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Your Steps Are Ordered | Sermon 02/18/2024

Updated: Jun 23

Your Steps Are Ordered


 

Good morning Strangers Rest. I give honor to God and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Pastor Emeritus Banks and to each of you attending this service live or via live stream, I thank you for this opportunity to come and encourage you as you begin this new journey that is going to require you to prayerfully listen to and follow the leading of the Spirit of God in the days ahead. Psalms 119:133 says, “Order my steps in Thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” Strangers Rest, I am here this morning to encourage you and tell you that “Your Steps Are Ordered.”

 

You are starting a process to identify your next Pastor – the person God has chosen to lead this congregation. Your ultimate goal in this whole process is to successfully identify the person that God has already chosen – and yes, God has already selected the person that He wants to lead you. You see, there are many men and women standing in pulpits across this country who put themselves in those positions. Likewise, there are men and women that have been anointed by God to be over congregations who are not because the congregations did not agree with God’s choice. Do you see where I am going with this? Just because someone has been called to preach the Word of God does not mean that they have been called and anointed to pastor and/or lead a local Church. Just because someone can preach does not mean they can pastor and yet we often place these individuals in that role because we like their charisma and how they preach the Word of God. My older brother, who lives in Ohio, is an ordained minister. He will tell you that God has not called him to pastor a church. He has served in his current church for over 20 years, and he preaches in his pastor’s absence. But he knows that the role of a pastor is not God’s plan for him. But I want you know this morning; you must be called to be a pastor, otherwise you will do a lot of damage to God’s people. For example, as I was preparing this message, I read an article on CNN about a pastor whose wife came home and complained that a co-worker at the McDonalds, where she worked was mistreating her. The pastor went to that McDonalds and got into a physical altercation with the individual his wife had complained about. He was arrested for trying to dunk the man’s head in one of the deep fryers. Can you imagine watching the news and seeing your pastor on TV being arrested for doing something like this? I am not standing in judgment of this pastor, but the optics were not a good testimony for a Christian, let alone a pastor!

 

The first sermon you heard this year was delivered by your guest speaker Rev. Luke Bobo. Do you remember what he shared? He said that we have two ways to live. We can live like a wise person or we can live like a fool. He read from Psalms 1 and shared the importance of the Word of God and how it should be our guide for how we walk here on earth. Amen!!! Then he asked, “Who do you consult when you have a problem?” The answer: the Word of God. Again, Amen!!! Then he did something that I really appreciated because it will make a big difference in how you go through this transition. He double dogged dared you to consume the Word of God on a daily basis for the rest of the year! He said you should read it, study it and live it! Amen, Amen, Amen. He preached a message that laid the foundation for what you are going to hear this morning – actually this would have been the next message you would have heard had the services not been canceled due to the weather. Rev. Bobo told you to allow the Word of God to guide you – in other words, to order your steps – and for you to choose to walk in those assigned steps. As you go through this transition, you have two ways to do it: you can do it as a wise person by praying and utilizing God’s Word to guide you or you can do it as a foolish person would – no praying and no utilizing God’s Word to guide you. So with that said, let’s go back to Psalms 119:133. Again it says, “Order my steps in Thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”

 

 

How many of you have heard the song “Order My Steps”? Some of the words say, “Order my steps in Your word, dear Lord. Lead me, guide me every day. Send Your anointing Father I pray, order my steps in Your word. Please order my steps in Your word.” When we sing and/or meditate on that song it’s personal – we’re asking the Lord to do something for us that He has already done. We’re asking Him to order our steps according to His Word. Well, since His Word is already established it means that we must be willing to go to His Word to understand the steps that He has laid out for us to take. David wrote in Psalms 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way.” If you are willing to walk with the Lord He has ordered your steps. So what does this actually mean?

 

The word order means “to set up, to make firm, to establish, to prepare.” Its primary action is to cause the person to stand in an upright position, indicating being fixed or steadfast. In Psalms 32:8 God said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”  (Psalms 32:8) When we allow God’s Word to order our steps and we willingly live in complete obedience to His Word then our lives are going to reflect Him and His goodness. Remember, God can order our steps, but we must choose to actually walk in them. Now let’s examine the word “step.” This word indicates “time or occurrence” and implies a repeated action. No one takes one step and stops – no we take repeated steps until we get to a specific destination or achieve a specific goal. Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16) We must seek God’s Word to find them. The more we make His Word a priority in our lives, the more steps we take because of His Word. And, the more steps we take because of His Word the more His Word will be established – will be ordered, in our lives.

 

So, Strangers Rest, you are starting on a journey and the only thing you know at this point is that in the end of it a new pastor will be leading this congregation. At this stage of the process, you will be hearing a lot of voices – your own, your friends, other members, and even people who are not members of this Church will all offer their opinions about who you should select as your next pastor. As your committee invites candidates in to minister, you will hear candidates who will be putting their best foot forward – who will be doing everything they can to impress you. Again, those voices might sound very refreshing and might stimulate your emotions, but does that mean they are the one chosen by God? I stand here to remind you of what is recorded in Second Corinthians 5:7. Paul tells us, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Why is this so important to understanding that your steps must be ordered by the Lord in this specific situation? As you seek to identify the person God has anointed to lead this congregation, you cannot go by what you see. You cannot base the decision on how you feel. Believe me when I tell you that some of you will love one person while others will love someone else. Today, right now, each of you are walking in the same steps that the Prophet Samuel walked in. What do I mean by this? Turn with me to First Samuel chapter sixteen and we will begin reading at verse one.

 

“(1) Now the LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.’ (2) And Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.’ But the LORD said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ (3) Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.’ (4) So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ (5) And he said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.’ Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. (6) So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him!’

(7) But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’.....(10) Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ (11) And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.’ (12) So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ (13) Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” (First Samuel 16:1-13) 

 

As Samuel was mourning over God’s rejection of Saul, God told him to go Bethlehem to anoint the man He had chosen to replace Saul as the king of Israel. In doing this God had “ordered Samuel’s steps.” God had selected the next king of Israel and it was Samuel’s job to identify him and anoint him. I want you to see that it was God who had chosen David – not Samuel. Samuel had to listen to God to identify who God had chosen otherwise he would have gotten it wrong. How do we know this? Because in verse six when Samuel met Jesse’s eldest son, the first one he “saw”, he just knew based on his appearance that he had to be the one God had chosen. Samuel, like all of us, was prone to judge by human standards of outward appearance instead of the heart, as God does. When God rejected him He told Samuel in verse seven, “….Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Samuel had to go through all of Jesse’s sons before he got to the youngest, David, whom God had chosen. What I want you to remember from this story is that Samuel had to be communicating with God and listening to Him to identify the man God had chosen as His king. Strangers Rest, you must do the same. God has chosen a pastor for this Church and now it’s up to you to prayerfully align yourselves with Him to identify who it is.

 

Because God has already chosen your next Pastor, your steps have been ordered. You should be excited about what God is getting ready to do in this place. God has a person He has selected as your Pastor and your goal is to identify that person by understanding God’s Word (as Samuel did) and through prayer (allowing the Spirit of God to speak to you and guide you.) Let’s start with why studying His Word is critical for this process. If God has ordered your steps through His Word to help you identify your next Pastor then you need to know what His Word says about the man of God. For example, Titus 1:7-9 says the following,  “(7) For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, (8) but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, (9) holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”

 

The person God has called to lead this congregation will be blameless – He won’t have a bad reputation. Please understand, I am not saying the person will be sinless or without having made mistakes in life. Remember how God chose David and yet David sinned? Many people do not know that God punished David for his sins (David recorded this in Psalms 6 and 38.) What I am saying is that the person God has selected will have a humble heart, will learn from their mistakes and are living a life acceptable to God at this moment in time. So when you do your background check on the candidates, you should get a good report and you should be able to verify what they have shared with you during the interview process. More importantly, for those of you who are sincerely praying to know God’s heart in the matter – you will have peace. You will know he is the one.

He will be a good shepherd of Strangers Rest, a steward, and a manager of God’s resources. He will take responsibility for you, but he will know that you do not belong to him. He will know that you belong to Jesus. Also, as a steward (overseer) of God’s people, he will not be self-willed (headstrong, and unfeeling.) A pastor must constantly demonstrate the gospel by admitting when he is wrong and assuming responsibility and restoring relationships when necessary. God is not going to send you a pastor whose idea of leadership is “my way or the highway” even though there will be occasions when the pastor must take a hard stance when it comes to doing something “God’s way” versus the way the congregation may believe it should be done.

 

And what about being quick-tempered! Do you know what this mean? This means he can go from calm to “spiritually” speaking you out in a matter of seconds – all in the name of the Lord. Remember the story I told you about the pastor going to McDonalds and fighting the man his wife said was mistreating her? God is not going to send you someone who is prone to anger, but someone who is gentle and firm when the situation requires it. Also, he will not be someone who loves a little nip of wine during the day and the evening hours. In the church covenant we agree “to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage.” I know we say we don’t use intoxicating drinks as a beverage, but many people loosely define the word beverage – just saying. Regardless, the pastor, for obvious reasons, will be one who abstains.

 

This next one is important. He cannot be greedy for or motivated by money. A pastor must have integrity – personally and financially. A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over the kingdom of God. This is important because if you bring in a pastor and his primary interest is the salary and benefits then you missed God and you brought in the wrong person and you will be held accountable for what the person does in that position. The person that God is sending you loves Him and the money he receives from this congregation is secondary to the love he has for his Father, and he will not prostitute the Word of God to make you happy enough to give him a raise. Be careful here because only the Spirit can reveal the heart of the individuals you will be considering. These are actually traits that you should use to rule out candidates.

 

Now let’s look at a few traits that should excite you and cause you take a closer look at a candidate. Are they hospitable? Do they love and rejoice in things that are good? Do they love their wife and their children? Do their wife and children love them back? You can sometimes tell what goes on behind closed doors by how people act in public. The person will also be sober minded, just, holy (living a life devoted wholeheartedly to Jesus internally and externally), self-controlled, knows what the Word says and stands firm on it. He must be able to teach. A pastor must be able to teach. All of the other qualifications are character traits. This is the only ability-based requirement. He must be able to teach sound doctrine, not just be able to communicate in an excellent manner. These are the traits you should look for as you identify the person God is sending you.   

 

Now the second part of this very important process that you are beginning revolves around prayer. When I visited here several weeks ago I heard the announcement about the 6 a.m. Tuesday morning prayer sessions. Every Church member must be praying specifically about correctly identifying the person God has called to lead this congregation. Your prayers should be focused and filled with the belief that God is going to do exactly what He promised. Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24, “(22)…Have faith in God. (23) For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,’ ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (24) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Jesus told us to have faith in God so that when we pray we have the confidence to believe that prayer will lead to it being answered.

 

Now I want to show you the connection between our studying of God’s Word and our prayers being answered. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” The Bible says that when God speaks, His words go forth and they accomplish what He has spoken. Now listen closely, if we are God’s children (and we are), if we have God’s life and nature living in us (and we do), then what we speak should come to pass if it lines up with God’s Word (and it will). When we pray, things should change. As a child of God operating within the will of God, when we cry out to our Father and believe that our prayer is answered, it will be! And the good news about this situation is that you are praying for God to reveal to this Church body what He has already established in heaven. You do not need to ask God to send you someone, you need to ask God to help you see clearly who He has already selected for you – and there is a difference. Unless you are seeking God’s guidance, you might actually think (like Samuel) that God is sending you someone of your choosing based on what you see and hear from the candidate, and that my friends will be a mistake. So pray that God will help you see clearly the person He has selected for this church because He is sending you the best person for this congregation even if initially you do not agree or understand. Remember “We walk by faith, not by sight!”   

 

I want to close this morning by telling you a story about Sis. Betsy. This story will summarize everything I have shared with you about your steps being ordered and all you will need to do is get in alignment with God and believe. The story of Sister Betsy goes like this: “Several years ago there was a drought in one city and the pastor of the Church called for a prayer meeting to pray for rain. The prayer meeting was held on a hot summer evening. All of the members came out dressed in summer cool clothes since they would be there for a while praying. Well, when Sister Betsy arrived at the Church everyone heard her approaching as her shoes were making a loud noise. As she entered the Church, everyone turned to see why she was making such a loud entry. What they saw tickled them and some of the members actually laughed softly. Here was Sister Betsy entering the Church wearing rain boots, raincoat, a hat and carrying an umbrella. She looked a sight in the sweltering heat. Some of the members thought Sister Betsy had finally lost her mind – that her elevator was no longer going to the top floor. The pastor looked at her with much concern. He comes down from the pulpit and approaches her. He asks her, “Sister Betsy are you all right – are you feeling okay?” Sister Betsy looked at him confused by the question and replied, “I feel fine.” Then the pastor asked her, “Well I must ask, why are you dressed this way? Didn’t you feel how hot it is outside? You must be burning up in this outfit. What possessed you to wear all of this tonight in this heat?” Again, some of the members continued to snicker and laugh under their breath while others now shifted to true concern for Sister Betsy’s mental state. Sister Betsy looked at her pastor and then scanned the faces of the rest of the members and made the following statement: “You know pastor, I too was confused when I walked into the Church. You see, I thought we were all coming here to pray for rain and I expected there to be rain when we left. I am confused as to why none of you are dressed for rain since that is what we are supposed to be here asking from God.” 

 

Sister Betsy came to the prayer meeting expecting God to answer their prayer that night. No one else, including the pastor, came to that meeting that night expecting God to do anything except hear their prayer. She believed that because she was doing what Scripture said about praying to God in a time of need she believed in her heart that God would not only hear that prayer, He would quickly answer. Strangers Rest, when you’re praying at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays, are you getting off the call excited about God answering your prayer?

 

Your steps have been ordered. God has selected your next pastor. He knows what you need, and He knows the best person to help Him help you with those needs. God knew this day was coming from the inception of this Church and He has been prepared for it. He has done His job so now it is time for you to do yours. Do not worry about the process or the possible missteps along the way, just walk in the steps that God has laid out before you. Trust Him. Believe Him. Get into His Word and establish a job description based on His Word that is non-negotiable regardless of how well the individual delivers their sermon. Come into agreement as a Church about the non-negotiable things that you will stand firm on based on God’s Word. And then pray and believe like Sister Betsy. Do not stop until everyone knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that you have heard from on High and the correct decision has been made. I hope you are getting excited about what God is doing in your midst.

 

Now may, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

 

 

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VISION: 

“Til all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more"

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