Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Category: Devotional Thoughts (page 2 of 27)

The Ministry of Reminding

“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. . .  “ -Romans 15:14-15

One of the greatest joys I had in the Philippines was teaching the Scriptures to students who had never really studied them before.  I’d hand out copies of the New Testament and tell them the page number where they could find the passage we would study.  It was the first time many of them had experienced a simple, verse-by-verse discussion of God’s word with someone willing to answer their questions.

The same goes for my preaching ministry: I had to be careful about assuming my listeners knew anything about the text I would be sharing.  This was particularly true in some of the evangelistic preaching opportunities God gave me.

There was something extremely refreshing about doing ministry in this kind of setting.  What an amazing privilege!

This is not to say that Filipinos are biblically illiterate–there are thousands of faithful believers there who diligently study the Bible.  But my ministry was focused more on those who were new to the faith.

My ministry took an ironic turn here in the States.  I’ve had the privilege of preaching (short-term) in three churches.  All three congregations were of an older demographic: the average attendee had probably been listening to sermons since before I was born.

“What can I share that they haven’t already heard many times before?”  I asked myself this question as I embarked on this new season of ministry.

God taught me something very important: I don’t have to teach/preach anything “new.”   I’m not saying God lead me to “recycle” old sermon outlines from C.H. Spurgeon.  Preaching, after all, is applying the timeless truths of Scripture to our modern context.  But I realized that preaching is a ministry of reminding for many of us who have had already learned the basics doctrines of the faith.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m always learning new things when I prepare for (or listen to) sermons.  But I’ve let go of the need to hear “I’ve never heard anything like that before” when I preach. I’m just as content to know I have reminded my listeners of things we need to hear over and over again.  Here are a few examples that quickly come to mind:KevinSRC

  • It’s not about us.
  • We can trust God.
  • Life is fleeting.
  • God expects obedience.
  • We are forgiven in Christ.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.  We need to constantly hear the gospel preached because we are a forgetful people.  I’m thankful for the ministry of reminding–both as a preacher and hearer of God’s word.

Encouragement for the Tempted

A Way of Escape

A Way of Escape

I’ll be preaching on 1st Corinthians 10:1-13 in a couple of weeks (Sunday, November 3rd at North Valley Church).  Paul refers the Christians in Corinth to the Book of Exodus, encouraging them to learn from the mistakes made by the Israelites.

I find the final verse in the passage to be extremely helpful.  1st Corinthians 10:13 has three encouraging truths for those facing temptation:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
-1st Corinthians 10:13

Truth #1: Your temptations are not unique.

I’ve read dozens of emails from people who are struggling with some kind of “secret” sin.  They often feel completely alone, which only adds to their sense of shame.  It’s agonizing to think you are the only person in your church who doesn’t have his/her act together.  The enemy would use this belief to shame you into silent suffering.

You may be struggling with lust, pornography, addiction, a sinful relationship or some other stubborn sin.  You are not alone!  Paul reminds us that all temptations are “common to mankind.” Take heart–we all struggle with sinful desires of one form or another.  Get some accountability in your life and break out of your self-imposed solitary confinement.

 Truth #2: God is in control.

The God who controls the universe is also sovereign over your particular situation.  You may feel like the allure of sin is just too strong, but God will never allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to make the right decision.

Parents do everything in their power to make sure their children are protected.  A loving father would never knowingly allow his child to walk across a busy highway–there’s no way the little boy/girl would safely make it across.  How much more will our heavenly Father watch over us and make sure we are not tempted beyond our ability to endure!

Truth #3:  There’s always a way out

A skilled architect will design building with several fire exits so residents can get out if there is some kind of emergency.  God has done the same thing as far as temptation goes–He always makes sure there is one or more ways to escape.  Sinning is never our only option!

But the fire exit only works if you are willing to take it at the first sign of danger.  This is especially true of sexual temptation–treat like a hand grenade and run!

 Remember these three truths the next time you are facing temptation. 

Look Back, Look Ahead

rear-view-mirror-image

“Never look back.”
“Forget about the past.”

You’ve probably heard statements like this from your Christian friends.

Such exhortations are consistent with the Scriptures. Jesus, for example, warned against looking back after you’ve put your proverbial “hand to the plow” (Luke 9:62). Paul told the Philippians he was “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:11). Dwelling on certain aspects of the past (sins, regrets, etc.) are counterproductive and can even be destructive to our souls.

But there is a place for looking back in our spiritual journey. Here’s what I mean: there are times when it is particularly helpful to remember God’s faithfulness in your life. Otherwise you may be guilty of “spiritual amnesia.”

The Scriptures are full of examples, but two scenes have come to mind as I’ve been thinking about this:

Scene #1: Exodus 14

The Lord had called Moses from exile and used him to bring the world’s most powerful empire to its knees. The stubborn Pharaoh finally yielded after losing his son in the tenth plague. The Israelites were marching to freedom, guided by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But the king of Egypt changed his mind and decided to pursue his former slaves. The Israelites were terrified when they saw their former oppressors in pursuit. This was their cry to Moses:

They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?
–Exodus 14:11

Scene #2: Mark 8

Most are familiar with Jesus’ miracle of feeding over 5,000 people with a simple meal. But Mark and Matthew record a similar miracle some time later in the life of Christ. Jesus was moved with compassion for the hungry crowd following him—4,000 men (plus women and children). The Lord expressed His desire to see them fed since they had not eaten for three days. But the disciples’ were skeptical, even though they had seen Jesus feed a greater crowd. Here’s their response:

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
–Mark 8:4

We know how both stories end—God provided for His people through mighty demonstrations of supernatural power. But the reactions of both the Children of Israel and the disciples of Jesus intrigue me. They responded in fear and doubt, quickly forgetting all they had seen in recent days. Would God really go through all that trouble only to allow the Israelites to die in the desert? Would it be difficult for Jesus to feed a crowd of 4,000+ after doing the same for a group of over 5,000?

But I can’t point my finger at either group. It is easier, after all, to have faith when you already know how the story will end.

We’ve all had moments when we can’t understand what God is doing. You may find it especially helpful to look back on God’s faithfulness in your life during these trials (keeping a journal is especially helpful for this purpose). Remember the times God has shown Himself faithful and expect Him to do it again. Look back, then look ahead.

Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
–Psalm 103:2

Can God Use Me?

mosesbush

A few weeks ago I preached on the call of Moses (Exodus 3:1-4:17).  Here are a few thoughts:

The call of God is a very individual thing. He chose to speak to Moses from a burning bush—something that has never been done before or since. Don’t expect Him to speak to you in the exact same way He has spoken to someone else. But you can count on this: God will always make Himself perfectly clear to His children. None of us will be able to stand before Him and say, “Sorry, Lord, I just never got the message.” God has a way of making sure we know what He really wants.

The real issue is whether or not you will obey and do whatever it is God is asking of you. This requires faith, especially when the Lord is telling you to do something that doesn’t make sense. This is the choice Moses was faced with when God spoke to him and asked him to lead.

Sometimes God uses people who are “natural born leaders.” I think you know the type of person I’m talking about: the guy or girl who was always class president, captain of the sports team, or voted “most likely to succeed.” There are some people whose natural drive and charisma makes them natural candidates for leadership.

But Moses wasn’t one of those people, and that’s why I appreciate this story so much–he’s someone I can relate to. It’s another case of God choosing a seemingly unlikely character to do amazing things.

Let’s think about Moses’ life at the time of the burning bush. Years earlier he was moved by the oppression of his people and murdered an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave. He fled the country once he realized there were witnesses to this impulsive, violent act. He married and settled down in the land of Midian, giving his first son a name that sounded like “sojourner.” He lived in exile, tending his father-in-law’s sheep for forty years. He was content with this anonymous, low profile life, and he had no reason to expect things would change in his old age.

God had something else in mind. He had not forgotten the plight of His people, and He was choosing to act in His perfect time. He would use a human agent to accomplish His will, and Moses was his choice.

Moses recognized the voice of the Lord, but he was not enthusiastic about this assignment. We could use several adjectives to describe his excuses, but they could all be summarized this way: Moses felt completely inadequate to do what God was asking. How could an old, washed-up shepherd liberate an entire nation from the world’s most powerful empire?

God’s answers to Moses’ objection could be summarized in Exodus 3:14:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

The Lord identified Himself and promised to be with Moses: His presence and power would overcome any of Moses’ shortcomings. That’s a good word for you and me—God will walk beside us every step of the way when we obey!

This promise of God’s presence is reason enough to trust and obey Him. But let’s dig a little deeper into the background of Moses. He was miraculously rescued from genocide by one of the Pharaoh’s own daughters. He would learn the language and culture of the Egyptians, presumably trained alongside royalty. Even his exile had divine purpose: Jethro, his father-in-law, was a priest of Midian. Surely he was a spiritual mentor, teaching Moses about the ways of God. And forty years as a shepherd was probably good training for patiently leading the hardheaded Israelites. Perhaps Moses wasn’t such an unlikely leader, after all. He felt afraid and inadequate, but God had sovereignly molded him into the perfect candidate for leadership!

Let’s look at how the the life and ministry of Moses are summarized in the Scriptures:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
-Deuteronomy 34:10-12

I find great encouragement in knowing God did this with someone who didn’t even want the job!

Here’s the main point of this post (and the sermon I preached):
God doesn’t make mistakes, so we shouldn’t make excuses.

Can God use you? The answer is YES!

You may feel completely inadequate for the task God is asking you to do. Obey Him anyway—God will be with you and use you in ways you never would have imagined.

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