7/12 What’s Your Story series: Where does God’s Forgiveness fit into Your Story?
Genesis 33: 1-20
Do Over! How many times have we said or thought that? I want a do over. In other words, I’m really not satisfied with the outcome here, I want to do it over. How about those situations where it was you that was hurt by words or actions from another where you feel the pain, emotionally hurting, wanting for what once was between you and them. It’s like the example Pastor George used with our young people, we want that white board, to use the eraser and wipe it away. A do over in a sense so as not to hurt or be hurt in our relationship with another.
What about your story… where does God’s forgiveness fit into it? How is God’s forgiveness a part of it? We know that we are to ask for forgiveness, to confess our wrong and God will forgive us, it’s no more, he wipes it away. Well that seems pretty easy to do, all I need to do is confess it to God and I know he will forgive me. God’s forgiveness given to me is easy. But take a moment and give some thought to just how easy it actually was for God, Christ crucified, the pain and suffering he endured so our sins are forgiven. We can’t imagine that kind of pain. And then how easy it should be for us to show that same kind of forgiveness between us and another that we have wronged or who has wronged us, but it really isn’t. The pain of forgiveness. It really isn’t that easy. What would your story tell?
This week we are looking at forgiveness. The scripture in Genesis 33:1-20 is an account of Jacob wanting to reconcile the relationship with his brother Esau. To seek forgiveness, to find favor with his brother. When Jacob saw his brother running towards him his first reaction was trouble ahead. Instead he experienced forgiveness before he could even ask his brother Esau to forgive him. Verse 4 reads “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Esau wept because of the love for his brother, Jacob wept too because of the love for his brother, but also, he is relieved because he deserved judgement in steeling the birthright so many years ago. Verse 10 reads “Jacob said, ‘No, please, if I have found favor in your sight (experiencing Esau’s forgiveness), then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.” As Pastor George said, when we receive forgiveness, it’s something beautiful! When you experience forgiveness, you see God’s face. Imagine what the interaction in heaven will be like between us and God from receiving his forgiveness.
This week we dug deeper into what true forgiveness means. Looking at The Power of Forgiveness by Joni Ortlund she listed some essential elements. 1. Go to Christ. Take your pain, your suffering to him. Because he suffered, our suffering is important to him. Jesus still bears the marks of his suffering.
2. Go to The Word. God’s word says in Romans 12:19 “Never avenge yourself but leave room for God. It is mine to avenge, I will repay says the Lord.” My response is to forgive and give it to Jesus – don’t be the judge. Every time a person forgives the gospel spreads a little further, says Joni. She shares that being defensive we go on the offense of protecting “me”. We are to remember that God’s love for us continually covers our own sins. We experience His Grace and Forgiveness every day.
Chuck Swindoll in his illustration on Forgiveness & Bitterness said that these two cannot co-exist. Without the first you’ll live through life in the second. Bitterness is a dangerous germ in our memory bank. Bitterness is anger turned inward. Like we heard Sunday, anger, frustration, and resentment will build up like lava. Sooner or later that volcano of emotions at some point is going to erupt.
Chuck Swindoll referenced the parable in Matthew 18. A man had a debt. The Master forgave the man of his debt. It continues on to read how a servant owed this man money. The man demanded payment, but the servant could not pay, so the man had him put in prison until his debt was paid to him. When the Master heard what this man had done, continuing in verse 34 it reads “… in anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.” This is how it is explained. The man was forgiven by the Master, his debt was paid, but the man shows no mercy to the servant who owed him money. The Master then had the man put into a prison so to speak. In un-forgiveness we are held hostage. As long as we chose not to forgive, we are held in prison, held hostage. Our freedom is in Christ. It’s doing as Christ has done for us that we find freedom. In love, we forgive from the heart. Instead, in our unwillingness to forgive someone from our heart, we are continually held hostage, in a sense tortured for our stubbornness to not forgive.
Fred Zaspel presented Forgiving as Forgiven at a conference that we viewed in RNM this week too. He also used the passage in Matthew 18 from which he offered 3 points. #1 Goal of Forgiveness – Reconciliation. In Christ, God has reconciled us to himself. Making peace with God, with friends. In reconciling fellowship, you gained your brother. We are to do as Christ does for us, …iniquities I will remember no more. #2 Cost of Forgiveness – forgiveness demands substitutional payment of the debt. Each of us stands before God with an unpayable debt. God and Grace pays the debit. To forgive we have to absorb the loss and pay the debt ourselves, forgiveness from the heart. #3 The Demand of Forgiveness – forgiveness demands yet more forgiveness. There is to be no limit on forgiveness to our brother. Where would we be if God limits on forgiveness? Fred went on to say, compared to the immeasurable debt we have been forgiven, how small are our brothers’ sins against us? Our Lord is not asking us to renounce a right, the Kingdom is about mercy, this is the demand!
Fred used a mind picture of a wooden bridge over the great chasm that divides us from God. And that bridge being Christ who laid down his life so that we can live and know God. Pastor George referenced Romans 5:1 …declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God. One great incentive to continued fellowship with one another is that in Ephesians 4:32 which Pastor George also referenced Sunday says …forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. This says that sin cannot enter God’s realm. He will not have unforgiving servants in his kingdom. Each time we chose not to forgive, it’s like removing a wooden plank in the bridge that we must cross. Fred Zaspel said, don’t ruin the bridge over which you must pass. Forgiveness, we must deal with it in our hearts. So Where does God’s Forgiveness fit into your story? Have you experienced the face of God through forgiveness?
Larry and Darlene
7/5 Our Journey to Freedom, My Journey with Jesus
Sunday’s message by Matt Busekrus in the Summer Series – When Caring is Sharing
The weekend encompassed a celebration of our freedom we have by living in these United States of America. As Matt stated Sunday, “As Americans we love our freedom and we love to celebrate our freedom. We enjoy living, working, playing as we chose or are able to do. Matt talked with the young people about the best choices we make, with the freedom we have. He shared that God tells us that we are free to make choices every day. That’s why faith in God is a choice that we make. It’s not forced on us. It’s not a duty, nor a necessary step to adulthood, but a choice that we make individually.
Matt shared his story of his faith journey with us. His faith was a learned faith as he was introduced into it by a friend and enriched through a pastor friend and personal study. We each have our own faith story. And we are each at different stages in our faith story. Sunday being the day after the 4th of July Matt talked of his freedom because of his journey with Jesus. He shared that 1. God loves us and adopts us into his family 2. Jesus has purchased our freedoms through his death on the cross and 3. We are called to use our freedom to serve other’s in love.
In our going deeper study through RNM we viewed and examined ourselves and our thinking on this freedom in Christ. We indeed are free in Christ, but then why are we sometimes burdened with shame, remorse, hypocrisy, depression, despair, and this list can go on and on and on. Chuck Swindoll in his illustration of The Thrill of Freedom stated the Christians still battle with the entangling effects of sin. We are sinful creatures by nature and will continue to be throughout all of life. When we are trapped by sin, we are held back from real life. Chuck says, we have this thrill of freedom, the excitement of freedom, in Christ.
Steps to Freedom in Christ by Steve Goss and Neil Anderson, says it’s about getting past the stuff that is holding you back. Those personal and spiritual conflicts, by placing trust in Jesus, believing in your heart, and confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Got Freedom by Michael Youssef is a study in the Book of Galatians. In his series he talks also about the Freedom in Christ alone, freedom not to sin. Dr. Youssef says that only Jesus can give you that power to spend every waking moment in obedience to Him.
It’s a choice that we make for ourselves. A choice to accept God’s offer into his family. In Steps to Freedom in Christ we heard of who we are in Jesus. Of how he meets our needs, we are children of God, our identity is in him. We are accepted, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven of all our sins, free from condemnation, we cannot be separated from the love of God – I am a citizen of heaven. The evil one cannot touch me. I am a temple of God. God’s workmanship created for good works, by the grace of God, I am who I am.
Matt during his message Sunday shared that, we are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and rather than trying harder or giving up, the answer was in God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. When we place our trust in him, he frees us from the penalty of sin and death because we would never be able to achieve life over sin on our own. We cannot live the perfect life. We cannot bridge the gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness on our own. That’s why we believe in death of Jesus on the cross. The only way to God. As he shared Our Journey to Freedom is only fully received in Journeying with Jesus.
Freedom by Donna Lamothe shared that we are forgiven and freed by this unconditional love that Jesus has for us. We just need to give Him our brokenness. Come to repentance in those bad choices we made. Both in Freedom and in Steps to Freedom in Christ they talked about Curses versus Blessings.
It’s the choices we make. Those moments of decisions that can be the fruit of release for us. When we renounce the sin, truly repent from it, confess our faith, these three are our part. It’s by the blood of Jesus that we are bought, it’s through Jesus that we are forgiven. Be at peace, there is freedom in release. Those choices that we make, it’s not about status, homes, money, cars, me pleasing, or people pleasing. Those choices that we make are God’s truths for us with the power of the Holy Spirit to help us, to live His ways, to say enough is enough. I renounce, repent, confess it, and I will now live in the freedom I have in Christ Jesus, my faith is in Him. Remember your relationship with Christ, legally he paid the price for you, he wants you to have a relationship with him personally, remember the Covenant of Grace. We have access to God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. His Grace is that he doesn’t give us what we deserve, His Mercy is that He gives us what we don’t deserve. We live daily by his Grace and Mercy given to us.
Chuck Swindoll summed it all up by saying, internally (in our mind, in our thinking, in our actions) we are free, eternally we are secure. Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever! What are some things you do to regularly experience the freedom in Christ?
Larry & Darlene
6/28 When Caring is Sharing Acts 8:26-40
We have all been told or have told another to share. Share your toys, share your food, share words of encouragement, share some of what you have with another who doesn’t have. And we know about caring. We care for our families, parents, siblings, children, spouses. We care for friends and neighbors. We care for people who mean something to us. We started a summer series called What’s your Story, with this Sunday’s focus being on “When Caring is Sharing” Everyone has a story to share. There’s nothing better than a family gathering and hearing stories shared, both old and new. It’s how we learn about our families, how we can connect with our families, how we can help our families. This isn’t only true in families, but in any relationship with people. It’s building friendships, trusts, sharing a part of you and them sharing a part of their lives with you, When Caring is Sharing……...
In those conversations are we open to share our faith? Or is there an unspoked agreement that says, but let’s not talk about religion? You can believe what you want to believe, and I will do the same. Is that where this conversation stops. Some will agree, I don’t want to talk about religion, but I would like to talk about Jesus and what he has done for me, but I’m afraid to bring it up. I wouldn’t want to offend someone, after all I like them, I care for them. Do you? Probably so, but how then should I bring up talking about Jesus? Sharing the Gospel is telling someone about God’s love for them. It is something that should come easy, but it really doesn’t. It takes us out of my comfort zone. We might even say, I don’t really care, I’d would rather leave it for those who have the Spiritual Gift of Evangelism.
How committed are you to your faith? How obedient are you when we are told to go and share the Good News?
This week we viewed several videos in RNM. To get good answers as to why we believe what we do, take time to view and gain a deeper understanding in Quick Answers with Sean McDowell: Volume 1 – Starters Guide to Sharing your Faith. This series gives answers in under 5 minutes to over 15 questions on Does God Exist? The Moral Argument? Do all roads lead to God? What is the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead? And so many more. These are quick answers to questions we all have had. Answers written with supporting documents and evidences. This series is a great learning tool to confirm why we believe the things of the Bible. It’s solid. It’s true. It’s all there for everyone to know.
Tom Davis’ illustration in Sharing from Scripture in a Post-Modern World talked on the importance of reading scripture for ourselves. As Christians, he says, we need to embrace absolute truth and be able to defend it. He refers to Philippians 1:9-11 where Paul writes, “This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will do many good things with the help of Christ to bring glory and praise to God.” Paul writes that we are to love, grow in faith, allow Christ to work through us to bring God glory. From Sunday’s message we heard about learning, growing in faith, claiming it as true, a real without a doubt kind of faith. RNM has messages to help us learn, grow, deepen our faith so that we will want to share it. But it is each of us taking that step forward in our faith. Okay, so when do we know it’s the right time to share our faith?
Pete Briscoe has a great series on evangelism titled Sharing Life. He shares that we all need a heart change. Hearts change when they break. We will never grow in evangelism until our hearts are broken for the lost. Evangelism, he said, is God’s way of preventing eternal death and presenting eternal life. In Matthew 10:28, “don’t be afraid of people, who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. The only one you should fear is the one who can destroy the soul and the body in hell,” (the devil). Pray for it, Christ longs for us to have a heart for the lost, break my heart for what breaks yours.
In Session 2, Pete talks on sharing life. Evangelism is sharing life; it’s not about selling Jesus. To share life (little L) with another is to care for them. A deep abiding love for another, like a nursing mother who cares for her children. To share Life (capital L) with another is the Life of Christ flowing from us with the people we are sharing life with. Pete says we are to be open to the Spirits leading. Sunday scripture from Acts 8:26 begins ‘’An angel of the Lord said to Philip”…vs. 27 “so Philip got ready and went” vs 29 “The Spirit said to Philip” vs. 30 “so Philip ran towards the chariot” vs. 35 “Philip began to speak…about Jesus”. The Ethiopian eunuch was ready to hear about Jesus, Philip just responded to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.” Philip was open to the Spirits leading.
Session 3 was on What’s the best ‘next thing’. Pete refreshed our study, so far, we’ve learned that first we are to Develop relationships, build a friendship; then Discover their story, where are they coming from, give them empathy in their hurts and pains. Then we are to Discern the best next thing, by depending on the Spirit. Ask the Spirit for the best ‘next thing’ for this person, this situation. Holy Spirit you know this person better than me. A person needs to be receptive to hearing the GOSPEL, but until then we are just to share life with them. In John 6:44 Jesus is speaking, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws them.” You never know when the Spirit will be drawing them. Now, or not yet, or maybe it’s for someone else to share the GOSPEL with them. The Spirit might empower us to speak, (Mark 13:11), the Spirit might prevent us from speaking (Acts 16:6), we are to allow the Spirit to work through us. To be available to help a person in whatever they need. Ask the Holy Spirit, what the best ‘next thing’? What comes to your mind? If it’s not contra-biblical, do it! It’s the Spirit talking to you.
Session 4 of Pete Briscoe series on Sharing Life, is Share the Story, tell your story, listen to their story. Let people know you care, let them know that I believe in you. What is the ultimate goal of evangelism? Pete’s answer is to have a life transformed, a story changed, to experience Christ for real!
And in closing Session 5, Here I am, Send Me. In taking our faith seriously, When Caring is Sharing, do we still want to say, I just don’t have it? What is “it”? training, knowledge, communication skills, experience, the spiritual gift of evangelism. “It” isn’t any of these things. “It” is necessary, “it” is available to all of us. The primary work of “it” is done through the Spirit, one thing we bring to “it” is a foundation attitude, a decision we make to live everyday with a biblical attitude. We are to be on call 24/7 to the Spirit’s nudging. We never know when God will move someone’s heart. It could possibly be a long-term relationship, or it could be a simple as a side comment we make that will change someone. Regardless, Pete says, we all need vision – see to it that no one misses the Grace of God.
So, as we begin this summer series: What’s your story? Are you ready to share how God has made a difference in your
life? Start with a story anytime because we now know the difference it can make, When Caring is Sharing………...
Larry and Darlene
6/21/2020 When a Father Prays Luke 18:1-8
This being Father’s Day, what better way to acknowledge a dad than when he prays. Men in general and especially dads are fixers by nature. They like to fix things, build things, work with their hands to accomplish a task, and the best task that a man a father can do is to fold his hands in prayer. A father’s desire is to fix whatever is broken, be it a material thing, a relationship, or whatever it is that is lacking. And there are things that simply cannot be fixed except through prayer. From Sunday’s sermon we know that prayer is a conversation with God and to know that your father prays for you, what better love can there be? Prayer is lifting up our loved ones to God, asking him to act in their lives for their needs and hurts. Parents whose children are hurting… pray for them. Pastor George gave us points in his message to Pray with Consistency – don’t ever give up; and Pray with Creativity – change things up, a different place, use written prayer, or however the Spirit guides you to come and pray. We heard that we are to keep praying until prayer is answered or prayer is changed. To persevere just like The Parable of the Persistent Widow from Sunday’s scripture passage in Luke, to always pray and not lose heart, God is listening and acting even when it seems that he isn’t.
In one of the video’s that we viewed this week in RNM from Todd Wagner, “Gifts I’d Give my Children” he states that there never is a wrong place or a wrong time to start praying. Prayer is evidence that we believe in God’s Word. Todd says that we should first bring ourselves before God to ask God as stated in Psalm 130:23-24, Search me O God and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me. Asking God to allow you to examine yourself, to see yourself rightly. Then ask that answers to prayer brings transformation in you so that you are satisfied with God alone and not with the world. Psalm 80:14; And to pray with authenticity, God wants it, ask ‘ Lord Help me’. Philippians 4:6-7,8. We first need to be right with God so that we can bring the prayers of our loved ones before him.
James Banks in his video on Praying with Jesus, talks about prayer being a privilege. To turn your worries into prayers. He says that most of us feel inadequate to pray, and the Disciples felt the same way, they even asked: Lord, teach us to pray. Prayer is so important to Jesus that he is still praying for us now, he continues to intercede for us. James says that somethings will only happen when we pray. There are battles in our lives or the lives of our loved ones that only God can win. When your kids hurt, you hurt. We need faith to keep asking, keep believing, persist, take His Word, pray promises back to God (Matthew 15:28) The best way to love someone is to pray for them, just like Jesus does for us continually. God’s mercies are new every morning, Banks says we never know when our prayer will be answered, it just may be today!
James Banks talked about how sometimes moms and dads hold on to things that their children give them, art projects, papers, gifts, those things that we hold on to because of the love a parent has for a child. A gift from a child says I Love You. Pray is our gift to God and to think that God feels that way about us, to hold onto our gifts of prayer. He referenced Revelation 5:8 “…they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” That’s us-God’s people. Our prayers are incense to God. Prayers mean so much to God that He keeps them before him in golden bowls. Prayers that are precious to him, of people who prayed throughout history, he keeps, that they are actually incense in heaven. He loves us so much that he treasures those moments with us, and he chooses to have our prayers around him continuously. Our prayers before him all the time. As Pastor George said to keep praying ‘til our prayers are answered or until they are changed… we are to pray taking time in prayer… waiting with God, waiting isn’t easy but an important part of prayer…to persist. As we pray, we draw closer to God, we learn to how to keep company with God. In prayer, says Banks, we are in preparation for eternity with him. James Banks says in prayer we declare our dependence on him, his promises, his timing. It’s through prayer -that moves the hand- that moves the world.
Kathie Lipp in Praying for your Kids give us suggestions to aid us in praying for our kids. Start a prayer journal for each kid, write specific needs for each, write gratitude expressed for them, find scripture you can claim for your kids and pray that back to God. Pray for character development for our children. Ask what do you want me to be praying about for this child? Make praying for your kids a daily priority. Where we see hopelessness, God see hope. Keep asking for results. Jesus says in John 14: 13-14, ask in my name.
A father’s love, a father’s prayer – when a father prays moves God. Father’s how important are your prayers!
Happy Father’s Day to the men who move and act in another’s life for Christ’s sake. Amen
Larry & Darlene
6/14 How to Pray for Others James 5: 13-20
The first line of our scripture passage for this week reads “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”
Pray – okay, who me? What does that mean? How do I because I really don’t want to screw it up. I don’t want to get it wrong; someone is suffering, and I want to help them, but pray? I’m a little scared to pray after all I’m praying to God! Can you relate to this? Our sermon topic this week is How to Pray for Others. We know that as Christians we are to pray. And yes, we pray corporately in worship service but then someone else is saying the words I’m just agreeing to what is being said with my head bowed and eyes closed. That’s prayer, right? So, if I send a prayer request to the church then someone else will pray for that situation, for healing or help in the suffering for me or my friend. There then that’s how I address the command, “Let him pray”. While yes that is one way, but that is not what James is referring to when he said,” Let him pray”.
In Let him pray – you missed the him part. Him is us personally taking it to the Lord in prayer. Prayer in its simplest form is talking with God. A conversation much like you would sit and talk with someone you trust or confide in. In one of the RNM videos we viewed this week from Dr. Ed Young on How to Talk to God he says to start with the mindset of “Our Father”, to feel in your heart that God is dad and to talk with him that way. Jesus refers to God as Father many times throughout the Bible. We know that God sent his son Jesus to redeem us back to him. Dr. Young stated it this way, Jesus lived the life you and I did not live – He died the death that you and I deserve – so that you and I will be in family and be able to pray “Our” Father. Ed says we are no longer orphans in this world. We are in a family relationship, we have keys to the house so to speak, our legal status has changed. We are no longer citizens of this world, our citizenship is of another Kingdom, Heaven. Philippians 3:20 “We have a Father who cares deeply for us, he is Our Father who art in heaven”.
We as humans here on Earth will continue to struggle with our sin nature, that’s a given, that’s suffering. Again, from Sunday’s scripture passage In James 5:16 we read “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.” Pastor George reminded us that we are to pray for others and for self. Prayer lifting others up, bringing them before the Lord. We are God’s intermediary in praying for another in their suffering, they need help, in our suffering, we need help. We need “daddy’s hand” to help us. In Teach us to Pray, another of the RNM video series we watched this week, he talked on The Lord’s Prayer. We heard him tell us on the part – And lead us not into temptation – we are asking God to lead us away from testing, the sin of the world, the flesh and/or the devil, to lead us away from testing that we are not ready for yet, not strong enough to resist, and deliver us from the evil one. He referred to it like asking God to place his hands on our shoulders leading us through it all. For God goes with us each step of the way, for us and with us, there is always love in daddy’s hand. When another whom we love is suffering, we pray for God’s hand on them to guide and direct. That’s what Pastor George meant when he said in his sermon Sunday that prayer is lifting others up, bringing them before the Lord. In showing empathy to another that suffers in sin, we pray. We pray to Our Father for His guidance, for endurance, for help in the midst of suffering.
In What Should We Pray? by Alistair Begg another of this week’s series we learned in everything, turn to God in prayer. Pray for our world, the work of the gospel in our lives, to bring our lives in line with His purposes. In Ephesians 3:14-21 is a Prayer for Spiritual Strength, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. The passage ends with a giving glory to God, vs. 20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen”. God can do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. Take it to him in prayer, trust him to.
But, you say, God has let me down, God has hurt me, I’m angry with God and just can’t pray right now. In Charles Betters teaching on How Should I Pray when I’m Angry with God? he says we ask the Holy Spirit to interpret our brokenness. He referenced Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words” The Holy Spirit intercedes. Charles talked about the temptations that Jesus went through after his 40 days and 40 nights of fasting in the dessert. He was tempted. He denied the temptations. In Matthew 4:11 we then read….”then the devil left him and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” In our pain too deep for words to express we seek help from the Holy Spirit to intercede for us to God, in our weakness from being under the burden of sin, once confessed and acknowledging our sin and of wanting to repent, to turn away from it, it’s then that Angels will come and minister to us, to help us out of the suffering and pain.
From Sunday’s sermon we heard again that we are to share the love, grace, and forgiveness that God offers. We are hands and feet to people in their time of need. We are to put aside our own stuff of fears, embarrassments, lack of confidence, but to pray with and for others. We are told that “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” May your Spirit guide us, in Jesus name we pray, AMEN.
Larry & Darlene
6/7 Honest Assessment James 5:1-12
This week’s message is titled Honest Assessment. That’s like grading our own test paper. How honest will we be? Basing that on this week’s scripture passage continuing in the Book of James we turn to Chapter 5 which is titled Warning to the Rich. It talks about our self-indulgences. Need we do an honest assessment on this, self-indulgences? They are all good right? Or at least good for me. Sunday’s sermon posed the question, Have I allowed what I have to rot me regardless of the cost to indulge? Take a moment to give that question an honest assessment. Then we change our focus beginning in verse 7 titled Patience in Suffering. It’s in our suffering that we question the why? We seek answers, we want to point blame, we even get angry with God and yes, we do lose patience These two parallel each other. Self- indulgence making me happy versus suffering through something causing me hurt or causing another’s hurt. Would they or could they ever intersect? So, giving an Honest Assessment, how are you handling both of these? In assessing we ponder – reflect on things – what’s really happening here? What are my feelings telling me? What motive drives me? What am I hearing, who or where do I get my information so that I can learn, think, and grow in understanding? Or do I even try?
This past week we’ve read and heard much about Black Lives Matter, the protesting, and rioting occurring and the death and destruction that follows. This is the current cultural issue going on. Pretty upsetting to hear. So, in an honest assessment what’s upsetting you about issues such as this? Can you name it? This week we’ve had several RNM videos to watch dealing with the issue of racism in our culture and more importantly in our churches. As Pastor George stated on Sunday that during his Pastoral studies a topic often discussed was the ’Bible versus the Newspaper’, how do we reconcile the two of these?
In the RNM video series The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, he referred to a definition of racism stating that racism is a prejudice plus power; or another way in defining it is as a system of oppression based on race. We’ve only begun to watch this series. It has much history tied to its content. In Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans, he states that the goal of racial unity is Oneness. Oneness of purpose without denying a persons created identity. Dennis and Colleen Rouse in their series titled ONE, calls for a maturity beyond natural identity to a spiritual identity. Oneness in Christ. There is a racial divide, the challenge is to reconcile to other cultures and to one another. Colleen says it’s going to take intentionality – trying to evoke the change necessary in becoming one in Jesus name. Christianity and the Church- and being complacent versus courageous in dealing with our prejudices. It’s forcing us to own our own junk, to do an honest assessment. How is the church shown through me? Working towards reconciliation is not something to achieve but to receive, says Dennis Rouse. It’s a change in our mindset, in our hearts. He says that if you work the Word of God, the Word of God will work. God sees all people as one. He does not see race or color; God sees our heart. He calls us to love our neighbor as we do our-self. Recalling our study from James 2, ‘A Warning against Prejudice’, verse 8 says “Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Another passage referred to in the series One was from 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) “Three things will last forever, Faith – Hope –Love, and the greatest of these is Love”. Love is a verb, it’s an action. The action of love prompts a response. When we’re faced with issues such as racism, are we reacting out of fear (a feeling) or responding through Truth and love?
Tony Evans says that the church needs to get more involved in the culture. The enemy loves to keep us at odds, divided with one another. The overriding conflict is fear. Perfect love casts out all fear. Needed are uncomfortable conversations, starting in the church. The church needs to be a visual demonstration of a comprehensive rule of God over every area of life. The solution to our problems comes out of God’s house, the Church. We need to have those difficult conversations. Take it out to your circle of influence, break free from perceived ideas and allow God to move our hearts. Tony says Justice is the equitable and impartial application of God’s moral laws in society. We the church need to be courageous in justice for all. Setting examples. Exemplifying Love in all we do. Loving others as they are. Standing firm in our faith and what it teaches us. As Pastor George states we are to live and love the way God wants us to live and love, following His example. In doing our Honest Assessment we are to remove what’s not good and to do what’s right in God’s eye. This could take some time, it’s never too late to start, and is starts with an honest assessment.
Larry & Darlene
5/31 First Things First Part 3 of Series: The Art of Decision-Making James 4: 11-17
The last three Sundays were grouped into a series titled: The Art of Decision Making. Decision making is an art, a skill, the principles, or methods governing any branch of learning. First, we studied Wisdom. We now know wisdom is based on biblical morals. We obey and seek to follow as God teaches us to. Then we addressed our selfishness and pride through humility. We learned that puffing ourselves up is squashing another. It’s through helping and serving others with humility that we make an impact. God sees our heart. He knows our every motive. This week we are addressing First Things First.
Pastor George in his Children’s Time mini sermon talked on The Priority of Following Jesus. Following Jesus is a priority to all of us who profess to be Christian. But how often have we as adults stopped to ask God, what should I do? How can I honor you with what I’m doing? Martin Luther King summarized it best when saying…to do the will of God, come what may! This week’s series in RNM we watched and learned from Andy Stanley on Discovering God’s Will. He says that our life is a subtotal of the decisions we make. So far, we’ve talked about First Things First, God’s Will, and life’s decisions. Do all of these go hand in hand? What about wisdom and humility? Do they play a part in God’s will for me since they too are a part of this series?
Throughout all of life we make many decisions. Some are simple, some are more difficult. Some will affect us a little, some will affect us a lot. All decisions we make reflect the God we follow. As Pastor George asked us, as we seek to put First Things First, what God is the best for me? In the scripture passage for this week, James 4:17 says……”it is sin to know good and yet not do it”. In making our decisions are we listening to our moral compass? In other words, following Jesus? Or what god has us closer than the one true God?
In My Dreams and God’s Will by Phil Vischer, he talked about his experience through his business called Veggie Tales. Phil said, “My dream is important to Him (God), and because my dream is good for God, He will bless my dream – this is when God is going to show up.” In reality, what he said he was saying is “The work I do for God is more important than my relationship with Him”. He was asking God to: open the door, bless us, then get out of my way – that kind of mentality. He wanted his dream. Veggie Tales eventually went bankrupt. Phil said in living the way God intends is for us to focus on obedience – God what do you want me to do? And am I doing it? He said, Life becomes about loving others not about accomplishing objectives. That’s where you find the fruit of the spirit – that’s where you find joy! Joy, an inner sense of wellbeing and satisfaction that endures through good times and bad.
Andy Stanley says we have a God who cares about you because He knows where you are in your life. God wants you to know His will for you more than you want to know it. The ultimate thing is God wants you to discover Him. God does not give us direction for consideration, but for action/obedience. God says Trust Me. Growing in your faith and obedience then you will be able to know and discern His will for you. Andy explained that in this life we have the Providential will of God. Those things God is going to do no matter what. We can read of these in scripture on what he’s accomplished through men and women of the Bible. Then there is the Moral Will of God, the basic do’s, and don’ts of the scripture. To remain morally pure. And then the Personal Will of God for each of us. The personal decisions all of us make. Every decision will cross with a principle of God’s word. What is the wise thing for me to do? Andy says we are to study our Bibles to dig out the principles. He said, you can disobey a command, but a principle….it’s the way the world works. There’s no disobeying a principle without a consequence.
First Things First – God’s will – our dreams. Isaiah 55:8 “My thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways are not your ways”. We need to get to know God better. Read the Bible, look for principles, timeless truths, a cause, and effect behavior. Acting on the First thing, the priority of following Jesus, getting to know God, then when we dream dreams for our life – a career, marriage, family, finances, and so on, we need to first see it, get a vision, what does “it” look like? Define it, describe it, allow God to have some impact to this picture. Have courage, make decisions, accordingly, saying yes or no to opportunities that bring the vision into clear focus all the while living the way God intends for us to.
As Pastor George said on Sunday, we need strength to act and live. How can I honor you Lord with what I’m doing? Life and Religion says life justifies living. Grace and religion say its grace that justifies living. With God all things are possible. In making those decision in life we should: Stop – Ask – Pray – Listen – Respond. Pursue God’s best for me. Questions we can ask ourselves are 1. What one thing I could do that I am not doing now that would make a positive difference? And 2. What one thing in my academic/business/professional life would bring similar results?
Yes, learning the Wisdom that’s found within our Bibles and from others who God brings into our lives, plus living humbly in service to what God wants us to do, will lead us into doing the will of God and mastering the art of decision making. But always its First Things First – God is First.
Larry & Darlene
5/24 Series: The Art of Decision-Making, Finding Greatness in Humility James 4:1-12
Everyone likes balloons. They bring a smile to our face, they add to a celebration, and when you see one you know something good is going on. During Time for Our Young People Pastor George talked about our lives and how we like to puff ourselves up much like we blow up a balloon. How do we do that you ask? By thinking we are better than others, that you are the best, smartest, cutest, etc., it’s that me, me, me mentality above anyone else. Eventually your balloon will pop. Self-centeredness is an enemy of God. Overconfidence is bolstered by a sense that we know more than we actually do and this in turn almost always leads to poor decision making.
In the children’s video in RNM for the week Iesodo (whose character is a portrayal of Jesus) talked on Kindness in the series titled The Greatest is The Least. Iesodo shared that doing something out of obligation or for praise is never the point but doing it out of love is what life is all about. Every task taken on with a positive attitude and with love is our heart of not expecting anything in return. That’s living with humility.
Bill Pollard in his series Lead with Humility, calls this a disease of Hubris, that we deserve the best. It’s a leadership disease and a cultural disease, giving into pride. He also says it is time to eat some humble pie.
Sunday’s message we heard from Pastor George that humility is putting another first, lifting them up. Humility is tough. Humility plays a crucial role in our lives. CS Lewis in Mere Christianity states that the utmost evil is pride. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride-the chief cause of misery since the world began. In the scripture passage from James, Pastor George mentioned that 15 times you or yours is stated. Instead we are to adopt the same attitude as Christ as we read in Philippians 2:5 “Let the same attitude and purpose and humble mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” Let Him be your example in humility.
In the series The Makings of a Godly Man by Ravi Zacharias he examined the life of Daniel to teach on humility, spirituality, and faith. Ravi says we are to draw a line in place for principles to live by. In humility God tells us to look at your heart and see it as I see it. For this Ravi calls the Line of Resistance by training his (Daniel’s) appetite. We are daily responsible for training our hunger and passions. Train what we can enjoy – shun whatever we know can lose us to service for the King of Kings. The Line of Dependence is where he (Daniel) knows the true source of wisdom. God’s Wisdom- the ability to discern right from wrong, our spirituality. The Line of Confidence is our faith. We follow God no matter what happens, even if you are thrown into a lion’s den.
Lisa Chen, in her series of True Beauty encourages us to say I belong to Jesus. True beauty lies in the heart. She spoke of denying yourself. Deny yourself and those self-indulgences, be my disciple says Jesus. When you feel it’s the right thing to do for another, you don’t question it, you just do it. Life is not perfect. We are on a journey with God. He wants us to lay down our lives, give up our comforts, possessions, stuff that we feel is most important, and to live life with Joy that nothing nor no one else can give except when you have that personal relationship with Jesus.
Iesodo also ended in saying what is in your heart is what is most important, if you want to be a great leader you must be a humble servant. Never stop doing what is right. Open your heart and enjoy all the beauty and fun life has to offer. Ravi Zacharias says that God will ask us “What’s your name?” In answering are you willing to see your heart today as God sees it? Humility begins in the heart.
Larry & Darlene
May 17 – How to Let Wisdom Guide You James 3:13-18
When we think of Wisdom, what comes to mind? Someone who is well respected? Someone Older? Someone well educated. Is wisdom learned, trained in us, or is one just born with wisdom? Where does wisdom come from? How do we find it?
In the scripture for this week we read that Wisdom is from Above. James 3: 13-18 talks about wisdom from above, and also addresses earthly wisdom. Rick Howerton in his illustration that we watched this week in RNM, gave us insight on Mining for Wisdom versus Advice Giving. Every one of us has given advice to another. Howerton cautions us regarding advice giving. Advice giving is when someone gives their opinion or tells what someone else told them to do. Might that be earthly wisdom? On the other hand, Howerton says together we should journey towards wisdom learned from the scriptures, that’s wisdom from above.
In the message this week we heard Pastor George explain that having knowledge is good. In hearing, listening, learning, we gather knowledge. Let us be cautious in who or what we are gathering our knowledge from. It is taking what we know, the knowledge and applying it. What flows out of us is our true wisdom, he said. Pastor George referenced Matthew 7;15 ….it’s our fruit from the tree of our life that we are known for. We are told to get a picture of what Jesus is like. As Jesus tells us, Follow Me. Sunday, we sang the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, that is what we need to do Lord, turn our eyes to you. Another way of saying this is, Lord teach us your Word. The Holy Scripture it is there that we find the wisdom to guide us.
Another RNM series we watched this week was “Wisdom Literature” by Tim Mackie. He shared his insight on the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. These books are books of wisdom. Wisdom says Mackie, is a moral law of the universe, a force that everyone can access. Wisdom is used to develop the skill of a good life. He began with the book of Proverbs. He classifies Proverbs as a brilliant young teacher. In reading through Proverbs, we learn about living, about God’s definition of good and evil, learning those boundary lines and not crossing them. Ultimately Mackie says that wisdom begins with the Fear of the Lord, a healthy respect for the Lord. That God is wise and just. Then we looked at what the book of Ecclesiastes offers. Mackie refers to this book as the critic. The book begins with a lot of gloom and doom. Life is referred to as meaningless, life under the sun is meaningless. Life is short, here today, gone tomorrow. Soon we will all join the dead, but until then we are in what is referred to as the Race of Life. We will live through life’s random chances, uncontrollable, confusing, the meaning of life is never really clear. Through the end of the book Mackie asks the question, “What does it look like to live well in this world? His answer was, the right thing to do is Fear the Lord, as we learn in Proverbs, and from Ecclesiastes we learned that we can’t control life, one only has control over one thing – your attitude towards the present moment. We are to be humble; all is in God’s hand anyway. Life has meaning even when you cannot make sense of it. Fear the Lord and keep His commandments. Then Mackie goes on to the book of Job. He likens the book of Job to a weathered old man who’s seen a lot in his day. Job, a friend of God, living the good life but then loses everything. Why? Was he obeying God just to get what Job wanted in life? Did Job finally get what he deserved? Job defends his innocence – Job is humble – he lives in the peace and Fear of the Lord. No matter what comes he knows that he can trust God. God says I am in control of the universe and its complexities. Trust Me. Combining all three of these books together we learn of lessons of Living the Good Life.
God’s Word is for us. Reading it, learning from it, applying it, mining it for How to Let Wisdom Guide You. The Bible gives us wisdom on all aspects of our lives. Regardless what you want to know more of – growing up, adulthood, marriage, child rearing, finances, relationships, friendship, stewardship, anything……. The wisdom you need to know can be found in God’s Word. One of those topics we viewed this week was Financial Wisdom by Alex Cook. Yes, there is a right way to handle money and Alex addressed those wisdom points. In summary he gave the Foundation of Wise Management of Money. Some of his points were to have a right attitude towards money; a heart right thinking; right priorities with goals and visions; simple living, finding contentment; and most importantly having an Eternal Focus. Cook references Matthew 19: 29-30… “Eternity is our reward for what we’ve done in this life.” As Pastor George referenced, what fruit are you offering to the world, in this life? Another verse reference often is Hebrews 12: 1-3 … “don’t grow weary, run the race, fix your eyes on Jesus.” We all can use that as a focal point for life
As we find ourselves doing life there will be times that we embark on a new adventure, nervous, not really sure how to proceed, or we may find ourselves in the middle of an adventure struggling through, then there is a time when one door closes so to speak, and we’re awaiting another to open. What are we to do? Wisdom is necessary in every stage and age of life. Looking for some earthly advice? Or are you now going to take the time mining for wisdom. As we asked in the beginning, when you think of Wisdom what comes to mind?
Larry & Darlene
5/10 The Heart of a Mom James 3: 1-12
This Sunday is recognized nationwide as Mother’s Day. A day to give special acknowledgement to our Mother. Moms are special people. They are special to their children, to their husbands, and to God our creator.
Honoring Mothers is honoring those who mean the world to us. Time with our young people this past Sunday talked about how do you Show Your Love? We demonstrate it by showing her through smiles, hugs, gifts made and/or bought. As well as the words we speak to her and about her. Actions that show your love as well as words that tell your love.
In this week’s RNM video by Jill Savage we listened to No More Perfect Moms. Mom’s want the best for their families and work hard to try and reach a level of acceptance not only by what she wants for her family, but by what is perceived from others outside the family on what she does for her family. Jill referred to this as mom’s perfection infection. All moms have struggled with meeting their expectations of what a mom should be. This video series has a cute and truthful skit showing that a mom wears so many hats in any given day, there is much demands upon her. She has such a going’s on in her head because she wants to meet the needs of her children, home, and husband and some even add a career into the mix. Leaving women with a fear of insecurities of meeting those expectations. She shared and every mom will attest to, that things don’t always go as planned. Jill Savage said that Moms need to have a pliable heart to go with the circumstance. To ready our hearts, for any given moment, for motherhood is a ministry of interruptions. And that is okay and expected. People need to feel loved in the place they live, within the home. Every woman works to make a house a home. A place her family enjoys to be. Stay focused on heart keeping versus housekeeping Savage said, and every mother would agree with this, that’s why moms work so hard towards being a perfect mom to win the hearts of their children. Jill wants all moms to know that “you are the perfect mom for your kids; we as moms learn through raising our kids how to be the perfect mom for them; it’s works with a reward!
Pastor George this past Sunday stated that: We are a faith family, parents, and children. It’s two jobs you cannot get fired from. We sang the song Cornerstone this past Sunday. Through all of life Christ is our cornerstone. One of the lines in the song says “…from life’s first cry to final breath, here in the power of Christ I stand.” That is the desire Christian parents have not only for themselves but for their children. To raise up a child in the way that he should go. Raising a child, preparing them to be the man or woman that God created them to be. It’s character development Pastor George said that moms work on in their children.
Sunday’s scripture is from James 3: 1-12. This passage addresses Taming the Tongue. The tongue is powerful. We are to recognize the importance of words said that we use the tongue for. In David Platt’s RNM video on Faith Works, on the topic of Faith Speaks he said, “From the same mouth can come blessings and cursing; words that abuse, distort, or words that heal, and encourage. Your words are an indication of your heart and therefore your true spiritual condition.” Pastor George credits moms with guiding their children in taming the tongue. To better manage the tongue is a lesson preparing their children to be the man/woman they are created for. It’s their growth process towards character development. The tongue with what we say and our actions what we do, will be the evidence of how we live out our life. A follower of Jesus is watched by others in how we speak – serve – love. A mother’s love for her children is teaching them throughout all stages of their growth. Much the same as God’s Love for each of us. He teaches us as we continue to grow our faith. Pastor George said that as we celebrate God’s Love, on this Mother’s Day we also honor moms who lead the way in showing God’s love, who help children grow to maturity. Showing grace when necessary as her children grow. We celebrate the heart of mom and mom’s sacrifices for her family, as a reflection of God’s Grace and ultimate sacrifice for us his children.
In Matthew 21:16 it says “…from the lips of children and infants Lord, you have called forth your praise”. Nothing warms a mother’s heart more than knowing that her children are praising our Lord with their tongue. We, as someone’s child, need to continue to warm our mother’s heart with praises to our Lord through our tongue.
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms!
Larry & Darlene