Spiritual Priorities: The Sacrament of Communion

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The Sacrament of Communion

Exodus 12:26-27 ESV –  And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Luke 22:15-20 ESV – And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

I Corinthians 5:7 ESV – …For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrifice

•Most Christians know that there is somewhat of a correlation between the Passover of the Old Testament and Communion in the New Testament.

Passover – Instituted when God was about to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

Communion – Instituted when God was about to deliver us from the bondage of sin.

Passover – A lamb without blemish was slain and sacrificed.

Communion – Jesus was identified as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Passover – They were spared from death when they applied the blood to the door frames.

Communion – We are saved from the penalty of sin when we apply the blood by faith.

Introduction

The word Communion means:  A having in common; A partnership; A fellowship recognized and enjoyed; The share which one has in anything (Koinonia)

Communion is related to the words common and communication. The very word Communion implies being with someone. Communion is a celebration that binds people together. It is meant to be done together. It has to be done in community. all kinds of people together.

The Church, the community of Faith is God saying: “I’m throwing a dinner, all you mismatched, messed up people are invited. Here, have some wine, eat some bread! Taste and see that the Lord is good! Enjoy!”

Karl Barth said, “Holy Communion is offered to all, as surely as the living Jesus Christ is for all, as surely as all of us are not divided in him, but belong together as brothers and sisters, all of us poor sinners, all of us rich through his mercy. Amen.” 

Communion is God transforming ordinary things into sacred, holy things – scraps of food into a feast and empty vessel into gallons of fine wine – communion says you are welcomed here God always is and is ever enough! 

Today this meal is known by many names – mass, holy communion, the Eucharist (Thanksgiving), the Lord’s Supper, The Table of the Lord, and is practiced in a myriad of ways. For some it marks the climax of every weekly gathering, for others it is observed just a few times a year.

The bread may come as a hot loaf straight out of the oven, an oyster cracker nestled in the palm, or a thin wafer consecrated by a priest and placed directly on the tongue. The wine may be served from an ornamental chalice, a bottle passed around the table, or in rings of little plastic cups – the wine may even be grape juice.

The elements and the meal are identified in different ways – the body of Christ, broken; the blood of Christ, shed; the Bread of heaven, the cup of salvation, the mystery of faith, the supper of the Lamb, or the cup of blessing.

JRR Tolkien said, “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth.” 

What is the Lord’s Supper? 

1. It’s a Reminder

I Corinthians 11:23-24 ESV – For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Remember what? 

“Remember” How God became one of us (John 1:1)? Remember how God ate with us and drank with us? Remember how God suffered for us, and died for us, and gave his life for the world? Remember, you are loved? Remember you are welcomed? Remember? Remember?

John 6:35 ESV – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Bread is considered a staple food—i.e., a basic dietary item. A person can survive a long time on only bread and water. Bread is such a basic food item that it becomes synonymous for food in general.

First, by equating Himself with bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. Second, the life Jesus is referring to is not physical life, but eternal life. Third, and very important, Jesus is making another claim to deity. This statement is the first of the “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel. The phrase “I AM” is the covenant name of God (Yahweh, or YHWH), revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

•The two disciples walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

-Jesus was in another form – was not recognized by them. Disappointed.

-At Emmaus, they had bread.  Jesus blessed, and broke it and the bread hit the table and Jesus was gone. But the bread remained. (Don’t miss that) They knew it was Jesus.

Interesting to note also that the word “Bethlehem” in Hebrew means “house of bread”. Jesus used the word “bread” to refer to that when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Remember, Christ satisfies ALL hunger

Remember, Jesus is present with us as Bread on this table – We think God is a diety in a temple. It turns out that he is bread and wine at a table.

2. It’s a Symbol

I Corinthians 11:25 ESV In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

French philosopher Voltaire and American President John Adams are famous for their criticisms of Christianity because they thought it was a “bloody religion,” with all its wars, its frequent mention of blood, and the bloody death of its founder, Jesus Christ.

a. We gain bold access to God in worship and prayer

Hebrews 10:19 ESV – Therefore, brothers,[a] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

“If the Cross is God’s masterpiece of His love, then the Eucharist is the centerpiece of our worship.”

•The Bible is clear that every person is alienated and separated from God because of our sin (Colossians 1:21).

•If you are a Christian today, you can have boldness and confidence as you approach God with your prayers and your worship, because you are no longer far away from God, “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ(Ephesians 2:13).

b. Forgiveness of sin

Ephesians 1:7 ESV – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

•He said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  He was telling His disciples that just as the blood of the lamb delivered the Hebrews from the night of terrors in Egypt, so Christ’s own blood would deliver the people who were covered by it from the judgment of God on the last day.

•The hymn, “Nothing But the Blood”

3. It’s a Statement of Faith

I Corinthians 11:26 ESV For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

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

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

Fact: I fully confess that Jesus will come again! When we take communion we are saying We believe that, even if we don’t know how to explain it.

•Mystery is good for theology. Mystery is good for the soul. Christianity is a sacred mystery.

“The Lord’s Supper is a link between the Lord’s first coming and His second coming.”  Frederic Godet

What will I do?

I Corinthians 11:27-28 ESV – Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup

1. Examine Myself

Psalms 139:23-24 ESV – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts![a]24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Some people read this and begin to get under all kinds of condemnation.  “I’m so unworthy.  I missed it this past week.  I don’t deserve to take communion.”

examine – to observe carefully or critically, to inspect, to study, to analyze.

Having sinned does not disqualify a person from taking communion.  If it did, none would qualify.  This table is not for perfect people!

One commentator said: “If the table of Christ were only for perfect people none might ever approach it.  The way is never closed to the repentant sinner.  To the man who loves God and his fellow men the way is very open, and his sins, though they be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (William Barclay)

I Corinthians 11:29-31 ESV29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[a] 31 But if we judged[b] ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

Examining yourself is certainly not the same as condemning yourself.

Examine yourself…in the light of God’s love and mercy, in the light of His shed blood, in the light of His word

If you see an area where you need to make an adjustment, make it.  But know that God is for you, not against you. He wants to help you overcome, not condemn you, for having fallen short!

James 1:23-25 NIV – Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

•Mirror – reflects, reveals

2. Confess my Sins

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

One of the things we see at communion is ourselves – betrayal, sin, doubt, unbelief were all there at the table that night during the Lord’s supper. We all have the capacity to betray, abandon, and sin against Christ.

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

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.

Consequences of Sin – Spiritual death, eternal separation from God

We take communion not because we are perfect, but because we are not. We have not arrived but we are traveling. We are not right. We are wrong. We are not divine, We are human. We are not full, but we are hungry.

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

Jesus is a greater savior than we are a sinner!

There is hope! The Gospel has the hope. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for our sins.

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

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

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

Confession of Sin

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

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

3. Recommit My Life to God

Romans 12:1 NIV – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship

Communion invites us to the Table of God. There we make things right.

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

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending!

Romans 8:1-2 NIV –  1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.

Any hope for you? YES!

Acts 2:36-39 ESV – Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Rusty and Band – sing Doxology as the congregation stands and walks to the front to get communion 

Communion liturgy

Jesus said: I am the bread of life.

All who come to me shall not hunger,

and all who believe in me shall not thirst.

With Christians around the world

and throughout the centuries,

we gather around these symbols

of bread and wine—simple elements

that speak of nourishment and transformation.

Let us pray.

Loving God, we thank you 

that you are as close to us as breath, 

that your love is constant and unfailing.

We thank you for all that sustains life, 

and especially for Jesus Christ,

who teaches us how to live out 

an ethic of justice and peace,

and for the promise of transformation

made manifest in his life, death and resurrection.

We ask you to bless this bread and this cup.

Through this meal, make us the body of Christ,

that we may join with you in promoting the well-being of all creation. Amen.

We remember on the night

when Jesus and the disciples

had their last meal together,

Jesus took the bread, gave thanks,

and gave it to the disciples,

saying “This is my body, 

which is broken for you. 

Take and eat it, and as often as you do, remember me.”

[Distribution of the bread.]

In the symbol of the broken bread, we participate in the life of Christ

and dedicate ourselves

to being his disciples.

In the same way he took the cup,

and after giving thanks

he gave it to the disciples, saying:

Drink this, all of you. 

This cup is the new covenant,

poured out for you and for many

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

[Distribution of the wine.]“

In the symbol of the cup, we participate in the new life Christ brings.

Let us pray. We give thanks, loving God,

that you have refreshed us at your table.

Strengthen our faith; 

increase our love for one another.

As we have been fed by the seed that became grain, and then became bread, may we go out into the world to plant seeds of justice, transformation, and hope. Amen.

Bless One Another – A beautiful expression of worship, unity, forgiveness, and strength 

“The peace of Christ be with you – and also with you”

 

Shift Pt.8 – Habits

Shift-Series

Shift Pt.8 – Habits

(Hebrews 12:11 NIV) “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.

I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

I am completely at your command.

Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly, correctly.

I am easily managed – you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great people; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human being.

You may run me for a profit or turn me for ruin – it makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?

I AM HABIT.

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.

H-A-B-I-T…When 95% of people hear this word, a negative thought pops up in their minds. Typically, most people think of a habit being negative. If there are negative habits that can destroy people’s lives then there are also positive habits that can build our lives.

The secret to your future lies in your daily habits so ask yourself right now, “Are my habits today going to help me achieve my success and shift in life?”

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits”

Habits – a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way; a pattern of behavior. Habit comes from a Latin word which means to “hold” or “live in”.

The Roman poet Ovid said, Nothing is stronger than habit.” Dr. Samuel Johnson, said, “Habits are chains that are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” Habits can become stronger than life itself. An old Spanish proverb says, “Habits begin like threads in a spider’s web, but end like the chains in a prison.”

Some people are always late, while others are never late

Some people always see the problems, while others always see the possibilities

Some people are predictable frowners, while others are predictable smilers

•the habit of making yourself look good

•the habit of giving up too early

•the habit of not telling the whole truth

•the habit of taking the easy way

•the habit of getting angry all the time

•the habit of blaming others for everything

•the habit of feeling sorry for yourself

•the habit of ducking your responsibilities

Do I need to go on? Have I named your bad habit yet?

 In 1989 Steven Covey wrote a bestselling book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” which outlined 7 habits which he promises guarantee success in life.

Success often depends on the habits you develop. The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.”

A doctor was counseling his patient about a problem with his weight. “I don’t know what the problem is doctor. I just can’t seem to get rid of this flab. Maybe I have an overactive thyroid.” To which the doctor replied, “Listen, I’ve run tests and your thyroid is fine. If anything’s overactive it’s your fork.”

Ouch! That’s not what we like to hear! It’s not always easy to get rid of unhealthy habits, is it? It’s not always easy to develop new healthy habits you’ve never practiced before. But the truth is your habits really can make you or break you. One of the keys to living life to the fullest is to develop healthy habits not only of body, but of mind and spirit.

I want to look to a better book than Covey’s—I want us to look at God’s book, the Bible, where we can discover habits which can guarantee success in your life-not success in the stock market, or success as the world measures success, or lasting success in the eyes of God .

Isaiah 55:7-9 NIV – Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.8  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord.9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

They are Hard Habits to Break

Bad habits are easy to develop, and often hard to deal with and remove. The best time to deal with a bad habit is NOW! To delay only allows the habit to get entrenched deeper in our lives.

JC Penney said, The best way to stop a bad habit is never to begin it

A bad habit is something you find yourself doing even though it is destructive either physical, mentally, emotionally, relationally or spiritually. Or you consistently do something you wish you wouldn’t do, but you find yourself doing it any way.

(Romans 7:15, 18-19, 20-21, 25 NLT) “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 18 I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

•Confused. •Conflicted. •Discouraged.

ILL. I heard the story of how elephants are brought into captivity. Have you ever been to a circus and seen a giant elephant with a small rope around its ankle? Did you ever stop to think, hey, wait a minute? Physically speaking, there is no way that small little rope can hold back that giant elephant! And did you ever wonder how it happened that a giant elephant could be held in place by something that does not have the power to contain him.

Here’s how it works. When trainers begin taming a baby elephant, they place a heavy chain around its ankle and stake the chain into the ground. Day after day, hour after hour, the baby elephant struggles to escape. But his efforts are in vain. He simply cannot break free from the grips of that powerful chain. Eventually he surrenders. He resolves in his mind that there is no possible way he can escape that chain. So he relinquishes forever the struggle to be free.

Then when he has given up trying, his masters replace that giant chain with the small little rope. If the elephant ever opened his eyes to the truth, he could break free at any moment. All it would take is one try, but since the elephant doesn’t know that, he doesn’t take a step in the right direction of freedom.

And so it happens that ten, twenty, thirty years later, the giant elephant remains held in bondage by something that really has no power to control him, except the power he chooses to give it.

Destructive, bad habits form unseen chains that make a slave out of you – and finally destroy you.

The Promise is: 

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

True freedom is not the right to do what I want but the power to do what I ought!

Romans 12:2 NLT – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Harness the Power of a Good Habit – Bad habits must be replaced by good ones

It’s not so much that we break bad habits; we must replace them.

example– Worry needs replaced with trust in God, negative thoughts with faith filled positive thoughts

Ex: An old Cherokee tale tells of a grandfather teaching life principles to his grandson. The wise old Cherokee said Son on the inside of every person a battle is raging between 2 wolves. One wolf is evil… It’s angry, jealous, unforgiving, proud and lazy. The other wolf is good. It’s filled with love, kindness, generosity and self control… the 2 wolves are constantly fighting. The little boy thought about it and said Grandfather, which wolf is going to win? The grandfather smiled and said whichever one you feed.

Ephesians 4:17-24 NIV – So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Great People Have Great Habits

•Luke 4:16 – Jesus had a habit of going to church every Sabbath

•Daniel 6:10 – Daniel had a habit of giving thanks to God in prayer three times a day

•Psalms 34:1 – David had a habit of praising God continually

When you change habits, by improving them, you literally change and improve your life. 

•A change of habit can change your financial position… you can be in a completely different position 3 months from now…

•A change of habit can put you in better relationships… (attend life group)

•A change of habit can change the atmosphere of your Home

•A change of habit can add incredible insight to your life… (reading books)

•A change of habit can add years to your life and increase the quality of your life…

OUR LIFE GETS BETTER WHEN WE GET BETTER. 

When you practice good habits you produce good fruit. (results) Good habits will make your life easier, more successful, and more productive.

Matt. 12:33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

“For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. When you grow, everything in your life grows with you.” Jim Rohn

Habits are like gravity; they will always pull you towards them.

First We make a Habit, then a Habit makes us

Nobody is going to compete in the Olympics without first embracing a lifestyle of Habit. Champions have champion habits. 

If you want to rise above mediocrity…If you want to create a positive force that will move you towards massive success….then you must develop good habits .

(1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT) “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.”

(Hebrews 12:1 NLT) “…Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”

“We sow our thoughts, and we reap our actions. We sow our actions and we reap our habits. We sow our habits, and we reap our character, and we reap our destiny.”

When You SHIFT your Habits, by replacing them, You literally Shift and improve your Life 

Bad habits are not one time experiences. When what you do repeatedly changes, your life changes

Life Style habits that change our lives when we change (Shift) them:

Spending habits, driving habits, social habits, talking habits, dressing habits, eating and drinking habits, giving habits, reading habits, sexual habits, church attendance habits, and exercise habits.

Those Shifts of Habit: 

Can qualify you for a promotion,

Can open the door for new and better relationships to enter your life

Can increase and position you in a place of prosperity

Can change the atmosphere in your home

Can add years to your life and increase the quality of your life

If We are not making positive Shifts in our lives, then negative shifts (changes) are making us.

If you could change one habit, what would you change? Whatever the answer is, make every effort to add to who you already are as a person

2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV – For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Never Stop Changing Never stop replacing Habit for Habit. Whenever negative habits are allowed to linger in our lives, they steal the possibilities of a new and better life!

It’s not what you HEAR that makes you SHIFT, It’s what you DO

Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by CHANGE. Don’t be a victim of your habits.

James 1:22-25 ESV – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

What To Do Today to Shift Your Habits

1. Change Your Thinking

If you want things to SHIFT and Change on the outside, you HAVE to change and shift things on the inside!

Proverbs 4:23 NCV “Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.”

Because you mind is the drawing room for your tomorrow. What happens in your mind will happen in time.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.”

2. Change your Speaking 

The Mouth is the expression of your thoughts. What you are thinking is expressed in what you say and do.

(Proverbs 18:21 NIV) “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

“Words are the guides to acts; the mouth makes the first move”

3. Change your Relationships 

When right people enter your life, right things happen. Right people are those who will build you and not tear you down. They are excited about your potential and dreams. They increase you not decrease you.

I Corinthians 15:33 ESV Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals

The opposite is also true: good company corrects bad morals. If you have a bad habit you’re trying to break, seek out the company of good people. Let their “goodness” rub off on you.

(Proverbs 13:20 MSG) “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

4. Pray

Don’t overlook the power of prayer – God Makes Outrageous Promises About What He Does WHEN WE PRAY

Matthew 26:41 ESV – Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus told his disciples to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  When you know temptation is coming your way, you must call upon God for the strength to resist the temptation.  If your spirit is willing but your flesh is weak, you need God’s hand leaning on the scale to help your resistance outweigh the force of habit.  The most potent way for overcoming sinful or bad habits is to ask God for help.

One prayer can change ANYTHING. one prayer can change EVERYTHING

Matthew 7:7-8 ESV “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

John 15:7 ESV – If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Anything: any thing whatever; something, no matter what: a thing of any kind. in any degree; to any extent; in any way; at all:

•If you want to see Great Results in prayer, then be specific when you ask God for what you want, need, or desire.

Shift Pt 4

Shift-Series

Shift Pt 4

Shift Your Thinking -You will never change your life until you change the way you think

Ask your neighbor: “Do you have a Mind to Change?” Then tell them, “You need to make a Shift!” 

Ephesians 3:20 NKJV – Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

The truth is – some people have some stinking thinking, so nothing is working!

The difficulty with thinking for a change…Lies not so much in developing a new mindset, But in escaping the old mindset

There is nothing more powerful than a changed mind! You can change your hair color. Your address. Your residence. Your Spouse. But if you don’t change your mind, the same experiences in your life will perpetually happen over and over! If you want things to SHIFT and Change on the outside, you HAVE to change and shift things on the inside!

“For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. When you grow, everything in your life grows with you.” Jim Rohn

Thoughts are like trains they take you somewhere. Therefore, Life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts.

Proverbs 23:7 NKJV “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…”

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” James Allen

You’re not what you think you are, but what you think…you are.

Proverbs 4:23 NCV “Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.”

Henry Ford said, “If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Why? Because you mind is the drawing room for your tomorrow. What happens in your mind will happen in time.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.”

Our thoughts determine our destiny.

(Romans 8:5-6 NLT) “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace.”

2 Functions of our mind

  1. Memory – Replay the Past
  2. Imagination – PrePlay the Future

•You can use (Jesus) or misuse (Tower of Babel) your imagination

•Your thoughts/words trigger images. Your imagination is not evil, it is a gift from God. Why? We think in pictures. Where is your mind taking you?

In your mind, you can go to your past or to your future. You decide. Your mind is not restricted by location. God gave you a MIND so He can give you a picture of where He wants to take you.

The Battlefield of the Mind

Turmoil, anger, bitterness, aggrevation, worry, lack, anguish, fear, stress, hurt, etc…The fight is in your mind!

It’s with our mind we serve the Lord, that’s the enemy battles us in our minds! 

(2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV) “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

(2 Corinthians 2:11) in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

Thoughts = Schemes

Negative thoughts never lead to a positive life.

(Psalm 42:5 NIV) “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God…”

Romans 12:1-3 NIV Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

•Renewing your mind will Transform your life!

•“How you think determines what you become” Zig Ziglar

Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Unlock the power of possibility thinking.

Stop focusing on the impossibilities – stay away from “experts”

Take the word out of your vocabulary. Don’t reduce God down to the size of your brain

We need to think with a mind of faith – possibilities. Otherwise you will limit yourself and God

Discover the joy of possibility thinking – getting out of the box. God is able!

(Mark 10:27)  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Changed thinking will change my life.

“Whatever we think about and thank about we bring about.”

Philippians 4:8-9 NIV “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… and the God of peace will be with you.

1. Think true thoughts.

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

2. Think powerful thoughts.

(1 John 4:4 NIV) “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Don’t see yourself as average or a victim – see yourself as a victor. God wants you believe Him for big things – powerful thoughts

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

3. Think pure thoughts.

(Psalm 19:14 NLT) “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

4. Think positive thoughts.

(Philippians 4:13 NIV) “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Positive minds produce positive lives – Negative minds produce negative lives negative.

Take charge of the way you look at every day – every situation. There is a lot in life you cannot change. But you can change your attitude

(Ephesians 4:19 NIV) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

The positive thinker sees the opportunity in every difficulty!

5. Think God thoughts.

(Joshua 1:8)  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; 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.”

(Isaiah 26:3 Amplified) “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”

What to do with What you Think

1. If you think of something hurtful – swallow it.

(Ephesians 4:29 GWT) “Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.”

(Proverbs 13:3 NLT) “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.”

2. If you think of something helpful – say it.

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

(Proverbs 15:4 NIV) “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

God paints your future success, significance, peace, and joys on the canvas of you mind

(Isaiah 55:9)  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Amos 4:13 NIV- He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord God Almighty is his name. 

Isn’t that awesome? The God who set the mountains in place puts the thoughts in your mind. How you think matters to God!

God not only wants to help you control your thoughts. But He wants to take your thoughts to higher heights

There are only 2 options: Shift Your Thinking or make execuses.

“The best time to start improving the next 10 years of your life is always – now. Why wait?” What you do today determines what happens tomorrow! So Shift your thinking today!

Because Knowing God Changes Everything

25407_j_knowing-god-changes-everything

Because Knowing God Changes Everything

Lucy and Linus are gazing out the window at a staggering downpour of rain.

“Boy, look at it rain, ” Lucy says, fear etched on her face. “What if it floods the whole world?”   “It will never do that, Linus responds confidently. “In the 9th Chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”   “You’ve taken a great load of my mind, ” Lucy says with a sigh of relief. Linus replies, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”

That is my aim in this message today! To articulate the good theology (study of God) that  God is a good God contrary to what someone may have said about Him, or our past perceptions.

I googled God. turns out there are 564 million results. My conclusion after the first few pages….Everyone has an opinion about God.

Problem in America today is that Christianity is 3000 miles wide and 1 inch deep. We need to leave the kiddy pool of christianity and launch out into the deep!

We really have a warped society that believes God is dead and Elvis is alive. But in spite of our ignorance here is the heart of God:

Psalm 145:8-16 (NIV)  8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. 11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, 12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.[a]14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

AW Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

A person’s perception of understanding of the nature of God will determine their level of faith in His ability or desire to help them.

Religious Myths About God

Human inquiry into the divine has produced a vast pantheon of gods — from Ares to Zeus\

Myth – a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon

Greek Mythology – The Odyssey, The Iliad by Homer, Mt Olympus, Zeus, Hades, Athena, Apollo, Hermes, Prometheus, Atlas, The Clash of the Titans

(1 Timothy 1:3-4 NLT) “…stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.”

How are we to discover God as God is? As a Christian, pastor, and preacher, I would like to recommend that we look to Jesus for our answer to the question.

What if God is like Jesus? What if the personality of God is identical to the personality of the man called Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels? 

Jesus audaciously made this claim:

John 14:9 ESV  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

What if that claim is true? Wouldn’t that be good news?

Jesus is the exact representation of God’s Nature

Hebrews 1:1-3 The MSG -Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!

Colossians 1:15 NLT – Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation

What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior? ‘Believers’ and atheists alike typically carry and finally reject the toxic images of God in their own hearts and minds.

God is like Jesus. Jesus is the Message of God. Jesus is what God has to say. Jesus is the full and faithful witness to how God is to be understood. Jesus didn’t come to save us from God (as some deplorable theories would lead us to believe) — Jesus came to reveal God as savior. Jesus didn’t come to enable God to love us — Jesus came to reveal God as love. Jesus didn’t come to reconcile God to the world — Jesus came to reconcile the world to God.

Colossians 2:9 NLT – For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body

Christianity grounded in the confession that Jesus is the icon of the invisible God. I am in full sympathy with those who find a “Sinners In the Hands of An Angry God” Christianity repellent and in need of being jettisoned. I have pitched the theologies of an angry, retributive deity back into the dark sea of paganism. The good news is that buried under centuries of misconstrued Christianity there is a beautiful gospel just waiting to be discovered.

What You Must Know about God

I Corinthians 15:34 MSG – Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these

Brennan Manning said, “Something is radically wrong. The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of Grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small minded bookkeeper. The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works wherein the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored. Love is stifled, freedom shackled, and self righteousness fastened. The institutional church has become a wounder of the healers rather than a healer of the wounded.”

1. God is Powerful

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV – Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 44:24 NIV – This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:I am the Lord, the Maker of all things,who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself,

Augustine said, “The very order, disposition, beauty, change, and motion of the world and of all visible things silently proclaim that it could only have been made by God.”

Isaiah 45:12 NIV – It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.

•The Proof of God’s Power is not in an explanation but in a changed life

Fredrick Buechner said, “God cannot be expressed but only experienced”

2. God is Good

Psalm 31:19 – How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you

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

Psalm 34:8 ESV – Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

God cannot cease from doing good, because HE is GOOD!

Psalm 103:1-5 ESV – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s

Matthew 7:11 NIV11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

3. God is Gracious and Merciful

(Ephesians 2:8-9) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this 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! 

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

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

(Psalm 145:8 NIV) – “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

•Because of Grace, God chose to clean up what we messed up

(Micah 7:18) “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.”

(Psalm 103:9-10) “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

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

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

What God Wants You to Know about HIM

1. To know that God loves me.

Lamentations 3:21-23 NIV – “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORDʼs great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God’s love for us is enormous, extravagant, endless….God doesn’t love us sometimes….He loves us All the Time. He loves us unconditionally.

CS Lewis said, “Though our feelings come and go, God’s Love for us does not.” 

“God loves us; not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.”- C.S. Lewis

Psalm 36:5-7 NIV– Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

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

The Msg – God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic,His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.7-9 How exquisite your love, O God! How eager we are to run under your wings, To eat our fill at the banquet you spread as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water. You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light.

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

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Augustine

2. To know that God has a plan for me.

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.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV – “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

My Prayer for you

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

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

The Baggage of Busyness

baggage

The Baggage of Busyness

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

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

If I Had My Life To Live Over by Erma Bombeck

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

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

Some of us are overwhelmed by the pace of life. 

•The term 24/7 – nonstop. It’s become a mantra for our American culture. Everything is MORE. (It’s not a scheduling issue but a life issue)

Eccl. 7:29 JB God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising

There was a recent survey, where they discovered, that many would rather work than play, . . . that, we enjoy employment, . . . over enjoyment. We’re going to look at, a prescription, for people, . . . under pressure.

Quiz to find out, . . . if you’re a workaholic:

  1. Are you always, . . . in a hurry?
  2. Is your “To do” list, . . . always, unrealistically long?
  3. Do you use days off, . . . to catch up, on unfinished work?
  4. Has more than one person, . . . ever told you, to slow down?
  5. Do you feel guilty, . . . when you relax?
  6. Do you have to get sick, . . . to take time off?

This is not the kind of life God wants you to live

Psalm 127:2 (The Message) “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?”

Psalm 23:2 “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters.”

He’s referring to rest and refreshment. God is interested in your rest and recreation. He wants you to live a whole, balanced and complete life. He wants you to not be working all the time.

A CNN pole recently said that 59% of all Americans would like to slow down and relax more. A Harris pole said we have 8.5 hours less leisure time than we did a decade ago. We’re working more and enjoying it less.

A prescription for pressured people: God’s Way to RELAX and UNWIND

1. REALIZE MY WORTH

The reason, most people, overwork, is because they confuse, their work, . . . and, their worth.  We think that, if we work a whole lot, achieve a lot, . . . we’re worth a lot.  We confuse, what we do, with who we are.  In America, we get our primary identity, from what we do.  When we meet someone, after we find out their name, usually the second question is, “What do you do?”  We get our worth, we think, . . from our work.

The Bible doesn’t, teach that.  It says our worth, is regardless, . . of what our work is.  The real reason, you overwork is, you say, . . . “I’ll show them.  I will prove my worth, by my accomplishments, my achievements.”  You never accomplish, enough, . . . to feel satisfied.

The antidote is to realize what God says about you.

James 1:18 (NCV) “God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made.”

God says you matter more than the rest of creation. You can relax; you don’t have to prove your worth. If you were made by God, you’re worth it. You don’t spend your whole life, . . . trying to win the approval, of other people.  You don’t need the approval, of other people, . . . to be happy.  But, you do need to realize, . . . how valuable you are, to God.

Matthew 6:26 NIV Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

1) You will never understand how much God loves you here on earth.

2) There is nothing you can ever do in life that will make God love you more than He already does.

3) There is nothing you can ever do that will make God love you any less. His love is not based on your performance. It’s unconditional love. It’s based on who He is.

You don’t have to prove your worth by overworking. God says you are OK.

Isaiah 49:16 NIV – See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

2. ENJOY WHAT I ALREADY HAVE

Ecclesiastes 3:13 ESV – also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Can you be so preoccupied in getting more that you don’t enjoy what you’ve got? Sure. Can you so busy trying, with the desire to acquire more and more that you don’t enjoy what’s already in your garage?

We get into a syndrome: The desire to acquire. They’ve got that so we’ve got to get that. They’ve moved up so we’ve got to move up. We’re trying to keep up with the Jones’s not realizing they just refinanced or filed for bankruptcy. We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like. We try to get more and more and we get overextended financially.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 Good News Translation – Maybe so, but it is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind.

As a pastor I’ve been at a lot of death beds. I have never had one person say at their final breath “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Many have said “I wish I had spent more time with my kids (wife, husband, building relationships, with God)”

Enjoy what you have while you’ve got it and don’t be worrying about getting more all of the time.

3. LIMIT MY LABOR

We must make, a conscious decision, to make time, for other things, . . . besides work.  We have to decide, how many hours, I realistically want to spend working, each week, . . . and, then, we need to stick to it.  We need to schedule time, for ourselves, with God alone, with our family — those are important elements, in our life, . . . as well as work

Our best requires rest. You can get so many irons in the fire, you put out the fire.

Ecclesiastes 10:15 Good News Translation (GNT) 15 Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.

Exodus 20:9-11 MSG – Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day

God says that one day off every week is the rule. This is the fourth commandment; it’s in the Big Ten. It’s so important that God put it up there with “Don’t commit adultery” and “Don’t murder”. That’s how serious God takes this.

Why? The Bible calls it the Sabbath. Sabbath means a day of rest.

Mark 2:27 NIV – Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Colossians says it doesn’t matter, what day you choose, . . . as long as, you choose one, . . . every week.  {Sunday is not, my Sabbath, . . . it’s a work day.}

What should you do on your day off, your Sabbath?

1) Rest my body. If you don’t take time to rest your body, your body will make time to rest itself — either in the hospital or with a cold or flu. Our best requires rest. During the French Revolution they outlawed Sunday as a day of rest. Within a few years they had to reinstate it. Not for religious reasons but because the health of the nation had collapsed. They were all burnt out.

Do you feel guilty when you relax? Jesus didn’t. He took time off. Are you busier than Jesus? Is what you’re doing more important than what Jesus did?

2) Recharge your emotions. What things recharge you emotionally? You need quietness. You need recreation —play, meditate, pray, Be still, be with your family.

3) You need to refocus your spirit. The Bible calls this worship. Worship brings things into perspective.

When you come into church with a big problem, worship puts things into perspective. You have more energy to deal with the problem and more understanding. You need time alone with God every day. If you’re too busy for God you’re too busy. You’re missing out on one of the very things you were made for.

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.

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 heaviness. He will deliver you.

4. Adjust My Values

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

In order to reduce busyness in my life I must change my thinking about what is important.

Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV – And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

(“I’ve learned why people work so hard to succeed; it is because they envy the things their neighbors have.”)

Mark 8:36 NIV – What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Is it worth it? Ask yourself this question about every area in your life. What’s, more important?  Things, . . . or, family?  More busyness, . . . or, your church family?

5.  EXCHANGE MY PRESSURE, . . . FOR GOD’S PEACE

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

This gets at the very root of your stress. There are three kinds of fatigue:

There is physical fatigue — tired muscles. That can be replenished pretty quickly.

There is emotional fatigue — tired emotions, feelings.

There is spiritual fatigue — a dry spirit. This is the deepest.

You may need a vacation. But a vacation will not help these last two. You need more than just time off to recharge your emotions and focus your spirit. You need a relationship to God. You can take a two week vacation in Tahiti but when you come back you’re still going to have the same problems. The pressures are still going to be there. It means more than just taking time off; it means readjusting my values and exchanging my pressure for God’s peace.

We need to learn how to Take it easy, chill, relax, and rest! 

Philippians 4:7-9 NIV – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

A little child does not like to lie down, to rest. Resistance to rest is a mark of immaturity.

In Psalm 23:2 “He makes me lie down.” That’s a forcing. Has God ever had to make you lie down? If you don’t slow down, sometimes God will just make you lie down. He cares about you. You matter to Him.

You need a relationship to Christ who will help you set the pace of your life.

Paraphrase of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my pacesetter, I shall not rush. He makes me stop and rest at intervals. He provides me with images of stillness to restore my serenity. He leads me in the way of efficiency to calmness of mind and this guidance is peace. Even though I have a great many things to accomplish this day, I will not fret for His presence is here. His timeliness, His all importance will keep me in balance. He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity, anointing my head with the oils of tranquility. My cup of joyous energy overflows. Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours, for I shall walk in the pace of my Lord and dwell in His heaven forever.

You need a pacesetter to set the pace of your life so you don’t go too slow or too fast. The only person wise enough to do that who knows you inside and out better than you even know yourself is Jesus Christ.

Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God; (Msg – “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

  1. Still – to abate, to cease, to let go, or to stop.
  2. Becoming still is an important key to knowing God. If we don’t fulfill the prerequisite of finding a place of stillness the implication is that we won’t know God.

You need a relationship to Him where you exchange His peace for your pressure. When you live for God, it’s not only the right way, it’s the healthy way, the whole way, the balanced way, and the most relaxing way.

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

Baggage: Live Free Travel Light Part 2

baggage

Baggage: Live Free Travel Light Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREE -not subject to the control or domination of another

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

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

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

1. The Baggage of Guilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Pain of Resentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  If you harbor resentment – it can ruin you

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

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

Romans 12:14-21 NIV – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[b] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.

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

3. The Expectations of Others

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

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

Freedom is being you without anyone’s permission

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

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

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

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

*  trying to please/impress everyone at the same time

*  Pressured by other’s standards/lifestyles

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

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

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

The Plan

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

1. God still loves You.

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

to help.”

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

I John 4:7-10 NIV – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

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

2. God can free You.

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

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

3. God will restore You.

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

WHAT IS ENSLAVING YOU THIS MORNING?

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Baggage: The Great Guilt Exchange

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The Great Guilt Exchange

Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday. Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people were shouting, “Jesus King of Israel, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.

•In I Kings 12:1-11, Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) split the kingdom because he would not lighten the yoke or burden on God’s people.

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

•Jesus is declaring I am the king you were looking for when the kingdom was divided. I am the king that will lighten your load. Jesus came to lighten our burdens, our oppressions, our guilt, our shame, our grief, our sorrow, our worry. Religion makes everything heavy, Jesus makes everything light! God’s grace reigns.

Psalm 38:4 NIV – My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden to heavy to bear. 

(The resurrection of Jesus Christ is about New beginnings, It’s about living free and traveling light, It’s about messes & mistakes turning into miracles & messages)

So 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 messed up, misfits, frustrated , those of us with flaws, the imperfect, 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.

Today is about a great exchange, it’s about second chances. I wanna talk to you about a man named Simon Peter. Who had carried the baggage of Guilt because of a decision he made.

The Resurrection gives 2nd Chances

Mark 16:1-7 (NIV) 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

Verse 7 – What a line!  It’s as if all of heaven had watched Peter fall – and it’s as if all of heaven wanted to help him back up again!  Peter your not left out! One failure doesn’t make a flop!

Micah 7:8 NIV – Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.

•The fact that you failed is proof that you are not finished!

•Failures & Mistakes can be a bridge not a barricade!

•The difference between average people & successful people is their perception and response to failure.

•Just ask Peter: You can have a second chance! 

•One minute Peter felt lower than a snakes belly and the next he was the high hog at the trough.

•Even the Angels wanted this distraught netcaster to know it wasn’t over!

Heaven said, “Be sure to tell Peter ( the one who Sinned, failed, denied Christ, blew it, lost it, messed up BIG TIME!) that he gets to bat again.

The resurrection sets us up for second chances, not failures. Even though we fail, sin, and make plenty of mistakes:

The Painful Regret of Simon Peter

John 13:36-38 (NIV) 36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

John 14:1-3 (NIV) 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Many of us read the Shakespearean play MacBeth. Lady Macbeth is an ambitious woman who wants to be queen, so she tricks and traps her husband into killing the king. As he stumbles away from the murder, he stupidly brings back the bloody knives instead of planting them in the servants quarters per her instructions. So she takes care of business herself, hiding the knives on the unsuspecting fall guys.

All progress is planned. Her husband becomes king and she the first lady. But their scheme unravels as she increasingly is consumed by the weight of guilt for the sin that she chose. By Act 5, Scene One, Lady MacBeth sleepwalks around the castle, reliving the murder scene and wringing her hands as if washing them. The bloody stains, physically washed away long ago, are spiritually still obvious. She pitifully moans, “Out, damned spot! She cannot get her conscience clean.

Lady MacBeth is just like you and me. She cannot clean her sinful self, and neither can we!  No amount of goodness can wash away sin. No amount of human kindness can resolve the debt of our own violation of God’s law. We Need GOD’s Forgiveness!

Like Lady Macbeth, Peter felt GUILT, SHAME, and CONDEMNATION for what he did. He failed. He sinned. He messed up!  He was GUILTY.

What to Do with Guilt

1. We Can Bury it

Proverbs 28:13 NIV – Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

2. We Can Beat ourselves Up

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

Psalms 38:4-8 –  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.

I John 3:18-21  – Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God

c. Your heart registers right and wrong

•You do good, your heart says nice

•You do bad, your heart says Yuk, u suck, sinner, liar, hypocrite, fake, bad, dirty, Quit

•Don’t run from God when we fall, but rather run to Him

Hebrews 4:16 – 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

d. Your accuser says, GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY but JESUS says FORGIVEN FORGIVEN FORGIVEN (If we confess our sin…)

3. We can begin again a Fresh Start

Phillippians 3:13-14 –  13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus

Romans 8:1-2 –  1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending!

The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.

We Have Hope

I Corinthians 15:20-22 NIV – But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive

Acts 2:36-37  (NIV) 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 

Peter knew the answer to their shame, guilt, & condemnation: God is greater than your heart

I John 3:20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Psalm 61:1-2 (NIV) 1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Only One Thing You Can Do: Give all your Guilt to God

Psalms 32:5 NIV – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

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

Christ became sin for us. The power of the Gospel is to live each waking moment having all the confidence that all our sins have been forgiven. There is no more condemnation.

Salvation: Deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption. Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil. Harm, ruin, or loss.

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

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

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

Will You Make the Exchange Today?

A – I’m already a Christian
B – I’m believing today
C – I’d like to consider it a bit more
D – I don’t ever intend to make that decision

Prayer: 

If you’ve never accepted the grace of God in your life, if you’ve never turned you life over to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you’re not going to get out of guilt and condemnation – because you can’t resurrect yourself. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” So I’m going to pray a simple prayer now and I invite you to follow me in that prayer. You don’t have to say it aloud. You can just kind of mumble it to yourself. As I say the words you say, God, me too. What Rob’s praying, that’s the desire of my heart. I’m going to pray and you can follow.

Dear God, [Just say that in your mind] you know every pain I’ve had in my life. And you know the confusion and the doubts I’ve had in my life. And God, you know I’ve spent a lot of my life in guilt, shame, & condemnation. I want to live in joy, freedom, and victory. I want to Live free and travel light. Thank you, God. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay for all the things I’ve done wrong by dying on the cross for me. I don’t understand it all. I don’t know how it all works. But I know I need you in my life. As much as I know how I humbly ask you, Jesus, to put your love into my life. To come into my life and make me the person you want me to be. I want to learn to love you and trust you. I want to know your presence. I want to live by your promises and I want to rely on your power instead of my own to get me through my most difficult days. I pray this humbly in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

God’s Love and Passion for YOU

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God’s Love & Passion for You

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, 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.

God’s love for us is enormous, extravagant, endless….God doesn’t love us sometimes….He loves us All the Time. He loves us unconditionally.

CS Lewis said, “Though our feelings come and go, God’s Love for us does not.”

Psalm 36:5-7 NIV– Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

The Msg – God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic,His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.7-9 How exquisite your love, O God! How eager we are to run under your wings, To eat our fill at the banquet you spread as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water. You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light.

The central message of the Bible is the gospel, or good news, about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul provides the most succinct summary of the gospel: the man Jesus is also God, or Christ, and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins; three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life.

I Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV -.Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

CS Lewis said, “God who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them.”

We Drastically Underestimate God’s Love for us. Why?

1. It is easy to feel Common to God

Since there is 7 billion people how can I feel special to God? Luke 15 Jesus tells 3 parables with the same theme – lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son. Jesus’s point: Every single peron is a VIP to God.

2. It is easy to feel Alone

We are never out of God’s sight. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. Hebrew children in the fiery furnace.

3. It’s easy to feel unlovable because of our failure or sin

The Answer: 

John 3:16 KJV – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

HOW TO SETTLE YOUR ETERNAL DESTINY

1. ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S GREAT PASSION

“God SO loved the world…”

1 John. 4:9-10 (NLT)  “God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love…He sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

We are the Beloved of God

1 John 3:1 (Amp)  “What an incredible quality of love the Father has shown us, that we should be permitted to be called and counted as the children of God!”

But God’s love for you all through the Bible and through Jesus’ example explains that His love is four-dimensional for you.

Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV – so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

•How long is God’s love? Long enough to last forever

•It is wide enough to be everywhere. There is no place that you could go in life that God’s love is not with you.

•It’s deep enough to handle everything. No problem, no pressure, no stress, no difficulty.

You say, “I’m in the pits right now!” God’s love is there

•Then it is high enough to overlook your mistakes. God loves to forgive. He loves to help you start over.

Martin Luther said, “This is the ineffable and infinite mercy of God which the slender capacity of man’s heart cannot comprehend and much less utter – the unfathomable depth and burning zeal of God’s love toward us.”

2. APPRECIATE GOD’S GREAT PRESENT

“that He GAVE His only begotten Son…”

Rom. 3:24-25a (Mes) “Out of sheer generosity God put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where He always wanted us to be. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ. He sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin.”

Rom. 5:6-8 (NIV) “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

•God doesn’t love us for what we do, but He loves us because of who he is.

•man bases love on performance….If you….I will

•God loves us for what He finds in Himself – LOVE.

•No matter what you do – God cannot stop loving you.

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

2 Cor. 5:21 (LB) “God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us.”

Ephesians. 2:8 (Mes) “Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!”

3. ACCEPT GOD’S GREAT PROPOSAL

“that WHOEVER BELIEVES in Him…”

Titus 2:11 (NIV) “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”

Col. 3:11 (LB) “One’s nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and He is equally available to all.”

Rom 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 this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like.”

2 Cor. 6:2 (NIV) For he says,“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a] I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

4. ANTICIPATE GOD’S GREAT PROMISE.

“should not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE!”

“God so loved the world…” That’s His passion and I admit and recognize it. “…that He gave His only begotten Son…” That’s His present that He wants to give you. “…that whosoever believes in Him …” That’s the condition, that’s the proposal. “…should not perish but have ever lasting life.” That’s the promise. “Should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Did you know that you were made to last forever? One day you’re going to die. That’s going to be the end of your body. Your heart’s going to stop. But that’s not going to be the end of you.

Notice God’s promise.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

1 Peter 1:3-4 (Mes) “What a God we have! … Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven, and the future starts now!”

Ps. 34:8 (Mes) “Open your eyes and see how good God is!”

Salvation because of Love

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

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

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

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

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

Will You Accept God’s Love Today?

A – I’m already a Christian
B – I’m believing today
C – I’d like to consider it a bit more
D – I don’t ever intend to make that decision

“Dear God, I’m ready for a change. I don’t want to stay the same. I need a fresh start with You. Today I open my life to knowing You. Forgive me for living my life my way. Today I invite Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Jesus I want to know You. I put my faith in You. Give me the power to change. In Your Name I pray. Amen.”

Christmas at the Movies: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Luke 2:8-10 NIV –  “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

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

Every Who down in Who-ville liked a Christmas a lot…

But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes

He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,

Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown

At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath

Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.

“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer

“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”

Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming

“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas coming!”

Hmmm… it seems like a Christmas has always had that kind of effect on some people

The Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do, Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

  • Past Experiences
  • Present burdens that are heavy
  • Future hope is distant

Which causes…

1. Confusion.  distraction. turmoil, jumble, mess, disarray. perplexity; bewilderment:

•A university student was seen with a large “K” printed on his T- shirt. When someone asked him what the “K” stood for, he said, “Confused.” “But,” the questioner replied, “you don’t spell “confused” with a “K.” The student answered, “You don’t know how confused I am.

Romans 7:15, 18 LB “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t.”

 2. Frustration. a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

Romans 7:21 LB “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”

3. Discouragement. depression, dejection, hopelessness. despair.  deterrent, damper, impediment, obstacle, obstruction.

Romans 7:24 The Message –   I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

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

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

1. Joy will change my approach to life.                                                                                                               

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

Nehemiah 8:10 NIV – Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

It has the ability to turn bad things into good things

Psalm 126:5 NIV  “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. “ 

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

3. Joy will affect those around You

It is contagious and can totally change the dynamic of your Christmas

Psalms 126:1-2 NIV – When the Lord restored the fortunes of[a] Zion, we were like those who dreamed.[b]2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

How to Get Your Christmas JOY back

1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

So easy to blame others – but it’s up to you. Choosing the way you’re going to view life – people

For most of us – our attitude will not take care of itself. Remember – it’s not a feeling – it’s a choice. If you don’t like the situation that faces you – change it

Hebrews 12:1 NIV  “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.”

You cannot determine what happens to you. But you can determine what happens in you

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

Dear Lord,

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

Psalm 19:14 NIV–  “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Remember: The walls we build around us to keep our the hurt and sadness, also keeps out the joy

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

3. Say something positive in every conversation.

This is hard – but can change the dynamic of every situation

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

You ever notice some people have no filter?

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes. Look for the best in them – bring out their positive qualities

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…Know that God is going to work it out for the good

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

How do we change the size of their hearts?

(CLIP FROM MOVIE from the top of Mt. Crumpit to the end which reads as follows):

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,

He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!

“Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!” he was ginch-ish-ly humming.

“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!

“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!

“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two

“Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”

So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.

It stared in low. Then it started to grow…

But the sound wasn’t sad~ Why, this sound sounded merry!

It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes!

Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!

He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled 3 hours, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “Doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

And what happened then…?

Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew 3 sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

And he… HE HIMSELF…!

The Grinch carved the roast beast!

———————————————-

Did you realize what a beautifully theological story this is?

What changed the heart of the Grinch?

It wasn’t the ribbons, it wasn’t the tags

It wasn’t the packages, boxes or bags

It was the witness of the people down in Who-ville…the witness of people that the Grinch had always hated because of the Christmas they celebrated.

It was their singing and their joy that changed the Grinch

God wants you to have your JOY back! 

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

hide from you.

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

        of  salvation.” 

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

unstop those wells.

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

Free

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Free

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

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

Luke 4:18-19 (LB) “The Spirit of the Lord has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.”

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

FREE -not subject to the control or domination of another

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

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

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

1. The Burden of Guilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of sight. “I’ve separated them as far as east from west.”
Out of reach. “I’ve put them where I remember them no more.”
Out of memory. Once you learn that God can forgive and forget, what God forgets then you can forget

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

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

2. The Pain of Resentment

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

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

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

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

B) How you respond determines the degree of effect it has on you.
* If you forgive – you can move on, find new happiness
* If you harbor resentment – it can ruin you

Some of you are holding on to a hurt. You let somebody hurt you 5, 10, 15 years ago. Maybe in a divorce, maybe your parents, maybe somebody at school, somebody hurt you badly. You’re still holding onto that hurt. That is dumb! Let go of it. The Bible says, “Get rid of all bitterness and resentment”. Let Jesus Christ set you free from the burden of guilt and let Him set you free from the pain of resentment.

Romans 12:14-21 NIV – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[b] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.

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

3. The Expectations of Others

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

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

Freedom is being you without anyone’s permission

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

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

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

A) You can’t be happy if you are always…
* trying to please/impress everyone at the same time
* Pressured by other’s standards/lifestyles

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

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

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

The Plan

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

1. God still loves You.

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

I John 4:7-10 NIV – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

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

2. God can free You.

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

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

3. God will restore You.

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

WHAT IS ENSLAVING YOU THIS MORNING?

1. GUILT – some secret sin, failure, past regret, mistake? Relax, admit it to Christ, ask forgiveness Let Christ cleanse your conscience / Then forgive yourself: YOU ARE FORGIVEN!
It’s never too late to start over

2. BITTERNESS/RESENTMENT/HATE?/ANGER? Let Christ flush the poison out of your life Ask Him to fill you with love and forgiveness for that person

3. ARE YOU PRESSURED BY THE EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS? – Trying to cope with the standards and lifestyles of others? Pretending to be someone you aren’t?

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

Prayer
“Lord I believe you are setting people free right now!” From worry, jealousy, fear, anger, depression… It’s like a mountain of pressure sliding off their necks…Thank you for freedom – salvation!