The Beauty of the Cross

Beautiful Things Pt. 4 – The Beauty of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus died for us…not for God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the Cross Provides

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

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

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

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

A. THE CROSS PROVIDES RECONCILIATION FOR ME 

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

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

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

B. THE CROSS PROVIDES ATONEMENT FOR ME 

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. THE CROSS PROVIDES HEALING FOR ME 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. THE CROSS PROVIDES PEACE FOR ME

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

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

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

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

E. THE CROSS PROVIDES ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

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

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

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

Draw Me Nearer – Fanny Crosby (1875) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salvation Call 

Jesus, forgive me for all of my sins, I give my life to you, make me brand new. I believe you died for me so that I can live. Fill me with your spirit that I would know you, & serve you with my life. My life is not my own, I give it to you. Thank you for loving me, in Jesus name, Amen!

The Power of the Cross

PowerCross_web

The Power of the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus died for us…not for God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the Cross Provides

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

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

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

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

A. THE CROSS PROVIDES RECONCILIATION FOR ME 

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

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

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

B. THE CROSS PROVIDES ATONEMENT FOR ME 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. THE CROSS PROVIDES HEALING FOR ME 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. THE CROSS PROVIDES PEACE FOR ME

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

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

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

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

E. THE CROSS PROVIDES ME TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

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

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

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

Draw Me Nearer – Fanny Crosby (1875) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Moveable Feast

IMG_3910

A Moveable Feast

Luke 13:29 ESV – And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 

Food matters. Meals matter. Drinks matter. Our life at the table, no matter how mundane, is sacramental – a means in which we encounter the mystery of God.

Food and drink connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends.

3 times in scripture – it says “The Son of Man came…” 1. not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), 2. too seek and to save the lost…(Luke 19:10) 3. Has come eating and drinking…”(Luke 7:34)

•The first 2 statements are his purpose, the 3rd is his How.

•Jesus was called a glutton and drunkard and a friend of sinners

•Jesus’s mission strategy of evangelism and discipleship was around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.

Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating and drinking with people:

•Luke 5 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi

•Luke 7 Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal

•Luke 9 Jesus feeds the 5000

•Luke 11 Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers the law at a meal

•Luke 14 Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals.

•Luke 19 Jesus invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus

•Luke 22 is the account of the Last Supper

•Luke 24 the risen Christ has a meal with the 2 disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in jerusalem.

In Luke Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Why? It represents a shared life. These excessive meals were a type of God’s excess grace, mission, & friendship

(My memories of great meals – with family and friends, christmas, China, Paris, Mexico, Romania)

My title A Moveable Feast is best known as the memoir by Ernest Hemingway about his time in Paris in the 20’s. If you were a young aspiring writer Paris was the place to be.

But the term actually comes from the liturgical calendar. A moveable feast is a feast day without a fixed date, like Easter. In this sermon A Moveable Feast is about the ministry of Jesus. In the Gospels Jesus moves from meal to meal, feast to feast, announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.

Nearly 1/4 of the events of the Gospels occurs around a table. Everything Jesus talks about and enacts is the Kingdom of God. Healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching and teaching, forgiving sins, and the table practice of radical inclusiveness and hospitality.

•Eating and drinking with sinners was the most controversial things he did. Which was morally and ceremonially unclean, and found upon by the religious system and leaders of that day. •Holiness was defined and considered by what you ate and who you were with. Highly controversial.

•Jesus comes and blows that out of the water. Jesus comes on the scene as a movable feast.

Mark 2:15-17 ESV – 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

•Even the first Miracle of Jesus was turning the water into wine. Why? he didn’t want the feast, the wedding, the dinner to end. Keep it going.

The context of our scripture was that Jesus was asked a question about how many people would be saved. He didn’t give them a number or a percentage. He talked to them about their salvation. He said people would be surprised who.

Jesus was telling the Jews that because they couldn’t think of that as ethenicity, nationally and culturally, because they did.

Jesus described salvation as participation in the kingdom of God

Luke 13:23-30 ESV  And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

When we talk about the kingdom of God we have to use metaphors (Jesus did) – The kingdom of God is like… best understood as a Table.

The Church is not a kind of temple – The Church is a Table

•Temple is exclusive – lots of restrictions, heirarchy, status conscience, enforced purity codes, certain people are not allowed in (women, gentiles, sinners…)

•Table is inclusive – pull up a chair, affirming, family style, party, everyone is welcomed

In Jewish culture they had the feasts and they had a Tabernacle – But it was moveable. Israel wanted a temple (David,Solomon) But God didn’t want a temple. He was fine in a tent.

Jesus came on the scene and was doing temple stuff at the table 

•when a person sinned they were to purchase an animal at the temple and give it to the priest to sacrifice it then you are forgiven

•But now Jesus is having a meal with sinners at the table with people and simply said, “Your sins are forgiven”

During the week prior to his death, Jesus protested, cleansed the temple and reformed the table

•Why? Only one guy (the high priest) could go into the holy of holies

Who is Jesus? He’s the incarnation of God, (To wit God was in Christ…) – the holiest of All, the Mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace, Immanuel God with us, the son of God, Jesus is God sitting at the table.

•Who can eat with God? women, the lame, sinners, tax collectors, people shamed, misfits, imperfect, people with indiscretions  – the table is open to all, unlike the temple. 

He takes the passover feast and reforms it – the focus is now Good Friday. It’s no longer the sacrificed lamb in Egypt, its now Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thats the center of the salvation story at the table. It’s now Whosoever will! Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The table is now open to all! The table is no longer fenced. Through faith, baptism and obedience to Jesus

Luke 15:1-2 ESV – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Old Hymn“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”; You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time; He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine, To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine.”

I know there are several kinds of people that I will address. Some of you have never known what it means to be accepted by God, and perhaps even by anyone else. All your life you’ve been living in a performance trap, having to do this thing or that thing to gain someone’s acceptance.

Keith Hernandez was known as one of baseball’s top players. He carried a lifetime batting average of 300 and won numerous Golden Glove awards for excellence in fielding. He won a batting championship for having the highest average, the Most Valuable Player award in his league, and even the World Series. Yet with all his accomplishments, he missed out on something crucially important to him — his father’s acceptance and recognition that what he accomplished was valuable. Listen to what he had to say in a very candid interview about his relationship with his father: “One day Keith asked his father, ’Dad, I have a lifetime 300 batting average. What more do you want?’ His father replied, ’But someday you’re going to look back and say, “I could have done more.”’” 

Sadly, that’s the story of many people’s lives: maybe yours. Your grades weren’t good enough. Your job isn’t good enough. Your house or car or clothes aren’t good enough. You don’t play good enough. You’re too young, or maybe you’re too old. Maybe you made some mistakes and you were pushed away.

Some of you tried to respond to God’s leading by attending church, but you still weren’t good enough, didn’t wear the right clothes or just didn’t feel like the people wanted you around. Church people have been notoriously judgmental, critical and condescending.

Today Jesus pursues the Imperfect

Romans 3:23 ESV – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Eugene Peterson said, “Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors.”

Luke 5:31-32 ESV And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

GraceTown needs to be about a Table, not a Temple. •••Let’s go look for people who are not included and let’s include them at GraceTown!

Song of Solomon 2:4 NIV – Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.

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

Because of GRACE, God is not holding anything against anyone and welcomes all to His Table!

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

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

Conclusion

Today I want to urge you to place your trust in Christ.

In “The Whisper Test,” a lady by the name of Mary Ann Bird wrote something I want you to hear. She said,  I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored — Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy — a sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test. … Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back — things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”

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

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

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

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

Confession of Sin

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

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

Shift Pt 4

Shift-Series

Shift Pt 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our thoughts determine our destiny.

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

2 Functions of our mind

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

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

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

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

The Battlefield of the Mind

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

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

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

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

Thoughts = Schemes

Negative thoughts never lead to a positive life.

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

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

•Renewing your mind will Transform your life!

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

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

Unlock the power of possibility thinking.

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

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

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

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

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

Changed thinking will change my life.

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

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

1. Think true thoughts.

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

2. Think powerful thoughts.

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

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

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

3. Think pure thoughts.

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

4. Think positive thoughts.

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

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

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

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

The positive thinker sees the opportunity in every difficulty!

5. Think God thoughts.

(Joshua 1:8)  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

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

What to do with What you Think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baggage: Live Free Travel Light Part 2

baggage

Baggage: Live Free Travel Light Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREE -not subject to the control or domination of another

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

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

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

1. The Baggage of Guilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Pain of Resentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  If you harbor resentment – it can ruin you

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

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

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

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

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.

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

3. The Expectations of Others

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

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

Freedom is being you without anyone’s permission

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

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

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

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

*  trying to please/impress everyone at the same time

*  Pressured by other’s standards/lifestyles

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

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

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

The Plan

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

1. God still loves You.

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

to help.”

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

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

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

2. God can free You.

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

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

3. God will restore You.

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

WHAT IS ENSLAVING YOU THIS MORNING?

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Baggage: The Great Guilt Exchange

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The Great Guilt Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Resurrection gives 2nd Chances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Painful Regret of Simon Peter

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Do with Guilt

1. We Can Bury it

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

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

2. We Can Beat ourselves Up

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

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

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

c. Your heart registers right and wrong

•You do good, your heart says nice

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

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

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

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

3. We can begin again a Fresh Start

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

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

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

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

We Have Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will You Make the Exchange Today?

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

Prayer: 

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

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

God’s Love and Passion for YOU

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God’s Love & Passion for You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. It is easy to feel Common to God

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

2. It is easy to feel Alone

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

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

The Answer: 

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

HOW TO SETTLE YOUR ETERNAL DESTINY

1. ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S GREAT PASSION

“God SO loved the world…”

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

We are the Beloved of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. APPRECIATE GOD’S GREAT PRESENT

“that He GAVE His only begotten Son…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. ACCEPT GOD’S GREAT PROPOSAL

“that WHOEVER BELIEVES in Him…”

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

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

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

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

4. ANTICIPATE GOD’S GREAT PROMISE.

“should not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE!”

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

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

Notice God’s promise.

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

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

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

Salvation because of Love

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

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

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

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

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

Will You Accept God’s Love Today?

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

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

Christmas at the Movies: What Christmas is All About: A Charlie Brown Christmas

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What Christmas is All About: A Charlie Brown Christmas

INTRODUCTION: A Charlie Brown Christmas

-The Peanuts gang is really getting into the spirit of Christmas

-Charlie Brown is wondering “Is this what Christmas all about?” He has a problem.

-Linus said out of all the Charlie Browns in the world, your the Charliest Brown of them all!

-He gets no Christmas cards

-He gets help from Lucy (the pyschirotrist)- 5 cents, She loves $$$$

-He says he is depressed, its Christmas. She Exclaims to CB you need involvement. Be the director of the play.

-Lucy says she gets depressed to . Why? She never get’s what she wants for Christmas.  She wants REAL ESTATE.

-Snoopy ‘s doghouse:  CB reads a flyer. “The true meaning of Christmas, lights & display contest- win $$$$$” -Charlie Brown- “My dog has gone commercial!” -Sally (his baby sister) wants him to write a letter to Santa: “Dear Santa-…… I want tens, twenties, etc….”

-Charlie Brown at school to direct play: goes & gets a tree

-all kids say – your stupid, hopeless. Charlie Brown exclaims: “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about!”

Text: 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, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

Philippians 2:5-11 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What is so special about Christmas? It is the centerpiece of our history. Even our calendar is dated from the reference point of Jesus Christ. God split history with the event of Christmas. Everything is either A.D. or B.C.

What is so special about Christmas? I think Philippians 2 answers it. We have here the greatest explanation in the Bible of who Jesus Christ is and what He came to do. This is the bedrock, the foundation of all that we believe.

1. THE RELEVANCE OF CHRISTMAS: GOD CAME TO EARTH 

When the allies landed on Normandy on D-Day, that was big news. That is nothing compared to the news when God invaded earth. It was big news when man landed on the moon and walked there. It’s bigger news when God landed on the earth. Jesus Christ is God Himself. It was God that came to earth.

Col. 1:15-16 Living Bible “Jesus Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and in fact, Christ Himself is the Creator who made everything…

John 1:1-5 ESV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked “No Entrance” and left through a door marked “No Exit”. 

If Jesus really was God and God came to earth, then Christmas is the most relevant event of history. So stop seeking the God you want and start seeking the God who is!

2. THE REALITY OF CHRISTMAS: GOD BECAME A MAN

This is even more difficult to understand. If you were God and were going to come to earth, of all the ways you could choose to reveal yourself, would you come as a baby? as a human being?

Philippians 2:7-8 ESV but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[a] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The reality of Christmas was that Jesus Christ was a real man, flesh and blood, bones, hair. He was a real person, not a myth, fable, a nice story. In the Encyclopedia Britannica there are more pages on Jesus Christ than anybody else. The reality is that God came to earth and God became a man.

Charles Wesley put it this way in his great hymn: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’ incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

Why would he? If God had wanted to communicate with dogs, He would have become a dog. If He wanted to communicate with birds, He would have become a bird. But God wanted to communicate with people so He became a person. That is what the Bible calls the incarnation. God came to earth but He came as a human being, a person, like us.

How is Jesus like us?

1) He was born like us. He made himself nothing. He came into the world like billions of other babies. But the whole history of the world rested in that one fragile infant. That must have blown the minds of the angels — “What is God doing?” No flashy entrance to let the whole world know He’s there. He just comes in in the middle of the night in a stable in Bethlehem. Jesus didn’t stop being God when He became man. He was 100% God and 100% man. He was God in human form. He was born like us.

2) He grew like us. Luke 2:52 “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” He grew and developed and had growth spurts. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have gone to school with Jesus? You would know that He was a little bit different but would you believe that He was God. He did not parade the fact that he was God. He was a human being and grew like us. He looked every inch a carpenter and a Jew from Palestine. He was a real man. That’s the reality of Christmas.

3) He was tempted like us. Hebrews says “He was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin.” Jesus experienced the same pressures that you and I do, the same temptations, desires, drives. The same temptations to lie, to cheat, to steal. He had the same drives but He never gave into them. This is important because He can relate to you when you’re struggling.

4) He suffered like us. He felt pain, disappointment. He got tired, fatigued. He felt lonely at times. He grieved, He cried, He was human. In Gethesemane (Matthew 26:38) He said, “The sorrow is so great it almost crushes Me.” He knew what it was like to feel pain. He can relate to your pain, problems, pressures. He was God but He became a man. Jesus became what we are so we can become what He is. That is the reality of Christmas.

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” – C.S. Lewis

3. THE REASON FOR CHRISTMAS: JESUS CAME TO DIE

Philippians 2:8 ESV And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus didn’t stay in a crib in a manger. He went to a cross and voluntarily laid down His life for us. Why? He didn’t have to. He was God. He could have called 10,000 angels and stopped the process at any point. He did not have to go to the cross. Nobody put Him there without His permission. Why did He allow Himself to go to the cross?

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

The Bible says He did it for two reasons:

  1. To demonstrate God’s love.

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

His motivation was love. If you want to know how much God loves you, look at the cross. The Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” A lot of people may give their life for their friend or family or children. But the Bible says that God gave His life for us when we were rejecting Him, before we even knew Him, before we were even born. He gave His life for us. That’s love.

I John 4:9 ESV – In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

2. To pay for my sins.

When you break a law you’ve got to pay a penalty. When you break man’s laws you pay man’s penalties. When you break God’s laws you pay God’s penalties. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” But “… the gift of God is eternal life.”

I Peter 2:24 Living Bible –  He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours!

Somehow what He did 2000 years ago can make a difference in my life right now. I can be completely forgiven for everything I’ve ever done wrong or will ever do. That’s the reason for Christmas.

The angels said, “For unto you this day is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus came to be the Savior of the world.

Salvation is freedom — freedom from guilt, worry, fear, purposelessness in life, to know that your eternity is settled, freedom to live the way God meant for you to live. That’s the reason for Christmas.

4. THE RESULT OF CHRISTMAS: JESUS IS LORD

Philippians 2:9-11 ESV – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The cross is not the end. He’s alive! That’s what Easter is all about. If there were no empty manger there would be no empty tomb.

Because He humbled Himself:

1) He has been given a new name. The name “Jesus” in New Testament times was a very common name. It wasn’t unusual — like John or Jim today. “Jesus” means “salvation is of the Lord.” The Greek word is Joshua. That is why they had to distinguish which Jesus it was they were talking about — Jesus of Nazareth, etc. Even when He was born He was given many names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What is the name He has been given as a result of going to the cross for us? LORD. Jesus is Lord. Lord in Greek is the word that means “master, ruler, number one, Mr. Big, the one in control, total sovereign, king”.  Over 600 times in the New Testament the Bible calls Jesus, Lord.

What does it mean to say “Jesus is Lord”?

a) I acknowledge that He really is God. He’s more than a man or a prophet. He really is God. He is the Lord. It is a test of my commitment to Him.

b) I believe that He has everything under control. To say Jesus is Lord is a statement of comfort and encouragement. Although everything looks bleak, Jesus is Lord and I know He’s got everything under control. Nothing escapes His care or concern. Because He is Lord. To say Jesus is Lord is to say I don’t know what the New Year holds but I know who holds the future.

c) I commit all of my life to Him. He calls the shots because He is God. I’m seeking to live according to His plans

Romans 10:9 ESV – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The issue is not, will you admit that Jesus is Lord? You will one day. The issue is simply, when? You will either admit it now in love and honor and respect or you will admit it later and find you have been wrong and made a big mistake. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. That is the result of Christmas.

Will Christmas this year be an event or an experience? Will it be past history or present reality? It’s up to you!

Jesus came for you! Will you come to Him?

Romans 7:24-25 The Message24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does…

Living Venti: The God Fashioned Life

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Living Venti: The God Fashioned Life

You maybe wandering what Fashion has to do with Easter?

John 20:1-8 NIV – Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

When Jesus embraced the resurrected life – He left linens and burial clothes behind – as if to say…”I can’t wear this where I am going”….

Say that! “I can’t wear this where I’m going….” The Resurrected life, Living Venti, will empower you to take off garments that have clothed you and been part of your wardrobe…

•To leave a life of sorrow, shame, hopelessness, disappointment, frustration, anger, failure, and fear – I can’t wear this where I’m going!!!

Ephesians 4:22-23 NIV – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;

Ephesians 4:24 MSG – And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

Taking on a New Way of Life – The God Fashioned Life

This scripture uses lingo, “Put off”…”Put On”… to help us realize that in the same way we “put on” clothes…we are constantly “taking on” beliefs, thoughts, and perspectives that fashion our lives

Example: TV Show – “What Not to Wear”
-The Apostle Paul is like the fashion consultant on “what not to wear” who goes in and clears out the closet….throws away the old wardrobe … He is saying that WAY OF LIFE doesn’t look good on you…God has better things in mind for you! It’s a good life….it looks great on you! It fits you well! You feel good and will be at your best when you have it on!

Everyone is wearing someone
Example: The Red Carpet on the Academy Awards – Who are you wearing? Vera Wang, Versace, Tory Burch, Paul Smith, Valentino, Prada, Gucci – We have the same thing going on here today – Calvin Klein, Ed Hardy, True Religion, Izod Lacoste, Eddie Bauer, Levi, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Bahama, maybe some Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Walmart, Target, Meijer, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, or Kohls 🙂

•Even though most people pride themselves in being independent, unique, individual thinkers….The truth is all of us have been influenced by someone else’s idea of what we should wear! WE are all fashioned by someone else.

•Here’s my point – It’s not just in clothes that everyone is wearing someone…IT’s in Life. Label fashion life, Society fashioned life, Uncle fashioned life, friend fashioned life, media fashioned life, poverty fashioned life, a bad experienced fashioned life, loser, loner, rebellious, fashioned life, etc….

Example: Saul put his armor on David but David said, “I can’t go to battle like this…this will get in my way and hinder me…this doesn’t fit me” When you live Venti! A resurrected life somethings won’t fit. (Video: Fat Guy in a Little Coat)

1. Some People fashioned by….Bad Religion

you were not intended to wear a bad church experience the rest of your life – you were meant to overcome it – you are meant to be planted in a healthy, growing life giving church.

Psalm 92:13 NIV – planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.

Shake off the bad experience you had in a church…Shake off that offense!

2. Some are wearing the brand…Fossil

You were not meant to get stuck in old ways.
Fossil – the remains, impression, or trace of living thing of a former age, a skeleton, footprint, etc…a markedly outdated or old fashioned person or thing.

example: past fashion pics, yearbooks

Matthew 9:17 NIV – Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The resurrection is a reminder to live every day of our life – Don’t get stuck! Stay fresh, flourish and grow!

John 10:10 (Amp) – The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [a]overflows).

3. Some are wearing their Secret

Your secret – People here who would say….If yo knew me you would know why I can’t serve God…..my behavior, my addictions, my sin, struggles & weakness…etc
•What you don’t realize is that those are just labels put on us by our enemy…It is not how God sees us – God sees us as forgiven, free, healthy, strong, and growing. A champion, an overcomer, a victor, Successful! Be patient God is not finished with us yet!

•Guilt, condemnation, & shame doesn’t fit you! I can’t wear this where I’m going!
I John 1:9 NIV – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 8:1 NIV – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

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

Don’t let what’s wrong with you stop you from worshipping what’s right about God! (God’s labels – kind, compassionate, just, grace, mercy, love, love, joy, peace, faithful, generous, etc…)

Closing: In Luke, Jesus told a story of a prodigal son who was convinced that the life he wanted was outside of his father’s house and influence. SO he opened up himself to the influence of other people and other experiences. Life a man looking for clothes, he went shopping. He tried on different ideas, he wore different labels… he wore the images and fashion of his day
•The tough guy, the fun guy, the rock star, born to be wild, the black sheep images

Then one day…”He came to his senses” and said to himself…”What am I doing here?… This is not the life my father had in mind for me… and he got up and went back to his fathers house… As he approached the house…his father came ou to greet him…he ordered the servants to bring our new clothes, new shoes and a new ring for his finger…
•The son protested – I don’t deserve to be a son – I am a fool, a failure, a sinner, no good, I’m a mess….
•Father did not pay attention because he was announcing a resurrection….”My Son who was DEAD, is ALIVE”

I Can’t Wear this where I’m Going!

If the labels you tried on aren’t working for you…
If the life of your past is not what you want for your future….
If you got stuck in a fashion designed by a past experience…
If you want to step out of the old trends, ways, and habits….

There is a new resurrected life waiting for you! A Venti kind of life! A God fashioned life!

The Gospel

The-Gospel
The Gospel

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

Enemies of the Gospel

1. Religion

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

2. Sin

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

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

Consequences of Sin – Spiritual death, eternal separation from God

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

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

The Gospel Gives a 2nd Chances

Mark 16:1-7 (NIV) 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

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

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

Stop beating yourself up

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

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

Jesus is a greater savior than we are a sinner!

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

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

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

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

God invites you to receive the Gospel

(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.”