Winning at Work

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“Winning at Work”

Ecclesiastes 5:9-20 NIVThe increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.This too is meaningless.11 As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? 12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. 13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,14 or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. 15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. 16 This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? 17 All their days they eat in darkness,with great frustration, affliction and anger.18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Random House Dictionary defines “WORK” as – “Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.” It can be Physical, mental, or both. The purpose of work is to produce an item or accomplish a goal.

All through the Bible, God commends the value of work. The fourth commandment was about taking a day of rest, but we sometimes miss the point of what we should be doing the other six days. God said, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”

Introduction: For most, Labor Day is the official end of summer. The pools have closed. School has started. Soon the leaves will fall and not long after that the snow. But Labor Day started out with a much different meaning.

The Central Labor Union of New York City observed the first Labor Day holiday on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. It was a celebration of working people. Laboring men and women took the day off to march through the city streets in parades and then gather in parks for picnics. Two years later the holiday moved to the first Monday in September. The idea spread quickly to most other industrial cities in the nation. At first, city ordinances announced the holiday. New York and other states soon followed. In 1894, Congress made the day a legal holiday.

In 1956, the Post Office issued the first Labor Day commemorative-stamp. The image on the stamp symbolized the day. It pictured a large muscular man carrying a sledgehammer, a pick, a hoe, and an ax over his shoulder. His wife sat nearby showing a small child how to read. The words of the poet Carlyle in the lower left announced, ”Labor Is Life.’’

Most of us may never have heard that motto ”Labor Is Life.” Instead we heard our parents tell us when we complained about a chore we didn’t like, ”You’re not supposed to like it. That’s why they call it work!” ”Labor is drudgery” sounds more like it to many of us.

1. Work is NOT a Curse

Genesis 2:15 NIV – The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Work began in the Garden of Eden – Paradise. This work was an activity blessed of God to Provide Adam with a sense of achievement and self worth. The greatest purpose of work is to bring out the full potential of God’s creation. The world was good (Genesis 1:31), but it was not complete. God called humans to help it become everything it could become. He commissioned us to act in his image – as his managers – to rule and subdue the raw materials of creation. For example, we tame livestock, purify raw ore into metal, grow plants to feed people, and much more. This is why God put Adam to work in the Garden of Eden

Some of you graybeards can remember the old television series from the late fifties and early 60’s, ”The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Some of you have seen reruns on cable. Remember the teenager Dobie’s good buddy Maynard G. Krebs. Actor Bob Denver played the part of Maynard. Most know Denver better for his later role as ”Gilligan.” In Dobie Gillis, Gilligan played the part of a beatnik, a scruffy teenager, who didn’t want to do anything but loaf. Anytime someone suggested that he find a job, Maynard would react. He would jump back as if frightened by the idea and exclaim with a shiver, ”WORK!”

Some Perspectives – ”I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go.” Or as

Tennessee Ernie Ford’s old song put it, ”You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.’’

When Adam sinned, his disobedience turned the perspective of work into a curse

Genesis 3:19 NIV – By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

•That’s why Working can be hard, painful, and anything but fun at times. Many jobs involve long hours, little recognition, and so-so pay

Vince Lombardi said, “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” 

Thomas Edison said, “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

•God made man to work. That was a part of his very nature. God didn’t give work as punishment. Working was part of being made in the image of God. The Lord God himself created the heaven and the earth and then ”rested from his work” on the seventh day.

Genesis 2:2-3 NIV – By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Cleanliness isn’t next to godliness. Working is. Our work, done in the right way and for the right reason, mirrors the character of God!

Recognition and Obedience to the Principles of God reinstate the blessings of Work

Deuteronomy 28:8 NIV The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

2. Accept Work as God’s Gift, not Punishment

Ecclesiastes 5:19 NIV19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.

That’s a good reminder for Labor Day. Our work, especially satisfying work, is nothing less than a gift of God! The Marketplace (your place of employment), your company) is more than a job, it is a place to serve and glorify God.

•Releases your God-given talents

•Provides for your family

•Provides a sense of accomplishment that is essential for self-esteem

Ecclesiastes 3:13 NIV – That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

Work is a gift of God because whatever we do, we do it with the life and breath and resources that God provides. Whether we labor by the sweat of our brow and the strength of our back, the ingenuity of our minds or some exceptional skill, we are stewards of God’s gifts in us. We are not self-made people.

Acts 17:28 NIV – ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.

Puritan Work Ethic – The Protestant Reformation gave birth to many new ideas including a fresh view about the place of work. This happened because the Reformation first rediscovered the Bible. From that, they learned a biblical understanding of work.

This Puritan Work Ethic taught that: 1) all honest work is good regardless of its prestige or compensation; 2) hard work is a blessing because it builds character and inner strength; 3) honest, hard work provides the path to prosperity; and 4) the believer glorifies God in an honest job well done.

Scriptures Affirm these Truths

Proverbs 10:4 NIV – Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

“Lazy people do not do anything extra, they only do what they need to do to just get by.”

“Diligent” – to make effort, be prompt. Also to endeavor, labor, and study. The diligent worker makes effort to succeed, is prompt to work, endeavors and labors hard and studies to improve his production & efficiency at work

Proverbs 14:23 NIV – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:25-26 NIV – The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.26  All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.

Jeremiah told the Jewish exiles in Babylon to work hard not just for their own sake but for the sake of their community,

Jeremiah 29:5-7 NIV – “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Paul Admonishes the Early Church Concerning Work

2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 NIV – We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good

Ephesians. 4:28 NIV – Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

God’s Standard for Work Success

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Colossians 3:17 NIV17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Work is God’s Power for you to Create Wealth

Deuteronomy 8:18-19 (ESV) 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.

•Minus the Financial Miracles, inheritances, etc… Most of your finances you will receive in your lifetime will come from your WORK, or your career.

Colossians 3:23-25 NIV 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

•Reggie McNeal, a church consultant specializing in leadership development, talks about sitting on a bench on a beach boardwalk late one afternoon, resting after an hour long walk. He had passed a woman in a green uniform pushing a broom several times. She came toward his bench doing her meticulous sweeping of the sidewalk. Suddenly she stopped, wiped her forehead, and rested on her broom. Reggie called out to her: “You do a great job.”

“Thank you,” she replied. Then she added something that explained why the sidewalk behind her was spotless. “I just believe people want to walk on a clean sidewalk.”

Reggie says, “I was humbled to be in the presence of a worker who viewed her task with such significance. Whatever the park service was paying her, there’s no way they could have demanded the excellence she brought to her work. That kind of motivation comes from within.”

Ephesians 6:7-8 THE MSG  Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.

John Stott was a beloved British pastor and author. He wrote: “The way to serve the Lord in your job is to always imagine that you are working for Jesus instead of your boss. It is possible for the housewife to cook a meal as if Jesus Christ were going to eat it or to clean the house as if Jesus Christ were going to be the honored guest. It is possible for teachers to educate children; for doctors to treat patients; for nurses to care for patients; for lawyers to have clients; for shop assistants to have customers; for accountants to audit books; and secretaries to type letters as if in every case they were serving Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion: It is good and proper for those who worship to give thanks to God for their work. We worship and we work because we know all we have, even the jobs with which we earn our living, are gifts from God.

Be A Life Giver

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Be A Life Giver

John 16:21 NIV – A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.

The pain…followed by the Joy…of being a life giver. I’m sure that every mom in this room can relate to this verse. Giving life isn’t easy but experiencing the life you labor for exceeds the pain of the process!

Life giving doesn’t stop for a mom when she gives birth…she continues to BRING LIFE day in and day out. 24-7…12 months of the year…24 hours a day!

In a similar way, Scripture refers to the church as the bride of Christ…the spiritual  mother, the life giver…the life bringer in the world today. We are all children of the church…GIVEN life to GIVE life. Loved by God to love the world. Lifted by God to lift the world. Blessed by God to bless the world.

EX: In natural life…children, the recipients of life become life givers. In a similar way, children of the church… become the church…we are given life…we now give life.

John 10:10 NIV – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The Greek word translated “life” in this verse is zoe. Zoe is the God-kind of life.

(ZOE); life in motion and in activity, life as the principle of life – in the absolute sense of being really life; hence, God’s life, the highest life, almost always with “the eternal” life.

John 6:63 NIV –  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life.

-I pray like David…”Let the words of my mouth…”

Everything about Jesus was about being a life giver. About bringing spiritual life… When some people walk in the room it’s like they take the life out of the room… When other people walk in the room it’s like they bring life into the room…

Remember this – “You can be something that people have to overcome, or something that helps people overcome.”

Today, I want to encourage those of you who are life bringers…provide you with some perspective and help you be the best life giver you can be!

1) LIFE GIVERS ARE BUSY PEOPLE

You’re not going to be able to get around “the BUSY.” You’ve got people counting on you…You’re the resource…the provider…the one who makes things happen.

•YOUR JOB/BUSINESS/EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT TO YOU.

•YOUR SPOUSE/MARRIAGE/CHILDREN ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU

•CHURCH LIFE/COMMUNITY/SMALL GROUP IS IMPORTANT TO YOU

•FRIENDSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU

•HEALTH IS IMPORTANT TO YOU

>You’re not willing to negotiate your time and investment in any of these things which means you’re constantly on the go!! You’ve got people counting on you…You’re the resource…the provider…the one who makes things happen.

2) KNOW THAT BUSY ISN’T BAD

>Busy doesn’t mean you have to be stressed out!

>Some people talk about how busy they are as if it’s a bad thing.

>There are some people when you ask them how they’re doing…that’s the only way they know how to answer…”I’m busy…” (with the look of sadness and heaviness on their face).

•Remember, When you’re busy it means you’re living the dream!! You have the opportunity to receive an Education, have a Career, To be married, have kids…to have people need you…

>Don’t make any part of your blessed life the enemy…the villain…

•Your job, Your spouse, The kids, The church, The friends

When you’re tempted to…take a step back…take a deep breath remember how blessed you are!!! Busy is not bad!!

Rather than always answering… I’m busy with a sad look…answer I’M blessed OR I’m living the dream!!…with a happy look!!

But what about when I’m tired?…really tired?…

>Schedule a nap…call a time out…. But don’t go around with an “I’m so busy” mindset…don’t let yourself believe that busy is bad!!…or busy is a villain….

Keep your attitude thankful for what you have, what you’re a part of and press into work, press into love, press into church, press into the abundant life!!

3) ASSOCIATE WITH ENERGETIC, MOTIVATED PEOPLE

When you’re in your role…really busy…especially the middle years of your life…there will always be plenty of people who will tell you to take it easy, slow down…smell the roses…put guilt on you for going hard at life.

EX: If you’re familiar with the Disney movie Lion King, there are 2 characters Timone and Pumba. (fat pig and a Meer cat) who find the young lion Simba when he’s starting to feel the pressure, demands of his calling, destiny. They are fun…happy… sing a song “Hakuna Matata”…You can’t help but smile as they sing and dance.

But the problem was that they didn’t encourage him in his destiny…they led him to believe that his best life was in “Hakuna Matata”…removing himself from his responsibilities… commitments… purpose… But fortunately, he had a wake up call and after having tried to pursue an easy, trouble free life…he returns to his place, his roles, his responsibilities… as a king. Rather than listening to the Timone and Pumba, surround yourself with people who are energetic and motivated,…LIFE GIVERS…LIFE BRINGERS!

4) CONSISTENTLY DEFRAGMENT YOUR LIFE

EX: In the world of computers and hard drives there’s something called defragging. It’s short for defragment. So, what happens is that hard drives store information in “blocks” or “files”… fragmentation happens when those blocks/files get separated and are far away from each other. Rather than making the computer more efficient…the separation of information actually slows down the computer and makes it operate less efficient. So the defragmentation is the process of pulling it together…making it faster and more efficient.

>One common tendency of people is to view life that is not separate and compartmentalized as being out of control.

>We imagine our lives are more productive and easier when they are separate files and folders.

(Integrate your life…pull your nonnegotiable values together) Don’t separate them…think of them as opposing one another…enemies of each other…When you start to do that… DEFRAGMENT YOUR LIFE!!

5) PUSH FOR LIFE

We all know that when a baby is being born…the famous words to the mom are PUSH!!…GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU GOT! PUSH FOR LIFE…PUSH TO BRING LIFE…

Colossians 3:23 NIV – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

EX: A couple of years ago Pope Francis was speaking to a group of nuns from around the world. His word to them was this: be spiritual mothers, not “old maids.” But the Pope’s remark got me to thinking a lot more broadly this week about what it means to take up the calling of motherhood.

Proverbs 16:15 (Message) says, “Good tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re life spring rain and sunshine.”

Are you Life Giving or Life Grabbing?

•    Life-grabbing people guard and protect themselves. Life-giving people risk and seize opportunity.

•Life-grabbing people do the bare minimum. Life-giving people go the second mile.

•For life-grabbing people, life is scarce. For living-giving people, life is abundant.

Let’s Speak life – Let’s Stir up life – Let’s Sing life – Let’s Bring our worship – Let’s Bring the encouragement

A Moveable Feast

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A Moveable Feast

Luke 13:29 ESV – And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 

Food matters. Meals matter. Drinks matter. Our life at the table, no matter how mundane, is sacramental – a means in which we encounter the mystery of God.

Food and drink connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends.

3 times in scripture – it says “The Son of Man came…” 1. not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), 2. too seek and to save the lost…(Luke 19:10) 3. Has come eating and drinking…”(Luke 7:34)

•The first 2 statements are his purpose, the 3rd is his How.

•Jesus was called a glutton and drunkard and a friend of sinners

•Jesus’s mission strategy of evangelism and discipleship was around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.

Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating and drinking with people:

•Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi

•Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal

•Luke 9 Jesus feeds the 5000

•Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers the law at a meal

•Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals.

•Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus

•Luke 22 is the account of the Last Supper

•Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the 2 disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in jerusalem.

In Luke Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Why? It represents a shared life. These excessive meals were a type of God’s excess grace, mission, & friendship

(My memories of great meals – with family and friends, christmas, China, Paris, Mexico, Romania)

My title A Moveable Feast is best known as the memoir by Ernest Hemingway about his time in Paris in the 20’s. If you were a young aspiring writer Paris was the place to be.

But the term actually comes from the liturgical calendar. A moveable feast is a feast day without a fixed date, like Easter. In this sermon A Moveable Feast is about the ministry of Jesus. In the Gospels Jesus moves from meal to meal, feast to feast, announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.

Nearly 1/4 of the events of the Gospels occurs around a table. Everything Jesus talks about and enacts is the Kingdom of God. Healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching and teaching, forgiving sins, and the table practice of radical inclusiveness and hospitality.

•Eating and drinking with sinners was the most controversial things he did. Which was morally and ceremonially unclean, and found upon by the religious system and leaders of that day. •Holiness was defined and considered by what you ate and who you were with. Highly controversial.

•Jesus comes and blows that out of the water. Jesus comes on the scene as a movable feast.

Mark 2:15-17 ESV – 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

•Even the first Miracle of Jesus was turning the water into wine. Why? he didn’t want the feast, the wedding, the dinner to end. Keep it going.

The context of our scripture was that Jesus was asked a question about how many people would be saved. He didn’t give them a number or a percentage. He talked to them about their salvation. He said people would be surprised who.

Jesus was telling the Jews that because they couldn’t think of that as ethenicity, nationally and culturally, because they did.

Jesus described salvation as participation in the kingdom of God

Luke 13:23-30 ESV  And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

When we talk about the kingdom of God we have to use metaphors (Jesus did) – The kingdom of God is like… best understood as a Table.

The Church is not a kind of temple – The Church is a Table

•Temple is exclusive – lots of restrictions, heirarchy, status conscience, enforced purity codes, certain people are not allowed in (women, gentiles, sinners…)

•Table is inclusive – pull up a chair, affirming, family style, party, everyone is welcomed

In Jewish culture they had the feasts and they had a Tabernacle – But it was moveable. Israel wanted a temple (David,Solomon) But God didn’t want a temple. He was fine in a tent.

Jesus came on the scene and was doing temple stuff at the table 

•when a person sinned they were to purchase an animal at the temple and give it to the priest to sacrifice it then you are forgiven

•But now Jesus is having a meal with sinners at the table with people and simply said, “Your sins are forgiven”

During the week prior to his death, Jesus protested, cleansed the temple and reformed the table

•Why? Only one guy (the high priest) could go into the holy of holies

Who is Jesus? He’s the incarnation of God, (To wit God was in Christ…) – the holiest of All, the Mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace, Immanuel God with us, the son of God, Jesus is God sitting at the table.

•Who can eat with God? women, the lame, sinners, tax collectors, people shamed, misfits, imperfect, people with indiscretions  – the table is open to all, unlike the temple. 

He takes the passover feast and reforms it – the focus is now Good Friday. It’s no longer the sacrificed lamb in Egypt, its now Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thats the center of the salvation story at the table. It’s now Whosoever will! Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The table is now open to all! The table is no longer fenced. Through faith, baptism and obedience to Jesus

Luke 15:1-2 ESV – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Old Hymn“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”; You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time; He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine, To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine.”

I know there are several kinds of people that I will address. Some of you have never known what it means to be accepted by God, and perhaps even by anyone else. All your life you’ve been living in a performance trap, having to do this thing or that thing to gain someone’s acceptance.

Keith Hernandez was known as one of baseball’s top players. He carried a lifetime batting average of 300 and won numerous Golden Glove awards for excellence in fielding. He won a batting championship for having the highest average, the Most Valuable Player award in his league, and even the World Series. Yet with all his accomplishments, he missed out on something crucially important to him — his father’s acceptance and recognition that what he accomplished was valuable. Listen to what he had to say in a very candid interview about his relationship with his father: “One day Keith asked his father, ’Dad, I have a lifetime 300 batting average. What more do you want?’ His father replied, ’But someday you’re going to look back and say, “I could have done more.”’” 

Sadly, that’s the story of many people’s lives: maybe yours. Your grades weren’t good enough. Your job isn’t good enough. Your house or car or clothes aren’t good enough. You don’t play good enough. You’re too young, or maybe you’re too old. Maybe you made some mistakes and you were pushed away.

Some of you tried to respond to God’s leading by attending church, but you still weren’t good enough, didn’t wear the right clothes or just didn’t feel like the people wanted you around. Church people have been notoriously judgmental, critical and condescending.

Today Jesus pursues the Imperfect

Romans 3:23 ESV – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Eugene Peterson said, “Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors.”

Luke 5:31-32 ESV And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

GraceTown needs to be about a Table, not a Temple. •••Let’s go look for people who are not included and let’s include them at GraceTown!

Song of Solomon 2:4 NIV – Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.

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

Because of GRACE, God is not holding anything against anyone and welcomes all to His Table!

2 Corinthians 5:19 NIV19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

The Call of Salvation is not “Come and get right so God will love you and bless you” The Call of Salvation is Come! You Are Loved! God loves imperfect people, moral misfits, burned out believers, religious incompenants.

Conclusion

Today I want to urge you to place your trust in Christ.

In “The Whisper Test,” a lady by the name of Mary Ann Bird wrote something I want you to hear. She said,  I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored — Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy — a sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test. … Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back — things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”

Listen to me closely as we close today: God says to every one of us in this room who is deformed by sin, “You are my son” or “You are my daughter.” How do we know this to be true? Because over and over and over in the Bible God tells us as much. He loves you, no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are.

“God’s power to save us is greater than our sin that condemns us”

I John 2:1-2 NIV – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 

God won’t just take your sin away from you; He’ll put it so far away from you that you can’t find it anymore. That’s how forgiven you’ll be!

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

Psalms 103:8-12 ESV – The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.11  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;12 as far as the east is from the west,so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Less Than 2%

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Less than 2% (Gideon’s Guide to Church Building) By Steve Light

Today we are going to take a look at an Old Testament story that has powerful and important lessons for us as church. We are going to examine the story of Gideon in the book of Judges and dive into how the Lord was able to use very few people, very few resources and very little faith to accomplish an amazing feat.

And why study this story? Because we live in a world where Christians define success by worldly measures – the size of church membership, the size of church programs, the size of the building and the size of the budget. In doing so, churches are at a high risk to not leave room for God’s blessings and provisions, His direction and most importantly room for the Holy Spirit.

This story also gives us a roadmap as a church on how to be faithful to the Lord and keep everything we do at the center of His will and His guidance.

 It requires us to be full of faith, active in prayer, driven to obedience and embracing humility.

 And if we listen and we learn from Gideon’s story, there is no doubt God will bless Gracetown. With less than 2% of what we think is needed to grow, I believe God will show us he can give us 500x more than we can imagine.

Let us pray….

Father, as we read your word, let us remember Proverbs 2:10-11…”For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you”. I ask that the Holy Spirit be present, to fill our hearts and mind that we would hear, learn and act as Your perfect will would guide us. Amen.

Midian Oppresses Israel (Judges 6:1-10)

Judges 6:1-2 (HSCB)“The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to Midian seven years, and they oppressed Israel. Because of Midian, the Israelites made hiding places for themselves in mountains and caves”.

  • Right away we learn that God’s people are being wicked and so there is accountability. God calls people to live a holy life. Salvation is the start but sanctification – a life long focus on living righteous – is required and when we don’t stay focused on this, God creates storms in our lives to get us back on track. He does this because he cares just like a parent correcting a child.
  • Who were the Midianites? Arabs from the northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Why is the number seven showing up frequently through this story?

  • Seven is the number of completeness and perfection both physical and spiritual within Bible
  • It is used 735 times
  • The Israelites had suffered under the Midian’s for 7 years – God was driving them to repentance

And we see this is in Judges 6:6 – “So Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian and the Israelites cried out to the Lord”.

Lesson #1 – They repented. They turned away from the world and focused on God.

The Lord Calls Gideon (Judges 6:11-24)

As we read the passages between Judges 6:11-24 we are going to learn a lot about Gideon and his faith in God.

I call this Gideon seeing his relationship with God in 3-D.

  • Doubt, Disobedience and Distance

We will see that when God shows in his everyday, ordinary life Gideon does two things. First he questions why the world is so upside down. He does not seek to learn from God the lesson of the situation, but instead merely wants relief. Second, and most importantly, he blames God for the tumultuous situation of Israel.

Here I am reminded of Leo Tolstoy’s spot on quote that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no thinks of changing himself”.

Gideon is called by the Angel of the Lord to lead the people against Midian and his first reaction is doubt in his ability to be successful. He goes on to argue with God, to be disobedient despite the command. He makes a veiled attempt at humility claiming he is from the weakest clan and he is the least of this clan. Finally, instead of taking a leap of faith towards God, he seeks to distance himself from God out of fear and doubt.

Scripture teaches us in these moments how to be faithful, courageous and strong to God’s call…

Proverbs 3:5-6 (HSCB)“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths”.

Ephesian 3:20 (HSCB)“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us”. The power is the Holy Spirit.

Gideon then runs to pull together a “gift” for the Angel of the Lord – which is a test. Is this real? Will he be there when I return? Gideon goes and gets a young goat, unleavened bread and broth. He brings it back to make a meal. But the Angel of the Lord gives him a sign. He takes the simple and ordinary – meager provisions from Gideon and supernaturally completes the meal – pulling fire from a rock.

The lesson here…Gideon brings basic effort and resources and God elevates it and glorifies it. This shows Gideon that God is truly in his presence and He worships God.

Let’s read Judges 6:11-23 and look for blame, the doubt, the disobedience and the distance away from God’s will and His blessing.

So Gideon is full of the Spirit of God and is ready to take on the Midianites now, right? No. It’s the first steps of the journey. He has to do hard things, say hard things. Things that will put him at odds with his family, with his community and with the world. Things that runs counter to culture. And where do we find him. Timid, afraid…but…at least taking the first steps in faith and obedience.

Gideon Tears Down the Baal Alter (Judges 6:25-32)

 Later that night, Gideon hears from God with crystal clear instructions…

Judges 6:25-26“Take your father’s young bull and a second bull seven years old. Then tear down the alter of Baal that belongs to your father and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Build a well constructed alter to the Lord your God on the top of this rock. Take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down”.

Baal and Asherah – male and female fertility gods of Canaanites

Gideon follows God’s command, but let’s see how he does this…

Judges 6:27“But because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it in the daytime, he did it all at night”.

Gideon lacked courage. He lacked integrity. He was more concerned with the opinions of the other people than God. He had a chance to be bold and he whimpered.

Galatians 1:10 teaches…“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”.

We cannot allow our fears of the world’s reaction to our call to diminish our sharing of the Gospel and engaging the world. We have to be bold. How did the men of the village react to the torn down altar? Now remember these are Israelites that are violating God’s law in being idolatrous. They are breaking the very first law – there shall be no other gods than Jehovah. These guys are outraged and want blood. They want death for Gideon. They are completely blinded by his call to repentance. His father steps in and wisely calls to let Baal defend himself. He tells everyone to wait for Baal to punish Gideon, essentially questioning if he is real and has any real power.

Joash – his father, also gives Gideon a new name – Jerubbal, which means “contender against Baal”.

The Sign of the Fleece (Judges 6:33-39)

Now we see that the Sprit of the Lord has descended upon Gideon. He starts to rally his clan and other tribes in the region. Yet we find he still doubts. He continues to move forward but has not yet full released his trust completely to God. But there is a critical lesson here…Gideon goes to God for confirmation and clarity. This principle is asking God to reveal with clarity His will. It is seeking out signs for confirmation that the direction is right. This often comes through discussions with others, circumstances around us – doors opening and doors closing. We have to be mindful and spirit filled to see and discern these things.

How does Gideon do this? He asks God to do some supernatural signs using some simple tools. And he doesn’t just ask once, but TWICE!. God is truly patient. Let’s read Judges 6:36-39 and look for how Gideon sought to get confirmation and clarity from the Lord.

God Selects Gideon’s Army

Notice here that the message is NOT Gideon selected his army, but the Lord did. Gideon, now full of faith and spirit, goes on the move. He has 135,000 Midianites camped in a valley north of him. He rallies 32,000 people. Not good odds. He has 1 Israelite for every 4 Midianites. VERY tough to complete the task with such limited resources. He needs volunteers but there are not enough.

 

What does God say to this? Does he bring more people, more money, and more resources? No. He tells Gideon that he has too much for the task at hand. He simplifies it. He demands faith and obedience and in that the Lord brings the necessary provisions.

Let’s look at Judges 7:2…“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: “I did this myself”.

God instructs Gideon with a test of wisdom. He tells Gideon to have each man drink from the water. Anyone who kneels to drink put in one group. Anyone who laps water with his tongue like a dog put into another group. Why this test? The men that lapped water like a dog where wise for battle – they got nourishment while being able to keep their eyes up and alert. But those that kneeled put their eyes down and were at risk of being blindsided.

What were the results? Judges 6:6 tells us “the number of those who lapped with their hands to their mouth was 300 men. In verse 7 “The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and turn the Midianites over to you”.

300 men? To wage war against 135,000 Midianites that had been terrorizing the nation of Israel for 7 long, difficult, horrible years. Was God crazy? He was sending Gideon to battle with only 1.4% (see the tie in now to the less than 2%?) of the men he started with. 300 Israelites against 135,000 Midianites. How could he succeed?

Here’s the greatest truth of this story – Gideon could not on his own. Not by his human strength or intelligence. Not without making room for God. Not without trusting God. Not without having faith completely, without reservation, that God would provide EVERYTHING they needed with 300 men. And not without the Holy Spirit.

Gideon Spies on the Midianites Camp (Judges 7:9-14)

 Gideon, as you can imagine, is unsettled. He has built up his faith in the Lord only to return to fear now that he has 300 men assigned by God. God rouses Gideon from sleep and tells him to go the Midianites camp and “listen to what they say; and then you will be strengthened to go to the camp”.

God knew Gideon’s heart. He was full of doubt and fear. So God tells him in verse 10 – “if you are afraid to go to the camp, go with Purah your servant”.

God reminded Gideon to surround himself with someone he trusted. Someone that would be encouraging and knew him well. Someone that could lift him up.

  • God had a better opinion of Gideon that he did at himself at this point. God always sees us differently from the way we see ourselves.
  • When Gideon answered the call of God his life changed and his family and friend’s opinion of him changed. I am sure he felt isolated and alone. But, like Gideon, we are not alone. God’s promises never fail and he never gives up on us.
  • His family was living in the wrong way – witchcraft, idolatry – things that blocked the blessings of God. He needed to be around faithful people.
  • Gideon needed fellowship – he had a small group with Purah. Someone he could talk to, lean on and be built up by.

Our growth as Christians and as a church requires God to take us to uncomfortable places so God has the room to show us our true selves and to help us grow into a life that is joyful, peaceful and blessed.

Gideon and Purah go to the camp at night and heard a man speak of a dream that a “loaf of barley bread came tumbling into Midinite camp, struck a tent, and it fell.” His friend replied, ”This is nothing less the sword of Gideon…God has handed the entire Midianite camp over to him”. (Judges 7:13-14).

It would be preposterous to think that a simple loaf of bread could roll over a tent. Yet with God nothing is impossible. If we listen for the small voice of God in the world around us, we get the confirmation and clarity of His guidance for us.

Isaiah 30:21 teaches…“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying “This is the way; walk in it”.

Direction from God should be clear and should give us peace.

Gideon finally, with the faith in the Lord, and the fellowship of Purah had his peace. It was time to do God’s work with less than 2% of what Gideon originally thought he needed.

Gideon Attack the Midianites (Judges 7:15-23)

 Following God’s instruction, Gideon and the 300 men took three things to battle. A sword, a shield and a helmet. Right? No. They took a bow, arrows and a spear. Right? No. They took a trumpet, an empty water pitcher and a torch. If they did it there way, they would have used weapons and attacked using their strength. And they would have lost. But letting God lead, they submitted to His wisdom. The split up into three groups and in the middle of the night surrounded the camp of Midianites. They began to blow the trumpets, smashed the pitchers and held up the torches shouting…”The sword of the Lord and of Gideon”. God’s Spirit created a confusion and madness that swept the camp. The Midianite warriors set their swords against each other. The result was the 120,000 warriors slaughtered one another. And the remaining 15,000 fled the camp. Gideon and his men pursued them with a larger force and routed the Midianites for good.

Gideon was living out Isaiah 12:2 – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid” and Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”.

Gideon’s Legacy (Judges 8:22-28)

There are two final critical lessons for us in this story that we need understand and apply to our lives and to our church.

  1. We need to give God complete control
  2. We need to work constantly on living right as Christians – when we are at peace we are at risk to fall back into bad ways

The battle is over and naturally the men said to Gideon in Judges 8:22 – “rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for YOU delivered us from the power of Midian”.

Wow. All that work by God and these guys do not give God credit. Gideon is wise. He says ”I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23) Gideon rightly gave glory to God.

Lesson one – our faith and our mission it is not about any human leadership.  It is only about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our hearts and minds need to focus on entirely making Him the King of our homes and our church.

Scripture tells us in Judges 8:28…”so Midian was subdued before the Israelites, and they were no longer a threat. The land was peaceful for 40 years during the days of Gideon”.

God answered their prayers. They repented and trusted in Him for guidance and provision using only 1.4% of what they thought they needed. He brought them salvation, peace and prosperity.

But….

Judges 8:33-34…”When Gideon died, the Israelites turned and prostituted themselves with the Baals and made Baal –berith their god. The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God who had delivered them from the power of the enemies around them”.

Lesson two – when life is good, things are working well and there are no issues, we forget about God and tend to focus on ourselves, our desires and our wants.

The Israelites knew this lesson well, but ignored it. They knew that life came from God. That all resources came from God. That all blessings (and curses) came from God. His command was simple. Seek Him first, live holy, love and care for others and worship Him alone.

Let’s read from Deuteronomy 8 that was the law that the Israelites had in the Torah…

Deuteronomy 8:11-13…“Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His command – the ordinances and statues – I am giving you today. When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your hers and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God…”

“You may say to yourself, my power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me, but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth…”

So I stand here today asking all of us to answer a simple question as a church… Why type of Gideons do we want to be? Afraid, lacking faith, trying to do it ourselves? Or bold, trusting God and ready to build God’s kingdom on less than 2% of what the world tells us we need when we have the Holy Spirit guiding us, teaching us and caring for us?

Let’s pray together….Father, we give thanks to You, Lord, for You are good. Your faithful love endures forever. Remember us, Lord, when You show favor on Your people. Come to us with Your salvation so that we may enjoy the prosperity of Your chosen ones, rejoice in being Your people and boast about Your heritage. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

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3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

3 Things To Remember

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

1. Help People find Jesus. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•GraceTown Life Groups Starting 3 week in January

3. Help People Grow Spiritually. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Things To Do

1. Pray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One prayer can change ANYTHING. one prayer can change EVERYTHING

2. Serve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

•Challenge you to do 3 things:

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

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

Go togracetownchurch.com/give

Closer: Looking UP Living UP

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Closer: Looking UP Living UP

Lovers of the English language might enjoy this. It is yet another example of why people learning English have trouble with the language.  Learning the nuances of English makes it a difficult language. (But then, that’s probably true of many languages.)

There is a two-letter word in English that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is ‘UP.’  It is listed in the dictionary as being used as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is itI> UP to the secretary to write  UP a report? We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has a real special meaning. People stir UP  trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.&bsp;

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special. And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixedUP about UP !

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP  , look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on & on, but I’ll wrap it UP , for now  ……..my time is UP , so time to shut UP!  Oh…one more thing: What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night? U      P  Don’t screw UP.   Now I’ll shut UP

Text: Colossians 3:1-4 MSG – So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. 3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

The Definition of worship is trapped in a lot of modern terms. Use examples

It is really what our main focus is in life

I. Don’t Shuffle along, Head down, absorbed with the things Right in front of you

Look UP! When you look down you have limited scope and perspective. When you look down you don’t see the bigger picture.

Do you want a bigger better life? Look Up!

Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God

What Does Looking Up Mean?

  1. Looking Up Heightens Our Awareness of God in Everyday Life

Don’t be unaware of God and His Presence.

Psalm 121:1 NIV – I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

Gandhi said, “When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon,, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.”

Psalm 123:1 NIV – I lift up my eyes to you,  to you who sit enthroned in heaven

Time with God: Use to be “Devotion”, “Church”, “Bible Study”, then the rest of our life. Don’t make time for God, DO life with God. No such thing as “a Spiritual Life” in Hebrew. We capartmentalize our lives. Open up your whole life to God!

Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Since Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, this means He is also at work right now with our lives. As long as we keep looking to him we will find the sufficiency to move forward in the many areas we are daily being challenged in.

In the midst of temptations, problems, difficulties, sorrows, various tasks and opportunities that will come your way during this coming year, stay focused on Christ, who is the Author and Finisher of your faith. He is there to hope you though any circumstance you may encounter.

Psalm 28:7 NIV – The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him

Secular vs Spiritual examples: Music, marriage, Movies, etc… You can find God outside religious settings

Don’t limit your worship to 20 minutes on Sunday. Worship is for Everyday!

Psalm 34:1 ESV – I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2. Looking up is presenting your everyday life as an offering to honor and glorify Christ

Colossians 3:17 NIV –  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Your Job is Working for God – Your skills, business, talent, etc…. Came from God! You are what you are because of Why you are! It’s Worship to God

God belongs in the context of your everyday life (Ex: Tricia is called to the medical field)

Eric Liddell (1924 Olympics – Chariots of Fire Movie) His father said to him, “Eric you can worship God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection. Don’t compromise. Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back and wonder! He honored God with his life! He had 2 great passions: China and Running. When he served both he felt God’s pleasure.

Do what God called you to do! 

Romans 12:1-2 MSG  1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Our Lives Are To Be An Act Of Worship.

Hebrews 12:28 ESV – Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

3. Looking Up is Constant Communication with God

I Thess 5:16-18 NIV  Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Prayer is our lifeline. Prayer is our communion with God. Prayer is the means by which we speak to God. And whatever it is that God has designed for us to do in praying is what we ought to do and not something else.

Matthew 6:9-10 NIV – This, then, is how you should pray:“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10  your kingdom come,  your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Smart Phones – Text messages, Twitter (140 characters or less) = I communicate with u. Distance doesn’t matter

Talk with God through out the day

Psalm 141:2 ESV – Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

You can engage in life and still be looking up! 

•Adam & Eve walked with God in the cool of the day

•Enoch walked with God and was not for God took him

Philippians 4:6 ESV – do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

As a Result…

We Are in God’s Presence Every Moment of our Lives

Psalm 139:2-12 NLT – You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.You know everything I do. 4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. 5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,too great for me to understand! 7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,10  even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

A New Strength will Come to You! 

Matthew 11:28-30 Message – “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.”