Sermons 12

June 28, 2015

Number 1,300          Hebrews 10:19 - 25

As you probably noticed in your bulletin the title of today's sermon is Number 1300. That's because today we celebrate 25 years as pastor and people 25 years times 52 Sundays = 1,300 sermons. (No wonder you are so smart)

There are times when I wonder if after all of these years I should move on and see if a new pastor could do more, or different, or better things. But the truth is I can't because it is my belief that this is where God wants me to be.

So unless you are gonna fire me any time soon I guess we are stuck with each other. So what are we gonna do about that.

Hmmm? Well personally I think we have done pretty well together. Look around you here we are with a pretty good crowd in a pretty nice building with padded pews.

We are the body of Christ in Keithsburg and surrounding towns. We have people that attend here from, New Boston, Seaton, Aledo, Joy, Oquawka and wherever Jim and Cindy live. And we are family.

And we have been given a task by almighty God to reach out into our communities and families with the good news that Jesus has come to seek and to save those who are lost.

If we don't do it pray tell me who will? If you go home this afternoon and notice that your neighbor's house is on fire would you just go into your house and eat your tuna fish on whole wheat?

No You would run over and start pounding on the door Hey Man Your house is on fire get everybody out!

If you were headed to Muscatine and as you approached the bridge you noticed that the Iowa side of the bridge had collapsed would you just sit there and watch as car after car tumbled into the river below.

No You would jump out and wave your arms and yell Hey the bridge is out! Stop the bridge is out!

God has given us the job of telling people about Him Guess what The house is burning the bridge is out and if we as the people of God don't do what we can do to reach those around us they won't be reached.

Back in the day there used to be a Presbyterian Church here in Keithsburg, Back in the day there used to be a Methodist church here in town and up until a year ago there was a Catholic church Guess what, we're it we can't pass the buck The buck stops here. We have a work to do.

Together let's ask God for wisdom in knowing how and when to invite family and friends to church I know it's easy to talk yourself out of it They probably aren't interested But you don't know unless you try!

You know what I have never read a newspaper article with the headline Man shoots neighbor for inviting him to church. Not gonna happen and if I'm wrong and it does I'll give you a free funeral.

We are a family and we have so much to offer. We are a place to be loved and accepted. We are a place to find a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. We are the church We are family.

And like any family we are not perfect I am human I will fail you. If I haven't already I promise you I will. But I also promise that I will love you, and that I will try to be there for you. If you need me don't wait for me to figure it out(I'm really not that smart) call me and say, I need you!

Yesterday Marla spoke at the Relay for Life in Aledo and as she shared her story I hurt for Donna knowing that she will be having her surgery this week and I thought of Janet going through Chemo, and Connie just having finished radiation and Kathy and others of you and I wished I could do more. We need each other and the community needs us.

Next week is VBS and I am so excited that I get to talk to a bunch of kids about God. Many of these kids don't know the name of Jesus as anything more than a swear word and I get to tell them that there is a God and that He loves them very much.

I get to tell them: 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.

But I wouldn't be able to do that without a whole bunch of help. The CWF made a generous donation so that we can have nice crafts. Chrys has worked tirelessly making plans for next week and recruiting teachers and helpers.

We said we need cookies and punch we got cookies and punch. Kathy even wrote a song about prayer for the kids to learn.

We are doing good but we can't stop now We have the power to change eternity we have a mandate to change eternity one soul at a time.

We are stuck with each other what are we gonna do about it? We are gonna keep on keepin on we are gonna keep doing what we have been doing and so much more as we see the day approaching. Listen again to these words from our Bible reading:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another”and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

My friends the day is approaching And we as the church of Jesus Christ need to not be weary in doing good but rather we need to reaffirm our commi'ent to seek and to save the lost To reach out into our community and world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

One short life will soon be past only what's done for Christ will last Did you get that? One short life will soon be past only what's done for Christ will last.

A couple of weeks ago Karen Burke pulled into our driveway and as she was talking to Marla she noticed my wrenches hanging on the pegboard in the garage.

She said, Wow what are you gonna do with those? and I replied something like, I'm going to leave them hanging there to make me feel manly! And sadly that's the truth.

I will never turn a two inch bolt

So much of what we do in life is to impress others. Somewhere in our brains we have a secret belief that our self-worth is determined by what we have.

And so we long for newer cars and fill our closets with shoes we will never wear and while we do The house is burning and the bridge is out.

The one who dies with the most toys is still dead. One short life will soon be past only what's done for Christ will last.

Maybe it's time for us to stop living for the here and now and do what we do with eternity in view. Maybe it's time to worry less about what our neighbor thinks and more about what God thinks.

And so as Number 1,300 draws to a close May we commit ourselves anew as individuals and as a church to focus on that which will last for eternity.

May we be a place where truth and love make difference and may we be a church dedicated to seeking God and serving people.

May 31, 2015

Better Together   Acts 2:42-47

A small church had the same priest for over 35 years.¨He was loved by the church and the community.¨After he retired, he was replaced by a young priest just out of seminary.¨

After several weeks, he began to perceive that the people were upset at him. Eventually he called aside one of the church members and said, "I don't know what it is, but I have a feeling that there's something wrong."

The man said, "Well, Father, that's true. I hate to say it, but it's the way you do Communion."¨"The way I do Communion? What do you mean?"¨ Our old priest would always go over and touch the radiator just before he administered the communion.

So the young priest called his predecessor and said, "I haven't even been here a month, and I'm in trouble."¨"In trouble? Why?" "Well, it's something to do with touching the radiator.

The old priest replied" Before I administered the elements, I always touched the radiator to get rid of the static electricity so I wouldn't shock anybody." For over 35 years, the people of his congregation had thought that was a part of Communion.

It's one thing to do something, but it is quite another thing to know why it matters. In the church, we often do things because we've always done them but we never ask, Why? And sometimes, we end up doing things without ever knowing the reason.

One of the first activities of the early church we see in the Book of Acts is gathering. Acts 1:14 says, They all joined together constantly in prayer. Acts 2:1 says, When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. The end of chapter 2 says, Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

From the very beginning, we see that the church was in the habit of gathering together but why? Have you ever wondered why you get up early on Sunday morning rather than sleep in?

I've asked that question more than once. That reminds me of the story of the guy whose alarm went off on Sunday morning and he hit the snooze button, rolled over and went back to sleep.

It went off a second time and he hit the snooze button again but his wife told him to get up. She went to the kitchen to make coffee. When she came back, he was still in bed, covers over his head and asleep.

She yelled at him to get up. I don't feel like it today. I don't care what you feel like, you're going to get up and go to church. But I'm tired. Just let me sleep. The wife pulled the sheets off him and said, I don't care what you feel like or how tired you are, you're the Pastor of the church and you're going to get up and go to church!

Why do we gather? 
First, when we gather, we're part of something bigger than ourselves. The point of the church is to share with the world the good news that Jesus is Lord, and He is ushering in the Kingdom of God, of which we get to be a part.

That is why we gather, to be reminded that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We long for that, don't we? We all want to be a part of something bigger, something that reaches beyond us, something that is going to make a difference in the world and the lives of people, something that will continue after we are gone.

We all want to be a part of something that matters and is making a difference. The church matters. The world is a broken place and in need of the church.

As Bill Hybels says, The church is the hope of the world. Nothing else embodies Christ And nothing else is meant to be God's instrument of love and salvation for the world.

Second, when we gather we're unified in Christ. When we gather in the name of the one true God we commit to His mission for our lives, suddenly we're not only a part of something bigger than ourselves, but we have the glue of a common mission which calls us beyond what divides and unites us in a common identity as children of God and a common mission in Jesus Christ.

Third, when we gather, we gain a greater understanding of who God is. Genesis 2 says we're made in the image of God. So it takes a diverse group of people to get an accurate picture of who God is and what God is about.

Too often, we begin to think God is exactly who we understand Him to be. What happens is that we have a tendency to make God just like us. We start to reshape God into our image.

God's not limited to my understanding or my image. We gather in order to get a bigger picture of who God is and what God is about.

Fourth, when we gather, God shows up. Psalm 22:3 says, God inhabits the praise of his people. Jesus put this way, Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 

When we gather and praise God, the presence of God meets us in a unique way that doesn't happen when we are on our own. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for private and intimate times of personal worship. I think that's crucial, but the presence of God meets us in such a mysterious way when we come together.

We gather big to encounter God in a big way. Marla and I experienced this at the Annual Indiana Methodist Conference last Thursday when our son in law was ordained. To hear 350 voices singing God's praises, echoing off the floors and walls and ceiling enabled me to experience God in a big way. The very presence of God meets us in our praises.

Perhaps you experience that here as we gather to worship God. When we, who are many, come together as one, it isn't really something you can explain. It's something you have to experience. Nothing is like coming together as the church.

We gather to remind ourselves of what we are a part of, to expose ourselves to a bigger picture of God, and to experience the very presence of God.

God created the world in such a way that everything operates better in unity than it does individually. We experience things on a deeper level when we are a part of a group, than we would on our own.

This is why Hebrews 10:25 tells us, Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching. When we gather together, we're able to experience certain things we can't when we're on our own.

Last, we gather because together, we can do more. Proverbs says, Two cords are better than one. Helen Keller put it this way, Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

We can always accomplish more together than we can on our own. For instance, a single bird can only fly for short distances but when a flock flies in a V format, they can fly long distances together. We see the same thing happen with human beings. We are always able to accomplish more together than when we're alone.

May 24, 2015

Serving God by Serving Others Matthew 20:20-28

If you were able to be here for the car and tractor show yesterday, you might have noticed that the dessert that went with lunch yesterday was Rice Krispie Treats.

Some of the ladies got together earlier in the week and made several batches. I reached into the container to and grabbed one, but then I noticed something the one next to the one I grabbed was bigger so I put the first one back and went for the big one bigger is better right?

They all looked similar - similar yet different but no matter the size or shape they were there for a reason.

So it is with us. In many ways we all look similar “ and we are here to do something. We are each here to serve, to witness, to minister to others to do something with our life - for God.

God made us to make a difference. The shape that God made us includes all our abilities, our personality, our passions, experiences and background. We are created to serve. We are saved to serve. We are gifted to serve. We are shaped to serve. We are commanded to serve God.

He wants us to grow in Him; give back to others and to Him and to glorify Him. This tells me we each have a purpose. That purpose is to love and to serve God.

Our uniqueness in the way we look, think and feel is not for our own benefit. Our purpose in life is to be and do what God made us to be and to do.

This is called "ministry". 1 Peter 2:9 says that, as believers, we are all ministers. I know many people think of a pastor as the minister but it's not just those of us behind the pulpit.

The minister is you. The minister is the one sitting beside you. That is what the priesthood of all believers means.

I like what Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life, He says: Your call to salvation includes your call to service. They are the same. Regardless of your job or career, you are called to full-time Christian service. A ˜non-serving Christian' is a contradiction in terms. If we are believers we are all called to serve Jesus Christ.

Now the good news is that God not only created us for service. God also gave us a model. God came to earth in the human form of Jesus, and said, This is how you do it.

We were created to be like Christ. And what did Christ do while He was here on earth? (Jesus went about doing good) He served. In the verses we read earlier, Jesus says, I did not come to be served, but to serve

One thing serving like Jesus means is being available. One day Jesus walked the road to Jericho. Further in that same chapter in Matthew we are told that, "Two blind men shouted 'Lord, have mercy on us!' Jesus stopped and called to them. 'What do you want me to do for you?'"

You see, Jesus stopped. He made Himself available. He asked what they needed Him to do. He served. If we want to be used by God; if we want to serve God, we must be willing to be available. Servant hearted people don't procrastinate. We must be willing to stop, and to step out and say "OK, God what do You want me to do?" Then do it!"

Now I know, a lot of us say I'd like to be used by God. I'd like to serve God, BUT. . . I would like to spend the next few minutes on some of those barriers, that keep us from serving God.

One of the biggest barriers to serving God is thinking that God has not given me any abilities. This thinking says: I have nothing to offer. What good could I possibly do for God?

When God created us, He equipped us with spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts, along with our abilities, personality and all our experiences provide everything we need to serve Jesus Christ.

The purpose of our spiritual gifts is to equip us for the work of ministry - that is to edify the church, to up-build and support the church...for God's glory.

You might be saying: Hey, I volunteer and do stuff around here - isn't that enough? That's great! Don't stop! When you see a need or someone who needs help and you are there and can help, please just volunteer and help.

Every job is important. Every ministry is key.

If the toilet in a restroom is stuck and threatening to overflow,(Like it did yesterday) and you happen to know how to stop the water, don't stop to reflect if this is your spiritual gift. Just fix it. And we will all be so grateful! And we will all benefit from your effort.

Another barrier to being used by God is perfectionism. You know: "When things settle down, when I have my act together, then I'll serve." The writer of Ecclesiastes (11:4) says, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done." You see, real servants, Christ-like servants, do the best they can with what they have for Jesus Christ today.

You know, if God only used perfect people, in perfect situations - what would get done in this world? Nothing, zip, zero! Not to burst anyone's bubble, but...We all have weaknesses. We all have faults. We all have failures. We all have handicaps.

But guess what? God uses us all. Why? Well, God doesn't use perfect people because there aren't any. God uses normal people. God uses us.

There is another barrier or a common trap many of us fall into which prohibits us from being a No. We get in there and start doing and at the very same time, amazingly, we learn about vailable to God. It actually stops us from serving, before we even get to the starting point. That trap is thinking: I have to know more about the Bible before I can serve in the church.

Well, we don't say: I can't drive because I don't know anything about transmissions. Or, I can't put on a Band-Aid because I don't know anything about brain surgery.

whatever it was we didn't know about. It's the same with knowing, or not knowing, enough about the Bible. Read it, meditate on it And at the same time, be serving God.

Finally, some of you may be saying, "Well, the church doesn't need my help." Are you kidding? There are always more needs to be met than people willing to get up off their seat and say, "I was created to serve Christ in this time and place."

The most important thing you will ever do with your life, after claiming Jesus as your Lord and Savior, is serving God in ministry. It is far more important than your career. It is far more important than your hobbies or anything you can think of.

God brought you here, where you can find serving possibilities. The fact is, God wants to use you, to work through you. To help you grow. How will you let God fulfill His purpose in and through you?

Just like the Rice Krispie Treats came in a variety of sizes they were all there for a purpose. More importantly, we are uniquely designed for God's purpose. God has shaped you for serving. Will you do it?

May 17, 2015

He Is Lord     John 20:24 - 29

Jesus Christ is God. And Jesus Christ is Lord. The New Testament uses the word "Lord" 747 times.

Have you ever heard someone say 'Make Jesus Lord...' Well, God beat you to it! Acts 2:36 says: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.

2 simple questions:
1. Do you believe Jesus is Lord?
2. Are you submitted to Him as your Lord?

Is He Lord of your thought life?
This is an area no one knows about, except you and Him.
Is He Lord of your tongue even when you're not at church?
Is He Lord of your temper? When others push your buttons...are you out of control? It's ok for you to be out of your own control...as long as you are in His control!
Is He Lord of your time and your testimony? When He opens up a door for you to witness, do you obey Him as Lord?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

He owns you! He purchased you at the high cost of His blood!

A little boy made a boat and lost it in the lake. He saw it in a pawn shop, and bought it. He said, "little boat - you're mine twice! Because I made you and because I bought you!"

You are God's twice. You are His not only because He made you, but also because He bought you back!
For this reason alone He deserves to be recognized as your Lord!

The moment you got saved you should have hung a sign around your neck, "Under New Management".

When you chose to let Jesus save you that should have been the last independent decision that you made! Because from that day forward you are to take into account, "What would Jesus want me to do?"

Okay Why does Jesus want us to submit to His Lordship, anyway? Is He on a power trip?
No, He already has all power in heaven and earth. He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants...and doesn't need our permission!

Is it because He wants to make life miserable?
No, the Bible is all about having the joy of the Lord!

Does He 'need' our praise, worship, and obedience?
No, He 'needs' nothing. He is the self-existing, self-sustaining God of the universe - and if the word 'need' can be said at all, it should be stated clearly how desperately we 'need' Him!

So, why does He want to be Lord of my life?
Because He loves you even more than you love yourself and He knows better than you the path to true joy, peace, and fulfillment.

He knows your present situation, and He has a plan which maps out your future. We say often, "I know God has a plan." So why do we act like His plan is 'something to consider', like as if we are weighing our options?

"Hmmm, there's pros and cons to both what I have planned and what God seems to be leading me to do. Hmmm, what shall I decide then?"
God doesn't reveal His plan so we can consider it...but so we can obey it! And often, He doesn't reveal it until we are willing to 'work without a net.'
"I have no backup plan, Lord! I trust your way 100%!"

Think about it like this if a train had emotions, when would it be most happy? When it has the freedom to frolic thru fields in any direction it wants to go, where it gets stuck in mud or when it is on the tracks for which it was intended?

Why does He want to be your Lord? Because He loves you!
Jesus came to save us. From what: Sins? Yes Hell? Yes And one more thing: Ourselves! I have an enemy that I am forced to see each and every day - His face is in the mirror, and his plans for my life will mess me up big time!

Lifeguards are trained in how to immobilize a drowning person, even to the point of knocking them unconscious if need be, because of their tendency to thrash against the very person trying to save them. So it's a generous, loving act for the lifeguard to take full control away from that individual - why? Because they can't make their way on their own!

Our nature is bent toward self-destructive behaviors. Deep down we know it is best not to put things into our bodies that do harm...but we do it anyway!

We know that we need a job long-term, but we tell off our boss anyway...and boy that felt good! Yeah, take that! See if I ever have to deal with you again now that I'm - uh - unemployed.

We love ourselves a whole lot...but it's wildly misguided! Jesus loves us far more than we love ourselves, and He desires to save our lives, rather than wreck them!

When Thomas realized it was Jesus standing before him, what was his immediate response? My Lord and my God!
In other words, Only God could conquer death. And if He can do that, then He deserves to be my Lord!

Dying on the cross didn't make Jesus Lord. Two others did the same on that day...but only Jesus came back to life on earth.

I often hear people say, "I can worship God however I want." No, there's a proper way for us to give ourselves to the Lord.

Philippians 2:9-11 
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every living creature, whether in heaven [angels], hell [lost people, even demons and the devil himself], or on earth will one day proclaim Him to be Lord...one day. Why not today?!

Adolf Hitler will one day bow before a Jew - the King of Kings - Jesus Christ - and proclaim Him to be Lord!

Lost sinners will be forced to bow the knee and proclaim Jesus to be Lord. Better than being forced to do so is to choose to do so!

Once you really get a handle on Jesus being Lord of all of your life, it narrows your stress drastically! You don't have to decide what you are going to do. You only have to decide what Jesus would do.

Make Him Lord of all your life, and you'll never again have to decide whether you are going to church. Because Jesus is Lord!

You'll never again have to decide whether or not to hang with bad crowd.

"I'm praying about dating this lost person...maybe God will use me to reach them!" (you don't have to pray about what God has already said not to do)

Jesus is Lord! Thousands have died for making that confession! How dare we give less importance to the fact that He is Lord?!

May 10, 2015

Joy and Light Philippians 2:14-2:17

The book of Philippians is all about joy. Joy is like a light shining in the midst of deep darkness.

The world says to get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can. Paul says it is more blessed to give than to receive.

The world says that what's yours is mine and I'll take it if I can. Paul says, what's mine is yours and you can have it if you need it.

The world says, take advantage of me and I'll get even. Paul says, if you take my coat, I'll throw in my shirt as a bonus!

The world says, hit me and I'll hit you back. Paul turns the other cheek.

And when it comes to finding true joy, God's ways are higher than the ways of the world as well. The world has no real joy.

The world says that joy comes from aggression. Fight for it, and take what you can and leave no prisoners! Climb the ladder of success no matter whom you have to step on.

Paul reminds us and the Philippians that JOY is putting Jesus first, others second, and yourself last!

In v. 17 of the verses we read Paul says: 'But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice

This is a figure of speech, making reference to the OT drink offering. [Numbers/Leviticus] As the burnt offering was being consumed by the fire, the drink offering was poured on it. It immediately dissipated/evaporated. It disappears! All you have left is the original sacrifice.

Paul uses this as an illustration of himself, saying, I want to be poured out for Jesus where you don't see me or give me glory, but all you see is Jesus and His sacrifice!

This brought Paul great joy, and it is the opposite of what the world has taught us!

Jesus' example is by far the best. Joy comes from sacrificing for others, not by competing with others! Christ won the battle without a sword.
He defeated hatred with love. [lies/truth pride/humility hostility/kindness bitterness/forgiveness greed/giving] He won by surrendering!

The drink offering isn't the only word picture he paints for us.
In v. 15 We are like children in the family and stars in the sky.

He deposited the light in us that we might shine to this dark world. He said He is the light of the world, but then He commanded us to be the light of the world...to be like Him! And to let His light shine thru us.

We were walking in darkness because of sin.

Ephesians 5:8 tells us: For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 

When you were born again the light came on! And the brighter you allow your light to shine the happier you will be.

Here are 3 characteristics of the light:
1. Light shines unless it is hindered.

Matthew 5:14-16 says: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

Paul then names 2 of the bushels which hinder the light.
v. 14 says:  Do everything without grumbling or arguing.

Grumble is one of those words that sounds like what is means, like buzz or thud.

You tell your kids to clean their rooms and as they walk away and you can hear 'Grumblegrumblegrumble'.

Jude 1:16 says: These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

Please don't join the ranks of the grumblers. They have enough members already!

Instead of being humbly grateful they are grumbly hateful! Nobody likes to be around them.

Complaining is actually an outward sign that we aren't right with God inwardly.

You see, when we grumble about our life and circumstances what we are really saying is, If I were in charge, I could do a better job than God!

Grumbling is a bushel that will snuff out your light!

Verse 15 shows us things that will help our light shine more brightly:
'Blameless' doesn't mean you don't do wrong, but that when you do, you make it right.

When I do wrong, the hardest person to face should be myself! If your conscience is intact, then the mirror should be a daily confrontation for you. 

'without fault' in verse 15 doesn't mean sinless, but rather that your sins are confessed and you are attempting to forsake them.

Light shines, unless hindered by bushels like complaining and grumbling.
Light is magnified when we are blameless and without fault.

Light is intended to shine in the darkness of the world. It is easier for us to shine our light in church, but it doesn't shine in here like it does out there!

No lighthouse has ever complained about being built in a dark place. That is where it is intended to shine! [night light in the hall / headlight on the front of the car]

Is your workplace dark? Praise the Lord! That's why God put you there.

2 Peter 1:19 says:... you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Evil has risen to new heights in our world today. And the good news is that the darker our surroundings, the brighter our lights will shine!

How crooked and perverse is our world today? Wow! Our lights can shine brightly!

We can't change the entirety of our dark world, but we sure can help those seeking to find their way, as we share the Word that is a lamp to feet and a light to the path! [Ps. 119:105]

Light shines, light shares...and light sacrifices.

As a candle burns, the wax is spent. [flashlight/batteries oil lamp/oil and wick]
You can't shine and share your light unless it costs you something!

Service without sacrifice is just activity! We need a revival of the spirit of sacrifice for the One Who sacrificed ALL for us!

"I don't do windows."
What if Moses said, I don't do rivers?
...Noah, I don't do arks?
...David, I don't do giants?
...Mary Magdalene, I don't do feet?
...Paul, I don't do letters?
...Jesus, I don't do crosses?

Real service requires sacrifice. Then we will shine like stars. Not Hollywood stars...we don't need more celebrities. I mean servants who are spent like a drink offering poured out upon a sacrifice! Consumed for the cause!

May 3, 2015

When God Doesn't Make Sense    Genesis 22:2-8

There are two kinds of roller coaster riders. The first kind gets in the car with hesitation and fear. They white-knuckle the lap bar in a death grip and either sit there in complete silence or scream their heads off the entire time.

For them, the roller coaster produces anxiety. During most of the ride their mind focused on whether or not the car will fly off the tracks or if they will fly out of their seat. They exit the ride assuring their companions that they will never get on one of those again. 

The second type of rider leaps into the car excited and ready for a thrill. Rather than grip the lap bar they hold their hands up the entire time because they know it's not going to leave the track and that the ride is design to protect even those who are clueless about personal safety.

This rider has a smile on his/her face the entire time. He/She may scream, but it's more of a Woooo-Hoo! than an ahhhhh! They exit the ride and say, Let's do it again. 

The longer I live, the more I see that life is a roller coaster. There are ups and downs. Sometimes the path is straight, then it's filled with curves. Just when you think you've settled down and can relax you realize that the calm was only the top to the first hill and life soon drops you off a cliff.

Some folks just endure this aspect of life and are filled with anxiety, dread, and sometimes even despair. When God doesn't make sense they teeter on giving up a life of faith. 

A handful learn to enjoy the ride. Why? Because they realize that there is a destination in all this and the train is not going to jump the track. There is some pleasure in the ride because they understand that when God doesn't make sense, He's on the move.

This morning I want to share some thoughts so that when God doesn't make sense maybe you can enjoy the ride a little more. 

In our scripture reading this morning God didn't make sense when He told Abraham to go sacrifice his son.  Isaac was the fulfillment of God's promise that He'd bless all nations through a descendant of Abraham. His birth was miraculous. Isaac came along when Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100.

Then God called Abraham to take the very thing he'd been promised, the son that he'd waiting for and said, Take him to a mountain in Moriah that I'll show you and sacrifice him as a whole burnt offering.

What sense does that make? I assure it made no sense to Abraham.

Abraham did not know that it was a test. We know because the Bible informs the reader, but Abraham had no idea. God often does not make sense when He's testing us.

There is a difference between testing and temptation. Temptation is enticement to sin. God never, ever entices us to sin. But He does test us.

Testing occurs when God expands a good virtue or characteristic within us. Trust was the quality God tested in Abraham. God tested his trust by stretching it to the limit. He pulled it almost to the breaking point. 

Testing is really a compliment. If you're being tested it means that there are godly qualities within you and God is stretching their capacity. He's making those virtues purer and stronger. 

When God doesn't make sense to you it's often because He's stretching you. Why does He do this? Two reasons:

First, He can accomplish more of His will through your expanded capacities.

Second, and even better, He's making you more like Jesus. Romans 8:28-29 says:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

When life doesn't make sense you can be absolutely certain that God is doing a greater work in you. He's growing you and making you more like Jesus. 

When God doesn't make sense you usually can't control the circumstances, but there is one thing you do have power over: your attitude. You have the choice to whine or speak and act in faith even when you don't feel like it. 

Even Isaac acted in faith when the going got weird. Keep this in mind. Isaac was at a minimum a teenager in this story and possibly even a young adult.

If he was strong enough to tote a large pile of wood up a mountain, he could have easily stopped his 100 plus year old father. But he didn't Isaac allowed himself to be bound and placed on the altar. 

When testing comes and God doesn't make sense the easiest thing to do is become depressed and negative. Then we start dragging around and dragging everyone down with us.

We adopt "Whoa-is-me" language so that others will feel sorry for us.  

Speaking and acting in faith, even when you don't feel like it will bolster your strength and keep despair away. It will inspire others. People are watching especially when God doesn't make sense in a Christian's life. Acting in faith and speaking in faith also opens the door for God's power in the situation.

Abraham also learned that this God did not demand the sacrifice of human blood. This was a shocker because all the gods of Canaan required an offering of whatever they gave their followers the power to produce: crops, livestock, or kids. But not this God. This God provided a sacrifice for Himself. 

There are some interesting parallels in this story and the life of Jesus. Both Isaac and Jesus had miraculous births. Both Isaac and Jesus were the seed of Abraham to bless the nations. Both Isaac and Jesus carried wood on their backs: one for a fire, the other for a crucifixion.

Both Isaac and Jesus climbed a hill for the purpose of death: once ascended Moriah, the other Golgotha. Here's where the similarities end. Isaac was spared; Jesus was slain. God the Father intervened and provided a ram for Isaac. God the Father did not spare His only Son because He was the Lamb of God, crucified for the salvation of the world. 

Nearly 2,000 years later we rejoice because we understand why God did what He did. But back then it made no sense until the Lamb that was slain arose from the dead after three days.

The lesson then is still the lesson now: when God doesn't make sense, He's on the move. He's testing you to make you better, more like Christ.

Sometimes the perplexing times are so painful that it's hard to take one more step with God. In those moments remember the Lord's provision of the past to retain trust for today. Act in faith and speak in faith even when you don't feel faith.

Move forward with the expectation that God will reveal more of Himself. Probably more than at any time in your life, when God doesn't make sense, He's on the move. 

April 19, 2015

God Has a Plan For You!  Ezekiel 37:1-10

Today I have one point to my message and that is: Keep going, God has a plan for you! Don't throw in the towel just yet. It might look like all hope is gone, and that everyone else is finishing the race without you, but
don't give up just yet.

God has blessings for you and if you don't quit you will see His promises for your life. Just because things don't work out exactly how we planned them does not mean that God is not at work in your life. No matter what your situation is, I can tell you that God is at work in your life.

In our scripture reading this morning, Ezekiel is faced with a seemingly hopeless situation. God carries him out to a valley full of dry bones, probably the scene of some great battle of years gone by...And He asks him a question. "Son of man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel looks out over the carnage. Bones are lying everywhere. I doubt very seriously if they were all nice and neatly arranged. They had been ravaged and torn apart by scavenging animals. They had been exposed to the elements for many years. Ezekiel ponders His answer. 

Of course had it been anyone else asking the question, the answer would have been obvious. Ezekiel's first thought was probably what yours and mine would have been. Are you kidding? These bones have been laying here for years. What do you mean, "Can they live?"

Then Ezekiel remembers who he is speaking to and gives his wise answer: Lord, You alone know.

He answered that way because as far as he could see, the situation was plainly and desperately hopeless. And yet, in faith, he recognized that nothing is hopeless or impossible with God. 

I don't know what my future holds but I state with complete certainty that I know Who holds my future! When most people think it's over, God asks, Did I say it was over? Weeping may last for a night, but Joy comes in the morning. It's not over until God says it's over. Keep going, God has a plan for you!!

A marriage can come back together
A family can come back together
A church can come back together
A business can come back together
A dream can come back together
Hope can come back together

Why? Because God has a plan for you! Keep fighting. Keep praying. Keep on believing. Keep moving God has a plan for you!

Keep reading, Keep interceding. Keep believing. Keep trusting. 
Keep trying. Keep travailing because God has a plan for you!

Keep living. Keep giving. Keep going because God has a plan for you!! So keep fighting until the victory is won!!!! When people say you can't, remember He can.

When you don't know what to do, He knows. On this day, the Lord says to you Keep going, I'm not finished with you! I don't care what it looks like. God and God alone has the final say!

When Sarah was 90 years old God told her that she would bear a son, Is anything too hard for God. Jeremiah 32:27 says:  I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

The angel Gabriel reminded Mary in Luke 1:37  no word from God will ever fail. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Jesus told His disciples, in Matthew 19:26 With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
There is no such thing as a hopeless case.
There are no hard cases for God
There are no problems that are too big for our God.
There is nothing that comes as a surprise to Him.
What is it with these dry bones anyway could it be that they are a Picture of Dried Up Christians

Remember the time when you first got saved.
Nobody had to talk you into going to church.
No one had to shame you into reading your Bible.
No one had to guilt you into talking about Jesus.

For some reason that newness wears off Life gets in the way.  We allow ourselves to become too busy and God takes a back seat. It starts by missing daily quiet time. Then we start missing services here and there. 
You just going through the motions of having devotions, spending time in prayer, you wonder if your prayers are even reaching the ceiling. You come to church, but it is more out of duty than a genuine love for God.

There is a valley of dry bones in everyone's life. 
It's a dry place - there is no joy there.
It's a dead place - there is no fruit there.
It's a dangerous place. “ you should never stay there.

Can these bones live? Is there a way out? Listen God

has a plan for you!  Jesus Christ died and rose again in victory over sin, and death and the grave, so that we can have victory.
The victory is there. We just have to want it.

Oh Victory in Jesus!  My Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.
He loved me er'e I knew Him and all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood!

Are you depressed and distressed, fretful and fearful, wounded and worried, dried up and down right tired? Keep going God has a plan for you! Yup I'm talking to you.

God can raise you up out of the valley of dry bones. He can strengthen you and nourished you by his word, and the wind of his Spirit can fill your lives and stand you up on your feet and help you to fulfill your purpose. You are Gods mouthpiece, His hands and feet on this earth. You are to bring change and deliverance here in the earth.

It is Gods mighty power flowing through you that brings down Satan's strongholds and raises up and establishes the kingdom of God, here and now.

We are the Army of God. We have been delivered from the hand of the enemy, we've been washed in the blood of the lamb.

We have the power of the name of Jesus. The name above every name, the name that holds all power.  Philippians 2:9 -11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

God is building an army and he's not putting together a bunch of broken, wounded, angry, hurt, frustrated, hateful, stubborn, selfish, old dry bones.

This army is made up of lives that have been restored, transformed, made whole and complete.

I came here like Ezekiel, to prophesy to the bones that lost their joy.
Bones that have become discouraged and frustrated. Bones that have forgotten how to dream. Bones that have settled for less.

You will love again, You will dream again, You will sing again, You will laugh again. You're going to get your joy back, you're going to get your peace back.  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet”a vast army.

April 12, 2015

Sharing the Load         Mark 2:1-11

I grew up learning Bible stories in Sunday School, and I know that many of you did too.  Some of the stories we heard in Sunday School were spectacular.  The parting of the Red Sea.  The walls of Jericho tumbling down.   The little boy David defeating the giant Goliath with a sling shot.  Noah loading up his ark with all of these animals.  Great stories.

But one of my favorite childhood Bible stories is this story we just read about the paralytic man being brought by his friends to Jesus.

 

If there are any heroes in this story, besides Jesus, it would be the four friends who bring the paralyzed man to Jesus.  Without these friends, the man does not get healed.  Maybe what is so appealing about this story is that these friends do everything that we are told not to do as children.

Jesus is speaking in a home, and there is a large crowd.  People are standing outside, trying to hear.  So when these four friends bring the paralytic man, they can't even get into the house. 

Now we all know that we are supposed to get in line and wait our turn, but these people insisted on getting in. In other words, they want to cut in line!  This was a serious offense in grade school, but here were grown ups trying to push their way to the front. 

But They have a plan”they will climb up on the roof.  You've got to love a plan like that.  Growing up in San Diego we didn't have to have sloped roofs because we didn't have to worry about the weight of snow. So our garage roof, for example, was perfectly flat. So if the basket ball or a frisbie went up on the roof it wasn't coming down on its own.

There was a fence by the garage that made it easy to climb onto the roof even for a chubby kid like me. Now we liked to climb up on the roof mostly because mom said not to. (You kids get off of the roof!)

Kids don't generally get to climb up on the roof, but that's what the good guys do in this story.  They climb up on the roof!

And then, to get to Jesus, they not only climb on the roof, they cut a hole in the roof.  Can you believe that?  Imagine what would happen if someone started cutting a hole in the roof this morning while we were having our service? 

Imagine if while I am speaking this morning someone starts to cut through the roof it would be pretty disruptive and scary. I don't think you would remember anything else about the service, but you would very clearly remember that part. 

Picture yourself in a home listening to Jesus, and suddenly some guys with a sawzall cut a hole in the roof, you would no doubt remember it.

How many times are kids told to leave other people's stuff alone?  How many kids get in trouble for messing with something that belongs to somebody else?  Yet here, the examples for us to follow, are these friends who cut a hole in somebody's roof!

And then, they drop the paralyzed man down through the roof to Jesus.  Jesus was preaching.  They were in the middle of the worship service.  In other words, they interrupt.  How many times do children get in trouble for interrupting?  Just a minute, Billy, I'm talking with Mrs. Brown.   Not only were they interrupting, they were interrupting in the middle of a worship service.

So here we have a fantastic story for children.  The examples to follow are people who cut in line, climb on buildings, tear up other people's property, and interrupt.  It is no wonder this story has always appealed to me.

You know Often we come to a story like this and focus on Jesus' compassion and healing.   Or perhaps we look at the man who was healed “ like him we can come to Jesus with our needs.  But this morning I would like for us to focus on the friends who bring this man to Jesus.

We don't know their names.  We know hardly anything about them.  Yet if it were not for these four, there would be no story.  In fact if not for all four of them, there would be no story.  Each and every one of them was needed on the corner of the pallet where he lifted and carried his friend.  Let go of one corner and the guy falls.

You know that reminds me The world would be a lot better place if everybody held up their corner.  Can you imagine what the world would be like?  How would things change if everybody held up their corner, everybody did their part, everybody used the gifts they had in the service of God and of other people?

We have all experienced those times when someone does not hold up their corner. 

Hold up your corner.  It's an admonition we all need to hear, because sometimes we don't hold up our corners very well.

In I Corinthians Paul writes, God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance so that you always have more than enough, to share with others.  We may not feel like it, but the fact is, we have more than enough talent to share with others. 

Look at these four friends.  What was the talent they shared?  They had compassion “ they cared about their friend.  They were determined to get help for him.  And they could hold a corner of a pallet. 

It wasn't rocket science.  They didn't have to be the smartest or strongest people around, but by their willingness to use what they had to help a friend in need, they made all the difference.

When someone starts talking about our talents, our skills, and our abilities, we tend to just tune out because we may not think of ourselves as having much talent.  We may not feel like we actually have a corner to hold up. 

Maybe the word talent trips us up here.  We think of American Idol or something and feel like we don't quite measure up, we don't have much to offer.  But think again of these four friends.  They were willing to do what they could, and it was more than enough.

You know what?  We don't have a PHD in order to help a friend in need.  We don't need to get elected to a position in order to share our talent.  And we don't have to be the most talented person around in order to lend a hand.

One of the biblical images of the Church is the Body of Christ.  Paul develops this metaphor by saying, What if one part of the body decides to go on strike?  (this is a paraphrase.)  What if the hands refuse to work, or the brain says count me out,(Mine does that sometimes) or the feet say I quit.  The same is true for the church, says Paul.  We all have a contribution to make, we all have a corner to hold up, and when we don't hold up our corner, the whole church suffers.

Think back to those four friends.  It was important that there were four.  One person couldn't do it alone.  Two or three might have tried it, but when they had to fight the crowd it would have been tough, and carrying the man up onto the roof would have been too big an obstacle.  With four corners on the pallet it would have been too awkward.  It took all of them.

Four is obviously better than one.  The four encouraged each other and kept each other's spirits high.  When they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd, they said, no problem, we can figure this out together, and they did.

Four persons determined to help someone find the healing of Jesus Christ can almost always do it.  If four persons set their mind to something and keep at it and continue to hold up their corner, there is almost nothing they can't do.

If four people absolutely committed to holding up their corner can accomplish great things, what about 8 or 10 or 20 or 30?  What about a congregation of 75? 

What if all of us committed to holding our corner - to using the gifts God gave us for service?  To working together as a community, as the Body of Christ, to accomplish what we cannot do by ourselves?

Sometimes the gift we need to offer is just being there.  Sometimes what we really need to share is a willingness to serve. Are you holding your corner?

April 5, 2015

The Empty Cross       1Corinthians 15:51 - 56

The world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn't take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world's promises are full of emptiness.

But, God is different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, he gave us an empty cross and an empty tomb that are full of promise. 

This morning, I would like us to think about the promises of Easter. Let's begin with the empty cross. Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins.

Let's go back, if we can, to that 1st Easter Morning. It is early morning “ A few of Jesus followers “ women“ are on their way to a tomb.

It is the tomb where Jesus was buried. As they walk the conversation is subdued. The task before them is a sad one. They are going to anoint the body of Jesus. As they come to the top of a hill, they all stop. Motionless and quiet, they stare off in the distance.

As you look with them, look off to the right, just outside the city stands a gruesome reminder of the events of just a few days ago. Do you see it? Over there, silhouetted by the glow of the pink morning sky, on top of the Hill the locals call, The Skull. 3 Crosses.

Yesterday was the Sabbath, so nobody had yet removed them. So, there they stand, an empty reminder of the horror of Friday.

The one in the middle, that is the one that I want you to see. That's the one that Jesus hung on.

Take a close look at it. Look up at the top “ those bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that was crushed into Jesus' skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar “ they came from the nails that were driven into his hands.

The main beam “ is soaked in blood “ blood from his back “ blood that was shed when the Roman soldiers beat him with a cat-of-nine-tails. It also has stains from the blood that poured from his side when a Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to see if he was dead “ He was.

That is why I want you to see the cross this morning. It is the place where he died “ but today, it is empty. Empty of Jesus body, but full of God's promises. Full of hope “ for you and me.

The promise of the empty cross is that you and I stand forgiven. Because it was on that cross that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

SIN “ now there is a word that isn't popular. It's a word that isn't politically correct. But, the simple fact of the matter is “ we have all sinned. Every one of us “ you, me, the person sitting next to you, behind you and in front of you.

We have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. The only person who has ever lived a sinless life is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Everyone else has failed.

So, here is the problem “ according to God's law - the wages of sin is death. He says; The soul that sins will surely die.

Because, we have sinned, we deserve God's just punishment. We deserve eternal death

However, when you look at that empty cross “ it is a reminder of God's promise that we have been forgiven.

On that cross “ Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

God's word tells us again “ God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!

It was on that cross that Jesus Christ offered his perfect, sinless life on behalf of each one of us. No one else “ not Moses or Abraham, not David or Isaiah, not Muhammad or Buddha “ no one else has ever lived perfectly and then offered his perfect life for our salvation.

That is why the Bible tells us that there is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved.

When Jesus Christ breathed his last, he cried out; It is finished. The penalty was paid. On that cross “ that empty cross “ It was there, that his blood was spilt for our salvation.

Before that fateful Friday, God could open the books and look up each name, and written in black were the words “ guilty of sin.

But when Jesus went to the cross, God literally transferred our accounts to His name. On that day, across every name “ he wrote “ in Jesus blood “ Forgiven “ Forgiven “ Forgiven.

Because of the work that Jesus did on that cross “ you and I now stand Forgiven. The promise of Easter is the empty cross “ filled with the promise of forgiven sins.

To those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, death has lost its sting “ it is no longer something to be feared. What fear is there when we have the promise that one day we will live forever with Him in Heaven?

A father and son were traveling down a country road one afternoon in the spring time when suddenly a bee flew in the window. Being allergic to bee stings, the boy began to panic as the bee buzzed all around inside the car.

Seeing the horror on his child's face, the father reached out and caught the bee in his hand. Soon, he opened his hand and the bee began to buzz around once again.

Again, the boy began to panic. The father reached over to his son, and opened his hand showing him the stinger still in his palm. Relax, son, the father said, I took the sting, the bee can't hurt you anymore.

The empty cross and the empty tomb are God's way of saying to us; Relax, my child, I took the sting death can't hurt you anymore.

Why was the tomb empty? Because Jesus is alive “ The Angel said; He is risen. And the promise to us is that we too can live even if we die.

 

 

 

 1 Samuel 7:2 (KJV)
And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
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