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Summary: A narrative look at two biblical examples of men choosing to follow God and please him rather than men.

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Allow me to begin this morning by saying that I am not much of a fighter. In fact, I have never been in a real fight in my life. But as a youngster I was put in a couple situations where I felt the need to defend myself. I believe that both of those events occurred when I was in the first grade, and both of them dealt with the same boy my age. His name was Joey. Joey rode my bus, lived right where the Damon’s restaurant now sits on Rt. 3 and was in my grade. If my memory serves me well, I believe that at Robert Frost Elementary there were three first grade classes, and praise the Lord Joey was in a different class.

So far I have left out the most important detail about Joey. No one knew him as just Joey back then. He was known throughout the school as Joey the Kisser! I’m not sure if Joey ever really kissed anyone, but when he would get close to you he would begin to make kissing sounds like this… and I don’t think there was a boy in school who wanted to be seen near Joey the Kisser.

As I said, I recall two situations in which I felt the need to defend myself, and both of them were directly or indirectly related to Joey the Kisser. The first situation was in the boys’ restroom. I was practically on my way out when guess who walks right in, none other than Joey the Kisser. Of course he began to make his kissing sounds and pucker his lips. Well that backed me into a corner pretty quickly and I was struggling to find a way out.

I doubt any of you know or remember, but I was enrolled in Karate in the first grade and I was forced to execute a Chuck Norris like front kick to Joeys stomach, but Joey was relentless and so I was forced to kick him a second time. This kick opened the path for me to exit the restroom. As I wrote this sermon I tried to think back and I am almost 100% sure that today is the first time I am telling this story to anyone, ever. I didn’t even want my friends to know that Joey had tried to kiss me in the bathroom.

The second occasion in which I was forced to defend myself was indirectly related to Joey the kisser. I was playing at recess and two boys that I knew came over and grabbed me by the arms. Jared Shaw grabbed my right arm and Trent Elliot grabbed my left arm. I was rather confused as they held on to me and then I heard those dreaded words. We’re holding you for Joey the Kisser. I didn’t know the details of their plan. I didn’t know if a third boy was in search for Joey the Kisser or if Joey was already in route to where I was. But I knew I had to get free from these evil hands that held me captive, and hearing the name Joey the Kisser was pretty good motivation. I managed to get my right arm free from Jared Shaw which left Trent Elliot hanging on to my left arm. I tell you what; I punched Trent Elliot in the stomach as hard as I could punch someone at age 7. I heard the air being expelled from his body as he absorbed my right fist and miraculously my left arm was freed from his grasp.

Both of those events occurred while I was in the first grade, and I have been relatively fight free since that time. That tells me one thing; my reputation has preceded me ever since the first grade. (I even heard some boys whispering at VBS last week. Do you know who that guy is? That’s the guy that took out Joey the Kisser and Trent Elliot)

Speaking of reputations preceding, this was indeed the case with the Israelites as they wandered through the desert and began to enter into the Promised Land. They faced great opposition, but the Lord was with them and allowed them to be victorious in battles, so much so that when they came close to the country of Moab, the king was afraid because he had heard of their strength and was worried that they would take over his land. So Balak, kind of Moab sent the elders of Moab to summon a man named Balaam who lived on the shore of the river Euphrates. When the elders arrived with money to pay Balaam, this was the message that he received, “A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.”

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