Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas T.I.M.E.

Merry Christmas Y'all!!!

A few Sundays ago, Tyson closed out C4's 2011 year with a message entitled Christmas T.I.M.E. It was a great end to our year and a challenging message for all of us. Christmas tends to be a stressful time instead of a joyful time. Take a moment to refocus on why we celebrate. We celebrate Christmas because we celebrate Christ. It's all well and good to say Happy Holidays but that's taking the focus off of Christ and generalizing this sweet day. He came for the world...but wait...realize that he came for YOU. Even if you were the only person on the face of the earth who accepted him, he still would have come specifically with you in mind! He came for your past, your addictions, your struggles, your family, your roommates, your coworkers...you. It's the greatest story ever told! He came!

We're going to use TIME to help us remember what Christmas is about.

T - Thankful

Christmas isn't about what is wrapped under the tree...it's a time we have to be thankful.
Matthew 1:21-23 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
He came to save people from their sins. The fact that there is life and breath in you - be thankful.

He is Immanuel - God with us. He doesn't care about your past - he is with you in the good and the bad, when you feel him and when you don't.

Jesus came so that God could dwell among us. Be thankful that death couldn't stop him, the cross couldn't finish him, sin couldn't defeat him, and the grave couldn't hold him! Your God is near and alive!

We have a tendency to just think about the bad things that happen in our lives - but you have been given everything and more than enough. There might be a lot going wrong but you can thank him for who he is and what he has done. The Bible says to come into his gates with thanksgiving! Instead of complaining - be thankful, your attitude and your life will be transformed. Be thankful!

I - Invest
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Invest in other people...inform others of what they mean to us. Encourage one another. We get so caught up in relationships and little things that we don't build one another up. Invest in the lives of the people who are iimportant to you. Tell them what they mean to you.

God's will/plan is for families to be united...you might be the only believer in your family...but that doesn't mean anything...make an effort even if no one else does.

Christ came not to take but to give to you of himself. Mend the broken relationships...speak life...don't take people for granted. It's easy to love those who love you...but it's another level to invest in people who don't like or appreciate you. We are called to live on that level.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-16 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always
Always be joyful...the Joy of the Lord is your strength...so even when you feel weak and you don't think you have the strength to go on...remember that in our weakness he is strong. He will give us the ability to live at the next level...Invest.

M - Meditate
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing
Meditate on God daily...without end. Let him constantly be on your mind and let his presence be the focus of your life. Dwell on him. Your life will change by constant prayer.
2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds
When we pray, we break down walls. There is power in your prayers. If your mind is constantly praying, your life will follow the path of your mind.

This mentality of constant prayer reminds me of my favorite hymn -
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Your mind has to be involved in your meditation/prayer. Until Jesus lives in your heart and your mind, your life will not be on track. Consider what you listen to and what you watch...what you put in your ears and let your eyes see. Those things will infiltrate your mind and heart and take your focus away from God. Meditate on him, fill your thoughts and soul with him...and the rest will fade away.

E - Exalt
Ephesians 1:3-11 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
This promise is spoken over your life. Jesus Christ - the Lamb of God - slain before time - before you. God had a plan before the foundations of the world...he had a plan to show you love, salvation, and unmerited favor.

The Cross was not just to make you new - it was not God's response to sin or an answer to a problem...It was God's act of love toward his people. No greater love will ever be shown than his plan made before the foundations of time was to prove his love to us.  If his love is all you have to hold on to, you should exalt him.

God Almighty was willing to sacrifice his own son to redeem you and give you life and a future. If you can't exalt him for that then I'm not sure if there is any hope that can be given to you.
1 Corinthians 11:23-33 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
On the cross, Jesus body and blood were separated. But it is once again reunited inside of you when you take communion. Our only response is to exalt him for who he is and all he has done for us. This Christmas season, take a moment to remember what it is we are truly celebrating. Be thankful, invest in others, meditate and exalt Him. Jesus really is the reason for the season. Merry Christmas! I hope you have an amazing holiday with friends and family!

Fulfillment...The Best is Yet to Come

December 8th was C4's last Midweek Service of 2011. Tyson spoke on Old Testament concepts and how Jesus fulfilled them in the New Testament.
Acts 2:17-18 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 
If you remember, water is symbolic of God's Spirit...they are both essential for life and they sink to the deepest places. In the last days...it's going to rain down on us. The Bible speaks of 3 feasts...
Deuteronomy 16:16-17 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.
Let me pause for a moment and explain the picture. It's a diagram of Moses' Tabernacle. There are 3 parts to the Tabernacle...The Outer Court which contains the Brasen Altar for sacrifices and the Brasen Laver to cleanse yourself in, The Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies which contains the Arc of the Covenant...the literal dwelling place of God on Earth.

Now, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also called Passover...The Feast of Weeks is also called Pentecost..and the Feast of Booths is also called the Feast of Tabernacles. Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Each feast had a specific meaning and the celebrations grew bigger and better with each feast.

Passover
Exodus 12:21-25 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service.
The Passover is celebrated so that we might never forget that he saved us. If the blood of Jesus - the Lamb...is boldly declared in our lives...death has no hold over us. Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of the Passover. For the first time in history...we can come into the Outer Courts because of the access of the blood. Jesus laid down on the Brasen Altar so that we could be washed clean and could come into his presence. If it wasn't for the blood we would have no access to his presence.

Pentecost
Acts 2:1-6 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
Something significant about Passover and Pentecost is the times. The exact time of the feast of Passover was when Jesus was on the cross and his blood was shed...7 weeks after the feast of Passover, the feast of Pentecost was celebrated. It is no coincidence that 7 weeks after the death of Jesus, the Holy Spirit rested on all in that house. For the first time, humans experienced the literal/tangible presence of God. The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Pentecost.

Jesus brought us into the Outer Courts, the Holy Spirit brought us into the Holy Place. Now Humanity stands at the thresh hold to the the Holy of Holies.

Tabernacles

The feast of Tabernacles was always the biggest and best feast out of the three.
In Moses' Tabernacle, there was a curtain that separated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Only certain people were allowed into the Holy of Holies at certain times of the year...and if they came unprepared with sin in their hearts they would fall immediately dead. The curtain separated us from God's presence(The Arc of the Covenant...where God dwelled). When Jesus died on the cross, there was an earthquake that split the curtain from top to bottom. It was God saying that there is no more separation...he wants to dwell with us.

The fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles will be his return for his church. He is coming again!

In between the feasts of Pentecost and Tabernacles...there was a season called Latter Rain. It is a season of incredible harvest that helped make the feast of Tabernacles so amazing. Jesus will return for us after the spirit falls on us...after Pentecost...after revival. All of creation will know. Check out 2 Peter 3...it tells of his coming. It also reminds us that the reason he hasn't come for us yet is because he wants everyone to know him and repent from their sins. He wants the whole harvest. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few...the rain is coming, are you going to let him use you?

Our generation could be a huge part of what God is doing on this Earth. I fully believe that if we allow God to use us, there will be a huge downpour of God's Spirit upon us. God is doing crazy things in and around us...we've seen him fulfill Passover and Pentecost and there is a day coming when he will pour out his Spirit on us again and he will tabernacle(dwell) with us. The best is yet to come!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Story

Christmas In 50 Words

When Trouble Comes

The most important part of our Christian walk is not going to church or listening to messages...yes that's important...but the most important part is when we make a decision on what to do with what God has spoken...it's the application.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Notice that James doesn't say "if trouble comes" - it's "WHEN" trouble comes, we are to count it all joy. Our lives are filled with seasons of good, great, and trouble. Stop living like everything is wonderful all of the time...God doesn't want us to be unaware and unprepared.

 
When trouble finds me...I'm usually the first to doubt, fear, panic and worry. Those who know me are all nodding their heads emphatically right now...so I know firsthand that when trouble comes, joy is typically the last thing on my mental to-do list. The thing to do is to see the trouble for what it is and overcome it.
Luke 12:22-26 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
Not everything in our lives will be perfect...so don't fret...count everything as joy because it's part of God's plan for your life. Worry doesn't do anything to help you(preaching to myself right now). Have you ever worried so much about a situation that the situation just corrected itself just because you were worried? Um...no. Worry doesn't fix anything...it declares your lack of trust and faith in your Creator. Worry will wreck your life. When trouble comes...the devil wants us confused and worried.

Why should I count it all joy when things go wrong? When my relationships fail, when I fail my classes, when work sucks...? We should count it all joy because we are called to live above the standards of this world. Everyone expects us to fall apart and to worry...but if we are living above the standards the world expects of us...our lives become a witness.

Troubles and problems are evidence of God's plan and future for you - not a sign that he has forgotten about you. If we aren't tested then we won't develop character.
Psalm 105:17-21(KJV) He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance.
The painful moments that hurt the most are the moments that God uses to grow your character. Until the time the word of God came to pass, that same word tested Joseph. He was given a promise from God but he didn't have the character - he wasn't ready. He needed the character so that when he got to the palace, he could stay there.

Our desires are minuscule in comparison to God's plan and purpose for us...his ways are higher. Until you become the person you were created to be, you will be tested. Trouble is preparation for your destiny. If you don't make the best use of the trials, you will never develop the character.

Take a moment and shift perspectives. Instead of complaining, worrying, and being afraid...count it all joy. Keep your eye on His promise and remember that the greater the calling, the greater the reward, the greater the promise...the greater the prize. The more trouble you have, the greater your calling is...and take joy in the fact that God will never allow more than you can handle. In all circumstances, he sees you as strong enough.

Joseph could have said, "God, I thought you promised I would be a Ruler...not left to die, abandoned and rejected by my family. This is the polar opposite place from what you called me to be." But he didn't. When trouble comes, you have 2 options. You can give up or you can count it all joy. Your problems prepare you to handle your calling.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Even in our darkest hour...even in the pit...he will never leave or forsake you. In the midst of all the problems and pain...he is still with us. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He who is faithful to begin a good work is also faithful to see it through to completion. Don't try to carry your burdens on your own. He is there. Think of the most troubling thing in your life and remember that it is all part of God's plan for your life...and count it all joy because God is in control...even when trouble comes.

His Word is Coming

Psalm 105:17-21(KJV) He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance
Have you ever felt like God gave you a dream or a vision? If you're anything like me, when that happens...I go after it 200%...I don't want to wait and end up getting frustrated because it's not working out how I think it should. What this verse tells us is that when God gives us a dream or a vision, until that word(dream or vision) is fulfilled...the same word he gave us will test us.

When we are given a vision...a purpose for our lives...we often try to jump the gun because we want it now. We become impatient. But the journey to the fulfillment of God's purpose for our lives is the process of refinement in our lives. Someone once said that we are a microwave generation for a crock pot God. When God gives you a destiny, until it happens...the very word will try you. Tried is translated from the Hebrew word tsaraph...which means to melt down, refine, test or prove true. The process is part of the word that God gives us.

Every one of us has a calling on our lives. Many are called but few are chosen...so what separates the called from the chosen? It depends on you...those who endure the times of trial and are faithful to the word that God has spoken over their lives. God promised Joseph that he would be a ruler...but Joseph had to endure much before he became a ruler.

We think that the rough patches in life are from the devil...but the Bible says that when we are called, we are tried. It doesn't matter if it is a trial or a temptation or who it comes from, what matters is your response to the trial...whether you are faithful and endure. Too often we are called but we get frustrated and give up before we are ready to fulfill our calling.
Genesis 37:5-10 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”
This is the beginning of the calling God placed on Joseph's life. The dream was made clear in the moment but everyone else rebuked him. God may have given you a calling but the people around you...even your family...they might say that you can't do it.

If you continue on in his story, Joseph's family tried to kill him, they rejected him, they turned and left him to die. In that moment, he could believe that God's word is true and coming and stand on that knowledge or he could have given up when he was left in the pit to die. In the midst of the low, Joseph still turned to God. Then, just when he thought it was all over and he was being rescued...he was sold into slavery! He could have given up then too...but he knew God. He followed and trusted in God anyway. He became the chief servant for Potiphar, things were looking up for Joseph...and then he landed in jail! It seemed like nothing was going right for Joseph. Every time things began to turn in the right direction, the rug got pulled from under him.
 
If it were me, I would have said, "God has forsaken and failed me!", but in reality...Joseph was given a purpose and until the time came when he was to fulfill that purpose...he was tried. Joseph said I'll follow you anyway...he was faithful even when it didn't look like there was hope. Then...while still in jail, Joseph interprets a dream for a prison-mate who later went to Pharaoh and told him about Joseph. Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh's dream and was released from prison.
 
Joseph passed every test...from being rejected to thrown into a pit, from slavery to being a servant, from jail with no prospects....to the 2nd in command to Pharaoh. God was with Joseph the entire time. Joseph was called to be a ruler...but unlike many of us, he understood that God had to make him a King before he could handle a kingdom. He wasn't ready to be a ruler when the word was given to him...he had to grow and endure many trials in order to become the Ruler that God wanted him to be.
 
The problems in your life are not a sign that God has forgotten you - they are evidence of God's plan for your life. Problems don't always come from the devil...they come into our lives to build our character, substance and faith. How you handle your prison...your pit...your rejection...determines whether or not you see the palace.
 
We want to arrive...we want the destination, the end result...but if He gave it to us now, we wouldn't be able to handle it. Count it all joy...it's part of the process.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Remember, it will not last forever. God's plan is for you to overcome. If you give up now, you will never see the palace...you will never fulfill the calling God has on your life! Don't give up on your problems, your purpose, your faith or your God. God sees you as a strong person if he trusts you with adversity.

If you go to the gym every day for 6 months and tell your trainer that in 6 months you want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger but you only bench the bar and not add resistance...then in 6 months you will look exactly the same as you do right now. Resistance builds strength. God allows resistance so that you will be able to handle the kingdom he has for you.

Remember when you are in the pit...that his name is Immanuel and he is with you always. Don't give up. His word is coming!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Posture of our Hearts

We've started a new series at CrossWay called SING...going through some of the Psalms. A few Sundays ago, Joe Lechner did an incredible message on Psalm 136. It was a very appropriate message following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving isn't just about food or family. It's about being thankful...but more than that...it's the posture of our hearts...a posture that shouldn't change just for one day. (Colossians 2:7, Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Psalm 136 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever; and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever; with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever; and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever; and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever; a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever. It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.
We are called to thank him always and for everything. Thanklessness is no okay...it's no small thing to be thankless. We don't naturally lean towards thankfulness, we tend to lean towards complaining. None of us are as thankful as we could or should be or near as thankful as scripture has called us to be.

When we read Psalm 136 we see a Command to Thankfulness in verses 1-3 and verse 26...the Object of our thankfulness in verses 1-7, 10, 13, 16, 17, and 26...and the reason for thankfulness throughout the passage.

The Command:
Give Thanks.
This is a call for us to give thanks...it's not an option, a choice, or an idea. People of God, give thanks. It is always appropriate for us to give thanks, whether we feel like it or not.

The Object:
We aren't just being thankful for thankfulness' sake. God is the object of our thanks. There is only one to whom our thanks is given...God. He receives our thanks and it is to him that we should be continually thankful.

Now...the reason for our thanks.
What is the reason?
Verse 1: For He is Good! - that's the fundamental reason for our thanks. He is the Lord, Yahweh, the God of Gods, Lord of Lords, Adonai, Ruler of Rulers...he's in a league all by himself. He is worthy of all praise, glory, honor, fear, reverence and thanks.

Many of you have seen The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. In one scene, Lucy asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe and Mr. Beaver responds: "Of course he isn't safe... but... he's GOOD... He's the King." The one to whom we give thanks, the amazing, mind-blowing thing about him is that he is good. Give thanks - he is good.
He is good beyond all others: indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people. - Charles Spurgeon
Out of his goodness flows a truth about God. It is repeated 26 times in Psalm 136..."His steadfast love endures forever." Because he is good he loves us like he does. If he wasn't good, he wouldn't love us like he does. His goodness and love cannot be separated.

Give thanks to the Lord - Why? - because he is good - How do I know? - his steadfast love endures forever.

Hesed is a specific love that God has for us. It represents his faithfulness, his covenant, it is unwavering, it is loyal, it has no end or interruption. We see it in God as our Creator, Savior and Friend.

God proves his steadfast love as Creator in verses 4-9. Creation is a work of the steadfast love of a good God...creation is no accident. Remember in Genesis 1...God saw that it was good. When we see and experience creation, we should praise him for his manifestation of his steadfast love.

God has given us a suitable place to live on Earth. NASA keeps searching for other life and other places that could support human life...and they've come up with nothing. In the vast expanse of the universe...God has provided everything precisely how we need it to live. Creation is filled with expressions of God's love, power, wisdom, understanding, care, and goodness.

God proves his steadfast love as our Savior in verses 10-22. Read through verses 10-22 without the refrain...it reads something like this:
Give thanks… to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt – and brought Israel out from among them – with a strong hand and an outstretched arm – who divided the Red Sea in two – and made Israel to pass the midst of it – but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea – who led his people through the wilderness – who struck down great kings – and killed mighty kings – Sihon, king of the Amorites – Og, king of Bashan – and gave their land as a heritage – a heritage to Israel his servant… and all of it an expression of his steadfast love which endures forever.

Exodus is the great salvation of the Old Testament. The Exodus meant in the Old Testament what the Cross means in the New Testament. Inject the gospel into Psalm 136...it might read something like this.
Give thanks… to him who struck down his Son on Calvary – and brought his people out from their sin – with a strong hand and a bloody cross – who tore the curtain of the temple in two – and made a way for us to pass through – and overthrew Satan and his hosts at the cross – and who leads his people into salvation – and who will strike down all their enemies - and finally lead them home as possession forever... for his steadfast love endures forever.

Salvation is the greatest pledge, the loudest statement, and the undying proof of his steadfast love.
1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Our salvation is the assurance we have of his love. We are forgiven, redeemed, and adopted. If we have his salvation, we have his love. If we have his love, we have Him. If we have Him, we have everything.

Psalm 136 is not the only place that speaks of his steadfast love...read Psalm 63(Because your steadfast love is better than life,my lips will praise you.) or Romans 8. Should my life be taken, I still will live in him and can give thanks. Because he is my Savior, he is my victor! When he fights, he wins. Sihon, Og, Satan, Sin...it doesn't matter, he still and always will win.

In his presence is our heritage. It will be ours one day. We shouldn't wait until then to thank him...thanks should be given now.
2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
We get grace, he gets glory...through our thanks.
And it's a particular kind of gratitude. There is nothing generic about it. It is thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, who came to save his people from their sins. This is the kind of thanksgiving that the apostle is aiming for. The kind that no holiday can manufacture. While we do have some writings from the early pilgrims, we don't really know the full details of the "thankfulness" present when the original attendees huddled around that now-famous meal. Were their hearts inclined to God in some vague sense? Did they call him Providence or Jesus? Were they just glad to have some food? We don't know, and for our purposes it doesn't really matter. But what does matter is how we will huddle around our meal tomorrow. Here's a plea that we look along the beams of delicious turkey and good football to see Jesus, crucified for us, dead and buried for us, raised for us on the third day. For his grace has been extended to us. We've heard the good news. Paul (or one of the apostles) told someone who told someone who told someone. And eventually one of these "someones" told us. This grace has extended to "more and more people." It has extended to you and me. So in the midst of our many thanksgivings, may we be mainly thankful for that — for Jesus and all that he is for us. And in so doing, may we fulfill Paul's goal, the increase of thanksgiving, to the glory of God. - Jonathan Parnell(Desiring God, Thanksgiving to the Glory of God)
Lastly, God proves his steadfast love as our Friend(verses 23-26). The Psalm ends on a personal note. He remembered us and rescued us. It helps us see it for past generations and for us in the here and now. We are beneficiaries. We were dead in sin, objects of wrath, slaves of the devil, hating the light, blind, hard hearted, serving the created not the Creator, scattered and wandering, hostile, separated, enemies...But...he has remembered us. He has rescued us. He is good. Out of his love we are no longer enemies...we are friends.
John 15:9,13-14 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
D.A. Carson says so accurately, "If one measures friendship strictly on the basis of who loves most, guilty sinners can find no better and truer friend than in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Son whom He has sent."
And we cannot ask for more than that. God is good. His steadfast love endures forever. All we can do is be thankful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just As I Am

Just As I Am
by Charlotte Elliott

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be thine, yea thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am - of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holy Spirit

2 Corinthians 3:1-3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
We are all familiar with the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but we as a church tend to talk about the Spirit in the context of a little box, if we mention him at all. We see the Holy Spirit as this super mystical figure that we tend to just accept as being present because he’s hard to explain. We just put a giant blinking neon question mark on a little box that we put the Holy Spirit into and forget about it; let it collect dust in the back of our minds.

The crazy thing is though, that the Spirit is the one who really guides our lives!

Verse 3 says that our purpose is not written with pen and ink on paper, but on the human heart.

The Holy Spirit guides us in truth with a still small voice in our hearts. Everyone is given a conscience, the little part that speaks into the depths of our souls about right and wrong. What I think is really cool is that we, as Christians, can trust that little voice is the Holy Spirit that is guiding us in truth, always truth, which is something that is exceptional in the midst of the lies and loopholes that we are faced with day in and day out.
1 Corinthians 2:9-12 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
The secrets of God are revealed through the Spirit of God! (The things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard!) God does this because he wants a genuine living relationship with us, for us to seek him out (the secret things of God’s personality).

If there’s a time when we get bored or stagnant with God and the things he’s done, we need to wake up! I mean, we’re talking creator of the universe, all powerful and perfect, ultimate judgment, yet still loves us anyways God! And we get bored with that? Seriously?

We will be spending an eternity just understanding and praising God, but we can’t wait until we get to heaven to start seeking him. God will say “depart from me, for I never KNEW you”.

Isn’t it great that He has given us His Spirit so that we can get to know Him?

If we seek Him, we will find all his secrets. Those who know God, seek Him in Spirit and in truth, not in the physical world. We will know things about God that others will never know until the afterlife, until it’s too late.
Romans 8:14 By the Holy Spirit, we are made sons and daughters of the living God, joint heirs with Christ.
Even though we haven’t seen or heard Him, the Spirit has written on our hearts and assured us that God is our Abba Father.

Now all these things are true for as many as are LED by Spirit. It doesn’t mean they are true for everybody. If we are going to be led, we have to seek Him and pursue Him. A Christian is a FOLLOWER of Christ.

How do you know that you love God? Do you strive to follow His commandments or do you follow your own selfish desires? Do you want your own way more than you want God’s?

Humble yourself so that you can exalt God.

This is not a legalistic gospel. You are not supposed to follow the commandments because you “have to”. It’s about your heart.

You are suppose to follow them because you love God and want to follow and be right with Him.

Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Another function of the Spirit is to convict us of our sins against God; not to condemn us, but to reconcile us back to Him.

The flesh is desperately wicked. We want a relationship with God, but we want our own sinful patterns too.

The Spirit changes the desires of our hearts, not us (which just happens to be yet another function for those of you keeping track at home). He wants to give us life far above anything we could ever accomplish on our own.

Verse 10 uses the words create and renew.

CREATE (take nothing and make something) within me a clean heart and RENEW a right spirit (We might have started out with zeal and fallen along the way.).

Verse 11 tells us that the Spirit can leave if you don’t pursue Him or if you leave it first.

My favorite thing and what I just think is really cool is that the Holy Spirit is given without measure. It’s not like God rations out His Spirit. It is given abundantly.

Jesus did the miraculous not because He was God’s Son (He gave that up when He came to Earth), He did it through the Holy Spirit that was upon Him without measure.

The same Spirit that was with Jesus and helped Him do the miraculous is the same Spirit that lives inside of us just as abundantly as it was with Jesus two thousand years ago. There really is nothing that we cannot do for God and the advancement of the gospel. So there should be nothing holding us back from anything.

We should dream just as big as we can and then hand over those dreams to someone who really cares about what we’re doing, we need to hand everything over to God and let Him work through us with His Spirit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sin, Repent, Repeat...*not the definition of grace*

Today, we are a generation and a nation of privilege. We are also a generation of people who preach one thing and yet live another. We are constantly misusing God's mercy. We sin...we repent from our sin...then we repeat the process...this is not what God's grace was intended for.

Have you ever been told an outrageous or ridiculous story so many times that you began to believe it? If you can't think of one I'll help you out a little...SANTA...The Tooth Fairy...The Easter Bunny...We've all believed a crazy story just because everyone else believes it. The modern church tells people that God's grace is enough for us to sin, repent, and repeat.
Romans 5:1-21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
People think it's okay to accept that it is okay to sin, repent, repeat. Sin introduced humanity to death. One sin. We tend to put that first sin on a whole other level but the sin of the apple is no different than our sin. The wages of that sin and the wages of our sin is still death and hell. Sin brings separation from God. There is nothing okay about sin, repent, repeat. It's not God's plan for you. Sometimes we'll get into a rut where we see ourselves as the worst of sinners...we can't see why or how God loves us...but even in that, it's still not okay. Sin brings eternal damnation to our lives. The sin of one man screwed up all of humanity...sin is a BIG DEAL.
Ezekiel 18:23-32 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die. "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live."
Sin has the same consequence for a regular sinner as it does a saint. The end result of sin is the same for the world and the church. Having the title of Christian doesn't make it okay to sin now. You might have God on your side but you still have to fight the battle. If a righteous man becomes like the sinner in his lifestyle then he will suffer the same consequence as the sinner. Just because you prayed a prayer it doesn't give you license to do what you want and say that God's grace is sufficient. Think about the woman at the well...he didn't just forgive her sins he told her to "go and sin no more". We have to make an effort. We cannot live a lifestyle of sin...knowing what God says and doing the opposite.
Hebrews 10:26-39 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
He will judge his people. This is a sobering reality to hear God address his people...those who were born again. When we sin we trample on Jesus and his blood. We cannot make excuses for our sin by saying, "His mercy is new every morning" or "His grace is sufficient". We constantly reject him and his commandments to choose our own way. What is a Christian supposed to do? We are supposed to follow Christ...to be a follower of him and not doing our own thing.

Jesus was without sin. He was God but also man...he faced the same temptations and desires and struggles...he dealt with those just as we do...but the difference is that he remained blameless. He is not just our Savior but our example. He showed us how we are to live our lives and that we can overcome our struggles and temptations. We have no excuse to sin.

If you keep repeating...you will never move in your life. If you follow your flesh and your feelings you will end where they lead...hell. Jesus overcame sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is alive and he empowers us to overcome sin and he gives us holy desires.
Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Our sin doesn't reveal a physical problem, it reveals a heart problem. When we sin we are saying "I knew better...but I wanted my own way instead." Who are we to go up against God? God is sovereign...we will fail every single time. He wants us to be free of sin so that instead of worldly things, we will be addicted to him and in love with him.
Romans 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Stop falling in love with the creation and fall in love with the Creator! Stop focusing on what was made and love the one who made it! You were created to go deeper than a cheap counterfeit!
Romans 1:26-2:8(NLT) That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness.
Enough said.
1 John 2:1-6 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Not everyone who calls themselves Christians are believers. So how do you know? Keep his commandments. In a marriage relationship, if a woman says "I love you" and then runs off...the man is crushed...he says "I thought you loved me." She says, "Oh, I do." If she loved him, she would only do good to him. When we sin it's not one consequence it's infinite. If you really do love God then be true to him. If you sin, repent, repeat then you are just like the woman saying, "I love you God" and then running out on him. We will be judged for our actions...we have to give an account.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

He took our place. His blood and his grace IS enough. He didn't free you from sin so that you can go back. He freed you once and forever. He didn't give you license to go back to your sin. That's where the Holy Spirit comes in.
Luke 3:16 John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The Holy Spirit can often be an after-thought to us. We cannot separate him from God though...he doesn't just empower us...he changes the desires of our heart. He separates the flesh and the spirit...the old and the new. The bible says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." That desire is not a natural desire...we don't naturally hunger for righteousness. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to hunger. He fills the void in our lives. You can do your best but even that is not good enough...remember that his strength is made perfect in our weakness. Lay down your pride and realize that you can't do it...when you realize that, the Holy Spirit will be able to come and guide you.

The Tough Side

One of my favorite things it to see young men taking a stand for their faith and stepping up into leadership positions. I had the joy of seeing this happen last Tuesday at the weekly CRU meeting. My friend Logan Canipe taught a wonderful message on the tough side of God. Following up two messages on God's love and God's mercy, Logan wanted to remind us that there is another side of God.

God is our father...and if my dad is like most, then he's fun and loving and caring...but he's also stern. He has authority over me. God is no different. He loves us, pours out his grace and mercy upon us...but he is also our judge. He is a just God. There are several examples of God's justice and authority exercised throughout scripture.

No one ever spoke like Jesus did
John Piper in his book Seeing and Savoring the Gospel says this: "We need to listen to the stunning severity of Jesus’ mercy. It caused people to marvel in his own day. Even his enemies admitted that he was amazingly indifferent to the approval of others.
Jesus didn't care what people thought of him because what he spoke was truth.
Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness."
This verse was spoken to religious people. He called them out...used very harsh language. So what is he saying? Many Christians are living lives that are outwardly beautiful but they are spiritually dead. They are doing all the right things but their hearts are not in the right place. He sees right through us. Hypocrites! The exclamation point makes me think that he was raising his voice...it makes me want to pay attention to what he means by this. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another.
Matthew 23:2-3,5-7 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice...They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
Whatever you are most concerned about is derived from what your heart is most concerned about. Unless your heart is concerned about the things of God, you are spiritually dead and acting as a hypocrite. Nothing we can do on our own will bring us life...we have to dive into God with everything we've got...heart, mind, life. What does your heart desire most?

His justice is also shown when it comes to hell. Hell is a severe place of punishment. It was not meant for us but when we sinned, that was the just punishment for our sin. God could have sent us all there and he would have done nothing wrong...but he chose instead to send his own Son to die so that we wouldn't have to experience the severity of the consequence of our sin.
Matthew 13:47-50 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is a fiery furnace...eternal torment. Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else in the Bible....he is concerned with our eternal well-being. God will judge our hearts and lives when we die. If you aren't all-in, then his just punishment is eternal separation and division. Sin makes us spiritually dead. If we are spiritually dead then we can't experience eternal life.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A wage is something earned...we have earned the punishment for our sin which is dead and eternal separation. We were all headed for hell but then Jesus did something radical...he died.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Because he died, we are called to repent and believe. Not just that but we are called to rejoice because we are justified. God is merciful, God is good, God is loving. He is also just and has all authority over everything. Our only response to him should be complete obedience and praise.
Hebrews 12:5-14 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Heaven's Release

Last Sunday I visited CrossPoint Worship Center where Pastor Theron leads. You might remember reading about him last month in the post about Feet. He did an excellent message on Sunday that fit right in with the Thanksgiving holiday.
Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Thanksgiving is more than a holiday...it's more than turkey and stuffing...it's a lifestyle. We are thankful to someone.
Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Anyone can say "Thank You" but those are just words. Thanksgiving is about our heart. It's not about what we have in our hand...our stuff...things don't make you a grateful person. Some people have nothing but they are the most thankful people you'll ever meet. Thankfulness is a condition of your heart.
Mark 4:3-9,13-20 "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
This parable compares our hearts to soil and the word to seed. The condition of our heart may or may not be conducive to bearing fruit.
Isaiah 55:10-13 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
Our heart condition determines the outcome of the word in our lives. Things in our life compete for attention(thorns) and smother the seed. Our hearts may be hard and unreceptive...it will not bring forth joy but an ungrateful spirit. Do you have a thankful or an unthankful heart?
2 Timothy 3:1-2 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy
An ungrateful heart is a complaining spirit. Are your thoughts full of joy and thankfulness or are they grouchy and ungrateful? Israel had an ungrateful spirit. God had delivered them out of Egypt and slavery and abuse...but they complained because they wanted to taste the food...they wanted a taste of the world. They magnified the past but forgot that they were in bondage. They would rather go into slavery to have a certain type of food than follow God.

We constantly desire 100% out of life. Anything less and we are not satisfied. The thing is, because this world is tainted by sin...we will never get 100%. We have to learn to be happy with what we have. Don't expect 100% from an imperfect world and sinful people. There's something called the 80/20 rule. We get 80% out of life/relationships...but we are so focused on the 20% that we don't have that we forget what we do have. People will leave the 80% they have to go after the 20%. It applies in work, marriages, and all other aspects of life. We need to learn to focus on what we have...not what we don't have.

We are inflicted with a wrong spirit. We need a new heart to be able to receive what God wants to release into our lives.
Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
With. Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving(the heart condition, not the holiday) will bring a release in your life. When you release thanksgiving into your life...Heaven releases power into you. Think about when Lazarus died...Jesus stopped and offered up a prayer of thanks to God. After expressing his thankfulness...Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Now remember when Jesus fed the crowd? There were only 5 loaves and 2 fish...but after they prayed and thanked God for the food...it was enough to feed the crowd with much left over.  So often, all we do is complain and tell God just how bad things are...but he already knows...so have faith and thank him for the good and the bad in your life. He will give you the power to walk through.
 
Thankfulness also brings a release of peace in your life. Pastor Theron told the story of his sister praying over the meal and only thanking God for the food she liked. We cannot be selective in our thanks...we must give thanks for everything...including the green beans(or whatever it is in your life that you don't like). There are far greater things to be thankful for than things of this world. The woman who anointed Jesus feet and washed them with her tears had much more to be thankful for than just "things". She was forgiven. The more you are forgiven for, the more you should be thankful for. This woman was thankful for forgiveness.
 
God wants to release his power and peace into our lives but he requires more of us. He won't just snap his finger and save us. Read John 8...the story of the adulterous woman...the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus, no matter his answer. Jesus was slow to respond: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." The Bible clearly says:
Leviticus 20:10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
What gave Jesus the right to send her home in peace? Jesus didn't pick up a stone...even though he was the only one qualified to punish her...because he was on his way to Calvary to die in her place. We are all guilty but we don't have to die or suffer because Jesus became our substitute. The Prince of Peace gave us his peace. He took our guilt.
 
Why are we thankful? Not because of the things we have...but because Jesus is our substitute. He has taken our guilt and given us his righteousness.  Thank God there was ONE without sin. Heaven released Jesus...the greatest gift of all...so that we could live.
 
Not only does he release to us power and peace...but he releases to us his presence. He inhabits in the praise of his people...all the more reason to be thankful.
 
Holy Spirit
by Bryan and Katie Torwalt
 
There is nothing worth more
That will ever come close
Nothing can compare
You're our Living Hope
Your Presence

I've tasted and I've seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone

Your presence Lord

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord

Your presence Lord

There is nothing worth more
That will ever come close
You are our Living Hope

Your presence Lord

I've tasted and I've seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart is set free
And my shame is undone

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord
(Repeat)

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness
(Repeat)

Lord
Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guilty and Free

Guilt. Shame. We've all felt it and we all deal with it on a regular basis. Maybe it's something that happened a long time ago...maybe it's something that happened 5 minutes ago. Whenever it happened, whatever it was...we all know the dark cloud of guilt over our lives. As Christians, our lives are supposed to be characterized by joy and light not guilt and shame. I've been a Christian for 13 years now and it's something I still do battle with. Sometimes looking at your spiritual life and trying to grow and abide seems nearly impossible when guilt is overshadowing everything. But no matter how heavy your shame...there is hope.
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Before you became a Christian...whether you were a church kid or just recently met Christ...your lifestyle was characterized by sin. Maybe now that you are a Christian...or maybe now that you're thinking about becoming a Christian...you feel like you can't or shouldn't be because your past still defines you. You feel like you can't move forward because you are so aware of where and how you've failed that you don't have faith to follow God.

There is a feeling of regret towards our past sin. So much so that we become more and more aware of our past especially when surrounded by fellow Christians/ministry people. We feel like we are out of place...like everyone else is more Christ-like or a better disciple. Let me define disciple for you...a disciple is someone who used to live for themselves but now lives for Jesus. There is a transformation that takes place. You used to live for your own pleasure and gain but if you are now living for God then you have been transformed.

You might be thinking 'That's a great definition but it doesn't help me get rid of this feeling.' I get that...I understand, I really do. Even though you aren't living for yourself anymore, your past still weighs on you. When you try to approach God and abide in him...you feel like your past still haunts you. The memories, the sin, the parties, the brokenness, the sexual sin, the reputation...it all leaves you reluctant to go to Him and be used by Him. Guilt keeps people from faith...from being used.

Our guilt is the result of living selfishly. Jesus died for every single person who is guilty...he died for all of us, for our sin, for our past, and for our shame. As a result, we have all died. The penalty for our past, our sins, and our rebellion is death. Christ died for us and all those who put their trust in him have died along with him. We used to live for ourselves but because we have put our faith in Christ, we have died to ourselves...our desires and we have been transformed into a people who live our lives for God.

We were born into a sinful state. We didn't have to be taught to live for ourselves or run after the things of this world. Think about kids...you don't have to teach kids to complain...they do that naturally. Jesus came while we were still stuck in that sinful state of living for ourselves and he died so that we could live for him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus took our sin and bore the wrath that our sin deserved so that we could have his righteousness.
Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall become like wool."
When our sins were paid for we received a new purpose for our lives. We are called to live for him. We can not continue to live selfishly if we are going to live for God. Be "others-focused", be kingdom-minded...these are places to occupy your mind to help you live for God rather than yourself.

If we are Christians, we no longer regard Christ as just a human being...he is our Savior and our King. Before we knew Jesus personally, he was just another person in a history book. We didn't feel him or know the intense weight of who he is or have a desire to live for him. When we become Christians, our view of Christ changes and out of that change, our view of the people around us changes as well.  Are your friendships and relationships all about you and what you gain from them? Your relationships should be about Christ and what the people around you do with Christ. You are to love them as Christ loves you. View the people around you as souls that will spend eternity somewhere. We are to be ambassadors for him...to tell people how we went from being self-centered to Jesus-centered because of what he did on the cross for us.

That's all well and good but it doesn't exactly deal with that gloomy cloud hanging over your head. You love God, you know God and you're trying to grow...but it doesn't find traction in your life. You don't think your life is any different other than not doing 'that stuff' anymore. You don't feel connected or like you can fulfill that purpose because you can't get over your shame and what you did.

Stop. Hold that thought. Or actually...let that thought go. Know who you are in Christ and what happened when you were saved. You have a new identity! You were transformed, your perspective is different. You are a new creation!

Do you see yourself as a new creation or do you see the old you that doesn't seem to have changed?  If you're looking for a huge change in personality to make it obvious to you then you are looking in the wrong place. It's not about a personality change (although that does happen for some people)...you are still going to be you...but you are now you in Christ rather than just you. If that makes any sense. You are a new creation, you are different...you have a clean slate...a fresh start. Your old, selfish, self-centered person is gone and you have a new heart and new life in Christ.

We take our past and guilt and assume that God looks at us as completely guilty. But when our identity is now found in Christ, he sees us as he sees Christ...righteous. He doesn't deal with you based on what you've done. Trust me. If he did that, we'd all be dead. But he is good and sent his son so that we could live a new life for him. We can come to Jesus free of guilt because his righteousness is ours. Your old life is gone...what you did is gone. Push it away...continually, in faith put on your new identity. Leave all of your old life behind...all the activities...but all of the guilt too. Trust God...trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. The old you, trying to do right is gone...the new you has a new affection and love for God and new power through the Holy Spirit.

We died when we became Christians. We were born again...just like you age physically, you also age spiritually...we have to grow into that maturity. Even though I'm 20 years old, I've only been a Christian for 13 years. Your life has now been fundamentally changed...God wants to use you. Satan will try to tell you that you are defined by your past...what you used to do, love and be...but if your faith is in Christ then you are a new creation.

Go to him based off what HE has done and who you are NOW and not what You did and who You used to be. Don't let condemnation shrink away from letting him use you. He dealt with your guilt and shame already...don't try to take it back from him. You are free because of what Jesus did on the cross. Let go of everything that you are holding onto because when you cling to him there is no room for guilt.

Climb
by Will Reagan

I lean not on my own understanding
My life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven

I give it all to You God
Trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me

There's nothing I hold on to
There's nothing I hold on to
There's nothing I hold on to
There's nothing I hold on to

I will cimb this mountain with my hands wide open
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open

There's nothing I hold on to