All I Want for Christmas Pt.4

All_I_want_for_Christmas

All I Want for Christmas Pt.4 – Joy

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

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

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

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

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

There are things that steal our joy:

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

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

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do is laugh

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

1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

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

Nehemiah 8:10 ESV  “ Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

It has the ability to turn bad things into good things –

Psalm 126:5 ESV Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

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

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

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

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

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

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

3. Joy will affect those around you.

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

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Psalm 126:1-2 NIV “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

The Secret To Joy

1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

So easy to blame others – but it’s up to you

Choosing the way you’re going to view life – people

For most of us – our attitude will not take care of itself

Remember – it’s not a feeling – it’s a choice

If you don’t like the situation that faces you – change it

(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

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

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

Dear Lord,

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

(Psalm 19:14 ESV)  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

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

Life can change in a moment!

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

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

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

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

Know that God is going to work it out for the good

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

3. Find something positive in everything

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

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

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

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

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

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

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

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

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

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

Look for the best in them – bring out their positive qualities

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

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

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

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

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

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

All I Want for Christmas Pt.2

All_I_want_for_Christmas

All I Want for Christmas Pt 2 – Peace

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. Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise or trouble. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Isaiah was describing a time of darkness, oppression, war, and death. War was looming between Israel and Judah

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 – (def) – freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility; freedom from war or violence. (Hebrew) shalom (greeting of Hello or Goodbye) – means fulness. Having everything you need to be whole and happy. prosperity, harmony, peace, completeness.

A time of violent roman occupation

(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]

Peace on Earth?

There is always some kind of darkness or danger of some kind overshadowing our world: warfare, cancer, poverty, broken relationships, murders, cruelty, suffering, etc…

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

•Unavoidable circumstances.

Much of life is out of our control, On an airplane – baby crying, Stuck in traffic. Couples trying to have a baby, Singles who want to get married

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.”

•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

•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”

•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

The question is – How do you really find peace of mind?

(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 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.

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 second 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

All I Want For Christmas Pt.1 – An Amazing Life

All_I_want_for_Christmas

All I Want for Christmas Pt.1 – An Amazing Life

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.

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.

2 a natural ability or talent: he has a gift for comedy.

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

In desperation, he pleads with his arch-enemy (Mr. Potter) for a loan on his life insurance. Potter gleefully observes “George, you’re worth more dead than alive!”

And thus, George Bailey decides that his only solution is to throw himself off the bridge into the frigid waters below and at least supply his family with the money from his life insurance.

But God steps in and an angel is sent to earth to stop George Bailey before he can take his life.

But how do you convince a man that the gift he wants to throw away is in reality far too valuable to be destroyed?

The angel’s solution: to grant George Bailey’s wish and show him what life would’ve been like if he’d never been born. So, as George tries to get back to his home, he finds that…

• the town he’d worked so hard to build up and protect had become a den of iniquity and evil

• the pharmacist – who George saved from a tragic mistake – has become the town drunk

• his brother Harry whom he’d saved from falling thru the ice, dies because George wasn’t there to save him and the hundreds of men died that Harry would have saved during the war, because Harry wasn’t there to save them.

• and the beautiful woman he’d married and had had such wonderful children with ended up becoming a wretched, dejected and lonely spinster.

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?”

George Bailey finally understood how wonderful his life had been because he was allowed to see how much would have been lost if he had never been born. That – which he’d been tempted to throw away – he came to realize was too valuable to lose.

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

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.

Sometimes Life is not so merry and bright

Charles Dickens said, There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

•Life seems useless.

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 NLT “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.

(GN) “Life is useless, all useless. You spend your life working… but what do you have to show for it? … The world just stays the same.” 

•Life seems tiresome.

Ecclesiastes 1:4-8 NLT Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

(GN) “The sun rises and goes down… the wind blows round and round and back again. Every river flows into the sea… [then] the water returns to where the river began and starts all over again. Everything leads to weariness…” 

•Life seems unfulfilling.

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 NLT  Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.

•Life seems uncontrollable.

Ecclesiastes 1:15 NIV What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.

(GN) “You can’t straighten out what is crooked;
you can’t count things that aren’t there!” 

What Matters Most in Life

1. God matters. 

(Philippians 3:7-8 NIV) “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”

(1 John 2:17 NIV) “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

2. People matter. 

“God gives us people to love and things to use, not things to love and people to use”

Focus on your relationships and express your love to those closest to you.

(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.” 

(Matthew 25:35 NIV) “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT) “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Our Response this Christmas

1. Live Well

(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 – Live
  2. I would RISK more – Love
  3. I’d do more things that live on after I’m gone – Legacy

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

2. Live your life in view of eternity.

The most important issue you will ever face in life pertains to where you will spend eternity.

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

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

(Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV) “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

•At the end of your life it won’t matter How much money was in your bank account, how many awards you won, how many goals you achieved. Did you love God? Did you love the people in your life?

3. The Result Of Christmas: You Can Know God Personally

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…”

Ps. 70:4 NIV “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say,“The Lord is great!”

Phil. 2:9-11 (Good News) “For this reason God gave Jesus the name that is greater than any other name… (One day) all beings in heaven, and on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.”

We are not mistakes in need of correction, we are sinners in need of a savior!

ThanksLiving: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

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ThanksLiving

John F Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Psalm 107:1 ESV – Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”- Thomas Merton

Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 NIV – 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. Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving – a celebration born in hardship, a reconciliation between cultures, a proclamation by Presidents, The tradition of our nation. 

In 1620, 102 Pilgrims had come to this continent to build a new world where they would be free to worship God. Soon fifty-six died due to starvation, disease and the cold winter. However, they did not give up. In 1621, 46 Pilgrims and 91 Indians met to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and for the preservation of their lives

This Thursday is Thanksgiving. One day in which we like those early Pilgrims set aside time in our busy schedules to give thanks to God. Now, there is nothing wrong with that but the word of God tells us that this should be a continual, daily, attitude.

INTRODUCTION

1. Rudyard Kipling was a great British poet whose writings have blessed many people, including a generation gone by. Kipling was a very famous writer, and before he died, made a great deal of money at his trade.

2. A newspaper reporter came up to him once and said, ”Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 a word.” Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, ”Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that.” The reporter cynically reached into his pocket and pulled out a $100 bill and gave it to Kipling and said, ”Here’s a $100 bill Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your $100 words.” 

3. Rudyard Kipling looked at that $100 bill for a moment, took it and folded it up and put it in his pocket and said, ”Thanks.”

4. Well the word ”thanks” is certainly a $100 word. In fact, I would say it is more like a million dollar word. That is one word that is too seldom heard, too rarely spoken, and too often forgotten.

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

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

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

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. 3 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.

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 marriages and other 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.

3. All Circumstances in Life

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

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

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

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

•Paul’s main subject here is PRAISE, THANKSGIVING. Notice the other important words in these passages; ALWAYS, CONTINUALLY, and IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. It sounds as if Paul is talking about a church service here, especially in Eph. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart…” But he isn’t. He is talking about a continual attitude for Christians – an attitude of the heart. How we are to be to each other. But how, you may wonder, can we have this attitude continually, especially “in all circumstances?” I believe the answer lies in our perspective of thanksgiving.

When Gratitude becomes your default setting, life changes.

•Pilgrims faced disease, starvation (14 out of 18 women died 1st winter), and severe weather. 102 passengers led by William Bradford sailed on the Mayflower. By the end of winter only 53 passengers survived

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

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

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

Matt Chandler, the pastor of the Village Church in Dallas, TX had faced severe troubles. 7 yrs ago Thanksgiving he was rushed to the ER when his wife discovered him having a seizure on the living room floor. He was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor that needed to be removed. He’s battled the cancer aggressively and in a recent MRI the cancer is gone.

But what people have seen in him, more than a potential healing, is his attitude through it all. He was quoted in a Dallas Morning News article: “At the end of the day, I don’t believe God gave me this cancer, but I do believe he could have stopped it and didn’t. … God is not punishing me, but somehow, for my joy and his glory, he’s let me endure this and walked me through.”

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.”

Spiritual Priorities: Developing a Meaningful Quiet Time with God Part 1

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Developing a Meaningful Quiet Time with God Part 1

Christianity is not a legal relationship, it is a love relationship. Ten thousand “don’ts” will never make you one iota more like the Lord Jesus Christ. The key is spending time with him.

Matthew 11:28-29 The Msg – “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Rob Bell said, “Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to”

We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away. We are overwhelmed by the pace of life – 24/7 nonstop – it’s the mantra of our culture.

•We live in a very tense, uptight and fast paced world filled with stress.  We are frazzled, overwhelmed, complexed, & bewildered. We have heavier work loads, greater demands, higher stress than ever before, and we are busy busy busy.

Our need – Meaningful Quiet time with God 

E.M. Bounds once said, “The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their characters, and have most powerfully affected the world for Him, have been men who spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature in their lives. TO BE LITTLE WITH GOD IS TO BE LITTLE FOR GOD.”

I’ve never met a spiritually strong Christian who does not have a consistent meaningful time with the Lord. I’ve met excited Christians who soar with the eagles for a couple of weeks, only to come crashing down because they did not establish the routine of getting into God’s word and praying. It may not seem as exciting to create a routine (almost as exciting as eating right or exercising), but if you want to be a growing Christian, it is essential.

Here’s the fact – Thomas Merton said, “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!”

•YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IS MEANT to grow. 

•SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS A LIFE-LONG journey. 

•DEVELOPING TIME WITH GOD WILL HELP YOU GROW on your own.

I Timothy 4:7 ESV – Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;

The word for “train” is the word “discipline” here in the original language. It’s the word we get “gymnasium” from. The Lord is telling us, “If you want to be godly, if you want to be a strong Christian, then you’ve got to attack it the same way you attack physical exercise.” The walk of faith, It is a discipline, it is a training, plain and simple.

What is a Quiet Time?

It is an appointment with God, a block of time chiseled out of your day and set apart for God, a time of private worship. Think of it as a date with God; a time for just the two of you. Sometimes we call it “having a devotion,” “an appointment with God,” “meeting with God.” This simply means we are making time for God in our day.

Mark 1:35 NIV  Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Solitary – being alone

The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus made time with God a priority. If Jesus needed to spend meaningful time with God, don’t you think that we need it even more?

1. A Time of Silence and Solitude

Psalm 131:2 NIV – But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother;  like a weaned child I am content.

The busyness of things obscures our concentration on God … Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him. This is an easy thing to allow, but we must guard against it.—Oswald Chambers

Solitude – the state or situation of being alone or uninhabited place. privacy, peace.

God wants to remove the noise of your life and create a space in which He can speak to you

Teresa of Avila said, “Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself.”

It causes us to look within first

“The great reason why life is troubled & restless lies not from without, but within.” Look at yourself. Look at your lifestyle. Ponder these things. Our chaotic world and complex lives are crying out for a little order and simplicity.

(Matthew 7:3-4 NIV) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

We are very quick to pick out everyone else’s issues that Jesus is saying you and I better deal with ourselves!

Psalm 139:23-24 NIV  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Pythagoras, the greek philosopher and mathematician wrote Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb.” 

Sometimes silence involves the absence of speech but it always involves the act of listening. A heart that listens to God.

Mother Teresa expressed it this way,“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

When God seems silent it could mean that he wants u to be silent so he can speak to you. (Like Elijah)

When we spend time in silence, solitude, prayer, reflection, meditation it helps us remain focused on the things that are really important in this life.

“A life lived reflectively is a life lived effectively.” (Creates direction and inner peace)

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 ESV – Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. [b] Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.

You can learn more in one hour of silence than you can in a year from books

Richard Foster said, “Without silence there is no solitude”

Noise is the mouthpiece of the world. Silence is the mouthpiece of God. It’s where God gives us wisdom.

People actually fear Silence. Why? It introduces us to ourselves. It convicts, it silences, and challenges. But it also heals, consoles, comforts, clears the mind, and gives courage to a weary heart.

Abba Poeman, one of the ancient desert fathers, taught his disciples, “If you are silent, you will have peace wherever you live.”

Philippians 4:7 NIV – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If you don’t break the tensions of daily living, they will break you! 

What Happens When I Spend Time With God?

1. The first thing that happens is that God changes my heart.

Psalms 51:10 ESV says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[a] spirit within me.” 

Create – describes the work of God, not something you do but God does.

Through Christ’s sacrifice for you and for me, we can be forgiven of our sins, standing before God as clean as if we had never sinned. When we spend time with God, He shows us those areas we must confess as sin, prompting us to ask forgiveness, and then He is able to cleanse us. He changes our hearts.

2. The second thing that happens is that God gives us direction for living.

Romans 8:14 ESV “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[a] of God.” 

If we are His children, we can expect to be led by the Spirit of God. How are we going to get direction? By spending time talking to Him (through prayer), and through listening to Him (through His Word). This is the essence of a quiet time. When we spend time with Him, we get a different perspective on life.

C.S. Lewis once said, “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back, in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”

How do we listen to that “other voice”? 

Psalm 119:105 ESV Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

God will enlighten our path and show us which way to go as we spend time in His Word.

3. The third thing that happens is there is a growing awareness of His presence during those difficult times.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

How is God going to be able to comfort us, if we don’t spend time with Him?

Ending: You Can be friends with God

John 15:13-15 ESV – Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you

We are no longer in the dark as to what our Master is doing, but we have been graciously invited into the inner circle—the divine circle in this case—and privileged with the knowledge of what our Master is feeling, thinking, and doing.

Everything that Jesus has heard from his Father he has willingly made known to us. To open up your heart to someone, as God has done with us, is a gesture of friendship.

I Corinthians 1:9 ESV – God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord

Romans 5:8 NIV – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

Jesus has left his palace, moved across town, lived in the slums, and has rescued us for himself, so that we might enjoy his presence in friendship. Surely we can set aside time to be alone with him!

In Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities there is a wonderful illustration of the extent to which Christ went to secure a friendship with us. In the story, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton are two people who become close friends. Darnay happens to be thrown into a dungeon and faces the guillotine the next morning. Carton, on the other hand, a lawyer by profession, has piddled away his life through loose living in England. Carton hears of Darnay’s predicament and through a series of circumstances gets himself into the prison and the cell where Darnay is being held. He changes garments with Darnay and the next morning faces the guillotine while his friend Carton escapes to freedom. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends!” Dickens even quotes this passage. So is Christ’s love for his friends!

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. 

Say YES to Jesus

Romans 10:9-10 NIV – “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Joy To The World

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Joy To the World

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

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

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

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

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

There are things that steal our joy:

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

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

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do

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

  1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

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

Nehemiah 8:10 ESV  “ Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

It has the ability to turn bad things into good things –

Psalm 126:5 ESV Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

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

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

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

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

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

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

3. Joy will affect those around you.

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

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Psalm 126:1-2 NIV “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’”

The Secret of Joy

  1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

So easy to blame others – but it’s up to you

Choosing the way you’re going to view life – people

For most of us – our attitude will not take care of itself

Remember – it’s not a feeling – it’s a choice

If you don’t like the situation that faces you – change it

(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

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

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

Dear Lord,

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

(Psalm 19:14 ESV)  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

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

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

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

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

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

Know that God is going to work it out for the good

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

3. Find something positive in everything

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

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

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

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

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

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

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

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

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

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

Look for the best in them – bring out their positive qualities

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

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

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

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

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

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

Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting

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Advent: The Human Experience of Waiting

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 literally means “coming” – Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, and hoping. Preparing us for the birth of Jesus

Our Preparation includes:

  1. We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive and to restore
  2. We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus
  3. We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins
  4. We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world…and into our hearts

When the church celebrates the liturgy of 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 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”

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 frenetic 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?

How to Endure the Season of Waiting in your Life 

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

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

Why God Makes Us Wait 

•Waiting Renews Our Strength 

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.

“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.” 

•Waiting Refines Our Character 

Romans 5:3-4 NIV – Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg—not smashing it.” – Arnold Glasow 

Waiting Refocuses Our Purpose

James 5:11 NIV As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 How To Grow in the Season of Waiting 

  1. Wait For the Lord, Not the Answer 

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

Psalm 37:7 NIV – Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

2. Wait In A Crowd, Not Alone 

Hebrews 6:15 NIV – And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

Hebrews 12:1 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,

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.

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.

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?

How to Survive the End of the World Pt.4

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How To Survive the End of the World Part 4

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

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

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

1. Ungratefulness would be rampant in the endtimes

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

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

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

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

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

As Christ followers we should be overflowing with Thankfulness

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

I. Conquer Complaining 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. The Cure

  1. Thankfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons to Be Thankful

  1. God, His Eternal Goodness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. All Circumstances in Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Contentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ending

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

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

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

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

 

How to Survive the End of the World Part 3

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How To Survive the End of the World Part 3

Introduction: 

The world we currently live in has changed whether we like it or not. In JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel, the Elf queen says about the change happening in middle earth; “The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost…

Yes the world has changed. We are living in an increasingly post christian culture. America was once a christian nation whose values were aligned with judeo christian values and ethics. Charles Dickens penned this opening statement in his classic, A Tale of Two Cities;

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

The World around us has drastically changed over the past 40 years or so. In our increasingly post christian culture, the influences and values shaping emerging generations are no longer aligned with Christianity.

Tolerance? Tolerance may be a virtue and buzz word in todays culture but its not extended to Christianity.

•we are driven from public life

•denied 1st amendment rights

•actively discriminated against for our beliefs

We live in a quickly changing world. You might feel safe in the church world you and I live in, but step outside into the real world and things aren’t quite the same anymore.

So How should we live in this world in the last days?  The Call is to Live Biblically. To live as Christ lived.

1 John 2:6 LB  “Anyone who says he’s a Christian should live as Christ did.”

I Peter 2:21 NIV To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”    WWJD?

What does it mean to be a Christian?

  1. Jesus explained what it meant to be a Christian in Matthew 16:24 (NLT). He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” 
    1. Put aside your selfish ambition – The desires we naturally have are in opposition to that which God desires (Gal. 5:16-17). But the Holy Spirit makes us a new person (2 Cor. 5:17) and gives us new desires (Rom. 8:9).
    2. Shoulder (Carry) your cross – The cross as a vivid pic that the disciples fully understood. To take up your cross meant to face death spiritually & possibly physically. Our sinful way of life dies (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 5:24) and Christ’s new life lives in us (Gal. 2:20). And for some, following Christ would cost them their lives physically.
      1. To sacrifice is to give up something for the sake of something else that is much better.
      2. What is my cross? The place of our greatest pain

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. Ernest Hemingway

  1. Follow me – To be a Christian, we must follow Christ. We must act the way he acted. We must speak the way he spoke. We must love the way he loved.
    1. Embrace God’s will no matter what the cost

I love Jesus, but sometimes “Christians” frustrate me. Why? They fight & argue about the dumbest things. Too judgmental, act holier than thou, incredibly condescending.

1. With Humility 

Humility – Modest opinion of one’s own importance or rank. To lower oneself; lowly; abasing yourself, “down to earth”.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. . . . Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don’t think of themselves.” – Rick Warren

Humility – The discipline of putting others ahead of self -the choice to value others above self – its a matter of faith

“Humility is self-forgetfulness.” – C.S. Lewis

Matt. 5:3 NLT “God blesses those who realize their need for him…” 

It recognizes how inadequate we are by ourselves.

James 4:10 NIV “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”. 

People who are not humble think they know everything, no one can correct them, and they believe they have the answers to everything

Matt. 11:29 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

2. With Simplicity 

Freedom from complexity. We live mismanaged lifestyles

Luke 12:15 NIV “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

•We have become slaves to our belongings – St Francis of Assisi insisted that true freedom lies in the abundance of life, not the abundance of possessions. Many times those possessions that we have acquired exercise power over us.

Matt. 16:26 NLT “How do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

Living simply means that we carefully examine what it means to fully live. How? By focusing our efforts on things that are true, beautiful, and essential. Like Faith, Family, Healthy, Friends, and our Church, our Community

Psalms 131:1-2 Amp Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting].

•’I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on 3 elements: noise, hurry, crowds… Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.”

•”The Value of our western culture demands us to be busy…”

Eccl. 7:29 – “God made man simple: man’s complex problems are of his own devising”

“To much clutter in your mind leaves insufficient room for devotion to Christ” Remember – You NO to others will soon translate into a YES for God!

3. With Possibility (Faith)

Potentiality for favorable or interesting results.

Faith is… To have trust or assurance, confidence, conviction, belief, reliance in what God says. Trust that produces actions.

Matt. 19:26 NLT With God everything is possible.”

Mark 9:23 NIV “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

•Believing when I donʼt see it. 

(Hebrews 11:1)  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and 

certain of what we do not see.” 

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

•Obeying when I donʼt understand it. 

(Hebrews 11:7 NLT)  “It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save 

his family from the flood.  He obeyed God, who warned him about 

something that had never happened before.” 

•Persisting when I donʼt feel like it. 

(Hebrews 11:27)  “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the kingʼs 

anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” 

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins.  Not through strength, but through persistence.”- Unknown

Trusting if I donʼt get it. 

(Hebrews 11:39-40)  “They were all commended for their faith yet 

none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned 

something better…”

”Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe” –Augustine

•The law of faith is the greatest law in the Word of God. Believe and ye shall receive.

• “I can get more out of God by believing Him for one minute than I can by shouting at Him all night.”- Smith Wigglesworth

4. With Charity (Love)

(I Cor. 13:1) “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing.”

•The more spiritual you become, the more love you will show to others.

Matt 5:44 The Message “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Luke. 6:37 NIV“Do not judge, and you’ll not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

“Take away love and the earth is a tomb.” – Robert Browning

•Love takes no account of the evil done to it. Love does not filter its current emotional state through the screen of past hurts and offenses. Instead, it shows the grace and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ who loved us while we were yet sinners, even suffering the shame of the cross

Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person. Natural human love requires a person to prove themselves before love is given. However, Christ-like love offers itself to those who are both lovable and unlovable. Instead of assuming the worst, it tirelessly looks for the best in others. True love hopes all things and lives with an expectant faith towards others.

(1 Corinthians 14:1 LB) “Make love your greatest aim…”

How?

•Accept others unconditionally.

(Romans 15:7 NIV) “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted

you, in order to bring praise to God.”

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody.” – Mother Teresa

•Encourage others continually.

(1 Corinthians 13:7 LB) “If you love someone…you will always believe

in him, and always expect the best of him…”

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington

•Serve people cheerfully.

(1 Peter 4:10 NIV) “Each one should use whatever gift he has received

to serve others…”

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.” – Charles Dickens 

•Forgive others freely.

(Colossians 3:13 NIV) “Bear with each other and forgive whatever

grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

“When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free… and then you find that the prisoner was you.”

5. With Priority 

Priority – Something given special attention

Luke 12:30-31 NLT These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

“If you don’t live by priorities, you’ll live by pressures. Either you determine what’s important in life or other people will determine it for you.” – Rick Warren

Matt. 10:39 The Message “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

What are your priorities? 

Relationship with God (Church, Prayer, Worship, devotions, God’s Word, telling others, giving) & Your Family (Time)

I HAVE DECIDED:

To follow the example set by Christ.

(1 Corinthians 11:1) Follow my example, as I follow the example of

Christ.

(1 John 2:4 TLB) Someone may say, “I am a Christian; I am on my

way to heaven; I belong to Christ.” But if he doesn’t do what Christ

tells him to, he is a liar.

To declare my commitment publicly.

(Matthew 10:32-33) “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will

also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever

disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

Here’s what you need to know before the End of the World

1. God loves us and does not want us to perish.

John 3:16,17 — For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

1 Timothy 2:4 — [God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2. All people have sinned. Sin causes separation from God.

Romans 3:23 — For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

James 2:10 — For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

3. Heaven is a free gift. You cannot earn or deserve heaven.

Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8,9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

4. We receive God’s forgiveness through faith, by trusting in Christ.

John 1:12 — But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name.

Romans 10:9,10 — …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Christmas at The Movies: A Christmas Carol

Christmas_Movies

A Christmas Carol

What’s your favorite thing about Christmas? The gifts? Decorations? Candy Canes? holiday parties? Christmas music? How about the movies? No other time of year has had as many movies dedicated to it as Christmas. We are exploring behind the scenes from Christmas Classic Movies to discover a story that connects with something deeper within all of us!

Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

We are exploring Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published in 1843, it’s one of the best-loved stories to be set at this time of year. Its frankly one of my favorites. We probably think we know the story back to front. After all, it’s been adapted into over 200 films, and is such a powerful tale that it’s credited with helping to define our contemporary understanding of Christmas. But a fresh look at this all-time classic, reminds us that it’s far more than just a feel-good festive tale featuring a miserly old humbug with one of the oldest catchphrases in the world. The book’s main character, of course, is the mean and intimidating Ebenezer Scrooge, who lives to make money and very little else. He certainly has no use for religion or sentimentality.

Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge had NO PEACE, He was a troubled man:

You may remember from the story how one Christmas Eve, Scrooge receives a terrifying wake-up call. The spirit of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven Christmas Eves previous and was a miser like Scrooge, comes to visit, bound and wrapped in terrible chains. Marley has been condemned to roam the face of the earth, tormented in death by the things he neglected to value in life.

Marley is desperate to give his old colleague a final chance to avoid the same fate. ‘My spirit never walked beyond our counting house,’ he warns Scrooge. A great length of chain traps Jacob Marley’s spirit and weighs it down. Marley tells Scrooge that he alone forged it in life: ‘I made it, link by link and yard by yard.’ Chains that were forged with regrets and sins of his own making which he could not release, and hurts he would not forgive. And as he stands before Scrooge, he can see the even greater chains that bind his old colleague: ‘Would you know the weight and length of the coil you bear yourself?’ asks Marley. ‘It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it since. It is a ponderous chain.’

This, he makes clear, is Scrooge’s last opportunity to turn from selfish ways.

Listen to the way Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge:

“No warmth could warm him, no wintry weather could chill him. No wind that blew was more bitter than he. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often came down handsomely, and Scrooge never did.”

ILL> At one point in the story, his nephew Fred stops by to wish him a merry Christmas. That’s where those famous words were spoken, “Bah, humbug.”

ILL> In another scene two gentlemen stop by to ask for a donation to help the poor during the holidays. They even offer to keep Scrooge’s gift anonymous if he wishes. “What I wish is to be left alone. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.” They reply, “Then many will die.”

“If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

  • Not many in the world cared for Ebenezer Scrooge, but worse yet, he cared for no one but himself. He was a man who had NO Peace.

• On Christmas Eve he is visited by 3 spirits

1. The spirit of Christmas past showed a happier time when Ebenezer fell in love, but chose to invest himself in making riches instead of relationships

2. The spirit of Christmas present showed him the down and out in the world and how Bob Crachit’s family struggled to make ends meet–and there were others who were unable to do so altogether

3. The spirit of Christmas yet to come. Tiny Tim had passed because there were no funds to cure his ailing body •Ebenezer died, but no one seemed to care •Finally, he is faced with his own grave.

•Even though The Christmas Carol is a fictional story set in London in 1843. It remains amazingly relevant today.

Not Much Peace today

 John 16:33I 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.”

•Unavoidable circumstances.

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

•Unbearable people.
Psalms 109:3
“With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.”

Never Forget the 3 Types of People in Your Life: 1. Those who helped in your difficult time, 2. Those who left you in your difficult time, 3. Those who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

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

3 Reasons for Life’s Problems: 1. Sin – We are in an imperfect world, 2. Satan – common enemy, 3. Self – We make mistakes

(Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault)

John 9:1-3 MSG1-2 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- 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

How to Receive Peace this Christmas

Luke 2:10-14 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Peace- Shalom, fullness, freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity.

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

John 14:27 LB “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isnʼt fragile like the peace the world gives. So donʼt be troubled or afraid.”

1. Receive Godʼs pardon.

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

Micah 7:18 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives…You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

2. Run to Godʼs presence.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

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

3. Respect Godʼs principles.

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

Peace comes through Obedience

4. Rely on Godʼs provision.

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

Trust God to take care of things beyond our control

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight

There is no need to dwell on the “What if’s” of life – Our response is either panic or pray, worry or worship!

Be Transformed! When you put your care in His Hands, He puts His Peace in your Heart

Fortunately for Scrooge, this is the life-changing moment while he is at his own grave, when he understands that it’s now or never. He asks whether it’s possible to mend his ways and so alter his life and destiny. Surely the Spirits wouldn’t be visiting him if not? As Christmas morning dawns and he wakes, once more, to the world, Scrooge realizes that he has been given a reprieve- a second chance. Just as Dickens believed we have all been given another chance, only because of the birth of the hero of the greatest Christmas story, Jesus.

The good news is that if we will learn from the past, we can change now so that we can create a better future. Just as the spirits of Christmas wanted Scrooge to change for good. Christmas is the time and place where God draws back the curtain, so we can see his face. Because we are bound by chains that bound old Jacob Marley, Jesus has come to give us peace, But we must look to the Christ The good news is that we, like Scrooge, are still alive. It’s not too late: we can choose to change. Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. Whatever our past has been, we can have a better future.

At the heart of ‘A Christmas Carol’ lies Scrooge’s transformation. Transformation means change. Change from a selfish, greedy, Troubled, and bitter old man, we see him become a grateful, generous, Peaceful, and compassionate figure. A man that was filled with deep regret sees his life transformed, to the point where Dickens concludes he became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.’ We assume that Scrooge learns his lesson, and experiences what amounts to a ‘conversion’. He responds by changing his ways and living out the lessons that he learnt on that Christmas Eve.