Esau: The Firstborn Who Lost His Birthright (Genesis 25:19-34)

Esau: The Firstborn Who Lost His Birthright (Genesis 25:19-34)

Jacob swindled Esau’s birthright.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, August 18, 2018

My dad was raised in a family of seven. He had one brother who is now deceased. Unfortunately, my dad’s family was, and is, very broken. Most all of his siblings ran away from home as teenagers and my dad moved out at sixteen and was married at eighteen years of age. His brother never drove and did not hold a job. Growing up my dad’s brother was an example of laziness and living off the system. It is sad really. As I was finishing elementary school my grandmother, my dad’s mother, lived with us following a hip replacement. Following that, the same grandmother lived with us off and on until her early death. At one point my dad’s brother came up in conversation. In that conversation my grandmother shared these telling words: Your dad [my grandfather] would work alongside my dad. He would encourage my dad. If my dad worked on the car and fixed something, he could expect a congratulation from his father. However, his brother [my dad’s brother], did not receive the same encouragement. He did not have the same relationship with his father. From this conversation we could see that my grandmother thought that my dad’s brother’s lack of a work ethic goes back to his father, my grandfather.

From everything I have learned about family dynamics, I think she is right. Grandma was right. I was once listening to Focus on the Family and a man said “You raise a son like you raise a good hunting dog. When you have a hunting dog every time you get in the truck you take the hunting dog with you. When you are raising a son, every time you get in the truck you take your son with you.” That was an interesting analogy.

We are in a sermon series on people of the Bible. The sermon today could be an example of certain bad parenting. Today, we talk about Esau. We see that Isaac seemed to favor Esau, while Rebekah favored Jacob. My favorite preacher and author, Chuck Swindoll, wrote about Esau and said that Esau could not win. He makes the case that Esau could not win because of his parent’s favoritism. We see the favoritism in today’s passage, but also in other places.


Meet Jacob and Esau, Jacob swindled the blessing out of Esau, but God works in our sinfulness. The major application: Trust God, He is sovereign and even works in our sinfulness.

Smaller application: Don’t show favoritism.

Let’s read Genesis 25:19-34:

 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”

24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Let’s walk through this passage and learn about Esau.

  1. In verses 19-22 we see the Lord’s words concerning Jacob and Esau:
    1. In context we had just read about Ishmael’s descendants. We have also read about Abraham’s death. Abraham’s death was recorded in the previous chapter, but he is still alive right now. This passage is not in chronological order with the previous chapter. Sometimes that happens. Abraham lived to be 175 years old.
    2. The previous chapter was dealing with Ishmael, but now we are dealing with Isaac.
    3. Isaac was born and that was in the previous chapters. This chapter, verse 20: Isaac was 40 when he was married to Rebekah. This passage gives the details about Rebekah. We know that from Genesis 24. Isaac being 40, this means Abraham is now 140 years old. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. his death was recorded in the previous chapter, but he lived to be 175
    4. One source shares: Some valuable information is provided here. We learn here that Isaac married thirty-five years before Abraham died, that Rebekah was barren for twenty years, and that Abraham would have lived to see Jacob and Esau begin to grow up. The death of Abraham was recorded in the first part of the chapter as a “tidying up” of one generation before beginning the account of the next.[1]
    5. In these first few verses we see a dominant Biblical truth, the Lord controls the womb. We see that repeatedly throughout the Bible.
    6. We see another truth here as well. We see the idea of prayer. Rebekah is barren and so Isaac prays. The Lord answered.
    7. There is an application here: Do we pray about all things? We see here that Isaac trusted the Lord to pray.
    8. The Lord answers their prayer and she becomes pregnant.
    9. Then, verse 22: The children are in the womb and they struggled together. The Hebrew word used here suggests a violent struggle that was out of the ordinary.[2]
    10. She was so bothered by this that she asked the Lord about it. How she inquired of the Lord is hard to tell. She might have gone to a priest. It is hard to tell, but it seems as though Isaac represented the family and went to the Lord with this need. It seems as though she said “why even be pregnant if it is like this?”
    11. Rebekah wanted to know what was happening to her, but the question itself reflects a growing despair over the struggle of the unborn children.[3]She Asked theLord. In other passages (1 Sam 9:9) this expression refers to inquiring of a prophet, but no details are provided here.[4]
    12. Swindoll shared how women pick up on things that we won’t pick up on. She could tell that the pregnancy did not seem right.
  2. In verses 23-26: The Lord responds:
    1. The Lord’s response refers to their future. The Lord shares about the future of their nations.
    2. In her womb are the heads of two nations. One is stronger. The older will serve the younger and this was rare.
    3. In verse 24: as the Lord said she gives birth to twins.
    4. In verse 25: the passage describes Esau, red and hairy.
    5. In verse 26: Jacob is born and his hand is holding Esau’s heal. Jacob means one who grasps the heal. One shares: The name Jacob is a play on the Hebrew word for “heel” (עָקֵב, ’aqev). The name (since it is a verb) probably means something like “may he protect,” that is, as a rearguard, dogging the heels. It did not have a negative connotation until Esau redefined it. This name was probably chosen because of the immediate association with the incident of grabbing the heel. After receiving such an oracle, the parents would have preserved in memory almost every detail of the unusual births.[5]
    6. Isaac is now 60 years old and Abraham would be 160 years old.
  • In verses 27-34: Jacob buys the birthright for stew. Really, Jacob swindles Esau out of his birthright.
    1. Esau is a hunter who is very skillful.
    2. Jacob is peaceful and lived in tents. One source shares:
    3. The incident with the stew appears to take place away from home, otherwise Esau could have appealed to his parents. Jacob is not the hunting type, so it would be unusual for him to be out in the countryside alone. He has been described as a man “staying among the tents,” which may indicate he was more closely associated with the shepherding business. The shepherds moved their camps over a broad area of land in order to find water and grazing for the flocks. It is most likely that Jacob would be out supervising some of the shepherds at such a camp when Esau stumbled upon them. Jacob would be the one in charge at the camp, so the decision would be his, and there would therefore be witnesses to the agreement made between Jacob and Esau.[6]
    4. In verse 28 we see that Isaac liked the game which Esau hunted and this caused him to love Esau more. However, Rebekah loved Jacob. This goes back to my opening regarding parenting.
    5. Esau is famished, but Jacob has cooked stew. Esau wants some of the red stew which Jacob has cooked. In Hebrew the name Edom is similar to the word red.[7]
    6. In verse 31, Jacob says “First” sell the birthright. I wonder if Jacob set this up. Maybe he knew Esau would come in very tired and he knew he would sell the birthright… I wonder if Jacob wanted the birthright badly.
    7. I like how Swindoll helps us think this through, he writes: Two very different boys grew into manhood. In doing so, two realities emerged. First, the men were very opposite in their temperaments. Second, Jacob was not a sissy, but a normal man by the standards of his day. He was a cultured, even-tempered, civilized man with clean fingernails. Esau was astudy in contrast. He was unusually rugged, independent, and passionate. He smelled like the countryside where he preferred to live. Jacob lived by his wits; Esau lived by his gut instinct. Jacob became shrewd; Esau remained gullible. Jacob thought strategically, Esau impulsively. You’ve got the picture.[8]
    8. The birthright doesn’t mean much in our modern, Western, Gentile culture. But in that day, to those people, it involved every aspect of family life. The birthright bore incredible significance. James Hastings, one of the reliable early biographers of biblical characters, makes several statements about the value of a birthright:
    9. To the birthright belonged pre-eminence over the other branches of the family. To the birthright appertained a double portion of the paternal inheritance. To the birthright was attached the land of Canaan, with all its sacred distinctions. To the birthright was given the promise of being the ancestor of the Messiah—the “firstborn among many brethren”—the Saviour in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. And to the birthright was added the honor of receiving first, from the mouth of the father, a peculiar benediction, which proceeding from the spirit of prophecy, was never pronounced in vain. Such were the prospects of Esau.[9]

Tim Keller shares:  

Many years ago, when I first started reading the Book of Genesis, it was very upsetting to me. Here are all these spiritual heroes—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph—and look at how they treat women. They engage in polygamy, and they buy and sell their wives. It was awful to read their stories at times. But then I read Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative. Alter is a Jewish scholar at Berkeley whose expertise is ancient Jewish literature. In his book he says there are two institutions present in the Book of Genesis that were universal in ancient cultures: polygamy and primogeniture. Polygamy said a husband could have multiple wives, and primogeniture said the oldest son got everything—all the power, all the money. In other words, the oldest son basically ruled over everyone else in the family. Alter points out that when you read the Book of Genesis, you’ll see two things. First of all, in every generation polygamy wreaks havoc. Having multiple wives is an absolute disaster—socially, culturally, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and relationally. Second, when it comes to primogeniture, in every generation God favors the younger son over the older. He favors Abel, not Cain; Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau. Alter says that you begin to realize what the Book of Genesis is doing—it is subverting, not supporting, those ancient institutions at every turn.

When I read Alter’s book, I then reread the Book of Genesis and loved it. And then it hit me: What if when I was younger, I had abandoned my trust in the Bible because of these accounts in Genesis? What if I had drop-kicked the Bible and the Christian faith, missing out on a personal relationship with Christ—all because I couldn’t understand the behavior of the patriarchs? The lesson is simple: Be patient with the text. Consider the possibility that it might not be teaching what you think it’s teaching.[10]

  1. As we look at the rest of the passage, Esau thinks he will die without the stew and living is better than dying so he sells the birthright. So, Jacob made Esau swear this to him. Jacob followed through and Esau despised his birthright. In other words, he was indifferent to it.
  2. One source shares: Esau was contemptuous of his special firstborn status. On the basis of this, Heb. 12:16 describes Esau as “unholy.” Esau did not appreciate that his birthright was linked to God’s plan of redemption for the whole world.[11]
  3. Another shares, Explicit moral commentary is rare in the Bible, so the writer’s inclusion of it here marks something about Esau that he did not want the reader to miss.[12]
  4. As we wrap up this passage let me summarize the next few chapters so that you can get a complete picture of Esau.
  5. Genesis 26 is about Isaac, then chapter 27 comes back to Jacob and Esau.
  6. In Genesis 27 There is a major deceptive account of Jacob stealing the blessing from Esau. Now, Jacob has already paid for the blessing, but now he actually takes it. I guess Esau was not really going to give it to him. In reality, Isaac should have known that the blessings of the firstborn belonged to Jacob, the younger God declared that, yet, Isaac was not obeying God. However, God’s will comes about in the end.
  7. Let me break down chapter 27:
  8. Verses 1-4: Isaac calls Esau and tells him to go hunt some game and they will eat and he will give him the blessing.
  9. Verses 5-17: Rebekah had overheard Isaac’s plan, but she loves Jacob more. So she has her own plan. Jacob is to take a few of the young goats and have them slaughtered and Rachel will prepare them. Jacob will go into his father, Isaac, and pretend to be Esau and steal the blessing. Isaac’s eyesight is failing so this should not be an issue. Jacob will wear Esau’s clothes and use goat skin to make him feel hairy like Esau.
  10. Verses 18-29: the plan works and Jacob is blessed.
  11. Verses 30-38: Esau returns and is upset that the blessing was stolen. Isaac and Esau are beyond upset. Esau gets the secondary blessing.
  12. Yet, notice in all this treachery God’s plan still comes to pass. In multiple places we see parents favoring one over another, multiple times we see deceit and treachery.

Chuck Swindoll writes the following:

What if Isaac had been an involved, proactive father who was obedient to God’s plan, rather than one who allowed his favoritism to passively resist it?

What if Rebekah and Isaac had prepared the boys to obey early in life, saying something like this: “Now, boys, we have some extremely important information about you two straight from the Lord. Jacob is to receive the birthright and blessing, even though he’s the youngest. We don’t understand why, but God is good and all His ways are right. Esau, you will be very, very wealthy and you will have a great nation that can be an ally to the covenant people that will come through Jacob. Your descendants can share in all its blessings.” 

What if Esau had received attention equal to Jacob’s and all the approval he craved from his parents? What if he had graciously released the birthright to Jacob in humble obedience and surrendered to the Lord’s loving, sovereign will? To borrow the idea from Corrie ten Boom shared in the previous chapter, what if he had held his birthright loosely?

What if Jacob had humbly received the blessing and offered to share his wealth and privilege with Esau?

How might history have turned out differently? How much happier would everyone have been? How much more glory would God have received through the obedience of His people? It’s difficult to say, but the story closes with yet another example of how each person’s sinful perspective added further complication. Isaac was passive, uninvolved, and yielding. Rebekah manipulated and spun the truth. Jacob scurried away to avoid owning his responsibility. And, in a move typical of Esau, he reacted with self-destructive impulsiveness to make matters worse.

To save her son from Esau’s wrath, Rebekah sent Jacob packing to visit her brother far, far away. But to gain Isaac’s support, his wife resorted to manipulation and deceit again. She tricked Isaac into thinking that Jacob should find a wife and that she could be found near her brother.[13]

The story continues, mainly with Isaac, in chapter 28, but we will stop there.

  1. Let’s make some applications:
  2. In verse 21, Isaac prayed for a child. We must recognize the Lord is sovereign over the womb. The Lord is in control. We must always pray for every situation. The Lord is in control.
  3. The Lord had already promised greatness for Jacob and his descendants, we must trust the Lord in His promises and not try to make things work out on our own.
    1. We must seek the Lord’s Word to see what His will is.
    2. We must not try to go against His Word.
    3. We must not try to reach the Lord’s will through sin.
    4. We must not try to manipulate things for His will.
    5. We must TRUST the Lord.
    6. We must not try to achieve the Lord’s will through debt.
  4. We must not favor one child over another as Isaac and Rebekah did (Gen. 25:28).
    1. We must spend equal resources with our children to the extent that we are able.
    2. We must support our children emotionally and meet their needs. Every child is different,.
    3. We must support our children spiritually, leading them spiritually. We must not neglect one child.
    4. We must support our children with physical felt needs.
    5. We must not teach one child and not the other.
    6. When we mess up, and we will, we must apologize and repent to God and our children.
  5. We must trust God’s sovereignty as His will came through after this whole mess. In Genesis 25:23 God had declared the older will serve the younger.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.



[1]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 25:20.

[2]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 25:22.

[3]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 25:22.

[4]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 25:22.

[5]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 25:26.

[6]Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ge 25:29–30.


[8]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[9]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[10]Tim Keller, in the sermon “Literalism” (available on on 5-17-10)


[12]Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Ge 25:31.

[13]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Abraham, the Father of many Nations (Genesis 12:1-5)

Abraham, the Father of Nations (Genesis 12:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on August 11, 2019

We will be turning to Genesis 12 in just a moment, but allow me to setup the passage

We are in a new sermon series on people of the Old Testament. Last week we talked about Cain, today we will talk about Abraham. Abraham is one of the more well known people of the Old Testament, isn’t he? Tell me something about Abraham…

Shout out from your seat something about Abraham.

In the passage we are going to look at we see Abraham was willing to take a risk. God called him and he followed. Some of us are afraid to take risks:

Eileen Guder writes this observation in her book God, But I’m Bored:

 You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer; drink no tea or coffee or other stimulants, in the name of health; go to bed early and stay away from night life; avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense; mind your own business and avoid involvement in other people’s problems; spend money only on necessities and save all you can. Yes, and you can break your neck in the bathtub, and it’ll serve you right.[1]

Sometimes we must take risks, sometimes we must try different things, but this is especially true when God places a call on our lives. Abraham was called and he obeyed. Because he obeyed we are blessed to this day.

My theme today is: Abraham obeyed the Lord and became the father of nations.

Application: Trust in the Lord as Abraham did.

Let’s read Genesis 12:1-5:

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.

  • The Lord talks with Abram.
  • This passage is Genesis 12. You may or may not realize it, but we are only a couple thousand years into history in this passage. In Genesis chapters 1-3 we have the creation of Adam and Eve. Then Adam and Eve sinned.
  • Beginning in Genesis 4 we have Cain and Abel, then we have all the descendants of Adam and Eve.
  • In Genesis chapters 6-9 we have the flood narrative with Noah and his family.
  • In Genesis chapter 10 we have the table of nations. All of Noah’s descendants spread out.
  • In Genesis 11 we have the tower of Babel.
  • At the end of Genesis 11 we are introduced to Abram.
  • Abram’s father begins moving the family from Ur to the land of Canaan. They stopped in Haran. I am sure you all know exactly where that is. I will show you a map in a minute.
  • This brings us to Genesis 12. The rest of Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament will be about Abraham and his descendants. His descendants become the people of Israel.
  • So, right here, the Lord talks to Abram. Notice that he is Abram now, not Abraham.
  • Later the Lord changes his name to Abraham. In Genesis 17:5 and 15-16 Abram and Sarai are both renamed. Abraham means “father of a multitude.” Sarah means “my princess.
  • The Lord now calls Abram to leave his country, his relatives and his father’s house. It is unclear if his father is still alive or not.
  • But it was a big deal in that day and age to leave your family. It still is, though not as drastic.
  • I know a little bit about this because our family is four hours from us. My brother is now 12 hours from us. When Meagan and I were first married we lived close. Then we moved to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati we were an hour away. There were a number of times I would call my dad and talk about a plumbing issue and next thing I knew it, he was over at my house helping me with it. The further you get from home, the more difficult it is to get help. That is why I just call some of you now. I remember when we first moved to Alliance whenever we would travel home I would be comforted as we got closer to home knowing if we had a car problem there were people to call. Now, we know, and are close to, people up here as well and we are grateful.
  • In that day and age it was huge to move away. Abram trusted the Lord. He left everyone he knew besides his nephew and his wife.
  • We must trust the Lord like Abram did. Think about it, someone wrote the following:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out . . . not knowing where he was going.

“Abraham, what are you doing?” asked a neighbor. “I’m packing.” “Packing?” “That’s right. We’re moving.” “Why? Why in the world would you want to leave Ur?” “God has made it clear that I should go.” “God, huh? You’ve been talking to Him again?” “Right. He told me to leave. I must go.” “Well, where are you going?” “I don’t know. He didn’t tell me that.” “Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You know you oughta go, but you don’t know much beyond that, huh?” “That says it pretty well.” “Wow . . . that’s all I can say . . . wow. God sure gets blamed for a lot of stuff He doesn’t have anything to do with. You know, man, some of us have been a little bit worried about the way you’ve been acting lately. Up to now, it’s just been a little strange . . . but this, Abraham . . . this takes you off the end of the pier. It’s like everyone’s saying—you really are off the deep end![2]

  • At this point I think a map will be helpful so I will put this on the screen and in the sermon notes. follow the link below for the blog
  • Now, let’s look at the four parts of what God shared with him.
    • The four distinct elements are—
    • increase into a numerous people. Abram was now 75 years old and childless but he was told he would increase in number.
    • The Lord told him he would be blessed, notice this is even though he is moving away.
    • the exaltation of his name, i.e., the elevation of Abram to honour and glory;
    • his appointment to be the possessor and dispenser of the blessing.Abram was not only to receiveblessing, but to bea blessing; not only to be blessed by God, but to become a blessing, or the medium of blessing, to others
    • This, by the way, is amazing. This becomes known as the Abrahamic Covenant and is repeated in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17.
    • Abraham will literally become the father of many nations as the Hebrew people multiply. But he is also the father of many nations because Jesus, our Savior is descended through him.
    • All the nations of the earth are blessed through Jesus, the Messiah, a descendant of Abraham. We are blessed by Abraham. We are saved through Abraham’s seed.
    • By the way, Genesis chapter 3-11 are all about troubles. They are all about curses. The curses begin with Adam and Eve sinning, then Cain kills Abel, then the wickedness that leads to the flood, then the tower of Babel, but now we have relief. Now, Abram is blessed and will be a blessing. This is awesome.
    • So, in verse 3, God says those who bless him will be blessed and those who curse him will be cursed.
    • We can get into more about that, but just a few thoughts. God has always watched over the Hebrew people. It seems to me that he still is watching over the Hebrew people. Even the prophetic books of the Bible reference promises to Israel still yet to be fulfilled which will be fulfilled in the future Millennial reign of Jesus.
  • Abram obeys.
    1. If you look at verses 4-5 Abram obeys.
    2. But notice this covenant with Abram was not based on his obedience. This covenant was not based on circumcision or anything else. This is all about the great grace of God.
    3. Who will make Abram the father of many nations? God will do that.
    4. This is all about God.
    5. Abram obeyed. He left with his nephew Lot, also Sarai, his possessions and servants. He already had some possessions and he will become quite wealthy in the future.
  1. Applications:
  2. We must be responsive to the Lord as Abram was. He obeyed what the Lord had told him to do (Gen. 12:4).
  3. We must trust the Lord as Abram did. Abram left his family, his network, his community to trust the Lord.
    1. Sometimes the Lord’s will may not make sense, but we must trust him.
    2. We must trust him with our home.
    3. We must trust him with our money.
    4. We must trust him with our family.
    5. We must trust him with our children.
  4. We must recognize the Lord is sovereign and in control as we see in this passage. In verse 2 we see the Lord is the One Who blesses Abram, makes his name great and makes him a great nation. In verse 3 we see it is the Lord who blesses those who bless him and curses those who curse him. It is the Lord who blesses all the families of the earth through Abram.
  5. We must recognize the Lord gives blessings out of grace. As verse 1 shows, Abram did not do anything to earn this covenant.
  6. We must worship the Lord as we are all blessed through Abraham’s seed, Jesus.

So, are you trusting the Lord?

In 1986, a Christian worker named Steve Saint was traveling through the country of Mali when his car broke down. Stranded and alone, Steve tried to rent a truck, despite warnings that he wouldn’t survive in the Sahara Desert. After he failed to find a truck, in his fear and discouragement, Steve’s thoughts ran to his father, Nate Saint, a former missionary in Ecuador. When Steve was only five, natives speared to death his dad and four other missionaries. Now, thirty years later, Steve found himself questioning his father’s death. Steve reflected, “I couldn’t help but think the murders were capricious, an accident of bad timing.”

When Steve asked some locals directions to a church, a few children led him to a tiny mud- brick house with a poster on the wall showing wounded hands covering a cross. A man in flowing robes introduced himself as Nouh Af Infa Yatara. Nouh started sharing with Steve about his faith in Christ. After becoming a Christian, his family disowned him. His mother even put a sorcerer’s poison in Nouh’s food at a family feast. He ate the food but suffered no ill effects.

When Steve asked Nouh why he was willing to pay such a steep price for following Christ, he simply said, “I know God loves me and I’ll live with him forever.” But Steve pressed, “Where did your courage come from?” Nouh explained that when he was young, a missionary gave him books about Christians who had suffered for their faith. Then he added, “My favorite was about five young men who risked their lives to take God’s good news to people in the jungles of Ecuador. The book said they let themselves be speared to death, even though they had guns and could have killed their attackers!”

Utterly shocked, Steve said, “One of those men was my father.” Now Nouh felt stunned. “Your father?” he exclaimed. Then Nouh told Steve that God had used the death of those five brave missionaries to help him, a young Muslim who had become a Christian, hold on to his faith.[3]

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



[1]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[2]Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

[3]Adapted from Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good (Multnomah, 2009), pp 400-401

Cain, the First Murderer (Genesis 4:1-16; Hebrews 11:4)

Cain, the First Murderer (Genesis 4:1-16; Hebrews 11:4)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, August 4, 2019

As you may recall, last week I began a sermon series on less known people of the Bible. Today, I want to talk about worship. In order to talk about worship, I want to talk about murder and jealousy and vengeance and sin. In other words, today’s sermon has all the elements of a typical movie, except for one Person. Today’s passage also has God in it. Today’s passage also has forgiveness, grace and mercy. Let’s talk about Cain.

In Chuck Swindoll’s book, Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives he writes this to introduce Cain:

A person can have no greater negative impact than when he or she takes the life of another. And to the shame of humanity, our historical paths are littered with acts of murder. Here’s a chilling thought: as I write these words, somewhere, someone is planning to kill another. And as you read these words, the intended victim of that insidious scheme will soon die. I am continually amazed by the sheer number of murders, especially mass killing sprees. I’ll spare you the bloody details—my desire is to illustrate, not shock—but here is just a small sample:

  • On September 6, 1949, in only twelve minutes, thirteen people were fatally shot in Camden, New Jersey. Howard Unruh, the murderer, said later, “I’d have killed a thousand if I had had enough bullets.”
  • On July 14, 1966, eight student nurses were stabbed and/or strangled in a Chicago dormitory by Richard Speck, age twenty-four.
  • Not many days after that, on August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed to the top of a tower on the University of Texas campus with his loaded, high-powered rifle. He ended the lives of sixteen people before the police were able to kill the sniper.
  • On Easter Sunday in 1975, eleven people, including eight children, were killed at a family gathering in Hamilton, Ohio. James Ruppert was convicted of two of the murders but found not guilty by reason of insanity for the other nine. (I have no idea how that works!)
  • On September 25, 1982, George Banks shot and killed thirteen people, including five children, in a township in Pennsylvania.
  • On February 19, 1983, Willie Mak and Benjamin Ng shot thirteen people in the head, killing all of them, during the robbery of a gambling club in Seattle.
  • On Palm Sunday in 1984, Christopher Thomas ended the lives of ten people, including eight children, in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The judge cited “extreme emotional disturbance” in the man.
  • On July 18, 1984, James Oliver Huberty entered a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California, with a gun and randomly killed twenty-one people before a police sharpshooter ended the nightmare.
  • On December 7, 1987, David Burke, an airline employee, bypassed security with his credentials—and a pistol—and boarded Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) flight 1771. At twenty-nine-thousand feet, he killed the pilots, then himself. The plane crashed, killing all forty-four passengers and crew.
  • On January 17, 1989, Patrick Edward Purdy went back to the elementary school he attended as a child and shot thirty-five people, killing five children. Then he killed himself.
  • On May 1, 1992, Eric Houston returned to his former high school, shooting fourteen people, killing four. He said it was retribution for the failing grade he received in history class four years earlier.
  • On December 7, 1994, Colin Ferguson methodically shot twenty-five people aboard a Long Island train, killing six of them. He had to stop and reload twice.
  • On March 24, 1998, two boys, ages thirteen and eleven, shot sixteen people in Jonesboro, Arkansas, killing four girls and a teacher.
  • On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.

And, of course, during that same fifty-year period, serial killers stalked and killed hundreds of victims. The FBI claims that during the 1980s alone, roughly thirty-five serial murderers were active. I could have continued the list to include those after 1999 to the time of this writing, but, frankly, I couldn’t stand much more of this research. And I limited my examples to my own country, the United States. Extending the study to include other countries made the task too depressing to handle. As I pushed the research back beyond 1900, I found that the prevalence of multiple murder, mass murder, spree killing, and serial murder was about the same as now.  

Today, the reporting is more instantaneous and detailed because of modern technology, but not much else has changed. Chuck Colson’s research shows fairly well that even with technology, prosperity, a strong government, and an ethical system of belief, murder has been, and will continue to be a problem:

We incarcerate more people per capita than any nation on earth, yet our murder rate is 2.6 to 9 times higher than that of other industrialized countries. A comparison of murder rates of other nations reveals that Americans between fifteen and twenty-four years of age are being killed seventy-four times more often than Australians in that age group and seventy-three times more often than Japanese.[1]

So, let’s talk about the first murder and let’s talk about the reasons behind it.

We are going to look at jealousy today. Cain jealousy kills Abel.

In Genesis 3 we have the devil slithering around as a serpent, talking, tempting and distorting the Truth and Adam and Eve fall into sin. Then we come to Genesis 4 and we have a description of sin as an animal crouching at the door with a desire to overtake an individual, what an image.

In Genesis 3 we have the “why.” Why do these bad things happen, why sin? In Genesis 4 we have the “what.” What is happening that is sinful? Chapter 3 gives the cause and chapter 4 the effect.

In Genesis 4 we have this picture of sin wanting to overtake Cain, like a snake, a lion, a bear crouching, ready to pounce. Though I want to come to that picturesque image of sin, I mainly wish to focus on sacrifice.

Let’s look at the passages, turn to Hebrews 11:4:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Turn to Genesis 4:1-16:

 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.”Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

The Theme:

Cain murdered Abel being jealous of his more acceptable sacrifice.


Are we religious or righteous? Do we serve God out of duty or because we are pursuing righteousness? We’ll come back to that.

  1. First, let’s talk about Cain and Abel.
    1. Adam and Eve have a son and name him Cain.
    2. Swindoll shares: Remember, this was the very first birth of a child ever. Eve took part in a miracle that only God had performed before: the creation of a human life. This had to have been an overwhelming thought, so she gave him a name that would forever remind her of that miracle. Adam and Eve then produced another son. The biblical text offers a small hint that he might have been a twin. At any rate, he is given the name Abel, which is the Hebrew word for breath, vapor, or futility. Eve didn’t comment on his name, so we can only speculate as to why she chose it. Perhaps she meant that he was slight or fragile . . . maybe he was sickly.[2]
    3. The word brother is used six times in verses 9 to 11 of this story as if to punctuate the seriousness of the crime. The first couple had marital relations, and Eve became pregnant, ultimately giving birth to their first son, whom they named Cain, or Qayin in the Hebrew. His name is most likely a wordplay on the Hebrew term Qanah, because of Eve’s statement in verse 1. Qanah has two possible meanings: to acquire or to create. Many translations opt for the former, but I think the second meaning makes better sense, which would make Eve’s statement, “I have created a man just as the LORD did” (NET). Frankly, that’s not a bad way of looking at it from a mother’s point of view.[3]
    4. I imagine, though I cannot prove this, that they grow up together. I imagine that they work together. I imagine that they played games together, wrestle, share a tent or bedroom. I mean, we do not know what it was like back then, but I imagine that as brothers they were together a lot. Now, later on we read that Adam and Eve had many other children (Genesis 5:3), so they had other people to hang out with, we also know that when Cain is banished in Genesis 4:13-14 Cain is concerned about the other people killing him, so we know there were many others. Still, I imagine these two boys are brothers and there might have been a bond when they were young. It seems like they were also the first two boys of Adam and Eve. It seems like they were the first two children of creation.
    5. Abel was a shepherd.
    6. Cain was a farmer.
    7. These were common professions. I read, “Both professions were known in early society; sheepherding and agriculture provided an occasion for a natural rivalry. The Sumerian tale of Dumuzi and Enkimdudepicts a rivalry between the shepherd god and the farmer god over marriage to a woman, but it ends in a peaceful resolution.”
    8. In Genesis 46:32; 47:3 the Israelites were shepherds.
    9. In Genesis 4:3-5 we see their sacrifice and how it worked out and did not work out.
    10. Cain brought a sacrifice of the ground. Abel brought a blood sacrifice.
    11. Later on, there were grain sacrifices by Israelite law, so that was not a wrong thing that Cain did.
    12. We read here that Abel brought of the first fruits of his flock. I think this is key. Abel did not pick the animal that was lame, or the smaller one; no, the sacrifice was one of the first born. It was as if Abel was saying, “God, I love you so much, I am making this sacrifice.”
    13. Cain and Abel knew immediately God’s pleasure and displeasure with the sacrifice. That is interesting. How did they know? I read maybe there was fire that came down out of Heaven and consumed Abel’s sacrifice. That did happen in the Old Testament.
    14. They make the sacrifice and Cain was mad that God did not show pleasure in his sacrifice. Cain’s face changed. He was angry. I see this in verse 5.
    15. “And his face fell.” The idiom means that the inner anger is reflected in Cain’s facial expression. The fallen or downcast face expresses anger, dejection, or depression. Conversely, in Num 6 the high priestly blessing speaks of the Lordlifting up his face and giving peace.[4]
    16. In the next few verses God speaks to Cain.
    17. That is where we have the illustration of sin crouching at the door and the desire of sin is to overtake you.
    18. Cain ignores this and kills his brother. He deceives his brother leading him out to the field and killing him.
    19. The Lord talks to Cain in verse 9. This is similar to the way the Lord approached Cain’s parents in the previous chapter.
    20. The Lord provides a merciful punishment to Cain.
    21. Interesting that the Moody Bible Commentary makes the case that Cain was a believer and that he was repentant. They make a strong argument looking at Cain’s repentance in verse 14. If you want more information about their reasoning see me later.
    22. God does not kill Cain right away, in fact God protects Cain.
    23. Verse 14 shows that instead of Cain continuing as a farmer he will be a wanderer, wandering the earth.
    24. In Verse 15, God places a mark on Cain to keep people from killing him. Much has been written about this mark and we cannot know for sure what it is.
  2. What is an acceptable sacrifice today?
    1. Abel gave an acceptable sacrifice and that begs the question, what is acceptable today?
    2. Don’t go slaughtering your pet. Jesus is the only sacrifice.
    3. All of our sacrifices are short and that is why Jesus came and died for us.
    4. However, we must respond and we must not respond to Jesus out of duty but love and devotion to Him.
  • Now, let’s talk about religion vs. righteousness. These are applications which I made personal.
    1. These must all fall under one major application of religious versus righteous.
    2. The religious person goes to God and serves God out of pure duty.
    3. The righteous person goes to God and serves Him out of love.
    4. The religious person thinks that he/she can earn Heaven by duty.
    5. The righteous person accepts Christ’s righteousness, surrendering to Him.
      1. It seems that Abel’s sacrifice was not pure duty, but pure love. We must give a sacrifice out of love not duty.
        1. This means that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matt. 22:37-40).
        2. We must love the Lord with all our being. We must love the Lord with who we are.
        3. We must give God our love in devotion and sacrifice.
      2. 1 Cor. 10:31 is fitting: eating and drinking, in everything we must do them to the glory of the Lord. We must do them to love the Lord.
      3. Abel gave out of the first fruits. We must not give God our last, but our first.
        1. This applies to money. This means that we must give God our first in money.
        2. This applies to our energy as well. We must not wait until we are tired to read devotions and pray. We must give Him our best time.
        3. We must not stay out late on Saturday night or up late and fall asleep in worship.
        4. We must give God our best.
        5. We must prepare for our time with God and prepare for worship.
      4. Abel seemed to have an attitude that was not only duty but faith in loving God. We must have an attitude of faith in loving and committing to God. We must ask God to take away our constant drive to make our relationship with Him simple duty and not relationship.
      5. Hebrews 12:24: The blood of Abel was a temporary sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice is forever. We must trust Jesus.


Hebrews 11:4:

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Thousands of years later Abel was remembered for his faithful sacrifice while Cain is remembered for his murder.  

Trust Christ’s righteousness and we will live for eternity with Him in paradise.  

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


[1]Charles W. Colson, Faith on the Line (Colorado Springs: Victor Books, a division of Cook Communications, 1985), 24–25. Used by permission.

Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[2]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[3]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[4]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 4:5–6.

We have a Great Cloud of Witnesses who have gone before us; Introduction to the less-known people of the Bible (Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 12:1-2)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Who do you think would win a Sidney to Melbourne Ultramarathon? An ultramarathon is a race that is longer than a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles.

How about cliff Young? In 1983, the 61-year-old potato farmer won the inaugural Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon, a distance of 875 kilometres (544 mi). The race was run between what were then Australia’s two largest Westfield shopping centres: Westfield Parramatta, in Sydney, and Westfield Doncaster, in Melbourne.[4] He ran at a slow loping pace and trailed the leaders for most of the first day, but by running while the others slept, he took the lead the first night and maintained it for the remainder of the race, eventually winning by ten hours.

Before running the race, he told the press that he had previously run for two to three days straight rounding up sheep in gumboots.[5] [these are like mud-boots.] He claimed afterwards that during the race, he imagined that he was running after sheep and trying to outrun a storm. The Westfield run took him five days, 15 hours and four minutes,[1] almost two days faster than the previous record for any run between Sydney and Melbourne. All six competitors who finished the race broke the previous record. Despite attempting the event again in later years, Young was unable to repeat this performance or claim victory again.[1]

Imagine that? Wow?

Generally, when we are running it gets harder if we have more weight holding us down. In the early Olympic games they would train with weight and then run naked.

Who here as seen someone run a marathon in a suit and tie?

I once tried running with ankle weights, those make running difficult.

Over the last 7 years in many of my runs I am pushing Mercedes and Abigail and so I have extra weight to push while running.

Okay, enough about that. My point is in running we must get rid of extra stuff.

Today’s passage pictures the Christian life that way. We must get rid of the extra weight holding us back from serving the Lord.

My theme today:

We can trust God just like the Old Testament Saints trusted the Lord.

So, Eyes on Jesus, God is Faithful we can trust Him.

Let’s read: Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

  1. First, this passage says we have a great cloud of witnesses.
    1. Now, why am I on this passage? I am glad you asked. Today, I am beginning a sermon series on the less known people of the Bible. Some of these people you may know by name and that is all. Some of the people you won’t even know by name. For example, who can tell me about Rehoboam? Who can tell me about Gehazi? What about Uzziah? After this sermon series is over you will know a few things about those men. I’ll also be preaching on people like Samuel and Abigail in the Old Testament. These people set great examples for us.
    2. This brings us to Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12 follows Hebrews 11 and Hebrews 11 lists many of the heroes of the Old Testament.
    3. In Hebrews 12:1 the author talks about the great cloud of witnesses but then in verse 2 he tells them to set their eyes on Jesus.
    4. This great cloud of witnesses are the people that have gone before us, mainly, and specifically, these heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
    5. Listen, this great cloud of witnesses are NOT people in Heaven looking down on us. No, not at all. The great cloud of witnesses are the heroes of faith. If you look right here it says Hebrews 12:1, but in reality the chapters and verse numbers were added later and let me tell you, I am glad they were added because it would be quite difficult for me to stand up here and say, “Turn three fourths of the way through Hebrews and join me where it says, ‘Therefore.”’ That would be difficult. Chapters were added in the middle ages while a man on horseback rode to Paris. I am very thankful for these divisions, but sometimes they are at the wrong place. This is one of those times.
    6. Chapter 12 goes along with chapter 11.
    7. I believe we can make the case that each one of these people from the Old Testament heroes of faith would say, “God is faithful, we can trust Him.”
    8. Let’s think about the people listed in Hebrews 11. With a few exceptions (Abraham and maybe Abel) these are not the people we will be studying, but let’s think about them.
    9. Abel would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb 11:4).
    10. Enoch would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:5).
    11. Noah, who built the ark when people had never seen rain, would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:7).
    12. Abraham, father of our faith, would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:8-19).
    13. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb 11:20-22).
    14. Moses would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:23-29).
    15. Rahab would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:31).
    16. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:32 and the following verses).
    17. The prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah and the rest would say that God is faithful, we can trust Him (Heb. 11:32 and the following verses).
    18. These are all the witnesses that went before us. They were imperfect, they had flaws, but the pattern was that they trusted God in what God had called them to do.
    19. In context, the people that Hebrews was written to struggled with staying true to Christ. They were Jewish Christians considering backsliding. The author is reminding them by the examples of these Old Testament heroes to stay true to the faith. God is faithful.
  2. Second, get rid of the distractions. This is the second major purpose in this passage.
    1. He says to throw off everything that hinders us. Remember the opening of my sermon about weight? Who runs with a bunch of weight? No, we lighten our load. Likewise, as a Christian we get rid of the weight keeping us from serving the Lord. This weight may be sin or just things keeping us from following Jesus fully.
    2. We could be dealing with two types of sins:
      1. Sins of commission: these are things we do that we should not do.
        1. Pride
        2. Envy
        3. Lust
        4. Lying
        5. Cheating
        6. Stealing
        7. Hate
        8. Jealousy
        9. Gossip
  • Idolatry
  • Adultery
  1. Then there are sins of omission. These are things that you don’t do that you should do.
    1. Not loving God
    2. Not loving people
    3. Not spending time in the Word
    4. Not learning
  2. Other things: there are other things that weight us down.
    1. These could be things that are not sins at all but are just weighting us down.
      1. This may be not serving our church.
      2. This could be not studying but watching TV too much.
  • This could be some relationship that we are in that brings us down.
  1. The race of the Christian life is marked out for us. We must run with aim, looking towards the finish line (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
  2. The Christian life is marked out in God’s Word.
  • Verse 2 tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus.
    1. All of those people in the Hall of Faith section failed. They all messed up, but One did not mess up and that is Jesus.
    2. We have our model; Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.
    3. He endured the cross and the shame of the cross and then sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
    4. We must run the Christian life as with aim. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus did it right. We must persevere and stay the course.
    5. We must get rid of things that are holding us back and stay focused.
    6. God wants to use all of us, but we have weights in our Christian life and we must release the weights and look at Jesus.


John Piper shares the following (Devotional excerpted from Future Grace, page 256):

What faith performs is sometimes unspeakably hard.

In his book Miracle on the River Kwai, Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of POWs working on the Burma Railway during World War II.

At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing.

What can sustain the will to die for others, when you are innocent? Jesus was carried and sustained in his love for us by “the joy that was set before him.” He banked on a glorious future blessing and joy, and that carried and sustained him in love through his suffering.

Woe to us if we think we should or can be motivated and strengthened for radical, costly obedience by some higher motive than the joy that is set before us. When Jesus called for costly obedience that would require sacrifice in this life, he said in Luke 14:14, “You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” In other words, be strengthened now in all your losses for Christ’s sake, because of the joy set before you.

Peter said that, when Jesus suffered without retaliating, he was leaving us an example to follow — and that includes Jesus’s confidence in the joy set before him. He handed his cause over to God (1 Peter 2:21) and did not try to settle accounts with retaliation. He banked his hope on the resurrection and all the joys of reunion with his Father and the redemption of his people. So should we.[2]





Don’t Waste Your Pain (1 Peter 3:15)

I read the following:

Why does God allow trouble to plague his people? How can it be considered loving for him to permit trials to run wild in our lives?

I gained fresh insight into these questions while watching a spellbinding four-minute video called “How Wolves Change Rivers.”

A slightly too exuberant, yet delightfully British narrator recounts the changes that resulted from the entrance of a pack of wolves into the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park. It turns out that deer overpopulation had left massive portions of the park barren. Constant grazing had turned valleys into wastelands. The lack of vegetation had caused soil erosion, which destabilized the banks of the river, slowing the flow of water. The lack of sufficient water and vegetation, in turn, forced wildlife to move on. In short, life was fading from the park.

Then a pack of wolves moved in.

Do you think it would be life-enhancing for a pack of predators to be released into a national park? I imagine your initial response would be, like mine, “No, that sounds terrible.” 

But it turns out that it was the best thing that could have happened.

Wolves and a World of Good

The wolves predictably killed a few deer, thinning out the population. However, that was not the most significant change. The remaining deer were forced to move to higher terrain and abandon the grasslands of the valleys.

“Difficulty brings blessing. Hardship brings joy. Wolves change rivers.”

These areas that had been mown down for so long then began to regrow at an accelerated rate. Aspen trees quintupled in size in less than six years. This growth brought back birds to nest in the branches and beavers to eat the wood. The return of the beavers meant the return of beaver dams, which created pools that allowed for the repopulation of fish, otters, ducks, muskrats, reptiles, and amphibians. The wolves also cleared out some of the coyotes, which caused rabbits and mice to return. This change led to the return of hawks, weasels, foxes, and badgers. 

Yet the most amazing impact occurred in the river itself. Because grasses were allowed to regrow, the soil collapsed less, allowing for firmer riverbanks. Which gave the river flow greater direction, which reinforced the animal habitats.

In short, the entrance of a few wolves created a whole world of good in Yellowstone National Park, transforming wastelands into lush valleys teeming with life.

So, it turns out that the best thing to do to promote life was to release a few wolves into the valley.[1]

You may wonder why bad things happen?

We are completing the sermon series on Life’s Healing Choices, here are all the choices:

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles

The Road to Recovery Based on the Beatitudes

  1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)
  2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)
  3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)
  4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)
  5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)
  6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)
  7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)
  8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)[2]

Today, is step 8 and my theme is:

Don’t waste your pain.

Share your testimony with others, including how God rescued you.

Let’s read 1 Peter 3:15:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

  1. Why does God allow pain? (Some of these points come from the book “Life’s Healing Choices”)
    1. God has given us free will.
    2. We notice that in the creation narrative in Gen. 2:15-17:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
    3. If we choose to be sexually promiscuous and get a sexually transmitted disease, we bear the consequences of our own bad choice. Do you see the dilemma? God will not overrule your will. God doesn’t send anybody to hell. We choose to go there by rejecting His will for us. God loves you and wants you to be a part of His family, but if you thumb your nose at God and walk away from Him, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. That is free will.[3]
    4. We are also effected by the free will of others.
    5. God uses the pain to get our attention. Look at 2 Cor. 7:9: I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
    6. Another example of pain getting our attention is Jonah. After he ran from God and was swallowed by the fish it says: Jonah 2:7: “While I was fainting away,I remembered the Lord, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple.
    7. God uses pain to teach us to depend upon Him.
    8. God allows pain to give us a ministry to others.
      1. Gen 50:20 shows that God can use it for good.
      2. Who better to help an alcoholic than someone who has struggled with alcoholism? Who better to help someone dealing with the pain of abuse than one who also suffered abuse? Who can better help the person who lost a job and went bankrupt than somebody who’s experienced the same thing? Who can better help the parents of a teenager who’s going off the deep end than a couple who had a child who did the same? God wants to use and recycle the pain in your life to help others, but you’ve got to be open and honest about it. If you keep that hurt to yourself, you’re wasting it. God wants to recycle your hurts, your hang-ups, and your habits to help others.[4]
    9. How can you use your pain to help others?
      1. Share your story.
      2. This is simply about sharing your testimony.
      3. Remember 1 Peter 3:15? Always be ready to give an answer.
      4. Right now, I am talking about sharing how you came to know Christ. In that case we share:
        1. Our life before Christ.
          1. Share how Christ rescued you or has kept you from certain things.
          2. When we are rescued we share about it.
          3. Share how Christ helped you with anger, or anxiety, or alcohol, or anything else.
        2. How we came to know Christ.
  • Our life after Christ.
  1. We all have a testimony.
  • Accept your mission
    1. We all have a mission: Matt 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    2. Do you realize there are only two things you can’t do in heaven? One is sin; the other is share the Good News with people who have never heard it. Which of those do you think is the reason God is leaving you on earth? Obviously, sinning isn’t the reason.[5]
    3. Be humble
    4. Be real
    5. Don’t lecture
    6. Write about It
    7. Write your story out on paper.[6]

Don’t waste your pain. Allow God to use it for God.

We are never too old to be used of God.

Swindoll, Laugh Again pages 92 and following:
I came across an article way back in 1967 that I still return to on occasion. Entitled “Advice to a (Bored) Young Man,” it communicates how much one person can contribute, if only—Many people reading this page are doing so with the aid of bifocals. Inventor? B. Franklin, age 79. The presses that printed this page were powered by electricity. One of the first harnessers? B. Franklin, age 40. Some are reading this on the campus of one of the Ivy League universities. Founder? B. Franklin, age 45. Some got their copy through the U.S. Mail. Its father? B. Franklin, age 31. Now, think fire. Who started the first fire department, invented the lightning rod, designed a heating stove still in use today? B. Franklin, ages 31, 43, 36. Wit. Conversationalist. Economist. Philosopher. Diplomat. Printer. Publisher. Linguist (spoke and wrote five languages). Advocate of paratroopers (from balloons) a century before the airplane was invented.
All this until age 84. And he had exactly two years of formal schooling. It’s a good bet that you already have more sheer knowledge than Franklin had when he was your age. Perhaps you think there’s no use trying to think of anything new, that everything’s been done. Wrong. The simple, agrarian America of Franklin’s day didn’t begin to need the answers we need today. Go do something about it.





[3]Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 272-273). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[4]Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 275-276). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[5]Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 277-278). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[6]Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 281-282). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

Maintaining Momentum-Spiritual Disciplines (Mark 1:35)

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices
Subtitle: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord. (Mark 1:35)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, July 14, 2019

We have been on this sermon series about Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-up and their Healing Choices. Today, we talk about Maintaining Momentum. In other words: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.

Let’s review the principles:

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles
The Road to Recovery Based on the Beatitudes

1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)

5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)

8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)
We are now on step 7:
Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)

My theme today is: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.

Focus on your relationship with the Lord, Swindoll shares:
I love the story of the man who had fretted for fifteen years over his work. He had built his business from nothing into a rather sizable operation. In fact, he had a large plant that covered several acres. With growth and success, however, came ever-increasing demands. Each new day brought a whole new list of responsibilities. Weary of the worry, the stress, and the fear, he finally decided to give it all over to God. With a smile of quiet contentment, he prayed, “Lord God, the business is Yours. All the worry, the stress, and the fears I release to You and Your sovereign will. From this day forward, Lord, You own this business.” That night he went to bed earlier than he had since he started the business. Finally . . . peace.

In the middle of the night the shrill ring of the phone awoke the man. The caller, in a panicked voice, yelled, “Fire! The entire place is going up in smoke!” The man calmly dressed, got into his car and drove to the plant. With his hands in his pockets he stood there and watched, smiling slightly. One of his employees hurried to his side and said, “What in the world are you smiling about? How can you be so calm? Everything’s on fire!” The man answered, “Yesterday afternoon I gave this business to God. I told Him it was His. If He wants to burn it up, that’s His business.”

Some of you read that and think, That’s insane! No, that is one of the greatest pieces of sound theology you can embrace. Firm confidence in God means that it is in His hands.

Let’s read Mark 1:35:

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

This sermon is about maintaining momentum. I am going to get into spiritual disciplines in a moment, but first let’s talk about why we lose momentum in battling our hurts, habits and hang-ups. Maybe you are doing very well battling your anxiety, depression, anger, pornography, chemical addiction, eating disorder or something else and then you backslide. Let’s talk about that. This first point and its sub-points comes from the book: “Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits” as noted in the footnote. I have made minor changes or additions.

  1. I. Many times, what I might call a “backslide” is called “Relapse.”
    1. The pattern is as follows: Complacency- Confusion-Compromise-Catastrophe.
    2. We get complacent in our spiritual disciplines and complacent in taking our hurt, habit or hang-up seriously and this is the first step to our downfall.
    3. We get confused thinking we are okay and our hurt, habit or hang-up was not that severe.
    4. We compromise our values.
    5. We relapse, we backslide.
    6. The causes of relapse.
    7. We revert to our own willpower. We think we can live the Christian life on our own strength. Romans 7 and Gal. 3:3 are written about that.
    8. The Bible speaks to our foolish tendencies of trying to make it on our own: We got off to a good start:
      1. In Choice 1, we admitted that we are powerless to change on our own.
      2. In Choice 2, we agreed that only God has the power to help us change.
      3. In Choice 3, we made a commitment to turn our life and will over to Christ’s care and control.
      4. In the fourth choice, we examined ourselves openly and honestly and confessed our faults.
      5. In the fifth, we voluntarily submitted to the changes God wants to make in our lives.
      6. Then in the last choice, our sixth choice, we focused on repairing our relationships—offering forgiveness and making amends.
    9. We’ve submitted, trusted, and committed. We’ve made room for God to make major changes in our life. But now, if we’re not careful, we may start to think, “It’s me doing this; I’m making the changes. It’s my power.” We revert to relying on our own willpower; but the problem is, it didn’t work in the first place, and it’s not going to work now! We have a few successes, and suddenly we think we are all-powerful and all-knowing, and can handle everything on our own.
    10. Other reasons we backslide or relapse: We ignore one of the choices.
    11. We try to recover without support (Ecc. 4:9-10; Heb 10:25). We need community.
    12. We become prideful (Prov. 16:18; 1 Cor. 10:12).
    13. I repeat my theme: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
    14. Jesus wants to give us peace, but this only happens through our relationship with Him. Swindoll shares in his book, “Laugh Again”: I came across a story in one of Tim Hansel’s books that points this out in an unforgettable way. It’s the true account of an eighty-two-year-old man who had served as a pastor for over fifty of those years. In his later years he struggled with skin cancer. It was so bad that he had already had fifteen skin operations. Tim writes:

Besides suffering from the pain, he was so embarrassed about how the cancer had scarred his appearance, that he wouldn’t go out. Then one day he was given You Gotta Keep Dancin’ in which I tell of my long struggle with the chronic, intense pain from a near-fatal climbing accident. In that book, I told of the day when I realized that the pain would be with me forever. At that moment, I made a pivotal decision. I knew that it was up to me to choose how I responded to it. So I chose joy. . . . After reading awhile, the elderly pastor said he put the book down, thinking, “He’s crazy. I can’t choose joy.”
So he gave up on the idea. Then later he read in John 15:11 that joy is a gift. Jesus says, “I want to give you my joy so that your joy may be complete.”

A gift! he thought. He didn’t know what to do, so he got down on his knees. Then he didn’t know what to say, so he said, “Well, then, Lord, give it to me. ”

And suddenly, as he described it, this incredible hunk of joy came from heaven and landed on him.

“I was overwhelmed,” he wrote. “It was like the joy talked about in Peter, a ‘ joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ I didn’t know what to say, so I said, ‘ Turn it on, Lord, turn it on!’” And before he knew it, he was dancing around the house. He felt so joyful that he actually felt born again—again. And this astonishing change happened at the age of 82.

He just had to get out. So much joy couldn’t stay cooped up.

So he went out to the local fast food restaurant and got a burger.

A lady saw how happy he was, and asked, “How are you doing?” He said, “Oh, I’m wonderful!” “Is it your birthday?” she asked. “No, honey, it’s better than that!” “Your anniversary?” “Better than that!” “Well, what is it?” she asked excitedly. “It’s the joy of Jesus. Do you know what I’m talking about?” The lady shrugged and answered, “No, I have to work on Sundays.”
II. Spiritual Disciplines are the way to maintain momentum
a. John Baker writes: Developing new habits is not easy. New healthy habits are about making daily choices that put us in a place where God can begin His transformation work in us. Someone has accurately said that the most difficult thing about the Christian life is that it is so daily. Jesus knew about daily temptation, and He knew how to fight it: “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
b. Prayer and meditation are reverse worry. I like that, let me repeat, prayer and meditation are reverse worry. If you know how to worry then you know how to pray and meditate on the Scriptures. This is part of your spiritual disciplines. So, let’s talk about daily quiet time. Let’s talk about spiritual disciplines.
III. Quiet time is most important. We had read Mark 1:35, let’s come back to that: In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
a. Jesus could have had many other things to do, but He started with prayer.
b. In that same chapter Jesus was preaching, casting out demons and healing people.
c. Many people could have said that Jesus should be doing more preaching, not retreating to a quiet place with God.
d. Many people could have said Jesus should be casting out more demons, not retreating to a quiet place with God.
e. Many people could have said Jesus should be healing people, not retreating to a quiet place with God.
f. Preaching, casting out demons and healing were all important, but not the MOST important thing for Jesus.
g. It was most important to have a quiet time with God the Father.
h. I repeat my theme: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
IV. Why do we have a daily quiet time?
a. Remember Mark 1:35, this is what Jesus did. If Jesus spent time with God, so should we.
b. We discover God’s will and receive power to deal with life’s trials through spending time with God. Let’s look at a few other passages.
c. Romans 12:1-2: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
d. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. How do we renew our mind? We let the Holy Spirit renew our mind through spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture reading.
e. This happens through our quiet time with God. Ephesians 3:16: that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…
f. How can we be strengthened with power through the Spirit?
g. This happens through spending time with Him in prayers and Scripture reading.
h. In John 6:63 Jesus said: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
i. So, in our quiet time we receive encouragement and life from our maker.
j. In John 10:27 Jesus said: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…
k. How do we know His voice?
l. By spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture reading.
m. I repeat my theme: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
n. I encourage you to have a daily appointment with God.
o. This could be every morning first thing, or it could be in the evening.
p. Try to find a quiet place.
q. Try to limit distractions.
r. How long?
i. Start short.
ii. 5 minutes to read a chapter of the Bible and pray. I would pray in the beginning and the end.
s. What:
t. Bible reading (full chapters). Begin in John.
u. Scripture applications.
v. Prayer; talk to Him as a best friend, He is.
w. Reflect:
i. Reflect on how you are doing. The Bible tells us to do this. See 2 Cor. 13:5 and Psalm 66:18. Repent of sins.
ii. Meet with your prayer/accountability partner regularly. We have individual spiritual disciplines, which this has mainly been about, and community spiritual disciplines. They are both critical.

To explain how Scripture meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying, and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word, author Donald Whitney provides the analogy of a cup of tea:
In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of Scripture. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more permeating its effect. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown. Meditation on Scripture is letting the Bible brew in the brain. Thus we might say that as the tea colors the water, meditation likewise “colors” our thinking. When we meditate on Scripture it colors our thinking about God, about God’s ways and his world, and about ourselves.
We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.

download a PDF here:

maintaining momentum^JMark 1.35docx

Making Amends

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices

Subtitle: Repairing Relationships (Matt. 5:23-26; 6:12; 18:15-17; Acts 15:36-41)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on July 7

We are on the sixth message about Life’s Healing Choices: let’s go over the 8 principles:

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles

The Road to Recovery Based on the Beatitudes

  1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3a TEV.
  2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 TEV, NIV
  3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are the meek.” Matthew 5:5a TEV
  4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are the pure in heart.” Matthew 5:8a TEV
  5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” Matthew 5:6a TEV
  6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are the merciful.” Matthew 5:7a TEV; “Happy are the peacemakers” Matthew 5:9 TEV
  7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)
  8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.” Matthew 5:10 TEV[1]


Think about the divisions within the church. Actually, let’s be interactive. I remember sitting with my uncle at a family picnic when he said, “He had been hurt more by Christians than by non-Christians.” Now, why would he say that? Could it be true? Do Christians hurt each other? Why does the devil attack from within?

Raise your hand if…

If you have ever been hurt by something someone who claimed to be a Christian said– raise your hand.

Okay, I do not want to have you raise your hand for anymore of these because we hopefully have visitors:

Just think: Do not raise your hand:

Have you ever hurt someone with your words being a Christian yourself?

Have you ever left church in tears because of gossip or rumors?

Have you ever been angered at church because of something wrongfully said about you?

Have you wrongfully said something about someone else at church?

Have you spread the gossip or the rumor?

Have you been unloving?

Have others been unloving to you? I know this is broad.

The church is a place for sinners. The church is a place for people who do wrong things and I am one of them. But the church is also a place where once we commit to Christ we commit to grow and change and not get worse but get better.

Several years ago, actually five years ago, I was with my then three year old, Mercedes, she wanted to build a sand castle with gravel on the driveway. She did not know that that little bit of gravel on the driveway would not build a sand castle. She did not know how much better the sand on the beach will be. Likewise, we come to know Jesus and we are sinners, we are sinners our whole life, but as we grow in Christ we grow out of certain sins. This means that we realize that life is different. Before we were playing trying to build sandcastles with gravel on a driveway, but Jesus wants us to grow into Christ followers who are not wrestling daily with the same old stuff. Jesus wants us to have a renewed perspective and then we are building sandcastles on the beach by the ocean. Then we will still offend people and still sin, but hopefully not the same old stuff and not as much. Hopefully then we make things right. So, let’s talk about that.

I hope we can talk about that now. Let’s look at a passage where the Apostle Paul had a difference with Barnabas. They part ways, but I want to make the case that though they part ways, they do so agreeably. I want to talk about Biblical restoration. I want to challenge you to Biblical restoration.

My theme today:

Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)

Read Acts 15:36-41 with me:

36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  1. Let’s start with Paul and Barnabas, they are an example of forgiveness and reconciliation. Notice that Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement.
    1. This disagreement is in verse 37. Barnabas was an encourager, he wants to give John Mark a second chance. Now, what happened with John Mark? In Acts 13:13 Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey and John Mark went home to Jerusalem. There may have been several reasons for this: NIV text note of Acts 13:13: “homesicknesss to get back to Jerusalem, an illness of Paul necessitating a change in plans and a trip to Galatia, and a change in leadership from Barnabas to Paul have all been suggested as reasons for John Mark’s return.” (to Jerusalem). Either way, now Barnabas is saying, “Let’s give him a second chance.” Paul says, “No way.”
    2. Verse 39 says that they had a “Sharp” disagreement.”
    3. Have you ever had a “Sharp” disagreement? What do you do? How do you handle it?
    4. I was once listening to a counseling program and a couple had little snicker bars all over the house and someone asked, “Why are there snicker bars all over the house?” The couple said that was to give them a timeout. You see when they are in the heat of an argument and they are in a sharp disagreement and they need a timeout, but you know we don’t want to take a timeout, do we? So, what they do is grab a little snickers bar, the little ones. Then they think and resume.
    5. It is recommended that people need timeouts, but they are hard to take.
    6. I think Paul, the Apostle needed a timeout.
    7. Paul is a “Driven” personality. We all “fight” or “flight,” Paul fights.”
    8. They had a sharp disagreement. Paul and Barnabas were partners and sometimes we like to take this passage and say even the best of Christians have massive arguments. I read one source that said that sometimes we take this passage too far. We take it and make it look like they had a “knockdown, drag out, fight.” We don’t know that. We know they disagreed, we know they disagreed strongly, sharply, we know they needed a “timeout” or a snickers bar and there were none around. But you know what else we know; it appears there were no hurt feelings. Look at these verses: 2 Tim. 4:11: Only Luke is with me. Get [John] Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.Also: Col. 4:10: My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Philemon 24: And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. 1 Cor. 9:6: Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
    9. So, it does appear that Paul and John Mark were okay later on, and even with each other later on. It appears that Paul and Barnabas were okay later on.
    10. What else happens in this passage? Sometimes we are stuck making sandcastles in a driveway with a little bit of gravel. Step back.
    11. In verses 39-41 two missionary journeys happened instead of one. Barnabas took John Mark and Paul took Silas. God spread the Great Commission more this way. Isn’t that awesome!
    12. Secondly, Paul chose Silas and Silas was a Roman citizen and we will hear more about that in chapter 16:37.
  2. Point of application: who do you have to reconcile with?
    1. Matthew 5:23-26: Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
    2. This passage is telling us that restoration is more important than an offering.
    3. Relationships are important.
    4. Let’s look at one other passage of Scripture: Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
    5. Conflict resolution begins with a small circle.
    6. You go and talk to the person who has offended you. Then, if there is no resolution you bring another person in. Then two people in and then the church leadership.
    7. Remember: What did Jesus say? You leave your offering and go and bring restoration and then come back to worship. Restoration is more important than giving! Those commands come from God’s Word.
  • Forgiveness is critical, let go
    1. We must confess sin.
    2. Matthew 6:12: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    3. I want to say a few words about the passage itself:
    4. This is the Lord’s prayer and notice that this request implies that we have forgiven others. Richard Foster says that we always must give in order to be able to receive. He says, “It is simply that by the very nature of the created order we must give in order to receive. I cannot, for instance, receive love if I do not give love. People may try to offer me love, but if resentment and vindictiveness fill my heart, their offers will roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If my fists are clenched and my arms folded tightly around myself, I cannot hold anything.”[2]
    5. So, we forgive others and we receive God’s forgiveness.
    6. Forgive others: Okay, but the second part of this petition is that we forgive others, why and how?
    7. Jesus said to forgive repeatedly (Matthew 18:21-25).
    8. Withholding forgiveness leads to actual hate and that builds up inside. I was in a pastoral counseling class where I heard a process which helped me understand forgiveness better:

Below from Dr. Stratton, Asbury Theological Seminary

  1. Remember the hurt: you don’t have to forget

“When we are hurt, we often try to protect ourselves by denying it.  But if unforgiveness keeps intruding into your thoughts and feelings, consider forgiving. Recall the hurt as objectivelyas possible. Don’t rail against the person who hurt you, waste time wishing for an apology that will never be offered, or dwell on your victimization. Instead, admit that a wrong was done to you and set your sights on its repair.” (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Empathize

Empathy involves seeing things from another person’s point of view and identifying with the pressures that made the person hurt you.

How would he or she explain the harmful acts? Forgiveness is facilitated when we can look at the transgression from multiple perspectives. The harmful act is seen more objectively when we can step outside of the victim role.  We have a chance to view what happened from a bigger perspective – one that includes the human and the divine.  (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Altruistic gift: selfless gift

Empathy can prepare you for forgiving, but to give that gift of forgiveness, consider yourself. Have you ever harmed or offended a friend, a parent, or a partner who later forgave you? Think about your guilt. Then consider the way you felt when you were forgiven. Most people say, “I felt free. The chains were broken.” By recalling your own guilt and the gratitudeover being forgiven, you can develop the desire to give that gift of freedom to the person who hurt you. (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Commitment: you will have to stay committed

When you forgive, you can eventually doubt that you have forgiven. When people remember a previous injury or offense, they often interpret it as evidence that they must not have forgiven. If you make your forgiveness tangible, you are less likely to doubt it later. Tell a friend, partner, or counselor that you have forgiven the person who hurt you. Write a “certificate of forgiveness,” stating that you have, as of today, forgiven. (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Hold on

When you doubt that you’ve forgiven, remind yourself of the Pyramid, refer to your certificate of forgiveness, and tell yourself that a painful memory does not disqualify the hard work of forgiving that you have done. Instead of trying to stop unforgiving thoughts, think realistically about the forgiveness you have experienced. If you continue to doubt your forgiveness, work back through these steps to REACH forgiveness. (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)


So, have you been offended? Have you offended someone else? Maybe it is time to make things right. Maybe it is time to apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Yes, we are all sinners. We are all sinners, we are all making sand castles on a driveway not on a beach, but as we grow in Christ God wants us to be more like Him and less like the world and that means that God wants us to be more loving. God wants us to be reconciled. God wants us to step back and see the beach some day. God wants us to realize that you cannot make a sand castle on a driveway, but you can on a beach. Likewise, we really cannot have a holistic body until we are reconciled and we deal with those things that entangle us. Please, I urge you, in love, approach each other this week. Just one on one. Pray first. We see that the Apostle Paul, Barnabas and John Mark’s disagreement did not separate them.

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)




[2]Richard Foster’s book on Prayer page 186-187