Who do you trust?

During this week prior to Holy Week, I will be posting each of my five Lenten sermons today through Saturday and again this year, I used some Lenten resources from Creative Communications for the Parish. This year’s material was title Thy Will be Done. I hope that you will enjoy these messages as a prelude to Holy Week and Easter.


Who Do You Trust?

(God’s Will and God’s Promise:Abram and Isaac)

Hebrews 11:8-19

The Gallup Organization conducts an annual poll asking people what institutions they have confidence it and here is a graphic of the differences between the 2016 and 2017 polls (2018 poll has yet to be taken.)






The Military was number one with 72% of those surveyed having confidence in the military

Small Business was number two with 70%

Police was number three with 57%

The Church/Organized Religion was fourth with 41%

And the US Supreme Court was fifth with 40%

It will be interesting to see what the poll this year indicates.

How would you answer if you were called and asked who do you have the most confidence it?

Would any of us say Jesus Christ or would we indicate one of these categories?

Who do you trust the most these days?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to explain what Lent was to some of the kids here at church. I didn’t do a very good job as the puzzled looks on their faces indicated they had no idea what I was talking about.

This word Lent is familiar to some of us in this room this morning as we grew up in a church and faith tradition that celebrated Lent, Advent, Epiphany, and a host of other seasons of the Christian calendar. The rest of us heard little about Lent other than from perhaps our Catholic friends who ate a lot of fish.

Let me offer this simple definition of Lent for us this year:






Lent is a season of reflection when we take time to look at our lives in light of Christ’s death and resurrection and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and shine the light of God’s grace and hope in and on us.

And I still like what Joan Chittister has to say about Lent:






Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for a while, to reflect again on what is going on in me. I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ – and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me. Lent is not a ritual. It is time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the inside out.

It is not a time to be morbid, nor dark, nor depressed, although we may experience these moments as we go through this season.

It is time to think about, think through what we believe in, IF we believe in Jesus Christ and if we do, what is it that we need to “give up” to fully follow the Lord.

So as we go through this season of Lent, I would encourage us to pray a modified version of the prayer that I shared with you last fall, a prayer that I think the Lord wants to answer.






I use the word obediently here because the theme for this year’s Lenten series is Thy will be done. It reflects the challenge which Jesus faced as the time neared for His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. All four of the gospel accounts (the first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include the story of Jesus’ agonizing prayer as the final minutes of His freedom faded away.

Three times, alone, in an agony that is hard to understand, Jesus prays, …”not as I will, but as you will.” In other words, “If there is any other way to redeem the human race other than this way, Father God, please make it happen. Otherwise, if this is Your way, the Only Way, then I will do what I must do.”

To me the prayer that Jesus prayed in these moments is the hardest prayer to pray. To pray God’s will be done, for God’s purpose and plan, to be done is very, very hard because it requires of us the willingness to surrender our plans and purposes our hopes and dreams and in some cases our very lives, and embrace God’s plans and purposes.

And in the stories that we will hear these next several weeks, we will see how God’s will is a good thing, not a bad thing. A hard thing at times, yes, yes it is. But ultimately, it is the right thing, the liberating thing, the life giving thing to do.

And a key attitude we also need to have in this process of praying, and living, out this prayer, “Your will, not my will, be done,” is the issue of trust.

Trust is a part of the people we will take time to study over the next several weeks.

There is Moses – whose felt inadequacies to lead, whose forty years on the run as a fugitive murderer, caused him to not just trust himself but to trust this God who has revealed himself to Moses.

There is Mary – who is told that she will give birth to a boy, who is the Messiah, who will save His people from their sins, in an incredible way different than normal conception. Her trust is deep and immediate.

There is David – chosen to be the second king of Israel even as the first king of Israel seeks to kill him. A renown warrior and a beloved leader, he takes a man’s life as a cover up to taking that same man’s wife and being confronted by a prophet. Trust seems to come and go in David’s life.

And we find this issue of trust in the story of Abraham and Issac.

We have heard our main text for this morning, Hebrews 11:8-19 and I will simply refer to various verses and phrases in this passage throughout the rest of this message. But do you recall what Isaac said in his monologue this morning?

What I saw in his eyes at that moment took away my doubts. What I saw wasn’t fear on his face, or at least, it wasn’t only fear. I also saw love. I saw pride. But above all, I saw trust…


Trust is vital to faith – in God or in people. Trust is required to believe in, to have faith in.

Our main text for this morning says…

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

I think that one of the things that Sister Joan hints at in her comments I just read is trust:

I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ – and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me.

As we begin this season of Lent I ask myself and I ask all of us:












I conclude with Genesis 22:5

He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

It is what Abraham says to his servants before only he and Isaac head up to the place of sacrifice. It is a statement of trust in God…study it for a moment…and when you think you get why it is a statement of trust in God, raise your hand, and if possible, keep it raised.

Here it is…







Let us choose to say “thy will be done” as our confirmation of our trust in the Lord.



(Quotes from Character Dialogues by Justin Rossow. © 2018 Creative Communications for the Parish, a division of Bayard, Inc., 1564 Fencorp Dr., Fenton, MO 63026. 800-325-9414. http://www.creativecommunications.com.)


Throwback Thursday Review: Anthony Slide’s Hollywood Unknowns

I’m back!!!

After a month off, I am back here!

I needed it too!

I am still on hiatus from reading and reviewing new books and I am thinking June 1st for my return to that activity.

In the meantime, I will continue my twice monthly (or more) posting of previous reviews of books that I think are still worth reading!

And today’s is Anthony Slide’s Hollywood Unknowns 








I have a family member who has been an extra in some recent television shows (sorry no name dropping here) and so the story of how the extra, the bit part, has developed in movie and tv history has a personal connection.

Hollywood Unknowns is a very unique book on how these vital roles have developed as well as the casting process. For you movie and tv history buffs, a required read in my opinion.

Here is a link to my review from 2012




When God Says No

Number 24:12-14


The last two Sundays of this month are being spent taking a look at two Old Testament characters that we perhaps know little about or have heard something about and find interesting, at least as it relates to today’s character, Balaam.


Now Balaam’s story begins in chapter 22 of the Old Testament book of Numbers and ends with chapter 24 and our focal text for this morning, recently read by Pastor Regan, is toward the middle of chapter 24 and it really is a wonderful summary of Balaam’s story.


And Balaam makes an interesting statement (actually a question) to his patron, the King of Moab, Balak who became frustrated with Balaam’s inability and unwillingness to curse and use magic on the Israelites, because they thought the Israelites were using some kind of magic to defeat these other nations.


It is found in Numbers 24:12-13:


Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord—and I must say only what the Lord says’?


I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord.


There was a wall, a boundary, that God put up which kept Balaam from doing what Balak wanted Him to do. What was it? Why was it there? What was its purpose?


God put limits on Balaam. He tells Balaam no.


Let’s go the beginning of Balaam’s story, found in Numbers 22 and walk through to the end of chapter 24. I am reading Numbers 22:1-8


Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.


Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.


The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”


So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:


“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”


The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.


“Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.


Well, we have Balak, scared to death of this new group of people entering his kingdom, and he is seeking ways to defeat them before they wreck havoc on his land and kingdom. And he hires Balaam to do, well, dark magic, on the Israelites because, as one source I read says, they believed that the Israelites were using some kind of magic to be victorious. This is power behind the curse that Balak asked Balaam to put on the Israelites.


Let’s pick back up at verse 9 of Numbers 22


God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”


What would you say if you were Balaam?


Balaam tells Him and God says, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”


God says no.


But think with me about this for a moment:

“Is this before or after Israel’s faith falters and they choose to believe 10 of the 12 spies sent out to survey the land which God had promised them who said, “We can’t take the land. We will lose. Those people are too powerful?”


Balaam comes on the scene afterward.


Would Balaam have been part of the Biblical story if Israel would have believed and obeyed the Lord and taken the land as He promised?


So God tells them in Numbers 14:30 “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”


Then in chapter 20, Moses loses his temper and God says to him (verse 12)


“Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”


So the Israelites, and now their leader, Moses, are wanderers. Has their faith been weakened? Their lack of faith in the Lord because of their fear and impatience, causes them to wander for 40 more years and for Moses to see the promised land only from a distance. Would they have faced the opposition they ended up facing in the Moabites and other groups, had they not said, “We can’t do it?”


Have you ever felt like Moses and the Israelites? Your fear is bigger than your faith and you don’t push through that fear and trust God? Or, your impatience flares and you lose out on something that maybe God wanted to give you?


The Israelites are now going to wander for another forty years because they refused to believe that God could help them take possession of that which He had promised them and their ancestors.


But God tells Balaam, “you must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”


How can this be true? How can they be blessed when their faith in God faltered and they have been forced to wander around another 40 years and their leader banned from leading them into the promised land?


Think about it…


Balaam obeys God (he has run up against someone more powerful than his curses) and he does not go with them. Another delegation comes and asks again for Balaam to come and do his thing. And God says (Numbers 22:20: “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”)


So Balaam goes and one of the most interesting and fascinating stories in the entire Bible unfolds. Balaam’s donkey becomes one of God’s messengers! He talks! (And no he is not Dominic the donkey!)


But notice what the story says in verse 22, “But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him.” (Kind of like a Damascus Road experience, like Paul had in Acts 9!)


When was the last time God stood astride your path and stopped you from doing something He did not want you to do?


Well, Balaam loses his temper with the donkey not once but three times as the donkey, who sees the angel of God in front of him, refuses to stay on the path! And eventually Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees what the donkey sees.


Now we read in verse 20 says “But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him.”


Why was God angry with Balaam?


What was God angry about?


Was it that Balaam was not seeing what he needed to see? That he wasn’t supposed to go with them at all?


Or was God angry with the situation and with everyone involved, Balaam, Balak, and the Israelites?


I think that we might safely conclude, that God was hoping that Balaam would have learned his lesson the first time. But he didn’t and now God acted again to stop Balaam. So we have this incredible story about a donkey who sees an angel of the Lord and tries to keep his master from getting to where he doesn’t need to go!


Is it another ‘no’ from God?


Eventually, as we continue, Balaam finally sees the angel and we read in Numbers 22:34 “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” And the angel responds in verse 35 “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.” But in verse 38 he says to Balak “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”


Well, as we walk in to chapter 23, Balaam and Balak make a sacrifice of seven bulls and Balaam says in verse 3 “Stay here beside your offering while I go aside. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet with me. Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you.”


So Balaam meets with God and God says, verse 5, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”


And it is a word of blessing on the Israelites which makes Balak angry but Balaam says, verse 12 “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”


This scenario is repeated twice and in all three situations, Balaam speaks only blessings and repeats the reality that he will only speak, can only speak and do what the Lord tells him to do!


And finally, this brings us to out main text, which is really a repeat of what Balaam has already said to Balak and in Numbers 24:14 “Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”


And in four final messages, prophetic statements, he indicates defeat for Moab and others and only victory for the Israelites.


God calls Israel blessed even though they are living in limbo for another 40 years because of their lack of faith!


They continue to disobey God, they continue to sin. Just read the opening verses of Numbers 25.


But God does NOT give up on them. They are part of His plan and mission to eventually offer the forgiveness of sin to the entire world, including you and me!


He will not be deterred from His plan of redemption! He uses a Balaam, a donkey, and some stubborn and sinful people to make that happen.


So what does Balaam’s story say to you, to us today?


Let me suggest, that in the early history of Israel, when they could have stepped out on faith and possessed the land which God had promised them and they did not, God called them blessed.


What might that be called?


Grace, is it not?


Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.


Thanks be to God for His great grace.







Throwback Thursday Review: Alena Graedon’s The Word Exchange

When the opening line of a novel you are reading for the first time begins with

“On a very cold and lonely Friday night last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary.”

You find yourself asking, “WHAAT?”

…and you start reading!

This is a fascinating novel about the value and importance of language and community and well… other things which I think that George Orwell would find interesting in this book (and perhaps Derrida and other members of the Deconstructionist School of Literary Criticism).

Enjoy my review of Alena Graedon’s

and enjoy the novel yourself!

Here is the link to my review; https://jimkane.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/my-review-of-alena-graedons-the-word-exchange/


A Courageous Faith, A Courageous Woman of Faith

Sermon for Sunday, January 21, 2018

1 Samuel 25

One of the many things I have read and heard over the years is that people look at the Old Testament with a mixture of disgust and fear.

It comes from passages like Genesis 19:8 where Lot says to a group of men trying to beat down the door to his house wanting the two young men (who are really angels from God sent to get Lot and his family out of Sodom) for sexual purposes.

Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

What father, people ask, would do such a thing with his daughters?

Then there is the book of Leviticus which contain verses like this:

Whoever utters the name of the Lord must be put to death. Leviticus 24:16

In the King James translation, it is rendered

And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death,

And in the New International Version it is rendered

anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.

Blaspheme is to take lightly or disregard God so it is how the name of God is spoken.

But then the whole idea of stoning someone who is basically swearing does not sit well with us, does it?

But there are people in the Old Testament who are unforgettable and to whom we relate today, centuries after they lived. Their experiences and our experiences mesh in some uncanny ways because they too were human beings.

Some of these characters are well known – Moses, David, Abraham, Ruth, Jeremiah, Rebecca, Leah

Others are not – Josiah, Nahum, Phineas

But these characters have something to teach us about faith, character, and how we deal (or not deal) with life. How we remain faithful to God or not.

For this Sunday and next, I am going to focus on two Old Testament characters and what they might teach us about the importance of following the Lord, even in challenging circumstances.

This morning we are going to study what the Bible, specifically 1 Samuel 25, tells us about a woman of courage named Abigail. And next Sunday, we are going to spend time in Numbers 24:12-14 listening to and learning from one of the more interesting Old Testament characters Balaam.

Now, I am going to be making some changes within my messages (not content but in structure and application) to you and today the first one that I am making is that I will be creating “pause points” where I will ask you a question for your reflection. You can use your bulletin to write down your response or your note taking app on your phone or tablet.

Here is the first pause point for this morning:

What is the or one of the most courageous thing you have done in your life?

As I began seminary, I wanted to find a part-time ministry job. I saw a position open for a part-time youth director at a church in the city near where I was attending seminary. So, after making a call to the pastor, we went to a Sunday evening service at the church.

It was one of the most high-pressure services I had ever been to. As we concluded the service, the pastor walked up and down the aisle stopping every now and then and confronting someone in the pews about their faith.

I almost did not introduce myself after the service because I did not like what I had experienced. But I did, and we were invited to the fellowship time afterward.

It was one of the most awkward moments in my life. We spoke briefly with the pastor who indicated that we would talk later.

As my wife and I sat there, no one speaking to us, we quietly processed what we had experienced. Finally, as we measured the distance to the door with our eyes and determined if we could make a clean get-a-away, we did.

Out the door we flew and to our car. We feared that we would be tracked down and cornered but no one came after us. And we never heard from the pastor again.

The next day, the pastor of the church we finally settled on, talked with us and when he realized where we had gone, said that he wished we would have talked with him before going there as the pastor of that church had a reputation that was not good.

The fear I felt during that service and in the walk out the door, was one of the most intense experiences with fear that I have ever had. The courage to leave that situation we judged as not the right one for us, came from a realization that something had to change…now.

And I am reminded of the Nelson Mandala quote

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

And President Franklin Roosevelt also pointed out something similar when he said

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

But what about Abigail? What fear or fears did she face down? What was her source of courage?

Abigail, is a woman of courage, and courageous faith, as we shall see. We are introduced to her in 1 Samuel 25 and the entire chapter reveals a courageous woman whose courage, and faith, pays off.

Let’s take a walk through this passage from the Bible and note a few things as we do.

Verse 1: Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral.

Samuel refers to the prophet Samuel who anointed David as the new king of Israel because the current king Saul had disobeyed God. So, a very influential person in David’s life has died.

And the conflict between David and Saul is very active as Saul chases David around Israel and David, as noted in chapter 24 has the chance to kill Saul but refuses to do so. So, when we come to chapter 25, David is, in Saul’s eyes, a fugitive. And the man who makes David king dies.

What kind of mood do you think David was in as he seeks food and supplies for his men from Abigail’s husband Nabal?

 He is tired. He is stressed. He is hungry. David is hurting on many different levels.

So, he seeks out Nabal and asks for food and supplies for he and his men? The reply from Nabal is noted in verses 10 through 11:

“Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word.

And David’s response?

 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.

David has been insulted and he is angry.

The last time you were insulted, how did you handle it?

 It hurts. It makes us angry. We want to retaliate.

Well as we continue, Abigail steps into the picture. (verses 14 through 17)

One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

I like the first sentence of the next verse, verse 18

Abigail acted quickly.

What fear or fears did Abigail have face down? What was her source of courage to act quickly?

Let me suggest that one source of courage we often tap into is simply survival. We do what we have to do to survive.

And Abigail family’s survival was at stake!

She packs up a veritable feast for David and his men and made the decisions to face an angry King of Israel herself.

But not only did she have to have the courage to face David she also had to face, if she returned home, the courage to face her husband for as we read in verse 19: But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

Abigail honors David as the King of Israel as she seeks to curb his anger.

“Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent

“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Okay, here’s a question for us this morning?

Was Abigail being sincere here or was she simply trying to keep her husband from being killed?

 Notice that she appeals to David’s legacy, his integrity, his faith:

When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself.

The gifts and the words of respect do their job

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

But she is not “out of the woods” as we say. She still has to face her husband.

When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

There is a belief that Nabal had a stroke from the shock of her confession and then passed away ten or so days later.

And then, a fairy tale like ending!

David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.

(Yes, I know, David, as noted in the remaining verses, has more than one wife. This too is an issue for many regarding the Old Testament. But that’s for another time!)

What do you take from this message and this story today?

 Let me suggest one:

The courage in doing the right thing always involves risk…which could be another name for faith.

 Abigail had no idea how both David and Nabal would respond to her. But she knew how serious the situation was and she acted to save her husband, even though he was not a nice man, and her sons.

What do you need to have the courage to do this week?

 May the Lord give us all the courage to do what is the right thing, the God honoring thing.

And let us be thankful for a woman of faith, who did the right thing in the face of an uncertain outcome.




A Faith of Resolve Not Just Resolutions

Text: Philippians 2:12-13

I am speaking this morning to the issue of having a faith of resolve and not just resolutions.

When I was a college student, we had a group of chapel speakers that came just about every year that I was in school. A couple of them I enjoyed looking forward to hearing every year.

One of them, a professor at another Christian college, an author and a leading evangelical voice, was one of those “big challenge” speakers that make the rounds of college and universities in which the students are challenged to go and change the world!

Several years later, I heard one of his colleagues speak and knowing that perhaps many of us gathered (it was a youth minister’s gathering) had heard his colleague speak, said, “So and so tells students to go and change the world! I tell my students to go home and clean up their room!”

So take note that this message is a “clean up your room” message today as I have us consider “a faith of resolve not just resolutions.”

How many of us here this morning has made at least one New Year’s resolution this year?

You’ll probably fail at keeping it.

“That’s very helpful, Pastor Jim, thanks for your word of encouragement!”

Well, it is true that the majority of us, about 90 percent, fail to successfully fulfill a New Year’s resolution.

A question to ask yourself this morning (and write down) “Is my New Year’s resolution/intention a large bucket list or an attempted extreme makeover?”

Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen wrote back in 2013 about the frustration they felt, in making meaningful change in their lives as it related to New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t have enough time to live my own life!

I reached this conclusion after trying to follow all the advice given on a morning news show one week in January. It seemed like a smart way to start my day. I figured I’d tune in, get the forecast, learn the headlines, and maybe hear a celebrity interview. I wasn’t expecting all the show segments telling me how to live my life better.

Most of these segments offered the promise of deliverance: … Others, I decided, were designed to scare the socks off of me:…Motivated by this combination of hope and fear, I compiled a to-do list of ways to improve my life and its management according to the experts. The more I listened, learned, and listed, the more behind schedule I felt…

Looking at the list of things I was supposed to do to live my life right, or well, or whatever all this was going to do for me, I felt defeated. The list that was going to improve my life left me overwhelmed. I’m sure you can relate; you’ve made lists too. Lists of things you want to start doing or stop doing — things you want to change about yourself. Lists of ways to improve your life and your character…

(Now, take a moment, and write down five thing on your list, you have one, we all do, of what you are trying change… how do you feel?)

Ashcraft and Olsen go on to say:

When I open my Bible, I find more lists. Things a follower of Christ should do. Things a follower of Christ should resist doing. Traits a follower of Christ should display — all the truly important stuff that never makes it onto morning show segments.

Pause point: As follower of Christ, what expectation do you feel the greatest pressure to meet?

When was I going to get to any of this? I decided to drop my list of ways to get the most out of my life. I realized I needed to find a new way to approach personal change.

The personal change of which I speak this morning is very much part of our spiritual growth and development, our emotional growth and development, even our physical and mental growth and development.

Take note of this: But what Ashcraft and Olsen speak of is ‘cleaning up your room,’ an incremental approach to change. And it is one that with a simple focus.

Ashcraft is a pastor and Olsen is a member of his congregation and together, they wrote a book that I highly recommend called:

My One Word

It outlines a process of how to discern one word to focus on in place of New Year’s resolutions.

I have found it to be very helpful and this is the sixth year I have done the One Word focus. Here are the words that have been my focus since 2013.






And this year it is re-engage.

The focus and the experiences I have had with these words have been very personal at times. The Lord has used them to help me live with more focus and clarity. And it has been interesting to note that as I focused on practicing silence by listening more to and for the voice of the Lord last year, I found myself starting to re-engage with people and with the Lord in a deeper way. It is a process I am still involved in and I also strongly believe that there is a link between all six words.

Now, let’s take a moment: Here is an another question, what might be one word for you to focus on for 2018?

Now before I conclude this message with some suggestions on how to determine what your one word might be, I want to have us spend a few moments with Philippians 2:12-13 because I think that there is a link between a focused approach to personal change and what Paul speaks of in this passage:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Notice that Paul said to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and NOT “work FOR your salvation with fear and trembling.” What does this mean, to work OUT my salvation?

It means to take our responsibility for our daily walk with the Lord. It is not all of us nor is it all the Lord!  It means to work alongside the Lord, with the Lord. It means to think through the implications of serving the Lord and following Him on a daily basis.

To work OUT our salvation, is to work through our salvation, to deal with the ethical issues in the workplace, at school, the relational issues at home, in our marriages, these are daily things.

Paul notes that it is the Lord “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” But He asks of us our cooperation. So what do we use, where do we turn to help us work out our salvation?

We have the tools of scripture, prayer, worship, small group of some kind…but what else do we use, do we need?

A point to notice here: We need a daily plan. We need a clearer focus. We need a “clean our room plan.”

To work OUT our salvation is to work toward, work at, our own personal spiritual maturity and change. That is a daily thing.

There are so many things offered us, too many in my opinion, that are big things to help us work OUT our salvation. Big events. Big goals. Big plans. Big experiences. They are like Saul’s armor on David – they don’t fit us. They don’t help us with the daily things we live with.

(Nothing wrong with Big events…we need big from time to time…we need experiences and events that stretch us…)

Consider with me for a moment some One Word focus that appear in scripture…especially from the words of Jesus…especially when it came to Jesus’ directives at the end of His earthly ministry.

First, we go to Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


We know what it is like to go somewhere, make something, baptize people, and teach something.

Then over in Acts 1 and verse 8 we read

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


Jesus focuses on the being here…BE my witnesses…

We understand what it means to be a witnesses…to tell what we saw, what we experienced…

These familiar words offer us focus…a clear focus…and this focus is helpful

Point to consider here: The One word focus can be a course of action we need to take or a course of being we need to make. It is designed to help us focus on one aspect of our lives where God is working or perhaps wants to work in us.

For example, in 2016 my One Word was simplify. It was something that I needed to do…and it was hard to do…one major way I simplified my life was that I gave up chairing our Ministry Council and chairing our congregational meetings. It was the right thing to do…and it has helped me focus more on what I do well.

Are you interested in this focus? I highly recommend it!

Let me suggest the website, oneword365.com as a starting place. They have a suggested list of words for you to consider.

Many times I have read in the OneWord365 Facebook group posts or on Twitter, “My word has found or chosen me.” That has been my experience because I believe that it has been the Lord that has been involved in this process.

Here are some steps to help you get started, if you choose, on picking one word for this year. It is from the website myoneword.org

Step 1: Determine the kind of person you want to become.

Step 2: Identify the characteristics of that person.

Step 3: Pick A Word

A point to note for your notes: Our faith requires of us change… Paul makes this clear in our main text for this morning. It requires us to work OUT our salvation, carefully and thoughtfully. And one of the ways we can do this is with a close up “clean up your room, first” focus.

Let us resolve to have a faith this year of Resolve Not Just Resolutions, but transformation.

Thanks be to God for the resolve of a loving, heavenly Father who came that we might have life and have it more abundant.