Gratitude Quotient

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 13, 2013, Pentecost XXI

Jeremiah 29:4-7, Psalm 66:1-12, II Timothy 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19

From the Old Testament:
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner; A time to gather together with family and friends for good food, good fellowship and of course to give thanks to God for the many blessings that we have been given. When you are sitting at the table, have you ever gone around the table and asked each one to say one thing ‘that are you thankful for’? Of course, the usual responses are: ‘I am thankful for the food that is before us,’ ‘I am thankful for my parents,’ ‘I am thankful for my brothers and sisters.’ Does anyone thank God for all He has done for us? Maybe you do; praise God for that! Maybe it’s a situation where God is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Maybe we take God for granted. Do we show God our gratitude and how often and in what way?

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus is traveling with His disciples to Jerusalem. At the border of Samaria and Judea, Jesus healed ten lepers at one time, and the fact that the miracle involved a Samaritan made it even more significant. Jesus used this event to teach a lesson about gratitude of God.

The story begins with ten unclean men, all of whom were lepers. The Jews and Samaritans would not normally live together, but misery loves company and all ten were outcasts. What difference does birth make if you are experiencing a living death with leprosy? One would think that they would have no hope, but they did!

The Prophet Jeremiah, however, was dealing with hopelessness. The Jews had been conquered and exiled to Babylon. They had lost everything but their lives and what few possessions they could carry with them to Babylon. They’d lost their freedoms and were now captives. They’d been taken from their home and had lost their means of making a living. They were separated from relatives and friends, some of whom may have perished in the long march from Jerusalem to Babylon. No matter how they looked at it, the situation seemed hopeless.

How should we handle such a depressing situation? Accept it from the hand of God and let God have His way. It does no good to hang our harps on the willow trees and sit around and weep, although this may be a temporary normal reaction to tragedy (Ps. 137:1-4). One of the first steps in turning tragedy into triumph is to accept the situation courageously and put ourselves into the hands of a loving God, who makes no mistakes.

Now returning to the ten lepers; these men had hope, for Jesus was there, and they cried out for mercy. The men referred to Jesus as ‘Master.’ Peter referred to Jesus as ‘Master’ when he was first called by Jesus to be one of His disciples (Luke 5:5). The word “master” means “chief commander.” They knew that Jesus was totally in command of even disease and death, and they trusted Him to help them.

Jesus is the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10), and our purpose is to bring honor and glory to Him; to show our gratitude. What an encouragement Jesus Christ is to a suffering Christian soldier! For He died and rose again, proving that suffering leads to glory, and that seeming defeat leads to victory. Jesus was treated as an evildoer: He was crucified on the cross, and His soldiers (believers) have been and will be treated the same way.

The best way to magnify Christ is through the ministry of the Word. St. Paul was bound in prison, but God’s Word cannot be bound. Paul not only suffered for the Lord’s sake, but he also suffered for the sake of the church. There were yet many people to reach with the Gospel, and Paul wanted to help reach as many as he could. And reach them he did, through his evangelism and the many letters he wrote to the churches.

It is faith in Jesus Christ that gives us victory (1 John 5:4). We do not fear the enemies, for He has already conquered them. Through our identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection, we have won the victory.

What a pair of paradoxes! Death leads to life! Suffering leads to reigning in glory! We have nothing to fear! The important thing is that we not “disown” our Lord; for if we disown Him here on earth, He will disown us before the Father (Matt. 10:33). In that great “roll call” in glory, when the “medals” are given out, we will lose our reward if we disown His name.
Paul makes it clear (2 Tim. 2:13) that even our own doubt and unbelief cannot change God: “He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” We do not put faith in our faith or in our feelings because they will change and fail. We put our faith in Christ. The missionary, J. Hudson Taylor, often said, “It is not by trying to be faithful, but in looking to the Faithful One, that we win the victory.”

Luke’s account of healing the lepers continues by referring to nine ungrateful men (Luke 17:17). Jesus commanded the men to go show themselves to the priest, which in itself was an act of faith, for they had not yet been cured. When they turned to obey, they were completely healed, for their obedience was evidence of their faith.

You would have expected all ten men to run to Jesus and thank Him for a new start in life, but only one did so – and he was not even a Jew. How grateful the men should have been for the providence of God that brought Jesus into their area, for the love that caused Him to pay attention to them and their need, and for the grace and power of God that brought about their healing.

They should have formed an impromptu men’s chorus and sung Psalm 103 together: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…”

But before we judge them too harshly, what is our own “GQ” – “Gratitude Quotient”? How often do we take our blessings for granted and fail to thank the Lord? “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! (Ps. 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Too often we are content to enjoy the gift but we forget the Giver. We are quick to pray but slow to praise.

Are we the spoiled or entitled child that expects, if not demands material things from our parents: “I need a cell phone,” “I need a car,” “I need a lap top computer.” Does the child understand and appreciate our parents’ generosity? Do we show our gratitude? Do we show our gratitude towards our heavenly Father? – the One who gave us life – the One who gives us eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Suppose you are a farmer and there has been a dry spell. So, you pray to God for rain. Well, a few days later, it rains. How do you respond? “Boy, are we lucky, Mother Nature came through for us!” Or do you show your gratitude and thank God for the blessings He bestows.

How about, you lost your watch, and you ask God to help you find it. You search and search all over the place and no watch. After a few days, you find it. How do you respond? “There it is, I knew I would find it eventually.” You found it all by yourself, without any help from God. Or you show your gratitude and thank God for helping you find that which was lost.
The next time you sing “Now Thank We All Our God,” try to remember that Martin Rinkhart (1586-1649) wrote it during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) when his pastoral duties were most difficult. Rev. Rinkhart was a German clergyman and hymnist. He conducted as many as forty funerals a day – 4,480 funerals in total, including that of his own wife and two other ministers; yet he wrote those beautiful words as a table grace for his family. In spite of war and plague around him and sorrow within him, he was able to give thanks to the Lord from a grateful heart. Despite all his hardship, he wrote the following prayer to his children to offer to the Lord:

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices,
Who, from our mothers’ arms, hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Luke’s account of Jesus healing the ten lepers closes with one unusual man (Luke 17:15-19). The Samaritan shouted “Glory to God!” and fell at Jesus’ feet to praise Him and give thanks. It would have been logical for him to have followed the other men and gone to the temple, but he first came to the Lord Jesus with his sacrifice of praise (Ps. 107:22; Heb. 13:15). This pleased the Lord more than all the sacrifices the other men offered, even though they were obeying the Law (Ps. 51:15-17). Instead of going to the priest, the Samaritan became a priest, and he built his altar at the feet of Jesus.

By coming to Jesus, the man received something greater than physical healing: he was also saved from his sins. Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you,” the same words He spoke to the repentant woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:50). This was the woman, a sinner, who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears; dried them with her hair and anointed Jesus’ head with oil.

The Samaritan’s nine friends were declared clean by the priest, but the Samaritan was declared saved by the Son of God! While it is wonderful to experience the miracle of physical healing, it is even more wonderful to experience the miracle of eternal salvation.

Every child of God should cultivate the grace of gratitude. It not only opens the heart to further blessings but glorifies and pleases the Father. An unthankful heart is fertile soil for all kinds of sins (Rom. 1:21ff).

What is your Gratitude Quotient? I am going to give you a homework assignment. I am not going to collect them next week; I am not going to grade them. This is a take home exam – open book (Bible). This assignment will be between you and God. I want you to write down everything that you are thankful for; that God has done for you. Then when you are finished, I want you to show your gratitude to God: to thank Him; to praise Him; to glorify Him; with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul!

Let us pray: Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Courageous Enthusiasm

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 6, 2013, Pentecost XX

Lamentations 3:19-26, Psalm 37:1-19, II Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10

From the Old Testament:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy:
Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Over the years, I am sure all of us have heard someone, perhaps a preacher, say that we should witness our Christian faith. This could be as simple as: going to church; having a smile on your face; always having a positive attitude. It could also be verbally sharing your faith with another person. That might take a little more courage. Sometimes it’s the person who has had a “born again” experience that has a compelling desire and courageous enthusiasm to share his faith and experience with everyone he meets. However, if the person is too aggressive, it could have the opposite effect. The question is: Are we too afraid or are we comfortable to witness our Christian faith with other people?

Yes, it is important that we believe in God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but God also calls all of us to share our faith with others. Why is this so difficult? Perhaps we are afraid of what people might think of us. Perhaps we are afraid that if they were to ask us questions, we may not be able to answer them, so let’s just avoid this whole scenario. We lack the courage to face the unknown.
Unbelief and uncertainty causes us to look at God through our circumstances, and this creates hopelessness and fear; but faith enables us to look at our circumstances through the reality of God, and this gives us hope. Our circumstances change, and so do our feelings about them, but God is always good, loving, merciful, and kind, and He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

In these difficult days, it is important that we stand true to Christ and have courageous enthusiasm and not be ashamed. When a church or church organization goes liberal, it usually starts with a weakening of their leaders’ convictions about the Word of God.

We forget that God is always with us; that He will give us the words, if we only trust Him. We may look at the “born again” person with a questioning eye, but we may also admire and envy his self-confidence and courageous enthusiasm.

There was an advertisement that appeared in a London newspaper and thousands of men responded! It read: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, and safe return doubtful.” This advertisement was signed by the noted Arctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and that made all the difference.

If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: “Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.”

Timothy was one young man who responded to Christ’s call to help build His church. He was one of the Apostle Paul’s special assistants. Along with Titus, Timothy tackled some of the tough assignments in the churches that Paul had founded. Timothy was brought up in a religious home (2 Tim. 1:5) and had been led to faith in Christ by Paul himself. This is why Paul called Timothy “my own [genuine] son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2).

Timothy was born of mixed parentage: his mother was a Jew, and his father a Greek. He was so devoted to Christ that his local church leaders recommended him to Paul, and Paul added him to his “missionary staff” (Acts 16:1-5). Paul often reminded Timothy that he was chosen for this ministry (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14). Timothy was faithful to the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17) and had a deep concern for God’s people (Phil. 2:20-22).

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was a prisoner in Rome and was facing certain death (2 Tim. 4:6). For one reason or another, almost all of Paul’s associates in the ministry were gone and only Luke, the physician, was at the apostle’s side to assist him (2 Tim. 4:11).

But Paul’s great concern was not for himself; it was for Timothy and the success of the Gospel ministry. As in his First Letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged his beloved colleague to be faithful. As we have learned, Timothy was timid, suffered from physical ailments, and was tempted to let other people take advantage of him and not assert his authority as a pastor.

Paul sent Tychicus to replace Timothy at Ephesus so that Timothy might join Paul at Rome (2 Tim. 4:9). God would soon move Paul off the scene, and Timothy would take his place and continue to give spiritual leadership to the churches. It would not be an easy task, but Timothy could succeed with the Lord’s help.

The ministry of the Gospel is no place for a “timid soul” who lacks enthusiasm. In fact, courageous enthusiasm is essential for success in any kind of work. Paul compared this attitude to stirring up a fire into full flame (2 Tim. 1:6). We must not conclude that Timothy was backslidden or lacked spiritual fire. Rather, Paul was encouraging his associate to keep the fire burning brightly so that it might generate spiritual power in his life.

As Paul’s life drew to a close, he realized in a deeper way how dear Timothy was to him. Paul’s own circumstances were difficult, and yet he was greatly encouraged. For one thing he was Christ’s ambassador (“apostle”); and he knew that his Master would care for him. Whatever happened to him was in the hands of God, so there was no need to fear. Furthermore, Paul had “the promise of life” in Jesus Christ, and Christ had defeated death (2 Tim. 1:10). No wonder Paul was able to extend to Timothy “grace, mercy, and peace.”

Paul knew Timothy’s weaknesses and problems, but was able to pray definitely and with a real burden on his heart. His praying was not routine; it was done with compassion and concern. Knowing that he would soon die, Paul was anxious that Timothy join him at Rome for those last days of fellowship and ministry.

Paul had known God from his earliest years. His ancestors had given him the orthodox Jewish faith. But when he met Jesus Christ, Paul realized that his Jewish faith was but preparation for the fulfillment Christ gave him in Christianity. He realized that Jesus was the Messiah!

Paul was sure that Timothy’s faith was genuine, and that this faith would see him through in spite of the troubles he was facing. He had watched Timothy’s life and service during those years they were together. Timothy’s heritage was a great one; for he was reared in a godly home, trained by a wonderful apostle, and given marvelous opportunities for serving the Lord.

Paul reminded Timothy of the time God called him into service and the local church ordained him. Paul had laid his hands on Timothy (1 Tim. 4:14). Through Paul, God had imparted to Timothy the spiritual gift he needed for his ministry.

It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to serve God, and through Him we can overcome fear and weakness. The Holy Spirit gives us power for witness and for service (Acts 1:8). It is futile for us to try to serve God without the power of the Holy Spirit. Talent, training, and experience cannot take the place of the power of the Spirit.

Timothy did not need any new spiritual ingredients in his life; all he had to do was “stir up” what he already had. The Holy Spirit does not leave us when we fail (John 14:16); but He cannot fill us, empower us, and use us if we neglect our spiritual lives.

Timothy had every reason to be encouraged and to have courageous enthusiasm in his ministry. Paul loved him and prayed for him. His experiences in life had been preparation for his ministry, and Paul was confident of the genuineness of Timothy’s faith.
God has called us by His grace. We are part of a great eternal plan that God determines “before the world began.” God knows the end from the beginning. He has purposes for His people to accomplish for His glory. It is His purposes that we are to fulfill. All of this grace was given to us in Jesus Christ. We could not earn it; we did not merit it. This is the grace of God!

When we are timid it is because we are afraid. What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of suffering and possible death? Probably not. But Paul himself was facing death as he dictated this second letter to Timothy. Jesus Christ has defeated our last enemy, death! By His own death and resurrection, Christ has “abolished death.” “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55)

Paul was confident in Christ. Paul was not ashamed. Why? Because he knew that Christ was faithful and would keep him. Salvation is not the result of believing certain doctrines, though doctrines are important. A sinner is saved because he believes in Jesus Christ the Saviour.

As we come to His most Sacred Table, let us come with courageous enthusiasm and conviction: that the bread and wine be to you witnesses and signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve; Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

The Invisible War

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
September 29, 2013, Pentecost XIX
St. Michael and All Angels

Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Psalm 103:19-22, Revelation 12:7-12, Luke 10:17-20

From the Old Testament:
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book.”

From the Revelation to St. John:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

If I was to ask you a question: do you believe there is “wind?” You can’t see it, but you can feel it. You can see leaves blowing or a person’s hair blowing, so it’s not too difficult to believe that “wind” exists. Now how about a more difficult question: do you believe God exists? Probably 100% of the people here today believe that God exists, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But you can’t see Him; you can’t physically feel Him usually (although it is possible); and yet we go on faith that God does indeed exist.

What about Satan, does he exist? We can’t see him; we can’t feel him; and yet if we are to believe God’s Holy Word, Satan does indeed exist!

We know the story: Satan was cast out of heaven because he revolted against God, and he took with him a third of the angels, which became demons (Rev. 12, 7, 9). He was once the highest of God’s angels, but he rebelled against God and he became the lowest and was cast down (Isa. 14:12-15).

We need to remember that Satan has access to heaven, where he accuses God’s people; but he cannot dethrone the exalted Saviour. His strategy is to persecute God’s people and devour them if possible (1 Peter 5:8). He has a special hatred for the Jewish people and has been the power behind anti-Semitism from the days of Pharaoh and Haman to Hitler and Stalin. And today there is a growing hatred for Christians as well.

Last week we heard about the Muslim terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Kenya. Some 60 people were killed; many wounded. The gunmen questioned their hostages as to their religious beliefs. If you were Muslim, they let you go; if you were anything else, like Christian or Jew, you were killed. This is a religious war; it’s not invisible; it’s real.

You and I are involved in another conflict today: Satan is out to destroy the church, and our victory can come only through Jesus Christ.

We are at war here in America! Just because you can’t see it, does not mean it doesn’t exist. It’s a dirty war – in some ways, worse than the one we are waging against terrorism. It’s being fought right here on our soil as well as many other nations. It’s a war for the minds and hearts of people – between the forces of good and evil, between God and Satan. It’s being done in our schools, our churches, our government, our courts and our media.

The stakes in this war are high because the price is heaven or hell, life or death, darkness or light, freedom or slavery, reward or punishment.

In time, there will also be an invisible war in heaven. What is this celestial conflict all about? The fact that Michael led God’s angels to victory is significant, because Michael is identified with the nation of Israel (Dan. 10:10-21; 12:1). The name Michael means “who is like God” and this certainly parallels Satan’s egocentric attack on Jehovah. Apparently, the devil’s hatred of Israel will spur him to make one final assault against the throne of God, but he will be defeated by Michael and a heavenly host.

In our Old Testament reading, an angel had come to Daniel to give him a special revelation concerning the Jewish people and what would happen to them in the latter days (Dan. 10:14). We get the impression that the glorious man clothed in linen vanished from the scene and one of the angels, perhaps Gabriel, touched Daniel. The old prophet was on his face on the ground, but the ministry of the angel enabled him to lift himself to his hands and knees. Then the angel spoke to him and this gave him the strength to stand upright.

Daniel’s conversation with the angel reveals to us the important fact that there is an “invisible war” going on in the heavenlies between the forces of evil and the forces of God.

Well-meaning people may scoff at the idea of demonic forces and good and evil angels, and they may caricature Satan (a red man with pointed ears, a long tail and a pitch fork), but the fact remains that this is biblical theology. When Lucifer rebelled against God and was judged, some of the angels fell with him and became the demonic evil angels that oppose Christ and obey Satan (Isa. 14:12-15).

Satan has a well-organized army of evil spirits that obey his every command. Through His sacrificial work on the cross, Christ defeated Satan and his army and we can claim that victory by faith. The believer is to put on the whole armor of God by faith and use the Word of God and believing prayer to oppose and defeat the wicked one.

But perhaps there is another factor involved in this war. After the church is taken to heaven, believers will stand before the judgment Seat of Christ and have their life examined. It seems likely that Satan will be present at this event and will accuse the saints, pointing out all the “spots and wrinkles” in the church (Eph. 5:24-27).

The name devil means “accuser,” and Satan means “adversary.” Satan stands at the throne of God and fights the saints by accusing them. But Jesus Christ, the “heavenly Advocate” (1 John 2:1-2), represents the church before God’s holy throne. Because Jesus Christ died for us, we can overcome Satan’s accusations “by the blood of the Lamb.” Our salvation is secure; not because of our own works, but because of His finished work at Calvary.

How furious Satan will be when the church comes forth in glory “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” When the accuser sees that his tactics have failed, he will become angry and threaten the very peace of heaven.

How does this future invisible war apply to the church today? The same serpent who accuses the saints in heaven also deceives the nations on earth (Rev. 12:9); and one of his strategies is to lie about the church. He deceives the nations into thinking that the people of God are dangerous, deluded, and even destructive. It is through Satan’s deception that the leaders of the nations band together against Christ and His people . God’s people in every age must expect the world’s opposition, but the church can always defeat the enemy by being faithful to Jesus Christ.

Christ’s shed blood gives us our perfect standing before God (1 John 1:5-2:2). But our witness of God’s Word and our willingness to lay down our lives for Christ defeats Satan as well. Satan is not equal to God; he is not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. His power is limited and his tactics must fail when God’s people trust the power of the blood and of the Word. Nothing Satan does can rob us of “salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ” (Rev. 12:10), if we are yielded to Him. God’s great purposes will be fulfilled!
Believers in any age or situation can rejoice in this victory, no matter how difficult their experiences may be. Our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of the wicked one; and these have been defeated by our Saviour (Eph. 6:10ff).

One thing is certain, we cannot afford to be ignorant of this invisible war because it is waged right here and now! The enemy of our souls wants to gain control of our hearts and minds. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers.

There was a research poll done by Barna Research Group, Ltd., of Oxnard, California in which they discovered the following: Nearly two out of three American adults (62%) agreed that Satan is not a living being but a symbol of evil. And even more alarming is that among evangelical Christians, 52% deny Satan’s existence! 72% of Catholics say the devil is non-existent. Conclusion: One of the major battlefields is taking place within the church! This is probably because Satan is not being preached; people in the pews want to hear about warm and fuzzy things, like cute chubby angels with wings. They don’t want to hear about the coming war with Satan and St. Michael and all of his angels.

The Christian will need resources for this warfare. An army does not send its soldiers into battle clad only in shorts and sneakers! Neither does God send His people naked into the world to war with its prince and his demons.

As believers we need to put on the full armor of God – not a part of it but all of it! This armor comes from God. It’s spiritual in nature. You can’t buy it. It won’t be given by the government. It is received by faith. It is real. It is necessary. Why? So that when the attack comes (and it will come) we can stand our ground!

What are some of the clothes we should put on?

Helmet of salvation: so that we will have the mind of Christ to keep us in the truth.
Breastplate of righteousness: so that we can have a pure heart.
Shield of faith: so that God’s greatness will give us spiritual protection.
Belt of truth: to protect us from error; and a discernment of right and wrong.
Shoes of readiness: so that we can better stand our ground; to be ready to move forward.

Our allies in this invisible war are nothing less than the three Persons of the Trinity! We have the Father to pray to, the Spirit to pray in, and the Son to pray through.

We don’t fight for the victory; we fight from the victory. The victory was won on Calvary by Jesus Christ. We fight in His name, from a position of victory. Jesus has already put His feet on the neck of the devil and He wants us to follow His example.

What are some of the weapons we can use?

We have the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. It’s not just a protective weapon used for defensive purposes. It’s also an offensive weapon.
It’s a “cutting” weapon. It is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It’s alive and active. It can “cut to pieces” all other false religions and philosophies.

We need to keep open our supply lines to the battle, which is prayer. As long as the lines of communication are open, we can call for firepower to help when we need it on the front lines. Satan fears prayer; he knows what a vital force it is when arrayed against him, especially when we invoke the name of Jesus.

Prayer is a mighty weapon in the hands of a committed Christian. In the book of James 5:16 we read: “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.”

Yes, prayer can be used as a weapon. We can pray against the devil. We can bind him in Jesus’ name. In prayer we can bind the binder. We can tie him up and rob his house as Jesus’ taught us. For too long the devil has been robbing the church of Christ. Let us turn the table on him!

Our invisible war battle strategy is to preach the Gospel. In Ephesians 6:19 Paul says, “Pray also for me that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.” We need spiritual courage for these days. The devil is out to destroy us. But if we work with our allies and let Christ’s victory be ours, we can defeat him.

Our Lord Jesus took seriously the reality of Satan and his demonic forces, and so should we. This doesn’t mean we should blame every headache and interruption on the demons, but it does mean we should respect Satan’s power (like a roaring lion, 1 Peter 5:8) and his subtlety (like a serpent, 2 Cor. 11:3). One of Satan’s chief traps is to get people to think he doesn’t exist or, if he does exist, he’s not worth worrying about.

If we use the weapons that God has provided us: to use the Bible; pray continually and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, then Satan will be put to flight. That’s the way to victory! That’s the way we win the Invisible War!

Let us pray:
O God, who declares thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running to obtain thy promises, may be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


The Clever Steward

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
September 22, 2013, Pentecost XVIII

Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113, 1Timothy 2:1-7, Luke 16:1-13

From the Old Testament:
“And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great, and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the refuse of the wheat?”

From the First letter of St. Paul’s to Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Those of us who have retired or are thinking about retirement will from time to time look at our investments. And given that most of us are not knowledgeable about financial matters, we will seek out a financial advisor: someone who will advise us and perhaps manage our investments for us.

If you own income property, you might hire a property manager or management company to handle your investment; someone who will help you find tenants; someone who will deal with the complaints and maintenance of the property.

Obviously, this involves a lot of trust on your part that your financial advisor or your management company will have your best interests at heart; that they will be knowledgeable and honest; and that you will receive a good return on your investment.
Now I can’t resist giving a political example, because there is just so much sermon material with our elected officials. Does not our government take our money, through taxes, and “invest” it and spend it for our benefit? And if we don’t think they are doing a good job on our behalf, they get “fired” [like the steward from our gospel reading] or voted out of office. Are we not the master and our elected officials the steward? And does not the steward or elected official think that our money is theirs to spend however they see fit? Are we not $17 Trillion in debt? I think the whole lot of them should be fired! But that’s just my opinion.

In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus tells a parable about a master and his cleaver steward. A steward is someone who manages another’s wealth. He does not own that wealth himself, but he has the privilege of enjoying it and using it for the profit of his master. This was very similar to a financial advisor or property manager of today. The most important thing about a steward is that he serves his master faithfully (1 Cor. 4:2). When he looks at the riches around him, the steward must remember that they belong to his master, not to him personally, and that they must be used in a way that will please and profit the master.

This particular steward forgot that he was a steward and began to act as if he were the owner. He became a “prodigal steward” who wasted his master’s wealth. His master heard about it and immediately asked for an inventory of his goods and an audit of his books. He also fired his steward.

Before we judge this man too severely, let’s examine our own lives to see how faithfully we have been as stewards of what God has given to us. To begin with, we are stewards of the material wealth that we have, whether much or little; and we will one day have to answer to God for the way we have acquired it and used it.

Christian stewardship goes beyond paying God a tithe of our income and then using the remainder as we please. True stewardship means that we thank God for all that we have (Deut. 8:11-18) and use it as He directs. Giving God 10 percent of our income is a good way to begin our faithful stewardship, but we must remember that God should control what we do with the remaining 90 percent as well.

We are also stewards of our time (Eph. 5:15-17). The phrase “redeeming the time” comes from the business world and means “buying up the opportunity.” Time is eternity, minted into precious minutes and handed to us to use either wisely or carelessly. The main lesson of this narrative is that the steward, as dishonest as he was, used his opportunity wisely and prepared for the future. Life ceased to be “enjoyment” and became “investment.”

One of the important things that we should spend our time on is prayer. Timothy tells us that prayer is most important in the public worship of the church. It speaks highly of our church that we have continued our prayer group that meets before church. Our numbers may have declined, but there is a faithful remnant that continues.

But it is also important to pray in our worship service, which we do. However, we all need to prepare ourselves for prayer. Our hearts must be right with God and with each other. We must really want to pray, and not pray simply to please people or to fulfill a religious duty. Prayer is an act of worship, not just an expression of our wants and needs. There should be a reverence in our hearts as we pray to God.

Many believers do not realize that prayer is based on the work of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Mediator. If the basis for prayer is the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then prayer is a most important activity in a church. Not to pray is to slight the cross! To pray only for ourselves is to deny the worldwide outreach of the cross. We pray for “all” because Christ died for “all” and it is God’s will that “all” be saved.

Christians are stewards of the gifts and abilities God has given them (1 Peter 4:10), and we must use those gifts and abilities to serve others. The thief says, “What’s yours is mine – I’ll take it!” The selfish man says, “What’s mine is mine – I’ll keep it!” But the Christian must say, “What’s mine is a gift from God – I’ll share it!” We are stewards and we must use our abilities to win the lost, encourage the saints, and meet the needs of hurting people.

Finally, God’s people are stewards of the Gospel (1 Thes. 2:4). God has committed the treasure of His truth to us (2 Cor. 4:7), and we must guard this treasure (1 Tim. 6:20) and invest it in the lives of others (2 Tim. 2:2). The enemy wants to rob the church of this treasure (Jude 3-4), and we must be alert and courageous.

Like this steward, we will one day have to give an account of our stewardship (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10ff). If we have been faithful, the Lord will give us His commendation and reward (Matt. 25:21; 1 Cor. 4:5); but if we have not been faithful, we will lose those blessings, even though we will be saved and enter heaven (1 Cor. 3:13-15).

The steward in our Gospel reading this morning knew he would lose his job. He could not change the past, but he could prepare for the future. How: By making friends of his master’s creditors so that they would take him in when his master threw him out. He gave each of them a generous discount, provided they paid up immediately, and they were only too glad to cooperate. Even his master complimented him on his clever plan (Luke 16:8).

Jesus did not commend the steward for robbing his master or for encouraging others to be dishonest. Jesus commended the man for his wise use of opportunity. “The children of this world” are experts at seizing opportunities for making money and friends and getting ahead. God’s people should take heed and be just as wise when it comes to managing the spiritual affairs of life. “The children of this world” are wiser only “in their generation”; they see the things of time, but not the things of eternity. Because the child of God lives “with eternity’s values in view,” he should be able to make far better use of his opportunities.

The prophet Amos denounced Israel, as well as her neighbors, for reliance upon military might, and for grave injustice in social dealings, abhorrent immorality, and shallow, meaningless piety. He also preached that the end was coming.

In our Old Testament reading today, it talked about how the merchants trampled on the poor and needy and robbed them of the little they possessed (Amos 8:4), an indictment that Amos had often brought against the people (Amos 2:6¬-7). When they did business, the merchants used inaccurate measurements so they could rob their customers. The Law demanded that they use accurate weights and measures (Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16), but they cared only for making as much money as possible.

Added to the deception was their desecration of the Sabbath and the religious holy days. The worship of God interrupted their business, and they didn’t like it! You might expect Gentile merchants to ignore the holy days (Neh. 13:15-22), but certainly not the Jewish merchants. The poor were unable to pay for the necessities of life and had to go into servitude to care for their families, and the merchants would have them arrested for the least little offense, even their inability to pay for a pair of shoes.

The evil vendors would not only alter their weights and measures and inflate their prices, but they would also cheapen their products by mixing the sweepings of the threshing floor with the grain. You didn’t get pure grain; you got the chaff as well. Timothy said, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Jesus gave three admonitions, based on the experience of the steward. First, He admonishes us to use our opportunities wisely (Luke 16:9). One of these days, life will end, and we will not be able to earn or use money. Therefore, while we have the opportunity, we must invest our money in “making friends” for the Lord. This means winning people to Christ who will one day welcome us to heaven. Our lives and our resources will one day end, so it behooves us to use them wisely.

The heritage of the past must be used wisely in the present to guarantee spiritual dividends in the future. All of us should want to meet people in heaven who trusted Christ because we helped to pay the bill for Gospel witness around the world, starting at home. Thoreau wrote that a man is wealthy in proportion to the number of things he can afford to do without, and he was right.

Our Lord’s second admonition is be faithful in the way you use your material wealth (Luke 16:10-12). He makes it clear that you cannot divorce the “spiritual” from the “material.”

Why is our Lord so concerned about the way we use money? Because money is not neutral; it is basically evil, and only God can sanctify it and use it for good. It is significant that both Paul and Peter called money “filthy lucre” (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7, 11; 1 Peter 5:2). Apparently by its very nature, money defiles and debases those who love it and let it control their lives.
People who are unfaithful in the way they use money are also unfaithful in the way they use the “true riches” of God’s kingdom. We cannot be orthodox in our theology and at the same time heretical in the way we use money. God will not commit His true riches to individuals or ministries that waste money and will not give an honest accounting to the people who have supported them. When it came to money, Paul was very careful that everything was honest “not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:21).

Finally, the Lord admonishes us to be wholly devoted to God and single-minded (Luke 16:13). We cannot love or serve two masters, anymore than we can walk in two directions at one time. If we choose to serve money, then we cannot serve God. If we choose to serve God, then we will not serve money. Jesus is demanding integrity, total devotion to God that puts Him first in everything (Matt. 6:33).

If God is our Master, then money will be our servant, and we will use our resources in the will of God. But if God is not our Master, then we will become the servants of money, and money is a terrible master! We will start wasting our lives instead of investing them, and we will one day find ourselves “friendless” as we enter the gates of glory.

Jesus said, “Make money your servant and use today’s opportunities as investments in tomorrow’s dividends.” We need to be a wise and clever servant. There are many lost souls to win to the Saviour. May our Master be pleased!

Let us pray:
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.