Our church board is trying to determine God’s direction for our church as we move ahead. We have been for many years a congregation with many senior adults. That is a reflection of our community which is home to a lot of people after their retirement. Gloria and I a long time ago came to realize the uniqueness of our church setting. Many of our members were and are people who vacationed in the area and then, after retiring from their jobs chose to move to the area. So many have lived here for 5 or 10 years until they begin to develop health issues. Then they move back to where their children and families are living. It is really surprising how few funerals I actually officiate. Most have moved back to their home towns by the time their health has broken.
But in the 35+ years we have been here we have seen the area change. There are more and more people moving here who are still of working age and who have children still living at home. What used to be a 6 month employment because of the tourist nature of the area has become more of a 9 month and even more year round.
Consequently, if our church is to continue to be healthy, we must reach out to not just the senior retirees. We must reach those younger families and somehow get them incorporated into the church ministries. We have seen progress over the last year or so, but we still have a long ways to go.
We all know that the style of church ministries is changing. Some of us who are older feel a little threatened at the change. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “It just doesn’t’ seem like church anymore.” What they really are saying is that the style of the services is different from what it was 20 or 30 years ago.
When you look at how church services have evolved over the centuries, I think it would be safe to say that each generation has had to deal with a certain amount of change. The first 300 years of Christianity, church was for the most part considered illegal. Services were held in homes or in secret places. We have read how some of the early Christians had to meet secretly in the catacombs under the city of Rome. It wasn’t until in the early 300s that Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be legal and to be the official religion of Rome.
In our America history we have gone from brush arbor meetings and circuit riding preachers to the Mega Churches we see in many of our larger cities. Churches like James River have multiple campuses. And social media is making the Internet Church more and more prevalent. There are small churches, cell groups, home churches, organic churches, Cowboy churches, Biker Churches, Coffee House churches, multiple congregation churches. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and styles.
The truth is, the Christian Church in America is in a rapid state of flux. The experts are still searching for the most effective model of what the church is becoming.
And so, here we are beginning the New Year of 2018. We are still searching for God’s direction—and I hope we never stop searching. Only God knows what the future holds. All the so-called experts are trying to help us find God’s direction, but there are no simple answers.
But there is one constant that we can depend on. God is still God. He is still involved in the life of the Church. He still is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9). And He will lead us if we are willing to follow Him.
That brings us to this passage in Isaiah 30. In my NIV translation this chapter is entitled “Woe to the Obstinate Nation.” It is written to address the Jewish Nation that seemed to be constantly seeking help and direction from everyone but God.
I think the problem Isaiah was addressing with the Jewish people is a close parallel to the problem we face in America. And the Message He has for the Jews then is a message that speaks to our need.
So this morning let us reflect on this verse in Isaiah 30: 21 and see what God wants to say to us. In that verse God says to the Jewish People, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.’”
I. IT IS GOD’S VOICE OF WARNING.
a. Notice this verse points out that the voice of God comes from behind them. That means the ones God is addressing have their backs turned to God.
b. Isaiah 30 16 tells us what God expects but then says,”….but you would have none of it.”
c. It is surprising and heartbreaking to me at the number of people who claim to be Christian but refuse to be obedient to God’s Word.
i. So many of our young people are choosing to live in cohabitation before marriage—so many that it has pretty much become socially acceptable. But that doesn’t change God’s Word.
ii. And when it comes to honoring the Sabbath, the typical attitude is, “I’ll come to church if there isn’t something else that I need to do.”
iii. And the principle of honoring God with our tithes and offerings is a completely foreign idea to many. It is amazing the number of excuses I have heard over the years from people who are not faithful with their tithes.
iiii. And then there is temptation to do things that we know are wrong. Remember the story in Old Testament of Balaam. In the Book of Numbers, chapters 22-24 we read how the King of Moab enlisted Balaam to pronounce a curse on the Israelites. Balaam knew it was wrong but he kept trying, but God prevented Him from placing a curse. But as he was following King Balak’s directions, he rode his donkey through a narrow pass. The donkey balked because an Angel of the Lord was guarding the pass. And finally God enabled the donkey to actually speak. Balaam was allowed to continue on, but his efforts to place a curse always turned into a pronounced blessing. But even though Balaam didn’t pronounce a curse, the men of Israel began to indulge in sexual immorality with the Moabite women and were drawn into offering sacrifices to their pagan Gods. God warned Balaam through the voice of a donkey. And when we are heading in the wrong direction—a way that leads us away from God and deeper into sin, God is faithful to warn us. It may be that He speaks through the voice of conscience. It may be that He will speak through the message of a preacher or the testimony of a Christian friend. It may that He will speak through a song playing on the radio or a pop-up verse on Facebook. God speaks in so many different ways, calling people to turn away from their sin, warning people of the danger if they continue in the direction they are going.
c. 2 Peter 3:9 is true: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
d. O sinner, hear God’s Voice of Warning and heed His call. He is pointing out the right way for you to go, and calling you away from the Broad road that leads to destruction!
II. IT IS GOD’S VOICE OF DIRECTION.
a. When we don’t know what to do or where to turn, God wants to give us direction.
b. There’s a Hymn in our song book that says, “I’ll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord, O-ver mountain, or plain, or sea. I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord, I’ll be what you want me to be.” (#538 in Nazarene Hymnal Sing to the Lord!). But for many the question is, “Just where is it that You want me to go?”
c. I can tell you about the some of the struggles I have had over the years in finding God’s direction. As a senior in High School I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. It was soon after that that God began to deal with me about becoming a preacher. I talked with several individuals, asking them how could we be sure of God’s will. There were many nights I lay in my bed arguing with God about that Call to preach. After several weeks of struggling, the call became so overpowering that I knew it was God directing me. And then there have been the places to which God has called me. I served as a SS teacher in Williams Memorial Church in Bethany, OK, as a youth Pastor in Coffeyville, KS, as a home mission pastor in Brinkley, AR and in Warsaw, MO, as a new start pastor in Fort Scott, KS West Park Church, and then God lead me to Branson. Every one of those assignments involved soul-searching and intense prayer as I sought to know the will of God. And I can tell you that seeking God’s will is a constant endeavor. Every Sunday, the sermons I preach come after seeking God’s direction. The calls I make and the calls I don’t make are often the result of seeking God’s direction for the day or for the various situations.
d. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…” The salvation Bible Tract, “Life Can Have Meaning,” says, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And I believe God does have a plan for each of us and that as we search for His Direction, that voice that guides says, “This is the Way, walk in it!
e. Remember how in the Book of Acts 16 we are told that Paul and his missionary team kept trying to move into Asia Minor but God kept shutting the doors? Paul was trying to fulfill his calling to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. He knew there were many in Asia Minor who had not heard the Gospel, but God kept shutting the doors of opportunity. Finally, Paul came to Troas and, no doubt after diligently calling on God as to where his team should go, God used the image of a man from Macedonia who was calling for Paul to come help. And through that dream God spoke to Paul and, in essence said, “This is the way, walk in it!” And Paul and His missionary team followed that direction and took the Gospel into the continent of Europe.
III. IT IS GOD’S VOICE
a. And when we start our spiritual journey, God is there to tell us that we are going the right direction.
b. God is still directing the paths of His people. And when we don’t know what to do, we should seek God until He makes the way clear to us. Colossians 3:15 say, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” When we have sought God’s Will and prayed clear through, and God makes His Direction clear, there is that peace that comes from knowing that God has spoken and we are on the path that God has ordered for us!
c. When the Board of Ministerial Credentials is interviewing various individuals who are pursuing ministerial credentials, a basic question that someone will ask the candidate is about the Call of God on his or her life. There is a reason for that. In ministry as in many positions of leadership there will always be people who question your decisions. There will be people who actively oppose you, just as there were those who opposed Moses. There will be extremely stressful situations with which a minister must exercise direction. There will be disappointments as people in whom you have invested your life let you down. And there will be times of discouragement when the temptation is strong to give up and throw in the towel. And the one thing that keeps us in the ministry is the knowledge and assurance that we are here because God has called us to be here. And when the day has been particularly rough and I lay my head on my pillow that night, it is the voice of God that reassures me that I am where I am supposed to be and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.
d. I have told the story before, but it is a story that is worth remembering. I was tired and stressed and discouraged. And I had begun to think that maybe God has forgotten me. Then one evening Gloria received a phone call from a guy and his friend who said they wanted to meet with me. I agreed to meet with the next morning. And to summarize the meeting, they told me that God had directed them to come to Branson, to seek me out, and to tell me that He knew where I was and that He had more for me to do right here. And God bore witness in my heart and in Gloria’s heart that these men were indeed sharing a special message from God to our own special needs. I’m leaving out a lot of details in that story, but it is true. God still speaks, and sometimes His voice is one of affirmation.
e. Remember how at the Baptism of Jesus and then later on the Mount of Transfiguration the voice of God rang out, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”?
f. And the Bible tells about standing before the Judgment Seat of God and hearing the Words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant…”
g. And I can tell you that even now, as we are caught up in this fallen world and seeking to fulfill the mission God has given us of making disciples, there are moments when we can hear the voice of God saying, “That’s right—that’s the way. Keep doing just what you are doing. I am so pleased!” That voice may be in the peace that you feel in your heart. Or it may be in the testimony of someone who has benefited from your ministry. Or it may be in the knowledge that even though things did not turn out the way you had hoped, you still know that you did what you believed God wanted you to do.
Let me ask you: Have you heard the voice of God speaking to you lately? Was it a voice of warning, calling you to change the path you are on and to follow the path of life that He desires of you?
Or have you been trying to do what you perceived to be the right thing to do, but you are confused as to exactly what the right thing to do is? Seek the Lord and call on Him until He makes the path clear to you.
And when you are on that path, keeping step with His Spirit, doing the work He has called to you, hear His voice saying, “Well done, my Child—I am so pleased with you.” And continue living in obedience to Him.
Galatians 6: 9 says, “”Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest is we do not give up.”
“THIS IS THE WAY, WALK IN IT!