Sermons 5

March 26, 2017

Spring Cleaning          Proverbs 4:20 - 27

Today I am speaking on the subject of Spring Cleaning…Because over time…everything collects junk!

Let me give you some random examples. As we age, plaque tends to build up in our veins and arteries, which gradually restricts the flow of blood.

Sea-going vessels, everything from fishing trawlers to aircraft carriers, become encrusted with barnacles, which slow the ship’s progress through the water. In just one year, an oil tanker can accumulate five tons of barnacles.

How about that big pile of sand south of town?  Rivers have to be dredged periodically, so that the sand and silt won’t build up and make them impossible to navigate.

And finally, closets. Anybody here have a closet that needs cleaned out? I started cleaning my closet three times before I finally got it done.

What I’m talking about is a universal problem. Everything…whether you’re talking about arteries, ships, rivers, or closets, will eventually get filled with rubbish and sludge and bric-a-brac, and will need to be cleaned out.

Spring cleaning not a pleasant process, especially if the debris has been accumulating for some length of time. It may be dirty, and smelly, and time-consuming, and just plain hard work, but it has to be done.

This morning I’d like to focus on how this principle applies to the spiritual life. Because over time, if we’re not careful, our lives can get cluttered up with the debris of sin.

Our minds and hearts can become encrusted with barnacles of ungodly beliefs and attitudes that 1. hinder our relationship with God, 2. hinder our fellowship with one another and 3. hinder our ability to experience the joy, peace, and power of the Christian life.

What I’m going to talk about today is how we can prevent that from happening, and how when it does happen, we can clean out the muck and the mire, so that our fellowship with God and one another will be free and unobstructed and so that we can enjoy the kind of abundant life that Christ intends.

The first point I’d like to make is that sin gradually infiltrates our lives and gums up the works. None of us is immune; none of us can afford to go merrily about our business unconcerned.

If that were the case, then the Scriptures wouldn’t be so full of appeals to be watchful and careful, and to guard our hearts.

For example Proverbs 4:23 says: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

1 Corinthians 10:12 "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" And…

Ephesians 5:15 tells us: "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise".

What these passages are telling us is…that we need to give attention to the quality of our spiritual lives and we need to consider carefully the consistency of our obedience and devotion to Christ.

Otherwise, over time the world will conform us to its way of thinking; and to its way of speaking and acting. If we’re not careful, ungodly habits and attitudes will gradually creep in.

But here’s the key – it doesn’t happen overnight. A person doesn’t change from being absolutely committed to Christ on Tuesday, to being lukewarm or indifferent on Wednesday.

The good news is…God has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to enlighten us, and when necessary, to convict us of sin, To open our eyes, so that we can see all the debris in our lives that needs to be discarded; so that we can see all the weeds that need to be pulled.

Psalm 139:23-24 says: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

That’s not something you’ll find on a lot of prayer lists! Asking God to reveal your sin; asking him to shine a light on all the gunk and garbage in your life. It’s a little intimidating…A little frightening, even. That’s why facing our sin is something we usually try to avoid, rather than intentionally seek out. And that’s part of the problem.

So – what do you do when God answers your prayer, and begins to open your eyes to some area of your life that needs to change? It’s something like when you’re getting ready for a visit from relatives, and you suddenly realize just how cluttered your house has become.

The first reaction is to close our eyes, because we don’t like what we see. It was more pleasant and comfortable before, when we didn’t have to deal with the reality of grimy windows, and a garage piled floor to ceiling with junk.

We liked being able to tell ourselves that everything is fine, so that we can go fishing or shopping, instead of spending the weekend scrubbing windows and vacuuming the rug. And so there’s a strong urge to just forget what we’ve seen.

A field doesn’t fill up with weeds overnight, nor does a house suddenly fall into disrepair. Clutter is a gradual process. All it takes is time, combined with a bit of neglect, a dose of complacency, and a general lack of watchfulness.

Then, before we realize it, our spiritual life is full of junk, and our fellowship with God is lacking.

Perhaps you sense this beginning to happen in your own life. Perhaps it’s been going on for a while. If so, then I have good news. The process of spiritual clutter is reversible.

What we all need is essentially the same – some spiritual "spring cleaning". Stopping to reflect on the quality of our walk with Christ, listening for what God is saying to us through his word, and responding in obedience to what we discover.

Hebrews 12:1 says:". . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." - –

Let’s decide this morning that we will seek to rid our lives of anything which hinders us from following Christ.

Let’s determine, by God’s grace, to make that our continuing quest. And let’s remember that it’s God who shows us the need for change, and it’s God who provides us with the ability and power to change.

March 19, 2017

I Dare You!        I Chronicles 11:4-9

In the verses we read together we saw that David had come to a city that was heavily fortified… and for nearly 4 centuries the Israelites had been unable to take the city of Jerusalem.

The Jebusite people were extremely confident that the past would dictate the future. They told David “You will not get in here.” But David and his army accepted the challenge…and did get in there.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because today…I say to you, “I dare you!”

I dare you to become the best Christian you can be…You can wimp out and say I don’t have much to offer God…But remember the boy with 5 rolls and two fish…his lunch. He gave it to Jesus and Jesus used it to feed 5000 men and their families.

Maybe you don’t have much…but I dare you to give yourself to God and let Him use you for His glory.

What I mainly want to challenge you to do this morning…is to keep the doors of this church open. I am 60 years old…One of these days I’m either gonna die or retire and I challenge you to keep this church going.

Nearly twenty four years ago this church stood at the corner of 13th and Main where it had for well over a hundred years.

The flood came and destroyed the building and many people said we would never be able to build a new building…we had no money, no flood insurance and many of our members were flooded out of their own homes.

We were meeting in the Catholic Church and I announced that we were going to build a new church.

A lady who had been a member for 50 years or more met me at the back door and said: “All you’re going to do is borrow a bunch of money and then leave and leave us stuck trying to pay for it”.

I said, “No mam…we are not going to borrow a dime.” She said, “Then how are you going to build it.” I replied, “By faith” She yelled, “Your nuts!” and stormed off.

Silly me…I took it as a compliment. The church board voted to build a new  church…this church, “as the money came in”…and the money came in and here it is.

Churches all across America are closing…Why? Because the people of the church have lost their vision. Proverbs 29:18 says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” And where there is no vision the church will perish.

I dare you to do all you can do to keep these doors open and the Good News of Jesus Christ proclaimed from this pulpit. If you do all you can do…God will do the rest!

So what does that look like…Well start by asking yourself…If everyone attended church as often as I do what kind of crowd would we have?

Then ask yourself…if everyone helped out around the church as much as I do…what would be getting done?

When it’s meet and greet time…if everyone in the church welcomed visitors like you do…would they all feel welcome?...or do you just visit with those you already know?

You see…if people go outside their comfort zones to come here…we need to go outside of ours to make sure they know we care about them and that we are glad they are here!

I dare you!...or as we used to say as kids… “I double dog dare you!”

Here’s another hard question…Who is in church today because you invited them? When I was 23 years old a guy invited me to church. I went…and there another guy invited me to come to the men’s work day…guess what? I went to men’s work day…the guys all seem really glad that I was there. Now I’m a pastor.

I double dog dare you to take your service for Jesus Christ seriously. That means giving your time, giving your talent…and giving your treasure to ensure that this church is here another 150 years if Jesus hasn’t come back by then!

Some of you have cemented some of these areas already…there are some of you who if it’s Sunday you are in church…And If there is a family reunion on Sunday…You come to church, then you go to the reunion.

And...If you wake up and your arthritis is acting up…you come to church anyway…because your arthritis can act up just as good at church as it can at home!

As I said: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” And where there is no vision the church will perish. I double dog dare you to catch a vision!

I know of a church that was without a pastor for a while and nobody felt able to give the sermon. They had someone that led the singing, someone who read announcements. Another person who was able to say the prayers…But no sermon.

But they didn’t quit…they didn’t say let’s stay home, they got a tape recorder and when it was time for the sermon they listened to a sermon on tape…until they were able to get a pastor…and because those few people caught a vision…today that church has a pastor and is thriving.

I dare you to do all you can, for as long as you can and do whatever it takes to support this church and its mission.

March 12, 2017

Abba Father     Matthew 6:9

If somebody were to ask you "What do you need most these days?" I wonder what you'd say.

Some of you might say, I need more money, I need more time, I need…..

“Why would God even be interested in meeting my needs?” Obviously He doesn't need me. So why would God even be interested?

Well because He is Our Father that’s who He is.

Jesus showed us that God is not some kind of impersonal force.

God is not some kind of angry tyrant waiting to smack you down.

God is not some apathetic creator that really doesn't care about what's going on here.

In fact, Jesus defined God in two words. He said, "This is how you should pray, `Our Father...'"

In the Old Testament God is only called "Father" seven times…

But in this chapter alone, Jesus calls Him Father over ten times; furthermore Jesus called God “Father” and told us to call God “Father” over seventy times in the Gospels. God wants you to know Him like a Father.

The problem is that for some people the word "father" brings up a negative image. It brings back childhood memories; sometimes regret, resentment, anger, fear, frustration, guilt. They don't have good memories of the term "father".

So Jesus qualified the term. Jesus says, "Our Father, in heaven..."

He's not referring to a location because God is everywhere, He's talking about how Heaven is a place of perfection and God is a perfect Father in contrast to all of us who are human and very imperfect. God is a perfect Father.

The Bible says that God has four characteristics:

1. GOD IS A CARING FATHER

He wants you to know that you are loved and cared for. If you don't get anything else this morning, get this: You matter to God. God cares about you. He loves you. He's interested in you.

Psalm 103:13 "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who honor Him..."

This is God's most outstanding characteristic. He's caring, loving, and compassionate.

One time the disciples were out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up. They started taking on water and started to sink. They were tossed back and forth. They asked the most important question, the ultimate question: "Lord, don't you care?" We're drowning!

Have you ever felt like that? I'm going under Lord! Don't you care? The answer is, “Yes…He cares a lot.” You have a heavenly Father who cares.

1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you!" "He cares".

Does God care about your health? Yes.

Does He care about your house payment? Yes.

Does He care about your grades at school?

Does He care about how you get along in your family?

Does He care about whether you're a success or failure in life?

Does it even matter to Him? The answer is, “Yes.”

Psalm 35:37 "The Lord delights in the wellbeing of His servants."

Good News: "The Lord is pleased with the success of His servants." It's like, I love to see my kids succeed. Your heavenly Father cares about you.

2. GOD IS A CARING FATHER and 2nd GOD IS A CONSISTENT FATHER

He's reliable. He can be counted upon. He's dependable. He's worthy of trust.

James 1:17 "Every good and perfect gift is from the Father who does not change like shifting shadows."

"Who does not change", Some people are unpredictable, but God is a consistent father. He's not moody. He never has a bad day. He never wakes up grouchy. He loves you just as much on your good days as He does on your bad days. It's not based on who you are, but who He is.

In a world where everything is changing. In a world where everything falling apart.

If there's one thing I know, if there’s one thing I can always count on, I can always count on God to always act the same way toward me no matter how I feel.

He is always caring and He is always consistent, no matter what I think, no matter what I feel, no matter what I do, He is caring and He is consistent.

Malachi 3:6 "I the Lord, do not change." He is unchanging. Everything else shifts and changes but God is my rock. Nothing changes with Him.

Psalm 18:20 "What a God he is! All his promises prove true!"

So 1.) He is caring and 2,) He is consistent…and 3. HE IS CLOSE

The Bible makes it very clear that He's nearby when you need Him.

Acts 17:27 says "God…is not far from each of us."

God is not a million miles away. He's right here. He's here with you. If you open your life to Him, He'll be in you, in your life.

Today, many kids grow up with absentee parents, they're never around, and they’re never at home. But that's not the way your heavenly Father is. God is not detached. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is a close God.

He is never too busy for me. Psalm 145:18 "The Lord is near to all who call on Him."

When you pray you don't get a busy signal. Whenever you say, "I've got a burden, a need …" God doesn't say, "Not now. I'm busy."

He's never too busy for you. You can talk to Him at any time.

He loves to meet my needs.

Matthew 7:11 "If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him."

Matthew 6:31-32 "So don't worry saying `What are we going to eat? or what shall we wear?' Your heavenly Father knows you need these things."

The point is that good fathers take care of their children, and you can count on your heavenly to meet your needs because He has unlimited resources to do it.

He is sympathetic to my hurts. You say, "I'm feeling low today." God knows and He understands completely.

Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

You've had a tough week? God understands.

You've had a tough day yesterday? God understands.

A difficulty this week, this month, this year, this life? God understands.

He is sympathetic. He is close to the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit. That's what it means to have a heavenly Father.

Our Father, He's not just my creator. He loves me. He makes a difference in my life. He made you and I for a purpose. That's how God wants you to relate to Him. Because He is a caring Father, a consistent Father and a close Father.

4. GOD IS A CAPABLE FATHER

Nothing is beyond His ability,

Nothing is beyond His resources.

Nothing is beyond His power.

Whatever problem you've got -- at home, at work, at school -- God can handle it. He is a capable Father.

Luke 1:37 "For nothing is impossible with God."

God wants you to have a close relationship with Him.

He is caring

He is consistent

He is close to me

And He is capable.

He wants to provide for your needs. Your greatest need is to first start trusting Him and by coming and saying, "Jesus, I want to put my trust in You." There's no reason to wait. Today's your day.

March 5, 2017

Choices       Philippians 3:17 – 21

Have you ever heard someone say, “If only I had known, I would have done things differently.”

Mickey Mantle, one of the most famous baseball players who ever lived, while waiting for a new kidney, expressed regret over years of alcohol abuse.

He said that he wished he had known the damage alcohol was doing to his body all those years, and warned young people everywhere, "Don't be like me."

It can happen in every walk of life. Our choices have consequences that can affect not only our life…but also the lives of those around us.

In Deuteronomy 30:19, God told the Israelites that He was setting before them "life and death, blessings and curses" and He encouraged them to choose life.

Joshua said, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)

Now let me summarize the whole point of this sermon: Every day, make sure your choices honor God and you will never regret it!

We are living in an age when many are consumed with the idea of success and winning. Some will do almost anything to succeed or to win.

Nowadays we aren't easily shocked. We aren't all that surprised when a politician tries to paint an unsavory picture of his opponent in an effort to gain an advantage in the campaign.

Whatever it takes to win, some people are willing to do. Whether in politics or athletics or business, they focus on instant gratification. Their only motivation is to satisfy their desires.

Paul wrote about such people in the verses we read together. He said, "Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their God is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19)

Then he goes on to say, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)

Paul says, "You have a choice. You can focus on earthly things, or you can choose citizenship in heaven. You can allow your stomach to be your god, or you can worship the one, true God. Your destiny can be destruction, or it can be eternal life. And the choice is yours."

So the question this morning is "Which choice are we making?" The answer must be one or the other because we only have those two choices.

We can choose either to make the focus of our life the world and the things in the world, or God and the things of God. We only have those two choices.

Think about those who focus on the things of the world. Paul says that these people have nothing to look forward to, for they are dying every day.

First of all, they are dying physically. We're all dying physically. We know that. We look in the mirror and find another wrinkle or another gray hair, or feel another ache or pain. We know we are dying physically.

Not only are we dying physically, but we can also be dying spiritually. The Bible clearly teaches that there are moments in life when we are more sensitive to the things of God than at other times.

The Holy Spirit comes and offers the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ, the price has been paid for our sins, and eternal life is available to us.

It is in those moments, when our spirit responds to God's Spirit that we have the opportunity to accept Jesus as our Savior.

But the Bible also says that if we let those moments pass, then the next time the opportunity comes it's easier to say "No" to His invitation.

Again and again that happens, until finally, Paul says in Ephesians 4, we reach the point where we are no longer sensitive to God, and die spiritually.

Look around. We're living in a world that is dying spiritually. We're no longer shocked by the vulgarity that parades across our TV screens. We're not even repulsed by the immorality constantly being paraded before us.

Much of our nation is dying spiritually, drawing further and further away from God.

Not only are we dying physically, and many are dying spiritually, but without Christ, we'll also die eternally. For the apostle Paul reminds us, "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23)

We have failed to be like Paul who, with tears in his eyes, warned of the destruction that comes to a world outside of Christ, to those whose "minds are fixed on the things of the world, whose destiny is destruction, whose God is their stomach, and whose glory is their shame."

But then Paul says, "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:20)

This is the Christ who said, "I have come to give you life, and that more abundantly." (John 10:10) Do you feel like you are living that abundant life today?

Have you ever heard someone say, "Man, that's really living!" And usually they are referring to indulgence in alcohol or drugs. But they are deceiving themselves. They're not "living," they're dying.

I wonder how many are living like that - getting up in the morning, going to work or whatever they do each day, then coming home, staring at the TV, going to bed. Then the next day getting up and going through the same monotonous routine.

Are they really living, or are they just going through the motions?

I believe that there is something more to life than that. There is a greater motivation for life than just getting up and going through the motions. There is a purpose, a goal, a vision that God wants us to catch.

There is a reason, a motivation behind life higher than anything that the world has to offer - something that will last for all eternity. And through Jesus Christ that abundant, wonderful, eternal life is offered to each of us.

Buzz Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the moon. In an interview a few years ago, he told of the deep depression he experienced after he returned to earth - a depression that finally led to a complete emotional breakdown.

When asked why this had happened, he said, "The only way I can explain it is that I trained intensely to get to the moon. That was the one consuming thing in my life - just to get there.

"I learned how to operate the space craft, and what I was supposed to do once I got there. I didn't think about anything else for months, for years of my life. Finally I got there. Finally I placed my feet on the surface of the moon. Then I came back, and there was nothing else to look forward to - nothing."

Abundant life goes beyond the physical, goes beyond our earthly life and brings us into the presence of God both now and forever. It will never end.

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies..." (John 11:25)

What He was saying is, "If you believe in Me, even though you die, you never stop living. The moment you are absent from the body you are present with me."

So the question this morning is, "What choices are you making about your life, and your relationship with Jesus?"

Are you just grabbing whatever you can get for the moment, and forgetting about everything else? Or are you looking for a better life, a greater life, an abundant life that will last forever?

We offer you the invitation of Jesus who said. "If you gain the whole world and lose your soul, what have you gained?"

But if you can say, "I am a citizen of heaven," you have it all, and you have even more than we even dare to imagine.

That's what we offer you in the name of Jesus Christ. We offer you eternal life, citizenship in heaven, and we pray you'll respond to His invitation as we stand and sing.

February 26, 2017

Looking For God        Colossians 1:15 – 20

When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. After several weeks I started thinking, “Maybe the Lord doesn't work that way”. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me!

Virtually every religious poll taken in this country tells us that we are a very spiritual group of people. The Gallup poll suggests to us that 94% of Americans believe in God in some form, and that 82% are interested in growing spiritually. In the midst of these troubling times people are hungry for spiritual truth.

But who is this God that so many people believe in? What is He like? How can I know Him? Do I discover Him through meditation? Do I find Him by walking through the woods in solitude? Perhaps I need to throw myself into community service to find Him. Who is this God?

In his book “Your God Is Too Small” J.B. Phillips suggests that most of us have images of God that are entirely too small. I want to begin by quickly looking at some of the false ways people view God.

Some people seem to believe in a policeman God. There are all these laws, all these rules, and it’s His job to enforce them. So He’s constantly lurking around, patrolling the area…waiting for us to mess up. I hope that’s not your view of God.

Some people have a Santa Claus view of God. He’s making a list and checking it twice…gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. He’s keeping score, and if we’re good enough…then in the end we get a reward. Sounds cute…but that’s not how God works.

Some people think of God as a fire extinguisher. You know…He hangs on the wall, and we’re glad to have Him there, as long as He is fairly inconspicuous.

We really don’t pay much attention to Him. Oh, once a year we check Him out to make sure He’s still there, but He really doesn’t bother us. But when there’s a fire thank goodness He’s there! Do you know anyone with that image of God? They run for Him just when there’s a fire.

A similar image is God as the janitor. He just sort of hangs around on the periphery and doesn’t really interfere…but whenever we make a mess…we expect Him to step in and clean it up. We want Him to make everything right again.

Some people have a cheerleader image of God. He’s not really part of the game…but He’s on the sidelines cheering us on.

There are a lot of images of God…Thomas Jefferson talked about God as the eternal watchmaker…who made the watch and set it down and let it run. He felt that God made the world and set it down and doesn’t get involved with the day to day running of the world.

There are a lot of views of God and I suspect that right or wrong…we all have our own views. But the scriptures teach us a very important lesson about God. The lesson comes from the passage we just read. Colossians 1:15, Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God.” He is the visible image of an invisible God.

As Children, one of the very first things we learn about God is that you can’t see Him. Where is God? He’s everywhere. Is He under the chair? Yes. Is He under my bed? Yes. Is He in the air? Yes. Is he outside? Yes. He’s everywhere.

But what does he look like? Well, we can’t see Him. He’s invisible. But get this…Paul teaches us that:

Jesus…The flesh and blood human being who walked the earth in the first century,

Jesus, born of a young woman named Mary, and raised in Nazareth by Mary and her husband Joseph,

Jesus, a teacher who walked the hills of Galilee sharing the Good news

…this same Jesus, Paul says, is the visible image of an invisible God.

You want to know who God is? You want to know what He’s like? Look at Jesus. That’s what the scripture tells us. The “fullness of God” Paul tells us in verse 19, “was pleased to dwell” in Jesus. If you want to know what God is like look at Jesus.

In Jesus, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. He is the visible image of the invisible God. So what does that say about our image of God?

Let’s go back and take another look, God isn’t just an awesome creator. He isn’t just a powerful ruler. He is certainly more than just a policeman, or a fire extinguisher, or a cheerleader.

The way to know God is to know Jesus, and the place to meet Jesus is in the Bible.

Go read the Gospels and meet the person of Jesus Christ. When we do that we meet a God who not only made the Heavens and the earth, but who is compassionate and caring enough to stop in the midst of the crowd and hear the cry of one individual woman…and to hear your cry and my cry.

Go read the Gospels and meet the person of Jesus Christ. We meet a God who not only rules in the Heavens, but who came to earth to serve…a God who literally got down on His knees to wash our feet.

In Jesus we learn what respect is all about. He had respect for all people. Jesus didn’t categorize or stereotype people. He didn’t see people as tax collectors or prostitutes. He saw Mary and Zacchaeus and Matthew….men and woman who were hurting and in need.

Jesus wasn’t out to get those people…and He’s not out to get us either. In fact…God loved the world so much that He sent His son.

Jesus was a real human being…born into this real world…and if you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. He is the perfect model for us…A person of strength, of compassion, of conviction, of courage, a man who stood firm for the truth and yet was willing to forgive those who sought it.

But He is so much more. If you want to know what it means to be human look at Jesus. But likewise, if you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. He is the visible image of the invisible God.

We live in a world that is searching and wondering…looking and hoping for answers. And in the midst of it all comes the good news… Look no further.

The God of the universe, the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who is present in all the world, has reached out to us in the person of Jesus Christ because He loves us.

February 19, 2017

Living in the Turbulance        Matthew 11:2-6

Someone has said that the best part of the river is where the vortex is.

Right at that point in the river, the water churns like a water tornado. The vortex is like the eye of the storm. If you can jump out just right and hit the vortex you can drift peacefully to the bottom in 8 feet of water. There’s turbulence all around you, but there in the vortex, it’s so peaceful and calm.

If you’re in a vortex, you can stay down there as long as you want to – except for one thing. . . you can’t breathe! At some point, no matter how great the sensation, you have to leave the vortex and come up for air, and the only way to do that is to reenter the turbulence and it shoots you right back up to the surface, and you can breathe again.

The vortex feels pleasant for a short while, but if you stay there, you drown. The only way to survive is to get back into the turbulence.

The truth is that many people go through life like that – looking for the vortex, even if it means deserting the people they are responsible to and for, trying to escape the turbulence of life, trying to find that quiet, serene place where all is calm and peaceful.

Many of us want it and long for it. We’re looking for the vortex. We dream of that safe place that’s protected from the turbulence of hardships, challenges, and the problems of the world.

And the bad news is people and companies are selling it in the form of alcohol, affairs, drugs, pornography and credit card debt.

But, the problem is that the vortex won’t last! No matter how great the sensation may feel in the short run, it never ever lasts! At some point, you have to come up for air. You can’t stay there. If you do, you drowned.

That leads me to believe that real life…is lived in the turbulence.

Now, of course, even Jesus had moments when he needed quiet time, time apart, time away, time to meditate, to think and pray, but remember, He didn’t stay there. He came back to live in the turbulence. He came back to help people with their hurts, struggles and problems.

Now that’s what this scripture passage is about in Matthew 11. John the Baptist had been arrested by King Herod and thrown into prison. John is tired of life’s turbulence. He wants Jesus to hurry and bring a new kingdom, to quickly zap the Romans with his power, to create a new era of peace, prosperity and tranquility.

John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins, so cousin John gets a little impatient with Jesus. He wants Jesus to hurry up and lead them to some quiet calm, serene vortex.

So John sends his disciple to Jesus with a pointed question "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" In other words, ‘What are you waiting for? When are you going to get with the program? Why don’t you hurry up and establish this kingdom we have all been longing for and waiting for?’

Jesus answers John’s disciples, saying, "Go tell John what you see and hear. The blind receive their sight. The lame walk. Lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised up. And the poor have good news preached to them."

Do you think that is what John wanted to hear? No way!! John wanted Jesus to tell him that in 2 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 12 hours and 31 seconds My kingdom will be realized; and the fruits of your labor will be evident.

But that is not what Jesus said, and that is not what He tells us, either.

What was Jesus saying to John? Simply this, real life is in the turbulence. It is not found in some safe, comfortable nest insulated from the problems of the world.

It is the power of love reaching out to those who are needy, to those who are sick, to those who are broken, to those who are hurting, bringing them help and hope and healing.

In essence, Jesus is saying, "Look John, I am bringing the Kingdom, but it’s not a kingdom of wealth and clout and military might. It’s not a kingdom of calm and tranquility hidden away from the struggles of life.

No, it’s a Kingdom of love and sacrifice and service to others… and that’s where real life is found, not in the vortex but in the turbulence.

REAL LIFE IS FOUND IN THE TURBULENCE OF DAILY LIVING.

And when we learn that, it changes our lives.

It enables us to embrace life with both hands. But somehow we get it all mixed up. We get duped into thinking that real life is out there somewhere.

It’s somewhere off in the distance… and we long for it, look for it, wish for it, dream of it… and while we’re doing all that longing and looking and wishing and dreaming… life passes us by! Life happens and we miss it!

Marla has a sign on her wall at the office that says, “sing like no one’s listening” "Dance like no one’s watching." Have you ever done that? Have you ever grooved to some music that really moved you when nobody was listening? I see some smiles and head nods. Of course you have.

The truth is there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when? Our lives will always be filled with challenges.

Alfred D. Souza put it like this "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin… real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then, life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

The call of Christ is to treasure every moment we have…Even the times when you are in the turbulence of life. The joy we have is the belief and trust that Jesus is with us in that turbulence.

And more often than not, in the end, our relationship with Jesus has grown, because we have to be more reliant on Him. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12, "When I am weak, then I am strong."

You see, Jesus promised us that we could experience His peace and joy. But sometimes we experience that peace and joy in the midst of the storms, in the midst of the turbulence.

There is no better time than right now to be joyful. Joy comes from your inner soul, from your faith in Jesus.

So sing like no one’s listening. Dance like no one’s watching! Work like you don’t need money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Give grace like you know what it feels like to receive it.

This is precisely what Jesus was underscoring in Matthew 11. Real life is NOW! So, seize it with both hands; embrace it with both arms; love it with all your strength; celebrate it with all your heart. Real life is not in some tranquil vortex cut off from the world and its problems. Real life is found in the turbulence of daily living.

January 29, 2017

“The Salt of the Earth”   Matthew 5:13-18

As Christians Jesus says that we are to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World. In other words as Christ’s disciples we should have a positive influence on the world in which we live.”

In Matthew 5:13 we read, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Jesus gives us no explanation of what He means when He says that we are to be salt…This morning I want to try to come to an understanding of what He was, or was not saying…so we need to figure out how Christian’s are like salt.

First, Christians…like salt…have value. Salt has value?…you can get a huge box of it for less than a buck!

But we have to put it in context of when it was written.

Jesus said to his followers “You are the salt of the earth.”

Jesus refers to his handful of basically uneducated disciples as the “salt of the earth”. What a great compliment!

Because salt was a necessity of life in ancient times and so great value was attached to it. Salt was so important that it was sometimes used for money.

The Roman soldiers of Jesus’ day were at times paid with salt. In fact, our word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium” which referred to the payments made to the soldiers…with salt.

Ever wonder where the phrase that someone isn’t, “worth their salt.” Came from?...Now you know…You’re welcome.

We don’t think much about salt because we can get as much of it as we want. It is just that little bottle with holes that sits on the table.

But when you are completely dependent on salt to preserve your food, and when it is so valuable that it is used in the place of money, you get a completely different perspective on salt.

Because we live in a part of the world where we have an abundance of food we don’t understand the monotony of the diet of those who lived in Jesus’ day and for most of those who live in third world countries even today.

In a great portion of the world rice is the common food, three times a day. In part of Africa today the subsistence food is corn meal, at every meal. In fact the Swahili word for corn meal is “posha” meaning daily ration.

Without salt to make it palatable, it would be difficult to continue to eat the same monotonous food, time after time. In Job 6:6 the Bible says, “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt?”

Christians, like salt…are of great value and…

Second, Christians like salt act as a preservative.

Salt was important for survival, because it was the only way they had to preserve meat. Obviously, they were not as privileged as we are with refrigeration, so salt became very important in their ability to preserve their food.

The salt was rubbed into the meat before it was stored. Salt was to hinder the process of decay, so too Christians are given the task of slowing the decay of our world.

Christianity has had a profound positive effect on the world. The most dramatic impact of Christianity on the world is that it has attached value to human life.

Hospitals as we now know them began through influence of Christianity. The Red Cross was started by an evangelical Christian…as was, obviously, the Salvation Army.

Most of the colleges in the United States that started over 100 years ago were Bible-proclaiming schools. Harvard and Yale (originally Puritan) and Princeton (originally Presbyterian) have rich Christian histories.

Harvard was named after a Christian minister. Yale was started by pastors, and Princeton’s first year of class was taught by Reverend Jonathan Dickinson. Princeton’s crest still says “Dei sub numine viget,” which is Latin for “Under God she flourishes.”

The same could be said of orphanages and adoption agencies.

Christian’s continue to have a positive benefit on our world. As a moral antiseptic, Christians keep the corruption of society at bay by opposing moral decay by their lives and their words.

But there is a horrifying new trend today. George Barna, the church statistician, says that research shows that, “… the average Christian in the average church is almost indistinguishable from the rest of society.

If we as Christian’s lose the qualities of Christlikeness that make us distinct and become like the society around us, we no longer have a positive impact. We become a hindrance instead of a preservative.

Which leads to my third point…Christians…like salt…can lose their usefulness.

Jesus said that if the salt loses its flavor, “… It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

Technically speaking, salt can’t lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound. But in the part of the world where Jesus lived, salt was collected from around the Dead Sea where the crystals were often contaminated with other minerals.

These crystalized formations were full of impurities, and since the actual salt was more soluble than the impurities, the rain could wash out the salt, which made what was left of little worth since it lost its saltiness.

When this happened, the salt was thrown out, since it was no longer of any value either as a preservative or for flavoring.

When the salt was leeched out…it still looked like salt, but it lost its taste.

That is what happens to us when we allow the world’s values to replace our Biblical values.  

Either our lives are counting for good and for God…or they are making an impact for evil and the enemy.

The way we live, the things we say, the attitudes we entertain, the life style we adopt… are continuously producing either positive or negative results in society….

Our lives, whether we are aware of it or not…either count for God or against Him…There is simply no middle ground.”

Christians Like Salt Can Lose Their Usefulness and….

Last, Christians…like salt…must have contact to have an influence!

As we have already noted, the Christian is to be a preserving force in the world wherever God has placed them.

But the salt never did any good when it was sitting on a shelf some place and the meat was some-where else. To be effective, the salt had to be rubbed into the meat. In a similar way Christian’s are to allow God to use them wherever He has placed them.

Whenever the church becomes a salt warehouse, it has missed out on the lesson that salt must make contact to have an effect.

I want you to notice what Jesus says and does not say, He does not say, “You can be the salt of the earth.” Nor does he say, “You should be the salt of the earth.” Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth”.

To be salt, we do not have to be spectacular

To be salt, we do not have to be sensational

To be salt, we do not have to be successful (by the world’s standard’s)

To be salt, we just have to flavor our little corner of the world.

January 22, 2017

The Hyssop of God’s Love!   Psalms 51:1-13

The picture on the screen is of last week’s bulletin…and if you were here last week you will remember that Carol asked the question: “What is hyssop?” Good Question!

I knew it was a plant…I knew it mentioned several times in the Bible. I checked…The word hyssop is used 12 times in the Bible…10 times in the Old Testament…and twice in the new.

Hyssop is mentioned in the Passover story and in the crucifixion of Christ as well as other places.

We don’t know for sure which plant hyssop actually is…there are about a half dozen thoughts on the subject. 1Kings Chapter 4 says that hyssop “grows out of walls…”

The plant would have had some strength in the stalk and some sort of seed-head or flower in order that it could be used like a paint brush.

In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses. In one example, God tells the priests to use hyssop together with cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and the blood of a clean bird to sprinkle a person recently healed from a leprosy.

In the verses we read together …David also mentions hyssop: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

David is not referring to physical cleansing—rather, he is asking God to cleanse him spiritually as he confesses his sin.

Psalm 51 refers to David’s illicit affair with Bathsheba and his attempt to try and cover up his sin. He was between the proverbial rock and the hard place.

He had committed two sins that were not forgivable by Jewish law. Adultery and Murder! And there was no provision for atoning for those sins through the sacrificial system. Those sins were punishable by death.

David had no place to go except to throw himself on the mercy of God. David prayed to be cleansed with Hyssop!

Being cleansed by Hyssop had a rich history with the Jewish people. The Hyssop was a plant with a straight stalk. Its leaves and branches were kind of hairy that made it very easy for liquids to adhere to them. It was used in various types of religious services.

The Hyssop branch would be dipped into the sacrificial blood and sprinkled over a person who needed healing. The same procedure was used for the cleansing of mildew. And, it was also used to make people ceremonially clean. (As I mentioned with leprosy)

The most famous event that occurred in Jewish history using the Hyssop was during the first Passover. The Jewish people were still in bondage in Egypt. God had sent nine plagues against Pharaoh and the tenth plague, the plague of death of all the first-born, was about to begin.

God told Moses to tell the people to take a branch of Hyssop, dip it into the blood of the sacrificed lamb, and smear the blood on the top and sides of their doorframe - so the angel of death would “pass-over” the house and not bring death - hence the name Passover!

Being in the depths of despair, David needed his sins to be “passed over.” He needed cleansing! We see David, throughout the reading of our Psalm, seeking, crying out, and praying for - God’s grace and mercy…the only thing that could cleanse him from his sins and restore his broken relationship with God.

Hyssop also appears at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the Roman soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine vinegar on a sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop (John 19:28–30).

This was, in fact, Jesus’ last act before He declared His work on earth finished and gave up His spirit. While the hyssop stalk may have been used for purely practical purposes (i.e., it was long enough to reach to Jesus’ mouth as He hung on the cross),

I find it interesting that that the hyssop plant was chosen. Is it possible that God meant this as a picture of purification, as Jesus bought our forgiveness with His sacrifice? Just as in the Old Testament blood and hyssop purified a defiled person, so Jesus’ shed blood purifies us from the defilement of our sin.

So there is the Hyssop branch with the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorframe that saved the first-born of the Jewish people. The Hyssop branch that was used in religious services for healing and cleansing. The Hyssop branch that David sought after, cried for, and prayed for - to take away his sins.

It was the Hyssop Branch that came to Jesus on the Cross in John 19:29-30. Instead of being saved, healed, or cleansed by the blood of the sacrificed lamb - this Hyssop Branch was filled with the sins of the whole world - and all the despair sin brings to the world.

Jesus, The Lamb of God - took on all of our sins and nailed them to his Cross. Jesus, who knew no sin, became the greatest sinner of all time - by taking on the sins of the world, and all sins of all time - being separated from God as sin does and having to die!

I believe that was the hardest thing Jesus would have to suffer. And, as we see in John’s gospel, there is no hint whatsoever that Jesus would do anything else but offer himself as the perfect sacrifice - so that the world might have the forgiveness of sins, the opportunity to not live in despair, and the freedom to live in God’s grace.

So…Back to Carol’s original question…”What is hyssop?” It’s a plant.

It’s a plant that was used by God to bring healing…to bring cleansing…to give life.

May we, like hyssop, be used by God to bring healing…Can we pray for healing for our fractured nation…and vow to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Can we pray for healing for those who are dealing with sickness…be it body, soul or mind.

May we bring good news of the cleansing power of Jesus blood…which brings a better life now…and eternal life in the future.

”What is hyssop?”

It’s a plant that was used by God to bring healing…to bring cleansing…to give life. Lord…Make us hyssop.

January 8, 2017

Finding Rest When You're Stressed     Matthew 11:28-30

Do you sometimes feel that life happens too fast and that you are always in a hurry? Do you feel overwhelmed with the demands and pressures of life? Do you feel exhausted?

Have you lost your sense of excitement about living every day? Are you discouraged? Are you bombarded by a sense of worry or fear? Do you feel that you are carrying a heavy load and you can't take it anymore?

God invites us to experience peace amidst the mess and chaos in our world. God offers us rest in the midst our burdened, tired, and exhausted daily lives.

Stress is a part of life. The question is NOT why do we experience stress? The question is what do we do when stress happens in our lives?

Stress happens when there are tensions, pressures, or demands, that you feel you are unable to cope with. These pressures, can come from outside you or from inside you.

Our body is designed to experience a healthy dose of stress. Stress is our body's natural or instinctive survival response to cope with physical threat or danger. To cope with emergency situations, the body produces hormones that allow us to experience heightened levels of energy, strength, instant reactions, and clear thinking.

However, too much stress causes damage to our body, mind, and spirit. If our stress button is pressed frequently our body doesn't have a chance to rest and recover, and we can suffer anxiety, depression and health problems.

Study shows that constant triggering of our stress buttons can cause the following:

- sleep disturbance

- digestive upsets

- agitated behavior

- increased heart rate

- general restlessness

- muscle tension

- chest pains

- dizziness

- nervousness

- high blood pressure

- lack of energy

- mental slowness

- confusion

- negative attitudes or thoughts

- constant worry

- difficulty concentrating

- forgetfulness

We need to learn how to experience rest. If all we needed was physical rest we can always take a nap. If we needed only emotional rest, we can always take a vacation. But our ultimate need is spiritual rest.

Where can we find spiritual rest? How can we obtain relief regarding the deepest issues of life at the deepest level of our hearts? For when our soul finds rest our whole life finds rest as well.

Listen again to Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

This passage contains 3 invitations from Jesus that lead to spiritual rest.

1. COME TO CHRIST

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Jesus invites us to come to Him to experience rest that comes from him. He calls people who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens. Do you feel tired or exhausted? Do you feel that you are carrying a heavy load and you feel like you can't take it anymore?

"Come to me “ means to make progress toward Christ, to yield your will, to drop your agenda, turn from yourself toward God.

We need to realize that nothing in this world can give us true spiritual rest, apart from Jesus Christ.

In John 14:27 Jesus says to us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Someone has said: "You can gain a life of rest when you give God the rest of your life."

He promises the gift of rest to those who comes to Him. The sense of relief from burdens is real for all who come to Christ.

Are you looking for rest? Christ says, "Come to me!"

The second way to find rest is to WALK WITH CHRIST. He says:

"Take my yoke upon you and you will find rest"

A yoke is a type of harness that connects a pair of oxen.

Jesus commands we take up His yoke to find rest.

Yokes are made for two, not one. We were not meant to go through life living apart from God. His yoke fits well and is lighter than the one we've been pulling by ourselves.

The idea of a yoke pictures the forward motion of two connected together. You cannot be yoked to Jesus and go your own way anymore. We follow Him and His direction for our life.

To be yoked together means that we cooperate with Him. We are joined to Him.

When we take the yoke of Christ we learn that what we do for Him totally eclipses anything else that we do. When we work for Christ, we have peace that our Master is looking out for us and we worry less about life.

Are you discouraged? Are you bombarded by a sense of worry or fear? Do you feel that you are carrying a heavy load and you feel like you can't take it anymore? Christ invites you to take his yoke to trust His ways instead of your ways. Believe that God knows better.

3. LEARN FROM CHRIST

In verse 29 Jesus says: "Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

That is one of the important elements of the yoke; it keeps us bound together with Him in a place of closeness where we can be taught. You cannot learn anything if you are not around the teacher. Christ desires us to be yoked together with him so He can teach us.

In the yoke we learn from Christ how to be patient in suffering, to walk humbly, to trust implicitly, to love intensely, and to rejoice exceedingly.

Because Jesus is our example, we can learn gentleness -- strength under control. Religious people can be cold and harsh, but not Jesus. His gentleness draws us to Him with our cares and concerns. Wouldn't it be great to have someone you can pour out your deepest thoughts, a gentle person who has the strength to help.

1 Peter 5:7 --- "Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you."

Because Jesus is our example, we can learn humility, selflessness. Some religious people can be arrogant and rude. The very things that turn people off from the church are the very opposite of what Jesus is really like. Hurting, lost and weary people were drawn to Jesus because He cared for them and met their needs.

- Come to Christ

- Walk with Christ

- Learn from Christ

God invites us to experience peace amidst the mess and chaos in our world. God offers us rest amidst our burdened, tired, and exhausted daily lives. Stress is a part of life. The question is NOT why do we experience stress? The question is what do we do when stress happens in our lives?

 Proverbs 31:18 (KJV)
She perceiveth that her merchandise [is] good: her candle goeth not out by night.
Click here to read more!