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Sunday, 19 October 2014


Rev. Brent Russett
By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:   

PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, October 19th, 2014:

‘Life in the Penalty Box

            Good morning. And welcome to good news in the morning.  My name is Brent Russett. I am the Senior Pastor at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church. It is my pleasure to look at some of life’s challenges, and then bring you some good news in the morning.

            This program is brought to you by Good News Christian Ministries.

            You can find Good News in the morning on the internet at . There you can hear past episodes and find interesting articles. And if you find this ministry help in your spiritual journey, then you can find ways to support us at the Website.

            This morning I want to talk to you about Life in the Penalty box.

            I would like to read to you a letter that was received by Rev. Erwin Ludzer of Moody Church. It was written to him after he had preached a message on the radio.
It read,
            I am 31 and divorced though I fought the divorce bitterly. I feel badly because I have no hope for the future. Often I go home from church and cry, but there’s no one to hold me when I cry, No one cares.
            What hurts most is that I begged God to be single for His glory and to fix my eyes on Jesus but nothing changes, I continue to fail. I'm a basket case emotionally and on the verge of collapse. Something is so very wrong. I'm so crippled and embittered that I can scarcely relate to others any more.
            I feel like I will have to sit out the rest of my life in the penalty box.
            Have you ever been there? Maybe it was because of a wrong financial decision. Maybe you have a bad marriage. Maybe you did something wrong  and people won't let you forget it. They won't forgive you. Maybe it was a wrong career choice, or a wrong relationship choice; Or maybe you feel like society has put you in the penalty box. You feel that because of the economy and the national debt that you have no hope of ever attaining the level of economic security that your parents had. You feel that no matter what you do you can't get out of the penalty box.
            The Penalty box is not something we associate with Moses. You remember the story. Pharaoh was worried about how many Hebrew slaves there were. If there was ever an insurrection they just might toss the Egyptians out of their own land. So he gave an order that all male Hebrew children born, were to be killed. But Moses' mother hid him until he was three months old. Then she made a waterproof basket and put him in the bulrushes. He was  found by an Egyptian princess. Moses was raised in the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh for the first 40 years of his life.
            And we remember how, latter on, he stood up to pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. We remember how he was allowed to go up to the mountain of God and talked with God. He received the ten commandments directly from God. He was a great leader, a strong general, a wise counsellor, a man of God.
But sandwiched in between those 40 years in the palace and the 40 years leading the children of Israel out of Egypt there are another 40 years that Moses spent in the backside of the wilderness just tending sheep.
            I want you to get the picture of this. Moses since the time that he was two or three was brought up in the palace of the pharaoh. Egypt at that time was probably the most powerful nation in all the world. The pharaoh was the ruler of that nation.
            Moses would have been schooled in the temple of the sun. He would have been taught hieroglyphics, astronomy, math, and chemistry. He would have been given every advantage that the civilization of that time had to offer him.
            In fact, Josephus who was a historian in ancient Rome tells us that Moses rose to be the second most powerful person in all of Egypt. When Moses road through the streets of Egypt there were probably soldiers that went before him and called out bend the knee, bend the knee Moses is coming , Moses is coming.
            As he rode by mothers would probably point at him and tell their sons, "there goes big Moe, be like him."
            For some reason Moses knew he was special. Maybe it was because of his upbringing. Maybe it was because of the Holy Spirit of God working in his life. Whatever the case he knew he was called.
            One day [as it is recorded in exodus 2:11] Moses was out for a walk. While he was walking he saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating up on one of the Hebrew slaves. The Bible says that Moses looked this way and that and then killed the Egyptian.
            Before this incident with the taskmaster, Moses’ destiny was looking pretty good. He was a prince, he had power and prestige.  But God had a plan, and it wasn’t for Moses to rule Egypt
            The next day Moses was out for a walk and he saw two Hebrews arguing together. So Moses tries to be the peace maker. They, however, turn on Moses and say " are you going to kill us like you killed that Egyptian" Moses knew then that the word was out. Pharaoh tried to kill him and Moses has to flee Egypt.
            Stephen in Acts 7:25 has an interesting commentary of this. He says this, "and he [Moses] supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand"
            Moses figured that once the people knew that he was on their side that they would all rally around him and he could deliver them.
            Have you ever been there. You thought people would understand. Especially God's people. But they didn't. You can understand when the people of the world don't understand but you expect the people of God to see that you are doing God’s work. But they just can't see it.
            So Moses has to go off running to the country of Midian. Midian is the back side of the desert. He is in the wilderness for 40 years – tending sheep in obscurity. Life in the penalty box.
             This isn’t a horrible destiny, but compared to what he had, this isn’t really great. And he was there for 40 years. 40 Years – But God had a plan, even when his life seemed to be on hold.

            But there are some things that one can only learn in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that Moses learned to serve. It was in the wilderness that Moses learned to obey. It was in the wilderness that he learned about the wilderness – and later on he would lead the people of God through that wilderness.

            And then one day  he is walking on the back side of the wilderness and he runs into a bush that is burning but is not consumed, and he hears the voice of God.

            God calls Moses to go to Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go”. But Moses argued with God. He gave every excuse he could think of. I’m not the leader type. I stutter. I won’t know what to say. People won’t believe me.

            But Moses relents and goes You see God had a plan. Moses lead his people out of Slavery. This wasn’t Moses plan, this was God’s plan. Moses brings the 10 commandments from God to the world. This wasn’t Moses plan, this was God’s plan. And Moses changed the course of history.

            Moses had a plan to change Egypt, God had a plan to change the world. Even in the wilderness Moses fulfilled his destiny.

            But I would have you notice that Moses was only able to step into his destiny because he encountered God.

MUSIC -  God will lift up your head – Jars of Clay

            Welcome back. This morning we are talking about life in the penalty box.

            You know that sometimes we end up in the penalty box and we know we deserve to be there. If we had to do it over again, we certainly would do things differently. But we get very few, “do overs” in life. Now we have to live with our choices, and we do not like where our choices have taken us.

            Let me tell you another story from the Bible. Over the generations, the people of God had an on again, off again relationship with God.

            When they were on, they honoured the word of God, they obeyed the commands of God, they followed the ways of God and God blessed them. He blessed them with peace in the land. He blessed them with abundance in so many different ways.

            When they were off again, they worshipped idols, and made sacrifices to them. The land was filled with injustice. Power trumped what was right and good. From the kings to the peasant, people refused to acknowledge the Lord.

            When this happened, the countries enemies ran over them. They were oppressed. Life was hard. Then they would call out to the Lord – and the Lord being who he is, he was merciful. And for a time there relationship with God would be on again.

            Well there was a series of kings a number of generations of King David that were off again. God sent prophet after prophet with warning after warning. God through his prophets would say, “Turn back to me, love justice, do what is right, honour me.” However, they would not.

            God warned them time and again what would happen. They would not listen. Finally God allowed the Babylonians, the world power at the time,  to come and conquer the city of Jerusalem. The walls were destroyed, the city was destroyed. The people from the city were carted off as servants to the Babylonian empire.

            Life in Babylon was not hard, but it was not home either. They were given jobs, meaningful jobs, but their talents were being used to build a country that was not their own. They were devastated with their plight. Life in the penalty box. – And they deserved to be there

            God sent a prophet by the name of Jeremiah to deliver a message to his people

            God tells them to seek peace, and pursue the prosperity of the city they are exiled to. If the city prospers they will to. But they are in a foreign land with a different language. They can work, but they will probably always be second class citizens. Have you ever felt like your life was on hold. Have you ever felt like you were working hard, but getting nowhere. If you have then you can identify with the people God was writing to, and here is what God says.

Jer 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

            They deserved to be in the penalty box, but even there – God says I know the plans I have for you – and they are good.

            It is one thing for you to say I have a life plan. I plan to go to school and graduate and move back to my home city and get a job. It is one thing when you say “I have a plan”.
             It is a whole other thing for the God of the universe  to say, “I have a purpose and a plan for you”. For when God says, “I have a plan” --- that is a destiny.

            Let me fast forward to the New Testament. Jesus has come and gone, and sent his Holy Spirit and the church has been formed. The apostle Paul writing to the church says

Eph 2: 8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
 9  not by works, so that no-one can boast.
 10  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
            Paul says God have given you an unmerited free gift. It comes through faith. It is the gift of knowing God – it is what he calls being saved. But then he goes on to say this

10  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

            Before you were a Christian, before you were born, God says, I have been creating. I have been creating a unique position with unique opportunities, for you to do good works, great works. God says, I have a plan for you. I created you uniquely. I created you with a purpose in mind. In other words you have a destiny.

            Here is the other thing that you need to know about fulfilling your destiny. You can make all sorts of mistakes and God can still get you to where he wants you to be. Moses made all kinds of mistakes. He even murdered someone, at yet God was able to get him to where he needed to be, and do what he needed to do. The people of God made all kinds of mistakes but God says I have a plan for you and it is good.

            I know all kinds of people who wonder if they have been too bad for God. I want you to know that you can fulfill your destiny even if you have made a lot of mistakes. God has a plan.

            But here is what I also want you to know. You cannot fulfill your destiny without following the call of God. When God calls, you need to move with God.

            The first call God will make is for you to receive his son Jesus into your life. He wants to forgive your sin, and give you his life. He wants you to turn the steering wheel of your life over to him. That is the way to enter into a relationship with God.

            The way to do that is by praying a simple prayer – Lord Jesus I believed that you died and rose again. I believe that you took my sin upon yourself on the cross. Please forgive me of all that I have ever done wrong. I invite you into my life. I give you the steering wheel of my life. I want you to guide me. I want to follow you.
            A simple prayer like that, trust that God will do what you have asked him to do because of Jesus sets in motion God’s plans for you.

            Many of you have already received Jesus into your life. I want you to know that you also need to follow the call of God.

            Now I know a lot of people get freaked out about, “What if I don’t hear God.” That isn’t what you ought to be worried about. God is big enough, that if he needs to use a burning bush to get your attention he can. It is the stuff you know you need to do, but don’t want to do (like Moses) that you have to be concerned about. Those are the road blocks that get in your way. Those are the things that will derail a destiny.

            You see “the purpose of life is not to arrive at death’s door safely.” Some of us “have mistaken the comfortable life for the blessed life.”
            Following God’s way is not always comfortable, but it is good.

            Our life is not about us. Our life has a greater purpose than our comfortable survival.

            I don’t know what your destiny is, but of this I am sure. God has a plan for your life. God created good works in advance for you to do.

            For some of you of you that may mean finding creative means to share the gospel, here or around the world. For other of you it may mean using your business savvy to help create an ethical production chains for companies, so the stuff we buy isn’t made by defacto slaves.

            For others of you, your destiny may be an intricate part of God’s plan to fight against human slavery, or against poverty, or against oppression.

            For others of you, you may feel called to do what you can to help change the plight of the Aboriginals in northern Canada, or the plight of A thousands of other communities that are living in dehumanizing ways.

            For others of you, you may be called right where you are – to help others see the goodness of God.

Jer 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Ephesians 2: 10  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Isa 30:18  Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!  

            The Lord longs to be gracious to you so wait on him.

Let me pray,

Lord Jesus, Thank you so much for our listeners, and thank you, Lord, for the plan that you have for their life. I pray, Lord, that as they hear these words, YOUR words, that you would stir within them a desire to follow after your call. Lord, for those who are yet to receive you into their life, that they would do that now. For those who are following after you, that they would be obedient to what you call them to be. Lord, I ask this in your name, AMEN.

            Thank you for your words of encouragement, and for keeping us in your  prayers.,   Keeping this program on the air continues to be a work of faith. If you can help with that, please make out a cheque payable to Good News Christian Ministries, Box 184 , Rideau Ferry , On. K0G  1W0. Or you can give online by going to

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May you know Jesus Christ personally and profoundly.  May the Holy Spirit reside deep within your heart.  And may the heavenly Father surround you with His constant and abiding and accompanying love

MUSIC-  Be Still my Soul (Seleh)

By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:
PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, October 19th, 2014:

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