3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

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3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

3 Things To Remember

(Colossians 1:28-29 NLT) “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

1. Help People find Jesus. 

(John 9:17, 25 NIV) “Finally they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him?’ He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’” 

(1 Corinthians 9:22 LB) “…yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”

•The church is the primary place where people come to faith in Christ and begin to live as Christians. Lost people matter to God & therefore ought to matter to the church.

•65 Fresh Starts/salvations and 24 water baptisms in 2015

(Luke 14:23 LB) “Go out into the country…and urge anyone you find to come in, so that My house will be full.”

•Be a Bringer! Who can you bring with you in 2016

2. Help People find relationships.
(James 5:16 NIV) “
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” 

(Romans 12:5 NLT) “…Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.”

•GraceTown Life Groups Starting 3 week in January

3. Help People Grow Spiritually. 

(Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT) “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” 

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT) “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

•God’s Word is the the primary catalyst for transformation and spiritual growth. You will never grow up as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ on a diet of spiritual twinkies.

“The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives”

Knowing God’s Word is the Pathway to Knowing God. You will never be more spiritual than you are scriptural!

•Upcoming spiritual growth class – The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster starting next Sunday with Teacher Steve Light 8am & 9am in Kidstown Classroom.

3 Things To Do

1. Pray.

(Matthew 9:37-38 NIV) “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

(Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

•Prayer is the highest order of business. For it links a powerless human to the creative force of God’s sovereign power!

“When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.”- Max Lucado

•If you and I are too busy to Pray, we give our spiritual life a funeral! Prayer is a necessity, not an option!

•Make a commitment of 10-15 minutes to start your day each morning with prayer and devotion to God. 

•Churchwide Call To Prayer and Fasting for 7 Days starting January 11-18 – we will spend 7 days focused and seeking after God

One prayer can change ANYTHING. one prayer can change EVERYTHING

2. Serve.

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

The Big Idea: In the world, greatness is determined by how many people SERVE YOU; but, in God’s kingdom, greatness is determined by how many people YOU SERVE.

(Galatians 6:4 MSG) “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”

“This is a story about 4 people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry with that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

“Hillsong Church is not built on the gifts and talents of a few, but on the sacrifice of many.” Brian Houston

•Use your gifts, talents, and abilities to serve and be a part of the Dream Team at GraceTown

3. Give.

(Luke 18:29-30 GW) “I guarantee this. Anyone who gives up anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times more in this life and will receive eternal life in the next world to come.”

(Mark 8:35 LB) “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for My sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”

THE KEY TO A Godward LIFE IS A HEART OF GENEROSITY.

Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV 24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

•Generosity doesn’t start when you have a lot, it starts when you have little!

• Your giving and generosity should be directly tied to what God allows to come into your life.

•Challenge you to do 3 things:

  1. Be a Tither – 10% of your income to be returned back to God, 
  2. Give offerings (whatever you decide) 
  3. Give to our future (building fund) 

God calls you and I to a service far beyond anything you could ever imagine. You were put on Earth to make a contribution.

Go togracetownchurch.com/give

The Power of Inclusiveness

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The Power of Inclusiveness

When we draw a circle in the sand, we become the welcoming Church God called us to be. We must move from cliques to a community

Sacred text asserts that human beings were created to live in community, not as fragmented tribes, nations and separated peoples. Jesus opened the door for us to be inclusive of everyone. On some level, all are to be welcomed into our lives—saint or sinner. But what does this inclusiveness look like, what are its boundaries, and what does it result in?

Inclusiveincluding or encompassing the stated limit or extremes in consideration or account; enclosing; embracing:

Jesus was an includer of all kinds of people

John  8:2-11 NIV  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Two issues in this story

1. Sin – Right and Wrong (The Law)

Where was the man?

Bias – Demeaning towards women

Jesus said – DO NOT JUDGE

A bias is a factor in human judgement  – some judge women and give a pass to the man. Judge other kids and not our own.

Luke 6:41-42 NLT – And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend,[b] let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

•God did not call us to be the judge, jury, or prosecuting or defense attorney, we are called to be a Witness! That simple. Let your light shine!

2. How we treat other people that we think are different than us

•Her Issues and sin are no different than any of ours

Romans 3:23 NCV – “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard.” 

No adultery? Jesus said, if you lust after someone, you’ve done it in your heart. ??????

•Jesus pursues the imperfect

Luke 5:31-32 NLT – Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Luke 15 – lost coin, lost sheep, prodigal son

This is what Jesus made the story about  – he did other stories

Zacchaeus, Samaritan woman, lawmakers, law breakers, rich and poor

•Jesus was drawing a circle while others were drawing lines – Circle drawing is so much better than line drawing. Jesus put them all in the circle and then got in there with them.

Church at large loves to react to things around us in the world. We are adversarial

NewsReport – The world will never think like the church – the church will always see things different. We are Christ followers.

Talking about what we are for, makes us more effective in reaching people more than what we are against! 

How to be Radically Inclusive

1. We validate people by including people

Ephesians 2:19-21 MSG  – That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Paul was saying, You belong here

•You can approve of people even if you don’t approve what they do

Separate the behavior from the individual 

•When it comes to God’s family who included you? who are you including?

•••Let’s go look for people who are not included and let’s include them at GraceTown!

Let’s show the world that The Family of God is not a bunch of arrogant self righteous people! They are loving, kind, and gracious

2. We should include people immediately

Jesus included her immediately. no hoops, no proving time

•She Allowed Jesus to Accept Her

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG –  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

John 10:10 NIV – “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”

•She Allowed Jesus to Change Her

II Corinthians 5:17 NIV – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

Philippians 2:12-13 NIV Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

The Love of God

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The Love of God 

I John 3:1 NIV – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

3 Facts that Drive me to Communicate the Love of God

1. Everyone is Looking for Love

“Bart, with $10,000 dollars, we’d be millionaires! We could buy all kinds of useful things like…love.” Homer J Simpson

The quest is around us everyday in the music we hear and the movies we watch, and the books we read. The desire is woven into the fiber of our being. From the moment we came out of the womb, we have been looking for someone to feed us, hug us, care for us, affirm us, forgive us when we mess up, support us, and tell us that we matter.

No matter who we are, there is a universal need among human beings to be loved.

2. Just as there is a universal quest for love, there is a universal answer to that quest

If everyone has the same problem, there must be a universal solution. The answer is God.

3. There’s a tragic disconnection between the universal need and the universal answer.

There are 6 billion people in the world who are desperate for love and there is a God with limitless resources who wants to love them.

Defining the Love of God

God’s love is his holy disposition toward all that he has created that compels him to express unconditional affection and selective correction to provide the highest quality of existence, both now and forever, for the object of his love.

We can’t provoke, trick, convince, earn, or win God’s love. God doesn’t love us for who we are or what we do, but  because of who He is.

Agape – Unconditional, giving, sacrificial, and boundless love:

Matthew 5:44 NIV – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

John 15:13 NIV – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

God Loves us Unconditionally

Romans 5:8 ESV – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Love of God is a rhapsody in red, a swirling narrative of blood and forgiveness

•God doesn’t love us for what we do, but He loves us because of who he is.

•man bases love on performance….If you….I will

•God loves us for what He finds in Himself – LOVE.

•No matter what you do – God cannot stop loving you.

“God sees the best in the worst of us, knows the worst about the best of us, and loves us all without condition or exception.”

•When you know that God loves you unconditionally, you can love people unconditionally.

Christianity is a love affair. NOT a code of ethics, rules, or Philosophy of Life. The Cross of Christ was not to produce a nice moral people – but LOVERS OF GOD!

I John 4:7-8, 21 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Dimensions of God’s Love 

Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV – so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

There is no instrument that can measure how much God, out of His infinite being, cares for you and wants your best!

CS Lewis said, “Though our feelings come and go, God’s Love for us does not.”

Psalm 36:5 NIV– Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 

How God Thinks about YOU

1. God’s Thoughts, intentions, desires, and plans are always for your good and never for your harm. 

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV – 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.

When God thinks about you, he thinks about goodness and blessings. No matter how the immediate surroundings may look, God sees the big picture and has plans for your benefit.

James 1:17 NIV – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Augustine

2. God is kind, open, approachable, frank, and eager to be your friend 

John 13:12-15 NIV – When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

“I have found God to be cordial and generous and in every way easy to live with.”- A.W. Tozer

He is the most loyal and attentive friend you could possibly have

Romans 5:10-11 NLT – For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Joseph Scriven penned the words of that great hymn, What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

3. God emotionally identifies with your pain, joy, hopes, and dreams, and has chosen to allow your happiness to affect his own. 

John 11:33-36 NIV –  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Although he is an infinite God of the universe, our pain causes him pain, our joy gives him a life, our hopes bring excitement to his heart, and when there is tragedy he weeps with us.

This self existing God needs no one, yet he has chosen to be so emotionally identified with our ups and downs, and our dreams and hopes.

Hebrews 4:15 NIV – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

4. He takes pleasure in you just for who you are completely apart from your performance and / or accomplishments

God is telling these rebellious people how he stands over them singing and rejoicing.

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV – The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

“God loves us; not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.”- C.S. Lewis

Psalm 145:8-16 (NIV)  8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 

Psalm 103:4-5 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

How Do We Respond to God’s Love

1. We Must Receive

John 3:16-17 NIV – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 “Love deems this world worth rescuing.” – Philip Yancey

I John 2:2 NIV – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Titus 2:11 NIV – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

2. We Must Believe

I John 4:13-16 NIV – This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

3. Saturate Your Mind with the Truth of God’s Love for us

Romans 8:38-39 NIV – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God wants us to know that nothing – not even our own junk – can separate us from his love

4. Then Give it All Away

Jesus Last instructions to his disciples

John 13:34-35 NIV – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

“The significance of the law of love is precisely that it is not just another law, but a law which transcends all law.”- Reinhold Niebuhr

The more of God’s love we give away, the more he supplies. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

I John 3:16-18 NIV – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

“The litmus test of our love for God is our love of our neighbor”  – Brennan Manning

I Corinthians 13:13 NIV –  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Why is love greater than faith and hope? Faith involves the present. Hope involves the future. But love transcends time. Love existed before anything existed.

Love will never need a casket because it has no funeral! Salvation is a sticky story, a messy manuscript, but it’s also a lovely one. Love is the bond that glued God to humanity.  Nothing can pry apart what God has welded together!

In 1923 Fredrick Lehman penned the words to his classic Hymn “The Love of God”

The love of God is greater far , Than tongue or pen can ever tell.

It goes beyond the highest star, And reaches to the lowest hell.

The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure— The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away, And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;

When men who here refuse to pray, On rocks and hills and mountains call;

God’s love, so sure, shall still endure, All measureless and strong;

Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made;

Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.

RESET Our Relationships

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RESET Our Relationships

Philippians 2:1-8 ESV – So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Here is a fact: God has made us to have relationships.

We can have a relationship with Him and we can have a relationship with other people. Since the fall of Adam and Eve – maintaining relationships have been a major struggle between man and man – and man and God.

God sends people into our lives. How we treat them determines whether they stay

God gives us things to use and people to love, NOT things to love and people to use.

Relational Preconditions

Our relationships determine the direction and quality of our lives.

1. Am I willing to change? 

Matthew 18:3 NIV  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

You will never change your life until you change the way you think.

Romans 12:2 ESV  Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2. Am I willing to put others first? 

Mark 9:35 ESV  And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

You can tell how successful a person is by the way they celebrate the success of others

We have not come together to compete with one another, but to complete one another

Philippians 2:3 MSG “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.”

If you have a choice between making yourself or people around you look good, choose people around you!

3. Am I willing to let go of the past? 

I Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Much criticism has to do with the unfortunate nature of people and their selfishness, arrogance, and jealousy

Colossians 3:13 ESV – bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive

Apologizing does not always mean you are wrong, it just means that you value your relationships more than your ego

4. Am I willing to Love as Jesus did? 

John 13:34-35 ESV – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus was saying that The Church is not about religion, it’s about relationships.

Romans 12:10-11 ESV-  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[a] serve the Lord.

How to RESET Relationships

1. Strengthen my Important Relationships

When right people enter your life, right things happen. Right people are those who will build you and not tear you down. They are excited about your potential and dreams.

Galatians 5:13-15 NIV – You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other

Dr Carl Menger said, Our environment shapes us more than our DNA or heredity

2. Heal my Strained Relationships

Romans 12:17-18 NIV – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

I dare you to make that call! Go make that visit!

Colossians 3:13 ESV – bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

3. Disconnect from Harmful Relationships

People who take you down and not up, they make withdrawals but never deposits. They abuse and misuse you. They gossip about you instead of guard you

I Corinthians 15:33 ESV Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals

People who are more critical than complimentary

Proverbs 13:20 ESV – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm

II Corinthians 6:14 NIV – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

(2 Corinthians 6:14-17 Message)  “Don’t become partners with those who reject God.  God himself put it this way: ‘I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.  So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,’ says God.  “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you.”

4. Initiate new Meaningful Relationships

Ephesians 2:19 NIV – Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household

Your spiritual family, the Church, will last for eternity

Proverbs 18:24 NIV – One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Questions to Ask Myself About meaningful relationships In My Life

  • Are my relationships inspiring me to love God?
  • Are my relationships inspiring me to love the church?
  • Are my relationships inspiring me to make wise choices?
  • Do my friends love and accept me for who I am?

How to do thisConnect (Life Groups) At GraceTown we believe that life change happens best in the context of relationship and community. Life Groups provide a place to care for one another, and partner for spiritual growth and kingdom impact. We promote a “free market” approach that capitalizes on existing relationships and affinities.

Acts 2:42-47 ESV – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Christmas at the Movies: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Christmas_Movies

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Luke 2:8-10 NIV –  “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

I think one of the missing things in Christmas today – joy. For many – Christmas isn’t so holly jolly

Every Who down in Who-ville liked a Christmas a lot…

But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes

He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,

Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown

At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath

Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.

“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer

“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”

Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming

“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas coming!”

Hmmm… it seems like a Christmas has always had that kind of effect on some people

The Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do, Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

  • Past Experiences
  • Present burdens that are heavy
  • Future hope is distant

Which causes…

1. Confusion.  distraction. turmoil, jumble, mess, disarray. perplexity; bewilderment:

•A university student was seen with a large “K” printed on his T- shirt. When someone asked him what the “K” stood for, he said, “Confused.” “But,” the questioner replied, “you don’t spell “confused” with a “K.” The student answered, “You don’t know how confused I am.

Romans 7:15, 18 LB “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t.”

 2. Frustration. a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

Romans 7:21 LB “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”

3. Discouragement. depression, dejection, hopelessness. despair.  deterrent, damper, impediment, obstacle, obstruction.

Romans 7:24 The Message –   I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Joy intense, ecstatic, exultant happiness, expression of that feeling, to enjoy, fill with pleasure and satisfaction.

Words that describe Joy – amusement, animation, bliss, cheer, comfort, delight, gladness, good humor, jewel, luxury, rapture, refreshment, wonder, sport, treasure

1. Joy will change my approach to life.                                                                                                               

Think about all the different aspects of your life – Emotions will affect it more than anything else.

Nehemiah 8:10 NIV – Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

You are stronger when your attitude is strong – emotions are solid. It will give you an uncommonly positive perspective on life.

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

It has the ability to turn bad things into good things

Psalm 126:5 NIV  “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. “ 

Psalms 30:5 ESV – For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.[a] Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

3. Joy will affect those around You

It is contagious and can totally change the dynamic of your Christmas

Psalms 126:1-2 NIV – When the Lord restored the fortunes of[a] Zion, we were like those who dreamed.[b]2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

How to Get Your Christmas JOY back

1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

So easy to blame others – but it’s up to you. Choosing the way you’re going to view life – people

For most of us – our attitude will not take care of itself. Remember – it’s not a feeling – it’s a choice. If you don’t like the situation that faces you – change it

Hebrews 12:1 NIV  “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

You cannot determine what happens to you. But you can determine what happens in you

The best way is to start off each day – decide – get rid of stuff

Dear Lord,

So far today, I am doing all right.  I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent.  I have not whined, cursed, or eaten any chocolate. However, I am going to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.  Amen.

Psalm 19:14 NIV–  “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Remember: The walls we build around us to keep our the hurt and sadness, also keeps out the joy

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

John Wooden—“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Ecclesiastes 5:19 NIV –   “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.”

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

Too often – we try to choose and control things we cannot

Too seldom – we choose to control what we can – our attitude

3. Say something positive in every conversation.

This is hard – but can change the dynamic of every situation

Proverbs 16:24 NIV –   “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

You ever notice some people have no filter?

Best way is to pray daily…

Psalm 141:3 NIV–  “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes. Look for the best in them – bring out their positive qualities

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV-  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…Know that God is going to work it out for the good

Romans 8:28 NIV –   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

How do we change the size of their hearts?

(CLIP FROM MOVIE from the top of Mt. Crumpit to the end which reads as follows):

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,

He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!

“Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!” he was ginch-ish-ly humming.

“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!

“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!

“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two

“Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”

So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.

It stared in low. Then it started to grow…

But the sound wasn’t sad~ Why, this sound sounded merry!

It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes!

Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!

He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled 3 hours, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “Doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

And what happened then…?

Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew 3 sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

And he… HE HIMSELF…!

The Grinch carved the roast beast!

———————————————-

Did you realize what a beautifully theological story this is?

What changed the heart of the Grinch?

It wasn’t the ribbons, it wasn’t the tags

It wasn’t the packages, boxes or bags

It was the witness of the people down in Who-ville…the witness of people that the Grinch had always hated because of the Christmas they celebrated.

It was their singing and their joy that changed the Grinch

God wants you to have your JOY back! 

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

2. They attempted to cover up his source of refreshing and strength.

3. The devil would like to do the same to you.

4. He wants to stop up your JOY WELL and cover it up.

B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

2. You need to uncover the well which the devil has sought to

hide from you.

3. Isa 12:3  “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells 

        of  salvation.” 

4. The devil may try to stop your JOY-WELL up, but you’re going to

unstop those wells.

Psalms 43:4 NIV – “I will go to your altar and you my exceeding joy in PRAISE”!

Ordinary Love

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Ordinary Love

Come Christians tend to be quite critical & judgmental of anything & everything that’s not like them.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa

We can be embarrassed with some segments of christianity but we don’t have to be embarrassed about Jesus.

Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Bono once said, “Christians are hard to tolerate; I don’t know how Jesus does it.”

“The litmus test of our love for God is our love of our neighbor” – Brennan Manning

The Entire Old Testament in 3 verses – The New Commandment

Matthew 22:34-40 NIV –  Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

“Every Christian would agree that a man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God.” – C.S. Lewis

•The Pharisees code of morality consisted of countless minute rules and regulations. Jesus summed up all moral obligations in the word LOVE, expressed in the two fold direction of God and Neighbor.

•The quotation in verse 37 is from the Jewish Shema (Deut.6:4-5) which all Jewish people repeated twice daily. The Shema not only defines the person of God (being One) in terms of His unity, but also defines the nature of the relationship that God’s people are to have with Him and with one another.

“The significance of the law of love is precisely that it is not just another law, but a law which transcends all law.”- Reinhold Niebuhr

God Loves us Unconditionally

Romans 5:8 ESV – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

•God doesn’t love us for what we do, but He loves us because of who he is.
•man bases love on performance….If you….I will
•God loves us for what He finds in Himself – LOVE.
•No matter what you do – God cannot stop loving you.

“God sees the best in the worst of us, knows the worst about the best of us, and loves us all without condition or exception.”

•When you know that God loves you unconditionally, you can love people unconditionally.

Christianity is a love affair. NOT a code of ethics, rules, or Philosophy of Life. The Cross of Christ was not to produce a nice moral people – but LOVERS OF GOD!

I John 4:7-8, 21 NIV –  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Biblical Definition of The Four Loves

Storge – Natural Love

Romans 12:10 NIV – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

2. Phileo – Relational Love

Matthew 10:37 NIV – “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

3. Eros – Physical Love (Sexual)

4. Agape – Unconditional Love

Matthew 5:44 NIV – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

John 15:13 NIV – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The Practice of What Ordinary Love is

I Corinthians 14:1 LB – “Make love your greatest aim.”

I Corinthians 13:1-2 NIV – If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

1. Love is a Choice

Colossians 3:14 NIV – And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

“Love either towards God or man, is an affair of the will.” CS Lewis

2. Love is Unconditional

Ephesians 4:2 NLT – Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

•Love does not filter its current emotional state through the screen of past hurts and offenses. Instead it shows grace and forgiveness.

“Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.” – Swedish Proverb

3. Love is Visible

I John 3:18 NIV –  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

“Love is the sum of all virtue, and love disposes us to do good.” – Jonathan Edwards

4. Love is Eternal

I Corinthians 13:7-8, 13 NLT –  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[a] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

•Although human love requires a person to prove themselves before love is given. However, Christ like love offers itself to those who are both lovable and unlovable. Instead of assuming the worst, it tirelessly looks for the best in others.

5. Love is a LifeStyle

John 13:34-35 NIV – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

•It’s new because it presents a new standard – The Love of Jesus
•The selfless love that Christ followers display toward one another witnesses to the world that they are true disciples.

Salvation because of Love

John 3:16

“Love deems this world worth rescuing.” – Philip Yancey

I John 2:2 NIV – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Titus 2:11 NIV – For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Moving Forward Pt.4 – Unlocking the Trap Door

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Moving Forward Pt.4 – Unlocking the Trap Door

Hebrews 12:2 MSG “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race weʼre in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God— he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now heʼs there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

Proverbs 18:19 NIV – A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel
•wronged/offended – carries the image of an animal trap.
•When the animal smells the food, wanders into the trap, & grabs the bait, the door of the trap shuts and animal is locked inside.
•This is what happens when we hold unforgiveness in our hearts. It locks us in and traps us. Lockdown mode. Then we are stuck and can’t move forward!
•Often the person who hurt us has moved on,, but we’re still hanging on to the pain. It consumes the present and obscures our future!

Example: Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
•Wealthy young woman happily engaged, dressing for the ceremony at 20 min to 9 received a devastating msg from her fiancé jilting her. He calls it off.
•She stopped all clocks in her house, Closed all drapes, never roomed her wedding dress & one shoe, never to remove the wedding cake
•Her behavior was not normal. But it is realistic to what happens to all of us emotionally, internally, mentally as we are devastated in someway. We Withdrawal. Can’t move on or forward

Sources of Unforgiveness
•Betrayal •False accusation •Rejection •Abuse •Humiliation
Hebrews 2:17-18 Msg“Thatʼs why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the peopleʼs sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.”

Forgiveness is not…

•Minimizing the seriousness of the offense.
•Instant restoration of trust.
•Resuming the relationship without changes.
•Forgetting what happened
“To often we forget what we should remember and remember what we should forget”
•How do u forget a divorce? abused? abandoned? molested?
•Approval of what they did – God never approves sin
•Excusing what they did – you can’t explain wrong behavior
•Justify what they did – evil can’t be justified

Be Forgiving
1 Peter 2:23 LB “When Jesus suffered, He did not threaten to get even; He left His case in the hands of God…”

1. Forgive them without condition.

(Ephesians 4:32) “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

(Luke 23:34) Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

We are to forgive, even if they did not show or ask for repentance.

At the foot of Jesus cross no one seemed sorry. There was no justice at his trial. They shouted in Mark 15:13 – Crucify Him!, Those who passed by hurled insults at him, Destroy this temple, uh! Yeah right!, They shouted, Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross, that we may see and believe.

For those who believe that they are not required to forgive unless their offender has first repented are not following Jesus example on the cross.

1. Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing..and they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34)
2. Jesus did not wait for them to find remorse or have guilt or shame for their words or actions, or he would have never have forgiven them.
3. In my experience, most people we must forgive do not believe they have done anything wrong at all, or if they did know, they believe it was justified

How? The Empty Chair or The Unsent Letter

The Ultimate Proof of Forgiveness – When you sincerely petition God to let those who have hurt you off the hook

•Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but it’s the standard God’s Word holds us to, and it’s God prescription to move forward in our life.

2. Forgive them in advance.

Luke 11: 4“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Matthew 18:21-22 NLT – Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?” No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

•Jesus was basically saying, “Stop counting how many times someone hurts you and just forgive – every time”.
•The need for forgiveness never runs out. It’s an ongoing need in our life.
•The Great news is God’s capacity to forgive doesn’t run out, and ours shouldn’t either.
•Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? I encourage you to do it today! Don’t wait! Make that choice!

3. Relinquish Your right to punish

Romans 12:17-19 NIV – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.
•People who hurt love to quote verse 19 on Facebook
•Facebook or twitter is NOT the place to put your pain – Jesus is!

We only hurt ourselves when we dwell on what has happened to us and fantasized about what it will be like when they get punished. We grieve the Holy Spirit and lose our peace.

•Your hurt and pain will tell you to:
1. Treat them with contempt
2. distance yourself from them
3. Give them the cold shoulder
4. teach them a lesson
5. they must be punished

Nelson Mandela – 27 years of political incarceration. The longest serving political prisoner in the world. Emerged unscathed and told his people to forgive their oppressors and focus on the future and on building a new united nation.
•In spite of the devastating trauma of apartheid, he chose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than the policy of revenge and vindictiveness

•Dicken’s writes that Miss Havisham wasted her life in revenge – The most narcissistic thing she done. She lived her life as a lie, a sham (Havisham)

•Folks, When everything in you wants to hold a grudge, point of finger and remember the pain, God wants you to lay it all aside.

Who haven’t you forgiven today? Forgive everyone whoʼs trying to ruin your life.

4. Forgive them because I need forgiveness.

Matthew 6:15 NIV “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Colossians 3:13 ESV –  bearing with one another and, if one
has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
•The Person who gains the most from Forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving.
•We will all need forgiveness from somebody at some point. We can’t expect the people in our world to forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive them. It’s a two way street.
•Forgiveness is the gift we give ourselves, not the other person. We release ourselves. The trap door opens and we move forward!

Forgiveness is God’s message:

1. II Cor. 5:19 – That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting mens sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2. Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
3. Psalm 103:12 NIV – as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us

One thing! No matter how painful the wound or how long you’ve been living with it, God is powerful enough to give you the strength you need to release the people who have hurt you. His power is enough! His Grace is enough! His Strength is enough! UNLOCK the door! Come Alive! Move Forward!

Recovering From Life’s Disasters

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RECOVERING FROM LIFE’S DISASTERS

ECCL. 8:14 (NCV) “Sometimes something useless happens on earth.
Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to
Bad people.”

What he’s saying here is that we don’t always get what we deserve. There are two mistakes that you can make regarding disaster. One is to think all the good things that happen to me prove I’m good, and that all the bad things that happen to me prove I’m bad. That’s wrong. That’s just wrong. In Luke 13, Jesus is talking about two tragedies that happened in His day. He said you know there were a bunch of innocent people up there worshipping at the temple and they came in and were brutally slaughtered. And he said there was a tower that fell on eighteen people and killed them. And He posed the question, “Who sinned, that caused this tragedy?” Was it a result of their sin? And then He answered His own question. He said, absolutely not, absolutely not!

You see, not everything that happens is God’s will. When I hear people hearing about the Tornados in Oklahoma and they say, “Well, it must have been God’s will”, I have a spiritual term for that. “Baloney!”. It makes me want to puke. Because it’s just not true! Don’t blame God. God’s grieving too. God’s will is not always done.

Does that make sense? God’s will is not always done in this world folks. That’s why like for instance 2 Peter 3:9 says “It is God’s will that all should repent and none should perish”. Question, do all repent? No. Do some perish? Yes. Why? God will never force His will on your will. That’s why we’re to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Why? Because God’s will isn’t always done on earth. How’s it done in heaven? It’s done perfectly. And so we’re to pray, “God, just like your will is done perfectly in heaven, we want that to be done on earth”. If it was being done, we wouldn’t have to pray for it.

Now my purpose this morning is not to explain suffering, because that would take me a whole series of what God says about the many, many reasons and causes, but to instead talk to you about how to handle it.

HOW TO RESPOND TO TRAGEDY

1. RELEASE MY GRIEF.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matt. 5:4

God wants to comfort you in a tragedy.

“Pour out your heart to God, for he is our refuge.” Ps: 62:8

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18

2. RECEIVE FROM OTHERS.
“Carry each other’s burdens …” Gal 6:2 “By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” (NCV)

“Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings.” Heb 12:15 (LB)

It is a big mistake to isolate yourselves from others when you’re going through a crisis. Now usually that’s what we want to do, we want to get all by ourselves; nobody understands our problem. But you need other people in a tragedy. You need their perspective, you need their support, you need their encouragement, and you just need their presence.

3. REFUSE TO BE BITTER.
“Some people have no happiness at all: they live and die with bitter hearts. Job 21:25 (GN)

“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you… it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” Heb 12:15 (LB)

Now you’re going to have to decide when you go through those tragedies, those disasters, “Am I going to allow this to make me a bitter person, or better person?” And he says here, you can have a choice, “you can either choose happiness in life or you can choose bitterness.” It’s your choice, but you can’t have both. And if you choose bitterness in your life, realize you’re not hurting anybody else with it, you’re hurting yourself.

Refuse to be bitter, because it causes problems in your own life. It never changes anything. Blaming others never changes anything. It only makes you feel worse

The antidote:

• Accept what cannot be changed.
“…Reach out to God…then face the world again, firm and courageous…” Job 11:13, 16

Faith is facing the facts and not getting discouraged. Can you write that down? Faith is facing the facts of life, and not being discouraged by them. That’s what real faith is. It’s not pretending everything’s great. Everything’s not great. There are bad things in the world. And bad things do happen to good people, but faith is facing the facts without getting discouraged. You see there’s very little in life that you can control. In fact, I’ve discovered that the most important things in life you can’t control.

• Focus on what’s left, not what’s lost..
“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you.” 1 Th. 5:18 (LB)

What’s God’s will for me in a crisis? It’s that I be thankful, no matter what. For the problem? Of course not; God doesn’t expect you to be thankful for a tragedy. But you should be thankful for what’s left, not what’s lost. And you choose to focus on God’s goodness, because gratitude and depression cannot exist in the same body.

You want to get over depression, start making a list of all the good things in your life. You cannot be grateful and depressed at the same time. And the fact is, there are people in this world who would love to have your problems. They’d love to have your problems. They’re worried about am I going to get a meal in the next month, not how am I going to make it. Like that old expression I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who had no legs. You focus on what’s left, not what’s lost.

4. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT.

Disasters have a way of clarifying values. They have a way of pointing out what matters and what really doesn’t matter. They define your values

“Jesus said… Life is not measured by how much one owns.” LK 12:15 (NCV)

What is he saying here? Don’t confuse your net worth with your self worth. Don’t confuse your possessions with your purpose in life. Don’t confuse what you’re living on with what you’re living for. A man’s life does not consist of what he possesses.

“We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Tim. 6:7 (NIV)

You’re never going to see a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. Here is the point, if you want real security, you must build your life on something that can never be taken from you.

Can you lose a home? Yes. Can you lose a career? Yes. Can you lose a marriage? Yes. Can you lose your health? Yes. Can you lose your youthful beauty? Yes. Can you lose your relationship with God? No.

If you want real security, then you build your life on something that can’t be taken from you. Because God says, “ I will never leave you or forsake you.”

5. RELY ON CHRIST.
“I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength. Phil 4:13 (NCV)

HOW?

• Lean on Christ for Stability!
“Those who trust in the Lord are steady as Mount Zion, unmoved by any circumstance.” Ps. 125:1 (LB)

“You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on you..” Is. 26:3 (NCV)

“Such a person will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. God’s constant care of him will make a deep impression on all who see it. He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he Is settled in his mind that God will take care of him.” Ps. 112:6-7 (LB)

• Listen to Christ for direction!
“I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. I”I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.” Jer 29:11 (NCV)

• Look to Christ for salvation!
“God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid even if the earth shakes, or the mountains fall into the sea.” Ps. 46:2 (NCV)

“We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it… we saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us… And he did help us and saved us… and we expect him to do it again and again.” 2 Cor 1:10 (TLB)

GraceTown Acts of Kindness is Contagious



A few weeks ago at our launch meeting we passed out these Acts of kindness Cards to our team and I encouraged all them to begin to serve acts of kindness by paying for someone’s coffee or meal at local coffee shops, restaurants, drive-thru’s, etc…. Susie, one of our team members texted me this note, “Pastor Rob it was so fun to bless people at Starbucks! I bought a $25 gift card and gave my Barista’s gave 10 free coffees away along with the GraceTown Acts of Kindness Cards. It blessed them as well.” Later that day Susie texted me again with this, “I just received word that the Starbucks card was such a hit that others started adding money to it to keep the giving going. How awesome is that?”



The Apostle Paul clairfies the untangled way of kindness in this verse, “God’s kindness leads to a radical life change…” Romans 2:4 The Message. Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” As we are approaching our September 18 Launch service, I want acts of kindness and a heart to serve be a part of the culture of GraceTown Church. Being a Christian is not about what we get, but WE GIVE. The city doesn’t exist for the Church, the Church exist for the city. Go ahead Spread the Love, Have some fun and make somebody’s day!