Sunday, May 20, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Unfinished Business"

Image Source
“Unfinished Business”
Downward Spiral: The Message of Judges
May 20, 2012
Judges 1:1-2:5

In the year 2003, we began together a long term Bible study as a church in a special series of sermons that cover the Big Story of the Bible.

How many were here, raise your hand, for the book of Genesis in 2003?

Pop quiz! What are the three major promises of the Abrahamic covenant? [A., Offspring, Land, and Blessing.]

This series was to go on odd numbered years.

How many remember the book of Exodus with the Red Sea Rescue in 2005?

How many remember the book of Numbers in 2007?  Why did we skip Leviticus? [A. Because it’s boring.  Not really. Because it doesn’t carry on much of the big story line of the Bible. It has a different purpose.]

We didn’t do Deuteronomy for the same reason. Most of Deuteronomy covers the same story as Exodus and Numbers, though it would be good to study Deuteronomy at some point. It’s an awesome book.

But in 2009, we did our last book in this long-term series. It was the book of Joshua.

How many remember Joshua?  We called that series: Possessing the Promises.

And Joshua was the story of victory. The promises that the LORD had made to His people were being fulfilled in the promised land.

And that book ended on a super high note.

They had conquered Canaan and divided up the land and Joshua told the people to follow the LORD. “As for me and my house, we were serve the Lord.”

And that’s where we left things in 2009.

After that, I got sidetracked by the Gospel of Luke and his amazing sequel, the Book of Acts.

So, we didn’t do Judges in 2011 as I had originally planned.

And that’s okay. God had different plans for us.

But I believe that He’s bringing us back now to that Big Story series.

And back to Judges.

Judges is a depressing book.

If Joshua was the book of Victory, Judges is really a book about defeat.
If Joshua was a book about Conquest, Judges is a book about being conquered again.
If Joshua was a book about obedience, Judges is a book about disobedience.
If Joshua was a book about possessing the promises, Judges is a book about forgetting the promises and living in unbelief and its disastrous consequences.

So, Judges can be a very depressing book. I’m warning you in advance.

But it’s a book that we’re supposed to read.

As we read last week, all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteous so that we are fully-equipped for every good work.

Judges is the dystopian novel of the Old Testament.

Most of us don’t know what “dystopian” means, and never use it in a sentence, but the popularity of The Hunger Games has brought that word out in our culture over the last two years.

A dystopian story is the opposite of a utopian story.

A utopian story is a story about life as it should be.Where everything works and everything is perfect and right and good. Heavenish.

A dystopian story is one where everything falls apart. Where the world is not as it should be. Where things aren’t working, are far from perfect. Where things are wrong and bad. Hellish.

Judges is a dystopian story.

And yet, it is a dystopian story that is part of a Bigger Hopeful Story where God will keep all of His promises and make everything right where it had gone so wrong.

But, in general, it is dystopian.

In fact, my title for this whole series is “Downward Spiral - The Message of Judges.”

We’ll find out next sermon just how much of a downward spiral Israel was on.

But that’s the title of the series.

The book itself is named after its famous “heroes,” the Judges.

Let’s name some of them.

Name some Judges (without looking!):


It gets harder doesn’t it?

How many are there?

There are twelve. Isn’t that interesting?

How about Othniel? Shamgar! Tola, Jair!

What did they do?

How many here have ever heard a sermon on Othniel?

Most of us know something about Samson and Gideon and almost nothing else about Judges.

Let’s fix that over the Summer, okay?

The “judges” were not “judges” like we think of today.

They did not wear black robes and sit on a raised platform and dispense judgements–at least, that’s not what they did most of the time.

The Hebrew word is “shophatim,” and it could be translated “Tribal Leaders” or “Deliverers.” Next sermon, we’ll see what kind of delivering they did.

The judges were deliverers, saviors, rescuers from the trouble that Israel had brought upon itself.

And chapter one begins to the tell the story of why they were needed.

The judges themselves were a motley crew. We will see that by and large they are not good role models for us today. For the most part they were men who were falling apart themselves in a day and age where the people of God were falling apart.

But God did use them to deliver and save His people time and time again.

They were, imperfect pictures of the Savior that we all need–the Lord Jesus Christ.

May He be exalted as we study this book.

How did Israel go from victory to defeat?

That’s the question that chapter one begins to answer for us.

How did Israel go from the heights of victory under Joshua to the need for these deliverers in the book of Judges?

That’s an important question for our lives today because we do not want to live defeated lives, do we?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live a defeated life.

I don’t want my life to be pointed in a downward spiral.

I don’t want to get flushed down the drain of life.

How did Israel go from the top to the bottom?

Here’s our title for today, “Unfinished Business.”

They got from the top to the bottom by leaving things undone that should have been done.

They began their descent by leaving important tasks incomplete, uncompleted.

They had unfinished business.

Look with me at Judges chapter 1, verse 1.

“After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, ‘Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?’” Stop there for a second.

Notice that opening phrase, “after the death of Joshua.”

A new era has begun. Who led Israel before Joshua?

Moses did, right?

And then Moses died and Joshua stepped up to lead.

Who is going to lead after Joshua dies?

[... Do you hear the crickets in the background?]

Was there supposed to be a leader?  No.

At this point, the promised people of God are in the promised land and they are supposed to operate as a confederation of semi-autonomous tribes.

Joshua sent everybody home and said in effect, “Follow the Lord, He will be your King. Take possession of your lands, and follow the Law.”

And they start by showing a lot of potential, a lot of promise. They start by asking God for direction.  Way to go!

“After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, ‘Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?’”

Which tribe will lead the way?  God answers. V.2

“The LORD answered, ‘Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.’”

Rulers will come from Judah. The Bible has already told us this.

Before Judah goes up, they get some help from their little brother. V.3

“Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, ‘Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.’ So the Simeonites went with them. When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek.”

Wow. A good start!

However, verse 5.

“It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then Adoni-Bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.”

Lord-Bezek sure is philosophical, isn’t he?

“Oh well, I did it to others, now I’m getting what I had coming for me.”

What I find troubling here is not that they cut off his thumbs and big toes to keep him from being a threat. It is that they didn’t kill him outright.

That’s what they were commanded to do.

The Canaanites needed to get out of the land or be killed. It was God’s judicial sentence on them for their many piled up sins.

But Judah, being given victory by God is acting (already!) like the Canaanites acted around them.

Unfinished business.  V.8

“The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire. After that, the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.”

By the way, I thought about putting up maps like we did for Acts, but at this point at least, I think that would be disorienting and complicate matters.

You can see what is happening, Judah is being successful in defeating the Canaanites. Some of this, by the way, actually happened before Joshua died. It’s a flashback sort of thing and a summary of the whole process. V.11

“From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). And Caleb said [remember Caleb?], ‘I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.’ Othniel [remember that name!] son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.”

These folks are not natural born Israelites. They have been adopted into the tribe of Judah. Strangely enough, they are related to Moses’ father-in-law Jethro.

And they are, especially she is, taking hold of the promises. V.14

“One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. [She wants more blessing.] When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, ‘What can I do for you?’ She replied, ‘Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev [deserty land], give me also springs of water.’ Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.”

Remember Othniel, we’ll come back to him soon.


“Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah [destruction]. The men of Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron–each city with its territory.”

Now pay attention. Unfinished business ahead. V.19

“The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak.”

Now, this is interesting.

God was with these men. Verse 19 is clear on that. They took possession of the hill country, but they were “unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.”


The other guys had tanks, so they couldn’t fight ‘em?

And the LORD was with them?

The LORD can’t take on an iron chariot?

Tell that to Jericho.

And wait until we see what happens in chapter 4 with about 900 iron chariots.

I think that verse 19 is Judah’s excuse for their leaving their business unfinished.

What is your excuse?

What excuse have you been using?

I have mine. What’s yours?

The story far is generally one of success, right?

Verses 1-20 are basically one story of success after another.

But there are hints that there is still much to be done.

In verses 21-36, there are no hints. It’s just plain. V.21

“The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.”

Now, that’s a little strange because we just read the Judahites had taken Jerusalem.

Apparently, it had been lost again at some point and Benjamin had tried to take it and failed.

The point here is the failure. V.22

“Now the house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them. When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, ‘Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.’ So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.”

Good or bad?

Both, right?

This wasn’t the same deal as with Rahab who was converting to Israel and coming under her wings. This is making a deal with the devil.

Did they destroy Luz? Yes, but did Luz continue? Yes. The land of the Hittites is also in Palestine.  Luz was just transferred, not defeated.

It’s a job half-done.

Here’s the principle. Half-obedience is disobedience.

We tell that to our children, right?

Well, God is telling that to us.

Where are you half-obeying God?


“But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land.”

How come the Israelites were not more determined?

“When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.”

You see the picture?

They even defeat them, but they don’t kill them and drive them out completely like God wanted them, too.

It’s half-obedience which is disobedience.

Are they in charge? Are they winning? Yes, but they are disobeying.


“Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land.  Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them.”

Half, half, half, half, half.

Unfinished business.

“The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.”

That’s the worst one. The Amorites confined the Danites.  That’s the Canaanites with the upper hand over the Israelites.

And when the balance of power swtiched, they only pressed them into forced labor, they did not drive them out.

Unfinished business.

Why is that so bad?

Why is unfinished obedience so bad?

That’s the point of chapter 2, verses 1 through 5.

“The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?”

No longer, are the people of Israel going to the LORD with question.

Now, the LORD is coming to ask them some questions.

The messenger or envoy or angel of the LORD is the special representative of the LORD. He will appear again and again in this book–more than in any other book in the Bible.

He speaks for God.

He may even be God in some mysterious appearance.

And this is what He says, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?”

Here are three reasons why unfinished business is so bad.


That’s what we’ve learned so far in this Big Story of the Bible series.

We learned it in Genesis, in Exodus, in Numbers, in Joshua.

God saves His people.
He blesses His people.
He rescues them and makes promises to them.
He gives them a covenant that they can trust.

And this is how we repay Him?

He goes all the way with His business!

But we can’t be bothered to go all the way for Him?

Unfinished business is bad because it is the opposite of our God.

Number two. Unfinished business is bad.


And it disappoints God.  Look at verse 2 again.

“Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?”

Have they disobeyed Him?

There have been lots of battles here.

But they stopped short. They didn’t go all the way.

Half-obedience is disobedience.

That’s bad, and it disappoints God.

I don’t want God to say to me, “Why have you done this?”

That’s the worst.

The third one is the most practical.  Unfinished business is bad...


Look at verse 3.

“Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’”

Here is the judgement on Israel.

They didn’t drive out the Canaanites, the Canaanites will not be driven out.

Not yet.

Instead, the things they tolerated, the compromises they made will be a thorn in their sides.

There will be consequences.

And their gods will be a snare for them.

They will trap them.

We’re going to see again and again in this book how the gods of the Canaanites were a trap for the Israelites.

That’s the biggest reason why they were supposed to wipe them out.

Because if they didn’t, they would become like them.

When you and I fail to go all the way in obedience to God, then we set ourselves up to be frustrated and trapped by the very things that we are allowing to stay in our lives.

Bad idea.

So, what do we do.

We finish our business.

We start by weeping and repenting. V.4

“When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.”

That’s a great start.  The first step is to recognize that we have unfinished business.

But that’s where they ended.

Unfortunately, there is no mention here of any true follow-through and true repentance.

Their repentance appears to be short-lived.

The next step would be to actually finish our business.

Let me give you three areas where this might apply to you and me.

#1. Sinful Actions Unconfessed.
#2. Sinful Habits Unsurrendered.
#3. Sinful Conflicts Unresolved.

Is there something you have done that you have not yet agreed with God about?

Some sinful action unconfessed?

He knows. You know.  Why haven’t you asked Him for forgiveness yet?

Is there an area of your life that you know that God has put His finger on that you have not yet yielded to Him?

I was just talking with a friend yesterday about his profane and sometimes filthy mouth.

He had recently spouted off without thinking, and trying to be a good friend, I confronted him on it.

You know what? He immediately agreed with me and said that it was something that he’s working on surrendering to the Lord.

Isn’t that great?

He is fighting the battles with the Canaanites.

The battles aren’t over–it’s unfinished business in that sense–but he’s still fighting. He’s not settling for half-obedience which is disobedience.

What about you?

Is there something you know that you’re supposed to do, and you’re just making excuses?

Maybe it’s unresolved conflict.

The Bible says that as much as it depends upon you, live at peace with all men.

Now, that means that some conflicts are going to be unresolved because they depend upon someone else’s actions.

But as much as it depends upon you?

Are you harboring bitterness?

Have you buried the hatchet, but you still know where it’s buried?  You can still see the handle?

Unfinished business will come back to bite you.

Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

It will be a frustration and a trap.

Don’t let it.

Finish it.

Don’t lie to yourself and say that these unconfessed, unsurrendered, unresolved sinful actions, sinful habits, sinful conflicts are “under control.”

“It’s under control.”

I’ve got it under control. It’s subjugated. It’s forced labor.

No. Finish it. Drive out. Go the whole way.

Deal with it.

Finish your business, because God always finishes His.

Messages in This Series:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tackling the Book of Judges

Starting Sunday, I'll be leading our flock through the Old Testament book of Judges in a series I'm calling "Downward Spiral."

This is a daunting task. This book can be complicated, depressing, and obscure.

I have several good commentaries on my desk that I've been working through to get a sense of both the forest and the trees, and I've been praying for insight and understanding.

  1.  What does this story proclaim about God and his relationship with his people?
  2.  How does this theological message connect with the Bible’s larger story or meta-narrative?
  3.  What admonition or exhortation does this story offer?
I'm looking forward to the experience, but I am also trepidatious.
For some time, I have sensed that I needed a greater challenge in my preaching. I need to tackle something that takes more time in study and preparation.

I think I've found it. Pray for me as we tackle Judges together.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Nurturing the Faith of the Next Generation"

Photo by Heather Mitchell
“Nurturing the Faith of the Next Generation”
Mothers’ Day :: May 13, 2012
2 Timothy 1:5

This is a distinctly Mothers’ Day message. Everyone else is invited to listen in and make personal application, but I aimed my preparation at the many mothers among us – especially the mothers of small children.

If you are the mother of grown children, you probably remember what that is like!

If you are not yet a mother, or never will be a mother–like all of the men here, then you might not know what it is like to be the mother of small children.

And you might wonder, “What exactly do those moms do all day?”

Has anyone ever made the mistake of asking a stay at home mother of small children that question?

I found this article on a popular website that I frequent.  The author says:
On occasion I have heard people who do not have children make a comment along the following lines: “What exactly do moms do all day?” Behind the question lies the impression that most mothers sit around all day on bean bags, eating Skittles and reading the latest issue of Real Simple. But nothing could be further from the truth.
So, for all of you who have wondered what it is like to be a mom, here are some simple things you can do to simulate motherhood.
1. Carry around a 30 pound sack of flour all day. Do not, I repeat, do NOT set the sack of flour on the ground for any reason. If you do, the sack will immediately begin screaming.
2. Place a large industrial fan in your kitchen. At every meal, make sure to dump at least one full plate of food directly into the fan. This works especially well with Cheerios and peas.
3. Go to the local pet shop and purchase two howler monkeys. Take the howler monkeys home and release them into your house.
4. Try to hold an intelligent conversation or do a craft with the howler monkeys.
5. While carrying the sack around and taking care of the howler monkeys, make sure to read your Bible and pray.
So, ladies, how is that?  About right? Not quite enough?

Thank you, Moms, for your ministry, especially to children still in the home.

You have an incredibly important job.

Today, I want to talk about the most important facet of your job if you are a Christian mom and that is: “Nurturing the Faith of the Next Generation.”

Godly moms nurture the faith of the next generation.

And to think about this, I want us to consider 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 5.

We’ll start reading in verse 1 and read through 7, but our focus today will pretty much just be on verse 5.

It’s the story (in miniature) of two moms named Eunice and Lois.
And the next generation–a man named Timothy.

Let’s read it and then pray together. Verse 1.
 2 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,  2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.  6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (NIV)
It’s obvious that Paul loved Timothy and that Timothy loved Paul.

This passage introduces the book where Paul is going to ask Timothy to do some hard things. But it is based upon their love for one another.

Paul prays regularly for Timothy, thanks God for Timothy, remembers how Timothy cried when they were last parted, and wishes that they could be together again.

Paul even calls Timothy his son, though that was merely spiritual.

We learned back on Acts chapter 16 that Timothy was the son of Greek man, almost certainly an unbeliever.

So, he’s kind of an adopted son for Paul and Paul tells him to fan to flame the gift of God, fully use his spiritual gift in courageous ministry because that’s what Christians do. God has hasn’t given us a Spirit of timidity, Timothy, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.  Go get ‘em, Tim!

That’s the point of this passage.

But tucked into the middle of this passage is this great verse, verse 5, that is one of the chief reasons why Paul is thankful for Timothy–and that is that he knows that Timothy has a sincere faith living within him.

Timothy is what I call a “Real Christian.”  He is a true believer.

And that gives Paul joy.

And Paul knows where that sincere faith came from.

It didn’t come from nowhere.

Verse 5 again.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Godly mothers nurture the faith of the next generation.

That was Timothy’s experience.

He had a godly mother, and he had a godly grandmother [!] who passed on their faith to him.

For those of you who are trying alone to nurture faith in your children (single moms and spiritually single moms), this should give you great encouragement.

It can be done!  Timothy’s dad was no help, but Timothy became an assistant to an apostle and a pastor and a church planter!

It can be done.

Godly mothers nurture the faith of the next generation.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

That’s how the family was set up in the Old Testament.

Parents, including mothers, passing on the faith from this generation to the next generation to the next.

Listen to Psalm 78.

Asaph says, “O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old–what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. [That’s Liza’s grandchildren!] Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”

Proverbs 6 says, “My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.  When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life...”

All godly moms are teachers.

They nurture the faith of the next generation.

Mothers are nurturers in general, but godly mothers are faith-nurturers.

They feed and care for the faith of the next generation.

Thank you, godly moms, for doing that.

I had a godly mom like that. I still do!

Mom looked out for the spiritual needs of her boys and desired for us to know Christ and to grow in Him. She still does.

I am thankful for being the recipient of a longer line of godly moms. Both of my grandmothers were believers intent on nurturing faith in their children and grandchildren.

And the line goes back farther than that, as well. I am blessed.

Not everybody can say that. Some of you are first generation believers, no godly heritage to be thankful for.

But that heritage can now start with you. 

Godly moms nurture the faith of the next generation.

Now, I only have two points this morning so that everybody can get to their Mothers’ Day lunch.

Only two points, but they are both important.


First, godly moms nurture their own authentic faith.

Notice the flow of verse 5.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

What is the order?

Where did this faith first live?

In Lois, Timothy’s gram.
And in Eunice, Timothy’s mom.

Gram and Mom THEN son.
Gram and Mom THEN son.

Now, it doesn’t say that Lois had it first and passed it to Eunice. They might have both come to Christ at the same time.

And it was a team effort between the two of them to reach Timothy (that says something about the relationship between godly grammas and godly mommas, too, doesn’t it?), but the order was Gram and Mom then son.

First, godly moms nurture their own authentic faith.

You’ve gotta have it to give it!

Notice what kind of faith Paul says they had.

“Sincere faith.”
King James, “Unfeigned.”

The Greek word is “anupokritu.”

It’s the opposite of hypokritu, hypocritical faith.

They were the real deal.
They were Real Christians.
They were true believers.

They weren’t playing a game.

Their faith was sincere, authentic.

You gotta have it to pass it on.

Moms, do you have real faith in Jesus Christ?

Yes or no?

If no, you can’t do your job. It’s your job to nurture authentic faith in your children.

Come to Christ. Turn from your sin and trust in Jesus.

Your kids can smell a fake.  They need the real thing.

Moms, do you have real faith in Jesus Christ?

If yes, what are you doing to nurture your own faith?

What are you doing to feed your faith and care for it?

Are you reading your Bible?
Are you in a small group or a prayer meeting or a Sunday school class to nurture your faith?

Are you in a mentoring relationship with someone?

Do you go to MOPS?

Do you have a friend that you can talk about spiritual things with?

Your kids need you to take care of yourself–spiritually.

I recommend that moms get away with other moms to talk about their relationship with Jesus.

Are you doing that?

Are you feeding your faith so that it is real and strong?

I know that you have a 30 pound sack of flour and a howler monkey or two, but you do still have to find a way to feed your soul.

And grow your faith.

It won’t look like it did before kids.

But don’t stop.

Godly moms nurture their own authentic faith, first.

Moms, what do you need to do today or today make a plan to do to grow your own authentic faith?

Is it a book you know you need to read?
Is it a relationship you need to begin?
Is it a time with God that you need to put on the calendar?

This principle, of course, goes for all of us, as well.

Because we may not all be nurturers, but we are all supposed to be passing on our faith to others.

So, all of the rest of us, guys included. What do you need to do to grow your own authentic faith?

Some of you haven’t been in church for a while.  This is where you belong.

We want you here.  Make a commitment to regular attendance to Sunday worship.

Because we can’t give what we don’t got!

Godly moms nurture their own authentic.


Verse 5 again.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

They passed it on.

It was real in Lois.
It was real in Eunice.
And now, Paul is certain that it is real in Timothy, as well.

Notice the phrase, “lived in.”
It could be translated “dwelt in.”

Faith had a home in these people.

Faith was internal. It lived at that address.

It was home in these people.

Passed on from one generation to the next.

Now, how did that happen?

How did the faith pass. That’s the big question.

It isn’t by magic.

That’s not how it works.

They did it, I’m sure by prayer for Timothy. He would have been much prayed for.

And I’m sure they did it by modeling faith for Timothy. They had sincere faith, and it showed.

And the key thing that Paul says that they did was teach Timothy the Bible.

Turn over to chapter 3 of 2 Timothy.  It’s across the page in the Pew Bible.

Paul tells Timothy that the world is going to get worse (and he was right), but that Timothy should follow Paul’s example. Look at verse 10.

“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. [That should sound familiar to us since we just got done with Acts.] Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it [Paul?, I’m sure, but not just Paul],  and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Paul was not in Timothy’s life during Timothy’s infancy.

Who was teaching Timothy the Bible when he was in diapers?

Eunice and Lois.

Godly Moms Nurture Their Children’s Faith by teaching them the Bible.

By teaching them the Scriptures which are God-breathed!

Godly Moms Nurture Their Children’s Faith by teaching them the Bible which is useful [!] for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the child of God is ready for life.

All godly moms are teachers.

Now, you might not know very much about the Bible.

But you probably know more than you kids.

Give them what you know and then learn more and then give them that.

This is your incredibly important job.

It’s more important than making sure your kids are fed and clothed.

Please do that, too!

But teach them the Bible.

Nurture your kids in the Bible.

These words are God-breathed.

I recommend that every family have a bed-time ritual of Bible reading and prayer.

Sing, too, okay?

We call our time, “Bible stories,” and it has taken many different forms over the years.

Right now, I do the boys and Mom does the girl.

Isn’t not fair, is it?

We sing, we pray, we read the Bible or a story about the Bible, maybe a missionary story.

Of course, bed-time isn’t the only time.

The Bible says that we should do this all of the time.

When you’re whizzing down the road in the mini-van.

When you hit a teachable moment in the kitchen.

Bible teaching is not just for church-time.

Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that bringing their kids to church or Family Bible Week is enough in nurturing their faith.

It is not enough.

We, as a church, cannot be the primary disciplers of the children.

We are here to help!

But we are just scratching the surface. You, Moms, are on the front line.

Nurture the faith of your children.

Feed them the good stuff.

Most moms care about junk food versus healthy food.

Mom feeds us good stuff.

It’s same thing with what goes into our minds.

Moms, feed them the good stuff!

What are you doing on daily, weekly, monthly basis to nurture the faith of your children?

What biblical meals are you serving them?

I don’t know how Eunice did it.

But from infancy, she taught Timothy the scriptures, and it was just what he needed.

Godly moms nurture the faith of their children by teaching them the Bible.

Of course, this principle applies to all of us. We aren’t all moms, but we are all called to disciple others in the Christian faith.

We all need to be learning our Bibles and passing on what we learn.

What biblical meals are you and I serving to those we love?

Moms, it won’t always be fun to be a mom. Sometimes the screaming sack of flour and the howler monkeys won’t seem to appreciate what you are trying to tell them about Jesus.

But they need it.

They need it.

And if you don’t give it to them, who will?

Godly moms like Lois an Eunice nurture their own authentic faith and then they turn around and nurture the faith of their children.

Thank you, godly moms, who have done that.
Thank you, godly moms, who are doing that.
Thank you, godly moms, who will do that.

Keep up the good work.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sunday, May 06, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Salt and Light Online"

“Salt & Light Online”
May 6, 2012
Matthew 5:13-16

This morning’s message is going to be quite a bit different than your normal message here at Lanse Free Church. We’re just about ready to tackle the book of Judges–we’ll start, Lord-willing, the Sunday after Mothers’ Day, week-after-next.

So, since we’re in-between-series, I felt led to tackle a topic that’s been on my mind  and heart for some time, but I never knew quite when to bring it up.

I came to believe this week that this was the time.

And that topic is Christians ONLINE.

Especially the use of social media technology by Christians.

I studied this quite a bit as I was researching for my doctoral project last year.

There is a lot to think about and a lot to say—more than I can say today.

But I have been think about it a lot, and I think it would be good for us to think about it together this morning.

And let’s start by getting our title of the message:

“Salt & Light Online.”

And thank-yous go to Holly Crumrine for the snazzy powerpoint backgrounds I’m using today.

This one is a page ripped out of Google.

If you have never used Google, this is what they’re all talking about.

And our search results today are “Salt & Light Online” Matthew 5:13-16.

Let’s read that familiar passage again. From the sermon on the Mount. Jesus says:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Last week, we studied this passage and we applied it to the church being an externally focused church–a church not just IN the community but FOR the community.

Not just in the world but FOR the world. To be salt preserving the world. To be light shining good deeds into the world that bring praise to our Father.

And we asked two application questions for us all.

#1. Are We Salty?
#2. Are We Shining?

Are we salty? Have we gotten out of the saltshaker and into the world and serve people within our community in such a way that we bring a moral preservative to it?

Or have we lost our saltiness through unholiness and apathy?

And are we shining?  Are we bearing witness to the Light of the World being the light of the world so that people see our good (beautiful) works and praise (not us! But) our Father in heaven?

Are we salty?
Are we shining?

How did you do on that this week?

Did anyone make a course adjustment to become more salty and shine more?

I hope so.

Last week, we said that we need to do this in every arena of our lives.

And we talked about our work-life as one place that we need to be salty and shining.

Well, today, I want to talk about another arena of life that most of us inhabit a good bit of the day.

ONLINE. The internet. And especially the parts of the internet that are socialized and allow us to interact and connect with other people.

We need to be Salt and Light Online.

It’s as if Jesus said, “You are the salt of the internet.  You are the light of the world wide web.”

We need to be Salt and Light Online.

Now, of course, the Bible does not mention the internet.

The Bible does say that knowledge will increase, but the internet itself is not named in the Bible.

And yet, the Bible has the most important things to tell us about the internet and about how we should and shouldn’t use it.

Didn’t I tell you that this was going to be a different kind of sermon?

Some of you are saying, “I don’t use the internet.”

And some of you don’t. There are a few people here who have never touched a computer and probably never well.

That’s fine. This sermon is not aimed at you, though I think you can take the principles and apply it to many other things in life that do affect you.

But for most Americans social technology is a given.

How many here, show of hands, have at least one of these things (wait till I’m done to raise your hand):

A Facebook Account
An Email Address at Work or at home
A Twitter Account
A Google Plus Account
A Pinterest Account
A Blog
And/Or A mobile telephone with some kind of data plan, at least texting?

Raise your hands.

Yeah. That’s what I thought. Most of us are affected. Some of us are in deep.

Anyone here have all of them?

A Facebook Account
An Email Address at Work or at home
A Twitter Account
A Google Plus Account
A Pinterest Account
A Blog
And a mobile telephone with some kind of data plan?

Now, here’s the next question.

Is social technology like this a good thing or a bad thing?

That’s your trick question for today.

Is social technology/social media like this a good thing or a bad thing?

The answers is (to me) obvious: it’s both.

It can be either. And it often is both good and bad.

It depends on how you use it.

For example, there is this little thing called CaringBridge and there is this little girl named Emily Whitehead, and many of us wouldn’t know anything about her if it wasn’t for CaringBridge or Facebook.

But as it is, there are thousands of people praying for that little girl because of those social technologies.

And I know that many of you are because your Facebook picture is Emily Whitehead. I can hardly tell who is who right now because her face is all over your Facebooks!

Friday was my birthday, and I heard from over a hundred friends with birthday greetings over social media technologies like Facebook and email.

That’s a good thing. I never got that many cards in my life!

Obviously, our church has gotten into it, as well. Since 2001, we’ve had a website that links to my blog that I’ve been running since 2005. This year, we started a church Facebook page. And new this week, we now have a Twitter account.

We are so cool. (Not really.)

The internet, social media, is a good thing.

Lots of good things can come from it.

But it can also be a terrible thing.

The pornography industry makes billions of dollars each year on the internet.

The gambling industry makes billions of dollars each year on the internet.

And all kinds of destructive behavior goes on online.

The online world is the world.

And it is populated by sinners just the like the rest of the world is.

So, it can be a pretty awful place where awful people do awful things to one another.

Like rotting meat and darkness.

That’s why Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth....You are the light of the world.”

Even that part of the world that is online.

You and I need to be salt and light when we are online, not just in the real world.


I have five quick points to make this morning as application of this idea.

Again, there is much more that could be said, and I’m sure it could be said better, but I think there are some biblical principles that we need to be thinking about as we approach this thing called social media, and I don’t think that enough Christians as thinking about what they do and don’t do online.  Especially what they personally say and post online.

Here’s number one.


Here’s an Yahoo email background for his one.

Social media technology is a good thing. I’m really glad that we have telephones.

I am really glad we have email.

Email is my favorite way of communicating besides face-to-face.

You send an email when it is convenient for you.
It gets there basically automatically and they read it when its convenient for them.

How cool is that?!

Social media technology is a good thing.

But you can have too much of a good thing.

Does the Bible teach that?

Turn with me to Proverbs chapter 25, verse 16.

The Youth Boys know this one. They memorized it last year.

Proverbs 25:16.  Pew Bible Page #651.

“If you find honey, eat just enough–too much of it, and you will vomit.”

Is honey good?  Best natural sugar in the world.

Amazing. Honey is good.

“If you find honey, eat just enough–too much of it, and you will vomit.”

You can have too much of a good thing.

You can have too much email.
You can have too much blogging.
You can have too much Pinteresting.
You can have too much Facebook.

How much is too much? 
Well, that’s between you and God, but you better figure it out.

Because if you don’t figure out, it can suck you in.

Here’s a great way to decide.

Ask your loved ones.

If you’re married, ask you spouse.

“Do I spend too much time online?”
“Do I check my email, too often?”
“Do I spend too much time on my phone.”

Phone is another word for computer these days. They’re just little computers you hold in your hand.

And listen to what they say.

“Yes, you do. Can you put that down?  Can you pay attention to what is going on here?”

I know that I struggle with that.  I have laptop computer and often work from home.

And it’s easy to just slide into being online when I’m at home when I’m not supposed to be working as well.

And to be really distracted.

Because somebody might want to get my attention!

Well, probably somebody does. She’s called Heather.

Or she’s called Robin.

Or he’s called Andrew, Peter, or Isaac.

They take priority. More and more, I recognize that I need to close the lid on the laptop and focus on here and now and these folks that I live with.

I just read a book that says, “Where you are, be all there.”

That’s really good.

Because you can have too much of a good thing.

Here’s number two. It goes with the first one.


It’s down here in this little box on this fake Facebook page.

If you have never used Facebook, this is kind of what it looks like.

And thought it was great to make this point on the Facebook page.

Face to face is almost always better for communicating.

Turn with me to 2 John, verse 12.  I told you we were going to jump all over the place.

2 John 12.  Pew Bible Page #1211. Pew Bible Page #1211. 2 John 12.

The Apostle John was using the social media of the day. Paper and Ink!

But look what he says in verse 12.

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

He says something very similar in 3 John.

Here he says, “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink.”

Why not?

Not because paper and ink is bad. This is God’s Word in paper ink!

Not because social media is bad.  It actually allows us to communicate over vast distances and over different times. It’s awesome!  It’s a gift from God.

But there is (most of the time) something better. V.12

“Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Now, I know that John wasn’t trying to make a theological point about social technology, but I still think it’s there in this verse.

Most of the time face-to-face is better than social media because the relationship has  to have a medium between us. 

And face-to-face is by definition, non-mediated.

Now, what is my point here?

I can think of a few applications of this principle.

First, don’t substitute technological time with someone for physical presence time with someone (and don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are equal).

Facebook friends is not the same thing as real life friends.

Don’t think that you’ve got someone figured out that you’ve met on a dating website until you’ve been with them face to face.

Now, I’m not saying to not use those websites. I’m saying be careful about substituting techno-time with some for face-to-face time.

And here’s another application.  Email and other text-based technologies are a terrible way to process disagreements.

Don’t use email or Facebook to try to work out your differences with someone.

My wife and I use email during the day, and we have had so many misunderstandings...because you can’t see them or hear the tone of voice or body language or whatever.

Email is okay for information, but if things are going to get emotional, email is a terrible medium for emotion.

Here’s the principle. Maybe you write that email. But don’t send it.

Tell the person that you need to talk with them and then do it face to face.

Now, that sounds harder sometimes, but that’s part of the point. Don’t be lazy. It won’t help. Don’t use a text-based technology to process conflicts if you can at all help it.

Face to face is almost always better.

“I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Is this helpful?  I don’t think that many of Jesus’ followers have thought through these things.

We have not been salt. We have not been light. We have just gone along with the flow.


The point is down here in this text box. This is YouTube.

If you haven’t seen a YouTube video, this is what that page looks like.

I thought that this was a good one where the key word was “act.”

Real Christians act like real Christians when they are online.

This is one of the sermon I didn’t get to give during the Real Christian series a few years ago.

I’m not saying that to Be Fake Online when I say be salt and light online.

I’m saying to be REAL online. Real Christians.

Being a Christian informs everything that we do.  It isn’t just something we do on Sundays at church.

Turn over to Ephesians chapter 4 for this one.

Ephesians chapter 4. Pew Bible Page #1158.

Paul is telling the Ephesians here how to live now that they have become Christians.

And he calls it living as “Children of the Light.”  Sounds like Jesus saying, “You are the Light of the World” doesn’t it?

And Paul says that this is a process of putting off the old self and putting on the new self.  Look at verse 17 of chapter 4

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Sounds like some particular corners of the internet, doesn’t it? V.20

“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Put off, put on. V.25

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

There’s a principle for what we say online.

Only the truth. Nothing but the truth. So help us God. V.26

“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

There’s another principle. Our Facebook account should not be full of our sinful anger.

Our blog should not be pages and pages of unholy screed.

Social media is broadcasting. When I started blogging, I realized that I had gotten into broadcasting. Anywhere you have the internet, you have the potential of looking at my blog. Anywhere in the world.

That’s broadcasting.

And the same thing is true to a lesser extent on Facebook. Most people have over a hundred friends.

If you post something on Facebook, that telling at least 100 people that thing. And they can easily turn around and share it with someone else.

It’s broadcasting.

Remember that before you hit “share that post.”  V.28

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Verse 29

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths [or your thumbs!], but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Would that cut out a lot of our social media interaction if we obeyed that?

Real Christians act like real Christians when they are online.

And if they don’t, maybe they’re not. V.30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. [And getting rid of it doesn’t mean posting it online! It means repenting of it. V.32]

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Chapter 5

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Don’t you just love people like that?

Be the kind of person you love online.

Be an imitator of God.

Be salt and light online.

V.3 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”

V.3 says “not even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity or of gree, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”

Do your emails have a hint of sexual immorality?
Does your facebook account have foolish talk or coarse joking? Those are out of place.

Obscenity. Does your blog have obscenity?

Or greed. Do you say over and over again in your social media how unhappy you are with your lot in life and your desire to become rich or gain this possession or that possession?

Are you like the rotting meat and the dark world?

Or are you salt and light online?  V.7

“Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There is a short of things that you can do online!

Text one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Share prayer requests.

Give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Real Christians Act Like Real Christians When They are Online.

Not because they are faking it but because they are living out the reality of their relationship with Jesus in the online world.

Are you salty?
Are you shining?


Here’s my fourth point. I’ll make it very quick because we want to get to the communion table.



In chapter 5 here of Ephesians it said, “Find out what pleases the Lord” (v.10) and it says, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise.”

That takes effort. That takes thought. That takes meditation and prayer.

The world of online interaction is not all black and white.

Do this. Don’t do this. It takes discernment and growth in wisdom.

When I first approached writing this message, I thought of a bunch of proverbs that address online interaction and I was going to give it as just message on that.

Like Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

Get both sides of an issue.  Don’t just listen, for example, to what your political party says online. Listen to both sides. Listen to fair representations of both sides.

Remember that there is another side to whatever story you are reading.

I actually read as many blogs from people I don’t normally agree with as blogs that I read of those that I like!

I keep up with about 200 blogs, probably 50 of which are very active and 25 of them are people that I really disagree with.

But I listen to them because I don’t want to just get one side (the side I like) of any issue. Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

We need to grow in wisdom to best use social media technology.

When you are reading your Bible, think about how it applies to every area of your life, not just your prayer life or work life or your church, but also your online life.

Grow in wisdom.

Number 5 and last.


And the main thing is the gospel.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message to:


The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message to communicate.

So whatever I do or say or post online, it needs to be secondary at best to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing–even online.

Especially online.

Salt and light for Jesus.

The Gospel Online.