Water to Wine Pt.1 – There is More

Water into Wine Pt.1 – There is More

John 2:1-11 NIVOn the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

•150 Gallons – 2,400 glasses – finest and best wine  – most would water down the wine as the celebration went on

Question: Have you been disenchanted by a paper thin christianity propped up by cheap shallow certitude? Are you yearning for something deeper, richer, and fuller?

I know what it is like to be in Cana and the wine has run out – The past few years Ive been empty, worn out, spent, burnt out, and needing more. I’ve needed Jesus to perform a miracle.

Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a crisis of faith – I believe in Jesus. But I’ve felt like Bilbo Baggins when he told Gandalf, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”

But we need to know that There is more to God that what you’ve already experienced, more to christianity, more to Church, than what we’ve already experienced. There is more! More miracles, more faith, more hope, more depth, and more power.

Ephesians 3:20 NIV  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” 

Are you tired of cotton candy soda like christianity? I’ve lost my taste for the contemporary, mass produced grape juice of religious consumerism?

•I’m longing for some vintage wine from old vines – Jesus said no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unnamed wine.

•We must move beyond watered-down, grape juice faith

I recently read that An Italian winemaker says that to produce good wine the grapes must struggle, they must suffer. The taste of good wine is the taste of struggle and suffering mellowed in beauty. I believe this applies to our souls and our lives. I am reminded of what Henri Nouwen said, “When we are crushed like grapes, we cannot think of the wine we will become.”

•At this point in my life and ministry I’ve realized the struggle, the pain, and the discouragement that I’ve experienced over the past few years has been conferring in my a complexity and depth to my faith and ministry. Although American Christianity is conditioned to avoid the struggle at all cost, I believe that it actually produces a strength and depth directed by the purposes of God.

1.There is more to God than what we’ve already experienced

Matthew 5:6 NIV – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

In Spain – during the days of Christopher Columbus was very proud of the fact that they were the last point of solid land for sailors going westward. When travelers arrived  was a large sign that said their motto in latin, “Ne Plus Ultra”  which means “ No more beyond”. It was on their flag and coins as well.

There outlook on life was “No more beyond”. It was the world as they knew it. Result – They settled. People settled there because they were told there is nothing beyond Spain.

After Columbus discovered the New World – the national motto for Spain changed to “Plus Ultra”  which means “MORE BEYOND” they dropped “Ne”

Sadly, Many people people have settled for their own version of Spain. Have you stopped dreaming, hoping, believing, and praying. Some people accept something far less than God’s bigger, greater plans for their lives.

3 Reasons People Settle

  1. People settle when they get sentimentally attached to a past season or experience of their life. 

People may have to stay where they have been, but nothing is supposed to stay like it has been  – When people don’t emerge and embrace change, they settle for a lifetime in what was meant to be a season.

Don’t let temporary conditions of your life dictate a permanent perspective.

      2. People settle in a place of relational wounds

Genesis 11, Abraham’s father, Terah, was on his way with his family to Canaan, which is where God planned for him to go and live. Terah had another son named Haran who had died a premature death. Rather than passing through, Terah settled in a city with the same name as the son he had lost.  That wasn’t God’s plan. Grief caused him to stay.

Don’t let yourself linger in the place of relational wounds and miss out on the future God has for you.

    3. People settle because where they are is “good enough” and they want to stay comfortable

Good enough is the enemy of “better than ever” – Good enough is not your destiny

Ignore the signs that say No More Beyond! Refuse to just Drift!

Hebrews 2:1 NIV – We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

•••Over the next few weeks we will begin to explore Biblical disciplines that began with the early church and is relevant, richer, fuller, and deeper today as it was then.

2. It all begins with a Desire to Know God MORE

J.I. Packer said: “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God.”

Ephesians 1:17 NIV “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

Jeremiah 29:13 NIV “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

God wants us to know Him to lead us to a higher place of worship, a greater level of faith, wisdom to act wisely, and a deeper level of commitment

Jeremiah 24:7 NIV  I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

Prayer of Commitment

I’d like you to stand this morning and we’re going to pray a prayer together. This prayer originally appeared in A.W. Tozer’s book called, “The Knowledge of the Holy.”

“O majesty unspeakable, my soul desires to behold Thee. I cry to Thee from the dust. Yet when I inquire after Thy name it is secret. Thou art hidden in the light which no man can approach unto. What Thou art cannot be thought or uttered, for Thy glory is beyond comprehension.

Still, prophet and psalmist, apostle and saint have encouraged me to believe that I may in some measure know Thee. Therefore, I pray, whatever of Thyself Thou hast been pleased to disclose, help me to search out as treasure more precious than fine gold: for with Thee shall I live when the stars of the twilight are no more and the heavens have vanished away and only Thou remainest. Amen.”

Communion Liturgy 

Jesus said: I am the bread of life. All who come to me shall not hunger, and all who believe in me shall not thirst. With Christians around the world and throughout the centuries, we gather around these symbols of bread and wine—simple elements that speak of nourishment and transformation.

I Corinthians 11:25-26 ESV – In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 

Christianity is a confession, not an explanation. At Communion we make a Confession. Listen, we will attempt to explain what we legitimately can, but we will always confess more than we can explain.

The Apostles Creed – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Communion reminds us to confront and confess our sins, and repent! (Turn away from sin and to Christ with a change of heart & mind) 

I John 1:9 ESV – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Acts 3:19 – Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 

Confession of Sin 

Most Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; We are truly sorry and we humbly depend. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. In Jesus Name. Amen

We remember on the night when Jesus and the disciples
had their last meal together, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the disciples, saying “This is my body,
which is broken for you. Take and eat it, and as often as you do, remember me.” [The Body of Christ broken for you – Eat the Bread) 

In the symbol of the broken bread, we participate in the life of Christ and dedicate ourselves to being his disciples. In the same way he took the cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to the disciples, saying: “Drink this, all of you. This cup is the new covenant, poured out for you and for many Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. [The Blood of Christ Shed for you – Drink the cup) 

Let us pray. We give thanks, loving God, that you have refreshed us at your table. Strengthen our faith; increase our love for one another. As we have been fed by the seed that became grain, and then became bread, may we go out into the world to plant seeds of justice, transformation, and hope. Amen. 

Bless One Another – A beautiful expression of worship, unity, forgiveness, and strength – “The peace of Christ be with you – and also with you” 

Water into Wine and GraceTown’s New Service Time and Location

 

GraceTown’s New Service Time & Location

GraceTown Church will relaunch its worship services starting Saturday, February 10 at 5pm at CenterPoint Church, 620 McCutcheon Road, Gahanna OH 43230 

Click here for Directions

Thank you for allowing me the month of January to rest. I admit I had been leading and pastoring the last few years on “empty.” I didn’t realize how weary, discouraged, tired, and burnt out I was.  I recently read a tweet from Pastor Rick Godwin where he said, When Elijah was discouraged, the Lord sent him an angel to make him a cake and tell him to rest. A moral of the story: when you’re having a bad day, don’t underestimate the rejuvenating power of angel food cake and a good nap! LOL I’ve needed this rest. Over this past month I have received prayer, counsel, and encouragement from many of you and others across the United States. That has meant a lot to me. I’ve truly been seeking God about His direction for my life, family, ministry, and our church. Each day in prayer, scripture reading, and meditation I’ve sought the Lord to lead and guide me. Although I don’t know the future I do know that God is with us and will never leave nor forsake us and I am taking life and ministry one day at a time.

I will be starting a brand new series entitled “Water into Wine” taken from John 2:1-11 where Jesus turned the water into wine. Jesus said no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unnamed wine. Have you been disenchanted by a pair thin christianity propped up by cheap shallow certitude? Are you yearning for something deeper, richer, and fuller? Have you lost your taste for the contemporary, mass produced grape juice of religious consumerism? There is more to God, more to christianity, more to Church, than what we’ve already experienced. There is more! More miracles, more faith, more hope, more depth, and more power. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:20 NIV  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

An Italian winemaker says that to produce good wine the grapes must struggle, they must suffer. The taste of good wine is the taste of struggle and suffering mellowed in beauty. I believe this applies to our souls and our lives. I am reminded of what Henri Nouwen said, “When we are crushed like grapes, we cannot think of the wine we will become.” At this point in my life and ministry I’ve realized the struggle, the pain, and the discouragement that I’ve experienced over the past few years has been conferring in my a complexity and depth to my faith and ministry. Although American Christianity is conditioned to avoid the struggle at all cost, I believe that it actually produces a strength and depth directed by the purposes of God. 

Come to GraceTown Saturday, starting February 10 at 5pm expecting MORE as we journey together toward a richer, deeper, fuller Christianity and relationship with God. No more church as usual. 

Matthew 5:6 NIV – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 

No Services for the Month of January at GraceTown

2018 for Me and GraceTown

I made the announcement this past Sunday @gracetownchurch that I am taking a sabbatical from ministry for the month of January. 2017 has been an extremely difficult year for me personally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and our church. As Bilbo Baggins said in The Fellowship of the Ring,“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

So to Dust Off 2017 and enter into 2018 and be stronger, better, and healthier. I need this. The rest will help reset, recharge, renew, and refill me. My heart is to be a better Husband, Dad, and Pastor. There will be no services for the month of January at GraceTown. GraceTown is also changing location and service times starting in February. More details will follow over the next few weeks. I would appreciate your prayers and support.

I asked the church to still be generous and support GraceTown financially during the month of January. You can give online at www.gracetown.church/give or mail in their offering at
GraceTown Church PO Box 1036New Albany, OH 43054

Dust Off 2017 and Get Ready for a Great 2018,

Pastor Rob Yanok

Let’s Finish the Year Strong

Together We Can Finish Strong

We are so thankful for your support of GraceTown. Even though 2017 has been a difficult year for me personally and us as a church, Your giving, prayers, and assistance for every facet of our ministry have made an amazing difference.

As we are in the final days of 2017, I am asking you to prayerfully consider a special, one-time, tax-deductible gift to help us finish the year strong financially. I believe God is using our setbacks, as set-ups, for what He is going to do in 2018.

I believe God still has great things in store this year and believe that He will continue to pour out his blessings on all of us. Get ready for Him to do unprecedented things in your life and family.

Go to www.gracetown.church/give

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow morning for our annual brunch and worship service. I will be preaching a message entitled “Dust Off 2017” and make a very important announcement concerning the direction of our church.

Happy New Year,
Pastor Rob Yanok

DUST OFF – 2017

DUST OFF 2017

The apostle Paul understood the principle of Dusting off Moving Forward & moving on when he said…

Phil 3:12-14 NLT “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

•Paul had no other choice because his past wasn’t the best…

”Don’t allow the thing or person that gave you the most pain in 2017 to stop you from moving forward in 2018. The enemy would love for you to get permanently stuck in the pit of your greatest hurt, rejection, offense, betrayal, disappointment or failure.” Christine Cain

My goal this morning is to help you enter the New Year free of any residue that would hinder you from having your best year.

Q=Anybody want to have a greater year in 2018???

Tonight millions of party-goers will usher in 2018 singing that old traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne.” The text is from the Scots Presbyterian poet, Robert Burns, who lived between 1759 and 1796.

This is not a happy poem. It is touched with sorrow, sadness, and even grief.  Listen to the opening question – should auld, that is old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind?  Should we forget the people we’ve met?  Should anything or anyone be forgotten?  How much should be forgotten and how much should be remembered?  “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,/ And auld lang syne?”  That is, should we forget about old times, old friends, memories of the past?  That’s what auld lang syne means – old times, old friends, memories of the past, “for (the sake of) old times”.  Should we say good-bye to the past on New Year’s and never bring it to mind?

These are deep, philosophical questions that most of us don’t take the time to consider throughout the year as much as we should, let alone at twelve o’clock on New Year’s Eve.  And yet, that’s what we sing.

The reason why I’ve gone on about this famous poem is to highlight the all-embracing character of it.  Burns is not calling us to remember only the good times, but all the times, “the good and the bad.” But to also look towards the future with faith & excitement.

CS Lewis said, “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

In Matt 10 Jesus was sending his disciples out on a mission to take good news to households, communities, cities…There was a lot of excitement….might have been a bit giddy. But Jesus knew that within the context of all interaction….is the possibility for a negative experience….and he wants to make sure that when this happens it doesn’t hinder them from continuing forward into all that he has for them. So….he prepares them and then he says something I find really interesting….and with great significance to us in our own lives today….

Matt 10:14 NIV,  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”

•Jesus was gathering his disciples and preparing them to weather the storm of disappointment, possible plans & ideas that may not work, people that wouldn’t buy in, high effort, lots of work, and little fruit. He was letting them know that they may not see the results that they wanted to see. Somethings don’t turn out as planned, plenty of prayers that goes unanswered, and efforts that don’t yield the harvest that we hoped for.

Dusting off what was behind them was merely a part of getting ready for the greater things ahead of them.

Jesus was basically saying to them it may not go well in one city, but don’t let that city discourage you. The last city is not the next city!

You can’t go where you’re meant to go, carrying the things of your past! Get ready for where God wants to take you! Take off the old mind set!

Pig Pen – From the Peanuts Cartoons. Where ever he goes there is dust.

•”Pig-Pen” is known for his perpetually filthy overalls and the cloud of dirt and dust that follows him wherever he goes. When he takes a deep breath (to sing, for example), the dust rises briefly around him. He sometimes refers to the cloud that surrounds him with pride as the dust of ancient civilizations.[2] He cannot seem to rid himself of the dust for more than the briefest of periods—indeed, in spite of his best efforts, it appears that he cannot stay clean. He is referred to in an early strip as the only person who can get dirty while walking in a snowstorm. Once, after bathing and dressing in clean clothes, “Pig-Pen” stepped outside his house, and instantaneously became dirty and disheveled, whereupon he declared to Charlie Brown, “You know what I am? I’m a dust magnet!”

•We are all like Pig Pen – he wears and holds on to it instead of washing it.

There is only one way to get ready for what’s ahead of you…DUST OFF what’s on you that came from behind you!

1) IN THE CONTEXT OF ALL HUMAN INTERACTION IS THE POSSIBILITY OF A NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE

It’s easy to put unrealistic expectations on other people.

EX: Some people have the attitude of “I’ll be a friend to you as long as you don’t hurt me or as long as you don’t make a mistake….I’ll be a friend as long as you treat me just right.

But that’s unfair and places too much pressure on the other person.

EX: this is the approach some people take towards church….and other people at church.

The reality is that anywhere people mingle long enough…there’s a 100% chance that someone is going to say something they shouldn’t say….or did not mean the way it sounded….humans do that…we say and do stupid things! Scripture teaches that love makes allowances for peoples weaknesses….love remains committed to people when they make mistakes…In other words you have to overlook some things…not expect people to be perfect. (your wife, husband, kids)

Show mercy and grace to the people you’re in relationship with!!

Prov. 12:16- Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

Prov. 19:11- A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Don’t let anything that people do or say cause you to change your course….or take you away from God’s house…where he has planted you.

2) NOT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU IS SUPPOSE TO GO FORWARD WITH YOU

(Isaiah 43:18 NIV) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Some stuff is supposed to stay behind….In Matt 10 I think Jesus was probably giving them a literal instruction…”Dust off” ”shake it off” It’s reasonable to believe that Jesus wanted them to literally stop outside the city where they experienced rejection and “dust off”…NOT just for the purpose of removing the sand and dirt…BUT FOR THE PURPOSE OF GETTING THE RESIDUE OF REJECTION and THE DUST OF DISAPPOINTMENT OFF OF THEM!

*As we celebrate the passing of one year and the beginning of a new year I want you to consider what might God be telling you to shake off the end of this year?

Think about it…..

• Years from now some of you will look at happy

moments that happened this past year…and it will

bring a smile to your face

• But not every photo deserves to be saved….some were bad

shots…bad angles…taken at the wrong moments…should not be saved or hung on the wall…should not stay in your phone or on your computer=need to be deleted!

  • The same is true with some of your experiences. Some incidents, some comments, some conversations….don’t belong in your memory!!….

We get in trouble when we linger too long in places we should leave mentally and emotionally

You are not going to Move Forward with that dust on you! With that look on your face, with that heaviness on your shoulders, with that offense in your heart! Dust off!! Shake it off!!

3)”DUSTING OFF” WHAT’S BEHIND YOU IS PART OF GETTING READY FOR WHATS AHEAD OF YOU.

Jesus was saying “It may not go well in one City…But don’t let what happens in that city discourage you…..the last City is not the next City!”

  • There’s people in this room….who have been too focused on what hasn’t happened.….God is wanting you to know yesterday is not tomorrow! Your future is not determined by your past!
  • Nothing good is going to come out of more analysis or naval gazing.
  • What God has for you begins the minute you shake off the dust of disappointment….the dust of discouragement….the dust of despair…AND MAKE A DECISION TO MOVE ON!!

•You are not going to Move Forward with that dust on you! With that look on your face, with that heaviness on your shoulders, with that offense in your heart! Dust off!

The Dust of 2017 isn’t compatible with your Destiny in 2018

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It’s about facing forward. It’s about being ready for what God has ready for you!

Genesis 26:12-13 KJV Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:

God spoke to Moses to tell the people to move forward…

Exodus 14:15 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”

In this passage, God had already given Israel deliverance from the Egyptians. And now they are headed toward the promise land after leaving Egypt.

Suddenly, they come to the Red Sea. The enemy is behind. They can’t go left or right. They can’t go back.THERE WAS ONLY ONE DIRECTION FOR THEM TO GO…FORWARD!

And when they did, God did something He had never done before, and Israel escaped on dry land. The unexpected happened when they MOVED ON and shook the DUST OFF! 

The New Year is not about changing the dates but direction; it’s not about changing the calendar but commitment; it’s not about changing the actions but attitude. May each and every day of yours be renewed with lots of happiness, peace, prosperity, wisdom, and joy!

Longing Pt.4 – For a White Christmas

Longing Pt.4 – For a White Christmas 

Isaiah 1:18 NLT – “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

White Christmas is THE Christmas song of the United States. It was originally recorded by Bing Crosby back in 1942, and it became so popular that he had to re-record it in 1947 because the masters became worn beyond use. Its popularity had a lot to do with the fact that America had just gone to war. Our people found themselves in a confusing and unstable world – loved ones being shipped off to the battlefront, not knowing if they would ever see their families again.

LyricsI’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write.May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white. 

I wanna talk about Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dicken’s Classics A Christmas Carol.

Dickens characters usually represent some kind of hurt. Scrooge – stinginess, Oliver Twist – neglect, tiny Tim – handicap, miss havisham- rejection, hurt, unforgiveness.

•We tend to carry out in a small way that his characters did in a big way. 

Ebenezer Scrooge bound himself up by his past when he refused to forgive those who had hurt him. harboring feelings of resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness.

Many people fail to realize that when we don’t forgive those who have hurt us, we create a prison of torment for our own soul. When we stay mad at people or hold onto a grudge against someone, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else.

When we don’t forgive, we damage our ability to have healthy relationships with people in the future. The offense that we don’t forgive becomes a lens through which we view other people in our lives. Often people have troubled relationships because of a past experience with a completely different person.

When we refuse to forgive, we create stress and anxiety in our lives mentally, emotionally, and physically.

This is one of the reasons Jesus emphasized that we make forgiving others an ongoing event in our lives.

Sources of Unforgiveness

•Betrayal •False accusation •Rejection •Abuse •Humiliation

You Can’t Have Peace and Bitterness, It’s one or the other. Your hurt and pain will tell you

•Treat them with contempt

•distance yourself from them

•Give them a cold shoulder

•teach them a lesson

•they should be punished

•When someone wrongs you or hurts you it usually affects every aspect of your life, family, career, self esteem, sense of sense worth.

We love to think about what those people did to us. We get churned up inside. We love to repeat the pain time and time again.

Until we allow the spirit of total forgiveness reign in our lives, we will have no peace. We must quit nursing the attitude of unforgiveness.

Which do you prefer – peace or bitterness? You can’t have it both ways.

We Have a Wrong Understanding of Forgiveness…It’s not…

•Minimizing the seriousness of the offense.

•Instant restoration of trust.

•Resuming the relationship without changes.

•Forgetting what Happened – Choose not to remember

“To often we forget what we should remember and remember what we should forget” 

•Approval of what a person did – God never approves sin

•Excusing what they did – you can’t explain wrong behavior

•Justify what they did – evil can never be justified

Be Forgiving

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men.” – Augustine

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

How to Have a White Christmas 

1. Forgive them without condition.

(Ephesians 4:31-2 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.

The Forgiven Forgive

Luke 23:34 NIV – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

2. Forgive them in advance.

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

You can turn – Inward, Outward, or Upward!

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

“I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge.  You know why?  While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.” – Buddy Hackett

3. Relinquish your right to get even – Choose To Bless Them

Romans 12:17-19 NIV17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.

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

Choose to Bless

Luke 6:27-28 NIV – But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

•Nelson Mandela  – 27 years of political incarceration. The longest serving political prisoner in the world. Emerged unscathed and told his people to forgive their oppressors and focus on the future and on building a new united nation.

•In spite of the devastating trauma of apartheid, he chose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than the policy of revenge and vindictiveness

“The only revenge which is essentially Christian is that of retaliating by forgiveness.”

Scrooge changed when the 3 ghosts visited him and showed him his future if he continued being bitter. Dickens says he changed and kept Xmas in his heart everyday and loved everyone 

The ultimate proof of forgiveness is when you sincerely pray to God to let those who have hurt you off the hook

Give yourself gift this Christmas and forgive those who hurt you and experience true freedom

Forgiveness Prayer

Lord, I have not loved, but resented certain people and have unforgiveness in my heart. I ask you Lord to give me the power to release and forgive those who have hurt me. I do now forgive them and I ask yo to forgive them also. Please replace my hurt with peace and the love of Christ. And forgive me for the times I have hurt others. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A WHITE CHRISTMAS HERE ARE THREE QUESTIONS I LEAVE YOU FOR PRAYER AND DISCUSSION

  1. WHO IS IT THAT YOU HAVEN’T FORGIVEN? 
  2. WHO IS IT THAT YOU CAN PRAY FOR ?
  3. WHO IS IT THAY YOU CAN BLESS?

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

Longing Pt.2 – To Live a Richer, More Satisfying Life

Longing Pt.2 – To Live a Richer, More Satisfying Life

It’s the 2nd Sunday of Advent. 

Matthew 1:18-25 NIV –  This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

OPEN: A Sunday school teacher once asked her class of children: “What is Christmas a time for?” Many of the kids gave the usual answers—Jesus’ birthday, a time of joy… but one child responded it was “a time for sportsmanship, because you don’t always get everything you want.”

Everybody gets gifts they really don’t want during this season and several years ago “USA Today” conducted a survey among adults to find out what they do with that not-quite-right holiday gift:

– 31%: Keep it – 30%: Hide it – 13%: Toss it – 12%: Give it away – 6%: Return it

Every once in a while, everyone receives gifts that they’re really not sure that they want.

Gift: Webster’s dictionary defines a gift as

1 a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present: a Christmas gift | [ as modifier ] : a gift shop.• an act of giving something as a present: his mother’s gift of a pen. informal a very easy task or unmissable opportunity: that touchdown was an absolute gift.

John 10:10 NLT The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NKJV-Abundant)

Abundant – existing or available in large quantities; plentiful. excessive, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, bountiful, large, huge, great, paramount, overflowing, prolific, extraordinary.

Life – Greek word Zoe (The God Kind of Life) – Not only duration of life but Quality of life

My Favorite Christmas Movie – “It’s a Wonderful Life”

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey had a gift that he wasn’t sure he wanted. His gift was the gift of life. And his life had seemingly fallen apart all around him. He just knew he was going to lose his business, his livelihood. He faced prison for something he hadn’t done. And as a result of all this… his family faced shame and poverty.

“At exactly 10:45 pm tonight, earth time, that man will be thinking seriously of thowing away God’s greatest gift.”  Franklin’s voice “Oh dear, dear! His life!” Clarence’s voice

Clarence says to George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives and, when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

Psalm 139:14 NIV – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

The Life that God gives us is such an Extraordinary Gift 

•••Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you today: You matter. You’re important. You’re loved. And your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

Our Longing this Christmas

Every moment is a fresh beginning. T.S. Eliot

1.To Live a More Richer, Satisfying Life

Ephesians 2:10 AMP –  For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. 

Water to Wine – Are you weary and disenchanted with the bumper sticker, paper-thin Christianity? Are you yearning for something deeper, richer, fuller? Has the wine run out and you need Jesus to perform a miracle with your water? Are you longing for vintage wine from old vines?

•Jesus has something better than “cotton candy watered down Christianity.” There is MORE! Hunger and Thirst = Filled.

Ephesians 3:20 NIV  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. Marcus Aurelius

(Proverbs 9:6 MSG) “Leave your impoverished confusion and live! Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”

95 year olds were asked – What if they lived life again what would they do differently?

  1. I would REFLECT more
  2. I would LOVE more
  3. I’d do more things that live on after I’m gone – Legacy/Eternity

•This is what I’m learning the older I get. Live simply & passionately. Forgive completely. Love generously

We cannot choose how many years we will live – But we can choose how much life those years will have

If I Had My Life To Live Over – by Erma Bombeck

•The following was written by the late Erma Bombeck after she found out she had a fatal disease.

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

2. Live Your Life Knowing God More Personally

In C.S. Lewis‘s, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?””But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan. “Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.”I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

Rom. 5:10-11 (NLT) “We were restored to friendship with God by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, and we will be delivered from eternal punishment by His life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us…”

“If there is no God, nothing matters. If there is a God, nothing else matters.” HG Wells

Phil. 3:7-8 NIV But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ

My Prayer for you

Ephesians 1:17 NIV “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

Jeremiah 29:13 NIV “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Everybody surrenders to something or someone in life. If not to God, you’ll surrender to popular opinion, money, resentment, or fear, to your own pride, lust, and ego.

Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-destruction.

So this Advent time give it all to God: your past regrets, your present problems, your future ambitions, your fears, dreams, weaknesses, habits, hurts, and hang-ups. Put Christ in the driver’s seat of your life, and take your hands off the steering wheel. Don’t be afraid; nothing under his control can ever be out of control.

3. Live Your Life Loving People More

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

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” Bob Hope

Every Person We Encounter is either….

•A Victim to Exploit •A Problem to Avoid •A Person to be Loved

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

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

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

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

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

Love is intentionally doing something – caring or helpful for another person, regardless of the cost or consequence.

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” Charles M. Schulz

Proverbs 3:27-28 MSG – “Never walk away from someone who deserve help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.”

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

(Galatians 5:13-15 NIV) “Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

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

Love always finds a way: selfishness always finds an excuse!

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

You weren’t created just to consume resources  – to eat, breath, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life. God wants to you to give something back!

Longing Pt.1 – Waiting and Wanting

Longing Pt.1 – Waiting and Wanting

The Liturgical calendar began in the 5th or 6th century to follow along and walk the way of the life of Christ and move us to experience Christ. To follow the feasts and celebrations of Israel

Today begins the season of Advent – Beginning 4 Sundays before Christmas and ending on Christmas eve – The Christian season of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6. (No, the twelve-day season of Christmas did not start with the song. It was the other way around.) The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Advent is not decorating, shopping, wrapping, pictures, partying, stressing or the receiving of gifts. Advent is waiting, expecting, observing, praying, hoping, preparing for the arrival of Christ – first as the Child and Savior and then as the returning King. 

When the church celebrates Advent she makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for Jesus’ first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.

Advent itself means ”arrival” or ”an appearing or coming into place.” Christians often speaks of Christ’s ”first advent” and ”second advent;” that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent would be the Incarnation-Christmastime.

Advent is seen as a time to prepare one’s heart for Christmas and for the eventual return of Christ (and the judgement He will bring to the world).

Micah 7:7 ESV – But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.

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”

•Imagine four hundred years without a word from God—no voice, no prophet, nothing. Imagine the agony of waiting, and the struggle to keep faith in the promises given long before. You can almost hear the ques- tions being passed from one generation to the next. Was God gone? Was He ever really there? Was faith in Him just a waste?

Suddenly, when the time was right, Bethlehem’s fields lit up like noon- day as angels proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men on whom his favor rests. 

The wait was over. The silence was broken. Heaven unleashed thun- derous applause. And in a messy manger, Jesus was born. God in human flesh! The Son of God had become the Son of Man. Emmanuel— God with us!

From the beginning, the Christmas story has been one of fulfilled longing.

Song “O Come O Come Immanuel And ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the son of God appears. Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”

Luke 1:26-38 ESV In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes…and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Advent is about learning to Wait. We learn in Advent to stay in the present. Knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life.

Life is not mean to be escaped. Like the liturgical year moves from season to season (advent, lent, etc…) from feast to feast. Life is an exercise in transformation. It takes a lifetime of practice, patience and slow growth.

Waiting is the essential dimension of spiritual development and growth

The function of Advent is to remind us and relieves us of this frantic fast paced world. Waiting – that cold, dry period of life when nothing seems to be enough and something else beckons within us – it’s the grace that Advent brings.

We all want something more. Advent asks the questions, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now?

Rom. 8:25 The Message “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.” 

Henri Nouwen said, Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting. 

 How To Long for Christ in this Season

“Patience (endurance) is what gives staying power to our faith. We’d all love it if every desired result was instantaneous, but we know that there is often a process involved. That’s why Hebrews 6:12 tells us that it’s through ‘faith and patience’ that we inherit the promises. Faith is our trusting God, and patience is our unwavering tenacity in doing so.”

1. Wait For the Lord

“I try to remember that walking in the will of God might mean waiting as much as it might mean moving forward.”

Isaiah 64:4 NIV – Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him

The good news of Advent is not that we are faithful in our waiting (we often aren’t) but that God is faithful in his coming.

Isaiah 40:31 ESV – but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Waiting exposes our idols and throws a wrench into our coping mechanisms. It brings us to the end of what we can control and forces us to cry out to God. God doesn’t waste our waiting. He uses it to conform us to the image of his Son

Psalm 37:7 NIV – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

Waiting is a very active part of living. Waiting on God, if we do it correctly, is anything but passive. Waiting works its way out in very deliberate actions, very intentionally searching the Scriptures and praying, intense moments of humility, and self-realization of our finiteness. With the waiting comes learning. I can’t think of much I’ve learned that’s positive from the times I’ve plowed ahead without waiting on God.

2. Wait with Each Other

(Galatians 5:13-15 NIV) “Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Mother Teresa said, “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.”

I Thess. 5:11 NIV – Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Focus on your relationships and express your love to those closest to you. When people are on their deathbeds, they don’t think about their work or all their things. They think about their family and people in our lives

Example: The Waiting Room when Dad was in the hospital. Family and Friends coming to be with us (Ron had food delivered)

3. Remember God Waits For Me 

2 Peter 3:9 NLT – The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Jan 6, 1980 The day Jesus waited for me

Colossians 1:11 NLT – We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy

Isaiah 30:18 NIV – Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Fredrick Buechner said in his book The Magnificent Defeat, “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”

Remember 

“Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.

“The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned.

“May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.”

So each of us are an innkeeper that needs to decide is there room for Jesus?

The Power of ThanksLiving

The Power of ThanksLiving 

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!

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving… It has always been so strange to me how Thanksgiving has changed since its original conception—even from when I was a kid. For instance, how ironic is it that the very day after Thanksgiving just happens to be the biggest shopping day of the year! Think about it; one day, we are sitting around a table surrounded with family and friends, our hearts overflowing with thanksgiving for all the ways that God has blessed us.. and then, before the sun fully rises the next morning, we are driving like maniacs to the best sales so we can fight our brothers and sisters tooth and nail for a greatly discounted television or sweater! It is amazing how quickly the attitude of thanksgiving can give way to unadulterated greed! I, for one, don’t think that it is merely a coincidence that Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. You see, our greatest enemy knows how powerful an attitude of thanksgiving is in the Christian life. The devil doesn’t want us to dwell on how blessed we are—and he certainly doesn’t want us to remember Who blessed us! I can almost hear Satan saying, “go on and have your day of thanksgiving—but that’s it, only one day and then its back to business as usual where pride and selfishness rule the hearts of men. You see, he knows that one day of thankfulness won’

Charles Dickens once said that we are somewhat mixed up here in America. He told an audience that “instead of having one Thanksgiving Day each year we should have 364 “days of thanksgiving.” Use that one day just for complaining and griping,” he said. “Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings He has showered upon you.”

As Dickens suggested, we should not wait for a special holiday to express our gratitude to God. Instead, thanksgiving should be a part of our daily lives. In fact the bible is very clear that thanksgiving is perhaps one of the most vital characteristics of any child of God. And there’s good reason for that.

•Thanksgiving is the healthiest of all human emotions. It is known to be a gateway to a wonderful freedom and produces more positive energy than any other attitude in life

•If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than a million people who will not survive this week.

•If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world today.

•If you can attend an ideological meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or even death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.

•If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world’s population.

•If you have money in the bank, money in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place, you are among the top eight percent of the world’s wealthy.

•If you can read you are more fortunate than over 2 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

•••If any nation ought to be thankful to God and grateful for His goodness, it ought to be America. If any people in America ought to be thankful to God and grateful for His goodness, it ought to be Christians. If any group of Christians ought to be thankful to God and grateful for His goodness, it ought to be the Christians in this fellowship. We ought to have an attitude of gratitude.

I. You MUST Conquer Complaining 

Complain – to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault:

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. The Bible says God wants Christians to be different.

PHILIPPIANS 2:14-15 NIV “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.”

Complainers: 

•Life is not fair. God never said it is going to be fair. It will be fair in Heaven. He will settle the score in Heaven and hell. As long as you complain about the fact that life is not fair it only makes you more miserable. But it will never change the fact that life is not always fair. Complaining does not work.

•They are pros at having pity parties. When they are sick or under pressure they want everybody to know about it. How do you react when you don’t get your way? Do you mount a complaining campaign?

•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.

Complaining is like vomiting. You might feel better after you get it out, but you make everybody else around you sick.

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

“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.

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

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

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

II. 2 Extraordinary Reasons to Be Thankful

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

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; & that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton

  1. God Is Good To You

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.

Remember some of the powerful statements in the Scriptures about God and His goodness:

  1. There is none good but God (Matthew 19:17)
  2. His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4)
  3. His Spirit is good (Psalm 143:10, Nehemiah 9:20)
  4. Taste and see that the Lord is Good (Psalm 34:8)
  5. Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38)
  6. All things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
  7. He only does wonderful things (Psalm 72:18)

“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 – Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
Ps 30:4 – Give thanks to his holy name.

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.

Colossians 3:15–17 (ESV) — 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

•If you’re lacking reasons in life to be grateful, maybe you’ve taken your focus off of Jesus and placed it on yourself.

2. For the People in Your Life 

It is so easy to take people for granted, or even to complain and become angry because they do not meet our every wish. But we need to give thanks for those around us—our spouses, our children, our relatives, our friends and others who help us in some way.

Do you let others know that you appreciate them and are thankful for them? The Christians in Corinth were far from perfect, but Paul began his first letter to them by saying,

I Corinthians 1:4 NIV – I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus

How many relationships grow cold and eventually are shattered because of the sin of ingratitude?

When a group of believers (whom Paul had never met) came out to greet him as he approached Rome

Acts 28:15 NIV The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.

You can’t force people to stay in your life. Staying is a choice, so be thankful for people who choose you. Thank God for those who touch your life.

•••Even be thankful for the difficult people in your life. Why? They show you exactly who you don’t want to be.

When Gratitude becomes your default setting, life changes.

By giving thanks to God in both good times and bad, Christians can show the world an attitude that is foreign to them. It’s normal to be thankful in good times, but it’s unheard of to be Thankful to God during troubles.

“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?

“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

•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?

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?

Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”