All I Want for Christmas Pt.4

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All I Want for Christmas Pt.4 – Joy

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

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

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

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

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

There are things that steal our joy:

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

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

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

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

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

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

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

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

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

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

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

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

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

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

3. Joy will affect those around you.

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

Don’t take yourself too seriously

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

The Secret To Joy

1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

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

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

Dear Lord,

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

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

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. Marcus Aurelius

Life can change in a moment!

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

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

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

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

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

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

3. Find something positive in everything

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

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

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

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

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

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

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

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

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

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

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

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

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

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

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

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

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

How to Get Up When You’ve Been Knocked Down

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How to Get Up when You’ve been Knocked Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

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

3 Specific Times When Life knocks you down

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

I. THE FACTS

1. Getting Knocked Down is a fact of life. 

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

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

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

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

2. Getting Knocked Down happens to everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

Your struggle is proof that you have not been defeated!

3. Getting Knocked Down won’t last forever.

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

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

4.  Getting Knocked Down can be good for us. 

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

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

•Faith is tested by hardships,  disappointments, and difficulties

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

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

II. 3 Keys That You Must Use to Get Up 

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

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

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

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

  1. Courage

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

We all are faced with discouragement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Perseverance

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

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

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

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

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

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

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark – Charles Spurgeon

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

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

It’s Always too soon to Quit! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We conquer by continuing.”- George Matheson

3. Faith

This is your position above your problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holding faith connects you to the Power of God!

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

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

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

Spiritual Priorities Pt.3 – Why Prayer Must Be a Priority

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Spiritual Priorities Pt.3 – Why Prayer Must Be A Priority

Priorities – A priority is anything to which we give first place, in order of importance. It is that which is most productive and beneficial to us. The things that matter most.

“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.”  Andy Stanley

Matthew 22:37-38 ESV And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.

Phillip Yancey said, “Only in prayer can we learn to love God with all our heart, mind and soul.”

Psalm 5:1-3 NIV “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my king and my God, for to youI pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

Why People don’t make Prayer a Priority

  1. Not sure you know how to pray
  2. Get bored or distracted while trying to pray
  3. Think your requests are too small for God
  4. Not sure your prayers will make a difference

The lack of personal prayer gives our spiritual life a funeral

(In Matthew 6, Jesus give us 3 “When’s” (habits)- When You Pray, When You Fast, When You Give)

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

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

NOT bc its the religious thing to do, NOT to please God, NOT to be saved and go to Heaven – It’s bc we have no other choice

CS Lewis said, “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 doesn’t change God – It changes me”

What is Prayer?

  1. Communication (dialogue)
  2. Communion (relationship)
  3. Channel for divine power (supernatural)

What it accomplishes:

  1. Draws you closer to God
  2. It brings answers, it creates (John 14:14, Hebrews 11:1-3)
  3. Brings blessings to others (I Tim. 2:1)
  4. Reveals (Jeremiah 33:3)

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

Prayer is learned – We learn to PRAY by:

•Praying  •Meditating on Scripture  •Praying with others  •Reading about Prayer

Phillip Yancey said – “If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer.”

FOUR MISGUIDED APPROACHES TO PRAYER

The Superstitious Approach – Facebook reposts

The Desperation Approach – Prayer should be our first response not our last resort

The Lobbyist Approach

The Religious Approach

Why Prayer Must Be a Priority

  1. I Can Declare My Dependence Upon God

Deuteronomy 4:7 NIVWhat other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

John 15:5-7 NIV “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing. If anyone doesn’t remain in me, he’s like a branch that’s thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you can ASK whatever you wish and it will be given to you. “

“Heaven is full of answers to prayer for which no one ever bothered to ask.” – Billy Graham

The tragedy of our day is not unanswered prayer but is unoffered prayer

God will either give you what you ask, or something far better. 

Prayer expresses our trust in God (Matthew 6:9- Our Father…) 

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” Oswald Chambers 

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

“Quit questioning God and start trusting Him!” ― Joel Osteen

Disappointments are just God’s way of saying “I have Got Something better” Be Patient….Have Faith….Trust God….

It’s not an option, it’s like breathing is to our bodies- LIFE.

Martin Luther said, “To be a christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

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

2. I Can Discover My Friendship with God

John 15:15-16 NIV “I no longer call you servants because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends for everything I’ve learned from my Father, I’ve made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

One of life’s greatest privilege is the right to use the name of Jesus in Prayer

Because we have Friendship with God, God promises:

1. To hear us (Jer. 33:3 / Isa. 65:24)

2. To Help us (Mt.7:7-8 / Mark 11:24)

3. If there is a need, God will meet it (Phil. 4:19)

4. If there is a burden, God will lift it (I Peter 5:7)

5. If there is a sin, God will forgive it (I John 1:9)

Romans 5:10-11 NLT For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

3. I Can Deliver My Anxieties to God

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

Remember: God has free unlimited anytime minutes

We have 2 options – We can Panic or Pray -You decide

“Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bare; All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer” Joseph Scriven

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

Anxiety – state of uneasiness, apprehension about future uncertainties

Worry – Strangle or choke, suffocating, feeling we experience in time of fear.

-dog with a bone; “worries” on it, gnaws, bury it, dig it up, growl at you

-Some people’s calling in life – they want to always examine what can go wrong

-Martin Luther said, “Pray and let God worry”

We are not designed to carry stress, anxiety, or worry

Remember this  – The shadow of a dog never bit anyone

Matthew 7:9-11 NIV “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

4. I Can Defer My Life to the Will of God

I John 5:14-15 NIV “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

John 14:13-14 NIV “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Praying in Jesus Name is not a magical formula statement at the end of your prayer. No prayers recorded in scripture with that statement at the end.

It’s prayer made on His authorization.

When we pray we give God legal invitation to bring His will to pass. His will is always accomplished through obedience in prayer.

Anytime God wants something done, He calls someone to pray!

Prayer is always the will of God
Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV –  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

God Makes Outrageous Promises About What He Does WHEN WE JUST PRAY!

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

The Prayer of St Patrick

May the strength of God Pilot us, May the wisdom of God instruct us, May the hand of God Protect us, May the Word of God direct us, May thy salvation, O Lord, Be always ours this day and forevermore

Dust Off

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Dust Off

This past Thursday night, millions of party-goers ushered in 2016 singing that old traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne.”  I’m willing to wager that most people don’t know either what they’re singing or even why.  I was amazed to hear Katie Couric, confess that she didn’t know what the song was about and didn’t even know what language it was.  In fact, no one on the set of her show knew anything about the song!

 

The text is from the Scots Presbyterian poet, Robert Burns, who lived between 1759 and 1796.  In a time of heightened Scottish nationalism in the face of England’s attempt to squelch the Jacobite cause, that tried to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne of the United Kingdom, Burns wrote most of his poetry in what is known as Broad Scots or simply Scots.

The poem was often used at the end of special social occasions and eventually became associated with New Year’s Eve and is used the same way today in Scotland.  There are five other stanzas in the poem, all of them extremely reflective in nature.  This is not a happy poem. It is touch with sorrow, sadness, and even grief.  Listen to the opening question – should auld, that is old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind?  Should we forget the people we’ve met?  Should anything or anyone be forgotten?  How much should be forgotten and how much should be remembered?  “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,/ And auld lang syne?”  That is, should we forget about old times, old friends, memories of the past?  That’s what auld lang syne means – old times, old friends, memories of the past, “for (the sake of) old times”.  Should we say good-bye to the past on New Year’s and never bring it to mind?

These are deep, philosophical questions that most of us don’t take the time to consider throughout the year as much as we should, let alone at twelve o’clock on New Year’s Eve.  And yet, that’s what we sing.

The reason why I’ve gone on about this famous poem is to highlight the all-embracing character of it.  Burns is not calling us to remember only the good times, but all the times, “the good and the bad.” But to also look towards the future with faith & excitement.

CS Lewis said, “There are better things ahead than what we leave behind.”

Text: Matthew 10:14 NIV – If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet

•Jesus was gathering his disciples and preparing them to weather the storm of disappointment, possible plans & ideas that may not work, people that wouldn’t buy in, high effort, lots of work, and little fruit. He was letting them know that they may not see the results that they wanted to see. Somethings don’t turn out as planned, plenty of prayers that goes unanswered, and efforts that don’t yield the harvest that we hoped for.

Dusting off what was behind them was merely a part of getting ready for the greater things ahead of them.

Jesus was basically saying to them it may not go well in one city, but don’t let that city discourage you. The last city is not the next city!

There is only one way to get ready for what’s ahead of you…DUST OFF what’s on you that came from behind you! 

The Residue of the Past

Often you can see the residue – All kinds of dust: disappointment, discouragement, offenses, strife, despair, rejection, etc..

(Lamentations 3:19-20 NIV) “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” 

 Past problems.

(Job 30:26 NIV) “Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness.” 

 Past mistakes. 

(Job 27:8 NIV) “For what hope has the godless when he is cut off, when God takes away his life?” 

 Past relationships.

(Job 19:19 NIV) “All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me.”

You can’t go where you’re meant to go, carrying the things of your past! Get ready for where God wants to take you! Take off the old mind set! The Horse is dead: DISMOUNT!

To many people are focused on what hasn’t happened. yesterday is not tomorrow!  Your future is not determined by your past! I’m here to help you get the DUST OFF of you!

You are not going to Move Forward with that dust on you! With that look on your face, with that heaviness on your shoulders, with that offense in your heart! Dust off!

Pig Pen – From the Peanuts Cartoons. Where ever he goes there is dust.

•”Pig-Pen” is known for his perpetually filthy overalls and the cloud of dirt and dust that follows him wherever he goes. When he takes a deep breath (to sing, for example), the dust rises briefly around him. He sometimes refers to the cloud that surrounds him with pride as the dust of ancient civilizations.[2] He cannot seem to rid himself of the dust for more than the briefest of periods—indeed, in spite of his best efforts, it appears that he cannot stay clean. He is referred to in an early strip as the only person who can get dirty while walking in a snowstorm. Once, after bathing and dressing in clean clothes, “Pig-Pen” stepped outside his house, and instantaneously became dirty and disheveled, whereupon he declared to Charlie Brown, “You know what I am? I’m a dust magnet!”

•Charlie Brown tries to be positive about him. “Don’t think of it as dust. Just think of it as the dirt and dust of far-off lands blowing over here and settling on “Pig-Pen!” It staggers the imagination! He may be carrying the soil that was trod upon by Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar or Genghis Khan!”

•The truth is that the residue of his past is still on him.

•We are all like Pig Pen – he wears and holds on to it instead of washing it.

•When someone opens up their mouth you can tell where they have been

(Matthew 12:34) “…Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”

Dust isn’t compatible with your Destiny

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

Hope to Move Forward

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

  1. Refocus your mind. (Stop what isn’t working)

(Romans 12:2 NLT) “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” 

(Ephesians 4:18 NLT) “Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.

(Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT) “And may you have the power to understand, as all God‟s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”

2. Dust Off (Release your past)

We get in trouble when we linger too long in places we should leave mentally and emotionally

(Isaiah 43:18 NIV) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” 

(Psalm 103:10-12 NIV) “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 

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

(Romans 3:22 NLT) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

3. Move Forward

It’s about facing forward. It’s about being ready for what God has ready for you!

Genesis 26:12-13 KJV Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:

The apostle Paul understood the principle of Moving Forward & moving on when he said…

Phil 3:13 NLT  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,

Paul had no other choice because his past wasn’t the best…

God spoke to Moses to tell the people to move forward…

Exodus 14:15 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”

In this passage, God had already given Israel deliverance from the Egyptians. And now they are headed toward the promise land after leaving Egypt.

Suddenly, they come to the Red Sea. The enemy is behind. They can’t go left or right. They can’t go back.THERE WAS ONLY ONE DIRECTION FOR THEM TO GO…FORWARD!

And when they did, God did something He had never done before, and Israel escaped on dry land. The unexpected happened when they MOVED ON and shook the DUST OFF! 

The New Year is not about changing the dates but direction; it’s not about changing the calendar but commitment; it’s not about changing the actions but attitude. May each and every day of yours be renewed with lots of happiness, peace, prosperity, wisdom, and joy!

3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

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3 Things To Remember and 3 Things To Do in 2016

3 Things To Remember

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

1. Help People find Jesus. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•GraceTown Life Groups Starting 3 week in January

3. Help People Grow Spiritually. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Things To Do

1. Pray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One prayer can change ANYTHING. one prayer can change EVERYTHING

2. Serve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

•Challenge you to do 3 things:

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

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

Go togracetownchurch.com/give

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – “A Song from the Dawn of Time”

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing – “A Song from the Dawn of Time” By Steve Light

Ever wonder how and where are most beloved Christmas carols came from? Today I want to explore one of my favorites – Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Is it 100 years old? Is it 200 years old? Could it be over 500 years old? Or, if we really take the time to understand this carol we would see that God wrote this song of love and redemption at the very start of Creation, which under the Hebrew calendar was 3761 BC, which means 5,776 years ago!

Let’s back up. The modern history of the song starts with an English hymn writer named Charles Wesley in 1739. The song started simply as a poem. A few years later, George Whitfield, an English evangelist, made some changes that helped the poem flow better. For example, Wesley wrote…“Hark! How the all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings”. What is a welkin? It’s an old Anglo-Saxon world for “vault of heaven”. Whitfield changed it to the modern version of “Hark! the herald angels sing- Glory to the newborn King”. Yet, it was still just a poem.

About 100 years later, in 1840, the famous composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote a tune to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of the printing press. While he was a Messianic Jew, he specifically did not want the tune to be for religious purposes. However, along came Dr. William Cummings, a Christian organist who in 1885 combined the Whitfield poem with Mendelssohn’s tune to create our beloved carol that we now have.

Its popularity has been established by being showcased in classic shows like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. However, the poem almost never made it to life. In 1649, the English Parliament, controlled by Puritans actually BANNED the making and singing of Christmas carols. Guess Christianity under attack is not something that is new in 2015 in the U.S.

Biblical scholars often credit this carol for being of the most remarkable due to its theological accuracy, depth and richness. However, I need to also share those same scholars will tell you that the bible does not have any passages in which angels actually sing, but no where does it say the don’t do it either!

Today it is my hope that this beautiful song to God will forever be transformed for you as you make the connection between words of the song and the biblical prophecies God gave to us that came true with the birth and life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We will explore six stanzas of the song with a focus on the key point of each stanza. We will tie the key point back to old testament prophesy written hundreds to thousands of years BEFORE the birth of Jesus. We will see that in fact it was not Wesley, or Whitfield, or Mendelssohn or even Cummings that truly wrote this carol, but our Holy Father in Heaven, who has been lovingly singing this to us in scripture since the Garden of Eden.

You have a copy of the song to follow on your chair. Rusty will help us out. We will listen to him sing a stanza and then I’ll share some thoughts with you to consider. And at the conclusion we will stand in unison, one church, one family of born again Christians, raising our voices to heaven to glorify God and give thanks to Jesus for his gift of grace the gives us peace on earth and life everlasting.

Rusty sings the first stanza…

    “Hark! the herald angels sing

            Glory to the newborn King

            Peace on earth and mercy mild

            God and sinners reconciled”

 God and sinners reconciled

 Genesis 3:15 (HCSB)…and the Lord said to the serpent….“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed (flesh of the world) and her seed (spirit of God). He (Jesus) will strike your head (destroy the serpent) and you will strike His heel”

Even at the moment of mankind’s fall, our Father was already putting a plan in place to reconcile us and take us from the clutches of death.

The Messiah would come to bruise the serpent’s head – that is, to destroy Satan and all his works and overturn his whole earthly empire.

700 years before Jesus was born the great prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 7:14 (HCSB)– “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive, have a son…”

This was God’s way of ensuring that the woman’s seed was holy and without sin. The Messiah had to be the unblemished sacrifice.

Check. The seed of woman will be born to address the seed of the serpent. Around the same time as Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy, another prophet named Habakkuk wrote the following in Habakkuk 3:13 (HCSB)…“You come out to save Your people, to save Your anointed. You crush the leader of the house of the wicked and strip him down from foot to neck.”

Rusty sings the second stanza…

 Joyful all ye nations rise

            Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic host proclaim

            “Christ is born in Bethlehem”

            With angelic host proclaim

            “Christ is born in Bethlehem”

 Chris is born in Bethlehem

This is an easy prophecy to find in the bible. We turn to the book of Micah, who was an 8th century BC prophet from Moreseth in Judah. In Micah 5:2 (HCSB) we read… “Bethlehem, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity”.

This ancient prophecy ties directly to the Gospel of John in Chapter 1, verse 1 -4 (HCSB)…“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him and that life was the light of men.”

Rusty sings 3rd stanza…

  “Mild He lays His glory by

            Born that man no more may die

            Born to raise the sons of earth

            Born to give them second birth

 Born to give them second birth

A second birth? What does that mean for us as Christians? As a young adult, and not truly knowing the Bible I used to cringe when I would hear Christians say “I am a born again Christian”. Ugh! I thought. That sounds so…weird. But, if we truly know scripture, Jesus is quite clear on this and again, this carol harkens back to an Old Testament prophecy and guidance through the Word of God.

Let’s turn to the story of Jesus and Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and ruler of the people. He would have been very knowledgable of scripture. He tells Jesus in their encounter “we know you come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs unless God were with him” (John 3:2 (HCSB). What does Jesus say to this? “I assure you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 (HCSB))

This perplexes Nicodemus. He asks Jesus how someone can be born a second time? He thinks in terms of the physical world. Jesus moves to rebuke him. Why? Because Jesus reminds Nicodemus that his knowledge of scripture should be clear that a person can be reborn. In verse 5- 8 Jesus says this… “Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again”.

 Why would Jesus say this last part?

For that we need go back 600 years before the birth of Jesus and look at the Book of Ezekiel. In Chapter 36, verses 25-27 (HCSB) we read several points that tie directly back to Jesus’ guidance to Nicodemus. “I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a NEW heart and put a NEW spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statues and carefully observe My ordinances”.

Here we have Ezekiel speaking the Word of God – our bodies being cleansed by water. Our bodies being remade – reborn. Drawn out of the world that is impure and hard to a life in the Spirit. And, our hearts being filled with the very Spirit of God to give us direction, wisdom, peace and purity by the grace of the Messiah.

Rusty sings the fourth stanza….

 “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see

            Hail the incarnate Deity

            Pleased as man with men to dwell

            Jesus, our Immanuel  

            Pleased as man with men to dwell

            Jesus, our Immanuel

 So what is “Immanuel”? In Hebrew, the name means “God is with us”. I believe that all of mankind, made in God’s image, has an innate tuning to be connected with God. To be close to the Lord. To walk with the Father. We know in Genesis Chapter 3 that Adam and Eve had the opportunity to walk with God in the garden of Eden…”the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze”

 Imagine God trucking across your backyard to your kitchen door for a hot chocolate on a cold winter afternoon???

However, something terrible happened. With mankind’s disobedience, sin was introduced and we became separated from the presence of God. Yet, we return to Isaiah 7:14 to learn that the prophecy said, “the virgin will conceive, have a son, an name him Immanuel”. God with us – born fully man and fully God. The perfect and living sacrifice to pay the price for our sins so we could return to the Father.

Rusty sings the fifth stanza….

           “Hail the Heaven born Prince of Peace

            Hail the Sun of Righteousness

            Light and life to all He brings

            Risen healing in His wings”

 There would come a Messiah. King of Kings. Holy Priest. Healer.

King of Kings

Jesus was born from the family of King David. David was told by Nathan the prophet…“I (God) will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father and he shall be my Son”. (II Samuel 7:12-14 (HCSB)).

Holy Priest

Jesus also fulfilled a prophecy for a King that would be a priest as well. David was a king but not a priest. But the Psalmist prophesied of the coming King Priest in the Messiah…“Forever, You are a priest like Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4 (HCSB))

Why Melchizedek? It is the root of the name in Hebrew we need to focus on. Melech means king. Tsedek means righteousness. The two together in Hebrew means “My King is Righteous”. Sun of Righteousness. Zechariah 6:13 in the Old Testament further emphasized the coming Messiah would be both King and Priest… “He…will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne” (NIV).

Healer

Jesus was born for our salvation and for our healing. Isaiah 53:5 (HCSB) explain “But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds”.

Even the wise men understood these three roles that Jesus at birth fulfilled. Their gifts reflected the different purposes Jesus was born for. Gold represented his kingship. Frankincense was a symbol of his priestly role. And myrrh was a flash to his role as healer through His death and resurrection as it was used for embalming.

Rusty sings final and sixth stanza…

 “Christ the highest Heaven adored

            Christ the everlasting Lord

            Come desire of nations come

            Fix in us Thy humble home

            Come desire of nations come

            Fix in us Thy humble home”

 Come desire of nations come

Jesus did not come to save only the Jews. He came to save everyone. God wants to open our spiritual eyes and ears and hearts and “shake us” in the U.S. and in China and in England and in Spain and in Brazil and to every part of the earth. And even right hear in New Albany and throughout Columbus. Haggai 2:7 (HCSB) is the basis for the last stanza…”I will shake all nations, and what is desire by all nations will come”.

 Isaiah 2:2 (HCSB) – “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and ALL nations will stream to it”.

 Jesus was clear in the Gospel of John on his role as our Savior.

John 3:17-18 (HCSB) – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God”.

 Are you reborn? Do you have faith in the healing name of Jesus? If not, do you want to be? You are in the right place. This is the house of God and it is a house of mercy and prayer. With all heads bowed and eyes closed, say this simple prayer of salvation with me…. “Jesus, you are my salvation. You are my Lord. I know that I am broken. I know that I need to repent of my sin and accept your gift of grace and forgiveness. You died on the cross for my sins and I want to follow you. Come into my heart, guide my life and teach me your ways. Amen”.

 If you said that prayer this morning and gave your life to Jesus we are so excited for you. After the service we will have elders in our church in the front that can say a blessing for you and discuss how you take the next steps in your faith.

 Everyone stands and sings the entire carol together.

 So now you know. Hark! the herald angels sing is an amazing Christmas carol. It is a song from God, written because He loves us. Now every time you sing it I hope the lessons of this sermon adds a little joy to your voice as your know the real basis for this carol.

Pastor’s Closing Prayer and Blessing

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon Gracetown the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

 

           

 

 

Joy To The World

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Joy To the World

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

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

God’s Antidote for a weary Religion

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

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

There are things that steal our joy:

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

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

The Twin Joy Robbers 

• Bad Things That Shouldn’t Happen, But Do

• Good Things That Should Happen, But Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s one of the healthiest things you can do

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

  1. Joy will Change my approach to Life

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

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

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

2. Joy will turn my problems into blessings.

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

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

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

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

  • Take three tablespoons three times a day. 

a. Take it when you feel like it!

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

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

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

3. Joy will affect those around you.

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

Don’t take yourself too seriously

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

The Secret of Joy

  1. Take responsibility for your own emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot determine what happens to you

But you can determine what happens in you

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

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

Dear Lord,

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

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

2. Develop a high appreciation for life.

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

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

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

Story of senior being admitted into a nursing home

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

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

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

We cannot choose how many years we will live

But we can choose how much life those years will have

We cannot control the beauty of our face

But we can control the expression on it

We cannot control life’s difficult moments

But we can choose to make life less difficult

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world

But we can control the atmosphere of our minds

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

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

How?  People who have a high appreciation of life…

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

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

3. Find something positive in everything

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

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

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

This is spiritual warfare – pull down negative thoughts

Attitude and faith are very similar – way you view something

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

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

4. Say something positive in every conversation.

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

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

Best way is to pray daily…

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

People can frustrate you – must train our eyes

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

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

5. Express gratitude to God and others daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WELLS OF JOY (Genesis 26) 

A. THE PHILISTINES STOPPED UP ALL THE WELLS 

1. They thought this would drive Isaac away.

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

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

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

 B. GOD COMMANDED ISAAC TO REDIG THE WELLS 

1. Some of you need to redig the wells.

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

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

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

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

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

How to Survive the End of the World Pt.4

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How To Survive the End of the World Part 4

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

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

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

1. Ungratefulness would be rampant in the endtimes

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

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

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

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

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

As Christ followers we should be overflowing with Thankfulness

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

I. Conquer Complaining 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. The Cure

  1. Thankfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons to Be Thankful

  1. God, His Eternal Goodness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. All Circumstances in Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Contentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ending

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

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

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

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

 

How to Survive the End of the World Part 3

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How To Survive the End of the World Part 3

Introduction: 

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

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

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

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

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

•we are driven from public life

•denied 1st amendment rights

•actively discriminated against for our beliefs

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be a Christian?

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

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

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

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

1. With Humility 

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

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

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

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

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

It recognizes how inadequate we are by ourselves.

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

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

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

2. With Simplicity 

Freedom from complexity. We live mismanaged lifestyles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. With Possibility (Faith)

Potentiality for favorable or interesting results.

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

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

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

•Believing when I donʼt see it. 

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

certain of what we do not see.” 

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

•Obeying when I donʼt understand it. 

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

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

something that had never happened before.” 

•Persisting when I donʼt feel like it. 

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

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

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

Trusting if I donʼt get it. 

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

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

something better…”

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

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

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

4. With Charity (Love)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How?

•Accept others unconditionally.

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

you, in order to bring praise to God.”

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

•Encourage others continually.

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

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

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

•Serve people cheerfully.

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

to serve others…”

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

•Forgive others freely.

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

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

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

5. With Priority 

Priority – Something given special attention

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

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

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

What are your priorities? 

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

I HAVE DECIDED:

To follow the example set by Christ.

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

Christ.

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

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

tells him to, he is a liar.

To declare my commitment publicly.

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

also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Survive the End of the World Part 2

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How to Survive the End of the World Part 2

I Peter 4:7-11 NIV – The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The New Testament tells us that the end and the day of Christ return is not far away:

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:12).

“The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).

“The Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

How soon is soon? If you have read Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, you may remember this conversation between Lucy and Aslan, the lion who is the Christ-figure in the story. “Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.” “Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?” “I call all times soon,” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.

In the past, many years of well-meaning, but misguided ministers and authors have made predictions regarding the timing of Christ’s return and many other future events. If these predictions and dates had come to pass they would have altered the entire spiritual, political, and international climate of the entire planet. None of these came to pass and they continue to be wrong – but the Bible is never wrong.

Eschatology – is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity.

A lot of Christian eschatology is A “Passed-Down” Theology – what is popular is not always right.

Two keys to consider when attempting to understand prophecy in scripture is: 

1. Determine the time frame being referenced. Not all prophecy is directed at our generation or future generations.

2. Consider historical context of the prophecy to know and understand what was happening in and around the time of the prophecy.

If we focus on the wrong end, the end of the world can be: Confusing, dangerous, violent, and fearful.

I. You Don’t Have to Fear the Future – You Can Face it Confidently

A lot of people spend their lives worrying about tomorrow. They never enjoy today because they’re worrying about tomorrow. Why? Because we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Yet David, as he concludes this Psalm, is not worried.

Psalm 23:6 KJV –  “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

No anxiety, fear of the future, worry about tomorrow. He’s confident — “surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”

Where do you get that kind of confidence? If you’re a believer, there are three reasons why you don’t need to fear the future:

1. Because God is watching over me.

Because God is good I can expect His protection and provision. I can expect that no matter what happens to me, God will bring good out of it somehow. It will always either be for my own good, for the good of other people, or for the good of His kingdom. God is a good God.

Psalm 145:20 NIV – The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

God cares about the details of your life. Like a father, He will provide for you in the future. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know Who holds it. We know God is in control and God loves you and wants to help you. He says, I will be like a Father and will watch over you.

“Surely goodness will follow…” What does he mean by that? Obviously David had disappointments in life. Not everything good happened to him. He’s not saying, Surely, only good things are going to happen to me. That’s not true. Bad things happen to good people. He’s not saying only good things are going to happen. He’s saying only goodness will follow. Good things will always come out of whatever happens even the bad, the evil, the difficult. God will insure that good will come out — it will follow whatever happens to David.

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

The great promise that God has given to believers. This is not a promise for everybody. All things do not work together for good for everybody in the world. Things work together for bad for people who are not trying to go the way God wants them to go, who are not following his path. But if you’re a believer, the Bible says all things are working together for good — not all things are good — but working together for good. That’s what it means “goodness will follow me”. There is no difficulty, dilemma, defeat, disaster in the life of a Christian that ultimately God won’t bring good out of. Eventually, He’ll bring good out of it. Somehow.

Often it’s difficult to see God’s goodness when you’re going through a tragedy. There are times when you don’t feel like God is good. You don’t feel His mercy. Sometimes you feel like God’s goodness is hidden. Even Jesus, on the cross, said, “My God, my God, Why?” t’s only later, looking back, that we see God’s goodness and how He was working for good. God will bring good out of good and bad.

Paul was put falsely in prison in Rome. Was that good? No. He was kept as a prisoner in Rome. While he was there, he wrote some books that we now call the New Testament. Goodness followed after his imprisonment. Today we’re benefiting from Paul’s problem, pain, difficulty. Goodness follows.

Psalm 91:11 NIV – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

God uses angels to watch over you. Angels are real. They are invisible helpers. The Bible says one of the reasons God has created them is to watch over and protect believers. You don’t talk to them or see them, but they are there working on your behalf all the time.

II. Because Grace is Working in Me

Isaiah 60:10 LB – Foreigners will come and build your cities. Presidents and kings will send you aid. For though I destroyed you in my anger, I will have mercy on you through my grace

What is grace? Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. GRACE. It’s all God’s able to do for us because of Christ. Grace is the fact that God gives you what you need, not what you deserve. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t give you what you deserve? The Bible says, God is gracious and gives us what we need, not what we deserve. What is mercy? Mercy is grace in action. Why do we need mercy? Because we’re imperfect. We stumble and fall, blow it, make mistakes. In the future you’re going to sin! So in the future, you need not only God’s goodness, you need His mercy. You need His forgiveness, pardon, healing.

When you really understand God’s grace and mercy, that God isn’t out there trying to get even with you, if you’ve given your life to Jesus Christ, Jesus has taken the penalty for everything you’ve ever done wrong or will do wrong, on the cross. He paid for it, you don’t. So when a bad thing happens you don’t have to think God’s getting even with you. God doesn’t “get even” for things that have already been paid for on the cross. That’s grace, mercy. When you understand God’s grace and mercy then you have no need to fear the future.

Psalm 103:2-11 LB – Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things! My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! He gives justice to all who are treated unfairly. He revealed his will and nature to Moses and the people of Israel. He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; he is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. 10 He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, 11 for his mercy toward those who fear and honor him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

When you understand mercy, that God is not only being good to you, but He’s being merciful to you in handling your mistakes, your sins, your faults, then you don’t have any reason to fear the future.

Mercy means that when I’m going through a tough time, a valley, a difficulty — even one that I’ve brought on myself — God is there to help me out.

God doesn’t turn His goodness and His mercy on and off. He doesn’t treat you nice one day and the next day treat you badly. All the days of my life, I’ll have God’s goodness and God’s mercy.

Hebrews 4:16 ESV – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

III. Because Heaven is Waiting for Me

“… and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

That’s one of the most important little connections we see in the Bible. It connects yesterday and today with tomorrow. God says, “I’ve got this great life planned for you and surely goodness and mercy will follow you through it, BUT that’s not the end! I’ve got something else at the end!” He builds it to a crescendo. David ends this Psalm by saying “We’re going to heaven!” Jesus saves the best until last. With God it just keeps getting better and better.

2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV – For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Someday your body is going to die, but you aren’t. Your body is going to end but that’s not going to be the end of you. You’re going to live forever in one of two places — heaven or hell. We were made to last forever.

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

Why are Christians the most confident people about the future?

2 Corinthians 5:6,8 NIVTherefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Death, for Christians, is a transfer, a promotion. It’s on to better things. No more problems. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.  If we have accepted Christ we’re going to go to heaven.

What is heaven going to be like?

Revelation 21:1-4 NIV – ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

We’re going to be released from pain, from sorrow, from suffering, from depression, from fear.

Who is heaven made for?

C.S. Lewis also said, If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”

I Peter 4:1-6 LB – And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting him. It will be yours in that coming last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.

Earth is the warm up act. This isn’t the big deal. You’re going to spend 60, 70, 80 maybe 90 years here on earth. But you’ll spend thousands, millions of years in eternity. This is just preparation for the big event where you’re going to spend all of eternity.

How do I know I’m going to heaven?

John 10:27-28 NIV  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

When you face the future, what do you see? Do you look at it with eyes of doubt? With eyes of cynicism? With eyes of expecting the worse? You have two choices in life: You can either face the future as a cynic, a doubter, with negative thoughts, expecting the worse. Or you can face the future expecting God to be with you and His goodness and His mercy to follow you all the days of your life. It is amazing how much better life gets when you start to actively look for God’s goodness and God’s mercy in every experience. It’ll change your life.

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.

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

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

God invites you to receive salvation. (God’s RSVP)

(Revelation 3:20) “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.”

(Romans 10:9-10) “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is

Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,

you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are

justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”