degrees from Lander University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a doctorate from Baylor University. He and his wife, Lisa, are the parents of three daughters: Ryan, Jordan and Chandler.
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