Summer Concert Series Pt.4 – Take it Easy

Summer Concert Series Pt.4 – Take it Easy

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

“Busy” is the hallmark of our times. I’ve lost count of how many times I ask people, “How are you doing?” and the answer comes back – ‘Oh, I’m just soooooo Busy”. ‘I haven’t got a moment to myself’. It’s almost like our busyness has become a ‘badge of honour’ – a medal for us to wear.

We live in a very tense, uptight and fast paced world filled with hurry.  We are frazzled, overwhelmed, & bewildered. Truth is we are addicted to noise

Take it Easy Chorus 

Take It easy, take it easy 

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels 

drive you crazy – Lighten up while you still can 

don’t even try to understand 

Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy 

Movie – Michael Douglas stars in Falling Down

It was a story  about a day in the life of a man who had experienced all he could take of the pressures, disappointments, & and inconveniences of life. He experiences mounting anxiety as he endures a traffic jam (caused by construction), suffers the oppression of inflated prices at a local store (owned by a foreigner), and is put through indignities of poor service (with a smile) at a fast food restaurant.

These everyday frustrations, combined with a sense of being disconnected from his family (the result of a recent divorce), & the loss of his job, all culminate on this fateful day to push him over the edge!

As a result of all these pressures, his normal, healthy logic & rationale are suspended, & he resorts to violence, murder, & blowing things up!

John 16:33 Amplified – I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

Where are you going to live? Tribulation? Or Christ

How many of us feel like that? Let’s take a group quiz to see how many of us are being dragged through life. Fill in the blanks:

I’m ready to throw in the… I’m at the end of my…

I’m just a bundle of… My life is falling…

I’m at my wit’s… I feel like resigning from the human…

Apparently we’re all experiencing the rat race. Just when you thought you were getting ahead, along come faster rats. But remember, he who wins the rat race is still a rat.

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

We are living in Overload

IF there is one term that describes the state of affairs in the lives of people today, it is OVERLOAD. We are Overwhelmed, Overworked, Overcommitted, Overanxious, Overmatched, and Overextended. Our tanks are on empty and we’re running on fumes.

Our world has become the world of the Red Queen of Alice in Wonderland: “Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

We need to learn how to Take it easy, chill, relax, and rest! “A life lived reflectively is a life lived effectively.” 

Weariness is a trap. 

(Luke 21:34 NIV) “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” 

Rest is a choice. 

(Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT) So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. 

Rest is not a physical position but a spiritual condition and It is Commanded by God

Leviticus 23:3 “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.”

(Exodus 33:13-16 NIV) “The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

God’s message is plain: “If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do.”

(Matthew 11:28- 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.” 

How To Take it Easy

Hebrews 4:11 (GWT) So we must make every effort to enter that place of rest. Then no one will be lost by following the example of those who refused to obey.

Mark 6:30-31 NIV The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 

1. Relax and Be still. 

Psalm 46:10 NIV “Be still, and know that I am God.” 

Still – to abate, to cease, to let go, or to stop. The state or an instance of being quiet or calm. The Hebrew word translated “Be still” literally means ‘shut up’. It means coming before God, away from the noise, away from the commotion, away from the busyness. Not with a shopping list, not with a list of demands, but actually with no words at all – just with a heart that is open to listen.

“The great reason why life is troubled & restless lies not without, but within.”

Proverbs 4:23 NIV – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “Learn to relax. Your body is precious, as it houses your mind and spirit. Inner peace begins with a relaxed body.”

Isaiah 26:3 NIV – You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Sometimes life shakes us up a little. We become disoriented, overwhelmed, consumed by the day to day happenings of our lives.  The British Navy has a practice known as an “ALL STILL”. When something goes wrong on a ship, particularly a submarine, the captain announces “All Still”. For 3 minutes no one is allowed to move or speak.

All Still – is an God opportunity to catch your breath and out things into perspective

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

2 Chronicles 20:17 NKJV – “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you…”

IF you don’t break the tensions of daily living, they will break you! If you don’t like where you are going in life – STOP. Let go of the challenges, worries, and anxieties that encumber us.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is Take it easy. 

2. Take the Time to Pray. 

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

When You Pray You are Trusting God to Take Care of Things Beyond your Control 

Jeremiah 6:16 NIV This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. 

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

•Henri Nouwen writes about prayer in his book The Way of the Heart. And he says that the early church fathers wrote that we should “pray always.” And he says that the literal translation of these words is “come to rest.” 

What a wonderful picture – that as we come to pray, we’re actually coming to rest. And he goes on to say, “that the rest we find in prayer has nothing to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle.

•The problems are still there, the challenges are still there, the busyness is still there, there’s meeting to attend, there’s people to see, there’s work to do – but in the eye of your storm – amongst all the activity and chaos – there is perfect peace and tranquility and rest.

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

Colossians 4:3 NIV Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

The greatest value in prayer is not what you can get from God but what you learn & become

•If you and I are too busy to Pray, we give our spiritual life a funeral!

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me, all the time waking and sleeping. It does not change God. It changes me.” CS Lewis

Prayer is the most difficult thing in the world to do. In prayer we find ourselves standing on the edge of a deep, dark, abyss – the world of the divine, infinite, and eternal.  We come face to face with ourselves and face to face with God.

Take it easy….. Slow down, breathe deeply, reflect deeply, pray deeply, live deeply!

Relax and refuse to let worry and stress rule your life. There is always a solution to every problem. Things will work out for you when you take time to relax, refresh, restore and recharge your soul.

How you can practice Relaxing

1. Schedule a time. For me, I schedule stillness first thing in the morning. It has become so precious to me, that I won’t want to start the day without it. I practice this first—before prayer, before Bible reading, before journaling, and before exercise.

2. Find a place. When I was on vacation, I sat outside by the pool. This was ideal. But it is not my real world. Now I simply go into my study or my back patio. The main thing is to find a place where you won’t be interrupted.

3. Set a timer.  set aside fifteen minutes a day. In my limited experience this seems about right. It is amazing how my perception of this time changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems like forever. Other times, it goes by very quickly. I use the timer on my iPhone.

4. Relax your body. I simply sit in a soft chair with my eyes closed. I then systematically relax my body and get quiet. If you can’t sit still, then engage in any mindless physical activity, like rocking in a chair or watching some natural motion like fire or running water.

5. Quiet your mind. This is the biggest challenge for me. Just when I get still, I have some random thought or a whole flurry of thoughts. But I am getting better. a discipline that keeps your allotted time from being hijacked by an overly-active mind.

6. Be present. Don’t be regretting or celebrating the past. Don’t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present—in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the only time you have.

7. Learn to return. This has been the most helpful component. In involves recalling a “place of peace,” where you had a particularly vivid experience of peace and stillness.

Beautiful Things Pt.2 – The Beauty of Grace

Beautiful Things Pt.2 – The Beauty of Grace

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

I’m not preaching to the perfect today! But to those of us who don’t have it all together. The hurting, hopeless, and helpless. The stressed out, the successful, the prosperous & the poor. The messed up, misfits, frustrated, those of us with flaws, the imperfect, the broken, people who have had moments of indiscretion, weakness’s & failures. I’m talking about Noah who got drunk, David who murdered & commit adultery, Abraham who lied, Thomas who doubted, & Simon Peter who denied & cursed Christ.

Romans 5:15-20 NIV15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (MSG: When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.)

1. Everyone is Broken

Tony Campolo’s Story – A party for Grace and Love

We fall short of our own expectations; we don’t need religion to tell us that we really aren’t all that good.

Life is filled with challenges, twists, and turns. Times of doubts, wandering, and weakness.

Psalms 38:4-8 NIV  4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. 5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. 6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. 7 My back is filled with searing pain;  there is no health in my body. 8 I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are stronger in the broken places

Every human being is broken. We’re all broken people. And that’s because we are all sinners because of the fall humanity took back in the Garden of Eden.

James 2:10 (NIV) – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 

The cause of a broken life is very simple. We experience brokenness when we try to live by our terms instead of by God’s terms

• Sin is living independently of God’s standard, missing the mark, taking a wrong turn – knowing what is right, but choosing what is wrong. It’s the one thing we all have in common but no one wants to talk about.

Romans 3:23-24 NIV – 23 for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and ALL are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Light shines best through cracks. None can boast of perfection. We are all broken. We need Jesus to shine through the cracks (my broken rib-painful)

.

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

Stop Beating yourself up – Jesus is a greater savior than we are a sinner!

At 82, John Newton (Amazing Grace) said, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great savior.”

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

But God is in the healing business and wants to mend what’s broken.

Listen to what Job said, “My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me.” (Job 17:1 NKJV)

Now, that’s not an encouraging statement, but though the prophet Isaiah, this is what is said about Jesus’ purpose.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Isaiah 61:3 NKJV)

It is this very Scripture that Jesus quoted about Himself and how God had sent Him to heal what was broken within us. (Luke 4:18)

•Thief on the Cross – “Remember Me” 

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

Do not freeze frame a certain time in your life and condemn your future based on that moment. God is not done with you!

A mosaic is a work of art made up of broken pieces.

Ephesians 2:10 NLT – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

2. Because of GRACE, God is not holding anything against anyone

Grace – God doing in and for us what we cannot do ourselves. A Gift.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 

Grace is God giving people credit for something they didn’t do!

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

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

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

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

I John 3:1 NIV – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 

Nothing we have ever done could make God love us any less: not any sin, not any failures, not any guilt, not any regrets – We are the Beloved of God.

Psalms 145:8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Grace cleans up what we messed up!

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. 

“The good you do won’t finally save you and the bad you do won’t finally condemn you.” – Martin Luther 

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

God has one disposition towards us & it is revealed in Christ. Ceaseless, endless, unconditional love. He never gives up on us

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.” 

Romans 3:22 LB “God says He will accept and acquit us – declare us “not guilty‟ – if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in the same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like.” 

For every person who has ever failed in their past, there is a forgiveness that forgets! Stop standing in Guilt and start standing in Grace.

It’s been said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner a future.” Jesus came for those who are less than perfect, those who are far from perfect, and those who are anything but perfect. God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

Conclusion

Their is a story that begins in 2 Sam.4 when the dynasty of King Saul was coming to an end. King Saul had a son named Jonathon who had a 5 yr old son named Mephbosheth. The city was under attack and the nanny for little Mephibosheth was fleeing the city when she tripped and dropped him… his legs did not heal properly from the fall and Mephibosheth was crippled for life.

Fast forward to… 

2 Samuel 9 to read an amazing story of love and grace.

The story begins as King David is reminiscing back on his life and specifically on his friendship with Jonathon (the son of King Saul). As David remembers that great friendship he asks “Is there anyone left in Saul’s family that I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Those who heard him sent for One of Saul’s servants named Ziba… Ziba… David asks… Is there someone in Jonathan’s house I can show Gods kindness to?  Ziba answered There is still a son of Jonathon; he is crippled in both feet.

David sent for him and when he arrived (v.7) David said “Don’t be afraid… I will show you kindness today because of your father Jonathon.” I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul… I will order his servants to farm the land on your behalf… and you will always eat at my table. 

(v.08) Mephibosheth says… “What did I do that you should notice a dead dog like me?… What did I do to deserve this?”

God pursued him with HIs Grace. He went from a place of Brokeness to a place of Blessing. 

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

We are a spiritually broken people , BUT God has been pursuing us with His Grace and His Grace brings complete Restoration – New Identity, Empowerment, and New Life! 

Grace is God kissing the unkissable. Not because we are good, deserving, or right, but because HE LOVES US and FORGAVE US.

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

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

unspecified

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

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

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

Questions such as…

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Where is God when I hurt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Allows Difficult days in our Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What To Do on the Most Difficult Day of Your Life

1. It’s Okay to Weep

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

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

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

We tend to believe that weeping shows that we are weak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•Peter wept over his failure and betrayal of Jesus.

•Paul wept in the middle of his trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our tears lead to our liberation of the dominion of sorrow

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

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

God wants to comfort you When You Weep.

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

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

2. It’s Okay to Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: 

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

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

Daring Faith Pt.5 – Finding Faith in the Storms of Life

Desktop

Daring Faith Pt.5 – Finding Faith in the Storms of Life

Luke 8:22-25 NIV – One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

•Squall = storm / Take note: Jesus said “let’s go over to the other side.” FYI – He knew about the Storm.

•Don’t ever assume God will lead you around a storm or you can avoid storms in this life

Before we know it, fierce winds destroy our happiness, dreams and ultimately our lives as we struggle to stay afloat.  In todays msg, we will explore how to move forward when the storms hold us back.

When the storms of life strike, it’s what happens in you that will determine what happens to you.

It’s amazing how quickly the storms of life strike, isn’t it?  Just like that, so many times out of no where.

Storms never dictate God’s Direction

•He’s never surprised of the storm

•He will lead you through the storm

•Jesus is not only in the quiet places but also the chaotic places

•If you go where God leads you you will go through a storm to get there.

Jesus asks them….”Where is Your Faith? Storms locate our faith

What to remember about storms

1. Storms are inevitable.

When it comes to storms, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

•You’re probably – Entering a storm – Engaging a storm – Emerging from a storm

The storm in Luke still happened even though Jesus was on board…Never says, life with me will be a three hour tour

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.”

Stormy season in America right now

•National Debt is $19 Trillion Dollars

•War on Terror

•Killings of Black men and cops

•Politics landscape and the Presidential Race – Looks like Wrestlemania. (Who let the dogs out), Loss of dignity

-Sign on Twitter – “What if nobody was president and we all promised real hard to just be cool?”

•Levels of anxiety of me because of the storms within the church

•Our faith is strong on Sunday but absent on Monday

Isaiah 26:3 NIV – You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

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

2. Storms are unpredictable.

You can’t plan them, time them, schedule them

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.”

3. Storms are temporary.

They have an end to them – They don’t last

Hebrews 10:35-37 NIV –  “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.”

CS Lewis said…, “God who foresaw your tribulation (storm) has especially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain.” 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV 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.

4. Storms are opportunities.

There is an old parable that says: All sunshine and no rain makes a desert – can have value

God wants to build your faith in the storms of life

•Can find purpose in the middle of a storm

•Our faith can be strengthened in the middle of a storm

•Our faith is tested by the storms of life

1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV- “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

“A smooth sea, never made a skillful mariner. neither does uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify for usefulness and happiness.”

Charles Spurgeon said…”No faith is as precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity”

John Calvin said, “Whatever sort of tribulation or storm we suffer, we should always remember that its purpose is to make us spurn the present and reach out to the future.”

Where’s Your Faith?

Faith does not mean trusting God to stop the storm, but trusting Him to strengthen us as we walk through the storm.

Psalm 23:4 NIV  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

  1. Refuse to be Negative and Fearful.

Psalm 27:1 NIV – The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

•365 times in the Bible it says “Fear Not”

Focus on the positive

•Faith is a trust in God. A belief that He knows what he’s doing regardless of the external circumstance.

•Focus on whats right not whats wrong – when you focus on whats wrong it consumes you spiritually. Don’t be obsessed with crisis and bad news.

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

Take two people in the same situation – One is destroyed by it – the other grows in it – choice

Colossians 1:11 NIV –  “God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.”

When your faith becomes bigger, the storms become smaller.

2. Remember that God is with me.

“For you are with me” – not only power – but presence From “He” to “You” – up close and personal with God

Nahum 1:3 NIV – The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

•Your storm is Satan’s desperation to stop.

•Your greatest breakthrough comes from your greatest storm

Isaiah 43:2 LB – “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up — the flames will not consume you.”

3. Rely on God’s protection and guidance.

“Your rod and staff comfort me” – rod and staff – protect and guide

Psalm 34:19 LB –  “The good man does not escape all troubles — he has them too.  But the Lord helps him in each and every one.”

•Not all storms come because of where you’ve been or what you’ve done – But where you are going and what your going to do.

•Great resistance always proceeds great Opportunity – Satan fears where you are going and who is with you!

Psalm 91:1-16 NIV – Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

REMEMBER – When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.

Daring Faith Pt. 3

Desktop

Daring Faith Pt.3

Hebrews 11:6 NIV – “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who EARNESTLY SEEK HIM.”

Prayer is always the Expression of Faith. The person with Daring Faith…Prays.

The PRAYER of FAITH – It’s you asking God TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT HE HAS PROMISED IN HIS WORD

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

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

The prayer of faith is a “prayer that changes things.” Before you get the wrong idea, the prayer of faith is not a magic wand or a genie in a bottle. But prayer and faith are tools that we can use to implement God’s will in our lives. Through the prayer of faith, we can have the things that God desires for us to have.

•Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the

impossible!

•Faith is not believing that God can but that God will! !

•Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to!

•Faith is the KEY that releases the resources of God into our situation!

Luke 18:1-8 NIV  Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

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

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

•If you and I are too busy to Pray, we give our spiritual life a funeral!

•Our subject comes from Jesus’ parable to those who may grow weary and become negligent in their prayer life even to the point of fainting. Perservering, or continuing in prayer, regardless of circumstances, is the underlying message in the parable of the unjust judge.

“Ought” – means we are under obligation, we are bound, and it is necessary for us to pray always.

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

We are Commanded To Be People Who Pray

I Thessalonians 5:17 NIV – pray continually, (Never stop praying)

I Timothy 2:8 NIV  Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing

James 5:16 NIV – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (effectual & fervant)

•Prayer produces Results

•Effectual – to be operative at work, to put forth with power

•Fervant – to be hot or to boil, tenacious in the spirit, heartfelt, earnest, persistent

None of us can justify a prayer less life. Listen, Prayer is the world’s greatest wireless connection.

The greatest value in prayer is not what you can get from God but what you learn & become

Our most sincere prayer should be: “Lord Teach us to Pray…” Luke 11:1 NIV

What is Prayer? Communication (dialogue) Communion (relationship) Channel for divine power (supernatural)

Why Prayer is an Expression of Faith?

Prayer must be a necessity, not an option! Not only is it a privilege but it’s a duty! It’s a blessing not boring!

1. In Order to keep from Fainting

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

Fainting here is not a physical problem of a temporary loss of consciousness as a result of an inadequate blood to the brain. Fainting is a spiritual condition posing a constant danger to all believers unless they pray!

Faint – to be weak, to fail in heart, to be weary. To toil, to tire, to be sicken.

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.”

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

We live in a time where we are dealing with pressures, weariness, strife, problems, (job, $, Family) difficulties, oppression – enough to make even the strongest of people weary.

“If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.” Martin Luther

Galatians 6:9 NIV Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Answer – Prayer is the one of the most rejuvenating, reviving, restful, experiences a person can engage in. Not so much for the body, because prayer is work, it’s action, it’s movement. But for the Mind, Soul, Spirit, and Heart of a person.

Psalm 17:5 NIV – My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.

If you pray, there is nothing your faith cannot handle

2 Corinthians 4:1,16 NIV – Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 16  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2. In Order to Overcome Satan

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

Satan not only attacks us but he also attacks our prayers in order to stop them!

Faith and prayer can override and supersede any circumstance, event, plan from Satan.

Our prayers not only bring personal victory over Satan; they can spare others for whom we pray from destruction. (Jesus’s prayer for Peter)

Luke 22:31-32 NIV –  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

2 Corinthians 13:7 NIV – Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.

Satan is not just after you, but what is in you! Faith is tested by hardships, disappointments, and difficulties

I Peter 1:6-9 NIV –  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

•Faith and Prayer have eternal value.

•What’s in You is greater than what’s against you! (I John 4:4)

•Gold – $480.25 an ounce, 16 ounces = 1 lb, If you weigh 200 lbs X that by $7,694 = $1,536,800.00

3. In Order to Maintain a Forgiving and Repentant Heart

Matthew 6:14-15 NIV – For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

•Obtaining forgiveness when we fail, is directly connected to our willingness to forgive others. Be quick to forgive.

Luke 17:1-4 NIV –   Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

•Whoever sins should repent! And we should forgive anyone who sins also. Even when others wronged us and do not ask our forgiveness, we should forgive anyway.

Through Prayer we are empowered to forgive and repent.

Mark 11:25 NIV 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

A prayerful life is a powerful life! A prayerless life is a powerless life!

God Makes Outrageous Promises About What He Does WHEN WE PRAY

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

One prayer can change ANYTHING. One prayer can change EVERYTHING

Running the Race

IMG_6945 2

Running the Race of Life

It’s that time that rolls around every four years, when Olympians remind us all of just how out of shape we all are!

•Someone posted on instagram the other day: There are 16 year olds competing at the Olympics and I still push on pull doors and struggle getting through the whole day without a nap LOL

Paul taught these lessons in his time, drawn from the experience of the Corinthian Games.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Paul talks about the Corinthian games which in ancient Greece was second in importance only to the Olympics.  They were held every three years.  I did a little research this week to study what those games were all about.  I thought I’d share a little of this with you.  I discovered that the games including running, leaping, spear throwing, boxing, wrestling, chariot racing and racing in armor (my favorite).  Everyone that competed were required to take an oath that “I trained for at least ten months and I will not resort to unfair tricks.”

There were many benefits to being a winner in the Olympic games first, your name and hometown were shouted out as you were awarded a wreath.  Then you would be given a triumphal parade in your town.  You would be given five hundred drachmas of money.  You would be given the right to sit at a place of honor for all succeeding games for the rest of your life.  Then if you won in the Corinthian games your children would receive a free education for life, you would be exempt from military duty for the rest of your life, and you were released from paying taxes the rest of your life.  Is there any wonder that everybody competed in the Corinthian games?

Paul uses these games as an illustration for life.  He pulls out of them four principles for successful living.  Four things you have to do if you’re going to win at what matters most.  We’re going to look at them today.  But the number one analogy for the Christian in the Bible is that of an athlete.

The Bible says in these verses in 1 Corinthians 9 that there are four things it takes to win in life.

1.  It takes desire.  I must want to win.

2.  It takes direction.  I must focus on a goal.

3.  It takes discipline.  I must be willing to work.

4.  It takes determination.  I must never give up.

What It Takes To Win In Life

1. IT TAKES DESIRE.      “I must want to win!”

1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

“Go for the gold! Aim for victory!  Run to win in life! Have a passion to make your life count!

Reality: Most- live mediocre lives.

Goal: make enough money to retire!  God didnt put you on this earth just to retire! Don’t take your gifts, abilities, passions to heaven with you. Heaven doesn’t need it. The world needs it. When you die, die empty! .  He put you here for a purpose, for a reason.  He wants you to make your life count.

Why would anyone NOT want to win?

o Maybe guilt – “I dont deserve..”

o Background- “You’ll never amt to anything!”

o Fatalistic attitude: “Whatever happens…

o Think its unspiritual

4 years ago Eight badminton players were swatted from the Olympics this week for not trying to win. They were trying to fix the bracket where they would not face tough opponents until the finals. The crowds booed at the embarrassment and finally the officials put an end to it.

Truth: God wants you to Succeed in Life (and your kids)

Then there’s some people who think that they don’t want to win in life because they think success is being selfish.  It’s being unspiritual.  If I try to make my life a success I’m being unspiritual.  Did you know that God wants you to succeed in life?

Psalm 35:27 NIV – May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” “(The Lord is pleased with the success of his servants.”)

Tragedy: We settle for less than God has planned. The tragedy of life is that most people settle for second best.

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

Ask yourself this question – What do I want most in life?

Don’t be flippant about that.  Maybe take a few days, a week or so to think about it.  What do I really want most in life?  Everything starts with desire.  Nothing happens until you start getting God’s dream for your life.

Desire is the starting point but it’s not enough.  I know a lot of people who’d like to be successful.  They had the desire.  But it takes far more than desire.

2. IT TAKES DIRECTION.         “I must focus on a goal!”

I Corinthians 9:26 NIV – Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

(Living Bible)“I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.  I fight to win.  I’m not just shadow boxing or playing around.”

I read a sign one time: If most people drove their cars the way they plan their lives they’d never get out of the driveway.  Most people have never really clarified where they’re headed in life.  People say, Where you going?  To lunch.  What do you want to do with your life?  I don’t know.  They’re just kind of drifting aimlessly all around.  They just try to coast through life.

When you’re coasting, you’ve heard me say this before, you’re always going down hill.  You never coast up a mountain.  Your life is going downhill if you’re coasting

Proverbs 17:24 NIV A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth 

•Good news Bible- “An intelligent man aims at wise action but a fool starts off in many directions.”

If -want your life to count- must settle your direction:

Must know exactly what you want…If you don’t decide what’s really important in your life other people will be glad to do it for you.

Philippians 3:12-14 The Message I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

God says forget the past and press on

Ask: What is the FOCUS OF MY LIFE?

3. IT TAKES DISCIPLINE!          I must be willing to work!

I Corinthians 9:25 NIV – Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

•Living Bible – To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup,[a] but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

These two words – discipline and self-denial – are not exactly popular words in the American culture.  

Discipline is what we need most and want the least in our lives.  Yet it is the thing that turns ability into achievement.  The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is simply this: successful people are willing to do things and develop habits that unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do.  They’re not willing to pay the price.  That’s the difference.  It’s your choice.

•We want beautiful bodies without exercise. We want wealth without work. We want success without sacrifice.  We want spiritual maturity without service and study.  It is absolutely impossible.

Proverbs 13:4 LB – Lazy people want much but get little, while the diligent are prospering.

•The mark of a great achiever is personal discipline. The habits you establish today – determine tomorrow

The third question you have to ask yourself if you really want to succeed in life is Am I willing to pay the price?

4. IT TAKES DETERMINATION.      I must never give up! 

I Corinthians 9:27 NIV – No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Paul: “I do whatever it takes to keep on going!! Nothing could keep him down. Whatever it takes I do that to keep going.  I am not going to stop in the middle of the race.  I’m not going halfway through and quit.  I’m going to make it to the finish line.  That’s determination.

I believe Success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination

Philippians 3:14 NIV – I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus

Persistence is the fourth key to winning.  Determination, diligence, endurance.  Great people are just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination.  They don’t know how to quit.  Most people give up too soon.

Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Notice he says that in order to finish the race in life there are some things you have to let go of and there are some things you have to hold on to.  You’ve got to do them both and don’t get them confused.

ASK What is holding me back?  What is it that’s keeping me from becoming all that God wants me to be? past? addiction? relationship? habit? hurt?

The key: Keep your eyes on Jesus! Reason we give up too soon: We get distracted.

Remember the movie Chariots of Fire.  One of the dramatic scenes in that movie about the Olympics was where the coach of Abraham was scolding Abraham because in the race he was running and he was winning and then he could not stop the urge to look sideways to see if Little was coming up to catch him.  When he looked sideways Little passed him up and he lost the race.  The coach said, “Never take your eye off the goal!”  Don’t do it!  The moment you start looking at the competition you start looking sideways you’re dead in the water.  Don’t do it.

Paul refused to be sidetracked.

2 Tim 4:7 NIV – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

What matters in life is not all the awards and the acclaims and the salaries and the perks and the onuses and getting your picture on the cover of some newspaper.  What matters is the eternal rewards which you will celebrate for eternity.

1 Corinthians 9:25 NIV – Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Focus on running the race that God intends for you

One of the most dramatic ex. of determination: Derrick Redmon- 1992 Barcelona Olympics 400 m runner from Eng.- pulled hamstring  WATCH THIS: VIDEO

Catch what he said?

Derrick: “I felt an arm around me & I shrugged it off. But then my Father said my name!”

Father: “We started this together. We’ll finish it together.”

Derrick:”I’m glad he was there. Because he was the only 

person who could understand what I’ve been through.”

Sometimes the race of life is tough. You get hurt.

You feel like you cant go another step.  Worn out & discouraged.

o But your Heavenly Father is waiting to help.

o He calls your name & puts his arm around you.

o You lean on him… & he helps you finish the race!

Psalm 60:12 NIV – With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (“We can win with God’s help.” )

– We have no guarantee of tomorrow. – Whatever you’re going to do with your life- get on with it! Get on track with God today. The race starts with knowing Jesus.

“Dear God. I realize you made me for a purpose. You have a race for me to run. It is my desire to be what you meant me to be. Today, I’m asking you for direction. Jesus Christ, be my guide & lead me where you want me to go.  Please help me to be more disciplined.  Help me to let go of the things that hold me back. And help me to not get discouraged and give up when things get tough. Help me to keep my eyes on you Jesus. Father, I thank you that we  dont have to run the race of life alone.

Defeating Discouragement

00020029_nv

Defeating Discouragement

There is a plague sweeping the country today. It’s not the Beijing flu, or cancer, or even the common cold. This outbreak, however, can be just as deadly as the most dreaded disease known to man ­it’s called the epidemic of discouragement.

It’s universal. None of us are immune to discouragement. Everyone you have ever known has been discouraged at one time or another.

It’s recurring. Being discouraged once does not give you an immunity to the disease. You can be discouraged over and over again. In fact, you can even be discouraged by the fact that you are discouraged a lot.

It’s highly contagious. Discouragement spreads by even casual contact. People can become disheartened because you are discouraged. You can be bummed out because other people are discouraged.

Discouragement is to lose courage or hope; it is to become overwhelmed or lose heart. When we are discouraged it’s easy to want to quit–to stop doing the very things God told us to do.

Discouragement says, “What’s the use of trying anymore? Isn’t it time to just give up and make the best of it?” The nation of Israel faced that kind of discouragement.

Text: I Kings 19:1-5 NIV – Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

•Elijah had a close relationship with God and was used powerfully by Him. Many people witnessed the greatness of God through the prophet.

•Elijah encouraged many people. He helped a widow and her son who were down-and-out and had only enough food for one more meal. Elijah told the widow that God would provide, and He did. Later, when her son died, Elijah asked God to bring him back to life, and God did. This widow’s hope was restored through Elijah.

•Elijah did many other amazing works by the power of God, but the Bible shows that even great people of God can get tripped up by the trials and challenges of living God’s way in a world under the sway of Satan. The story of Elijah’s descent into depression is a classic.

•Not only was Elijah hated and threatened with death by the evil Queen Jezebel, he also felt his work had been in vain and that no one else was supporting God. He felt totally alone, vulnerable and hopeless. Being human like you and me, all this started to get to him.

•Elijah got discouraged and wanted to quit.

We all want to know how to get through what we are going through. Difficult circumstances affect our moods on a daily basis and can get us discouraged if we let them.

Let’s consider the effect that it had on him.

  1. Caused him to exaggerate the negative and underestimate the positive
  2. Drove him into isolation
  3. Caused him to sulk in self pity
  4. Caused him to be irrational
  5. Took him off course with God’s plan for his life

Elijah’s discouragement got so bad it turned into depression.

What is depression? 

Depression is a serious medical condition. Everyone experiences “ups” and “downs” in their life. But for some people the “downs” can outweigh the “ups.” This can cause problems with everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, working, and getting along with friends. If this happens for more than a few weeks, depression may be the reason.

Depression affects a person’s physical health, as well as how he or she feels, thinks, and acts toward others. It brings about a mixture of feelings and thoughts that can cause someone to depart from his or her usual behavior.

Depression is very common — it affects an estimated 19 million American adults every year. Nearly twice as many women (6.5%) as men (3.3%) suffer from depression each year. The good news is that you can be free from it!

You Must QUIT Focusing…

(Discouragement) Can be temporary–or it can destroy our life. The choice is ours. If we refuse to deal with discouragement head-on, we are opening the door for it to completely dominate our life. – Dr. Charles Stanley

What was it that caused Elijah to become discouraged? What made him want to quit? What causes us to do the same thing? WRONG PERSPECTIVE; in other words, we focus on the wrong things.

When you face discouragement, you can do one of two things, and the one you choose will color your perspective. You can look at others to place the blame, or you can look at yourself to discover your opportunities. The choice is yours. – John Maxwell

  1. The Pain of Yesterday

Jeremiah 6:14 NIV – They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, Peace, they say, when there is no peace.”

Ecclesiastes 7:10 NIV Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.

We make the same mistake. Our perspective can sometimes be wrong; instead of looking forward, we look back at the good old days. Then rather than having faith to move forward, we too find ourselves becoming discouraged and stuck in the past.

God doesn’t want us to just “live in the past”. It’s not good to think how much better it used to be in days gone by because our perspective is wrong.

A WRONG PERSPECTIVE FOCUSES ON THE PAST WITH NO HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. A wrong perspective seeks to resurrect the good old days instead of looking ahead for even greater days. The church of Jesus Christ is not call to move backward or retreat; we’re to move forward with the power of the Holy Spirit!

2. The Pressures of Tomorrow

Matthew 6:34 NIV – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

4 Principles that will Defeat your Discouragement

  1. Protect Your Mind

Dr. Hans Selye researched and popularized a tiny membrane in the back of our head known as the RAS: Reticular Activity System. Primary function – it moves in the direction of your dominant thought at that moment. When we become preoccupied with a thought, we want to act on it.

Ephesians 4:23 AMP – And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind (having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude)

The spirit of your mind is referring to a mood of mind or frame of mind. It is our responsibility to be constantly renewed and get ourselves out of the funk we are in.

What we think determines, to a large degree, how we feel

Proverbs 23:7 NKJV – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Spiritual and Positive forces will always supersede negative forces. Quit negative thinking and self talk.

Philippians 4:8 NIV – Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.

Guard You Emotions: Your mind is a computer – it spits out the data you feed it

Proverbs 4:23 NIV – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

2. Pray to God

I Kings 19:9-10 NIV – 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Billy Graham said, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’ 

“The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes.” Luther

In the jungles of Africa, a man was being pursued by a roaring, hungry lion. Feeling the beast’s hot breath on his neck, and knowing his time was short, he broke out into prayer as he ran like crazy, “O, Lord, please make this lion a Christian. Please make him a Christian!” Within seconds, the frightened man noticed that the lion had stopped chasing him. When he looked behind him, he found the lion kneeling and moving his lips in obvious prayer. Greatly relieved at this turn of events, he got close enough to the lion to hear him pray, “And bless, Oh Lord, this food which I am about to receive.”

John 16:23-24 NIV – In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Spiritual comfort comes through Prayer. Shut off from the world and have a time of Centered prayer.

Psalm 43:5 ESV – Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

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

Philippians 4:6 NIV –  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

Prayer can change ANYTHING. Prayer can change EVERYTHING

Psalm 5:3 NIV – In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;  in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

3. Understand the Power of your Praise

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to forget God when things are tough. I need to be reminded that He is always there for me. How do you remember the Lord?

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

Psalm 43:4 ESV – Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

•When you are feeling no joy, go to God, who will release to you His joy through worship. Music has an amazing power on people who are sick and especially on people who are depressed. The Bible has examples of Saul going to David and asking him to play the harp. It soothed Saul’s soul. Worship will soothe your soul as well. (Example: Tricia in hospital)

•I have found that many times, when I feel discouraged, when I can’t go on, worship lifts me up. Turn on your iPod  and just start to sing and worship. I visualize the hope that I have in Christ when I listen or sing praises to Him.

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

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

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

Praise takes our minds off our situation and focuses them on God. It accepts that God can take all the bad stuff of life and make something beautiful out of it.

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

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

Prayer opens the door for God’s power to move into our lives. But the prayer of praise releases more of God’s power than any other form of petition. The Psalmist wrote, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3 KJV). God actually dwells, inhabits, and resides in our praise. God’s power and presence is near when we praise him. When we praise God for the present situation, God’s power is unleashed.

What’s Next

4. Get Busy with God’s Plan for your Life

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

In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing. Van Gogh

John 6:27 NIV – Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

God gave Elijah something to do

I Kings 19:15-16 NIV – 15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

•He had to shed tears of self pity. Was time to get back to work for God.

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

Many people succumb to this infamous tool of Satan. Maybe you feel its effect now. You can rise above discouragement. Believe that the best is yet to come. Hold on to your dream with a bull-dog tenacity and perseverance that refuses to let go.

How to Get Up When You’ve Been Knocked Down

IMG_6396

How to Get Up when You’ve been Knocked Down

Micah 7:8 ESV – Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up. Vince Lombardi

Falling down doesn’t make you a failure, but staying down does! So you have to get up!

This is a human world. Falling down is just a part of life.

Mohammad Ali said, You Don’t lose if you get knocked down, You lose if you stay down.

“You don’t drown by falling in the water, you drown by staying there”

Examples

1. If JK Rowling stopped after being turned down by multiple publishers for years, while living out of her car, there would be no Harry Potter.

2. If Walt Disney quit after his Theme Park concept was trashed and turned down 302 times by Banks – there would be no Disney Land.

3. If Howard Schultz gave up after being turned down by banks 242 times, There would be no Starbucks.

4. Col. Sanders was rejected 1009 times for his Chicken recipe, and contemplated suicide.

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

3 Specific Times When Life knocks you down

  1. Satan Attacks using his devices, people, & demons
  2. Self Imposed – our own fault
  3. Uncontrollable Circumstances

I. THE FACTS

1. Getting Knocked Down is a fact of life. 

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

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

Getting knocked down in life is a given. Getting up and moving forward is a choice.

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

2. Getting Knocked Down happens to everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

Your struggle is proof that you have not been defeated!

3. Getting Knocked Down won’t last forever.

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

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

4.  Getting Knocked Down can be good for us. 

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

•Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you’ve ever been. To Stand up taller than you’ve ever were.

•Faith is tested by hardships,  disappointments, and difficulties

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

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

II. 3 Keys That You Must Use to Get Up 

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

You can’t really begin to appreciate life until it has knocked you down a few times. You cant really begin to appreciate love until your heart has been broken. And you really can’t begin to appreciate happiness until you’ve known sadness. Once you’ve walked through the valley, the view from the mountain top is breathtaking.

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

Romans 8:31-38 NIV – What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  1. Courage

Psalm 31:24 ESV – Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

We all are faced with discouragement.

Discouragement is to lose courage or hope; it is to become overwhelmed or lose heart. When we are discouraged it’s easy to want to quit–to stop doing the very things God told us to do.

Discouragement says, “What’s the use of trying anymore? Isn’t it time to just give up and make the best of it?” The nation of Israel faced that kind of discouragement.

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s Courage that counts” Winston Churchill

Courage – is what makes someone capable of facing extreme danger and/or difficulty without retreating. It implies not only bravery and a dauntless spirit but the ability to endure times of adversity.

“You will never do anything worthwhile in this world without courage” James Allen

EnCOURAGE-ing Word for the weak,  afraid, and discouraged

Joshua 1:5-9 NIV No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

•Joshua was at a crucial time in his life. He was being coached by God to make an internal transition. To go from following to leading, to step into a new role, a new place, a new position in life.

Why? People will face DisCouragement – feeling of despair in the face of obstacles. It traps you inside yourself. It is subtle in its attack and powerful in it’s ability to paralyze your progress!

How it enters: We start evaluating our negative circumstances based upon info supplied by our senses.

“Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers”- Karl Barth

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway” – John Wayne

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” Billy Graham

2. Perseverance

Psalm 18:31-37 NIV– For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? 32  It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. 33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. 34  He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 35  You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. 36 You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. 37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed.

Perseverance – steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty, discouragement, or delay in achieving success. (Tracy Sagar)

Extraordinary people have 3 dominant traits. 1. They Respond positively to all challenges and learn from mistakes 2. Take personal initiative 3. Have great perserverance

Those who persevere are the ones left standing when everyone else quits.

Perseverance is rooted in Severe which means, great discomfort, damage, dangerous, distress, difficult. Stretch or extreme

Mohammad Ali said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life like a champion”

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark – Charles Spurgeon

“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”

Don’t Give up! Don’t Back Down! Tenacious Unsinkable people don’t quit bc of circumstances, rejections, or problems! They Persevere!

It’s Always too soon to Quit! 

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph it and its moons, and beam data it collected about this giant planet back to earth. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, because up until then no satellites had gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it would ever get to Jupiter. But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Flying past Jupiter in November 1973, the space probe continued its incredible journey toward the edge of our solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past the planet Uranus, then past Neptune, at nearly three billion miles, and Pluto, at almost four billion miles. By 1997, 25 years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. And it’s still going. Though now nearly 8 billion miles from the sun, the satellite keeps sending signals; some were received as recently as April 27, 2002. And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continues to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. Commenting on the Pioneer 10 in Time magazine Leon Jaroff says, “Perhaps most remarkable, is the fact that those signals emanate from an eight-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night-light, and take more than nine hours to reach Earth.””The Little Satellite That Could” was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of only three years. But it has kept going and going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny eight-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible. So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with only eight-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who gives up and quits.(Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: The Strength to Stand and to Stay; Bethany House, 1998)

Matthew 24:13 NIV – but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Story: Sir Edmund Hillary was attempting to scale Mt. Everest and lost one of his team members in a failed effort. He returned with a hero’s welcome in London where a banquet was held in his honor and attended by all the powerful people of Great Britain.

Behind the speaker’s platform, they had hung a huge blown up photo of Mt. Everest. When Sir Edmund Hillary rose to receive the acclaim of this distinguished audience, he turned around, faced the picture and said…

“Mt. Everest, you have defeated me… but I will return!

And I will defeat you! Because you can’t get any bigger… and I can!”

Eventually, he did scale that huge Mt. and was the 1st man to ever do so… but the lesson is this… Because God is sticking with us… no matter what the challenge, no matter how many failures we have to endure… the fact is, God is using them to help us grow BIGGER!

Regardless of what life throws at us, with His help, we’ll always come out ahead!

James 1:12 NIV – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

II Timothy 4:7 NIV – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

“We conquer by continuing.”- George Matheson

3. Faith

This is your position above your problems

Joel Osteen said, We may get knocked down on the outside, but the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside. 

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

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

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

Romans 8:37 NIV – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

(hypernikos)- more than, over above and beyond, greater, top notch, paramount, ovwhelming enormous

•This is the kind of FAITH God puts on the inside of YOU!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holding faith connects you to the Power of God!

If you give up to soon, you’ll never know what you’ll be missing. Never Give up and never Stop Believing!

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

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

Less Than 2%

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray….

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

Midian Oppresses Israel (Judges 6:1-10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Doubt, Disobedience and Distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baal and Asherah – male and female fertility gods of Canaanites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Selects Gideon’s Army

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gideon’s Legacy (Judges 8:22-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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