Sermon: Giving Thanks Always For All Things

 

20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:20)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

On a scale of one to ten, how thankful are you? Think about that as I relate a couple true life stories to you.

 

Mark Tidd of Webster, New York, describes an experience from his college days. “An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bid us a good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear.

 

“To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn’t alcohol but cataracts that marbleized his eyes. 

 

On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion.

 

“On one visit, he exclaimed, ‘The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.’

 

‘That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth!’ we said. ‘We’re so happy for you.’

‘You know what’s even more wonderful?’ he asked. ‘Just yesterday I met some people who could use them.’”—Leadership Journal  (Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book: Over 4,500 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997], 380)

 

Here’s one from one of my favorite old preachers:

 

One day on the streets of London Charles H. Spurgeon was robbed. When he arrived home and told his tale, he said, “Well, thank the Lord anyway.”

 

His wife countered, “Thank the Lord that somebody stole your money?”

 

“No, my dear,” answered her husband. Then he began to enumerate some reasons why he was thankful. “First, I’m thankful the robber just took my money, not my life. Secondly, I’m thankful I had left most of our money home and he didn’t really rob me of much. Thirdly, I’m thankful to God that I was not the robber.” (Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book: Over 4,500 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997], 379)

 

What makes people so thankful? The most thankful people in the world can be, and should be Christians. I say “can be” and “should be” because, of course, often we’re not. And when we’re not, it’s because something is wrong within—we aren’t being Spirit filled. We can see the connection between being Spirit-filled and being thankful in our passage today—

 

Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

 

We’ve learned that being Spirit-filled means being controlled by the Spirit.

 

Notice that verse 18 does not end, but continues on (in the Greek and some translations like the KJV). It’s all one sentence. Being filled with the Spirit (or controlled by the Spirit) means that we will be, in verse 19, filled with music. And being filled with the Spirit also means that we will be…

 

Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 

 

So if you aren’t thankful, then you aren’t being controlled by the Spirit. This single verse has much to teach us about being thankful. We learn first that,


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Sermon: Music To God’s Ears

 

19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A. Music Is Important To God

 

Music is important to God. The words for singing or song appear over 250 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Even in Heaven, singing will be important. John describes the scene that will take place one day:

 

8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; (Revelation 5:8–9)

 

Music is important to God and music ought to be important to every Christian as well. One reason that it should be is that it is one of the effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

We read in Ephesians 5:18—

 

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)


But the sentence doesn’t end there, being filled with the Spirit means that you will be…

 

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 

 

There’s just something about being saved and being filled with the Spirit that causes a person to desire to sing. The psalmist captures that in Psalm 66—

 

1 Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: 2 Sing forth the honour of his name: Make his praise glorious. (Psalm 66:1–2)

 

Some Christians are afraid to sing out because they’re afraid they’ll sound like Barney Fife in the choir. But this singing is not something that has to be technically accurate. It’s an expression of your love for the Father and the Son who died for you. It’s evidence of the Spirit filling your life and heart.

 

Because music is important to God and to the Christian, it should be something that we want to rightly understand and use properly. Power tools are important to carpenters, but if they don’t use them properly they can be more dangerous than helpful. Music is the same way for the Christian.


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Sermon: The Warning Of God; The Prayer Of Moses

 

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs: 3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: 4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. 5 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. 6 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. 7 And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt. 8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD. 9 And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only? 10 And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God. 11 And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only. 12 And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. 14 And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. (Exodus 8:1–15)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

How do you respond to warnings in life?

 

When the Weather Service issues a warning, we might choose to ignore it, because the weatherman is hardly ever right, or we go to the store and buy a truckload of supplies and prepare to hunker down.

 

If our body issues a warning—a new ache or pain—we may or may not go see the doctor. If the police give us a warning, we might slow down for awhile.

 

Warnings for us come and go. We respond or we don’t. 

 

A feature in some of the plagues is that God gives Pharaoh a warning—a choice to respond or to be hardened. That’s what we see first…

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Sermon: Who Controls You?

 

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)


INTRODUCTION

 

I am what they call an expository preacher. Because I am, I normally preach verse by verse through books of the Bible instead of just picking and choosing the verse I want to preach on from week to week. What that means, is that I have to preach on verses that I might not be comfortable preaching on. 

 

Such is the case here, because alcohol is a controversial topic even among conservative Christians. I am well aware that, as a preacher, I can’t win on this issue—someone, maybe even everyone—is not going to like what I have to say. 

 

Christians, good Christians, are divided on whether or not it is right for a Christian to drink alcohol in moderation. That fact alone should clue us into the fact that God hasn’t made it crystal clear in the Bible about every aspect of alcohol. Therefore we should tread carefully, as when people find an unexploded bomb from World War II. 

 

While we will need to talk about drunkenness and wine, that is not the main point of this verse. The main point of the verse and this sermon is reflected in the sermon title: “Who controls you?” 

 

That what the apostle Paul was getting at when he, under the Spirit’s inspiration, wrote this verse down. As an example of something that could control you, Paul says, “be not drunk with wine,” but as we’ll see, he could have just as easily mentioned drugs or any number of mind-altering things that could control us.

 

So the first half of the verse can be summarized as…


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Sermon: The First Plague: That They May Know The Lord

 

14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go. 15 Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand. 16 And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear. 17 Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. 18 And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river. 19 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. 20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. 21 And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. 23 And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also. 24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. 25 And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river. (Exodus 7:14–25)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

In the last couple weeks, I have listened to two or three different debates between a Christian and an atheist (the latest being a debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye). While the debate topics weren’t always stated as such, they really boiled down to this topic: does God exist?

 

In each case, I was curious if the atheists would have a persuasive argument. But they never did. They might have brought up a few points where I thought, “I’ll need to study that,” but largely they demonstrated a lack of understanding of Christianity and what it’s really about.

 

Neither did they seem to consider any of the arguments for the existence of God that the Christian debater put forward. If there was no Creator, no Designer, then where did we get such design in the universe? 

 

If we are just advanced animals, where did we get objective moral laws that are practically the same the world over? Creation is full of evidence for the existence of God, they refuse to see it because their hearts are hardened.

 

The ten plagues on Egypt were meant to be judgment on Pharaoh and his people for what they did to God’s people Israel, but the plagues were also meant to be evidence that the Lord exists and that he is powerful. We see that need when Moses and Aaron first confronted Pharaoh—

 

2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go. (Exodus 5:2)

 

The Lord knew Pharaoh’s heart, and determined to bring plagues upon Egypt as judgment and evidence of his existence—

 

4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them. 6 And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they. (Exodus 7:4–6)

 

We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t do the same in our day to judge and give evidence of his existence. I believe that God is doing the same today, in disasters and such, so that people will know that he is the Lord.

 

But just has Pharaoh and many of his people didn’t believe even after ten plagues, so many people harden their hearts even more when a disaster or crisis comes.

 

Yet, disasters also bring people to ponder God’s existence. After Hurricane Katrina, atheist newspaper columnist Roy Hattersley wrote that he noticed the people who helped the most were Christians—and “notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists associations.”  He laments in his article that “it ought to be possible to live a Christian life with being Christian” (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/sep/12/religion.uk).

 

Was he saved? No, but certainly he started thinking and maybe his heart was softened towards Christianity a bit more. Certainly there are hundreds of stories like that of people who came to ponder God’s existence, or who were even saved.

 

The plagues on Egypt teaches us that God does judge and those judgments will harden hearts, but they may also open people’s minds to consider his existence and power. Those judgments were so that the Egyptians would know who the real Lord of the world was.

 

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Sermon: Walk Carefully

 

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A. Walk Carefully, Children

 

The Glen Canyon Dam sits on the Colorado River just outside of Page, AZ, about 130 miles North of Flagstaff. It’s a massive concrete dam of similar construction as the Hoover Dam—a wall of concrete towering over seven hundred feet above the river.

 

Equally impressive is the highway bridge that runs across the river gorge several hundred feet in front of the dam. It’s nearly 1,300 feet long and rises 700 feet above the river. 

 

It’s not a wide bridge. A two lane highway goes across, with a walkway on either side. The walkway has a tall chain link fence on the side, and a low guard rail to separate it from the car traffic. There is no shoulder, the traffic zooms by just a few feet from the guard rail.

 

It was on this walkway that Tami and I and our six children ventured out in April of 2012, to get a good look at the dam. Soon we realized how foolish that was, not only was the seven hundred foot drop on the one side scary, but the traffic zooming by just a few feet away was dangerously scary to parents of young children who walk weaving and meandering like the Colorado River itself.

 

And then the guard rail would have to have gaps in it every few feet! Again and again we admonished the kids to walk carefully, to hold on to the the little ones, to not wander to the left nor to the right—to walk, just this once, in a straight line!

 

And so, like a family of ducks trying to cross the road, we waddled to the first possible camera-friendly location (we didn’t even make it half-way across the bridge), gazed in amazement and fear at the awe-aspiring sight, and scurried back to the safety of our suburban waiting for us in the parking lot.


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