Longing Pt.3 – For More Peace in My Life

Longing Pt.3 – For More Peace in My Life

Looking for Peace? Most of us are more familiar with tension, stress, and anxiety, rather than peace. Lack of peace is a result of our complex, accelerated and stressed out world. People say…

•I’m ready to throw in the towel

•I am at the end of my rope

•I am just a bundle of nerves

•I am at my wits end

•I feel like resigning from the human race

•I am in over my head

Peace in today’s society is a commodity much desired and rarely found

Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder, and his name shall be called[b] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Peace – shalom – fulness. Having everything you need to be whole and happy (Jesus – The Prince of Peace)

(Luke 2:6-14 NIV) “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

Can there actually be Peace on Earth?

Fredrick Buechner said, “Peace is not the absence of struggle but the presence of love.”

A not so silent night. There was no peace in Israel at this time. Gloom, anguish, and contempt were just some of the adjectives used to describe this darkness.

•The word of God had not been heard for four centuries.  Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, written in the fifth century BC.

•The people of God were under the oppressive rule of Rome. Political darkness reigned!

•The nation of Israel was fracturing. The Pharisees, Sadducees, The Essenes, The Zealots – which resulted in the oppressive rule of Rome

•The census was a considerable imposition.  Living in Nazareth, Mary and Joseph lived more than 100 miles North of Bethlehem.  Yet, there was no way around it.  They were forced by legal constraint to make the arduous trip.

•The poverty of Mary and Joseph did not fit the royal son they had. Joseph had no bargaining power. Without family or hospitality, darkness surrounded them.

•Through the hostile forces of Herod, Satan tried to kill Jesus. Herod, so paranoid for his own position and power that he had multiple family members executed, attempts to use the wisemen to lead him to the Christ child—not to worship, but to exterminate. He orders the execution of all the children in and around Bethlehem.

(John 16:33 NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Internet search for peace of mind – home security, hypnosis, funeral services, perfume, plumbing to insure your toilet

4 Sources Of Tension in Life

1. Unavoidable Circumstances.

Much of life is out of our control

•When things are out of our control – We get frustrated and lose our peace of mind

(Jeremiah 4:20 NIV) “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment.”

Sometimes the pain and problems in your life is nobody’s fault

John 9:1-3 Message Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” 3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

2. Unbearable People.

Have you ever thought…? Life would be great if it weren’t for all these people – You make all of these great plans – people will not cooperate

(Psalms 109:3 NIV) “With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.”

Never forget 3 Types of People in Your Life. Those:

1. Who helped you in your difficult time

2. Who left you in your difficult time

3. Who put you in your difficult time

3. Unexplainable Problems.

Then there is the whole “unexplainable” part of life – Things don’t turn out right – don’t understand why

(Matthew 27:46 NIV) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

3 Reasons for life’s problems

1. Sin – Imperfect world

2. Satan – Common Enemy

3. Self – we make mistakes

Problems are God given opportunities to grow – challenges drive us to deeper understanding and maturity. Problems come from the greek word which means “To Throw” or “To Drive forward”

Robert Schuller said, “Impossibilities vanish when a man and His God confront a mountain”

4. Uncontrollable Worry.

(Jeremiah 6:24 NIV) “We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a woman in labor.”

God doesn’t want you to worry!

The truth is – Christmas season is anything but peaceful for people. We all love this time of year – but produces so much worry, stress, anxiety, and depression.

I find that men and women worry about different things at Christmas Women worry about, Did I buy enough?  Do we have enough?  Have I done enough?  Are the kids going to be happy? Did I forget anybody?

Guys worry about at different things at Christmas – really two How am I going to pay for all of this? And, How long are the relatives going to be in town?

Worrying never solves tomorrow’s problems – Worry only robs today of its peace

I know there’s a lot of stuff here that we’re worried about Some real legitimate, pretty serous things

Health issues, financial problems, family crises, Are my kids going to be all right? Am I going to have a job next year? What’s the doctor going to say?

I Peter 5:7 NIV Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Focus on God, not the problem! 

Myth – I can control and fix things by worrying about them / Truth – Worry only makes me miserable

2 Options – Panic or Pray / worry or worship

How you really find peace during Christmas

(John 14:27 LB) “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

1.Receive God’s Extravagant Grace. 

You were made to live in harmony with God – When you are not – it causes stress

(Romans 5:1 NIV) “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psychologists will tell you that a main source of stress – guilt – There is nothing more peaceful than a clean slate

Justified – just as if I’d never done it – But you need to accept it – even some Christians don’t

Micah 7:18 NIV – Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

God is eager – it’s the best part of His day – Think about it – total forgiveness – completely clean – That would give peace of mind

2. Run to God’s Presence.

This one is hard to explain – you have to experience it – There is a tangible presence of God

(Isaiah 26:3 NKJV) “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”

Peace is a mindset – but can’t get it through secular meditation – Comes through focusing on what God says about you – Prayer – the Word of God

(Psalm 46:1, 10 NIV) “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.”

Back story – 180,000 enemy troops were about to attack Israel

God says – “chill out” – sit still – hurry aggravates worry – Be still “And know” – intimacy not knowledge

3. Obey God’s principles.

(Psalm 119:165 NIV) “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

If we’re honest – most of our stress comes from ignoring His principles – What has God told you that you haven’t done yet?

Peace Comes through obedience to God’s word

Romans 8:6 NIV – The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 

Luke 2:13-14 CEV “Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said: ‘Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.’ 

4. Rely on God’s provision.

(Philippians 4:6-7 LB) “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

•Trust God to take care of things beyond your control

•Quit dwelling on the “What if’s” of life

•Live one day at a time:

•Matthew 6:34 says, Don’t worry about tomorrow, Matthew 6:11, Give us today our daily bread

Peace in today’s society is a commodity much desired and rarely found. Most people are familiar with tension, stress and anxiety than peace. The lack of peace is the result of our complex, accelerated and stressed out world.

Today on this 3rd Sunday of Advent, identify areas in your life in which turmoil is reigning rather than peace.

I admonish everyone of us today to Trust in God’s Provision and Care

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” 

When we put our care in God’s hands, He puts his Peace in our Hearts

Don’t fall to pieces – Follow Peace – April Osteen Simons

The Unshakables Pt.3

The Unshakables Part 3 – How To Respond

Ecclesiastes 8:14-16 NLT – And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. 

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

There are two mistakes that you can make regarding disasters and tragedies. 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. 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!

Not everything that happens is God’s will. When I hear people hearing about a disaster or tragedy 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. 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. 

John 16:33 AMP I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

It would be impossible, in just one message, to go into all the reasons for suffering and for why God allows tragedy. Instead I want to focus on five ways that we should respond to life’s shakings.

1.I Need to Release My Grief

When you go through a tragedy, disaster, or shaking, the first thing you need to do is release your grief. Why? Because these things always creates strong emotions.

When people have emotions, they don’t know how to handle so they deny them, they ignore them, and they push them down. In fact many people use God as an excuse for this, believing that God wants everybody to have a happy face all the time. But real life isn’t always happy.  God doesn’t expect you to be smiling all the time.

Matthew 5:4 NIV -“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

In other words, it’s OK to grieve. Face your feelings. Don’t repress them by pushing them down You release your emotions to God. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll take it out on yourself or somebody else.

Dr. Gary R. Collins: “Grief is a normal response to the loss of any significant person, object, or opportunity.”

The Grief Recovery® Institute: “Grief is the NORMAL and NATURAL reaction to loss. Grief is EMOTIONAL, not intellectual.”

God wants to comfort you.

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

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

2. I need to Receive from Others

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; But you need other people. You need their perspective, you need their support, you need their encouragement, you need their prayer, and you just need their presence.  

Galatians 6:2 NIV – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

“By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” (NCV)

To make it through a crisis, we need not only the promises of God; we need the people of God.

Hebrews 12:15 NLT Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

3. I Need to Refuse to be Bitter

One of the things I’ve learned from being in the ministry for many years is that there’s absolutely no correlation in life between your experiences and your happiness. I’ve seen people who had absolutely the worst experiences in life—things that would shock everyone of us, and yet they maintain this happy, cheerful, positive attitude, because happiness is a choice. You’re about as happy as you choose to be.

Job 21:25 NIV – Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. 

• GNV- “Some people have no happiness at all: they live and die with bitter hearts.

Now you’re going to have to decide when you go through those shakings, “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.

In the ministry I’ve seen people who had every right in the world to whine and who chose not to do so. Happiness is a choice. You refuse to be bitter, because bitterness always hurts you. It never changes anything. Blaming others (or God) never changes anything.  It only makes you feel worse.

How do you keep from being bitter when the inevitable shakings of life are going to come?

The antidote:

•Accept what cannot be changed.

Job 11:13,16 NIV – “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.

Faith is facing the facts and not getting discouraged.  Can you write that down?  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..

I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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’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. I Remember What is Important

Tough times 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

Luke 12:15 NIV – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 

“Jesus said… Life is not measured by how much one owns.” 

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.

I Timothy 6:7 NIV – For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

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. God says, “ I will never leave you or forsake you.”

5. I Rely on Christ

Christians get to approach tragedy differently than the rest of the world. We get to rely completely on Christ. We get to have hope. But how? By intentionally leaning on Christ for stability, listening to Christ for direction, and looking to Christ for salvation. He is our Rock, our Shelter, our Great Shepherd, our Hiding Place.

Philippians 4:12-13 NLT  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.

Suffering and tragedy are inevitable in a sinful world, but Jesus Christ makes all the difference. Decide that you will rely on Him even in the darkest of hours of your life.

Psalm 46:1-2 NLT – God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NLT – In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

Psalm 125:1 NLT – Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.

The Unshakables Pt.2

The Unshakables Part 2

(Luke 6:46-49 MSG) “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on. “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.”

Joseph’s story takes up half of the book of Genesis  – 11th born son of Jacob who is the grandson of Abraham – Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph

Joseph had a dream – God spoke to him & life went in another direction – His world got shaken up

Message dedicated to those who feel your life isn’t going how God planned it Or how you planned it – Wrong direction – Ready to check out

Joseph – Went from privileged son – to the pit of slavery – to the palace of Egypt

For when life gets shaken and isn’t turning out the way you had planned… “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Been a handful of times I’ve wanted to quit

At seventeen years old – Joseph called the family together to share something

(Genesis 37:5-7, 19-20)  Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.  He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”  “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.  “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

When Things Are Shaky, Don’t Give Up on Your Dream…

  1. Even if you didn’t start off well.

Many define their potential off of what they see in the rear view mirror

The accuser of the brethren Satan always reminding us of yesterday

Paul had a horrible resume – Giving the order to kill Christians – You’re persecuting me God says  – Bible is full of people with HORRIBLE resumes

Regardless of your yesterdays God can still use you

We Dream of a church that believes in people. We dream of a church where we allow people to change their history

(1 Timothy 1:12-13 NIV “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”

God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

Don’t give up…

  1. Even if those closest don’t support it.

Even if your family, friends don’t understand – Joseph’s family didn’t understand

Even Jesus wasn’t accepted in his own hometown

“Isn’t that Mary and Joseph’s boy?” – He did no miracles in that town

(Mark 6:3-4 NIV) “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

Joseph like Jesus faced massive rejection

So…Don’t give up on your dream…

  1. Even if your journey is full of surprises.

When you get a dream from God it never goes to A-B in a straight line

Zigs – Zags – Up and Down

Sure he was thinking – this isn’t what the dream looked like – Dreams have critical intersections – faced with a dilemma

Give up – or go on – based on how Joseph felt…Misunderstood by his family – give up? Sold into slavery by his brothers – give up? Living in a strange country far from home – give up? Given favor in Potiphar’s house (Egyptian slave owner) – go on! Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife – give up? Thrown into prison – give up? Put in charge of all the prisoners – go on! Forgotten by the chief cupbearer – give up? Remained in prison two years – give up? Interpreted Pharoh’s dream – go on! Became second in command – go on!

The truth is your life will look the same way

Joseph had twice as many give ups as go on’s

What will you do in the give up moment? Don’t Quit

What do you do – How do you make it? – Joseph had the assurance that the Lord was with me

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

Don’t give up on your dream…

  1. Even if it takes a long time to realize it.

Clearly, Joseph rose to the top, but it took a while to happen

Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:2).

He was 30 when Pharaoh promoted him (Genesis 41:46)

He had been in prison for two years before that (Genesis 41:1)

So he was in Potiphar’s house for 11 years.

It took 11 years for the full measure of God’s blessing to be accomplished in Joseph’s life.

(Habakkuk 2:3 LB)  “These things I plan won’t happen right away.  Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass.  Just be patient!  They will not be overdue a single day!”

Why is this? God is way more interested in your character then your comfort

(Jeremiah 17:10 LB) “The Lord searches our hearts and examines our deepest motives so he can give to each person his right reward, according to how he has lived.” 

Joseph’s Words of Encouragement

  • “Focus on what happens in you not to you.”

This spiritual principle could save your life & save you mileage

God is working character inside of us & what we are going through is the thing he is using to facilitate that

You have a role in how fast it goes depending on how fast you learn

We tend to focus more on what’s happening to us not in us

“God make this go away” Wrong prayer

“God what do you want me to learn through this?” Right prayer

(1st Peter 1:6-7 NLT) So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You cannot control what happens around you, but you can control what happens in you.

  • “Your response to offense determines your future.”

Joseph has a chance to get his brothers back

Family coming for food – Joseph knows but family doesn’t know him

Some people live their whole life this way – It’s not worth it

Joseph’s brothers say, don’t kill us…Look at Joseph’s response

(Genesis 50:20-21)  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…”

Some of you need to walk out forgiveness in your life – That resentment is destroying you & you know it

(Job 21:23-25 NLT)  One person dies in prosperity, completely comfortable and secure,24 the picture of good health, vigorous and fit. 25 Another person dies in bitter poverty, never having tasted the good life.

Will you leave your pain in the past to follow your dreams, or will you let these hurts steal your hope for a better life?

  • “Every dream has tough times but remember God is always with you.”

He is there – He is with you – May not feel it but he is there

When you’re down to nothing – God is up to something

(Isaiah 43:3 ESV) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

(Matthew 28:20 NIV) And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Salvation Call – Prayer

Jesus, forgive me for all of my sins, I give my life to you, make me brand new. I believe you died for me so that I can live. Fill me with your spirit that I would know you, & serve you with my life. My life is not my own, I give it to you. Thank you for loving me, in Jesus name, Amen!

Beautiful Things Pt.1 – What To Do on the Most Difficult Day of Your Life

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Beautiful Things Pt.1 – What to Do on the Most Difficult Day of Your Life

Colossians 2:13 – Discover the depths of our brokenness – and the heights of God’s Love for us. Even out of the dust of our lives, God can make beautiful things.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to confront the unexplainable absences of God, a season in life when God gives no explanations.

Questions such as…

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Where is God when I hurt?

Why did my family member or friend have to die too soon?

Everyone is going to have their Dark Night of the soul. Facing Difficult times

•economic uncertainty, stress, pain, grief, loss, divorce, brokeness, sin, tragedy

The fact is We grope in the darkness of our grief, pain, hurt, and questions for answers – If we knew the answers, our hearts would not hurt any less – Because Broken hearts are not healed by explanations but by God’s presence, grace and love.

The Bible doesn’t flinch from telling the stories of hardship and tragedy visited on God’s people.

•The overarching storyline of the Bible is not, “Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after.” Instead, the divine story of God’s people has plenty of moments where the narrative, in effect, says, “Then all hell broke loose.”

The glorious things about the chronicles of Scripture is that disappointments, grief, hurt, and pains are never the end of the story – not for those who believe God.

I Samuel 30:1-8 NIV – David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way.When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

The most difficult day of David’s life. The year 1012 B.C. He was 29 yrs old. Forced to leave the royal household and roam the hillsides of Judea with a mercenary band of 600 men because Saul was trying to kill him. David and his men were fighting the Phillistines while expanding and securing the borders of Israel.

The city of Ziklag was their temporary home in the southern border of Judea (1 year and 4 months)

•Ziklag was not Bethlehem, the place of his beginning, nor was it Jerusalem, the place of his destiny. It was somewhere in between. (We all spend time there – it’s not where we come from, it’s not where we are going. It’s somewhere in between our prophecy and destiny.

In one day – David lost it all – His possessions were stolen, his home burned down, and family kidnapped.

God Allows Difficult days in our Lives

John 16:33 AMP I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

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

Remember – God weaves everything together for our good – even though it may be good at the time. We have a limited view of God

I John 4:4 NIV – You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

It is in facing and triumphing over the great trials of life that you learn what it means to overcome the world and to live more than a conqueror.

I Corinthians 15:57 NIV But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Victory is never the absence of trouble, hurt, pain, or grief. Victory is defined as success in a struggle against difficulties and overcoming an enemy.

I John 5:4 NIVfor everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Faith is the victory that overcomes – even on the most difficult day of your life.

I realize every situation is different and every individual is unique. But God has a pattern and principles that will assist you on the most difficult day of your life. Don’t abandon hope. All is not lost.

What To Do on the Most Difficult Day of Your Life

1. It’s Okay to Weep

I Samuel 30:4 NIV – So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.

The only outlet David and his valiant men (champions) could find for the fear, the anger, grief, and the pain that seized their soul was weeping. So much, that it Drained them of there power.

What do you do when trouble hits you so hard that it knocks the wind out of you and makes you feel that it must be the most difficult day of your life? Go ahead and cry.

We tend to believe that weeping shows that we are weak

When people have emotions, they don’t know how to handle so they deny them, they ignore them, and they push them down. In fact many people use God as an excuse for this, believing that God wants everybody to have a happy face all the time. But real life isn’t always happy.  God doesn’t expect you to be smiling all the time.

Matthew 5:4 NIV -“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” 

In other words, it’s OK to grieve. Face your feelings. Don’t repress them by pushing them down You release your emotions to God. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll take it out on yourself or somebody else.

•Living by Faith is not living without Feelings.You may be extroverted or introverted, it doesn’t matter – God made you to feel things deeply. Joy, peace, excitement, anger, sadness – why? we are humans. To deny emotions is to deny our humanity.

•You can’t even worship God without involving your emotions – David would Sing, Shout, and Dance in his praise of God.

Weeping is Not Inconsistent with Faith – Some of the greatest giants of faith in the Bible wept: 

•Abraham, the father of faith wept at the death of his wife Sarah

•When Jacob met his future bride Rachel, he was so overwhelmed that he wept

•When Joseph was reunited with his estranged brothers, he wept.

•Hezekiah wept when he received the bad report that he would die from his illness.

•Job wept in the midst of his trial, after losing his home, health, and family

•Peter wept over his failure and betrayal of Jesus.

•Paul wept in the middle of his trials

•Even Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.

– He cried as a baby, as a child, and as a man. A man of sorrows acquainted with grief. He shed the tears of God

Hebrews 5:7 ESV – In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

-“Loud cries and tears” is a description of the “agony” of Jesus.

Luke 22;41-44 ESV – He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Tears Cannot be Denied – It would be an added cruelty to deny yourself or others tears in times of tragedy or deep personal pain.

Psalm 34:17-18 (MSG) Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

In the course of my own life and ministry – I’ve had many days and nights of weeping

Examples – Hurtful Words and actions of people, in the hospital room with parents who just lost a child, family member, etc… overwhelming stress due to money, problems, and people.

Then there’s been times of tears still too personal to talk about.

Our tears lead to our liberation of the dominion of sorrow

Psalm 30:5 NIV – For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning

There is a night of weeping  – but there is a dawn of faith. David did it and you will too.

God wants to comfort you When You Weep.

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

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

2. It’s Okay to Worship

I Samuel 30:7-8 NIVThen David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

Ephod – Official garment of the high priest for his duties of worship. David wore it to worship God at different times.

This is where we begin to focus on the securities of God, not our insecurities. Its expressing my affection to God and focusing my attention on God

Psalm 43:4-5 ESV – Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

•Salvation in this verse does not mean eternal salvation. It means deliverance, or the sense of helping someone out of their difficulty.  This is what God does during times of depression and difficulty. He will deliver you. You have to hope in Him, and decide that God can help you.

•When you are feeling no joy, go to God, who will release to you His joy through worship. (Example: Tricia in hospital, Worship at Dave’s funeral)

•I have found that many times, when I can’t go on, worship lifts me up.

Psalm 42:11 NIV – Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

•And worship is more than just an emotional cleansing. Worship affects me deeply. God soothes me more in worship than in any other way. I can see God and His power, His joy, and His love. I visualize the hope that I have in Christ when I listen or sing praises to Him.

“Worship isn’t crawling though a small hole to some theological wonderland. It is falling back upon God and finding that He is everywhere and anywhere you can fall.”

Psalm 100:1-5 NIV Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We take coffee breaks, rest breaks, and lunch breaks. Why not take a Praise Break! God’s answer for difficult days is Worship and PRAISE! It’s one antidepressant we all need.

Acts 16:25-26 NIV – About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

•Rather than sulking in despair, Paul and Silas got themselves moving in the direction of their faith through Praise and Worship. We can sing our way out of despair, we can smile our way of that funk, We can worship our way out of our heaviness!

Isaiah 61:3 NKJV –  To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Prayer: 

Father, we are here before you, just ordinary people who walk through ordinary days. There are some good moments and there are some hard moments. There are some moments that we think could never ever get any better. And there are moments that we think that we’ll never recover from. God, to know that no matter what that darkness might look like for us, to know that you are there, you are close, you are personal, you are intimate, you call us by name, that you are the God who can intervene in those dark places. And that you are the God who has lovingly hidden in our darkness treasure, riches that will make us spiritually healthy and wealthy enough to be able to fulfill the calling that you have on our lives. That’s the kind of God we trust. That’s the kind of God we love. That’s the God we worship. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How To Respond to Tragedy

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How To Respond to Tragedy

Ecclesiastes 8:14-16 NLT – And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!15 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.16 In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. 

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

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. 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!

Not everything that happens is God’s will. When I hear people hearing about a disaster or tragedy 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. 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. 

John 16:33 AMP I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

It would be impossible, in just one message, to go into all the reasons for suffering and for why God allows tragedy. Instead I want to focus on five ways that we should respond to tragedy.

Tragedy – an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

1. I Need to Release My Grief

When you go through a tragedy, the first thing you need to do is release your grief. Why? Because tragedy always creates strong emotions.

When people have emotions, they don’t know how to handle so they deny them, they ignore them, and they push them down. In fact many people use God as an excuse for this, believing that God wants everybody to have a happy face all the time. But real life isn’t always happy.  God doesn’t expect you to be smiling all the time.

Matthew 5:4 NIV -“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

In other words, it’s OK to grieve. Face your feelings. Don’t repress them by pushing them down You release your emotions to God. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll take it out on yourself or somebody else.

Dr. Gary R. Collins: “Grief is a normal response to the loss of any significant person, object, or opportunity.”

The Grief Recovery® Institute: “Grief is the NORMAL and NATURAL reaction to loss. Grief is EMOTIONAL, not intellectual.”

God wants to comfort you in a tragedy.

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

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

2. I need to Receive from Others

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; But you need other people. You need their perspective, you need their support, you need their encouragement, you need their prayer, and you just need their presence.  

Galatians 6:2 NIV – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

“By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ.” (NCV)

To make it through a crisis, we need not only the promises of God; we need the people of God.

Hebrews 12:15 NLT Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many

3. I Need to Refuse to be Bitter

One of the things I’ve learned from being in the ministry for many years is that there’s absolutely no correlation in life between your experiences and your happiness. I’ve seen people who had absolutely the worst experiences in life—things that would shock everyone of us, and yet they maintain this happy, cheerful, positive attitude, because happiness is a choice. You’re about as happy as you choose to be.

Job 21:25 NIV – Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. 

• GNV- “Some people have no happiness at all: they live and die with bitter hearts.

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.

In the ministry I’ve seen people who had every right in the world to whine and who chose not to do so. Happiness is a choice. You refuse to be bitter, because bitterness always hurts you. It never changes anything. Blaming others (or God) never changes anything.  It only makes you feel worse.

How do you keep from being bitter when the inevitable tragedies of life are going to come?

The antidote:

•Accept what cannot be changed.

Job 11:13,16 NIV – “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.

Faith is facing the facts and not getting discouraged.  Can you write that down?  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..

I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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’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. I Remember What is 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

Luke 12:15 NIV – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 

“Jesus said… Life is not measured by how much one owns.” 

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.

I Timothy 6:7 NIV – For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

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. God says, “ I will never leave you or forsake you.”

5. I Rely on Christ

Christians get to approach tragedy differently than the rest of the world. We get to rely completely on Christ. We get to have hope. But how? By intentionally leaning on Christ for stability, listening to Christ for direction, and looking to Christ for salvation. He is our Rock, our Shelter, our Great Shepherd, our Hiding Place.

Philippians 4:12-13 NLT  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.

Suffering and tragedy are inevitable in a sinful world, but Jesus Christ makes all the difference. Decide that you will rely on Him even in the darkest of hours of your life.

Psalm 46:1-2 NLT – God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NLT – In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

Psalm 125:1 NLT – Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.

Joy To The World

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Joy To the World

One of the best parts of the story – joy of that night

There was so much turmoil – under Roman rule – miserable God brought “great joy”

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

Luke 2:8-14 ESV – And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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

There are things that steal our joy:

  1. Past experiences become Dim
  2. Present Burdens become heavy
  3. Future Hope becomes distant

John 15:11 ESV– “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

Today – Joy to the World – how to enjoy your life – have fun – laugh

Don’t you love to laugh?  I do – and love to listen to people laugh

Happiness is usually what we want, but JOY is what we need! 

Remember- for every minute of anger, you lose 60 seconds of joy

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

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)  “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to laugh.”

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do

(Psalm 2:3)  “The One enthroned in heaven laughs.”

  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 ESV  “ Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, 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 ESV Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

(Proverbs 17:22 NIV)  “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

•God’s got some good stuff for you!  No aweful side effects

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

b. Take it when you don’t feel like it!

c. And take it when you don’t know how you feel!

Psalm 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’s contagious – Can totally change the dynamic of your Christmas

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Psalm 126:1-2 NIV “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. 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.’”

The Secret of Joy

  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 ESV)  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

RememberThe walls we build around us to keep out the sadness also keep out the joy

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 ESV)  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

We’ve been given a priceless resource called TIME – You can’t save it or buy it. 18 times a minute you breath, 25,920 times a day FREE of Charge.

Life can change in a moment! (Tricia’s coworker husband 51 yrs old)

The question is not how will you die, but how will you live life?

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

“Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged.  It’s how I arrange my mind.”

John Wooden said—“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

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.”

3. Find something positive in everything

How?  Think positively – glass is half empty – or half full

Some people are so negative when they walk into a room the lights go out.

(Philippians 4:8 NIV)  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

Either the “yes” or “no” – either doubt or faith

(2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

This is hard – but can change the dynamic of every situation – Some people have NO filter

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

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.”

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

If you’re thankful for everything – can’t be disappointed

Consider all of life a gift from God – That breath you just took, it’s a gift

“It’s not happy people who are Thankful, It is thankful people who are happy”

I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” – Albert Schweitzer

(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God wants to restore your joy – This is what the gift of Christmas is all about – Getting your joy back

Phillipians 4:4 ESV – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (prison letters)

•Happiness is an emotion, but joy is a decision. And your decisions must rule your emotions, not vice-versa.

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.

John 16:24 NIV  “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” 

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

How to Survive the End of the World Pt.4

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How To Survive the End of the World Part 4

Thursday is Thanksgiving. One day in which we like those early Pilgrims set aside time in our busy schedules to give thanks to God. It’s a celebration born in hardship, a reconciliation between cultures, a proclamation by Presidents, The tradition of our nation.

The day before Thanksgiving an elderly man in Phoenix called his son in New York and said to him, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery is enough. We’re sick of each other, and so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”  Frantic, the son called his sister, who exploded on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouted, “I’ll take care of this.” She called Phoenix immediately, and said to her father. “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” The man hung up his phone and turned to his wife. “Okay, honey. The kids are coming for Thanksgiving and paying for their own flights.”

What does Thanksgiving have to do with surviving the end of the world?

1. Ungratefulness would be rampant in the endtimes

II Timothy 3:1-5 NIV – But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Ungrateful (unthankful) – unappreciative; not displaying gratitude; not giving due return or recompense for benefits conferred

2. Being ungrateful is the root cause of many sins in the endtimes

Romans 1:21 NIV  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Futile – to make empty, vain, foolish, useless, confused. The world describes the perverted logic and idolatrous presumption of those who not honor God or show him any gratitude for his blessings.

As Christ followers we should be overflowing with Thankfulness

Colossians 2:6-7 NIV – So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I. Conquer Complaining 

Living in the land of the free has not made us free; we are nation of addicts and complainers.

Complaining is a kill-joy. It makes you unhappy, everybody else around you unhappy. The problem is that it is a hard habit to break. We are naturally negative. We tend to look at the bad things in life. We are conditioned by society. Bad news makes the headlines. We are bombarded continuously with what’s wrong with everything. By our own nature and by our conditioning we tend to develop the habit of complaining.

PHILIPPIANS 2:14-15 “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

•Spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow better

ILL.– Dr. Dale Robbins writes, “I used to think people complained because they had a lot of problems. But I have come to realize that they have problems because they complain. Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. It amplifies frustration, spreads discontent and discord, and can invoke an invitation for the devil to cause havoc with our lives.” Complaining makes us miserable.

Psalm 77:3 says, “I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.”

No Matter How Good Or Bad Your Life Is, Wake Up Each Morning And Be Thankful That You Still Have One

“A complaining tongue reveals an ungrateful heart.”- William Arthur Ward

Complaining is the archenemy of thanksgiving. The two cannot co-exist in the same heart. And so I challenge you to try to quit complaining for a whole month. Just try it.

II. The Cure

  1. Thankfulness

“It’s not happy people who are Thankful, It is thankful people who are happy”

I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

“He who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness”

Ephesians 5:20 NIV  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Happiness comes when we stop wailing about the troubles we have and offer thanks for all the troubles we don’t have”

“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” – Albert Schweitzer

Reasons to Be Thankful

  1. God, His Eternal Goodness

Psalm 100:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

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

Psalm 118:1 NIV says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.”

The Bible connects the name of the Lord or God or Jesus or the Spirit with “good” or “goodness” 370 Times.

Probably one of the most important reasons for us to be thankful as Christians is simply because of who God is. He is a good God, worthy of our praise and thanksgiving. David recognized this and setup some Levites to minister. Their task was simply to stand before the the Lord to thank and praise him.

1 Chron 16:34 NIV – Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

When you look at the whole of the Bible, you’ll discover that it’s not people-centric. It’s God-centric. Everything points back to who God is. And our reasons for being thankful begin, and could end, with God.

2. All Circumstances in Life

I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

God says “I want you to be thankful in all circumstances.”It does not say “for all circumstances”. You cannot always be thankful for the circumstances, but you can be thankful in the situation. I know that God is working all things for good. He has a pattern and He fits even the bad things in our lives into that pattern for good. God’s purpose for my life is greater than my problems, so in everything I can give thanks. Not “for”,  but “in”.

Sometimes the circumstances of our lives are not always the best. In fact, they may be downright bad, but still, we are to look for something to be thankful for! And there is ALWAYS something positive for which we can be thankful!

Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV – “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

•Paul’s main subject here is PRAISE, THANKSGIVING. He is talking about a continual attitude for Christians – an attitude of the heart.

Billy Graham comments: “Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians are exempt from the tribulations and natural disasters that come upon the world. Scripture does teach that the Christian can face tribulation, crisis, calamity, and personal suffering with a supernatural power that is not available to the person outside of Christ.”

Some of the most pathetic people in the world are those who, in the midst of adversity, indulge themselves by wallowing in self-pity and bitterness, all the while taking a sort of delight in blaming God for their problems

CS Lewis said, “hardships prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny”

2. Contentment

“If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled” – Charles Spurgeon

Philippians 4:11-12 NIV – I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Contentment is realizing how much you already have, how much God has already given you, how rich you already are. The problem with many of us is we approach Thanksgiving focused on the circumstances of life.

Get a little perspective – no matter how bad off you may think you are, rest assured there is always someone else in the world that has it worse.

When we begin to realize the blessings that God has loaded us with – food to eat, clothes to wear, roofs over our heads – we will see the futility of our faulty mindsets.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV- Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings…not your past misfortunes”

Ending

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” ~ C. S. Lewis

So, where are you this morning on the gratitude scale? Do you have a deep sense of gratitude to God for all he’s done and will do in and through you, or do you tend to find the reasons to be skeptical or negative in life?

Psalm 106:1-2 ESV Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?

•In 1982, the actor Kirk Douglas flew to Pakistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He was there to do a documentary about the three million Afghan refugees who had fled to that country. He went out one day to meet with some refugees, up near the Kyber Pass. Gunfire could be heard in the background, just across the Afghan border. Douglas sat on the ground with the elders of a displaced Afghan tribe. They were eating with their fingers out of a common bowl. Through an interpreter Douglas told them, “In my country, today is Thanksgiving Day, one day every year that we set aside to give thanks for all that we have in life.” The leader of the elders, a man with a long white beard, nodded his head. Through the interpreter he said, “In my country, we give thanks every day.” Will we join them?

 

Shift Pt.7 – Relationships

Shift-Series

Shift Pt.7 – 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.

The Purpose for People in your Life

Mark 12:30-31 NIV – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Life is filled with givers and takers. A person in your life who does not increase you will inevitable decrease you.

You must discern the people in your life. You must decide how much time you’re going to invest in others. We meet and become acquainted with many people in the course of our lives, however there are 3 levels in which we must recognize.

The 3 Levels are:

  1. Relationship
  2. Friendship
  3. Companionship

Your past, present, and future is always connected to people.

Relationships are founded on the discovery that you need people to be a success in life. The help us define who we are and what we can become. We can trace all our successes to pivotal relationships.

•Relationships are painful. Relationships are wonderful. We all live in the drama that plays out between these 2 truths.

•NO Relationship is without Challenges. Here are 2 challenges you face in every relationship: 1. False Expectation 2. Unfulfilled Promises

First, You can’t expect others to read your mind. False expectations occur when we refuse to talk things out.  Do not harbor or hide your hurts and disappointments in a relationship. A seed of bad timing or misspoken word can take root – hurting you and hurting others.

Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV – Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many

Secondly, never promise what you cannot produce. Unfulfilled promises come from unrealistic schedules and pressures that WE self-impose. Simply learning to say NO now, can save you from “I’m Sorry” later.

James 5:12 NLT But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned

When you understand the purpose for people in your life you will discover that: 

  1. You will be appreciated
  2. You will be celebrated or
  3. You will be tolerated
  4. You will be terminated

•I’ve been all 4 at certain times in my life

2 Things must Increase for Relationships to move to the next level:

  1. Increase of Quality of Time
  2. Increase of Quality of Shared Information

Example: Jesus, who is the world’s foremost expert on relationships

John 15:13-15 NIV – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

•Laying down my life (Time)

•Everything I’ve made known to you (Information)

Relationships teach us that we were not created to succeed alone. Friendships teach us that true success is a shared destiny.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV – Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

You must discern the people God has placed in your life to complete you.

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.

Its not what you can get from a relationship but what can you give. Value people.

Nabi Saleh Owner of Gloria Jeans Coffee – “We aren’t in the coffee business, serving people. We’re in the people business, serving coffee.”

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 have a SHIFT in 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.

“I am more than I am, but less that we are. I sought my God but my God I could not see. I sought my soul, but my soul eluded me. I sought my friend, and I found all three,”

Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

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.

Baggage: Live Free Travel Light Part 2

baggage

Baggage: Live Free Travel Light Part 2

A visiting minister was very long-winded. Worse, every time he would make a good point during his sermon and a member of the congregation responded with “Amen” or “That’s right, preacher” he would get wound up even more and launch into  another lengthy discourse. Finally, the host pastor started responding to every few sentences with “Amen, Pharaoh!” The guest minister wasn’t sure what that meant, but after several more “Amen, Pharaohs” he finally concluded his very lengthy sermon. After the service concluded and the congregation had left, the visiting minister turned to his host and asked, “What exactly did you mean when you said “Amen, Pharaoh?” His host replied, “I was telling you to let my people go!”

Baggage we choose to keep is an unnecessary burden that will weigh you down all your life. That isn’t the life Jesus wants for you.

Matthew 11:28-29 The 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.”

Where did I get all this baggage? How did it get into my life? Baggage can be put in our life through: Difficult Life Experiences, Other People, Unresolved Issues, The enemy of our souls

In Luke 4, the very first passage Jesus ever spoke — it was His first public sermon, — Jesus spelled out what was going to be the theme of His ministry.

Luke 4:18-19 (NIV) “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Galatians 5:1 NLT – So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

FREE -not subject to the control or domination of another

Psalm 31:4-5 NIV – Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Hebrews 12:1 NLT – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

3 Kinds of Freedom – Jesus promises real and lasting freedom!  FROM WHAT?

1. The Baggage of Guilt

Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 

Good News version – “For by the death of Christ we are set free. That is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God which He gave to us in such large measure.”

The reruns of Columbo are back on, the episode had Johnny Cash as a bad guy. They had him cast as a country-western singer (real innovative idea!). He murdered somebody. At the end, Columbo always figures out what happened and Cash got caught. The closing words of the scene, Johnny Cash says, “I’m glad I finally got caught. The guilt was killing me.”

Guilt is cancer. Guilt will confine you, torture you, and destroy you. It’s the thief of life.

You cannot live indefinitely with guilt. But the fact is all of us make mistakes and all of us are guilty. How do you live with it?

Guilt robs you of happiness. It causes depression. It can make you sick. Doctors say that 80% of the people in hospitals today could go home if they could get rid of guilt and bitterness.

Psalm 103:12 NIV – as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

The Bible says when we come to Christ, He takes us and forgives us instantly, He forgives us completely, He forgives us without question.  The Bible says, “I’ve taken your sins and put them all behind My back.”  

Out of sight. “I’ve separated them as far as east from west.”

Out of reach.  “I’ve put them where I remember them no more.”

Out of memory.  Once you learn that God can forgive and forget, what God forgets then you can forget

If you come to God and say, “God, I’ve really made a mess of my life.  I’ve made mistakes and this is what I’ve done wrong and please forgive me.” You’re forgiven, and God says, “I not only forgive but I wipe the slate clean.”  It’s like starting over. It’s like being born again.  Then if you were to die and go to heaven and say, “God, about that sin…” He’d say, “What sin?” “About that mistake I made in that relationship…”  He’d say, “What mistake?”  “God, about that pain that I went through…” “What pain?”  That is the freedom of forgiveness.

God says, “I want to set you free from the burden of guilt”  “In Christ we are set free.  That is our sins are forgiven.”  I believe that even if there were no such thing as heaven, it would be worth becoming a Christian just to have a clear conscience. The joy that comes from knowing that I’m forgiven.  The slate is clean.  But that’s not all.

2. The Pain of Resentment

Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

A)  In your lifetime, you’ll be hurt many times sometimes accidentally/sometimes intentionally

What we like to do when we are hurt is get even. We want revenge. We want to retaliate. We get resentful, but resentment always hurts you more than the person you’re resentful against. Always. It’s like a boomerang.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”- Malachy McCourt

B)  How you respond determines the degree of effect it has on you.

*  If you forgive – you can move on, find new happiness

*  If you harbor resentment – it can ruin you

Some of you are holding on to a hurt. You let somebody hurt you 5, 10, 15 years ago. Maybe in a divorce, maybe your parents, maybe somebody at school, somebody hurt you badly. You’re still holding onto that hurt. That is dumb! Let go of it.

The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness and resentment”. Let Jesus Christ set you free from the burden of guilt and let Him set you free from the pain of resentment.

Romans 12:14-21 NIV – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited. 17 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,”[b] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Who are you bitter against today? You say, “But I just can’t forgive that person! They hurt me too bad!” That’s why you need Jesus Christ. You need that supernatural power to let go of it for your own benefit.

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.

Jesus says, “I want to set you free from the poison of bitterness.”

3. The Expectations of Others

I Thessalonians 2:4 NLT – For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (Phillips translation) “We don’t aim to please men but to please God who knows us through and through.”

Freedom is being you without anyone’s permission

Jesus says “I want you to be free to be yourself.” We spend so much of our time trying to dress like other people, act like other people, talk like other people.

“You are not what others think you are. You are what God knows you are.” 

Regardless of what other people think, if I’m doing what God wants me to do then that’s what counts. That’s what is important! Even God can’t please everybody. When you come to the point that Jesus sets you free when you say, “God likes me and I like me. If you don’t like me, what’s your problem?” He wants to set you free from the pressures of conformity.

A)  You can’t be happy if you are always…

*  trying to please/impress everyone at the same time

*  Pressured by other’s standards/lifestyles

Galatians 1:10 ESV – For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

ILLUS:  What will everyone think? – good way to get ulcers! Trying to pretend you are someone you are not!

The pressure with us is materialism. I’ve said many times, we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like. We’re trying to conform. Who cares what other people think? We get so caught up in making a living we forget to make a life. The Bible says God wants to set us free. Free to be ourselves.

The Plan

John 8:32 NIV – Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

1. God still loves You.

John 3:16-17 Message –  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came

to help.”

Religion has lied to so many of you – even though you know the Bible Still feel like you have to prove something to God Carrying around shame – low self worth. God loves you – as soon as you start believing that You’ll be free

I John 4:7-10 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. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

“God’s love for us is uncoerced and so freely given that it does not demand a response. But so freely is it given that it creates freedom in the recipient, so that our response is not one of obligation or duty, nor the returning of a favor, but uncoerced love.” Mark Galli

2. God can free You.

Romans 8:1-2 Message “(You) no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”

Romans 8:11 Message – It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

3. God will restore You.

Psalm 71:20 NIV – “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”

WHAT IS ENSLAVING YOU THIS MORNING?

GUILT – some secret sin, failure, past regret, mistake?, BITTERNESS/RESENTMENT/HATE?/ANGER?, a broken heart, a ruined relationship, an addiction, uncontrolled anger, a critical spirit, unforgiveness, rejection, feeling unloved, unbearable emptiness, etc….

God can take the broken pieces, the mistakes, the injustices, and make something good come out of it.

Psalm 23 (NKJV)The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord Forever.

What do you say we take God up on this offer? You just might find ourselves traveling a little lighter.

Prayer

“Lord Jesus I need You. Forgive me for my sins and for living my life my way.  Today I invite You – to be the Lord of my life.  Take control of my life – make me the kind of person – You want me to be.  Give me the power to change.  I believe you are setting people free right now!” From worry, jealousy, fear, anger, depression… It’s like a mountain of pressure sliding off their necks…Thank you for freedom – salvation!In Your Name I pray.  Amen.”

Parenting: Walking Through Difficult Days as a Family

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Parenting: Walking Through Difficult Days as a Family

Lamentations 3:19-26 NIV – I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 

There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless about them.

Every family goes through difficult times. Every family faces a crisis (addiction, death, mental illness, rebellion, sickness, loss, depression, set backs, challenges,). It’s not “if” but “when.” How do you make it through the worst of times? How do you not only survive, but thrive in the midst of it? How do you make sure that difficulties do not destroy?

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV – We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

I. THE FACTS about Family Life (But remember – Life is hard but God is Good)

1. Difficult Times in Families are a fact of life. 

(John 16:33) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

•Tribulation – Pressure, Oppression, stress, anguish, adversity, affliction, crushing, squeezing, distress

•We will not avoid trouble in this life – 2 Tim. 3:1 – Perilous (harsh, savage, difficult, dangerous, painful, hard to deal with)

2. Difficult Times happen to all Families.

(Matthew 5:45) “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,  and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

•”Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you choose to deal with it” Lou Holtz

I Thessalonians 2:18 NIV For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.

Hindered – Break up of a road to make it impassable for travelers. The result is that the trip is hindered, delayed, postponed, & inconvenient.

Key – Paul NEVER backed down! Never Stopped! He kept moving forward! Refuse to be dominated by blockades, hindrances, tough times, and attacks!

Your struggle is proof that you have not been defeated!

3. Difficult Times won’t last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:17  NIV – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 

•You are going to outlast it!  Get up and Go on! 

Psalm 30:5 NIV –“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

4.  Difficult Times can be good for the Family. 

(1 Peter 1:7) “These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 

•Faith is tested by hardships,  disappointments, and difficulties

•“God who foresaw your tribulation, has specifically armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain.” CS Lewis

2 Corinthians 6:4 NIV  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;

•Some people go into the furnace of trouble and it burns them; others go in, and the experience builds them

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.” 

•Every Storm is a school, Every Trial is a teacher, Every experience is an education, Every difficulty is for your development.

II.  2 Strategic Keys That Guarantee Family Victory

You are engaged in a Spiritual War! Spiritual warfare is that conflict being waged in the invisible, spiritual realm that is being manifest in the visible, physical realm.

I John 4:4 NIV – You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Your trouble is Satan’s desperation to stop you! But Who is in you is greater than What’s against you! 

Stay battle ready! When things go badly, it’s not the end of the world. When things go well, it’s not the end of the battle.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 – For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.

•When we engage in the spiritual battle, we don’t fight with the weapons of this world. We don’t fight with nuclear bombs, or machine guns, or army tanks, or a 22, or numbchucks, or a slingshot. Okay? Instead, we engage in this battle with prayer and by faith and using God’s word.

Ephesians 6:10-12 -Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1. Prayer

Prayer is the way we write the future. It’s the difference between letting things happen and making things happen!

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV –  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

We have 2 options – We can Panic or Pray -You decide – Martin Luther said, “Pray and let God worry”

“Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bare; All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer” Joseph Scriven

Remember this  – You never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent. 

Ill.—little boys staying overnight in backyard in a tent. Dad listened to them talk… “my daddy knows the mayor!”/ “governor!”/then he heard the voice of his own little boy say, “that’s nothin’, my daddy knows God!” (top that!) They said, he does not! “does too!” How do you know? “I heard him talkin’ to him just this morning!” 

When you face unexpected problems and pressures, when you have a crisis, who do you turn to? God says,”Turn to Me first when you’ve got a problem.” Many people, when they’re in a tight situation, prayer is the last resort, not the first option. They do everything they can physically to try to correct the problem then they say, “I guess now all we can do is pray.” Like it must really be hopeless! Prayer should not be your last resort, it should be your first option.

Make God your first resort in difficulty. He says He is an ever present help a refuge in time of need. God is waiting. He commands us to turn to Him first.

Psalm. 50:15 “Call upon Me in your day of trouble and I will deliver you and you will honor Me.”

Some people get embarrassed and think, I don’t talk to God much when times are good and I don’t want to bother him with my problems. God says, “Bother Me. It’s no bother. I can handle your and every other person’s problems at the same time. Bring it to me. Don’t carry it all yourself.”

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” Abraham Lincoln

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” Oswald Chambers

When we pray we give God legal invitation to bring His will to pass. His will is always accomplished through obedience in prayer.

Luke 18:1 NIV – Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up

I Thessalonians 5:7 NLT – Never stop praying

Prayer is always the will of God – Don’t Give Up, Get Frustrated, disappointed, or lose hope – Praying is what we do in our time, and the answer happens in God’s time

One prayer can change ANYTHING. one prayer can change EVERYTHING

2. Faith

This is your position above your difficulties

Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Genesis 1:1-3, John 1:3)

Verse 1 Amplified – Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

Faith is a spiritual force based on the eternal laws of God that can change things in the natural.

I John 5:4 ESV – For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Overcomes (Nikos) – To conquer, Champion of the games

Faith is… To have trust or assurance, confidence, conviction, belief, reliance in what God says. Trust that produces action. Faith is a living force, drawn from the living word, to produce living results.

“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances” CS Lewis

“Faith is the bird that sings while it is yet dark.”- Max Lucado

Authentic faith does not deny the obstacles of life, but rather declares God is greater than the obstacles

Mark 9:23 NIV ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

There is NO Situation in your family too difficult for God to handle or turn around! 

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”- George Muller

I Timothy 1:18-20 ESV – This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

•860 AD – Nero was blaming christians for burning down Rome, Disciples were being killed, false teaching was being taught.

•Holding Faith – Kutecheo – To hold on with a firm grip; desperate hold

•Paul Was telling Timothy  – HOLD ON! DON’T LET GO & Shipwreck your faith!

Hebrews 10:23 ESV – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Jacob)

Holding faith connects you to the Power of God!

Revelation 2:25 ESV – Only hold fast what you have until I come.

Hebrews 10:36-39 NIV – You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”[a] 38 And, “But my righteous[b] one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”[c] 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Ending: 

Mark 11:22-24 ESV22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever SAYS to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received[a] it, and it will be yours.

In summary, Through Prayer & Faith, the following 4 things are promised to you:

  1. Nothing shall be impossible to you
  2. Ask what you will, and it will be done
  3. Ask anything in Jesus’ name, and He will do it!
  4. Whatsoever things you desire when you pray, You will have them!

Never put a question mark or a period where God has put a comma! He is still working!