Nobleton Community Church
January 28, 2024
Text: Galatians 6:1-10
Reverend Paul V Lehmann

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We have a great promise in verse 9. I would like to focus our attention on this verse from the passage that Roxie read this morning.
The reason that some people don’t see results or “reap a harvest” in their lives, is because they “give up.” Things just get too hard. The trials are too much to bear. The reason they get this bad, is because they are trying to succeed in their own strength. We all at some time of other have been guilty of this. When we recognize that we have blown it, or we have failed to do what God wants us to do, we must “persevere” and keep going, but with His Power.

It’s said that Walt Disney’s request for a loan was rejected by 301 banks before he finally got a yes. Yet he built the world’s most famous theme park. So, this year let’s remember some things.

  1. Perseverance turns adversity into advancement.

At a sales convention the manager said to 2,000 of his firm’s sales force, “Did the Wright brothers quit?” “No” they responded. “Did Charles Lindbergh quit?” “No” they shouted. “Did Lance Armstrong quit?” “No” they responded. “Did Thorndike Mckester quit?
There was a long, confused silence. Then a salesperson shouted, “Who in the world is Thorndike Mckester? Nobody’s ever heard of him.” The sales manager snapped back, “Of course you haven’t—that’s because he quit!” As you have heard perhaps before –said by some coaches—Quitters never win and winners never quit.

Paul writes, “Everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.” (Philippians 1:12 NLT). Paul didn’t give up—he rose up! How did he do it? He found the benefit to him personally that comes from every trial. One Christian author writes: “Today we’re obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability. One Christian author writes; “Today we’re obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability. We want the quick fix, the shortcut, the on-the-spot solution. We want a sermon, a seminar or an experience that will instantly resolve all problems, remove all temptation and release us from all spiritual growing pains. But real maturity is quite is never the result of a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving.” Growth is gradual. We read in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that; our lives gradually become” brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”


Every time I say we will—–you repeat together…Reap a harvest if we don’t give up.

Observe more things about perseverance.

  1. Perseverance means stopping not because you’re tired, but because the task is done.

Diplomat Robert Strauss quipped, “Success is like wrestling a 1000 pound gorilla. You don’t quit when you are tired—you quit when the gorilla is tired.” When you’re fresh, excited and energetic you work at a task with vigor. Only when you become weary do you need perseverance. The Apostle Paul recognized this when he said: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time—


Fatigue and discouragement are not reasons to quit, they’re reasons to draw close to God, rely on our character and keep going. We underestimate what it takes to succeed. When we haven’t counted the cost we approach challenges with mere interest; what’s required is total commitment!

  1. Perseverance doesn’t demand more than we have, but all that we have.

Author Frank Tyger observed, “In every triumph, there is a lot of try.”
We read that most millionaires who haven’t inherited their money, failed at least once, maybe even went bankrupt before they were successful.
But perseverance means more than just trying or working hard. Perseverance is an investment. It’s a willingness to bind yourself, emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually to an idea, purpose or task until it has been completed. Perseverance demands a lot, but here’s the good news: everything you give is an investment in yourself. Each time you do the right thing—seek God, work hard, treat others with respect, learn and grow—you invest in yourself. To do these things every day takes perseverance, but if you do them your success is guaranteed.


Perseverance is a trait that can be cultivated, and the initial step to cultivating it is to eliminate two of its greatest enemies. These are:

1. A lifestyle of giving up. 

A little boy was promised an ice cream cone if he was good while accompanying his grandfather on some errands. The longer they were gone the more difficult the boy was finding it to be good. “How much longer will it be? he asked. “Not too long,” replied the grandfather, “we’ve just got one more stop to make.” “I don’t know if I can make it, Grandpa,” the little boy said, “I can be good, I just can’t be good enough long enough.” As children we can get away with that, but not as mature people, and certainly not if we expect to succeed in what God’s called us to do. Then the other thing that we need to eliminate is:

  1. A wrong belief that life should be easy.

Paul told Timothy he must “endure hardness, as a good soldier.”
(2 Timothy 2:3) Having the right expectations is half the battle. Clinical psychologist John C. Norcross found the great characteristic that distinguishes those who reach their goals from those who don’t ––it is expectation! Both types of people experience the same amount of failure during the first month they strive for their goals. But members of the successful group don’t expect to succeed right away; they view their failures as a reason to re-commit and re-focus on their goals with more determination. Norcross say, “those who were unsuccessful say a relapse is evidence they can’t do it. They are the ones who have a wrong belief that life should be easy.” Bottom line: “We give great honor to those who endure under suffering.” (we read in James 5: 11)


Then the next enemy of perseverance you’ll have to defeat each day of this year is:
3.Lack of resiliency

Harvard professor George Vaillant identifies resiliency as a significant characteristic of people who navigate the different seasons of life from birth to old age. In his book Aging Well he writes, “Resilient people are like a twig with a fresh, green, living core. When twisted out of shape the twig bends but it doesn’t break; instead it springs back and continues growing.” That’s an excellent description of perseverance. We must not become dry, brittle and inflexible. We must draw on God’s grace and endeavor to bounce back no matter how we feel.
The fourth enemy of perseverance that must be defeated is:

4.) Lack of vision.

Everything that’s created is actually created twice. First it’s created mentally, then it’s created physically. And where does our creativity come from? God, our Creator, who made us in His likeness
(Gen. 1:27). A God-given vision will keep you moving forward when nothing else will. The lack of one will stop you dead in your tracks. Or at the very least, will encourage the status quo and eventually there is a plateau, and no progress is made. This is true of our own personal life, and also for the church.

5.) Lack of purpose.

Rich Demoss remarked, “Persistence is stubbornness with a purpose.” It’s very difficult to develop persistence when you lack a sense of purpose. Conversely, when you have a passionate sense of purpose, energy rises, obstacles become incidental and perseverance wins out.

When we know what God wants us to do, we must not give up when we know that what we are doing is good. Let’s not get tired of doing it. Verse 9 could be read this way: “Don’t let evil get the best of you….Don’t let the bad circumstances wear you down and wear you out….Don’t give in to the evil that intends to defeat you….”

A world champion boxer years ago put it this way: “Champions aren’t made in the gyms, they are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have last-minute stamina. They have to be a little faster and they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.

Do exactly what the Holy Spirit impresses you to do. Once you obey His leading, you must then use your God-given authority and command Satan to take his hands off your finances (if that is the problem), or your family, (if you see them struggling, perhaps physically) Boldly declare by faith for this year, that: God’s blessings are yours. You have every right to expect God’s blessings to come pouring into your life!


The Desolate House

[Unless we tend our relationship with God, our spiritual houses
can become places of desolation.]

Nobleton Community Church
January 21, 2024
text:  Luke 13:31-35
Pastor Paul V. Lehmann

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 Thanks to our home-foreclosure crisis, we are getting all too acquainted with literal desolate houses. Foreclosure signs are a familiar sight in many communities across America. Some of these properties fall into disrepair.  Neighborhoods in cities and towns across America are decimated because of houses abandoned after their owners are either forced out by mortgage holders, or give up and walk away from them ahead of inevitable foreclosures. And we know how things often go from there: With no one tending them, the buildings start to crumble, eaves begin to sag, windows get smashed, mold becomes a problem, yards become overgrown and vandals or squatters or even drug dealers add to the deterioration. The houses begin to die and so do the neighborhoods in which they sit.

 In this passage, Jesus refers to a house that has been left “desolate.” The RSV has it “forsaken.”  It’s an opportunity for to examine how our “houses” become desolate, and how they might be restored once again.

 If there’s one biblical metaphor that translates easily to our culture today, it’s likely the one Jesus uses in Luke 13:35, where he laments over Jerusalem and says, “Look, your house is left to you desolate …” (NIV).

 What sort of houses did Jesus consider desolate? In both New Testament Greek and modern English, the word “house” can stand not only for a building but also for a family. The text begins with the Pharisees passing along a threat from Herod, whom Jesus would refer to as a fox. This passage shows us Jesus talking to Herod Antipas king of Galilee, who was out to stop him

. To the Jew the fox was a symbol of three things.

 First it was regarded as the slyest of animals.

 Second, it was regarded as the most destructive of animals.

 Third, it was the symbol of a worthless and insignificant man.

 So, it was a courageous remark by Jesus, and probably reflected a little bit of his humanity, to call the reigning king a fox.

One of the well-known preachers in England named Latimer, was once preaching in Westminster Abbey when Henry the king was in the congregation. In the pulpit he remarked: “Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The king of England is here!” Then he went on to say; “Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The King of Kings is here.”   Yes it is far more important what we say about Jesus The King of Kings than any earthly king.  And Jesus took his orders from God, and he would not shorten his work by one day to please or to escape any earthly king. 

Luke 13:31-35 strongly connects our journey to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51–19:28).

The passage is a continuation of 13:22-30, which records Jesus’ traveling “through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” (v. 22).

Here, Jesus specifically discusses the likelihood that expectations will be defied with respect to those who will be welcomed in and those who will be left out come judgment day. Heavenly standards will confound the earthly status quo. In the midst of this lesson is where the Pharisees enter the scene to warn Jesus that Herod is seeking to kill him.

This warning is the source of speculation regarding the intent of the Pharisees. Because their own authority is thrown into question by much of what Jesus teaches, 13:22-30 included, the Pharisees are typically portrayed as being in tension with him. Thus, it is surprising that Luke depicts them — “some” (v.31), at least — as cautioning Jesus about Herod. Perhaps the Pharisees are merely taunting Jesus. But they may very well be concerned for his safety, suggesting that not all Pharisees are unbendingly at odds with Jesus (witness Nicodemus in the gospel of John and examples of hospitality extended to Jesus by Pharisees in Luke 7:6, 11:37 and 14:1).

Less open to speculation is Herod’s dire threat. Herod, of course, stands to be one of the biggest losers when the earthly status quo is disrupted. He has already met the prophetic challenge of John the Baptist with lethal force (9:7-9). Because of his own prophetic presence, Jesus has also made his way onto Herod’s enemies list. Having withstood temptation posed by the devil in the wilderness (4:1-13), Jesus now faces the temptation of avoiding the wrath of a despot.

Jesus responds by not succumbing to fear. He is defiant, dismissively referring to Herod as “that fox” (v. 32), one who is sly and not to be trusted. Jesus is doing holy work, “casting out demons and performing cures” (v. 32), and he instructs the Pharisees to tell Herod that this work will go on until it is accomplished. Moreover,

Jesus makes it clear that this work is integral to the overall task of making his way to Jerusalem, a task he “must” pursue (v. 33a). The word here connotes a necessity corresponding to carrying out orders, in this case a divine mission (see Luke 2:49; 9:22; 22:7).

The house of Herod was tangled. The family line did not resemble so much a tree as a tangled ball of yarn. This Herod, named Antipas, had other relatives called Herod as well, and their marriages, divorces and remarriages were not only often ill-considered, but were sometimes incestuous.

The Herods were greatly admired in the Roman Empire. Herod the Great, for instance, had saved the Olympics around the year 12 B.C. by funding them perfectly. He left behind many great architectural works, including substantial improvements to the Jewish temple — so impressive that it caused one of Jesus’ disciples to marvel: “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Jesus, however, knew about the coming desolation and replied,

“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” (Mark 13:1-2).

Jesus was right, and eventually, that desolation would become all too tangible. In A.D. 66, the Jewish population rebelled against Rome. The empire could not allow that revolt to succeed, and so in A.D. 70, Roman legions under future emperor Titus retook the city and destroyed much of it, including the temple, which has not been rebuilt to this day.

Despite his major improvements to the temple and his popularity in the empire, Herod was hated by his own people because of his murderous ways, which were emulated by his descendants.

The failed relationships in the family of Herod may represent the sort of house Jesus lamented over. But he likely was thinking about the brokenness among the common people as well, and about the failure by many to love God with their whole hearts and love their neighbors as themselves.

It’s not much of a stretch to apply “the house desolate” to our lives. An unattended life — one littered with missed opportunities, broken relationships, repeated procrastinations, a lack of empathy, un-kept promises, false starts, yielded-to temptations, selfish priorities and the like — can quickly become a forsaken or desolate “house.”

It’s pretty easy to find desolate-house-type lives in the news. Think of any one of the celebrities or politicians or yes, even big-name religious figures, who destroyed their families, lost their positions, ruined their reputations and betrayed those who trusted them because of some act of infidelity or gross selfishness. But don’t limit your thinking to just them, because it’s often much smaller acts of inattention that we are guilty of in our families, but nevertheless, just as destructive.

For example, a song by Roger Miller, high on both the country and pop charts several years ago, told of a marriage breaking down, and began, “Two broken hearts — lonely, lookin’ like houses where nobody lives.”

The old popular TV cop show “The Closer”, which ended after seven seasons, contains another example. The main character, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (played by Kyra Sedgwick), was an effective police officer with an innate ability to discern who the bad guys were and wrangle admissions of guilt out of them. But she had one habit that drove her family and co-workers nuts: When she was hot on a case, she became so focused that she usually deflected their requests for her attention, even if they only wanted a brief moment, putting them off until “later.” As the series went along, it became obvious that she was always behind in tending the most important relationships in her life, and in an episode near the end of the series, it caught up with her.

In that episode, Brenda’s parents, whom she loved deeply but too often shortchanged with her time, are visiting in her home. Just after Brenda gets a fresh lead on her current case, her mother asks for a moment to tell her something important. Reluctant to look away from her case, Brenda promises to give her some time over breakfast the next morning. Her mother agrees, but looks disappointed. The next morning, intending to keep her date with her mother, Brenda goes to the guest bedroom to awaken her, only to find that Mama has died unexpectedly during the night. That episode ends with Brenda screaming for her husband who comes and rushes her from the room.

The next episode, set a week or so later and after the funeral, has Brenda, still grieving and badly shaken, back at work, where in a reflective moment, she tells a co-worker that she’s sorry for not listening to him better. Then she adds, “Funny, I feel like I pay more attention to what murderers have to say while ignoring the people I really care about.” In the concluding scene of that episode, her husband finds her sitting on the bed where her mother died. She says to him, “The last time I saw Mama, she asked me if I had a minute, and I didn’t have the time just then. Now, I’m the one who could really use a minute, and Mama has no time at all.” The episode ends with her weeping — inconsolably — in her husband’s arms.

Improper or deferred maintenance is always bad for relationships, and that includes our spiritual ones as well.

 An unattended spiritual house can yield a life where God is supposedly welcome, but where he refuses to abide because the place is a spiritual dump where he is ignored by the occupant — so ignored, that the occupant doesn’t even notice when the Lord is no longer there.

We can become so accustomed to starving our relationships, breaking our promises, failing to carry through, ignoring our spiritual health and so on that we don’t realize how bad things are until the whole thing comes crashing down.

(There was a certain irony in Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in that there was no widespread awareness among its residents of how far many in the city had drifted from God.)

Jesus said to Jerusalem, “Look, your house is left to you desolate ….”  He wept over Jerusalem because of their rejection of the love he tried to show them.

He probably came to Jerusalem a lot more times than what is recorded in scripture. It is always heart wrenching when someone rejects our love. We could substitute the name Nobleton or Bushnell, or Brooksville, in the place of Jerusalem, because: Wherever we have people who have not responded to our witness of Christ, or our testimony of what Jesus has done for us, we too, will feel the rejection He felt. What might it mean for our lives to be left to ourselves? For one thing, it means that life is only what we can make of it on a temporal time scale, devoid of any hope that extends beyond our lifetime, devoid of any confidence that God will multiply our efforts in this life. For another, it means that we have no ultimate authority to which we answer. Yes, we still have societal standards, but no rock on which to stand when society is bending with ill winds. For yet another, we have no access to the sheltering wings that give comfort, no eternal healing balm for our wounds, no assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

An atheist might hear that and say, “So be it. I’m on my own in this world and that’s just fine.” In fact, the unbeliever might even declare that such a state is not one of desolation but of contentment. It’s hard to say whether any of that is bravado or whether it’s a sincere conviction, but most people don’t want to be left on their own in this life, and if they were, they’d recognize that condition as one of desolation. We want to know that when terrible things happen to us and losses pile up, ultimately it’s going to be all right.

We keep our spiritual houses from becoming desolate by tending our relationship with the Lord. We can’t keep telling the Lord “later” or “someday” and expect that to keep the relationship strong.

In The Closer episode following the death of Brenda’s mother, her husband stops by the police station and asks Brenda if she has a minute. She’s begun work on a new case and almost reflexively, she responds, stalling him, and she begins to walk away. But then, with the memory of what she missed by doing that to her mother apparently hitting her afresh, she turns back and says, “Sorry. Yes, I do.” After they are alone in her office, she tells him, “Don’t ask me. If you need to talk to me, just say, ‘Listen,’ okay?”

 It’s good for us to be in that kind of relationship with God as well, where he can just say, “Listen,” and we give him our attention.

Rick Long, the pastor of Jones Memorial UMC, Lake City, Georgia says:

“God rarely shouts “LISTEN” to me, More often I just get a gentle nudge. Someone will come to mind, and I’ll wonder why. I’ve learned to pay attention to these moments; to make a contact, a call, a visit. One might miss the nudge, thinking it’s just a coincidence; a little nothing passing through our day, but it could be so much more. When we focus our attention upon the person who comes to mind, we are actually praying for them. When we make contact with them, the conduit for grace to move between us is made. A fresh wind of the Spirit moves among us.”

When it comes to our actual houses, it’s not always our fault when maintenance is deferred. Sometimes we just don’t have the budget for every repair the house could use, and we have to prioritize but: Our spiritual house has this odd stipulation that not all maintenance is up to the occupant alone. God is ready to help us keep the place up.

It’s only our fault if we don’t seek his help and then keep the lines of communication open.

The lyrics of the song “Separate Me From What Separates Us” by Steve Ivey are a great prayer for those who wish to keep their spiritual house in good repair:

Separate me from what separates us.

Fill me with your love.

Separate me from what separates us.

My affections are set on above.

My heart cries out to you, O Lord.

You are my rock and fortress.

Protector, director, deliver me now

To the unseen things above.

Elisabeth Elliot the widow of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, one of the 5 MAF pilots who lost their lives when the Anca Indians killed them says;

“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things. It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big.’ “


Nobleton Community Church
January 14, 2024
TEXT:   II Corinthians 12:1-10
Pastor Paul V. Lehmann RDS

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In the last part of chapter 11 of II Corinthians the Apostle Paul is boasting about “his credentials” so to speak. In verses 22-27 he tells us about the fact that he is a Hebrew, and a descendent of Abraham and a servant of Jesus Christ, just like some other people. He even admits that he is boasting like people of the world, like a fool.  But he goes on to say that he has worked much harder than some others. He tells us that he has been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. He goes on in verse 24 and following.

In verse 28 we read; “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. He tells us he is weak but he doesn’t feel

That leads me to chapter 12 where he tells us about his visions and revelations from the Lord (in the 3rd person), where he heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell. Something else that he could boast about, but he refrains from doing it so no one will thin more of him than is warranted. Now because of these surpassingly great revelations, in order to keep him from becoming conceited, Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment him. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him. But the Lord said to him;


So in verse 10 Paul says …for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties For when I am week, then I am strong.

Some commentators have said that Paul’s thorn in the flesh refers to a physical illness. But this isn’t affirmed by anywhere else in scripture.  It is true that we don’t know exactly, but based on the context we have an idea and even though a physical problem is possible, I don’t believe it was. Some have imagined it might have been Malaria, or epilepsy, or an eye disease, or club feet or a hunched back. But there is nothing to back any of this up, except maybe the fact that he says in Galatians 4:15 that he knew they would give up their eyes for him if they could. And then in 6:11 he remarks about the LARGE letters he is making in writing to them. Nevertheless it doesn’t seem feasible that it is a physical ailment, even considering this passage and especially what he has written in II Corinthians.

Paul’s influence was growing He was preaching all over to kings and governors and world leaders. He was planting churches, writing New Testament scriptures and everywhere he went he was pushing back the gates of hell. He endured much persecution by religious leaders. When he went into  a city, the first thing he did was go into a synagogue, but when he preached the Gospel, he was reported to the authorities and they arrested him, and frequently beat him an put him in prison. Remember what we read from chapter 11. If the opposition wasn’t from the Jewish leaders it was from pagan (Gentiles). In Acts 16:16-24 a slave girl fortune-teller made a lot of money for her masters by predicting the future. Paul delivered her from the spirit of divination. Her owners seized Paul and had him arrested, beaten and put in prison, because he had taken away their means of income.

The biggest “thorn” in Paul’s life was the fact that he had to deal with these different groups of people who covertly planned the problems and hassles he faced in his ministry.

.The messenger from Satan, perhaps even a demonic angel, had been sent to incite these people against Paul.

If you survey the  types of ordeals Paul endured you will see that many of them were orchestrated by these people who wanted to get rid of him. They were all teaming with hatred toward him. They wanted to see his head on a stake

One of the greatest kinds of attacks Paul experienced was not just words, but physical beatings which explains his use of the word translated buffet or like the NIV “torment me.”

. All of these kind of things presented opposition to the spreading of the gospel. They were brought about by PEOPLE.

Bishop K.C. Pillai from India has written a little book entitled: “Light Through an Eastern window.”  When used as a figure of speech, a thorn in the flesh always refers to irritating or bothersome people. In fact it so used in the Old Testament.  Numbers 33:55-56 refers to people. “ …if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in you sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.  And then in Joshua 23:13…”they…will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes….” And then again in Judges 2:3  “thorns in your sides” is used.

When we consider all of what Paul went through in his ministry, it seems incongruent to think he was asking the Lord “to take away a physical ailment. But to ask the Lord to “give him a break” so to speak from all the people who were led by Satanic forces to prevent the spreading of the Gospel,  seems quite plausible.

So in light of what I have shared, I don’t believe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was sickness or any physical ailment. It is possible that he did ask for some of his physical problems to be taken away, but I don’t think we should ever use this passage as a proof text when we don’t get healed. Some do this. They say; “See Paul asked the Lord to heal him, and he didn’t do it. He said, “my grace is sufficient for you.”  I also don’t believe in our vernacular that the Lord was saying to him:  “suck it up and go on.”  Paul had already done that. He practically ignored any physical problems he had. What he was asking for was to relieve some of the pressure he was feeling every time he shared the gospel. The response of the Lord to him, is the same response he is telling us.

 He is saying, no matter how much opposition you have from people, no matter how hard it seems to witness for me, MY GRACE IS SUFFICEINT.


You see, the devil used people again and again, trying to keep Paul so distracted solving “people problems” that he wouldn’t be able to make any more significant personal or Gospel advancements.

What about us? What do you intend to do about the “thorns” that Satan is using to steal your joy and sidetrack you from what God has called you to do.? How do you intend to react to this ongoing disturbance? Paul never allowed people to keep him from fulfilling his divine call, and you shouldn’t either I urge you to follow his example. Don’t allow people to stop you, or to annoy you, or hold you back from doing what God has called you to do.

Satan is afraid of you and your gifts when you use them to serve the Lord. He is afraid of your potential, or else he wouldn’t bother to Insite people to stir up trouble for you.



Nobleton Community Church
January 7, 2024
text:  I Corinthians 16: 1-9
Reverend Paul V Lehmann

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letcher Tarkington spoke for most of us when she said: “I wish that there was some wonderful place called “The Land of Beginning Again,” where all our mistakes and all of our heartaches and all of our poor, selfish greed could be dropped like a shabby coat at the door, and never put it on again.”

Our desire as children of God should be to do better in the future than we have in the past. Jesus The new year presents us with the opportunity of finding a “Land of Beginning Again.” We will be using a new calendar, and we will be facing new challenges and new responsibilities, but we are deceiving ourselves if we believe that the new year will be completely different from the old year, unless God intervenes. For we will be confronted with many of the struggles, problems, and heartaches we knew during the past year. We soon fail to keep our New Year’s resolutions.

When we talk about “doors of opportunity,” we must realize that the opening of doors is all God’s responsibility. We just need to be ready to walk through them when he does it. In Acts 19:1 we read that Apollos who had been working with Paul, had gone to Corinth. A little further from where Carol read this morning, –in verse 12 we see that Paul was urging Apollos, to go to Corinth, but he was unwillingly —but Paul tells them he will go when he has the opportunity. Some have felt that Apollos was strong willed and that he wasn’t going to go to Corinth, just because Paul told him to go. I believe though, that there might be another reason. Apollos was willing to obey God whenever, and wherever he would tell him to go. For some reason it wasn’t in God’s timing for him to go then, but when the door was open —he went.

The important thing to realize is; God’s timing is not ours—and when he finally opens the door we must be ready to walk through it by being prepared, and then obey.

Jeannene and I have seen this to be true many times in our lives, but there were two significant times when God’s timing and ours didn’t seem to coincide. Yet in the long run, his timing was perfect of course. Our first ministry in Boma, Dem. Rep of the Congo, I was principle of a high school, and taught Phys. Ed., built an outdoor basketball court and started a basketball team. We had a Bible Study in our home for these players. At the end of our first four year term, 34 young people had given their lives to Christ. But we were feeling led to go to the Capitol City for our next term and help with the newly started church planting efforts. However God had other plans, and when we came back after a year of speaking in churches in the States, we were assigned once again to Boma. I couldn’t understand how the Lord and I “got our wires crossed” so much. Nevertheless it was all in the Lord’s timing. I led Theological Education by Extension Classes, and   was involved with a tent meeting outreach, which resulted with having discipleship classes for 76 converts that lived in our section of the city, and through this a church was planted. Everything that I was involved with, was what I would be doing in Kinshasa. After one year we were able to transfer to the capitol.

While we may have a deep inward desire to “begin again” realistically we should recognize that our present position is really our door of opportunity for significant achievement and worthwhile service. Paul recognized in verse 9 of our text that; “a great door for effective service” was open to him in Ephesus. Instead of running away from difficulty, he said, “but I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost”…then he adds, “and there are many adversaries.”

In spite of difficulties, disappointments, and outright opposition, the apostle Paul determined that he would seize this opportunity for significant service and do whatever was necessary to be done at the moment. The Greek word for open here, means—wide open—not just a little, or a crack, but the door was wide open.

This pagan city of Ephesus resisted his preaching in the past—but now, they were receptive to the gospel, and the three years that Paul stayed and preached there were very fruitful, and the church he planted became one of the greatest churches in church history. In the book of Revelation chapter 2 where Ephesus is the first church that Jesus is talking to John about, we read that they have worked hard, and persevered, and they don’t tolerate wicked people. They endured hardships for the name of Jesus, and they didn’t grow weary. But then he says in verses 4 and 5: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your ‘lampstand’ from its place” That is—their position of prominence. This isn’t a position that is recognized by other people and other churches but rather a position that God gave them. That’s what makes this so necessary that they repent and restore their first love for the Lord. Probably also for each other, because when our love for the Lord fails, we begin to say things against each other. In the KJV, the old English word is “backbite.” That’s what dogs do when they fight. What a terrible state to be in.

Now the danger for us today is to be commended like the church at Ephesus, and then begin to fall and lose the love that we once had for the Lord. This leads to not responding to the opportunities that he gives us. Sometimes that means that we sort of, “rest on our laurels” from the past, or we may think about what opportunities “might” open up in the future. But we need to recognize that the past has gone for good, and the future dreams will not become a reality unless we take advantage of the opportunities that God gives us TODAY.

Today is our day of opportunity for effective service. In John 9:4 Jesus explains; “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.” Then in II Corinthians 6;2 we read; “…In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, in this present time. Not sometime in the future. It is absolutely necessary to recognize the importance of the present, in contrast to the past or the future.”

It is foolish to rely on what we might have done in the past, or to weep over lost opportunities. It is also just as foolish to just wait for the future to happen. The only thing we can be certain of is the present. Does this mean that we don’t think about or plan for the future? No—not at all—we should plan and set goals and consider what we should do TODAY, in order to accomplish what God has laid on our heart to do.

In Proverbs 10:9 we are told; “in their hearts, humans plan their course but the Lord establishes their steps.” Back in verse 3 we read; that we should submit or commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Some translations say, “He will bless them.”

The last part of verse 9 of our text shows us though that Paul was confronted with many adversaries. There are many, who oppose him,

He was opposed by the Jewish leaders who violently disagree with his ideas about the kingdom of God. Paul believed that the Kingdom of God was wide enough and large enough to include the Gentiles. He believed that the love of God was all-inclusive and that God was just as concerned about redeeming the Gentiles as he was the sons of Abraham. In preaching salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, he was confronted with violent opposition that led to his imprisonment and eventually to his death. In spite of his external opposition from religious leaders, Paul continued his faithful service.

Paul experienced hostile opposition from the pagans whose financial security was threatened by the conversion of those who contributed to their business in Ephesus. Those who profited because of the temple of Diana were agitated to the extent that they rioted (Acts 19:23-29).

Jesus was confronted with many adversaries. On one occasion even Christ’s family sought to dissuade him from the direction in which his life was pointing. At the beginning of his ministry, he was violently opposed by the Devil, who sought to tempt him to deny his redemptive purpose. There were times during Jesus’ ministry when even the disciples opposed him. When Jesus predicted his death n Matthew 16:21-22, we see that; “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” He just didn’t understand the redemptive purpose, that Jesus was born to die for mankind. Of course it was all in God’s timing.

Once when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth, he attended the synagogue and he was asked to read the Scriptures. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and verses 18-21. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he ended by saying: “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The people were so enraged by his message that they tried to throw him over a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). We read though that; “He walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” Almost from the beginning of his ministry he experienced hostility and opposition on the part of the religious establishment who saw him as a threat to the laws and traditions as they interpreted them. They also added things to the law and they demanded that the people follow these, but they themselves didn’t. (Sounds like our politicians, doesn’t it?)  Anyway this conflict eventually led to his death.

We may worry about external opposition, but perhaps our greatest danger will be the internal hindrances that keep us from doing God’s will for our lives. This is true of our individual spiritual lives, but also collectively for our church, this body of Christ. These inward adversaries can be conquered only as we enter the doorways of opportunity for WORSHIP, STUDY, AND PRAYER in which we let God work within us so that his will might be accomplished through us.

Each of us has a built-in tendency because of sin, to avoid obligations, burdens, or difficulties. It is natural unfortunately, to be selfish and self-centered. Unless we are alert and determined to do otherwise and give ourselves over to the filling and the control of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to live carnal lives, and we will find ourselves drifting through this coming year, adding days to our lives instead of filling those days with significance and meaning.  

We must seize our opportunities for service. In the Old Testament in the account of creation, Eve didn’t seize the opportunity to obey and serve the Creator God, and Adam didn’t support her against the enemy Satan, who continues to deceive us, like he did them. Cain their son then, killed his brother Abel, because he didn’t seize the opportunity to obey and worship the Lord with all of his heart. When we hate our brothers and sisters in Christ, or when we hate anyone, it is the same as if we have killed them, or at the very least, wanted to kill them. In Matt. 5: 21-22 we read that; “we are told -do not murder because that person is subject to judgement, but Jesus said that the person who is angry with a brother or sister is also subject to judgement. In I John 2:9 we read; “You claim to live in the light, but you are living in darkness. “Walk by faith and not live in darkness.”  I John 3:15 tells us; “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. “

The door of faith is open.  Paul rejoiced that God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27). He was delighted that Gentiles could trust God and walk by faith and enjoy his favor.

To each of us is given the privilege of walking by faith (Prove. 3:5-6) to walk by faith is to enjoy the presence of God as Enoch did and Abraham and all the others listed in that great faith chapter 11 of Hebrews.

When we trust in Christ alone the door to divine sonship is open to all who will receive Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. (John 1:12) “To as many as received Him, and believed in His name, He gave the (power) or the  right to be called the sons of God. Most of you here this morning have already seized the opportunity to enter this door (the door of salvation). We can rejoice that the door is still open for others to enter. Some have declined to enter this doo and consequently remain in the darkness of spiritual destitution outside of the family of God. Don’t be that person. If you have not received Jesus Christ by inviting Him into your life, you can do so this morning.

The door to Christian witnessing is openPaul speaks of a door being open to preach the gospel in the city of Troas. The door will be open for us to announce the good news of God’s love in our community during the coming year. We, like the apostle Paul, should be praying that God would open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. (Col. 4:3) and he adds “for which I am in chains.” In verses 4-5 he says; “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Jesus said, “I am the door; if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). Jesus is the door to forgiveness, He is the door into new life, eternal like, the very life of God. He is the door to new spiritual power and energy. He is the door to hope for the future as we seek to live lives of significant achievement and service. He is the door to the eternal home of God at the end of our life.

On this first Sunday of the New Year, let each of us determine that we will be alert to seize every opportunity for worship and service to our God and to those about us. By so doing we will discover that we have already found the “land of beginning again.”

The enemy will try his best to keep you from stepping through the gigantic doors of opportunity God desires to open for you. Satan is afraid of what will happen when “his” territory is invaded by someone fully equipped with a full arsenal of spiritual weapons! So know this; God will open doors for you—but He needs you to make a determined decision that you will walk through them, no matter the opposition, with the help of His Holy Spirit. By opening the door, God has already done His part, which would have been impossible without his assistance. Now He beckons you to come dressed in the whole armor of God and in the power of His Word—and then proceed through that effectual door into new territory this year. It may look like enemies are everywhere, but it is simply a fact that the devil and his forces flee and collapse when they are subjected to a show of strong faith!.

God doesn’t open a door for you to walk through so you can fail

He is with you every step of the way.

Your situation may look frightful, but think about this: If God has supernaturally opened a new door for you—-a door that’s never before been opened—-He is not beckoning you to walk through it so you can fail. He is with you every step of the way, and He will empower you to defeat every foe and bring Him glory in that new territory that is yours to possess in Jesus’ name!

At the last Passover Supper, Jesus knew very well how the disciples were going to feel after he was betrayed. He knew they would feel like all was lost, and that they were alone. The power that they were going to receive because of what he would accomplish on the cross, would be greater than anything they had ever experienced before.  That’s why He told them in I Cor. 11:23-25 that every time they eat the bread and drink from the cup— to do it remembrance of Him.