We are people who hear the stories of God and His work. We are people with stories that God works in us and in those with us. Let’s tell these things to each other more and more. (Joshua 5:15; Romans 8:31)
Speaker(s): Pastor Thomas Schaller, Pastor Bailey Norman
Sermon # 11371
7:30 PM on 11/22/2017
P. Bailey Norman
Greetings from Marlboro, MA. We just got in yesterday. My wife is over here. It’s good to be here. I’m so excited to get in this building and to see everybody. We’re doing well up in Marlboro. Having a lot of fun and the Gospel is going out which is amazing. Quick testimony: there is a gentlemen in a nursing home, James Mackey. You can pray for him. Extraordinary guy. I had gone to his nursing home and did a Bible study for a little while because one of our church members lives there now, and another member of our church is a nurse. So I would go and meet with a few people and pray. This guy James just started to come around because there was something happening. People doing something so he would be there. Eventually he started asking me questions. He said am I ok? I grew up in a certain religion. Is that ok? I don’t know what you mean by ok. You’re not going to get killed because of it. So we would have some conversations and then he started coming to church. I got to sit with him in the cafeteria and pray with him and he received Christ the other day. It was amazing. His testimony is that he had some serious medical issue. Extraordinary case. Actually the first face transplant in the U.S. He had fallen on the subway rail and his face was gone. He got a face transplant and his testimony was I can’t wait start my new life. And then years later, we’re sitting in the cafeteria, and he prayed to receive Christ and I said that’s your new life. He’s so excited. I was with him just before we came here and he was so happy to be growing and to be reading his Bible. I go and I visit him. He’s got a little list of questions about Jesus. I said anything else? He said next time you come I’ll be ready for you. Just stay sharp. So encouraging to see that, to see a guy come to Christ and grow in his walk. So keep us in prayer. We’re having fun and bringing the Gospel. The church is doing well. Come visit us anytime.
Joshua 5, this is a story that I’ve heard p. Scibelli preach about quite a few times. This story is right before Joshua goes into Jericho. We know the story of Jericho, right? Walk around, walk around the city. How are we going to defeat the city? Walk around quietly. Great plan. But before he goes and defeats Jericho, he has a meeting on the road. But if you think about what has happened in Joshua’s life before this point, it’s extraordinary. Joshua is a different kind of guy. He’s one of two guys that goes into the Promised Land from that generation, he and Caleb. There were 12 spies that went into the land. Ten guys had a bad report. These two guys, Joshua and Caleb, had a good report. Let’s go. We can get it now. He knew something. He lived a different way. And then also we see as they’re wandering in the wilderness, Joshua is close to Moses. When Moses is up on the mountain getting the commandments Joshua is in between. He’s not on the mountain because he can’t be, but he’s not with the congregation. When they are building an altar, they’re making a golden calf, he’s not part of it. He is waiting to hear from God. He’s waiting for the man of God to come down. He’s different. He’s living a different way. It actually says that he stood before the Lord. Joshua was different. He becomes the leader of Israel. Moses puts his hands on him, anoints him, and he is the man. He’s charged with bringing a nation into the Promised Land. What an extraordinary task. Right? This is your job, Joshua, to bring millions of people into a land promised them many years ago. As he does that what does he see?
Josh. 3 he sees the river, the Jordan river split and walks through on dry ground. Isn’t that amazing? It says as soon as the priests who were carrying the ark dipped their toes in the water, it parted. And they walked through on dry ground. It’s a fascinating fact. Ever walk through water? Ever walk through a stream or a lake? Was it dry where your feet were? No. Wet. The water goes away and dry ground. Joshua saw all of this. Joshua saw a lot of things that God had done. Now he’s being told to do something very different which is lead them into the Promised Land. And before he does that, before he takes on Jericho, he has a meeting.
Josh 5:13, are you for us or against us? Are you joining the fight or are we going to fight right now?
vs. 14. The response was different. He said, no. Joshua said it wasn’t a yes or no question. Looking for a little more! He says, no, but as the captain of the host of the Lord am I now come….I think it’s extraordinary that as Joshua who is someone who knows God, someone who has experienced the work of God, someone who has lived differently because of his faith in God and has seen a difference because of it, is now meeting God in a different way. As he is going into the Promised Land, as he is going in to possess the things that God has given him to possess, that he is being led and he’s knowing God in a different way. That he is knowing him as someone else. He is knowing him more, and he’s finding out another part of who God is. None of what is revealed to him here takes away from anything he had seen, but actually it reinforces the life he had been living. Here now is somebody that is standing with him with his sword drawn. And he’s saying to him are you going to fight me or are you with me? He says neither. I’m not fighting with you, I’m not fighting against you but I am going to fight and you are going to follow me. I am the captain of the host. That I am the one that is fighting before you and leading you into the thing that you have to do. And what’s Joshua’s reaction?
vs. 15. He fell down and worshipped.
Rom 8:31, what shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? What shall we say to these things? What things?
If you read Romans 8 and actually the whole book of Romans from 1 to 8, there is a lot of doctrine there. There’s a lot of teaching there. Paul is leading the Romans into an understanding of who God is. In this section from 31 to 35, he asks six questions. He’s leading people to the understanding that they are growing in who they are in God, and that we are growing in our understanding of who God is. We can look at the Jordan River as a picture of our salvation. Right? We crossed over the Jordan River and we are now in Christ. We are saved. We are seated in heavenly places. We are delivered into God. After we cross the Jordan River, what happens next? Is that just it? Right? Is that it? Like I have these experiences that have brought me to this place where I am saved, and now I just have to live here until it’s over? But Paul is saying here with these questions he’s saying, what do we say about these things? What conclusions can we draw based on the things that are described here?
If you read just Romans 8, just Romans 8:1-30, every verse has something about what God is doing or every verse has something that is related to a Spirit-filled life. And then Paul says what do we say about these things? What do we say about predestination? What do we say about the understanding that God has already glorified us? What do we say about this? If God be for us, who can be against us? The conclusion I come to is no matter how far or how long I walk with God, I will always be understanding something new, that I will always be growing in who he is. He will always be revealing himself to me. And this is the thing that I live by. I want a revelation of who God is. That at some point as my faith becomes something that I’m content with, as my faith becomes something like, oh, yeah, I crossed the Jordan River. Yeah I sat there, I watched Moses come down the mountain. Yeah, I came back with a good report. Yeah, I lived this way. Then God could challenge us and say, have you met me recently? Have you seen who I am? As we walk and as we grow in our salvation, we understand there is so much more that we don’t know. There are mysteries, the grace of God is never, we’re never fully satisfied with our understanding of the grace of God. We never really know how much God loves us. Are we willing to meet him on the road? Are we walking in our salvation and being led by him deeper and deeper and deeper? That’s the call, isn’t it? It even says here in Joshua 5 that the manna had ceased. The manna had ceased. They weren’t eating manna anymore. God was leading them into the next part. He was leading them further.
Do we think as God leads us are we called by him? Do we have something we are hanging on to? We say there is no manna here Lord. How can I go forward if there is no manna? And he’s saying, come here. Come see who I am. Come learn who I am. We say what do we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? When it says he’s for us it’s so much more than he is rooting for us or on our side. You know the fat heads. You know those big heads you see in the basketball games? Guy’s got a head size, giant head of somebody else. Even with that, that person is for you. Someone has your face on a t-shirt. That person is for you. At some point, that person can take off the t-shirt. They can put down the fat head. They can put down the thing, and where are they? When it says God is for us, he has committed himself to us. He has made an eternal commitment to us, that he would lead us. We would grow in him and that we would come to understand more of who we are. That’s the life we are called to. You can go through this chapter and it’s unbelievable.
Romans 8, what do we say to condemnation? There is no condemnation. What do we say about our freedom? We are free in Christ by a new law, the law of the Spirit of life where sin is condemned. We walk freely with him. Cross the river but keep going, keep exploring, keep finding God. When we find him he is saying I am so much more than just on your side. I am not against you. But I am so much more than just for you. I am the one who has gone before you, has prepared everything.
Like it says in Rom. 8:29-30, whom he did foreknow he did predestinate to be conformed into the image of his Son. He’s leading us into this understanding of him. Amen.
I have a sentence from Mark Twain I wanted to put on the screen for your meditation as we start. “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” What does that mean? Can you read it out loud? What does that mean? Should I repeat that, P. Steve? In social media, which we are an advocate for. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s part of our culture today but like anything it can be misused. Something inside of me might not be able to tear away from it. Becoming an addiction. It can affect me somehow. The questions are out there what is happening in our society because of all of our technology.
I do have a little piece here that I want to read. This is about Thanksgiving. It goes along with what P. Bailey was saying. In a word I would say God has spoken to us by stories. What P. Bailey was sharing was the great story of God being faithful to Israel and bringing them out. Joshua saw the Red Sea parted and saw the work of God. Joshua had a story. Christ came into the world and he was a story teller. We have stories. Everyone in this room, we have a story. If you think about the things that mean the most to you often time they are the trials and trouble.
I’ll read this: “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence has been through affliction and not through happiness. In other words, if ever there were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo as Huxley envisaged in Brave New Word, the result would not be to make life delectable but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. This is of course what the cross signifies. It is the cross more than anything else that has called me inexorably to Christ.” This is Malcolm Muckeridge. Trials. Our story.
Tomorrow we will gather around Thanksgiving. If you don’t have a place to go, P. Dan is doing the street outreach. I’m not saying that’s the place for you to go. Maybe after the service if you’re lingering in the hallway out there and you don’t have any place to go, maybe somebody would invite you to their home. Leave no man behind! I don’t know if that will happen for you but it could. We care about you. This Body is amazing and very hospitable and generous.
At the table. This is important. The lost table. The American family table has been lost. The lost dinner table. The lost connection. The lost conversation. The lost testimony and the lost story. Ever told stories to children and make it up as you go? It’s hard to do. I’ve been doing it at different times. There was a dog. Where was the dog? Cape Cod. What happened? There was a storm and the rain came down. They were on a cliff. And there was an old man in a house. He was in a creaky rocking chair. I’m making it up as I go along. Then what happened? And the lightning flashed and the dog got sick and the storm came. Then what happened? Do you know what children want to know? They want to know then what happened and how does it end. And that’s a story. God is the greatest story teller to the human race because people are interested and hungry for stories. Not the clean story with a perfect life and everyone happy on social media.
A neuroscientist was talking about getting new information and he had so much information. The interviewer said oh, so you are connected to each other. Yes to several dozen people. I just don’t know how to start a conversation. His words jarred me. For me, face to face conversation is the stuff of life. My thoughts zipped to New York City Penn Station ten years earlier and so on. He’s telling the story. What is the big difference in the workplace now for you? It bothers me when a young person sends me an email while sitting five feet away. Why does that matter? It’s efficient. She got quiet for a moment. He looked straight at us and said, I miss the face to face eye contact. Eye contact makes us human. I doubt that she had read the work of a cognitive neuroscientist who says a richer mode of communication is possible right after making eye contact. It amplifies your ability to compute all the signals so you’re able to read the other person’s brain.”
Okay, a few things. Mark Twain lived in the 19th century. He said we could do a lot of talking but not have a connection. Another thing in this study, the social media communications are not suggesting vulnerability and weakness but comparison. I went on vacation. Here it is. Here’s a photo of my dog or my child. It’s just comparison. There is something radically missing. You know what it is? A story. Trouble. Heartache. Contest. Depression. Fear. Loneliness. I can get a lot of info through technology but what I need is a story from a human being that has something to say to me about the ultimate answer.
The Pilgrims came here and had a great trial of faith and turned to God. That’s our story in the U.S.A. There was Mary in England executing Protestants. 1620 waive of departures to Holland looking for freedom. They bordered the Mayflower and came here. It was a small group of people. They were believers. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. They were persecuting Bible believing Christians that came from Europe. They were seeking a solution to their deep problems. Their trouble was part of their story.
We could look at them face to face and heart to heart. It’s not a lot of fluff. It’s a real communication in the life of people. We have come on a Wed. night and full three dimensional form. We are seeing each other eye to eye and face to face. We are able to say thanks for praying for me. I need it. At the table tomorrow we are saying thanks in the context of our story. Some of the most troublesome challenging times I am thankful for. Our heavenly Father hasn’t made us to be marshmallows but to have some steel and fiber and he would be that steel and fiber. The Holy Spirit would come into our life and we would say we have a testimony. P. Philippe was telling me in France, which is very secular country, young people are looking for spirituality. They are looking for other solutions than secularism. They are looking for a story and you have one. We have. Happy is the man God whom God correcteth. Therefore despise thou not the chastening of the Almighty.
When you get really alone. Let me say one thing about this. There’s a difference between loneliness and solitude. We need solitude but we don’t need loneliness. When a man is lonely he is hungry for connection. You can be lonely with a large group of people and a thousand likes. I hit the top but who cares. Wide is easy. Wind is wide. The ocean is deep. The heart of man is made for God. When God turns the spigot off and you wrestle and struggle, and look and seek, God is saying give me all your heart. I will fill you with the H.S. I can be alone but not lonely. Holiness is in my heart. I have something going on that is from Christ.
Tomorrow when we are with each other in our homes and small groups, someone will tell their story, two sentences or three. They are saying something that is a testimony of God’s love. Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. Be still and know that I am God. My son despise not the chastening of the Lord neither be weary of his correction. When you’re getting tossed around, don’t get weary or tired out. The Lord’s voice cries unto the city. The man of wisdom shall see your name. Hear ye the rod and who has appointed it. Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will but yours. We glory in tribulation also. This message I need to hear for myself. This has been a pretty good ride. I need to be comforted like all of us knowing in our tribulation we can glory. We can say tribulation is going to work patience in my life. Rejoicing in hope. My grace is sufficient for you…weakness. Most gladly will I glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ will rest upon me. Strengthened with all might according to his glorious power. That strength of Christ in the inner man became his story. Grandpa, why are you generally so happy? Grandma, tell me a story about your ancestors, your grandmother. Tell me a story about your biggest trial in life? Why do you go to church all the time? Why do you talk about missions? What do you think about prayer? Children, grandchildren are looking for stories. There’s a lot of surface living. In the United States of America, people are starving for mission. They are hungry for it. People want something more.
When your life is over it isn’t how much money you collected or this or that – social media according to scientists who study it, it’s not about content but about comparison. Comparing people with people. I’m saying it generally and bringing it into the message to stimulate our thinking. I need a church, a face, an experience. Gideon, tell me your story. Elijah tell me yours. John the Baptist, Paul, tell me yours. They will say don’t despise the day of small beginnings. You take a long walk but are somehow lost. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and he will lead you and guide you and take care of you. You’ll have something to say that people want to listen to it. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Watch in all things. Endure afflictions for you had compassion of me in my bonds and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods knowing in yourselves that you have a better and enduring substance. How many of our sisters and brothers believe that. I can get persecuted for my faith but I can get a more enduring substance. P. Matti book and the little stories that he tells, it stirs our heart. We get a little bit jealous about this man’s life is amazing. His faith, his trails, this life of living for others like we do in the Body.
I see it manifested in many way amongst us. The Thanksgiving dinner, the security, the parking lot, the bookstore, the prayer meetings, the women’s ministry, the ministry of caring and counseling. Millions of little things that God takes note of. It’s our Bible speaks story. When you get a bunch of us together we laugh. We know what it is. It’ s in our hearts. It’s a story. How does it end? Where is it going? Then what happened? Then what happened? Then what happened? Thank God it’s a crazy story. The only way the real message of it, is God was with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was with David. God was with Solomon. God was with Paul. The only thing we can say is we glorify God he is with us. We glory in our trials and tribulations as a badge of honor. We haven’t stopped. We are believing in it. We are carrying it without shame. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation. What an amazing thing. There is somebody in Africa that would say amen. It happened to me. Don’t be satisfied only with the surface connection. As that young man said, I have a lot of connections but I don’t know how to start a conversation. I know how to type out little comments and use my phone, but.
Mark Twain was born 1835 and died in 1910. He lived in a different century but this could be applied to the 21st century easily. Let us make a special effort to stop communication. He’s saying there is a lot of fluff in our talking and we need to take care so we have some conversation, some connection. How are you really doing? On the other hand, I don’t want to hear how you are really doing. I’m so happy, edified, encouraged.
People are looking for something not passed away. You and I make the effort to follow close with Christ and listen to him speak to us and lead us in the faith. The faith is faith not just knowledge. That’s scary. Pray by faith. Get outside your comfort zone by faith. Reach a neighbor by faith. Minister to them and the time will come. You are doing it by faith. We are living here and we have limited time. We got a story.
You have a story that is written in your hearts. We all have something because God has given it to us. The Bible is filled with stories. They are not fluff but real blood, sweat and tears. Real journeys of faith with real people. We found God walking with us in it. God through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me. We have a story.
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