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Green Pastures and Still Waters

Some of you may be relieved to know that I will not be preaching a “Father’s Day” Sermon this week.  I will however be reminding dads of a very important life choice that is, in truth, critical for all of us.  It has to do with priorities.  One of the greatest challenges in life is keeping the main things the main things.  Distractions abound.  In a culture like ours we have so many options it can make us dizzy.  I think many people in this culture and in the church are afflicted with PADD.  That stands for Priority Attention Deficit Disorder.  (I made that up)  My observation has been that people substitute the priority of love for God and neighbor with the following priorities…1) Pleasing self.  2) Pleasing others.  3) Pleasing self.  Like a compass surrounded by magnets, people run from one false north to another going nowhere but busy in getting there.  We would all be able to list the Godly “main things,” but if I may be blunt, our actions don’t back up our words.  Priorities are revealed by what we do and by the choices we make, not by the words we say.  I cringe a little every time I read Joshua 24.  Joshua reminded God’s people of His covenant and they said, “We will serve the LORD, for He is our God.”  Joshua then said, “No you won’t but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  That’s my paraphrase of the content but that’s what it means.  He had seen their choices and knew that they were only giving lip service to God.  They responded to him in an argumentative fashion, “No, but we will serve the Lord.”  He then said, “Then put away your idols and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.”  They responded with the same words MINUS appropriate action.  They wrongly thought they could “do it all.”  The book of Judges reveals what happened.  Friends, priorities matter.  Priorities are revealed by actions.  Actions have consequences.  A choice to do one thing is a choice to NOT do something else.  “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”

Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”  To not be ashamed of the gospel also means not being ashamed of Christ.  It means not being ashamed to be one of His followers.  One of the reasons we are ashamed is because we want to be liked.  We want approval.  We want affirmation.  Generally speaking, people who reject Christ also reject His followers.  It is painful to be rejected.  We are so deeply wired for acceptance and approval that we want it even from people we don’t know!  I remember several times in high school that I really didn’t want to be identified with Christ and His people.  I am sorry for that now but at the time I wanted the approval of people more than I wanted to be known as one of “His.”  The reproach of Christ is hard to carry if we don’t understand and believe where our ultimate approval and affirmation comes from.  We want to be loved.  We crave the attention of someone, anyone at times will do…and we’ll compromise what we know to be true to have that attention on our weakest days.   I’m glad that Jesus remains faithful even when we do not.  I’m thankful He claims us even though we have not always been faithful to claim Him.  Of course if we continue to deny Him, He will deny us so we better get this figured out.  Our text for this week sheds some light on this subject and I hope we’ll all come away from our time in the Word with a willingness to be found “worthy of shame.”  It’s a paradoxical phrase but the Spirit used it at the end of Acts 5.  It simply means that the apostles conducted themselves and spoke in such a way that people knew they were followers of Jesus.  What a great honor!  Oh that we would all receive such a compliment and be worthy of the shame associated with Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us.