December 31, Message by P. Kevin Clancey

So, Psalm 135 says this:

1 Praise the Lord . Praise the name of the Lord ; praise him, you servants of the Lord , 2 you who minister in the house of the Lord , in the courts of the house of our God. 3 Praise the Lord , for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. 4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession. 5 I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. 6 The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. 7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.8 He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. 9 He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants. 10 He struck down many nations and killed mighty kings— 11Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan —12 and he gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance to his people Israel. 13 Your name, Lord , endures forever, your renown, Lord , through all generations. 14 For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. 15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. 16 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. 17 They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.19 All you Israelites, praise the Lord ; house of Aaron, praise the Lord ; 20 house of Levi, praise the Lord ; you who fear him, praise the Lord . 21 Praise be to the Lord from Zion, to him who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the Lord. (Psalms 135:1-21, NIV)

So, I didn’t count how many times in there it said “praise the Lord,” but I always think it’s a good idea if the Bible says to do something lots of times, that you do it. It just seems like wisdom to me.

And so, we’re going to use music as a tool. You don’t need music to praise the Lord, but it’s a helpful tool.

So tonight, we’re going to use music as a tool to praise the Lord. So, I want to invite you to do what the psalm said, and praise the Lord.

And on the very night he was betrayed, he took bread and he broke it, and in great love, he told his disciples, “This is my body, which is freely given for you.” After supper, he poured out the wine, gave thanks to his father in heaven, and he told his disciples, “This is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

It’s the blood of the new covenant. And he poured out his blood for you, for your healing, for your forgiveness, so that you could be a part of his forever family. And so he invites you to his table to remember that you are a new covenant person, that you have been bought with a price, that you’re no longer your own, but you belong to Christ Jesus.

And he’s brought you to his table to fill you once again, that you might live for his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. That you might be strengthened by his grace to represent Jesus well in whatever context he places you. So come, be thankful, and take and eat.


Good to be here tonight. And we did it. We’re gonna do it, folks. This is like things hardly ever work out perfectly for unorganized people.

And I’m an unorganized person, and quite a while ago, I just, it was on my heart to preach through the book of Hebrews. And so, you know, I’ve been doing that. It’s a difficult book; it hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever preached through, so, you know, just have sympathy for me and know my job is difficult. Give me a few poor sweet babies. No, it’s been good. I like preaching through Hebrews.

But as you know, next year we’re reading chronologically through the whole Bible, and I want to preach on passages that you’ve read during the week. And so, I wanted to start that, you know, completely in sync with our reading, and I wanted to finish Hebrews in time to do that.

And look, this is our last sermon on Hebrews 13:20-25. We are going to finish tonight. What was it? How many of you are old enough to remember the A-Team? Remember the A-Team? Yeah. I love it when a plan comes together. Yep.

And they lit up a cigar. It’s like, how good is that? How good is that? Yep. We got the A-Team here. Jamie, I think you’re Mr. T, I think. I pity the fool.

All right. So here we go.

Benediction. Here is the benediction. Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead, our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good in the world. Amen.

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

And this is how you know that the author of Hebrews was a preacher. Because he says “Amen!” and then he goes on.

22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

25Grace be with you all. (Hebrews 13:20-25, NIV)

God, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock, our strength, and our Redeemer.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord , my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14, NIV)

Amen. So, benediction is a church word, right? We have church language.

We have churchese. And people typically don’t use the word benediction out in culture. And, you know, the church buildings have words. This building doesn’t have one. The building, the firehouse doesn’t have one. But traditional churches, they have a narthex, right?

There’s a narthex. What is a narthex? Is that someplace in the north? What is that? What is that? It’s the place where you get in and you come in and you just hang out before you go into the sanctuary. Even sanctuary, you know. We have living rooms and family rooms and hallways.

Churches have narthexes and sanctuaries. And we have invocations and benedictions. So, this is a benediction. What a benediction is, is a blessing. It’s a blessing. That’s another church word.

You know, how much has church impacted culture? We bring it right in whenever anybody sneezes, right? Somebody sneezes and we all become Christians. “God bless you.”

And so, blessing means to make happy. A benediction is a pronouncement, basically, over a group of people intended to bring them happiness or joy. It’s intended to bring them the actual benefits implied in the benediction.

And the benefits are all benefits of God. In fact, every week I give you a benediction. We’re not a very liturgical church, but we have a few liturgies. All right? Every week, I open the service with a script, with a psalm, typically. That’s a liturgy. Every week, we come to communion. On the night he was betrayed, I recite a liturgy. At the end of the service, I recite a liturgy. Sidney, what’s the liturgy I recite at the end of the service? The Lord bless you and keep you.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you; (Numbers 6:24, NIV)

The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. ”’ (Numbers 6:25-26, NIV)

It comes from Numbers 6. It’s called the Aaronic Blessing. It’s the blessing, the benediction God gave Aaron to speak over Israel, that they might be blessed.

But here’s the key to a benediction. It’s not magic. I grew up in a liturgical church, and one of my struggles was, sometimes I felt like the liturgy itself became almost magic. The sacraments were treated almost as if they were magic.

In other words, just in and of themselves, they did what they were supposed to do, regardless if they were attended to by the faith, the receptivity of the recipient. And I think the two go together. I don’t think speaking a blessing over you makes you blessed. You gotta take it. You gotta believe it by faith. You gotta grab hold of the promises of God. And then, those things start to work themselves out as a reality in our lives.

It is the word of God married to the faith of the hearer that then brings the impact of that. Does that make sense? So that’s how, when somebody blesses you, take it. For years, because of poor self-image or a misunderstanding of what humility really is, I would deflect compliments. ‘That was a wonderful sermon.’ ‘Nah, it stunk.’ And that would be, actually, that was actually rude to the person giving the compliment. That would kind of be a put-down to them. I just thought I was putting me down, but actually I was putting them down.

And people started calling me on that. And so now, I just try to receive that stuff. So, anytime you want to say, ‘Man, that was a great sermon, Kevin, and you’re a wonderful pastor, and we love you deeply,’ I will receive that. I’ll just take it. You know, it’s fine with me.

All right, so it needs to be received. Sunday, last Sunday night, perfect example. I preached last Sunday night. It was kind of distracting. There were a lot of kids in the room. My granddaughter was in the room. She was flirting with everybody behind her.

They were all paying attention to her, and smiling at her, and goofing around with her. Then there was one kid in there who was just screaming and yelling. It was Christmas Eve. He was sugar up, and Santa Claus was coming, and he couldn’t control himself. And you know, Sean, that’s all right. You behaved later.

So no, it wasn’t Sean. He was in Colorado, so it was good. And so, you know, I just thought, sometimes you’re preaching, and you think, man, I just, I wasn’t on point tonight. I was distracted. I didn’t do a good job.

I really felt that last Sunday night. And so, this lady came up to me afterwards, and she said, “Oh my gosh, that was such a great sermon. That was so helpful. It was exactly what I needed to hear.” And here’s what I said, “Thank you. I’m glad.”

And then another lady just came and said the exact same thing to my wife. She said, “Oh yeah, our friend Mads was in tears, and she said, ‘I knew why I came tonight. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.'”

And I don’t know how many times I’ve had that experience when I just thought, ‘Man, that was a stinker.’ And you know, somebody goes, ‘That changed my life.’ And then there are times where I just think, ‘Man, I was humming tonight. I was four for four with four home runs. I was, man, I was on tonight.’ I remember one time I thought that, and my friend said, ‘Well, bring me that sermon, man. You were good.’ He said, ‘Bring me that sermon.’ I said, ‘I will.’

And I was going to meet him for golf, and I put the tape in with the sermon on. I listened to the tape. I was like, “I’m not going to give that to my friend. This is horrible.” I was like, “I wasn’t nearly as spot on as I thought I was.” So, God will use it. But receive the blessing.

And this blessing tells us about God. It tells us that God is a God of peace. The first thing he says, “Let the God of peace come to you.”

Let’s receive the peace of God in your life. And here’s the peace of God. Let me just say, here’s what we want the peace of God to be: a trouble-free life. That’s what we want the peace of God to be. Nope, not going to happen.

Here’s what the peace of God is. In the midst of a life filled with troubles, he is greater. His promises are sure. And your foundation is secure.

There’s no diagnosis the doctor can give. There’s no shortage of income. There’s no inadequacy in you.

Did you ever think that the God who knows everything, when he called you to be his child, and he desired to use you in his purposes in this world, already knew of your stupidity? Already knew of your secret sin? Already knew of your weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And said, “Yeah, I can use that.”


How many of you have ever been to the Midwest and seen lightning bugs, right? Listen, if God can make a bug’s butt light up, what do you think he can do with you? Alright?

He’s the God of peace. Not in that you will have no troubles. You will have troubles. You will not have a day without troubles. Sixty-five years old. I think I’m the oldest person in this room. And I can tell you, by the time you reach sixty-five, you have not reached the day where you do not have any troubles. I’ve had them every day of my life.

I just went through my, we discovered my old high school yearbook, going through some stuff in the garage. And I looked at my high school yearbook. I had troubles.

I had troubles. And there hadn’t been a time I haven’t had troubles. But as the song says, turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

The peace of God is based upon his nature, his character, his promises, his person, his presence. Not upon a life without troubles. It’s peace in the midst of troubles.

The great author and statesman Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote many books that spoke of the evils of communism.

And he became a Christian in a communist concentration camp. And he writes a fictional account, which is really kind of a historical account of his time in prison, called One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. And in that book, he talks about as an atheist, he upsets the communists, and he’s sent to a Siberian prison camp as a doctor. And he’s serving time in the Siberian prison camp. And he said, in the Siberian prison camp were a group of Baptists. And I’ll never forget. I just remember this from the book.

It’s the quote I remember clearly from the book. He said, “The troubles of prison life was like water on a duck’s back to the Baptist. That’s peace.”

In a Siberian prison camp, the troubles are like to an observer, an outside observer. I’m sure those Baptists felt the persecution. But to an outside observer, he thought, “Oh my goodness. How can these people be like this in a Siberian prison?” Because they’ve been blessed with the peace of God.

So, God is a God of peace. God is a God of resurrection. He raised Jesus from the dead.

And if that is the destiny, that is the outcome of our King Jesus, the promise of the New Testament is that we are there too. He is the first fruits of the resurrection. Turn to somebody next to you and say, “you’re looking fruity.” He’s the first fruits. You’re the next fruits. You’re the next fruits of the resurrection. You will rise from the dead.

And I think this is how this works out eschatologically. I think when you die, you depart, and you be with Christ.

And you’re recognizable, but you’re still kind of just spirit in intermediate heaven. But then, when Christ returns, and he judges all things, and he brings history on this earth to the end, then our bodies, our physical bodies will rise. And we will be clothed with a resurrection body. And it’ll be like your body now. It’ll be in better shape, and you’ll be at a better age than you are now.

Some of you maybe are right at the right age, but most of us are going to be a lot younger in the resurrection, so we’ll be good. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I made two this year, one of them entirely in tune. I’m going to read through the Bible chronologically. And the other one is not to make old man noises when I get up out of chairs.

Now, that does not count like bones creaking, things I have no control over. But you know what I’m talking about, right? OK, here we go.

All righty then. Yeah, just been doing that too much. Now, I’m not saying I’m not gonna do the momentum thing. I still do the momentum thing. There we are, but I’m not gonna do the, there we are. I’m gonna leave that out, alright? So, just if you catch me, you know, Sunday night, go, okay, there we go, Kev. Just say, hey, you weren’t gonna do that.

Alright, you will get a resurrected body, and I just talked about that. The peace of God is not life without troubles, but life in the resurrection is gonna be life without pain, without suffering, without sickness, without death, without sin, without contentious people. And at that time, when you receive your resurrected body, you will realize, and we’ll all realize, that the troubles of this world, as Saint Paul said, cannot be compared to the glory that will go on and on and on and on forever. And the troubles that seem to overwhelm in this life will be like a gnat’s eyebrow in light of eternity.

He’s the God of resurrection. Death is not the final word. “I am the resurrection and the life. He or she who believes in me, they will never die, and yet though they die, there…”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV)

Jesus acknowledging that he’s not talking about physical death, “yet though they die, they will live.” Your destiny is life. Your destiny is life. The last enemy of God is death, and he will put every enemy under his feet. And so, probably in your lifetime, that last enemy won’t be defeated. Maybe Jesus will return before you die.

I mean, according to all the things I look on youTube, all the signs are there. I just think those people are wrong. But you know what? I could be wrong. I know it’s a small possibility, but it’s possible. I mean, my wife will tell you that it’s possible.

But whether he comes tomorrow or he comes in 2,000 years, tomorrow nor 2,000 years will seem like a very long time in light of eternity. He is the God of resurrection. Listen, the devil thought he could hold him in the grave. He taunted the devil.

He coaxed the devil into taking him to the cross. The Bible says that if they had known, not just the Jewish authorities, if the demons, if the powers had known what God had in store, they would not have crucified the Son of God. They would not have crucified the Son of Righteousness.

What were they thinking?

The book of Acts says he is the author of life. He is life itself. He is light. He is the one who spoke and said, let there be light. Boom, there was light.

He is the one who spoke all existence into being. Out of nothing, he created. He is the all-powerful one. And so, they crucified him, and he died. He went to the tomb, and he got buried. And all hell thought they could hold him.

But I got to tell you something. It wasn’t even like Gulliver’s travels where Gulliver had to, you know, kind of break himself free of the, what are they called? Lilliputians? Of their little cords. He didn’t have to break anything free.

He went down to hell, and he snatched the keys of death and Hades from the devil himself. And that Sunday morning, he burst out of that tomb alive, never to die again, and to raise us with him. Death has been arrested. Death has been defeated. He is the God of resurrection.

I bless you with the God of peace and the God of resurrection. I started preaching like I was preaching to a full house there for a minute. I bless you with the God of peace and the God of resurrection. He is the God of guidance.

He’s the great shepherd of the sheep. He is the God of guidance, protection, and provision. Psalm 23: I’ll never forget one of those pastor moments.

This dear man started coming to our church in California and he was heartbroken because he had married a woman in midlife and she was an atheist by that time. She had been a Christian, had grown up in a Christian family, a Christian church, and then somebody in church hurt her and she decided to pay God back by not believing in him.

It’s one of the stupidest things people do.

But she had done that. Now, she had a lot of Christian baggage in her life, and so she was a very decent person, a very kind person. But she was on her deathbed, and her husband was concerned about her soul. And with tears in his eyes, he said, “Go visit her.” And I said, “I will.”

I went to visit her, we had a nice little chat, and then I said, “May I pray for you?” And she’s one of the two people out of hundreds that I’ve been by on hospital bedsides who have said no.

She said, ‘No, you can’t pray for me.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ And I left. I tried. I walked out the door and the Spirit of God said, like you would say to Orzo, ‘Stay. Stay.’ I don’t want to stay. I just stood outside the door.

The nurses came in, they had to take her to the bathroom, and I knew that I was supposed to go back in there and talk to her some more. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. And they took forever.

“It’s just, I mean, she was in that bathroom forever, and I was just so tempted to leave because I’m not a patient man. And standing outside of a hospital door, not knowing what you’re going to do when you go back into that room with a lady who didn’t want you to pray, I mean, I just wanted to leave. I really did. But, I mean, if I ever heard the voice of God, I was sure I was going to leave, hearing it then. Stay. Stay. You’re going back in.” And so, they finally got done.

They put her back in bed, and I walked back in. She goes, ‘Oh, you’re still here.’ I go, ‘Yeah. I felt like there was one more thing I kind of wanted to do.’ And she said, ‘What’s that?’ I go, ‘I’d like to recite some poetry to you.’ And so I recited some poetry to her about the good shepherd. ‘The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and it leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me a path of righteousness for his namesake.’

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalms 23:1-3, NIV)

And then her eyes got moist. And she started saying with me, this little Baptist woman, Even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my enemy. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runneth over. I’m going back and forth with the King James here. It seems right in the King James. Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalms 23:4-6, KJV)

Tears were running down her cheek, and tears ran down my cheek. And I just said, “Mary, if that was her name, God bless you.” I didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer with her. I don’t think I needed to because she said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.”

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalms 23:4, NIV)

And I left and I said, “God, thank you for making me stay.” And he said, “Yeah, it wasn’t easy.” So, he is our shepherd. He guides us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

He is your guidance. He is your protector. He doesn’t mean to… Again, He’s not going to protect you from all troubles. He’s not going to protect you from every bad thing. But He will protect your eternity. He will protect your life in Him. He will guard your soul. And He will defend you from all enemies. He will protect you.

And He is a great provider. He is a great provider. He provides resources.

We Westerners, we Americans think of, oh, money, money, money, money. But He is a great provider. He provides people, which are much more valuable than money. But He provides for our needs. He doesn’t… I mean, the Bible is clear about that.

‘I know you need these things. Seek first the kingdom of God and all His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you.’

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

He is a good father. What father, right? He says, ‘What father would give a kid a stone, you know, when he asks for a fish?’

What father would give a child lutefisk when he asks for an In-N-Out burger? He’s a good father. So, He is a provider, a protector, and a guide.

And finally, He’s the God of atonement. The blood of the eternal covenant. It is the blood of the eternal covenant that sets us free. That blood is powerful. The devil doesn’t like it when we talk about the blood.

Because the blood, somehow that blood of Jesus, life is in the blood. That life of God was in that blood as it was poured out sacrificially on the earth.

It fertilized planet earth with God’s life and goodness. And now that blood saves us. And week after week, we celebrate this.

Early Christians were persecuted, by the way. If you think, you know, if you get upset because we get misunderstood in the media, and we get slandered, early Christians were put to death. Death for being cannibals. Why? Because they talked about eating the body and blood of Christ. And they’re cannibals. It’s disgusting. Put them to death.

I don’t know how many of you go to health food stores. Anybody go to health food stores?

Yeah, me neither. Good for you. That’s good. I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying I don’t do it. There’s lots of good things I don’t do. But I will say this. You’ve heard me say this before. That’s the healthiest meal you’re ever going to eat. Whether it’s gluten free or not. That’s the healthiest food you’re going to eat. Because that’s the food of God. And it’s the blood. Again, it’s not magic. Right? But it’s not powerless either. When married to our faith, we receive internally the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.

We receive that vitality of the new covenant. And it strengthens us like all food. It nourishes us for the task that’s before us. It’s a means of God’s grace to be taken regularly. John Wesley took communion every day. I grew up in a liturgical church, like I said. And here’s what I mean by it has to be married to your faith. All right? Here’s what I mean. All right? How many of you grew up Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican? Okay. All right, Karen. The Lord be with you. What comes next? And also with you. Yeah.

We lift up our hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. All right? Man, I had that thing. You know, you go every week. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Just rote. And the biggest response was always, ‘Mass has ended. Go in peace.’ And then you’d hear this loud, ‘Thanks be to God.’ That was always the biggest liturgical response. Every other one was kind of droned out. But that one, that one got some enthusiasm behind it. ‘Mass has ended. Go in peace. Thanks be to God.’

That woke everybody up. Just in time for the Seahawks. All right, so I came to faith in Christ. And I got mad at my liturgical church because I didn’t feel like they taught me that. They didn’t teach me that relational aspect. They just taught me religion. Now, having said that, they may have tried. And I just never saw it. But I remember I stopped going. And then about a couple months later, I went back. Same liturgy, right? They don’t change this very often. Same liturgy.

But the priest gets up there and says, “The Lord be with you.” And instantly, in my heart, I said, “Well, that’s an awful nice thing to say. And also with you. We lift our hearts to the Lord. Darn straight we do.”

They got to the creed. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty. Me too. Maker of heaven and earth. Right on.” We said right on back then. “In Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. Yes.”

And I remember thinking as I’m just getting into this, I’m thinking, “Who changed the mass?”

And then the Spirit of God kind of whispered in my ear, maybe that’s not what changed. Oh. Oh, there’s something alive in me. And all of a sudden, this thing that was dead because it wasn’t married to faith was now oozing over with life. Just bubbling over with life. So that’s how it works. All right. God equips us. That’s part of the blessing. He says, I’ll equip you with everything necessary to do His will. How about that for a promise? How about that for a promise?

“Not, I’ll equip you with 50% of what is necessary to do His will, and the other 50% you’re going to have to come up with moral striving and effort. But everything necessary for you to accomplish my purposes in your life, I’ll give you. Just take it and run with it. Just take it and run with it.”

And then He says, “This is all for God’s glory.”

And let me tell you something that’s going to just make 2024 the easiest thing in the world for you. This will make 2024 so peaceful and so easy.

It’s not about you. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that great? I don’t have to solve world hunger. I don’t have to put an end to the fentanyl crisis. I don’t have to find a home for every homeless person out there. It’s not about me. It’s for His glory and His name.

And He is smarter than me and more powerful than me. Well, then what do I do? My part. What’s my part? Ask Him. It’s the part He’s in charge of. He’s equipped you for. I’ve told the story.

I told it in our class tonight, but it’s worth repeating. And it’s the town tailor in North Carolina who got trained to do his part at a, and this is the greatest name for an evangelist ever I’ve ever heard, Mordecai Ham. I mean, that just sounds like a brand of ham, actually. Get your Mordecai Ham. It’s better than whatever the other one is.

Mordecai Ham preached a revival in a small town in North Carolina.

And the town tailor, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, knew that his part was to be trained to be an altar minister to help lead people to Christ when Mordecai Ham gave the altar call. The town tailor decided to do that. One night during Mordecai Ham’s sermon, a gangly, tall, high school first baseman with a C average came forward and asked Christ into his life. Decades later, he died as one of the greatest evangelists of all time, Billy Graham. I don’t know the town tailor’s name, but good job, dude.

Good job. I do know Mordecai Ham’s name. I want to meet him in heaven. I got another Mordecai Ham story that’s just great. He’s driving in the south, going from town to town on these dusty roads. I can just imagine his wife saying, why don’t we just get a church and settle down? No, this is what God called me to do. With a name like Mordecai Ham, you got to be kind of obstinate. This is what God called me to do. I got to go to another town.

He gets to this town, a small town in the south, and it’s run by a couple of thugs, you know, local bullies. They’re running the town, this one family. There’s this dad, and he’s got a bunch of sons, and they’re making everybody pay. They’re a small mob. They make people pay for protection. They beat people up. They get drunk. They’re just thugs running this small town.

Mordecai Ham gets into town, and he hears about it. He says, “Well, let me talk to this guy. I got to talk to this guy.”

And he says, “Where is he? Let’s say, I don’t know, let’s say the guy’s name is Bill. I got to talk to Bill.” Well, Bill hears about it, and he is seized with fear. He doesn’t tell his kids to beat up Mordecai Ham. It’s like the man of God wants to talk to him. And he knows he’s not right with God.

Bill flees town. Mordecai Ham chases him in a car. Bill’s car runs out of gas. He pulls over, runs into a cornfield, and hides in a cornfield.

Mordecai Ham goes out on the cornfield and says, “Bill, get out here. Get out here. I’m going to pray for you to be saved.” Doesn’t hear anything. Mordecai Ham says, “Fine. I’m going to pray then for the Lord to kill you.” He hears his voice. “Don’t do it.” He says, “Why not? You’re leading your kids to hell. You’re terrorizing the people of this town. You’re nothing but a wretch. Yep, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pray for the Lord to kill you.” “Don’t do it, I’m coming.”

He led Bill to the Lord in that cornfield. You’ve got to like Mordecai Ham. So, God will equip you with everything you need to do His work for His glory through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s not about you. Just do your part, and that’s enough. That’ll get you a well-done, good and faithful servant. And when you hear that from the man in the white robe, I promise you it’ll be well with your soul. And you don’t even have to be perfect at it. Okay, Sean? Just do it. Just do it.

Whatever it is, just do it. You don’t have to be perfect. And as I said, the Word only works when received by faith.

And then he gives them these exhortations. He gives them exhortations. He says, hold on to these words. Believe this. Practice it. Do it. All right, exhortations are best.

And he talks about the context of the relationship. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but he knew Timothy. That’s why some people think it’s Paul. It doesn’t sound, Hebrews is not written like a Paul letter. Other people have said Luke. Some people have said Barnabas.

Some people who want a woman author in the New Testament say Priscilla. Fine, take your pick. We don’t know who wrote it. The Holy Spirit inspired it. And whoever wrote it knew Timothy.

And he said, “Timothy’s just getting out of jail. You know, that was like a calling card for first century evangelists. They had to go to jail. Timothy’s getting out of jail, and hopefully he’ll come to you. Hopefully I’ll come to you.”

It’s in the context of love that exhortations are given.

Listen, we receive correction and exhortations better from people who love us than from strangers or people who pretend to love us but just want to tell us what to do. I’ll never forget a man. He’s a good man. He was a missionary. But the way he phrased this, he didn’t like the fact that I was overweight. He didn’t like overweight preachers. He thought preachers should be in good shape. It’s probably true, probably not a great witness, but you know, it is what it is, all right?

And so, you know, he wanted to correct me on that. And here’s what he said. He said, you know, I don’t know of many successful pudgy pastors, kind of how he put it. I said, okay, where are you going with this?

And so just, and this is what drove me up the wall. He said, he was an older man, a generation older than me, and he said, just as kind of a spiritual father, I want to exhort you, you know, get in shape, lose weight. And here’s how I received it.

I did not receive it well, and here’s why. You’re not my spiritual father. You haven’t done one thing but tell me I’m fat. You don’t know the names of my kids. You don’t know my background, my history, my life, my struggles. You’re just offended that I’m overweight.

Fair enough, you can be offended, but you’re not my spiritual father. I had to receive that better from a spiritual father, but I didn’t have one. And he wasn’t it. He never invested in me after that. I didn’t say that to him. I probably should have.

He might have invested. He’s a good guy. He might have said, oh, you’re right. I’m sorry. Yeah. If I’m going to take the role of exhorting you, I will be a spiritual father. You want one? I’ll pray for you, and I’ll pray for your kids, and I’ll be that guy in your life. Exhortations happen best in the context of loving relationships. People will care what you think when they know that you care. It just works that way.

And I think we’re so cautious about offending people, we don’t kind of bring correction to people when they need it. I know I don’t. I look around at y’all and say, “Man, you guys are messed up. I could just tell you how to get straightened up so quick.” No. I do it, here’s when I do it, I do it when people ask, when people, in the context of a relationship, when people come to me and say, “Pastor, I got this problem, I need your help.” It’s like, “you bet, you bet, let’s go.”

And so, he exhorts them, and then he finally ends with this, he finally ends with that word again, grace. Grace to you all. Grace to you all, dear ones. Grace be with you all. We started with peace, now we’re on grace. Paul uses those three words extensively in his greetings and closings of his gospel. Peace, mercy, and grace. Mercy, we didn’t hit mercy, but we got peace and grace. And we already talked about what grace is. Grace is the power of God to accomplish God’s purpose in and through your life.

To make you Christlike, to prepare you for heaven, and to use you on this earth to bring his kingdom to come and his will be done, and grace be with you all. And so, I already told you that every week I give you a benediction, and I pray that when I speak that benediction from Numbers over you, that you receive it. I pray that it has its intended effect. I’m not using it as a way to just say church is over. I mean, we could just say church is over.

I am saying it as a way of saying I really want this for you, and I believe it’s the heart of the Father to want this for you. So tonight, to end 2023, there’s a special deal, a two-for-one deal. Tonight you’re going to get two benedictions, because I’m going to bless you now with the benediction at the end of the book of Hebrews, and then I’m going to go to the good old Aaronic blessing. And so I want to speak this over you.

Now, may the God of peace, dear ones, who through the blood of the eternal covenant, brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep. May that God equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in you what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21, NIV)

Grace be with you all. Amen.

And the Lord bless you, thank you, I receive it. And the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace. Go in that peace to love and serve the Lord. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen? Amen.

It’s over, except we’re gonna pray. You want prayer for anything, we’ll pray for you. You need prayer for anything.