Allen Jackson - Disaster, Disappointment, and Hope - Part 2
It's good to be with you today. We're gonna conclude our study on 'Disaster, Disappointment, and Hope.' You know, disappointment is an appointment you didn't make, it's an appointment that arrives in your life that you hadn't scheduled. So it's typically unwelcome, you hope it'll hurry out as quickly as it showed up. Well, disappointments come to all of us, but they don't have the power to determine our future, God does that. That's the hope that Christ followers have. The victory is ours, we're gonna walk through some difficult places, Jesus told us that, but there's a pathway to victory through every circumstance. Grab your Bible, get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart to the invitation that God has for you today.
I'm gonna spend the rest of the time we have, and I've got a few minutes, to talk about this idea of seeking the Lord. Well, let's just, as a given, that you've processed new birth, conversion, being born again. If you're here and you haven't, if you'll come see me before we leave, I'll help you with that, but the majority of you, I suspect have processed that, I wanna tell you, you're not done. We've lived with this notion that, you know, "I found my way into the kingdom, hallelujah, I got it all". And there you stand with your pampers and your paci. It's really gonna be awkward when you see the Lord. He didn't die on the cross so we could stay infants.
Well, if you ask me for how to describe that biblically, it's a desire on our part to seek the Lord, I wanna know you better. I wanna know who you are, I wanna understand your character, I wanna know what brings joy to you and what causes you to be frustrated. What would it be necessary for me to please you? How can I rearrange my life to make more time or to give you more attention? I would like to know you better. And I think we probably have to start with the pretty honest and often the more awkward statement is, "I'm not really sure I've cared that much about it". How many of you have enjoyed maturing. Couple of you raised your hand. I don't think too many of you, 'cause a lot of you still try to act like you're adolescents. Well, I mean, not at church. Our parking's a little better since we talked about that.
Well, good job. Don't give in, remember the lines are on the parking lot for a reason. People have met me all over this, every time I park my car, now somebody walks up to me and says, "Between the lines". But I really, when I look back over my life, I remember those, you know, initially my parents were responsible for that. There was some point of maturity they thought I should achieve. Making my bed, "No, I'm really good, you make it". And they began to wanna teach me things. You know, they wanna teach me how to clean a stall. "No, really, I'm all right". Doesn't really bother me if the horse stands in a dirty stall or not. "Well, do you want to eat in our house"? "Yeah, I would prefer to". "Well, this is a part of your growing up". "I really wasn't asking to grow up, I'm good". "Amen, Pastor Allen, thank you for that nugget of wisdom".
But you see, I believe God will bring discipline into our lives with the objective of us maturing. Learning to accept spiritual responsibilities for ourselves, for our families, for the world in which we live. And then we begin to say, "Well, I don't wanna do that". You know, one of the ways we get to this place where being a patriot is out of fashion, it was because long ago we gave up any sense of responsibility to be good citizens. It wasn't our responsibility. We could be selfish, we could take advantage of every opportunity we found. We could express ourselves. Well, in the kingdom of God, we're gonna have to decide we wanna grow up. We're gonna have to seek the Lord.
Now, this isn't really as nearly as mysterious as we wanna make it, you know, we'll say, "Well, if I just knew how". No, no, no, you know how this process works. Whatever your favorite hobby, whatever you like to do with your discretionary time, you figure that. If you wanna be better at fantasy sports, you go find a group of people and then you join a league. And you lose two or three seasons while you figure out how to win. And you talk to people that have expertise and you spend a lot of time online gathering facts and you study a lot of data and you learn how to compete. If it's about baking, you go find people that know how to bake, and you listen to them, and you listen to their secrets. And you understand when they give you a recipe, they don't tell you the real truth. That way their food tastes better than yours. If you're gonna learn to hunt, you go find people that like to hunt, and then you go hunt when the weather's good and the weather's bad.
Well, seeking the Lord is not that different. You decide you wanna know him, you wanna know more about him, you'll find some people that know a little bit more about him than you do, and you go listen and learn. And then you begin to practice what you learn, 'cause it's only when you're willing to engage in the practice of serving the Lord that you gain that strength. God's not a theory, and if you're gonna grow up in your faith, you're gonna have to grow up in practice, not in theory. We'll have to pray for one another, we'll have to believe God, we'll have to understand spiritual authority, we'll have to understand spiritual conflict. All that's a part of the journey. I meet people all the time say, "You know, pastor, I just don't pray". Here's a paci. "Well, you know, pastor, I've just never prayed for sick people," here, box of pampers. "You know, I don't know how to believe when I think about all that spiritual conflict stuff". "Well, let me help you, here's a mobile, hang it over your bed, you can play with the little things at night".
Folks, that's not advanced Christianity, that's the journey. We've taken a pass for so long. We've lost our imagination on seeking the Lord. We don't seek the Lord, we're born again. Why would we do that? We've kind of ignored the council of scripture. I brought you a pretty interesting collection of verses. Psalm 14 verse 2. "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God". Understanding God comes from seeking God. "All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one". That's focused on God's covenant people, not the pagans.
Psalm 34, "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing". There's some motivation for seeking the Lord. It's not all burdensome or intolerant. You know, I hate to admit it with my parents in the house, but most of those things they thought were gonna be good for me... turned out to be good for me. Now, at the time, at almost every point I knew they were wrong, they should have paid for the gas in my car. But at some point along the journey as it unfolded, those lessons became strengths, and enabled me to make choices that brought better outcomes to my life when it became my responsibility. And I was no longer just a dependent. Don't cultivate a dependent mentality of faith.
"Well, I'd grow, I would seek the Lord more if Pastor Allen preached better sermons". Well, maybe if you interceded for Pastor Allen more, he'd preach better sermons. Psalm 40, verse 16. "May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, The Lord be exalted". Psalm 105, "Look to the Lord and his strength, seek his face always". Seek his face always. You see, again, we have this notion that we're gonna master God. We have this continuum, imaginary continuum, am I a beginning Christian, am I a intermediate Christian, am I a mature Christian.
Folks, we are a finite creatures worshiping an infinite God. If you learn something new about God every day and you live to be a thousand, at the end of a thousand years, you're a beginner. More than ever in my life, I'm walking around these days going, "Lord, I need to hear your voice. I need to understand what you want in this world. How do you want us to respond, God? The way we've been responding and the things we've been doing, if we continue to do them, our children are going to lose so much, God. I need to hear your voice". Proverbs 28, "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully". Lamentations, Jeremiah's writings. "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him". Hosea, "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, break up your unplowed ground; it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you".
We've read that verse several times over the last few months, to break up our unplowed ground. We've had some places where we haven't been trying to grow crops, we've left it fallow. We haven't taken the time to plow it and to break it up and to prepare it for a harvest. We've been busy with other things. He said it's time to seek the Lord, to prepare your life for a different kind of a harvest so that when he comes and showers righteousness on you, you're prepared. It's the holiday season, be prepared to take your faith with you to the holidays. Be prepared to take Jesus with you to Thanksgiving and Christmas. What a thought, they're kind of Godly holidays. Zephaniah 2, "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you'll be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger".
Folks, we cannot continue on the trajectory we're on and imagine that God's gonna keep smiling at us. It's time to seek the Lord, those of us who are willing to do so. Amos 5, "This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel, Seek me and live". Psalm 34:4, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me, he delivered me from all my fears". If they're frightened, if you're anxious, if you're uncertain, if you watch the news and it brings a burden to you, begin to seek to the Lord, talk to the Lord. "Lord, what do you want me to do, Lord? Give me a revelation of yourself. Where am I being sloppy? Where am I being presumptive? Where is my commitment to you, where is it broken down? God help me to see".
We're spending too much time angry at other people thinking they're the problem. The enemies of God's people never had the power to overwhelm God's people. It's when God's people broke their relationship with the Lord, they became vulnerable to their enemies. God, what was I thinking when I backed away from Jesus being honored in our schools? God, how was I so distracted when it was no longer appropriate for the Ten Commandments to be posted in public, that I didn't use my voice? God, how far into the world was I when I didn't stand up for those children whose lives were being sacrificed. God, what was I thinking when I wasn't willing to stand in the children and say they shouldn't be taught confusion about their gender. God, help me. "It's not my problem". Whose is it? We have to seek the Lord. We seek him when we want something. When we want an upgrade in our home size or the school for our kids to go to or our clothing label. We'll get pretty focused, if we get a diagnosis we don't like, we'll seek the Lord.
I wanna close with a case study. How many of you know King Hezekiah? He was one of the Hebrews, I mean one of the heroes of the kings of Judah. A Godly king. Hezekiah is the one where the prophet Isaiah went to him and he said, "Get ready, you're gonna die". I mean, that's kind of a bad day when a prophet comes to give you that announcement. And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed, and before Hezekiah got out of the building, God said, "Go back and tell him I'm gonna extend his life". Gave him a sign to support it. Well, Hezekiah's son, succeeded him to the throne, his name was Manasseh. And Manasseh came to power as a very young person and became one of the most wicked kings in the history of the nation, with a Godly father. Parents, it's not an exact thing. We can do the best we can do, but every generation has to choose the Lord. It's not an excuse for sloppiness.
Look in 2 Chronicles 33, we'll start in verse 6, it's describing Manasseh. Says, "He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom". He offered his children, his sons, as sacrifices to the Canaanite fertility gods. The belief was, if you offered a child, you would prosper. So they offered their children in the fire as sacrifices for economic opportunity. We haven't changed too much. "He practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft. He consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger. He took the carved image he had made and he put it in God's temple". How many of you are grateful that the darkest chapters of your life are not recorded in the book? Social media's bad enough. Well, Manasseh's story is recounted to us.
Now, that same chapter in verse 10, it says, "The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, he put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon". Verse 12, "In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and he humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers". Manasseh decided maybe he would seek the Lord. Now, you read that and, you know, the theory is that there are no atheists in foxholes, but that's not true. I have lived enough life and talked to enough people and read enough accounts that in the midst of great trauma and difficulty, not everyone turns to the Lord. Some shake their fist and curse God. Some double down on their wickedness. In this case, most surprisingly, 'cause Manasseh is really close to the gold standard of wickedness. In this case, under some tremendous physical duress, he begins to seek the Lord.
Look in verse 13, "When he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and he listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. And then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God". Afterward, now Manasseh knew about God, we read that already from Romans 1, he just didn't wanna pay any attention. But after he began to seek the Lord, watch what happens. "Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of the Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah". He knew how to lead the nation, he hadn't wanted to do it. "He got rid of the foreign gods. He removed the image from the temple of the LORD, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the LORD and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the LORD, the God of Israel".
Manasseh understood. And when he began to seek the Lord, when he cried out to the Lord, he began to adopt a different set of behaviors that reflected he was seeking the Lord. When will we see change that seems to secure our children and our grandchildren in a different way? I believe the simplest answer to that question is when we begin to seek the Lord. It's not a theoretical thing, it will be expressed in our willingness to be obedient to the truth that we already know, that we just haven't paid that much attention to. We've kind of shrugged it off, we didn't pay that much attention to serving or giving or honoring the Lord or being consistent or not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves, or on and on and on the excuses go. It's easy to point our fingers at others, but I believe if God's people will seek the Lord, it's not a burden, it's a good thing.
The Lord will bless you, he'll bring good things to you. Honoring God is not burdensome or intrusive or threatening or diminishing, it's liberating. You'll be set free, we need his help. It doesn't mean you're gonna have to listen to more of my preaching, hallelujah, it's a win all the way around. But it means the Creator of heaven and earth will begin to interact with your life. You'll find the joy of obedience and the fulfillment that comes from growing up in the Lord. You'll see God begin to use your life to help other people, you'll be a light in dark places. There'll be people who won't like it, there'll be some pushback, there'll be some complaints, but you'll have the privilege of saying, "I'm on an assignment".
You know, I have done small groups for years and years, and I can't tell you how many times I'd have a small group on my calendar, it's a busy day and I'm looking I'm like, "I've got to stop into a group tonight, this is the last week". I get there then I tell them I'm quitting. I've done groups for 30 years, I know how to lead a small group. What was I thinking? Who talked me into that? Get them in here, I wanna talk to them. Then I go to a group and I sit and we begin to share and I listen to the stories and we invite God into the midst of our lives, and I walk out afterwards going, "It was the best hour of my week. God, I thank you for those people. They strengthened me tonight".
Now here's the weird part, next week, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I'm tired, I look at my calendar, "I knew I should have canceled that group last week". Does that ever happen to you? Some of you felt that way coming to church. You say, "Why am I going to church? It's cold, it's drizzling. I can livestream it". And you leave encouraged and strengthened 'cause God meets you in his own unique way. God is moving in the earth. He's calling his church forth through a new time and a new season. It's time to seek the Lord. We're gonna talk about it more and we're gonna talk some about some specific ways to engage that in the morning, but it's not really a mystery, start with being obedient to the things you know. Serve faithfully, give generously, walk uprightly, tell the truth, stand up for righteousness. Don't be quiet when you hear Jesus maligned. Do the things that you know and watch God move.
I brought you a prayer. Actually, I brought you a prayer from the book of Ephesians, but it was such a good prayer for the church in Ephesus. You know, the church in Ephesus started with riots, and it shook the whole city until the ungodly people were so angry at the outcomes the Christians were having, they started a riot. I pray that we have such an outcome of godliness and righteousness, that the adversaries of that don't know what to do. Why don't you stand? We can read this prayer together. It's a little longer than some, but you can blame that on Paul, he wrote it. I've just adapted it to Southern. Let's read it together:
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen us with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And I pray that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen," hallelujah. If you're here and you need prayer, there are people at every sanctuary at the altar that will pray with you. God bless you. We'll see you in the morning.