Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The LORD Reigns

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, October 13, 2013

Psalm 93:1 - 5, The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty;
The Lord is clothed,
He has girded Himself with strength.
Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
The floods have lifted up their voice;
The floods lift up their waves.
The Lord on high is mightier

Than the noise of many waters,
Than the mighty waves of the sea.
Your testimonies are very sure;
Holiness adorns Your house,
O Lord, forever.

“The LORD reigns…”  Beloved, for just a moment, I invite you to meditate on those three, simple words, “The LORD reigns.” 

“The LORD reigns…”  My friends, in a time of great turmoil, such as we are encountering at this moment, in a period where the economy is weak, and the government has ‘shut down’, in a day when the political scene is quite unsure and unstable, in a time when there are crises both INTER-nationally and inter-personally, and yes, as a crucial moment we all feel we’re having individually and congregationally, what is it that we need to hear?  What is it that we need to know and remember?  3 words, “The LORD reigns.” 

But what do those words mean?  And, what is their significance for our lives? 

Take a moment or two, with me, will you and let’s think it through, let’s study it out.  What DO those words mean? 

By and large, I think we have at least an elementary grasp of what the word REIGNS signifies.  It has to do with ruling authority.  It implies control, power and a kingdom of some kind or another, right?  At least, to begin with, that’s what the word “reigns” means.  But now, look at the first half of this initial phrase from Psalm 93, verse one, the phrase, “The LORD…”, and put your mind to work in discovering and understanding its meaning. 

First off, notice that the verse does NOT say, “George W. reigns,” or “Barack reigns,” or “the Republicans reign.”  Now, why is that?  What’s the explanation for that?   Well the obvious reason, which, by the way, is at least part of the OVERALL reason, is that this is Book NOT about Obama, or Bush or the Republicans, but about the LORD.  This is God’s Book!  It is all about HIS kingly rule and sovereignty!  But, is there a deeper, more meaningful and powerful reason for why the unnamed psalmist declares that it is the LORD who reigns and is robed in majesty, not ‘King George’?  And that it is God’s throne, not Barack’s or the Republicans, that is established from of old? 

Indeed there is!  “The LORD…”  That word, that name, which is pronounced Yahweh, or Jehovah, “The LORD”, what does this marvelous name of Israel’s covenant God mean and entail?  It declares two powerful truths about our God that are not true, never have been true and never will be true, about Bush, Obama or anyone else, and those truths are these: number one, our God, unlike those high esteemed men, is not dependent on anything or anyone else!  He is SELF-existent!  He is not limited in any way, because He is not linked to anyone or anything in a connection upon which He must rely! 

I don’t know if they realize or not, and I’m not sure, with all the grandeur and head-swelling glory that goes with being in their position, if they acknowledge or not, but Bush, Obama, or any other person, couldn’t take another breath, they couldn’t move another step and neither could we, if it weren’t for Somebody Bigger.  Acts 17:28 – As Paul told the ‘Big Shots’, up-starts, of his day, at Mars Hill in Athens, “In Him we live and move and have our very being!” We are dependent, connected creatures who, ultimately, must rely on Him!  But, not, He on us! 

The LORD reigns!  Beloved, this is why Jesus could go to sleep in the stern of a little fishing boat out on the Sea of Galilee.  Remember the disciples’ bewildered exclamation, “What manner of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”  Jesus could sleep, though all the while a furious storm of wind and water was raging, Jesus could lay there so relaxed, so at peace, why?  Because He wasn’t depending on Peter.  And He wasn’t counting on Andrew.  And He wasn’t relying on James and John, even though they were experts. Jesus slept, not because He was counting on men who had no control, but because His life was in the hands of the Self-Existent One who is in control! 

The LORD reigns… The Self-Existent, IN-dependent One is in charge!  Not the Federal Reserve, not the Big Shots on Wall Street, not the International Bankers, but the Lord – He is the King! 

Now, there’s a second fact, an equally important truth about our God, wrapped up in His name, Yahweh, or Jehovah, that we simply must see and know, and that is this: He is eternal!  He is eternal!

For Mr. Obama, Mr. Bush, the Republicans, the Democrats, and you and me – they and us all have a D.O.B. (Date of Birth).  And, unless Jesus returns beforehand, one of these days, there will be a second date attached to their and our names.  And that will be the D.O.D. (Date of Death).  But, not for Yahweh!  Not for Jehovah!  Aren’t you glad Psalm 93:1 begins with the words, “The LORD reigns”? 

“Preacher, are you listening to the sermon?  ‘The LORD is in charge!  The ETERNAL One is in control!’  So relax!  Don’t sweat it!  Take a nap!  He’ll take care of it!” 

Beloved, times are tough, for all of us!  There are numerous crises going on right now, internationally, and interpersonally.  And, if that wasn’t enough, there are our own problems, our own challenges congregationally and individually.  What do we need to hear, to see, to know? 

Hold your place there in Psalm 93, and go across to the New Testament book of John.  The Gospel of John, chapters 18, 19 and 20.  Turmoil, do you know it, my loved ones?  Turmoil and tribulation, Jesus wasn’t somehow shielded from it, never affected by it, never faced with it.  No!  Scripture says that He was tempted and test in all points like as we are.  But, once again I ask, how could He, how was it that He was able to face these things, so confidently, so victoriously? 

John 18:1-11 – the arrest of Jesus that dark, lonely night in Gethsemane, what was it that enabled Jesus to walk forward so boldly to meet His enemies?  Oh, Peter, and maybe some of the other disciples had swords!  Yeah, that’s what it was!  No!  Look again!  Verses 2-8 – How could Jesus walk so confidently toward that mob that must have numbered in the hundreds?  It’s because He knew that the great I AM, Yahweh, the Self-Existent and Eternal One, was in charge, and not Judas! 

Or, how about later that night, in the darkness, the spiritual darkness and blindness of those kangaroo courts, those ‘judicial hearings’, headed up by Annas and his son-in-law, Caiphas.  How is it that Jesus was able to stand firm, when folks like Peter seemed to melt under the heat of moment?  Here’s how, Jesus knew that the LORD reigns.  He was certain that Yahweh was in charge, not the Sanhedrin! 

Or, how about Jesus’ 3-fold examination by Pilate, the Roman governor.  Three times Pilate declared Jesus’ innocence, “I find no fault in this Man!” Pilate said.   Three times, and three times Jesus refrained from speaking so as to defend Himself.  Pilate simply couldn’t understand it!  John 19:10 – Why did Jesus remain silent?  Why didn’t He respond to the Jews’ trumped up charges against Him?  Pilate, a little frustrated, I think, asked Jesus, “Are You not speaking to me?  Do You not realize that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”  Who was in charge early that Good Friday morning, in the Praetorium, that palace of this wicked Roman governor?  I mean, this was Pilate’s bailiwick, right?  Surely, he was the in control of all of this, wasn’t He?  Look again, my friends.  Who WAS in charge that day?  Listen to Jesus’ reply to Pilate, “Pilate, you would have no power at all against Me if it had not been given you, if it had not been given you, from above!” 

The LORD reigns, yes, the LORD reigns for Jesus.  At this crucial moment in His life that fact was a confidence-builder, that truth, that the LORD reigns, was a courage-imputer for Jesus.  Is it for you?  Is it for me? 

One more glimpse into the dark night of Jesus’ soul, that moment when the strength and severity of this incredible time of testing all came to a head for Jesus. 

Luke 23:44 – 46, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.

“The LORD reigns…”  For us, who’ve never been to Calvary, who’ve never stumbled under the weight of our cross, who’ve never been jeered at by those we came to save, who’ve never been separated from our Father for three dark, lonely hours, nor burdened by the weight of the sins and guilt of all humankind.  Those three words, “the LORD reigns,” for us, they are somewhat academic, somewhat stale, maybe even sterile.  But not for Jesus!  No!  For at that most crucial of crucial moments, at the very point when He was ready to breathe His last breath, which way did He look?  Beloved, Jesus, all the way through all of this, He knew who was in charge?  “Father,” looking heavenward one last time, He cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!”

But you know something?  Even that is not the end of the story, is it?  The LORD reigns!  Jesus slept in the stern of that tiny fishing boat, out on the stormy waves of the Galilean Sea, because He knew who was in charge!  And, through all 16-18-20 of those final difficult hours of His life, He faced all of them with incredible courage, why?  Because He kept on committing Himself to the One who judges justly, to the One who REALLY WAS in charge! 

But, now, where does all of this lead?  Where does it all eventually end up? 

1 Corinthians 15 – You know what that chapter is called, don’t you?  1 Corinthians 15 – It is called the ‘Resurrection Chapter’. 

1 Corinthians 15:20-27, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.”

Several years ago I made a trip to the cemetery with a dear Christian sister by the name of Ruby Bounds.  At the age of 92, her body having been ravaged by the effects of illness and disease and advanced age, who was in charge that day at Ridgeview Cemetery?  Beloved, if Ruby Bounds had been in Adam and in Adam ONLY, sin and death and even Satan would have been in charge that day!  But, listen, that burial plot, that grave site, because Ruby was in Christ, was not the site of a terrible defeat.  Rather, that grave is the location of a grand and glorious victory just ahead!  Yes, my friends, the LORD reigns!  Our crucified AND risen redeemer, lives and reigns, and because He lives and reigns, that burial plot is soon to be resurrection ground!  Hallelujah! 

“The LORD reigns…”  My loved ones, there’s so much more I want us to see, to hear and to know from those three powerful words.  But, one question for all of us; the Lord reigns.  The LORD is king.  But is He YOUR King?  Is He in charge of your life?  Is He seated on the throne of your heart? 

“The LORD reigns.”  Biblical truths like that are meant to comfort God’s people in times of trouble like we’re facing right now.  But, they are not words, not truths that are meant to make us comfortable to the point that we forget that the King of kings is to be our King, too! 

The Biblical Leadership Ladder

Preached at Community Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, September 29, 2013

Acts 1:15-26, “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”
18 (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. 19 And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it’;
‘Let another take his office.’
21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

One of the subjects that has become increasingly dear to my heart is the subject of leadership.  As a man, a husband of more than thirty years, a father of several grown children, and certainly as a minister; indeed, leadership SHOULD BE all important to me!  In fact, I can’t think of a subject having more practical importance for marriages, family relationships and for the church than the subject of leadership. 

Interestingly, in our flow of church events, we are nearing that time when leaders are to be nominated, evaluated and elected.  Beloved, this is a strategic moment in the life of Community Christian Church.  Interestingly, at this strategic moment, we also come to our study of this passage, a text that has to do with leadership selection.

I know that we have walked up and down this portion of Scripture a couple of times already.  And, hopefully, by now, a few of those 5 or 6 ‘sticky notes’ have stuck!  The Eleven Waiting, the Believer’s Praying, the Brethren Meeting, the Apostles’ Defining, and the Betrayer’s Sinning.  You remember then, don’t you?  Those 5 or 6 three-word phrases kind of summarize much of what this text has to show us and teach us.  However, perhaps the biggest lesson or lessons to be derived from this passage are the ones I want us to grasp today: the lessons that have to do with the subject of leadership. 

Before I move along with you on this trek up the leadership ladder, allow me to give you one, simple, one-word definition of the word ‘Leadership’.  Leadership: what is it?  Well, in a word, leadership is INFLUENCE.  Leadership, whether it be godly or ungodly, Biblical or un-Biblical, righteous or unrighteous, those who are the leaders are the ones who have the influence.  Not necessarily the ones in the POSITION of influence, the OFFICE holders, if you will.  But, the ones whose words and viewpoints hold sway.  They are the LEADERS. 

Now, saying all of that makes me think, first, of Judas, Jesus’ betrayer.  More than one passage in the New Testament, including this one here, lists him among the ‘Office Holders,’ among the hand-picked followers of Jesus, the 12 Disciples, the ones who were in training to be the human leaders of Jesus’ church – the 12 apostles!  And, one passage, I believe it’s John 12:4-6, indicates that Judas also was entrusted with the ‘Bank Bag’.  We might say he was the ‘Church Treasurer’.  He was in a position of influence. 

Question: Did Judas use that position to influence?  And, next question: In what WAY did he use that position.  Or, we might say, how, in what direction, did he exercise his influence?  Think both of those questions over for a minute, while I prepare to point you to the text.  Acts 1:16-17 – Look again at what the text says about this man, this office holder, this person, Judas Iscariot, who, at least, SAT in a position of influence.  Verse 17 – Peter, speaking to the rest of the group of about 120, reminds them that Judas was “numbered with us,” that is, he was counted among that select group of 12 whom Jesus called to follow Him.  And, Peter also points out that the lot to take part in the Apostolic ministry fell to Judas as well. 

But, let me ask you: How many of you would want to have Judas as one of your elders?  How many of you would want Jesus’ betrayer to have charge of CCC’s money bag or to be overseeing the monthly board meetings? 

You see, Judas was a leader, alright!  But, take a look at how he used that leadership influence.  Verse 16 – The verse says that he “became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.”  Literally, the text indicates that Judas was their LEADER!  He was the LEADER of the posse sent to Gethsemane to seize Jesus and take Him away to the Chief Priest, the Scribes and the Pharisees. 

Beloved, do you see it?  Leaders influence.  The question is, in what way, toward what direction, do they influence?  Speaking of direction, take a look at verses 24 and 25 with me for a moment, and note how it spells out the OUTCOME of Judas’ leadership, or, we might say, the PLACE in which Judas’ leadership decisions and direction ended up! 

Acts 1:25 – The text tells us that Judas went to his own place, a place at which he never would have arrived had he not TURNED AWAY from what Jesus had intended for him.  By transgression, by turning away from the will and ways of God, Judas fell! 

Now, what are we to make of this?  Certainly, there are a lot of things we could make of all of this.  But, if I may, I’d like to boil it down to just one thing: when it comes to leadership and to the INFLUENCE that leaders exert in our homes and in God’s Church, do we want – does God want – just anybody to serve as leaders?  Or, does God have His sights set higher than that?  And, should we have our sights set higher, too? 

I ran across an interesting and powerful statement regarding leadership that I just have to stick in right here.  Listen, here’s the statement: If we, as God’s people, truly are taking God’s Word as our final authority, then we must pursue a BIBLICAL leadership, of home and church (and nation), and not just a leadership, not just any leadership!

Today our focus is primarily on church leadership, for sure.  But, as we move forward into the last half of this study, be thinking of how what I’m going to show you relates also to the home, and even to the nation. 

A BILICAL LEADERSHIP – what does our text (and the rest of Scripture) have to say are the FEATURES of a Biblical Leadership?  Well, let’s walk up the Biblical Leadership Ladder, one step at a time.  Step one, the bottom run of this Biblical Leadership Ladder, but an essential rung, an important run, nonetheless!  Acts 1:13, 21, 23 & 26 – A group of verses that, at least at first glance indicate what about Biblical leadership?  God means for it to be MALE leadership.  Now, fellows, before you start jumping up and down and cheering, allow me to remind you of one very crucial fact.  When it comes to Biblical leadership, JESUS is our ultimate example!  The Master who stooped to wash His servants’ feet, the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, the Bride Groom who LOVED His Bride and gave Himself up for His Bride!  Listen, fellows, when it comes to Biblical leadership, the emphasis is not on PRIVILEGES, but on sacrifice!  And, ladies, in case you’re wondering where all of this leaves you: let me tell you, as a husband and a father, I’m glad, and yes, I’m humbled that God gave me a help-meet, and that I NEED a help meet! 

1 Corinthians 11:3-12, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, and other passages underscore the importance of this first run of the Biblical Leadership Ladder, as they point out how male leadership has to do with God’s creation design, not man’s sinful heart.  And, how that that leadership must be exercised by men in keeping with Christ’s example of unselfish, sacrificial love! 

Certainly, there is more to unpack and explain related to this first rung of the leadership ladder, but, we must press on to rung numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5.  Biblical Leadership, it is, first of all, meant to be MALE leadership. But, then it also is meant to be SHARED leadership.  Despite what some groups believe and teach, Jesus did not state that He would build His Church on ONE man, Peter, but on the fact that He, Jesus, is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16-19).  Nevertheless, Jesus did intend to use men, not a man, but a group of men, 12 to be exact, to be His instruments in the task of building His Church!  And their names are all given to us here in this chapter.  So, what is the point?  The point is that, in the Church, and really, in the home and nation, also, Biblical leadership is not meant to be concentrated in the hands of just ONE leader, a Senior Minister, a Ruling Elder, but in the hands of a plurality of leaders!

1 Timothy 5:17-20, “ Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. 20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.

I’m not going to read the entire passage, because the main point of it is not the main point I am making here.  However, be sure and notice that Paul’s instructions to Timothy here have to do, NOT with the treatment of ONE leader – THE elder – but with the treatment of a group of leaders – the ELDERS – plural!  1 Peter 5:1-4 highlights the same thing, that being that, in the Church, the Biblical pattern for leadership is that it is to be SHARED by a group of men. 

Next run, when it comes to the Biblical Leadership Ladder.  The third rung on the ladder has these words written on it: PASTORAL leadership! 

1 Peter 5:1-3, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

Now, the word ‘pastoral’ is a word that some might not fully understand.  If I may, I’ll explain it this way: Biblical Leaders, in particular, those whose role is that of elder, have as their primary FUNCTION the task of SHEPHERDING the flock!  Like a shepherd, a good shepherd leads, protects, feeds and even binds up the wounds of his sheep, so also the Biblical Elder’s function, his task in that position, is to be SHEEP-focused, not barn-focused!  He is to be attuned to, and is to attend to, the needs of the sheep!  His leadership, like that of Jesus, is to be PASTORAL leadership! 

This takes us, then, to rung #4 on the Leadership Ladder, the rung I call, ‘SERVANT leadership’.  Before we explain what we mean by that label, let me just ask you: do those two words, servant-leadership, taken together, seem to be a contradiction? 

Servant leadership.  Those two words, taken together, sure they do seem to be contradictory!  Until, unless you understand the nature of the incarnation, God the Son, Jesus Christ.  He was in very nature God, yet, He did not consider being equal with God, that position, as something to cling to, to refuse to lay aside.  Instead, He emptied Himself, put aside His heavenly majesty and glory, to do what?  To become a man, to swim in the sewer with sinful men and women like you and me.  The King of kings, He humbled Himself and became a servant, and, then, a SACRIFICE, that we might be saved, that we might reign with Him!  In the words of the apostle John, the Master took a towel, a pitcher and a basin, and He washed His servants’ feet!  Why?  To set an example – John 13:13-15.  To show us what Biblical leadership is all about: not selling out for 30 pieces of silver, but kneeling down to serve, to love, to give!  Biblical leadership, it’s not symbolized by a signet ring and a scepter!  No!  Rather, it’s symbolized and carried out through the use of pitcher, basin and towel!  That’s because Biblical Leadership is SERVANT leadership. 

The ladder of Biblical leadership:
            Rung #1 – Male leadership
Rung #2 – Shared leadership
Rung #3 – Pastoral Leadership
Rung #4 – Servant Leadership

Then, last of all, please understand that just as the selection of one man to take Jesus’ place involved the application of certain standards with respect to prospective candidates, so also Biblical leadership requires the application of certain qualifications with respect to prospective candidates.  In other words, Biblical Leadership is not only male, shared, pastoral and servant leadership, it is also QUALIFIED leadership!  Qualified leadership.  So, let me ask you: when it comes to the places in the Bible where the subject of leadership qualifications is discussed, do you know where to go to find those passages? 

With the leadership selection process just around the corner, allow me to point you to just 3 passages: 1 Timothy 1:1-13, Titus 1:5-16 and 1 Peter 5:17.  Make a note to be reading and studying and praying over these passages.  Why?  Well, certainly not just because I said so!  Rather, do so because what we need, what God desires for His Church, is not just LEADERSHIP, but Biblically qualified leadership!  And, why is that?  Let’s sum it up, shall we? 

Because as the leaders go, so go the followers.  As the shepherds go, so go the sheep!