Summer Concert Series Pt.4 – Take it Easy

Summer Concert Series Pt.4 – Take it Easy

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

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

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

Take it Easy Chorus 

Take It easy, take it easy 

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels 

drive you crazy – Lighten up while you still can 

don’t even try to understand 

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

Movie – Michael Douglas stars in Falling Down

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

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

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

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

Where are you going to live? Tribulation? Or Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are living in Overload

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

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

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

Weariness is a trap. 

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

Rest is a choice. 

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

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

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

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

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

(Matthew 11:28- NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

How To Take it Easy

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

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

1. Relax and Be still. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Take the Time to Pray. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How you can practice Relaxing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Year of Your Life Pt.4

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The Best Year of Your Life Pt.4 – Habits

We are designed by God to be creatures of habit, and many of us are stuck in a pattern of negative ones.

Most people are plagued with the “Someday Syndrome” Your SOMEDAY must be TODAY.

Someday, things will get better in my life.

Someday, I will start to tithe and serve

Someday, I will start to pray and read my Bible

Someday, I will earn more money

Someday, I will get healthier

Someday, I will spend more time with my family

Unfortunately, “SOMEDAY” never comes – Today is the day we have.

Example – The Domino Effect

•One habit triggers other habits causing an accumulative effect on your life – good or bad.

•Habits and human behavior are tied to one another – Habits are seeds that produce a harvest.

(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 not giving and serving

•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. 

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.” LOL

•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.

1. Bad Habits Are Difficult to Break 

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

Repeat anything long enough and it will start to become you

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.

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.

2. To Have a Great Year You Must 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 Change your Habits, by replacing them, You literally change 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 Change 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 habits in our lives, then negative habits (changes) are making us.

When it comes to God’s plan for your life and year, your habits will hold you back or move you forward.

•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 Change, 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.

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become words

Be careful of your words, for your words become actions

Be careful of your actions, for your actions become habits

Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character

Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny

3. The Next step towards having the best year of your life is to DECIDE you’re not going to stay where you are.

Your Future is Determined by Your Decisions

Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV – This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

Choose – pick out or select (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives.

Your Best year of your life starts by the Habits your make TODAY.  NOW is the TIME to fix the Next 10 years!

Your future is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice! Today’s decisions will have a big impact on your life and future.

•You are one good habit away from a domino effect of having a great year!

You make decisions and decisions will make you.” – Lester Sumrall

“Success and failure are not overnight experiences. It’s the small decisions along the way that cause people to fail or succeed.” –Anthony Robbins

Is there anything you are not happy about in your life, career, health and money? Make a decision Right Now about how you are going to change it.

Don’t waste your life/year! Don’t settle for second best! Don’t go through life just existing, coping, or getting by!

Believers Guide to the Election

Believer-TitleBy Daniel Lewis

Presidential Election

  • Here we are 93 days before the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
  • To elect the 45th President of the United States of America
  • It’s everywhere you turn!

We live in an amazing time and have the privilege of voting for the next leader of this great country. So how then should we, as believer approach this election?

Let’s see what the bible says about Government, Leaders and Authorities…

We’re going to look at 5 Major questions…

  1. Who really chooses the President?
  2. Does your vote matter?
  3. Can it be Gods will for an unbeliever to lead?
  4. Can it be Gods will for a woman to lead?
  5. How do we know we are voting for Gods person?

But first, let’s look at some of the Governments and Authorities that existed in the bible.

Governments in the Bible

Theocracy: God as King

  • Patriarchs: Adam, Abraham
  • Prime Ministers: Joseph
  • Tribes/Clans: 12 tribes of Israel
  • Prophets: Moses
  • Judges: Gideon, Samson, Samuel and Others…

Monarchy: Man as King

United Kingdom

 

Divided Kingdom

 

  • Kings:
    • Saul
    • David
    • Solomon

 

  • Israel (19 Kings)
    • All Bad Kings
    • Destroyed by the Assyrians
  • Judah (20 Kings)
    • 8 Good Kings
    • 12 Bad Kings
    • Exiled into Babylon
    • Return to their land
    • Became occupied by the Romans

 

Monarchy didn’t work out so well for the people of God. But, as usual God had a plan of redemption for his people.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

A New Government

The Invisible Kingdom

God chose to send his son into the earth in a time when Gods people were under occupation from the Romans.

Mark 1:15  (NIV)

15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 

Luke 17:20 (NIV)

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.

Many people were expecting God to bring them a King who would save them from the Romans.

God had something way bigger in mind.

  • To save them their sins
  • To restore relationship with their Creator (the Father)
  • To give them eternal life

Col 1:13-14

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

There is also a Kingdom of Darkness which we will discuss later.


Philippians 2:8-11

8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Who then are we subject to?

We are subject first and foremost to God but notice that God did not abolish earthly authorities.

We are still subject to the earthly authorities

Colossians 1:15-18

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Romans 13:1-2

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Who then do we obey?

Both. If any earthly authority tries to cause you to sin, then you should obey God.

See: Daniel 3 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to bow.


The United States of America

We’ve talked about Theocracy and Monarchy. But what form of government do we live in?

Democracy

Definition: a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting (Merriam-Webster)

Democracy is a form of Government by which leaders are elected (generally by popular majority). Democracy is not perfect. The fact that the majority believes something does not necessarily mean it is good or right.

Sometimes the majority is not necessarily right…

A lone man refusing to do the Nazi salute, 1936

Winston Churchill once commented…

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

 

The First Amendment

In the United States we have some amazing freedoms, many of which are found in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

These are amazing freedoms which protect us!

  • The freedom of speech – without this we could not share the good news without fear
  • The freedom of religion – many nations prohibit or limit particular faiths
  • The freedom of the press – we are free to print the good news
  • The right for peaceful assembly – we are free to be here today without interference
  • To petition the Government – free to obtain justice over these rights

Somebody, say “God bless America!”

We must remember that the same laws that protect us, also protect others who participate in a different religion or who have a different world view.

What have we established so far?

  • We are now subjects of an eternal Kingdom
  • The King of Kings has left earthly authorities in place
  • There is no authority except which God has established
  • In our democracy, we the people elect our leader
  • ….So, if it is God who establishes the authorities then…


5 Major Questions

1. Who really chooses the President?

God Is Sovereign over all Creation

King Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel 4:28-32

28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

God also respects the will of the people

Let’s look at how Gods nation switched from a Theocracy to a Monarchy.

1 Samuel 8:6-7

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

God warns the people of what this will mean…

  • Taxes
  • Conscription
  • Giving up land

1 Samuel 8:19-22

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

God allowed the people to go their own way. He respects free will.

2. Does your vote matter?

Absolutely! The systems we are in allow us the freedom to vote according to our beliefs.

Coming from a nation (Australia) that has as high as over 90% voter turn-out. In my humble opinion, I believe that believers should exercise the right to vote.

God respects the will of the people so we should make sure we are heard. Every vote counts.

3. Can it be Gods will for an unbeliever to lead?

King Cyrus

150 years before he would free Gods people from Exile.

Isaiah 44:24

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer…

26b Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places; 27 Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers’; 28 Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”’

Isaiah is prophesying the return of His people from exile and rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 45

“Thus says the Lord to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—To subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: 2 ‘I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

Therefore, it can be Gods will for an unbeliever to lead on behalf of His people.

4. Can it be Gods will for a Woman to lead?

Deborah

Judges 4:4

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.

5. How do we know we are voting for Gods person?

Politicians and Journalists rank as some of the least trusted professions in this county.

Are we to take people at their word alone?

Jesus spoke of the parable of two Sons:

Matthew 21:28-30

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

Some candidates will promise things they won’t do. Others may do things that they have not promised to do.

Tips for Surviving the Election

1 Thessalonians 5

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

Let’s unpack this verse…

1. Rejoice always

Don’t let the news get you down.

Have faith and praise God. He is still on the throne!

2. Pray continually

God is sovereign but he still needs us to Pray!

Remember the Kingdom of Darkness…

Daniel 10:12

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

Be persistent in prayer. Your prayers will shift the heavens! Why else would God have said…

Matthew 6:9-13

9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

 

2 Chronicles 7:14

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 

3. Give thanks in all circumstances

No matter who wins this election, give thanks to God and pray for your leaders! (1 Tim 2)

4. Do not quench the Spirit

The Holy Spirit will give you Gods perspective.

1 Cor 2:15-16

15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

  1. Take your directions from the Holy Spirit
  2. Not Facebook, Twitter, Fox News or CNN

You may be surprised at what God might reveal to you!

Example

Could it be possible that God wants Muslim refugees to come to this nation to hear the gospel and be saved?

Here are some issues that I believe should matter to all believers:

  • Continued Freedom (Speech, Religion, Press, Assembly)
  • Justice
  • Against racism
  • Protecting the innocent
  • Compassion for the poor and needy
  • Equality
  • National security
  • Peace and Prosperity of the Nation

Jeremiah 29:7

7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

 

5. Do not treat prophesies with contempt, but test them all…

There are still prophets and yes, God does still speak to them!

Amos 3:7

Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

Test them. Do they align with the word of God?


Other Tips

1. Avoid Arguments

Do we really achieve anything by arguing with people on Facebook?

  • Find common ground!
  • If you feel your brother or sister is in error then pray for them rather than arguing.

2. Be “Unoffendable”

Love your enemy, pray for those who mistreat you

3. Compromise

You may not agree with all of the policies of your candidate or party.

4. Vote!

The Power of the Cross

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The Power of the Cross

There is a difference between knowing about something and encountering it.

You can see places in movies, pictures, magazines or read about things in books – but to actually encounter, see, and experience  those things is amazing. (example – Eifle Tower in Paris, Big Ben or Buckingham Palace in London, Great Wall in China, sunset on the west coast, sunrise on the east coast, a Krispy Kreme Donut,)

It is possible to know God without actually encountering Him. If you want to encounter the power of God, you go to the cross where all powerful encounters start.

I Corinthians 1:17-18 NIV –  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Power is a word much loved by us. Who doesn’t love power? We know that those with power have influence. We seek power in our lives over circumstances and relationships. The world teaches us that power is good and weakness is bad, power is proof that you have arrived as a success in life, weakness is proof that you are a loser. The one with the power calls the shots and often determines the outcome of things. Gaining power or being affiliated with those who have it too often becomes the goal of our life.

The Cross – a symbol of power! A fashion statement around someone’s neck or as a tattoo maybe – but definitely not power! Perhaps a wonderful emblem upon the highest place in the church for us to gaze upon but who can call that power? When was the last time that you saw someone flaunting an electric chair or a hangman’s noose as a symbol of power? Well they are the equivalent today of what the cross was for many people in ages past. Death on the Cross was a most demeaning death in the past. It was reserved for the basest and worst of slaves and criminals and also for those who opposed Roman rule. To picture a dying man on the cross so torn and tattered that one could hardly recognize Him and to call that power being demonstrated seems to be a ridiculous idea. Yet Paul calls the Cross the Power of God! 

What cross is this? Many have been crucified upon a cross – some good, most bad, yet none with the power to help you or to change and transform your life as the cross of Christ. You see it wasn’t any cross but the Cross of Christ that makes all the difference.

“The death of Jesus on the cross is the centre of all Christian theology. All Christian statements about God, about creation, about sin and death have their focal point in the crucified Christ.” –Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary. 

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Matthew 27:27-33 ESV 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 

Golgotha (Calvary) was so named simply because it was a place of execution, where the skulls and bones of criminals lay scattered.

•Golgotha is also the place where the love of God achieves its greatest expression. As Jesus is lynched in the name of religious truth and imperial justice he expresses the heart of God as he pleads for the pardon of his executioners.

•The cross is both hideous and glorious, simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It’s as hideous as human sin and as glorious as divine love. It is a collision of sin and grace.

•Before the cross is anything else, it is a catastrophe. It is the unjust and violent lynching of an innocent man.

Jesus died for us…not for God.

2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV – that is, in Christ God was reconciling[a] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

•The crucifixion is not the ultimate attempt to change God’s mind about us — the cross is the ultimate attempt to change our mind about God. God is not like Caiaphas seeking a sacrifice. God is not like Pilate requiring an execution. God is like Jesus, absorbing sin and forgiving sinners.

•The cross is not about payment, the cross is about forgiveness. Good Friday is not about divine wrath, Good Friday is about divine love

I look to the cross to see God. This is who God is, this is what God is like.

Isaiah 45:22 ESV – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

•On the Cross we sinned our sins into Jesus and he forgave us

•In his crucifixion Jesus achieves solidarity with all who suffer.

•At the cross Jesus doesn’t save us from God, he reveals God

•In his crucifixion Jesus joins humanity in death that we might join him in resurrection

•I come to the cross to see God – I come to the cross to find God

•The Power of the Cross is the demonstration of God’s Love for Us

What the Cross Provides

The medieval saints used to erect a simple cross in the center of the market square of every town so that it came to be known as the market cross. This still may be seen in older towns of Europe. The simple and the beautiful idea was that the cross should dominate all the business of earthly life and that all transactions, interests and concerns should be under the shadow of the cross.

E. Stanley Jones: “At the cross God wrapped his heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”

The Hymn At Calvary – Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died On Calvary. Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary.

Titus 2:14 NIV who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

A. THE CROSS PROVIDES RECONCILIATION FOR ME 

  1. Reconciliation: to make friends and bring together those who are at odds with each other or are enemies (variance or enmity)

2.  At Christ’s cross, God and the sinner can meet while Christ stands between, reaching out one pierced hand to the Father pleading, “Father, forgive them, for they know not that they are doing” and the other to sinners beseeching, “Be reconciled to God.”

Romans 5:10 NIV – For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

B. THE CROSS PROVIDES ATONEMENT FOR ME 

  1. Atonement: to cover, expiate, to make at one, to pardon, to forgive and show mercy.

Jesus did not shed his blood to buy God’s forgiveness, Jesus shed his blood to embody God’s forgiveness!

Romans 3:25-26 NIV God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Billy Graham said, “Two thousand years ago God invited a morally corrupt world to the foot of the cross. There God held your sins and mine to the flames until every last vestige of our guilt was consumed.” 

Exodus 12:13 NIV – The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 

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

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

C. THE CROSS PROVIDES HEALING FOR ME 

1. Our very bodies have been redeemed that we may lay our sicknesses and infirmities upon Him who bore them and that we may take His resurrection life for every physical, spiritual, and emotional need of our mortal frame.

Isaiah 53:5 NKJV – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,And by His stripes we are healed.

The Cross pronounced a complete cure for the ills of mankind.

I Peter 2:24 NIV  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.

Psalm 103:2-3  – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, “God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.”

•The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.

•The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”

D. THE CROSS PROVIDES PEACE FOR ME

Through the work of the cross of Calvary we have peace with God and we can appear righteous in God’s eyes:

Colossians 1:19-22 ESV For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 

Galatians 6:14 MSG For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

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

E. THE CROSS PROVIDES ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

Draw near to God’s presence with clean hearts and clean hands. Through the blood you have a right to dwell in God’s presence.

Ephesians 2:13 NIV But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 10:19 NIV  Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 

Draw Me Nearer – Fanny Crosby (1875) 

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith And be closer drawn to Thee. 

Draw me nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, By the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine. 

There are depths of love that I cannot know Till I cross the narrow sea; There are heights of joy that I may not reach Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Psalm 73:28 ESV – But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

“Once you have been to the cross, you will never be the same.” 

Isaac Watts penned the famous hymn At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!

Ephesians 2:16-22 MSG – Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. 19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Fredrick Buechner said, “And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?” 

John 3:16-17 ESV – “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Gospel

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The Gospel

(Jesus Christ and GraceTown is about New beginnings, It’s about messes & mistakes turning into miracles & messages, it’s about having more chances, it’s about seeing potential in everyone.)

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.

Romans 1:16 ESV For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Gospel – Good News. It’s the message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through which the believer is saved from sin and into life. Our broken relationship with God is restored. Salvation through grace.

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.

Enemies of the Gospel

1. Religion

Religion – Salvation through moral effort

The great reformer Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners, we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways. The first is religion and the second is the gospel. The two are antithetical in every way.

a. Religion says that if we obey God He will love us – The Gospel says that it is because God loves us we can obey

b. Religion says that the world is filled with good people and bad people – The gospel says the world is filled with people who are either repentant or unrepentant.

c. Religion says that you should trust in what you do as a good moral person – The gospel says that you should trust in the perfectly sinless life of Jesus because he alone is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.

d. Religion is about what I have to do – The Gospel is about what I get to do.

e. Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God – The Gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.

f. Religion ends in either pride (because I think I am better than other people) or despair (Because I continually fall short of God’s commands) – The gospel ends in humble and confident joy because of the power of Jesus at work for me, in me, through me, and sometimes in spite of me.

John 14:6 NIV Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

•The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

• Dr. Jekyll comes to realize that he is an incongruous compound of good and evil.

•He comes up with a potion that can separate his two natures

•He describes his evil self using classic christian terminology

“I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, 10fold more wicked,, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine…Edward Hyde’s every act and thought centered on self.”

•his name is Hyde not just because he is hideous by because he hidden. He is selfish, egotistic, self centered, and is self absorbed

•Once Jekyll realizes his capacity for evil he decides to clamp down  on this terrible self centeredness and he gets religion. He devotes himself to charity and good works for atonement for what Hyde has done.

•While siting on the bench in Regents Park, he begins to gloat and take pride in all the good he had done. He said, “as I compared myself with other men and comparing my goodwill…at that very moment of vain glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering…I looked down….I was once more Edward Hyde.”

•Involuntarily, without the potion – this was the beginning of the end. Unable to control his transformations – Jekyll kills himself.

•Stevenson’s insight here is profound. Like so many people, Jekyll knows he’s a sinner, so he tries to desperately cover his sin with great piles of good works. Jekyll becomes Hyde, not in spite of his goodness, but because of his goodness.

The Gospel of Grace is inviting to the unrighteous and threatening to the self righteous.

2. Sin

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.

James 4:17 ESV So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Romans 3:23 NIV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Consequences of Sin – Spiritual death, eternal separation from God

Isaiah 59:2 NIV – But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

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.

JI Packer said, “Men are opposed to God in their sin, and God is opposed to men in His holiness”

God cannot simply overlook sin. Our debt was so great that while man alone owed it, only God could pay it.  God’s holiness demands punishment for human stain.

Explain: (OT sacrifices,  In NT John the Baptist – Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world)

The Gospel gives us other 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.’

The reference to Peter, on this first Easter morning, was intentional. Peter in previous hours had denied knowing and following Jesus… and now he was being included in with the close group of followers Jesus wanted to hang out with the most. (VIP list) By singling him out and calling Peters name,) Heaven was sending him a message that even though I don’t approve of what you have done….I do approve of you.” 

Heaven wants to get that message to all of us today 

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!

Jesus wanted Peter to know he was looking forward to seeing him – Aren’t you glad that God sees the best in the worst of us, knows the worst about the best of us, & loves us all without condition or exception.

(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.

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 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 another 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 discouraged, distraught, depressed fisherman 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.

What you were is not what you will be! 

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

Peter’s Painful Regret

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)“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.

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

I John 3:18-21 NIV – 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. The Gospel cleaned up what we messed up! 

Hebrews 4:16 NIV – 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…)

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

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

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’s wrath has been satisfied)

2. We can begin again a Fresh Start  

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.

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

Phillippians 3:13-14 NIV –  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

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

3. God invites us to receive Salvation.

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

Revelation 3:20 NIV “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

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

Eternal life isn’t a reward for good people; it’s God’s gift for-given people

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.”

Will You Receive the Gospel Today?

“Dear God, You know every pain Ive had in my life. you know the confusion and the doubts. You know I’ve spent a lot of my time in guilt, shame, and condemnation. I’m ready for a change. I don’t want to stay the same. I need a fresh start with You. I want to live in joy, freedom, and victory. Jesus, I will learn to trust you and love you. Come into my life lead me and guide me everyday. I will rely on your power and not my own.  Thank you for giving me a brand new fresh start and saving my life. In Your Name I pray. Amen.”

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”

 

Silent Night

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Silent Night

What Christmas is really about

Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder, and his name shall be called[b] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Peace – shalom – fulness. Having everything you need to be whole and happy (Jesus – The Prince of Peace)

(Luke 2:6-7 NIV) “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Peace on Earth? But the Light Came in the Midst of Darkness

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

The Song is wrong – the world wasn’t silent. There was no peace in Israel at this time. Gloom, anguish, and contempt were just some of the adjectives used to describe this darkness.

•The word of God had not been heard for four centuries.  Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, written in the fifth century BC.

•The people of God were under the oppressive rule of Rome. Political darkness reigned!

•The nation of Israel was fracturing. The Pharisees, Sadducees, The Essenes, The Zealots – which resulted in the oppressive rule of Rome

•The census was a considerable imposition.  Living in Nazareth, Mary and Joseph lived more than 100 miles North of Bethlehem.  Yet, there was no way around it.  They were forced by legal constraint to make the arduous trip.

•The poverty of Mary and Joseph did not fit the royal son they had. Joseph had no bargaining power. Without family or hospitality, darkness surrounded them.

•Through the hostile forces of Herod, Satan tried to kill Jesus. Herod, so paranoid for his own position and power that he had multiple family members executed, attempts to use the wisemen to lead him to the Christ child—not to worship, but to exterminate. He orders the execution of all the children in and around Bethlehem.

(Luke 12:51 NIV) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

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

Internet search for peace of mind – home security, hypnosis, funeral services, perfume, plumbing to insure your toilet

•Unavoidable circumstances.

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

Sometimes the pain and problems in your life is nobody’s fault

John 9:1-3 Message Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” 3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

•Unbearable people.

 (Psalms 109:3 NIV) “With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.”

Never forget 3 Types of People in Your Life. Those:

1. Who helped you in your different time

2. Who left you in your difficult time

3. Who put you in your difficult time

•Unexplainable problems.

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

3 Reasons for life’s problems

1. Sin – Imperfect world

2. Satan – Common Enemy

3. Self – we make mistakes

Problems are God given opportunities to grow – challenges drive us to deeper understanding and maturity. Problems come from the greek word which means “To Throw” or “To Drive forward”

Robert Schuller said, “Impossibilities vanish when a man and His God confront a mountain”

•Uncontrollable worry.

(Jeremiah 6:24 NIV) “We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a woman in labor.”

God doesn’t want you to worry!

I Peter 5:7 NIV Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Focus on God, not the problem!

Myth – I can control and fix things by worrying about them / Truth – Worry only makes me miserable

2 Options – Panic or Pray / worry or worship

On Earth Peace

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

(John 14:27 LB) “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

  1. Receive God’s Grace.

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

Micah 7:18 NIV – Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

2. Run to God’s presence.

(Isaiah 26:3 NKJV) “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”

(Psalm 46:1, 10 NIV) “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.” (180,000 troops to attack Israel)

3. Respect God’s principles.

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

Peace Comes through obedience to God’s word

Romans 8:6 NIV – The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

4. Rely on God’s provision.

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

•Trust God to take care of things beyond your control

•Quit dwelling on the “What if’s” of life

•Live one day at a time:

•Matthew 6:34 says, Don’t worry about tomorrow, Matthew 6:11, Give us today our daily bread

Peace in today’s society is a commodity much desired and rarely found. Most people are familiar with tension, stress and anxiety than peace. The lack of peace is the result of our complex, accelerated and stressed out world.

When we put our care in God’s hands, He puts his Peace in our Hearts

Ghost Stories Pt.3

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Welcome today to Part 3 of “Ghost Stories” 

(1st Corinthians 14:1 MSG) Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. 

Want to get you comfortable with the Holy Spirit

(2 Corinthians 13:14 Message) “The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, (Love from the Father) the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” 

First relationship that you need is Jesus

Jesus is the one who gives us grace to rescue us from sin

Many uncomfortable with the Holy Spirit – Seen things heard things

Many people don’t know Him as a Him but as a IT – Give me blank pages

Strange mystical force – Seen strange things

A lot of Christians have distanced themselves from Him

1st Week – He is a Him/Person – Para-Kaletos Greek work in John 14

He’s Comforter, Counselor He will always be by your side

Last week looked at the part that is difficult for some – Literal translations – Ruwach – Pneuma – Blast of breath or wind

Spiritual gifts has presented controversy – 3 types of gifts are given

Three Gifts 

1.Eternal life / Salvation. 

We receive freely the gift of eternal life because…

You & I were supposed to pay the bill for the sins we committed

Hell is not a place that God sends people that he’s mad at. Religion loves to focus on hell – Jesus focused on heaven.

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

Can be a lot of confusion on this – Be very clear

Gift of Jesus Christ is the only thing you need for Heaven

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

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

Everything we have talked about – Relationship with the Holy Spirit/Gifts

Has nothing to do with Heaven or Hell

To have a home in Heaven is receive the gift of eternal life

That only comes through Jesus & the payment made on the cross

2.The Holy Spirit. Second gift

This is a separate gift from the salvation gift – Jesus already paid for sins John 20

He ministered forgiveness of sins to His disciples – He breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit – Forgiven you

Makes this statement…

(Acts 1:4-5) “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift (Not a Heaven or Hell gift) my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

Acts 2:38-29 NIV –  Peter replied, “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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

(Acts 8:14-17) When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

I believe God gave this intentionally as separate gifts

He didn’t want us to confuse the two

He wanted you to know salvation is all important settles your eternity

Tons of Christians that have received the first gift

But haven’t opened up the second gift – Gift is available to every believer. We will discuss this next week.

Another gift needed for our lives here on earth

3. Spiritual gifts. Topic today

(Romans 12:6) “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” 

Gift in the greek is the word Charis – Get the word charisma or charismatic

“Charis” Literally means – Grace Gift

He has given you a unique divine ability

Some have asked are we a charismatic church?

We don’t use that term – Don’t use any terms like that

Reason why is people have definitions for those terms  – People have re-defined it

It’s hard to use those terms any longer because – Many different attitudes, opinions on what those terms mean

Word Charis just means gift – has nothing to do with other associations

Because of cultural & traditional terms

Biblically the answer would be “yes”

God has given his church gifts – spiritual gifts

Seems to be a lot of confusion around spiritual gifts

It also happened in the early church – Paul planted a church in a city called Corinth – Received the Holy Spirit & got out of control, weird and wrong

Paul starts an entire chapter go read 12,13,14 of 1st Corinthians

(1 Corinthians 12:1) “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 

Appreciate your attempts – People are out of control on both sides

Two Extremes: Some say I want nothing to do with it

Another extreme where things are done that are not mentioned in scripture

People ask the question; Are spiritual gifts for today?

Some have a doctrine or belief they call it (cessationism)  (cessationists)

They believe the gifts in scripture stopped when the apostles died

Problem with that belief is scripture doesn’t say that at all

Jesus said the opposite

Gift I will give you is for you, children & all who are far off

(John 14:12 NKJV) He who believes in me, the works I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.

I want our church to do greater things then even what you read in the gospels

Others believe like us that spiritual gifts are for today

I never hear people argue about the gift of mercy, faith, giving

Argument centers around one gift & that is the gift of tongues

Some believe it’s of the devil

Some believe you have to speak it to go to Heaven

Some believe if you don’t speak in tongues you don’t have the Holy Spirit

It’s not what the bible says – In scripture you see tongues come in two different forms

In a personal prayer language that people pray in – You see it in the form of a spiritual gift

Topic today is on spiritual gifts – 25-27 gifts in the NT

Tongues is one of them – Focus shouldn’t be on that one

I think the enemy has tried to hi-jack the Holy Spirit – To get people focused on that one spiritual gift – At the same time I don’t think it ought to be avoided either

(1 Corinthians 12:11) “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” 

I believe it shouldn’t be avoided or abused – I am introducing you to the Holy Spirit our friend

I would be careful about anything the Holy Spirit wants to give you

And talking about it like it’s some repulsive experience

If the Holy Spirit has anything for me – it is good

Some have asked if tongues are apart of our services?

It has never been apart of our services – The bible tells us it shouldn’t

(1 Corinthians 14:23) “So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

When we come together we don’t come together for us

We are a church on mission & a church trying to make a difference in our city and in our world – Reaching lost people

The bible says, we are to be sensitive to those who don’t understand

And for those who don’t believe

I love it! – Holy Spirit gives guidelines for the church

He is teaching us how to behaveThe Holy Spirit is a gentleman

Paul said I speak in tongues more than anyone

He said to us – God is more concerned about people coming to Christ

Then us doing our own thing

Gifts from a Friend – Want you to come to a comfort level with Him

 (1 Corinthians 14:1) “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts…” 

1. His gifts are unique.

(1 Corinthians 12:4-6) “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

Three times uses the word different – Means they are unique

Customized for you – Can see it – See it in families

2. His gifts are needed. 

We need the gifts in operation in the church

(1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT) “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.”

We cannot fulfill the mission unless we get this & welcome the gifts

87% of Christians don’t know their gifts or purpose

In 2016 we will offer a Spiritual Growth Class – Spiritual Gifts profile to help you understand you

Our dream is everyone of you know your gifts/purpose

His gifts aren’t spooky you can see it

3. His gifts are fulfilling. 

When you operate in those gifts – You will say this is why I was made

Happiest people I know are those serving in their gifts/purpose

(John 15:8, 11) “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” 

You’re never going to be happy until you’re doing something that makes a difference for eternity

Most happy when you connect with the Holy Spirit, receive gifts, operate in it

4. His gifts touch other people’s lives. 

People have connected with the gifts for the way it makes them feel

That is not the point – Holy Spirit did not come for our personal entertainment

End of the day spiritual gifts are to be used to impact another persons life 

(1 Peter 4:10 NLT) “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.”

Definition of a spiritual gift: A spiritual gift is a special supernatural ability that God gives to each of His children, so that together they can advance His purposes in this world.

Two question test coming up; What did you do with my son? What did you do with the gifts I gave you?

SALVATION CALL

Ghost Stories Part 2

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Welcome today to Part 2 of “Ghost Stories”

This not so spooky series about the Holy Spirit is going to be powerful. So open up your heart to the Supernatural

In Christianity never been an area that has brought more

Anxiety, misunderstanding, disagreement, controversy. I am going to teach from a Biblical perspective on the Holy Spirit. (not a denominational, etc..)

Set the record straight what we believe here at GraceTown Church

Here’s what I need from you…Give me a blank page – Be here

Throw out all you’re preconceived ideas, notions, places of abuse, and concern. We have preconceived notions not because of what the bible says But because of what people have done

Sometimes we carry an old way of thinking of who God is – There is more

More to God then just calling on him when you are in trouble

Holy Spirit is like gas to a car, oxygen to our bodies…Can’t live without him

In scripture you see He’s not outdated, not unbiblical, He’s wonderful

Acts 19:1-2 (NIV) – While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you Believed? They answered, No we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”.

If you missed 1st message of this series you need to listen to it!

(2 Corinthians 13:14 Message) “The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” 

God is not mad at you but madly in love with you

Intimate friendship – Jesus sent the Holy Spirit intentionally

Story: He wants to be your best friend

A best friend is a friend that is different from normal people

Comfort level that you can be you

May our comfort level change so we can be comfortable with the Holy Spirit

Why the disconnect with the Holy Spirit?

He is the Holy Spirit – KJV – Ghost – NIV – Spirit

Not the correct English word for Him – 800x spirit is said

Literal translations of the Holy Spirit is…

The Spirit of God 

Ruwach – a wind, breath, a violent exhalation, blast of breath.

(Genesis 1:2) “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.                    Pneuma – a current of air, blast of breath, a strong breeze.

Not a goofy weird experience – Giving you literal translations of those words – Unique Characteristics associated with Him

Three things unique to wind & breath…Understand it you will be comfortable – Associate it with the spirit of God…Wind is unseen

1. He’s unseen

You can feel him but you don’t see him – You know he’s there

Someone once said “We don’t run on feelings”

You need to feel what you are running on

He always intended for his presence to be experienced

Hopefully you felt that during worship

We were inviting the actual manifest presence of God to be in the room

That is our hope more than good music or preaching

Story: People new to our church impacted by God’s presence

Some of us don’t like the fact that he is unseen

We want him seen – Packaged (put in a denominational box)

I believe the reason why it is we, because want something we can control

Uncomfortable with what we can’t see/can’t control

I don’t think we would like it if we saw the wind – Couldn’t see anything else

Jesus spent about 40 days on earth before he ascended to Heaven

Doubting Thomas was missing

Disciples tried to tell Thomas they saw Jesus

Jesus comes into the room & he still says that’s not him

Unless I see the holes in his hands & side

(John 20:29) Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

God is looking for a generation of people who don’t always need to “see” it

Have faith enough to believe Him – Experience him

Wind & Breath of God is here – Need to quit be so skeptical

Wind & breath can be unpredictable

2. He’s unpredictable

Story: Wind changes all the time – Evan loves to know the weather. In the natural it’s fun – bring it to the Holy Spirit & say its strange

Struggle with human nature is we want God to do what we want our way

We love to put God in a box

Some denominations form certain doctrines around one person’s experience

Spirit of God is unpredictable…He’s wind & breath

(John 3:8) Jesus answered…(Talking to Nicodemus be born again) The wind (pneuma) blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (pneuma)

If your going to be close to God must be ok with the unpredictable nature of God

Wind is powerful

3. He’s powerful. 

God is powerful – Some fine with a powerless God

People want a God they can wrap their minds around

Which means God will never be bigger than your brain

Some want to serve God on an intellectual level – It’s a disease

We want God to be studied, learned & understood in our minds

We live in a time where we need more than words & intellect – supernatural

Stuff we face today we need the power of God

Story: People suffering with sickness and disease

God is still in the power business – Still does miracles today

(Acts 1:5-8) “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” 

You don’t need to always know stuff – you need power

Want to get you comfortable with the spirit of God – He’s unseen, unpredictable & has power

As the Pastor of this church I want it!

(Zechariah 4:6) “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit (Ruwach) says the Lord Almighty.”

We need more of God’s presence – More of his wind/breath

(1 Thessalonians 1:5) “…our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”

For some have been turned off by Him or think this is crazy

He’s a breath of fresh air

We are so drawn to it in the natural – A nice breeze

We need to be drawn back to it in the spiritual

Catch Your Breath

(Ephesians 5:18) “…be filled with the Spirit.” Be filled with his wind, breath

We have heard terms in the church, If you get filled with the spirit you will get it with the evidence of…name things

In other words if you have it this is what will happen to you

Here’s why I don’t like the term “The Evidence Of”

Because that allows you to judge my level of spirituality

You didn’t get what I got

Holy Spirit creates unity not division

It’s not evidence it’s benefits that God gives you

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with Christ

If I am filled I am led & empowered by the spirit to live for Him

Resurrection power & life works through you

In scriptures you find places where God’s spirit fell on people

You will find it’s probably different than what you thought

1. Rest. 

(Isaiah 63:14) “They were given rest by the (Ruwach) Spirit of the LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name.” 

If the presence of God is working in you, guess who doesn’t have to work

Truth is a bunch of you are tired – serving God out of human effort or intellect

You are worn out – You need His breath & rest to your life

It’s not a goofy expression, but it’s peace!

2. Focus & Direction. Benefit – The Counselor – He knows the future

He wants to be a voice, conviction & peace to lead you – He knows your future and wants to guide you there

(Romans 8:26-27) “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, (God knows what you want but he knows His plan for you) because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with Godʼs will.”

(John 16:13) “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” 

Story: God wanted this church planted – We had to follow his direction

Don’t be turned off by what others have tried to package this

3. Freedom. 

Romans 7 Paul talks about how hard it is to stay Holy

Expresses this frustration – What will we do

(Romans 8:9) “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”

God uses the spirit to purify, to prompt, to produce

Holy Spirit creates a desire to help us become more like Jesus

Primary job of the Holy Spirit is to purify my heart, make me more like Jesus

Let the spirit of God live inside of you to change you

Freedom to not just overcome sin but to love God

Freedom to worship – lot of our eyes are on people not God

(2 Corinthians 3:17) “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

4. Power. 

Welcome power in your life – Jesus said greater works will you do

(1 Corinthians 2:4-5) “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, (If we don’t have it then we are another argument out there of another religion) so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 

God’s wants people’s faith to not rest on man’s intellect but His power

5. Ministry. (He gives spiritual gifts many focus on just one)

The gifts are always a tool used to help people

We made it about the gift God just cares about the person

A spiritual gift is a special supernatural ability that God gives to each of His children, so that together they can advance His purposes in the world.

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

1 Peter 4:10 NLT – “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.”

SALVATION CALL

The Power of Inclusiveness

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The Power of Inclusiveness

When we draw a circle in the sand, we become the welcoming Church God called us to be. We must move from cliques to a community

Sacred text asserts that human beings were created to live in community, not as fragmented tribes, nations and separated peoples. Jesus opened the door for us to be inclusive of everyone. On some level, all are to be welcomed into our lives—saint or sinner. But what does this inclusiveness look like, what are its boundaries, and what does it result in?

Inclusiveincluding or encompassing the stated limit or extremes in consideration or account; enclosing; embracing:

Jesus was an includer of all kinds of people

John  8:2-11 NIV  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Two issues in this story

1. Sin – Right and Wrong (The Law)

Where was the man?

Bias – Demeaning towards women

Jesus said – DO NOT JUDGE

A bias is a factor in human judgement  – some judge women and give a pass to the man. Judge other kids and not our own.

Luke 6:41-42 NLT – And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend,[b] let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

•God did not call us to be the judge, jury, or prosecuting or defense attorney, we are called to be a Witness! That simple. Let your light shine!

2. How we treat other people that we think are different than us

•Her Issues and sin are no different than any of ours

Romans 3:23 NCV – “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard.” 

No adultery? Jesus said, if you lust after someone, you’ve done it in your heart. ??????

•Jesus pursues the imperfect

Luke 5:31-32 NLT – Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Luke 15 – lost coin, lost sheep, prodigal son

This is what Jesus made the story about  – he did other stories

Zacchaeus, Samaritan woman, lawmakers, law breakers, rich and poor

•Jesus was drawing a circle while others were drawing lines – Circle drawing is so much better than line drawing. Jesus put them all in the circle and then got in there with them.

Church at large loves to react to things around us in the world. We are adversarial

NewsReport – The world will never think like the church – the church will always see things different. We are Christ followers.

Talking about what we are for, makes us more effective in reaching people more than what we are against! 

How to be Radically Inclusive

1. We validate people by including people

Ephesians 2:19-21 MSG  – That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Paul was saying, You belong here

•You can approve of people even if you don’t approve what they do

Separate the behavior from the individual 

•When it comes to God’s family who included you? who are you including?

•••Let’s go look for people who are not included and let’s include them at GraceTown!

Let’s show the world that The Family of God is not a bunch of arrogant self righteous people! They are loving, kind, and gracious

2. We should include people immediately

Jesus included her immediately. no hoops, no proving time

•She Allowed Jesus to Accept Her

Matthew 11:28-30 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.

John 10:10 NIV – “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”

•She Allowed Jesus to Change Her

II Corinthians 5:17 NIV – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

Philippians 2:12-13 NIV Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.