Allen Jackson - Family, Fathers, And Faith - Part 3
We give you from time to time these little tins of oil. We give you the tins 'cause it's easier to manage than a bottle of oil. I've ruined clothes with the bottles of oil, so far the chapsticks held up a little better. Same stuff, just a little different form. But the anointing is an invitation to the Spirit of God. Pray for your children. They start a new school year anoint them, "God, let them go into the authority of your Spirit this year". They're leaving home to go to college, anoint them three or four times. Pour a gallon of oil over their head.
We were in Africa for a pastors conference and they were anointing some pastors, and they brought their finest clothes for the event; they live such a different life. And they took a big bottle of oil and poured it over their head and down onto their clothes. I had a hard time enjoying the moment because I thought, "Ah". And they could have cared less. If you get a new home, anoint it. If you move into a new apartment, anoint it. If you get a new job, anoint your desk. Or do you want to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit? Don't announce it, don't stand on your desk, just quietly and invite the Lord into it. How can this be so far from us? Why don't we do this? We don't want God's help? We don't think we need his help?
Anointing, what was the third one? Serving, serving. Jesus said, "The greatest among you will be your servant". That's Jesus. I don't know about you, but high priority in my life is Jesus saying, "Well done". Right? I mean, I'm a pretty simple kid. I grew up in a barn in Tennessee. And when it's all said and done, and my strength is done, and I'm about to step out of time, I would, I can, there's very few things that would be more important to me than Jesus saying, "Well done". Okay, this one, this is like plain stuff, "The greatest among you serves". Well, how often do I have to? I mean, I did for a while. I mean, like, you mean like more? And to be honest, I don't know the answer to that. I mean, I don't know like if you have to serve 21 days or two years or six hoedowns or five weeks of the outdoor festival, he didn't give us like the magic number. He just said, "If you're interested in kingdom significance, be a servant. Because if you exalt yourself, you're gonna get humbled, but if you'll humble yourself and serve, you'll get exalted". I'm in.
So start finding some ways to serve. The language that's kind of emerged around it is a servant leader, we've kind of... but it doesn't mean that you get coffee for everybody. I told you, I borrowed this from somebody else. It means you're willing to get coffee for anyone. It doesn't mean you say, "I have no value". It doesn't mean you never lead. Moses, the Bible says, "was the meekest man on the face of the earth". And he walked into Pharaoh, the most powerful leader on the planet and said, "You let the Hebrew people go, or I'll watch you be broken". You see, we think of a humble servant as like, "Well, you know". That's not Moses. That's not what he said. We've had the wrong... we haven't paid attention. Serve, find a way, regularly, consistently. We have an abundance of people that serve here, you do it beautifully. But if you're asking me for the behavior set that will initiate a response from God, this is the short course that I know. Practice serving.
Number four, give. Yes, give your time. Yes, give your talent. And yes, give your resources. Deuteronomy 12, "Bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your special gifts, what you vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and your flocks". I chose that passage. He talks about giving in a whole cornucopia of ways. Yeah, bring your tithes, but bring your offerings, and bring your sacrifices, bring your special gifts, bring the vows you made, and bring your free will. I mean, it's like, "How much do I have to give"? Well it sounds like, "What did you keep"? Malachi 3, some of you know the passage. God is talking to the people of Israel why judgment is coming to them. And he gives them more than one reason.
This verse is a little more familiar, but in chapter two, he says, "Because you have broken the marriage covenant between a man and a woman". What do you think God will say to our generation when we've redefined it? We just break it, we rewrote the contract. Won't he be shocked? But here, he said, "I don't change. Ever since the time of your forefathers you've turned away from my decrees, you haven't kept them. But you ask, 'How do we return?' Will a man, rob God"? He said, "You robbed me in tithes and offerings". I'll give you my opinion, you can disagree with me, but I believe the first tenth of what we have belongs to the Lord.
Now understand that's an Old Testament principle, we're introduced to it in the Old Testament and that we live under a new covenant, and that we're under grace and not the law. I'm not a legalist. To be completely honest, I think that tenth is just a starting point. It helps us understand what it means to relinquish our resources to the Lord. When I read the New Testament, it seems to me that God didn't lower the bar, he raised it. Jesus said, "The law says that if you commit murder, you're guilty, but I say that if you're angry enough to commit murder, you're guilty". Did he lower the standard or raise it? Jesus said, "The law says that if you commit adultery, you're guilty, but I say that if you just want to commit adultery, you're guilty". Did he lower the standard or did he raise it? He raised it, didn't he?
So the principle of tithing, I will admit it, readily admit to you, it's an Old Testament concept. But I truly think that what the New Testament gives us is something greater than. And we know that, we know it's a biblical principle. We just say, "Well, it's all about the preacher. The preacher wants our money". Or, "The church doesn't spend it the way they should spend it". Or, "I don't agree with that decision". As if somehow that absolves us from the biblical principle. I don't give to the church. I mean, let me restate that, I do give to the church. I've given my tithes to the church, which is really backwards if you think about that. I pay my employer for the privilege of working.
Think about that a while, I mean that's messed up. But I've always wanted to give more than was reflected by a tenth because it's the Lord's. And he has blessed me. Once I have given it, it ceases to be about all those things. I have given it to the Lord. I understand good stewardship and I get that, but don't use this as an excuse to be disobedient, remember, practice, practice, practice. Luke 21, "Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury". This passage completely blows up this notion of giving in secret. They're giving in public. The only time the Bible, the primary time the Bible talks to us about giving privately is when you're helping someone less fortunate than you, that you not humiliate them in the way you give.
Let them keep their dignity intact, even though you provide help. Okay? But principally when giving is done, it's done in public to encourage other people towards generosity. It's why I'll give you updates on what's happening with the campaign because I hope it inspires generosity. It doesn't make you think, "Well, what are they gonna do with all of that"? We're gonna create new tools to serve God's people. We've been doing it for a long time. "Well, do you really need that"? I don't know. Yeah, I think so. I'm determined we'll honor the Lord with it. "Well, I don't agree".
Okay, but, it doesn't absolve you from giving. You may not want to give to that, but you still have a biblical responsibility to give. You saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins, and he said, "I tell you the truth, this widow put in more than all the others. They gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on". I can tell you in all the years I've served here, the most faithful givers, the most conscientious givers are typically the people with the more meager resources. I'm not saying there haven't been people with great resources that have been very generous, there have been. But the people that have... I watch people with very meager resources and they are fastidious in the way they give.
Again, what are the practices? What are the behaviors? And really in a simpler statement, I would encourage you to equate learning with a systematic reading of your Bible. Not another Bible study, folks. We are educated so far beyond our level of obedience. We're just counting on God grading on some sort of a curve, and he hasn't promised that. "Well, he's a God of grace". Yeah, but he's not sloppy. Have you heard that thing about the narrow door and the narrow path and few that enter and the broad gate and the broad way and many that enter? Does that have your attention? It does mine. Read your Bible regularly, consistently. Deuteronomy 11, "Fix these words of mine in your heart and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands, bind them on your foreheads".
Hebrew is a very simple language. And the way you add emphasis in Hebrew is through repetition. Sometimes in English you'll read a place and it says, "Listen, listening". It's a Hebrewism that's saying, "Listen carefully"! And in this case, it's repeated. "Fix these words in your hearts, in your minds. Tie them on your hands, bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talk about them when you're at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses, on your gates". I mean, he's shouting at you! "Pay attention to my word"! And then he tells us why, "so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers". "I have a covenant with you. You have a promised inheritance, but if you don't listen to my word, you will lose your inheritance".
We have all kinds of theological arguments about losing our salvation, just park that conversation for a little bit. Biblically, you can lose your inheritance. And you don't wanna do that. Proverbs 3, "Don't forget my teaching, keep my commands in your heart, they'll prolong your life. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you'll win favor in a good name in the sight of God". The systematic daily reading of your Bible will do as much to transform your spiritual life as any single thing I know, if you're a Christ follower. And then we go, "Well, you know, I don't like to read".
Okay, read anyway. "Well, I'm not a fast reader". Okay, "Well, I have some challenge". Okay, okay. Listen to it. "Well, it's not the same for me". You'll learn the character of God. You'll come to know that God responds to those who diligently seek him because he'll begin to minister to you in a new way. Maybe not your first day or your second day or your second week, but he will. It will take time and consistency and a desire to know on your part. That's really a self-discipline issue. People say, "I don't do it". I'm like, "Really? How long you been in church? Thirty years and you've never read your..." "Oh, you know, I read it once".
Number six, praying. We just haven't. We haven't made it a part of our lives. We don't imagine, it's not a practice that we're really comfortable with. We've learned to tolerate it. Luke 11, "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. And when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray.'" Did you know you can learn to pray? Prayer is learned. And if you don't pray much, you don't... you're a beginner. "Well, I've been in church 50 years". Okay, you're gonna have gray hair, pampers, and a rattle. "Well, how do..." we learn to pray. Prayer opens God's possibilities. When we fail to pray, we close doors of opportunities. You don't have to draw attention to your prayers. You don't have to pray with a special tone of voice. Professional Christians have not helped with this, we've made prayer something, "Oh, God".
You know, in the rest of the week, I'm going, "Hi". Just be who you are and talk to the Lord. We approach our heavenly Father on the authority of Jesus's name. Practice prayers. Hezekiah, his life was extended because he prayed. It's in 2 Kings 20, if he hadn't prayed, he would have died younger. His prayers brought a response from God. What have you left on the table because you didn't bother to pray? What have you missed? What have you had to endure because you didn't pray? "Well, I didn't want to be presumptuous. I didn't want to bother God". God can handle it. I have confidence that if I become such a nuisance in heaven, he will send me a message, "Could you just cool it for a little while"? He can handle it.
In John 11, Jesus is outside Lazarus's tomb, "Lazarus, come out"! It's a really short prayer. If I'd been in charge of that, you know what we'd have done? We'd have had 10 days of fasting. We'd have had 90 minutes of worship. We'd have made proclamations. If I'm the one that's got to say to "Lazarus, you come out here"! I promise you, we'd have primed that pump. Right? Don't you know I'm telling you the truth. We'd have been doing proclamations, we'd have been winding up. We'd have been over here in the corner, we'd have a whole group practicing folding and unfolding grave clothes, because we're gonna get some here in a minute.
Jesus just walked over there and said, "Hey Lazarus, psst". What if he hadn't prayed? Mary and Martha would have lost their brother. Prayers matter, folks. Do you pray every day? Do you pray when you pull into work? Do you pray when you pull into home? Do you talk to the Lord? "What can I do"? You can pray! When you read your Bible every day, take one thing out of that Bible reading for the day that you're gonna make a point of prayer for your day. Pick it up to read it on purpose, stop reading it like a mindless drone. So listen, I'm gonna read this and if I come up with one thing I can pray for that's biblically based today. Turn your brain on. Pray.
The number seven, I don't have the language right on this, but it really has to do with family and the awareness that we're under authority. We've got to bring our families back under the authority of the Lord. In Matthew 13, Jesus is teaching a crowd in parables. But it says in verse 36, "He left the crowd and he went into the house. And his disciples came to him and said, 'Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.'" The disciples, it seems to me, got invaluable training in those private settings with the Lord. They got to understand the bigger picture of what they were living out, of what they were hearing and seeing, and they were engaging the world from this perspective of a disciple. It's a new pattern to them. They knew how to fish and they knew some things, but when they engage with Jesus, they're listening to this stuff and they're trying to assimilate it. And in these private settings, they've always got these questions.
So it seems to me that Jesus brings them to a new place, it's a training exercise. They understand the events of the day in the context of Jesus's perspective. "Tell us what that meant. Why didn't we help that young man be free"? Well, I wanna submit to you that your dinner table is a primary training exercise for a family. It's an opportunity for parents to help their children understand the context of their lives with a biblical perspective. I understand it's hard work, I know you're too busy. I know we've got 11 ways to go and 15 assignments, and we can't do it. And I'm very reluctant to add more responsibilities to families because I think they're under tremendous pressure. But that time at the table when you have little people, to help them understand what's happening, to give them a context, to be a safe place, "I didn't understand," to let them hear your opinion is invaluable.
If you don't, you leave them under the authority of teachers, of coaches, of friends, of social media, of state-sponsored TikTok. If they're spending more time with the device than they are hearing from you, you have abdicated. "So I don't have little kids anymore". No, you got big ones. How are you bringing authority into their lives? It's not easy. The conversations aren't easy. Jesus looks at the disciples and go, "Are you really that dull"? They get offended, they get mad. "Are you gonna leave too"? He says. Look at Luke 12. It says, "When a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to the disciples, 'Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. There's nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.'"
See, a part of being under authority is understanding there aren't any secrets. If you're a secret keeper, you are cultivating ungodliness. If you're doing life together, if you're in that family system, we're talking about fathers and families and husbands. Teach your children. It's a place for transparency. Now you've got to be trustworthy to do that. You can't be a great secret keeper and a deceiver and a manipulator and expect your children to be something different. But you see, the authority of God is expressed first in those primary relationships of our lives. If you miss that, God and his mercy and his grace can restore it to your lives, we see it every week here at church.
You come from a very broken family system. God is a God who can restore. God will be your father. But if you stand in those offices and you're giving expression to that, you have a responsibility to bring that authority of God, to come with integrity, to come with transparency, to listen, to teach the people around you. Again, the question is, "What can I do"? There's a menu of things to do, are you doing it? "Well, I meant something important". Oh. Everything else comes out of this. If you were given 100,000 people to listen to you, and you don't have these tools in place, what exactly are you gonna tell them? Practice. God will move. Why don't we stand for this prayer.
Father, thank you. Thank you for your great love for us. Thank you that you are a covenant-keeping God. That you keep your covenant to a thousand generations. We praise you for it, Lord, you've called us out of darkness. Through the blood of Jesus, we have been washed clean. We've been justified and sanctified, set apart to you. Lord, we come tonight in humility to acknowledge those times and places where we have fallen short. We've fallen short of what you created us to be. Many things have contributed to that, Lord, but the essence of it has been our choices, and we ask you to forgive us. Without excuses, without finger pointing, we ask you to forgive us. Lord, you have called us to this most unique time, and I believe you've given us everything we need for life and godliness. And I pray as we walk forward from this point in time, that by your Spirit, we would have understanding hearts in a new way. That we would have an awareness of you. That we might have a new boldness to speak the truth that we know, to share what we have come to know of Jesus. Wherever you take us, wherever you open a door, wherever you give us that privilege, we thank you for it. May you be pleased with us. When you watch us, Father, may it bring joy to you. We thank you for the great honor of bearing the name of Jesus. And we thank you that by his blood we have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy, body, soul, and spirit. In Jesus's name, amen.