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God's Not Mad at You
A turtle on a gatepost?

A turtle on a gatepost?

OCTOBER 19, 2021

/ Programs / Key Life / A turtle on a gatepost?

Steve Brown:
A turtle on a gatepost? Let’s talk about it on Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
That was author and seminary professor, Steve Brown. And this is Key Life. We’re all about radical grace because of what Jesus has done, God’s not mad at you. Keep listening and that message will set you free to live a life of joy and surprising faithfulness.

Steve Brown:
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, I ended the broadcast, with a statement and if you’re normal, you said, say what? I said at the end of the broadcast, when you see a turtle on a gatepost, you know he didn’t get there by himself. That’s a good statement. And a wise statement. I have a friend who’s in heaven now. His name is Allan Emery and he was chairman of the board of the Billy Graham Association. And he lived close to where I had a church and we spent a lot of time together and I loved him a lot. But he wrote a book that came from a statement that was made, I think, by his grandfather.

When you see a turtle on a gatepost, you know he didn’t get there by himself.

And I used that in a sermon and it got spread around and somebody, and I don’t even remember who sent me this box. It came to the church I was serving at the time. And you know what it was, it was a gate post with a dead turtle on top of it. I mean, the turtle wasn’t alive, obviously couldn’t have shipped it, but it was kind of cool. And I said, you know, I’m not going to put this in my office. I’m just not going to come in here every day with a dead turtle. And Kent Keller who was eventually my associate and now serving in an amazing ministry in his own church, but Kent was the youth director at the time. And he said something like, way cool, listen, give it to me, I’ll put it in my office. Teenagers like dead turtles. But the point is a good one. And I related it to the first chairman of the board of deacons, Stephen. And I suggested that whatever Stephen had, he didn’t get it from being religious and he didn’t get it because he naturally had it and he didn’t get it because he worked at it. It was a gift, Acts 6:8 again.

And Stephen, full of grace

Where did he get that?

and power, signs and wonders.

Where did he get that? And then, we saw this last week in Acts 6:3.

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.

Where did they get that? This is all Jesus. This all comes from the God of the universe who prepares his servants before he uses his servants. Let me give you a principle and I’ve given it to you before, but it’s a good one.

You take the first step. God will take the second step. And by the time you get to the third step, you will know that it was God who took the first step.

That is supremely true of Stephen. Stephen was a nobody. And then he got elected as a deacon, and then he stood and the signs and wonders followed.

You take the first step. God will take the second step. And by the time you get to the third step, you’ll know it was God who took the first step.

Watchman Nee, and there was a time when I read a lot of Watchman Nee, sometimes felt overwhelmed. I understood the sentences and the words. But sometimes it was hard to get what he was talking about. He was kind of a contemplative and he taught a lot of teaching on the triple ways we are, the spirit and the body and the soul and all that. But in between the stuff I didn’t understand, Watchman Nee said some things that were really important. He says that we ought to suppose that there are two preachers, A and B. One is a great speaker and one is a natural organizer. Now Watchman Nee said, suppose that the two are both invited to speak for a conference, which one will be used by God, the great speaker or the great organizer. And he pointed out, of course, the great organizer cause he’s scared spitless. He knows, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows he’s not a great preacher. And if you hang out with him, you’ll hear him pray prayers that are pleading for God to do something in what he’s about to do. That’s true with Stephen. Stephen doesn’t bring anything to the table. His resume is not very good. He’s not a wonderful spiritual person. I think it was Luther that said.

God does not look for people he loves, he creates them.

And that’s certainly true of Stephen. John 3:6 says.

That which is of the flesh is flesh, and that which is of the Spirit is spirit.

And then since we’re in John go to the 15th chapter of John, where Jesus says.

Apart from me you can do nothing.

I can’t tell you how often people will say to me, I wish Jesus could use me, but I don’t know enough. And I want to say, duh. Or I wish Jesus would use me, but I’m just not a good person. Duh. I wish Jesus could use me, but I’m just not committed enough. Duh. That’s what this is all about. We have this treasure Paul said in earthen vessels. And do you know why, so that people don’t focus on the cracked vessel, but they look at the treasure and can’t believe that it’s being held by an earthen cracked jar. That’s what Stephen was, an earthen cracked jar, nothing to commend himself, except his relationship to Jesus. And when God called Stephen, he prepared Stephen and used him in an amazing way. Let me show you something else. I want you to notice this about Stephen. His knowledge and his arguments were irrefutable, Acts 6:10. Now, when Peter was teaching and God was using him and the miracles were taking place, he stirred up the power structure. I remember one time when I was in a graduate school in Boston and Mr. Graham was having, and I was a liberal in those days, theologically. And, Mr. Graham was having a crusade in Boston. And one of the students said to the Dean of the school that I attended, we ought to have Mr. Graham come and speak at one of our chapels. And the Dean said, and I’m not making this up because you can’t make up this stuff. The Dean said, no, we’re not going to do that because Graham could destroy everything that we’ve been building in this place. Now, I am not that smart. And, I was a liberal, but when the Dean said that, a light went on in my head and I thought if this Southern Baptist preacher from the mountains of North Carolina can destroy everything that you’ve been doing in this place, it must not be worth much. And I began to look for some things that were worth much. So, here’s Stephen and the text says it’s the 10th verse.

But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

That is so good. There, I used to say that when new Christians were new Christians, you ought to have them give their testimony once and lock them up for a year. I repent because you know, in a new Christian, there is a spirit and a passion that you can’t stand in front of because it’s so real. And it’s so fiery and it’s so together. To lead somebody to Christ and then go tell them, tell 10 people what just happened to you. And then if they won’t listen, find 10 others that you can tell, that’s Stephen. Stephen is a man who has studied, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s filled with the Spirit. He’s filled with wisdom. And when people went up against him, they were left speechless. How often are people left speechless, when we as Christians speak up for Christ? If we’d spend a little bit more time studying, and I’m not preaching at you, I’m talking about myself too. And a little bit more time asking for wisdom. And out of that wisdom, love and concern and value and kindness. And then we knew what we were talking about. We might on occasion leave the people to whom we’re sent, speechless. That’s what I’m going to pray for, Lord, send me out and let the people I talk to be speechless. You think about that. Amen.

Matthew Porter:
Thanks Steve. Some fascinating insights today on Stephen and what it was that he brought to the table. And in short, it wasn’t much. Hey, that’s what I bring to the table too, wonder if God could use me. So, here’s a question. Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus is actually alive right here and active right now. Well, Steve gave a sermon a while back called When Jesus Leaves the Building. In that talk, he teaches from Luke 4 on what happens when Jesus is in the building. No spoilers, but here’s the gist. It’s all good. It’s all grace. It’s all quite irritating. And it’s all there is. Would it be okay if we mailed you that whole sermon on a CD, for free? If so, then let us know by calling 1-800-KEY-LIFE, that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org and ask for that CD. If you would like to mail your request, send it to

Key Life Network
P.O. Box 5000
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If you’re in Canada, send your request to

Key Life Canada
P.O. Box 28060
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Just ask for your copy of the CD called When Jesus Leaves the Building. Finally, if you value what we do here at Key Life, would you prayerfully consider giving to support the work? Giving is easy, just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or just grab your phone and text Key Life to 28950, and then follow the instructions. That’s Key Life, one word, two words, doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. Both of those organizations assure financial accountability. And we already listened to supported production of Key Life Network.

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