Sermons 4

June 25, 2017

Kind, Compassionate, and Forgiving       Ephesians 4:26-27, 29-32

A man needed to make two stops on his way home from work. First he needed to stop at the DMV and get a new sticker for his license plate and second he needed to stop at his local sporting goods store to get a birthday present for his son.

He only had a short time to get these things done, as he needed to be home in time for his son’s birthday party…because they had family coming for the celebration.

He groaned as he pulled into the DMV because of the number of cars in the parking lot…It seems he wasn’t the only one to wait until the last day of the month to renew his license plates.

Once inside he cringed as he took number 67 and looked at the hook on the wall which said, “Now serving number 43”. He glared at the people in line ahead of him as if his glare could make the line move faster.

The clerks, who had grown used to these…end of the month rushes, seemed in no hurry. He looked angrily at the man at window number 3, who seemed to be telling the clerk his life history…and at the woman at window two who was rummaging thru her purse to find her driver’s license.

“She knew she was coming to the DMV…why didn’t she have her stupid license in her hand as she walked thru the door?” he thought angrily.

He made sure he gave her a dirty look as she finished her transaction and headed for the door.

At last he heard the words he had longed to hear, “Number 67!” He raced to the window…practically snarling at the person on the other side of the counter as he threw the renewal notice on the counter and snapped, “I’m in a hurry!”

The clerk said, “I need to see your driver’s license sir”.  He could feel the steam coming off the top of his head as he fumbled thru his wallet…looking for the elusive driver’s license.”

He got his sticker, headed to the sporting goods store and picked up the birthday present his son had asked for...A Rawlings VELO Composite baseball bat, with a price tag slightly north of $100…which did nothing to sooth his anger.

He flipped his credit card at the cashier, ignoring her smile and her question, “How are you today?” “Just hurry”, he snapped in response.

Realizing he had been a bit over the top in his response he said, I’m sorry, I just spent an hour in line at the DMV to renew my plates.

"Shall I gift-wrap the bat?" the clerk asked sweetly. "Or are you going back there?"

The apostle Paul wrote these words in his letter to the Ephesians: "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... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" [Ephesians 4:29,31].

We see people all around us bitter and angry: angry at the world because it hasn’t given them enough; angry at God because they think He hasn’t treated them fairly; angry at their spouses because marriage is not everything they expected it to be; angry at their children; angry at their neighbors; angry at their job. Angry!

So Paul gives a survival message that says, "If you want to make it, you can’t live like that because it’ll eat you alive."

Then in the very next verse he gives the antidote. To get rid of your hostility, your anger, your unwholesome words, do this - "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" [Ephesians 4:32].

Did you catch that? The 3 essential ingredients in getting rid of hostility and anger are: #1, be kind to one another; #2, be compassionate towards one another; #3, forgive each other.

#1, "Be kind to one another." Kindness is almost a lost art today, isn’t it? So many people are rude and self-centered, worried about themselves, and not worried very much about others.

Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in Titus 3:3, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another."

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And Paul even includes himself. He said, "We were hated and we hated one another. That’s the way the world behaves."

Then he goes on in vs. 4, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy."

Did you hear that? It is only because of the kindness and mercy of God that we are saved. If God reacted to us the way we react to one another, He would have washed his hands of us long ago. But instead, He reached out to save us.

Paul then says, "Be compassionate to one another." The word "compassion" simply means that your feelings become a part of my life, and I begin to share and understand what you feel, and what is going on inside of you.

 “Be kind and compassionate to one another…”Jesus said, “Whatever you did for these…, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

That’s where it starts. In a family torn by dissension and argument - "Be kind and compassionate to one another…”

In a business world where the general rule seems to be “dog eat dog” - "Be kind and compassionate to one another…”

In a community and nation where one group is pitted against another, "Be kind and compassionate to one another…”

In a world that is torn apart by deep and long-standing hatreds that never seem to end - "Be kind and compassionate to one another…”

We long for peace, real peace, lasting peace. But I’m convinced that there will be no such peace, as long as the Prince of Peace is ignored or unknown.

III. FORGIVE EACH OTHER.

Jesus is our model for forgiveness. Picture in your mind Jesus hanging on the cross. Jesus didn’t deserve to hang on the cross. He lived a perfect life. He helped people. He healed people all of his life. He loved the least and the lost.

In return for all his love and good deeds he was spat upon, ridiculed, whipped, and crucified. Yet as he hung upon the cross in suffering pain and agony Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

A. Listen again to what Paul said, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" [Ephesians 4:32].

The third item in Paul’s survival message is to forgive each other, and I believe he had a reason for putting this last, because I don’t think we can really forgive somebody until we have learned to be kind and compassionate toward them.

Paul said, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" “Now you forgive one another just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you."

I wonder if we can behave like that today? I wonder this morning if you need the kindness of God, if you need to feel His tender touch?

He understands you. He knows what you think. He knows your worries, your concerns, your disappointments, your joys. And He is anxious to forgive you and to forget your sins.

June 18, 2017

COMMITMENT  Ps 37: 5,Pr. 3:5-6, 16: 3,Rom.12: 1-2,I Pet. 4:19

We had a great time getting to be with our kids and grandkids last weekend. One of the planned activities while we were there was last Friday was to have Micah’s 4th Birthday party.

Eva’s original plan was for us all to go to a pizza place for the party. There would have been 8 adults Eva and Ben, Andy and Kim, Ben’s parents, and Marla and myself…and 3 kids 2 of them being babies under the age of one.

Andy called Eva and said… “You know…that place is always packed and it’s a Friday night…and the service is always slow…How about if we have a picnic at the park?” So that was the new plan and everyone brought something to contribute to the picnic.

The problem was…those plans were made before we knew it was going to be 90 plus degrees outside. So Andy came up with plan C and called us and said, “Since it’s so hot we will just have an indoor picnic in the dining room of my work”.

Andy works at a place called “Outside the Box” where they work with Autistic adults. When he started there 8 years ago they shared a small building with another organization called “Insights”.

Outside the Box has steadily grown and a couple of years ago they acquired a building that used to house a nursing home. So the program has grown from about 20 clients when he first started to over 200 clients.

Can you imagine 200 autistic adults in the same building? I admire the commitment of the people who work there. The reason I’m telling you this is because of that commitment.

If you have ever been in a nursing home you know that there are a lot of rooms. At Outside the Box each room has a different group in it consisting of 6 – 8 clients and two staff. For example Andy used to be the co-leader of the Dolphin group.

As the program grew they began to hire more staff and Andy moved into administrative work. So when Andy talked about doing something in his office…I pictured him in his own office, one of the many, many rooms in the former nursing home.

Not so…as the program grew they began combining offices so they could help more families. So Andy shares an office with 4 other people. It’s wall to wall desks…and I admire him for his commitment.

As I toured that building I had a thought…Why are our churches not bursting at the seams?

There are close to 100 million Church members in America and yet, why are we not making more of a moral and spiritual impact? Why is it, that on Sunday morning, hundreds of churches have empty pews?

Why are so many churches having just a few at Bible Study on Wednesday nights?

Now God knows if you can’t be at Church for whatever the reason, (and He knows the reason). But those who could be here and are not…He knows that too!

The Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, and yet, why is it that so few read it? and if He meant for us to ask, seek, and knock, then why is so little praying going on? If you and I believe there is a heaven & hell, why do we keep so quiet about the gospel?

If we believe that there is none other name under Heaven whereby we must be saved, then why are we not sharing the message of His saving grace? Maybe there’s a lack of commitment!

First we need to Be Committed to God

 (Mark. 12:30), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

(Matt. 6:33), “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well...”

Real commitment does not have an on and off switch.

Real commitment is not a Sunday thing, its 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with no vacations or off days. You are the same person on Monday through Saturday…as you are on Sunday.

If we are really committed to God, It will show. Others will see the fruits of our commitment.

When Children see no commitment to the church from their parents…they are not going to learn it on their own!

Be Committed to your Church.

First…Committed to Church Attendance. (Heb.10: 25), “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..”

Does your family need to ask "are we going to church today?"

Do you often get Sunday-itus 1 sneeze and back to bed you go, but On Monday grab a hanky and Hi Ho Hi Ho…it’s off to work we go!

When you get to busy too go to church you are too busy.

Next we need to be Committed to Church Growth. How many people did you talk to this week? Did you invite any of them to church?

And last… Committed to Church needs. We need to be committed, to giving to our church. And I’m not just talking money… it’s supporting the Church, with our love, our prayers, our time, our availability, and yes…our finances!

The ministries or programs don’t just happen by themselves. We need to be committed.

You have probably heard this before…but let me tell you a story about four typical Church Members. I’ll name them: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to do and everybody thought that somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but none of them did it, so it didn’t get done. Somebody got angry because it was everybody’s job. Everybody thought for sure that somebody would do it, but nobody asked anybody. In the end the job wasn’t done, and everybody blamed somebody when nobody asked anybody.

Bottom line…If you see something that needs done around here…Trust God, and just do it.

 (II Tim. 2:15), “ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

(James 1: 5), “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Commitment…Let’s do it!!

June 4, 2017

How Will I Be Remembered?   Matthew 26:6-13

Last Monday the weather was nice and for the first time in several years we were able to have our Memorial Day Service outside at the cemetery.  We did so to honor those soldiers who gave their lives so that we can be free.

In this same way, we need to never forget that it was the innocent blood of Jesus…the Son of God…who purchased our spiritual freedom.

We were dead in sin, when Jesus shed His innocent blood for us. We had no hope of heaven because God won’t allow sin in His heaven.

When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we are called to live a life that honors Him. Our desire should be that people remember us by our love for Christ.

In our scripture reading we read about  Mary, the sister of Lazarus. In this passage we see Mary’s devotion to the Lord.

She was totally devoted to Him and wanted her life to be known and remembered by her devotion. Jesus said that she would be remembered by this selfless act of devotion.

It has been said that we write our funeral message by the life we live. If that is the case, please consider what message are you leaving? Exactly, what is it that people will remember you for?

Those who died on the field of battle are remembered for their heroism and sacrifice. Mary is remembered for the lavish gift she gave and for the complete devotion she expressed for Jesus.

Let’s look at some possible ways for us to be remembered.

1. By our selflessness – We clearly see that Mary was unashamed to let everyone know of her devotion to Jesus. I dare say that she wanted everyone around to table to know that He was her Lord.

Selflessness is uncommon in the 21st century. It saddens me to say, but the American way seems to be ‘get all you can while you can and have your way every day.’

Like so many things, the ways of this world are in direct opposition to the ways of our Lord. Mary gives us a crystal clear view of how to come to Jesus with complete abandon, totally selfless, and wholly devoted.

To come in this manner is to make it all about Him. I submit that too often we are so consumed with self that we have difficulty being consumed with the Savior.

But when we get consumed with the Savior, we take on His passions, which are to focus on others.

I wonder how many people think of us or will remember us as selfless.

Everything Jesus did demonstrated selflessness and more. Mary demonstrated selflessness and more. As Children of our Lord Jesus, we are to live like He lived.

“As the Father sent me, so send I you” are the words our Jesus. Also, we are called to think more highly of others than ourselves. Instead of offering a multitude of ways we could and should be selfless, consider this question: If you were to die this minute…would people remember your life as selfless or selfish?

Sacrifice means to do without, give up, forgo, let go.

And on the whole, today we are not about doing without, but ‘doing with,’ not about letting go but grabbing hold, not about surrender but about self.

Make no mistake, sacrifice is written on the pages of Bible and woven into the life of the believer and it’s not optional.

Let’s take our cue from Mary. She came to the dinner and she brought some oil to honor Jesus. It was sign of respect and hospitality to anoint a guest, but Mary went beyond and did what was expected and ‘then some.”

We would do well to learn the principle of “then some” because in this principle lies the secret of sacrifice.

This is what Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “if someone needs you to go one mile, go the second mile.” In other words, ‘do what is required and then some.’ Mary visualizes this truth.

Mary was going to honor Jesus and she didn’t bring the cheapest rather she brought a highly expensive bottle of perfume and used it all!!

Do you realize what this “very expensive” bottle of perfume was worth a year’s wages.

She brought it, sparing no effort, and it made such an impact that Jesus said…she would be remembered for this.

Yes, she could have sold it. Yes, she could have either kept the money or donated it. However, she chose to willingly and devotedly to give it to her Lord.

What is your bottle of perfume? You know, what is it that means more to you than life itself? Are you hanging on to it or letting it go? Will you be remembered as one who hoards or one who gives?

Please never forget sacrifice is never forgotten. When Lincoln stood at Gettysburg delivering what is arguable the “greatest speech in American History” he alluded to this truth when he says, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but we can never forget what they did here.”

Our Lord called us to ‘take up our cross.’ May this be our legacy.

Another way we might be remembered is for our bad attitudes – Let’s return to our story. People are eating; Mary comes in with an extravagant bottle of perfume and begins to anoint His head and feet, and shock of all shocks, she uses the entire jar of oil in the process.

Some around the table rose with “indignation” announcing that she was being ‘wasteful.’

The disciples (led by Judas) also attempted to put a righteous ‘spin’ on their objections. I remember when we built this church some of the smallest things could cause dissention. The coat rack for example. Yes…It cost $600, but 23 years later it is still serving us well.

The drinking fountain…ahhh…several people were calling that an unnecessary waste of money. The money was donated for that purpose.

You see, Judas and the others had heard the teachings of Jesus about taking care of the poor, so they reached back to this issue to mask their greed and selfishness.

Candidly, the disciples didn’t see the need to spend this kind of money on Jesus. They saw this act of devotion as a waste. Even today, we recognize who was leading them to be remembered like this, it was Judas.

Our sinful attitudes can be the result of who we are following or even ‘hanging out’ with. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Don't make friends with an angry man, and don't be a companion of a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

We should never forget that one of the things we are remembered by is “the company we keep.” ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’

Like it or not, we tend to take on the attitudes, actions, and even the attributes of those we run with. What do people remember you and your friends for?

The last way I want to mention that we might be remembered by is our servant attributes – I need to check my focus in life and ask, “Do people see me as a servant of God?”

That is, someone who was at His beck and call. 3 times throughout scripture we see Mary at the feet of Jesus.

Yes there is a time for strength, but that comes after a time of submission. For it is only in our weakness, that He is made strong.

Also, it is only in our submission to Him that we can be saved. The jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer was simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” And the jailer humbled himself, asked Jesus to save him, and became a different person.

Following Jesus is about forsaking all else and having no other God. In the process, we become His servants who are known by our likeness to Him. He gave His all so that we can have it all and His demand is to show Him to others by our lives.

May 14, 2017

A New Chapter        Genesis 37:3 - 8

As we just read…Jacob had several sons…12 in all…but his favorite son was Joseph. I know it happens…but I don’t know how someone could have a favorite child. I didn’t like either one of mine!

At the time of this story…Joseph was the youngest of Jacob’s children and his brothers were out taking care of the sheep. Jacob sent Joseph to check up on his brothers. In verse 14 we read: “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” 

“…So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

Up to this point Joseph had lead a pretty charmed life…

But the truth is: This same Joseph who had so many good things in his favor…also had some bad chapters in his life.

A chapter is any distinct period of time in a person's life.

Joseph was hated by his brothers.

Betrayed by his brothers.

Rejected by his brothers.

Stripped of his coat of many colors by his brothers.

And thrown into a pit and left to die.

That was a chapter in Joseph's life.

And I think most of us would agree that it was a bad chapter, and a sad chapter in Joseph’s life.

I’m pretty sure that Joseph shed some tears during that chapter of his life.

Maybe some of you feel like Joseph must have felt.

You've been lied about, rejected, betrayed, hurt, abused, beat up, beat down, knocked down, and thrown into a pit and left to die.

But Joseph didn’t die in the pit…and you're not going to die in the pit either.

What looked like, and felt like, a sad end…was just making room for a new chapter.

Some chapters in a book are long and some are short.

Some are happy and some are sad.

Some make you laugh and some make you cry.

But whether it's long or short, happy or sad, all the chapters in a book have one thing in common…sooner or later they end.

Today’s message is for anyone who has had a bad chapter in your life.

I’m here to say…your story is bigger than one bad chapter!

As they say… “The best is yet to come”.

I want to stop here just a minute and say something related to this message…and that is: Never judge a person by a bad chapter in their life.

A person’s last chapter may have been long and sad. But don't try to finish their story based on one bad chapter. God is a God of second chances!

Saul who persecuted Christians in one chapter of his life…became a bold preacher of the gospel in the next chapter.

Rahab in one chapter of her life was a prostitute, but in the next she saved the lives of the men Moses had sent to check out the city of Jericho…and in a later chapter she is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Never judge another person by a bad chapter in their life.

When you first look at Joseph in the pit, or Daniel in the lion's den, or Jonah in the belly of the whale, or the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, you may have thought their story ended there.

But that was just a bad chapter in their lives.

Aren’t you glad that your story is bigger than one bad chapter?

Let me remind you how Joseph’s story ends: Joseph went into the pit…but he went from the pit to the palace.

Daniel came out of the Lion’s Den with all his fingers and toes.

The three Hebrew boys came out of the fiery furnace without a single hair singed and were promoted.

Jonah came out of the belly of the whale and preached a revival and 120 thousand people got saved.

Don't judge yourself…or any other person by a bad chapter in their life.

I’m talking to somebody today who has had a bad chapter in your life, you've felt like Joseph in the pit, or like Daniel in the lion's den, or you've felt like the three Hebrew boys walking through the fire, or like Jonah in the belly of the whale.

You felt the fire, you felt the breath of the lions on your neck, you've heard them growling as they stalked you day and night.

You felt like Jonah in the belly of the whale…like God was a million miles away.

Maybe for you it's been a long chapter like the woman with the issue of blood who suffered for 12 long years…as recorded in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8.

Or maybe it could even be one of those extra-long chapters that seems like it will never end…like the man at the pool Bethesda who suffered for 38 years according to John’s gospel.

I don't know how long it’s been but I know this; I know the old chapter will end and a new chapter will follow.

Remember what Joseph’s brothers said: “Here comes that dreamer -  Come now, let’s kill him…”.

What the devil wants to do is to kill the dreamer in you…Because the devil knows if he can kill the dreamer in you then you won’t be a threat to him.

Like Joseph you may have been stripped of your coat of many colors.

You may have lost your job, you may have gone through a bad divorce, you may have lost your house, you may have lost your health and your peace and your joy.

You may have even lost your faith for awhile, you may have gone places and done things that you knew were wrong.

You may have let anger and resentment and hatred fill your heart. But that was the last chapter… that chapter is over…and I see a new chapter opening in your life.

You may have been in the pit, in the last chapter but that was just a temporary inconvenience.

The Bible says Joseph dreamed again.

In fact Joseph said: I have dreamed a dream more.

In other words: Joseph said I have dreamed a bigger dream.

And you're not just going to dream again…you’re going to dream more!

It’s time to start a new chapter.

One more thought…Joseph didn’t choose to go into the pit…His brother’s put him there. But perhaps your pit is one no one put you in…but rather one you dug yourself.

It doesn’t matter…close that chapter. Love yourself…forgive yourself…time for a new chapter.

May 7, 2017

Grapes or Giants?     Numbers 13:1-33

The book of Exodus in the Old Testament tells the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt…where they have been slaves for 400 years.

In Exodus 3:17 God promises them a land flowing with milk and honey.

Then in Deuteronomy 6 He tells them the Promised Land is a land with large, flourishing cities that they didn’t build, houses filled with all kinds of good things they didn’t provide, wells they did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves they didn’t plant. Sounds pretty good!

There's just one small detail that I have to mention to you about the Promised Land. (There are giants there).

Moses sends 12 spies to spy out the land and bring back some fruit from the land. They go into the land…they spy out the land, and they bring back figs, pomegranates and grapes. The Bible records that the grapes were so big that two men carried one cluster on a staff between them.

All 12 spies started off telling the same good news: it truly is a land flowing with milk and honey (and here is some of the fruit).

Then 10 of the spies went on to say… “but”. They said: “It’s a land flowing with milk and honey…but…”

Oh man. As soon as I see that (but) I know trouble is brewing. That one little word has robbed people of their faith. Stolen their health, robbed them of their dreams, and slammed the door shut on the promises of God.

I know God can save, but.

I know God can open the door, but.

I know I can do that job, but.

I know God can, but.

I wonder…how many times have we stood on the border of our promise land, and failed to take possession. Just because we couldn’t believe God was able?

Every time you add a (but) to the promises of God. You limit God.

These 10 spies, all had the same problem: (They had giants in their eyes).

At some point in your life you have to make up your mind what you want…giants or grapes.

You see grapes represent the promises, blessings, provisions of God.

And giants? Giants represent the enemies and the adversaries to the promises and provisions of God.

Giants are employed by the devil to resist you, frustrate you, and steal the promises of God for your life.

There are all kinds of giants: fear, insecurity, inferiority, sickness, debt, depression, worry, anxiety, stress, family problems (and the list goes on and on).

But whatever name you put on them. Their mission is to keep you from enjoying the promises of God for your life.

In life, you are either going to have giants or grapes, but you can't have both.

That means: either the Giants are going to occupy your thoughts and capture your attention and decide your actions and control your life…or the grapes will.

If you are motivated and energized and driven by the grapes, the giants won’t be any problem.

But if you are controlled and manipulated and dominated by the giants, then you will never taste the grapes.

When you are motivated, energized and driven by the grapes, you will think big, plan big, and worship big.

You will make bold statements, like Caleb who said: we are well able to take the land, we are well able to do what God said, we can do.

Now when you become bold you are going to stir people up. And your greatest enemies are the ones with giants in their eyes.

All they can see is giants, all they can talk about are the Giants, all they can see is the bad economy, the dwindling social security, the health insurance problems and high gas prices, all they can see is the negative.

And they will fight you, and they will criticize you, and they will do everything they can to hinder you and keep you from moving forward and possessing the greater blessing.

The truth is, this describes many Christians: they have been captured by the Giants. They are being held prisoner by a giant mentality. They are slaves in giant prison.

These are the ones who will resist you and resent you for breaking out the giant prison. They will criticize you and do everything they can to discourage your faith.

Like Caleb, you have to say to these people: I love you, but I don't agree with you.

I love you, but I'm not going to spend the rest of my life in giant prison just to make you happy.

You see…once you’ve tasted the grapes. The Giants don't matter anymore…giants are just something you have to deal with to get the grapes.

When you fill your eyes with the promises of God…the problems in your life become very small.

You need to decide right here and now…that you're not going to have your eyes full of giants anymore; you’re going to see the grapes.

You're going to think grapes.

Walk grapes.

Talk grapes. And…

When you close your eyes at night…you're going to see grapes.

You’re not going to see the problems anymore, you're going to see the promises and the provisions and the blessings of God.

There is a whole generation coming behind you who are depending on you to show them how to deal with the Giants and enjoy the grapes.

It’s your choice Giants or Grapes? Aren’t you tired of looking at the negative…looking for what’s wrong…instead of what’s right?

There are two kinds of people in the church: There are those that spend their lives measuring giants, and talking about how tall, and how mean and how powerful the giants are.

And then there are those who are weighing the Grapes, and figuring out…that the Grapes outweigh the giants.

How about if we decided right here and now…that as individuals and as a church…we are going into the grape weighing business? I think we will find that the promises of God are heavier and more powerful than any giant.

The Giants have been lying to you, and stealing from you…But today you're getting the grapes…the blessings of God.

Don’t let the Giants stop you from eating the grapes. You’re not the trespasser, the Giants are! You are not stealing the grapes, they belong to you.

“Jesus paid for them with his blood”

The devil knows the grapes belong to you, but the devil won't give up without a fight.

Today…stand on the word of God, and back those giants down…because it's time to enjoy the grapes.

Did you ever wonder why the grapes were so big? I believe it’s because God wanted to show the Israelites, and us, His abundant blessing and provision.

God is not selfish, He’s not stingy, If anything…He’s excessive, He’s extreme, He’s extravagant and He’s generous.

So today may you leave this place with a giant stomping, grape grabbing attitude. And I pity the giant that tries to stand between you and your grapes.

April 30, 2017

Fight Fire With Fire     Luke 3:2b-3, 15-18

If someone were to run in here right now and yell “FIRE, FIRE”, the whole atmosphere would change, hearts would race, eyes would open wide, nobody would just sit there, we would all be looking for the exits wondering where the fire is. And hopefully somebody would run for the fire extinguisher.

I know that’s a little dramatic, but it’s true and every bit of that activity would be natural and understandable…because your life could be in danger.

But I want to talk to you today about a fire we don’t want to run from, and we’re not looking for a fire extinguisher and we’re not looking for the exit signs: I’m talking about the Fire of God.

John said: But after me comes one who is more powerful than I…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

What we're seeing in this text is a power struggle: The power of hell versus the power of God.

I am here to tell you today…that the church of Jesus Christ must catch fire.

There is an unholy fire that is being unleashed on the earth today…And I am afraid that the church and church members aren’t prepared to deal with it.

It’s going to take a fired up church that can pray heaven down and cast hell out.

When you think of Hell you think of “fire”… and the devil is sending his fire out against the church.  And a bunch of wet blankets won’t put it out.

You’ve heard the old saying: You’ve got to fight fire with fire? Well it’s true because nothing less than the fire of God that can put out hell’s fire.

You might be thinking… Pastor you’re laying it on pretty thick aren’t you? Surely it’s not that bad.

Yes…it is that bad: And as your Pastor I would be failing my call and inviting disaster if I don’t sound the fire alarm to anyone who will listen.

The most important thing I can do today is to equip the saints to fight.

Like never before it's time to pray, and it's time to pray like never before. Now I lay me down to sleep prayers won't work here.

When Peter was in prison the church went into deep spiritual warfare, they went into heaven shaking…hell breaking, unceasing prayer and God sent an angel who delivered Peter from prison…I mean the chains fell off!

It's time for the church to wake up; this is not the time for the church to become complacent…

It’s time for the church to get on fire because Hell is being unleashed against the church and the world…and the only thing that can equip you and empower you is the Power of the Holy Ghost and Fire.

Hebrews 12:29 says… “Our God is A Consuming Fire.”

John said: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Fire has always been a symbol of the Lords presence among his people.

God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

God appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. (Exodus 3:2)

When Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord he said: “I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.”

When Elijah left for heaven… it was in a chariot of fire and horses of fire.

Fire has always been an identifying characteristic of the people of God,

Lev 6:13 says: “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out”.

Fire is heavens witness that God is in our midst…, Fire is a purifier, Fire Illuminates, Fire brings hidden things to light, Fire empowers.

Last week I briefly mentioned Elijah’s contest on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal to prove who the true God is.

They built two alters and put an animal sacrifice on them and Elijah said:

“…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

The 450 prophets of Baal prayed from morning until noon and nothing happened. Then Elijah had water dumped on his sacrifice 3 times.

Then the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

Fire is heavens answer to our prayers, it is heavens solution for our weakness.

Fire is Contagious; as long as there is wood…the fire will burn.

Proverbs 26:20 tells us: Where there is no wood…the fire goes out.

Wherever there are hearts hungry for God…the fire will burn.

The Fire of God will burn out of you everything that is not like God, the fire of God will burn out anger, and fear, and un-forgiveness, hatred and pride.

God is wanting to set you on fire. Hebrews 1:7 teaches us: …“He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.”

The fire of God is not a mental concept or idea to be analyzed by the mind: The fire of God is the tangible manifested power of God on earth… consuming your mind, your soul, your body, and setting you on fire for His Kingdom sake.

This is not a time for the Church to go AWOL…this is the time for the church to catch fire, and fight fire with fire.

We need to leave this place today on fire: anybody who gets near you should feel the heat. And especially the devil should feel the heat.

Let me ask you this question: Does hell feel the heat coming from your prayer closet? Does hell feel the flames of your prayers?

John Knox was a Scottish clergy man who shook Scotland with his prayers (His hearts cry was: Give me Scotland else I die)

Mary Queen of Scots said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe”.

That's the kind of fire we need in the church again.

There is only one hope for this nation and it's the One sitting on the throne of heaven…Jesus Christ the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

He has made His power available to the church. He has made us responsible for bringing His will to the earth.

In the Lord’s Prayer He taught us to pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done…on the earth as it is in heaven.

The church must do the asking and He will send the fire.

Tell God you know you need the fire.

Tell God you're desperate for the fire.

Tell God you are ready to fight fire with fire.

April 23, 2017

Because You Say So     Luke 5:1 – 9

Many of the things we buy today have words written on them that say “contents may settle during shipping”. And sure enough you open the bag and it looks like somebody stole a third of your chips.

But I want you to know that God’s blessings haven't settled, as a matter of fact…not only have the contents not settled…but, like Peter’s fishing net, they are overflowing.

Most of us hope for…just enough blessing.

Just enough to pay the rent.

Just enough to put gas in the car.

Just enough to buy a few groceries

Just enough to keep the lights on.

Just enough is definitely better than, “never enough”, but it's not the Promised Land.

God wants to take us to the Promised Land. You've prayed, you've believed God’s Word.

But if we’re honest with ourselves many of us are in the same place Peter was that day!

You've been disappointed. You've thrown your net out over and over again and it seems like it’s been for nothing…and it feels like all that prayer and all that believing and all that confessing was just a waste of time.

But have faith…your disappointing season will come to an end. The Bible tells us: Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

When you order something online they give you an expected delivery date.

But you say I’ve been to the post office 6 times already and there's no sign of my package.

In 1 Kings 16 Ahab becomes King of Israel and begins to build alters to Baal, So Elijah tells him that because he isn’t following God, it’s not going to rain.

Three years later Elijah has a contest with the prophets of Baal to prove who the true God is…Then he tells Ahab…You better head for home ‘cause it’s gonna rain.  

Keep in mind there is no evidence of rain anywhere…Elijah prays and tells his servant to go look and see if he sees rain coming. 6 times the answer is “No”…But Elijah keeps praying and tells his servant, “Go again” and the 7th time his Servant comes back and says: this time I saw a little cloud the size of a man’s hand. Then came an abundance of rain.

You may be in an extended drought in your life…but your drought will be over taken by an abundance of rain. Persistent faith never loses. The Lord will sustain you through the drought.

Peter said “Lord It's all been for nothing: we’ve worked so hard for nothing but empty nets.

But you know what? …”Nothing is great preparation for too much”.

God will usually always take you through a season of nothing…just before the break through into too much.

Why? Because God wants all the glory…He wants you and everyone else to know that it was not the strength of your flesh.

You are not the Savior. You are not the Healer. You are not the deliverer. You are not the miracle worker.

He wants you to know that: “It's not by might nor by power but by My spirit saith the Lord of hosts”.

He wants you to learn to recognize His voice.

The first step to a full net of blessing…is hearing His voice.

The second step is obeying Him: Obey Him even if it seems ridiculous.

God will let us wear ourselves out doing what we know how to do, so we'll be ready to hear his voice.

You see when we've still got strength, we’ve still got options…and we think we can work it out by ourselves…and we don't hear his voice.

It’s not that He’s not speaking, it’s just that we’re too busy to hear Him.

So he waits for us…to wait for him. (To be led by the Spirit)

To be led by the spirit means He is in front. So He waits for us to fall back in line and start waiting on Him.

Then He speaks…and sometimes it sounds like a ridiculous instruction. (Like telling a guy who has been fishing all night to let down your nets for a catch)

But…if you want a ridiculous blessing you have to be willing to obey a ridiculous instruction.

It was a ridiculous instruction for the prophet to tell a poor widow to go and borrow empty vessels and then take her little pot of oil and start pouring into all those empty vessels.

But she obeyed the ridiculous instruction and ridiculous blessings came her way.

You may have empty boats, empty nets, empty cupboards, empty pockets, but you have to see something that isn't there.

God told Abraham: look east, west, north and south everything you can see I'll give it to you.

When the prophet told that woman to get all those empty vessels…and she obeyed that ridiculous instruction and began to pour what little bit of oil she had into those vessels.

It didn't make sense, but her obedience to a ridiculous instruction took her into overflow and put her in the oil business.

Jesus didn't say to Peter…“try one more time and see if you might catch something”. He said “let down your nets for a net breaking, boat sinking, blessing”.

He was saying there is a blessing out there waiting for you to let down your nets”.

Jesus was saying there is a multitude of fish out there waiting for you to let down your nets. They have an appointment to jump into your nets and if you don't get out there and let down your nets you’re going to miss your appointment with a blessing.

Need more proof…How about the wedding at Cana?

Mary told the servants at the wedding when they ran out of wine. “Whatever he says to you…do it”. What did He tell them to do? Fill the wine jars with…water?

It may not make sense but do it! It may be hard to understand…but do it!

You may not like it but do it! Everybody may think you’re crazy but do it!

Through obedience your water is getting ready to be turned into wine.

When Peter obeyed he got an overflow and abundance of fish.

When the Widow obeyed she got an overflow and abundance of oil.

When the servants obeyed the water became wine.

Maybe God is trying to tell us something.

Peter almost missed it because he argued with Jesus. Friends…don't argue with the Lord.

Peter’s argument went something like this: Lord, It doesn't make sense…I'm tired, I’ve fished all night, I don't feel like it…It's not worth the effort. Lord I don't want to be disappointed again.

Then Peter said: “But because you say so, I will let down the nets”.

But because you say so”, means: I don't care what it looks like, I don't care what it feels like, I don't care what people say about me, I don't care if I tried it before and it didn't work, I don't care if it's going to cost me some pride, I don't care if it doesn't make the sense.

I don’t care if it makes me look foolish…But because you say so, I will let down the nets.

Because you say so I will obey. Because you say so I will go, I will do, I will pray, I will forgive, I will sow that seed, I will take that step,

I will fill the water pots with water even though everyone’s expecting wine.

And there are more examples I don’t have time for…Naaman, with a little prodding said: “I will go dip 7 times in a muddy Jordan”…and he was healed of leprosy.

Joshua said, I will March around the walls for 7 days. And the walls fell.

Because you say so.

April 9, 2017

Need Your Head Examined?    Matthew 21:6 - 11

Most of you know about Marla’s little pickle ball mishap a few months ago. She was running and her foot got caught in the net…and down she went landing pretty much head first…resulting in several stitches to her forehead.

When we got to the ER, the doctor stitched her up and then he said she needed to have her head examined.

Actually he said she needed to have a CAT Scan… So, she had to have her head examined.

But isn’t that the truth about all of us? Don’t we sometimes need to have our heads examined?

After all, think for a moment about today. We started with a Scripture reading exclaiming “Hosanna, in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.”

Hosanna basically means “Save Us! The crowds where throwing palm branches and clothes on the road and shouting “Save us!”…Little did they know that is exactly what Jesus was there to do.

But in short order…this same crowd would be shouting “crucify Him”.

We come to church. Maybe even study the Bible a little. For the most part we claim to believe that Jesus is the Savior. We, like the crowd on the first Palm Sunday call out for God to “Save us,”

And God does—we call it the Passion of Jesus Christ! In Christianity, the word Passion comes from a Latin word meaning "suffering or enduring". So the Passion is the short final period in the life of Jesus covering his entrance to Jerusalem, (Palm Sunday) and leading to his crucifixion on Mount Calvary. (Good Friday)

I can’t help but think…that if people only had the slightest idea what happened some two thousand years ago during this week…the churches would be packed today…and jammed to gills, overflowing with standing room only on Easter.

Next Sunday you would have to leave for service an hour early simply to find a seat.

However, we all know that will not be the case. Why? Is it because we just don’t know the story? Or because we need our heads examined?

I can’t do anything about your heads, but I can do something about the story part. Jesus has just spent the better part of 3 years teaching about the Kingdom of God. —Healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, hungry crowds were fed, forgiveness was offered to the unforgivable, and love is shown to the unlovable.

And now today this king on a donkey rides into Jerusalem knowingly to his death.

This coming Thursday, we celebrate this Lamb of God giving us a new commandment—that what Maundy means in Latin—a new command. To love God and love one another, sharing with us his body and blood, so you and I may be willing and able to continue the work of Jesus in the world, sharing what the church should look like, through our words and action.

Yet on this night, Jesus is betrayed by one of his own disciples for 30 pieces of silver. Then He was denied not once…but three times by one of his closest friends and finally He was abandoned by every one of his followers.

He is dragged away as a criminal for committing no crime. This silent innocent King stands in front of earthly powers where he is beaten, spat upon, and found guilty.

Then on Good Friday the Son of God will have a crown of thrones placed on his head, nails driven into his hands and feet and be crucified--executed for me—for you!

You see, if we truly owned this story in our hearts and minds it would not only make a huge difference in our lives, but in the world. So one must conclude that either we don’t know the story…or we don’t believe the story…or we need our heads examined.

A fellow pastor tells this story, He said: I had a young woman come and see me. Both she and her husband worked at the same place and had been laid off.

They were fighting like crazy. The banks were threatening to take away the cars and home. Her son was in an automobile accident and in danger of losing a leg. The poor thing was at her wits end.

The Pastor told her about the hope God gives in hopeless situations. He gave her some information about the church. He went and visited her son. Every Sunday she came faithfully to worship—for about a month then she stopped.

One day the pastor saw her in Walmart and asked her how things were going. She said everything thing was all better now. They were rehired at the company, her relationship with her husband had improved, and her son was doing just fine on his two legs.

Then she said “You probably won’t be seeing me a church anymore. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I was just worrying too much. After all things just have a way of working themselves out.

We shout “Save us”, and God does. What then do we do?

We continually betray Jesus like Judas for 30 pieces of silver—seeking “things” instead of the peace of God.

We abandon him like the disciples, going about our daily lives as if Jesus never came into town.

Some of us like Peter deny even knowing Jesus. Some of us spit on his name by our thoughts. In effect we yell, “Crucify him, Crucify him,” and over and over, week after week, we once again nail the Son of God to the cross with our daily lives, just like the crowds.

But wait, here’s the amazing part of the story. Even through our betrayal, fear, denial, abandonment. Even through the spitting on his name, and nailing the One who saves us on a cross.

This conquering Christ, Jesus riding on a donkey is still, let me repeat, is still willing to suffer and die on a cross for you and me, so that we may experience the abundance of life here and now…and eternal life in the world to come.

Now that’s what I call the Gospel—Good news that the world cannot offer in any shape or form. It is only offered through the Passion, the suffering,  of Jesus Christ.

This week make it a priority to attend mid-week services—and think long and carefully how you respond to the only one who can save our sorry souls.

Think long and carefully how you have a God willing to overlook your shortcomings and give you life, through his death on the cross.

And folks if The Passion Story does not change the way you think and live, if the Passion Story of Christ Jesus does not make you realize the love of God, then maybe we really do need to have our heads examined.

Hosanna! Save Us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

April 2, 2017

Taking Out The Trash     Philippians 3:7-12

A woman once went on a long weekend retreat with a group of women from her church.

About halfway through the Monday morning session, she suddenly got up and quickly left the room.

A concerned friend followed her to see what had caused her to leave the meeting so abruptly.

She found her friend outside talking on her cell phone.

"Is everything all right?" she asked urgently. "Oh, yes," the woman responded. "I didn't mean to scare you. But I just remembered that today is trash day."

The friend replied, "Trash day? Isn't your husband still at home?" "Yeah," the woman replied, but it takes two of us to take out the trash. I can't carry it and he can't remember it."

(Slide)Have you ever noticed the amount of trash that goes out of your house? The average American makes about 3 pounds of garbage each day.

We all have far too much trash in our lives. Sometimes the personal garbage in our lives gets out of control. There are many types of garbage! There is the garbage of the destructive things that we do!

We read trashy books and magazines. We watch trashy shows on TV. We go to trashy movies. We visit trashy websites. We use trashy language. We tell trashy jokes.

Those are the visible types of garbage that we can all see. However, there is another type of garbage. It is the kind we can't see.

It is seen in our attitudes! Pride! Arrogance! Selfishness!

In the early days of computers, there was a phrase that was often heard: "Garbage in; garbage out!"

It meant that if you put bad programming into the computer you get bad results from the computer.

Well, when it comes to the human heart and mind, that principle also holds true: "Garbage in; garbage out!"

Do you want to have a deeper relationship with Jesus in your life?

If you want a deeper relationship with Jesus there may be some things in your life you need to get rid of.

(slide)The word "garbage" that Paul uses here in Verse 8 that we just read together…actually has a stronger meaning. The King James translates it “dung”. Yup…you heard right.

If you think about it…what else would their garbage be? They didn’t have milk jugs, or candy wrappers, or newspapers, or pop bottles…No pizza boxes.

In the verses right before the verses we read Paul was listing his impressive resume of what he had accomplished before he met Christ.

And then he says…None of that matters to me anymore…it’s junk compared to serving Christ.

So the question is: Are you and I willing to give up our rubbish, for a deeper relationship with Jesus?

What could be the rubbish in our lives? Paul identified his garbage as all the great accomplishments of his life.

Who he was, what he was, and how he was before he knew Jesus. He identified all the trappings of success -- money, fame, fortune, control, power, and position as rubbish.

We too often claim trash as treasure. Anything that isn't eternal is rubbish.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-20 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; …but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying that we all need to give up everything if we want to go deeper with Jesus.

I am saying that we need to recognize what is treasure and what is not.

When we look at our lives they often seem so out of control. Demands on out time are endless. Have you ever felt like you are being spread too thin…like there is not enough of you to go around?

The reason is we have too much garbage in our lives. We need to replace that garbage with something of better value. It's not enough to know what is rubbish and what is not. We need to take out the trash!

Jesus speaking in a parable says "the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is that pearl of great value…are we willing to get rid of other things to gain it?

I wonder…Are we are guilty of giving up what is most important for what will never last?

When our schedules get too hectic or our lives too demanding what do we cut out first?

Sadly it's often our quiet time with God that suffers. Too often in our lives we are selling the pearl of great value for the dung of the world.

If we want a deeper relationship with Jesus we need to determine what is really important and we need to begin to live like it's important…you see…we gain when we choose to give up the trash.

Paul says in verse 7: “…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” He goes on to say: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, (garbage, refuse, dung),that I may gain Christ

Paul says that he suffered the loss of all things for Christ, but it was it worth it.

Giving up the stuff everybody else is doing at first seems really hard. Rearranging your life seems to be too much to handle. But…eventually, you will begin to see what the deeper walk with Christ is like.

You begin to know His peace and His sustaining power in your life. You begin to see the effect your life can have on others. Then you see how little you gave up and how great your reward really is.

In 1991, a judge fined Geno and Russell Capozzi, nearly $9,000 for operating an illegal dump.(slide)

They were owners of Connecticut Building Wrecking Company a Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrecking company.

In 1986, on the empty lots surrounding their facility, the brothers began dumping debris from buildings they had torn down. Eventually the mound of rubble covered 2 acres and reached a height of 35 feet, the equivalent of a three-story building.

The state ordered them to clean it up, but the brothers claimed there was no place to dump it legally and they could not afford to have it hauled away.

The previous year they had spent more than $330,000 to have debris hauled away, but that had barely dented the pile.

According to Geno, "It was never supposed to get this high."

I suspect that we are like the Capozzi brothers. We've allowed things that really are rubbish to pile up in our lives. The pile is so big that it's crowding out the important things. There are things that we need to get rid of!

Paul said I count it all garbage compared with the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

Paul came to a point in his walk with Christ where he could honestly say "I have learned the secret of being content no matter what my circumstances."

We will never find contentment in garbage! It comes only in a deeper walk with Christ.

 

 Ezekiel 18:7 (KJV)
And hath not oppressed any, [but] hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment;
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